Rape was humiliating enough without having to go through the exams, Joni thought as he felt them poking him with something that felt cold. A hand was placed on his knee stroking it as if to calm him, bright lights and white walls, a woman’s voice, he felt nauseous and wanted to vomit, his eyes and head hurt, hell it would be easier and faster to name the few places where it didn’t hurt. He couldn’t even open his eyes properly and everything around him felt surreal.
He saw a glimpse of the glove covered hands, something given to another blurry faceless person and he heard the words “DNA test” and then some talk about police and evidence photographs. He closed his eyes and shivered,
“It’s alright, just stay calm,” again the hand was on his leg, the voice was so gentle that it felt fake; too practised.
“Some tearing…. just going to spread some ointment…. it will help… stay calm… it’s cold… you’ll be fine….”
“No I don’t think he needs any stitches…” Someone said, “swelling on the neck…. cheek…cut… black eye….yes there was some anal tearing; raped… yes they’re running the DNA tests….”
How many people were there?
Someone was then pressing his side, Joni cried out,
“Hurts here?” It was a stupid question, “Might be good to do a scan for any broken bones…. might have a concussion.” They were talking to each other and at times the gentle voice of the woman told him to just stay calm and lie still.
“We best keep him here over night…”
The rest of it he didn’t remember and the next thing he knew was when he woke to someone shaking him; he was lying on the bed, the room seemed different; he looked up to the young nurse beside him.
“How are you feeling?” Her voice was soft and there was a small smile on her pretty face while she observed him, Joni groaned and moved his head. “You have a slight concussion so we have to wake you up a few times during the night,” she explained. Joni nodded, everything still felt blurry.
He saw his stepmother then; sitting close by on a chair, her eyes slightly red and puffy revealing that she had been crying earlier and now was unable to hide it no matter how hard she tried to smile reassuringly when she met his gaze.
”Hi,” Katja whispered after the nurse had left, Joni drew in a shaky breath, looking around, “You can go back to sleep now…” Joni’s mouth felt dry.
“Water…” He rasped, almost surprised to hear his own voice, Katja nodded and reached for the water glass on the night stand before helping Joni to drink. Right now he was looking so vulnerable and weak that it pained her, all those bruises… It would take a few weeks for him to heal; luckily there hadn’t been any broken bones.
“C-chris?” Joni asked weakly when lying back down,
“He’s been arrested,” Katja answered looking sadly at the youth who nodded weakly; her hand went to his hair, “sleep now…”
She watched Joni close his eyes, and stayed by his side until he had fallen back sleep. Finally she stood up, it was close to midnight and she needed some coffee; exhausted but quite sure that she wouldn’t be able to get any sleep even if she tried.
She also needed to call her husband, knowing he wouldn’t be sleeping either. She wasn’t sure how he would react to seeing Joni like this, to hearing the whole story, that it hadn’t been enough for Chris to beat Joni up but that he had also raped him. It still felt surreal; the same man they had welcomed into their home, spent weekends with, eaten at the same dinner table, had done this… It caused guilt over not having seen the signs in time, and it caused anger and bitterness, nausea; remembering all the times they had laughed with Chris, treated him like a family member while all that time… How long had it been going on? She felt sick thinking about it.
Joni had seemed so tired… why hadn’t she pried harder what was bothering him?
The cafeteria was closed and the only option was to get coffee from the vending machine, it wasn’t that great tasting but it would have to do. Sitting down in the lobby, placing the mug on the table she reached for her cell phone.
Asko’s tired nervous voice answered, “How is he?” Katja sighed, staring down at the steaming mug.
“Sleeping now, he has a concussion so they have to wake him up every two hours or so…. “ She paused, but realised there was no use to hide the details since they were bound to come out eventually, they’d both be interviewed by the police and then the trial would follow, she wasn’t sure when but it would follow. “Are you sitting down?” She asked, wrapping her free hand over her chest, leaning back and glancing at the ceiling.
