The following days after the strange incident at the gym, Eljas still seemed to behave somewhat peculiar. The man was withdrawing and much more quiet than usual. Joni couldn’t help but to ponder the reason. Then a couple of days later his new lady friend whom Joni had seen a couple of times before, arrived at the gym. She greeted Joni cheerfully before heading upstairs to Eljas’ office. But then only around twenty minutes later, she stormed downstairs looking upset and without a word she walked out, slamming the door shut after her in ostentatious manner.
Before Joni left home he went looking for Eljas and found him from one of the training rooms alone. The man was furiously hitting a punching bag and listening to Eminem. Eljas startled when he suddenly sensed Joni’s presence in the room.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to frighten you.” Joni said. “I just wanted to let you know that I’m going home.” He said because he wasn’t sure if Eljas was even aware of the time. Joni had heard from one of the other trainers there that Eljas had been working from early morning and it was already nearing eight in the evening.
“Okay, no problem. You closed the register and the front office?” Eljas asked, frowning. His t-shirt was wet from sweat and glued on his back, his blond hair damp. Joni nodded.
“So… I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“I won’t be here until Saturday.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right…” Eljas muttered absentmindedly.
“Are you sure that everything is okay?” Joni couldn’t help but to ask and the older man gave him a confused look.
“Yeah, of course,” he replied though he didn’t sound convincing. Joni wanted to ask about Aki thinking it had something to do with him. But he was quite sure that he wouldn’t get answers from Eljas, not now at least. He recognized the mood that Eljas was in, similar to what he had experienced and in that state one wasn’t ready to talk, at least not to someone you didn’t know that well.
“I’ll see you then.” Joni smiled carefully and left.
Joni met his cousin next Friday in Jyri’s favorite pub. The whole thing bothered him to the extent that he wanted to ask if Jyri possibly knew anything about it. Jyri was already there when Joni arrived. “I got a beer for you as well,” his cousin grinned.
“Thanks,” Joni smiled and sat down.
“So how is my cousin doing?” Jyri asked and took a sip from his pint.
“I’m fine, thanks. And you?”
“Nothing to complain.” Jyri shrugged.
“Do you have any Christmas plans?”
“Nah, its just another forced holiday, we’ll probably go out and get wasted with my friends.” Jyri grinned. “And you, nice family time?” He asked and Joni nodded giving another small smile.
”I’m sure you’d be welcomed with, if you like?” He suggested, but Jyri shook his head.
“Thanks but no. Christmas has never been my thing. When you get disappointed so often as a child you can’t appreciate it as an adult. It’s a good day to drink, that’s all.”
Joni looked at his cousin quietly for sometime. He remembered vaguely that on the last Christmas with his mom still alive Jyri had been at their home to celebrate with them. Jyri’s parents… Well, Joni didn’t remember them well, but they both were alcoholics. His dad didn’t like Jyri’s father and apparently his mom had felt somewhat ashamed of her brother as well. It wasn’t really a wonder that Jyri had drifted into bad company as a teenager.
For a moment they talked about ordinary things, Joni told him about his trip to New York with Misha and Jyri sighed how he would want to travel to USA as well, especially to the Big Apple.
“Actually, I wanted to ask you about something.” Joni finally started.
“Let’s hear it.” Jyri smiled and took another generous sip from his glass.
“There was this strange incident at work last Saturday. I wonder if you know a man named Aki?… Hm… I can’t remember his last name, but he’s about your age. He sells insurances now…” Jyri listened to him looking thoughtful or serious, Joni wasn’t sure which. “He came to the gym one evening, asking about membership and so forth… He was dating Dima’s ex-girlfriend for some time but I believe they’ve broken up. However, I’ve met him before and though I don’t particularly like him it felt a little extreme when Eljas threw this man out. Well he didn’t exactly throw him out, but he demanded quite forcefully. It was clear that they knew each other from before and I wondered if you knew anything about it?”
“Aki Kuusisto?” Jyri finally asked and Joni nodded. For a moment he though he saw worry pass Jyri’s features. “I didn’t realize he was back… Have you seen him often now?”
“A couple of times, randomly… One day I was eating out with Dima when Eva; Dima’s ex, walked into the restaurant with Aki and they started talking and ended up sitting down with us. I didn’t like him, but it can be because I don’t like Eva.”
“You may not remember, but you’ve met Aki before too.” Jyri said and emptied his pint. Joni gave him a questioning look. “As a child.” Jyri smiled in a way that seemed nervous. “He was in the same croup that I hung out with when I was younger. With Eljas and the rest… And I was stupid and thoughtless and one day I brought you to a place that wasn’t suitable for someone so young. I used drugs and it clouded my judgment and… It was good that your dad found out.”
