It was two days to the trial and Joni’s anxiousness had grown with each day that passed. He had seen his therapist four times now and the last time he had slowly started opening up more about the abuse and the sexual violence. He would have to talk about it at the trial anyway so talking to her first might help, or so he had encouraged himself to think.
He hadn’t wanted to allow himself to really think of all the things that Chris had put him through. Hadn’t wanted to allow himself to admit how deep he wounds were and how much they haunted his mind. All those nights, all that tension and fear, the feeling of utter loneliness and depression, how everything Chris did or said had begun to disgust him. How being near him had made his skin crawl. Yet, the memories of better times were equally confusing and part of him felt guilty for thinking and mourning the loss of those happier times. His mind was seeking answers for something that didn’t make sense to him, the therapist explained. The first attack had been unexpected and shocking, coming from someone who was never supposed to be a threat.
Joni told her how he had often gotten himself drunk first to make the obligation to have sex with Chris more endurable and how he now feared that he had conditioned himself to this habit. She suggested bringing Misha with him to their sessions so that they could address the subject better. Joni wasn’t sure how Misha would feel about it, but promised her to think about it.
Later that evening they were watching a film with Ivo and Jami. Joni’s mind was still preoccupied with his therapy meeting and how in just two days he’d have to face Chris in the courtroom. Though his father had promised to help with the picture issue, Joni didn’t see what his dad could do anymore than he could. Joni stared at the screen without really focusing on the film, which apparently was funny considering that it made Jami and Ivo snicker so much.
Joni thought about his ex wondering what was going through his mind at that same moment. Did he regret at all? Even a tiny bit? Did Chris remember the time when they had been happy? His own feelings… How strange they felt now. The boy he had been and the boy who had felt such desire towards Chris felt like a stranger now. Was it silly to keep hoping that Chris would let it go? That he would realise it was no use, that… he could move on, after this, take his punishment, suffer it and let go and change the course of his life after regaining his freedom.
But as Joni remembered their last encounter… Chris had probably been expecting that he’d accept all his terms and most likely his anger had grown seeing that he hadn’t.
The stress he was under was getting unbearable. How could it really get better? Chris had ruined so much for him and some things couldn’t be repaired. Tabloids still showed interest, there was still one persistent journalist who had been trying to call him and unfortunately the same guy had managed to get Misha’s number as well. They both had refused to comment and avoided answering to any strange numbers from now on. It was just so silly, Joni didn’t understand the interest, and he wished that they would just leave it be.
Chris had also caused him to lose many friends, or perhaps what had happened just revealed the unhappy truth about their loyalty. They didn’t seem to know how to talk to him anymore, so they had simply stopped keeping contact with him. He remembered hearing his father talking to his uncle once, of losing friends after his mother had died. In their fear of not knowing how to comfort some people simply drew back to avoid any awkward moment. The realisation had made Joni feel even more depressed, he wouldn’t have needed them to say anything, he would have needed them to be there, just… stick around, call sometime, even if only to tell him what was going on in their lives.
Markus was one of the friends he seemed to have lost. Apparently Markus had held other hopes than just being friends with him and as it turned out, part of the reason of why Markus had broken up with his boyfriend was him. Joni didn’t understand where he had gotten the impression that he would be ready to jump into a relationship with him, or into bed for that matter. It was somewhat disturbing to think that Chris had been right about Markus. When Joni had told him about being with Misha, Markus response had sounded quite bitter and mean and Joni didn’t see them renewing their friendship anytime soon.
Joni lowered his head on Misha’s shoulder. Well perhaps he had only few real friends, but their quality made up for the quantity. At times from the corner of his eye he observed Ivo and Jami, who were snickering quietly together, stealing kisses, touching each other secretly and whispering in each other’s ears. Joni felt jealous of how easy they had it, how natural and…
“Oh for Gods’ sake, get a room you two,” Misha suddenly snorted when the pair had been occupied with a kiss that had started to seem quite heated. Jami chuckled, his cheeks slightly red and Ivo grinned.
“We do have a room, thank you, but we will use it later.” The older man replied smiling and then happened to glance at Joni instantly looking guilty. “We’ll behave now, I promise.”
“Well you better…” Misha muttered and Joni could see the annoyed expression over the blonde’s face. “And I hope you keep it quiet too if you intend to stay here for the night.”
“No worries, we’ll go to Jami’s later,” Ivo promised and Joni straightened up on his seat. Misha was tense and he felt sure that it was because they weren’t having sex and Ivo and Jami most certainly were. He felt uncomfortable, Ivo was giving him those worried looks and Misha held a protective arm around his shoulders still looking more or less upset and Jami… Well, he just looked somewhat confused of the sudden change of atmosphere and Joni concluded that Ivo had successfully kept his mouth shut about the rape.
Joni gritted his teeth, staring at the screen quietly. He hated this; he hated how everything had changed. He hated the looks, the awkwardness… And in this tense moment Misha’s cell phone started to ring with that annoying tone that Joni now recognised; Misha’s stupid ex with his stupid name! Why couldn’t Misha just tell him to stop calling?! Joni breathed tensely when Misha took his cell phone and pressed the ring tone to silence, not replying. “Sorry,” he muttered.
