Joni stared out of the window, thinking of Chris. Adam was coming over to see him and while waiting Joni couldn’t keep his thoughts from travelling to his ex. It wasn’t only fear that he felt, nor was it only anger or bitterness – a big part of all of it was just sadness and confusion. Though it was warm the young man still shivered. The garden was bathed in the warm midsummer sun, the beauty of this summer afternoon could not reach Joni’s heavy heart and trouble filled mind.
He thought about the day when he had first arrived at Canada. Chris had prepared dinner, had been so sweet then. Joni could still remember the happiness he had felt when the touches and the kisses had still been so warm and gentle. The way Chris had looked at him so adoring – not only then, but later too. Had it been real? It had felt real and now… Where was that man? Perhaps it had been his fault? To wake such a demon? Had Chris been like that to others?
Joni brought his knees up and lowered his chin to rest on them as he wrapped his arms around his legs and curved the toes of his bare feet, watching the movement. He wondered if Chris had known when he took those naked pictures that he would later use them to blackmail him. Had he thought of the possibility? Was it such a thought-out plan? If so… had their relationship ever had a real honest moment? Had it all been fake; even the good moments? Joni knew he shouldn’t think about it, but he couldn’t stop. He wanted to understand but couldn’t and couldn’t stop blaming himself to some extent. It would have been easier to hate Chris utterly and completely, but it wasn’t that simple and dealing with it was much more complicated than he wished.
“Is everything okay?” Misha’s concerned voice asked waking Joni from his thoughts. Joni looked up in surprise and slight embarrassment. He couldn’t tell Misha that he had thought of Chris, that he missed something that was long gone. Misha or probably no one couldn’t understand it. Even he himself had problems with it.
“I’m fine,” he lied, trying to smile. “I guess I’m just little nervous to see Adam.”
Misha nodded and sat next to Joni on the sofa. He didn’t really like Adam coming here. He didn’t trust him. The man was friends with Joni’s ex and it made Misha wary. Shouldn’t Adam have seen something wrong in his friend? They had known each other since childhood after all. Misha wanted to hold Joni in his arms, tell him something that would make him feel better but what could he say? Misha also felt bad for the previous night; for leaving the way he had after the story. He wanted to tell Joni his feelings and he would, just wasn’t sure how to start.
“Joni…” Misha started then and Joni looked at him with curiosity. “I-“
It was then that the doorbell rang. Misha sighed and got up. Joni glanced at a clock “It must be Adam,” he said and straightened his posture.
“I get it!” Ivo called going to the door.
The man standing behind the door looked both nervous and tired. He tried to smile but it came out somewhat broken. ”Hi, I’m Adam… I’m…” he started and Ivo smiled reassuringly at the younger man.
“Joni is waiting you, come in,” the tall Russian man said and held the door open. Adam stepped in, holding a gift bag in his hands. He looked at the tall blond who at least looked friendly enough, but soon enough another man appeared from behind the corner glaring at him in a way that one could almost think that Adam had been the wrongdoer.
“Hi.” Adam nodded towards Misha, who only gave a slight gesture of a nod in return. Adam carefully took his shoes off. “I brought this for Joni, from my wife and me, for his birthday,” he explained nervously, holding the gift bag up, unable to shake the guilty feeling from his shoulders.
“Joni is in the living room,” Misha said in a cold tone and Ivo glanced at his brother, giving him a disapproving look; there was no need to make the poor Canadian more nervous than he was. It was not him who did wrong after all.
“Would you like some coffee?” Ivo asked in softer tone. “Or juice perhaps?”
“Coffee would be fine, thank you.” Adam nodded and carefully looked around, almost afraid to move. “So… the living room?” He asked then. Misha waved his hand, indicating to follow him and Adam did.
Joni sat on the couch in a half lying position, holding a book in his hands to just give them something to hold on to. He looked up, saw Adam and tried to smile. “Hi.”
Adam stepped further into the room. Though the bruises on Joni’s face were a lot better, the Canadian saw them for the first time and it was shocking. Adam averted his gaze for a moment to the gift bag he held, before he looked back up. “Hi,” he replied and offered Joni a small smile.
“Please, sit down,” Joni asked, gesturing to the armchair close to him.
Adam nodded and again looked at Joni’s face. He was horrified seeing all those signs of injuries on the young man – the now yellowish bruises on his cheek and around his left eye, another one that he could see on his shoulder peeking out from under the t-shirt he wore and then a big one on his arm and Adam knew there were more, covered under the youth’s clothes. It was slightly nauseating knowing his friend had done this and… more.
