-Let me help you-
He put the sunglasses on carefully before taking the offered hand to help himself stand. His heart was beating madly, nervously, Misha’s arm rounded his shoulders, Katja took his bag and smiled at him softly.
The pain was slightly dulled by all the pain killers pumped into him, but still, it was there to some extent and Joni felt nervous about what lay ahead, too nervous to dwell on the fact that Misha was close to him, treating him in this gentle supportive way.
Joni looked down at his feet while walking, afraid to be seen by people he didn’t want to be seen by, someone who might recognize him. He dimly thought that being held like this by Misha would just draw further attention but his support was needed so he let the thought go.
It was raining softly when they got outside, but the sky was not completely dark, there were rays of sun that still stubbornly tried to peek out from behind the darkening clouds.
Joni felt the first droplets on his skin, soft caresses of the wind, Misha led him to his car and opened the door. Katja said something but Joni’s attention was on the sky, on the path of sun that now poured from the crack of clouds almost like a shower. He couldn’t really see through his left eye, but his right one wasn’t damaged at all. Everything felt quite surreal, almost like in a dream. Part of him wondered if it was in fact a dream.
”Joni?” Katja’s voice, Joni turned his face to her.
”Call me if anything comes up and promise me you’ll see your father tomorrow, he worries about you.”
He nodded, knowing he couldn’t avoid seeing him forever. He couldn’t shake off the uncomfortable feeling he had concerning it, knowing that his father knew what Chris had done to him. It embarrassed him.
”Is the trunk opened?” Katja asked Misha and lifted the bag slightly which held Joni’s clothes that she had gathered from the apartment.
”Yes,” Misha answered while helping Joni to take a seat, the hand on his tightened, and a subtle pained whimper made itself known from Joni’s lips. It was painful to witness. Misha leaned over to help Joni buckle the seatbelt; an effort the younger man quickly stopped.
”I’m not… a baby…” Joni hissed and reached down to do it himself, which caused Misha to chuckle softly.
”Fine, fine,”The blond whispered before closing the door.
”If anything… well…” Katja hesitated looking at Misha.
”I’ll call you,” The tall blond smiled, ”you can come over to see him tomorrow.”
Katja nodded, ”Thank you again.”
”It’s no problem, really,” Misha assured and the woman nodded, said her goodbye, and walked towards her car.
Joni rested his head against the backrest, his face turned towards the window, he didn’t turn when Misha stepped into the car, he could feel his eyes on him before the car started but Misha didn’t say anything and neither did he.
His head started pounding again, his swollen eye throbbed with pain, and he figured he would need another painkiller soon. And again Joni found himself wondering about the pictures and their fate. Was it possible that Chris had already sent them somewhere, being so pissed off at him?
He felt his stomach churn at the thought, the future still seemed frightening.
They parked in front of the house and Joni released himself from the seatbelt gritting his teeth as every movement he made was painful, bringing him to the verge of crying but he had decided not to allow himself to do so; he had shed enough tears and he didn’t want Misha to witness another weakness.
”Wait,” Misha asked, stepping out of the car, closing the door, and approaching his side, Joni however had decided to try and help himself, he opened the door awkwardly pulling himself on his trembling feet.
”I told you to wait,” Misha frowned, his arms reaching to support him.
”I… can… manage,” Joni insisted, his hands resting flatly against Misha’s chest annoyed at himself for feeling so weak.
”No you can’t,” Misha sighed, ”and it’s alright, we need to get you to bed to rest, just let me help you, okay?”
Joni groaned softly but finally nodded and accepted Misha’s support while they walked toward the house.
The front door opened and Ivo stepped out. There was a worried frown that passed his features, one that he quickly tried to hide. Joni still felt uncomfortable, he knew he looked horrible and hadn’t really dared to look at himself from the mirror. He gritted his teeth and brought his chin up regardless his insecurity. He would survive, he would not be broken by this.
”Welcome, I made soup, Dima prepared his room for you,” Ivo smiled softly and Joni tried to return the smile back, but it came out weak.
”Thank you…” He whispered while close enough.
”We’ll be glad to have you here,” Ivo assured and closed the door after the two once they were in.
”I think we should get you upstairs to rest,” Misha sighed looking at the stairs and then at him.
