Welcome back to WIPpet Wednesday, hosted by K.L. Schwengel, a weekly blog hop wherein participants share excerpts from their WIPs related in some way to the date. Twenty plus five is twenty-five, so I’m sharing twenty-five sentences.
My alternative history, And Aleksey Lived, is told in four acts (1918–19, 1922–?, 1929–31, and 1939–45), plus an Epilogue. It starts where the real-life story sadly ended, and depicts a much happier 20th century for Russia, with perhaps the unlikeliest ruler in history. So many books, both novels and non-fiction, focus on the four Grand Duchesses, but I always felt most drawn to Aleksey, for so many reasons. I don’t believe he would’ve automatically died young anyway or been too sick to rule in his own right.
The morning after he and his sisters were miraculously rescued just in the nick of time, he doesn’t have much of an appetite for the feast the soldiers prepared, amid the famine going on in Yekaterinburg. First 21-year-old Tatyana urges him to regain his health and think about his newfound responsibilities, and then 22-year-old Olga picks up where she left off. He’s not very happy at being told he has to scale back his active nature and live what he feels isn’t a normal life.
“Maybe some other boys like that, but I don’t. And I don’t want people to think I’m not a real boy. I’m too old now to be happy with that. The last thing I want is for people to think I’m not a real man when I’m older.”
“People will judge you as a real man by your deeper actions,” Ólga said. “A real man has quality of character, a noble heart, a generous spirit, and a kind nature. You can participate in all the hunting, fishing, roughhousing, indoor sledding, and wood-chopping you want, and it won’t make you more of a real man if you don’t have a good character underneath. Anyone who makes fun of you for spending your time with quieter pursuits isn’t anyone you need to be keeping company with, and their attitude says far more about them than it does about you.”
“But I want to do those things. It’s boring to sit still all day, and it’s not fun to have to watch everyone else having fun and being normal. I don’t always hurt myself when I act normally.”
“But you’ve hurt yourself enough times to have learnt your lesson by now. Now that Mama and Papa are gone, you have to be the man of household and learn to properly take care of yourself. We can’t take care of you forever and protect you from yourself. Do you or don’t you want to live as long as you can?”
His eyes grew misty. “I want to live a long time, and not always have to wonder when my last sight of the clouds, the sky, and the birds will be.”
“And do you want a long life more than you want a typical boy experience?”
“I want to live more. Even when I’m in pain and wish I could die to end my misery, I’m still scared of the thought of never seeing the beauty of nature again. I don’t want to be dead and never know the beautiful world of the living ever again.”
“Then you’ll do whatever it takes to stay healthy and live as long as you can. But don’t use that as an excuse to only sit about drawing, reading, and watching nature. You should exercise your joints too, so they build up greater strength and become more resistant to slips and falls. Mama and Papa would want you to survive and be strong for them.”
In real life, Aleksey said something very similar to Olga when she found him lying on his back looking at the clouds, “I enjoy the sun and the beauty of summer as long as I can. Who knows whether one of these days I shall not be prevented from doing it?”