Chapter 23: All the Sunlight of Our Past
Logs crackled in the fireplace. Soft music flowed from a small music box. Milena sat silently on a gray floral rug in front of the hearth. Tears flowed down her cheeks. The events of the last few hours had turned her world upside down. The revelations of her father’s past regarding the KLF and its activities had already cracked the idealized image she held of her dad. Doubt had crept up in her mind about whether he truly was the gentle loving man she adored. However, any reservations she had she pushed aside. Elias had convinced her the death of a few political rivals was necessary as their corruption and oppression had run too deep. Besides meaningful change and justice in the world often came hand in hand with violence.
Liana had permanently shattered that view of her father. Her sister’s words which detailed the pain and abuse their father inflicted on her echoed in her mind. He had taken from Liana the love of her life. Blamed her for her mother’s death. Instead of listening to her sister, she yelled at her. Exploded in a fit of rage. Vehemently denied her story. She was hurt and angry because she knew Liana was right. Their father was a monster. She knew that now. Accepting who her father really was would take some time as well as looking at her history in a different light. The broken yet beautiful family Milena thought she, her father, and younger sister had made together was only the former. Broken beyond repair.
The stories of her childhood were much easier on the heart. She vividly recalled sitting at her Grandmother Catharina’s feet while she cradled Liana in her arms. Dark elves and valiant knights filled her Grandma Ina’s tales but were an allegory of Blagueur-Ohanyan history she had previously seen as her true heritage.
Twenty-three years earlier:
“Grandma, please can I have another story?” Milena pleaded, making puppy eyes. “I’m not ti..tir…” Milena brought her hand to her mouth and yawned. “Tired yet.”
Catharina skeptically squinted her eyes, “Hmmm…are you sure?” she teased.
“I am. Pleassseeee.” Milena cuddled up closer to her grandmother who was rocking back and forth in a rocking chair.
Catharina glanced down at Liana who was fast asleep in her arms and back at her oldest granddaughter. “Alright. One more.”
“Yay!” Milena squealed.
“Once upon a time in a faraway land there lived a dashing king and a beautiful queen. The two of them were very happy and had a handsome son. Dark times would soon overtake the kingdom as the dark elves attacked the realm from all around.” Catharina motioned with her arm all around the room. “The king and his knights bravely fought to defend the land but were vanquished by the dark elves.”
Milena’s eyes widened in wonder and a little fear. She clutched her blanket but leaned in closer to her grandmother to hear every word.
“The beautiful queen and her son left the kingdom and set off to far-off lands in search of a place to call home. They soon arrived at an enchanted magical land and settled there. The beautiful queen soon found love again with a man of the land. They married and he brought the young prince up as his own. In time the young prince fell in love with a fair maiden and they were married in a joyful celebration. The prince and his bride had two daughters and joy, peace, and happiness were restored throughout their family and the enchanted land. And they all lived happily ever after.”
“Another one Grandma,” Milena begged.
“Oh, no young lady. It’s time for you to get to bed. But I’ll tell you another one tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay. I love you Grandma” Milena stood and threw her arms around her Grandmother.
“I love you too Sugar Muffin.”
Later on, Milena had learned that the dashing king and beautiful queen was her Grandfather Johan Blagueur and Grandmother Catharina “Ina” Blagueur-Ohanyan. Fantasy painted a brighter, cheerier picture than reality. Johan had been a Colonel in the Nazi Army. He was killed by the Soviet forces in the closing stages of the war. After the Nazi defeat, Catharina fled with her son Norvan from the Neverlands to Krudia. Soon after their arrival, Ina fell in love with a struggling oilman named Samvel Ohanyan. Samvel and Ina were married and Norvan adopted Blagueur-Ohanyan as his surname. While in high school Norvan met his future wife Arina Dorian. Meanwhile, Samvel taught Norvan the ins and outs of the oil business and the family company began to steadily grow. Under Norvan’s leadership, Ohanyan Petroleum became one of the most valuable companies in the entire oil industry. Norvan would regale Milena with the stories of how he and his mother had come to Krudia with just the clothes on their backs and through hard work and dedication had risen to become one of the country’s most influential and wealthy families. She had felt the weight and responsibility to carry on her father’s legacy not just in business but in life. Now that supposed legacy was left in tatters.
Milena wiped her eyes and stood up off the floor. Her gaze rested on the family photos displayed on the mantle. Seeing her sister captured within the frames her heart felt even heavier. Any hope of having Liana in her life was completely eradicated. Her words and pent-up resentment had driven her little sister away. Perhaps in another life, she would have thrown her arms around her. Tell her sister how much she’d missed her over the past five years. But it was too late now. Part of her felt she’d made the right choice but the other hated herself so much. All she knew was that she was indescribably lonely. Her mom was gone. Her dad was lost to her. Her sister had driven away down a mountainside road. And Lorenzo, the one person she knew she could count on, she’d chosen to cut him out of her life. Breaking his heart in the process. Yes, it was just her all alone in the world.
A sob escaped her lips. She tried to keep from crying again but the tears began to flow uncontrollably. She sank to her knees and wept.
For several minutes she sat there, trying to cry the pain away. Finally, Milena rose from the rug and wiped her eyes. She walked to her bedroom and grabbed her car keys off her nightstand. There was someone she needed to see.
Liana reached the doorway of the monitor room. She knocked against the door announcing her arrival. Tarek looked up from a computer screen in her direction.
“We’ve finished the perimeter search.” She crossed her arms. “It’s clear. No one in sight.”
“Excellent. I’m sure the boss will be happy to hear that.”
