10.So just


Chapter 10

“Come straight up”, Aki called from the window and dropped the keys that Eva was barely able to catch. The girl smiled shortly, watched as the man closed the window and disappeared from view. Well, perhaps Aki wasn’t the most romantic man that walked on earth, but he was handsome and even mysterious. Steps echoed in the staircase as Eva walked upstairs, this was the first time she would see Aki’s apartment, usually the man came to her place but had finally given in to her inquires to visit. Kasper had asked if she was in love with the man, looking at her for a long time as if doubting that it was possible. Eva had smiled at her friend, told him that it didn’t always need to be about love, not so fast, merely an infatuation… Aki was so different from Dima, and Kasper had noticed it as well.

Eva stood by the door and turned the key in the lock. Aki didn’t come to greet her in the hall. “Leave the keys on the bureau”, she heard from the other room and Eva glanced around her leaving the keys where Aki had requested. The memory of how warmly Dima had smiled whenever they met in his time, the memory of how he had kissed her cheek and told her that he had already missed her even though they had just seen each other the previous evening, caused her to feel a bittersweet sadness for a moment.

She startled when Aki crept up behind her pinching her buttocks. “You look great…” He breathed in her ear and placed his hands upon her breasts. Eva smiled, uneasy with her memories, her longing for a time that was long gone.
“Thank you,” she replied and turned. Aki was almost as tall as Dima and Eva had to tilt her head to look up at him. “So do you.” She cooed. Her feelings were a mess, at times she thought that she could forget Dima and focus on Aki, and at other times she held on to a dream where Dima would beg her to return to him, telling her that he would break up with Linda only to have another chance with her.

Aki kissed her, demanding, rough, lifting her up and carrying her to the bedroom. There was only little, if any, romance and Eva noticed herself missing it more and more. Dima had been gentle, she had been his first and Eva remembered wishing she had waited for her first time as well so she could have shared the experience with Dima. He had been kind and patient and it was becoming more and more difficult for her to understand the reasons that had made her give him up. At times she felt bitterness towards her father whose prejudices had made a major difference in the matter.

After sex, Aki laid next to her, barely catching his breath before getting up. “I’ll go and take a shower,” he announced, looked at her and smiled. Eva smiled back without feeling satisfaction because it hadn’t been given. However, Aki wasn’t the first man  who didn’t really make that much of an effort in bed or thought that a few moans were enough. Longing burned in her chest. At least she had a boyfriend and satisfaction from sex wasn’t all that important, Eva tried to convince herself. The most important thing was the closeness shared with another person, it was enough, it had to be enough.

Eva wrapped the blanket around herself to cover her nakedness; the bedroom was decorated simply and kept neat which seemed rare for a single man. There seemed to be nothing extra… with curiosity Eva peaked into one of his closets; every shirt was neatly folded, as though he had used a ruler to ensure that. There was no doubt that this was the most organized man she had ever been with.
When Aki returned from the shower already dressed, he took one glance at her before starting to remove the sheets from the bed. “You go ahead and take a shower as well, let’s go out for dinner after,” he said. Eva cocked her brow; was her scent so disgusting that he needed to get rid of it at once by changing the sheets? Feeling hurt, Eva dropped the blanket to the floor.
“Where is the bathroom?” She asked and Aki glanced at her before moving his attention to the blanket on the floor.

“The opposite door.” He replied and picked the blanket up, removing the comforter.

Eva missed the warmth after sex, but Aki claimed that he wasn’t a snuggling kind of guy. At times it felt like she was in a relationship with two different persons, one was considerate and polite especially when other people were around and the other was cold and distant. This other side had begun to come to the front more than in the beginning. However, Eva had bragged about him so much to her friends and family that she wasn’t ready to admit that she might have been wrong about him, not to herself or those closest to her.

The day was beautiful and sunny and they walked slowly along the city streets looking for a nice place to dine. Soon Eva noticed that they were walking towards a restaurant where she had had one of her first dates with Dima, a cozy little Nepalese restaurant that had been Dima’s favorite place. A smile graced her lips as the memories overcame her. It had been fall then and that day it had rained, Eva hadn’t eaten Nepalese food before and she remembered fearing that it would be very hot which in the end it hadn’t been.

“Shall we go in?” Aki asked suddenly and for a moment Eva found herself hesitating. They stood by the restaurant and Aki studied the menu. To her amazement, Eva noticed Joni and Dima through the window. Was it just a coincident or was it fate, Eva pondered and felt her heartbeat speeding up. Perhaps if they went in, Dima would notice them and get jealous? The opportunity was too good to miss, it had to be fate and fate wanted her back with Dima.

“Yeah, let’s go in, I’m getting hungry.” Eva finally replied and Aki smiled to himself before opening the restaurant door letting Eva in ahead of him.

**^^**^^**^^**

Joni had come directly from the gym to meet Dima at the restaurant that they had decided on earlier. They tried to make a monthly habit of meeting somewhere, just the two of them, taking turns in deciding what they would do on that day. Often they went somewhere to eat, but they had also gone to play badminton or just to enjoy a beer or two in some pub. Of course they met on other occasions as well, usually when Dima came to visit them with Linda or by himself, but it seemed important to keep their friendship up like this as well, just with each other. Dima had once expressed a fear that their friendship would change somehow now that Joni was in a relationship with his brother, so it was part of the reason that they had created this monthly ritual.

