Crouching in the grass, his heart beating faster than he had ever felt it beat before, he stilled his breathing and pulled himself into a small ball under the cover of a tree that had fallen behind his family’s property. The grass was wet, and in the moonlight he could see the slight reflection off of the tiny drops of water as they made their way down to soil after he disturbed their sleep. His feet were scratched and bleeding from running through the woods. He didn’t have time to put his boots on when his father had walked into the barn. He could hear his father screaming from the back of their house. Although he couldn’t see him, he imagined his red face, his rage, his shaking body.
“You better run boy! You hear me! You better run or I’ll skin your hide when I catch up to you! I don’t need your kind in my house! And I’ve got that whore you’ve been with you hear me! I’ll show you what defiling my blood means!”
Joseph woke up in a sweat, breathing hard in the darkness. His father’s words echoed in his head as he cleared his vision and sat up in the small shed that he had made his home in last night. The air was warming to the rising sun and Joseph was vaguely aware of the loons on the pond out behind the shed. It usually didn't matter what situation he found himself in, the sound of a calling loon always made him feel better, but this morning he was cold, he was hungry, and he was worried.
He was making his way around the edge of the property that his family farmed outside of Windsor, Ontario, which sat on the peninsula that boasted of being the southern most point in Canada. Their land was a 6000-acre, fertile stretch of soil that bordered the eastern bank of the Detroit River. Tobacco was big business in Ontario and in the past his family made good money from selling to the large American companies. He knew the shed would be there, as he had been to the back of the property many times over the years. His father kept it here, stocked with tools, so that if they needed to mend the machinery, or needed supplies for the horses, that they wouldn’t have to go back to the main barn at the house. He found a couple of horse blankets to make his bed with and a sack of oats doubled as a pillow – a restless sleep, no doubt, but it served well enough. He knew his father and brothers would be out looking for him, and if they found him he knew that his family would make good on his father's threats.
His life of sixteen years consisted of a drunken father who made his four sons work all day, every day. He had three older brothers, the youngest of which was almost 7 years his senior. His mother he had never known, other than to hear his father call her a whore in his stupors. His brothers offered him a hard life, seeing him as another set of hands and young enough to do their bidding. There was no going back to the life he ran from two nights ago, and the fortune that made up his family’s business was doomed by his fathers own hand anyway, so there was nothing to stay for, even if he had an interest in keeping to a farming life. Joseph could see from an early age that the business was struggling to stay alive under the rule of his father, who refused to pay for new machinery or upgrade what they had. Competing farms that were able to take on more land with faster planting and harvesting equipment were pushing their farm further and further behind. The product, although superior in quality, lacked in quantity, and that is what the large manufacturers were interested in.
He began working on the farm at eight years old, after his father pulled him out of the schoolhouse by his hair yelling at the teacher that she was making his boy soft. He found Joseph’s drawings in his schoolbook of another boy and beat Joseph near an inch of his life that day. The drawings were innocent enough, he was only eight after all, and he knew nothing of the longing for another boy that he would eventually feel, but his father knew what they meant, and he was determined that his son wasn’t going to be a queer.
He was taken out of school that very day, and brought back to the farm to work in the fields. Some might see this as punishment, but Joseph had always loved the fields, whether it was in the drizzling rain of the spring, the scorching heat of the summer, or the crisp cool air of fall. He loved spreading the tiny seeds in the greenhouses on their property and watching them grow until they were old enough to transplant in the fields; he loved walking the rows of growing tobacco and thinning the plants and pulling weeds with the other workers; and he loved harvesting bales and bales of tobacco plants and seeing them shipped off by river barge to factories further south. And most of all, he loved that the fields were where he saw the boy he fell in love with at the age of fifteen, and he continued to love him till this very day, when he found himself running for his life from the very man that gave it to him to begin with. He wiped the tear from his cheek as he steeled himself for what he had to do.
