Epilogue

Betad by Charity

”If something can’t be covered, highlight it.” Joni remembered someone once saying. The scar could not be covered, and it was on a finger that many often subtly glanced to see if you were taken.

And it aroused interest, but no one dared to ask. That imprint made him feel insecure and weak, a reminder of the horror that had broken him and he would have to find the strength to continue, to recreate himself.

Eelis Sairola was not a victim, he thought as he sat in the tattoo studio and clenched his teeth to withstand the pain that arose when the tattoo needle was hitting against his finger. That pain was quite tolerable if compared, he had experienced a lot worse.

“You take this better than most, especially if this is your first tattoo,” the woman looked at him with a smile.

The woman had long black hair with purple and red stripes; hair extensions probably, pierced nose and various tattoos on her face and arms. Joni thought the clothes were hiding more of them. ”It’s easy to get hooked on these, just watch out.” The woman added, finishing her job.

”I think this will be the only one.” Joni answered evenly.

“That’s what many say at first,” the woman grinned, and Joni gave her a small smile. He had never considered tattoos before, and he didn’t think he would get more unless he came up with a good reason for it. He appreciated that the woman had not asked any more about where he had received the scar. The woman understood that the story behind it was not pleasant to tell and that therefore he wanted a different reminder to replace it, something that would reflect the power to leave the painful experience behind.

Joni had chosen the place carefully, read the reviews and looked at pictures of the work. The woman was respected and had been in the industry for several years. He happened to get a cancellation time from a long waiting list. The woman could afford to choose her client and apparently something in him had pleased the tattoo artist to get past the queue.

”Alright, ready, how do you like it?” Joni raised his hand and looked at the sword tattooed on his finger, the blade of which pointed towards the fingertip and at the scar, on top of the sword blade, was a Greek symbol of power. It was skillfully made, black, silver gray, a hint of blue.

“It’s better than I dared to think. Thank you.” Joni said, still looking at his finger. It made him feel better, it did not wipe out what had happened, but now the trace of it was decided by himself. One more step towards a changed life.

When he had been a teenager, he had often dreamed of moving to some international city. He had wondered what it would be like to live alone, do modeling, and on weekends he would attend all kinds of different parties. He would get to know new people, maybe get work as an actor too, he would become famous. He would show anyone who had ever doubted him.

He had imagined sitting in trendy cafes with his friends, meeting some insanely handsome man with whom they would occasionally spend extended holiday weekends, at various foreign destinations. Everything would be so light and happy, carefree. Sometimes he would visit his home, or his family would visit him. And eventually, when he would have adventured enough and seen the world, he would return to Finland.

Though he had known that life rarely went as planned, he could never have imagined this. Life had turned out to be far away from fair.

He lived alone and this new life, after all, was just a shabby and taped version of the pieces of dreams he had had. And one couldn’t be so broken and shattered to be with someone else, you had to first learn this shattered version of yourself, fix it, and make it healthier, to accept that you could never be completely intact.

He had had that insanely handsome man, they had loved and lived together, they were meant to come here together. He would have studied; his fiancé would have gone to work. They would have met new people together, spent lazy Sundays in bed together after going to trendy restaurants on Saturday nights, or maybe watching movies, walking in the parks, doing various things.

It would have been Joni’s life, but that life was broken. Eelis Sairola was a different person, a new version that was still very much unfinished. Joni Lehto had been confident, outspoken and lively.

Eelis was quiet and withdrawn, haunted by the lingering gazes of other people. Confident, masculine beauty had shifted into mysterious and Eelis captured eyes just as Joni had, the difference was that Eelis didn’t want them.

It had become clear when they last met that Misha was not yet ready to build a friendship with his new version. Misha nurtured the hope that they could continue together, but they had once before had to build their relationship on a broken foundation and now that fracture had already cracked, making rebuilding even more difficult. Eventually, he had suggested to the man that they take a break from contact until Misha would manage to let go of Joni. It took time. It didn’t have to be goodbye; it didn’t have to be final (deep down, he hoped it wouldn’t be), but at the same time he would have to accept that Misha might continue his life with someone else before he was ready.

He had a business card given by Paulina. “You’re not the only one who has experienced something like this, believe me. It would be good to talk to someone who understands your thoughts because you have gone through similar things.” The woman had said at their last meeting. ”This man in London offers peer support to other men who have experienced sexual violence, contact him, okay?” And now, Eelis stared at the card thoughtfully.

On the subway, on his way home from the city, one man had been staring at him for a long time a little from a distance, and Eelis had soon begun to wonder if he could have seen those pictures and connected him to them, even though he was no longer that person. The anxiety had grown as the man had slowly approached the corridor and in a degree of panic Eelis had decided to get off the subway at the next station. It had been a while before he calmed down enough. The man had not followed him, and it was possible that he had just imagined that the man had stared at him that way.

So now, he spun the card between his fingers until he finally took out his cell phone and dialed the number. The phone rang a couple of times.

“Jack’s support. Michael Harris on the phone,” the man’s voice was soft and pleasant. Eelis was silent for a moment.

“Um. Hey. I’m Eelis… I got your number from Pauliina Pelkonen… I just moved here, I- ”

“Hi Eelis, nice that you called. Would you like to meet so we can chat better? I always find it easier to talk face to face. ”

Eelis was silent for a moment. ”When would be convenient for you and where?”

Eelis Sairola would build slowly, but he might need help to be able to leave Joni’s trauma behind.

-End-

Please rate this book on Goodreads or share your thoughts below this page.

A/N: There will be a sequel!!! Yes, this won’t be the end for Joni and Misha, I promise. The sequel ”You’re still you.” (Inspired by the amazing song byJosh Groban) will be, unlike this, heading towards better, towards light.

I want to thank everyone who have read this and Foolish games, especially those who reviewed along the way! It has meant a lot ❤️ (P.S: I’m editing the spelling and grammar mistakes on Foolish as well, I found quite many 😬🙈)

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