“Had a good workout?” Dima asked as Joni sat down at the table, opposite to him.

“Well, I’ve had better. I think I need to change my gym.” Joni sighed and thanked the waiter who had brought them their menus.

“Would you like something to drink?” The waiter asked.

“I’ll have a beer, thanks,” Dima said and Joni thought for a moment.

“Mineral water, please,” he decided and Dima cocked his brow.

“I’m driving,” Joni chuckled. “Besides, I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll drink more than I should, considering it’s Ivo who’s arranging the party.”

“Yes, yes.” Dima nodded smiling. “Is Misha still stressing out about that?”

“Oh, if only you’d see…” Joni sighed. “I told him to just go out with his friends this evening to have a couple of beers because I’m too tired to listen to his paranoia about tomorrow.” Joni shook his head, studying the menu.

“Well, it won’t be anything too embarrassing.” Dima grinned, knowing full well some of the details of the party.

“Not too embarrassing? But still slightly? Should I start worrying as well?” Joni pondered smiling at his friend. The waiter returned with their drinks.

“Are you ready to order?” He asked and Dima gave his friend a questioning look.

“I won’t even try to pronounce it, but I’d like number 32, please.” Joni smiled.
“And I’ll take number 26, thank you.” The waiter smiled and took their menus before leaving.

“What are you having?” Joni asked.

“Tandoor Lamb,” Dima replied. “And you?”

“Chicken something.” Joni smiled and sipped his water.

“So what about this gym thing, why do you feel that you need to change it?”

“Well, there are many reasons. The other day I tried to give advice to zit-faced teenage boys that looked like they were about to break themselves… Well, then those idiots seemed to think that I was trying to hit on them or something. As if…” Joni snorted and rolled his eyes. “So they kept staring at me all paranoid, talking to each other and I could hear them saying things like ’what a disgusting faggot’… So annoying.” He sighed before continuing. “But that isn’t all of it… Then there’s started to build up some kind of fan club of mine… At first there was only one guy, then two and then three… Around thirty-years old guys on steroids, they keep staring at me all the time… It’s really creepy and I’m not sure whether they are waiting for a chance to beat me up in the changing rooms or something else… And that something else is an equally unappealing thought… Then at times there are these giggling schoolgirls that seem to think of me as some strange attraction. Today my final straw was when this old man started hitting on me in the changing room. He invited me to his summer cottage for sauna bathing… Ew.”

“Ouch,” Dima chuckled with compassion.

“I fail to see the great humor in this.” Joni said, but smiled anyway. “There has to be some better gym and perhaps it’s time to change anyway, I’ve been going there since I was a teenager… Or we need to find a home where there’s one extra room for us to build a small gym.”

“You have weird problems…” Dima admitted and took a sip from his glass.

“Oh and this week I also got a facebook message from someone I don’t know. He claimed that he’s a movie director and wants to film a movie with me; a Finnish gay version of Snow white and the seven dwarfs, he already had the dwarfs for the film, can you imagine?”
Dima burst out laughing so that he spilled his drink, but Joni continued. “Apparently I would make a fabulous ‘Snow white’ and he tried to convince me that this would be a serious movie. Yeah right, serious porn… I told him to just go ahead and make the porn alone with his dwarfs, and I blocked him. I’ve got to have some kind of perv magnet installed…”

Dima wiped tears from his eyes. “God, these images, I didn’t want them in my head! Horrible,” he chuckled.

“Well, you can guess how I felt when I read the message.”

“Did you tell Misha?” Dima asked after calming down.

“Not yet, perhaps later if I want to amuse him.” Joni smiled. “You never know, it may have been a joke from him or one of his friends.”

“A pretty bad joke in my opinion. I can’t see Misha making a joke like that.” Dima nodded and Joni thought it was best not to tell his friend that Misha had once actually referred to him as a male Snow White – or something like that.

“Even as a teenager, I wouldn’t have been stupid enough to consider such a proposal, what kind of an idiot do people take me for?”

“Well, there are those weird people who are just ready to try their luck. Linda has her fair share of weird proposals as well.” Dima said.

“How are things with you and her? I haven’t seen her in a while.”

“She’s working a lot… Lots of evening shifts and night shifts… Linda comes home just as I’m getting ready for bed or in the morning when I’m about to leave to work… I don’t know what will happen when I start studying this fall.” Dima shrugged, looking somewhat sad.

“Is Linda coming to the party tomorrow?” Joni asked slightly worried and Dima nodded. “I suppose it will get better… It’s just little difficult now.”

“Couldn’t she try cutting off from her shifts?”

“I suppose she will, at least in the fall when she returns to school as well,” Dima wondered. “Perhaps I’m just disappointed that we won’t have any holiday together this year…”

“Every couple goes through hard times…” Joni said. “You’ll just have to bear them.”

“Yeah…” Dima sighed. The waiter brought them a basket of thin, crispy bread that tasted funny (but a good kind of funny) and whose name Joni didn’t remember. “Eva sent me a friend invite on facebook… I haven’t replied to her yet, but…” Dima started.

“Don’t tell me that you’re thinking about her…” Joni sighed. “Besides, I heard that she’s dating someone, Sonja told me.” He didn’t have time to say more when the door opened and a familiar looking young woman stepped in with her companion. “You’ve got to be kidding me…” Joni sighed, it was exactly like a soap opera scene; where a person that you were just talking about suddenly enters the room.