Joni looked at him tightly, Misha had told him not to worry about it, assured his love but under all the stress and worry it was difficult to feel assured. What if Misha would call the guy later? The sudden jealous thoughts made him feel upset, because he didn’t like this side, jealousy was bad, dark and… wrong. Joni got up and the others gave him confused looks, seeing how upset he seemed to be.
“Joni what’s wrong? I hope we didn’t…” Ivo started in a concerned voice and Joni looked at him and then at Jami who continued to look confused.
“If you are wondering why everyone are so fucking jumpy and awkward around me when sex is even hinted at, it’s because I was raped, okay? There, now you know and can start behaving like all of them!” Joni waved his hand and turned to leave. “I’m going home!” He added walking towards the hall with hurried steps. Misha sighed and got up.
“Joni, wait!” He called going after him. Joni was putting his shoes on in the hall not looking at him. “Joni,” Misha said in a softer tone, reaching for his arm, but the brunet shook his hand away.
“I want to go home,” he repeated stubbornly.
“Okay, I’ll take you home,” Misha nodded, unsure how he should deal with Joni when he was like this. “Let me just get my keys, ok?” The younger man didn’t look at him but nodded. Misha walked back to the living room on his way to the kitchen where he remembered leaving the car keys.
“I’m taking him home, probably stay there if he allows me to,” he told his brother in Russian. “He’s just so stressed because of the trial and the therapy; you can explain it to Jami.” He nodded towards Ivo’ boyfriend, who was looking at him without understanding a word.
“Will do and I’m sorry if we… well, caused this,” Ivo said apologetically.
“Joni’s just… Well, I’m sure it’s just the stress,” Misha shrugged and continued his way to the kitchen to get the keys. “Bye!” He waved after passing the pair and returning to Joni, who stood next to the door silent and miserable looking. Misha touched his shoulder gently.
“Hey, it’s okay…” He whispered. “Let’s go, we could get some ice cream on the way, how’s that?”
“I don’t want any stupid ice cream! I’m not a fucking five year old who can be calmed with stupid sugary treats!” Joni snapped avoiding his gaze arms folded over his chest and Misha sighed.
“Okay, no ice cream.”
They walked to the car, Joni was silent and Misha didn’t know what he should say or do. “Are you upset with me over something or is it just the stress?” Misha asked carefully while driving, deciding to take the longer road.
“Yes… I mean no… I don’t know…” Joni sighed shaking his head and gritting his teeth. He felt close to tears and he hated to feel so emotional, he was behaving like some stupid chick; or that was what Chris would have said. “Okay, I’m jealous, I’m sorry… I… It’s so fucking stupid.”
“Jealous of what?” Misha asked calmly.
“Of you, of Ivo and Jami and… what they have, I want that with you… and instead… God… I just… I don’t want to go through it, I don’t want to go to the trial… And shit!” Joni cursed when the first tears started to roll down his cheeks and he looked away from Misha trying to hide.
“Joni, hey… I know it’s… stressful for you. I understand, we…” He glanced at the brunet sadly and finally decided to seek a good peaceful stop to park the car. Once he had found a suitable spot he opened his seatbelt and turned to Joni touching his shoulder. “You have to go through it; you know that, one more step… Just one more, it will be over soon.”
“Will it?” Joni asked sighing and turned to face him after wiping the tears away. “Is it really ever going to be over?”
Misha looked at him quietly for a moment. Joni’s father had managed to locate Joni’s cousin; the man had been released from jail, but apparently was very willing to seek a way to help them. Joni didn’t need to know about their plan though. “Yes, trust me, it will get better. It’s just difficult for now.” Joni was quiet and nodded slowly, looking down at his hands before bringing his gaze back up to him.
“It does bother you that we’re not having sex,” Joni said then.
“No, it’s just…” Misha started but Joni cut him off.
“You don’t need to lie that it doesn’t and I don’t blame you, it bothers me too. Ivo and Jami have such a fresh relationship, they are so happy and … at ease with each other… It’s…” Joni sighed and shook his head sadly. “I want that as well.” Again he glanced at Misha. “Would you consider going to the therapy with me?”
“If you think it would help, sure, I see no problem with it.” Misha nodded smiling slightly. It was getting difficult, sleeping so close to one another and not doing more than kissing and hugging. If therapy could help them both to gain a normal sex life then Misha saw no downside in it. He reached to touch Joni’s neck before leaning closer to kiss him softly. “Anything that will help, I’ll be more than glad to do it for you,” he whispered and Joni smiled back at him.
“No need to thank me,” Misha assured before fastening his seatbelt and restarting the engine.
When they entered the hall, Joni heard his father’s voice from the kitchen talking with some other man. He took his shoes off and glanced at Misha before following the voices to the kitchen. His father who was facing the entrance looked up surprised to see him.
“I though you’d spend the night at Misha’s,” he said.
“Change of plans,” Joni answered just as the strange dark haired man sitting opposite his dad turned and grinned at the sight of him.
“Joni! You’ve certainly grown since I last saw you!” The man said and stood up, Joni frowned.
“Jyri?” He asked almost hesitantly, he hadn’t seen his cousin in ten years and he looked different though recognisable at the same time. He had a goatee, tattoos on his neck and both of his arms, disappearing under the sleeves of his shirt, short cut dark hair; if you met him in a dark alley you might want to turn back quickly.
