The Lost Butterfly
Prologue: A confession.
“ We were here for almost a cycle studying you from a safe distance when I had a dream. Somebody touched me, trying to wake me up. I opened my eyes and saw him. He was beautiful but looked sad.
-Release me-he whispered. Please! I’m choking…
-Who are you?-I asked in amazement.
-I’m inside you…Let me go…I need to fly…Please!
As I watched his luminous eyes I felt something moving inside me. I woke up suddenly; he was the first Child who asked to be born. It never happened before; that’s why we decided to give him this special assignment: to be born human.”
It was a mid-October morning with long streaks of chilling fog crawling over the glossy layer of dead leaves pilling up under the trees. The sun was just a sick, pale spot in the twirling grey atmosphere.
The alleys of the Central Park were almost deserted; only a few courageous ones were taking on their daily routine of jogging. There were also some sleepy dog owners on a short stroll with their pets and some early workers shortening their way through the crooked shapes of the trees in the park.
Despite the desolate air of the early hour, Yoshiasu Tanaka, a 28 years old computer analyst who lived in a flat nearby, enjoyed to take a short walk before starting work. It was a moment of silent reflection spent in the middle of this priceless natural spot trapped in the core of the huge city.
Yoshiasu left the alley and walked slowly through the dense cluster of trees and bushes. He liked the soft rustle of leaves under his feet, the way the smooth brown carpet gave in under his weight, the yellow leaves swirling graciously in the autumn wind and the bitter-sweet taste of the mist in the air…He emptied his mind and let his inner self float adrift into blissful nothingness. Only his peripheral vision saved him from tripping over the dark-brown mass of dead leaves right in front of him. His foot touched something compact inside the heap of leaves and that feeling made him stop and take a closer look. It wasn’t a tree-root ‘cause it felt softer. Yoshiasu bent and cautiously scattered the leaves from the surface and …he almost fell backwards. A human hand appeared. It was a slim hand with long, delicate fingers and it looked lively. Yoshiasu swallowed hard then touched the hand. It was cold but soft; he checked further and felt the wrist hidden into the leaves. There was a faint movement under the cold skin; the heart of someone hidden in was still beating. Yoshiasu franticly pushed away the leaves, trying to dig out the buried person.
After some frenzied moments he found a badly bruised young man lying unconscious on the ground. He was alive but it looked like his life was hanging on a thread. Yoshiasu took off his coat and covered the injured young man and quickly dialed 911. He then turned back to him and tried to warm up his hands and get him back to consciousness. The young man moaned and stirred under his touch. Yoshiasu bent closer and asked him:
-Hey! Can you hear me?
He repeated his question a few times before getting any answer. Finally, the young man opened his eyes and looked into Yoshiasu’s eyes, much to the latter’s surprise. Though those eyes were clouded by pain, they had the most unusual color: a deep, velvety violet just like the petals of the forest violet in early spring. Thick black eyelashes were underlying those intent, troubled eyes. A wide purple scratch was covering almost all of his left cheek and his black hair was matted and filled with leaf scraps. There was freshly dried blood on his bruised lower lip. His clothes were torn and ripped apart, uncovering older or more recent bruises all over his body.
Yoshiasu was shocked by the extent of the injuries and of the fact that this human being was deliberately buried and left to die. He took out his handkerchief and gingerly wiped away the blood from the young’s lips and the dirt from his face. He felt him shivering under the touch.
-The ambulance will be here in any minute, hang on; you’ll be fine- he said in a reassuring voice. He than took again the young man’s hands and rubbed them to warm him up. He felt the other one gripping his hands. He looked back into his face.
-Don’t be afraid-he said and smiled. I won’t leave you.
The injured man sighed and closed his eyes. Right then the paramedics arrived and took him into their care. In a few moments the police arrived to and questioned Yoshiasu about his finding. They took pictures of the place and of the victim and agreed with Yoshiasu about a further meeting at the police station. The ambulance departed in a hurry, its sirens ripping off the seemingly peaceful atmosphere of the park. Yoshiasu slowly turned back home, his mind franticly trying to asses the recent events.
Fortunately for him he was very busy at work so he had to adjust to something more peaceful and tangible throughout the day. He left his office, declined some invitations for a drink and headed home. He felt exhausted and he was still shaken. He undressed and took a shower and sat on the bed with a Coke in his hand. His mind wandered back to the morning’s events…He took out his cell phone and dialed the number of the Central Hospital. He asked about the injured young man brought in during the morning. He was slowly recovering-they said-but he wasn’t speaking yet so they weren’t able to contact any relatives. No, he had no papers to indicate his identity but the police was working on the case. Yes, he could visit him if he wanted; they hoped that a familiar face could bring a breakthrough in this case. Yoshiasu thanked for the information and hung up. He lay down in his bed, fixing the ceiling while his mind wandered.
After a while he sat up again and dialed the police station number and asked to talk with the officer in charge with the young man’s case. He asked for permission to visit the victim the next day. The detective agreed, expressing the same hopes that Yoshiasu’s sighting might bring up some positive development in the victim’s behavior. The young analyst slept badly all night. Those painful, violet-blue eyes were haunting him even in his dreams. He woke up troubled and restless; only after a shower and a full mug of steaming coffee was he finally ready to begin another day. He finalized his work earlier and asked for the next day off. He then left for the hospital. He bought a few oranges at a store and hurried up the stairs. The receptionist was aware of his coming so she helped him quickly to the “John Doe’s” reserve.
Yoshiasu saw that the young man was sleeping so he did his best not to disturb him. He put the oranges on the table next to the bed and sat on a chair and looked close at him for the first time. The young man was in his early twenties, no more than 25. Despite the scratches and the bruises on his face, he looked handsome. It was an almost feminine beauty; an oval face with large eyes, a straight, thin nose and nicely curved pink lips. His shoulder long black hair was thick and silky and his skin, wherever was not bruised into bluish tones, looked smooth. The hands resting on the blanket were long, with delicate, mobile fingers- the hands of an artist, a musician or a painter perhaps. Resting on the hospital bed among tubes and beeping instruments he looked fragile. Yoshiasu felt a pang in his heart. He stood up and turned when he heard the young man stir in the bed. Yoshiasu turned and found itself peering into the same mesmerizing violet-blue eyes.
-Hey. You’re awake. I came to see how you are – he said. Can you speak now?-asked Yoshiasu.