“Oh!” Adam then remembered, handing the bag to Joni. “For your birthday, from Suvi and me,” he explained as the boy took it, smiling carefully and nodding.
“Thank you,” Joni said, reaching to open it.
“It’s nothing much but…” Adam started.
Joni smiled softly as he reached to unpack a book – Lord of the Rings which Suvi had always tried to get him to read – a CD with relaxing music and his favourite chocolates. “With the way I keep getting chocolate I’ll get fat soon.” Joni chuckled little tiredly. “Thank you for these,” he added soon after. Adam looked at him more carefully; Joni had actually lost weight since he had last seen him at May. It brought a sad smile on his face and he was about to point it out when the third man, still in the room, spoke.
“And I hope you eat the chocolate! You’re getting too thin, Joni,” Misha said in Finnish and Joni looked up at him frowning.
“No I’m not,” he denied, feeling a little self conscious. He felt unattractive and saying he looked too thin didn’t help the fact.
“Soon you are if you don’t start eating more,” Misha nodded and again glared at Adam, who glanced back at him and swallowed under the heavy stare.
Joni sighed – he noticed how nervous Misha seemed to make Adam. “Misha, please, I would like to talk with Adam alone. I am sure you can find something else to do besides standing there looking pissed off,” Joni said in Finnish, rolling his eyes and Misha gave him a surprised look. He had not expected Joni to say something like that, something so…. brat-like. At this he smiled, trying to hide it but even Adam noticed the slight change on the man’s face and wondered what it was all about. Finally Misha turned and walked to the kitchen without another word.
Joni released another sigh, placing the items back in the bag which he then lowered to the floor. “Sorry about him. He means no harm though, I assure. He’s just…”
“Worried I guess?” Adam offered smiling slightly. “I understand, it’s… complicated.” He nodded. “With me being a friend of…” His voice trailed off. “Joni, you must know how sorry I am…if…”
“Adam, it was not you who hurt me,” Joni said. “I don’t blame you for anything.” He watched the other man silently for awhile, hesitating. “You’ve seen him, I guess?”
Adam nodded. “I saw him today and shortly after he was taken to custody.”
“How is he?” Joni asked after a moment, keeping his voice low and Adam looked at him in surprise.
“He’s… Well…” ‘How could he reply?’ he wondered. “He’s in good health.” Adam frowned at his own answer. “I mean… “He looked up at Joni as if searching for aid in what was okay to say. That Chris was scared? Edgy and angry? No, he couldn’t say that, right?
“He’s angry?” Joni guessed what would be obvious and Adam nodded.
“Confused and frightened as well,” he decided to add against better judgement.
“Frightened,” Joni repeated in sarcastic amusement. “Of course…” In this moment Ivo walked into the room, carrying the tray with coffee, milk, sugar and cookies on it. Joni fell silent and smiled. “Thanks Ivo,” he said as the man poured some milk in his cup and then gave it to him with a plate of cookies on the side.
“No problem,” Ivo replied. “We’ll fix up some dinner now.” Ivo nodded and glanced at Adam before going back to the kitchen where Misha was.
Joni waited for a moment till the man was gone before looking back at the Canadian. “What did Chris say?” Joni asked while Adam reached for the coffee cup.
The man sighed. “Where to start?” he wondered loudly, the uncomfortable feeling never leaving.
“Did he tell you of the pictures?” Joni asked trying to remain as calm as he could. Deep down he knew that those pictures might very well haunt him for the rest of his life that one day he might realise they had been spread around and there was nothing he could do about that except to try his best to be prepared and then just… deal with it.
Adam nodded, glancing at Joni, his lips parting as he wondered what he could say.
“And?” Joni asked. “Do you know if he has done anything with them?” His hand trembled slightly betraying the calmness he had managed to steady his voice with.
“He didn’t say… Just that he has them, that they are accusing him of blackmailing you which he denies, saying you were 18 and… willing to pose.” Adam decided to go with honesty.
Joni nodded feeling dark amusement bursting inside, for some reason he almost felt like laughing. “I was drunk then and he made sure that I was willing. How willing can one be against better judgement or memory?” He shook his head, closing his eyes for a moment and trying to calm down.
“I got the feeling that he will admit his guilt for abusing you,” Adam said carefully. “He said he regrets and that he is sorry. He asked me to tell you that he’s sorry.”
Joni looked at the man silently for a while, unsure what to feel or think. His mind were confused. “Yes, he did usually apologise after,” he finally whispered. “I-“ Joni sighed tried to bring his coffee cup up but at that point his hands was trembling too badly and he set it back down on his lap, securing it with both hands so he would not spill the hot liquid. “I just wish to make some sense of this… When did he start hating me this much?”
