Olavi sat on his bed, looking out from the window, the night sky, the stars, the moon.
“A penny for your thoughts,” Alexander asked with a whisper as he made his way closer and sat down next to him. Olavi looked down at his hands, a sorrowful smile on his lips.
It had been a week since his attempt to end his life and every night since then Alexander had been sleeping in his room, by his side, careful not to touch him any more than with simple, innocent caresses if Olavi didn’t ask him for more.
And Olavi wanted to get better, he wanted to be able to let the man close, but it just wasn’t that easy. And his depression hadn’t left him completely, what happened that night in the forest would haunt him for the rest of his life, he was certain of it and the more he thought about his brother, the sicker he felt. He did not only have nightmares of the day he’d been raped but he also saw them of Elias, mixed and dark, pained cries of his brother, blurry monsters in the shape of men.
Even thinking of it…
“Olavi…” Alexander whispered, worried when seeing the tears in the boy’s eyes, he carefully wrapped his arms around him, soothing him in his arms.
“He had it worse…” Olavi whispered, his voice almost breaking, “and yet he… he was…” Olavi shook his head, “he had more strength than I have, than I can ever have.” He couldn’t stop thinking about what Vladimir had told him and what Alexander had told him later, couldn’t stop thinking how his brother had been forced to endure the brutality of more men than one and that his nightmare had lasted for three long moths and yet he had been able to love, to…
“Shh, you shouldn’t compare, my love, time and situation were different then…” Alexander whispered. Olavi was silent for a while, troubled with his thoughts, haunted by memories and still, the fact that his brother and Alexander… at times it felt so wrong, and he wondered if the guilt would ever pass, the feel of wrongness and… He was sharing so much with a brother that he had trouble remembering. Olavi sighed, frustrated, pained. What was right? And again the whispers. He felt sick again, pulled away from the embrace. It felt wrong for more reasons than one and yet, he glanced at Alexander’ concerned face, the question in his eyes, the hesitation and the want to reach out and touch him and when he did, when he placed his hand on his shoulder Olavi started crying again. Those lips that had kissed him, had kissed his brother first, those hands and his body, his …
Could he ever let the man close after everything, could they ever share such intimacy now?
Had Elias been Alexander’s first love?
“Olavi…please, talk to me…”
“I remember, better now, that night.” Olavi whispered suddenly, glancing at him, Alexander took his hand in his and waited with patience for him to continue.
“I remember, we… we went to the sauna,” Olavi frowned, trying to remember better, “it was a cold day, we played … with water, and…we laughed, it was…” He smiled faintly, “…I hated it when he washed my hair, I think I cried, it got to my eyes and it stung, and we walked back in, it was cold, I guess… I guess I was crying about that, too…Elias, he… he went out, to… get more wood and… He came back and said… he suggested that we would play something?” Olavi tried to concentrate. “Hide and seek…no, no it wasn’t that…because he told us…no, he brought us to where we should hide, in the kitchen, to the cellar I showed you and he… he told us to keep quiet? Yes, that was it. I though it was exciting, I loved the smell of the cellar and Aino… she was holding me and I was asking her to tell me a story, I guess I was even giggling, but then she, she reminded me to keep quiet and… Then, then we heard as the door opened, they came in and it scared us. I wanted to see, Aino held me, didn’t let go… The voice… Elias voice… They came into kitchen, Aino held her hand over my mouth,” Olavi brought his hand to his lips, touching them, before he lowered it back down and continued. “The steps… gone, it was so dark… but then he screamed, we heard him screaming and… I was so afraid, I wanted to tell them to stop… they found us… he-he was naked in the living room…then we were in the kitchen again with him,” Olavi shuttered. “He was laughing, whispering, his hands… and we heard… Elias… he… screaming, begging…” Olavi shut his eyes tightly, shaking his head. “And… that day, in the forest,” he swallowed hard. “It makes me sick… why did it have to be us??” Alexander pulled Olavi close to him, kissing the crown of his head, gently rocking him back and forth.
“I don’t know… I don’t know, sweetheart,” he whispered, “neither of you deserved it, no one does, I wish I could take your pain away, I wish I could have…”
“It’s difficult for me, to understand…” Olavi whispered, relaxing in his arms, “and I guess, a part of me, will always question…” he stared at the emptiness. Alexander stoked his hair, watching him quietly.
“Question?” He finally asked.
“Whether you loved him more than me, whether you see him or me when you hold me, look at me, touch me… He was my brother… And you remember more of him than I can… My memories of him are shattered pieces, nightmares of the last night I saw him, glimpses that I can’t tell for certain if they are a dream or reality. But I know, I loved him, I know how good a brother he was and I know I’ve missed him and still do, I know how much he loved us. Somehow, part of me feels like I am betraying him, you were his first and no matter what, he’ll always be between us.”
Alexander closed his eyes, reopened them and sighed. At least, Olavi was now sharing what he felt, at least now, knowing, he could try and fix what was broken. He brought his hand under Olavi’s chin, urging him to look at him.
“I don’t have the right answers, I… I did not expect this, us, you, but I love you, Olavi and I want you to know that I do…” Olavi stared deep into his eyes, as if trying to see deep in his soul. “Do you believe in ghosts?” Alexander decided to ask.
“Ghosts?” He asked in wonder.
“Yes,” Alexander smiled faintly. “I didn’t believe in them before, when I was young, but then…” He hesitated, unsure if he should talk about his feelings, about Elias, about it all. But if he didn’t, could he ever convince Olavi that what was between them now, was good, that in reality there was nothing wrong, that his feelings were true for him? “…Then your brother came to my life, the time I got with him was so very brief and as suddenly as he came, he was gone. What I felt then… most would question my love for him, after all, we didn’t even speak the same language. But those feelings were as true as my feelings for you are now. As strange as this may sound, as crazy as it is, but in my understanding life can take many strange paths.” He took a pause again, looking carefully at Olavi, trying to see what he was thinking, but he couldn’t tell for certain. “The night, when he died, I felt… I wanted to give up, I felt like everything was in vain, but somehow I just carried myself through it, survived, but I had lost the joy of live. Then he came back to me, haunting my dreams, haunting my days, I can’t tell you how many times I thought I saw him in the distance somewhere, smiling at me, at first I thought it was inviting me to where he was, to death,”
Olavi was silently watching him, carefully listening to every word and examining Alexander’s face.
“I was wrong,” Alexander said then, “it was more like him saving me from it. I- this is hard to explain, but during these years whenever I’ve felt the need to give up, I’ve seen him… In my dreams I could understand him… I came here, my intention, to give you the letters and tell the truth, but… I saw you… at first, in all truth, I was mistaken, shaken with the fact how much you looked like him and this time it was real, you were real, real enough to touch… You may look like him, but you are different, you are your own person, Olavi, it is you I love, it is you I see when I look at you. I still love Elias, that will never change, but that doesn’t mean that I couldn’t love you. This situation… it is difficult, as you said… If you want me to leave, I shall, but…” Alexander squeezed his hand, “not before I know that you’ll be alright, not before I can be convinced that you know of my feelings. I am happy, just to be near you, it doesn’t have to be anything else, not before you feel that it’s right.”
Olavi felt tears in his eyes again,
“This is all so confusing,” he whispered, “give me time and please, for tonight…” he let go of Alexander’s hand, “let me sleep alone, please.” He asked, feeling like he needed room for his thoughts.
With a heavy heart Alexander nodded.
“As much time as you need,” he assured and stood up, “Sleep well, and if you want to talk…”
“Then I’ll come and find you,” Olavi finished for him, giving him a small smile, “good night.”
“Good night,” And with that Olavi was left alone in his room, alone with his thoughts.
