Rent
by Taran Geary

 

Chapter Nine: Ghosts

It had taken many weeks and many rows, arguments and tantrums for the four occupants of Sam’s flat to develop a sort of organised chaos of a lifestyle. The two older boys were used to pleasing themselves and caring little for the needs or feelings of other people, so consequently found it difficult to adapt to a “family” environment. Either one of them would storm out of the flat after a blazing row; vowing never to return and slamming the door violently behind them. The other would then mope around not speaking to anyone and being generally obnoxious.

Sam had given up trying to intervene in these blowups and could only look on and await the outcome. The prodigal would eventually return and they would go to their room to “talk it over.” Almost immediately a session of very noisy sex would start with much shouting and grunting and bouncing of bedsprings. They would later emerge, looking flushed and happy and acting as if nothing had happened.

Pavel, who after a long battle with immigration and Social Services, had been granted permission to continue his education in England; was initially alarmed by his “big brother’s” behaviour; but now looked on tolerantly, rolled his eyes and just accepted that that was how things were.

His English had improved dramatically and he could now hold his own in conversation. He had also picked up a dazzling range of swearwords and curses, taught to him with great enthusiasm by Mick and Shaun. In fact it remained a joke amongst them that the first phrases Pavel ever learnt in English were “I’m hungry,” “Can I have some money” and “Fuck off.”

Sam had got him enrolled in one of the better schools in the city and Pavel had to wear a uniform; which he hated. One of Sam’s most prized possessions was photo he took of Pavel trying his uniform on for the first time. Pavel glared at the camera with a face like thunder and Sam thought it was a wonderful picture. The uniform was far too big for him to allow for the expected growth spurt. And Pavel tried every trick in his considerable arsenal to avoid wearing it.

Shaun gleefully sewed his school badge onto the bright blue blazer and turned up the trousers and blazer sleeves so that it all fitted a lot better and Pavel felt better when he saw that all the other students were dressed exactly the same and he started to recognise his schoolmates’ uniforms around the town.

Sam at first looked on in horror as the three young men stamped their personalities on what had once been his own private world. Doors were kicked shut and greasy fingerprints appeared almost everywhere and Sam despaired of ever keeping up with the domestic side of his new life.

So, he employed a housekeeper; a formidable lady who soon had the complaining boys organised. At first there was resentment but it didn’t take long for them to learn to appreciate the clean and nourishing environment where there was always food and clean clothes available.

Sam called in some favours with his friends in the city and he secured Mick a placement as a trainee chef in one of the many upmarket restaurants in the city. Mick, being Mick didn’t take kindly to being at the bottom of the pecking order in the busy kitchens and he stormed out on a couple of occasions. Sam managed to pour oil on the troubled waters and Mick kept his job. But it was the several months before he settled and felt comfortable having to work and be disciplined; which he had never had to do before.

Shaun meanwhile had eventually decided on going to college and studying graphic art and design and he took to college life like a duck to water and several of his works graced the walls of the flat.

And Sam was happy; he had grown to love his boys as if they were his own sons. He felt that he was as happy as he had ever been in his life; and he regularly took pictures of them and framed and hung his favourites in his gallery by his desk and when the pressures of business got to him he would lean back and look at his boys- some pictures posed and some of the boys larking about and gurning for the camera.

It was an early afternoon and Sam had a rare spare few hours. He was sitting and looking at his gallery when the doorbell rang. He sighed and got up and walked to the door where the entry phone was. He pressed the button.

“Hello?”

“Oh, hello,” a male voice answered. “I hope you can help us, we’re looking for William Evans.”

“I think you’ve made a mis- ah.” The penny dropped, Sam hadn’t used Shaun’s real name since the first night he stayed at Sam’s. “Can I ask who wants him, please?”

“Yes, we’re his parents.” Sam was initially speechless but after a short pause to gather himself he was able to say.

“Ok, well, you’d better come up.”

Sam opened the door and a pleasant looking middle aged couple stepped in. They certainly didn’t look like the devils that Shaun had described.

“James and Dorothy Evans,” the man held out his hand. “You must be Samuel Harknett.

Sam shook the proffered hand, “That’s correct.” Sam replied.

He took them through to the lounge and made them coffee.

“We’re sorry to just drop on you like this, but Billy has proved very elusive,” Dorothy said. “We eventually had to get a private detective on to it.”

