Michael stretched on the bed when he woke. He still felt somewhat drowsy as he tried to pull himself up. He heard noises from the kitchen; of coffee being boiled, clicking of dishes. There were evidence that someone had slept beside him, but now the room was empty. He glanced at the clock radio on the nightstand; 4.30am and at the same time he noticed the note next to it, which had his name written on it.
Michael reached to take the letter and opened it. As he read it he began to tremble all over, the words started to blur and he didn’t want them to be true. “Jack,” he groaned. “Jack!”
Jean heard Michael’s cry, sighed and left his morning chores to go to him. “Where’s Jack?!” Michael asked weeping when the man entered the room. The boy held the letter in his hands and trembled all over. “I want Jack, where is he?!” Jean stepped closer trying to hug him, but Michael squirmed away from his hold.
“I’m sorry Michael, he wanted it this way, I couldn’t stop him”
“He wouldn’t leave me… I want Jack…” Michael got up from the bed, walked to the living room; Jack’s bag and his outdoor clothes were gone. Jean followed him slowly, walked behind him and lowered his hands on his shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated.
“We have to find him!” Michael said, turned and looked at him with pleading teary eyes. “Jean, we have to find him,” he repeated. Jean touched his cheek, smiling sadly.
“I don’t know where he is Michael… Jack wanted it this way, we don’t have time, you have to eat and get dressed and then we have to go to the airport.” The boy however shook his head stubbornly.
“I won’t go without him!”
Jean sighed with annoyance and turned to put his things together. “We don’t have time for this Michael!” He snorted. “Jack is gone, accept it. We have to go soon, we don’t have time to lose unless you rather stay with that man? I don’t believe that he’s very happy with you right now.” Michael followed Jean with his eyes, feeling exhausted. Tears ran down on his face, he didn’t understand how Jack could have done this to him. How could Jack leave him without saying a word, didn’t he know how it would break his heart? He stood still, looked towards the window, it was still dark out and he felt empty inside. It had supposed to be a new start for them both, finally being able to be together without the cruelty of Ricky and Joe, without those countless faceless men… But now… Jack had left him without even giving the opportunity to say goodbye. It felt cruel, and the Jack he knew wasn’t cruel.
“Michael,” Jean sighed with soft tone. He then came to him, hugged gently and kissed his cheek. “We have to leave, you have to get dressed, and then you’ll have some breakfast. The taxi will be here in an hour.” Jean wiped his tears. “I know that you’re sad, but you can’t cry now, we don’t want any extra attention, you understand?” Michael nodded feeling numb, he didn’t want to think. Jean kissed his lips softly. “Everything will be alright, soon we’ll be in Paris and I’ll make you happy, you’ll see.”
Michael didn’t know how he could be happy, everything felt pointless. Jack had left him, Jack who meant so much to him, who had been the reason to keep him going. Without Jack, he would have given up a long time ago.
Michael washed his face and got dressed; he tried to eat but couldn’t force a single bite down. Jean packed him the sandwich with, cleaned and brought their luggage to the hall. Michael sat still trying his best not to think about his boyfriend who had left him with just a note that he still held in his hand.
Hazy, they sat in a taxi on their way to the airport. Jean exchanged a couple of words with the driver and smiled. Déjá vu, on his way to new promises, but promises were so easily broken. Away from Ricky, that was the important part and Michael tried to focus on that. He couldn’t allow himself to think of Jack because it just would have brought him in tears again.
Michael was silent, studied Jean and finally he didn’t even remember boarding the plane. “Put your seatbelt on, Michael.” Jean whispered and Michael gave him almost a confused look before fastening the metallic seat belt buckle. The airplane hostess walked along istle checking that everyone had his or her seat belts fastened right, before returning to her seat. Jean offered him a chewing gum which Michael took and brought to his mouth, chewing. The humming sound grew louder, the plane started moving faster until rising to the sky, leaving New York behind and Michael promised himself never to return.
Jean tried to have a conversation with him, but Michael only managed short, one word replies and finally the man gave in. He knew that he should have been happy to leave but happiness was far from what he felt. Michael kept his gaze on the window, looking at the clouds; the sky was beautiful baby blue and the clouds like a sea of cotton beneath them. Michael wiped the tears from his eyes when he though how fun it would have been to watch them with Jack who had never traveled in an airplane before.
