Joni sat in front of the table, studying the lawyer who went through his papers. Tuomo Kangas was 35 years old, recommended by one of his father’s associates. The man looked older than 35, with grey hair on his temples and thick lines over his forehead. Joni was tempted to recommend a hair colouring, perhaps give him Jami’s number, but maybe this wasn’t the right place or the right time for that. Joni looked around the room, the legal books on the shelf, the pictures of the current and former presidents on the wall, diplomas… All very formal and… boring. It was a peculiar weather outside that day, most of the sky was dark blue, indicating an approaching storm, yet at the same time the sun was still shining creating a warm, almost mystical and fascinating light outside as it contrasted with the darkness.
Joni tapped his fingers over his thighs, feeling nervousness spread within, the lawyer cleared his throat, adjusted his glasses and looked up to him from his papers. There was a smile forming on the man’s face; gentle yet somehow awkward and Joni knew instantly that whatever the man was about to say next, he wouldn’t like hearing it.
“The evidence against your former partner is quite solid, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll get sentenced to prison and as for the deportation, I’m quite confident in that matter as well. Mr.Hanratty has been here on a work permit and the situation being what it is; his current employer is not willing to continue that contract…” The man sighed and removed his glasses settling them over the table and Joni followed his movements carefully; he could sense that the bad news would follow.
“How long a sentence might he get?” Joni asked carefully and the man was quiet for a moment, shifting his gaze briefly back to his papers as if the answers would be found in there.
“If I had to give my most realistic guess, I would say… around two to three years…”
“Two to three years?” Joni couldn’t help but repeat. “Only so little?”
“I don’t want to get your hopes up, that’s why I’m trying to give you as realistic answers as I can. The thing is, you’ve healed quite fast, your injuries didn’t require intensive medical care and there is no permanent damage on your health. Also Mr. Hanratty has no previous crime record, so in the eyes of the law he’s been a model citizen up until now of course. Also the fact that you have been in a relationship… Well, I’m sorry to say this but most likely it will be a factor to lessen the sentence. Of course I will do my absolute best for this case.”
Joni wasn’t sure what to think, he felt upset and frightened. He knew how it usually worked, those sentenced as first timers usually served only half of the actual sentence, so if Chris was given two to three years, he could be out in a year or a year and a half. And what if they wouldn’t deport him? “So, basically… “ He started in a hoarse voice. “Because Chris didn’t have enough time to kill me or do further damage, as I can assure you he would have had he not been interrupted…” Joni swallowed and looked at the man in the eye. “He will serve less than two years and perhaps then he can come and finish the job? And I am just supposed to… What am I supposed to do? Wait and see what happens? Wait and hope he forgets and forgives me for being the cause of his sentence?”
“We’ll file for a permanent restraining order, which I’m sure will be set.”
Joni gritted his teeth, knowing what a small comfort that really was. Who could make sure Chris would stick to it? “There’s also one other thing we need to discuss…”
“More bad news?” Joni asked with a grim smile and the guilty look on the man’s face told him the answer. “Go on…”
“The pictures you mentioned, I’m afraid there’s not much hope legally to receive them all.”
Joni blinked, feeling a wave of nausea and disbelief and for awhile he was at a loss for words. A bird flew onto the windowsill then, jumping back and forth on it while looking inside, straight at him it seemed, before it spread its wings and continued on its way. Joni cleared his throat and brought his gaze back to his lawyer tilting his head. “What does that mean?”
“Well, it’s complicated I’m afraid. You do have the right to the pictures, but legally he has done no crime when taking them, since you were 18. We can’t make sure that he gives all the pictures to us, he could have copies. The thing is he could still spread them online later without the fear of getting caught. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but it’s better if you know the truth.”
“But… they are my pictures…” Joni uttered. “It’s me who’s in those pictures, they are mine… I should have the right to get them back!” He felt upset, he felt… “They belong to me, he has no right…” Joni repeated and the lawyer looked uncomfortable, shifting his gaze down to the papers.
“As I said… it’s complicated… I’m sorry, but there really isn’t much that we can do… In these days, these sorts of things happen a lot I’m afraid.”
“Is that supposed to comfort me?” Joni asked dryly. “That there are others?”
The man was silent and finally he shrugged. “I suppose not, but…” Joni gritted his teeth, he felt a burning in his eyes and he didn’t want to cry. It was unfair! “He abused me, tried to strangle me and he…” His voice trembled and Joni hated how weak he sounded. “He might still hurt me with the pictures later… He did all that and he might only serve a year or two in jail? While I’ll suffer the rest of my years for what he has done to me. Where’s the justice in that?”
“It’s not fair, I agree with you. All I can say is that I’ll try my best to get more justice for you.”
