A/N: Not betad yet ❤️
Evelyn’s parents had never emphasized religion. Many other families went to church every Sunday and Evelyn remembered wondering why they didn’t. ”A person does not need a church to connect with God,” her mother answered. And her father had admitted to her in her adulthood that his relationship with God was complicated.
”I saw things in the war that are difficult for me to understand or reconcile with God.”
When Evelyn met Henry, she had only recently started her studies in London. Henry was five years older than her, studied to be an architect, and worked between his studies at a construction site that was close to where Evelyn lived.
Evelyn often received attention from men, and it was not always pleasant. Passing that construction site had often been an embarrassing and awkward experience for her, with men whistling and making lewd comments. Until Henry had seen her.
”Boys, that’s not the proper way to address a lady,” the handsome Irishman had interrupted a situation. Evelyn remembered looking at the man with interest, his smile had been gentle and playful at the same time. ”I’m sorry for the lads, beautiful women make their heads dizzy, but they mean no harm. I will give them a talk about it,” Henry said from behind the fence, looking at her.
Evelyn had slowed her steps and smiled shyly. The man’s strong Irish accent, sparkling blue eyes, and smile on his handsome face had made her heart flutter in a way she hadn’t experienced before. But Evelyn had felt suddenly shy and had not said a word, only smiled.
She had continued her way; casting shy looks behind her and seeing the man following her with his sparkling blue eyes. Evelyn had scolded herself when she got home that she hadn’t been able to get a word out of her mouth. The man had stuck in her mind, and she had talked about him to her roommate Emily. “I think I know whom you’re talking about. He is gorgeous!” Emily sighed with admiration. ”But he didn’t talk to me… Go there, ask his name,” she had encouraged.
And Evelyn had ventured back, walking slowly past the site, looking for the Irishman. The other men noticed her, grinned good-naturedly, but held back from making aby lewd comments.
“Henry!” One of the men called. Evelyn was startled a little when she noticed the handsome Irishman approaching. “Good afternoon, Miss! See, my talk to the lads worked,” he grinned. Evelyn felt shy again, she couldn’t help but to blush. ”I’ve been hoping you’d pass by because I think you’d take my thoughts with you,” Henry said and came to the other side of the fence. ”Could I offer you a cup of tea with a scone, to make up for the earlier lewd comments you had to bear, Miss…?”
“Evelyn… Evelyn Harris.”
“I’m Henry Wills, nice to meet you, Evelyn. So how about that cup of tea? My shift is almost ending.
She had accepted the invite and quickly became infatuated with him. From that day on, the relationship developed rapidly. They got engaged at the end of the same year. Henry was a Catholic and Evelyn, interested in the man’s strong faith, had gone to church with him and adopted those ideas.
They married, in a Catholic ceremony in Ireland. They had both dreamed of a big family, a house full of children. But life rarely followed the planned script, in their case it had deviated from it severely.
Evelyn sat by her child’s hospital bed and held her son’s hand. She watched his breathing, his chest falling and rising steadily. With watery eyes, she glanced at the monitor beside his bed which measured his heartbeat, the sound was almost calm, and the line drawn on the monitor seemed normal. Evelyn brought her gaze to Michael’s face. Weeping quietly, she gently squeezed Michael’s hand, careful of the drip tube attached to his palm.
Thousands of memories flooded her mind. Memories of a small baby who quickly grew into a defiant toddler and then into a gentle and helpful little boy who had been eagerly waiting to become a big brother. How lucky she had been and how high she had fallen.
She hadn’t gotten pregnant as quickly after Michael as she had imagined and when it had happened… The pregnancy had progressed normally until the eighth month when it had started too early. She had imagined the loss of Maria to be the greatest tragedy of her life, the birth had been excruciating and long and it had not been enough to lose her, she had also been told she could no longer bear children.
The pain had been heart-wrenching, so terrible that for a moment it had seemed impossible to get up.
But she had had Michael. She remembered how the child had climbed into her arms, wrapped his small arms around her, and pressed his head to her chest. ”Don’t cry, mamma… Maria is with the angels, I saw her in a dream.” Evelyn had wrapped her arms around the boy and held his warm body against hers.