Eva looked in their direction and seemed to startle slightly when she saw Joni staring at her. Her date changed a few words with the waiter and then started leading Eva to the table next to them and Joni had a hard time believing that this was just a funny coincidence.
Dima looked at his friend with confusion before glancing around to see what Joni was staring at. His eyes met with Eva and for a moment it felt like he had forgotten every Finnish word.

“H-hi”, he was finally able to stammer and Eva smiled. Dima gave a perplexed laughter. “What a funny coincidence!” He added.

“Yes, it is,” Eva agreed looking at her ex-boyfriend and felt how fast her heart rate had become. Aki helped her out of her small jacket and watched Dima and Joni with curiosity, the later of which seemed everything but pleased.

“Are these your friends?” Aki asked with faked innocence and smiled. Eva chuckled slightly nervously looking at Dima and then at Aki.

“Old friends from high school.” Eva replied glancing at Dima, looking for signs in his reaction. “Dima,” Eva introduced indicating the blond youth. “And Joni… This is my boyfriend Aki.” Aki smiled and held his hand out first to Dima to shake hands with him.

”Nice to meet you,” he said and Dima smiled though he didn’t seem that excited to meet him. Aki then diverted his gaze to Joni holding out his hand to him as well. The dark haired youth looked at him with a forced smile before shaking his hand. Although Aki could see a total lack of enthusiasm to make a better acquaintance in Joni’s eyes, his handshake was still pleasantly firm which Aki liked. One thing that always annoyed him was weak handshakes.
Aki also took note of the ring on Joni’s left hand; was he engaged?  He wondered for a moment how Chris might take this news; he’d probably throw a fit.
“I think I recognize you…” Aki said after letting go of Joni’s hand. “I’ve seen your pictures.”

Joni gave a short smile, he had wanted to continue his evening alone with Dima, but it seemed impossible now. “It’s possible,” he answered lamely and took one more look at the man’s eyes; there was something distantly familiar in the sharp green eyes, but Joni thought he might be imagining it. The waiter was about to bring Aki and Eva their menus, but now seemed slightly confused about where to place them.

“Would you like to sit with us?” Dima suddenly blurted out and Joni knew his friend well enough to know that it was simply his overwhelming need to be polite, mixing with nervousness that had brought this question out. It was unlikely that Dima would really  enjoy a dinner with his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend. Joni gave his friend a slightly shocked look and Dima gave him a helpless gaze back.

“Why not, it could be fun.” Aki replied and sat down next to Dima so that he was opposite Joni and Eva had no choice but to sit next to him. Dima smiled at his friend in an apologetic manner as the waiter put the menus down and took the drink orders from Eva and Aki. Eva ordered a glass of wine and Aki a pint of beer.

“Would you like your orders the same time as your friends’?” The waiter asked Joni and Dima.

“You can bring them now if they’re done, I’m quite hungry.” Joni replied without concern to try and be polite to the other two. He couldn’t have cared less to talk to Eva and her new boyfriend. The waiter nodded and Dima gave him a slightly disapproving look for his rudeness.

Aki on the other hand felt amused, it was interesting to be this close to Joni. The spoiled brat had indeed grown into a very attractive young man. “So, what do you two do these days? Still studying, or…?” Aki inquired.

“I’ll start medical school this fall, at the moment I’m doing office work.” Dima replied. Joni sipped from his water glass looking out the window until he realized that the silence that had settled probably meant that his reply was expected.

“Well, you’ve seen my pictures,” Joni said with a forced smile as he looked at the man opposite and tried to endure Eva’s presence next to him. The woman snorted at his answer and Joni continued. “But I’ll apply to go back to school this fall.”

“What subject, if I may ask?” Aki inquired.

“Physical trainer.” Joni replied and again he felt odd when his gaze met with Aki. It was this odd feeling that made him avert his gaze quickly.

“Nice,” Aki replied and at the same time the waiter brought them their drinks, Joni’s and Dima’s food and the naan bread.

“And… What do you do?” Dima asked politely.

“I sell insurances.” Aki smiled. “So how is it boys, are your insurances in order?” The man grinned and Joni felt a chill, what right did the man have to call them boys?

“Yes, they are, thank you.” Joni replied with a somewhat rude tone and took a piece of bread.

“Are you sure? Often people so young can’t really think far ahead. Life is here and now, but… It is best to prepare for every possible scenario and it might always be a good idea to ask for bids from other insurance companies.” Aki noted and took a sip from his beer. “Take you for example Joni, you’re engaged, right?” He asked and Joni gave him a bored look, cocked his brow and waited for him to continue. “And you live together?”

“Yes…” Joni said hoping that the pair would just disappear, they were taking out all the fun of the night. Why would this guy be so interested whether or not he was engaged? In his opinion there was always something fishy about insurance salesmen.

“Do you have health, injury and life insurances? And if so, who has been marked as your beneficiary should the unfortunate happen?” Joni was quiet for a moment and took a deep breath.

“Listen,” he smiled constrainedly. “I came here to spend a nice Friday night with my friend and enjoy a good dinner with him. It was not part of my plans to discuss my business with an insurance salesman, especially relating to injuries or death, so thank you but no thank you.”

