Hey guys! The rest of this month is going to be booked up and I wanted the opportunity to give you another installment of Heart For Trade while I had a free day. I'm really glad you guys are liking this story and I know it's very different than what I usually write, but I'm having so much fun with it. Thanks for all the continued love!! *Hugs*
XOXO NIGHT TEMPEST
Male Model Gordon Blothe as Benny
Samuel studied the boy. Ryan. He wasn’t really a boy. He was a young man with no meat on his bones, only thin muscle that twisted hard with every move he made. Careful not to give the man cause for alarm, Samuel looked away. Staring at him would only scare him off, make him say no to the trade. He didn’t want Ryan to feel forced into anything. Samuel wanted a companion who was willing to give him a shot, to form a relationship between two consenting adults. There would have to be a talk with Ryan, an awkward one, where Samuel explained what he hoped to gain from all of this. How did you tell a complete stranger that you were lonely and had yet to meet another man interested in men? Samuel was staring hard at the ground when Benny gently laid a hand on his arm.
“Sam? Bart asked you a question.”
“I’m so sorry. What did you say?” Samuel looked into the eyes of Ryan’s father, trying desperately not to glance to his side. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw the two boys turn and whisper to each other.
“It’s alright. Been a long day for both of us, I guess.” Bart waved him off. The man wiped his eyes one last time with the box in his other arm. “I asked if you’d like to come inside. It isn’t much, but it’s getting cold out here.”
“I’d like that.” Samuel nodded. “Benny, do we have another thermos left?”
“Sure thing.” Benny smiled. He walked to the buggy to fetch the thermos, knowing what a treat it would be to these people.
“Come on in, Ryan. Jarum.” Bart ushered the boys towards the porch. He whispered something to his men and they took up post in the rockers outside, folding thin blankets around their shoulders to warm away the night chills.
“I’m sorry to inconvenience you all.” Benny came running up to the porch. “This is the least we can do for making you wait out in the cold.” He handed a thermos to the closest of Bart’s men.
“What is this?” The man looked it over, turned it upside down with a frown. “Feels warm.”
“It is. Here, like this.” Benny tipped it upright, not making fun in the least, and unscrewed the cup from the top. “If you twist the lid off, you can pour coffee into this cup here.”
“Coffee?” Another man stood up. “Real coffee? I ain’t ever had coffee but I heard about it.”
Bart stood in the doorway, shooing Ryan and Jarum into the house. He turned, inhaling the rich scent wafting from the open thermos. As much as he wanted to try to drink also, his men deserved this little delicacy for all their hard work. He could do without. Besides, he had more important things to do. Such as see that his son was well taken care of and wanted to go with Samuel for sure.
“Dad?” Ryan pulled on his hand. “Can we have a minute before they, uh, come in here?”
“Of course. One second.” Bart squeezed his boy’s hand. “You mind giving us a minute, Samuel?”
“We’ll be right here.” Sam nodded. When the door squeaked into place, Sam let go of a deep breath.
“You ain’t got nothing to be worried about, you know?” One of the men took a sip of coffee and sighed. “If Bart has that feeling, which he obviously does, then Ryan will feel it too. That boy has been waiting for his Prince to come since he was real little. We all knew he was different since way back when. It’s because his mama filled his head with a bunch of lovey non-sense. Now don’t you get me wrong, she was a real good woman, just a little unrealistic is all. But I’ll be damned if I called her a fool now, because here you are, with your vehicle and your cup o’ coffee like some king.”
“Damn straight,” his friend chimed in. “What do you people do over in Rineway anyhow? Shit metal or something?”
Samuel chuckled. He liked these men. They were down to earth just like he was. Even if they didn’t have a formal education or much to offer, they were good people. “We run a… farm,” he half lied.
“A farm? Like cows and chickens and what have you?”
“And vegetables and other things.” Benny laughed nervously.
“Ah,” the men replied as one.
“Yep.” Benny smacked his lips and cut his eyes to Samuel. “We got to get back soon,” he whispered. “Before it gets too dark.”
“Don’t rush them, Benny.” Samuel smiled at the four men who were staring right back. A loud slurp of coffee broke the silence but only for a second.