Feeling the exhaustion of the journey from the hospital, Joni reached for the railing slowly starting to take the steps up.
”Maybe it’s better if I carry you?” Misha said coming behind him after witnessing his awkward effort to climb. Joni groaned and shook his head taking another step.
”No…I’ll make it… on my own,” he insisted and gritted his teeth.
”It really wouldn’t be any trouble,” Misha tried.
”Thanks, but no thanks.” Joni remained stubborn, but Misha apparently wouldn’t have it.
”Just let me help you.” The blond said as he came up behind him and carefully picked him up on his arms. ”Wrap your arm around my neck, okay? You’re in pain and I can see it. Rest and soon you’ll be well, until then, try to enjoy this. I promise I won’t make a habit of carrying you around.” He said jokingly and Joni would have rolled his eyes if it hadn’t been painful.
”Fine,” he muttered, allowing this ridiculous act to take place.
There was a time when Chris had carried him in his arms, different position perhaps but… The memory felt like a sharp, distressing stab in his chest, the memory of desire that felt so disgusting now. He didn’t want to think of Chris but the memories kept returning.
Misha carried him without showing discomfort. ”This is quite good exercise for me, you know? Would save me trouble of going to the gym. You’re not the lightest one to carry after all.” He apparently tried to joke, but Joni wasn’t in the mood to react to jokes.
”Just… keep going… to… the gym,” he managed to say, finding that talking really exhausted him. Misha smiled but didn’t say more about it.
The blond kicked the door to the room open, the room that had once belonged to Dima. The bed was already made just like Ivo had said and Misha carefully lowered Joni down and then kneeled to take his shoes off.
”Wait here, I’ll bring you more pillows,” he said and left before Joni could respond.
Joni sighed looking around; it felt strange being there, he remembered all the times he had spent in this room as a teenager, times he had slept on the floor on the mattress plotting his silly games to gain Misha’s… lust, love, or desire? – It seemed like a lifetime ago and yet it was less than three years.
Misha returned, gave him a chaste smile, and then placed the pillows under his back, ”Are you comfortable? Do you need anything else?” He asked, studying him carefully; Joni sighed and took the sunglasses off, lowering them on the table and shifting on the bed.
”I’m… ok…” he whispered, not meeting Misha’s gaze, now that all of his hideous bruises were visible to him.
Misha sat down on the edge of the bed, there were so many questions he would have liked to ask, but perhaps he should wait?
”I’ll bring you some soup,” Misha finally decided and stood up.
”I’m not… hungry.”
”Still, you need to eat,” Misha pointed out and left the room.
Misha walked downstairs and into the kitchen where Ivo was.
”Dima went home?” Misha asked,
”No, he went to the store, he’ll be back soon to check on Joni,” Ivo responded, turning to him; he was already setting a tray for Joni with some soup and milk and, for dessert, pieces of strawberries and pineapple, ”Ask him if he would like some tea later.”
Misha frowned slightly watching his older brother and then the small bouquet in a vase that he also set on the tray.
”What’s with the flowers?” It seemed odd to him; had Ivo gotten the flowers for Joni? Okay, so the brat was hurt, but weren’t the flowers a bit cheesy? Would Joni like them?
Ivo raised his brow, noticing the slight sourness in Misha’s voice that made him grin.
”The flowers are from Linda,” He explained.
”You can take the food to him, I won’t step into your territory,” Ivo teased and Misha shot him a glare.
”God, you just won’t give up, will you?” He groaned.
”I doubt I will,” Ivo grinned, ”now, here’s the tray; go feed the poor lad,” Ivo said and placed the tray in his younger brother’s arms.
The pain was worse now than it had been the first time Chris had gone overboard, yet the first time and most of the times since, he had still had to stand the man’s presence and ’caring’. When Misha stepped back into the room carrying the tray, a soft smile gracing his lips, that alone seemed to ease how poorly he felt. He had to admit that he felt safe here with both Misha and Ivo around when his imagination could easily persuade him into thinking that it was easy for Chris to somehow get free and come for him.
”I really am not…hungry,” Joni whispered.
”When was the last time you ate?” Misha asked and Joni remembered they had brought him breakfast and lunch at the hospital which he hadn’t really touched much, except for the water and juice.
