A/N: As you may have read from the block, my aim is to get this story published, (most likely a self-published version.) I have set a deadline to complete this and will do my best to get it done by then! I have found a beta reader, but I find I could benefit with more people reading it and reviewing to give me insight if it’s good enough. So, this is the important part; if you want to read further by the end of this chapter, and before I can get it publish ready, it is possible if you agree to review and comment. The following chapters will be password protected.
Also, take note that this chapter hasn’t been betad yet, but it will be renewed later with all the rest of them. You can comment below or email me if you wish to help me by reviewing the work 🙂
October 20, 1997
Evelyn poured tea into two porcelain cups and handed the other to her husband. She checked the time, glancing at the clock on the wall.
“Michael will soon be late for school,” she noted. ”He doesn’t usually oversleep. Would you go and wake him up?”
Henry sighed, checked the time himself, and dropped the magazine somewhat slouchy. He stepped towards the stairs, stopping at the lower level. ”Michael!” He shouted. “Hurry and get up! You’re going to be late for school!” Guessing that his son had heard him, Henry returned to his magazine. They had been very close once; Michael had brought him a great bride and now… Now Henry didn’t know how to treat his son, how to talk to him, how to behave in his company. Was it his fault that the boy had become like that? Where had he gone wrong, and could it still be fixed somehow? Henry lifted the cup to his lips, frowning at his thoughts. Maybe he could invite his co-worker and his family to dinner the following Saturday. The man had a girl, the same age as Michael and maybe… Maybe if Michael just met the right girl?
It took a few minutes and Evelyn got nervous. ”Where is that boy stalling?” She sighed, washing her hands, once again checking the time. That’s when the doorbell rang. ”Henry, go and see what’s holding him, I’ll get the door.”
Irritated by the perpetual interruptions, Henry got up and walked slowly upstairs. Evelyn glanced after her husband’s retreating back, before answering the door. “Tony,” the woman greeted in surprise. The boy stood on the porch looking a little insecure, holding his backpack loosely on his shoulder.
“I came to ask if Michael would like a ride to school? My big brother promised to take us. ” Tony waved his hand towards the driveway where the car was waiting. Evelyn smiled softly, Tony hadn’t visited them for weeks, not since Michael had revealed that… Evelyn paused to think, her son was gay, and she needed to learn and accept it and with time she would.
“Michael must have overslept; do you want to come inside to wait? William can come in too. ”
Tony looked back at the car, his brother listening to loud music and nodding his head in its rhythm, his fingers drumming against the steering wheel. ”I think he’ll be fine where he is.” Tony smiled a little and stepped in.
”Would you like a cup of tea while you wait?” Evelyn asked.
“Thank you,” Tony nodded and followed the woman into the kitchen.
Henry stood in front of his son’s room and knocked on the door with a sigh.
”Michael?” He called. No answer, complete silence. ”Damn boy, you have to go to school no matter what!” Henry growled and opened the door, his astonishment great when he found an empty, clean room and a bed that looked like it hadn’t been slept in.
For a moment he stared at the room in a daze until he decided to check the upstairs bathroom, finding it empty as well. He hurried downstairs, to the kitchen where he found his wife and Michael’s best friend.
“He wasn’t in his room,” Henry said, with confusion and worry in his tone. Both Evelyn and Tony gave him a surprised look.
”So where is he?” Evelyn asked tightly
”I don’t know!” Henry sighed and Evelyn felt a sharp stab of worry in her chest. The woman hurried upstairs to her son’s room, and immediately she spotted the message placed on the table. Her heart started pounding, an immediate bad feeling settling inside and with a trembling hand she reached to take the torn page from a notebook and read. A cry of despair escaped from her lips, tears filled her eyes and she turned to find her husband and Tony standing at the doorway.
”Henry, call the cops, Michael has run away with some man.”
Henry looked at his wife in shock. ”What man?!” He asked. Tony stood pale next to him, a bad dream had woken him last night and now it seemed like a bad omen since… Michael was gone, just like the dream had warned him.
”Tony, do you know anything about that?” Evelyn asked desperately.
”I heard a rumor that someone had seen Michael with an older man… And yesterday I tried to talk to him about it, but Michael didn’t listen.” Tony spoke in a quiet voice. Henry’s face fluttered with rage; some pervert must have confused his son’s mind completely. Without saying a word, the man turned on his heels and returned downstairs to call the cops. Whoever that man was, Henry was convinced that he was up to no good.
