The greatest day of Remy Moceanu’s life was not the day he left his south Russia fishing village after the death of his parents, or the day he landed his first real job at the age of ten, quickly taking command of a kitchen full of full-grown men. Not even the day he graduated from Toshaini-Kai Institute, the most exclusive culinary academy/boarding school in Japan. No, not even that victory could compare to the moment he would truly cherish.
At twenty-five, having graduated from university, he was living in Copenhagen, working for the company of his adopted family. The food science corporation was the brainchild of Warren Nakiri, Alicia Blair Nakiri’s father.
Remy had worked for Ali’s family for most of his life, even having attended school as her personal aid. She had found him working in a kitchen, living as a desolate homeless child. According to stories, Alicia begged her mother to buy out Remy’s employment contract. But it was only after defeating him in a cook-off did he agree to leave with her of his own free will.
He never wanted to be a servant, but he kinda liked the idea of having a friend. Remy and Ali grew up together, often as each other’s only companion. And sometimes more. One day out of the blue she pulled him into the bathroom.
“I can’t believe I did this,” she said, gripping her temples. The look on Ali’s face said it all. “I don’t know what I was thinking.” She paused, then screamed as she punched the wall.
“Mistress, what are you talking about?” Yes, nearly fifteen years into their relationship, Remy still called the small, blonde girl his master; like a butler or a slave. (I’m cringing just thinking about it.)He gripped her wrists, in an attempt to calm her. After puberty he stood at 6’1″, a good ten inches taller than her.
“I’m fucking pregnant!” she shrieked as if the child was a virus or a pimple. Ali thrashed about like a toddler throwing a tantrum, demanding him to release her.
Remy was appropriately shocked. He and Ali had fooled around on many occasions, but he always assumed she was on birth control. She was always the one who came into his room and seduced her way into his bed. Even when he wasn’t in the mood, she would force herself on him, using drugs and toys to get what she wanted. And that was the way their relationship had been going on since their early teens.
“When my cousin Erica announced that she was expecting a baby with Akira,” she grumbled, clearly not wanting to continue.
“But that was months ago.” Remy lowered her hands looking into her eyes.
“I know! I got jealous, so I stopped taking my pills than when your lackluster sperm failed to do their job I took matters into my own hands.”
Remy didn’t even want to think about what she meant by that. “You’re having my kid?”
“Yes, so I’m going to need you to buy me a ring, my size is four. Don’t even both to ask my father’s permission, we’ll elope somewhere. I’ll make all preparations.”
Remy ran his fingers through his shoulder-length sweaty black hair. Jesus Fuck.” He thought for a moment. This was for real. Accompanying his mistress to school allowed him the opportunity to get an education that would not have been possible otherwise. Ali’s parents were both kind to him, nurturing his talent for cooking, and giving him a permanent position in their billion-dollar company. It was a decent fate, one that his late parents would have envied. But did he really want to be stuck with Ali Blair for the rest of his life?
He had dreams of moving back to Russia, running a restaurant that paid tribute to his heritage, becoming someone who would make his parents proud. That was what he wanted more than anything; to make his family proud.
If Ali was telling the truth, if she was carrying his baby, he couldn’t leave her. Remy traveled to London to buy a ring, with the help of Ali’s parents.
He of course asked them for permission, which they eagerly gave. Warren and Grace Nakiri knew he was a good man, well educated, with a good future. They also knew their daughter and agreed to leave the wedding planning to Ali (in an effort to avoid her wrath.)
The night before their flight, Remy presented Ali with a rose-gold band adorned with a single sapphire. It was, of course, not up to Ali’s expectations, but she accepted it anyway. (With a groan, while commenting about his horrible taste.)
As planned, they snuck to the airport, boarded a private plane, and eloped on a small island off the coast of France.
Remy didn’t even catch the name of the resort. The day was truly beautiful, from the comfortably warm weather to the sight of his beautiful, pregnant bride.
But all he remembered of that day was Alice’s irritation. She was frustrated with her morning sickness, and the fit of her dress (even going as far as to curse out any offer of a souvenir photograph.) She thought the weather was both too hot and too cold. The venue was tacky, and then there was the lack of guests. For whatever reason Ali seemed to have expected a surprise party.
She was resentful that she didn’t get her princess moment, and made her feelings known. Going so far as to slap Remy in the face before storming off.
But then came the sex, lots of sex.
Once he got her into bed (and they split a bottle of white wine spiked with vodka. Ali dropped her bitchiness and her inhibitions. His body was the one she seemed to truly love about him. Remy was now and forever, her property. But looking into her eyes, Remy knew that was ok.
After their return to Holland, Remy went back to work, now with increased responsibility while Ali stayed at home, attempting to avoid stress. It was a long few months.
