And Aleksey Lived: An Alternative History
In the early morning hours of 17 July 1918, 13-year-old Aleksey, the young heir to the Russian throne, has just witnessed his parents’ murder and believes his life will soon be over too. As he’s waiting to die, a miracle happens and the White Army storms into the cellar. Following his rescue, the Russian Civil War turns in favor of the Whites, the monarchy is restored, and he’s taken home to St. Petersburg. Because he’s too young and sick to rule in his own right, his uncle, Grand Duke Mikhail, is appointed as Regent.
Haunted by the memory of his family’s captivity, and with a heart full of compassion for others’ suffering after his lifelong experience with illness, Aleksey is determined to become a modern, enlightened Tsar who helps the common people. There’s no guarantee he’ll have a long life, but as long as he’s still alive, he’ll do everything in his power to leave behind a legacy as Russia’s most beloved ruler.
Against all dire predictions, Aleksey survives into adulthood and ascends the throne in 1929. Determined to endear himself to the people and demonstrate how modern and compassionate he is, he begins granting sweeping reforms and makes himself a constitutional monarch. However, before he can be formally coronated, he’s ordered to find a Tsaritsa. As much as he’s always wanted a family like everyone else, he’s terrified of leaving a young widow and orphans, or even passing down hemophilia to another generation.
Arkadiya Gagarina is the least-likely Tsaritsa anyone could imagine. Not only is she a morganatic princess, but she’s also seven years older than the Tsar, walks with a limp, and carries several sizable scars on her body. She’s thrilled to receive a marriage proposal from the handsome, young new Tsar, even knowing this marriage will just be for the sake of appearances. But as the wedding date approaches, they start developing romantic feelings for one another, and rethink their plans for a celibate marriage. Shortly after his coronation, Aleksey finally finds the courage to inform the public about his illness.
But though it seems as if the dynasty is stronger than ever, and Aleksey’s sweeping reforms have finally brought Russia into the twentieth century, the biggest challenge yet comes when another war breaks out.
Between September 1989 and early 2009, I regularly kept journals, and am sort of embarrassed I fell away from the daily habit for several years. Baruch Hashem, I finally permanently resumed the habit in 2013. I named them all from the second journal on. I would love to someday publish each volume, making sure to take out any entries revealing too much personal information, or entries that just sound stupid, like when I was just getting really into Sixties music in junior high and would just ramble on and on and on about chart positions and greatest songs and stuff no one would really care to read about in a journal. The third journal, Cecilia, remains my favorite journal. I’m going to call the collection of entries from that period, 4 October 1993-25 January 1996, Pieces of Cecilia. (And unlike the fictitious journals written by Beatrice Sparks, my journals actually read like they were written by a real person instead of being all about a specific problem with a set beginning, middle, and end!)