Evelyn was shocked beyond words. She hadn’t even considered the possibility that Michael, her sensible and loving son, could ever run away from home like this. She went through the past weeks in her mind, suddenly painfully aware of her own mistakes, and she blamed herself and she blamed her husband. She had turned her back on him, not seeing this, not seeing her son’s confusion and pain. She had not listened to her own mother, who had tried her best to talk sense into her just before her death.
Police wanted a fresh photo of the boy and because Michael was still underage, the search began immediately. That first night, Evelyn had managed to hold on and believe that Michael would be found soon, for there was no way that the boy could just simply vanish into thin air like that!
As the night changed into the morning, Evelyn’s restlessness grew. Michael had last been seen at a train station in London, reportedly heading to Paris. Police had informed the authorities in France to keep an eye out for him. It was known that Michael had been seen in the company of a foreign, middle-aged man, but no one seemed to know for sure who this man was. The townspeople who had had dealings with the man and remembered him, gave the man different names; Matthews, Smith, Walker, someone in town said the man was a Canadian while another claimed that he was from Germany, a third suggested the United States. No one seemed to know where that man had stayed during his visit and how long he had actually been in town.
The fact was, however, that both this man and Michael seemed to have disappeared without a trace. The whole situation seemed unreal, but Evelyn and Henry held on to the desperate hope, of course someone would have seen Michael! Of course, someone would have seen him and could tell them of his tracks! Or of course someone would know more about the man that the boy had left with?! However, the days turned into weeks and nothing more was discovered.
Henry and Evelyn clung to the rips of fading hope, waiting for their son to contact them. Henry was enraged and frustrated at the authorities, who found no traces. It seemed utterly impossible to comprehend that there were no facts to be found of the man who had taken their son with him, surely some, or someone was concealing evidence. Police later admitted that there may indeed have been a wider circle of men covering up each other’s tracks and eventually they also said the one thing they had feared; It’s better that you prepare for the idea that your son will no longer be found alive. The words were fuzzy in their minds, incomprehensible and cruel. Michael had probably been transported abroad, kidnapped and held against his will. That kind of thing happened, and these young people were never heard from again.
Evelyn’s heart was broken, she couldn’t return to work, worries about her only child withered her away. She wandered through the seemingly empty house during the days like a ghost, often ending up in her son’s room, staring around trying to comprehend what had happened. Every time the phone rang, she was startled, her mind filling with hope before rushing to answer, always painfully disappointed when the caller wasn’t Michael. In the afternoons she instinctively waited for the front door to open and for Michael to walk in, as he had done before. He would throw his backpack on the floor and ask if she needed help with cooking.
Michael had always been such a sweet child and Evelyn missed him more than she could ever describe in words. It felt like a huge piece of her had been brutally torn by Michael’s disappearance and the uncertainty was the worst. What if they would never find out what had happened to the boy? What if she never got to tell Michael how much she loved him? Yet in her heart she never fully agreed to believe that her son was dead. Wouldn’t she know, wouldn’t she feel the complete emptiness if her child had left the world before her? She had to keep believing that Michael was alive to keep her sanity, she had to believe they’d one day be reunited.
Henry suffered in his own quiet way, but he had to be stronger, someone still had to go to work and bring bread to the table. They did not speak out loud about what had probably happened to their son, but the thought of it remained within them. If Michael had died, what kind of torture would he have experienced? If he were still alive, what kind of torture would he still be facing?
Michael had always been kind and conscientious, despite everything, he would not have voluntarily kept such a long silence, everyone who knew him knew it. He had promised to get in touch and would have done so if he could, so something had gone terribly wrong. There was gossip going around the village. Everyone seemed to have their own theory of Michael’s fate. People looked at them with pity, not knowing how to speak to them properly anymore.
Henry was also worried about his wife, Evelyn had lost weight, she was like a shadow of her former self and Henry didn’t know how to help her. Tony visited them often, as did Tony’s mother and Evelyn’s friend Mary. Mary was a bustling Scottish woman who, after looking at her friend’s suffering, decided to take it on her personal mission to get Evelyn back on her feet and, above all, get her to eat before Evelyn would completely wither away, she also cleaned the house, but the only room she wasn’t allowed to touch, other than to wipe off the dust, was Michael’s.
“I don’t think he’s dead,” Evelyn once said, staring miserably outside from the window, as Mary cleaned the kitchen. ”I cannot believe it. In my heart I feel that Michael is alive…. “And Mary looked at her friend with a sad smile. Sure, they all wanted to believe it, but… Michael had been missing for almost two years, no one had heard a word, it was unlikely the boy would be alive. However, Mary did not voice that thought to Evelyn out loud.
