Dima had just gotten home from work when Misha called him, asking if he could come over. It was Friday afternoon, Linda was away for the weekend with her friends and Dima had planned to go to his brothers’ house at Saturday. So that Misha wanted to see him now felt little strange but of course he had no objections either.
Dima opened the door for Misha and smiled. “Hi, would you like some coffee?” he asked.
“Nah, just a juice or something if you have?” Misha said and kicked his shoes off.
“Sure.” Dima nodded and walked to the kitchen with his brother following. “So, what brings you here?” he asked while opening the fridge. “Ah and seems we’re out of juice but is diet cola okay?”
“Yeah.” Misha nodded and sat down watching his brother taking some ice from the freezer, placing a few pieces in two glasses before pouring the drink into them. “Joni’s birthday is next week,” Misha started. Dima glanced at him, raised his brow and nodded. “So… I want to do something nice for him,“ Misha continued and Dima got curious, walked to the table, handed Misha a glass and sat down.
“You have planned something?” Dima asked.
“It’s… nothing big…” Misha said and sipped at his drink. “What’s Joni’s favourite food?”
“Hm… He likes a good steak just as much as the rest of us.” Dima grinned. “Medium, hm with fresh salad and garlic potatoes. That or pizza, with some meat on it, ham or pepperoni.” Dima shrugged. “Misha, what are you planning?”
“What food doesn’t he like? Is he allergic to anything?” Misha asked instead of replying.
Dima was silent for a moment, trying to think. “If you cook meat make sure it does not have lumps of fat,” he started. “He doesn’t like cabbage, mushrooms, blue cheese… I don’t know if there are more than those and no allergies.”
“No mushrooms, huh? What do so many have against mushrooms?” Misha pondered.
“Oh and be careful with herrings or other bony fishes. Joni has some issues with them.”
Misha frowned. “Perhaps he’s just had a lousy cook to prepare them for him?” He wondered. “Spices?”
“Yeah he likes spicy food, not too hot though.”
“You can’t go too wrong with chocolate; he doesn’t like anything too sweet though. Strawberries and fruits are a good choice, too, perhaps ice cream. Misha, can’t you tell me what is really going on?” Dima asked. “Are you making a birthday dinner for Joni? Are Ivo and I invited?” He was unable to keep the amusement from his voice.
Misha was silent for a moment and took a sip of his drink. Finally he sighed. “No, you are not invited,” he admitted. “I was rather hoping that you could invite Ivo here for next week’s Saturday.”
Dima’s smile grew. “Sure, I think we can keep Ivo away… Oh my, this is cute.” He chuckled, causing Misha to groan.
“It’s not cute,” he tried to argue.
“Yes it is, you two have a date and it’s about time!” Dima nodded and Misha rolled his eyes.
“Yeah whatever… So what could I get Joni as a birthday present?”
Dima was still grinning at his brother. “To that I can’t really offer much help since I have troubles on thinking out something myself. I think this dinner will be quite a good present though, I am sure he’ll appreciate it.”
Misha nodded, but still wanted to buy Joni something. “Okay, thanks,” he said and finished his drink, getting up. “I see you tomorrow and don’t say anything to Joni. I want to surprise him.”
“I won’t,” Dima promised, his smile never fading. “See you tomorrow, Misha.”
Misha cared for him, Misha wanted to be with him and it was what Joni had dreamt about for so long. If only the situation would be different, if only he had never met Chris, if only this misery and pain could be erased. Joni felt confused; he wanted to be with Misha, wanted to be his boyfriend and at the same time it made him feel nervous and afraid. What if Chris would find out? Of course Chris was already angry, but… What if they would let Chris go? They couldn’t do that, could they? On the other hand it made himself feel angry. Was he still going to let Chris control him? Even when he was behind prison bars? What did he owe to Chris? – Nothing, nothing after all the pain he had been through.
Joni stared at his face through the mirror; the bruises were fading, though those on his body seemed to take a little longer to heal. But soon he’d be able to see his siblings and move back home. After all he couldn’t stay with Ivo and Misha forever, right? Perhaps if he lived at his home it would make the relationship with Misha easier, slow it down at least, which, considering the situation, would be better, wouldn’t it?
The recovery and the fear to face the public were stressful. The young man felt anxious and bored, wasn’t used to this idleness. He was tired of being the victim, tired of being nervous and afraid and just wanted back what had been lost, his old self and his confidence. Joni knew the rumours had started to spread around the modelling circles and it might be just a matter of time until some cheesy tabloid would mention it. Well, he could blame himself for it really, after kind of admitting what had happened on Facebook. So the public would learn that he was abused. His agent already knew of course because Joni needed much time before he’d be ready to return to modelling. Of course he could quit it all together, but when he had thought about it, he didn’t want to quit. First of all he didn’t want to give Chris the satisfaction of being able to destroy the life he had wanted, the satisfaction of being able to break his confidence completely.
Though Joni had to admit that the mere idea of returning scared him, he could only hope that the nude, pornographic pictures of him would not make it to public knowledge. He also hoped that the fact that he had been raped would remain as a secret; being an abuse victim was enough to deal with, but still easier than the two combined. After Joni would have healed, he would show that he was strong enough to continue the life he had led before, that he wasn’t just another broken victim. This he also wanted to prove to Misha, which might be easier said than done since the man had taken it upon himself to act very protective towards him. It was both sweet and annoying at the same time, but perhaps Misha would calm down once he would see that he was in fact doing a lot better?
