It felt weird to see Joni, after all that time, seeing him in real instead of just some magazine or TV ad. Kasper did his best to concentrate on playing and keep his curious eyes away from the brunet’s direction, still, his presence in the same room was strangely distracting. Joni was certainly one of those not easily forgotten.
The brown-eyed boy had gotten his eye on the very first day he entered the same classroom as him. Having gotten back from Miami, where he had spent the previous year as an exchange student, Helsinki and especially their high school had felt so small and dull. In a world that had felt gray and gloomy to him then, Joni just walked in and brought a spark of exotic light with him that instantly brightened Kasper’s days. His laughter had been so soft and catching, his spirit so full of life. That certain carelessness in his attitude that Kasper had both envied and admired. Joni had succeeded where many others would have failed; being openly gay while still holding on to the popular kid status.
It had been clear though, that Joni was well aware just how good-looking he was and Kasper hadn’t thought he stood a chance in receiving Joni’s attention. So he had at first been contented on watching him quietly, admiring from afar. He had watched how some older guys had carefully gravitated near him, no doubt making suggestions that Joni had either accepted or refused depending on his whimsical mind. Kasper had wanted to be as brave and approach, but no matter how he had searched for the other’s gaze, it had never seemed to answer his hopeful call. He had dreamed, foolish schoolboy dreams and Joni had been the one whose pictures he looked at while jerking off and afterward felt ashamed of how hopeless his dreams seemed in real life.
Joni had seemed to have plenty of admirers, always seemed to have something going on. Kasper had heard quietly spoken rumors but couldn’t be sure if they were true or not. Someone had said that Joni was screwing with some photographer, another claimed that he had heard Joni giving head to some modeling agent and that was how he had gotten the modeling contract. Most of these rumors were most likely just jealous gossip, and in these rumors, Joni had had a more colorful sex life than he did in reality. Joni hadn’t seemed to care though, not even about the nastiest and wildest rumors and Kasper’s admiration for him had only grown.
Then Eva had started to date Joni’s best friend and so he had gotten a bit closer to the object of his attraction and when, against all other previous signs, Joni had suddenly paid attention to him, Kasper had felt on top of the world! In a way, he had known all along that Joni’s feelings were someplace else, had guessed that the person was Misha after seeing the tension between them. But he had hoped that Joni would forget the man, hoped that with time deeper feelings would emerge, that as long as he was good to Joni and loved him, then sooner or later he would fall for him too. After getting Joni into his bedroom as he had so often dreamed about, he had decided to fulfill his fantasy. Partly knowingly he hadn’t asked whether it was okay to go that far. He hadn’t wanted to hear the possible denial. And when Joni had asked him to stop he hadn’t wanted to listen to that either and carried on regardless.
And when it was over and done with and Joni had rejected him, filled with anger and disgusts, Kasper had been broken with guilt as well as his aching heart. It was then that bitterness and anger got to him. He hadn’t even had the guts to tell his friend Eva, who he had been friends with since kindergarten, what had happened. He had allowed Eva to believe that Joni was the sole bad guy in the story, that Joni had slept with him and then just ditched him after. He hadn’t wanted to take responsibility for his actions. He had managed to convince himself that he had just given Joni what he had asked for. Now, these years later, studying in law school and having matured, he felt the shame of his past actions heavy on his mind.
That shame weighed heavy every time Eva would badmouth Joni, calling him names. Kasper had taken the news of Joni’s abuse with shock, the brunet hadn’t deserved it, of course, he hadn’t! No one ever did. It only made Eva’s cruel words about him harder to listen to.
They stopped playing and people applauded them, Joni along with them, and Kasper felt another stab of guilt and regret in his heart. They packed up their gear and backstage Kasper drank one beer with his bandmates who were chatting cheerfully about their well-done gig. One of them commented about Joni’s presence at the club, gave him a friendly slap on the back, and grinned, saying something that Kasper didn’t hear being deep in thought. During one of his weak moments, drunk at the time, after seeing one of Joni’s ads with his bandmates, he had bragged about fucking him. The memory of it made him uncomfortable now.
Having finished his beer, he decided to go and find Eva who he had seen with Dima and Joni. They now sat at a table, Eva’s cousin’s Tea and Sonja with them, the latter seemed to be quite drunk already and there was a third man who Kasper knew to be Sonja’s friend.
Kasper felt his heart rate speeding up, seeing Joni’s beautiful brown eyes looking back at him. In their depth, he now detected some form of insecurity and wondered if it was because of him, of memories of the past and the words that he had spat out the last time that they had met.
”You were great Kasper!” Eva cheered getting up to hug him. The others agreed, even Dima said a few complimentary words and Kasper didn’t think that Joni had ever told his friend what had really happened, otherwise he doubted that Dima would be this friendly to him. Joni smiled at him as well, so softly that it felt strange and made his cheeks flush.