“He doesn’t hate you, it’s-“Adam started insecurely and Joni gave him a crooked smile.
“Love? Hardly!” Joni answered. “But it wasn’t always like that and… I am confused. I was hoping that you could… clear things for me. After all, you’ve known him since you were children.”
Adam nodded and gave a sad look to the youth. “Chris’ father is an alcoholic and abuser. That’s the home Chris grew up in; I haven’t been there often to see all of it, but a few times I heard it, his father shouting and cursing, calling his wife with names that…” Adam took a pause. “And… she had bruises, Chris as well at times. But none of them ever came forward and later Chris never wanted to speak of it.”
Joni looked down at his hands and nodded. “I had been guessing something like that. He never wanted to talk about his family much.” He sighed.
“I’m sorry; I really thought that he had been able to put that past behind him.” Adam sighed. “I do not approve at all what my friend did and he needs to be sentenced and get help for his issues.”
Joni looked at Adam, feeling sadness over the whole situation, wishing it hadn’t ended like this. “My own feelings towards Chris are very… complicated,” he whispered. “I am angry and hurt and scared. I hate him and I don’t hate him. I-“ Joni paused. “I am confused most of all.”
Adam nodded, looking at Joni. He had finished drinking his coffee and set the now empty cup on the table. “Suvi wants me to cut all contacts with Chris,” he decided to say, watching the youth’s reaction.
Joni was silent unsure how he should react, how Adam hoped he would. He looked at his own hands, the coffee cup still held tightly between them. “I’ll talk to her,” he promised finally. “I- Chris is your friend…” He felt the tight knot in his stomach understanding how there would always remain a small link between him and Chris and yet the extreme option of demanding Adam to do what Suvi wanted didn’t seem wise either. Joni knew how Chris’ mind worked to some extent and losing Adam would bring the blame first and foremost to him. The chance of bitterness and anger would grow and no matter what, one day Chris would get out, sooner or later and… Joni felt sick, nauseous; he didn’t want to be there, having this conversation, dealing with this situation. He didn’t want to testify at the trial, just wanted all of it out and over with, return to the life that he had once known before any of this, to those simple problems.
“I think you shouldn’t abandon him,” Joni said then and swallowed unable to look at Adam, fearing that the certainty in his voice would falter. “Chris needs help, despite my current feelings to him. I did once see a man in him that was… that I cared for… So I will talk to Suvi about it… just…” He glanced at Adam. “Can you promise me that in the future you won’t talk about my matters to him? That…” Joni sighed. “I don’t want to see him after the trial, I can’t…”
“Of course, I understand that,” Adam said, hoping that there was more that he could do to ease Joni’s pain somehow.
Misha stood by the wall close to the entrance of the kitchen, listening carefully over the conversation in the next room. Ivo sighed and rolled his eyes at his brother’s behaviour.
“Misha, he said he wanted to talk privately with him,” Ivo told him, cutting the vegetables. “You could help me instead.” Misha only glanced at him and brought his finger on his lips to silence Ivo. He wanted to hear what that Canadian had to say to Joni. He couldn’t hear all just parts of it and mostly what Adam said. When Adam told what his wife had asked Misha fully agreed with her thought that Adam should have understood that no one needed such poor friends! In Misha’s mind Chris had stepped over a line that deserved no excuses or forgiveness.
He got more upset when he heard Joni’s answer. Didn’t the brat see the danger? The worry grew changing into anger and so Misha stepped into the living room. The Canadian turned his eyes on Misha who gave him a cold glare.
“I want to speak with you,” Misha told Adam which caused Joni to frown in confusion.
Glancing at Joni Adam nodded and got up. “I should be leaving soon anyway; I have a flight back to Oulu this evening,” he said, smiling slightly though feeling insecure. He clearly sensed the anger from the blond man.
“Send my love to Suvi,” Joni said. “I hope to visit her and the baby later.” Joni glanced at Misha who looked very tense. “And Adam, thank you, for coming here,” he added, wondering what Misha was going to say to him.
“No problem, I wish there was more that I could do,” Adam replied, feeling slightly awkward. “Take care,” he added. “I hope we see each other soon.”
Joni nodded and said his goodbye before Adam followed Misha to the hall.
“We talk outside,” Misha said not looking at the man, simply stepping out when Adam put his shoes back on.
The blond didn’t like him that was for sure and Adam didn’t expect to have a pleasant chat with him. He cleared his throat as he stepped outside to the porch where Misha was waiting.
