Chapter 2


Thinking of my best friend taking my virginity right here in her clinic did not only gross me out but also more than that. I did have mixed feelings given my unknown state at the moment. 

‘Doamne ferește!’ (God forbid!) I never thought I could get something like this. I never ever thought I’d be in this situation, although I did know that at one point in my life, I could catch or contract something and that I may be hospitalized or see a doctor. And never had I thought I’d need my best friend like this either.

“And to let you know, this physical exam can cause you unusual pain or discomfort,” Antonia further explained to me. “It’s not conclusive and can’t be relied upon to truly establish the diagnosis of endometriosis. I can be wrong, Zen. But… we can instead use ultrasound to rule out other pelvic diseases and perhaps we may find out the presence of endometriosis in your vaginal and bladder areas. But then again, unfortunately, we need to be more accurate to diagnose it.

‘So why are you telling me all this and not just go straight to the point?

I took a deep breath, trying to normalize my heartbeat, and did not blurt out what I had on my mind. I knew she was just explaining to me things but I was getting edgy. And actually, I was on the verge of panicking and breaking down right now.

“Okay. Okay. So, what then?” My thoughts were reeling at the same time. I was really afraid of what might happen to me in the future. Besides Antonia and my parents that I didn’t speak with much, I was all alone in life. I had no siblings to talk to or to vent my anger on either.

“For an accurate diagnosis, I have to directly inspect the inside of your pelvis and abdomen and thus need a tissue for biopsy of the implants, as it’s necessary. Meaning to say, I need you to be at the hospital since we need either laparotomy or laparoscopy.

I took a deep breath once again and closed my eyes for a second or two, then looked at my friend. “What are these… -tomy and -copy you’re saying?” I queried, didn’t get what those medical terms were. I guess that slipped from my mind when I was reading some articles or that I may not altogether have met these words before.

“Laparotomy involves opening the abdomen by using a huge incision.

“What?” My eyes bulged, and I looked at my stomach. Of course, it wasn’t directly since I had my shirt and jeans on, as I was seated at the visitor’s chair in front of my friend’s desk, while she sat behind it in her gray swivel chair. “You’re going to open me up?

“Well, if we must, so that we’ll know for sure…”

“No, no, no, no! I don’t want to be sliced open!” I protested in panic. I wasn’t afraid of blood but I was afraid of wounds. Did it make sense? Of course not! I’m that weird!

“As for the laparoscopy, it is the most frequent surgical procedure that most usual employees used for the diagnosis of endometriosis. Laparoscopy is just a minor surgical procedure that is performed under general anesthesia—”

“Doamne ferește!” I cut her off and crossed myself. As a Catholic, it wasn’t really my habit compared to Antonia, who was an Orthodox and would cross herself thrice, but at this point… God! I thought this was just getting worse and worse. I wanted to get out of here, for the first time. Before, whenever I visited my friend at her clinic, I was always happy to just chat with her, especially when she wasn’t busy. She had a specific time for her private clinic and the rest was at a Iași hospital. 

Iași is a university city in Romania and is somewhere northeast of Bucharest, more than a five-hour car drive.

“But there are some cases where a patient is just under local anesthesia,” Antonia added, trying her best to educate me. “This is most commonly performed as an outpatient procedure, so you don’t need to stay in the facility overnight. To tell you more so that you have an idea, laparoscopy is carried out by first puffing up the abdominal cavity with carbon dioxide by a small incision in the navel.

I instinctively palmed my navel area as she spoke, and I grimaced while thinking about what she said. I thought this was really graphic, imagining that I’d be on that surgery table and my friend was doing it to me.

“There’s a thin, tubular viewing instrument, which is called the laparoscope, that is then inserted into, let’s say, your blown up abdominal cavity. That way, I can inspect your abdomen and pelvis. Through this, endometrial implants can be directly seen, if you have, that is,” she said with a gesture of her hand in between sentences.

I visibly gulped twice while she gave me a measuring look. I may be amazed at her professionalism but I knew she was telling me all this like a friend, filling me in with those little details so that I would understand what I was about to get myself into and be prepared in the near future.

I had no words, although my mind was in a riot right now. What if this was really endometriosis? What then?