After several hours the plane landed on the Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. It was warm July evening and this was the same airport from which Michael had left almost three years ago with Ricky towards Mexico, it felt surrealistic and odd to be back there. He followed Jean quietly, afraid that he would start crying if he would try to talk. He wondered where Jack was on that same exact moment and the longing felt painful in his chest.
“Come, my friend Eric promised to pick us up,” Jean said after they had taken their luggage. “Ah, there he is, Eric!” Jean called, waved and smiled at his friend. Eric was around forty; he was broad-shouldered and smartly dressed man whose dark hair had a hint of grey in them. He smiled and got closer.
“Bonjour! Welcome to Paris Michael, I’m Eric,” The man gave him his hand and Michael tried to smile as he accepted it.
”Michael,” he said quietly.
“You must be exhausted, long flights always exhaust me as well. Here let me take your bag,” he offered.
“Thank you, “ Michael said and again tried to smile bravely. Jean stroked his upper back gently and smiled as they followed Eric to the parking lot,
“How was your flight?” Eric asked while placing their luggage into the trunk of his car
“It went fine, surprisingly smooth…” Jean grinned and opened the backdoor to Michael. “Michael is just little gloomy after saying goodbye to his friend.” He explained and closed the door after Michael had gotten in. Jean then seated himself on the front seat.
”Ah, I see,” Eric nodded, closed the trunk and circled the car to the drivers seat. “We’ll soon get you to cheer up, I’m sure of it.” Eric spoke while driving and smiled to him through the rearview mirror. “On Saturday we can go sight seeing, we’ll show you some places and you’ll meet my partner Paul.”
”I’m sure I would like that,” Michael said quietly and again tried to smile to Jean who had turned to look at him.
“Look there,” Jean urged pointing towards the left. “The Eiffel-tower, we could go there tomorrow if you’re up to it?”
Michael had seen the tower before with his mother, but it was years ago. “If you like,” he answered and shrugged. Jean sighed. “Or perhaps you’d like to go on a cruise on the Seine? We could leave that to Saturday though. Or how about Louvre?”
“Everything is fine…” Michael replied. He didn’t sound as excited as Jean had hoped which vexed him.
“If the boy is tired, just let him be and look at the scenery.” Eric chuckled and Michael smiled at him. He didn’t quite know how to explain it, but the man had a calming aura around him, somehow fatherly perhaps?
They got to the apartment and Eric helped them carry the luggage inside. “Alright, it was very nice to meet you Michael, Jean has talked so much about you over the phone.” He smiled.
“Nice to meet you too,” Michael replied and Jean who stood by his side wrapped his arm over his shoulders.
“Well, I’ll leave you two alone now, you must be exhausted. See you on Saturday!”
”See you Eric and thank you!” Jean smiled and when the door closed after him, he turned to Michael and kissed his lips without getting very eager response. Swallowing up his disappointment, Jean tried to smile reminding himself that he had to be patient. Before long Jack would vanish from Michael’s mind. “Come, let me show you around.” He said. “Are you hungry?”
“No, I’m just tired.” Michael replied. In New York it would be an afternoon, here it was late in the evening: Michael felt small quilt that he couldn’t be more excited about Paris or Jean. He mourned the loss of Jack, wanted to sleep away that longing although he knew that it wasn’t that simple.
“Alright,” Jean sighed and showed him his small but comfy apartment. Kitchen, living room, bedroom and a bathroom with a shower. Michael liked the balcony best since it had beautiful scenery to the park.
“I just have to change the sheets, then you can go to bed.” Jean said and Michael nodded, he hesitated a moment before taking a step closer to kiss the man’s cheek.
“Thank you Jean,” he whispered not wanting to sound ungrateful. Jean smiled and touched his cheek.
“You’re sad because of Jack, I understand but I’m sure it will ease soon.” Jean said and Michael gave a faint nod, he tried to smile again, although at the same time he didn’t believe that he could ever forget about Jack and how he loved him.
“Could I use the shower?” Michael asked.