The blond turned, crossed his arms over his chest and glared at him. “First of all, you are the friend of that asshole and thus I do not trust you one bit,” Misha started.
Adam nodded at this unsure what else he could do. “I can understand, but…” he started.
“Do you realise that your so called friend, with whom you still intend to keep contact, is a god damn rapist and that he could have killed Joni?!” Misha was barely able to control the anger raging inside him.
Adam nodded. “I know what my friend did,” he replied tensely. “Do you think it’s easy for me either? I never believed he’d be able to such a crime! Had I known I-“
“You have known him since forever! How can it be that you never noticed a thing? He is fucked up, he is a sick man! A very sick man! And not easy for you?” Misha gave a dry laughter. “I don’t fucking care, it’s Joni who is suffering and you better make sure that Chris is never ever going to reach him again! Swear!”
Adam looked up at Misha in confusion and slight fear. He hadn’t been sure what was between this man and Joni but now it seemed clear. Adam nodded. “I would never speak of Joni to him,” he answered and Misha glared at him for few more seconds.
“You better speak the truth.”
“I am.” Adam nodded. “I am,” he repeated not wanting to cross the man. “Joni is part of my wife’s family, thus important to me. I can assure you I would never give Chris the tools to get to him.”
Misha nodded stiffly yet his anger still remained, caused by worry. “Just don’t mention that asshole to Joni again after this. He has suffered enough, do not burden him more in the future.” He bit out and Adam could only nod. “Have a safe flight back to Oulu,” Misha forced himself to say before returning back inside.
He walked to the living room where Joni was. The brunet was sitting on the edge of the couch about to stand up. “Stay,” Misha told him. Joni gave him a confused look. Misha sighed before starting to pace back and fort, as if about to scold a miss behaving child. “He should not stay friends with that crazy asshole and you should know that!”
“Excuse me?” Joni asked getting upset with the tone that Misha was using.
“That guy has a lot of nerve, coming here and asking you to talk to your cousin to make it okay! Worst part is that you agreed! Why?!”
“First of all Adam didn’t ask anything! He only told me that it was what Suvi demanded!” Joni raised his voice. “And why? You have no idea what it’s like! Do you think that I am happy to have such decision to make?! I am not! Adam and Chris have been friends since forever and Chris needs help! He’s been abused as a child and he obviously has lots of issues to deal with. It will not do him any good to be abandoned by everyone!”
“Oh don’t you do that…” Misha started, shaking his head. He pointed his finger at Joni “Don’t you start making excuses for that bastard, not after what he did to you!”
Joni breathed tensely and narrowed his eyes at him. “Oh I know what he did! I do not need to be reminded, Misha!”
“Then why the hell would you encourage Adam to stay friends with that fucking bastard!?” Misha yelled.
The loud arguing had gotten Ivo to come into the living room to see what was going on, he was surprised to see Misha yelling at Joni and didn’t approve of it one bit. “Misha!” Ivo tired to cut in between.
Misha only raised his arm up to him to signal him to keep off; he was too upset to think straight. “What will happen when Chris gets out of jail, huh, Joni?! What if he is not going to get any better? His friend is married to your cousin and so he will have a link to you through him! What if he can’t let go?! Have you thought of that?! And it’s bullshit, a man like that doesn’t fucking deserve forgiveness, not from his friend and certainly not from you!”
Joni got up, his eyes shimmering with tears. “Yes Misha, I have thought of that! Every day, every moment! And yes, I am fucking scared! There, are you happy now?!” he yelled. “I can’t get out! There is no decision, no way to make it disappear! Can’t you see that he will blame ME if Adam turns his back on him! And he will just get more and more bitter and I do not want to be the source of that bitterness! Certainly not add to it! I can’t sweep what happened under the carpet and hope it will disappear! None of this is easy! It’s all fucking complicated and yes I am confused! I don’t know what I should do!” Joni’s head was aching, he felt exhausted and about to burst into tears, afraid of the argument, of Misha’s raised voice. “I want to be alone now…” he said and Misha instantly regretted yelling.
“Joni,” he started reaching his hand out to the young man, but Joni only shook his head, held his hand up to stop him and left the room.
“God Misha, why do you have to be such an idiot?!” Ivo asked. Misha gritted his teeth and folded his arms. “You better go and apologise to him and you better do it now,” Ivo continued. “Honesty, that boy has suffered enough and you yelling at him won’t make it better.”
Misha glanced at Ivo, inside he did feel embarrassed. “I was just… worried… I am worried…” he muttered.
“Well, go and tell him that.” Ivo pointed upstairs.
