A dream, there was a dream to get away. Michael hadn’t heard a word from Sam for nearly a week and though he wasn’t surprised by it, it still hurt. Jean seemed too pleased; Michael knew how feverishly the man wanted to gloat: I told you so!
Michael didn’t really feel comfortable at home with Jean anymore, work was his getaway, he was calm at work, and he got his thoughts focused on other things. However, it was more and more often that he thought about leaving Jean; could he really do it? Walk away and start over? Would Eric help him even if the man was Jean’s friend? – Michael didn’t know. He hesitated but, at the same time, longed to be able to feel free. Could he live alone? Would he make it alone? What if Ricky came back?
Michael hoped he could have returned home, or even speak with his parents on the phone, but he was afraid. If he returned home, surely Ricky would immediately find him, thus it seemed like a too big of a risk to both himself and his parents. Ricky could be ready for anything!
Michael often thought of Sam as well, despite everything, he was happy to have met the man and Kitty too. For a short period in time, they had given him a glimpse of what normality could feel like, if he was just Michael, a young waiter in a foreign city, without the horrible past.
He didn’t think Sam would return and therefore, while working that rainy afternoon, Michael almost dropped the tray he was carrying when he saw Sam outside the restaurant. The man was looking inside, looking at him and when their eyes met Sam smiled softly, almost embarrassed before heading towards the restaurant door.
Michael felt his heart pound and hurried towards the bar as he heard the front door open. He hurriedly smiled at the customer in front of the counter who ordered a beer and Michael began to pour the cold drink from the tap while looking over at Sam. The blond man approached in slow steps, looked at him, his expression was serious and sad at the same time. Michael handed the beer to the customer and charged him. When the man left, Sam stepped forward.
Michael looked at the blond uncertainly. ”What can I get you?” He asked, his voice revealing how nervous he felt. Michael tried to calm down, it was difficult.
”A pint, thank you.” Sam then answered and took a seat down.
Michael nodded silently and poured the drink for him, settling the glass in front of him before cashing him. There was no rush in the restaurant at that moment. ”When could we talk? When will your shift end?” Sam asked.
Michael hesitated. ”I’ll get home in an hour,” he finally replied softly, their gazes met and to Michael’s surprise, Sam smiled fondly.
”Would you come visit me so we can talk in peace?”
Michael gave Sam a slight startled look. He hadn’t visited Sam before; they had always met elsewhere and now… Did Sam invite him because he knew he was a whore and maybe now imagined that…? Faced with Michael’s fright, Sam suddenly realized what the proposal might sound like.
”Just talk,” Sam hurried to add. ”We could pick up some takeaway food on our way?”
Michael hesitated and finally nodded. ”All right,” he replied quietly. ”I-” he shook his head a little distracted. A couple with a small child stepped in through the front door. ”I have to go serve them,” Michael muttered and took two menus with him.
”I’ll wait,” Sam promised.
They left the restaurant when Michael’s work ended, both in silence. ”What would you like? To eat I mean?” Sam asked. Michael shrugged.
”Anything goes,” he replied. Food was definitely not the first thing on his mind right now.
”Chinese?” Sam suggested and Michael agreed.
They picked up the food and got on the subway, passed a couple of stations before getting off. Michael felt Sam’s silent observation, but they didn’t talk much on the way. When he got there, Sam opened the door and let Michael step inside first.
The apartment had Sam’s familiar and pleasant scent, Michael thought and found himself smiling a little. But then he remembered the time he had gone to Jean for the first time, and his smile subsided.
They were still silent as Sam hung their coats on the hanger. ”Um, the kitchen is this way,” Sam said then, little awkwardly and showed him the way. Michael gave him a faint nod and followed.
In the kitchen, Sam began to unpack the takeaway food and placed the plates on the table, urging Michael to take a seat. The dark-haired man followed the blond man with his gaze, unsure of what to expect.
”Would you like a beer?” Sam asked and Michael nodded.
”Thank you,” he replied, and Sam took two bottles from the fridge, pouring them both into glasses before finally sitting down in front of the table, he smiled a little nervously at Michael and grabbed his fork.
”Well, bon appetite!” Sam said, aiming for cheerful but failed and tried to make it up with a smile he hoped to appear more genuine. Michael cocked a questioning eyebrow as he took his fork.
”Sam, you didn’t just invite me here to eat, did you?” Michael finally dared to ask, and Sam swallowed the food in his mouth looking into his eyes. Michael sensed his nervousness.
”No,” he admitted, keeping the eye contact.
”It’s about what I told you and what Jean told you,” Michael stated, and Sam nodded.