“Yes…” The answer came slowly, anxiously and scared.
“Okay… He’s been beaten quite badly and he was raped…” the last word came in a whisper, it was such a difficult, gruesome word to say out loud, a heavy silence on the other line, it lasted for what felt like minutes but must have been shorter, her eyes started to water, “Asko?”
“What did you say?” His voice was edgy, harsh yet almost about to break,
“I’m sorry,” she whispered swallowing her tears back,
“It can’t be true…” He almost whined, “It just can’t, it makes no sense…. it can’t be true!” The last part he yelled. “I want to see him…” He added in a lower voice after remembering that his other children were sleeping.
“They said he gets home tomorrow, well today… in the afternoon… I think it’s best you see him then, calm down first and prepare yourself.” She whispered sadly wishing that she could offer him more comfort now. “I’ll call you again in the morning, alright?”
He was quiet, drew a deep breath and finally whispered his agreement in a somewhat defeated voice.
Katja sat in the room with him, not wanting Joni to find himself alone when he woke up, she watched him carefully, in the bright light of the morning the bruises were clearer, making her heart ache.
Joni hadn’t made it easy for her to love him when she had first started dating Asko, she remembered the ten year old boy glaring at her like an enemy he needed to get rid of, and rejecting every attempt she made to be his friend. He didn’t need a new mom; that’s what he had said, he had been testing her at every possible opportunity and testing Asko; making sure he had his father’s attention, love and still came first in his life.
She remembered her own frustration, how it had annoyed her when Asko had given in to the boy’s every whim, spoiling him and sheltering him and the times Joni had looked at her with a smug expression after winning in an argument.
Yes, it had been difficult indeed, but then she had seen his vulnerable moments, seen the child in him that missed his mother and was scared of losing his father, small moments when he had allowed her to be close for a moment when no one would see, when he had seemed curious and then the twins had been born just as he was starting his early teenage years and again he distanced himself; was a jealous, little brat and then again those secret moments when he thought that no one would see; treating his siblings tenderly, talking to them quietly and trying to play with them; things that warmed her heart but things he seemed to think embarrassing, not wanting her to see this side of him.
Yes, he had made it difficult but not impossible and she did love him, the fact that he had asked for her now when he was hurt touched her more than she could ever express and right now his pain made her hurt. Joni didn’t deserve this, he was young, he had his faults, but never did he deserve this fate.
The brightness hurt his eyes when he tried to open them; he blinked and carefully turned his head,
“Good morning,” Katja whispered with a concerned look in her eyes while her lips had curved into what she hoped was a comforting smile.
“Hardly… good…” He whispered, looking down at the white sheets. She nodded stiffly, glanced towards the window before back at him.
“You get to come home today,” She whispered then, observing him.
Home? He wondered and wasn’t sure if he could return there,
“I mean our home,” Katja explained, “I can later get your clothes from the apartment.” Again she gave him a small smile meeting his gaze.
“I can’t… can’t come…home.” Joni replied weakly.
“Why not? Of course you can.” Katja assured him giving him a worried look.
“I-I must… look… scary… Sini, the twins…no…” Joni shook his head, “don’t want… them to… see me.” He sighed, talking still seemed to exhaust him and his voice was far from normal.
Katja saw his point, but she couldn’t let him stay alone either, especially in that apartment.
“Joni… It will be okay, don’t worry about it now…”
“Won’t… come home… they can’t… see me.” He insisted, not really wanting to see himself either, in truth he was worried about his appearance, he wanted to ask Katja and at the same time he was afraid, “My face-?“ he started then.
“The bruises will heal, don’t worry,” Katja assured sensing what troubled him, she saw a glimmer of relief in his eyes and smiled. “But Joni, you can’t stay on your own like this…” She said then, “I want you to come home… and your father, he’s waiting for my call to come over to see you.”
“No,” he insisted stubbornly.
“No to coming home or seeing your father?” Katja asked.