The answer was a muffled, pained mumbling but it was at last a small result. Yoshiasu patted the young man’s hands and followed:
-I’m Yoshiasu. Yoshiasu Tanaka. Do you have a name? We couldn’t find any paper indicating your identity…
The young man closed his eyes for a moment and it looked like he was searching his memory for an answer; he finally opened up his eyes and whispered:
-Hm. It’s a beautiful name and it suits you-said Yoshiasu with a smile. Is that all you can remember about yourself?
The answer was a small nod. Fuyuki closed his eyes and he fall asleep in an instant. He was still very weak and the effort of remembering his identity exhausted him easily.
Yoshiasu let him rest and left to search for Fuyuki’s doctor. He found him and asked for a piece of information about the patient. The doctor looked surprised; he never expected such interest from a mere stranger.
-I feel some kind of responsibility for him-said Yoshiasu. I must confess that finding a person of my age in such a situation shook me profoundly. Can you tell me something about him?
-I can assure you that his life is not in immediate danger. He has no internal injuries but he is badly bruised and most of all there are proofs that he’s been subject to repeated torture and he’s been raped over and over. My opinion is that even if he recovers from his injuries, he’ll have problems in recovering from the constant abuse. I’ve sent my observations to the police and they are searching for those responsible for these atrocities.
Yoshiasu was shocked; not that he couldn’t imagine what caused the extensive bruises covering the unfortunate young man but hearing it delivered so bluntly just added to the horror of the facts. He stared into the nothingness for a moment then turned towards the doctor.
-So…what happens to him if police cannot find his relatives? Do you think he could manage by himself?
-No, I don’t think so. He’ll be probably sent to some sort of asylum. He’s a total mess for now; but a caring and secure environment might help him to get back on the track.
-Thank you for your time, doctor-said Yoshiasu. I’m going back to him, in case he’s awakening…
Fuyuki was half dazed when Yoshiasu returned but he became alert as soon as he saw him. He even sat up in bed and watched Yoshiasu as he peeled off an orange and handed it to him. Fuyuki took the fruit and stared at it just like a child who has never seen such thing before. He even smelled it carefully than gave an inquisitive look to Yoshiasu. The young analyst returned the look in disbelief; Fuyuki didn’t know what an orange was. So he gently took it back, tearing up the slices. He then took a slice and bit it while handing another to Fuyuki.
The young man watched him intently and tried the slice of orange. The sweet-sour juice exploded in his mouth, taking him by surprise; Fuyuki made a funny face, getting Yoshiasu to burst into laughter. Fuyuki swallowed the orange and laughed to; he laughed almost silently but he was surely enjoying himself. The rest of the orange quickly disappeared and he whispered “thank you”. Life and color were gradually turning back to him. There was even a new spark in those incredible eyes. Yoshiasu kept wondering where this out of ordinary guy came from. He surely wasn’t from the neighborhood; Yoshiasu had a good memory of the faces and Fuyuki wasn’t in the“data base”. Probably those who dumped him in the park assured themselves that this way it would be harder to identify the body. Yoshiasu shuddered at the sudden thought of a dead body; he turned to the very much alive young man and asked him:
-Fuyuki, don’t you remember your family name or the name of a relative?
There was a sharp pain crossing over Fuyuki’s face; he averted his eyes while he almost shouted:
He buried his face in the blanket, his body shaking as he begun to cry. Shocked by the sudden reaction Yoshiasu tried to calm him down but Fuyuki curled into fetal position and sobbed wildly. In a moment a nurse came, alerted by the commotion. Assessing the situation she returned with a calming injection but things weren’t going smoothly. The sight of the nurse with the needle in her hands made Fuyuki jump. Eyes rounded in horror he fled the bed but collapsed on the floor after a few steps. He cuddled there screaming:
-No!!! Please, don’t…don’t hurt me! I’ll do what you want! Please…-his voice trailed and ended in sobs.
Yoshiasu and the nurse were shocked. It became clear that Fuyuki was re- living one of the previous brutal events he has been subjected to. The nurse put aside the injection and turned to Yoshiasu:
-I think it would be better if you try to calm him down. He seems to trust you. I don’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on him.
Yoshiasu kneeled next to Fuyuki and touched him lightly.
-Fuyuki…Fuyuki-he called in a soft voice. Listen to me. I’m here with you and I won’t let anybody hurt you. Fuyuki, can you hear me?
He gently rubbed the shaking back of the young man until the sobs subsided and then stopped. The tension eased in the curved shoulders and Fuyuki sat up slowly, turning his face towards Yoshiasu:
-I’m sorry-he whispered. Suddenly those memories came back…
Yoshiasu helped him up to his feet. They were almost the same height. Fuyuki seemed a little bit smaller and thinner than him. Yoshiasu was tall and well built with a bony structure and slender muscles. He was a good swimmer and spent most of his free time roaming the natural sceneries. Fuyuki’s body felt fragile under his firm hand but the young man was slender and gracious. Yoshiasu helped him back into the bed and sat on the edge to be closer to him.
-I am sorry for questioning you. I should have known that you had not ended up like this for nothing. But you have to know that the police would ask the same from you sooner or later. They are trying to trace down the perpetrators.
-I know-he murmured. But I’m not so sure that I could ever face them…-his voice trembled.
Yoshiasu grabbed his hands.
-Fuyuki, look at me!- he said. I’ll be here for you whenever you need it.
The young man raised his head and looked into his eyes. The deep violet pools were filled with pain and sadness.
-Will you?- he whispered. But…it’s too much. Why? Why would you help me?
Yoshiasu’s dark- brown eyes looked back intently.
-I cannot explain it but I KNOW that this is what I WANT. Please, let me help…
-Thank you…murmured Fuyuki and feebly squeezed Yoshiasu’s hands. As he relaxed, his eyes slowly closed and he fell asleep.
Yoshiasu watched him sleeping. With his delicate face, the black strands of hair falling around, the fragile, tortured frame Fuyuki reminded him of a butterfly with shredded, torn wings. He rose to his feet and took the road home.
The flat was spacious and comfortable. The modern, almost minimalist furniture allowed enough free space and the rising sun always lit up well the entire house.
Yoshiasu undressed, showered and quickly cooked something for the evening. He ate and washed the dishes, then took a beer from the fridge and sat at the window. The city was twinkling and buzzing in the night. The young analyst took a sip from the beer and watched thoughtfully the endless swarming of the city below. His mind was wandering as usual; just this time it wasn’t something leisurely done. He was back at the hospital, running over again and again all that has happened or it has been said.