Joni wished he could live a simpler life, with ordinary every day problems. Would he ever see such a day again? – The youngster wondered and sighed when he ran his fingers through his over grown hair. He usually was so obsessed with his hair and couldn’t remember the last time when he would have allowed it to get this long. It started to annoy him; it was almost falling into his eyes and it was driving him nuts! Joni groaned and tried to fix it with some hair gel, only to get more annoyed in the process. Soon he found himself growling at his own image. “Damn you!” he cursed.
Ivo, who happened to walk past the bathroom, raised his brow. The door was slightly open so he looked inside. “Something the matter?” he asked with a concerned voice and Joni turned and gave him a miserable look.
“My hair… “ he whined. “Just look at it! It’s driving me insane!”
At first Ivo gave him a confused look and then he couldn’t help but to find it amusing and smiled. So, Joni was doing better, wasn’t he? The Russian walked closer, looking at the boy. His hair was little longer than how he usually kept it but Ivo didn’t think it looked bad. “I think your hair looks just fine,” he tried to assure.
“No it doesn’t!” Joni argued and turned back to face the mirror. “I look horrible.” He sighed and brought his hands on each side of his face. “I don’t want to turn 20…”
Ivo again raised his brow and gave the younger man an amused look. “Now why is that? And trust me you look anything but horrible,” he said, walked behind Joni and lowered his hands on the boys shoulder. The top of Joni’s head reached little below his chin.
Joni gave him a look through the mirror. “Birthdays just suck,” he said. Joni couldn’t think back at his 18thbirthday party with warmth anymore because of the pictures and last year he had spend it in the army. The following weekend Chris had arranged what he had liked to call ‘an intimate party’ – thinking back made Joni only feel nauseous.
“No they don’t,” Ivo said. “We’ll think of something nice for you and… Well, would you like me to take you to get your haircut?” he asked.
Joni was silent for awhile and then shook his head. “I don’t want to go out yet, I don’t want to see anyone… There’s the danger of having to explain… I suppose I have to suffer… Wear a stupid pin or something…” He sighed in an overly dramatic way.
Ivo smiled looking at him, he got an idea but wasn’t sure if it could be arranged and didn’t want to mention it to Joni until he was. The idea he had would not only beneficial for Joni, but, if he was honest, it might also serve him.
“Okay come on, lunch is waiting,” Ivo said then and lead the boy to the kitchen.
They sat in front of the table and Joni moved his fork over the plate lost in his thoughts. Ivo watched him with curiosity; he knew Joni and Misha had confessed liking each other but still wasn’t sure if it had caused more progress than that.
“Ivo, do you think I look too thin?” Joni asked suddenly and Ivo swallowed his food down, looking surprised. “Misha thinks I do,” Joni added and Ivo smiled slightly.
“No, I don’t think he thinks that. Well, maybe he might. You see, you aren’t exactly eating normally, are you? Look, I am almost done with lunch while you have only taken few bites. You look like you’ve lost weight. You still look good but you could start eating better. Misha is only worried.” Ivo tried to be as diplomatic as one could to a person who was feeling quite sensitive towards their looks.
Joni sighed heavily, stared at his plate for a moment before he brought another fork in his mouth. “There, that’s better.” Ivo smiled.
“I’m bored…” Joni whined after lunch.
“Do you want to watch some movie?”
“No! I want to do something, I’m sick of lying around.” Joni groaned and stood up, trying to think of something to entertain himself. “Can I see what kind of clothes you have?”
“If that pleases you.” Ivo smiled surprised.
“It would.” Joni nodded and walked towards Ivo’s bedroom, the tall Russian following behind him. Ivo sat on his bed watching as Joni started to open up his closets. “These are a mess.” The boy sighed.
“I confess it might be some time since I last arranged them.”
“I could do that!” Joni smiled and glanced at him. “Can I?”
“You want to clean my wardrobe? Knock yourself out,” Ivo answered amusedly and the youth smiled brightly, starting to take the clothes out and arranging them on the bed next to him. “So is there anything that can be rescued? Do I have any hope?” Ivo asked with a slight grin.
Joni turned his face and smiled while folding his shirts neatly. “This pile here,” he said taking the said pile and handing them to Ivo, “go and iron them.”
“I?” Ivo asked. “I usually have Misha do it for me.” He grinned. “That’s what little brothers are for?”
Joni raised his brow and watched the man silently for awhile, slightly amused. “No, I am pretty sure that they aren’t.” Then he pointed to the door. “Go, iron, learn. You are 34.”
Ivo sighed. “But I hate ironing,” he complained but still kept the boyish grin on his face. “And so what if I’m 34?”
“Ivo, Misha won’t be around forever to iron your shirts.” Joni smiled at him.
“Won’t he? You plan to take my house slave away from me? How cruel!” Ivo grinned and Joni rolled his eyes.
“I will tell Misha that you called him that.” He smiled.