“Did Eljas do drugs as well?” Joni asked carefully.
“He tried only a couple of times as far as I know. He was smarter than I in that sense.”
”He was the one who sold it, I’m not sure about the use.” Jyri replied. “He got sentenced from that and… He’s a weird guy and that’s put it mildly.”
“He’s been in prison?” Joni asked in surprised tone. Jyri nodded.
“Try to avoid him, he’s got at least one screw loose. There’s something really disturbing about him deep down. I’m not sure how Eljas knows him, but there could have happened something bigger between them that Eljas hasn’t talked to me about. I once saw Aki butchering a cat… and that was… Well honestly I was on drugs then, but I know it happened… I heard about other stuff as well and when I found him talking to you… It was the last time I took you there with me.”
Joni felt stunned, although he had thought that Aki was unpleasant, the last thing he would have guessed that he was a former drug dealer! Joni was quiet and took a sip from his glass.
“I thought he was still in jail…” Jyri muttered and frowned until he looked almost scared. “Hey, I have to go now, I’ll call you later, okay?” He said and got up. Joni watched his cousin confusedly as Jyri pulled his coat on.
“Okay… talk to you later.” Joni managed to say and Jyri gave him a hurried smile back before leaving the pub.
Aki had seen Jami’s boyfriend a couple of times near his apartment building but had so far managed to avoid him. Apparently Jami had told him and now the man probably wanted to toughen him up. At some level the thought amused him, but Ivo was a big man and in the end Aki wasn’t sure how amused he would be to face him.
A couple of days before his trip to see Chris, Aki had an appointment for Jami and he arrived there early. Aki didn’t know if he should even feel surprised when Jami’s colleague welcomed him. “I hope it’s okay if I cut your hair today? Jami fell ill.” Aki felt annoyed, well angry at some level but he tried to hide it.
“That is unfortunate, I wish I would have been informed,” He said as he left his coat on the hanger. “But I’m going on a trip and my hair needs a trim.”
“Again, I’m very sorry but Jami’s illness came out of nowhere.” She continued and led him to the customer seat.
“It must be serious, huh? When you work for yourself its rare that one would stay home for small cold.” Aki said observing the woman’s expression. She looked uncomfortable for a moment.
“Yes, I’m not sure yet what he has. It’s true that Jami is rarely sick.” She replied as Aki took a seat. She gave him an awkward smile and Aki wondered how much she knew. It was clear that Jami didn’t want him as his customer anymore; he just didn’t have the cuts to tell it to him straight. Perhaps Jami hoped that he would get the clue, but Aki just found himself more annoyed of the whole deal than he would have guessed.
The haircut was okay… well there wasn’t really anything wrong with it, but Aki still felt annoyed. After he paid, he said he wanted to book another appointment for Jami to see how the woman would react. She looked uncomfortable, like wondering what she should do but in the end decided to leave the decision to Jami and took the appointment. Aki was interested to find out if the younger man would try to get it cancelled someway.
Aki couldn’t resist the temptation of texting him. “I hope you get better soon! I’ll see you in January ;)” He wondered if he would get a reply.
On December 15th Chris arrived to the airport to welcome his guest like he had promised. He stood there looking at the people who arrived from their flights. Some looked busy talking on their phones while walking ahead in a hurry. Some were happy in the company of their friends or family, some rushed in almost exaggerated joy to greet their loved ones that were waiting.
And Chris remembered, he remembered standing almost on that same exact spot only few years ago waiting for Joni to walk through those gates, eager anticipation bubbling inside of him.
He missed that feeling, that tingling in the bottom of his stomach, the joy of seeing Joni’s face. Now it almost seemed like a lifetime ago. Aki’s visit brought him mixed feelings. What were they to each other? What did Aki really want? Everything was different now than in jail.
Finally he saw the other man. Aki walked without a hurry towards him, a bag on his shoulder, small smile on his lips. Chris waved his hand to greet him.
“I see your hairstyle has changed,” Aki grinned and Chris gave him a tired smile. They hugged shortly. “I think I know who inspired you,” Aki winked. “It suits you though.”
“Do you want to go someplace first or should we just head to my place?” Chris asked ignoring Aki’s comment.
“Do you have beer and something to eat?”
“Good, then lets head to your place.”
“How was the flight?” Chris asked while they walked.
“Seemed to last forever.” Aki chuckled. “But that’s what you get when you want to save money; you have to endure the stopovers. How was your day?”