“ Why? Why are you helping me?” Fuyuki’s question hung in the air and Yoshiasu still wasn’t able to find a logical explanation for his deep commitment towards the young stranger.
It was like some obscure force pushing him from behind towards an unforeseen future. He came to the sudden realization that he didn’t know everything about himself. He’s been always a well balanced, logical person, keeping his life in order. His parents died long time before and he took care for himself. He was intelligent and handy so he managed well in life. Good humored and considerate, he was liked at work and in society.
He had a small but close circle of friends, men and women mainly his age. He even dated a few girls but very soon he discovered that he didn’t feel compelled to go further into the relationships. He just shrugged and let the topic die out. He was never bored or lonely.
But ever since he stumbled upon Fuyuki his feelings stormed out and took over any logic. He wasn’t going to let the young man to fade out in an asylum; he was determined to take him in his care, even at the cost of turning his own life upside down. There was no logical explanation for the way he felt but he knew for sure that he would’ve died of heartbreak if he would’ve give up on Fuyuki. Those desperate violet-blue eyes, the eerie beauty of that face, the warm, slender body trembling under his touch were haunting him.
Yoshiasu shook his head; he felt drained, exhausted. He turned off the light and went to sleep. The night was short and restless. Fuyuki’s eyes filled his dreams…Yoshiasu showered, dressed up and cooked some eggs and vegetables for the breakfast. He was in a hurry; he had an appointment with detective Harrows at the police station. He took a cab and left.
- John Harrows was a mild tempered person, a patient one but this particular case was getting on his nerves. Despite his best efforts he had only a scrap of clues. The victim was a total mess so his only hope was that the relationship that build up between the young analyst and the victim would help the latter to open up and give some tangible information about him. So the detective eagerly waited to meet with Mr. Tanaka.
Yoshiasu arrived in time and the two men shook hands; they grabbed a coffee and sat down to talk over the data.
-I visited him yesterday and we talked a bit-said Yoshiasu. His name is Fuyuki and I’m very sure that he has close relatives somewhere. I’ve asked him about them but he reacted badly so I assume that they weren’t on good terms. I know this isn’t much but he is still very troubled and I don’t want to push him over the edge.
-Mr. Tanaka, you are most helpful. I can see that you are deeply involved in this. Mind you, this might become a heavy burden for you on long term…But getting back to Mr. Fuyuki, I have all the reasons to believe that his family sold him as a male prostitute to one of the wealthy…collectors. When the latter got bored, gave him away to a gang and finally he was dumped and let to die. He probably didn’t want to comply with all their requests. If we find his family, we might have a starting point. Until then, I keep on looking into the branch of prostitution.
-I’ll do my best to help you but it will take time.
-Thank you for coming, Mr. Tanaka. We’ll keep in touch anyway.
The two men parted in good terms. Detective Harrows had a feeling that this case will cause a lot of commotion in the future. He wondered for a moment about the strange bond between Tanaka and Fuyuki; well, who knows what might come out of that? He sat to his desk and started the computer.
Yoshiasu headed to the hospital and looked again for Fuyuki’s doctor. Fortunately he was available and helpful as ever. They went to his room and sat to talk.
-Doctor, how long will Fuyuki stay in your care?-asked Yoshiasu directly.
The doctor fumbled through his papers for a moment than turned to him.
-I expect to release him at the end of this week. He is getting stronger and his bruises are fading and healing. Why do you ask?
-I want to take him in my care. I don’t want him to end up alone in an asylum. I take full responsibility for him and it looks like detective Harrows is supporting me in this. He hopes for some data due to our mutual trust. Can you help me with the papers?
The doctor watched him surprised.
-Are you sure you’re willing to dedicate your future to the care of such a scarred and troubled person? This might prove to be very tricky!
Yoshiasu shook his head.
-My mind is set and I can manage with him. Please, don’t make me move with him to the asylum. I’m not superstitious, I’m quite level-headed but I have a feeling that it was meant for me to stumble upon him. So would you help us?
The doctor shrugged.
-It is most unusual but somehow I agree that it is in the best interest of the patient. I’ll talk to the Social Services and by the end of the week you’ll have both Fuyuki and the papers.
Fuyuki was awake and dressed up. He was sitting at the window, watching the clouds running wild over the strong-blue October sky. Outside the turbulent wind was scattering golden leaves all over the place and was pushing dark-grey shreds in front of the sun. He was fumbling with an orange, trying to peel it. He saw Yoshiasu coming and his whole person lit up.
-Yoshiasu…-he whispered. Help me with this-he laughed softly handing the orange to him.
-I’m glad you like it-laughed Yoshiasu and quickly finished the task. He gave the fruit to Fuyuki but he handed half of it back.
-You to-he said and smiled.
Yoshiasu took his share of orange and sat next to Fuyuki. He watched him silently for a moment; he pushed a strand of hair from his face and rested a hand on his shoulder. Fuyuki looked up, eyes filled with unspoken questions. They stood there looking intently in each- other’s eyes, like trying to read the other one’s mind; then Yoshiasu broke the silence.
-Fuyuki, would you like to stay with me? You’re leaving the hospital by the end of this week and I have plenty of place for both of us…You can stay as much as you want.
There was a moment of deep silence then came a trembling “Yes.”
-But why?! Why are you doing this for me?!-cried out suddenly Fuyuki. He jumped to his feet, turning up the chair and buried his face into his hands. Tears were running down his face as he shouted:
-I am nothing!!! I am damaged goods! Why?! Why would you do so much for me?!
Yoshiasu was taken aback by the amount of pain and angst pouring from the young man. He embraced him, holding close and whispered:
-I’ve told you before: I don’t know, but you can help me find out. But I’m sure like hell that I don’t want to leave you alone.
Slowly Fuyuki’s hands held to Yoshiasu’s arms encircling his shoulders. They stood there embraced, watching the autumn unleash its horses of rain over the streets.
At the end of the week Yoshiasu took Fuyuki home. He called a cab, took the papers allowing him to become Fuyuki’s legal guardian and they both left the hospital. As they stepped out under the high sky, Fuyuki stiffened and squeezed Yoshiasu’s hand.
-I’ve never seen so much sky above me since my childhood-he whispered. I’ve always dreamed about it but now, it feels so overwhelming…
Yoshiasu held him by the shoulders and squeezed him gently.
-I’m here, don’t worry. It won’t fall on our head while I’m here. Let’s get into the car and go home.
Fuyuki leaned against him confidently. They took the cab and left for home.