Dima was somewhat troubled and was beginning to regret that he had asked the couple over to their table. He glanced at Eva who seemed bothered as well. Aki on the other hand just laughed, took a little bit of bread from the basket and looked at Joni. “Alright, I apologize. Perhaps we can talk about insurances later, for Eva’s friends I can negotiate very good offers.” Aki took his business card and placed one in front of each youth. Joni only took a quick glance at the card, with no intention of taking it with him.

“So, do Kasper and his band have more gigs in the near future?” Dima decided to change the subject after a moment of silence, which Eva happily welcomed, even she had noticed that Aki’s behavior was somewhat peculiar.

After the awkward dinner Joni had no desire to waste any more time at the table.
“Dima, I’ll go and take care of our check.” He announced while Dima was finishing his own dinner. Joni got up and waited for Eva to move aside. “So…” He gave one last look to the couple, unsure what to say really. “Enjoy your dinner.” He opted for a slightly more polite exit before walking over to the bar to pay and wait for Dima.

“That was damn awkward,” Joni took note once they got outside the restaurant.

“I agree.” Dima nodded.

“You are far too kind, I don’t understand what possessed you to invite them to sit with us. And Eva’s boyfriend was possibly even more annoying than she is. And Sonja told me that she found the guy pleasing; rats ass…”

Dima felt amused by Joni’s choice of words. “I wasn’t thinking, it just slipped from my mouth…” He finally replied. “And he was a pretty strange character, a little too old for Eva, or what do you think?” Joni looked at him cocking his brow.

“You’re not seriously starting to pine for her?” Joni asked with worry. “Just remember how horrible she was to you, no normal person ends their relationship with an email.”

“Mmh….” Dima nodded and Joni sighed heavily.

“You and Linda are just going through a rough time and time sweetens every memory… You should rather remember the good times you and Linda have shared and focus on fixing your relationship with her. Don’t go fooling around with Eva.”

“I love Linda, I want us to work. I wouldn’t have asked her to marry me if I hadn’t planned to be with her forever.” Dima said. “I’m just bothered… This was the restaurant where I took Eva out on a date and now she brought that weird guy there. I respected the memory and I’ve never taken Linda there.”

“Instead you took me, aw Dima, I’m touched.” Joni chuckled and gave a playful thud on Dima’s arm. “Really Dima, Eva is an idiot, let the past be gone.”

“She really isn’t that bad, you didn’t know her like I do, you both just have a very wrong opinion of each other… Her dad couldn’t stand me, I bet that played a part.” Joni gave his friend another meaningful look when they stopped next to Joni’s car. “But like you said, it’s all in the past and will be left as such.” Dima smiled.

“Good.” Joni patted his friend’s shoulder. “So, do you want a ride home?”

“Thank you.” Dima nodded and circled the car to the passenger’s side.

**^^**^^**^^**

“I don’t know why I agreed to this…” Misha grumbled in the backseat while Dima was driving them. The younger brother looked at them through the mirror and smiled. “I hold you partly responsible if it turns out to be horrible,” Misha decided to add.

“Ivo only wants to please you…” Dima reassured him. “It will be fun, you’ll see.”

Misha still eyed his little brother suspiciously, he felt foolish: there he sat, dressed in a neat dress shirt, a tie on his neck. He hated ties. He hadn’t agreed to wear a suit and like his partner he had chosen neat jeans. Ivo had invited Dima to arrive earlier and then suggested that the three of them take a ride together. Misha had argued at first; naturally, the true reason for this mindless driving had to do with something ridiculous that his brother had organized.

“I can’t wait for this day to be over,” Misha sighed and felt Joni’s hand searching his own, they looked at one another and the younger man grinned.

“I’m sure we’ll have a great time, just relax.” Joni encouraged him. He then glanced at his friend who seemed like his usual cheerful self and hadn’t mentioned Eva so far.

Dima sighed and parked his car. “Alright, lets go out to have drinks.” He said and got out. “And you Misha could stop moaning, of course it is terrible that your two brothers try to arrange a nice engagement party for you and your partner, surely we are the most horrible brothers a man could have.” He snorted sarcastically to Misha who got out of the car as well. Joni smiled at his friend, he was right to criticize Misha, who at least  had the decency to look guilty now.

They walked to a terrace of a cozy seaside restaurant and Dima ordered them both beers, settling for lemonade himself. The day was beautiful and warm; Ivo couldn’t have succeeded better in his choice of day. Misha looked at the scenery around them while sipping his beer slowly. “Alright, I will do my best to relax.” He finally sighed, took Joni’s hand and gave his brother an apologetic look. “You know that I don’t enjoy being the center of attention.”

“Luckily Joni can enjoy that for the both of you,” Dima joked looking at his friend who snorted at first but then smiled. “Oh don’t even try to tell me that you won’t enjoy being the center of a party!” Dima chuckled and took the straw in his drink between his lips. Joni shrugged.

“Depends on the party,” the dark haired man smiled. “I hope that I can enjoy myself tonight, as long as you haven’t arranged anything embarrassing.”

“Embarrassing? Us? Now why would we do that?” Dima grinned.

“That grin concerns me,” Misha said, looking at his kid brother doubtfully and Dima laughed.

“Just let it go, Misha.”

After they had finished their drinks, Dima checked the time and announced that they could return home.

Misha sighed upon seeing the cars parked on the side of the street by their house and although the day was especially warm, the yard seemed unusually quiet. There was a pink cardboard heart attached to the front door which had their names written in its center. Misha glanced at Joni, shaking his head. “Can we just turn back? Let’s run away somewhere?” Joni grinned and before he had time to say anything, Dima lowered his hands on both of their backs.