Inside, Ryan rubbed his knees. The men of Rineway were both handsome, well dressed. In comparison, he felt like trash. He was dirty. His hair was greasy and his teeth hadn’t been cleaned in a few days. Why would a man like that want him? He hadn’t heard everything his father had said to the leader, but Ryan had definitely felt the man’s stare on him. Deep green eyes gave him the butterflies—a feeling that he had only had a few times when watching the men in Surik. But the feeling had never been this intense.
“Talk to me, son.” Bart laid a hand on Ryan’s knee.
“What do they want from him? Why are they taking me too?” Jarum crossed his arms.
“Jarum.” Bart gave him a firm look. “Let Ryan talk first and then we can talk about you, alright?”
Jarum looked away. “Sure. It’s not like I matter or anything.”
“Now boy, you know I consider you my own. Don’t you start in with that right now. Your brother here was brave enough to see this through and still come out on the other side loving me just the same. Show some respect and don’t act like for one second I don’t love you too.”
Jarum lowered his eyes. He knew Bart was right. The man had raised him, gone hungry at times just to feed him. Bart did love him the same as Ryan. “I’m sorry.”
Sensing Jarum on the edge of an emotional breakdown, Bart scooted his chair between his boys and took their hands. “Tell me what you’re thinking right now, both of you.”
“Jarum is right. Why do they want us? We aren’t like them. They’re all proper and what not.” Ryan squeezed his father’s hand, soaking up as much of his touch as he could. He sensed they didn’t have much more time together.
“Samuel, the leader, is… well, he’s interested in you. If you know what I’m saying.”
“Interested?” Ryan sat up.
“He wants you as his—ah hell, Ryan. I don’t know how to say it. He wants to see if you’re interested in him? That make better sense?”
“He wants me, like that?”
Ryan chanced a look at Jarum. His best friend had his eyes on the ground, breathing his way through the conversation. He knew what Jarum was remembering right now. Another man touching him like Ryan had craved his whole life. But was it a good memory or something he regretted?
“How do you feel about that? I know there ain’t many of your—preference around here, if at all. You may not get another chance to… I’m sorry son. This is just plain awkward.”
“Do you like him, dad?” Ryan stared out the window. “Do you think he would hurt me?”
“I got a feeling about him. I think he’s good people. Kind of shy, but he tries not to show it. But, Ryan? I think that man can give you a better life than I could ever dream of. For both of you.”
“What about me?” Jarum asked quietly. “Why would he want me?”
“Because you two can’t survive without the other. Children grow up and sometimes they leave their parents, but brothers are forever. I’m not going to lie and say I wouldn’t miss the hell out of both of you.” Bart took a shaky breath, squeezing their hands tight. “Because I love you both with all my heart. But Ryan, I think your mama was right. You two were meant for another life, another adventure as she always said. One that I think Samuel of Rineway can give you.”
“Dad?” Ryan looked up with tears in his eyes. “What do you think she’s doing right now?”
Bart wiped his eyes and laughed. “I think that woman is dancing in circles up there, happy as a cat in the cream. I think she’d tell me to let you go if I loved you like I say I do.”
“Jarum?” Ryan put an arm around his friend. “You want to go with me?”
Staring right back, Jarum sniffled. “Someone has to watch out for your ass.”
Both boys turned back to Bart. They leaned forward and surrounded him with their arms, holding on tight to the man that had raised them both.
Through the window, Samuel watched the boys embrace the leader. Nothing he could offer anyone would bring back his own father. He felt guilty, panged in the chest for separating this family. But as the boys rose to their feet, he looked past their lack of weight and tear-streaked faces to see two men, bravely walking away from all they had known. The pride in Bart’s eyes was so intense, Samuel had to hide his face before he started crying.
The door opened minutes later and Bart stepped out, Ryan and Jarum in tow. “Well, we won’t need to be having that chat after all. Give them a few minutes to pack their things.”
“Are you both sure?” Sam leaned over to catch eyes with Ryan. “It’s your choice.”
Ryan stared at the handsome leader with his worrisome eyes. He noted the longing beneath them, the respectful way he didn’t hover too close. He noticed the way Samuel gave the same look to Jarum, respecting his friend’s opinion the same as his. In those little details, Ryan saw possibilities and knew he had to pave the way for his own happiness. He would give this man a chance to show him another side of life—one he had only read about in books and fairy tales. His inner dreamer sighed as he smiled on the outside. In heartache, there could be happiness—his mother’s words warmed his heart.