He really wasn’t sure about anything anymore. He did love Alexander, but so had his brother and… he still felt so dirty and wrong…
His brother wasn’t the only obstacle, there was even greater one. Before he hadn’t worried about it too much, then he had still believed that things could change, he had believed in chances and possibilities… But now, he knew…Loving Alexander would never be easy, not only because of Elias, but because of the world and other people in it. Two men…. Their relationship would be forever hiding it, making love in darkness, sneaking in secret places and… it was not how he dreamed of it, how he wanted it, but it was the only way he could have him, that they could have each other. Could he live such a life? Maybe it would be better to stay alone, close his heart from ever exposing it to such pain that loving someone caused. Maybe he should marry someone like Hanna? Have a wife and children, normal life, maybe God would then forgive his sins? He wondered; could he let Alexander go? What was right? Million questions. That night, he hardly slept.
Aino sat on the porch watching Emma’s child playing in the garden with another small child, neighbour’s, a small girl called Anneli. They were laughing, running around and she couldn’t help but smile. She heard as the front door opened, the steps that neared, but she didn’t turn to look.
“I got a letter from my parents, they’re coming here next week, Anton is coming as well,” Emma’s voice said. Aino simply nodded, she had expected as much. “I’ve only told them, that Olavi was hurt, I have not told them the nature of his injuries and…”
“And you shall not tell them either,” Aino finished for her, “they don’t need to know, especially Anton, I know my brother wouldn’t want that.” Emma sat down next to her, silently watching the children as well, clouds were gathering up in the sky, dark clouds and she knew it would start to rain soon, but so far there was still rays of sun left.
“Oh what I wouldn’t give to be a child again, what I wouldn’t give for the chance to play with him once more,” Emma sighed. Aino turned to look at her, things hadn’t been the same between them since what had happened to Olavi, part of Aino still blamed Emma for it, for letting her brother go with a stranger. They had each created their own walls and even Emma had changed since the day she had learned the truth, she had become more quiet, more… like lost in her own private world of memories. During her own grief, Aino had forgotten about hers. She had forgotten to forgive her.
“Olavi seems to be getting better,” Aino started slowly, it was Emma’s turn to look at her, “he still hides himself in his room, but… at least… at least he’s talking again, I even seen him smiling couple of times.”
“I’m glad,” Emma answered to the smile that Aino was giving. “I miss him, miss having him around, with us.” She said and drifted her gaze back to the children. “Aino, you know that I’m terribly sorry for…“
“It was not your fault Emma,” Aino sighed, “you couldn’t have known, you and Olavi both,” she shook her head, “you believe in people, you believe too much in them, when the truth is much more darker… But what happened, happened, we can’t change that and the fault…it is not yours, or Olavi’s or… even Alexander’s…” The last name was hard for her to say, but she knew it was true. “The blame is only that monster’s, who’s dead now.”
“What do you think of it, of this… of Alexander and Olavi?” Emma asked in a whisper. Aino sighed again, looking down at her hands.
“I wish I knew what to think,” she shook her head again. “It’s not easy for me and it’s difficult to understand… hardly anything makes sense anymore but then again, that’s the story of my life, of mine and Olavi’s… All I know is that my brother is talking again because of him and … Alexander, I believe, really loves him and as for my brother, I believe he loves him as well. Is that right?” She asked herself, looking up to the sky. “Up there is supposed to be God, God that according to many would say that it’s wrong, but at the same time this would be the same God that’s put my family through hell. Love can not be wrong, if it’s what Olavi wants, it is what I want, anything to make him happy.”
“What about Elias then?” Emma asked, not ready to accept it like Aino apparently had.
“Elias,” Aino whispered, “He loved you, he loved us… I’ve thought about it, I’ve read his letter over and over again and… as strange as it may sound, I feel partly grateful now, to Alexander. He gave Elias some kind of hope and love during his last months, giving him comfort and just… kindness, warmth, I can see why my brother fell in love with him and I am glad Alexander was there with him. Now we know, now I we can lay him to rest and say goodbye.” Aino said, wondering if she really could let go of it so easily. It started to rain then.
“Elias! Anneli! Come inside!” Emma called the two children, standing up, partly glad of the interruption. Talking about her childhood love and what he had gone through, wasn’t easy and for her and it wasn’t easy to let go.
When Aino told Olavi about their adopted parents arriving, she could tell he wasn’t happy about it. He didn’t say it, didn’t say much anything, but nodded his head showing his understading.
“It’s a beautiful evening, won’t you go for a walk with me?” Aino suggested finally. Olavi sat on his bed and looked out. After the rain the sun was gently peeking from behind the clouds, the warm evening sun painting the glistening scenery with gold. He was silent for a while, thinking about it, then he looked back at Aino, he knew how worried she had been for him, part of him felt guilty, especially after what he had almost ended up doing.
“Alright, I suppose fresh air would do me good,” he agreed and stood up. It was two nights since he had asked for some space from Alexander and he still wasn’t sure what he should do, he missed the man, his heart ached to be with him, but the nightmares and the thought of his brother held him back from inviting him in.
They walked outside, in the garden at first, staying close to the house until they decided to walk over to their house.
“How are you feeling?” Aino asked softly.
“Better I guess, I’m alright.”
“Are you?” Olavi glanced at her, “well, you seem to be lost in your own thoughts and I wonder about the reason. I mean…” she hesitated, “I know he’s been sleeping in your room, I know about you two.” Olavi was slightly shaken, of course a part of him had already known that Aino knew, but still, talking about it with her? “Do you love him?” Aino continued, seeing his uncertainty to reply.
“I-“ Olavi started, wrapping his arms around him, “yes,” he confessed, “but…”
“It’s not that simple anymore, is it?”
“Because of Elias?” Olavi was again surprised by her straight forwardness.
“Hmh, yes and because…”
“You have done nothing wrong,” she told him, “what happened, it wasn’t your fault and… if you love him, then…” she reached to take his hand in hers and gave it a squeeze, “whatever you decide, I love you, whatever you end up doing, I’m with you. I protect you, even lie for you, anything.” Olavi smiled at her, squeezing her hand back.
“Thank you,” he whispered, feeling grateful and at the same time… Aino would have to lie for them, she knew and…It didn’t feel right to make her lie…And when their stepparents would arrive, then… “If you’re with me, I think I can bear this, I can bear anything.” Olavi answered just the same, his mind however twirling with these new doubts and questions. Aino smiled at him and kissed his cheek gently. They continued to walk, silence settling between them.
Olavi sat on the steps of the house, gazing far out to the horizon, darkness was slowly setting, last light of the sun, cold breeze blew past him, stopping to play in his hair for a while before continuing its lonesome journey .He brought his knees closer to his chest, his hands close to his mouth, rubbing them, blowing gently to get warmer. The autumn was near, evenings were getting colder.
Finally he saw him, he was walking towards the house and when Alexander saw him waiting, his face revealed his surprise.
“Hey, what are you doing out so late?” Alexander asked as he made his way closer.
“I was waiting for you,” Olavi replied, smiling at him.
“Were you really?” Alexander sat down next to him, wanting to touch him, to kiss him, but he fought with the urge.
“Yes,” Olavi looked at him, took his hand in his and looked down, smiling still, the smile wasn’t happy, nor was it sad, it lingered somewhere in between. “Our adopted family will arrive here next week,” he told him. Unsure what to say, Alexander waited, “I am almost certain, that they’ll want me to go back with them.” He looked at the man, “I’m 16, they are my legal guardians, part of me wonders… Part of me wants to stay here, other part wants to leave, thinking that maybe it would be easier… There’s…” He made a pause, looking around, “I don’t know if I can live my life here now, after everything. I know, it’s a small village and people are already talking… How can I ever look them in the eye?”
“No one knows of…” Alexander started, but the look Olavi gave him was enough to silence him.
“I do love you, Alexander,” Olavi whispered, “and I know I always will…it’s just…” The man understood what he was trying to say,
“The time is not ready for us…maybe one day…” he started, but shook his head. Olavi took his hand.