But when Mary’s son Tony had gotten into his head to become a mariner, travel through the world in different trade ships and use his free time to try and look for his friend, Mary had been forced to say it out loud; Michael is most likely dead. Tony had been furious at such a statement. ”Michael is not dead!” He had shouted and left with the doors banging. And Mary had decided not to speak another word of it. Searching for Michael would be like looking for a needle in a haystack, but if it gave Tony a momentary comfort she couldn’t help it, especially when the boy was already an adult. With time Tony would come to the same realization; Michael was gone and wouldn’t return, not to this life.
Often Mary also thought of Michael in the evenings, remembering the polite, beautiful boy with gorgeous brown eyes and warm, welcoming smile, who had grown into such a beautiful young man. The supposed fate of the boy seemed too cruel to think about, it couldn’t even be said out loud, and the mere thought made her feel sick. The cruelest fate for a parent, was the disappearance of their child without a trace. Mary feared that Evelyn or Henry would never know the truth or be able to bury the remains of their child. Eternal uncertainty, how could happiness ever be fully achieved amid of such?
** ^^ ** ^^ ** ^^ **
Michael’s heart was pounding, his ears humming, the phone beeped regularly until a faint click was heard and the beep stopped.
“Michael, where the hell are you?! Do you realize what time it is?!” Jean rasped at the other end of the line and before Michael had time to answer, Jean added. ”You’ll come home straight away!” Michael swallowed and glanced at Sam, who was sitting across from him and smiling encouragingly.
“Jean, I… I think this is no longer working, I want to end this…” Michael swallowed thickly, trying to stay as calm as he could even as his mind filled with horror. ”I’ll pick up my stuff tomorrow.” It was deadly quiet at the other end and Michael waited nervously for a reaction.
”What did you say?” Jean finally asked hoarsely, and Michael swallowed before answering.
“I’m moving out, I’m ending our relationship,” Michael replied, frowning at the words that sound so cold when he spoke them out loud like this. “I’m not happy and I believe…” He didn’t have time to finish his sentence.
”You’re breaking up with me over the phone, really?” Jean asked bitterly.
”It’s better that you have time to digest this before we see each other face to face.”
Jean was silent for a moment before he started laughing, the laughter was malicious and amused. “Incredible,” Jean snorted. ”Do you know what, Michael?” He asked and Michael couldn’t answer fast enough so Jean continued. “You are an ungrateful little whore. I have done so much for you and this is how you pay me back? ” The man hissed excitedly. ”You’re with that gym instructor, aren’t you?”
“It doesn’t matter where I am,” Michael said as calmly as he could. “I’ve been unhappy for a long time, and I don’t think we can be happy with each other. It’s better, it’s better that we go our separate ways. ”
“Does he pay you well? ”
“Don’t be mean,” Michael began.
”Mean?” Jean laughed. “Who’s the mean here? Fuck! Do you think you can just leave like this? Take advantage of my help and switch to another? Hah, think again, whore! ”
Eventually, after listening to Jean scream at the other end of the phone, Sam got up and took the phone from Michael’s hand.
“Listen to yourself! Stop speaking to Michael like this and leave him alone! He owes you nothing! ” Sam spoke with an agitated tone. ”You don’t own him, do you understand?” Jean was silent for a moment until he laughed bitterly.
”I knew it!… Well, enjoy that whore now you can, it won’t be long…”
“And you still wonder why he leaves you? You are sick!” Sam growled before ending the call. He was breathing tensely, doing his best to calm down.
Michael watched the blond man in silence. Inwardly, he knew it was not so easy to leave Jean, life would not suddenly take a path that would be easy to walk, he had already wandered too deep and gotten lost, so the right and safe path would not be found in an instant. Sam dropped the phone back in front of him. ”Maybe you should shut it down?” He proposed. ”So, you’ll be able to get some sleep.” Michael smiled at the suggestion, aware that he probably wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway. However, he nodded and turned off his phone, he didn’t really want to listen as it would start ringing again during the night either or get the ugly messages Jean would probably send him.
That night they both stayed up until the early morning hours and talked what they could about the subject that was both painful and confusing. Sam, who had lived a secure life, now listened in pained shock to Michael’s more detailed story. He had known such things would happen, but it had always been somewhere far away, unfamiliar faces and stories he didn’t really want to think deeper into. However, Michael was close, he could have been any of Sam or Kitty’s friends, it could happen to anyone. Bad luck, a lottery of life where some won, some lost and most would remain in the neutral middle ground where they didn’t feel they had won any more than they lost, however, it was a good place to be in, a place that one couldn’t learn to appreciate until it had been taken; so Michael described it.