“Really,” Sam was surprised. “I certainly haven’t done anything to hide his being here; and I don’t think Shaun has done anything to hide himself either.”

“Shaun”?

“I’m sorry, that’s what he calls himself now.”

“Oh. Do you know why?” Dorothy asked carefully

“I’ve an idea, but you’ll have to ask him about it. He’ll be home in about an hour.”

“Where is he”?

“College; he’s studying graphic art and design. You passed some of his work as you walked in.”

“Goodness”, I must go and look in a minute.” Dorothy was impressed.

“We have some questions that we must ask you, if you don’t mind,” James Evans Said.

“Go ahead.” Sam said warily.

“This is very awkward, but what is the nature of your relationship with my son?”

“I understand what you mean and I can assure you there is nothing sexual between us. I offered him a home after he asked for help when Mick was ill and they just sort of stayed. After all,” Sam riveted James Evans with his eyes. “He had nowhere else to go after you slammed the door in his face.”

“How dare you judge me. You have no idea of the circumstances.” James was getting irate.

“I know what Shaun has told me and I have no reason to call him a liar” Sam was fighting to stay calm.

Dorothy put a hand on James’s arm and gave him a look.

“I’m sorry Mr Harknett; this is all a bit emotional.”

“Ok, no problem.”

“Mick? Would that be Claude Michael Haddock?” Dorothy asked.

“Yes. That’s right. “He came to live here when Shaun did.”

“And what is their relationship? Dorothy asked again.

“Once again,” Sam replied. “You’ll have to ask them yourselves. It’s not my place to discuss their lives with other people.”

“Very well,” Dorothy bristled. “You said that Mick was ill. Can I ask what was wrong with him?”

“Malnutrition and exposure basically; nothing sinister,” Sam replied icily.

“I see,” Dorothy continued. “And how is he now?”

“He’s fine thanks, in perfect health. They all had full check-ups when they came here.”

“Thank god” Dorothy sounded relieved. “But who is Pavel…er…” She made an attempt to pronounce Pavel’s surname. Sam smiled, “Good effort.” He said and he spoke the closest approximation of Pavel’s name that he could mange. “He lives here too; Mick and Shaun rescued him from child traffickers.”

“Good Heavens! “ Dorothy looked proud. “And where is …um Pavel?”

“He’s at school.”

“SCHOOL?” Dorothy screeched. “How old is he?”

“Twelve, soon to be thirteen.”

“TWELVE? Do social services know he’s here?”

“Of course they do; we had a long battle to get him here, they wanted to deport him. But he wanted to stay and get an education and his family in Albania support us. Plus, of course, he worships the ground Mick and Shaun walk on.” Sam looked at his watch, “He’ll be home any minute now.”

There was an uncomfortable silence during which Sam made more coffee. On his return, he briefly told them his own story.

There was the noise of a key entering a lock and the lock turning, then the door opening.

“ALLO-LA!” Pavel’s unbroken voice rang through the flat like a bell. No one was actually sure where this greeting came from but Pavel always announced his arrival home in the same way.

“Hi Pav,” Sam called back and he smiled at the sound of shoes being kicked off against the wall and a school bag being thrown on the floor. The fridge door opened and the hiss of a Coke can opening was followed by the rattle of biscuits being put on a plate. “I have good day today,” Pavel called through to Sam. “I have class with Jeremy, he very funny boy, he make me laugh, he make class laugh. He make teacher laugh.” Pavel giggled as he recalled his school friend’s antics. His voice got louder as he approached the lounge where Sam and the Evans’ were sitting. “Teacher make him stand in corner,” he giggled. “And he let off big fart! We all laugh and-oh! Hello;” Pavel came to a dead stop when he saw the unexpected visitors.

“Pavel,” said Sam. “This is Mr and Mrs Evans; they’re Shaun’s Mum and Dad.” Pavel looked a typical schoolboy; his shirt was hanging out and his tie was knotted somewhere under his left ear. He put his plate and his can on the table and held his hand out to the guests.

“I am Pavel, I pleased to meet you,” Pavel’s face darkened. “You come take Shaun away?

“No, Pavel, we’re not going to take him away.” Dorothy said; Pavel looked relieved.