“This country needs better laws… It’s he victims that are paying, not the criminals…”Joni murmured, feeling more or less defeated. He continued staring outside as his lawyer continued explaining things to him. There just was no justice for victims and now he was there to witness it himself. At that moment Joni almost wished that he lived in a country like the U.S. where criminals were at least given proper sentences. Here they were a joke, a big fucking joke. Unfortunately this joke didn’t seem at all amusing to him.
Misha was waiting for him outside the office when Joni got out. For a moment the blond smiled at him, before his look changed to worry when he saw the grim expression on the brunet’s face. “What happened?” Misha asked and Joni only shook his head walking past him.
“Let’s just go,” he said and Misha followed glancing briefly towards the office Joni had walked out of, seeing the lawyer now standing at the doorway looking back at them. Joni didn’t speak as they walked to the car, he looked both miserable and angry which made Misha’s worry grow.
“What did he say?” Misha asked again once they were seated in the car and waited before starting the engine. Again Joni shook his head, staring out of the passenger side window.
“Take me home, please,” the younger man finally said with a weak voice still not looking at him.
“You don’t want to come over to our place?” Misha asked confused, as that had been the original plan.
“No, I want to go home…” Joni repeated. “I want to be alone… I’m sorry…”
“What did the lawyer say?” Misha pressed on, still not starting the car and Joni stubbornly kept looking out of the window, shaking his head. “Joni,” Misha sighed and brought his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “Please tell me, I’m in this with you and I want to know what’s happening.”
“The system sucks…” Joni muttered, not really willing to tell Misha about the picture issue, somehow he worried that the blond would leave him because of them. He worried that they would become public eventually and… Misha would be ashamed to be with him.
“Joni, look at me,” Misha asked. “Please.” Joni sighed and turned to face Misha, his current boyfriend, which still felt somewhat bizarre to call him, bizarre that they had actually managed to get to that level. Though, they still didn’t have sex, not after that one unfortunate time.
“He will probably get out in less than two years. Perhaps just a year,” Joni finally said, plugging the fabric of his jeans nervously with his fingers while staring at the movement in deep thought.
“How is that possible?”
“Because…there was no permanent damage to my health, because I’m alive and functioning… Because we were in a relationship… You see, apparently it’s less traumatic when your partner forces you, rather than a stranger…” Joni smiled grimly, shrugged and looked out of the front window. “He will probably get a restraining order though, but what does an order do? It doesn’t give him an electric shock if he tries to come near me or contact me, it doesn’t send an alarm… It’s a fucking piece of paper… “
It was unfair, Misha felt angry and worried, but tried his best to calm down so that he could comfort Joni. “Come here…” He whispered and carefully wrapped his arms around the brunet, who didn’t fight, instead welcomed the reassuring hold, lowering his head on Misha’s strong shoulder. “He’s not sentenced yet, I’m sure he will be deported at least and I won’t let him come near you again, I promise.” Gently the blond kissed the top of his head, stroking his back slowly.
“You can’t promise such things…” Joni whispered. “No one can, because I can’t live the rest of my life locked safely indoors for the fear of him…” And slowly Joni straightened on his seat, sighed and looked out for a moment before glancing back at Misha who was silent and looking at him worriedly. The blond felt helpless and upset, he was scared and it made him feel weak. He wanted to say something to comfort Joni, offer him his strength, yet at that moment… When Joni said it, he realized it was true, no matter how much he wished to deny it…
Joni sensed Misha’s troubled thoughts, they were written all over his face, the worry made him look somehow younger and vulnerable. Joni reached out to take Misha’s hand and slowly leaned forward to kiss him.
“I’m sure Chris will be deported though and… Things will work out right?” Joni smiled then, wanting to cheer both Misha and himself up. Plus it made him feel better that for once, maybe he could be the stronger one in this case. “And they might get help for Chris too,” he continued and nodded. “And he’ll get better, he won’t be so bitter and he’ll forget about me, he will start a new life.” Joni kept smiling and nodding as he talked, finding that his own words comforted him and he wanted to believe in them. “He wasn’t always bad after all, it was just… We didn’t work together and I’m sure that he understands it too, that him and I, we’re poison to each other, he will find someone new once he’s gotten help, talked to someone who knows about these things.”
Misha smiled carefully now and Joni gave him another small kiss. “Things will work out, even if the laws here suck,” he tried to joke. “Okay, lets go get some takeout and go to your place.” Joni decided then. He wasn’t sure where his sudden source of hope had risen from, but he wanted to hold on to it, keep believing that things would indeed turn for the better.