Fuyuki took an instant like on Yoshiasu’s flat. He wandered around the house, touched the walls, peered through the curtains and finally, exhausted fell on the bed.
-It’s so peaceful here-he sighed. I feel free…Are you sure you want me to be here with you?-he asked anxiously.
-I’m positive-came the amused answer from the kitchen. The only problem is that you have to get used with my cooking. I hope you’ll survive…
-If you’re around I don’t even need food-said Fuyuki in a muffled voice. He then curled up in bed and shortly after, he fell asleep.
Yoshiasu cooked some fresh meal for supper then came back to the room to look after Fuyuki. He saw him sleeping relaxed and peaceful just like a child. He took out a blanket and covered his protégée. He gently caressed the soft cheeks and the rebellious black hair.
Fuyuki stirred and sighed. “Yoshiasu…”he mumbled in his sleep. Yoshiasu blushed and swallowed the lump in his throat. He stood up and returned to the kitchen.
Fuyuki slept for hours; he woke up relaxed and hungry. The home-cooked meal proved to be a real treat for him. He started to look livelier and there was even a shade of pink in his cheeks. A small glass of wine lifted the spirits and the two young men spent the evening laughing a lot.
Yoshiasu’s humor suited well Fuyuki as he was both bright and very perceptive. His beautiful violet eyes were sparkling while he fully enjoyed Yoshiasu’s story telling. They ended the night watching TV side by side on top of the bed and they both fell asleep during the late-night movie.
Yoshiasu woke up suddenly: Fuyuki was crying in his sleep. He was pleading with somebody and the pain in his voice was simply heartbreaking. He was writhing, trying to escape from an unseen enemy.
“Father, please! Don’t…don’t hurt me! I’ll do whatever you want! Please, don’t…Why?!”
Unable to bear his friend’s sufferance Yoshiasu shook him vigorously and shouted:
-Fuyuki! Fuyuki, wake up! It’s only a dream! Please, open your eyes Fuyuki!
The troubled young man shivered but finally woke up. It took him a few moments to realize where he was and with whom. He cuddled up in Yoshiasu’s arms looking for protection.
-Yoshiasu! Yoshiasu, don’t let him take me! Please!
Yoshiasu embraced him and wiped off his tears. He caressed Fuyuki back to sleep, holding him tight. After that they slept till morning without any more incidents. When he woke up, Yoshiasu saw Fuyuki sitting at the window, gaze lost in the ragged pattern of rain-clouds.
-Are you ok?-he asked.
-Uhm…I think so. Sorry for being such a nuisance.
-You’re not-protested Yoshiasu. Don’t you want to talk about? –he asked tentatively.
Fuyuki shook his head; his breath sped up and he braced himself. It was too early for that. He wasn’t ready to open up or to release the monsters populating his thoughts at night. Yoshiasu dropped the topic and decided to keep his friend’s mind busy with more pleasant things.
-I’m going to take a shower and fix something for breakfast until you shower to. We can then go out in the park if you’d like that. What do you say?
-It’s…fine. I’ll set the room in order. Don’t worry; I’m quite handy-said Fuyuki seeing Yoshiasu’s incredulous face.
They’ve finished the house chores quickly. After the shower Fuyuki looked much better. The large scratch from his cheek washed up entirely and physically he was getting better with each moment. The more he looked at him, the more attractive Yoshiasu found him. This was a troubling discovery for him but for the moment he decided to ignore this new feeling. He has never thought before that he could fall for another…man.
Well, Fuyuki wasn’t an ordinary man; he was a disturbing enigma, frightening yet desirable, almost untouchable yet heartbreakingly beautiful and fragile. The image of the torn butterfly kept overlapping Fuyuki’s mental image.
-Yoshiasu? Anything wrong?-came a concerned question.
-No. I’ve just let my mind wander a little. Tell me, Fuyuki: don’t you have any happy memories at all? From your childhood maybe…
The young man leant back on the chair and closed his eyes for a moment.
-I’m not sure what do you mean by “happy memories” but I have a few things in my mind that they weren’t able to take away from me. Could you give me a pencil and a piece of paper?
Yoshiasu fumbled through his desk for a while and then he came back with a black ink-pencil and some paper that he handed to Fuyuki. He cleaned the table to make way for him. Fuyuki leaned over the paper and started to draw; his hand was moving quickly and easily across the paper while the intricate drawing was slowly emerging from it. A few moments later he handed it to Yoshiasu and watched him silently.
The young analyst was amazed; the swarm of butterflies over a pattern of wild-flowers was beautiful and highly artistic. The butterflies looked so lively that for a moment he was afraid they might take off. Butterflies…Yoshiasu looked at Fuyuki like he was seeing him for the first time: a butterfly dreaming and drawing butterflies…
-We had a wild spot in our courtyard; it was overgrown with high grass and wild-flowers. I used to hide in the grass and wait for the butterflies to come. They were so many and so beautiful…
Later, when Father locked me up in the room, all I could remember were the butterflies. I kept on drawing them day by day, afraid that I might forget them and then loose all that was mine.
Fuyuki’s voice choked and his eyes filled with tears. He stood up, pacing up and down in the room, gaze lost in the past.
-The room had a very high ceiling and for me the small window was unreachable. All I could see was the changing of light or a small piece of the sky. Then, one day father forgot to shut the window and a butterfly came into the room.
It was a new one, something even more beautiful than what I had seen before. He came close to me and sat on my shoulder. He stayed there while I stood up to take a pencil and paper to draw him. He stayed with me for days. He always hid when Father was in but came out whenever I was alone. Then one day I couldn’t find him. All my hope was that he got out safely from the prison cell…
Fuyuki resumed his pacing and sat to the table. He took another paper and begun tracing a new drawing. It took him a little more but the butterfly was really beautiful.
-This is the lost butterfly. I’ve never shown him to anybody before. I want you to have it-he added, his violet-blue eyes looking deeply into the dark-brown ones.
Yoshiasu was overwhelmed.
-Why?-he asked in a restraint voice, unable to add more.
-Because when I am with you I feel that I actually EXIST.
Fuyuki’s shoulders sagged.
-I have been INVISIBLE for twenty years…-he whispered and tears were running down his face. I kept waking up each morning wondering if I was REAL, a REAL PERSON. Except for the butterflies, all I could remember was the PAIN….
Yoshiasu jumped to his feet and hugged him while Fuyuki buried his face in his shoulder. He was shaking uncontrollably.
-Yoshiasu…don’t …let…me…fade- he managed to whisper before loosing consciousness.