“Of course you can, towels are in that closet.” Jean pointed and kissed Michael’s forehead. “I’ll go make the bed ready for you,” He said before walking to the bedroom humming to himself.
The first two days Michael mostly slept or wept on the bed without wanting to go out. Jean started to get annoyed on the boy’s behavior, how ungrateful he was. Sure he has been prepared that Michael would mourn the loss of his boyfriend, but at the same time he had expected him to show how grateful he was from what Jean had saved him. He had allowed Michael to be alone that first night and the following days, but by Friday evening he had had enough and his patience had grown thin.
That evening the boy still lay on the bed, looking rather miserable and Jean was worried that he would again say no to their plans on Saturday. He had his rights, Jean though while eating dinner alone and after having two glasses of wine. Michael had been a whore, so this shouldn’t be anything new or difficult. He had already been as good as could be expected but now he had enough. He hadn’t rescued the kid just to listen him sobbing in his bedroom. Michael should have been over the moon to be rid of that monster.
Getting bolder after drinking the wine, Jean walked into the bedroom and started to unbuckle his belt, Michael brought his gaze to him. “Undress,” Jean said. “I understand that you’re mourning Jack, but I’ve had enough.” Michael rose to sit.
“I’m sorry Jean,” he whispered and looked at the man who took his shirt off looking tense. Michael felt a stab of guilt; he didn’t understand why he felt the depression hit him so strong when he had gotten away from Ricky. He knew, that despite how he was feeling he should be grateful and obedient. But now that Jack had left him, when things had gone differently, he didn’t know where he should be heading. Now he had too much time to think about the past and what he had been through. Before he had been able to focus on surviving another day, focus on Jack. The melancholia hit him hard with self-loathing. He had never wanted to be a whore; all those countless men had left an unpleasant feeling inside.
“Laying here, swallowing in the past doesn’t give you anything. You’ve gotten away from that monster, so for God sake, show some gratitude!” Jean snapped and tossed his shirt to the side, Michael startled.
“I’m sorry,” he repeated and thought that the man had every right to be angry with him. Michael took his shirt off. “I am grateful Jean.” He said as the man stood there breathing tensely and undressing the rest of his clothes. Jean started caressing himself while watching him.
”We don’t need a condom anymore, right?” Jean asked still sounding somewhat angry. Michael shook his head. “Good, lay on your stomach.” Jean ordered. Michael obeyed, he didn’t feel like having sex, but it definitely wasn’t the first time and he didn’t feel that he would be in the position to say no. He was a whore, Jean had saved him and the man had a right to him; as twisted as the thought may have been Michael didn’t recognize it as such anymore.
That time Jean wasn’t very gentle, he was too upset, too frustrated. It was quick, unemotional fucking, during which Michael simply gritted his teeth, squeezing the sheet inside his fist, working as a mere object for the man’s orgasm. Still, because it wasn’t anything compared to those bad experiences with Ricky or his friends, he didn’t even know to miss pleasure for himself. He owed to Jean and would give him what he wanted, whether it was this or something else
After sex and after they both had showered, Jean was again calm and gentle. The man lay beside him on the bed caressing his hair. “I would like nothing more than to see you happy,” he whispered. “You have such a lovely smile, I want to see it again.” Michael looked into the man’s grey eyes, his gentle but sorrowful smile and finally wrapped himself closer to his chest.
“I am grateful Jean, I’m sorry that I didn’t show it better earlier.” He whispered and the man brought his hand on his lower back stroking with slow gentle moves.
“We have time,” Jean whispered. “Tomorrow we will spend a fun day out with my friends, then I want to see that smile on your face.” Michael listened Jean’s heartbeat for a moment and then planted a gentle kiss on his neck. He still missed Jack and didn’t believe he would ever stop missing him, just like he hadn’t stopped missing his family or Tony. His heart felt heavy, how difficult it would be to love again when there was the fear of another loss. Jean had however done so much for him, taken such a huge risk, so least he could do in return was to try.
“I’m sure we’ll have fun tomorrow.” He whispered and let out a small sigh before closing his eyes. Jean smiled, held Michael close, with time Michael would fall in love with him and forget about Jack, he wanted to believe in that.