That evening Joni decided that he needed to see Chris, he believed that it was possible to talk sensibly to him, like two grown ups. He wanted to believe that Chris realized now his own wrongdoings, that he regretted and … that it would be possible to get the pictures back from him. He wouldn’t say anything to Misha or his parents about his plans, knowing they would try to talk him out of it. Joni was determined; he would go visit his ex in jail, clear things up thoughtfully so that they could both move on.
The brick walls were painted white; the floor was grey and a long table cutting through the room and transparent plastic wall in the middle of it separated visitors from the inmates. Chris was already seated on his side of the table and when their eyes met, the man smiled at him. Joni tried his best to remain standing, his legs felt like jelly and the nausea he felt in the bottom of his stomach kept on spreading. The confidence he had felt when making the decision to visit Chris seemed to disappear instantly at the sight of him.
Slowly he walked forward, reminded himself that there was nothing that Chris could do to him now with the transparent wall separating them and the guard in the room keeping an eye on them. There weren’t any others, Joni had requested this meeting and it was given outside the usual visiting hours.
He felt uneasy when he took his seat opposite to Chris and in spite of the wall and the guard, his ex still felt too close for comfort. Chris lifted up the phone on his side watching him and Joni glanced towards the officer at the door just to make sure that he was still in the room before he did the same. Chris was still smiling and it felt somewhat disturbing, the look on Chris’ face seemed almost hopeful.
“Hi,” the familiar voice spoke and Joni had to force himself to resume the eye contact. The young man’s heart was racing in his chest and he felt himself shivering slightly which he hoped wouldn’t show to Chris.
“Hi,” Joni whispered back with a weak voice.
“I’m so glad… “ Chris started. “You look great Joni, a sight for sore eyes.” He chuckled weakly and brought his hand closer to the plastic wall, not touching it, knowing it wasn’t allowed, but still aching to do so. Joni was so close and he longed to touch him.
“I’ve healed”, Joni responded flatly and for a moment Chris looked nervous, or anxious, Joni wasn’t sure.
“I’m sorry,” Chris said finally. “I really am, baby… Believe me, I didn’t mean to hurt you… I- I lost it, it won’t happen again, I swear.” Joni looked down and swallowed. The fact that Chris was calling him baby… Did he not realise there was no hope between them anymore? Of course he had known this meeting would be difficult, but it felt even more so now that he was there. He had to try and remain civil though, if he wanted the pictures from Chris, he had to swallow the fear and hatred, be as friendly as humanly possible in this situation. Joni forced himself to look back up.
“How have you been feeling?” He asked carefully. “You look… tired.” Indeed Chris looked quite pale, his pale blue eyes had almost haunted gaze in them; there were dark circles under his eyelids indicating the lack of sleep. When Chris chuckled, attempting to be light and friendly perhaps, it just sounded creepy to Joni.
“It’s difficult to sleep here”, Chris replied and smiled tiredly. “It’s… weird, lonely and… cold…” He kept a small pause. “Nothing much to do, except… Thinking of you, Joni, I really miss you. I was a fool, I- I’ll get help I swear… We can go to couples counselling together. It will get better, I swear to you. And… I forgive you for sending me here, let’s just call it even, okay baby? We can start all over form a clean table.” Joni saw Chris move his hand even closer; the fingertips almost touching the wall that separated them, clearly struggling with the fact that he could not reach him, that he wasn’t even allowed to touch the glass.
Joni cursed silently and looked away. Chris really and honestly believed that they still could have a future together.
“Speak to me, my love,” Chris urged him. Joni swallowed; his stomach turned, it felt so surreal to be there.
“I know you’re sorry, but…” Joni started insecurely, realising how strong his fear for Chris was, even here with the wall between them he felt like he could easily pass out from the fear alone. “…I’ve heard you say that before and I can’t…” He shook his head and bit his lip. “There’s no going back,” he forced himself to say truthfully before glancing up to see Chris’ reaction. The man’s expression had visibly darkened; a look that Joni had seen many times before and that indicated a storm. Joni felt his hope fading, he knew even before asking that Chris wouldn’t give the pictures easily, still he had to at least try. “You can get better Chris; I know you can, just not with me. We’re not good for each other.” He tried to reason.
“I can get better only with you, I need you Joni. Please, just give another chance; it can be like it was before, we were happy once, remember?”
Joni felt his eyes stinging, dangerously close to starting to cry and he didn’t want Chris to see him crying, not again. “I won’t forget,” he whispered with hoarse voice. “It can never be like that again though, not anymore, I can’t trust you, just like you can never really trust me, right?” As difficult as it was, Joni tried his best to hold Chris’ gaze. “We need to move on, it’s for the best and I wish you will get better, I wish you will find happiness and I know you can… without me.” Chris was glaring at him, without speaking, looking angry and Joni drew a deep breath. “If you ever cared for me, you’ll give the pictures back that you took.” He finally said and gritted his teeth, trying to seem calmer than he felt. For a while Chris didn’t say a word, just studied him with blank expression before his lips curved into a smirk.