“I was going to,” Misha snapped and headed to the stairs.
He sighed when reaching the room, standing outside the closed door for awhile. Misha placed his hand on the door handle. It was now or never he realised. There wasn’t going to be a magically right moment to tell Joni what he wanted to tell him and it wasn’t going to get any easier. After everything Joni deserved to know, deserved his vulnerability and honesty. He felt nervous but knew he couldn’t back out, not now.
“Joni?” he called softly before attempting to open the door only to find that the youth had locked it. “Joni, would you please open the door?” he called again and was only greeted by silence. Misha released another deep sigh, trying to calm down and pick his following words carefully. “Joni, I’m… I’m sorry.” he said and listened, hearing the other move quietly in the room but the brunet didn’t reply. “I shouldn’t have shouted at you, I was upset, you know?” Misha kept his hand against the wooden door. “I was just… scared,” he whispered the words that weren’t easy to admit. “Because I care for you, Joni… I hate seeing you hurt and I hate him for what he did to you, I don’t want…” He sighed and paused for a moment. “I don’t want a chance for it to happen again. I worry and I get edgy. It’s this… need, this want to protect you… I like you Joni, not just in friendly way. Surely you know that by now?” There, he had said it, to a faceless door and now…
The shouting part scared Joni more than he would have liked to admit. His body trembled all over. When Chris had shouted at him it hadn’t lead to anything good, it was a fight that he had always ended up losing and… Seeing Misha like that had caused the panic and the instinct to just run to safety. Now, the man was behind the door, calling for him and Joni still insecure, paced in the room fighting with fear, upset and curiosity. “I like you Joni, not just in friendly way; surely you know that by now?” The words left to repeat in his mind and made him stop and still for a moment.
There was a soft click of the lock being opened and Misha found himself holding his breath. Joni opened the door slowly, tilting his head slightly and looking up at him. He looked somehow small and vulnerable there in front of him and it was clear that he had been crying earlier. “I wasn’t sure…” Joni whispered finally, his hand still holding the door.
Misha stepped closer and carefully reached his hand to touch Joni’s bruised cheek: The act caused Joni to look down at his feet still not comfortable in his current appearance. “Then, be sure now,” Misha whispered, gently moving his hand down to Joni’s chin making him look up. “I am not good at stuff like this,” he admitted. “But you are important to me, more than I can say,” Misha continued with a low voice.
Joni had wanted to hear these words for years and now, when they were said, they left him speechless. “Misha, I-“ Joni started, but paused unsure of the words that he was searching for.
“I don’t expect anything; I know you are still confused with everything that is going on…” Misha lowered his hand down on Joni’s shoulder looking at him carefully.
“What does that mean? I mean this? I’m…” Feeling just as Misha had said; confused, Joni turned from the door and walked over to the bed where he sat down. He looked over at Misha who followed slowly, hesitantly and finally sat on the bed next to him.
“I’m not sure,” Misha replied. “I just know I like you and…”
“What’s going to happen?” Joni asked and glanced at him, Misha smiled slightly.
“I don’t know,” he replied. “What would you like to happen?”
“I’m not sure.” Joni smiled back at him. “I like you, too.” He looked away and chuckled at the odd situation. Misha reached for his hand, holding it gently and smiling. Joni turned his gaze back to him, looking at their hands then at Misha’s face. “I’m scared,” he whispered.
“I know,” Misha said. “I would never pressure you, Joni… I don’t know what will happen, but if you want we could just wait and see? Just…” The blond shrugged and looked down at their joined hands, stroking Joni’s palm gently with his thumb, partly nervous. “It can be just like this, me holding your hand and being there by your side when you get scared,” he murmured still looking down, unsure how Joni would reply.
“You would be satisfied with that?” Joni asked carefully.
Misha looked up and smiled. “Yes, I want you to be comfortable, there’s no hurry.”
“So we just… wait and see?” Joni asked.
Misha nodded, his smile never fading. “Yes, wait and see,” he agreed, making Joni smile and carefully lean against him. Misha wrapped his arms around him, kissing the brunets forehead gently. ‘It can work like this, can’t it?’ he wondered, smiling to himself, deciding that he would do anything he could to make Joni happy again. Small steps and patience was all he needed. “I’m sorry I shouted,” Misha murmured and kissed the crown of Joni’s head.“It’s okay, just don’t do that again,” Joni whispered and sighed, already feeling better and safer wrapped in Misha’s strong arms. There was hope for the future and that hope was what he needed to hold on to.
Web published: April 11th, 2010.
My Secret Shore