Betad by: Charity
One of the hardest moments of parenting was watching from the side when an adult child made bad decisions and you no longer had any real ways to influence them. Well, other than talking and Asko had certainly tried. He was not the only one. Misha had done his best, Dima and Ivo, Joni’s other friends, but Joni’s head couldn’t be turned.
Joni was an adult, soon 22 years old, and the final decision was his and his alone. It had to be accepted. Asko couldn’t turn his son’s head, he could only come with him when Joni took his first steps in the direction that seemed like a bad idea for the rest of them.
London was a big city, especially next to Helsinki and the trauma was far too recent. They had arrived the day before and seen at the apartment Joni was going to rent from a private landlord. Their intention was to stay in London for the next couple of nights and at the same time Joni could
consider if he would really be ready to move.
Earlier in the spring, they had persuaded Joni to give up the previous housing offer and consider moving more carefully. Joni had gone to the therapy with Misha, but he had thought, after only a couple of sessions, that they didn’t really receive the necessary keys for it to be sensible to continue the relationship. Misha was understandably frustrated. What could a man do if the other had so firmly decided that the best option was to break up.
Asko knew his son loved Misha. He loved so much that he imagined this to be the best for him. Joni might have imagined that starting from a clean slate could somehow sweep away the horror he experienced. It was absurd. Asko was afraid, how on earth Joni would get along here alone and away from the people who knew and loved him? There was no getting past such a trauma so easily.
Asko had talked to Misha. He had asked the man to be patient, to endure still. This stage was part of the journey and Asko was sure that before long Joni would notice his mistake and cancel his crazy plan or return home quite soon if he really decided to move. He really hoped Joni would come to his senses before moving.
Asko had also spoken to the therapist to address his own feelings. What had happened had been a huge crisis in all of their lives. The woman, of course, could not reveal the things she had talked with Joni, but she gave him support to help him accept his decisions. Helped him to understand that even though it was difficult, the best way for him to help Joni, was to be there supporting him when Joni made his decision. If all went wrong, it would be easier for Joni to admit his mistake and return to them when they wouldn’t have been strongly against it in the first place.
This, moving abroad, had been Joni’s dream since he was a teenager and Asko knew he had to let his child go and reach for that dream. But he was worried, he couldn’t help but to worry, how naïve it had been, to believe that the worry would lessen when one’s child grew up and reached adulthood. But the worry was there, constant wish that all would go well, even as an adult the child remained a child to a parent. But he couldn’t stay there with Joni, he had three other children; minors! and a wife, and work, a life to lead. And though Joni was the one he worried the most, he had to let him go, had to let him live his own life and hope he’d find his path to heal.
In moments like these, he missed his late wife the most, as a similar person, Marianna might have been better able to help their son. How different could life have been if Marianna had been allowed to live with them?
** ^^ ** ^^
”Well, how did it go?” Asko asked when Joni walked over to him from the campus in the afternoon. The day was very warm and sunny, unlike he had expected the weather to be in England.
”I think it went well, even that interview that I slightly threated,” Joni shrugged his shoulders and smiled. ”In fact, it went surprisingly well!”
”Um, well, that’s nice to hear.” Asko said and tried his best to smile encouragingly. Of course, he was happy to see his son in such a good mood after a long time. Joni was amazingly relaxed, compared to how anxious he had appeared at home whenever they were out in the air.
Even now, Asko had been prepared that Joni would have received the first blow when he took the entrance exams, first hit by the realization that he wasn’t really ready after all. He had been prepared to receive his son, who would have been upset and told him he wished to return home. Now he wasn’t sure how to react and whether he should be happy or not. The collapse could come later if he really moved alone and who could Joni then turn to?
They went for an early dinner together. Joni seemed so much like his own old self that it felt weird. As if the whole horrible ordeal hadn’t happened but it was only four months! The behavior was very different when compared to what it had been at home at worst. Maybe this behavior here, however, was just well-played. Joni wanted to convince himself and him that he would make it?
Asko moved the food around his plate in deep thought, he was immensely distressed by the situation, what more could he say?
”You don’t know anyone here.” He finally said and looked at his son, who lifted his fork in his mouth and chewed quietly before speaking.
”I’ll get to know people.” He said and smiled. ”I’ll ask Eljas for recommendations and I’ll try to look if I can find work here before the fall.”
”Joni, it’s only been four months.” Asko couldn’t help but say and Joni gritted his teeth.
“I’ll survive.” He spoke. ”Nothing here reminds me of that.” He continued and looked at his father. ”New people, a new life.” He smiled. ”I haven’t felt this good in months.”