“Yes, it’s me, come now, give your old cousin a hug!” The man reached his arms out for him and grinned, and the goofy looking expression didn’t quite seem to match with his somewhat dangerous looking appearance. Joni felt kind of awkward, but didn’t dare to refuse and so hesitantly walked closer and gave his cousin a brief hug before taking a step back. “And this must be your boyfriend?” Jyri asked looking at Misha and offering his hand to the blond. “Nice to meet you, I’m Jyri.”
“Misha, nice to meet you as well,” Misha smiled and glanced at Asko quickly, who obviously hadn’t planned Joni to meet his cousin like this. Luckily, Jyri seemed to understand that Joni didn’t need to know his true reason to visit.
“Why don’t you sit down with us and have some coffee?” Jyri suggested and Joni still seemed somewhat confused over the unexpected situation. He eyed his cousin and took a seat next to his father’s who had gotten up to get coffee for him and Misha.
A million questions were running around in Joni’s mind. Why was Jyri here all of a sudden? Why hadn’t he kept any contact during those years? Why now? He remembered feeling both angry and sad when his father had said that Jyri wouldn’t be coming there to visit him anymore.
“Did a cat get your tongue Joni?” Jyri teased and Joni smiled slightly taking the coffee cup that his father offered him.
“I’m just surprised,” he confessed. “Where have you been?” ‘–And why are you here now?’ He wanted to ask, but felt too confused to know if it was the right thing to ask without sounding rude.
“Here and there, in the wrong places at the wrong time and then in jail,” Jyri chuckled. “But I’m a changed man now, those times are behind me and I am a free man! Say no to drugs!” He winked and laughed and Joni thought he seemed a bit odd which made him glance at Misha with a small confused grin.
Jyri was quite talkative; he talked about the old times, remembered the times when Joni had been with him and his friends when he was little. “Joni was our little mascot then,” he laughed making Joni feel strangely embarrassed. He seemed cheerful, he asked about Misha’s family and his work, told them of his time in jail and his drug filled years. And eventually he got up, informing them he had to get going and so the strange visit was over. Before Jyri left, he hugged Joni once more, patted his head and whispered;
“Everything will work out cousin, don’t you fret about a thing.”
Later at night, Joni laid on the bed next to Misha wondering about Jyri and the past. He had thought his cousin might be the type not to accept gay people, but apparently and happily he was now proven wrong.
“Jyri had a friend called Eljas and I had a huge crush on him…” Joni stared talking, stroking Misha’s arm slowly. “I was ten, he was twenty, I don’t think he knew… He was my first crush…” Misha looked at Joni carefully, smiling softly at him and touched his hair gently. “He had this huge motorcycle and I could often ride with him, sitting on the back and holding onto his waist, dreaming of the day he’d see me the way I saw him. He was tall, handsome and… blond,” Joni turned his face to Misha and grinned.
“Oh? Should I feel jealous?” Misha asked and Joni chuckled quietly, grinned and looked in Misha’s eyes.
“Not as handsome as you,” he confessed. “But you see, I’ve always had this weak spot for tall blond men.” Misha leaned forward to kiss him softly.
“Perhaps I should get a motorcycle?” He joked smiling.
“Might be fun…” Joni smiled back and sighed. “Sometimes I miss how simple dreams were in childhood and how innocent… When a kiss was all you needed, all you knew to want.”
Misha pulled Joni closer to his chest. “A kiss is all that I need of you now,” he whispered and brought his lips on Joni’s once more, keeping it soft and tender.
On September 5th, the day of the trial, Joni hadn’t been able to sleep properly. He felt slightly dizzy with nerves. He had tried to pick his clothes carefully; something neat, but neutral, nothing to draw too much attention, definitely nothing skin tight. He brushed his hands over his shirt staring at his own reflection with a critical eye. He felt afraid they would judge him by his appearance that somehow… if he had the wrong look it would affect the verdict that they would give to Chris. So, there he was worrying if he looked enough like an average, everyday student and far from giving any sexual vibes that might make them think like Chris, that… He rested his hands over his stomach, took a deep breath and silently tried to tell himself how silly his worries were.
Misha returned to the room after visiting the bathroom and gave him a sympathetic look. “You look fine,” he assured and walked closer.
“Should I wear that sweater instead?” Joni asked pointing at the grey college sweater over his bed whose origin he didn’t even remember, it was too big for him for one thing and something that he wouldn’t use in normal circumstances, then he frowned and shuddered at the realisation that it might have been Chris’ shirt. “Never mind…”
“Joni, just take a deep breath and try to relax, okay?” Misha said placing his hands on his shoulders rubbing them for a while. “You’re very tense…” He noticed and Joni gave him a look in the mirror. “It’s not you who they are judging, the clothes look fine. You should just wear something that you feel comfortable in.”
“I don’t think there’s anything that could make me feel comfortable now,” Joni groaned, suddenly very bothered by the presence of the grey sweater on his bed. So he turned, grasped it and before Misha could say anything Joni had thrown it out of the window. The blond observed his boyfriend amusedly, who took a satisfied deep breath and closed the window.