Yoshiasu lifted him and put him in bed, tugging the young man under a warm blanket. He decided to let him sleep off the burden of the long confession. He then poured himself a glass of wine and sat in bed next to Fuyuki. He picked the drawings and a notebook. Took a sip of wine, gently stroke the sleeping man’s hair and started to write down the things told by Fuyuki. Yoshiasu prepared the notes for detective Harrows.
He has barely finished noticing and was looking at the two drawings when Fuyuki stirred under the blanket and opened his eyes.
-You’re here-he whispered and sighed.
-I am- said Yoshiasu firmly. Wake up and let’s go out. We still have half of Sunday left.
Fuyuki complied and dressed up. For the moment he was wearing some of Yoshiasu’s clothes but they were planning to go out shopping. As there was a chilling wind blowing outside, both of them were wearing winter anoraks, jeans and boots. Fuyuki’s shoulder long hair was tied in a lose pony-tail, a few strands floating freely around his face. Despite his attire, he looked deceptively feminine. His beauty was misleading almost everyone. As they were descending a long row of stairs, walking hand in hand, they heard a group of youngsters whistling after Fuyuki. They both burst into laughter.
On a spur of a moment Yoshiasu turned towards Fuyuki and kissed him. Surprised, Fuyuki blinked and returned the kiss, much to his friend’s surprise.
-I’m …sorry-mumbled Yoshiasu.
-I don’t want to put any pressure on you…
-You’re not-said Fuyuki. I like when YOU kiss me- he added smiling shyly.
Yoshiasu sighed and held him closer. They strolled among the bony, black shapes of the trees, under the heavily clouded sky. Autumn fell on their steps, rolling golden leaves and raindrops up and down the lane. Younger and older couples were walking slowly on the alleys, enjoying the final hours of the week-end. The evening enveloped the city peacefully.
The two young men turned home refreshed and happy. After the autumn chill, the warmth of the flat was welcome. They both undressed from the heavy outfits and made themselves comfortable. As usual Yoshiasu cooked the dinner while Fuyuki set the table. They ate all to the last crumb and after washing the dishes they moved to the bedroom and turned on the TV.
Fuyuki leaned against his friend, with head resting on his shoulder. He loved to listen to his velvety baritone, recounting school years with fun. He snuggled in his arms while Yoshiasu was fighting his inner feelings.
Spending most of his time with Fuyuki Yoshiasu declined most of his friends’ invitations out. Fuyuki was still very shy and recovering so he didn’t want to put any unnecessary pressure on him. Intrigued by his long absence and the wild gossips about her good friend, Angela Bennett decided to pay him a visit. She came unannounced and on a late afternoon Yoshiasu found himself face to face with her at the door.
-I’ve been told that you became a hermit so I came to check on this wild story myself. I hope I’m not intruding?-she asked with a playful smile.
Yoshiasu chuckled; he was happy to see her. Angela was a long time friend and they shared a lot, beginning with the level-headedness and the considerate manner towards the others. He let her in, took off her coat and invited her to the living.
-I’m going to fix a drink; make you comfortable. What gossips have you heard about me?
Angela looked around with interest. She was well accustomed to this place and she knew her old friend’s taste. She noticed some small changes but there was particularly one thing that drew her attention. She saw a new painting on the wall: a colorful butterfly on an intricate background. It wasn’t a reproduction; the picture was genuine. She stood up and took a closer look. She was surprised to find something so poetic and delicate in the house of a computer analyst.
-You like it?-asked Yoshiasu and handed her a frosty glass.
-It’s beautiful! I must admit that I’ve never expected to find something like this hanging on your wall. Is this a recent purchase?
The young man smiled secretively.
-It’s a gift from the artist himself- he said. But let me introduce him to you. Wait a minute…
He left for the bedroom where Fuyuki was reading.
-I have a very good friend of mine visiting us. She would like to know you. Her name is Angela Bennett and you can trust her. Come, let me introduce you.
Fuyuki blushed and his eyes rounded in surprise but took Yoshiasu’s hand and followed him. Hearing footsteps behind Angela turned and remained speechless. Half step behind her friend there was a tall and slender young man, clinging almost desperately to Yoshiasu’s hand. The newcomer was a striking beauty, with a fragile look and very shy. His unusual amethyst colored eyes looked at her with the innocence of a child. Yoshiasu gently pushed him towards her.
-Angela, let me introduce you the artist you have asked about: he is my friend, Fuyuki.
-Please to meet you-said the young man.
They shook hands and Angela looked at him closely. Fuyuki blushed under her scrutinizing gaze and she found him lovely.
-You’re awfully talented; I like very much your painting. Yoshiasu is very lucky to receive such a beautiful gift from you-she said.
-I am the lucky one to have such a good friend-answered Fuyuki with a small smile.
-Well, since I am blessed with both of you let’s have a drink and let Angela to deliver us the latest gossips about our mutual friends. This way you can make their ”acquaintance” long before they know you.
Just like Yoshiasu, Angela had a healthy sense of humor so in less then half an hour they were all laughing and enjoying her company. Angela took an instant like on Fuyuki. She even warned her old friend while the young artist left the room:
-He is a rare gem, Yoshiasu. Take care of him.
-I know-said Yoshiasu-but thanks anyway. Tell the others that we still need some time to adjust but we’re fine.
Angela soon became a regular to their house. Yoshiasu had to return to work so he asked his long-time friend to look over Fuyuki. She happily complied; she liked the young artist so she took him under her wings.
She took him out shopping and helped him to buy his own clothes. Yoshiasu was earning well so money weren’t a problem. Angela also bought colors and all the material he needed for his art and encouraged him to draw and paint. Not surprisingly Fuyuki’s artworks sold well; though the first buyers were their close friends, soon the outsiders got to know and like him to.
It was Angela who introduced the young artist to the world of computers and Internet and she was pleasantly surprised by the quick progresses made by her apprentice. Getting in closer touch with the real world helped Fuyuki to build up some confidence and a protective wall. He was still very vulnerable on the inside but this was known only by Yoshiasu and Angela. But being so much around them made Angela aware that tension was building up under the surface.
As Fuyuki seemed to become more independent, Yoshiasu became more and more distant and busy. He even refused to go out with the two of them pretending that he had urgent work to do. This particular change in his behavior hurt and puzzled Fuyuki. Though he did his best not to show, a veil of sadness started to take over the light in his eyes. One day he finally burst out:
-Angela! Please talk to Yoshiasu. He is constantly avoiding me. I must have done something wrong that he doesn’t want me around.