”At the hospital,” it was a small lie and when he realized that the last time he had eaten something solid was at the party two nights ago it managed to amaze him. Misha raised his brow but nodded just the same.
”Still, even if you don’t feel hungry you still need to eat, come on, just some soup, it’s easy to swallow.”
Misha took a seat close to him with the bowl in his hands mixing it slightly with the spoon.
If Joni had been able to, he would have frowned.
”I’m not a baby… I don’t need to be fed,” He sighed, honestly this was humiliating enough as it was.
”You’re hurt,” Misha pointed out.
”I know… I feel it,” Joni almost snapped. It was lucky perhaps that his voice was much too weak to sound rude. ”I’ll do it… myself,” he nodded, pulling himself up slightly more; though his muscles protested and another intense wave of pain moved through him making him gasp, stubbornly however he reached his hands towards the bowl wanting to prove to Misha that he could do this.
Sighing, Misha leaned so that the bowl would be close to Joni’s face, ”Let me at least hold it, okay?”
Just a nod, no more and Joni’s shivering hand closed around the spoon, he felt like an old man attempting to eat and the embarrassment inside him grew as he just couldn’t hold his hand steady enough to not spill anything.
”Joni please,” Misha said after watching this awkward act for a moment; the soup had spilled slightly on the blanket from the spoon and when finally Joni had managed to get it into his mouth; some didn’t quite make it there, and, trying not to grin, Misha took a napkin and wiped his mouth with it.
Joni felt a blush creeping onto his skin, he simply hated, HATED that Misha had to see him like this, he had to look away, gritting his teeth. ”Not hungry,” he muttered after a moment, trying to push the bowl away.
Misha felt frustrated.
”Listen, Joni, you need to eat!” He said sternly, ”And you’re going to, now be a good boy and let me feed you.” He took the spoon and brought it close to Joni’s mouth, ”Open.”
A quick glare through his healthy eye, then looking away he silently opened his mouth and allowed this ridiculous feeding to taking place. ”Good, see; it’s not that bad.” Misha smiled and fed him another spoonful and another, Joni said nothing, didn’t look at him but he ate and that was important.
”What’s with the flowers?” Joni asked quietly after a while when the bowl had been emptied.
Misha smiled at the question similar to the one he asked Ivo.
”They’re from Linda,” He explained.
”Sorry you got… battered by your boyfriend… Here’s flowers,” Joni muttered exhaustedly and sighed, he felt slightly depressed.
Misha watched him quietly, ”Why did you stay with him?” He asked, unable to stop himself.
Joni shifted uncomfortably, silently, ”I’m sleepy now.” He whispered lying down and closing his eyes to signal that he didn’t want to talk about it.
Misha frowned watching him but thought it was best to not push further, there would be time later.
”Would you like some tea? Painkillers?”
”Painkillers, water…” the answer came in a quiet whisper.
Late that night after Joni had fallen asleep, Misha decided to get himself a book and a cup of tea before sneaking into Dima’s room. Taking a seat on the small couch close to the window, he lit a small lamp not wanting to disturb Joni’s sleep but not wanting him to stay alone either in case… something came up. Outside it had started to rain more heavily, a soft thrumming on the roof above them.
Dima had visited earlier, he was clearly upset upon seeing his friend this way and the poor boy was blaming himself for not acting sooner when he had suspected that something was wrong. For Misha it had been somewhat interesting to watch the meeting between the two friends, Joni who was in no doubt suffering from great pain had tried to comfort Dima and to not allow the amount of pain to be seen so clearly. He had done his best to assure Dima that he would be fine and that Dima had no reason to beat himself up for a situation he had had no control over.
Joni was trying his best to be brave, Misha realized, and perhaps he tried to convince himself that he was indeed doing better than he was.
He sighed and tried to make himself comfortable with the tea cup in one hand and the book in the other. He soon found himself staring at the bed where Joni laid; it was still upsetting to see him so hurt.
Why had he stayed? Misha wondered as it still didn’t make any sense to him, and he continued to observe Joni as if he could see the answers this way; of course he couldn’t.
Foolish brat – he thought to himself, why was he always getting himself into trouble? The upset he felt didn’t leave, it only increased. Simply the thought of how close it had really been for Joni to lose his life and there were things left unspoken between them.