“Was this a sign that I should buy new clothes, or is there some other reason why you threw my shirt out?” Misha asked with a small grin and Joni gave him a surprised look.
“It was yours?” He asked. “I thought…” Joni glanced outside where the shirt had fallen unfortunately into the moist flower bed. “It was in my closet and I thought…” He didn’t want to say he had thought it to be Chris’. “I’ll buy you a new one?” He offered then, looking at the blond. “I’m sorry, if it was your erm… favourite? I’m sure I can wash it too.”
“Oh?” Misha still grinned and stepped closer. “You would wash it?”
“Or Katja…” The answer made Misha chuckle.
“It was old; I had forgotten I left it here, so no stress.” When he was close enough, Misha brought his hand onto Joni’s cheek and gave him a gentle peck on his lips. “All of this will soon be over; Chris will be in Canada and… It will work out.”
“I hope so,” Joni nodded and hoped Chris would also see that it was actually best for him to be sent back to Canada. There was nothing left for him here.
His father had insisted on coming to the trial as well for his support, Misha would be called as a witness just like Dima and Adam. What worried Joni was that he knew Adam was called as a witness by the defence. His own lawyer had tried to ease his worry saying that he would be questioning Adam as well and it would actually work out in their benefit unless Adam lied. Joni didn’t see it possible, since Suvi would never forgive him if he did.
The trial was closed from the public since it handled the delicate matter of sexual violence and only the final verdict was going to be public. Misha would only attend to give his own testimony; otherwise any witnesses weren’t allowed to hear the whole process of the trial. His father however, who hadn’t been called as a witness would be there the whole process, which both relaxed Joni and made him feel uncomfortable at the same time. Relaxed because it wouldn’t be so terrifying being in the same room with Chris with his father there to support him and uncomfortable thinking of the details his dad would hear.
Chris stepped into the courtroom with his lawyer and Joni felt compelled to look at him. Chris was dressed in jeans and a blue shirt that Joni remembered buying for him a year ago for his birthday, somehow seeing him wear it now felt like a slap in the face. His hair was neatly tied back and he looked… well, more like the old Chris and not the weird obsessed man he had seen at the visiting room. For a moment their eyes met and Chris smirked and winked at him before taking a seat. Joni quickly averted his gaze, his heart racing, feeling nauseous and dizzy.
Chris kept looking at Joni and though Asko gave him a stern disapproving look for it, Chris only smiled overly sweetly at the older man. Joni was visibly stressed and slightly pale, the brown eyes stared straight ahead, avoiding his gaze which only made Chris look that much harder. It felt weird being in the same room like this, so close yet so far. He wanted Joni to look at him, he wanted him to realise there was still a way to avoid all this unnecessary drama. They could still be together.
Then it started, the prosecutor read out the charges; repetitive abuse of his former partner, deprivation of liberty, foul rape and attempted murder. Demanding that the accused would be sentenced to prison, deported and that he would also pay all the victim’s medical and legal expenses plus other compensations for the pain and suffering. Chris snorted in dark amusement; it all seemed like a fucking big joke. Foul rape and attempted murder? They had to be insane. There wasn’t anything foul about it, the only foulness was Joni’s cheating and he hadn’t attempted to kill him, simply just knock some sense into the cheating whore. Then that stupid blond had come to bother them, everything had been fine without his meddling ass!
It came to his turn to plead guilty or not guilty. Chris pleaded not guilty for everything except the abuse that had happened at the cabin.
Chris was given the chance to explain things through his own eyes. Chris took the stand and swore the oath of telling the truth, he appeared calm and level headed. The defence lawyer was the first to question him; she was middle aged, lean and well dressed, somehow cold looking however in Joni’s eyes, though it might have been because Joni knew she was on Chris’ side. She asked him to recount the events on June 17th. Chris took a deep breath and told how he had been visiting his sick mother in Canada, he told them he had spoken on the phone with Joni the night before and that he had been already on his way home then, wanting to surprise his boyfriend. He explained that they had some relationship troubles before, arguments like any other normal couple, but that he had suspected Joni of having an affair and admitted to being jealous.
He said he had gotten home surprised that Joni hadn’t been there like he had said he would be when speaking on the phone with him. He had waited and Joni had arrived early next morning and they had indeed argued as it had been painfully clear that Joni had been intimate with some other man which Joni had then admitted. Chris stated that he had felt devastated, that everything had seemed to fall apart; his mother was seriously ill and Joni was cheating on him. Chris however claimed that it was Joni who had wanted to go to the cabin and talk to solve things; he claimed that Joni had in fact begged him not to leave.
Joni frowned, staring at his ex with disgusted shock. All he wanted to shout out what a big liar the man was. However his own lawyer managed to calm him down and stay silent before he would cause a scene in court.
Chris continued lying that he had consented to go, that his love for Joni was so great he had wanted to do everything to make it work with him. At the cabin they had talked a little, had a few drinks and Joni had been the one to initiate the sex and so they had. He admitted drinking a bit more and then eventually Joni had started to taunt him with his affair, comparing him to his new guy and verbally abused him, that was when he had lost his nerve, under stress and alcohol he admitted abusing Joni which he now whole-heartedly regretted.
Joni trembled from fury; Chris’ testimony was so false and offensive that it almost felt like being raped all over again. Finally the prosecutor took his turn.