”Sit down with us,” Eva asked.
”I think I’ll get something to drink first,” Kasper said, scratching his neck. ”Would anyone else care for something?”
”Pear cider,” Sonja slurred, lifting her index finger. Jami looked at Kasper and shook his head.
”Bring her a pear lemonade or something, she won’t know the difference at this point,” he whispered.
”I won’t need anything, Tuomas will pick me up soon,” Tea said, referring to her boyfriend.
”I’d like a strawberry cider,” Eva said. ”And you Dima?”
”I still have beer left, thanks.”
’” I can come and help you carry the drinks,” Joni offered suddenly and got up. Kasper nodded, slightly bothered, and walked towards the bar counter with the brunet right next to him.
”Could we talk?” Joni asked quietly. ”Somewhere a little more private?” He added and Kasper nodded confusedly and looked around for a suitable place. Seeing a free corner table, he led the other to it feeling nervous about what Joni wanted to talk with him about. Was it about that shameful act he had done to him? Quietly Kasper sat down and waited for Joni to do the same.
”It’s so odd to see you…” Joni started and smiled at him, his hands resting on the table nervously wriggling his fingers. ”So, you continued playing? Eva said something about a recording contract?”
”Yeah… I doubt we’ll become superstars or anything, but at least we’re getting something done.” Kasper shrugged, his throat felt dry and he wished he had gotten something to drink before sitting down with Joni. He tried to think of something intelligent to say, but his brain didn’t seem to work and it only continued to amaze him how great Joni looked, better than he remembered, even better than in pictures. He didn’t want to blurt out his thoughts. ”So you finally got Misha, I heard?” He said finally, cursing in his mind, for it didn’t sound the way he had wanted. Joni nodded, a shy smile playing on his full lips and Kasper couldn’t stop marveling at how different the other appeared, the arrogance he remembered in him before seemed to have disappeared completely.
”I guess we both got what we wanted?” Joni chuckled softly. ”Though…Perhaps after some complicated turns…” He added quietly and looked up to the poster hanging on the wall next to them. Joni bit his lip and then brought his gaze back to him. ”I wanted to ask for your forgiveness…” Joni started.
Kasper felt surprised, he frowned. ”Forgiveness?” He repeated, thinking the apology should have come from him instead.
”Back then I just didn’t think clearly, I just thought so much about what I wanted, and…” Joni hesitated for a moment. ”I am ashamed to admit it but my world was too wrapped around myself. I am sorry, I should have been more considerate than that. I played with your feelings and for that I am sorry, I made so many mistakes back then…” Kasper stared at the other in surprise, for a moment he didn’t know how to respond and Joni looked at him expectantly, insecurely. ”Will you forgive me?” He asked. ”I want to make peace with you if it’s possible?” Kasper was sort of an ex-boyfriend after all and Joni didn’t want two who both hated him.
Kasper tried to search for some sort of logical thought, he really needed a drink after this. ”Of course it is,” he finally replied hoarsely and Joni smiled almost relieved. ”Well… I don’t think I was being very fair to you either…” Kasper muttered and scratched his neck. ”I am sorry that I called you…” a whore, his mind added, shame stabbing his chest once more. ”Well, you probably remember… I’m sorry, I didn’t really mean it, I was just so…” Kasper shrugged and tapped his fingers on the table. ”Jealous, I guess… and angry…”
”Let’s forget it,” Joni asked, offering his hand across the table. ”Peace?” Kasper looked at Joni’s offered hand, still somewhat confused before reaching out and taking it.
”Peace,” he confirmed in a quiet voice and Joni smiled. The disappearance of the cocky attitude had to benefit Joni, for Kasper didn’t remember the other ever appearing more desirable than now.
Joni had been on his mind all evening, Misha smiled heading towards the club where he would be waiting. The evening was warm and bright, June at its best. He had left his friends with the thought that he’d clear out the situation with his little brother and then take Joni home with him. He wasn’t really worried about Dima, he had faith in his brother’s honesty and loyalty, it would be difficult to find a more honest man than Dima. He was drunker than he had been in a long time, with his old school mates things easily got out of hand and they had drowned quite many glasses of vodka. Joni’s message had come at the perfect time.
Misha stepped inside the club and looked around, in search of his boyfriend. He finally found Dima and Jami with the others but there was no sight of Joni. Dima sat next to Eva and the dark-haired girl smiled brightly when she saw him. ”Hi Misha, so nice to see you after such a long time!” She grinned and Misha gave the woman a somewhat sour look. Why should he be friendly to a person that had treated his brother and his boyfriend so unkindly? Did she think that he didn’t know? The woman’s smile faded when seeing the unenthusiastic response from Dima’s older brother.