”Sorry I didn’t come to talk to you before, I just…” Sam sighed and took a sip of his glass before continuing. ”Wills, your last name is really Wills.” Michael looked startled and then shifted his gaze. ”Michael Benjamin Wills was reported missing on October 20th, 1997.”
Michael found himself trembling, he didn’t know what to say. ”Your parents are looking for you.” Sam continued and Michael got up to his feet, turned his back to the other man, tears rose in his eyes, and he was vainly fighting them back. Sam swallowed and lowered his fork, looking at the other; he could see him trembling. ”Would you tell me the whole story now?” Sam asked, unsure if he should get up and comfort in some way, or would his touch only make the other man more nervous.
Michael swallowed his tears and wrapped his arms around him, he finally turned slowly towards Sam.
”How did you…?” He started uncertainly.
”There’s a lot to be found on the Internet if you just bother searching.” Sam answered and tilted his head. ”Would you sit down? Tell me?” He asked with a calm tone. Michael felt his stomach churn, it felt so weird, Sam knew who he was, who he had been. On the other hand, he felt somewhat relieved, and in the other he was intimidated by this, suddenly becoming face to face with his past.
Sam was a different thing than Jean, who knew everything about him. Even Eric didn’t know the whole truth; that his real name was Michael Benjamin Wills, and that he still had parents who had no idea where he had gone to.
So far, only Jean knew his entire story with all the details. ”Michael, please?” Sam repeated and Michael glanced at those blue eyes that held the warmth that attracted him, a gaze that spoke of affection, of opportunities for the better. Michael didn’t think he was worth that warmth but wanted so desperately to reach out for it. Sam was something so real, normal, from the world he once belonged to himself and now… Was he ready to tell his story? Would Sam be willing to hear it? Could Sam look at him after that? He was ready to try.
”It’s been so long,” Michael whispered. ”You can’t tell anyone who I am.” He continued and sat back down.
”Why?” Sam asked in confusion.
”Because… he’s looking for me…” Michael replied and faced Sam’s worried gaze for a moment before lowering his eyes back down to his glass and drawing in a shaky breath. ”If I tell you, you can’t tell anyone, promise?” Michael finally said and glanced at him from under his brows. Sam nodded.
”I promise.” Sam said, looking at him expectantly. Michael was silent for a moment, staring at his glass expressionless before lifting it to his lips and tasting.
”I don’t know where to start,” he said cautiously. Sam knew and now… He could tell the rest, it felt so weird. Were his parents really looking for him?
”Start with how you left home?” Sam suggested.
”I was in love with my best friend, I guess it all started from there,” Michael spoke quietly. ”I was seventeen and I had been secretly in love with Tony for a couple of years, it feels like an eternity now…” The dark-haired sighed, spinning his finger on the edge of the glass. ”Then one evening, Tony kissed me, out of the blue, and… I thought… my heart was bursting with such hope of… that all my dreams would come true.” Michael looked cautiously at Samuel, who looked back at him, smiling sadly. ”I was once quite popular, one of those whose deeds and sayings are respected, one of those who are admired and whose friendship is desired. I had a girlfriend too, Jenny… Jenny was beautiful, the kind of girl all the boys want. I just wanted Tony…” Michael bit his lip and lowered his gaze. ”Afterwards… I’ve often wondered if I had just continued on that show, even to the end of high school, I wouldn’t have gotten into that nightmare. But what good does it really do, thinking of what if’s…” Sam didn’t say anything, didn’t want to interrupt. He looked at the younger man and expected him to continue the story that he realized would be difficult to hear.
”Everyone then found out I was gay… I guess Tony told the others when I revealed my feelings to him. And it was the most…” Michael sighed, closing his eyes for a moment. ”We had known each other from infants, we were so close. We did almost everything together, we always spent summers together, Tony’s family was almost as close to me as mine and the other way around. Tony was my first love, and he broke my heart, and I thought my world was ending there…” A sorrowful smirk curved his upper lip for a moment. ”I just wanted to forget it, find someone I would love, someone who would care about me, would love me… My parents didn’t take my news very well, they’re pretty religious you see,” Michael smiled sadly and looked at Sam. ”They didn’t throw me out, though, they didn’t even threaten… Looking back, everything looks so different now, then I thought everything was against me. That man… ” Michael swallowed and took a deep breath. ”I was so confused and lost, I sought approval so hard, and that man knew just the right words, promising me everything I thought I could desire.” Again, Michael fell silent for a moment and took a sip of his glass.
”Were you abducted?” Sam asked cautiously. ”On the page where I found your disappearance report, there was a mention that you were thought to have left in the company of an older man and that the last sure sighting of you was at the London train station where you were thought to have traveled to Paris. However, any sure traces ended there.”