“So you claim that on June 17th, you left for the cabin because your partner wanted to go there with you?”
“Interesting…” The man said and took a look of his documents. “Wasn’t it you, however, who had called the victim’s family a day earlier, to make sure that the cabin was empty and would be at your use for the whole week?”
“Yes, like I said, I wanted to surprise Joni and when he got home I told him about how my plan was ruined. He however said it didn’t need to be and we could go there together to solve things, he begged me to forgive him and give him a chance to explain.”
The lawyer tilted his head. “Interestingly enough, there are a few eye witnesses from that morning who reported that you were seen practically dragging your former partner into the car. They said: ’the young man seemed to have difficulties staying on his feet, he seemed unwell and was supported by another, taller man’, identified as you. One even said you seemed to have difficulties getting him into the car; the witness found the scene peculiar, but as he was aware of you being a couple, thought it was not his place to meddle… Can you tell me, how on earth would this support your version of what happened?”
“Joni had been drinking,” Chris answered and shrugged. “He was still hung over…”
“It sounds odd, that a man who had been begging you to stay and then begging you to go with him to the cabin was so hung over that he couldn’t even stay on his feet on his own.” Chris didn’t reply anything to this.
“Also, you claimed that you both had some drinks at the cabin. However, the hospital reports that no alcohol was found on Mr. Lehto’s blood, but traces of a sleeping drug that he reported you forcing him to take before leaving for the cabin, which also explains the witness’s report.”
Chris snorted. “I’m aware Joni was using sleeping pills, but I wasn’t the one to ‘force’ them down his throat. He’s always been good at making up stories.”
The lawyer was quiet for a while simply observing him. “So in your version, when would your former partner have taken the sleeping pill?”
“Hell, I don’t know!” Chris was getting nervous, he looked pissed and Joni tried to comfort himself with the fact that this was a good thing, then they would all see his true nature. “Perhaps he took it when I wasn’t looking, he seemed addicted to them anyway…” Chris finally snorted glaring at Joni angrily and Joni felt his father squeezing his hand comfortingly.
“You do understand that your story doesn’t quite add up?” The prosecutor asked and when Chris stayed silent he continued. “Also your claim of having consensual sex with the victim…” He started. “The injuries found on your former partner state otherwise.”
Chris shrugged at this. “Joni likes it rough and who can tell if the injuries weren’t caused by that lover of his? After all, I wasn’t the only one who had sex with him that day.”
Joni felt sick, he kept his hands tightly on his lap avoiding to look at his father or anyone else for that matter, aware that Chris was staring at him.
“There is another fault in your story, you claim you had sex before the abuse, early that day, however, when the victim was brought to the hospital that evening and was examined, the sperm sample, whose DNA was proven to be yours, was quite fresh and thus it is impossible that it had happened several hours before.”
“I didn’t rape him.” Chris merely replied. “He always loved it, begged for it even. He probably had several lovers behind my back.”
“You claim that you never forced yourself on your former partner?”
“We were lovers, I did not rape him.” Chris insisted and the prosecutor sighed heavily shaking his head before handing the hospital report forward as evidence.
“The injuries speak differently,” the prosecutor said before continuing. He asked Chris about the earlier incidents of abuse, which Chris denied being anything more that harmless quarrels admitting only that occasionally he might have grasped Joni a little more roughly than necessary.
After Chris it was Joni’s turn to testify, that was the moment he had dreaded the most. His legs felt like jelly, his heart raced and if he hadn’t taken medicine to prevent a panic attack he was sure he’d suffer one right there. He was first approached by his own lawyer asking him to tell about the first abuse. Chris kept glaring at him the whole time. Next to Chris sat a man who would be translating everything to him.
He spoke about the pictures and Chris’ threats that had made him stay. “Was the abuse constant?”
“Yes, if I displeased him in some way he got angry and… took it out on me… He always wanted to know where I was… and if I was late…” Joni struggled to speak; it felt so overwhelming to sit there in front of everyone, in front of Chris who held a constant frown over his features while observing him as the man next to him kept explaining in hushed tone what he had said.
“Did the sexual violence happen multiple times?” At first Joni nodded.
“Y-yes,” he confirmed then with hoarse voice. “I felt like… I didn’t have a choice, if I-… said I was tired or… “ He shrugged little helplessly avoiding Chris gaze. “He just told me to shut up. That… he had the right… and I was afraid to make him angrier.”
“Did you ever fear for your life?”
Joni was silent for a moment, then nodded and answered brokenly; “Y-yes…”
“What really happened on June 17th?”
Joni started telling of the day truthfully, admitting he had been with Misha the previous night and that his intention was to go home, pack and leave before Chris would return. He said he had felt desperate and had had enough, that he thought he wouldn’t be able to take it anymore. He said he had tried to leave Chris, who hadn’t accepted it and then he had forced him to take the sleeping pill. The abuse had started briefly after he had woken and the rape when he had already been beaten and thus too weak to fight the man off. He also told about Misha coming there and about Chris threatening him with a knife ready to stab him, believing that in the mental state that Chris had been in he could have easily stabbed Misha to death if he hadn’t been stopped.