Another sigh before he almost got up when he heard a small whimper from Joni, but the youth was still sleeping.
In any case, whatever Ivo thought about, this was not the time to pursue any kind of relationship with the brat, except for friendship of course. Intimacy might scare him, Misha wondered and thought he should give him some space after the bruises had healed.
He didn’t know how one was supposed to deal with rape victims, could their sex life ever return to normal? He knew himself well enough – when excited enough could he be patient and gentle and slow? He was after all quite sexual when it came to relationships and…. would Joni ever want that again? His thoughts were confusing and he felt a pinch of guilt for even thinking about matters of sex at a moment like this.
When Joni’s outer wounds were healed, he should restrain himself and keep a distance, should give Joni some room and assure that he would not… scare him with his own want. Because now he knew it was there, he was aware that he had some feelings for the brat and that he was attracted to him. This was more complicated than he wished it to be.
After a while he resumed reading his book, sipping his tea until the cup was empty; the rain still tapped on the roof evenly.
The room was dark, but it was slowly broken by blue light coming from the window, Joni tilted his head looking around; the bed, the table, the posters… his hand rose to his face; he didn’t feel the bruises and instantly scanned the room for a mirror, there was one close to the bed, he walked forward, the blue took on a softer shade and he saw his face; it was unharmed. Had it all been a dream? Was this a dream? Where was he?
”I thought we could go out tonight,” a voice said and Joni turned; Chris stood in the doorway and he was smiling, ”Wouldn’t you like that?”
He felt confused and Chris approached. He was holding a beer and took a gulp, then he smiled again, ”But we can’t, can we dear?” He shook his head and sighed and immediately Joni felt his face throbbing with pain, he gasped, brought his hand up once more; now he felt the swelling and confusion spread turning into panic, ”You pathetic little slut,” Chris spat and the smile was gone. The bottle fell to the floor and the hands closed around his throat, he fell on the bed, gasped and tried to free himself, he couldn’t breathe, ”I’ll fucking kill you if I must!”
Misha had almost dozed off when the whimpering woke him up, Joni was tossing on the bed, gasping in his sleep, clearly having a nightmare. He instantly got up and walked closer, kneeling close to the bed and shaking him softly to make him snap awake from his dream; Joni almost slapped him before his eyes opened. His hands went to his throat to soothe the skin, confusion in his alerted gaze.
”You just had a nightmare,” Misha spoke softly gently stroking his arm and hair, ”you’re safe.”
”I couldn’t… breathe…”
”I know,” Misha whispered sadly, ”it’s okay now.”
Joni felt nauseated from the pain that suddenly attacked him, his body shivered, his hand clenched Misha’s shirt unconsciously, his breathing was fast and he still felt like he couldn’t breathe properly,
”F-fuck,” he cursed, ”Hurts,” He whimpered wanting it desperately to stop.
Misha felt helpless, he had never felt quite so helpless; he saw Joni’s pain clearly and could only wish that he were able to take it away from him, ”I’ll get you more medicine, okay?”
Reluctantly he eased his hold on Joni and went to get what he had promised.
He stayed with Joni for the rest of the night, getting only a little sleep for himself, when the morning came he felt exhausted, 7am… He knew he should go to work but he really didn’t want to, not now.
The rain had eased but it was still gray outside, he sat on the chair covering a yawn with his hand watching Joni who slowly woke up.
”Hungry?” Misha asked.
”Not really,” a quiet whisper.
”Eat, I know,” Joni sighed and Misha smiled softly at him.
”I’ll go and get you something, perhaps some porridge? You think you can swallow that?” Joni wrinkled his nose just slightly.
Misha chuckled, ”I take that as a no, ah, I think a smoothie? With yogurt and some berries?”
”Sounds better,” Joni said and tried to smile.
”Okay, I’ll be back soon.”
Misha yawned on his way to the kitchen unsure how he would ever survive his workday, then it came to his mind that he could call his boss and ask for two days off? Family trouble? Something like that, he didn’t like to lie to his boss, he was quite a loyal worker who hadn’t missed work even for sickness since he had started so maybe just this once? Perhaps he would tell the truth, say that his partner was hurt, though Joni might not be that to him but close enough; he made his decision and searched for his cell phone.