It was eight months later Ali gave birth to a little girl via a scheduled c-section. (Because she was sick of being pregnant and didn’t want to wait for her due date.) Remy stayed with his wife, holding her hand as she was put under for surgery. Since Ali requested full sedation, the nurse handed Remy his daughter to hold. That moment, when his hands touched the warmth of her hospital blanket- was the greatest moment of his life. The little angel looked so much like him, it was like he was holding a piece of his own soul.
Remy’s hands trembled, as the young father was more than a little nervous. Throughout his career he had held all manner of culinary animals; from chickens to pigs, octopus, and lobsters, but he had never held a child. To him, the baby seemed more like Ali; beautiful with the soft pale skin of royalty. He was not worthy of being in her presence. And then the baby opened her sparkly red eyes and smiled.
Remy had been born with dark red eyes, a unique trait that he always attributed to his Romanian heritage. To see those eyes, a feature he had not seen since his parents were alive, it brought about a sense of love and hope. He wiped tears from his eyes. This was his child; to raise, to teach, to love.
Hours later, Ali awoke in her hospital room to the sight of Remy rocking their daughter in his arms. “Don’t I get to hold her?” she asked in her usual arrogant tone.
“Yes, Mistress.” Remy knew he had to let her hold the baby if only to determine a name they would both agree on. The couple had not discussed what to call the little girl on the off chance Ali lost the pregnancy.
As Remy put the little girl in Ali’s arms the baby started to cry. “I guess I had that coming,” Alice muttered. She looked at her daughter’s face. “What will your name be, little one?”
Remy had an immediate idea. “Mistress, can we name her Elena?”
“Who is Elena?” She asked with a smirk.
Remy could only imagine the thoughts going through her mind; Ali had been his only lover and he had no eyes for other women. Remy’s courage was fading but this was truly important to him. “Elena was my mother.”
Alice looked to him, her eyes filled with a unique look of compassion. “Interesting, I never knew that.
“The baby has my mother’s eyes.”
Ali reached her hand to Remy’s face, looking at him with a look of true love. “Ok, how about Elena Rose Nakiri.”
Remy smiled blinking tears from his eyes. “A-As you wish mistress, may I hold her?” My father already knew why Alice would want the baby to have her last name. The name Nakiri stood for a lot more than Moceanu. And he wanted his daughter to have all the opportunity she could.
“Yeah, you can take her back,” Ali said as she shoved my little body back towards my father. “Just as long as you can get her to shut up.”
The moment I was back in my daddy’s strong arms, I calmed down, finding true peace. My daddy held me, looking out the window in prayer. “Elena Rose, you’re my little miracle.” He told me in that moment he felt his mother’s spirit watching over him.
At least that’s the way I heard it. Now, begins my story. I’m Elena Rose, one of over a dozen second-generation alumni of the Toshaini-Kai Institute. When I was fifteen (my first year at the school) I made the finals of the Freshman Fall Festival. standing in the arena in front of hundreds of students, teachers, and alumni we, the top eight were given our moment of glory.
“In this miraculous turn of events the final eight are all the children of former alumni!” shouted the perky MC. I had an idea who she was, (maybe a junior or a senior.) “Moma Yukihira, the daughter of the current dean of students, Samuel Yukihira and his lovely wife Megan!” The shy girl with long black hair smiled, waved but did not want to reveal in the limelight.
“You better rock the finals!” shouted a boy with fiery red hair. Her brother Kintro had won the competition final his freshman year and he seemed to be the polar opposite of his baby sister.
The MC laughed and pointed the spotlight. “Next, show some love for Giovanna Aldini, daughter of legendary Italian alumni Tony Aldini!”
Gigi, the supermodel blonde, walked like a pageant queen. With two fingers she flicked grated Parmesan, like sparking glitter, at her adoring fans.
I watched her image on the big screen, in awe of her beauty. But I knew beauty came with a price. Her dreams were not in her father’s kitchen. But that’s a story for later.
When the applause died down the MC pointed to the next student, my awesome cousin. “Now, a girl who needs no introduction, Prayikina Nakiri-Hayama!” As the MC said her name the beauty born of the Erica ‘God tongue’ Nakiri and Akira the Indian chef with the superhuman talent for spices, stepped forward. The dark-skinned girl with blonde hair blew the crowd a kiss. She was the definition of cool and the fact that she hailed from alumni royalty made her the one to beat. Her fingers formed the peace sign as she blew a kiss to a very specific area of the audience.
“Next, Kyle Thompson, son of the meat heiress Isla Mito!” the MC pointed to the blond-haired muscular American boy with the giant cleaver. He struck what could only be described as a pro-wrestling pose. Whatever- next!