“Alright, be brave now, it will only sting once.” Dima encouraged them and Joni opened the door, the hall was filled with shoes but otherwise the house was quiet. Joni glanced at his fiancé, smiled and touched his shoulder, amused by his almost pained expression.

“Is he trying to surprise us?” Misha muttered while kicking off his shoes. “He could have just arranged a surprise party altogether, this is ridiculous…” He continued to complain quietly. “We already know that the guests are here…”

“Yes, and you would have hated a complete surprise even more than this…” Joni whispered and grinned. He took Misha’s hand in his. “Let’s just play along, okay?” He continued and started leading his partner towards the living room, Dima following them.

“Okay… Play it… Quick! They’re coming.” They heard the voices and once more Misha gazed at his lover, convinced that something massively sappy was going to follow and for once where he would have gladly been mistaken, he wasn’t. Christina Perry’s ‘A thousand years’ started to play from the loudspeakers just as they stepped into the living room that was filled with smiling people; Joni’s family, his cousin Jyri, Ivo, Jami, Cecilia who tried not to cry from happiness and emotion and Misha’s friends who all found this terribly amusing. Sonja walked over to them holding two glasses of sparkling wine smiling from ear to ear while Linda circled behind them to give Dima his glass and at the same time effectively managing to block Misha’s escape from the scene. “Congratulations, Misha and Joni!” The guests cheered, some of them (mostly Misha’s friends) with bursts of laughter and Misha tried something close to smiling that came out as a grimace. He noticed horrible silver heart shaped balloons and flower arrangements in the room.

They had rearranged the furniture in the room and put a long table in a corner that bore different kinds of food, there was also a smaller table with gifts on it. People came closer to congratulate them, hugging them, Joni’s dad shook his hand and Misha managed a slightly more relaxed smile. The TV screen played pictures of them from childhood to adulthood, some pictures with both of them together. “So what’s it like to be ‘married’?” Misha’s friend Sami whispered in his ear in a teasing manner and Misha snorted, glanced around and looked at Joni who was exchanging words with his parents, looking cheerful and happy; seeing it made Misha smile.

“It feels good.” He finally replied and sipped from his glass. A speech from Ivo followed, in which he welcomed all the guests and claimed that he had known from the beginning that Misha and Joni belonged together, from the very first moment that Joni had stepped over their doorstep. He described, much to Asko’s discomfort, how he was certain that he had seen lust in Misha’s eyes when he had first laid his eyes on Joni. Misha could do nothing but to snort at this and Joni chuckled in slight embarrassment seeing the somewhat disapproving gaze that his father gave Ivo. Unaffected, Ivo continued telling of their rocky path to get where they were now, how childish and tiring their cat and mouse game had been in the beginning. He talked about his own attempt to meddle and bring them together, which had resulted in a catastrophe and a situation that Ivo hadn’t been sure could be fixed. But there they were now, an exemplary happy couple that had their whole lives ahead of them. The guests toasted them and once more wished them happiness.

Jyri decided to “embarrass” his cousin by showing them all a home video from a decade ago. In the recording Joni was entertaining Jyri and his friends by performing them a Finnish-Hungarian gypsy dance that he had made up in a fit of sugar rush. Joni had managed to forget the existence of the recording, but was now able to overcome his shame and laughed with everyone else.

“When do we get a rerun? It’s been long overdue.” Jyri asked afterwards.

“Let’s see about that later, when I am drunk enough.” Joni chuckled.

“Oh I’ll make sure to remind you.” Misha grinned, now already relaxed.

After eating, Ivo insisted they cut the cake in wedding ceremonial style and Misha, who had already resigned, decided that after all, his brother could have arranged something worse and he agreed. However, he didn’t take it very seriously and when Joni stamped his feet on the floor with triumphant laughter while they were cutting the cake, Misha looked perplexed for a moment.
“That means, dear brother, that Joni gets the final say in your relationship.” Dima grinned and Misha looked back at his chuckling partner before grinning mischievously.

“He can try,” Misha replied calmly.

“And I’ll do my best,” Joni decided with a firm nod.

After the cake eating, Joni’s father decided to make a speech and everyone fell quiet.

“I’m not good at making speeches, but I decided to give it a go on this special occasion…” He started modestly. “I have to admit that the news of your engagement came as a surprise, I didn’t expect this day to come but I am happy that it has. The two of you have already had to face hardship, but you pulled through together. Misha, seeing how you’ve stood by my son, how you helped him and how you’ve loved him has impressed me and looking at my son I can see the deep love that he has for you. You share something very special and finding love like yours is not a foregone conclusion, never take each other for granted. There will be days when you will get annoyed, tired or angry of each other, when you will speak harshly to one another, but remember that harsh words can be forgiven and forgotten and negative feelings will pass if you let them. Remember to talk to each other and listen what the other has to say. Cherish each other, you have the ingredients for a successful relationship, remember that. Once more, I wish you both all the happiness and Misha, welcome to our family.” Asko raised his glass and everyone else did the same. Joni walked over to give his father a hug.

“Thanks, dad… You’re the best father I could ever have.” He whispered and Asko smiled with emotion. Misha came to thank Asko for his speech as well and he responded modestly, saying that he could have planned it better and hoped he hadn’t sounded boring to the others. Joni was amused by his father’s typical Finnish modesty, a feature which he himself had only inherited a sparkle of, if even that.