“Come with me, I-I wish you’d sleep in my room tonight?” He asked in a whisper,
“Are you sure?” there was a simple nod, a hesitant smile, and slowly they stood up, walking into the dark house and into the boy’s room.
Laying in the dark, close to each other on the narrow bed, hesitant kisses, hesitant touches, but no more, sleep was not easy to catch that night. Alexander didn’t want for it to end, he didn’t want to leave and not see Olavi ever again, but he also knew that he couldn’t stay. With the fall, with the house ready, he would have no excuse to stay and Olavi was right, it was a small village, people would talk and… Olavi snuggled closer to him,
“I love you…” he whispered, Alexander tightened his hold, kissing his forehead, “if I could have… if there was a chance… if only I’d wake up and find the world different, the world where… you and I had a chance… Do you think it can ever be possible?” Olavi asked.
“Perhaps, things change fast, maybe… one day.”
“But it will be a day too late for us, won’t it?” Olavi noted with a sorrowful tone, silence settled between them. Neither of them wanted to let go, but neither knew what to do. In his mind Alexander cursed Vladimir who had taken so much from them, from Olavi. Before Vladimir, before that day… He paused this trail of thought, had there ever been hope? Had they ever had a future together? Maybe it had always been a dream and their dream had just met the most gruesome awakening. Alexander stared at the ceiling, he just didn’t want to say goodbye again, but what could he do?
He wasn’t able to sleep, wasn’t able to bear the thought of going away and leaving him, he wasn’t sure how he would be able to go back to his life of solitude and loneliness, looking at the boy made his heart ache; he would have to be strong. It wouldn’t matter if he least knew that would be happy, he wanted to see those blue eyes light up again, wanted to see that sweet innocent smile grace his soft full lips, but there was no happiness, only sorrow, even when Olavi smiled the sorrow remained which made the thought of leaving even harder.
It seemed unfair, cruel… The time was running out and they’d be on their separate ways, Alexander didn’t want to be selfish and ask the boy to reconsider, risk everything to be with him, he would go if his love so wished, but he would go with a heavy heart.
Olavi sat in front of the table staring across to Anton who was busy stuffing the food in his mouth and giving glances towards Aino. It had been only few hours since they had arrived and already Anton’s presence in the room weighted him. He had never been comfortable around his stepbrother, especially after seeing how he was looking at his sister, he knew Aino sensed it too, he could clearly see how tense she was, staring down at her plate and avoiding in her best ability the all too curious eyes.
His parents were worried, they knew he had been hurt but Olavi felt thankful that they didn’t know how badly. He worried that they would blame him; think he was disgusting which was how he felt to be. They were so considerate and polite; he could feel their occasional glances cast towards him, the thoughtful expressions that rested on their faces.
”We renovated your room while you were away,” Mirja his adopted mother spoke; Olavi glanced at her and gave a tired smile.
”You didn’t have to do that,” he spoke quietly.
”We wanted to, as a present for your school success. You’ll be attending to one of the finest schools in Stockholm; it’s something to be proud of.”
Olavi looked down at his plate, moving his food around more than eating it, he knew he should be proud and happy, but…He would go to that school, finish it and move to university to study economics after which he could work in his adopted father’s business. He could find a wife and they would have children, he would work everyday regular hours and get paid…
He though back at first meeting with Alexander… He thought about his own dreams that felt so impossible now, he had been foolish, hadn’t he? And for that foolishness of daring to dream outside the box had caused him his misery. It was too complicated to think… But he did love Alexander…
He looked out through the window, lost in his thoughts. Alexander would be leaving soon, a week maybe and no more, the renovation would be ready and there would not be excuses to stay. Olavi still didn’t see how he could give such an excuse, he felt afraid, terrified even of the future. If Alexander hadn’t been with Elias, if he himself hadn’t been raped, then maybe… It had been so much easier then, before everything revealed, before he had been attacked… He almost smiled bitterly thinking back how naive he had been, his innocent believes that life might work out, that love would work between them if they wanted, but now…
If they would try and if they were found out they would be hurt, both of them… And Aino? It would affect her as well, wouldn’t it? It would affect so many; the people who raised him and… with Alexander they would have to run to be together, they could not stay here, not in this country… It would have to be some place no one would know them… Paris? The voice inside his mind carefully whispered the suggestion… Study art, study the language… LIVE!
He shook his head little absently, confused over his thoughts, how can I? It’s too big of a risk, I can not leave, I can not be selfish anymore…He argued back to the voice … selfish? When have you been selfish?
“Is everything alright dear? You look a bit pale.” Mirja’s voice snapped him from his thoughts, he smiled carefully.
“I’m alright mother, just a bit tired, that’s all.” He explained, shifting slightly feeling uncomfortable when Anton stared at him, he knew how the older boy hated when he called them; mother and father, how Anton felt he had no such right, yet at the same time the parents insisted upon it.
“You should try to eat more; you’ve gotten skinnier this summer.”
Olavi simply nodded with a vague smile over his lips.
“Well when we get back home I’ll be sure to get you back to your health.”
Aino glanced at him, reached for his hand under the table and squeezed gently; it always made him feel better.
Aino walked along the shore gazing towards the horizon, wondering about things, mostly her brother and his relationship with Alexander.
“What is right?” She whispered wrapping her arms around herself and felt the soft caress of the late summer breeze upon her face. “Should they be together?” She sighed and sat down on the sand. “I wonder how you would feel Elias, our little brother loves him and now he’s miserable because he will leave soon …” She looked down at the sand and began to draw small circles. She felt the cold draft pulling closer, wrapping around her and closed her eyes, “But how can I part from him?” a cold touch on her shoulder somehow comforting and familiar; she smiled but did not open her eyes. “You think he’d protect him?” The wind moaned its whisper, the touch moved over her cheek where a tear hand landed. “I miss you…” Aino whispered and for awhile it felt warmer and safe, for awhile it felt like being a little girl again wrapped in his older brother’s arms and she could almost hear his voice, whispering that everything would turn out alright and she desperately wanted to believe in it.
“Here you are…sister” The sudden familiar drawl from behind her startled her and she turned her face to Anton, the word sister was mocking, she knew perfectly that it was not the way he saw her. She stood up and dusted her clothes.
“Talking to yourself now?” Anton asked and moved closer, “you’re almost as crazy as Olavi, aren’t you?” He smirked, Aino gritted her teeth.
“My brother is not crazy….What do you want?”
“I missed you…sister.” Anton said and kept coming closer, “only…” his hand reached to touch her cheek which made her drew back, “you and I are not really brother and sister, are we?”
“No, I’ve never considered you as my family Anton.” Aino spoke a bit tightly, “nor would I ever.”
The youth chuckled at her words. “You should learn your place.”
“And what pace would that be?” She asked narrowing her eyes.
Anton smiled tilting his head, “you’re such a beautiful woman Aino, if only you would learn to respect men. Maybe I could teach you…” His hand slipped closer to touch her bosom, squeezing her which instantly made her raise her hand and slap him.
“Keep your hands to yourself!” She shrieked out raged over his boldness. Sure he had given her those looks before and sleazy comments but this was the first time he had touched her like this.
Anton brought his hand on his burning cheek and glared at her in anger, he reached for her arm pulling her closer, the grip was painful her breathing fast, “let go of me…” She hissed.
The young man narrowed his eyes and slapped her, “learn your place.” He said and before she could react he shoved her roughly backwards so that she fell on the sand, “it is beneath the men.” He smirked then walking closer as she tried to get up and placed his feet over her stomach, “apologise for slapping me.” He commanded.
“You are an…” Aino bit her tong, realising she should not make him angrier than he was.
“I will not apologise to you. Let me stand up!” Anton pressed his feet down harder making her gasp.
“Apologise,” he commanded again.