Michael looked at him, his chest gripping. The question he had been asking himself all those years; are my parents looking for me, now got the answer. He did not know how to react, the sadness was tearing him, but the fear almost as strong. And how much did the disappearance notice mean? Would that automatically mean that parents would still be looking and missing him? Would they be mad at him? Certainly at least they wouldn’t want to look at him if they knew what he was about to tell Sam.
”I left with him voluntarily,” Michael finally replied. ”I was seventeen and that man…” Michael hesitated for a moment. ”Ricky,” he almost whispered the name. ”He was forty. In Paris, we got a new passport for me, I was silly… I had no idea… We traveled to Mexico, I didn’t even properly question the sudden change in plans, I trusted him so blindly… Then I was in Mexico and… ”Again, Michael took another sip from his glass, trying to calm his nerves. ”I was kept there for a month, it felt so much longer… I was locked in a small room that also had a bathroom and only one small window close to the ceiling, too high for me to reach… There was no clock and the window was soon boarded shut and I lost the track of time….” Suddenly fear crept into his chest, it was dangerous to talk about this, it was dangerous for Sam to know. ”You can’t talk about this to anyone, okay ?!” Michael suddenly repeated anxiously, facing the sad and fearful look of his blue eyes.
Sam didn’t know what to say, he swallowed. ”I’m not talking…” He finally promised in a hoarse voice. ”Just tell me the whole thing?” He asked and Michael bit his lip again in hesitation.
”I guess the end can be guessed?” Michael asked quietly. ”What happened in that room? That man is a monster, a sadist… He wanted to make a whore out of me and did, it was not my choice. In the papers, I was his nephew and in reality…. ”Michael shrugged and closed his eyes for a moment. His cell phone began to ring next to him on the table where he had dropped it, and Michael stared at Jean’s name on the screen. He didn’t answer, didn’t want to, couldn’t stand it, and when it finally ended, his gaze was back on Sam.
”It took almost three years. There was another boy, Jack, who was in the same situation as me. We… found comfort in each other, decided to raise money so we could escape. Jack started selling himself on the street and when I found out I wanted to help, so that we could raise the money faster and that’s how I met Jean. Jack thought I should only stay with Jean because he treated me well and paid me quite handsomely. Soon Jean wanted to know about our plight and offered to help.” Michael emptied his glass and got up. He toured the room slowly for a moment and Sam waited that he would continue.
”What happened to Jack?” Sam asked, when the youth had been silent for a while. Michael shrugged, still looking away from him.
”Jean didn’t want him involved, I think he arranged it that way.” The dark-haired man had stood in front of the window now and looked out, a thoughtful mien on his face. ”Again, I needed a new passport and a new identity. Jean took care of it, and he promised to arrange us here in France, Jack and I both, so that we could still meet each other even if I lived with Jean. I believed in it, but when I woke the morning of our departure, Jack was gone and had only left a letter behind. The letter said he had met another.” Michael wrapped his arms around him and still looked out into the darkened evening. His cell phone started ringing again and the younger man glanced at it before facing Sam’s gaze. Michael didn’t do anything to pick up the phone, but clearly its buzz made him nervous. ”I should go.” He stated when the ringing had ceased. ”I’m in trouble already, I have no explanation for him.”
”You don’t love Jean,” Sam said, stating what he thought was obvious. ”Do you really always have to be ready at his beck and call?” He asked, still feeling overwhelmed by what he had heard, but he didn’t want Michael to leave, they still had a lot to talk about. The dark eyes looked at him seriously, with sadness behind that gaze.
”Despite Jean’s faults, he saved me and I’m grateful to him, always. It cannot be understood if one has not experienced what I have”
”Michael,” Sam began, holding his gaze. ”He may have saved you, but that doesn’t mean you should sacrifice your whole life for him!” Michael’s eyes sparkled with unshed tears and Sam felt his own wet as he thought about what he had just heard, how shocking it all was.
”Jean isn’t that bad,” Michael finally said in a hoarse voice.
”You’re not happy.” Sam said. ”Wouldn’t it be time for you to think about yourself for once, after all this hardship you’ve endured?” And again, Michael’s cell phone rang, and the dark-haired eyes began to tear up even more, he swallowed and was already stepping closer to grab his phone, but Sam lowered his own palm over it and pulled it close. Confused gaze in the brown eyes, fearful. ”Jean is taking advantage of you as well.” Sam said sternly. ”Isn’t it time to stop this? Michael, you have a family and friends who are still wondering what has happened to you and you can end their suffering by letting them know where you are! Letting them know that you’re alive!”
”You don’t understand Sam!” Michael snapped. ”It is not that simple!”