Joni’s family stayed for a little while longer before Asko decided that it was best for them to go so that the young adults could concentrate on celebrating.

***^^**^^**

At 6.30 pm the doorbell rang and Ivo went to open it. Suvi stood there, party dress on, a bag on her shoulder and a gift bag in her other hand.

“Is it still okay to come over?” The woman asked somewhat insecurely.

“Of course, I’m happy that you made it.” Ivo smiled. “Are you alone?” He asked and Suvi nodded.
“I left Aaron at home with my parents, Adam is… at home.” Suvi lowered her bag onto the floor and took off her light jacket. “I hope that the offer to sleep over still stands, it’s a long way back to Oulu.”

“Of course it is,” Ivo nodded. “Dima’s room is free, I can take your bag upstairs. Misha and Joni are outside.” He continued, sensing that something was troubling her, perhaps an argument with Adam? The woman, however, smiled bravely and thanked him. “Would you like something to drink first? Sparkling wine or regular? We have beer and cider as well.”

“I could go for the sparkling wine.” Suvi smiled and Ivo led the woman into the kitchen handing her a glass before taking an opened bottle from the fridge and filling it. He felt tempted to ask if everything was all right with her, but assumed that the moment was wrong.

“Thank you, I’ll go and find Misha and Joni…” Suvi flashed him another smile and Ivo nodded.

“I’ll come and join you soon, I’ll just take your bag upstairs.”

Suvi walked into the backyard and saw Misha and Joni chatting cheerfully with some other guests. Joni looked happy next to Misha, his laughter was light and the gentle evening sun surrounded the people.

“Congratulations,” Suvi whooped as she approached them. She first hugged her cousin  who seemed surprised to see her, then she hugged Misha. “I brought you a gift as well, but I am sorry that I wasn’t very creative in choosing it.” She chuckled and handed them a bag that contained a bottle of sparkling wine and a gift card for Ikea.

“Thank you, this will come in handy.” Misha smiled referring to the Ikea card and Suvi couldn’t help but giggle seeing Joni’s expression.

“We will turn you around one day, so that you’ll learn to love Ikea, you snob…” Suvi teased.

“I’m glad that you could make it, this surprise is the best gift.” Joni smiled.

“Aaron is with my parents. I’m so glad to be able to attend to a party; it’s been ages since my last time! And I am so happy for you two!”

“Adam couldn’t come?” Joni asked.

“Yes, he had to work…” Suvi nodded looking around, she frowned then. “Is that…” She started but didn’t have time to finish.
“Shrimp?” They heard Jyri’s voice ask, and the man approached. “Oh lord, it is you!” Joni looked between his cousins, the one from his mother’s side and the other from his father’s, who now gazed at one another with their mouths open until they came close enough to hug.

“I almost didn’t recognize you!” Suvi breathed.

”I’m not quite so cute anymore…” Jyri grinned. “You on the other hand…” The man took a step back and made an admiring gesture with his hands. “…Are gorgeous!”

“Thank you,” Suvi giggled. Joni glanced at Misha who raised a questioning eyebrow and Joni could do nothing but shrug while his cousins focused on exchanging news.

“I didn’t know that they knew each other?” Misha said as the couple drifted a little further away to talk.

“They met when I was a child. Suvi was staying with us for the summer when Jyri was still around and my father had begun dating Katja, I think I was being quite difficult then… Anyway, Suvi was around fourteen and Jyri… Well, he was close to twenty, so it can’t have been anything serious… we did hang out with Jyri and his friends though…” Joni said watching the couple doubtfully, they now laughed with each other and sat down a little further away to continue chatting. Honestly, he couldn’t be sure if anything had happened between them all those years ago, because he himself had nourished such a crush on Jyri’s friend Eljas that he had taken every opportunity to hang out with the man alone. However, he wanted to believe that Jyri wouldn’t have tried anything with such a young girl.

The evening continued, people began to get drunker and Jyri and Suvi seemed to enjoy each other’s company to an extent that started to worry Joni. As the evening got colder, people started to move back inside and when Joni noticed that his cousins weren’t among the others, he decided to go look for them outside and found them behind the house. Jyri was stroking Suvi’s cheek tenderly; they were pressed against each other looking as though they were about to kiss. Joni cleared his throat and the couple quickly drew apart.

“Suvi, can we talk alone?” Joni asked and the woman looked at him, clearly embarrassed, her cheeks blushing and she took a quick sip from her glass.

“I’ll wait inside,” Jyri said glancing at them both before disappearing.

“What’s going on?” Joni asked once his other cousin had left.

“Nothing,” Suvi answered with a slightly drunken tone, pushing her hair behind her ear and walking towards the terrace so that she could sit down.

“You almost kissed,” Joni snorted and followed, taking a seat next to her. “Are you and Adam having problems?” He asked worriedly and for a moment Suvi was quiet, staring into the contents of her glass.

“We’ve argued a lot recently.” Suvi admitted.

“Why?” Joni asked and when she gave him a sad look, he already feared the answer. “Please don’t tell me that it’s because…” He started with frustration.