”Where’s Joni?” Misha asked, turning his attention back to his brother.
”He went to get drinks with Kasper.” Misha sighed when hearing the answer and looked around for a moment wondering if he should go and look for Joni. He didn’t feel there was cause for jealousy, still there was a stab of worry and at the same time he realized that he needed to trust in Joni’s ability to take care of himself.
”I actually had something to say to you,” Misha said, directing his attention back to Dima. ”Come with me for a second?” Dima looked at him, nodded and got up bringing his beer with him. He followed his brother to a free table and sat down with him.
”Listen, you’re not planning on doing anything stupid with that woman?” Misha asked, leaning across the table. Dima met with his brothers drunken gaze and smiled.
”Eva? No, don’t worry about it.” He answered and touched the ring on his finger. ”This is a pretty big deal to me, I would never betray Linda”
”Good, Linda is a good woman, it’s the other one I don’t like.” Misha said, watching his brother’s glass and decided to take a taste from it. ”My mouth felt dry,” he explained seeing Dima’s questioning look.
”Did you have something else to speak about?” Dima asked in amusement.
”Yeah,” Misha nodded and frowned. He looked at his brother’s ring with a thoughtful expression, quiet for a moment. ”I wonder what Joni would think about that?” He wondered out loud and decided to take another sip from his brother’s glass.
Dima looked at his finger with a confused expression. ”This?” He asked, referring to the ring.
”Yeah…” Misha nodded. ”You know, I love that brat to death,” He said with drunken seriousness in his gaze. Dima grinned,
”I think I know.”
”Yeah… so, I don’t know if it’s a crazy idea… I wouldn’t mind wearing a ring… That’s just what I thought about today.” Misha nodded, a small voice inside his head confirmed that he was officially drunk for speaking this softly.
”Did you drink some vodka tonight?” Dima couldn’t help but tease. Alcohol made Misha more open about his feelings, awoke some kind of a poet in him from time to time.
”A little…” Misha admitted. ”Joni is turning twenty-one soon, we’ll be in Russia then and I thought, if I give him one of those… then… would it be crazy? It would be a gesture… I don’t know how Joni feels about that kind of thing…”
”Getting engaged?” Dima grinned. Misha seemed thoughtful, he was quiet and once more took a sip of his glass. ”Pretty soon you’re going to have to get me a new beer,” Dima pointed out. ”And I think it would be pretty damn touching if you two got engaged.”
”I’m a bit drunk now…” Misha admitted. ”One tends to think crazy things while drunk.”
”It’s not crazy…” Dima said softly. ”Joni is crazy about you, he has been for many years, if it feels right then go for it.”
Misha frowned trying to clear his thoughts. ”Well, this was just something that popped into my mind… Don’t go gossiping to anyone, least of all to Ivo,” Misha muttered and Dima smiled. ”If you talk to Ivo then the whole town will find out,” he continued.
”I won’t,” the younger brother promised with amusement.
”Good. I’ll go and find Joni now.” Misha said and got up. Dima watched after his brother and grinned, who would have thought?
After searching for some time, Misha noticed Joni and Kasper at one secluded table talking to each other. He could guess why Joni was talking to Kasper, he had revealed that he felt some kind of guilt about his behavior towards the other in his past. Misha sighed and walked closer to the younger men, in a way it was admirable that Joni could now take responsibility for his behavior differently than before, but Kasper was far from innocent. Misha stopped by the table and grinned when Joni looked up to him with surprise.
”You were fast,” the brunette smiled and Misha sat beside him planting a light kiss on his cheek.
”I was about to leave when I got your message.” Misha answered, glancing at Kasper. ”Hi,” he greeted the man, who he didn’t think he could ever grow to like, as politely as he could. Kasper nodded, smiling insecurely.
”Hi, it’s surely been a long time”, he chuckled nervously. Misha glared at him, wrapped his arm around Joni’s shoulders and Kasper took it as a cue to leave. ”I’ll go and get the drinks, the others are probably waiting by now.” He said as he got up.
”We’ll be there in just a moment,” Joni said and Kasper nodded before heading to the bar.
Joni looked at his boyfriend, who smiled, brought his hand on his cheek before leaning closer to kiss him. ”Can we go home soon?” Misha asked and Joni smiled.
”Yes…” Joni replied quietly and when Misha’s hand tried to sneak between his legs Joni snickered and took the other man’s hand. ”You’ll have to leave that to our bedroom… Someone might see…” He whispered.
”Was Kasper behaving alright?” Misha asked seriously, trying to hold down the need to touch, which wasn’t easy.
”Yes… We made up, everything is fine now,” Joni assured. Misha stroked Joni’s arm and looked serious, before leaning forward for another kiss. Joni let out a quiet spout of laughter, Misha’s hand slowly moved on his side and when Joni carefully glanced around them he saw a man a little farther away staring at them, holding a beer glass in his hands. Joni couldn’t see the man’s face clearly but he made him feel uneasy.
