WIPpet Wednesday—Too many don’ts

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. 6+3+2015=14, so I’m sharing 14 lines from my alternative historical WIP.

By this point, the members of the firing squad who murdered the Imperial couple and two of their retainers have been publicly hanged, and Aleksey, his sisters, and the two surviving retainers have returned to St. Petersburg. Grand Duke Mikhail, next in line to the throne, has also been rescued, and has accepted the role of Regent. His first official act as Regent was to declare martial law and have all the Bolsheviks thrown into prison. He’s also intensified the May Laws, in overreaction to the origins of certain of the leading Bolsheviks. Aleksey doesn’t think it’s right to punish the entire Jewish community of the Russian Empire just because of the actions of a relatively small group, but he can’t do anything about it till he’s the one in power.

Now Mikhail is taking charge of his nephew’s medical care, with a whole new team of doctors. He’s taking a rather tough love policy, which at the moment feels more like an even longer list of don’ts than before. Aleksey was always an active child when he was well, not some wilting lily who stayed inside reading, drawing, and demurely playing. There are numerous pictures of him doing things that could’ve turned very dangerous, like going down a slide, standing on top of a cannon, riding a bicycle, and balancing on chairs. (However, all the pictures of him on horseback were staged, and he was whisked off the horse as soon as the picture was taken.) He did all he could to be a normal boy, beyond the bounds of his disease.


Mikhaíl looked around the room. “There are too many sharp corners in here.  I’ll have to get a servant to put some kind of cushioning material around the desk, shelves, chairs, and everything else.  One wrong step, and you could have yet another hemorrhage.”

Dr. Merkulov took a piece of paper out of his pocket and unfolded it. “Your uncle consulted with us about other activities you shouldn’t do, or should stop doing immediately.  Would you like to read it, or shall I read it to you?”

Alekséy took the paper, his heart sinking as he read the long list.  Besides all the things he was already forbidden to do, he was also now suddenly forbidden to do things he’d always enjoyed, as well as things he was looking forward to, like smoking, driving, and serving in the military.  Perhaps even worse, he was now forbidden to keep all the fasts on the Orthodox calendar, when his family had always been so above and beyond in their observance of their faith.

“I was so excited to be old enough to fast before Communion and keep the fasts of Great Lent and Nativity, and now I’m supposed to just smile and go back to eating regular food like a little kid?”

“God knows your heart,” Mikhaíl said. “You’re not deliberately shirking your religious duty.  This is a matter of life and death.”

26 thoughts on “WIPpet Wednesday—Too many don’ts

  1. Ah, poor Aleksey! To be a boy yet unable to delight in all the boyish things… especially things you’d been doing or looked forward to doing. The fact he is upset about not being able to fast gives us a real look at the depth of his beliefs.


    • His family definitely went above and beyond in their commitment to Orthodoxy. It seems as though he were already on a restrictive diet of some sort, but that didn’t seem to include eating normally during the fasting seasons. I also discovered a military career was being planned for him, though that really seems like a very dangerous idea even if he were completely noncombatant and in peacetime.


  2. Aw, poor Aleksey. I know even with the wonders of modern medicine, my husband’s brother still had a laundry list of do’s and don’ts. How much harder it must have been for people before they could be treated to prevent the worst of the consequences.


    • My character Philip, who’s born in 1958, has a similar childhood of frequent injuries and don’ts, though at least he’s not from such a pre-modern era in terms of treatment options. Those few decades made so much difference.


      • A few years can make a huge difference in medical treatment. When I was writing my character with hemophilia, I still had to verify a lot of my own information despite having a close family member with it. The treatment options have expanded so much in less than the last 10 years. Things that weren’t possible when he died are now saving lives. It’s amazing.


    • I was really surprised, a few years back, when my rebbetzin spoke about fasting for I believe the 17th of Tammuz (a sunrise to sunset fast during the summer), even though she was pregnant. I’d thought pregnancy was a get out of fasting free card, and that it was dangerous to fast when pregnant, but apparently it was safe for her.


  3. i’m another one in the “poor Aleksey” camp, to be denied everything that he did before without incident! Though I can understand Mikhail’s concern: ye gods, that picture of him! I’d be nervous for him even without his illness!


    • There’s another picture of him in that same place, only entirely on the pole and not on the chair anymore. His mother must not have been anywhere near him at that time, or she would’ve forbidden it!


  4. Mikhail is clearly doing his best to not be Regent any longer than he has to be…. I’d say Aleksey should be happy for that, but it’s got to be heartbreaking to face a future with what seems to hold nothing to look forward to in it. I get the feeling that he won’t be an exactly “good” patient.


  5. To be fair I can understand why he’s being prevented from doing certain activities, it’s just common sense. You portray a kid, who doesn’t quite have enough common sense to understand this, really well. You’ve captured the whole ‘everything is just a problem and I want to be normal and can’t understand why you won’t let me’ thing really well.

    I’m getting the feeling though that some of the restricted things are a little ridiculous and I feel so much for Aleksey. And I feel for Mikhail who just wants to keep the boy in his car safe and healthy despite everything. It’d be so easy to show him as overbearing and a ‘bad’ guardian but you’ve written the concern and real caring so well. I love it!


    • Thanks! The most important thing for me is to render my real-life characters accurately, giving them thoughts, actions, and speech in keeping with who they were, and developing them in directions which also go naturally with their established personalities.


  6. I like the snippet. Yet again, it’s clear as Aleksey is more mature than his age.
    That’s something that often happenes, I think: when a loved one has an health problem, everyone becoems more apprehensive that they should probably be.


    • He was definitely described as having a maturity, wisdom, and sensitivity beyond his years. Some people make far too much of how he was rather spoilt and out of control when he was younger, since that wasn’t the only thing about him, and he grew out of it as he got older and began to understand the nature of his illness better.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Ouch on the fasting. I have a friend who is a very devout Byzantine Catholic and I think she’d be disheartened to be told she couldn’t keep the fasts, especially as so many of them are not complete fasts.

    There’s definitely a difficult balance to keep with kids who are medically fragile. It can be hard to know where to draw the lines. At least Mikhail isn’t encouraging his nephew to do dangerous things in the hopes he’ll get the throne permanently.


    • In real life, Mikhail was never keen on his role as first heir apparent and then heir presumptive, but in my story, he really steps up for the sake of his nephew. His tough love policy pays off, even if it seems monumentally unfair at first.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. When hearing of sick kids prevented from being kids, my heart always sinks. But, the alternative is even worse. And also being denied the things that are part of growing up, is just as hard. There is no happy answer to it. Like they all said, “Poor Aleksey.”


    • I feel left out when the metal hardware in my right leg and ankle prevents me from doing things like going to a trampoline park, but at least I’m an adult and understand why I can’t do certain things. Children, even young adults, just see it as being told No over and over again.

      Liked by 1 person

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