“He save my life and rescue me from bad men.” He continued and then proceeded to tell a very long, convoluted and dramatic tale of how Mick and Shaun had clutched him from certain death.

“Pav, Pav,” Sam said, “I think we get the idea.”

“OK,” Pavel smiled. “I go play game.” He waggled his fingers in the air to illustrate that he was going to play a computer game. He picked up his drink and his plate and left the room.

“What an utterly charming young man,” Dorothy Evans gushed. “And what a beautiful accent he has.”

Sam beamed. “Yes, we’re all very proud of him; you wouldn’t believe that six months ago he couldn’t speak a word of English. He’s more than made up for it since though. The accent; yes it’s a shame, but it seems to get a little less every day.”

The atmosphere had thawed a bit and the Evans’ explained the circumstance of Shaun’s leaving.

“I was totally wrapped up in the church,” James explained. “I honestly believed that what we were doing was right. To strive to be the best you can in every way, I honestly believed that work, work and more work was the way to heaven. The minister actually told me that Billy leaving was a good thing! His suffering on the streets would bring him closer to god. And the worse thing of all is that I believed it.”

“What changed?” Sam asked.

“I wanted my son back” Dorothy cut in, “I told James that what we were doing couldn’t be right and that he was only a boy and we had rejected him. I told James that I was leaving the church to find my son and give him the love we had denied him when he was young.”

James spoke again, “Dorothy persuaded me and we left the church; we still get hate mail from them and threats and that’s only reinforced my belief in how wrong I think we were. I’ve basically come to apologise to Billy and ask him to forgive us.”

The front door opened again and they heard Pavel call “Hi Shaun”. Shaun replied with “What you up to, shithead?” Pavel giggled and once again the sounds of the fridge being raided could be plainly heard.

The Evan’s were visibly nervous, “His voice,” Dorothy whispered. “He sounds like a man!”

“He is a man,” Sam replied. “And a very fine one he is as well.”

Footsteps could be heard coming along the passage; Shaun appeared at the lounge door and stopped dead, his eyes wide with shock.

“Hello Billy.” Dorothy said, tears in her eyes.

Shaun turned to Sam, “What the fuck are they doing here?”

“We’ve come to see you, Billy” Dorothy spoke again.

“Well I don’t want to see them,” Shaun said to Sam and turned on his heel and left the room. His bedroom door was heard to slam. Dorothy was crying fully now.

“Did you see him,” she wailed to her husband. “He’s a man, a tall, handsome man and we’ve lost him” She broke down and sobbed in her husband’s arms. Sam made a gesture that they should stay there and he left the room. He knocked on Shaun’s door.

“Fuck off,” he shouted

“Shaun, it’s me, Sam.”

“What do you want?”

“Can we talk?”

“What about?”

“What do you think?” There was a long pause before Shaun finally answered “OK”.

Shaun was sitting on his bed, his eyes were red with tears. Sam sat down next to him and put an arm around him. Shaun leaned into Sam. “What’s going on?” he asked. “Why do they have to turn up and fuck everything up? I’m happy now for the first time ever, I’ve got Mick and you and Pav. I don’t want to leave here.” He leaned into Sam and sobbed.

“No one’s asking you to leave. Do you think I’d let you go just like that? As far as I’m concerned you’re my son now and I’m not letting anyone take you away. But just listen to what they have to say; that’s all I ask.”

“Why should I?”

“Because they’re your parents and perhaps things have changed.”

Shaun pulled away from Sam and searched his face.

“Changed? How?”

“Let them tell you.”

“You really think I should, don’t you?”

“Yeh, I do; they’ve offered an olive branch, they’ve made no demands.”

“Ok, give me a minute to put me face back on,” he managed a smile. Sam smiled back and gave Shaun’s shoulder a squeeze and a kiss on the top of his head before he left the room.

“He’ll be out in a moment,” Sam told the Evans’ as he sat down. Shaun joined them seconds later.

“How are you, Billy?” Dorothy asked.

“Fine,” Shaun grunted. “And I’m not Billy anymore and I’d appreciate it if you called me Shaun; that’s my name now.”

“Can I ask why? William was your Grandfather’s name.” James said.

“You don’t remember who Shaun was, do you?” Shaun sneered nastily.

“I seem to remember you had a friend called Shaun,” Dorothy said nervously.