Almost two years earlier, in the summer of 1960 when Joseph had just turned fifteen, he was walking down the dusty road that no one lived on other than his family, and he saw in the distance a large moving truck making its way down the road. It turned onto another dusty side road that eventually connected to the property that the Hannsen’s had owned up until a few years ago when they moved into the city. Unknown to Joseph at the time was that in the truck was a family and a young boy, the same age as Joseph, who would soon become the best friend he would ever know.
It was almost three weeks later, when Joseph was working in the rows on the field nearest the house that he saw a pickup truck pull into the yard, and his father and oldest brother walked out from one of the storage sheds to meet the people inside. He saw a man and a boy get out of the vehicle and felt his heart racing when he looked at the boy who in Joseph’s eyes was perfect in every sense. He was dressed similarly to Joseph in that he had jeans and a t-shirt, but the bottom of each pant leg was rolled up into a large cuff that gave the visitor a younger, almost playful, quality. He could see the blonde skin of his legs and ankles. He wore no socks, and Joseph found himself wondering how he kept his feet from smelling. Every time he didn’t wear socks his feet just got all sweaty and foul. His hair was dark and he watched mesmerized by the way it bounced on his forehead and shook into his eyes as he nodded at Joseph’s father. He didn’t know what was said, but a few minutes later, his father and brother shook hands with the man and the boy and they returned to their truck and drove off, while his father and brother returned to the shed they had come from.
“Who was that, that came in truck earlier today?” Joseph had asked his father over dinner hoping to find out the meaning of the visit and who the boy was.
“Mind your business boy.”
Joseph was used to not knowing anything about what was happening, but he learned how to interpret what he saw and how things were said to him. His father said what he did in resignation, and not in an overtly hostile way, and this told Joseph that he would see the boy again. He suspected that they had approached his father for work as was common on a large farm.
True to his instinct, Joseph saw the boy appear the following Saturday. He was working in the greenhouses preparing the trays that the tobacco plants would eventually be seeded into. His father approached with the boy trying to keep up to his father’s stride behind him. He hated his father for the way he walked when he was with someone. He knew he didn’t walk that fast normally, it was only when he wanted to show someone that they were beneath him that he walked that way. They approached Joseph quickly and his father began to speak without looking at anyone.
“You’ll be learning how things work around here with the boy. Listen to him.” He turned an eye on Joseph. “Teach him,” he growled, and with that walked away leaving the two boys staring at each other.
Similar to the first time he saw him, the boy wore a t-shirt and jeans, and the cuffs were rolled up like before as well. He glanced down and saw that he wore no socks and red canvas shoes. He was very clean which made Joseph a little self conscious in front of him. Joseph’s torn t-shirt and worn, dirty jeans were a testament to both the hard work that he put in on a daily basis and the fact that he hated doing laundry. I should probably put in a load of washing tonight. He thought absently, before bringing his attention to the boy’s face. Dark eye’s stared back at him and Joseph was reminded of the deep dugout behind their property. It had the same reflective sparkle this boy carried in his gaze.
As his hands were full with a hose in one hand and a seedling tray in the other, Joseph introduced himself with out offering a hand. “I’m Joseph,” he said. “That was my dad.”
The boy looked at him and put both of his hands in his front pockets, “I’m Jonathon, but you can call me Jon, all my friends call me Jon.” His voice was soft and hesitant.
“Well, you can call me Joe, all my friends call me Joe.” Joseph wasn’t really sure why he said that, he didn’t actually have any friends to speak of, but something about Jon threw him and he found it difficult to think while he was staring into those dark eyes.
“So,” Jon spoke, “what ya doin?”
“Ah… I’m preparing the trays over there,” he pointed to the huge pile of discarded seedling trays in the corner. “We have to get them ready to seed soon.”
“Sounds pretty easy, what do you want me to do?”
