Summary: Anastasia Romanov is the Grand Duchess of Russia, and the youngest daughter of the tsar. Well, she was, before she and her family were exiled and killed by Bolshevik soldiers. But instead of killing her, Anastasia was subjected to Mass Memory Erasure, a technology used in hopes of bending the Russian people to the will of communism. Because of this, Anastasia's memories of her past and her family are wiped clean, leaving her with no recollection of who she really is. She is now called Anya, who works multiple jobs and lives above a tavern owned by a nasty barkeeper. But, dreams of a big city with twinkling lights and nightmares of gunshots and screams plague her, leaving Anya questioning everything and everyone. But, with the help of Dimitri Rybakov, St. Petersburg's most notorious con artist, she is pulled further into the world of who she used to be. But will uncovering her true self prove to be dangerous for Anya? Is she safe anymore? Is anyone?
July 30th, 1909
The day was hot, boiling hot. The sun shone down from the cloudless blue sky, threatening to burn the pale faces of the many people who stood along the streets of St. Petersburg. Being as there was no breeze, it made this summers' day that much more sufferable. But, despite the stifling heat, the people were talking amongst themselves, anxiously awaiting what was to come. This entire crowd was here to see the Navy Day Parade, in which Russia's grand naval forces were appreciated for their work every thirtieth of July.
Tsar Nicholas Romanov II sat tall in the large horse drawn carriage that was provided for him, his wife Alexandra by his side. Both their chins were up as they looked confidently out at the people before them, their hands clasping each other's as a sign of unity and strength within their kingdom. They must attend every parade and every festival that went on in St. Petersburg, because he was the ruler of this country, after all. Their five children were across from them to them as well, waving to the people below as they were told. Four daughters in total, with their son being the youngest child, and the apparent heir to the Romanov throne.
Their youngest daughter, eight-year-old Anastasia, shifted uncomfortably. She was sweating right through her dress, and she was sure that everyone could see as much. Her rear was sticking to the seat of the carriage, and she barely moved in fear that her skirts would be tainted once she got up. The sun's rays were also beating right onto the top of her head, causing her light brown head of hair to burn up. The back of her neck was dripping, and she could feel sweat rolling down her spine. As the carriage slowly moved, a slight breeze tickled her face, but it was a humid one. She groaned softly, fanning herself slightly with her hand. She wondered when this parade would be over, because the faster it was over, the faster she could return home and convince her nursemaid to give her a cold bath.
"I feel as if I'm cooking in an oven," She grumbled to nobody in particular. Her younger brother, Alexei, who was only five, giggled.
"Quiet please, Alexei. And Anastasia, do not complain. Duchesses do not protest about things such as heat," Her mother spoke firmly now, and when she heard her mother's voice, Anastasia knew to follow orders.
"Yes, Mama. My apologies, Mama," She answered softly, and her mother nodded her approval at her daughter's formal response.
Of course, they were the last carriage in this parade, so they trailed along behind the seemingly countless other carriages holding navy men, the people standing on the sidewalks cheering and waving the Russian flag, their full attention on all of them. Drums and trumpets lifted a cheery tune Anastasia didn't know into the air, causing her to tap her fingers to the beat of it. All of the tsar's guards and the police force lined the streets as well, heavily armed and ready to stop anyone who tried to run out into the parade procession.
Anastasia smiled and waved with more exuberance than usual, because she could feel her mother's hawk like eyes on her. It wasn't that she didn't like doing those things. She did enjoy interacting with her father's subjects, mainly because she appreciated that kind of positive attention from strangers who didn't even know her, but today was just too hot.
But she had to, she thought as she continued. She had to for her family.
Just then, she heard shouting coming from the street below. An annoyed kind of shouting, she could hear it. Her smile faded as she saw a small figure push their way past people in order to make their way up to the front. The people being shoved cursed and exclaimed angrily as they got moved to the side. As she peered closer, she saw that the figure was a boy. He dodged the guards that were standing in front of the crowd, some even trying to reach for him, but he quickly careened his way around them to make his way closer towards her family's carriage.
Anastasia's heart suddenly thundered in her chest. She knew some of her father's guards had a tendency for brutality, would they hurt the boy for causing a disturbance? She watched as he then squeezed his way in between two guards and stood there, looking quickly first at the tsar and his wife, then right at Anastasia.
He was a peasant, she could tell by his ragged clothes and the dirt on his face. He looked to be only a little bit older than her, if not the same age. He had dark hair and brown eyes, eyes that reminded her of the caramels her grandmother would send to her from Paris.
Her hand was raised in midair, unmoving as the boy lifted his own in greeting. He smiled with genuine happiness, a happiness that made Anastasia return his grin and wave back. The guards let the boy be as he suddenly got on one knee and bowed.
Bowed to her. He looked at her for the entirety of his movements, his face red and flushed with heat, but the sunlight danced off his eyes and made them twinkle. He bowed with such elegance, that if he wasn't dressed so poorly, he could have been passed off as some kind of royalty.
Or at least he practiced bowing often.
Anastasia smiled even wider now and nodded her head slowly in approval, once up and down, as she had been taught to do.
As she looked back up, she noticed the boy was gone. She abruptly stood up, not caring if she had a sweat stain on the back of her dress. The carriage lurched, and her older sister Tatiana grabbed onto her arm to keep her from falling. She scanned the crowd as the carriage moved on, getting farther and farther away from the bowing boy's spot.
"Sit down, Anastasia," Her mother commanded.
Anastasia didn't even seem to hear her as she continued to squint past the sun and look at the many faces standing before her. Had it been a trick of the light? Or had the heat made her begin to hallucinate?
Was the boy ever really there in the first place?
How did he get away so fast?
"Anastasia!" Her mother said, a little louder this time.
Anastasia let out a sigh and plopped back into her seat, not even bothering to apologize to her mother because she was too preoccupied with thoughts of that boy.
Adults bowed to her and her siblings often when they were guests in the palace, but never really children, especially not commoner children. And this boy...he had shown her such respect, and smiled at her with such friendliness, and they didn't even know each other.
And will she ever find out?
As the carriage rolled on, the day growing hotter and hotter, Anastasia sat quietly and figured out the answers to her questions all by herself.
No, she wouldn't find out.
And no, she wouldn't see that boy ever again.
Because he was a commoner, and she was the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov...and they were nothing alike.