He was lucky; his boss seemed to be in a rather good mood that day and seemed very understanding when he explained that his partner had been seriously hurt and he would feel better not to leave him alone at a time like this. He was actually surprised how easy it proved to be; he was given two days off.
He felt relieved, he knew he wouldn’t have been able to concentrate on his work now anyway. It wasn’t that he would have had to leave Joni alone, Ivo had his summer holiday after all, but still, he felt better being able to stay home especially in these first days that were the most difficult.
Joni watched the book and the teacup on the table, had Misha stayed with him the whole night? He wondered while trying to tolerate the waves of pain moving through him.
He remembered what Misha had said to him at the hospital, calling him ’his little brat’ saying he had worried, had feared to lose him, saying things that meant that he did care, things that the 17-year-old inside would have died to hear from him and of course even now it felt good.
If only it could have been other circumstances than these if only he would have never started his relationship with Chris if only there was a chance to go back in time and change everything that had gone wrong. He wondered just where would he start, knowing what he knew now his approach to Misha would have been different in the first place. He wondered how they would be if they had tried a relationship then?
Misha stepped into the room carrying a tall glass with the berry smoothie. ”Here comes breakfast,” He smiled at Joni approaching the bed, ”I brought another painkiller as well.”
”Want me to help you to sit up?”
”Nah, I’ll manage,” Joni assured and pulled himself up slightly gritting his teeth in the process, Misha lowered the glass on the table and quickly reached to rearrange the pillows behind Joni’s back.
”There,” he smiled, and took the glass again, ”I put a straw there for you,” he grinned and offered the glass closer. ”First the pill, open your mouth,”
This caring gentle side of Misha still felt confusing to Joni, he wasn’t sure if he deserved it.
He opened his mouth carefully and took the offered pill before swallowing it down with the help of the smoothie.
”Will you go to work?” He asked after drinking half of the smoothie.
”No, I have a day off, tomorrow as well.”
”Plans?” Joni asked before reaching for the straw again.
Misha smiled slightly, ”Just hanging out with you, perhaps I could read you something?”
”You don’t have to do all this,” Joni whispered.
”But I want to,” Misha assured quickly, ”With the horrid weather outside and all,” He grinned, ”A perfect day for reading.”
”Thank you,” Joni tried to smile, relaxing slightly.
He finished his breakfast, and Misha went to have a shower and eat, before returning with a new book in his hands. It was raining again, Joni closed his eyes and listened to Misha’s smooth voice as he began to read. There, in that room, for that moment, he felt calm and safe.
Asko remembered the time when he had first visited the house. Coming there now felt weird and he hadn’t slept properly, not in two nights. The air was cold, gray, the warmth of the previous days gone. He parked the car on the driveway and got up, sighed, trying to prepare himself but he wasn’t sure he could ever be ready to face what he would have to do.
It still felt difficult to understand, how could he have been so blind to what Chris was? Thinking about the man made him feel sick; he had been friends with his son’s abuser. There was no describing how ill he felt and the guilt… As a parent he felt like he couldn’t have failed any worse, he began to see his earlier mistakes and he did regret them. He only hoped that Joni could forgive him, for failing him.
He made his way to the house, stood by the door and rang the doorbell, and waited. Moments later the door opened and he found himself looking at the man he had accused, over two years earlier, of taking advantage of his son. A gentle smile passed on the blond man’s lips as he held the door open for him.
”Come in,” He asked and Asko nodded a bit stiffly, slightly uncomfortable and unsure how the other man felt towards him or how he felt himself. He still believed that Joni had had a relationship with him before and wondered if it would now start all over again. He might not like the idea, but after everything, he knew he shouldn’t try to intervene.
”Where is he? How is he?” Asko asked, removing his shoes.
”He’s upstairs resting,” Ivo answered calmly. ”He’s quite tired but well, Joni is tough,” Ivo gave another gentle smile to the worried father, ”Come I’ll show you the way.” Ivo moved towards the stairs and glanced back at Asko who stayed silent but moved towards him.
Although he had done his best to prepare himself, the sight of his firstborn, laying on that bed, beaten by a man they had thought to love him, was a sight he was sure would forever haunt him for the rest of his days. His chest tightened, he felt the pain billing up, and his eyes stung from the tears that he tried to force away. It was not what Joni needed now.
