Enigma II – Fighting The Man

by Nephy Hart

Fighting the Man - Nephy Hart - Enigma
Part of the Enigma series:
Editions:Kindle - Second Edition: £ 2.42
ISBN: 9781476469577
Pages: 376

Silver has been freed from sexual slavery and settled down with River, his lover and former patient, yet cracks begin to form when it becomes increasingly obvious that the stress of constantly having to care for Silver, begin to tell on River. When River’s parents die, leaving him to care for his 12 year old brother it, at first, seems that the introduction of the lively twelve year old into the mix was going to do them all the world of good. However, when spiteful relatives involve Social Services, the previous flaws nearly rip them all apart.

Faced with the dilemma of keeping either Ben or Silver at home and sending the other to stay with Sam, a personal friend, River chooses responsibility for his brother over his love and concern for Silver. Things come to a head when a series of misunderstandings lead Silver to believe River doesn’t love him anymore and that everyone is secretly ashamed of him because of his past. After running away, Silver reasons the only place he can fit in is with his own kind and he sets out to search of a new “home.”

At the Theatre de la vie he meets Tony, a club owner with big ideas, who ‘looks after’ a group of young men who dance and “entertain” patrons of the club. There, among others, Silver finds Ariel, an ephemeral little minx with a knack for getting into trouble, Alex, the big hearted mountain of muscle, and Asher. With Asher, a former sex slave like himself, Silver finds a kindred spirit and soon finds himself falling for the beautiful, broken boy.

Together, Ariel and Asher show Silver a whole new way of looking at the world, a transformation echoing the sleeping chrysalis of his soul, and soon his inner self emerges as the beautiful butterfly he was always meant to be. Yet as happy as he is with his new friends, Silver eventually realises he truly misses River and intends to return to his side, but a dark figure from his abusive past returns to threaten both a possible reunion and the very ones who would protect Silver.

River learns of the danger, and hurries to add his own support of Silver and reaffirm their love, but with so many doubts and unspoken regrets between them, is it too late for a chance at happiness together? At the emotional climax to this suspenseful story of love and loss, Silver and River reach conclusions that will either save them both or drive them apart forever.

Published:
Publisher: Independently Published
Cover Artists:
Genres:
Tags:
Pairings: MM
Heat Level: 5
Romantic Content: 3
Ending: Click here to reveal
Character Identities: Gay
Protagonist 1 Age: 18-25
Protagonist 2 Age: 18-25
Tropes: Families/Raising Kids, Healing Power of Sex, Hurt / Comfort, Mind Games, Fated Mates / Soul Mates
Word Count: 140500
Setting: Around London
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
Excerpt:

The Social Services offices are in a very modern, almost brand new building. As we step out of the lift, the first thing that assails us is the smell of new wood. Everything is shiny and new. We’re shown into a waiting room with two or three other families, apparently in the same situation.

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A couple of runny-nosed kids, of about six or seven, are running about making nuisances of themselves, while their parents glower at them and occasionally snap a swear word. They’re all unpleasant. It isn’t the fact that they’re dirty and unkempt. I’ve seen many people who struggle to keep themselves clean and tidy and are the nicest people. No, it’s something about their eyes. They are, without exception, cold. They’re...defensive, accusing, challenging, aggressive. They’re just not nice. A shiver of apprehension runs down my spine as they look up at us. I don’t like the people. I don’t like the situation. I don’t like the fact Silver has to be here. These people are the antithesis of Silver. They have none of his innocence.

I’m acutely aware they’re all staring at me... at Silver. Thankfully, he seems oblivious. He sits in a chair, straight backed with his hands clenched at his sides, his lips moving as he repeats some mantra over and over, to keep the fear under control.

Silver jumps when someone calls out my name, and he stares at me with frightened eyes. Then, he forces himself to smile and nod at me.

“It’s okay, River,” he says softly. “We can do this. I can do this.”

I take his hand, to renewed stares and mutters from the other people in the waiting room, and we walk towards the voice.

“Ah...Mr. Caulfield and Mr Hart.” A sour faced woman with a clipboard motions us into an empty room. For a moment, I’m confused. Who the hell is Mr Hart? Then I realise it’s Silver. I have to calm down and stop panicking at every little thing. If I can’t even remember his name we’re lost; they’re not the kind of people to understand that Silver is just… Silver.

The woman sits down and motions for us to do the same, in one of the chairs set around the large table. The smell of new wood is strong in here and makes my nose itch.