“Hey, what’s going on here?” A voice asked and Aino turned her face towards it; it was a youth from the village, one she had sometimes seen with Olavi; Nikolas she recalled. He was her age, brown hair, green grey eyes, tall and handsome. Anton finally moved; he had never liked an audience to his actions that could harm his golden image in front of his parents.
Nikolas moved closer to Aino narrowing his eyes at the other boy, who then felt a need to explain himself,
“Just a little game with my dear stepsister.”
“Didn’t look like she was having fun…” Nikolas pointed out, and offered his hand to her, “Are you alright?” He asked in their language watching her with concern.
Aino nodded, surprised and feeling shy suddenly when closing her hand in his and accepting the help to stand, her clothes were muddy and sandy now and her hair out of order and she nervously tried to brush herself to look more decent.
“You should learn how to treat women,” Nikolas spat at the other boy.
“It’s non your business how I treat her…” Anton smirked lazily, glanced at Aino and turned, “see you at supper sister!” He called before leaving.
“What a jerk…” Nikolas muttered looking after the other boy then again turned to Aino. “You sure you’re ok? What was that about?”
“He’s just being an idiot like always…” Aino sighed with a small nervous chuckle, looking down at the muddy hem of her skirt and frowning. “Thank you though…” She whispered then with a shy glance directed the youth who smiled.
“No problem,” he blushed slightly, “I um… I was about to go fishing…” He explained gesturing towards his fishing rod and basket that he had left near by.
“Oh,” Aino smiled and played with a stray of her hair that had fallen from her bun. “I like fishing.” She said and felt slightly silly.
“Well… maybe you’d like to join my company? I mean um… if you’re not busy or anything?”
“No, I’m no busy… or anything.” They both were smiling.
“Great!” Nikolas walked over to his fishing gear and picked them up; they walked together along the shore towards the cape that offered a good fishing place.
“How is Olavi?” Nikolas asked carefully, “I’ve meant to come over and see him, I just… people said he doesn’t want to receive guests.” They had arrived to the spot and he placed his basked down looking up to the girl.
“He’s… better,” she replied looking around playing with a leaf that she had taken from the near by tree just to keep her nervous hands busy.
“Someone attacked him? Um that’s what I heard… is it true?”
Aino nodded, “Yes,” she whispered.
“And they caught the man?” He asked taking the hook and attaching a squirming worm on it. Aino shrugged, shifting her feet’s restlessly.
“I’m not very comfortable talking about this yet, I’m sorry… But I almost lost my little brother and it’s… he means the world to me.”
Nikolas smiled with sympathy, “sure, I understand, he’s your only real family… I know how it’s like… my father died in the war as well and two of my cousins.” He said looking at the worm and pushing it more firmly on the hook. Aino watched him with curiosity; his strong arms, the look on his face, the curve of his lips, the way his brown hair glimmered golden under the rays of sun.
Their eyes met and they both smiled shyly to one another.
“So that … was your stepbrother?” Nikolas asked getting up.
“Yes, Anton, we’re not related in anyway…we…”
“Yes, Olavi explained to us… hm… you were adopted by Mrs Lunds mother and her husband? And that… idiot… was his son? Right?”
Aino chuckled at the word idiot, “yes, Anton is my adopted father’s son.” She nodded, “the rest of them are fine, just…. Anton is spoiled and didn’t like very much when we moved in to their home… you know… we took some of the attention away from him, us being the poor orphans with lots of misfortune and on the other hand luck for surviving.”
Nikolas looked at her and smiled with understanding, the light coming from behind him seemed to surround him and it made Aino think of an angel.
“Are you going to stay here now?” He asked carefully and Aino felt the stab of sadness inside as she thought about her reply.
“I don’t want to leave my brother alone…” She whispered, “…he needs me now and since he’s planning to return to Stockholm that’s where I have to be as well.”
The smile on the boys face faded slightly but he still tried to stubbornly hold on to it.
“Will you come back though?” He asked gazing at the lake where fishing rot’s float was thrown.
“I hope, as soon as we can. Next summer at least.” She replied unable to hold back the thought that the boy might be married by then and that… it was a silly thought wasn’t it? This was the first time they really even talked then why…?
“Maybe I could write to you sometime?” The boy said shrugging his shoulders slightly not daring to look at her, “I mean, if you like…”
The smile returned on her face. “I would,” she replied and again they both shared the shy smile when looking at each other, soon the moment broke when Nikolas caught his first fish.
“You want to try?” He asked after taking the fish, placing it on the basket and putting a new worm on the hook.
“Sure,” Aino smiled, their hands touched briefly and caused an odd pinch in the bottom of her stomach, and her only regret was that they hadn’t talked earlier that summer, when there had still been more time.
Anton was clearly on a sour mood when he got back from his walk; Olavi who was sitting on the porch trying to sketch, got the first taste of that said sourness. The older boy walked over to him and rudely snatched the sketch book from his hands.
“Hey, give it back!” Olavi tried, getting up, feeling frustrated and nervous. Anton grinned and backed away looking through the pages.
“And you think you’re going to be a great artist one day?” He asked with a smirk, “even my friends little sister draws better pictures than you…pathetic.”
“Anton, give it back, it’s mine.” Olavi tried and when ever he got closer the other just pushed him back with his hands.
“Give it back it’s mine…” Anton mocked him with whiny voice, “come and get it then?” He grinned and raised the book high above his head. Anton was taller, he knew well that Olavi wouldn’t be able to reach it, nor would he give him the chance.
Olavi tried his best he had to admit, but his effort was in vain and simply amused Anton who kept moving the book from the younger ones reach.
“Anton please, give it back to me.” Olavi desperately tried to reach his book, those sketches meant everything to him, few were drawn of Alexander when the man had been a sleep and he wanted to keep those pictures as a memory. He was only glad that Anton hadn’t bothered to look so far, yet… It might raise questions he didn’t want to answer.
And finally the older boy seemed to get bored, “fine, you can have it back,” he said and grinned before throwing it on the mud, “there…”
Olavi felt anger, frustration and sadness seeing his sketchbook on the mud pond, after everything he had been through it seemed like too much and he began to cry, trying to swallow his tears while kneeling down to pick it up and see if anything could be saved.
“Gods you’re such a cry baby… “ Anton remarked, “I want to go back to Stockholm, this place is killing me with boredom…” He sighed and turned. Olavi’s anger grew; placing the book onto the grass he followed the other unable to control himself any longer, tired of people taking things from him. He grasped Anton’s shirt, pulled and without a word shoved him into the same mud pond.
Seeing the older boy cursing with his face and clothes covered in mud only gave a mild satisfaction. Olavi didn’t say anything, turned, picked his sketchbook and walked away.
“I’ll get you for this!”
He didn’t care, everything was ruined, everything important.
Nikolas walked Aino back to the house, “Can I see you tomorrow?” He asked and the girl smiled,
“Yes, of course,” their hands touched, the touch felt warm and inviting, both reluctant to let go.
“Could I speak with your father?” Nikolas asked.
“My father is dead,” Aino smiled faintly though knowing who the boy meant, “but yes you can speak to my adopted father, though I don’t understand why.”
“I would like to meet him, get his approval to court you.” He grinned which made Aino blush.
“Come inside.” She asked.
Inside they met the two that had raised her and Aino watched with curiosity as Nikolas asked to talk with her father privately about something.
“Where’s Olavi?” She asked then.
“He went for a walk,” Mirja who helped Emma in the kitchen answered.
“How long ago?” She asked instantly getting worried.
“An hour maybe, seems that he and Anton fought about something, Olavi had apparently shoved him into the mud… I think he needs some time to calm down.”
“How can you leave him alone after everything?” Aino hissed upset, “I’m sure Anton did something to him…that bastard!”
“Aino dear, calm down, don’t call your brother that. And what happened to your clothes?!”
