Once Upon a December

Eight-year-old Anastasia woke up. A boy, who was a couple years older than her was looking down at her His mother was looking sown at her as well. The boy grinned from ear to ear.

"You're alive!" He cried out with joy. "What a relief. I thought you were dead." Anastasia got up, looking confused.

"Who are you?" She wanted to know.

"I'm Pavel." He pointed to the woman. "That's my mama."

"Where are your parents, young lady?" The mom asked.

"I don't know. I don't know where I am." The mom frowned.

"Oh, you poor dear. You must have hit your head very hard on that platform. I think you have amnesia."

"Amnesia?" The mom nodded. Pavel then noticed the necklace around her neck.

"What's with the necklace?" He wanted to know. Anastasia looked down at her necklace. She didn't even know she had it. She didn't even know if she'd seen it before.

"Don't know." She admitted. The little boy grabbed it and looked at the writing on it. "'Together in Paris.' What does that mean?"

"Again, I have no idea." He let it go and looked at his mother.

"Mama, we have to help her." She nodded.

"I agree, dear." She looked at Anastasia. "Come dear, we'll take you to the children's hospital." Anastasia was unsure if she should trust these strangers, but had no other choice. They wanted to help her. That was good enough for her.

"We'll take good care of her." The nurse at the hospital promised. Anastasia was confused again as she looked at the mother and child.

"You're not staying with me?" She questioned.

"Sorry, dear." The mom responded. "We have to go. Be a good girl and listen to everything the nurse tells you. Her and her coworkers are good people. They won't hurt you and want to help."

"Do svidaniya!" Pavel said waving goodbye as they left. "Hope you find your parents and get your memory back!" Anastasia waved farewell to them too.

"Let's get you into a room." The nurse stated. Anastasia nodded and followed her.

"What's your name?" The girl asked.

"Nurse Dessa." Dessa replied. "But you may call me Dessa. As that nice lady mentioned, we're here to help in any way we can. So this is a safe place for you and for all children that come here."


"So do you know where you are?" Dessa questioned Anastasia later that day. Anastasia laid on a hospital bed in a hospital gown. Once again, the eight-year-old was puzzled.

"I thought I was at the children's hospital."

"No. I meant what country you are in." Anastasia tried to think of it but shook her head.

"Sorry. I have no clue."

"You're in Russia. City?" She shook her head again. "Petrorad. Year?" Once again, she shook her head. "1916." She asked about her necklace too, but the girl had no clue and they left it at that. She told Anastasia more, then left her to rest.

Anastasia was discharged a few days later. Dessa and the other friends Anastasia made waved goodbye She waved goodbye too as she left with the officer who was going to escort her to a orphanage for her parents were nowhere to be found.

Phlegmenkoff was waiting for Anastasia at the front of the orphanage. Some of the kids were waiting as well.

As soon as Anastasia arrived with the police officer, Phlegmenkoff offered her hand to him. The officer shook it and she greeted herself. She looked at little Anastasia.

"This must be the orphan." She observed. The man nodded.

"Da, she is." Phlegmenkoff grabbed the girl. "We'll take good care of her officer. This will be her home until she is eighteen or otherwise."

"Good. I'll make my leave now. She's your responsibility now." He left as Anastasia waved goodbye.

"Bye, officer!" Anastasia called after him. "Thanks again for bringing me here." As soon as she was done, she found herself face to face with Phlegmenkoff. She eyed the necklace, but didn't question it like everybody else had.

"There are going to be strict rules here." She just told her. "You must listen to everything the staff and I say if you're going to survive here in this place."

"Don't worry." Anastasia reassured her. "You have nothing to worry about. I'll be good and obey every word."

"You better otherwise you'll be kicked out and have to go somewhere else or worse, live out in the streets. You don't want that."

"You have nothing to worry about. I promise. You'll grow to love me and I'll love it here."

The next morning, Anastasia, now renamed Anya in the orphanage, came down the stairs to the smell of bliny and grenki. Ksenia, Phlegmenkoff's assistant was reading the newspaper.

"Morning Ksenia!" She announced. But Ksenia was too absorbed in the newspaper to look up at the chipper girl. Anastasia then saw Phlegmenkoff. "Morning, Phlegmenkoff." Phlegmenkoff too ignored her as she went to the fridge to pour herself some black tea.

"Those poor Romanovs." Piped up Ksenia. "Killed by Rasputin."

"Oh, yeah." Phlegmenkoff said. "I read about that. Very tragic indeed." Ksenia put down the newspaper to look at her mistress. "It doesn't mention the daughter, Grand Duchess Anastasia. Do you think she survived?"

"It's very unlikely. That was a very violent attack on the royal family."

