It was a clear blue sky, you could feel the heat even though it was still early, it would without doubt be another scorching hot day. In any other circumstances this would be a wonderful start to a new dawn, but the task in hand was to seal the end a what could only be described as a tragedy. If something good would happen and allow the future to once again hold promise, then first this deadly twist of fate must be expunged.
Amelie led the way across the concrete desert, over the old railway tracks, and past some makeshift homes until they were almost there. Firas as if touched by a premonition, if you believe such things are possible, felt a tingling of cool air on the back of his neck, when all around was still and torpid, nothing moved.
He put down his tea, stood up and turned.
“NO!” He screamed in disbelief.
Halil and Rifat jumped up startled.
Firas raced towards Jordan, and hit him with a force that almost sent him tumbling backwards.
“Jordan! Jordan!” He wrapped both arms around him and buried his head in Jordan's chest. Tears escaped his eyes. He hugged him so tight Jordan thought he would have the air squeezed out of him. After a few minutes, with everyone else just standing looking on, Firas released his hold, turned back to Halil and Rifat and announced proudly, “This is JORDAN!”
More tears fell down his face and Jordan too felt his eyes watering.
As they found their seats around the little table, Jordan and Amelie sat one on each side of Firas. Halil fetched two more glasses and poured the tea.
Jordan turned to Firas and brushed a hand through his hair, pushing it back from his forehead. “I have some terrible news Firas.”
Halil knew what the young American was about to say. Amelie just sat still, almost not breathing.
“Amar...” Jordan continued.
He was stopped, interrupted by Firas.
“No, no... Please don’t say it,” Firas blurted out pleadingly.
“I'm sorry,” was all Jordan could say, and once again Firas had his arms wrapped around Jordan, his head buried, as the tears poured out. Halil gripped Rifat tightly, he too was crying.
It was as if time stood perfectly still for a moment. The soft muffled sounds of crying were all that could be heard. The sun beat down and nothing moved. It was an instant frozen in time.
And then like at the end of a minute of silence, sounds once again invaded the space. A seagull screeched. The world was back as if nothing had ever happened, except the five people sitting there knew that it had. It was an instant etched on the eternity of their souls, that would never be forgotten.
Jordan walked with Firas across the railway and over to the wharf. They stood there arm in arm, staring out at the water. The sea was calm, so still that the almost flat surface looked like a mirror. They didn't talk, just felt the warmth and safety of being together. They had needed this time alone. Many of the events from their past played through Jordan's mind, perhaps it was the same for Firas, he didn't know.
Neither of them counted the time passing, but at some point they turned away from the sea together. Jordan walked with his arm around Firas’ waist and as they made their way back he explained to him about Samir. The need to find somewhere for them to stay, together. Even if it was only temporary they needed this space, especially so for Samir.
Firas nodded, “But you will go away again?”
Jordan didn't know how to reply, he felt as if an arrow had pierced his heart. They crossed back over the tracks in silence.
“I don't know what will happen,” he told the boy as they re-joined the others.
They spent the entire day at the refugee camp, except for lunch which they ate together in a little restaurant away from the port. Amelie told Jordan she needed to work tomorrow, she had to get her story written and dispatched to the offices in Toronto. She said she would phone Bazyli, he wasn't around but he might know someone who could help find somewhere cheap to rent. “How long are you going to stay here?”
“Really, I don't know. I want to make sure Samir’s okay. I would like to say, as long as it takes, but that just isn’t realistic. The money will run out and I can't go back to my parents and ask them for more.”
“Yes, I can see that. It's so damned hard.”
“What about this Mrs Westmuller?” He asked tentatively.
“I'm waiting to hear back from her. We had a very long telephone conversation. I told her the boys story, what happened recently, and the situation here. She explained what they were trying to achieve through the private sponsorship programme.”
“And did she sound like she might be able to help?”
“I don't know, Jordan. Difficult to say. She was very nice, interested, and wanted me to send her more details be email.”
“No, but I will. Maybe I can get Bazyli to take some photos when he gets back.”
“I can do that. I have a phone. I'll snap some pics. It will help if she sees the boys, the camp, how they live. Maybe I could add something to the email about Turkey and getting them to Greece.”
“Let's take it a step at a time, okay? You should spend tomorrow with Firas, take some photos, but giving the whole story, I'm not sure if that will go down well.”
“How do mean?”
“Well, Jordan, like you told me back in Virginia when I first met you, Samir was in a relationship with Amar and Firas is also gay.”
“Yeah, so what?”
“So we need to tread carefully, not everyone will understand.”
“They’re just kids that need some loving,” Jordan retorted.
“I know, I know. Calm down. Try to see things from a different point of view. Amar was eighteen, right? An adult having sex with a fourteen year old. And Firas is what? Sixteen.”
“Yes. I mean yes you are right with the ages, except Amar was seventeen, and yes, you are right about how it could be viewed by people. Some people.”
“Good. Okay, so tomorrow I'm working and you're with Firas and taking photos. We'll meet here for dinner, if you want?”
“Yes, sounds good. Sorry if I started to go off on one. It's just...”
Amelie interrupted. “You don't need to apologise to me, Jordan. I understand. Dinner tomorrow then.” She smiled.