”I’m sad, tears help with that, they cleanse. Don’t worry my love, I will recover, I promise.”
She had made a promise that she kept, and Michael was the force that kept her afloat. She had thought God was testing her and at the same time, He had given her Michael, a precious, gentle, loving child that helped her get over the tragedy.
The day would come when Michael would give her grandchildren, Evelyn had thought. When Michael told him he was gay, she had first felt betrayed. It might sound peculiar, but she had seen her dream of being a grandmother ripped away like her dream of having many children, and she didn’t want to accept it. It wasn’t fair! It was a passing phase; the right girl or woman would eventually come along, and the madness of youth would pass.
She remembered praying to God, she had closed her eyes not even wanting to give herself a chance to accept it. Her mother had tried, but Evelyn hadn’t wanted to listen.
And then Michael had disappeared, her child had been taken and no one knew where. She had wanted to believe a better story than what she had received from the truth. Her child had been alone in a nightmare that he couldn’t wake up from, and she hadn’t been able to help.
“Forgive me, dear…. Forgive me for being blind, forgive me for not listening. Love can never be a sin; I know that now,” Evelyn whispered still holding her child’s hand. “We met Sam, he loves you…” Evelyn felt tears on her face as she looked down at the hand she was holding.
The marks on the wrists told how he had struggled, told of the terror he had experienced, and it broke her heart. Evelyn swallowed and looked back up at Michael’s face. She didn’t want to think about what her son had been through, but at the same time, she knew he had to. Michael had been through hell, and she would have to go through those thoughts so that when the boy woke up, she could be there for him in that pain.
A gentle, loving child. Michael was kind-hearted and considerate of others; they had succeeded in that. Of course, adolescence had brought its whims and Michael had occasionally snapped at them about mindless matters like teenagers often did, but the boy had always come to apologize if his behavior had been out of line. Until they had behaved worse themselves and broken the boy’s trust. Evelyn would always regret not listening to her mother who had tried to open her eyes.
”Wake up Michael, please… I miss you… You’re my heart, you’re my everything and I’ve been broken all these years when I didn’t know where you were… Please, come back to us…” Evelyn cautiously raised his hand to her face and kissed his palm softly. ”I’ll never let you down again, I promise.”
Evelyn felt Michael’s fingers move. “Michael?” She called hopefully. His heart sounds accelerated, Michael turned his head slightly and whimpered. “Michael?” She repeated.
The boy’s face contorted as if in pain and his heart rate increased, the hand withdrew from the grip while the eyes opened in confusion. ”Relax, you’re safe, mom is here.”
”Mum?” Michael asked hoarsely, tearful, and her heart ached with both relief and pain that she saw in his eyes.
”Shh…it’s alright, you’re in a hospital,” Evelyn whispered with tears in her eyes.
He was lying on his back across the bed and the man behind him was holding his wrists tightly, while another, who was kneeling in front of him was caressing him with his mouth. Someone helped by holding his other leg. His young body responded to the stimulation, even though the situation was anything but arousing to his mind.
Gleeful laughter filled the air. ”Now look, the whore enjoys it!”
He tried to kick, to fight, and finally released a desperate cry. But there were too many hands, intrusive, unpleasant, and rough. The voices and laughter of the monsters merged until they were not individuals but one and it was pure evil.
And somewhere in the middle of it all, he heard a soft voice calling to him. “Michael…”
The nightmare around started to dissipate, and the voice echoed louder. “Michael?”
He woke up, gasping for breath, the brightness attacking his yes. ”Mom is here, you’re safe.” The voice was now clearer, and Michael looked around in confusion and saw the woman beside his bed; his mother. The emotions rose and were overwhelming.
”Mum?” He asked hoarsely. For a moment he wasn’t sure if this was a delusion, a dream, or real. And he was afraid that he would soon be dragged back to where he did not want to return. He felt his eyes sting, filled with tears. His mother squeezed his hand, that squeeze felt real. At the same time, he didn’t dare to trust it to be true. How many times over the years had he already dreamed of waking up from a nightmare, awakened by her?