“Uh, please don’t! I can’t stand him when he’s all moody,” Ivo said and sighed. “I’ll go and iron,” he decided and Joni watched the man walking out of the room, feeling amused. He continued arranging the clothes neatly by what he considered to be formal and casual wear.
“Hey Joni!” Ivo suddenly called.
“Can you come over here for a moment?”
Joni left the clothes and then followed Ivo’s voice to the utility room. “So, is there a problem?” he asked smiling and Ivo turned showing him the flat iron.
“How does this work? I don’t want to burn my clothes and there are all these pictures here, see.”
Joni walked closer, looked at Ivo’s serious face and blinked. “Are you serious?”
Ivo looked back at him and then the flattening iron and again back at him. “Yes,” he said and looked at Joni expectantly.
“You seriously have never ironed before, huh?” Joni chuckled shaking his head. “First you need to put water in this little hole here,” Joni advised. “And then turn it to this position and then you can start ironing.” He smiled.
“You seem to be good at this, don’t you want to do it?” Ivo asked and Joni chuckled again.
“Oh no! It is high time you learn it, I can watch here for a moment to see that you do it right.” He grinned. Ivo sighed muttering something in Russian before he got to work.
“There, good boy,” Joni teased him smiling and Ivo gave him a friendly glare back.
When Misha got home little earlier that day, he was quite surprised to find his brother ironing in the utility room that was next to the kitchen. “Oh my God, who are you and what did you do to Ivo?” Misha asked and Ivo turned to him and grinned.
“Joni is arranging my wardrobe!” he announced brightly as if his ironing was totally natural thing for him to do and then he turned back to his task, humming to himself. It was beyond weird!
And then Joni walked next to him carrying clothes. “Hi Misha,” the boy greeted smiling and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek before walking to Ivo. ”More ironing,” he told the older man and took in exchange the clothes that Ivo had already ironed.
“More?” Ivo sighed.
“Yes, it will teach you to take better care of your clothes.” Joni nodded and all Misha could do was to watch this peculiar scene in confusion and awe. His cheek still tingled from the spot that Joni had kissed; such a brief, innocent kiss but still… It was quite nice coming home to that. He smiled when Joni walked by him towards Ivo’s bedroom and Misha decided to follow him.
“What did you do to Ivo?” Misha asked once they entered the room.
Joni simply smiled placing the ironed clothes carefully into Ivo’s closet. “Can you believe your brother didn’t even know how flattening iron works?” Joni asked and chuckled.
“Yes, I can. I’ve had to suffer from it since I moved here,” Misha said, walked closer and sat on the bed edge watching carefully at Joni who was still busy with arranging the clothes. Joni arranging and cleaning was something he wouldn’t have expected to see. “And you really iron your own clothes?” Misha questioned.
“Of course!” Joni said and glanced at him raising his brow. “Any man who wears dress shirts or such should know how to iron.” He nodded.
“I figured someone like you has his parents or someone else to do such things for you.”
“Someone like me?” Joni asked, glaring at Misha and Russian realised he had moved to dangerous waters.
“Well, eh… someone who…”
“Someone who is a spoiled brat?” Joni asked turning to him and folding his arms. Misha gave him a sheepish look.
“I didn’t say that.”
“But you think that,” Joni said. “I know you do.” He shook his head and turned back to his task.
“Joni… Please don’t be upset with me. I didn’t mean anything bad,” Misha said watching him closely. Joni didn’t reply, didn’t even turn to look at him just kept folding Ivo’s clothes. “You know, Ivo got used to our mom ironing for him and when he moved here, he used laundry services. When I moved in with Dima, he thought it was perfect pass time for us and…” He paused trying to think before speaking. “Well, I just thought…”
“That I cannot do any house work at all, right? That I just assume people do everything for me, from cooking to cleaning,” Joni glanced at him. “I do have three younger siblings, for your information. I had to take care of them many times and that needed more than just sitting on the couch, hoping that things will arrange themselves. Your problem is to assume things simply by looks and appearance but nothing is that black and white.”
Misha couldn’t help it, the corners of his lips twitched slightly upwards; he couldn’t keep a serious face. “You know, you’re cute when you get like this…”
“Cute?” Joni snorted.
“Yes,” the older man replied frowning slightly. “You should be resting though,” he said then watching the other carefully. It was true that Joni was doing better but his moving was still a little awkward than it was normally.
“I feel fine,” Joni argued continuing what he was doing.
“You know your doctor said you should rest,” Misha reminded. “And I say so as well, you’re still hurt.”
Joni glanced at the man sighed. Misha proved to be very concerned of his health, almost as if afraid that he could break at any given moment. “I’m sick of lying around, I’m fine really. I need to do something before I lose my mind.”
Misha sighed and got up walking closer to Joni. “I understand, I do, but I don’t want you to exhaust yourself,” he said, leaning against the closet door next to Joni, who turned his face to him.
“I’m almost done here; if it makes you feel better I’ll go and rest after this.”
“Good,” Misha smiled. “Have you eaten?”
“We ate lunch yes.”
“But now its dinner time, what would you like to have?” Misha asked following his movements carefully.
“Anything is fine,” Joni replied and Misha thought he sounded and looked quite tired.