“Now put your hands together for the crown princess of punk rock- Elena Rose Nakiri!” The crowd roared as an image of a tall goth girl appeared on the big screen. That’s me. I had grown to look a lot like my father. From inheriting his iconic height to my long black hair that I’d never let my mother cut. And for the competition, I wore face paint under my eyes like Daddy always did.
But I also inherited my mother’s posture and poise. I walked like a beauty queen, shimmering with a confidence that could have only been learned from a Dutch-Japanese socialite mother. I smiled and blew a kiss, while dipping my school uniform into a curtsy like a princess.
“Next, Tomas Marui, son of alumni Zane Marui.”
The small, timid, boy took a bow. I really didn’t know him too well.
“James Sakaki, son of the distillery icon Randi Sakaki.”
The bi-racial American boy shook up a beer and sprayed in at his fans. “Sakaki brings the party!”
“And Davis Bryant, son of alumni Yana Yoshino, and reality star Lion Nightly!”
The southern American boy from Tennessee shot his rifle at the ceiling, raining down a glitter bomb. “Y’all better believe my game hunter momma bring the fire.”
The brackets were as follows:
Prayikina vs Davis, Tomas vs Moma, James vs Giovanna, and Kyle vs yours truly! And trust me when I say I was not worried sabot beating Kyle. The guy was a one-note meathead.
But my real moment came when I got to reunite with my parents for the first time in nearly a year. “Daddy!” I ran to where they waited in the hallway. “I can’t believe I’m in the finals!”
As usual, my father was standing two steps behind my mother waiting for her to speak first. My mother, in her bright white pantsuit, simply shook her head. “Don’t get cocky, your road is long from over. After all, your father was a failure.”
My father snickered but maintained his monotone, subservient, voice. “I’m sorry dear wife, but if I remember correctly I tied for second place while you were eliminated in the prelims.”
“I.. well…,” Alice grumbled, speaking in her native Japanese as she stomped off.
Her departure finally allowing me access to my best friend. “Hi, Dad.” I opened my arms for a hug.
My father, stood a little taller in her absence. A strong, imposing man, looked like a cross between a rockstar and a supermodel. Instead of a suit, he wore a leather jacket with denim jeans. With his black hair shaggy and loose in a way that made him look like a movie star. He scooped me up in his arms. “How the fuck have you grown up so much?”
I laughed. “I need to hit six feet if I ever want to walk in your shoes.” I took the opportunity to give him a kiss on the cheek.
“You can walk in my rancid-ass shoes anytime.”
“Mom would be pissed.” I stood on my two feet while still in his arms. “Speaking of Mom being pissed. That fact drop was bad-ass, but She’s totally going to make you pay.”
“Yeah well, it will be worth it.” Remy pursed his lips, blinking back tears. “I love you so much. And I’m so proud of you.” My father took out a red bandana. Old and worn, it was the source of his ‘power’ and the reason he graduated alongside his classmates and friends. For whatever reason, wearing the bandana did more than keep his long sexy hair out of his face. What it did to his mind and body was the equivalent of drinking a bottle of vodka, while snorting a line of cocaine. it brought about a fiery spirit that was truly awe-inspiring. I assumed he took it out just to hold, but his next words shook me to the core. “Elena, I want you to have this.”
“Really?” I cupped my hands over my face. I had witnessed my father cook, I knew the power of the bandana. “Do you think it will work for me?”
Remy only shrugged as if it was not a big deal. “Worth a try, right?”
I blinked tears from my eyes. Father always believed in me. To have a parent like him was truly a blessing, kind of like being the daughter of a superhero. “I’m really scared. What if I lose in the prelims like Mom?”
Daddy shook his head and looked at me, matching our dark red eyes “Do you remember what I told you about being scared?”
I nodded. A lifetime of stories echoed in my head. “You told me about when you worked at the bar, near the fishing village, after you lost grandma and grandpa.” His father died at sea while his mother died of illness not long after. “You were on your own, and you were scared, but you found your courage through your cooking.” That was what I loved about my father. He taught me to be brave, but also grateful. “When you cook you go to war, fighting with everything you have. So when you win, you can truly savor the victory but if you lose you go down in a blaze of glory.” I had my father’s eyes. His hair, his rockstar cooking spirit. Now I just hoped I had his talent. Tying for second place would still be quite an accomplishment.
My father cupped my face. Lost for words, he smiled and kissed my forehead. He then wrapped his arms around me. “And no matter what, Elena Rose, you’ll always be my champion, my princess, and my precious little girl.”
He felt thinner, weaker. I had no idea if he was sick or just stressed. I hated leaving him alone with my mother. She was verbally and emotionally abusive on a good day. On a bad day- I didn’t even want to think about it. If and when he did get sick, I was always the last to know. But that was a question for another day.
“Thanks, dad.” My heart was overflowing with pride. As long as I had my father by my side, nothing was impossible.