“Oh, so that’s why you came here?” The man asked and laughed hoarsely for a moment before taking a pause and staring at him intensely. “Cancel the charges against me,” Chris replied then, the smirk not fading.
“Excuse me?” It wasn’t that Joni hadn’t heard him right; it just wasn’t what he had expected and thus didn’t know how to react.
“You heard me baby, take back the charges against me so that I’ll get out of this fucking place. Then you and I can have a proper talk and I’ll give you those pictures.”
“Chris… it’s not that simple…” Joni shook his head.
“Why wouldn’t it be?” The man asked calmly. “It’s a trade, I give you something and in return you’ll give me something. Otherwise… “ Chris shrugged. “Well, they are good pictures, I think I might be persuaded to sell them, might get good money from them, what do you think? And if they sentence me and I get released, by the way my lawyer says I might get out in a year or so if I cooperate and confess, anyway I think after that I could really use the money.”
Chris was still blackmailing him, even behind the bars he could find a way to try and get him under his control to make him do what he wanted. Joni shook his head, he felt desperate and lost for words or ways to handle his confused emotions.
“Are you fucking with that Ruskie?” Chris asked tightly and Joni couldn’t bring himself to look at his face, it felt so difficult to breathe, he felt too upset, too… fearful. “You are, aren’t you?” Chris pressed on and the tone hardened.
“It’s not your business what I do, not anymore!” Joni snapped breathing tensely, glancing up at his ex, whom bizarrely; smiled.
“I guess that answers my question” Chris said looking insanely amused. “Now, listen to me, my dear. The only way you get back those pictures that you so desperately desire, is to cancel this ridiculous accusation, you get me out of here and then you and I can have a proper talk about our relationship, alone.”
“Proper talk?” Joni asked bitterly. “Or a proper beating you mean?”
“I am willing to forgive you like I said. You ditch that f-…that Ruskie and we can start with a clean slate.” Joni shook his head in disbelieve, staring at Chris, who continued smiling rather creepily. “I think we should move to Canada together after you get me out of here. I don’t want you to see that man again and I’m sure you can finish your studies or find a job in Canada, even modelling.”
Chris had to be insane, somewhere down the line he had completely lost it if he honestly believed that he would accept these terms. “You’re insane,” Joni gasped finally when it really seemed that Chris was dead serious.
“You want the pictures and you know my terms, just don’t wait too long thinking about it.” Chris replied calmly and leaned slightly forward. “You belong to me, Joni… We will be back together…” He whispered with low voice. “It’s easier if you realise that now than later… Later I might not be so easily willing to forgive.”
Joni felt himself starting to tremble visibly from how upset he was. “You would forgive me? After what you did to me?” Joni shook his head. “It’s over Chris, we’re over! It makes me sick just to be near you!” Joni hissed. “You can’t blackmail me anymore and we will never be together again!”
Chris narrowed his eyes but continued smiling. “I still have the pictures baby, don’t forget it. And no, we’re not over yet. I will have you back.”
“Is that a threat?” Joni asked tightly.
“No, it’s a promise.” Chris smiled tilting his head. “Anyway, I guess you need to think about how you want to handle this, just don’t take too long, my patience has its limits.”
Joni wanted to get away, he couldn’t find any logical response and started to doubt that there even was one to give. Chris was beyond reason, Joni’s mind swirled between anger, fear and frustration, and it felt difficult to breathe. Chris wasn’t going to let him go, he wanted to drag him down to his own insanity. “I’m not yours Chris, get that through your head!” Joni breathed out with a broken voice. “It’s over.” He added and lowered the phone with a trembling hand.
Chris watched as Joni stood up, before slowly lowering his own receiver. The younger man was clearly stressed and shaky and Chris followed him with his gaze as Joni hurried across the room towards the door and the guard. Chris smiled when Joni glanced at him briefly from the doorway and the Canadian couldn’t resist the urge to wink at him and blow him a kiss, which only made the youth visibly more upset, his brown eyes were watering as he stepped through the door and somehow seeing that caused some form of sick satisfaction to Chris. He continued smiling when the guard came to bring him back to his cell, for the first time in days he felt hopeful that everything would work out the best for him. He held the cards in his hands and Joni would come crawling back, he had to.
A/N: Please review , either on shout box or the questbook where the review link leads to, it won’t take much of your time, but would mean a great deal to me! Reviews are the fuel to writing 🙂
Web published: March 27th, 2011.
My Secret Shore