Betad by koira
Joni had finished his list: ”4. Eat healthy food, cut down on carbs! 5. Get yourself a new apartment, 6. Go get the rest of your stuff from the old one. 7. Call your agent, discuss the possible return to modelling. 8. Study.”
The numbers weren’t in any logical order, but now that it was written down what he needed to do, he felt better. He felt like he had rested enough, wasted enough time. If he set his mind on not being affected by what had happened he could do it, he just needed to try harder.
Joni had switched his cell phone back on after Misha’s visit and later that evening he had gotten a message from the blond asking if he would go mini golfing with him the following day. He felt slightly amused, at least Misha was trying? Incidentally he had also gotten a message from Markus, well, two messages in fact since he had kept his phone closed for so many days. “Hey man, you ok? Tried to call you, can we meet this weekend, on Saturday perhaps?” And the other: “Seriously Joni, are you ok? I’m worried, let me know.”
Markus had responded to his facebook friend request quite fast when he had sent it and they had exchanged a few messages there, though Joni had avoided the subject of clearing up just what happened between Chris and him. However, Markus seemed very eager to meet.
Now this left him with the question: which one of the two should he meet tomorrow? Joni pondered his options, he was tired of staying indoors and… mini golfing seemed like something innocent and like light amusement, it might be fun? It wouldn’t need to be anything more, right? On the other hand, he hadn’t seen Markus in months …
Plus, he really shouldn’t give in to Misha this easily. Even though deep down, a day spent with Misha sounded a lot more appealing than one with Markus to whom he might have to explain things he’d rather focus on forgetting. Still… He hadn’t completely forgiven Misha yet and wanted to see more effort from the Russian. Finally after an hour of thinking, he sent his reply. “I have other plans tomorrow.”
It didn’t take long till Misha sent another message. “Sunday then?”
At this Joni grinned and decided to keep the man waiting for a reply just as long as it would take him to call Markus and agree to meet with him on Saturday afternoon for coffee. And then he was free to respond to the blonde.
“Perhaps… but Misha, I do not consider mini golfing real golfing. As friends, yes I can go play with you.”
“You enjoy torturing me like this, don’t you, brat?” Misha had written back and this time Joni didn’t take long to reply.
“Torturing you? I’m sure I don’t understand what you mean 🙂 ‘Night…”
“Good night Joni, I’ll come and pick you up Sunday at noon.”
Joni read the message and lowered his phone on the nightstand before lying down on his bed staring at the ceiling. Part of him couldn’t help but wonder if Misha was in fact only enjoying these games of playing hard to get, if only that was what sparked his interest? And always freaked out when he was about to get to the relationship? This thought worried Joni. If he hadn’t been together with Chris when their paths had been reunited, would Misha have had any real interest in him? Afraid of getting hurt again, it started to feel even more important to test Misha. Deep down he also wanted to make sure that Misha, or any other man he would finally end up with, could handle everything that he was, could be patient with his sometimes sudden whims, and doubts, his stubbornness and just… all of it, without losing their temper in a bad way.
He still had troubles sleeping during the night; Chris kept haunting his dreams in one way or another and Joni hated it. The trial was coming closer and closer with each passing day and while he wanted it over and done with, Joni also knew that the trial meant that he’d be forced to face Chris in the courtroom. He’d have to sit there and tell his side of things and… Chris would be there.
He still dreaded that they would let Chris go without any sentence, allowing him to stay and work in Helsinki and then… Of course Chris would be angry at him, he was locked up in some tiny room because of him and… Joni turned over on his side on the bed staring at the opposite end of the room. The silence in the house felt suffocating and heavy, then he started to imagine sounds that didn’t exist but were created out of fear. He turned his eyes to the closed door of his room, feeling his body starting to shiver as he thought that he heard soft creaks from the stairway, sounds of footsteps coming closer. It was far too easy to imagine how Chris would suddenly step into his room with an angry smirk on his face.