The blond frowned at this discovery. “Alright, you’re going to rest now, you are tired!” Misha said and took the pile of clothes from Joni’s hands. “Let me take you upstairs to rest and then I will cook you something and bring it to you.”
Joni stepped back when it seemed that Misha attempted to carry him. “For god’s sake, I can walk!” Joni snapped, which made Misha frown and Joni then regret such harsh response. “Misha, I’m fine, my legs are not broken, alright?” Joni smiled slightly and hesitantly reached his hand to touch Misha’s face. “It’s sweet that you worry, but it’s also a bit creepy,” he tried to joke, lowering his hand.
“I just want you to get well,” Misha said keeping his eyes on Joni before gently, almost hesitantly touching his arm.
“I understand and I am getting better. Don’t I look better already?” Joni asked.
“You do.” Misha nodded smiling slightly. “But now you do look tired and you’re still not completely well either. You’re still hurting, so please Joni, listen to my advice and let me take you to rest. You can read or watch TV, but the more you rest the faster you heal.” The look on Misha’s face was serious and almost pleading.
Joni sighed; the worrying was sweet after all. “Alright, alright, I’ll go and rest in the living room, but I will walk myself, okay?” He smiled and Misha smiled back nodding.
Once Joni settled on the couch, Misha turned the TV on for him and made sure his pillows were nice and fluffy. The tall man kept asking if Joni was sure that he felt comfortable enough and persisted until Joni finally gave a wish on what he would like for dinner.
When Misha finally disappeared into the kitchen Joni couldn’t help but wonder how peculiar all of this was. Three years ago he would have never imagined that Misha would one day treat him in such protective, careful way.
Ivo seemed also amused by his younger brothers behaviour and he grinned at Joni while walking into the living room carrying the last of his ironed clothes.
“Misha; the mother hen,” Ivo whispered and winked before continuing towards his own room and Joni had a difficult time to keep a straight face when Misha returned with his dinner, which apparently required Misha feeding it to him like a baby. Well, this nourishing seemed to make Misha happy so Joni decided that for now he could humour him.
It was Wednesday when Ivo had managed to arrange his surprise for Joni which worked perfectly since the boy’s, or rather the young man’s birthday landed on the following day. The whole day Ivo felt excited and was hardly able to keep him from telling Joni, who was quite suspicious over his strange behaviour. Ivo had to admit that it was not only for Joni’s surprise that he felt excited, but for his own reasons as well. As the hour upon the arrival approached, he began to feel nervous – not in bad way but just… Well, perhaps it was the feeling of what people called butterflies in ones stomach?
It was 3pm when the doorbell rang and Ivo got up, glancing at Joni who cocked his eyebrow in question; as far as he knew they were not expecting any visitors and he would have thought that Ivo would have told him if they were. Yet, looking at the grinning face of the man and judging by his odd behaviour and the constant checking of his watch it was clear that something was up.
Joni straightened up on his seat, looking after the man who went to open the door. He began to feel nervous. Of course surprises could be fun but after what he had been through he felt wary towards them. Yet, Ivo would know that and he wouldn’t arrange anything he wouldn’t like, right?
Ivo took a deep breath before opening the door and smiling brightly at the person standing behind it.
“Hi, Jami, welcome. Found here alright?” he asked the young man who stood behind the door. The youth’s hair was light brown with blond highlights in it, he had blue-green eyes and a smile lingered on full pink lips.
“I did, I had my navigator, and it’s real helpful otherwise I’d get lost constantly,” the younger and shorter man replied, stepping in and lowering his silver work case on the floor to take his jacket and shoes off. Ivo smiled goofily while looking at him. The Russian had a crush on his hairdresser for quite some time, but he hadn’t had the guts to ask him out since he wasn’t exactly sure if the other man was even gay. His profession spoke for it but of course there were straight male hairdressers as well, so who knew? However since Ivo had once been directed to be Jami’s customer, when his former hairdresser had gone to maternity leave, he always requested Jami, even after his previous one returned. And Ivo had also asked the youth to recommend him products bought insane amount of them, just so he could prolong the visits.
Ivo found himself chuckling at the answer and Jami gave him a curious look which made Ivo clear his throat. “Yes well, come in. Would you like some coffee?”
“Sure thanks,” the shorter man replied and picked his case up, following Ivo to the living room where Joni was.
“Jami, this is Joni, Joni this is Jami, my hairdresser.” Ivo made the brief introduction. Joni looked surprised but curious at Ivo before looking at the other male who smiled at him and approached to shake his hand.
“Hi, nice to meet you. Ivo said you needed a barber?” The man said and Joni shook his hand, smiling back at him slightly hesitant. He wondered how much Ivo had told Jami about the situation.
“Nice to meet you too,” he said and let go of the hand, again glancing at Ivo. “Hm, well, I sort of do, yes.”
“No worries Joni, Jami is a trustworthy guy and I told him you’re on a sick leave from an injury,” Ivo said hoping he didn’t make a mistake.
Joni looked back at Jami; he was lean, not very tall, perhaps 170cm or a little above, somewhere in his mid 20’s. Then he glanced at Ivo again, getting a clearer picture which made him smile.
“Bad relationship,” Joni decided to tell the other man, the bruises on his face were quite faint, but still visible and he figured Jami would guess it because of that anyway.