“I just can’t understand why Adam has to stay in touch with that asshole,” Suvi snapped. “That bastard and his businesses should be none of our concern, but still I found out that Adam has been in contact with him and tries to arrange his affairs! An apartment and everything… And Adam got a better job offer from New York, but he hesitates to take it, not because of us but because of that sorry excuse for a man! Can you imagine?” Suvi emptied her glass clearly upset. “I asked him what’s more important to him and that tapeworm couldn’t even answer, just stammered something to defend that dickhead so I  lost my nerve! I packed my things, took Aaron with me and flew back to Oulu.” Joni felt a headache approaching

“Suvi, you can’t allow Chris to spoil your and Adam’s marriage…” He sighed exhaustedly.

“I’m not, Adam is.” Suvi argued.

“They have been friends forever, try to understand…”

“Joni, how can you defend that asshole, after all that shit he put you through?” Suvi wondered.

“I’m not defending him, I’m defending your husband.” Joni said as calmly as he could manage. “Listen, Adam loves you, he loves both of you and he is a good man, you’re asking too much of him. It is a difficult situation for him as well, think about that and Adam is doing his best to find a solution that is good for all of you, despite everything Chris is his childhood friend.” Suvi listened to him with a heavy frown on her face.

“Chris doesn’t deserve that right anymore, not after what he did to you.” Suvi insisted and Joni really started to feel annoyed that the same subject came to the surface once again, but he did his best to remain calm and talk some sense into his cousin.

“He is a human being who committed a crime. He is someone who I don’t care to know anymore, but who needs a second chance and some help. If everyone will turn their backs on him then what are his chances to get back to a normal, everyday life? Suvi, this is really difficult for me and I’m asking you that this will be the last time that we go over this subject… Do not let this ruin your marriage.”

“But…” Suvi already started and Joni sighed heavily.

“Just think, you are here almost kissing Jyri! Or how do I know that you haven’t already made out with him! But Jyri has also spent time in jail, he has done wrong things, but he’s gotten a second chance. People need that and I don’t want to keep talking about this now. Call your husband tomorrow, he doesn’t deserve your behavior.” Joni snapped, got up and went back inside. Once there, he went to look for Jyri and took him to the hall to talk to him privately.

“Look, I don’t know what’s between you two, but Suvi is married and she has a small son, so if there is something going on, please know that it’s not a good idea. Okay?” Joni said firmly and Jyri seemed amused.

“Alright, relax cousin, I promise that nothing will happen.” He said and brought his hands up, grinning.

“Good.” Joni sighed, he felt tired and the whole episode weighed heavily on his mind.

“Here you are,” Misha’s voice said behind him and soon he pressed against Joni’s back, kissing his neck. “Is everything alright?” He asked and watched Joni and his cousin with curiosity.

“Yes, everything is alright.” Jyri replied, smiled and touched Joni’s shoulder on his way, leaving the couple alone.

“Is everything really alright?” Misha asked suspiciously when Joni turned around to face him.

“I hope so, I hate dealing with other people’s relationship troubles.” Joni sighed.

“Adam and Suvi?” Misha guessed.

“Yes…” Joni nodded, deciding to leave out that Dima and Linda seemed to have some trouble as well, considering that Dima still thought of Eva. He laid his head on Misha’s chest for a moment.

“Dare I even guess why they have argued?” Misha asked and Joni was quiet for a moment.

“I’m sure you can guess, but let’s not talk about it now, I don’t want to…”

“Alright.” Misha planted a kiss on the crown of his head. “This is our party, let’s just try and have fun for Ivo’s sake at least. Besides, I’m expecting to see your gypsy dance.” He added and Joni chuckled bringing his head up.

“I’m not drunk enough yet.” He said.

“Luckily we have time to fix that…”  Misha grinned.

“I think you’ve enjoyed yourself,” Joni commented smiling.

“Mmh… Perhaps… The alcohol helped.” Misha chuckled. “You have to admit though, it has been quite cheesy at times, but not as much as I feared.”

Joni slapped Misha’s buttocks. “I told you you’d have fun.” He grinned and together they returned to the living room where they listened to some more drunken speeches. Sonja was one of the speakers, mostly just repeating what an adorable couple they were and how they should have an equal right to make babies as every other couple. Joni and Misha concluded that the woman was simply so drunk that in reality she meant marriage  instead of babies. At least they hoped she did.

The party ended late, people went home. Sonja was put onto the living room couch since she had drunk herself to the point of almost passing out. Suvi went to sleep in Dima’s room after having cried to Joni in the late hours of the evening about her fears of being a bad mother and a horrible wife and Joni got a flash back of the parties in his teenage years, where there had always been at least one girl crying by the end. But he was able to offer comfort to his cousin and finally led her to bed.

Misha was pretty beat as well after downing quite many drinks in the course of the evening. Joni on the other hand had remained quite sober and had managed to avoid giving the dance performance that Misha had craved; it could be left for a private moment between them. After everyone else had gone to bed, Joni still remained in the kitchen and did some tidying up.

“Hey, you weren’t supposed to clean this mess up.” Ivo’s voice said from behind him and Joni turned to him smiling with surprise.

“I thought you’d be in bed… And you should enjoy this, it’s not so often that I voluntarily clean up.” Joni chuckled quietly.

“Well, that’s true,” Ivo grinned and walked closer. “So I can only assume that something is bothering you? Did you not enjoy yourself?”

“I just wasn’t that tired yet, I did have fun. Thank you Ivo, it was sweet of you to arrange all this.”
Ivo gave the young man a skeptical look before placing his hands on his shoulders and leading him to the kitchen table to take a seat. “This is unnatural,” he said.