“We’re sure. Aren’t we?” Ryan took Jarum’s hand.
The brunette nodded gently. “You promise to treat him right?” Jarum asked barely above a whisper.
“Never in my life have I treated anyone wrongly and I would never disrespect the man I—yes, I promise.” Samuel shifted uncomfortably. He didn’t like showcasing his shy side in front of Benny. But looking at his friend, there was only a warm smile for him.
“Then we’ll be a minute. Come on, Ry.”
Jarum pulled his friend off the porch, Ryan looking over his shoulder at the leader. He smiled when he turned back around. A man, a real man had come for him. Just like his mama had told him many years ago. Maybe the way it happened was sad, but if he could help his village and find a man who wanted him, all at the same time, the goodbye wouldn’t be so bittersweet.
Not fifteen minutes later, Benny loaded the last of the boy’s things into the small cargo hold of the buggy. “That should do it.”
Bart had requested that only his daughters and their husbands be present for the goodbye. They were crying, a mess, but they finally let go of their brother enough to let him back away. Jarum suddenly felt like an outsider. He wished his parents were still alive to tell him goodbye. He wished those arms around him were his own flesh and blood and that he would have someone to talk to on the radio when he got homesick. It wasn’t until he was pulled into Bart’s arms that he let go of a sob.
“You’ll always be my boy. Don’t you think for one second you don’t have a family here,” Bart whispered into his hair, hugging him so tight Jarum had to slow his crying just to breathe.
“I love you,” Jarum whispered back. “So much.”
“Damn it boy, I done told you a million times how much I love you.”
Benny hid behind the trailer a few of their people had pulled into the clearing. He watched the thin brunette hold onto Bart for dear life. For as tough as Jarum acted, he just wanted to be loved like anyone else. Benny hadn’t thought about how hard the goodbye would be to watch. But now as he watched Jarum slowly melt into Bart, he couldn’t help but turn away. It tore at his heart to break up a family, but in this world you had to give to get. What was in this trailer would give fifty people the means to live a better life. In return they gave up their sons, their beautiful loved ones out of pride and bravery. Benny vowed silently to watch over their family as if those two men were blood. It was the least he could do.
As the trailer door opened, all faces landed on the treasures tucked away inside. Ryan saw the blankets, the bright blue blankets and had a moment of shock. The very same blanket had been laid outside his door only few days before. It was then that he knew this was the right choice. He kept his mouth shut due to the blushing look on Samuel’s face. He knew he’d been caught. The shy glance only served to further the intense feeling in the pit of Ryan’s stomach.
“Ryan?” He turned around to see his father. “This is it, son. Are you sure?”
“Positive.” Ryan slipped back into his father’s arms. “I can talk to you anytime. It’s going to be okay.”
A hand slipped into his back pocket, a soft slither of metal before Bart squeezed him one last time with a kiss to his head. “She would have wanted you to have that. Don’t you ever forget where you came from, you hear me?”
Knowing exactly what was in his pocket, Ryan pulled free of his father’s arms. “I hear you. Love you, dad.”
“Love you more, son.”
Ryan backed away before he lost his nerve to go. Jarum’s hand grabbed his. The two boys turned around, both of them having trouble breathing while they climbed into the backseat of the buggy. Benny laid a blanket over their shaking legs. He knew they were going to lose it the minute the buggy pulled away from their home. But for the time being, they kept their faces blank, holding onto each other for safety.
Samuel extended his hand to Bart. “I swear I’ll take care of them, Bart.”
The leader nodded. “I know you will,” he choked out the words. “Thank you.”
Overcome with emotion, feeling it down to the tips of his toes, Samuel pulled Bart to him for a hug. “I promise you, I will love that boy with all my heart. He will never know hunger or pain as long as I live. Both of them are now my family the same as yours and never will I be able to repay the gift you have given me today. You honor me, Bart. You have no idea how much.”
Stunned, silently crying, Bart took a step back. Samuel took to the buggy in wide strides, buckling in before he said anything else—before he gave Ryan back because of the way his heart raced for Bart. Ryan took one last look at his father as the buggy lurched forward. The powerful man that his dad had always been, stood strong to the spot, lifted his hand in goodbye and didn’t bother to wipe away the tears.
The minute they were out of sight, Ryan put his face in Jarum’s neck and cried.