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The full moon reflected off the sapphire water like a spilled can of white paint. The jewel-like water sparkled and danced on the horizon, and licked their toes at the shoreline. His golden eyes pierced into hers through the darkness, and the touch of his soft lips on hers sent shivers down her spine.

She laid her head on his sturdy bronzed shoulders and felt overwhelmed with love. At that moment, everything was perfect.

Chara awoke with a serene smile on her face, feeling warm and fuzzy. But as she tumbled back to reality, she shook her head and chided herself.

She couldn’t figure out why she was having these recurring dreams about this Jak character she’d made up in her mind so long ago. And she felt guilty--almost as if she were cheating on Alexei--for having them.

Of course, she hadn’t told Alexei. He would be furious to know she was dreaming of Jak. She hadn’t dared mention his name since she’d begged for Alexei’s forgiveness nine months ago, and she’d noticed that since she’d stopped bringing him up, he’d been a happier, calmer person, and much easier to be around.

Besides, she truly trusted Alexei, and if he said there was no Jak, then there was no Jak. Why would he lie to her?

Chara rolled over in bed and adjusted her pregnancy pillow. Her belly was uncomfortably large. Alexei had made sure that she had everything she needed to relieve her discomfort, from extra cushions to a closet full of maternity wear, to help around the house (he’d flown his sisters in from Moscow), but that didn’t change the fact that a fully grown baby was still hanging around inside of her.

It was a week past her due date, and Chara was about done with being pregnant. She didn’t move much from her bed, other than shuffling to the bathroom when she had to pee, which was often.

Today, her back was aching more than ever.

The doctor had suggested she move around to induce labor, so even though she felt like a big, heavy cow, Chara swung her legs around and placed her swollen feet on the floor. She heaved herself up and waddled to the living room.

Suddenly she felt a tightening in her stomach and a shooting pain. She made it to the sofa and put her hands on the back of it. She breathed in slowly, and pushed a tempered breath out through pursed lips, as the doctor had taught her.

It was time.

“Lexi! LEXI!” she cried, as yet another wave of pain shook her uterus.

Alexei came running from another room, tripping over his own feet as he did so. “Now?”


“OK, OK, I call doctor,” he assured her, rubbing his hands softly across her bent over back. “You should lie down.” He took her hands and led her back to her bed. Chara held her belly and shuffled as best she could, her eyes shut tightly in a grimace. Alexei spoke quickly in Russian on his phone, which was lodged between his head and his shoulder and he helped Chara to her bed with both hands. “He come now,” he breathed, helping her lie back in the bed, and propping up her back with an extra pillow.

He’d been extra gentle with her since finding out that she was pregnant, and treated her like a queen. He’d promised, one cozy night in bed, to treat her like that for the rest of her life.

Alexei went to the bathroom and came back a moment later with a wet face cloth, which he applied to her forehead.

It seemed to Chara like it had been hours before the doctor arrived, but in reality, he got there within 15 minutes of Alexei’s call. He rushed right in, wearing his white robe, with a stethoscope dangling around his neck.

Dr. Konstantin Borovsky had delivered Alexei 42 years ago and was the only doctor Alexei trusted. He’d flown in from Moscow for the birth two months before, and had been doing check-ups on Chara every other day since his arrival. His sole purpose for being there was ensuring a safe and healthy delivery for the baby of the Russian mafia boss of Koh Samui.

Dr. Borovsky, now nearly 70 years old, had white hair and a carefully trimmed beard. He wore small spectacles that sat on the end of his long, bulbous nose, and made slow but purposeful movements that demonstrated both his age and his skill simultaneously.

“You’re dilated six centimeters already. It’s moving fast,” the doctor announced from between her legs. Having worked for many years in the US, his English was near perfect, though he still retained the undertones of a Russian accent.

Chara felt another contraction take over her body. This one had an intensity that was completely new to her. She screamed and dug her nails into Alexei’s hand as she grasped it with all her might. “FUUUUCK!” she panted.

Alexei didn’t flinch but looked upon her with an empathetic frown. He wiped her brow, from which beads of sweat were forming, despite the frigid air blasting from the air conditioning unit.

Suddenly, Chara was shivering. Alexei ran to bring her a blanket and turned off the air conditioning. Now both the doctor and Alexei started to sweat, but neither complained.

Today was all about Chara and baby Matvey.

“Drink, please,” Alexei instructed, holding a cup of water to her lips. He tipped it back and Chara sipped it down.

There was some commotion in the living room, and Chara was relieved to hear the sound of female voices approaching. Alexei’s sisters were soon in the room, by her side.

Sofia and Vicky were a kind, eccentric pair, and Chara liked them very much. Sofia was soft and feminine, with kind blue eyes and rosy red cheeks, and red nails so long, they were practically talons. Vicky was harder, more like her brother, and very sarcastic. She made Chara laugh often with her dry sense of humor.

“This so exciting!” Sofia sang, gripping Chara’s free hand, and winking at her. Sofia had two girls of her own and had promised to be Chara’s birthing partner. Vicky had never had kids, so she had been assigned to take care of all other matters around the house, including keeping Alexei calm.

It was seven more painful, grueling hours before the baby started crowning.

“OK, I need you to push again. Really hard this time, Chara.”

Chara breathed in and cried out as she pushed down with all her might.

Out popped the baby’s head. “One more push, last one, and he’s out,” the doctor encouraged her.

She screamed again, grasping hard onto Alexei and Sofia’s hands, giving the final push from the depths of her soul.

And finally, he was born. Baby Matvey breathed his first breath and started screaming with an impressive set of lungs. The doctor took him and washed him off before placing him in Chara’s arms.

So relieved that the pain was over, and filled with love for her new baby boy, Chara was overwhelmed with emotions. Those were emotions she had expected to feel. What she didn’t expect was what came next.

As the doctor placed the baby in her arms, she gasped.

Though his face was scrunched and his eyes were barely open, there was no mistaking it.

Baby Matvey looked just like Jak.

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