Joni sat up and rubbed his face. “Don’t be silly,” he whispered to himself and narrowed his eyes towards the door, almost daring it to open. He had to conquer these silly fears, he had to get back to leading a normal life, had to forget. Slowly he got up, pulled on his sweatpants and long sleeved shirt before quietly walking to the door and silently opening it. Quiet, his family was sleeping, 1.30am. Joni glanced around before stepping further into the hall, sneaking towards the stairs.
He felt anxious, his head was aching and it almost felt like it was difficult to breathe. He felt so weak, too weak, without control, his body and mind exhausted, disgusted by the label he now carried. He felt trapped somehow, wanting so desperately to move on, but finding it difficult. If he could just forget, not hear his voice, not remember his touch, the numerous times seeing the shadow at the doorway, the looming shadow, the heavy breathing and approaching steps, the click of a belt. How he had been holding his own breath, not daring to move and knowing what would happen was something he couldn’t stop because otherwise Chris could destroy everything. As long as everything looked well on the outside – he had thought then and held on to the thought.
How could something that had once been good turn so ugly? The memories played over and over in his mind in one big chaos, meeting Chris, the first nights in the guest room, the long chats online, how he had longed to see the man. Canada, kissing, having sex, laughing, their trip to Paris, moving in, happiness, having sex like bunnies, such brief happiness until jealousy turned it into something ugly… Joni trembled even more heavily, he didn’t want to think about Chris, wanted to erase it all. And he hated himself more when he felt the sudden stabs of guilt returning thinking that maybe it was his fault that Chris had changed. When he imagined his ex in that tiny cell, alone, afraid… The man he had cared for once… Maybe it was his fault? Something he had done? The way he was? He knew he could be difficult, even selfish at times and… vain… He hadn’t meant to flirt, but… he had…
Why was this happening to him? Why was this mess falling over him? He shouldn’t blame Misha for having doubts, right? He was disgusting and tainted and… Joni noticed he was standing in front of his father’s liquor cabinet, scanning the bottles, opening the glass door and touching the glass bottles with his index finger, thinking. It would be such an easy solution, to drink and forget…. The wonderful light feeling of being drunk, yet… There would always be the next morning and what then? Reaching for another bottle? He glanced up on the wall, where his mother’s picture was hanging, her eyes seemed to be looking straight at him and though the picture of his mother was smiling softly, Joni could easily imagine the disappointment that would form on her face if she was alive and saw him. Alcohol wouldn’t be the answer, it was a quick way to ruin and so he closed the door leaving the bottles untouched.
He drifted his gaze to the window, the nights were getting darker now, fresher, he remembered how running had always made him feel better and decided he would rather have that become his drug.
And so, Joni got his running shoes, put them on his feet, took his keys and stepped out into the fresh summer night. The streets were quiet, Joni stood on the porch wondering if he really had the courage to go running alone at this time of the night. He wondered about his fears, meeting Chris? Someone else? A bear perhaps? The thought almost made him snigger, what an ironic fate it would be; after everything getting eaten by a bear! He could imagine the headlines! Joni wasn’t sure why it was so amusing to him, perhaps because it was so unlikely to come across such a creature in this area.
Anyway, he had to conquer his fear of Chris and other troubles and so he took a deep breath and walked towards the front gate. The neighborhood they lived in was well respected and peaceful, mostly families lived there, there were no pubs nearby, no liquor stores, so Joni figured it should be quite safe even in the middle of the night.
He walked at first, quickening his steps at a slow phase, trying to remember that he couldn’t expect his body to have fully recovered, he was much weaker than before the ‘incident’. There were only a few cars driving by. Joni started to jog towards the nearby forest, which indeed should be free of bears and other nasty creatures like gray wolves and such, where it would be more pleasant to run over the soft sandy roads. He felt the soft breeze caress his face gently, the soft sounds of nature, the sand under his shoes once he reached the forest, at times he stopped to walk, getting out of breath easily, the muscles of his legs seemed to protest, but he wouldn’t give in, would get used to this again. He needed to regain his strength.