“Both.” Joni whispered looking away from her.
“Joni, he’s worried…. he wants to see you…”
Joni shook his head and she saw the tears in his eyes, she reached to touch his hand, “What is it?”
He bit his lip, still not meeting her gaze, she could see him trembling.
“Do you… think… I’m weak?”
She gave him a surprised look, “No, Joni, I don’t…”
“Do you… know what… he did?”
Katja swallowed, looked at Joni’s hand before back to his face; he was still avoiding her eyes.
“Yes, I know, I’m so sorry.” She whispered, her eyes watering. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
He was silent for a while,
“I don’t want… dad to… know…”
“Joni,” she started, afraid to tell him that he already knew, “Chris needs to be punished for it…” She whispered, “there’s nothing to be ashamed of, you didn’t do anything wrong.”
“I don’t need…any pity…” He whispered,
“I know,” her heart ached, she fought the tears, “your father knows…” she whispered then and saw him tensing. “I-“
Joni turned his gaze to her, looking upset, “why?”
“I saw it best to tell him, it’s-“
“You…had no right.” The tears started to run from his eyes, “No right,” he gasped.
“Joni,” she tried to reach for his hand but it was quickly shaken away, “Chris was the one who did wrong, Chris is the one who should be ashamed, not you!” She spoke firmly, seeing the fear reflect back in his glimmering eyes, “I know you are strong,” she started then in a softer voice, “and right now you will need to be brave and strong and tell the truth, all of it. I know it’s frightening and it would scare anyone, but I know you can do it and you need to do it yourself.” She smiled at him for a while before her face got more serious, “or would you rather let Chris get away for what he did to you?”
Joni drew in a shaky breath, “No…” He whispered and was quiet for a moment. “I tried… to leave him… yesterday…” He said then glancing at her with an unsure expression and she nodded sadly,
“When did it start?” She asked carefully, “the police will ask you these same questions,” she added soon after tilting her head watching him with worry, “you don’t have to talk about it right now; I know it hurts and I know that you’re tired, but perhaps it’s easier if you tell me first?”
“He was jealous…” Joni whispered, “it… got worse… he… “He had to take a pause, “February… the first time… I didn’t know… what to do… I still don’t …understand…why… why he changed…” He closed his eyes, “I’m tired now.” He wanted to stop talking about it; it felt too early, too painful. Katja nodded stiffly,
“Get some sleep; I’ll be back later…” She sighed, stood up and leaned down to kiss his forehead; a motherly gesture that she though he needed now, to know he was loved and cared for.
She needed to think of a solution for Joni not wanting to come home. Someone needed to look after him, but who?
Misha lay on his bed, exhausted not really having slept; a few times he had dozed off and then woken with a start. Now he stared at the ceiling, before lazily turning to his side looking sadly at the empty space next to him, he ran his hand over the sheets where Joni had been sleeping only a day ago, his scent still lingering there.
Suddenly he found himself sniffing the pillow which Joni had used and it was …. somewhat disturbing? He quickly glanced at the door almost as if to check that no one had witnessed his silly moment of… silliness?…and then he laid his head back down on the pillow and sighed, his fingers reaching for the single black hair that was left behind.
Finally his own actions made him groan and he sat up, rubbing his face.
His gaze drifted to his cell phone, waiting for it to ring, he needed to know how Joni was! The thought of the previous evening smade an edgy, nervous and angry feeling spread inside; that son of a bitch who hurt his brat should die!
But he still didn’t understand it; he had never understood why someone would stay in an abusive relationship, especially someone like Joni; where had all his self respect gone? The confidence he had seen in the 17-year old boy? Joni should have told him.
He had to admit feeling guilt as well; feeling as though perhaps his own actions in the past had played a small part in this matter? So Joni had been annoying as hell, bratty and vain, but only 17 and in many ways innocent and in some strange way he had missed that annoying brat, of course he had been happy to see he had grown up to be more sensible and calm but now it bothered him; the reasons behind the change bothered him.