Over the next months Jon and Joseph worked side by side every weekend. Each week they did something different so Jon would begin to understand the workings of a farm. There was a lot to learn, as they had different crops on different pieces of land as well, each with unique growing cycles. Joseph’s family planted oats that was used for the horses, flax, which they sold for oil, and some grain, which they usually just sold for feed. Also, every weekend Joe would show his friend how to operate a different piece of machinery. They would take whatever equipment Jon was learning to operate to a field that they had left lie fallow so no one else would be on it. They grew to like these trips, they would sit together in the cab of the tractor and Joe would show Jon what all the different buttons meant, and how to operate the hydraulics if they were pulling something behind them.
Jon went to school like most boys did and Joseph felt rather resentful of his father that he couldn’t go to school. Not because he had liked school overly much when he was in it, but that he would be able to hang out with Jon while he was there. He was growing very fond of his new friend, and even deeper feelings were growing. It was the first time Joe had to acknowledge to himself that maybe he wasn’t interested in girls.
They found themselves sharing everything with each other on their trips and when they worked beside each other, and on the weekends that Jon didn’t work at the farm, they would see each other in the late evening, meeting at the property line between Jon’s house and the farm. It was during one such meeting that their relationship changed forever.
“Hey Joe!” Jon panted as he ran to the fence and they grabbed each other around the wrist in the handshake they used to greet each other. It came from a movie they both had seen, something about Roman soldiers and they would greet each other in the same way, they practiced until they got it right and then it became something of their own, that no one else did. It was theirs.
“Hey Jon, missed you at the horse stable today. I was cleaning out poop for hours!”
Jon laughed, “I missed you too Joe.” But he didn’t really have a reason for missing Joe, so the silence became awkward and both boys, blushed and smiled while looking down at the ground.
“Sorry, that was a bit weird.” Jon said sheepishly.
“No sweat, I’m glad that you missed me Jon,” and the boys made eye contact for a long time while they stood in silence.
Jon had been hanging onto a question for some weeks now and it spilled from him in a rush before he could stop it. “Do you like girls Joe?”
Joe looked at him with fear, and wiped the back of his neck before answering, “Don’t know really. Never met one yet that I wanted to do anything with.” He swallowed before continuing, “I always thought I would, you know, grow into it.” He looked at his friend, “What about you Jon, do you like girls.”
Jon looked at Joe and shook his head. “No Joe, I don’t, but I do like someone.”
Joe smiled, “You sure did take a fancy to Bessy when you met her,” Joe joked trying to relive the tension between the two boys.
Jon wasn’t having any of it and didn’t rise to take the bait. “No Joe, it ain’t your cow that I like, although she is a very nice cow,” he said seriously.
“Who do you like then,” Joe asked nervously, and waited for what seemed like an eternity before Jon answered him..
“I’m looking at the person I like.”
Joe stared at Jon in silence, he was breathing hard and felt his heart beating in his chest. “Do you think it’s okay for two boys to like each other that way Jon?”
“I don’t know Joe, I just know I’ve never felt like this before. I also know that I don’t like the idea of you liking anyone else but me.”
“I don’t think you have to worry about that Jon, I like you an awful lot,” Joe felt his tears starting to rise. He gripped the top fence rail with both of his hands and squeezed, hoping he could hold them back.
Jon saw what he was doing and stepped close to the fence. He placed both of his hands on top of Joe’s and felt him relax. Then he lifted Joe’s left hand and brought it toward his face, laying Joe’s flat palm on his cheek.
Joe closed his eyes and savored the warmth of Jon’s cheek flowing into his hand, he felt Jon move closer to the fence, with his eyes closed and his hand still covered by Jon’s and on his cheek, Joe received the first of many kisses from Jon. His breath caught in his chest when their lips touched and slowly he pushed against Jon and felt him respond in kind. Soon, two eager young men where clutching each other over a fence and exploring their feelings for each other.