As he continued to run, forcing his body to continue, each step seemed lighter and easier to take, it was so still, such a quiet summer night. He ran faster, felt his anxiety easing its grip on him, washing away fears and memories, concentrating only on running, the sounds of his own steps, his breathing, feeling his muscles moving him forward, such a light feeling almost like… flying… When he returned home, walking now, he smiled, feeling incredible, invincible, almost like … drunk but better, so much better. He could do this, he could get through this, for that moment he felt no fear and knew he’d go running the following night as well.
He sneaked back into the house, knowing he didn’t want his family to know that he’d been out at this hour, they would just worry and treat him like a broken child that needed shelter, who couldn’t take care of himself. But he could, he would show them, he would show everyone. A quick visit to the bathroom, a drink of water, splashing water on his face, a change of clothes and then returning to his bedroom. He lay down on his bed, once again staring at the ceiling. He had done it, he had gone out and conquered his fears, for that short moment Joni felt like he truly had. He felt like he knew the right tools to recover; the healing power of exercise and making plans. It was so simple really.
Only… It wasn’t that simple, it never would be. For that night however, Joni slept better than he had for days.
That Saturday morning Joni came down to have breakfast with them, Katja exchanged a somewhat relieved look with her husband since it had been a struggle to get him to eat. The youth had visibly lost some weight and for the past week he had seemed so gloomy and tired. Perhaps Misha’s visit had cheered him up? Katja wondered observing her stepson who seemed almost… happy? At least he was smiling and it was not that forced grim smile that they had almost gotten used to seeing that week.
“Did you sleep well?” Asko asked as Joni was peeling himself some apples in front of the counter.
“I did yes, thank you. And you?” He asked, glancing at them. He felt his muscles being a little sore from his late night running, but it was a good soreness that he actually kind of liked.
“Just fine, thanks,” Asko smiled. Joni took some cottage cheese from the fridge and spread some onto a plate with the pieces of apple before taking a seat down.
“Won’t you take some pancakes?” Katja asked, she rarely made pancakes but she had to admit she was hoping to fatten the boy up some, well… get him back to his normal weight at least.
“No thanks,” Joni said, arranging the pieces of apple and then picking up one and starting to eat it.
“Some porridge perhaps?” Katja suggested.
“Nope,” Joni shook his head. “Porridge tastes like cardboard and has too much carbs…”
His father sighed at this. “Don’t tell me that you’re on some silly diet, what is this nonsense about the evil carbohydrates anyway? You need them and they are good for you, trust me. You have to start eating more Joni, you’ve lost weight.” Joni narrowed his eyes at his father, annoyed, his good mood gone.
”For fuck’s sake, it’s my business what I eat, I am not a child!” He protested and got up, his siblings were looking at him quietly, a little surprised about the sudden shift in his mood.
“Joni, please calm down and finish your breakfast,” Asko tried to remain calm; though he had to fight himself not to drag his eldest back to the table and force feed him.
“I’m not hungry, plus I have things to do,” Joni snapped and hurried upstairs. Asko felt a headache approaching, he was worried about his son’s behavior and felt helpless as to what he could do. He knew what had caused it, of course he knew and that was what made it complicated. He honestly didn’t know how he as a parent could help his son, how he could talk to him, he knew he shouldn’t lose his nerve even though Joni wasn’t behaving so nicely to them.
The rest of the family ate their breakfast silently, even the children sensed the difference in the air, the tension and worry. The twins, though usually quite restless and loud, now were on their best behavior.
“May we go out and play?” Julius asked carefully and Katja smiled gently at them.
“Of course, if you take your sister with you and keep a good eye on her?”
“Yes mom, come Sini, let’s go play,” the three of them left the kitchen and both Katja and Asko started to clear the table in a somewhat uncomfortable silence.