“Anton is not my brother!” She stated firmly ignoring the latest question. “I’m going to look for Olavi…”
Emma glanced at her mother briefly before hurrying after Aino, she took her arm gently, “I believe Alexander is with him…” she whispered, “he’s never that far away from him, he saw the fight but didn’t have time to step in between… Olavi is safe, with him.”
Aino swallowed, gazed at her in surprise and nodded feeling relieved. Nikolas returned, she saw her adopter father looking annoyed, but it didn’t seem to be directed towards Nikolas.
“Anton! Come into the study! Now!” He roared. Aino gave a surprised look to Nikolas who simply smiled.
“I’ll come by tomorrow noon,” He said, “is it alright?”
Aino nodded, “of course.”
The boy grinned, “Good night then.”
Emma gave amused look to Aino who was still grinning to herself after the boy had left.
“Oh my, someone is in love…” She teased and Aino gave her a glare.
“Don’t be silly…” She muttered and turned to walk into her room.
Emma smiled, it was perhaps time that Aino would meet someone it would help to ease the strong attachment that she and Olavi shared, eventually it would be only healthy that they would move on and have a life of their own instead of following each other everywhere.
Alexander approached Olavi slowly; he sat on the grass, his back against the thick birch trunk, looking at the muddied sketchbook in his hands with miserable expression.
“Hey…” Alexander spoke softly and the boy looked up, his eyes glimmering from tears.
“He ruined it, everything…” Olavi whispered, Alexander kneeled down next to him.
“I’m sorry…” He said and brought his hand in Olavi’s hair, other reaching to wipe his tears, “don’t cry…” He whispered, “Come here,” He gently wrapped his arms around the boy and held him, stroking his hair as the boy wept against him.
“My work is ruined… I put my soul into them and then he just walks over and throws it away… like it’s nothing… Like it wasn’t enough that…”
“Shh… it wasn’t your only sketchbook, right? And you’ll make tons of new drawings better than these were.”
“You don’t understand…” Olavi whispered miserably and brought his face up to look at him, his hands clinging onto his shirt,
“Then tell me?” Alexander encouraged, gently touching his cheek, inside feeling glad that Olavi was again relaxed with his closeness, even now holding on to him as if afraid that he might disappear, at the same time the happiness he felt was soon replaced with sadness realising that these were the last few disappearing moments that they would share if Olavi’s mind didn’t change.
Sighing Olavi laid his head on Alexander’s chest who took a more comfortable position next to him, continuing to stroke his hair. Olavi moved his fingers over the ruined pictures staying silent for awhile. “I’m scared…” He whispered then, “three things that are important to me…” he continued, “equally and differently at the same time… my sister, my art…and you…The three things I love and one that I can not have…it’s not fair…”
Alexander tried to swallow the heavy lump down that suddenly appeared in his throat, “I know and…” He sighed, looking down at the blonde on his side, “I can’t pressure you, and I won’t. The choice is yours and I know it’s not easy; if you’d choose a life with me it’s…”
“I can’t leave my sister…” Olavi stopped him, “I can’t leave her alone… I almost did…and…” He closed his eyes feeling the tears in his eyes once more “as much as part of me wants to…. I can’t… we shouldn’t… maybe we both can change and be normal and….”
Alexander nodded though the younger one didn’t see it, he knew himself well enough; there was no point in trying to deny who he was, no point in trying to start a family with some woman and… he believed quite strongly that he simply wouldn’t be able to love another the way he loved Olavi, couldn’t welcome another one in his heart anymore; it was and always would be Olavi’s and a part that belonged to Elias.
“It will work out…” He whispered, “you’ll find your happiness I’m sure you will, just remember that you’ll always have my heart.”
Alexander still didn’t know how he would bear to say goodbye to the boy, his whole being dreaded the day that was approaching faster than he would have liked. Was there really no other way?
He saw them together; walking slowly in the garden. Olavi, who had gone out to look for his sister, stopped to his drags and watched, his hand reached to the tree trunk by his side staying in the shadow that the old apple tree offered. He tilted his head, heard their quiet talking, but could not make out the words so clearly.
What was Nikolas doing with her? Olavi wondered.
Nikolas reached to touch Aino’s face and he could see his friend’s lips moving; telling her something that caused a small shy giggle, such a sound he had never heard from his sister before. Her hand reached to his, the distance between them grew less as the brunet leaned closer and kissed her softly; a kiss that she accepted.
Olavi was more than surprised; he had had no idea about the two. He couldn’t help but to feel a little hurt that Aino had kept this from him. Why? And for how long? – He wondered. It was then that his sister turned and saw him, a look of surprise passing on her features, a hint of blush on her cheeks while the other boy looked at him in slightly embarrassed and apologetic way.
Aino said her goodbye’s to Nikolas before approaching Olavi, unsure how he would feel after what he had seen between her and the brown haired youth.
“Why have you not told me?” Olavi asked once she was close enough and hesitantly she bit her lip.
“It only just happened, I- I was going to tell today…I-“
“You are together?” Olavi asked with confusion.
“I- I am not sure what we are. Friends at least, the kiss you saw was our first.” She explained, reached for his hand and started to lead him back home. “It would be silly to expect anything or make promises since we are leaving soon.” She whispered and he detected the sadness in her tone.
“You are not happy to return,” he took note. Aino glanced at him staying quiet for a moment to weight her answer.
“Are you?” She asked then gazing at him seriously. “Do you really want to go back to Stockholm?” They had stopped walking; he looked away feeling slightly uncomfortable.
“What choice is there?” He asked. “It feels just as painful to stay here and I can not…You know they would not allow it.”
She sighed and nodded, looking down before back at him. “What about Alexander?” She asked and he quickly looked away with pain in his heart for even thinking about it.
“He will leave in two days,” he replied. “The house is finished… the summer is ending.”
“I’ve never seen you looking at a girl the way you look at him,” she pointed out carefully. “I’ve never seen you as happy as you were at the beginning of this summer…” She took his both hands in hers watching them carefully before meeting his eyes once more. “I love you, I want you to be happy and if it means being with Alexander then….”
“It’s not that simple Aino, I can’t just…” Olavi sighed in frustration and worried his lip before giving her a sad look.
“Nothing in life is simple,” She said and brought her hand on his cheek. “What do you want, Olavi? It is your own heart at stake, life is too short to please others in your own cost, and it is not real life.”
Olavi closed his eyes for a moment before looking away towards the direction where Aino had stood with Nikolas. “You want to stay here,” he whispered. The air was fresh; he felt the cold draft upon his face, the warmth of his sister’s hands.
“I won’t leave you alone, Olavi…” Aino told him and he brought his gaze back to her.
“You always hated being there. You always talked about coming back home.” He smiled gently. “What I know of Nikolas…” He started and took a small pause. “I have no ill words of him and Emma is here…I-“ He felt sadness gripping at his throat, pulled her close and hugged her tightly. “You should stay.” He whispered. “You belong here…” He nodded with realisation looking at her once more, reaching to wipe the sudden tears from her eyes. “It will be fine, won’t it Aino?”
“I won’t stay,” Aino breathed. “I can’t.” She said and shook her head before continuing. “I can’t leave you alone. I would not stand it if something happened to you… and I fear your depression, I fear your decisions…”
“I’ll be fine…” Olavi tried to assure. “I will do what’s right, somehow I’ll change and I will… learn to enjoy that life. It is possible.” He nodded and Aino felt frustration over his words.
“You don’t need to learn!” Aino told him. “You don’t need to change yourself! If you love him then…”
“It’s a crime Aino… do not speak of it… let’s go home now.” He said stepped back from her and turned.
“Elias died.” Aino said suddenly and he turned frowning. “He had dreams,” she continued. “And he would have chosen Emma, he would live here with her and Emma would not be so miserable. She’s living their dream, but she is doing it alone. She’s so caught up in promises and dreams that will never be, she lives those dreams, she longs them to be real and she pretends happy. Do not end up like that,” she breathed. “Not when you have another choice! Alexander loves you… The rest of it doesn’t matter, not really.”