After calming down, Michael talked more about Jack, the little pieces of happiness, or something aching to happiness, moments they had shared, moments that kept their sanity. Michael spoke, sometimes with his eyes closed, sometimes staring at the opposite walls, avoiding Sam’s gaze. He spoke as honestly as he could because he wanted Sam to understand even partially the burden of his past so he could better decide if it was something he could understand, if he could accept that such horror would always live in him, should he still seek a romantic connection with him.
Drugs, abuse, violence and power play, that world was hard to understand, the existence of that world was hard to accept, it was unacceptable and yet it existed. In the morning, Sam awoke from his restless sleep to the soft noises that were carried from the kitchen. The blond man rubbed his face exhausted and got up. He had to call work that he wouldn’t be in today, he couldn’t, not after all that he had heard and what was waiting, facing Jean.
In the kitchen, he found the dark-haired young man who turned his face toward him and smiled softly. “I made tea,” Michael said quietly, and Sam took note of the beautifully set table, teacups and napkins, washed fruit, and fresh bread. “I hope the noise didn’t wake you,” the younger man said as Sam sat down at the table.
”No, it didn’t. I haven’t really been able to sleep all night.” Sam confessed and cast a curious look at the other man who quietly poured tea into the pure white cup in front of him. Sam turned his attention to Michael’s hands; to his long fingers and soft skin, the hands he just wanted to hold on his own and whisper that everything would turn out alright. The words clung to his throat, Sam swallowed, still overwhelmed by what Michael had told him. The dark-haired suddenly looked so young, his face beautifully delicate and innocent, it was so difficult to comprehend… After pouring tea for himself, Michael sat across from Sam and their eyes met, the reason for that sadness behind those beautiful brown eyes now revealed to him.
Michael was nervous, returning to Jean was no longer an option he would like to consider, and Sam might have changed his mind about helping him. “If you regret it,” Michael began cautiously. ”I do understand. I am sure I can also go to Eric and Paul until I find my own apartment.” Sam shook his head.
”No, I want you to stay.” Sam answered and tasted his tea. For a moment they looked at each other, Michael smiled at him, and Sam finally fulfilled his urge and put his hand over his; squeezing gently. “Everything will be fine,” Sam assured, and Michael’s smile remained, his eyes watering from hopeful, warm emotions going through him…He wanted to fully believe it would work out, but it was difficult after everything he had been through.
When Michael’s cell phone, which he had turned back on when he woke up, suddenly rang, they both startled, Michael trembled and reached for his phone, releasing a sigh of relief. “Eric,” he said before answering.
”Hey, how are you?” The older man asked anxiously. ”Jean called me.” He added and made Michael swallow.
”I’m fine… Then you know I left him?”
“Jean was talking about something along those lines,” Eric sighed. Jean had been drunk when calling, he had loudly called Michael a whore and said he had betrayed him with that damn British blonde. Jean had asked Eric for help to get Michael home, constantly naming the young man in even more shameless ways. Eric had ended the call by telling his friend to put the cap on his bottle. Jean may have been his friend, but he couldn’t blame Michael. If Eric was honest, he thought the boy might have made the right decision by leaving Jean, who had never learned to treat his partner as an equal, and maybe never would. ”Listen, if you need any help, Paul and I will support you, you know that?”
Michael was silent for a moment, closed his eyes, and smiled gratefully with relief. “I should go get my stuff from Jean… Sam will come with me, but…” Michael hesitated to say how much he was afraid that Jean would do something horrible in his drunken state.
“At what time are you going? Paul and I can go a little earlier than you.” Eric offered immediately. ”Michael, don’t worry, this is your decision and I’ll do my best to make Jean understand it, too.”
“Thank you,” Michael whispered and glanced at Sam, who was moving around in the kitchen somewhat restlessly. ”Maybe it’s better to get it out of the way as soon as possible.” Michael sighed. ”At noon, perhaps?”
”We’re going to go there with Paul at half past eleven, I’ll call if there are any problems.” Eric promised.
”Thank you, Eric, I don’t know how I can ever thank you enough.”
“Don’t even think about it! Chin up now, everything will work out. Paul and l both want to help you. Even if you’re not with Jean anymore, you’re still our friend. Happiness is the most important thing and you deserve better than what he’s given you! I believe you’re making the right decision.”
“I hope so,” Michael sighed. ”See you in a couple of hours.” He didn’t have a lot of stuff, just clothes and a few photos and books, that was all he really owned… Sam put his hand on his shoulder and smiled encouragingly, Michael faced the blond man’s gaze and felt a little calmer. Even after hearing the horrible details of his past, Sam still smiled at him, and it meant more to him than he could have ever described with words.