“Ah, yes I’ve had few myself.” Jami smiled with sympathy. “So how about I cut your hair?” he asked and then tilted his head. “Perhaps some colour, too?”
Joni frowned. “I’m not sure.”
“About the colour?” Jami smiled. “Well, your natural colour is great; I was just thinking about some highlights? Lighter brown, nothing too visible?”
Again Joni glanced at Ivo who was staring at Jami. “Well, I have to warn you, I’m kind of a hair nazi. You know I’ve been known to make quite a few hairdressers cry,” he said, looking back to see the reaction.
The man laughed. “Oh indeed?” He grinned. “Well, rest assured I’ve never made a customer cry.”
“Jami is really great at what he does. He’s the best hairdresser I’ve ever had!” Ivo praised and Joni couldn’t help but grin, thinking how thrilled Misha might have been to see this. Ivo was completely smitten with this guy!
“Aw, thanks, you’re making me blush,” Jami said glancing at the man and grinned.
“It’s the truth!”
“Well, you’ve been the best customer I’ve had,” Jami said and then looked back at Joni. “Always leaves me with a huge tip, which is rare for Finnish people to do plus he buys lots of products.” The hairdresser grinned and Joni couldn’t help but wonder if the two even realised that they both seemed to have a crush on each other.
“So, how would you like your hair to be cut?” Jami asked once Joni had agreed to let him do the cut and even dye the highlights.
“Not too short, don’t use the machine! But the ears may show, my hair grows so fast anyway and you can use knife to… you know… My hair is so thick so it agrees better if you thin it slightly. I want to be able to slightly get it up with gel, sort of messy…” Joni ran his fingers in his hair lifting it slightly. “You can cut this much from the top.” He showed with his fingers. “And! Be careful when you cut from the behind where there is this swirl! If it is too short the hair will jump up and it will drive me nuts! I had to use so much gel when I grew it back from the army length.” Joni took a deep breath and glanced at the man to see if he understood.
Jami chuckled. “Oh my, I think I am glad you won’t be able to see the mirror while I cut. I have the feeling you are one of those who would stare at my every movement or worse suddenly take the comb from my hands to show me how you want it!” The man grinned seeing Joni’s expression. “Admit it; you’ve done that before, haven’t you?”
Joni shrugged, looking away slightly embarrassed. “Well… Hair is important to me…” he admitted.
Jami patted his shoulder. “Okay, just relax, I promise that you’re in good hands,” he assured and then got his equipment. “Let’s start with the stripes,” he decided and Joni nodded.
“Alright… But no blond! Okay? I would look ridiculous,” Joni said and looked at the man who shook his head amused and nodded.
“No blond, I promise,” he replied, glancing at Ivo who grinned and Jami grinned back.
“Thanks again Jami, for coming here on your free day,” Ivo said watching as the smaller man started to work.
“Anything for my favourite customer,” Jami smiled back at him and Joni couldn’t help but to notice the dreamy look in Ivo’s eyes.
“How long have you known Ivo?” Joni decided to ask.
“Hmm… About a year. He used to go to Anni, who works at the same salon, but when she went to maternity leave Ivo switched to me. Well, Anni is back and she said she’s forever bitter with me for stealing her best client.” Jami chuckled. “Oh well…”
“I like you better,” Ivo said. “Her talks of her children were getting quite boring, but don’t tell her that.”
“I won’t,” Jami assured.
“Oh, I almost forgot that coffee!” Ivo noticed.
“No worries, we can have it after I’ve finished spreading this colour.”
“How old are you?” Joni asked then.
“I’m 25,” Jami answered. “Oh and I heard you have a birthday tomorrow congratulations!”
“Thanks… Though, you know, some think it brings bad luck to congratulate in advance and quite frankly I’ve had enough bad luck as it is.” Joni couldn’t help himself, but as soon as he had said it, he regretted because there really was no need to be rude to the man, who Ivo seemed to fancy.
“Um, okay sorry, I-” Jami started unsure how to correct himself.
“Nah, don’t be. I’m just in a weird mood, don’t mind me okay? I tend to speak before thinking,” Joni tried to correct himself and glanced at the man who smiled and nodded.
“It’s okay, no harm done,” Jami replied and there was a moment of awkward silence before he continued. “So how does it feel to turn 20?”
Joni shrugged. “I don’t know, I haven’t really thought of it much,” he answered.
“The reason I asked is because I remember being horrified of turning 20. I felt so old.” Jami laughed. “It seems so amusing now, when looking back, I really was just a kid. Well I had my crisis then, turning 25 was easier, yet many of my friends have their crisis now.”
“Oh wait till you turn 30.” Ivo grinned and Jami glanced at him.
“A big crisis for you, huh?” he asked.
“Yes and no.” Ivo smiled. “Just remembering how at Joni’s age one thinks everyone over 30 is so freaking old. You think you have so much time to do all the things you want to do till you turn 30. Then you wake up and see the years sneaked up on you and realise that time just seems to go faster and faster with each year. Well now I’m 34 and you might think I’m an old fart, but I know I am not. I’m comfortable with my age.”
“I don’t think of you as an old fart.” Jami smiled. “34 is still young.”