”What about Misha?” Asko asked and Joni was silent. “He loves you, you love him, that kind of love shouldn’t be wasted. It is not easy to find.” Joni didn’t answer, ate quietly, but his expression was a little tight. ”I hope you’d do this together.”
”I don’t want to be in a relationship.” Joni finally answered. ”I can’t be on one, not now.”
”And you can really do this?” The father sighed and faced his son’s defiant look.
“I can. If I can do this, then maybe later I will be able to be in a relationship as well. I want to rebuild my life, you know? ”
”It’s difficult for me.” Asko admitted. “It’s hard to understand why you couldn’t do it at home and with Misha. With the people who love you.”
“This is my choice… I love Misha, it’s true. I know he loves me. I don’t want him to stop loving.” Joni explained and Asko frowned. “This is too difficult now. No one can handle it, no matter what they promise.” Joni shrugged. “It could be that Misha finds another before I’m ready, but maybe I’m never ready? I don’t want him to expect that. I am troubled by the thought that he is wasting years with me and gets disappointed and… we would argue and be mean to each other.” Joni bit his lip. “He couldn’t admit that it’s more than he can handle. Eventually we would part… bitter with each other. I don’t want that. Do you understand now?”
Asko was silent and looked thoughtfully at his son. ”Couldn’t you still do this at home?” He finally asked.
”No.” Joni answered and smiled a little. Asko got the feeling that Joni was enjoying the awareness that he couldn’t stop him.
”You’re as stubborn as your mother.” Asko sighed and Joni smiled.
”I’ll continue therapy.” He promised. “Pauliina gave me some recommendations of good therapist around here. There’s also reportedly a man here who offers peer support or something.” Joni shrugged and lifted a glass of water to his lips. “I know you’re worried, but I’ll make it. I am rebuilding myself and Misha… Misha is free to live his own life in the meantime. I don’t want him to put his own life on hold. So don’t encourage him to wait, okay?”
Asko nodded a little reluctantly. ”I can’t make decisions for you, although I admit I’d want to in this situation.” He smiled softly. ”As long as you know if you decide to keep your head and move here, you can come home anytime and call me at any time, even in the middle of the night.”
”I know Dad.” Joni smiled.
** ^^ ** ^^ **
After returning home with his father, Joni still felt strongly that moving and building a new life was the best solution for him. He had planned to move either case even if he hadn’t got a place to study right away, but to everyone’s surprise, including himself, he had gotten through and his studies would begin in September. He electronically signed a lease for an apartment he had visited with his father.
Aki had had time to distribute his pictures to outsiders, and some of them had ended up on a porn site where they had been removed, but copies would certainly have spread by then. Joni didn’t care to know where the pictures had ended up, he didn’t want to find out, he wanted to forget. He would start a new life in London, under a new name; Eelis Sairola, the last name came from his mother’s mother, whom Joni had never met. The change of his surname was formalized just before his move to London in early July. He did not change his first name, would only take his second name for official use. In truth, the issue with the published pornographic pictures, was the most profound factor in his decision to leave everything former.
Everyone else near him still thought the move was a bad idea, but they had given up when they saw that his head could not be turned. Misha was angry with him or maybe not angry, just disappointed and upset. They had argued, but in the end, Misha had finally given up, seeing it was pointless to try and stop him. They had agreed to keep the apartment they had bought together for now as an investment apartment, where Dima would stay for the time being as their tenant with one of his fellow students. Joni wanted to believe that sooner or later Misha realized their separation was also in his best interest.
A wounded victim and his loyal hero, who would heal his wounds and treat him with silk gloves. Joni didn’t want their relationship to drift into that. If everything had gone differently, they would have had a passionate relationship where they would have alternately loved and hated and loved more and sex would have been a big, essential part. What they would have ended up having, was such a sad, broken reflection on what they should have had.
Joni hoped that he could put himself together, if not completely, then to a new version that would be even remotely close to what had been. He had the money to get off to a good start so he could look for work in peace. After all, living in London was by no means cheap, so it would be good to find a job before long if he didn’t want to waste all his savings or rely on his father’s money.
The apartment was a studio apartment, with good transport connections, the campus was reached by metro and the total time was only about half an hour. His father helped him move, for Misha their separation was still too painful, and he needed time. Joni understood that, but nurtured the hope that over time, Misha would be ready to build a relationship as friends.
The belief that he could do it alone had been easy when his father had been with him. Joni didn’t admit, but the moment his dad had to leave, he had to grit his teeth and do his best to cover up his sudden fear of being left alone. Her chest tightened. Would he succeed, though? Joni had wondered when his father had left him in his new apartment, hesitant and a little reluctant.
