95

The Queen in Exile

Part X

"Find out who you are and be that person. That's what your soul was put on this Earth to be. Find that truth, live that truth and everything else will come."

-Ellen DeGeneres

I walked all the way back to my compartment. What would happen next? That was the question. I couldn't believe that Tish told someone about me and Peter. Thank God she didn't tell him about Michael. No one in Russia could know that. I couldn't fathom what Yuri's reaction would be. If he knew that there was another Tsar in line, he would most likely have his men kill my son after they killed me.

I wanted to take Tish by the throat and choke the life out of her. I had worked way too hard to hide my life and connections to Russia from the government and its President. I didn't want anyone to be in danger because of me. I took a moment and pondered the idea of trading Tish for my freedom. Deep down inside I knew that my family would never get over it, but it was really tempting.

I stopped in the passageway to look out the window. The world was gliding by outside of that window. I normally would love to sit and watch the landscape go by. I would get lost in it as I traveled. One of the things that I loved about Russia was the landscape. Now, all I could think about was how to make the train move faster so that I could make my way to Angarsk, Irkutsk, and ultimately America.

I heard a voice behind me. "There you are. I've been worried sick about you," Tania said.

"I'm sorry," I replied.

"You don't look so good. I hate that look. What happened now?"

Tania hadn't been with me for years, and she still knew me better than just about anyone in the world. Her intuition with me and my moods was amazing. "How do you always know what mood I'm in?"

"Easy. How could you be in a good mood when you're being chased across Russia?"

"Wise ass," I said.

"What happened?" she asked. "I mean, besides Tish getting plastered and passing out in the cabin?"

"It's just like last time. It's a mess."

"Describe the mess."

"Tish told the engineer that I'm married to her grandson, so now everyone he knows will know that."

"Did she tell him about Michael?"

"No. But I talked to Peter. Yuri has put arrest warrants out for me. If I recall, he offers cash rewards too. He found out that I wasn't on that plane in Kazakhstan. I don't have enough information. I don't know what he's got planned. How can I outrun him, if I don't know his plans?"

"So now what do we do?" Tania asked.

"I'm still thinking. All we have to do is get back to Alaska. While I was in the cab, I spoke to the engineer. He agreed to skip the next stop and wait until we get to Angarsk to stop. I will try to reach Dimi. I hope he can help us get from Angarsk to Irkutsk another way, so that Yuri and his men have a more difficult time tracking us. Dimi, I hope, will be able to help us get out of the country. I have to call him and ask him if he has a plane that we can use."

"Did the engineer say how far it was to Angarsk?"

"Approximately eight hours."

Tania didn't reply right away. She stood and stared out the window for a moment. "You know, if I wasn't being chased by some half crazed Russian Mafioso, I would probably enjoy this view."

I giggled. I turned to look out the window with her. The view was beautiful. We were in wild rolling hills at that moment. It was half frozen and half greening up for the spring. Everything was white and green. It looked like a checker board. There were cute little houses along the way. They were log cabins crossed with traditional dachas. I still knew little about the vast Siberia that lay between Novosibirsk and the east coast. I'd always wondered why people voluntarily continued to live in Siberia. Now I realized why.

"It's beautiful, don't you think?" a voice behind me asked.

I turned to see a porter. He had the brooding look of a native Russian. His eyes were dark, as was his hair and somewhat, his skin. His physique was that of a young man, but the lines on his face said otherwise.

"Yes," I replied.

"Josef sent me to see that you were comfortable," he said.

"That was very nice of him," I said.

"Who's Josef?" Tania asked.

"The engineer," I told her.

The young man smiled. "I am Kolya. I am the head Dezhurnaya on this train. Please tell me if there is anything that I can do to make your trip more enjoyable, your highness."

My throat went dry. He knew too. It was like I was traveling with a giant sign hanging from a rope around my neck that said, "Tsarina here" on it. Soon everyone in Siberia would know who I was. Sooner or later someone would tell Yuri where I was. Sooner or later someone would find out about Michael and tell Yuri about him too. I was becoming chronically paranoid, but I couldn't keep my son safe enough in my own opinion. He was my only child and heir to the Russian throne. Nothing bad could happen to him. He was the most precious thing in the world to me. The heir to the throne part was just added stress. I would kill to protect my wonderful little boy.

I smiled at Kolya. "Please, don't call me that. I wouldn't want to cause a disturbance on board."

"I understand. You are trying not to attract attention."

"Of course she's trying not to attract attention to herself," Tania scoffed. "She's being chased by the government here. She has no idea who might turn her in."

I noticed a change in Kolya's expression. His smile faded

"What my friend means is that there is someone chasing me right now. They mean to arrest me."

Kolya's eyes grew wide. "The government is trying to find you? Do they know that you are on the train?"

"I think so," I replied.

"Not to worry. Siberia is friendly territory. The movement to bring back the monarchy started here. Many people in the East want to disband the government. Many of the people on this train are regular travelers and I know many of them personally. I assure you, this train is a safe place. You must trust me."

Tania and I traded looks. "Do you mean to tell me that Siberians want to oust the President? Geographically speaking, that's over half the country," Tania said.

"I have spent my life here in the East, and I have worked on the trains for almost a decade now. That is my educated opinion, yes."

Tania looked at me. "Stacey, if this guy is right, you could really take over the country. Siberia is the biggest land region in the world. You could be a hero here."

I opened my mouth to reply, but Kolya spoke first. "Many of us here in Siberia would be honored to be your revolutionary army. We would like to return to the days of old. My mother has spoken often of the legends of the Tsars. She told me stories of all the ways that the Tsars created our Siberia. They built trains and battled to make us part of Russia. The stories are old, but since the Communists took over in the October Revolution, we have been ignored and used as a place to banish people to. My mother told me many times that there would come a time when a Romanov will appear and make things right. I hope this is that time. I would like to have more than Gulags and gangsters in my country. I hope that a time will come when transportation is furthered, and industry flourishes. I would like to have people want to come and see the land that I love on holidays. The current government would never work to make Siberia a place where tourists would come."

My head ached. I rubbed my temples. "What did she mean, make things right?" I asked Kolya.

"That I do not know. I took it to mean that Siberia would become more accessible and modern. A place that people want to visit," he answered.

"What if I were to take over and did what I thought was right? But, what if it was not what the people wanted? How will I know what right is?" I asked him.

"If you are truly a Romanov, then you will figure it out," he told me.

I stared out the window. The sun was starting to fall in the west. I hoped that Tania wouldn't react poorly with her darkness PTSD. We were traveling east and it made the day seem shorter. Nothing drove me over the edge like hearing Tania complain about darkness. I lacked consideration at that point, but simply the idea of figuring out how to make things right made me cranky.

I looked at my watch. We still had hours to go. I wondered how long it would take for Yuri to catch up to the train. He wouldn't stop. He thought I was the last Romanov. He wanted to get rid of me and remove the threat of my family once and for all. He couldn't find out about Michael.

"Could you just please excuse us?" I asked Kolya.

He bowed to me and left.