Chris shrugged. “At work… Normal day.”
“It’s odd to meet like this, outside prison, huh?” Aki grinned sensing some reservation from the other.
“Yeah,” Chris admitted stopping next to his car and opening the doors. Aki had packed lightly and tossed his bag on the backseat before taking a seat in the front. Chris couldn’t help but to remember back to when Joni had arrived, partly amused and partly with longing, how he had all those bags with him.
The drive seemed to last unusually long. Chris had difficulties to find anything to say and it didn’t help that Aki was staring at him quietly, smiling. Chris wondered would the awkwardness soon wear off and if it didn’t how long and uncomfortable the week would turn out to be.
They came inside his apartment; Aki looked the place through and headed to the fridge. “You won’t find me rude if I take a beer?” He smiled and Chris shook his head.
“No, if you bring me one too.” He smiled or at least tried. Suddenly the apartment seemed twice as tiny when they were alone together. Aki opened the beers for them and sat down in front of the table, Chris sat opposite from him.
“You need to relax Chris, I’m on your side.” Aki reminded him and took a sip straight from the can.
“I think I’m just not comfortable with this new life yet…” Chris sighed. “Everything feels so…”
“Strange, I know.” Aki nodded. “It will be fine, we’re friends.” He added and smiled.
“But I understand that this feels strange to you, that I’m here. But we got along well in prison, right?” Chris nodded slowly and looked at the other man. “And we get along now, we just need to ride through this first awkwardness. Trust me, we will.” Aki took another sip and got up. “Did you have something to eat?” He asked feeling that he should first approach Chris with normal friendly behavior to make him relax so he could trust him again.
After a couple of beers and dinner, the atmosphere started to feel more relaxed. Aki had brought a bottle of vodka with him and he mixed them drinks,
“So, you still want to see your ex?” Aki asked finaly and Chris was quiet for a moment until ne nodded. Aki smiled.
“Good, I’ve been doing some research. We have to get visas to Russia. All things to consider it’s best to happen there.” Chris tried to progress everything and when he remained silent Aki continued. “Joni is most likely traveling there in January with that new boyfriend of his. This doesn’t leave us much time.” He observed Chris. He preferred that they wouldn’t wait longer, he feared that Chris would have time to hesitate or Joni would realize that there was something going on.
“Will we get those visas so fast?” Chris asked rubbing his eyes for a moment before taking another sip from his bottle.
“It will only take a week, we can make you an application on Monday and I’m sure you’ll get it by the end of the year. It’s valid for one month and I suggest you’ll request at least two weeks off from work, so they don’t start to wonder where you are. Or you could give in your notice, depending whether you want to return?”
Chris thought about it, would he want to return? Could he return? Everything was happening so fast, perhaps he would ask for two weeks off for personal family reasons, and then he could at least come back if he chose so.
“I already have a visa, it’s valid for little longer. I plan to travel there after Christmas, to arrange things. I know a possible place where you and Joni could have privacy.” Aki said. Jami had been a useful source of information and he probably didn’t even remember everything that he had blabbered to him. “They’re going to stay at the Russians grandmother. She lives in a quiet little village… The place I’ve been thinking is about an hours drive from there.”
Chris nodded, couldn’t really think of anything to say. He twirled the beer can between his hands and took another big gulp. “They’re going to New York after Christmas to stay at your friends.” Aki decided to add seeing the hesitating look on Chris face. He had to wake Chris’ jealousy. “Everything is up to you Chris, how you want to proceed? If you want to see Joni I’ll help you, but if you decide otherwise…” Aki shrugged. “I want to know if my effort is in vain?” Chris looked at him seeming thoughtful.
“I do want to see Joni.” He finally said. Of course he had know that it would probably have to happen in some other country. Joni had no reason to travel to Canada and he couldn’t travel to Finland unnoticeably, it was unlikely that Joni would agree to meet him voluntarily no matter how Chris would have hoped he would.
“Good, then we’ll continue the arrangement’s.” Aki smiled and decided to drop the subject for a while. Aki calculated and studied the other man’s mood; he knew when he needed time to let it all set. They drank some more and finally Aki tempted Chris to take him out at some club. They ended up going to the same gay club where Chris had met Ryan.
They sat down at a free table with their drinks. “Have you see Joni many times?” Chris finally asked.
“A couple of times, yes.” Aki nodded. Looking at Chris who again seemed thoughtful.
“How does he seem to you?” He asked then. “Is he happy?”
Aki pondered about his answer for a moment.