”Let’s go… I don’t want any trouble…” Joni whispered, afraid that someone would want to pick a fight with them if they’d see them kissing and touching each other like this. Not everyone would look at their relationship kindly, especially at a place like this, alcohol would only bring out more aggression in some people. Misha nodded and got up, only then remembering what a public place they were in, if they had been at a gay bar touching and kissing wouldn’t have mattered but here… Who knew? Misha noticed the same man Joni had, a man with a neatly trimmed beard. The man was looking towards them, winked and raised his glass to him when their eyes met. Misha saw it best to lead Joni to the others and not stay and wonder about the situation longer.
They returned to the table where the others were. Eva had snuggled close to Dima’s side, who sat there somewhat stiffly, looking more or less bothered about the situation. Sonja’s expression brightened as soon as she saw Misha and the woman started looking around them restlessly.
”Hey, where are the men?” Sonja inquired when they sat down.
”Well, here we are,” Misha grinned.
”Noo… the ladies’ men…” Sonja slurred. ”My future man!” Jami patted Sonja’s hand gently.
”He just didn’t happen to make it here tonight, probably busy with some important work assignment, arresting criminals or something…” Jami said knowing how Sonja had always fantacized about dating a cop or something.
”Oh…” Sonja sighed with disappointment. ”It was supposed to happen today!” She declared. ”I need a drink!” Kasper quickly moved the soft drink closer to her after seeing the look on Jami’s face. The woman took the class and tasted it. ”This tastes like lemonade!”
”Yeah, it’s a new kind of drink, it’s kind of deceiving when they don’t taste like alcohol at all,” Joni quickly explained.
”Hmh, it’s rather good,” Sonja nodded.
”We talked about going home already,” Joni said then. ”Do you want to come with us?” He asked, looking towards Jami. The shorter man glanced at his drunk friend, who at the moment sipped her lemonade with a straw.
”I think I’ll see Sonja home,” Jami replied. Tea had just left with her boyfriend and Jami didn’t really care to go home and listen to the sounds of a creaking bed upstairs, because there was no doubt why these two were in such a hurry to go home. ”I think I’ll stay for the night at Sonja’s, I can bring your shopping as well in the morning.”
”Shopping?” Misha grinned. ”New clothes again?” He teased and Joni nudged his arm playfully.
”What do you mean, again?”
”Yeah, it’s been three weeks, you’re right, it was about time.” Misha kept grinning and Joni rolled his eyes.
”Dima, want to share a cab?” Joni asked, they lived in the same direction.
Dima said goodbye to Eva, who tried to cover her disappointment and expressed her wish to see Dima again soon. Dima made no promises for or against that, was as polite as could be expected and hugged her briefly before leaving with Misha and Joni. Jami was finally also able to convince Sonja to go home with him. Although Jami perhaps wasn’t the Mr Darcy that Sonja had dreamed of taking home, at that moment and in that condition, he was the most sensible choice that she could make.
Kasper and Eva were left alone, Eva sipped her cider with disappointment. Why had she left Dima? Dima, who was polite, handsome and who might just one day become a doctor! At that moment Eva hated all models, Dima’s stupid model bride who studied to be a nurse as Dima had told her and Joni, who had brought those two together.
Kasper sat quietly across from his friend and pondered the conversation that he had with Joni. They had made peace, but still it felt bad to watch how happy Joni was with Misha. Bad because he wanted the same. As rotten as it felt to admit to himself, perhaps he hadn’t gotten over Joni as well as he had hoped.
Eva decided to drown her sorrow, getting more to drink. Perhaps all she needed to do was to find someone to make Dima jealous? -She wondered on her way to the bar. Eva’s mission in hunting for a suitable man was more successful than her cousin’s. She had only just arrived at the bar, trying to get the woman’s attention working behind it, when a man approached her. . ”Hi,” the stranger spoke, standing by her side and Eva looked up at him, smiling at the handsome man.
The man was around thirty, tall and stout, green eyes looked at her with a playful glint. ”Where’s your boyfriend?” He asked. ”Will he get mad if I buy his pretty lady a drink?” Eva giggled, pleased about the compliment.
”I don’t have a boyfriend,” she confessed and the man smiled.
”My luck perhaps?” He winked. Eva looked at him more closely, normally she didn’t like bearded men, but… for him it really súited. ”What is your name?”
”Eva,” the girl answered, tilting her head.
”A beautiful name on a beautiful woman…” The man smiled offering his hand. ”Aki, nice to meet you.” Eva grinned when shaking his hand, perhaps he would be just right to make Dima jealous? It wouldn’t hurt to try, right?
Web published: October 28th, 2012.
My Secret Shore