It was then he defence lawyer’s turn to question him and Joni felt unease as the woman approached him. There was a false smile on her red painted lips as she stood in front of him.
“You said that Mr. Hanratty first abused and raped you in February, right?”
“Yes,” Joni replied quietly.
“So over four months passed and you didn’t report it to anyone, not your family or your friends. If the abuse was as severe as you claim, why did you wait so long?”
“Because he threatened me, because I… I felt trapped.”
“The threat was to publish the pictures he had of you, pictures you willingly posed for?”
“I was drunk when he took them, I didn’t even remember the situation. I-“
“Isn’t it true that you’ve posed for underwear pictures before?”
Joni felt confused, but nodded. “Yes,” he replied quietly. “But…”
“These pictures were rather provoking,” she took note. “You don’t seem easily embarrassed, if you suffered constant sexual and physical abuse I find it questionable that you didn’t seek help before.” Joni gritted his teeth, the woman smiled and he felt upset.
“I was afraid… I-“
“You were together for two years and the claimed abuse only started this year’s February?” Joni took a shaky breath and nodded.
“If he was never violent to you before, why would he have started all of a sudden and why would no one around you notice?”
“He was jealous, he always was… it just got worse… A couple of times he was rough with me before, but… then it got worse… I was shocked, I didn’t know what to do and I was afraid.” Joni answered with a trembling voice, feeling upset. “No one noticed because I did my best to hide it.”
“You claim your partner raped you repeatedly, yet you were still able to have a sexual affair on the side? It doesn’t sound like you were traumatised.”
“It happened only once; I was drunk and confused about everything… I felt like it didn’t matter anymore. Chris accused me of cheating and no matter what I did, it was never right.”
“Isn’t it true you are now in a new relationship? With the same man who you slept with while in relationship with Mr. Hanratty?”
Joni felt his head starting to ache, the questions were overwhelming him and the fact that Chris kept staring at him. He felt close to tears.
“What does it matter?”
“Just answer the question.”
“Yes,” Joni breathed out exhaustedly.
“Isn’t it also true that you once faked being in a relationship with another man to make the other jealous and everyone believed it to be true?”
“Objection! This is irrelevant!” His own lawyer called out.
“If the victim has believably lied before, he could easily be exaggerating things now.”
The judge allowed the question.
“Y-yes, I was only 17 then, it was… foolish.”
“Perhaps this is also foolish? A desperate attempt to gain attention and sympathy?
Less than three months have passed and you are already in a relationship with another man? It does raise doubts of your story being accurate. You had an affair and you argued about it, Mr. Hanratty has admitted the abuse that happened in June and perhaps it suited you better that your new boyfriend believes it to be more than that.”
“I would never seek attention like this! I’m not lying, he is!” Joni cried out in frustration, feeling himself trembling all over.
“No further question,” she answered and walked back to Chris. They gave Joni the permission to leave the stand. He sat back next to his dad who rubbed his arm comfortingly.
“Don’t worry, they can’t let him go,” his father whispered and Joni tried to swallow his tears back finding it hard to believe that it could get better. She was trying to make him sound like the cheating lying whore that Chris believed him to be.
Misha was then called as a witness. The blond gave him a worried look seeing how upset Joni seemed to be, he was almost in tears and Misha wished he was able to go there and comfort him. He swore to tell the truth and as the prosecutor approached him, Misha also became aware of Chris staring at him. The man gave him the creeps! There was an almost murderous look in the Canadian’s eyes and Misha tried his best not to pay too much attention to him.
“You’ve known the victim for quite a long time, correct?”
“Yes, I first met Joni when he was around 15; he went to the same high school with my younger brother.”
“I understand there were quite many months in between that you didn’t see each other?”
“Yes, two years actually, I met Joni again this spring at my younger brother’s house warming party.”
“And how did he seem to you?”
“Different, he seemed melancholy, more drawn back than usual.”
“This would have been the time when Mr. Lehto was already suffering from the abuse,” The lawyer cleared out. “Did you suspect anything?”
“My younger brother had been visiting them, shortly after the first abuse had taken place. We know what had really happened now, but then Joni had told him that he had been robbed, Chris had been present then and my brother had sensed something was off, so he told me about it.”
“Did you ever see any marks to indicate what might be going on?”
“Yes. We went to the same gym, I once asked him about bruises on his arms, Joni replied he had slipped in the bathroom, because Chris always forgot to dry the floor. I sensed he wasn’t happy; he was careful and almost… timid. Not like I remembered him from before.”
“And how about that night before the abuse that happened at the cabin?”
“We were both drunk, Joni perhaps more than I was. In someway I guess I knew something was off and that we shouldn’t, but I was attracted to Joni, I had feelings for him and I couldn’t think so clearly.”
“So what happened the following day?”
“I woke up to find Joni gone and felt frustrated. I went to look for him; however when I arrived at their apartment a neighbour told me that they had already left. She indicated that they had argued a lot before so it made me worry. I went to Joni’s parents’ house and his stepmother told me where they were.”
“What did you see when you entered the cabin?”
“Joni was… on the floor, his shirt was torn, he had his underwear on, the other clothes including Chris’ were scattered all over the floor. Joni tried to warn me and then I saw Chris coming towards me holding a knife.”