“That’s our fifth perimeter search in the last twenty minutes. If you ask me, the boss seems a little paranoid.”
“Maybe so.” He sat back farther in his chair. “But if I were him I wouldn’t take any chances either especially since we had those two NSA agents show up. Smells like a rat to me.”
A voice came over the speaker. “4672. This is 3809.”
Tarek spun around toward the desk and leaned into the microphone. “Roger. 3809.”
“I have eyes on the target. She just entered a house, 1587, on Alexanian street. ”
“Continue monitoring her movements. When the rest of your team arrives, move in. If there are any significant developments contact me immediately.”
“Affirmative.” The caller hung up. Tarek turned to face Liana again.
“Target?” Liana looked puzzled. “It was my understanding we weren’t eliminating any more threats until after the elections.”
“Dalmar decided it was in the best interest of the operation to remove any urgent threats immediately. Starting with Milena Ohanyan.” A lump formed in Liana’s throat and she felt her mouth run dry at the mention of her older sister. “Based on Elias Aloyan’s testimony she aims to kill him as soon as possible. Raphael and his team are taking care of her tonight.”
Liana’s mind raced. Her sister’s life was at stake. If she left the compound now she’d have a chance to save Milena though the perfect opportunity to kill Dalmar would slip through her fingers. An opportunity which she had waited months for as she had wanted to not only kill him but dismantle his entire operation. An additional goal which required her to gain knowledge of his plans and learn the location of the weapons which took her months of working with Dalmar, gaining his trust, and strategic planning. It all came down to a simple question. What was worth more? Her estranged sister’s life or avenging her boyfriend’s murder? Her eyes landed on the clock mounted on the wall to her right. Time was running out. She had to make a decision now. She glanced at the door and then down at her gun. She knew what she had to do.
Milena stood nervously in front of the door of Lorenzo’s home. A dog barked in the distance. The cold night air nipped at her. Three times she’d brought her finger to the doorbell and each time she’d pulled back. “What if he doesn’t want to see me? What if he hates me now? I wouldn’t blame him if he did.” Milena whispered to herself. “You know what this is a bad idea. I should just go.” She started making her way down the walkway but stopped. “No, I drove all this way so I might as well see him. If only for a minute.”
Resolutely she walked back to the front door and pressed the doorbell. A few seconds passed before the door opened revealing Lorenzo.
“Milena,” he smiled. “What a nice surprise.”
“Loren.” The sight of her former boyfriend lifted her spirits. “It’s good to see you again. I was hoping we could talk.”
“Of course. Come in, it’s freezing out there.” Lorenzo held the door open for her. The warmth of the inside felt heavenly to Milena compared to the cold of the outside. She cozied up on the couch next to the roaring fire in the fireplace. “Would you like some tea or something to drink?” Lorenzo asked.
“No. I’m good. Thank you.”
Lorenzo was curious as to the reason behind Milena’s visit. The last time they saw each other she’d ended their relationship. Utter Heartache and overwhelming sadness were all he felt as he watched her exit the cafe. Now the woman of his dreams sat across from him in his living room, a somber expression etched on her face.
“Milena. I’ve done a lot of thinking over the last few weeks…about us. I handled everything badly. I pushed you too far an-”
“No…” Milena held out her hand, “please. I’m the one who should apologize. I hurt you terribly.”
“Lena, you’ve been going through a lot these past months.”
“That’s not an excuse. You were right. I was too consumed with my father’s death. I let it drive a wedge between us. You were always there. You tried to help me and I wouldn’t let you. His passing was all I could think about. It took me down a dark path and I screwed up. I cut you out of my life.”
“You’ve lost more than some people can imagine.”
“It’s just been a hard past few months. The loving thoughtful person I thought my father was is a lie. I wanted to avenge my wonderful life that someone broke not realizing it was already broken.” Milena paused for a moment and continued. “What do you do when everything you thought was real isn’t?”
Lorenzo thought for a moment, stunned by Milena’s words. “Lena, I can’t even imagine.”
“It’s a long story. Very long” she chuckled.
“I have time.”
“I’ll make sure to bore you stiff with the details.” The two shared a small laugh. In the midst of her heartache, it felt good to have a reason to laugh again. She couldn’t remember when was the last time she laughed.
“Oh, Lena.” Lorenzo couldn’t contain his joy over seeing Milena again. “It’s so good to see you. “I’ve missed you so much.”
Milena smiled. “I missed you too. I thought eventually I’d be able to forget you but….you were the glass half-full to my half-empty and didn’t realize how much I needed that.” She sighed. “I’m just tired of being angry. Of feeling like I want to scream at the world. I’m so exhausted.” Milena’s eyes rested on the mantle. Photographs of her and Lorenzo were displayed. The sight caused the memories of them to flood back one by one. She glanced back at Loren. The love in his eyes for her was evident. Despite the pain and heartache she caused him he still only had eyes for her. Her eyes began to tear up again. “I want to heal. But I don’t know how to let go of my pain and forgive the people that caused it.
But even more than that I…I…” she choked up. “I feel so lonely.” She brought her hand to her mouth and sobbed. “I was sitting in my living room tonight and I felt completely alone. I should never have let you go. You make me feel safe. You make me feel loved.”
Lorenzo sat beside her and gently put his arm around her. “I’m here.” Milena sobbed against his chest. He gently rubbed her back. “I’m here. You aren’t alone.” In his arms, Milena felt safe for the first time in forever. She closed her eyes and lost herself in the comfort and peace of the moment. Time seemed obsolete. It was just him and her with the seconds ticking away.