His left eye was swollen and bruised enough that he could hardly see through it, a cut on his forehead, a bruise on his cheek and his neck… Dear God. The blond man, who had been sitting on an armchair close to the bed, with a book in his hands, looked at him and greeted him with a soft smile, before getting up.
Asko nodded in return, a haste, worried smile passing through his features as he brought his gaze back to his son. He could see him looking back with insecurity that broke his hear a little further.
”We’ll leave you two alone,” Ivo said and gave a slight nod towards his brother who then walked out the door with him.
The door closed and Asko approached the bed carefully. He fought back the tears, sat down slowly next to his son, and clumsily lifted the box of chocolate for Joni to see.
”These are for you,” He tried to smile, ”These were your favorite when you were a little boy,” He whispered and Joni nodded slowly, looking down at his hands.
”Are you…. disappointed in me?” Joni asked with a whisper.
”Disappointed?” Asko asked with surprise to which Joni simply nodded, still not meeting his gaze.
”Gods, Joni, no, never! I’m… I’m so sorry,” He whispered and tilted his head wanting to reach out for his child but he felt awkward and clumsy now.
On the bed, he saw his little boy, his small boy, his firstborn. Sure, now he was grown up, an adult who was at least tall as him. But to him he was and would always be; his child, his flesh and blood he loved more than life itself. A child he had let down by not being able to protect him from this horrible pain.
Joni glanced at him, his lower lip trembled.
”I’m sorry I let you down, Joni, I’m so sorry,” This time Asko reached to carefully touch his hair, stroking it softly like he had done when he had been small in need of comfort. But now he felt insecure if his son would welcome the touch and drew his hand back reluctantly, ”Are you mad at me? I don’t blame you.”
Joni clenched his jaw and shook his head slowly, ”I’m embarrassed,” He admitted after a while, looking away.
”There’s no reason, Joni, there’s nothing to feel embarrassed about.”
”Yes… there is,” Joni whispered, giving him another glance. He shifted slightly, his lips parted and closed almost about to speak, but he hesitated, ”I should be able to…protect myself… but I couldn’t and he…” His son sighed miserably, hiding his face.
”Chris fooled us all,” Asko said, unable to keep the tightness from his voice. ”I should have seen it, I should have never allowed your relationship, and I should have trusted my first instinct!” Joni was silent, avoiding his gaze, ”Please Joni, we need to talk about this.”
”What’s there to talk about?” Joni muttered, ”You heard what happened, you can see it. And it wasn’t your fault, dad.”
Asko sighed, ”I’d prefer you to come home, I’m not comfortable with you staying here,” With him, he almost added but managed to stop himself in time.
Joni shook his head, his lips curved upwards but it was hardly a smile, ”You still don’t get it,” He whispered, ”Ivo is kind enough to let me stay here and you’re not feeling comfortable? Guess what? I’m not feeling too comfortable either, for different reasons though.”
”Dad, please. To be honest, I’m… confused right now… Ivo and I, we do not have any relationship except … brotherly friendship… My relationship, my poor excuse for a relationship with Chris is over, and,” He sighed, ”He left this big mess and pain behind, and somehow I get by, pick up the pieces and move on. I won’t extend my stay here longer than necessary, but I don’t want my siblings to see me like this, they are too young to understand… or,” Again Joni sighed and looked towards the window, ”I just don’t want to explain this to them now, I will, later… One day, when we’re all ready,” His voice was raspy and quiet, it pained Asko to think of the reason. He could see the bruising on his neck and swallowed thickly, It had been a close call.
Asko nodded stiffly, trying to swallow down the tears that the knowledge brought, knowledge of how close it had been that Joni would have… He couldn’t stand the thought.
”I understand you don’t want to explain it to them, but… you have to talk about it,” Asko looked at his son sadly, ”I know it’s still early, I know you’re exhausted, but you need to tell us everything he did.”
When Joni was silent, his father sighed again, ”When did it start? Did he hit you before?”
”Yes. He lied to you, he said I was sick that time in the winter when we couldn’t come over… It started then… he was jealous,” Joni explained after a moment of silence.