Their relationship developed quickly into a deep love for each other. They thought of each other often. They exchanged gifts with each other on their birthdays, and Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and most importantly, on the anniversary of the day they met in the greenhouse. They hung out with each other when they weren’t working or when Jon wasn’t in school, and Jon would tell Joe all about what he did at school and what he’d learned. Joe enjoyed listening to Jon talk about his day and about what he wanted to do with his life. And like all young men that are in love, they planned for a future together, deciding where they wanted to live, and dreaming of when they were older and both on their own, and how no one would be able to keep them apart. They planned how they would tell people that they were roommates and have a two bedroom place of their own, so when Jon's mom came to visit she wouldn’t know that they were sleeping in the same bed. They began to get bolder with their love, and it was then that Joe’s father discovered them on a Friday evening in the barn.
Joseph had run off into the woods when his father found them in the barn two nights ago, but Jonathon had been caught by one of his brothers. For some reason, Jon didn’t follow him when he started to run from the barn. A few minutes later, he heard Jon screaming in the distance, knowing there was nothing he could do for his only friend, he covered his ears and cried in silence. He had to find out what had happened to him; he had to know that he didn’t abandon the boy he loved to the hands of his hated family.
That first night Jon hadn't moved from his hiding spot under the tree. At daybreak, he began to make his way around the edge of his family's property, and eventually to the shed where he would spend his second night. After waking up in the shed earlier in the day he spent many hours walking through the bush trying to get to Jon’s house. He had cut one of the blankets into two smaller pieces and wrapped each piece around one of his feet and bound the blanket together with the leather straps that normally would be used to fix the horse harnesses and reins. Although his feet didn’t hurt anymore, they were wet and the blankets were getting heavy, he needed boots, but didn’t dare return to his house to get some. He would ask Jon, as their feet were almost the same size. He stopped suddenly and heard Jon’s scream in his mind. It brought tears of shame and guilt to his face, and he sobbed for a few minutes as quietly as he could. Eventually the tears stopped, but the ache inside of him stayed and he made his way to the edge of the property and looked at the house where his best friend and lover lived.
Jon’s window was on the second floor and although there was no light on, it was still light enough out that it didn't mean that Jon wasn’t in his room. He crept along the back of the house and toward the tree that overhung the house and allowed Jon to escape on the evenings when he snuck out to meet Joe by the fence. He worked his way up the tree and onto the first floor roof that made it’s way to the edge of the smaller second floor and the window that was Joe’s goal.
He looked inside and the room was dark, but he noticed someone was in the bed. He tapped quietly, but there was no response. Joe thought about what to do. Knocking harder might be heard. He pushed on the window quietly and felt it move under his upward pressure. He opened it enough so that he could quickly and silently slide inside. He made his way over to the bed and saw Jon's dark hair poking out from his blanket. He shook him, saw him roll over, and then registered the devastation that was Jon’s face.
His perfect features where covered by welts and bruises and if it wasn’t for his beautiful dark eyes, he may not have recognized him.
“Oh my God Jon, what did they do to you?” Joe felt his anger rise and his voice went with it.
“Shhhhh!!! Joe, my dad will hear you! Go close the door.”
Joe reluctantly did as he was told and rushed back to sit on Jon’s bed. They hugged without saying anything and then kissed each other gently.
“Jon, who did this? Which one of them did this to you? I’ll hurt them all! I’ll go back there and beat every last one of them!”
“Joe, please, it looks worse that it is. You can’t go back there, and you can’t be seen here either. Both of our families want you dead, and yours want me dead too. If you showed up there, I couldn’t bare to think what might happen to you.” Jon started to cry and Joe, felt his heart melt at the sight.
“Jon I’m so sorry I left you, I was so scared, I knew what they would do to me if they caught me.”
“I know, I know, you did what you should have done.”
“But I left you there!”
“You couldn’t have stopped me from running toward your family Joe, I did it knowing what they would do to you if they caught you.”
Joe couldn’t believe what he heard. Jon had purposefully ran back the other way to help him. “Jon, why did you do that?”
“Because I didn’t want them to hurt you.” He put his palm to Joe’s face and watched Joe respond like he knew he would. He relaxed into Jon’s hand instantly and all the tension of the past two days left him in an instant. “Please don't worry about me Joe, but you have to go. You can’t stay here, and for God’s sake don’t you dare think about going back home.”