“I can schedule you immediately, within next week, once we’re done with the ultrasound today, if you want,” Antonia spoke again, bringing me back to the present.

My eyes wavered.

‘Today,’ I thought miserably. That was indeed immediate. This was going all too fast! I didn’t like it. I felt nervous.

“Hey, hey, Zen!” Antonia flicked her fingers in front of my face when I zoned out again. “Hey, don’t worry, okay? Having this endometriosis is not the end of your world!

“What? How can you even say that? You should know what it is! You know what this entails, Antonia,” I told her bitterly. “Now tell me honestly, so I can at least fully prepare myself.

“We’re not even sure if it’s endometriosis yet, Zen.

“I know, Antonia. But what if you’re right? What’s going to happen to me, honestly?





Days passed by quickly. After that encounter with Anichka, I buried myself at work. I was happier when I kept myself busy and not think about life at all. 

My parents died in a helicopter crash when I was eighteen, the reason why I had to work at the company at such a young age. I was even the first to step on the family business, ahead of my cousin who was two years older than me. He joined the company and started to work his fat ass off at the age of twenty-three. My uncle, my late father’s younger brother-in-law and was Rurik’s late father who died a few years back, was the one who taught me everything about businesses and people around us. He taught me the importance of legalities and everything in between, but I did man up on my own.

“So, why did you call me to meet you here? You missed me, moy kuzen (my cousin)?” Rurik smirked as he sat down on the stool at our favorite bar in downtown Moscow one weekend night. It was summer, late June, so it was warm for us.

We both wore white shirts and dark jeans. His had a round neck, with his stomach slightly bulging in the middle because of his chubbiness. The edge was tucked in, making him look ancient. As for me, I wore a V-neck shirt, and it was untucked. He wore loafers, while I wore sneakers.

I put the tall glass of my Black Russian cocktail down the bar, while the stocky bartender in his thirties eyed us once in a while as he served other customers. He already knew us, as we were patrons here, not just because we were rich. 

There were quite a number of people in the bar, mostly men. Some women were with their guys, but they didn’t drink hard liquors to keep their femininity. As far as I knew since I became aware of drinks and other adult stuff—and it had nothing to do with being sexist at all if I’d say this as I’m not—Russian women don’t drink vodka. It was considered unladylike.

The liquor scent wafted in the air. Russians do drink a lot. It was one of the reasons there are numerous traffic accidents and deaths, mostly men, in the country. The cars would just collide with another vehicle or swerve off road and crash even in the middle of the day.

“No, why would I miss someone who’s an eyesore?” I returned while he ordered a drink for himself, his favorite whisky.

Rurik guffawed. “Wait ‘til you see Mother back from her Greek vacation,” he said.

“Is it already two months since she’s there?” I asked and downed all the remaining content of my cocktail.

 “Yes, but she’s not through with her vacation. I think she’s still going somewhere when she arrives back home,” he said and drank his whisky, half of its content. He gritted his teeth as he savored his drink and swallowed. He eyed me with furrowed thick brows. “Tell me, Maksimillian Usmanov, what the hell’s wrong with you, huh?

I took a deep breath and signaled to the bartender that I needed another glass of my cocktail. Then my sea green eyes regarded my kind cousin. “Honestly, I don’t know what I would do with my life. You and I have it all in terms of money and everything, Rurik, but I can’t see and feel the joy in all of this. Now tell me if I don’t have a problem with this? Is it even normal? I don’t sense my purpose except when I work.

And this all happened just last week. My talk with Rurik proved to be fascinating because he did lend his ears to my whining, if I could call it that. Fucking pathetic, really. I wasn’t easy to break down just like that, and I wasn’t the type to complain about the mishaps of my life but my cousin could always sense if I had a problem, even how little it was. He was that perceptive.

And now, I found myself in Brașov, Romania, inside The Black Church because my aunt dragged me onto this vacation. 

I was listening to the organ playing and secretly recording it on my phone even though taking videos or other sorts of recording was not allowed. But just because! I thought the music was heavenly.

When I surveyed the other people seated on the long benches facing the front that had the organ playing, where the altar was located as well, my eyes suddenly caught a glimpse of the black-haired woman across the aisle. She was openly staring at me with those slightly big gray eyes of hers… and everything seemed to fade away right then…

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