A door slammed somewhere in the distance. Tariq didn’t even flinch. He was used to all the noises by now.
He’d lost track of time. He’d no idea how long he’d been in this room. It wasn’t a cell. At least, there weren’t any bars on the small window, and the door was made of wood rather than steel. And yet, even though he knew he could walk out whenever he wanted, he might as well be incarcerated. What good was freedom if you’d lost all you had to live for?
At first he’d been too confused to do much except sit quietly and cry. He didn’t understand why he found himself here. This was not the way things were supposed to be. He’d known he was about to venture into an uncertain future when he signed up for the scheme, but nothing could have prepared him for this. Having no idea exactly where he was was the least of his problems. The unanswered questions killed him. Not knowing what would happen next…or when. Not knowing what he was supposed to do now. And most of all, not knowing what had happened to….
Tariq stopped himself from pursuing that particular line of thought. Nothing would be gained from indulging himself in those unanswerable questions. It had taken him some time to come to the conclusion. At first he’d allowed himself to spend all his time wondering, longing, fearing and yearning. He’d cried more tears than he cared to remember until at last he realised that madness was the only thing awaiting him along that path. Nobody could answer his questions so he’d stopped asking them.
Another door slammed and footsteps approached along the corridor outside his room. He wondered what it would be this time? Would they urge him to move on again? Ask him what he wanted to do next? When would they take his word for it when he told them he just didn’t care?
The footsteps stopped right outside his door and Tariq held his breath. He was so tired of all of this. If only they would leave him alone.
The door opened and in walked….
Tariq closed his eyes and opened them again. The vision in front of him was still the same. Could it be? Memories assaulted him. Paying all the money they owned to the man with the cruel smile. Boarding the boat which had been too small for the number of refugees. The sudden storm. Seeing Ayman fall overboard just before a large vessel had intercepted their smaller one. He’d been in shock; had allowed himself to be moved from the flimsy boat to the larger ship and subsequently to this room.
“There you are.” The voice confirmed what his eyes had refused to believe.
“Ayman.” His voice was choked and raw after days of being silent. “You’re here. You’re alive.”
Tariq watched as the man he loved more than life itself crossed the room and lowered himself to the mattress on the floor before opening his arms. “Come here.”
He crawled into Ayman’s arms, resting his head against his boyfriend’s chest. For a moment he wondered why they’d given Ayman a shirt when they’d left him with just his shorts and then he decided it didn’t matter.
“I thought you’d….” His voice broke. “When I saw you go overboard….”
“Sshh,” Ayman whispered. “You should have known. Don’t I always live up to my name?”
For the first time since they’d fled their home Tariq laughed. “Yes, you’re right. Ayman indeed. You always were a lucky bastard.”
As always, other stories based on the same image can be found in the Monday Flash Fics Facebook group. I’ll also post an idea for an Advent/Christmas story event in the group today which will also be open to non group members. Make sure to check it out!