Asko’s fingers curled into fists, he had never felt such anger towards anyone before and it was difficult to control it.
”That son of a bitch,” he muttered before standing up, he started pacing in the room. ”Why didn’t you tell us?” He asked, looking at him.
”I… I was… I was scared,” Joni answered, ”Scared that he might…”
”Kill you? Well, he almost did!” It just came out without further thought, out of his nervousness, out of fear.
Joni looked away trembling, his hand reached to cover his face once more.
”Joni, I’m sorry,” Asko said in a softer tone and approached, upset at himself for causing Joni to cry. This time there was only small hesitation before he closed the distance and drew his son into a gentle hug. ”You know I love you, don’t you? And these past days I was just so worried for you,” He explained in a quiet voice, ”I lost your mother, I wouldn’t be able to stand losing you.”
He could feel Joni relaxing in his hold, silent tears running down his pale skin, ”Can you forgive me that I was too blind to see what was going on?” Asko asked, stroking his back.
”Yes, I was good at hiding,” Joni whispered slowly pulling back. Asko nodded silently and tried to smile, but the smile died quickly as sadness took over.
”Lie down now, you need your rest,” He said and arranged the cover on him better before gently reaching to stroke his hand through his son’s hair which was every bit as dark as Marianna’s had been, ”You’ll get better, I know you’re strong.”
”I’ll get better,” Joni agreed and looked back at him trying to smile.
”Have you talked with the cops yet?”
”No, not yet, I expect them soon.”
Asko nodded, ”Well then, I’ll come and see you tomorrow again, can I?”
”Yes, thanks for the chocolate.”
”No problem, remember to rest and eat.”
”I will don’t worry dad.”
”I can’t help it.” Asko smiled gently and got up, ”See you tomorrow.”
”Dad?” Joni’s voice stopped him at the door and he turned to look at him, ”I love you too,” The voice was quiet but loud enough for him to hear. Asko felt the warmth in his heart, almost getting a little teary-eyed; he hadn’t heard those words from Joni’s lips in years.
”It feels good to hear you say that Joni, try to get some sleep,” He said smiling before opening the door and leaving the room, closing the door softly behind him. There was still hope, but the road to full recovery would be long.
Adam followed the officer into the small room where Chris was seated. He wasn’t sure what to think, Chris had called him yesterday in the early morning and asked for him, said he needed help and had no one else to call. Joni had left, Joni’s new boyfriend had assaulted him and he was sent to prison; that was what Chris had explained on the phone, nervously and agitated.
Shortly after Chris’ call, Adam had learned the actual story from his father-in-law who had earlier talked with Joni’s dad.
Chris was his friend, he didn’t want to believe he had done it, but deep down he knew that there was no way to deny it further. He felt sick, guilt and anger mixing with sadness. He had needed a day to cool off before going to see him.
Chris was looking rather pale, he saw the bruises on his face, it wasn’t really that bad, Chris had made it sound worse on the phone. The door closed and they were allowed to talk, Chris had his eyes narrowed
”This is bullshit,” He snarled, ”You have to help me out, Adam.”
Adam sighed before taking a seat down opposite his friend, ”Do you realize what you did?” He asked observing him, Chris’ lips tightened, and he was silent.
”Chris, you could have killed him,” Adam hissed.
”How is Joni?” Chris suddenly asked, his hands resting on the table in front of him, fingers tapping the surface restlessly.
Adam couldn’t help but notice the scratches and nail marks on his hands and arms, defensive woulds Joni must have left. Seeing them made his stomach churn and he swallowed thickly moving his gaze back to meet his friends. It was difficult to understand that this was the same man, he had known since they were just small children.
”How do you think he is?” Adam replied somewhat coldly, ”He spent a night at the hospital.”
Chris leaned back on his chair, this time tapping his feet against the floor, looking around, ”God I could really use a smoke.”
”How could you do that?” Adam asked after a moment of silence, Chris wasn’t looking at him.
”They have no right to take my cigarettes,” Chris said, narrowing his eyes at the door, ”Assholes.”
”Chris,” Adam repeated.
”Where is Joni now?” Chris asked looking back at him.
”I really don’t think it’s your business anymore.”