“I know Jon, I won’t go back there. But I don’t know where to go. I’ve never been anywhere Jon. I’m scared you know?”
“I know you are, and I’m scared too, but I’m more scared of what will happen if they find you Joe, you didn’t see your father, he would have tore you to pieces.”
“I know, I heard him yelling at me.”
“Joe, what the hell do have on your feet?”
Joe laughed, “I didn’t take my boots with me when I ran.” He unwound the leather straps and threw off the soggy blankets that saved his feet on the long walk.
“No you were too busy hiking up your pants! The last I saw of you was your butt running out the back of the barn.” They both laughed together and held each other tightly. “Joe I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“You wont have to find out, you’re coming with me.”
Joe didn’t pay attention to him. He began to look around the room for Jon’s things. “You’ll need some clothes, and some boots, oh and do you have an extra pair, because I left mine in the …”
“Joe,” Jon cut him off with a tone that made him look back at Jon lying in the bed. He noticed something that he hadn’t noticed before.
“Joe, I can’t come with you.”
Joe barely heard what Jon said; he continued to stare at the blanket that Jon’s body was still under. His legs. His legs didn’t look right under the blanket. He walked slowly back to Jon and looked down at the blanket.
“Joe, please, sit down.”
Joe reached down and threw the blanket off of his only love, and gasped in horror at what he saw. Both of Jon’s legs were encased in casts covering his feet, ankles and legs, up to his groin. He brought a hand to his mouth and covered the cry that would have come out. He collapsed to his knees and stared into Jon’s eyes.
“Joe, it’s okay really. Yes, your brothers hurt my legs, but the doctor said I’ll be good as new in a couple of months. I can’t even feel them, look they gave me these cool pills.” He shook a small bottle of pills that was on his nightstand.
Joe couldn’t believe what he was hearing and his rage was bubbling to the surface, but was intercepted by Jon.
“No! You listen to me and you listen close. I did what I did because I wanted you safe. If you go back there, that will mean that I did this for nothing, and I can’t live with knowing that Joe. Don’t you ever go back to that house! Promise me.”
Joe said nothing, but began to deflate under Jon’s stare.
“Promise me,” Jon demanded.
Joe hung his head in defeat and crawled toward Jon’s bed on his knees. “I promise,” he said weakly, and he rested his head in Jon’s arms. Jon stroked his beautiful blonde hair and soothed any anger and worries that Joe had hung onto. Being here in the arms of his boyfriend was the only thing he ever wanted. He sobbed quietly and crawled into bed with him, shivering and avoiding touching the cold casts covering Jon’s lower body.
Joe left no more than 30 minutes later. Jon gave him some boots and clean clothes – a pair of jeans that Jon really loved on him because they hugged Joe’s butt, two white t-shirts, several pairs of underwear that Joe refused because he didn’t wear underwear, and a bunch of white socks that Jon never wore. Jon was lying in bed looking at Joe with a smile and asked him to step closer so he could adjust the cuffs of the pants. He rolled each cuff up once, looked at his man, and smiled. “Perfect.”
They kissed and Joe was off after promising not to trust strangers, and to write to Jon and let him know where he was.
Joe made his way north along the roads and trails that followed the Detroit river until they reached Lake St. Clair. He spent two days making his way along the shore and then needed more supplies as the food that Jon had got him, by asking his mom to get him a plate of food and then having Joe wrap it up in a bag from his closet, was running out. He also had his other clothes, and the one’s that Jon had given him were getting dirty from the travel, so he needed to find a laundry mat somewhere. He had a backpack that Jon had given him, a tent from Jon’s shed that he said no one would miss, and $430.00 dollars that Jon had saved up from working. It was everything that Jon had to give him. It was all of the money that he had saved from working on the farm over the many months that they knew each other. He insisted he take every penny of it and he knew he would need it so he took it reluctantly, but gratefully.