Silver’s shaking but he sits upright and makes an effort to appear calm and focussed. If I wasn’t so scared, I’d be proud of him.

“Do you understand why we’re here today?” She asks, gently enough.

“To talk about Ben and your worries about him living with us,” I venture and she beams.

“Exactly, Mr. Caulfield. May I call you River?”

“Of course.”

“We’re here for Ben, to try and make some decisions that ensure he’s safe and happy. All we’re concerned about is Ben. It’s disappointing you didn’t bring him with you today. Did you not get the invitation?”

“Um...I didn’t get your name.” I’m feeling at a distinct disadvantage here and I’m buggered if she’s getting away with anything I can do something about.

“Oh, I am sorry, how rude of me. I’m Dianne Stokes, I’m the Chairman of the meeting today. Feel free to call me Dianne.”

“You have to understand...Dianne, that Ben’s been through a lot recently. He’s lost everything.” I feel a sharp twinge of guilt when I speak those words. “He’s lost his parents, his home, the life he’s known for the last twelve years.” Another pang, which I choose to ignore. “And now, he’s scared he’s going to lose me. He’s just beginning to settle down, to get back to his old self again. He’s terrified you’re going to come in and take him away. If I’d brought him here today it would’ve wiped away all the progress we’ve made.”

“Why is that? Surely, Ben realises we’re here to help him and not to make life any more difficult for him.”

“He doesn’t see it like that.” I’m stinging from the accusing tone, so I don’t mind snapping back.

“Perhaps, he’s picking up a negative impression of what we’re trying to do for him, from the people around him. Perhaps, you should work a little harder to convince him our involvement is a positive thing.”

“Perhaps, if you made it a positive thing I’d be able to do that. I don’t think turning up on our doorstep with two police officers on the day he came out of hospital; the day he’d already been scared into hysterics by two lunatics trying to take him from the hospital, can possibly be seen as a positive thing. It scared the hell out of him and I’ve had to work damn hard to get him to relax and stop having nightmares. He was completely traumatised and it’s going to be a long time before he learns to trust Social Services or the police again, no matter how much encouragement I give him.”

“Your opinion is noted, River but we’re here today to discuss what’s best for Ben, and in order to work out what that might be, someone is going to have to speak to him. If you keep refusing, you leave us with very little option but to believe you have something to hide.

“And you claim to want to help him?”

“You’re going to have to accept, River, that no matter what the outcome today there is going to be continuing involvement by Social Services and it’s up to you to make sure it’s a positive experience for Ben.”

I’m stunned, but before I can say another word she moves on to Silver, and I have other things to think about. Giving Silver a cold look over her glasses, she says. “Mr Hart, I’ve been hearing a lot about you. I understand you’ve had a... colourful past.”

The note of censure is unmistakable and my heart sinks. They’ve already made up their minds about him. Silver looks confused.

“I-I don’t know. I don’t understand.” His voice is shaking, but it only seems to make her even more censorious and when she speaks it’s as if she’s speaking to a child.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to confuse you. I’ll try to make myself clearer. I understand you’ve had...difficulties.”

Silver glances at me, more confused than ever.

“Silver’s difficulties are not an issue here, Dianne. He understands perfectly well, if you’re straight with him.”

“On the contrary, River. I think you’ll find Mr Hart’s mental health is very much an issue here. But I’ll try to speak more clearly for him.” I grind my teeth, but her words seem to have been completely lost on Silver. In fact, he seems completely lost, period. He never has understood the games people play.

“Do you understand why we’re here?”

Silver looks like a frightened rabbit. I can feel the fear emanating from him and I wish fervently I’d listened to Sam and not brought him. Nevertheless, when he answers, his voice is soft and reasonably calm.

“You...you think Ben’s not safe with...with me.”

“Do you understand why that might be a concern?”

He shakes his head, an earnest, eager expression on his face. “I’m not a bad person. I love Ben. I’d never hurt him. He’s my friend.”

“There are different ways of hurting someone... Silver isn’t it? What a beautiful name.” Silver smiles uncertainly. “Sometimes, you can hurt people without meaning to, without even knowing you’re doing it.”

Silver looks completely confused now. Dianne reaches out to pat his hand. “People who’ve hurt you haven’t there? They tried to hurt River too.” He winces and nods, biting his lip. “What if they try to hurt you again and hurt Ben instead, by accident?”

“Oh, they won’t. I’m free now.” He smiles, relief on his face, and I grind my teeth. It’s a trap. I know it is but I can’t do anything to get him out of it that won’t look as if we’ve got something to hide.