-You did nothing wrong-she said trying to comfort him. He is just tired and jumpy because of his work.
-I hope you’re right- he said in a small voice. Because I have no reason to live for if he doesn’t want me anymore…
-Fuyuki!-protested Angela but the young man has already shut the bedroom door behind him.
Despite her best efforts to get Yoshiasu to talk to her, things were just not adding up. There were days when Yoshiasu became almost monosyllabic while Fuyuki was trying to put up a brave face. This went on until one day when Angela showed up right in the middle of the storm. Looking at them it became obvious for her that the two men had recently fought over something.
Yoshiasu quickly disappeared in the kitchen. “I’m making a coffee”-he said, while Fuyuki’s eyes were red and his voice broke as he spoke to her.
-He’s angry; help him, please. I’ll be fine…-he said though he wasn’t.
Angela patted him on the shoulder and went to the kitchen where Yoshiasu was fumbling with the coffee pot.
-Why is Fuyuki crying? What have you done to him?-asked Angela.
-Nothing-mumbled the other.
-Yoshiasu, what are you doing?-Angela was getting angry. Why are you pushing him away? It’s so obvious that you’re in love with Fuyuki.
Yoshiasu slammed the pot.
-This is exactly why I don’t want to tie him down to me. I can see that he is getting better and for the first time in his life he can make a choice for himself. I don’t want him to stay with me simply because I was the one that nurtured him back to life. It wouldn’t be fair to him.
Angela shook her head in disbelief; she then grabbed Yoshiasu by the shoulders and shook him vigorously.
-My friend, you are a fool! You are an even bigger fool that I’ve expected. I can understand your moral concerns but it didn’t cross your mind that maybe Fuyuki has already made his choice and that was you?!
-How would I know?!-shouted Yoshiasu.
Angela slammed her palm to the table.
-What do you expect from him, a solemn declaration, written down or what? For God’s sake, you don’t even realize how lucky you are! Here is this sophisticated, beautiful young man who sees no one but you and you’re uncertain…About what are you uncertain?
Let me tell you something as a good friend: I can vouch for Fuyuki’s feelings. He loves YOU, that’s for sure! But seeing how you treat him I come to doubt YOUR feelings towards him: is this really LOVE as you pretend or just infatuation?
Make up your mind, man, before it’s too late! After all he has been through, Fuyuki doesn’t deserve this!
There was a moment of deep silence. Angela poured the coffee in three mugs while Yoshiasu stood there, bent over the kitchen table and head in his palms. There was a soft rustle at the door. As they both turned, they saw a pale and shaken Fuyuki leaning against the door frame.
-Yoshiasu, I cannot tell you if this is love-he said in a soft voice. I have never known love before. All I know is that I don’t want to live this life without you. Don’t let me go! Please…
Yoshiasu pushed everything aside and quickly closed the distance between them. He cupped the young man’s face with both hands and looked deep into those beautiful lilac eyes.
-Forgive me-he said in a coarse voice. I love you so much…I’ll never let you go. Never!
As Fuyuki folded in his arms, he buried his face in his hair.
-Hmph…That’s better-coughed amusedly Angela. Now let’s have that coffee and talk about the plans for the winter holidays.
The evening turned up fine and they all agreed in spending Christmas together with their friends at an inn in the nearby mountains.
Winter was setting over the city step by step. The gloomy days of endless autumn rains were over. Day by day frozen white stars showered from the skies, enveloping the surroundings in a blissful blanket of cold silver.
The shopping madness already erupted, the furious in and out sweeping through the city. Fuyuki’s works sold better than ever, raising his confidence and making her loved ones proud; yet the oncoming Christmas made the young man a little bit anxious. Like so many other things from everyday life, this particular event was a first for Fuyuki. Since Yoshiasu had a very crowded schedule at work he relied entirely on Angela. Luckily she enjoyed doing things together with the young artist. She looked upon him like upon a younger brother. So they bravely worked themselves through the necessary shopping and set all the details for their trip to the mountains. Fuyuki was more than happy to leave the city. The constant swarm of the city proved to be tiring. He needed a break and some personal time with Yoshiasu. And then there was the problem of the Christmas presents; the small things for the others were already packed up. The butterfly necklace he has designed for Angela was almost ready. There was only one person left but it was the most important one for Fuyuki. He was at loss; he knew that Yoshiasu had everything money could buy, everything he needed. Well Angela helped him pick a fine, warm pullover but it didn’t feel like a real gift. Fuyuki buried his worries deep inside, hoping that he would come up with something more personal until Christmas.
Days went by and the moment of the departure finally came. Everybody was excited. Yoshiasu was well aware that for him and Fuyuki this holyday could prove to be real challenge. It was their first public appearance as a couple. It was also about assuming their identity while among their friends there were still some girls that had hopes for Yoshiasu. It was a big step for Fuyuki to meet so many strangers in such a particular moment of the year; Yoshiasu was determined to keep him safe from any harm or malicious pressure. He was happy that Angela would accompany them despite the fact that her fiancé, George was stuck abroad and couldn’t join them. They were about to meet at the New Year’s Eve Party. George was a fine guy, reliable and open minded, deeply in love with Angela. Yoshiasu hoped that he’ll accept Fuyuki easily.
Yoshiasu and Fuyuki arrived at the inn at the early hours of the 24-th of December. The landscape was spectacular and the snow was sparkling and pristine. The morning chill put some color in their cheeks. After the heavy snowfall the day before, the morning was clear and sunny. Reflecting on the ocean of snow the light was overwhelming, blurring all the contours, seeping into every crack and corner, chasing away the bluish shadows. Amazed by the sighting, Fuyuki watched in awe the unfolding of this natural beauty. His unusual lilac eyes captured the light like two translucent pools reflecting the endless skies.
They settled in their room and went out for a walk. The rest of the group was due to come in the afternoon. Angela was coming with the crowd; she wanted to stop for a visit to her parents who lived in a small city nearby.
As they crossed the lobby, Fuyuki noticed the Christmas tree centered in the main room. It was a two meters high, richly decorated fir tree. Fuyuki went closer and gently ran his fingers over the branches. Sudden memories clouded his face; Yoshiasu stepped behind him, touching his shoulder.
-Do you remember anything, Fuyuki?- he asked in a reassuring voice.
-I…I remember the excitement of the expectation and that…it felt good. My memories are mostly feelings, not facts. I was very young at that time…
-Don’t get upset-said Yoshiasu and took him by the hand. Let’s go out and I’ll tell you about my ups and downs with Santa.