“Ah and now you try to flatter me, huh? To earn more tips, right?” Ivo teased and winked at the younger man. “Well, you succeeded.” He laughed then.
Joni smiled, listening to the two talking. Ivo was interested in this guy, he was sure! “And since Joni is so quiet I have to think that he believes I am an old fart,” Ivo joked and Joni glanced at him smiling.
“I don’t think that,” Joni denied.
“Liar.” Ivo grinned softly.
“How do you plan to celebrate your birthday?” Jami asked.
“I don’t know, I don’t really feel like celebrating,” Joni answered and hesitated a moment before he continued. “My relationship just ended badly as you can see,” he gestured towards his face, “and my ex is arrested and … Yeah, not much to celebrate. I’ll be relieved when this is all over, trials and such…”
“I understand. I’m sorry to hear that you’re going through a rough time.”
“Thanks, but I rather not discuss this more.”
“Sure,” Jami nodded. “Now, 30 minutes, then shower for you and then we cut your hair.” He smiled.
Ivo got up. “And now the coffee!” the older man announced and went to prepare it.
During coffee break with cookies, Joni observed the other two who were clearly flirting with each other. Yet it was also clear that neither would make the first move to actually ask the other for a date. Jami seemed nice, he was cute looking and… Well, perhaps it was time that Ivo would get some.
“Are you gay?” Joni asked suddenly, while they still sat at the kitchen table. “I mean you are hairdresser and a guy, so…”
Jami chuckled. “Being a hairdresser doesn’t automatically mean that I am gay,” he answered smiling. “But in my case, yep, I am. Huge disappointment to my parents, a gay hairdresser as a son! Luckily I have a twin brother, not identical in any way, who is a success in their view. He’s engaged to a woman and studies to be a doctor. Our family name is saved,” he joked.
“Are you single?” Joni asked then, looking at Ivo’s expression; it almost seemed that he was blushing which was strange and cute at the same time – where was his usual confidence?
“Yeah, I’m single… I seem to have this jerk magnet in me, so…”
“Well, Ivo is no jerk, he is single and he’s bi and it’s pretty obvious he likes you so, I think you two should go out,” Joni said and now Ivo did blush! Joni grinned.
“Oh…” Jami started, blushing as well. Ivo chuckled nervously; Jami bit his lip and grinned. They looked at one another. “Well… um… He would have to ask me himself…” he answered, looking at the older man.
Ivo cleared his throat. “Well, are you doing anything this Saturday?” he asked, trying not to grin so madly, which was difficult. He knew Saturday would be good since Misha wanted him out of the house to spend time alone with Joni, which Joni didn’t know yet.
“I was invited to a friend’s party, but I could always skip going, if better offers emerge…” Jami grinned sipping his coffee, feeling giddy inside.
“Have dinner with me?” Ivo asked. “And then, who knows? Few drinks perhaps?”
“Sure, sounds fun,” Jami answered unable to stop from grinning.
“Great!” Joni said and got up. “And now I will take a shower.” He smiled and left the room, wondering what would happen now that the two blushing and grinning man were left alone. Joni was sure that Misha would enjoy seeing this situation and couldn’t wait to tell him.
Joni was pleased at Jami’s work. He gazed at himself in the mirror, feeling better with his reflection, slowly building back his confidence. He wouldn’t have to be so shy in front of Misha now. When Jami left, Joni saw Ivo hugging the smaller man at the door – it seemed quite promising.
“You really like him, huh?” Joni asked, walking to the hall. The look on the man’s face spoke for itself. “Why on earth didn’t you ask him out before?”
“I was sure that he would have someone, or that maybe he would be straight and would freak out completely and he really is a great hairdresser, right? So I guess I didn’t want to risk it.”
“Straight?” Joni grinned and rolled his eyes. “Come on Ivo.”
“Honestly, he’s a hairdresser! And a guy! And wears tight clothes!” Joni grinned.
Ivo cocked his eyebrow. “And only gays wear tight clothes?” the man asked, watching the boy with amusement; he seemed a lot more cheerful than before.
“No,” Joni admitted. “But I knew he was gay the minute I saw him.”
“Did you now?” Ivo grinned.
“Well, at least I was 95% sure.” Joni nodded. “And then the way he looked at you confirmed it.”
“Oh? What way was that?” Ivo asked with curiosity while walking to the living room, Joni following.
“Dreamy way, like he totally wants you,” Joni said. Ivo sat on the couch and tapped the spot next to him smiling.
“Time for a foot massage?” Ivo said taking the lotion. Joni smiled, took his socks off and then sat down placing his feet on Ivo’s lap. The man had given him a foot massage almost every day and Joni quite enjoyed it. “He is nice, isn’t he?” Ivo asked rubbing the lotion over Joni’s feet.
“He is,” Joni agreed and smiled, resting his head against the backrest. “So where will you take him on Saturday?”
Ivo shrugged at first. “I am not sure, perhaps to the Russian restaurant.”
“Make him accustomed straight away, huh?” Joni asked. “Seems like a good idea.”
“I remember he said once that he hasn’t really eaten a Russian meal before.” Ivo smiled, watching Joni’s feet as he massaged them.
“And perhaps you’ll give him a nice big Russian dessert after,” Joni grinned, wriggling his eyebrows suggestively.