He made his way steadily east and eventually connected to the 401 freeway, which took him via two rides to the heart of Toronto. He told Jon that he would stay in Toronto, but Jon said that Toronto wasn’t far enough and it would be easy for his family to find him there. So after they thought for a few minutes, Joe suggested Vancouver. Jon told him that he could catch a train there at Union Station and so when he got to Toronto he went to the largest train station he could find.
Union Station was the biggest structure that Joe had ever seen. From the outside it was just massive, from the inside, it was amazing. Joe walked around with more people than he had ever seen in one place before, hurrying in all directions, catching trains, purchasing tickets, hugging each other as they arrived from distant places, but not one of them stopped to look up and see what they were all standing beneath. The arched ceiling towering above them was made up of thousands and thousands of bricks and each one was part of a larger geometric pattern that drew the eye in many directions. It was joined by numerous columns made up of the same brick and which tapered up at least 50 feet to the meet the ceiling. The floor was just as beautiful and Joe thought he would like to see it without all of the people on it. The beauty, and the scale, of the station, mesmerized him.
“You don’t look like you’re from around here son.” A man who must have been the age of his dad was smiling at him while he was sitting on one of the many high-backed wooden benches that ran through the entire station. “All these people rushing from place to place and not one of them stopping to look around for a little while - makes you kind of sad doesn’t it?” He looked off shaking his head.
Joe approached him cautiously. “Are you going somewhere?” he asked.
“Me? No, I’m just here for the money. You see kid, everyone of these here people need something, even if they don’t know it yet, I am here to give them what they need, for a small fee of coarse.” The man held out his hand, “My name’s Willy, and who are you?”
“Joseph,” he replied and reached for the man’s hand shaking it firmly.
“Nice grip you got there son, you got some muscle in those arms of yours. Now where’re your parents at? Shouldn’t you be with them right now?”
“No sir, I’m travelling alone. To Vancouver.”
“Ah I see, well you’re in the wrong station son, did you know that?”
“Really? No, I thought this was the only station.”
“Well you have that right, but this is an awfully big station, and the area you want is across the tracks behind the station. All of the trains that leave from this area are heading East son, to the Maritimes. You’re not going to Montreal or St. Johns are you?”
“No sir, Vancouver like I said.”
“Yes, so you did. Well, if you like I can take you to the other side of the tracks and show you the platform where you can wait for your train son, I was just heading that way myself.”
Joe hesitated, he wasn’t sure where he was suppose to go, but Jon told him Union Station was where he would start.
“Don’t I need to get a ticket first sir?” Joe asked.
“Yes, but you have a choice. You can go and stand in one of those lines,” he pointed to four long rows of passengers waiting behind one another, “or, you can purchase your ticket at the platform and not stand in any line.” The man got up and started to move toward the door, Joe didn’t know what to do. “Your choice, son,” the man said and he waved.
Joe looked at the lines again and then back to the man making his way out of the doors. “Wait he shouted after the man, and he ran to catch up to him. “I would sure be grateful if you could show me to the right place sir.”
The man smiled down and Joe and put a hand on his shoulder, “Come with me son, and we’ll get you to the right place. It’s just a short walk across the tracks from here. Let me take your bag for you,” and he grabbed Joe’s pack before he had a chance to refuse.
“It’s really no problem, sir, I can take my bag.”
“Now, now, you look like you’ve been travelling for a while. Allow me. Where did you say you were from?”
“Oh, I… ah… from Windsor sir,” and Joe followed the man behind the large building of Union Station. It was getting dark and as they picked their way over the tracks behind the station Joe wondered how far it would be before they got to where he needed to take his train. He was beginning to regret that he didn’t know more about how to take the train so he wouldn’t feel so dependent on the help of strangers like Willy. The promise he made Jon echoed in his mind. “How far did you say it was Willy?”
“Just over there Joe, you see that building?” He pointed to a dark building off away from any of the others.
“There doesn’t seem to be anyone there.”
“Well that’s the back of it Joe, the people are on the other side.”