“Ah yes...free. A lot has happened to you hasn’t it?” He nods. “And it all started when you were about Ben’s age.”

“Yes.” He whispers.

“How do you feel about what happened to you?”

“F...feel?”

“Do you think what was done to you was wrong? Do you think the things you did were bad things?” I’m practically growling at this point. What the hell does she think he’s going to say? That he loved every minute? The only thing keeping me quiet is that Silver’s confused enough already and I don’t want to confuse him any more. Hopefully, if I don’t make a fuss, we can work through this without too much harm being done.

“I-I don’t...understand. I don’t...know.”

“I see. And when you were a ‘slave’?” She says the word with such a forceful mix of distain and distaste that Silver winces back, as if he’d been slapped. His hand grips mine hard “Were you kept imprisoned for the whole of the time, the whole seven years? Were you chained? Bound?”

“No, not all the time. I-I was.... In the end I was...I.. don’t know what....”

“Did you ever try to escape, to run away?”

Silver’s eyes dart everywhere. I can see him sink back into the horror of his past. I can see the darkness threatening to overcome him. Why can’t she? Maybe she can.

“It wasn’t as easy as that Mrs Stokes. He may not have been bound physically but he was chained in his mind. They took everything away from him; his name, his identity, everything. He only existed to be what he was told to be, to do what he was told to do.”

“And what did they tell him to do, to be?”

Before I can open my mouth, Silver says softly. “I was a whore. I am a whore.” I’m utterly shocked. I didn’t know he even knew that word.

“At least you’re honest,” she says, apparently as surprised as I am.

“That’s not true.” I have to say. “Silver, you know that’s not true.”

“Yes it is, River,” he says in that same soft voice, his eyes on the table in front of him. “You know it is.”

“Do you think sharing a house with someone like you might be morally damaging for Ben?” Silver looks stricken and crumbles. He’s been so strong but she’s led him back down darks roads and he doesn’t understand what she wants from him...or at least he doesn’t understand why. I'm actually glad about that.

“I’m not a bad person, I’m not. I wouldn’t hurt Ben. I would never hurt Ben. I would never hurt anyone. I’m not bad. I’m not...I’m not.” His face twists with pain and he slumps forward, holding his head in his hands and starts to cry. He’s been so strong, so brave and now... now he’s crying and shaking alarmingly and I want to hit that stupid woman in the face.

“Whatever Silver’s been through in the past isn’t what he is now. He’s a beautiful, gentle person who’d never hurt anyone. How could you hurt him like this? I know you’re here to talk about Ben and what’s best for him, but that doesn’t mean no one else matters, that you can treat people like dirt and judge them, without knowing anything about them.”

“We know enough, River,” she says coldly and then, more brightly. “I think you need some time to compose yourself. Five minutes should be sufficient, I think. We need to be getting on, as people have other commitments.” She glances at Silver. “Perhaps, you might think about whether Silver’s up to taking part in the conference or whether he’d be better waiting outside. He might find some of the things we discuss in conference...upsetting.”

She picks up her clipboard and walks out, leaving me feeling numb. It’s as if she’s tried Silver, judged him and cast him aside. I’m angry like I have never been before and I try to control it by throwing myself into Silver.

 

 

Chapter 13 – The Conference

 

He isn’t crying anymore and that’s not a good sign. When I put my arm around his shoulders, he turns and clings to me like a drowning man and, in many ways, he is drowning.

“Ssh. It’s okay. Silver, it’s okay. Everything’s okay.”

“No.” He whispers. “I didn’t see it before, but they’re right. They were always right.”

“What do you mean?” I’m alarmed by the emptiness in his voice.

“I should have run away. I should have tried to get away, but I didn’t realise. I didn’t know what I was doing was wrong, not then. I didn’t want to run away. I-I was happy. I’ve always believed what I was told...by the doctors...you, that it wasn’t my fault; that none of it was my fault but you’re wrong. It was my fault. I let it happen. It made me happy.”

His eyes are going dark. He’s turning inwards—fast, and it scares the hell out of me. There’s a sense of foreboding in his words that makes me fear that, if I let him slip away this time, I’ll never get him back. I shake him, quite roughly. “Listen to me. No, listen to me, Silver. Look at me.”

He doesn’t want to, and tries to look away, but I won’t let him.

“The doctors weren’t wrong and neither was I. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t run away because they’d hurt you too much. They made you a slave Silver; a slave. That means you belonged to them, everything about you was theirs and that included your will. Without that you couldn’t have run away. You had nowhere to run.