“He’s very flirty with men… Likes the attention… So I think your sentence was definitely too harsh, he surely doesn’t act like a victim. He even flirted with me when we met.” He lied wanting Chris to hold on to the idea of righted revenge.
Chris brought the glass to his lips, looking at the crowd. “Perhaps he cheats that new man as well.” He muttered and Aki grinned to himself.
Chris suddenly noticed Ryan at the other side of the club with some man. The strange man whispered something in Ryan’s ear and the younger man chuckled, they looked at each other. Ryan touched the other man’s back and whispered his answer in his ear. Chris felt oddly annoyed, his mood had been dark to begin with and this didn’t help. Although he and Ryan weren’t in a relationship and nothing had been promised to justify his sudden jealousy.
Ryan walked towards the bar and on his way he noticed him. The young man smiled, raised his hand to greet him and turned his way towards their table. “Who is he?” Aki asked, but Chris had no time to reply when Ryan was already beside them.
“Hi Chris, here without me?” Ryan grinned and glanced at Aki. “Who is your friend?” He asked when Aki stood and offered his hand, which Ryan took.
“Aki, Chris’ friend from Finland.” He introduced and Ryan glanced at Chris giving him a cunning smile.
“Ah, and the plot thickens…” he commented before looking back at Aki. “I’m Ryan, Chris’… acquaintance.” He finished letting go of Aki’s hand.
”Why don’t you join our company?” Aki suggested and Ryan glanced back to the man he had just been with, who kept looking at them anxiously.
“Maybe for just a moment, perhaps my companion can wait for awhile.”
“Who is he?” Chris couldn’t help but to ask and Ryan smiled at him.
“Just someone I met.” He answered and sat down.
“Can I buy you a drink?” Aki asked.
”Well, I won’t say no for a free drink.” Ryan smiled.
“What would you like?”
“A dry apple cider. Thanks.” Ryan replied and after Aki had walked away Ryan turned his attention to Chris who sipped his beer quietly while observing him. “Finland? I’m guessing that this mysterious Joni is also from there. Am I right?” he asked. Chris snorted and looked towards the bar. “I am.” Ryan smiled. “And now I wonder how this friend of yours fits into the picture?”
“You wonder too much.”
“Maybe, but awareness of that does nothing to kill my curiosity.”
”Are you going to have sex with that guy?” Chris changed the subject glancing at the man that Ryan had been with, who in return kept glancing at them although he too currently talked with some other man.
”That was the plan when I had no better.” Ryan grinned. “Now that you seem to be otherwise engaged.”
“Aki is just a friend.” Chris replied and Ryan observed him quietly and smiling. “Your about to be sex partner is getting restless.” Chris commented and Ryan glanced at the man.
“I guess you’re right.” He said but made no effort in getting up. Aki returned with the cider and gave it to Ryan.
“Thank you.” Ryan said while Aki sat down. “So, how do you know each other?”
“We met in Finland during one… work project.” Aki grinned. “And you two? I haven’t heard Chris mention you before.”
“Hmh, should I be offended?” Ryan teased Chris. “We met online a while back and then we had sex… That we have been doing for a couple of times already.” Ryan grinned looking at Chris who looked somewhat uncomfortable.
“There you go!” Aki chuckled and slapped Chris’ shoulder playfully. “And here I thought you were only sulking here.” He smiled and observed Ryan with more curiosity. He had dark hair, nice body, his face was pleasant but ordinary, and all in all he wasn’t bad. Ryan perhaps wasn’t the kind that would capture your eyes immediately, but on the other hand once he had gotten you to look you wouldn’t turn away either.
”Ryan, are you coming?” Somewhat displeased voice asked somewhere near. Aki turned to look, the man’s hairline had escaped high to his forehead, he was slim and wore glasses. Aki thought he looked quite boring. Ryan looked at the man as well.
”I haven’t finished my drink.” He replied.
“I can’t wait for much longer.” The man snorted.
“You don’t have to.” Aki interrupted. “Perhaps Ryan wants to continue his evening with us.” He smiled and brought his glass to his lips. He then looked at the younger man. Ryan thought about it for a moment, looked at Chris who stayed silent but was looking back at him almost expectantly.
”If you can’t wait, you better go.” Ryan finally replied and the man snorted with annoyance.
“Your loss!” The man said before turning and walking away. Aki couldn’t help but to laugh.
“I think the only one who lost something was he.” Aki winked at Ryan.
”Perhaps.” Ryan admitted and drank from his cider.