Just 5 minutes later Joni returned downstairs. “I’m going, I’ll be back in the afternoon, I’ll probably eat out!” Asko walked to the hall and looked at him as he was putting his shoes on.
“Just where are you going? Can’t I take you?” He asked worriedly and Joni flashed him a smile as if the episode in the kitchen hadn’t happened.
“Thanks dad, but I’ll be fine, I have so many things to take care of, meeting a friend and stuff. Don’t worry! See you!” He said almost cheerfully and left before Asko could respond. He turned when he heard his wife’s steps behind him.
“What should I do?” He asked, hating the helpless feeling. “I don’t know what to do, Katja.” He said, shaking his head, running his fingers through his hair. Katja didn’t have the answers, she worried as well, Joni was young, but he was an adult and they couldn’t force him to stay, couldn’t force him to eat.
“Perhaps… if we gently suggest that…” Katja hesitated. “That he would talk to some professional, about… Chris…” Asko looked at her and gave her a miserable smile, he could already see his son’s reaction to this gentle suggestion and at the same time he thought it would be the best if Joni talked to someone with better tools to help than they had.
Joni parked his car, looking at the apartment building and taking a deep breath before slowly getting out. He hadn’t wanted to tell his parents that he was going there, they probably would have stopped him or at least insisted on coming along, but… Joni felt like he needed to do this on his own.
This was still where he officially lived, he and Chris both. He felt a tight knot settle in the bottom of his stomach as he approached the building, his heart sped up when their neighbor and her friend walked past him and he could see the look they gave him. The girl greeted him and Joni only nodded stiffly trying to smile yet knowing that it came out insecure. After passing them he could hear the whispers and wondered how much all of their neighbors really knew. How much had they heard?
His footsteps echoed in the corridors as he slowly climbed up, Hanratty, Lehto, seeing Chris’ surname caused a cold shiver run down his spine. It was so odd to be there, his hand trembled as he took the keys, his heart was racing and when he slowly pushed the door open he was sure that he could smell Chris, hear his voice, the sounds of his steps, yet… it was all his fearful imagination.
He closed the door behind him, looking around; it was an eerie feeling to stand there in the silence. The smell was so familiar and almost made him nauseous only because of the memories related to it. What if they had tricked him and Chris was really here? He wondered.
“C-chris?” He called with a whisper hating how terrified his voice sounded. Only silence answered. Chris’ stuff was still there though, most of it anyway, Joni wondered how much he had been allowed to keep in his cell. Joni didn’t know, he had never known anyone who had been arrested before and wasn’t sure what it was like exactly, only pretty sure that it couldn’t be like in those American crime series. Cautiously he stepped further into the living room, the air was a bit stifling all around, it was quite warm inside, though the curtains were drawn shut. Joni tried to remember if they had been that way the last time and finally came to the conclusion that it was Katja’s doing. The cops had most likely been there too…
He entered the kitchen and knew straight away that someone had cleaned it, again most likely Katja. Joni didn’t know how long Chris had waited for him, but knew he would have left some empty beer cans on the table. Joni walked to the fridge and opened it, it was empty as well and the electricity had been switched off, he wondered how much Katja or his dad had done here. The bathroom had been cleaned as well, no signs of broken glass, no signs of their fight anywhere.
He glanced towards the bedroom, the room that he detested the most. Slowly he made his way to the door gently pushing it open and looking inside. The bed was made, although it hadn’t been that morning. The memories crept in on him, Chris’s angry voice, the hot breathing on his face, the tight hold, and how he had feared for his life that day. Joni gritted his teeth and tried to push the images back, tried to calm himself and think about what needed to be done. He realized how complicated this might turn out, separating what belonged to him and what to Chris, some furniture they had bought together which now seemed like a silly decision. On the other hand, Joni knew that there was very little here that he wanted to keep. He wouldn’t need any reminders of his past life with Chris. Perhaps he’d buy an all new wardrobe as well. As someone who loved shopping, Joni didn’t see a huge down point in that.
