JEDZA

Tim Tucker

My name is Krystyna Krolowa. I am not a psychic, nor do I see signs and portents of the future on a persons palm, but from the moment my cell phone rang I knew that a terrible change was coming.

I sat in my bedchamber, alone. The silk venetian curtains were drawn shut and the lights were off, enshrouding me in darkness save for the harsh glare of the phone. The name burned accusatorily across the screen, the incessant ringing almost deafening in the quietude of my room.

My love, Grzegorz…

On the tenth ring I surrendered to the inevitable and answered his call.

"Hello my love." I wanted him to know that no matter what he told me he was still mine and I his.

"Krystyna, I'm so glad you picked up." He sounded tired, like a man encumbered by burdens.

"Is everything ok? How is your wife?"

A pregnant pause permeated the line. When he spoke his voice cracked ever so slightly. "She…she didn't survive the delivery."

The weight of his words should have bore into my heart but I could not stop the sly grin from spreading across my lips. "And the child?" I asked, hoping for the worst.

"She's alive. My daughter is alive."

Damn it.

"Grzegorz, I am so sorry for your loss but thank God the child lives."

"There was so much blood…screaming…" he trailed off, his voice distant and pained.

"Oh baby you sound like you're in shock! I'll do anything to take your mind off of the pain, anything you want."

"I can't, I'm sorry. I can't be away from her. She needs me."

"I understand. If you need anything I'm always here for you."

"Thank you Krystyna."

"I love you Grzegorz."

"I have to go now. I'll call you later."

And with that he hung up. I sighed and rested my head against the pillow, lost in thought. While it was true that I loved Grzegorz, his constant sentimentality towards his now dead wife had grown tiresome long ago. He should have moved on from her, now every time he looks into his daughters eyes he will be reminded of that wretched woman while I remain a mistress to fate. I was reminded of a time when I was younger, a maiden just shy of fifteen when I visited the carnival and met the fortune teller. I still remember the soft jangling of her heavily braceleted wrist and stench of body odor and cigarette smoke under the scent of sage incense. She bid me to stare into her crystal ball to see my future.

"Speculum, speculum, a beauty you are and fairest of them all, but the one you desire heart belongs to another and bitterness will be your downfall!"

Filthy fucking gypsy, what did she know?

If Grzegorz's heart had truly belonged to another this whole time then it didn't matter anymore because she was dead. I recalled the night I first laid eyes on him. It was a couple of years after my visit to the gypsy and I was bartending at Club Pieklo, one of the most exclusive nightclubs in Warsaw. I remembered the way he swaggered into the club, expensive tailored suit and entourage in tow and I knew exactly what he was. In Italy they call it "Our Thing." Here in Poland we have our thing as well, men who are above and beyond the law and who make sure everybody knows it. Grzegorz was one of those men, the son of wealthy business people who staked their claim after the fall of the Soviet Union. I served them drinks all night, nothing but the best of Luksusowa and Belvedere vodka. Even after last call and the club patrons began to disperse Grzegorz and his posse remained, drinking and carousing as if the sun was not going to rise in two hours. After all, my bosses were paying them for protection at the time. It was then that Grzegorz took me in his strong arms, his hands coolly gliding across my buttocks. He demanded that the DJ play a track list of disco polo songs and swept me away to the dancefloor. Under the neon and scarlet strobe lights his beard and hair shone a metallic chestnut brown, his eyes twin pools of amber and face flushed and tanned the gentle brown of ripe wheat. He was so handsome, so vigorous, and as I grinded closer to him I could feel his manhood stiffening against my body, his breath a stark breeze down the nape of my neck which even to this day fills my body with an insatiable heat.

After dancing Grzegorz brisked me away outside and into his luxurious BMW. He drove to the bank of the Vistula River and in the stillness of the early morning air we made love in his car. Grind for grind, push for push, we floated in a passionate rhythm as fierce as the river current before us and when we were finished I laid my head atop his burly chest, listened to the strong beat of his heart and basked in the nubile rays of the rising sun as it peeked over the still sleeping skyline of Warsaw.