Olavi felt confused and overwhelmed by her words, it was unexpected and odd, too much at that moment to take. He turned without a word and started walking back home.
“Elias would have chosen Emma over him I am sure!” Aino called after him. “But you would choose him first above anyone if you’d see it is possible and it is! Olavi?” She stood where she was watching as her younger brother continued walking away without stopping.
Confusion twirled inside him that evening, he sat in front of the dinner table thinking what Aino had told him at times feeling her eyes on him, questioning and wondering. The parents were chatting, somewhat cheerful, trying to stir up a conversation from the rest of them. Anton was looking bored and grim; Emma was quiet except at times when scolding her eldest son Elias to stop playing around and eat.
Alexander hadn’t dined with them since the family had arrived, and these were the first times since what happened that Olavi actually sat down with the rest. As he sat there, listening to his adopted parents speaking of his future studies, planning the future out for him something inside him wanted to scream out desperately. Was this what he really wanted? Was Aino right? Could he let Alexander go when even now he missed him?
After dinner he decided to go for a walk to the house, Aino had offered to accompany him but he had denied; he needed to be alone, he needed to think.
When he got to the building he couldn’t help but to marvel how different it looked; the painting was new and the windows. The front door didn’t creak when it opened, the smell of fresh paint greeted him, there were still some paper left on the floor. It was funny how much bigger the house had seemed when he was a child and now… it was actually quite small. He stood in the living room, looking around to the kitchen doorway, the stairs, the room on the side that had been his parent’s bedroom. Here on this floor, they had slept side by side over some mattresses; Elias, Aino and himself. He distantly remembered Elias clearing the bed each morning to make more room for their plays … His gaze drifted to where the old dining table still stood and suddenly he felt sick; there, it had happened there and he could hear the screaming in his mind, collected from an old memory he had forgotten until this summer. This table and the horror that had marked it seemed to taint the rest of the room with its presence.
He felt cold shivers touch his spine and turned to the stairway. He climbed up where the two small bedrooms were; Elias’ room and his and Aino’s room.
They had insisted that as little as possible was to be changed in their older brother’s bedroom; both of them wanted to keep it like it was as long as possible if not forever. Olavi smiled stepping in; pleased to see that the workers had respected their wish. He looked to wards the narrow wooden bed, the desk and the bookshelf, the closet… Some clothes had been ruined, but thankfully not all.
Olavi walked to the closet and opened it; he took out one of his brother’s shirt, which still held the musty scent to it, and held it against his chest. It was weird to think that he was now older than Elias had been, looking at the shirt he realised how similar their size was as well, he frowned; Elias had seemed so old then in his eyes, but now… He sighed and put the piece of clothing back to the closet before walking to the bookshelf. He took Elias’ old spelling book and opened it carefully, the first page had his brother’s name neatly written on it and as he turned the old pages he saw some other markings as well and drawings that made him smile; it seemed that his brother had been a dreamer as well who’s concentration had at times started to wander. He wondered if Elias had ever been caught by a teacher and been slapped on his fingers for this, because he himself certainly had many times and the punishments weren’t so funny.
He put the book back where he had taken it and continued to look around. Then he found his journals, the first had been started on Elias’ tenth birthday 12th of September 1937,
“Mother bought this book for me; she said I should write down my thoughts and stories. Both mother and father seem to find my stories amusing. I asked Emma and she said the same. Birthday was fun, got some cake and we went to the lake. I threw some mud on Emma and she got mad, only a little. She threw me on the mud; I guess I had that coming? Mother said I should know better; you don’t throw mud on girls or they don’t like you. I want Emma to like me; she told me she does and later dropped another mud cake on my hair. It was a funny day.”
Olavi felt himself smiling slightly as he flipped through the pages; collections on happy days, mentions of their parents giving Olavi a glimpses of how they had been; these books were precious, a true treasure. Elias had also written about his birth, he had written many pages of him and Aino, at times annoyed tone, but most of times loving. Then the markings of the war time and the tone changed. The happy playful boy had grown, struggled through seeing the changes, saying goodbye to his friends that were leaving, having his mother fall ill and eventually the news of their father’s death.
I’ve been thinking a lot about death, many nights the same dream repeats; I lie in the middle of the forest knowing I should be running but I can’t; the sky is clear blue and rays of sun spreads from the tree tops surrounding me and I just lie there not able to get up. I see a man with dark hair approaching me, a man holding a gun and raising it…That’s when I wake.
What happens to us when we die? Where do we really go? Does heaven exist? What if it doesn’t? I still can’t believe father is gone, the idea is absurd. How can people just stop existing? Is there a form of us that stays? I like to believe father is still here, at times I expect him to return from the front door telling us that it was all just a joke…
What is death? – I wonder…
What if I can’t ever have the life I dreamed of? What if I die before the war ends? Before I get to see Emma? Does she know how much I love her? I’m scared…scared of dying before truly living…
Why did everything have to change? Why can’t this war be over?
Olavi looked out from the window feeling heavy sadness settle on his shoulders as he replayed the written words in his mind. Dreams, Elias had had dreams that never came true… He himself had dreams and he was about to give up on them? Wasn’t it foolish to do so? Looking down at the book in his hands, he flipped through several pages until he came across to the last marking:
11th of January 1943
I miss Emma; I saw a dream of her. Sometimes I fear she’ll forget me, I long to hear from her. I can’t bear this uncertainty; I fear I may never see her again. Everything feels so hopeless, I pray for some strength to survive this winter, I hate this coldness.
Olavi sighed and closed the book. He closed his eyes, but startled when he heard the footsteps from the stairs. His heart was beating madly when he got up, leaving the books on the table before going to the door; he saw no one and blinked in confusion. “Hello?” He called, hesitantly approaching the stairs. He felt his heart jump into his chest when the front door opened, but calmed instantly when he saw Alexander.
The man looked up at him, “I saw you going out… I followed you and waited outside but you were taking long so…” He explained. Olavi nodded still feeling confused over the sound he had heard. He began walking downstairs.
“Were you here just now?” He asked after taking the last step down. The older man frowned.
“I just got in.” He replied. “Why?”
“Someone was here, I heard it, I was in Elias room and someone was coming upstairs.”
“Maybe you were imagining it?” Alexander suggested trying to listen; the house seemed quiet.
“No,” Olavi shook his head looking towards the stairs. “I know what I heard, and someone was walking here.”
“Old house makes sounds…” Alexander spoke softly while approaching him.
“Not like that it doesn’t.” The blond insisted.
“Okay, I’ll check upstairs, stay here.” Alexander said, placing his hand on his shoulder. Olavi nodded wrapping his arms around himself watching as the man slowly climbed upstairs. Olavi realised how good it had felt to see him, how good he felt now; safer, calmer… ‘You’re a fool if you let him go.’ A voice inside his mind whispered.
“Alexander loves you… The rest of it doesn’t matter, not really.” He recalled his sister’s words.
“I miss Emma; I saw a dream of her. Sometimes I fear she’ll forget me, I long to hear from her, I can’t bear this uncertainty. I fear I may never see her again.”
“Elias would have chosen Emma over him I am sure!”
Olavi sat down on the bench, breathing deeply. Different thoughts were running wildly in his mind, everything that had happened since they had met, the past, what Elias had written, what his sister had said… Alexander had killed the man who had attacked him, killed him in rage… Now he was here… Without Alexander following closely behind his movements, he would lie in a cold grave right now; he would have succeeded in his foolish attempt of drowning himself… And was he alive now only to go back to Stockholm into a life he didn’t want?