He shouldn’t have rejected Joni so harshly back then… and remembering his choice of words, especially that comment referring to him as a slut…slutty… it plagued his mind now.
He wanted to help Joni, in any way that he could, help him get over what happened, get rid of the memory of that bastard, he hated to think of Joni as broken, he would rather have the annoying brat back who could drive him insane and at the same time…
His thoughts were interrupted when his cell phone finally rang, he hurriedly reached for it and checked the caller before answering; Joni’s stepmother.
“How is he?” Misha didn’t waste time to ask.
“Well, they said he has a slight concussion and…” Katja sighed, “he’s pretty tired, but under the circumstances he’s as well as can be expected. They wanted to keep him there over night.”
“He gets home today?” Misha asked wanting to come over to see him.
“Yes, this afternoon,” The woman’s voice revealed her exhaustion, “but the problem is that he insists he doesn’t want to come home, he’s afraid to scare his siblings… And I don’t know how to persuade him, he can’t stay alone like this either, he’s much too weak.”
“Oh,” Misha ran his fingers through his hair looking out the window, a moment of silence, “he could come over here?” he blurted out.
“Your home?” Katja asked with surprise.
“Yeah, I mean Dima’s room is free, I’m sure my brother wouldn’t mind and he’d be save here, with us.” This was the way to make up for the past and at the same time make sure that Joni was save.
“Are you sure?” Katja asked in a hesitating tone, “It wouldn’t be any trouble?”
“No, no trouble at all.” Misha nodded.
“Of course I have to ask Joni, hm…”
“Perhaps I could come over to ask him? I just need to visit the police station first, talk with them about yesterday, but after that…”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s alright.” She answered slowly, still surprised. “Thank you,” she added which made Misha smile just a little.
“No problem, I’ll call you when I’m on my way.”
He ended the call, got dressed and walked downstairs, surprised to find both of his brothers in the kitchen drinking coffee.
“When did you get here?” Misha asked Dima who had the same exhausted expression he remembered seeing on his own face.
“Just 20 minutes ago,” Dima replied watching him, “how is Joni?” He asked worriedly while Misha poured some coffee for himself.
“I just talked with his stepmother,” Misha started, “he has a concussion; he’s tired, but under the circumstances as well as can be expected I guess.”
“I should have done something,” Dima said in a miserable tone, “I saw that something was wrong, I feel terrible.” He stared down at his coffee mug wearing an upset expression.
“Don’t beat yourself up over it Dima,” Ivo interrupted before Misha could, “these situations are never easy to intervene without certainty, if it was there would be less of them happening. The important thing is to just help him get over it now.”
“Hm about that…” Misha started, leaning against the counter, “How would you feel if Joni came and stayed with us while recovering? He could stay in Dima’s room?”
Ivo cocked his eyebrow with surprise and couldn’t help but to grin rather proudly that MISHA was suggesting it, that it was MISHA’S idea. Misha frowned seeing that grin; this was serious and Ivo shouldn’t be thinking of plots to get him with Joni now!
“He doesn’t want to go home, afraid that the sight of him will scare his siblings.” He explained, “so I thought that he could come here…” Misha said rolling his eyes slightly.
“Sure, and that’s the only reason?” Ivo teased.
“Goddammit Ivo,” Misha groaned annoyed, “he’s hurt and he needs time, so drop it!”
“I think it’s a good idea,” Dima said quickly and Misha calmed down slightly and nodded.
“I didn’t mean to upset you Misha,” Ivo said then, and sighed, “I know he’s hurt and I think your idea is good to bring him here.”
“I have to ask him first…” Misha muttered and sipped his coffee. “First I have to go to the station to give my testimony.”
“The cops won’t eat you,” Ivo commented sensing his nervousness, “don’t worry.”
Misha glared at him, “They just make me nervous,” he admitted.
“I know,” Ivo smiled in a comforting way, “but you shouldn’t be.”