”Shh, it’s alright, you’re in a hospital.” His mother said, her eyes glimmering. It was easy to see that she had been crying, she looked worried, her dark hair had streaks of gray that Michael didn’t remember seeing before. ”You’re safe,” she reassured him once more and Michael felt the frantic beating of his heart. He squeezed his mother’s hand; afraid she would disappear and not be real. ”Your dad is here too and Sam,” She continued, placing her other hand on top of his and it felt soothing. ”I should go and fetch doctor…”
”Please, don’t go,” Michael pleaded
”Don’t be afraid, I won’t leave you again…” His mother assured with tears in her eyes.
”But…” She didn’t have time to say anything else when the door opened, making Michael startle.
The nurse entered. ”You’ve been expected to wake up.” The strange woman spoke in French and came closer. ”The doctor is coming very soon, are you in pain?”
Pain? Michael repeated in his mind. It was rippling along his body, and he wasn’t sure which place to name the worst.
”Some,” he answered quietly, receiving his mother’s worried look and a tender smile. The nurse changed the drip bag.
”On a scale of one to ten?” The woman asked at the same time.
”Mmh…” Michael was still trying to adjust his eyes to the brightness of the room. He tried to internalize the situation. Pain scale? Compared to what he had experienced before? Had it been the worst pain of his life? Was ten already the knocking at the door of death? His thoughts were restless, running in different directions. ”Maybe six,” he finally answered, wondering if seven was more accurate. Surely not more than that though?
Evelyn was still by her son’s side. ”You’ve taken after your father,” she said in a sad but gentle voice. ”I think my son is underestimating his pain,” she then said in French to the nurse who nodded, offering an understanding smile to her.
”We’ll add painkillers,” the nurse said.
The doctor entered the room, the man smiled at his patient as he stepped closer. ”How are you feeling?”
Michael looked at the man warily. ”Exhausted, and a little confused,” he answered quietly.
”It is understandable,” the doctor said emphatically. ”Do you remember why you are here?”
”I was shot. But…” Michael hesitated for a moment. ”I remember the rest of it too, to some extent,” Michael replied, his heart racing. The man nodded again and gave a cautious smile.
”The bullet was removed, and the surgery went well. However, you lost a lot of blood and will probably need to spend several days here in the hospital, but don’t worry, you’re in good hands. And about all the rest… ” The man took a short break and Michael tensed. ”No permanent damage has occurred. I believe you will make a full recovery. Now, however, you need to rest. You can be transferred to the ward soon after we have checked your wounds first. After that, other members of your family can come and see you.”
’I believe you will make a full recovery.’ The doctor’s words echoed in Michael’s mind and left him wondering what they meant. That couldn’t be possible, could it? Not completely, his mind could never recover.
“Is he alive?” Michael finally asked, looking at the man tensely.
”You mean the men who did this to you?” The doctor asked. ”Two of them are in hospital, as far as I understand, one was found dead.” The man answered sounding somewhat troubled. “They are not treated in this hospital, and they have been arrested. You don’t have to worry.”
“Ricky?” Michael asked.
”Unfortunately, I don’t know their names.” The man answered and the distress was clearer now.
“He’s alive,” Evelyn answered quietly, looking worriedly at her son, who to her surprise smiled a little.
”Good,” Michael said and closed his eyes for a moment. ”Death would have been too good to him.” He whispered back and Evelyn felt a lump rise in her throat at the thought of what those men had done to her child. At the same time, it became painfully clear to her that the final scars from Michael’s ordeal would only be revealed later and could not be seen with the naked eye. Such scars were ultimately the most difficult ones to treat, but Evelyn did not want to think about it yet. He wanted to be lulled into believing that now everything would be all right.
Henry was nervous, he had frantically been waiting for his son to wake, and now that it was true… It was crazy, but he was nervous to meet his son, the emotions were on the surface, overflowing and difficult… He didn’t know what to say, his throat and chest were gnawed by that horrible awareness of what Michael had been through.
”You can go in first…” Sam had said and remained seated on the waiting benches in the corridor.
Michael had been moved from intensive care to a private room. Evelyn took her husband’s hand as they entered the room, which was slightly more comfortable than the previous one and there were not so many appliances anymore. There was even a TV in the room. Michael was lying in the hospital bed with his eyes closed and as they approached, he startled a little and opened his tired eyes.