Fuyuki shook away the setting gloom and followed his friend. The snowy landscape had a definite appeal for both of them. They roamed all around, stumbling from time to time over a lighter heap of frozen stars. They made snowballs and competed in throwing them faraway, they pushed each other down the small slopes and happily rolled over the fluffy sparkling blanket. They fooled around until they tired; they finally stopped, lying down in the snow, panting from exhaustion and excitement.
From the corner of his eyes Yoshiasu watched Fuyuki smiling happily. He rose, bent over the younger man and kissed him. Fuyuki encircled his neck with his arms and kissed him back. Yoshiasu’s hand moved along Fuyuki’s body as their kissing deepened. They fell back breathless and stood there, gaze lost in the endless azure above. Moments later they heard the sound of the arriving cars; they stood up, shook the excess of snow clinging to their clothes and returned to the inn hand in hand.
Angela was just stepping out of the car when they got there. She affectionately kissed them both and asked them play fully:
-Have you already started the party?
They laughed, picked up her luggage and followed her in. Everybody got their room and after a while the lobby filled with young men and women eager to relax and start the party. The food was already on display and it proved to be delicious. They were all hungry and slaloming with a plate in hand eased the connecting between the 30 people.
Angela chuckled and pushed Yoshiasu from time to time as she caught various people staring at Fuyuki. Holding his loved one by his shoulders, the computer analyst introduced him to each and every one of his friends and their companions. He did it easily and naturally, without ostentation and even the most jealous girls had to admit that Yoshiasu’s choice was…charming. As things settled, fun took over. The laughter and joy bubbled and the party turned out a real success. It was well past midnight when they finally returned to their rooms.
Yoshiasu showered and sat on the top of the bed with a small glass of wine, waiting for Fuyuki to shower to. The room was pleasantly warm as deep cold settled outside the windows. The night sky was teaming with stars, the light above mirroring the endless glitter of the ocean of snow below. Fuyuki settled next to Yoshiasu and took the other glass. He took a small sip and looked up into his friend’s eyes. The older man furrowed his brows questioningly:
-What’s wrong, Fuyuki?
The younger man sighed.
-It’s about your Christmas present…
-I’m not a child, Fuyuki. You don’t have to worry…Besides, as long as I have you, I need nothing else.
Fuyuki put his glass aside and sat face to face with Yoshiasu.
-It’s all I can give you…-he said and his voice broke.
Yoshiasu watched him intently; there was a warm light glittering in the amethyst mirrors and a slight tremble in the young man’s body. Yoshiasu gently touched his face and the warmth of Fuyuki’s body seeped through his fingertips, making his heart run wild.
-Fuyuki, are you sure?-he asked in a restrained voice.
Fuyuki closed his eyes, letting the bathrobe slip down his shoulders. Yoshiasu laid him down and kissed him deeply. Fuyuki’s breath hitched as Yoshiasu moved down, kissing the soft curve of his neck then the sensitive nipples. He slowly explored all the curves of the soft, warm body and moved on top of him. Fuyuki’s breath sped up as Yoshiasu firmly held the slender hips and carefully let itself in. Fuyuki cried out in pain and his body arched; Yoshiasu moved gently, changing the pace as Fuyuki’s cries and moans changed from pain to pleasure. He then sped up and they both fell back panting from the intensity of their feelings.
Released from anxieties and overwhelmed by his feelings, Fuyuki was quietly sobbing, curled up in Yoshiasu’s arms. Yoshiasu squeezed him lovingly and caressed him until the tears dried and the younger man fell asleep, protected by his lover.
They woke up late, fulfilled and more in love than ever. They quickly showered and went downstairs where their friends were already opening the presents. As they were the last ones to descend, eyes turned towards them for a moment. Just like Angela, people noticed that there was a new light in Yoshiasu and Fuyuki’s eyes and a certain glow coming from inside. Even the most skeptical ones had to admit that the signs of LOVE were unmistakable in the appearance of the two young men.
So everyone returned to the unwrapping of packages and Angela greeted her two best friends.
-I have a feeling that you’ve already got your present-she chuckled.
-Do we have to admit on that?- asked Yoshiasu and they all laughed.
They sat on the floor together and started the unwrapping of the presents along with the others.
They all returned to the city in high spirits. They barely had time to rest. New Year’s Eve was closing and everybody looked forward to the Masque Party.
Yoshiasu was slightly reluctant to the idea of dressing up but he gave in to Angela. After all she has done for them, he didn’t have the heart to ruin the fun! He agreed on letting her to pick whatever she thought it would suit them for the party. He was pleased to know that George was joining them.
George Brown, Angela’s fiancé was a good-looking, pleasant and reliable man. He was totally besotted with her and she was radiant in his company. Yoshiasu and George used to get well along and George was increasingly curious about Fuyuki. He treated Angela’s enthusiastic description with slight disbelief, but he had to put aside his curiosity for the moment. As soon as they arrived at the hotel, Angela handed the costumes to the boys and sent them to get dressed while she locked herself up in the other room with Fuyuki.
Puzzled but amused, George and Yoshiasu dressed up, laughed as they saw each-other
“ changed” into a samurai and a knight and decided to wait for their companions in the lobby. Some of their mutual friends were already there and the party was slowly unfolding.
The girl in the mirror was incredibly beautiful. She had a delicate, oval face with soft skin like cherry blossoms. Her nose was straight, with nicely curved nostrils. The almond-shaped amethyst eyes were underlined by heavy black eyelashes and she had thin, well-shaped eyebrows.
The young auburn haired woman took a small brush and toned the delicately curved lips with a touch of crimson lip-gloss. She helped the girl to comb her silky black hair into a simple but elegant shape held up by hair-pins hid under cherry blossoms.
She then helped her into a red kimono decorated with silver and gold butterflies and tied the obi around her slim waist. She took two steps behind and looked at the young girl; she was pleased with the result.
-Gods, Fuyuki, you are too beautiful to be true!-she said.
-For me beauty has always meant trouble-replied Fuyuki.
-Come on, let’s go-said Angela. I’m sure that down there’s no girl more beautiful than you. George and Yoshiasu are waiting for us in the hall. I want to see their faces when they’ll see you.
-I’m not so sure-sighed Fuyuki but followed her.