“What?” Joni chuckled.

“Your cleaning enthusiasm.”

“Don’t insult me Ivo, I like keeping places clean.”

“Yes, by telling others how it’s done.” Ivo teased him and Joni gave him a crooked smile in return. “Would you still like something to drink?”

“Milk?” Joni suggested.

“Milk?” Ivo wondered.

“Yes, then I’ll feel better in the morning and I can tease Misha and the rest of you.”

“You’ve turned into a health fanatic.” Ivo smiled as he walked over to the fridge and got Joni a glass of milk and a beer for himself.

“I’m not that bad, hardly a fanatic…” Joni smiled watching him.

“But you do lead quite a healthy life…. Perhaps I should start following your example, before I manage to grow myself a beer belly, it gets harder to keep fit at my age….”

“Yes, you’re such an ancient man, Ivo… Thirty-five, you practically have one foot in the grave already…” Joni commented teasingly, watching Ivo’s tall well build frame. “Seriously, you have nothing to worry about.”

Ivo smiled sitting down and sliding the glass of milk across the table to Joni. “I will miss you when you move.” He confessed. “Can’t you still reconsider?”

“Wouldn’t it be easier for you as well, to spend more time alone with Jami?”  Joni replied after studying the man quietly for a while.

“I can do that now too…” Ivo said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’ve really liked it here, but… It does feel more like I’m just a visitor, it’s… all your stuff, not really mine and….

“I understand, of course I do.” Ivo nodded. “Still… I will miss these moments, these conversations of ours…” He said and placed his hand to rest on Joni’s for a moment, squeezing it softly. “Misha is a lucky man… If I had been younger…” Ivo started and Joni gave the man a quizzical look. Ivo was drunk, that was why he talked like this and Joni chuckled lightly and gently pulled his hand back.

”You won’t lose my friendship, nor does our moving mean the end for our conversations.” Joni replied with a smile, got up and acted on an impulse by planting a kiss on the man’s forehead. “Time to go to bed now, good night.”

“Good night,” Ivo nodded with a smile staying in his spot to finish his drink.

After brushing his teeth and dressing down to his underwear, Joni crawled into bed next to Misha. Joni hoped that by the morning every one would act normal again and he wouldn’t have to play Doctor Phil.

After waking up in the morning, Joni decided to go and wake up his cousin by bringing her a cup of fresh coffee.

“So, how are you feeling?” Joni grinned at Suvi who wailed and pulled the blanket over her head.

“I feel horrible…” She murmured. “I feel like someone is banging my head with a hammer…”

“I brought you some coffee.” Joni said and lowered the cup on the edge of the table.

“Uh, I’m suffering from dehydration, coffee is not going to help with that. Could you instead bring me a glass of water or something?”

“Alright.” Joni nodded and walked back downstairs to get her a large glass of water and an aspirin for her head before returning upstairs. In the meantime, Suvi had managed to pull herself up into a sitting position and was now trying to groom her hair. Joni handed her the pill and the glass of water that she gratefully accepted. Joni took a seat by the bed and Suvi gave him an embarrassed look.

“I think I behaved horribly last night, what must you think of me?”

“We have all had our moments when we’ve behaved foolishly after drinking…” Joni smiled softly. “Was there something between you and Jyri?” He asked and Suvi was quiet for a moment.

“You know what it can be like… A small town teenage girl comes to town and meets a handsome and perhaps a little dangerous appearing older boy. I admit I had a crush on him then and he noticed, but it didn’t lead to anything, he called me shrimp and told me that we could wait and see when I got older… We did kiss once then, he was my first kiss… I just never told you… And last night… It was odd seeing him after so long and I was mad at Adam and I drank too much… Thank you for stopping me from doing something that I would regret. Please don’t tell Adam?”

“I won’t, if you promise to call him?” Joni asked and Suvi nodded. “And remember what I told you last night, try to understand your husband’s point of view. For example if I had done a crime, would you be able to forget our entire past and only think ill of me in the future, would you be ready to abandon me?”

Suvi looked at him thoughtfully.

“When did you turn into such a grown up?” She asked smiling slightly.

“It hasn’t been easy and trust me I’m not always this sensible.” Joni grinned. “I can still act like a brat at times and enjoy it…” He winked and got up. After walking to the door he turned back to look at her. “What if I travel to Oulu with you, to stay for a couple of days?” He asked.

“You? To Oulu? And voluntarily?”  Suvi chuckled tiredly.

“Yes, I haven’t seen my Godson in ages and… It wouldn’t hurt to see Grandma and Grandpa either, no matter how annoying they can be.”

“What would Misha say?”

“Oh, he can spare me for a couple of days.” Joni grinned.

“Well, I would like it very much if you’d come with me.” Suvi smiled.

“So it’s settled, I’ll book us flights online, you should still get some rest I think, but if you want you can come downstairs for breakfast?”

“Uh, I think I’ll get more sleep after all, thanks Joni. I’m a mother of a small child, I’m not used to the amount of alcohol I drank last night.”

“Okay, take your time, no rush.” Joni nodded and opened the door. “Sleep well.” He added before leaving the room. It was better to book the flights ASAP before he had a chance to change his mind, or before Misha would change his mind.

TBC.

A/N: Please review , either on shout box or the questbook where the review link leads to 🙂

         Web published: December 7th, 2014.

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© KOLGRIM

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