“Hey…” Henry whispered, tears rising to his eyes. Michael opened his eyes more.
“Dad,” he spoke quietly, his chest heavy with emotions, and Henry sat down on the chair next to him. Michael’s eyes watered as he looked at his father, his dark hair was now almost completely grey and he had aged visibly, he could see his father fighting back tears but finally, he couldn’t, and they rolled down his cheeks. Michael didn’t think he had ever seen his father cry this openly before.
Henry reached for his hand. “We’re here now…” His voice trailed off. ”I’m so sorry… forgive me…” He sobbed and Michael frowned and squeezed his father’s hand weakly.
“Dad…I love you…don’t worry…I’ll be fine,” Michael whispered, and it made Henry shiver. The man brought his other hand to his face, ashamed of his tears. “Everything is alright, dad…” Michael assured, as Henry wiped the tears from his face, looked at him, and tried his best to smile.
”You are braver than I have ever been,” Henry said, still holding his son’s hand until he slowly let go. All these feelings and their openness made him feel strange, vulnerable, and exposed. He didn’t know how to be. He smiled crookedly, cleared his throat, and tried his best to man up. In his home, there had never been an open display of emotion. ”How are you?”
”I guess they’ve pumped a lot of painkillers into me…” Michael whispered and smiled a little. ”I’m happy you’re here.”
Evelyn stood on the other side of the bed and leaned down to plant a kiss on Michael’s forehead. ”We are happy and relieved to have found you. We’re here for you, we won’t let you down anymore.”
Michael felt exhaustion in his body. He closed his eyes for a moment. ”I am pretty tired.” He whispered before opening his eyes.
”It is understandable,” Henry said and smiled gently, trying to push aside the painful thoughts of what Michael had experienced.
“Sam?” Michael whispered. ”Is he here?”
”He is. He is waiting outside and wanted to give us time. Shall I ask him here?” Evelyn asked. “He is very much looking forward to seeing you.”
Michael closed his eyes for a moment and was silent until he opened his eyes and nodded. ”Your father and I will come back later when you have rested. You can be alone with Sam.” Evelyn stroked her son’s hair gently.
”Thank you,” Michael whispered.
Sam took that moment alone to collect himself. He had been anxiously waiting for Michael to wake up and naturally he was grateful for that. At the same time, he was faced with a surprising fear, what Michael had been through, brutally struck his consciousness. He wasn’t sure how to face his loved one with the strength he wanted to offer.
Sam had always thought he was strong but in front of this… It was horrible and unreal… Of course, Michael’s past with Ricky had already been difficult, horrible and he had known it but this… This… The excruciating twenty-four hours with six men whom all had… Sam swallowed hard, his eyes burning, now was not the time to break! Had to be strong! Michael wouldn’t want to see him break.
He heard voices from behind the door, took a deep breath, and wiped his face, preparing himself to face Michael with the courage he needed. Evelyn and Henry stepped out.
”He asked for you,” Evelyn smiled and Sam nodded, returning her smile, and getting up. ”We’re going to a cafe; do you need something?”
Sam shook his head. ”No, thank you.” He said and Evelyn put her hand on his shoulder for a moment before they left.
Sam’s heart sank, another deep breath before he opened the door. ”Hi,” he greeted, smiling through his excitement as he looked at his partner. He approached, sat down next to Michael, took his hand, and kissed his palm. ”I was scared for you…” Sam managed to say, his voice breaking as Michael looked at him with an exhausted but gentle expression.
”I’m here,” Michael whispered and raised his other hand to his. Sam broke down, all that worry unleashed, all that gratitude, all that nauseatingness of the whole thing. He was crying pitifully, even though he should have been the strong one! And the one whom he was supposed to support, brought his hand softly in his hair, caressing his fingers through them shooting.
”Everything will be all right,” Michael whispered.
“I should be the one to tell you that!” Sam brought his head up.
”I’ll be fine Sam,” Michael said and was silent for a moment before continuing. ”But I’m not going to stay silent anymore.” Sam looked at Michael, the bruise on the corner of his left eye was a dark purple and there was swelling on that side of his face, if Michael was in pain, he didn’t show it.