”Why not?” Sam asked, trying to keep himself calm. ”You can still go to the police and report the man.”
”You don’t really understand!” Michael sighed, excited and clearly upset. ”Do you realize what kind of monster Ricky is ?!”
”Of course, I understand and that’s why the police need to be notified! It is not for such a man to be free!”
”No, you don’t report him to the cops! Even if they investigated Ricky, it would take time and, in the meantime…” Michael breathed excitedly. ”I would be killed; you don’t really understand Sam! Ricky is rich, he has influence and contacts! I can’t go home even if I wanted to because I would not only endanger myself but also them! The cops must not be told! You can’t tell anyone who I am!” Michael almost shivered and then began to cry. Sam swallowed, Michael seemed hysteric almost, and Sam had no idea the reaction could be so intense. He got up slowly.
”Calm down, I’m not doing anything, and I won’t tell anyone if you don’t agree to it.” He approached slowly and Michael looked at him vigilantly, still crying. ”Calm down, Michael…” Sam asked, feeling his own eyes wet, he reached out to touch the other and finally wrapped his arms around the younger man to hug, Michael sobbed and shivered, and Sam gently closed him against his chest, brought his hands to his dark hair and stroked softly and the other didn’t resist to be held. ”Shh…” Sam whispered. ”Everything will be all right,” he whispered and to his surprise felt Michael’s arms wrap around him.
”Don’t you detest me now?” Michael whispered after a long silence.
”Why on earth would I detest you?” Sam asked without removing his grip.
”I’ve been a whore…” Michael sobbed, and Sam gritted his teeth, frowning, feeling anger at the people, the monsters who had done something so horrible to hurt innocent young men, such as Michael. Sweet, kindhearted Michael.
”You’re not and never have been, a whore, not truly,” Sam whispered. ”It’s not you. You were exploited in a really cruel way and now… ”He sighed and moved his head, his hand rising softly on Michael’s jaw, lifting gently to make him meet with his eyes. ”Now we’re clearing this mess slowly and piece by piece.”
Michael swallowed, his cell phone ringing again and making him retreat from Sam’s warm embrace. He felt confused, overwhelmed and scared. Jean would be frantic by now. ”I have to go home… Jean is already waiting for me.”
”Do you want to go?” Sam asked cautiously, gently. Michael gritted his teeth together and avoided Sam’s gaze.
”No,” he finally admitted, surprising himself. On the other hand, he had already told Sam so much and he had secretly thought about leaving Jean for longer.
”Then don’t go, stay here. You can sleep in my bed, and I can sleep on the couch.” Michael glanced at Sam, almost frightened.
”How could I? Jean would go crazy if I was away for the whole night.” He looked at Sam, wanted a reason to stay, but at the same time he was so scared. Sam should not see this trouble for him, and besides Jean had done so much for him, he was in debt to Jean. Would he be bad if he left the man?
”I’ll ask a new question,” Sam said in as calm a tone as I could. ”Do you want to be with Jean for the rest of your life?” Michael chewed on his lip, did not answer and looked away to the window. ”Are you afraid of him?” Sam asked. Michael felt a nervousness in the bottom of his stomach, couldn’t he? And again, his cell phone started ringing, making him almost startled. Jean would be furious already. Michael glanced at Sam and the gaze said everything he needed. ”You don’t have to go back. You can stay here for as long as you want, together we can pick up your stuff from Jean tomorrow.” Michael looked at him, hesitantly, still clearly frightened and Sam smiled softly. ”Damn, we can even take Kitty with us for spiritual support.”
”You don’t have to do this, Sam,” Michael whispered. ”You don’t have to see this effort for me.”
”True, I don’t need to, but I want to.” Sam said and tilted his head. ”What do you say? Will you stay here?”
Michael lowered his hand to his stomach, felt the pressure of tension in his abdomen, his heart pounding and for a moment he looked quietly out the window once more. Finally, he nodded slowly and glanced at Sam. ”You really wouldn’t mind?” He asked again, his voice quivering slightly.
”Of course not,” Sam smiled. ”I like you and I want to help you.”
”Gods… I can admit that I’m scared…” Michael breathed. ”But to be honest, I don’t want to go back.”
” Then, ”Sam took Michael’s phone off the table and handed it to him. ”The first step is to call and tell him.” He said, putting his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. ”Don’t worry, I’m here.” Sam promised. He did not fully understand Michael’s reason for not going to the police, when he himself firmly believed that the law could help. At the same time, he realized he would be making a mistake if he put pressure on it. He had to move carefully with Michael, with patience, and although his own feelings were still confused, he cared enough about Michael that he wasn’t ready to give up.