“He tried to stab you?”
“Yes, we fought. If Joni hadn’t smacked Chris with a lamp, I’m quite sure I wouldn’t be sitting here at present.”
“And what happened then?”
“Chris turned and kicked Joni harshly to the floor. He was going to attack him again, but I stopped him.”
“Do you believe Mr. Hanratty tried to kill you?”
Misha glanced at the Canadian quickly; feeling uncomfortable with the way he was staring at him.
“Yes, I believe he would have stabbed me if he hadn’t been stopped.”
Then it came to defence turn to question him. “You and Mr. Lehto are now in a relationship together, correct?” Misha looked towards Joni who was looking back at him and smiled softly at the brunet.
“Yes,” he replied.
Chris narrowed his eyes. He had known it, he’d bloody well known it! He glared between the blond and his ex, they had planned all of this and now simply wanted to get rid of him. The damned two faced whore, how long had he been fucking with the Russian behind his back? Chris struggled to calm down, struggled to control the anger that he felt pulsating in his veins; it wasn’t the time to release it now. He felt used and hurt, Joni’s love was full of lies.
“He was staying at your home after he was released from the hospital, so your relationship seems to have had quite a quick start.”
“Joni and I share a history long before Chris, if…”
“While Mr. Lehto was still in a relationship with Mr. Hanratty, he started an affair with you, which still continues. Mr. Hanratty is accused of repeating sexual violence against Mr. Lehto, yet it doesn’t sound like he would be greatly affected since he’s already engaged in another relationship, another sexual relationship. Are you sure your boyfriend is speaking the truth? After all, hasn’t Mr. Lehto been telling believable lies earlier as well?” Misha frowned, feeling anger rising inside at her insults.
“Not about something like this, besides I know what I saw at the cabin, there can’t have been anything consensual about it. As for our relationship at the present, it is quite innocent, Joni has been affected by what happened and I’m content to wait.”
“So you’re claiming that your relationship is not sexual?”
“Not at the moment.”
“But you did sleep with each other the night before the abuse?”
“Who made the initiative?”
Misha tilted his head in annoyance at the woman, she had to know deep down that the man she was defending was in fact guilty of all charges.
“I can’t tell exactly, like I said before we had both been drinking. I was attracted to Joni and I had felt frustration at the fact that he didn’t seem to respond to my interest. That night however… I should have made more of an effort to find out what was troubling him, Joni was acting strangely but I-“ Again Misha glanced towards Joni who was looking back at him and he hated to see how sad the brunet looked. “I didn’t want my doubts to be true, I guess that night we both wanted to escape reality.” He looked back at the woman and then at Chris feeling incredible disgust for the man. “Joni is suffering from what happened, he has nightmares and he hasn’t been able to go back to work, that man needs to be arrested!” Misha said pointing towards Chris who glared daggers at him.
Later Dima came to give his testimony, speaking about the day he had visited after the first abuse and how he’d had some suspicions. He told how jealous Chris had seemed throughout the relationship and how odd his reactions had sometimes felt. The defence side tried to dig out Joni’s faults from Dima, how Joni was willing to lie if it benefited him, how flirty and promiscuous his behaviour could be and Dima who in the end was quite stressed by the questions admitted that Joni had seemed very much in love with Chris at the start. Joni tried to smile at his friend comfortingly as he left the stand, casting an apologetic look towards him, clearly worrying that he had said something wrong.
And finally Adam walked into the courtroom. The defence lawyer started to question him.
“How would you describe the relationship between your friend and Mr. Lehto?” She asked and for a moment Adam looked confused, clearly troubled to be put in this position.
“I’m not sure how to answer,” he replied then. “I didn’t have the chance to see them together often.”
“But you did talk to your friend often?”
“Yes, we kept in contact through calling or through internet.”
“Did they seem happy to you?”
“At the start yes, Chris said he had never been as in love with anyone as he was with Joni.”
“And how about Mr. Lehto?”
“I got the impression that he was happy too at the start.”
“How long have you known the accused?”
“Over twenty years, we are childhood friends.”
“And has he ever been violent or threatening towards you?” The woman asked making Adam frown and shake his head.
“Have you ever witnessed him being violent to anyone? In his former relationships for example?”
“N-no… Not outside his hobby, Chris is an amateur boxer.”
The woman continued asking Adam about the relationship and eventually made Adam admit among other things how at the start Chris had described their sex life as very active and Joni as a very eager lover. Adam was clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable about the whole thing, Chris seemed pleased by his friend’s answers and Joni felt utterly exhausted and depressed with the fear that they would decide to let Chris go.
Then the prosecutor took his turn. “You visited the couple in May, true?”
“And you discussed the relationship?”
“How did Mr.Hanratty seem to you?”
Adam was quiet for a moment. “He seemed depressed… He said he missed Canada at times and that he and Joni weren’t doing that good anymore.”
“Was he jealous?”
“Yes, he didn’t want to give up on the relationship and confessed the fear that Joni might be cheating on him.”
“Did Mr. Hanratty call his former partner a slut in front of you?”
“Yes,” Adam admitted glancing at his friend who seemed angry now.
“And did you not witness them arguing that evening?”
“At that time did the situation look threatening to you?” The lawyer asked and Adam took a deep breath.