Joe felt unsure of going further with Willy, but he had his pack and all of his things and his money was in it so he needed to get it back. “Willy, do you mind if I carry my bag now?”
“No, not at all, here you go.” Joe blew out a sigh of relief when Willy began to hand over his bag. He struggled to get the pack on and when both of his arms where trying to get the pack onto his back, he saw Willy’s fist fly toward him, too late to move, and defenseless with his arms in the position they were, he took the full hit across the top his cheek and blacked out before he hit the ground.
Joe woke with a searing pain in his head. He was disoriented and didn’t know where he was or what was happening. He tried to open his eyes, but found they were covered tightly. His mouth was also covered, by tape he thought, and he could only breath through his nose, which was getting harder as panic rose up within him. He struggled, but couldn’t move. He was tied, his arms and wrists bound tightly behind his back. His memory of what happened came back and suddenly he felt so stupid. He had trusted Willy, if that was really his name, and he had ended up like this - Jon would be furious with him. Willy was probably spending his money right now. He had to get himself untied so he could get out of wherever he was. He tried to get a sense of his surroundings and began paying attention to the sounds around him. It was quiet, but he could hear the clack of train tires over tracks, so he knew he was close to where he was before he was hit. He felt the ground underneath him and it was cold and wet - concrete. He must be in one of the buildings on the Union Station grounds. There were many of them from what he remembered of his walk across the tracks. Whether it was day or night he couldn’t tell. He suddenly heard a door opening and he tried to yell through the tape on his mouth. He could tell someone was approaching him by the sound of footsteps getting closer, maybe this would soon be over he thought, but as the pain exploded across his face again, he lapsed in unconsciousness and slumped to the floor.
The next time he woke he was being moved and he heard a number of voices, he moaned and was told to shut up or he’d be hit again. He was scared and could only think of Jon and how he was going to get back to him. He didn’t pay any attention to what was happening, until he felt his jeans begin taken off. He panicked as he realized what was happening and began to struggle, but was forced over something hard, he was held down on his stomach by strong hands, much stronger than he and he experienced pain he never thought possible when someone forced their way inside him. He was horrified by what was happening to him and screamed regardless of the warning he was given earlier.
His muffled screams would never be heard, not that day, nor any of the other days that he continued to be assaulted repeatedly by many different men. Joseph didn’t know how many times it had happened, or how many days he had been there, he knew he was in such pain that he stopped feeling it, and he fell in and out of consciousness during and after the assaults occurred.
He began to speak with Jon in his mind, as he realized that his life was coming to an end. He was laying on the concrete floor, his eyes still covered, the feeling in his hands and arms was gone, the throbbing below his waist wasn’t felt anymore, and he began to pray even though he was never really a religious person, and he often wondered if he would ever see heaven, he never lost faith that there was something else in the world that he never understood. Now on the edge of death, with a vision of his only love in his minds eye, he spoke inside himself.
Jon, I’m so sorry that I didn’t listen to you, please don’t be angry with me, I couldn’t bare that. I can’t say this to you in person, but I love you so much, it hurts me to think that you wont know what happened to me. Please don’t think that I abandoned you. If I could, I would find you again, and never let you go. Please don’t forget me, I will never forget you.
He swallowed his fear and continued.
God… if you can hear me, please… let me die now. I can’t go through this any longer. I did something wrong. I put my trust into someone I didn’t know and I didn't listen to the one person I should have listened to. I think you know who I mean. I don’t know if you’re okay with us, but it feels so right and it would mean so much to me if you could tell him just how much I love him.
Joe felt the tears well up under the tape covering his face just before he lost consciousness for the last time. His hope gone, Joseph Sterling took his last ragged breath and passed away at the age of sixteen on a concrete floor of a shed behind Union Station. As always, the trains ran right past the tiny shed. No one stopped to see if anything was happening inside, and no one would ever discover what happened to the boy inside. His body would be moved and buried in a copse of trees not two hundred feet from where he died.
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