Aki was more talkative than Chris and kept offering drinks for Ryan. Ryan who found himself somewhat attracted to Chris and wanted to know more about him soon found that he had been sitting with them for a couple of hours. Chris seemed to relax more as the evening progressed, although at the same time Ryan sensed certain reservation in him that even the alcohol he consumed didn’t ease. This same reservation he had sensed in Chris every time they had met and it made him question the form of friendship that Chris and Aki shared.
“Chris, should we continue at your place?” Aki finally suggested when the closing time neared. “You’re coming with us, right Ryan?”
“If I am invited then why not.” He replied looking at Chris, while the man finished the remains of his drink. Ryan was interested to see how Chris lived, so far they had only been at his place.
“Alright.” Chris replied looking at Ryan who chuckled.
“Wasn’t that an eager response!” He teased.
“Believe it, inside he is very excited.” Aki grinned. “Lets go.”
They took a cap to Chris’ apartment. During the cab ride Aki chatted with Ryan and Chris observed. At times Aki glanced at him and grinned, Chris thought he knew what the other had in mind, but guessed that Ryan was on the same page. He himself allowed being lead by the situation, drunk and numb with feelings and still at the same time… That familiar longing made his chest ache, longing for what once had been and now was lost.
They got to his apartment and Aki prepared them drinks. He acted with such ease and comfort that Chris himself wasn’t capable. “My friend seems to have a very Finnish type of mood today, although even alcohol hasn’t gotten him to open up.” Aki grinned and Ryan who sat close to Chris looked at him smiling, until he brought his gaze to Aki.
“Perhaps you can tell me about this mysterious Joni?” Ryan asked Aki who smiled and glanced at Chris whose expression hardened.
“I could….” Aki replied. “But Chris perhaps could use something else to think about.” He said and brought the drink glass to his lips. Ryan brought his attention back to Chris.
“Is that so?” He smiled, got up slowly and walked towards Chris before kneeling to his feet. “Perhaps… I could offer something to brighten your mood?” He said suggestively while bringing his hand on Chris’ crotch, massaging lightly. Chris sighed and closed his eyes for a moment. Ryan massaged him more boldly and Chris felt his organ responding.
“That should help…” Aki said with hoarse voice somewhere near. Chris opened his eyes slightly when Ryan was opening his pants. The younger man brought his lips gently on his organ that was still covered by his underwear. Chris glanced at Aki, the other man had moved to sit little closer, pleasuring himself. The situation was odd, exciting and odd at the same time. Small part of him wasn’t exactly sure if he liked where the situation was heading. At the same time a bigger part was ready to accept the pleasure given.
The situation progressed and clothes were undressed. At one point Aki had moved so close that Ryan could pleasure them both with his mouth and hands. Ryan seemed to enjoy that he could pleasure two man at the same time and he wasn’t left unattended either. For that small moment Chris was able to drown himself in this situation, taking pleasure being touched by two people, forget the past. Moaning and heathed kisses, Chris watched how Aki fucked Ryan the same time that Ryan gave him a blowjob. Aki grinned at him; the situation almost felt dreamlike and after some time had passed the dreamlike moment was over. The room smelled of sex and sweat, Aki and Ryan were laying on the bed relaxed while Chris got up and walked towards the window and he looked out at the purple colored early hour of the morning. Ryan got up and asked to take a shower; silently Chris nodded and pointed the direction of the bathroom.
He opened the window and lighted a cigarette. One wasn’t really allowed to smoke in the apartment but at that moment he didn’t care. Cars drove past the wet street, Chris close his eyes, he felt the wind in his hair, heard the sound of the running water in the shower. He felt numb and empty after everything and he hoped… How he hoped that if he would have turned he would have seen Joni laying naked on his bed and smiling at him the way he had before, seductive and wanting. How he wanted to be in a different place than that gloomy apartment, if he could just wake and find all of this a bad dream. Wake up next to Joni and everything would be fine.
“Why are you still sulking, Chris?” Aki’s voice startled him into the present. Chris sighed and threw the stub from the window onto the moist street before he closed the window and turned.
“I’m not sulking,” he denied and searched his pants to get dressed. Aki didn’t seem to believe him.
“For a man who just received fabulous sex, you don’t look very satisfied.” Aki took notice. “The target was still wrong, huh?” Chris didn’t reply, he pulled his shirt on and moved to the kitchen. His whole life felt wrong, it wasn’t supposed to be like this and he wanted back to the moment before everything had gone wrong. When Joni had still looked at him lovingly, touched him lovingly… But how could it be possible to have it all back now after everything that had happened?
Web published: 26th of September 2016.
My Secret Shore