He had looked out the street window and saw his father stepping into a black taxi. Dad looked behind him once more, towards the window where he saw him and Joni raised his hand to greet him, forcing a smile on his face and hoping his dad couldn’t see the tears in his eyes. As the taxi drove away, Joni allowed the tears come. He sunk slowly on the floor looking at the apartment with teary eyes, that feeling of loneliness hitting him hard. Had he made the right choice? The voice in his mind doubted.
His head ached. Joni wiped his eyes, then looked at his left hand, the finger that was still “adorned” by that ugly scar. Those images tried to force their way into his consciousness. ”Do you know how my father once marked my mother?” Chris’s voice echoed in his mind. Joni closed his eyes. ”A ring is easily removed, that mark is eternal”. Joni felt unwell. He didn’t want to remember. He did not want it! And he got up, gritting his teeth tightly together. He didn’t want to remember.
He was about to go make coffee when his phone rang. He shuddered, even though the ringtone had been changed, his first reaction to the sound of the phone would be the memory of Aki calling him repeatedly before the abduction. It couldn’t be Aki, it couldn’t be Chris, they were dead; Joni reminded himself as he walked over to his phone, which he had left on the kitchen table.
‘Misha’, Joni looked at the name on the screen and quickly wiped his eyes, clearing his throat so that it wouldn’t sound like he was crying. He felt relief and longing to see the name on the screen.
“Hey,” he replied, smiling through his miserable feeling.
“Hey brat,” Misha said, and Joni felt that certain warmth spread in his chest. ”How’s it going?” He asked. Joni laughed a little.
”Fine. I’m glad you called.”
”Are you?” Misha sounded thoughtful.
”Of course, I am.” Joni assured.
”Did you get all your stuff in place?” Misha asked after a moment of silence.
”Yeah. There weren’t many of them. This is a pretty small apartment, but quite nice.”
”Fitted carpet?” Misha guessed.
”Yeah. Pretty basic British. There’s no drying cabinet for dishes here, can you imagine? Just some stupid rack. And no dishwasher, I wonder how I’ll survive. And there is such a stupid faucet in the toilet.”
“Stupid faucet? Is the kitchen faucet smarter?” Misha pondered.
”It’s not very smart either.” Joni admitted.
”Aha. We have such a smart faucet, it knew right away what kind of heat I wanted to wash my hands with, reminded me that it’s worth taking soap in between.” Misha joked foolishly.
”Such a lame joke.” Joni joked gently.
“I know. However, you liked it.”
“It would be nice to see that stupid faucet one day. And that Carpet, I especially look forward to the carpet.”
”More than seeing me?”
”Well, seeing you would be a bonus.” Misha answered and Joni smiled as he looked out the kitchen window. He would have wanted to say that he missed Misha but did not want to give him any vain hope.
“You can come, someday. I want us to stay friends.” He said and Misha’s momentary silence revealed that friendship was still difficult for him to accept, after what they had been to each other.
”Of course. As I said before, I’ll be whatever you need me be to be for you.” Misha finally said. “I’m here when you need me. Remember that.”
Joni closed his eyes and was silent, he felt tears in his eyes again and he didn’t want Misha to hear his sorrow.
”I remember.” He answered. “Um Let’s talk later, okay? ”
”Okay. Send me pictures of that carpet, and that silly faucet? ” Misha asked and Joni laughed.
”Bonus if you send a picture of yourself.” Misha added longingly and Joni’s chest gripped.
”Maybe, with the silly faucet.” Joni whispered.
Misha ended the call, his chest heavy, his heart aching, and tears welling up in his eyes. The separation from Joni had been hell, mentally. The pain was still there. Part of him wanted to go after him, not listen to the objections. He toyed with the idea however, of taking the job from London that he had planned to take if things had gone as they had previously planned. He would move to London, somewhere near Joni and Joni would get close to him. They would get the future they had dreamed of, the future that Chris and Aki had shattered from them.
Misha toyed with the thought and at the same time he knew he had to give Joni space. If he went now, Joni would raise the walls because he imagined it was better. This way, honoring his wish, with careful steps, maybe one day Joni would understand his mistake and allow him close again?
The voice of the arriving message awoke Misha from his thoughts; Joni had sent a selfie of himself through WhatsApp where he was squatting next to the bathroom sink, his hand next to the sink showed his thumb up and Joni smiled. “Stupid faucet, but yes we will still become friends. Good friends.” Misha laughed, tears welling up in his eyes.
”I’m sure of it.” He answered. ”I look forward to seeing you.”