The blond shot a somewhat shocked and amused expression at the youth. “Joni!“
“Just make sure you use a condom,” Joni added and Ivo still watched him with his lips slightly parted in shock over the fact that Joni was so openly hinting towards sex. It made him lost with words, he thought about what Chris had done to Joni and felt awkward not wanting to talk about the subject of sex. He wanted to change topics quick but his mind was blank with ideas.
Joni frowned seeing the odd expression on Ivo’s face. He looked away, feeling somewhat upset, his stomach tightened. He knew what Ivo was thinking, guessed it at least – it was about the rape. Was this how it would be? Would this awkwardness always emerge when he would talk or even hint towards sex?
“I guess Misha will be home soon,” Joni said, letting the older man off the hook. “I would like to cook for him.”
“Oh? You know how to cook?” Ivo asked and Joni frowned, lifting his feet back on the floor.
“It would be nice to have some faith here! I can cook; for god’s sake, it’s not rocket science after all!”
“Calm down Joni.” Ivo sighed and smiled. “Of course you can cook if you like.”
“Good,” Joni muttered and walked towards the kitchen. Ivo sighed and put the lotion away, then followed Joni. In the kitchen Ivo walked to the sink and washed his hands. Joni seemed upset, he stood in front of the windows, arms crossed in front of his chest. Ivo sighed.
“Joni?” he started. “What’s wrong?”
The boy took a deep breath, before turning and shaking his head. “Nothing, I’m sorry. I must seem terribly ungrateful,” Joni said and looked at Ivo. “Thank you Ivo, for asking Jami here, I needed this and… I don’t know, I’m still… It’s difficult to explain but I am sorry for my moodiness.”
Ivo smiled softly at him. “I understand, don’t worry. And I really should thank you as well. I don’t know how long it would have taken me to ask Jami out if you hadn’t done it for me.” He grinned and then walked closer to the youth, hugging him. “You are going through a rough time; it’s alright to be moody.”
Joni smiled up at him carefully and slowly Ivo released him from the hug. “Thank you Ivo,” Joni whispered.
“No problem.” Ivo smiled and patted his shoulder, suppressing the urge to mess Joni’s hair that Jami had styled so nicely. “So what would you like to cook for Misha?” he asked.
“I know he thinks I can’t cook. Perhaps nothing too fancy, but… I can cook spaghetti and Bolognese sauce. I saw you have minced beef in the fridge?”
“Yes, sure you can cook that. Want me to help you?”
“No thanks, I think I want to do this on my own. Do you trust me?” Joni asked sweetly and Ivo laughed.
“Sure, I trust you, go right ahead. You know where to find everything?” Ivo asked and Joni nodded.
“Yes, you can go watch TV or… dream of Jami, whatever floats your boat.” Joni grinned and again Ivo chuckled.
“Alright, alright, call me if you need anything.”
“I will,” Joni promised and started to look for the ingredients. Ivo watched him for a while, smiling gently before returning to the living room. It was sweet that Joni wanted to cook for Misha, now he only waited to see his younger brother’s expression when he’d arrive home.
It had been another long day for Misha and he arrived home later than usual after spending a few hours trying to buy the perfect gift for Joni. The perfect gift he had been trying to find for days now. Why did it have to be so god damn difficult? Perhaps there was no such thing like a perfect gift? Perhaps he was just trying too damn hard to please Joni? Misha could honestly say that he had never in his life went through so much trouble for someone’s birthday and he felt lousy that the result didn’t really show it. Or maybe it would? He could just pray.
“I’m home,” Misha called, once he entered the hall. He kicked his shoes off and then walked to the living room, surprised to find his brother relaxing in front of the TV and hearing noises coming from the kitchen.
“Oh hi, rough day?” Ivo asked, smiling.
Misha cocked his eyebrow and glanced at the kitchen then back at Ivo. “Where’s Joni?”
“Where do you think? In the kitchen of course, he’s cooking dinner.”
“Joni is cooking dinner?” Misha blinked and Ivo grinned nodding. Misha sighed; Joni should be resting and not trying to cook! And whether he liked to admit it or not, he still didn’t have much trust in the brunet’s cooking skills either.
Joni was cutting onions, his eyes watering from their heavy scent, when Misha stepped in. “Joni, what are you doing?” the man asked and walked closer.
Joni turned his face to him. “Hi, what does it look like?” Joni smiled and wiped the tears away with the back of his hand.
Misha sighed. “Well, it was a very sweet thought, but you don’t have to do that.” Misha smiled and gently took the knife out of Joni’s hold before placing his hand on the other’s shoulders. “I’ll continue from here, you go and rest.” He nodded and started guiding the younger man out of the kitchen.
“I wanted to do that!” Joni protested.
“I know, I know, but you don’t have to. Ivo and I appreciate your attempts to help, but you are still recovering and we agreed to help you heal, so…” Misha smiled and gently pushed Joni down to sit on the sofa, ignoring Ivo’s look, being blind to how annoyed the youth felt.
“I wanted to help!” Joni again pointed out a bit tightly and growled when Misha lifted his feet up on the couch. “For fucks sake I am not a baby!” Joni snapped and Misha’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as the boy stood up.