”Nor should you,” Sam said gently and Michael brought his hand to gently wipe the tears from his face. Sam felt ashamed.
”It’s going to be messy Sam,” Michael said quietly.
“I know,” Sam squeezed his hand. ”We will all be with you, to help you through it,” he assured. Michael was silent, nodding softly before closing his eyes for a moment.
”I am pretty tired,” he whispered, and Sam raised his hand to his lips, pressing another gentle kiss to his palm. ”Rest. We’ll have time to talk later. I love you.”
”Love you too,” Michael whispered and smiled softly. ”You should rest too Sam…You look tired,” Sam squeezed his hand, smiled, and nodded. ”Can I stay here for a while until you fall asleep?” Sam asked. Michael looked at him and nodded, a tired smile briefly gracing his lips once more. ”These dopes they give are good…I like these dopes…it’s nice and warm…” He muttered before closing his eyes and Sam smiled sadly and allowed the tears to fall from his eyes. The whole situation was unfair as hell and even though the worst was behind them, he couldn’t help but fear what was to come.
Kirstin hung up her phone in frustration; Richard hadn’t answered this time either. Her husband had been gone for a couple of days, on an urgent business trip; he had said. Kirstin had been upset; she would have needed her husband’s support and it had seemed strange that he was leaving at such a time.
Her sister’s son, Jared, had been missing for several weeks and no one knew where he might be. The youth had been at a party with Jeremy his friends from school, but Jared had left the party earlier and no one had seen him since.
Her sister was worried sick, and Kirstin shared her sister’s fear. Even then, Ricky had been on a business trip and returned the day after the disappearance. The police had questioned them both and the previous morning the authorities had returned to question the man. They had asked for more detailed information about the business trip, but Kirstin had none to give.
The authorities had left with the demand that she’d contact them immediately if she heard anything about her husband. She had slept poorly the previous night and now she felt both exhaustion and worry weighing her.
The children had left for school and Kirstin poured the first cup of black coffee into her mug, looking out the window to a sunny and crisp fall morning.
The doorbell rang, it was ten to nine and Kirstin regretted having not brushed her hair properly. Exhausted, she walked towards the door and whoever was behind the door was impatient as the doorbell rang again. Kirstin clicked her tongue in irritation and glanced at her reflection in the hall mirror before opening the door.
Two constables were standing on her porch, Kirstin looked at them confused, and felt a stab of worry squeeze her chest. The news couldn’t be good, but the men’s faces showed no empathy, the kind you’d expect to see if they were bringing sad news.
”Mrs. Larkin?” One of them asked.
”We have a search warrant.” She was handed a paper to see, and Kirstin looked at it and then back at the men with confusion ”Your husband Richard Larkin was arrested last night in Paris. He is currently in hospital care.”
“A-arrested?” Kirstin asked, holding the paper in her trembling hand, as the officials entered. ”Why, what’s happened?” She asked perplexedly. It made no sense to her, why on earth would that have arrested her husband and why was he at a hospital? More authorities entered the apartment and Kirstin felt ashamed, what would the neighbors think?
”He is suspected of kidnapping and raping a young man.” The constable next to her said and the words were unreal, Kirstin was convinced that she had heard wrong.
“W-what?” She felt dizzy. The man put his hand on her shoulder.
”You’d better sit down.” The man said, now for the first time sounding worried, and picked up the coffee cup that had fallen from her hand.
”What is this?” She asked.
”In the light of things, your husband is now also the main suspect in your nephew’s disappearance.”
Kirstin shook her head. ”It can’t be. Richard wouldn’t do that! You are mistaken!” Shock turned to anger. ”You have no right to be here! You are mistaken!”
”Madam,” the man said. ”The evidence is indisputable. There is video footage of the crime in which your husband appears. I understand that this comes as a shock to you. But we need to search the apartment for clues regarding your nephew.”
Kirstin didn’t want to understand. She wailed and burst into tears. ”It’s someone else, it must be someone else!” She sobbed as the constable tried his best to console her. But how could anything bring comfort now?
Kirstin Larkin’s nightmare was only just beginning.