That was the greatest night of my life.

But it was not meant to last forever. Grzegorz and I came from two different worlds; he the affluent gangster and I the lowly bartender but fate be damned, from the moment we locked eyes in Pieklo, he was mine and I was his.

So I stayed in the shadows as he expanded his empire. My position was not without its rewards, as Grzegorz supplemented a deal with the owners of Club Pieklo to give me a majority share of ownership in the venue. It was my job to facilitate new revenue streams for the club and I performed my duties with the utmost dedication.

I could never disappoint Grzegorz.

Young girls from across Eastern Europe were brought to the club to service specific "clientale." Orphans, runaways, star struck young models and actresses who dream of leaving their backwater countries behind all found their way to my establishment. I am not ashamed of the things I made them do. These hollowed eyed and nubile girls, they were nothing more than just another product to push onto the streets, a means to an end which made me richer than my wildest dreams.

While I was busy taming the vices of the underground of Warsaw, Grzegorz was making moves on the political front. He was to be courted to a wealthy heiress from the PiS political party, and although I knew the importance of his betrothal as a front to further his goals the sight of them together sickened me to my core.

Anastazja, that loathsome little bitch who had wormed he way into Grzegorz's heart. I am not a jealous woman. The sly, silken vanity that pulses through other women's hearts does not flow through my veins but it was the unfairness that gnawed at my very soul, of seeing him reveling in the sunlight all smiles with her in his arms only to brood over me under the cover of darkness. She only knew the façade, but I knew the man, with all of his pain and vulnerabilities and limitless potential. The man who changed a simple car theft ring into a national organized crime enterprise infamous across all of Europe. I had always hoped Grzegorz would not fall victim to his own façade, that the love he felt for her was as fleeting as a cold breeze, but that bitch always did have a coyness about her. It was in her eyes, smokey orbs of deep brown that could allure any man. Even Grzegorz.

As time inexorably marched on so did the consummation between Grzegorz and Anastazja. They lived the lives of the idyllic Polish socialites while I oversaw his increasingly expanding operation of underage prostitutes. We began to see each other sporadically, him coming over to fuck me like a cheap slut only to return home to make love to his wife.

The one you desire heart belongs to another…

The day he called and told me that Anastazja was pregnant with his child was one of the worse days of my life. In my haze of inebriation I screamed and cursed him, mocked and challenged him, I even sobbed and pleaded but there was not denying the inevitable.

Bitterness will be your downfall…

And it almost was. My drunken outburst was not without consequence. Grzegorz knew exactly how to hurt me without raising his voice or laying a finger on me. It was almost divine how this man had such power, to give and take away in the blink of an eye. It was that power that attracted me to him so. That made me respect and for a time even fear him.

For the past nine months Grzegorz made me serve as his wife's personal assistant. With one phone call he could turn my life upside down, the club, the money, all gone. It wasn't the threat of losing everything I had that scared me. It was the thought of disappointing Grzegorz.

So I gritted my teeth and aimed to please. It was the longest nine months of my life as I tended to her every need. As her stomach grew larger with child so did the congeniality between us, at least from her end. She even grew to look at me as her friend, much to my resentment. If only she had known what Grzegorz meant to me, what she meant to me. I don't dream anymore, not since I was a little girl but in my waking hours I would fantasize about the good queen Anastazja as just another whore in my nightclub giving birth on the bed where dozens of men took her while the king and I ruled the land.

Together.

It was sometime later when I received a text from Grzegorz. It was a picture of his newborn girl and as I stared into her listless eyes I couldn't help but wonder if the child was even alive at all. Her skin was as white as snow save for her lips which puckered like a blood red rose from her face. And her eyes. Twin raisins that seemed to stare into nothing like those of a porcelain doll. She possessed nothing of her fathers strong Slavic features or mothers brooding Balkan traits. No, she was something else entirely. Her name was typed beneath the picture but I could not bring myself to know her by it. There was a word for her kind, one far more fitting for the abomination Anastazja had birthed into the world.

Jedza.

Witch.