“A friend, a friend? Shaun shouted. “He was the one you caught me in bed with. He was the one you dragged around to his parents and who you called a filthy little pervert who should be locked up! Do you remember now?”

James and Dorothy both nodded dumbly.

“And do you know what happened next?” Shaun was ranting and crying. “You don’t know, do you? Well, I’ll tell fucking well tell you then, shall I? He went to the woods, climbed a tree and hung himself from a rope swing. That’s what he did. And you killed him, as if you’d put the rope around his neck yourselves. The only person I’d ever loved and definitely the only one who was ever kind to me and you fucking killed him.” There was a pause, “and now your back here to fuck it all up again!”

Shaun ran out of the room. Sam and the Evans’ sat in stunned silence. All three were crying.

“I had no idea,” James said. “No idea at all.

Sam sighed heavily and rubbed his eyes with his thumb and forefinger.

There was a long silence.

“Can I go to him?” Dorothy asked.

Sam shrugged his shoulders. “First on the left,” he said wearily.

Dorothy knocked on Shaun’s bedroom door. “It’s me, Shaun, Dorothy; your mother.”

“What d’you want?”

“Can we talk, Shaun, please,” she pleaded. There was a long silence.

“Ok, come in.”

Dorothy entered and saw Shaun sitting on his bed with tears rolling down his cheeks and she lost control and leapt on him; she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him hard. Shaun automatically hugged her back and they both started crying again; they sobbed and sobbed and rocked back and forth for several minutes until they were both cried out. They moved apart and Shaun grabbed a box of tissues from the bedside cabinet and handed then to his mother. She snuffled and blew her nose. “This is a nice room,” she said. “Which is your bed?”

Shaun gave her a weary look.

“Mum, you just don’t get it do you? We both sleep in this bed; Mick and me are boyfriends.”

“Boyfriends? You mean what happened with that boy…er…Shaun wasn’t just a one-off?”

No, Mum, I’m gay, I always have been and I guess I always will be.”

There was another long pause.

Dorothy reached up and picked up a framed photograph from a shelf; she looked at it for a few moments. It was a picture of Mick and Shaun by the seaside with their arms around each other and laughing at the camera. They looked the epitome of happiness.

“Is this Mick?” she asked. “My word, he really is very good looking; is his hair really that colour?”

“Yes,” said Shaun. “That’s Mick, his hair really is that colour; spun gold Sam calls it, he is very good looking, he’s wonderful and he’s all mine!” Shaun smiled for the first time that evening. “Do you know”, he continued, tapping the photograph with his finger. “That was the first time he’d actually seen the sea.” He smiled to himself as he recalled Mick’s joy at seeing the sea. “He took one look at the sea and ripped off all his clothes in front of everybody and ran into the waves.”

There was along silence.

Shaun spoke again, “Why did you have to come here and stir it all up again? I’m happy here; I’ve got Mick, who’s the greatest thing that’s ever happened to me and Sam who’s the best friend anyone could have and I’ve got Pavel who’s the only little brother I would ever want. Now it’s all fucked up. What do you want from me? Are going to ruin this like you ruined everything else for me?”

“Come back out and speak with your father.” Dorothy pleaded; Shaun sighed and got up and they went back and sat in the lounge again.

There was a long talk where James explained the changes and he finished with these words:

“What I want to ask you, Shaun, is for you to forgive us and allow us to be part of your life again. I’m not asking you to leave here and come back home although you are always welcome of course. And that’s it, really. I’ve seen what you have achieved-Sam showed me your work in the hallway and I’m very impressed. I’m just so sorry that I wasn’t part of your growing up. I understand what you had to do to survive on the streets and I will never forgive myself for causing that to happen. Can we at least be friends?”

There was yet another long pause and Shaun looked at Sam for guidance. Sam spoke first, “Let’s just see how it goes, yeh?”

“Sounds about right,” Shaun concurred. They swapped phone numbers and Sam went to make some more coffee. As the four people sat drinking, the front door crashed open.

“Hi Mick,” Pavel called brightly.

“Fuck off you little shit,” Mick replied and again Pavel giggled.

“Mick, come in here, will you?” Shaun called through.

“Oh bollocks, what the fuck have I done now?” Mick grumbled as he walked into the lounge. “Oh, hello,” he presented the Evans’ with a killer smile. “I’m sorry about the language, I didn’t realise we had guests.”