“I would not stand it if something happened to you… and I fear your depression, I fear your decisions…”
“Alexander loves you…”
“There’s no one here.” Alexander’s voice startled him from his thoughts and Olavi brought his gaze up. The man started climbing back down. “What is it? Why are you crying?” The man asked in confusion and Olavi blinked only now aware of the moistness that had settled under his eyes, slowly running down on his cheeks. He shook his head in confusion.
Alexander approached and once he reached him kneeled down, gently wiping the tears away with worried frown.
“Olavi?” He spoke his name softly. “There’s nothing to be scared of, we’re alone.”
Olavi looked at him; the man’s warm brown eyes, the soft lines on his forehead, the slight darkness under his eyes that told him that the man hadn’t slept well. Without a word Olavi brought his hand up, concentrated expression on his face as his fingers gently ran along the marks of aging and worry upon his lovers face. They were both silent, Alexander was afraid to speak to break the moment, the contact, to lose the touch… Olavi’s hand moved to his hair, touching them gently; so soft around his fingers. Looking at Alexander closely like this made his heart ache; the man was beautiful, so familiar and warm… his hand moved along his jaw line, thumb caressing his lips softly before, without a word, he leaned down to kiss him.
Alexander gasped and slowly his lips parted to accept the gentle nip of the youth’s warm lips. Olavi trembled, felt as the man trembled as well and slowly he wrapped his arms around him pulled him closer and the kiss deepened; salty taste over his lips, a muttered sob…. Strong arms around his back, not threatening but gentle and supporting. The softness changed to desperate need and longing, they held onto each other almost as if afraid to let go.
Olavi was unsure how long the kiss had lasted, but once they let go he noticed the tears in Alexander’s eyes as well and reached for his hand, holding it tightly, gently kissing the tears away, his forehead resting against his. They looked in each others eyes, suddenly everything seemed clearer, more effortless, Olavi felt alive and warm, safe here where the outside world could not touch them.
“I love you.” The younger male finally whispered thus breaking the long lasting silence. Alexander closed his eyes and smiled, when he reopened them and parted his lips to speak, Olavi brought his finger on them to stop him. “I want to go with you…” He added. “…It is worth everything… Take me with you, run away with me to Paris.”
Alexander looked at him hardly daring to believe his own ears. “Am I dreaming?” He asked with his voice trembling slightly.
“No,” Olavi smiled. “It is I who have been sleepwalking, but I am awake now and I never want to go back to that dream again.” He whispered and brought his lips on his. “I need you,” he murmured. “I don’t want to let go… I can’t… it would kill me from inside…”
Alexander pulled him even more tightly against himself, burying his face against his neck, his hands stroking his back. “I won’t let go…” He whispered before kissing his neck softly and looking up. “Did you really say what I thought you said?”
“I want to be with you. I know it won’t be easy, but…I don’t want to lose you.” Olavi whispered and smiled when Alexander’s expression brightened up, they kissed, released a soft laughter in each other’s mouth.
“I love you Olavi…I’ve been so afraid…”
“I’m sorry… I never wanted to hurt you…”
“What about Aino?” The dark haired man asked with worry.
“She’ll be fine,” Olavi smiled. “We’ll all be fine…” He added nodding firmly. “We’ll have to leave in secret; my parents would stop me if they know what I plan.”
Alexander still felt overwhelmed; he hadn’t dared to hope that Olavi would change his mind, especially so suddenly. He tried to think. “We can leave tomorrow night. I’ll get a car we can drive to Helsinki and…” He looked into the boys eyes. “You have your passport?”
“The problem is that you are under aged…” Alexander realised, unsure how to arrange everything so quickly. “And they will look for you…I…”
“My Russian uncle…” Olavi smiled and Alexander gave him a look of confusion. “…My mother was a Russian and you are her brother, you took me under your care after war that killed my parents and we lived here until we got sick of the prejudice around us that sprung from your nationality. You are my guardian and somehow we can make that work and people to believe in it…” Alexander cocked his eyebrow smiling fondly at his young lover, he brushed his cheek tenderly.
“Quick thinking…” He whispered and leaned closer for another kiss still slightly unsure how to build this lie into something believable.
“It was something I thought before… before that day.” Olavi muttered and understanding Alexander nodded sadly. “What if we drive through Sweden to Norway first?” Olavi suggested.
“We could get you a false ID…” Alexander said after awhile, “I think I know how.” He smiled then in more relaxed way realising that it was possible. He pulled Olavi in his arms once more, kissing his forehead and cheeks. “What changed your mind?”
“My sister… I had a talk with her and…then I came here… I found Elias’ old journals…it made me realise some things…I’m scared but… this feels right.”
“You don’t have to be scared…” Alexander whispered smiling at him, gently stroking his face. “We’ll get a small house with garden and room for you to paint, Aino will always be welcomed to visit.” He could vision their future and for the first time in a long time this vision was pleasant and filled with joy. Alexander made a firm decision to give Olavi no less than that; he would dedicate the rest of his life to ensure his young lovers happiness.
Olavi was unsure how much time had passed until they were finally able to release their hold on each other; the sun had almost disappeared under the horizon as they slowly walked towards Emma’s house. Olavi looked at the tall man by his side, hoping he could hold his hand but the risk of being seen doing so was too high. His heart was beating madly, but when Alexander’s gaze met his own and the man smiled at him in gentle encouraging manner Olavi instantly felt better.
Just one day and they’d leave this place, one day and he would have to say goodbye to the people who had raised him without any certainty of seeing them in the future. When could he return? If he did how could he explain everything? … And Aino… how could he bear the long separation? Would she be okay?
“Don’t worry my love; everything will go alright … Talk to your sister… I will take care of the rest.” Alexander encouraged, his fingers aching for another touch and a kiss that would ensure him that this was still real, but he knew he had to restrain himself. “Go inside, I’ll stay outside for a while for a smoke.
Olavi nodded. “I’ll probably spend the night in my sister’s room.”
“I think it’s good if you do.” Alexander smiled softly. “Good night.”
“Good night…” Olavi smiled back and started walking towards the house, on his way he turned once more and mouthed the words; I love you, before grinning and hurrying inside.
Alexander smiled closing his eyes for a moment before drawing a cigarette from his pocket and lighting it. For once his fate was showing its brighter side and he never wanted to lose this newly found happiness again.
Olavi found Emma in the kitchen. For a moment he stood at the doorway watching her as she washed the dishes unaware of his presence. There had always been something in Emma he hadn’t been able to read; he had never been able to tell if the woman was truly happy; somehow he had always doubted. He remembered when she had married her late husband; how happy the man had been that day and she had stood by his side and smiled yet in her eyes… The sadness was in her eyes, it had always been there as long as Olavi could remember.
She startled when she heard him coming closer, almost dropping a plate from her hands to the floor.
“Gods, you shouldn’t sneak up on me like that,” She breathed her hand on her chest. Soon the surprise was replaced with gentle smile. ”I thought you would be in bed by now.” She continued drifting her gaze back to the dishes. He could tell she felt slightly uncomfortable, uneasy, he had detected the change earlier as well, whether it was because of what had happened to him or because of Alexander and him, Olavi couldn’t tell.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you,” Olavi said. “I felt like having some tea before bed, would you like some?”
“Sure,” she smiled glancing at him quickly. “Why not,” she added.
Moment of silence followed, Olavi lifted the tea pot on the stove and worried his lower lip while looking at her.
“How are you feeling, Olavi?” She asked little awkwardly. “Better I hope?”
“I am… fine.” Olavi whispered.
“Then I’m glad.” She nodded smiling slightly.
“Actually… I came to talk with you.” Olavi answered after awhile, preparing them both a cup of tea.
“Oh?” Emma dried her hands, moved in the room clearly slightly nervous around him; she glanced at him, smiled again. “Anything specific?”
Olavi walked closer and handed the cup to her before taking his own and sitting down.