As she walked away from the lobby to go back to her room, he watched her and wondered about that kiss at the airport. He liked Amelie. Actually, she was a pretty fantastic person, what with everything she had done and was still doing. She must like him too, the kiss had been mutual, but now there was Firas and things had become ten times more complicated.
As arranged, Jordan spent the whole day with Firas. Firas, Rifat and Halil. They wandered around the port, ate together, and talked. They talked a lot. Jordan learned all about Halil and Rifat and their family back in Turkey. At some point in the afternoon, the other two left Jordan and Firas alone. They walked across to the same spot on the wharf where they had been yesterday, looking out to sea. It was just as calm, kind of relaxing.
This time they sat down on a couple of crates left there, maybe used for fishing, plastic crates that previously held bottles. After a long silence between them, a comfortable silence, Firas turned a shy regard towards Jordan.
“I never said,” he spoke very quietly, and his fingers played with the torn bottom of the t-shirt he wore.
Jordan had to lean down towards him to hear.
“But I love you,” he whispered.
Jordan thought about how complicated his life was becoming. He should not have been surprised perhaps. There was the incident between them on the yacht, but that was it, a one off. Jordan hadn't really thought about it since. What to say? What should he tell him? Firas was looking at him expectantly, almost frightened. The tension made tiny furrows across his brow, he was almost shaking. Jordan’s arm went around him and his hand gripped Firas’ shoulder. He pulled the boy towards him in a sideways hug.
“I don't know what to say.”
He felt Firas physically retract, as if his whole body tensed up.
“Firas, I love you too,” Jordan finally managed the words. “But I don't know if I could give you the kind of love that you are looking for.”
Firas relaxed, maybe what Jordan thought Firas wanted from him was not at all what he wanted. Perhaps he just wanted to know that Jordan loved him. You might think it was obvious by the actions Jordan had taken, by all the things he had done, even now, flying here from America. But sometimes, no matter what, we just need to hear those three little words – I love you. Firas had long ago told himself Jordan wasn't gay, seeing him here with the journalist, he thought they were sort of a couple.
But a doubt crossed Firas’ mind, he was very intuitive. He'd lived by his wits for so long, he'd had to, it was a question of survival. Jordan had said, “I don't know if I could give you the kind of love that you are looking for,” what does that mean, Firas wondered? It was difficult to understand English sometimes and this left Firas confused.
It was almost seven when the phone rang in Amelie's hotel room. She had been working all day on the refugee article, a large part of which was devoted to the story of the three boys. There were facts and numbers in there, background to the situation here in the refugee camp at Piraeus, but that was secondary, it served to enhance the main story. After editing, rewriting, and a lot of reading over and over, she was happy it was as good as it was going to be. She titled the piece: A Greek Tragedy – The Road Through Hell. Maybe a little dramatic, but she wanted to punch it home to people. To all those nine to five suburban commuters living their safe comfortable lives.
She picked up the telephone when it rang. “Amelie Richter.”
“Hello, Amelie. This is Mary-Lou-Ann, Mrs Westmuller.”
“Hello, I wasn't expecting to hear back from you quite so soon. I haven't had a chance to write the email I promised. Sorry, but I've just now finished the article for the paper I work for.”
“No, that's not why I'm calling dear. It's not to chase you up, but to pass on some news.”
Amelie was listening and trying to think what the news might be, good she hoped.
“I mentioned the plight of the two boys you told me about, the one in the hospital and the other in the refugee camp. Well, ah hum...” Mrs Westmuller did a little cough. “Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you said these boys were abused.”
“No. I mean yes,” Amelie replied somewhat flustered. “They were abused.”
“Well, I'll just run this past you. You have a think about it and get back to me. There is a lovely couple in our group who are looking to sponsor. They’re particularly interested in doing something to help these boys. Jeff and Alec are retired, they are a...” there was a slight pause. “A gay couple. Been together donkey’s years. They are, as I said, a lovely couple, and well enough off to be able to do this with or without the support of our little group. They have been active in the group almost since day one. So have a think about how you feel about this. How it might sit with these boys. And then let me know. If you decide to run with it, I will put Jeff and Alec in touch with you directly.”
“It sounds very interesting,” Amelie replied. Then she went on to explain that Jordan had flown out from America. They had told Firas about the death of his friend, and she was in touch with the doctor at the hospital.”
As she was finishing bringing Mrs Westmuller up to date, there was a knock at the door.
“Excuse me one minute,” she told Mrs Westmuller, and went to answer the door. It was Jordan. She hustled him in and went back across the room to pick up the receiver.
“Jordan just arrived Mrs Westmuller. I'll put him on so you can have a quick word.
Jordan spoke for nearly twenty minutes with Mrs Westmuller, telling her about his two months in Turkey with Christian Aid. How he met the boys, and the death of Burhan whom they were living with. After the call was finished, Amelie told him about Jeff and Alec. “Sounds good to me,” he told her.
She smiled, “I think you're the only guy I know who would say ‘sounds good to me’ about an elderly gay couple taking in two abused teenage boys, who also happen to be gay, and not have any questions about it.”
“When you put it like that, I suppose it’s odd.”
“I'm just kidding you,” she took hold of his arm, leading him to the door.
“You know what?”
She looked at him, as they walked to the stairs, pulling on his arm. “What?”
“Firas told me he loves me,” he said very casually.
“Oh, and I was thinking you were about to say something else.”