"It also says here that the grandmother tried to escape with Anastasia on a train to Paris, but lost her grip on her as she was trying to help her board."

"Again, very tragic. But that's life. I say we propose a toast in their honor. You want black tea as well?"

"Oh, yes, thank you." Phlegmenkoff got out another mug and poured her tea as well.

"Say, wasn't little Anya found at the train station? You don't think...?"

"Nah. Life is full of miracles, but it can't be her. That poor girl is good as dead." She gave Ksenia the now filled mug, "To Grand Duchcess Anastasia and the whole Romanov family. May they all rest In peace." They both performed the toast and drank away.

"How old was she?" Asked Anastasia, who couldn't help but listen in. They both looked at her.

"It's very rude to listen in on private conversations, Anya." Phlegmenkoff said to her. "But if you must know, she was eight years old like yourself." Anastasia's eyes widened.

"So she was my age. Gosh, how sad! She didn't get to live very long. She can't laugh again. She can't play and enjoy music. She can't dance. She won't enjoy childhood ever again."

"Yes, but that's how life works. It's unpredictable and it can change in an instant. You on the other hand are very lucky to be alive."

"I guess I am. Very lucky." She then looked at her necklace, the same necklace she still had on, and refused to part with it. 'Together in Paris.' What did it mean? Someone gave this to her, but who? The little girl needed answers. She hoped one day she would find them and reunite with her family that she knew she must still have.

All throughout breakfast and the rest of the day, Anastasia couldn't stop thinking about the young Grand Duchess. She knew Russia was hurting. She wished she could help, but she felt totally hopeless.

Anastasia's babushka couldn't believe it. Just a short time ago, she was holding tightly to her granddaughter's hand. A second later, the little girl slipped though her grasp and fell into the December snow on the train platform. Was she dead? She didn't want to think about it.

She promised her a better life was waiting for them in Paris where they were going. Now she can't begin to imagine life without her there with her. Should she risk it with Rasputin still after her and get off at the next stop? Did he catch and murder her grandchild? She hoped not. She pondered this over. She just didn't know what to do. Her poor old heart just couldn't handle it.

Demetri woke up and stood up. His head was still throbbing in pain after being pushed violently to the floor after helping that girl and her grandma escape through the wall. That girl! Was she and her grandma okay? Did they escape and make it where they were going to? The ten-year-old wished that he knew that answer but didn't. He could only go on his day, but he also couldn't stop thinking about that girl she helped. He thought about her all day.

Years later, Demetri made friends with Vladimir. They then heard rumors about Anastasia being alive and the reward money her grandmother will give out to whoever can travel to Paris and reunite them. Demetri took this as an opportunity. He put an arm over his friend' shoulder.

"Vlad, buddy," He began. "10 million rubles for Grand Duchess Anastasia's safe return to her grandma! Can you even picture what we can do with that all of that money?" Vladimir did and he liked it a lot. He then had a question.

"Do you think we can find her?" He asked.

"Vlad, Vlad, Vlad." He put an arm around his friend. "We don't need to find her. All we need is to find someone that looks like her. If we can convince the grandma we have found her long lost granddaughter, we'll be filthy rich! I can almost picture it."

"Yeah, but that'll be lying and break her fragile heart. She lost her ten years ago. If she finds out that her 'granddaughter' is not the real deal, she'll be devastated. It'll be cruel to do that to such on old woman, anybody really. Hasn't she suffered enough? I don't think I want any part of it."

"I wish we could find the real Anastasia to show that old woman but we might not be able to find her. She might even be dead for all we know. I still don't know what happened to that girl I saved as a kid. I'll say this once again, 10 million rubles!" Vlad didn't want to hurt the old woman but he couldn't say nyet to his friend. The pressure with the money was too great. He couldn't escape it.

"Alright, Demetri." He declared. "I'm in. What do we do?" Demetri brought him in close.

"Money corrupts you, my dear friend. That's good. Now, listen close..."

Pooka was alone and scared. The little gray floppy-eared dog didn't know what to do. He was a stray. He was tired of stealing food from unsuspecting people and vendors. He was already done with his last meal, but the dog longed for something more now. He was lonely. He longed for companionship but so far had no luck. Was he doomed to be alone forever?

Then he saw her. A woman with a scarf! His mood of sadness changed to glee in an instant. That scarf looked like the perfect toy for him, and the woman looked like the perfect companion. He just needed to wait for the perfect time to make his move.

"Send me a sign!" The woman shouted to no one in particular. "A hint; anything!" This was it! This was his chance! Pooka wasted no time. That scarf was inviting him to play and tug on it. So, with a burst of energy, the little stray rushed out.