“Mick,” Shaun said. “These are my Mum and Dad.”

Mick’s smile switched off as if someone had flicked a switch. He looked at Shaun and then Sam; his face had changed to a frown.

“It’s ok, Mick,” Shaun said. “We’re friends again.”

“That’s all very nice,” Mick spat. “But where does that leave me?”

Shaun looked bewildered.

“While you’re away playing happy families, I’ll be back on the street, I suppose. Out on my arse.”

“What are you talking about?” Shaun was puzzled.

“When you move back with Mummy and Daddy, I’ll be out, won’t I? Sam never wanted me here in the first place; let’s face it; you go, I go. Cheers mate.” And Mick stalked out of the room.

Shaun rounded on his parents, “See what you’ve done? Why don’t you just clear off?”

Sam showed the Evans’s out and then went to speak to Mick.

“I never realised you thought like that,” Sam said as he entered the bedroom. “What on earth makes you think I’d chuck you out? I think the world of you boys-all of you. Shaun’s not going anywhere, and even if he did, I wouldn’t make you go.”

“Wouldn’t you? You never wanted me; I’m bad tempered and noisy, why would you want me?”

“Mick, you’re bright, strong-minded and forthright, you’re funny and loving; and I adore you just like I do Shaun and Pavel. What I had planned before you arrived here is irrelevant. The two of you swept into my life like a hurricane and I’m the luckiest man in the world to have you as my stepsons I wouldn’t change anything for the world.” Sam leaned in and gave Mick a hug.

“It’s weird,” Sam continued.” You think you’re getting to know someone and in reality you don’t know them at all.” He pulled Mick to him and held him tight. “You’re a complex boy, Michael Haddock, and that makes me love you all the more.”

“I really fucked up, didn’t I?” Mick snuffled.

“No, not really, I think it was the shock, it’ll be alright; just give things a while.”

Mick smiled. “I don’t deserve you.”

“Yes you do. You deserve me and a whole lot more.” Sam held Mick in a tight hug for many minutes before continuing. “Shall we eat out tonight?”

“McDonald’s?”

“If you like.”

“Ok, you twisted my arm.” Mick managed a smile. “Will you ask Shaun to come in, please?”

Sam didn’t need to ask; Shaun barged into the room almost before Sam had opened the door. He stood and waited until Sam had shut the door behind him. Mick looked up, “I’m a twat, aren’t I?” he said quietly.

“Yes, you are,” Shaun replied equally quietly. “But then again; so am I.” He sat down and took Mick in his arms, “To think I’d ever leave you.” He kissed Mick on his cheeks, his neck, his lips.

“I’m just waiting for the dream to end,” Mick said between kisses; “I don’t believe I deserve you and Sam and Pav and this.” He waved his arm around indicating the flat. The boys kissed passionately and tongues explored tonsils, breaths got shorter and the kissing more frenzied. “Oh fuck, I love you,” Mick gasped and he started to pull at Shaun’s clothes; Shaun was getting equally as frenzied and it wasn’t long before both boy were naked and in a classic 69. Both boys worked hard and passions were rising. Mick rolled away and lay on his back, he pulled his legs up over his head as he fumbled in a drawer and handed Shaun a tube of lube. Shaun squeezed the lube over Mick’s hole and his own dick and he then manoeuvred himself to enter. He pressed himself against Mick and Mick cried out as Shaun plunged deep into his lover. He fell forward as he thrusted and lay on Mick’s chest; hands fondled groped and tickled; lips kissed and tongues darted around mouths necks and ears. Shaun’s thrusting got faster and more frenzied “Yessssssss” Mick hissed as he felt his own orgasm approaching. Arms wrapped around bodies and both boys gripped each other tight, almost to the point of suffocation.

They cried out in unison as the tidal wave of their orgasm swept over them; Shaun grunted as two or three aftershocks rattled his bones. Mick just lay with his eyes closed; his handsome face held a beatific smile. Shaun kissed him tenderly. “I love you so much, you daft bat,” he smiled and Mick started to laugh.

They lay together for many minutes before Mick spoke “Come on, stud, we’re going out to dinner.”

“Are we? Where?”

“McDonald’s”

“Ooh, right then.” They jumped up and headed for the shower.

 

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