To this, Chris snorted, ”With his new boyfriend then? Should have guessed,” The tone was bitter, ”I’ll sue his mother fucking ass.”
”Are you listening to yourself?” Adam snapped, ”What you did to Joni…”
”That who-” Chris stopped before finishing, he cleared his throat, ”I didn’t mean to hurt him, not like that. I was just so angry; he was cheating on me this whole time. Just playing with me, with my feelings… I love him,” Chris looked at Adam carefully, looking a little lost and sad, ”Can you tell him I love him? Can you tell him I’m sorry? I will get better, once I get out of here, I’ll… I can change, we can get help,” He nodded.
Adam’s mouth felt dry, the sudden shifts in Chris’ attitude were odd and he wondered why he hadn’t paid attention to it before.
”It’s over Chris, surely you can see that, you won’t see him anymore, it’s not healthy, you do need help and we’ll get you help.”
Chris’s eyes narrowed, ”Fuck you, Adam, you don’t care, all you care about is pleasing that bitch of yours. You’re going to abandon me, huh, take his side? Well, fuck you!”
Adam’s eyes widened, and he shook his head in disbelief and anger, he was about to stand and leave.
”Look, Adam, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it, it’s just this place, it makes me nervous and they took my cigarettes,” He explained and rubbed his forehead, ”Please forgive me, please sit down, don’t leave me alone. Can you ask them to give me my cigarettes? I should have rights, this is only pretrial detention.”
Adam sighed, ”Okay Chris, I go and ask,” He promised and walked towards the door, he didn’t approve of what Chris had done, he felt angry at him, but Chris had been his friend for a long time and he needed to seek help for his problems.
15 minutes later Chris sighed with relief after taking the first inhale of smoke, and after a taste of the coffee brought to him.
”Ah, just what I needed,” He said and again drew a smoke, ”I’ll hire a good lawyer; they can’t keep me here for long. This is just bullshit,” He said and reached for the ashtray.
Adam watched him and took a sip of his mug, ”Did you rape him, too?” Adam forced himself to ask, ”That’s one of the charges isn’t it?” He tried to be calm but it was difficult to watch his long-time friend and ask if he had committed such a horrid crime.
Chris was silent and kept smoking before his lips curved to a dark grin; he was looking at the wall and only glanced at Adam briefly.
”He’s my boyfriend,” He replied, ”I had sex with my boyfriend.”
Adam felt his stomach tighten, he felt slightly ill, ”You said you love him.”
”Yes,” Chris nodded.
”You have strangled him, you abused him and you…you forced him. Chris, he won’t be able to work in months; he’s on bed rest and pain medication… Is that really how you love?” Chris’ lips tightened and he looked away, ”I know about your dad, I know what he’s like, how he treats your mom; how he treated you… and now you’re no better than him. Why, Chris?”
”Don’t play this shit on me,” Chris snapped, glaring at him, ”Joni cheated on me, I fucking lost my nerve, his fucking attitude… he…”
”I don’t care what Joni did, even if he had slept with a whole football team, what you did was inexcusable,” Again Adam stood up, ”I give up,” He sighed and again walked towards the door.
”Adam,” Chris called weakly, Adam gritted his teeth and turned to his friend, ”Is Joni really doing that bad? I didn’t mean to hurt him so badly, honest… I just didn’t want to lose him, he has someone else.”
”You’ve lost him Chris, and now you need to let go, if you ever cared for him, right now the best way to show that is to admit to what you did, to take the punishment and let him go.”
Adam watched him and waited for an answer, ”I can’t,” Chris replied and shook his head, ”I want to talk with him, tell him that I need to talk with him to apologize.”
”You’re the last person on earth he wants to see right now, you screwed up, if you can’t realize that then I can’t help you.”
”You’re my friend.”
”And Joni is part of my wife’s family.”
”So you’re abandoning me?” The tone was bitter.
”I won’t have to if you do the right thing and you know what that is,” Adam gave him a pointed look. Chris glared at him but stayed silent, leaving his friend like that felt difficult but Adam hoped his words had had some impact on him. Chris needed help, he needed to realize it for himself and he needed to truly want help to give up his obsession over Joni, love obviously didn’t have anything to do with it.
Web published: June 20th, 2009 / edited April 2022
My Secret Shore