“The bastard could try pulling something, like what if they arrest me because I knocked him out?”
“You were defending yourself and Joni.” Ivo said calmly,
“I know, but stranger things have happened…”
“Tell you what, if they arrest you I’ll come and save you, little brother, me and Dima,” he winked at him, “I’ll blow the station up if I have to.”
“Your jokes suck.” Misha groaned.
“I know.” Ivo sighed and Dima simply rolled his eyes.
Misha tried to be as calm as he could when the police were questioning him, trying to be as honest as he could with every detail of the previous day, also about the nature of his and Joni’s relationship. Chris had complained about Misha attacking him, indeed trying to twist things and deny his own guilt to some extent; Misha of course couldn’t know Chris’ exact arguments, just that there might be the danger of being prosecuted for assaulting Chris. Joni’s testimony would be taken the next day if he was well enough to come to the station then.
For now Misha however was free to leave. He felt nervous, edgy; the anger didn’t leave him, and neither did the worry. He needed to see Joni, needed him to be okay.
Perhaps he should get something for Joni? He wondered unsure what that something could be; finally ending up buying him some candy and a book he remembered reading once and liking, he wasn’t used to getting gifts or expressing his feelings so openly; this would be his awkward effort to try.
Katja met him at the lobby and gave him a tired but gentle smile,
“Can I see him?” Misha asked.
“Yes, I asked the nurse and she said it’s fine, can stay with him while I go and get Joni his clothes from home?”
“Of course,” Misha nodded.
Joni stared outside, clouds were beginning to gather in the sky after several days of sunshine, he lay still, flickering pain moving in him and his thoughts kept returning to Chris. It seemed difficult to imagine him in prison and even knowing that he was locked up he still couldn’t keep his own fear away, it mixed with guilt, even when part of him knew well he shouldn’t blame himself, another part could still hear Chris’ angry hisses in his ear.
His hand reached slowly to touch his sore neck, shivering when he remembered the strong hands around it the moment when he had really thought that this was it; this was how his life would end. It had been such a helpless fearful moment, everything rushing through his mind so quickly and the stubborn will to hold on, to want to live.
And then there were those strange dreamlike memories of Chris gently kissing him in the mornings, foggy memories… gentle caresses, whispers; I love you, Joni… His stay in Canada, how Chris had looked at him with such admiring eyes, a soft and gentle expression on his face, Joni’s eyes began to water, confusion spread, what had happened? Why?
”You think I’m just going to let you walk out of my life?”
Joni drew in a deep shaky breath… Chris had had a knife… he could have killed Misha…
Just then the door opened and the man walked in, his stepmother behind him, Joni recognised the concern on his features and wanted to cover his face in shame, he had never wanted for Misha to see him like this, though it might have been worse yesterday, and most likely he knew about the rape.
“I’ll go and get your clothes Joni, I should be back in an hour,” Katja told him before leaving the two alone.
Misha approached hesitantly, he felt the same sadness settle inside of him seeing Joni this way; his left eye was bluish black and swollen so that Joni could hardly open it and it was clear how he wanted to cover himself, was clear how self-conscious he felt.
“Hi brat,” Misha greeted him softly, “How are you feeling?”
Joni raised his gaze towards his, hesitant and miserable looking, “Been…better…” He answered almost in a joking tone, Misha nodded, sat down on the chair next to him and tried to smile.
“I brought you some candy; I don’t know if you like these? I picked the one that has many different flavours, you know, so maybe there’s some you like?” Misha placed the bag on Joni’s stomach, Joni observed it, nodded, tried to smile but it hurt to do so.
“Thank you…I do like… candy.” He nodded, “black ones… especially….”
“Ah, I also bought this book for you…” Misha said almost as if only remembering it, he looked down at his hands that were holding it, and then showed the cover for Joni. “I read it once and liked it quite a bit, “Dean Koonz, he’s a good author, it’s about this girl who…” Misha stopped and frowned; he should have chosen something light and happy to read, not this… he could have smacked himself on the head.