He looked around, feeling the nausea spread, he hated this room, hated the memories of living there and suddenly, feeling the urge to puke he hurried to the bathroom. As he kneeled on the floor, next to the toilet seat after hurling, with cold sweat on his forehead, shivering, he knew it had been a mistake to come there.
There was nothing that he really wanted here, nothing that wouldn’t have already been brought to him. Now it seemed like nothing more than a disgusting crypt of their failed relationship. Joni got up and washed his face, his eyes were a little bit red, he needed to get out, this was a mistake.
He left the apartment, wondering how to deal with the lease they had, this had to be something that he should consult his lawyer about. Joni felt annoyed, his stress level rose, he didn’t want to deal with this all. He just wanted his life back to normal, get a new place to live alone and forget all of this. He checked the time: 12.00, he had promised to meet Markus at 1pm at the city center at a coffee shop, only he didn’t feel like facing the crowd after all, didn’t think he was ready to be around so many people and so much noise, not after visiting the apartment. Sighing, Joni dialed the number of his friend.
“Hi!” the familiar cheerful voice answered.
“Hi… Um, do you mind a change of plans? I don’t feel like going to Helsinki now, I’m sorry… Just… Tired and I’m by car, so… I’d rather not drive there.”
“Sure, no problem, hey why don’t you come over to my place?” Markus suggested.
“Will Lauri mind?”
“Nah, we broke up, didn’t I tell you? Anyway I live alone now, same place… Come over, I’ll make some coffee.” Joni pondered about it for a while, wondering why Markus hadn’t told him of the break up before when he had asked how he was doing.
“Okay, see you soon,” he consented.
“Great, see you, bye!” Markus replied excitedly and hung up.
15minutes later Joni stood in front of the door and rang the doorbell. He still felt weird, it seemed like such a long time since the last time he had been out and realized just how limited his life had been since the beginning of the year. He had been forced to neglect many of his friendships, he hadn’t been able to model in months, his life had revolved around home, the library and the gym, being available to Chris and his needs. How he hated looking back now, how loathsome that life had been.
Markus opened the door with a bright smile, looking at him from head to toe. “You look great, man,” he said and held the door open. “Come in, come in, so great to see you!” He said and Joni gave him a slightly uncomfortable smile.
“Thanks… You too,” he said.
“You’ve lost a bit of weight, haven’t you?” Markus noticed as Joni took his coat off.
“A little I guess… Haven’t been able to work out so much…”
“Ah yeah… You’ve been… sick right?” Markus asked, scratching his head. He had read Joni’s facebook status message about him being on sick leave and Chris was arrested. Having witnessed how pissed off the man could get from a simple visit he could easily guess what might have happened.
“Um… yeah…” Joni nodded.
“Come, I made coffee ready, I also have some ice cream and cookies,” Markus smiled and led him into the kitchen. “Sit down,” he asked and then served him the coffee. “Milk, right?” Joni nodded and smiled faintly.
“Thanks,” he said, looking towards the plate of cookies before him, but not reaching for them.
“You want ice cream?”
“You sure? It’s chocolate chip, your favorite right?” Markus grinned and Joni glanced at him feeling somewhat uncomfortable.
“Coffee is enough, thanks…” Joni said and Markus raised his eyebrow smiling as he sat down.
“You sure? Come on, take a cookie at least…” He said pushing the plate closer to him. Why was everyone trying to force feed him with sugary treats? Joni wondered and sighed, seeing it best to just take one so that Markus would stop pushing. He took a small bite, there was an awkward silence and the other man was observing his face with a smile. It was odd, before everything their friendship had felt so natural and easy and now it was just… odd.
“So, when did you and Lauri break up?” Joni asked. Markus was quiet for a moment.