“Yes,” he had to admit.
“Mr. Hanratty grew up in a violent home, isn’t it true?”
“Do you believe he is guilty for abusing Mr. Lehto and for raping him?” Again Adam cast a sad look towards his friend, feeling disappointed that Chris hadn’t admitted everything.
“Objection!” Chris’ lawyer however called out. “The witness’s personal opinion is irrelevant to the case.”
The judge accepted the objection and the prosecutor took a deep breath before asking another question. “Did Mr. Lehto seem fearful of the situation you witnessed that evening?”
“He did seem nervous and upset, yes. He tried to back off but Chris followed him, preventing him to leave. When Chris grasped him I told him to let go and he did, after that the situation calmed down.”
“So to you, did the victim seem different from before when you had met him?”
“Yes, he seemed quieter and…” Adam took a small pause glancing towards Joni. “Sad,” he concluded.
“Thank you, no further question.”
They also heard Joni’s therapist as a witness. She gave her professional opinion stating that Joni was suffering a trauma caused by long term abuse and sexual violence. There was also a statement from a doctor that had ordered the prescription of sleeping pills to Joni, confessing to having seen bruises on him.
The court members would give their final verdict the following day and so they had to return home to wait. Joni was silent the whole way home, seeming to be wrapped in himself not looking at his father or Misha. It was five in the afternoon when they got there.
“I’m going to my room,” Joni muttered taking his shoes off.
“You should eat something,” his father reminded him worriedly but Joni simply shook his head.
“Not hungry… I want to sleep… “ He said and headed upstairs without a second look back. Misha looked after his boyfriend worriedly, unsure if he should follow him. Asko sighed, the day had felt long and exhausting for him as well, hearing all the testimonies and evidences made the whole thing even harder to endure. He felt bad for not seeing how much Joni had suffered.
“How was it? Did they sentence him?” Katja who had walked to the hall asked. They had again sent the children to Katja’s parents for a few days unsure about the result of the trial and how it might affect Joni.
“Tomorrow, we’ll have to go back,” Asko replied.
“I made dinner,” Katja said.
“Perhaps I should go and check up on Joni,” Misha wondered. “How did the rest of the trial go?”
“Chris was lying and his lawyer was quite hard on Joni, but with all the evidence I can’t see how they could let him go without a sentence.” Asko tried his best not to think too much of all the details he had heard, afraid of not being able control his anger and frustration. “Could you take some food to him and try to make him eat? I doubt he’ll be really sleeping.” He asked then and Misha agreed.
Misha carried a tray with a plate of chicken soup and sandwiches upstairs, knocking softly on Joni’s door before opening it. The brunet lay on his bed on his side, staring at the far wall and blinking tiredly.
“I brought you dinner,” Misha said and walked closer, lowering the tray on the table.
“I’m not hungry…” Came the tired reply.
“Please try to eat anyway, some soup at least. Please, do it for me?” Misha begged and Joni brought his gaze to him, he looked so utterly miserable that it nearly broke Misha’s heart. Joni sighed, slowly pulling himself up to sit. He felt exhausted, his whole body seemed to weigh a ton. “Come on, sit here,” Misha pulled up a chair for him and Joni forced himself to stand and walk in front of the table. He sat down staring at the food without any real interest in eating.
“I’m tired Misha, so fucking tired…” He complained.
“I know, just try to eat and perhaps then you can try to get some sleep.” Misha encouraged and sat on the edge of the bed.
“You’re not eating?” Joni asked glancing at him.
“A little later, I already ate while waiting for you,” Misha explained and watched as Joni slowly brought a spoonful of soup to his mouth.
“She made me sound like a slut…” Joni said quietly. “And Chris only admitted beating me that once,” he added with a heavy sigh. “He always said it was his right so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.”
“The evidence weighs more than his lies, Joni. Tomorrow he’ll be sent to jail for real.”
Joni lowered his spoon and nodded slowly. “Perhaps, but it won’t be for long, I know that…” He glanced at Misha then. “You saw how angry he was, he will never forgive me. In his head I am guilty and I drove him to it, I understand that now. Unless he gets mental help…” Joni paused and looked outside. “He needs help, as much as I do or perhaps even more.”
“They should just lock him up for good,” Misha groaned. “He deserves none of your sympathy, Joni,” he reminded and Joni was silent nodding his head slowly. He ate another spoonful before pushing the tray farther away.
“I’m not hungry, can you eat the rest?” He asked and got up walking over to the bed and crawling to lie on it. Misha sighed, pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed and carefully covered Joni with it. He touched his hair and leaned forward to kiss his forehead.
“Okay, try to get some rest,” he whispered. “I’ll be downstairs if you need me, okay?”
Misha took the tray, and left the room softly closing the door after him. He really wanted this whole ordeal to be over and done with so he and Joni could get on with their lives and their relationship.
At least they knew that they had Jyri’s help. He had told Asko how rapists and child abusers were considered the lowest scum in prison hierarchy; all that might be really needed was to get the word out. Jyri had also said that he had friends in jail, friends who would be willing to help if only he asked. Joni didn’t need to know anything about it, but everything would be decided only after hearing the verdict that Chris would be getting.
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: June 26th, 2011.
My Secret Shore