Refugee Part Four - From Sea to Sea

by William King

Chapter 7

Voices Off

They went to collect Firas from the camp, Amelie had made a rendezvous with the friend of Bazyli who had the apartment. Nikaia was a long walk from the port and to find streets, even when you have the address, is difficult. The Greek alphabet is nothing like English, so street names become almost impossible, but Amelie had directions, which should help, and the guy's phone number if they got completely lost.

If you looked at the city from the air you would see what resembles a patchwork quilt. Hundreds of streets crossing each other at right angles, making little squares of houses, which were all different. There were no big tall buildings here, just a mish mash of quirky little dwellings all jumbled together, but neatly arranged by the grid system of streets.

They found the street, eventually, after some wrong turns and getting some help, and they found the apartment. You would naturally think of an apartment being in a large building, but not here. Jordan knocked on the door of what, as buildings go, seemed like an after thought by the builder, who had squeezed a narrow construction in between the others that adjoined it on each side.

Nikos answered the door, looked at the three of them and smiled. "So you found it?"

Obviously, they had or they wouldn't be standing there knocking on his door.

"Follow me."

And they did, along a dark narrow corridor that ended in a staircase, that after a couple of steps turned a corner, then another, and so on, until they reached the top, which turned out to be the second floor and the roof.

Across the roof was another door and to the right a window. It looked like a brick built hut thrown together in one corner of the roof terrace. Which is more or less what it was.

"Come in," Nikos invited, and they followed him into the room.

Looking around, the only person who appeared not to be surprised by what they were seeing, was Firas. The apartment was one room, about twenty square meters, with a large mattress, maybe it was two mattresses, hard to tell, on the floor. A sink and cupboard against one wall with a shower and toilet next to the sink behind a curtain. It was basic.

"The roof you share with the family," Nikos explained. "You can use it, but it's not part of the rental."

"The bed stays?" Jordan asked.

"What you see is what you get. You won't find better for this rent, and the family are very nice."

Jordan looked at Amelie who sort of raised her eyebrows in an expression that about summed things up. Firas jumped into the conversation having had a good look around, "It's fine," he told them.

"So it's good for you?" Nikos asked.

"It's good for us," Jordan replied, and he couldn't help smiling. It was very different from the hotel room he was in at the moment, but it was somewhere to live that he could afford.

"Okay, great. I'll introduce you to the family, you pay the rent, and I give you the keys. You move in when you want, I've already moved my stuff out."

That was what happened, they met the Kamborakis family, mum, dad, two daughters and a son. Nikos did the translating, Jordan handed over the rent, and it was a done deal. He would move in tomorrow he told them, which really just meant leaving the hotel and fetching Firas. Amelie said she would stay at the hotel.

"Look who picked the short straw," he joked.

She smiled, but made no reply.

Bazyli seemed to know everybody, and if he didn't know someone directly, he knew a person who did, or he knew a person, who knew someone who knew that person. You see he was very well connected. Now this served to greatly facilitate things for Firas and Samir.

Firstly, Amelie had taken a day away from Jordan and Firas to allow her the time to write the history of the boys, from Syria, through Turkey, to Greece. It took her all day, but it was something that needed to be done. There were two reasons behind this, and two slightly different versions of what happened.

The first account she wrote was to send to a person that a friend of Bazyli's knew, who was well positioned in the immigration service. Here Amelie was careful to write the history without implicating Jordan in the illegal part of their entry into Greece.

The second version was more detailed and more accurate, this was for Jeff and Alec to read. Amelie had discussed this with Jordan, and he had agreed with her that they needed to be open about everything and that that was the only way the Canadian sponsorship could work. If they read it and for whatever reason felt unable to go through with things, then they would just accept that and move on. Better it was all up front than they found out things later, which would make it look like they had been lied to, and used.

The two of them felt justified in not telling the whole story to the Greek authorities, because it was obvious the boys should be granted asylum and not just allowed to stay until they reached eighteen, not knowing what the future might be.

Usually there would be a scheduled interview to determine whether or not asylum would be granted, and usually the reason for a decision was not given. But, knowing someone, who knows someone, and presenting the case and, hopefully, with the prospect of moving to Canada would smooth things through.

So Amelie spent most of Tuesday working on this, then she emailed the boys histories to Bazyli, and Jeff and Alec. Tomorrow morning they would collect Samir from the hospital , Doctor Jukas was happy to discharge him.

Jordan and Firas were on the roof watching it get dark, Saleukos had joined them. He was almost exactly the same age as Firas and he spoke some English, so they could all converse, sort of. Jordan couldn't help noticing the glances the boy gave Firas, but Firas seemed not to pay any attention.

There was a lot of light pollution from the city, so it was difficult to see the night sky and the stars. They talked a little about Piraeus, the neighbourhood, school, and even about Saleukos' sisters. However, he soon realised that Firas was off in a world of his own, hardly even listening. Saleukos excused himself and retreated downstairs, leaving Jordan and Firas alone.

"Let's get some sleep," Jordan said, turning back towards the room on the roof and their front door.

In bed together, there was, after investigation, only one very large mattress, Firas finally decided to get talkative.

"Jordan," he said.

"What?" He replied.

"Are you and Amelie like boyfriend and girlfriend?"

"No," Jordan replied. "We've only known each other a short time, and besides she lives in Canada."

"But you like her?"

"Yes, I like her," he told him.

"And she likes you?"

"Firas, where is all this going?"

"We'll, you could both live together in Canada, or in America. If you wanted."