“Thank you…. though… I think …reading will….have to… wait…” Joni sighed, again tried to smile, “can’t… do much… reading… with… this sight…” he carefully pointed at his left eye, ashamed,
“I was worried for you….” Misha said then, leaning forward and frowning, “you could have gotten yourself killed…. why didn’t you tell me?”
Joni looked away, slightly annoyed.
“I… …can’t… even… talk normally… I don’t … have energy… to go through why… ” his voice started to break even more, tears gathered in his eyes making Misha regret is words. He awkwardly reached to touch Joni’s hand, squeezing gently.
“I’m sorry, I just…” Misha took a pause“I worried.” he repeated.
Joni glanced at him and nodded; saw the bruise on Misha’s cheek.
“H-how did you….find me?”
“I went looking for you, to your apartment; your neighbour told me you had left and …. Finally I decided to go over to your parents’ just in case they’d know, luckily they did…” a brief smile, he still held Joni’s hand “I already went to the police station, to give my statement…” Joni’s gaze drifted to Misha’s and his hands, slightly confused unsure what it meant, meanwhile Misha observed Joni carefully, feeling slightly nervous, he absently started to stroke Joni’s palm with his thumb turning his gaze to it; Joni’s hand was smaller than his, more delicate somehow and his skin felt so soft there.
“So I hear you don’t want to go home,” he started still watching Joni’s hand, “to your parents,”
Joni looked at Misha’s face when he talked; the simple gesture of him holding his hand and stroking his palm like that felt somehow comforting and at the same time caused an odd ticklish sensation in the bottom of his stomach that for a while eased his pain.
“I… look scary… don’t I?” He whispered and Misha brought his gaze up smiled slightly, with a hint of sadness.
“You look hurt,” Misha replied honestly, “but you will heal and you’re safe now; that’s important.” His hand moved to gently touch his face, “you really did scare me last night…” he whispered. Another moment of silence, Misha bit his lip, “I was worried I’d lose you… “He admitted, gently stroking Joni’s hair then, “my little brat…what would I do without you?” he added softly with a small grin leaning closer to kiss his forehead.
Misha’s action surprised Joni and he found himself trembling, biting back a sob, not because he was in any way scared, just overwhelmed and surprised by Misha’s gentleness and words, the man hugged him carefully, allowed him to cry against his chest, “Don’t worry Joni, he won’t get you anymore, I promise.” He whispered.
Joni didn’t know what to say; he simply allowed himself to be held, hiding his face afraid that he was just imagining this, that Misha wasn’t really speaking to him like this, that he wasn’t really holding him…
“I’m sorry… got you… involved…in this….”
“Don’t worry, Joni…. I just wish you had told me earlier…” Misha whispered softly, a moment of silence, “I have a suggestion for you,”
Joni carefully looked up,
“A suggestion?” He asked partly confused.
“Yes, it’s not good for you to stay alone now, and since you don’t want to go home, why don’t you come and stay with me and Ivo? Dima’s room is free after all and he said you’re very welcome to use it.”
Joni hardly believed that Misha was really suggesting this, “Are you… sure?” He asked carefully resting his head against the pillow.
“Yes, I wouldn’t suggest it if I wasn’t, now would I?” Misha grinned and Joni tried to smile at this, “It would make me feel better as well, to know that you’re safe.” He added.
Joni felt small relief settle inside of him, the truth was that the idea of staying alone frightened him and he hadn’t known what to do, when Misha took his hand in his again looking at it quietly and waiting for his answer Joni felt like it was possible to regain his life one day, that he wouldn’t be alone.
“Okay,” he whispered, “Thank you Misha…” when the man’s blue eyes met his, Joni tried to smile; the pain remained but now he could see a hint of light through the darkness, he saw hope.
Web published: May 19th, 2009.
My Secret Shore