“If…” He started hesitantly. “If you could have either your husband back or Elias, but only one of them, who would you choose? Knowing what you do now.”
She was clearly taken back with such a question and looked away to the window.
“I’m sorry if my question upsets you, I-“
Emma raised her hand to him, to indicate it was fine, she closed her eyes for a moment before opening them and looking at him with a small smile; a sad smile.
“Elias… My choice would be Elias and my husband always knew that.” She replied quietly, before looking down. “I guess I always imagined that your brother would have chosen me as well, but now… Now I am not so certain…” Her voice was still low; she looked back at him and tilted her head. “Sometimes it has been painful for me to look at you simply because how much you remind me of him.”
“My brother loved you…” Olavi whispered. “I know he did… You’re insecure because of Alexander, just like I was insecure of his heart.” He looked down at his tea cup for a moment. “But… I guess… it is like he says? It is possible for a heart to love two… and what happened then… Elias must have been really frightened…” He frowned. “And what happened to me … in the forest… I thought I was going to die… and that…man… he told me everything.” He closed his eyes. “I can’t even imagine how it was for him… and Alexander was the only one who …cared… The love I think… they needed each other, to feel warm and… some form of safety I guess. The circumstances made that love possible… But if Elias was here…” He raised his gaze back to Emma who had listened quietly, her eyes watering. “He would have returned to you…” He told her and when he noticed the tears in her eyes he got up and hugged her tightly.
“You are such a wonderful woman; you’ve been such a wonderful sister to me… I love you Emma.” He whispered and Emma looked at him, brought her hand on his cheek.
“I love you too, Olavi.”
Olavi smiled and wiped her tears away gently. “I don’t want you to be unhappy; Elias wouldn’t want it either… perhaps one day someone will come along and…”
“You are sweet Olavi.” Emma smiled and brushed his cheek. “I’m fine, don’t worry, I have my two children, I’m back home…I- there are many things I am thankful for.” She assured, looking at him thoughtfully for a moment. “Why do I get the feeling like you would be…” She started.
“Will you promise to watch over Aino?” Olavi interrupted and the woman frowned.
“Of course, but…”
“Please don’t hate me…and please don’t tell them… I need to go Emma.” He whispered. Emma slowly let go of him, confused. “I love him, I know you don’t approve, but I can not help my heart… Just please don’t tell them, please don’t hate me.”
“I do not hate you Olavi, it would be impossible.” Emma sighed with serious expression and when seeing the boy’s worried expression he pulled him closer again. “I will miss you.” She said and kissed his cheek, tears rising in her eyes once more. “Make sure he treats you right, make sure to be alright.”
“I will, he will.” Olavi whispered. “Can you tell them I’m sorry, that I love them?”
Emma nodded. “Of course…” she whispered, looking at him, smiling through her tears, she brought her hand in his hair and stroked them gently. “Love is worth it and you deserve to be happy… You’re always welcomed back to us.”
“Thank you… I’ll go now, to talk with my sister.” He slowly let go of her and she nodded.
“I will watch over Aino.” She promised again and saw the boy smiling with relief and nodding before walking away from the kitchen.
She sighed closed her eyes for a moment before turning back to her chores, fully understanding the love between the two men was still difficult for her, but love could always be complicated yet worth everything, in his shoes she would have chosen the same. The bitterness she had at first felt towards Alexander when learning the truth had slowly died as well, if he had offered Elias comfort in his last days then she could not bring herself to hate the man, he knew what he had lost and she had lost the same; there was no room for hate.
When Olavi told Aino that he was leaving with Alexander, she felt both relieved and sad. She knew it was the best decision for him, she trusted that Alexander could make him happy, but at the same time though she had accepted it, saying goodbye felt crushing and heart breaking, they both cried that night, laying side by side on her bed like they used to do as children, whispering comforting words to each other; they had never been apart for more than one night before and now they were scared.
Aino drew lazy patterns on his palm. “You will write to me, won’t you?”
“As often as I can, I will try writing you every week and I will call you when ever I can.” He promised. “You will come and visit us, won’t you?”
“Of course I will.” Aino nodded.
“Perhaps you take Nikolas with you.” Olavi grinned and she laughed through her tears before nudging his arm. “Though it might be that he won’t accept us, what we are with Alexander.” He said in more serious tone.
“If he won’t then I won’t care for him.” Aino whispered and laid her head on his chest. “No man can ever mean more to me than you.” She whispered and Olavi wrapped his arms around her kissing his head.
“How will I manage without you?” Olavi asked.
“You will, you are with him and he loves you. He will take care of you, if he won’t he knows I will come after him.” Aino grinned and lifted her head to look at him. “I will miss you so much though…” she smiled sadly and kissed his forehead.
“And I will miss you…”
She laid her head back beside him and they continued to hold each others, until finally falling asleep together.
Next day Olavi felt nervous, he was helping his adopted parents, wanting to spend time with them one last time, hoping that they would not hate him later for leaving without a word.
The day went by fast, after everyone had gone to bed Olavi backed some of his clothes and his pencils with him, before sneaking out where Alexander was waiting with Aino and Emma.
“I parked the car little farther away.” Alexander told him and Olavi nodded feeling himself tremble slightly; it was real now. He turned to his sister and hugged her tightly suddenly overwhelmed by sadness, he didn’t know how he could let go; Aino had always been there, always.
“I love you, you’ll be fine, I’ll be fine, don’t worry Olavi.” She kissed his cheek, reluctantly letting go. “You protect him and keep him safe and never harm him! If you do…” She warned pointing at the man.
“I will protect him with my life if necessary.” Alexander agreed.
Olavi kissed Aino’s cheek and hugged Emma before walking to Alexander’s side. They had said there goodbye’s and it was time. When Aino watched Olavi walking away with the man she started crying uncontrollably, this was harden than she could have imagined. When Olavi turned to look back and saw her, he had to run back. He hugged her, held her and kissed the top of her head.
“Go, just go, it won’t get any easier…” Aino told him and Olavi slowly let go looking at Emma who in turn pulled the younger woman closer, gently stroking her arm, she smiled encouragingly to the crying boy.
“It will be fine, it’s not goodbye for ever,” Emma told them both. “Go, he’s waiting.”
He nodded and turned back to Alexander who smiled with sympathy and reached his hand for him. Still crying Olavi forced himself not to look back at Aino, fearing that otherwise he couldn’t keep his decision of leaving. Alexander’s arm wrapped around his shoulders and Olavi found some comfort in his hold allowing the man to push him forward.
“I know it hurts now my love, I promise it gets easier… you will see her again.” He assured and led him to the car. Olavi couldn’t find his voice and only nodded. Alexander opened the car door for him, and Olavi sat down clutching his bag in his lap. Alexander kissed his forehead before closing the door and circling the car to the driver’s seat. Again he looked worriedly at him.
“So this it, ready to go?” He asked unable to hide to hint of worry; what if Olavi would change his mind after all?
Olavi turned his tear stained face to him, smiled through his sadness.
“I’m ready.” He assured and reached for the man’s hand. “I love you, I want to be with you.”
Alexander released a relieved sigh before leaning forward to catch his lips into a gentle, comforting kiss.
“I love you too, now let’s wipe those tears, life is waiting.” Alexander smiled planted small kisses on his cheeks, before starting the engine.
Olavi leaned back on his seat, watching Alexander as he drove he felt odd sadness and happiness mixing inside, fear and excitement over what the future held, missing his sister already but at the same time he knew that this decision was the best he could have made.
There had been enough deaths, pain and misery in their lives, enough lost chances and now the future was open, it would not be easy, but it was worth it. He shared a lot with his older brother, but deep down he knew that Elias wouldn’t be mad for either of them, deep down he understood that Alexander loved him for him and not just as a ghost of his brother.
Life was waiting and the future seemed hopeful for them both.
Web published: October 16th 2009.
My Secret Shore