He didn’t understand why Joni was behaving like this when all he tried to do was to be gentle and caring… boyfriend? “Joni, sit down, calm down, no need to get worked up like this. I am sure it’s not good for you.” Misha pointed at the couch “Rest!”
“I am sick of resting, can’t you fucking get the clue already!” Joni snapped again and then quickly marched upstairs. When he reached his room Misha heard the door slam shut and blinked before getting annoyed as well.
“He’s such an ungrateful brat!” Misha huffed and crossed his arms over his chest staring towards the stairs and Ivo had to grit his teeth in order not to laugh. He tried to remind himself that there really wasn’t anything funny about this whole ordeal. “I mean what does he want?! Here I am, trying to be nice to him, taking care of him, doing everything for him and still he complains!”
“Misha,” Ivo said as evenly as he could after calming himself down. “He’s just very stressed out, surely you understand that? And he’s also bored; anyone would be after days of being locked indoors. He wants to help, do things and you should let him. I’m sure that when he is tired he will say so and rest.”
Misha was silent for awhile contemplating Ivo’s words. “I’m just worried that he’ll exhaust himself.” He sighed.
“I know, but you should talk with him. And I think he has a good reason to be difficult; think of how much stress he’s under.”
Misha was quiet for awhile and nodded. “I’ll go and talk with him,” he decided and headed upstairs. He knocked on the door and waited silently for a moment.
“It’s open,” Joni’s voice finally answered and Misha peeked in. The brunet lay on the bed on his side, hands close to his chest, slightly curled up position. “See, I am resting now, happy?” he muttered and Misha sighed hearing that the others voice was slightly hoarse. Was he crying? “Go away…” Joni added after a while, but Misha approached.
“I didn’t mean to make you upset,” the blond started. “I did and I’m sorry, my aim was the complete opposite,” he added and carefully sat down on the end of the bed. “Joni?”
Joni took a deep breath and wiped the tears from his face, avoiding Misha’s gaze. “I’m not a child, even though… I know right now I am behaving like one.” Carefully the younger man turned his gaze to Misha. “I just wanted to cook for you… I’m just… I want…”
“It’s alright, I understand… I think.” Misha nodded and hesitantly brought his hand to rub Joni’s shin. “I’m just worried and I want you to get better, that’s why I’m so pushy to get you to rest.”
Joni sat up slowly to face him. “I am doing a lot better, feeling much better; don’t I look better to you?” he asked and again brushed his face with his hand just encase there were still tear stains left. Misha smiled looking at him more carefully now, noticing that the youth’s hair was different. “You didn’t even say anything about my new hair,” Joni pointed out then and made Misha chuckle and gently the man reached to hug him.
“I did notice and you look gorgeous,” he assured and touched the dark strands softly with his fingers. “Highlights?” he asked, looking at Joni’s face noticing how short their distance was. “Did you go out today?” Misha wondered why Ivo hadn’t said anything if they were out. He continued to play with Joni’s hair, his eyes taking notice of the others full lips that were really tempting him to kiss them. They hadn’t kissed yet, not since…
“Ivo’s boyfriend was here, well, his soon to be boyfriend I’m sure.” Joni snickered, his hand moving over the blond’s muscular arm, his heart beating fast. It was almost difficult to breathe normally. Misha was so close and his scent was so intoxicating, alluring and…
“Ivo’s what?” Misha asked, his brain seemed fuzzy and he wouldn’t have been surprised if he had heard wrong, his thoughts were filled with other things, mainly revolving around Joni’s lips.
“Ivo has a date on Saturday, with his hairdresser,” Joni whispered. Misha’s forehead rested against his own, his blue eyes – now much darker shade – observed him and Joni felt himself shivering, his skin feeling warm all over, hot even.
“Interesting…” Misha said after a moment of silence, Joni’s lips still stole most his attention.
Finally it was Joni who slowly moved his face forward, softly brushing his lips against Misha’s, who couldn’t stop the quiet moan that escaped his mouth. Misha’s hand cupped Joni’s cheek and the other moved to rest on his shoulder as slowly the kiss deepened but remained slow and gentle. Misha refused to allow his lust for Joni take over, it would be too early and Joni still felt somehow fragile in his hold, like someone who needed to be treated softly and with care in order not to break him.
Still, Misha couldn’t really stop his body from responding to the kiss. He felt the heat spreading in his groin and knew that if they continued he wouldn’t be able to hide his excitement and he just didn’t want to freak Joni out with it. So, though reluctant, Misha pulled away, smiled and kissed the tip of Joni’s nose. “I love how soft your lips feel,” he whispered which made the younger man grin.
“Right back to you,” Joni said and received another kiss on his cheek.
Misha looked at him for a moment, thinking. “Okay,” he sighed. “If you feel well enough, you want to come down and help me with cooking?”
“Oh, may I? Boss?” Joni teased and Misha raised his brow amused while standing up and offering his hand to him.
“Yes, but only if you promise to tell me, if you start feeling unwell or tired,” Misha said and Joni nodded standing up.
“I will, I promise.” He smiled.
“Good.” Misha nodded thinking that perhaps he could teach his little brat to cook – it might be fun!
Web published: June 19th, 2010.
My Secret Shore