"Yes, we could, but I don't want to." Jordan was getting a little irritated at all the questions.

He turned away from Firas, he wanted to get some sleep. Tomorrow they would have Samir here.

"Do you like me?" Firas said to the back of his head.

"Of course I like you," Jordan answered. Then it suddenly dawned on him, where all this might be leading.

But nothing more happened, Firas turned over and Jordan heard a muffled "Goodnight."

"Goodnight," he answered, and then they must have each fallen asleep.

Jordan's sleep was disturbed by visions of Firas and Samir with Amar , and during all this mixed up dreaming Amelie was there looking down from the ceiling or the sky like some kind of Greek goddess that wasn't quite real, but was a painting or just an image in the clouds.

Jeff and Alec had been together since their twenties, a life time. Alec had wanted them to adopt, but they were born at a time when that wasn't a very easy thing to do for two gay men.

"You don't have anyone to inherit when you're gay," Jeff had once commented.

"We could find someone to adopt," Alec had replied.

They had talked about it, fantasised a little, about finding the person that would come into their lives and bring the enthusiasm of youth. Someone who would be a worthy inheritor of whatever they had accumulated together over the years.

Jeff had eventually decided they were too old, even if they could have a child. "A boy doesn't need a dad whose older than his grandfather," he had told Alec.

The subject got dropped, faded away into the background, just until that is they heard about Firas and Samir. They had not even thought about sponsoring two teenagers when they got involved in Mrs Westmuller's refugee programme. It was just doing something that could help someone or perhaps even a family.

Now they were reading the tragic account that a young lady called Amelie had emailed them from Greece. And they were in tears.

There really was no decision to make, they would have contacted Amelie immediately if it wasn't the middle of the night in Greece. They of course wanted to meet the boys, but they had no doubt about doing it, about bringing them to Canada to live with them. No, the only important thing was if the boys wanted to live with them, that was the only real question.

They sent an email reply to Amelie asking her when would be a good time for them to talk.

Wednesday morning they were all at the hospital to collect Samir, and they decided to go for a meal together at the same cafe restaurant they had eaten at with Firas. The one with the terrace and grape vines, and chocolate, vanilla, and coffee ice cream.

Samir was very quiet, but then he never was a boy that talked a lot. Amelie had only met him the once, on their first visit to the hospital, so she thought him not talking was due to him coming home, but Jordan felt that he might be reverting back to how he used to be, when he didn't speak a word.

He was very relieved when over lunch Samir started talking. "It's very different here," he suddenly said.

"Different to where?" Amelie asked.

"The island, Rhodes," he told her.

Then he was quiet again. Jordan thought he was day dreaming, if that is possible to do over lunch, whilst eating. He seemed so detached, like he was there physically, but his head was off in the clouds. He even ate, but seemed not to pay any attention to the food on his plate. In stark contrast to Firas who was obviously enjoying this dinner as much as the previous one a couple of days ago.

Jordan was worried about Samir. He was pleased he had spoken, but concerned that somehow he wasn't at all alright, just not even anything like he used to be, if that made any sense. Because he used to be silent, but even then he was there, now it seemed like no one was home.

When the phone rang Jordon knew immediately it was either Jeff or Alec. "It's Jeff," the voice at the other end answered.

Jordan spoke for some ten minutes with Jeff and then another ten minutes with Alec. Mostly he actually listened as the two of them told him their reactions to the boys history that Amelie had emailed.

Afterwards they both talked to Firas, also for some time. Then they asked for Samir, and Jordan looked at Samir and asked him, "Do you want to talk to the two Canadian men, Jeff and Alec?"

He hesitated before taking the phone from Firas.

This time it was Alec who spoke first. "Hello Samir," he said in a soft voice. Then he talked as Samir listened. Neither Jordan nor Amelie, of course, knew what Alec was saying. He was in fact telling Samir his own story, quite simply, quite normally, about how he had lived his life with Jeff, how they met, what they liked, didn't like. Then he also told Samir about the first boy he had fallen in love with.

John was his first ever love, when he was just a few years older than Samir. He explained how they were always together, did everything together. He described their first kiss, and their first experience.

And Samir listened, and Jordan for the first time sensed that Samir was actually here with them. Listening to Alec, he was really here, in his body, not floating in the clouds.

When Alec told Samir how John died from an illness for which there was no cure in those day's, Samir cried. Amelie and Jordan didn't know why he was crying, but the tears streamed down his face and he sobbed.

Jordan was worried about Samir and he had tears in his own eyes. Amelie held Samir and so did Firas. After what seemed like an awfully long time Samir gave the phone to Amelie, who in turn handed it to Jordan.

"What happened?" Jordan asked Alec. "Everyone here is in tears and Samir is sobbing his heart out."

"I know, I'm sorry," Alec replied. "I shared something with Samir from my past which has definite echoes with what has happened with him losing Amar. I hope I wasn't wrong to do this."

As he was talking on the phone to Alec, Samir began pulling at Jordan's arm.

"Hold on Alec, I think Samir wants to say something to you."

Jordan gave Samir the phone.

"I... understand Alec," he said, then he gave Jordan the phone back.

"Well, I wish I understood," Jordan told Alec.

"You will when I tell you the story," Alec replied. "Listen," he continued, "I think we need to be there with you. I'm going to get us booked on a flight to Athens. See you soon."

After a while they recovered their emotions, dried their tears, and Jordan announced that Alec and Jeff would be here soon, as soon as they could get on a plane.

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