“He moved out like… a few weeks ago?” He answered with a shrug. “But it really was over long before that, I guess we just dragged it out of habit. I realized… we were too different and he was jealous and whiny and it was driving me nuts. It was more like having a bitchy housewife than a boyfriend.” Markus laughed, took a sip of his coffee, looking straight into Joni’s eyes. “I’ve really missed you, you know?” He said not taking his eyes off him and Joni couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable, he glanced towards the window before back at his friend trying to smile.
“It’s nice to see you again, it’s been… what?” He frowned and tried to remember.
“Almost a year, the last time we met Chris threw me out of your apartment,” Markus replied calmly. “And then you never seemed to find the time to see me.” Joni moved his finger along the coffee cup, embarrassed.
“Yeah, sorry about that…” He said. “It’s…”
“You don’t have to apologize for him. The man is an asshole. Now that you’re no longer with him I can freely say so.” Markus smiled gently. Joni felt weird; his hands trembled slightly as he brought his coffee cup to his lips. “Did he…” Markus started hesitating. “He’s arrested right? Am I making the right assumption that he was … violent to you?”
Joni lowered his coffee mug down as his hands started to tremble more. This was so embarrassing, he felt so pathetic and weak. There he sat opposite to a friend he had gone to the army with, where they had handled guns and crawled in woods, slept in a tent with a group of others, spent a week in a forest camp without the luxury of a shower, doing his best to prove himself that he was more than just an air head, a gay model who couldn’t play the games of men. Doing his best not to complain there how disgusting it felt not being able to wash properly and he had done well, he thought, but now… He hadn’t been able to stop Chris from beating and raping him. “He’s arrested,” he finally replied quietly. “He did attack me and there will be a trial… it’s…” Joni sighed, glanced up to see the worried frown over his friend’s face. “It’s uncomfortable and I really don’t want to talk about it much. But I’ll survive, I have, I’m fine.” He concluded and flashed the man opposite from him a brave smile.
“I knew the guy was a shit head,” Markus smiled back with sympathy. “Hope they ship him back to Canada ASAP and give him a major ass kicking when he gets there.” Joni gave a small chuckle at this, out of nervousness more than anything else. “I can’t understand how anyone could bring themselves to harm you,” Markus continued then and hesitated. “I never would, I’d…”
“Markus, I changed my mind, could I have some ice cream after all?” Joni interrupted fearing the course that the conversation was about to take.
“Of course,” Markus nodded, looking at him in an odd way before getting up. “Are you doing anything this evening?” He asked carefully while taking the packet of ice cream from the freezer. Joni played with his coffee mug, trying to think of a good answer. “Because I thought if you’d like to go out, to some club I mean, to dance. Remember how much fun we had before?” Markus smiled, giving him a hopeful look.
“I’m not really ready for clubbing and such… I’ve barely just recovered, Markus. I was in pretty bad shape to be honest and… With the trial coming, I don’t think it’s wise.” He was worried that if someone who… knew? Or was involved, would see him out having fun, partying before the trial, they’d assume that he was a liar or something, that Chris hadn’t really hurt him and should be immediately released. Plus going to a gay club now didn’t even interest him, he was afraid of the attention he usually got, he wouldn’t be able to handle it, not now.
“Oh… I understand,” Markus said, observing him somewhat worriedly before serving him a rather large portion of the cold chocolate treat. “Well, we could stay here, you know, have a few drinks? Order a pizza, maybe rent a movie?” He suggested and again Joni recognised the certain hopefulness in his voice and the way Markus was looking at him, he had been blind to it before and now… Had Chris seen it? Had he really had a reason to throw a jealous fit?
“I’m sorry, I can’t today, I’ve… I have things to do.” Joni scooped a small spoonful of ice cream and tasted it.
“Some other time then?” Markus gave a slightly disappointed smile and Joni nodded.
“Sure,” he nodded and glanced at his friend. Markus was his age, about the same height, cute and funny, but Joni was sure that he didn’t play golf, plus he just wasn’t… Misha.
Web published: December 10th, 2010.
My Secret Shore