“Don’t let them, or anyone else, ever convince you it was your fault, because that’s not true. Don’t let them convince you that you’re bad, because that’s not true either. And don’t ever, ever call yourself a whore again.”

He smiles a strange little smile that clearly shows he doesn’t believe me, and I see him slip further inside himself, further away from me. I’m losing him.

“Don’t you dare. Don’t you do this to me.”

I take his face between my hands and stare into his eyes, practically spitting into his face. “Whatever happened in the past; whoever’s right or wrong, I don’t care. Do you understand me? I don’t care what you were. I don’t love that person. I love you, the you who’s here with me now. I love you for your beauty, for your purity, for your strength. I love you with all my heart and soul and more than that - I need you, Silver, I need you to help me get through this. Don't you dare leave me now. Not like this. Don’t you dare.”

He blinks and stares at me in shock. I breathe a sigh of relief, as the blankness recedes but I get the feeling it hasn’t gone far. I weight the options and decide, on balance, it’d be better for him to wait outside. It would almost certainly do him some serious psychological harm to sit and listen to what everyone has to say about him.

“I need you to go and wait outside, Silver, back where we were before, just now. Do you think you can do that?”

He looks at me blankly and I shiver. This isn’t fair. This just isn’t fair. I’ve enough to cope with right now with Ben. “Silver, you have to snap out of it. I need you. Do you understand? I need you now. I’ve taken care of you for six months and now I need you to be there for me. I’m scared, Silver, scared and angry and hurt, but mostly scared. I need someone to support me. You have to, you just have to. I need you.”

My voice is sharper than I’d intended but it seems to do the trick.

“I’m sorry, River. I’ll be here for you. I won’t let you down, I promise.”

He’s still shaking, still scared but he’s here. He’s here for me, only for me.

“Thank you, babe.” I whisper. “Thank you.” I hug him close until the trembling eases. “Come on, I’ll take you to the waiting room.”

As we walk out of the room, I see Dianne talking to a little huddle of people, one of whom I recognise as the social worker who’d come out to see us. Dianne smiles a false smile and comes over.

“You could have waited inside. We’d have come to you.”

“I think it’s best if Silver waits outside.”

“That’s a shame. It will mean he won’t be able to answer any questions that are raised. But, if you don’t think he’d be up to it, that’s up to you.”

I grit my teeth. The bitch was the one who’d suggested it.

“Is there somewhere else he could wait?”

“We have a waiting room.”

“Yes, we saw but it seems to be full.”

“Oh, I’m sure he can find a little corner, he’s not that big...are you, sweetheart?” She touches his arm and he jumps, turning his bright eyes to her. “Or is he not able to cope with other people?” Her tone is concerned but it has a sting and it irritates me that she’s speaking to me and not him.

Silver touches my arm gently. I look up at him. He still looks pale and sad and my heart jumps. “It’s alright, River. Don’t worry about me,” he says in his soft voice, giving me a sweet smile. “I’ll be alright. I like children.” It’s true; he does, but he’s never met children like these.

COLLAPSE

About the Author

Cheryl/Nephy was born into a poor mining family in the South Wales Valleys. Until she was 16, the toilet was at the bottom of the garden and the bath hung on the wall. Her refrigerator was a stone slab in the pantry and there was a black lead fireplace in the kitchen. They look lovely in a museum but aren’t so much fun to clean.

Cheryl/Nephy has always been a storyteller. As a child, she’d make up stories for her nieces, nephews and cousin and they’d explore the imaginary worlds she created, in play.

Later in life, Cheryl/Nephy became the storyteller for a re enactment group who travelled widely, giving a taste of life in the Iron Age. As well as having an opportunity to run around hitting people with a sword, she had an opportunity to tell stories of all kinds, sometimes of her own making, to all kinds of people. The criticism was sometimes harsh, especially from the children, but the reward enormous.

It was here she began to appreciate the power of stories and the primal need to hear them. In ancient times, the wandering bard was the only source of news, and the storyteller the heart of the village, keeping the lore and the magic alive. Although much of the magic has been lost, the stories still provide a link to the part of us that still wants to believe that it’s still there, somewhere.

In present times, Cheryl/Nephy lives in a terraced house in the valleys with her son, dog, bearded dragon and three cats. Her daughter has deserted her for the big city, but they’re still close. She’s never been happier since she was made redundant and is able to devote herself entirely to her twin loves of writing and art, with a healthy smattering of magic and mayhem


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