Angela was looking sparkling in her moss-green velvet dress that underlined her appealing curves. She took Fuyuki by the hand and descended in the large hall. The party was just starting. Their partners were easy to point out: the handsome samurai and the good-looking knight were surrounded by happily chatting young ladies. Music, laughter and chatter filled the lobby as Angela and Fuyuki crossed the crowd. Though people around them were all looking great and having fun, slowly, people were making way to the fiery princess and the butterfly-girl.
They stopped next to Yoshiasu and George; the talking stopped abruptly. George’s eyes rounded as he spotted the two girls; Angela raised a finger meaning “Don’t ruin the surprise” and waited for Yoshiasu to react.
-Mr. Tanaka- she said. I think I found your lost butterfly.
Yoshiasu turned brusquely and stood still. Mesmerized by the look of the girl in red kimono he was unable to utter a sound. She looked like she just stepped out of a Japanese stamp. Under the intense scrutiny Fuyuki turned pink. He gazed slightly panicked into Yoshiasu’s eyes; the samurai smiled and whispered: “I love you. You are so beautiful…”.
He took the butterfly-girl by the hand and turned towards Angela’s fiancé:
-George, this is Fuyuki.
-You’re gorgeous-said George and they shook hands.
-Thank you-said Fuyuki with a shy smile.
-Ladies-turned Yoshiasu around-you have to excuse us. Angela, George let’s pick a drink.
The four of them left the premises followed by amazed or envious looks. George affectionately kissed his bride. “ You’re great!-he whispered in her ears. How on earth did you do this?-he asked incredulously.
-I’ve done nothing special-laughed Angela. I’ve just followed his natural beauty. They look great together, isn’t it?
The tall and erect samurai was moving ahead with dignity firmly holding the hand of his blushing butterfly. Together with Angela and George they chose a remote table in a quieter corner and the night went on pleasantly. Fuyuki relaxed and enjoyed himself with his friends. When the clock turned twelve and New Year arrived, Yoshiasu took Fuyuki in his arms and they kissed passionately in the middle of the cheering crowd.
By one in the morning they left the party along with their friends. Yoshiasu whispered a warm “Thank you” in Angela’s ear and hugged her. He then took Fuyuki and they disappeared in their room.
-I like Fuyuki-said George-but I would have never guessed that SHE is a man.
-He’s definitely a man, but he’s a milder, gentle one-said Angela.
-He’s a good addition to the strong-willed Yoshiasu-agreed George.
-And Yoshiasu is madly in love with him-laughed Angela.
-It’s written all over his face-chuckled George. I thought he might faint when he saw him tonight. I also saw a lot of envious or puzzled faces around; it was fun.
-Shame on you, George Brown-said Angela and kissed her fiancé.
They shut the door behind them laughing whole heartedly. In their own room, Yoshiasu and Fuyuki were getting off their costumes. Yoshiasu undressed easily but Fuyuki needed help. He turned his back to Yoshiasu:
-You have to help me out; I don’t think I can ask Angela now…
Yoshiasu grinned and untied the obi, letting loose the kimono. He bent over Fuyuki and kissed the soft skin of the neck; he then pushed down the kimono and took the younger man in his arms. Fuyuki’s breath hitched as Yoshiasu kissed his earlobe and lovingly laid him down on the bed. He slowly melted under the passionate kisses and Yoshiasu’s eager touch. They made love and they fell asleep tangled in each-other’s arms.
As holidays ended, life turned back to normal. Yoshiasu was quite busy at work and Fuyuki was working on his art projects; he was doing it successfully.
Winter was swept away by the warmth of spring and Nature came alive in full blossom. People themselves were changing along with the newly buzzing life. Fuyuki shortened his hair leaving it just a little over his neck but his natural beauty remained unchanged. Though he had gained a lot more confidence and it looked like that for now he could stand up for himself, he was still the same mild and sensitive person.
Angela and George got married an April and as their close friends, Yoshiasu and Fuyuki attended the wedding. They were more than happy to share their friends’ moment of utmost happiness. The messages they sent home from honeymoon spoke about the same state of bliss.
On the other side, Fuyuki was growing more and more concerned about the publicity around him. His talent paid well and people grew increasingly curious about the person of the emerging artist. The fact that he was rejecting the interviews and kept secret any personal data just added to this curiosity. It was a constant game of hide-and-seek with the press; Fuyuki couldn’t come out with his fear that his past might catch up with him and shatter his fragile happiness. He kept his anxiety and bad feelings hidden from Yoshiasu; his lover was working hard and they both cherished the moments spent together. As Angela was spending her own moments of happiness, Fuyuki turned to the only person he trusted beside his friends: detective John Harrows. He visited the detective at the police station once or twice, confessing him his fears and desperately trying to remember something useful from his past.
Things turned up badly after some persistent journalists/paparazzi followed him and took some snapshots. The photos were published by a nationwide journal and “The Butterfly Artist” got all the publicity he didn’t need. Yoshiasu was angry; Fuyuki was still very vulnerable. They both agreed and asked for the detective’s assistance to keep a discreet eye on their home. By the end of May, Fuyuki called the detective and complained about being stalked. For almost a week, somebody was following him; he couldn’t spot him but the feeling was strong and the young man was desperate.
The detective took him seriously but he couldn’t attend him right then so they agreed that he would pay a visit the next morning. As he arrived at the building, the detective had a bad feeling; he took the stairs two by two and found the apartment door cracked. Taking the gun in hand he stepped in cautiously; the house was empty and Fuyuki was nowhere to be seen. But the bedroom was ravaged and there were blood stains and some body fluid scattered over the bed cover. The detective called for the crime lab and then put out a phone call to Yoshiasu.
-Mr. Tanaka –he said in a restrained voice. You have to come home; I’m afraid that Fuyuki has been abducted.
The man at the door was Fuyuki’s worst nightmare: Father. Jack Roger was a well built, powerful man in his early sixties. A former soldier in his youth, also an amateur boxer, he was a bully. He’s been an abusive tyrant all his life and a constant tormentor for the mild and sensitive Fuyuki.
The young man’s heart sank as found himself face-to face with Father; all the horror built up and locked away in the depths of his memory washed over him and he wasn’t able to make any move. Jack Roger pushed him inside and slammed the door behind. He threw a short glance around then he turned his attention to Fuyuki.
-So-he said venom filling his voice. You thought you’ve escaped from me. How unwise…I saw your pretty face in the newspaper! I came as soon as possible to collect what’s mine…
Fuyuki collapsed on the bed, tears filling his eyes.
-What do you want from me?-he asked in a broken voice.
-Dress up and get back to work. You still have unpaid debts. Have you forgotten that you belong to me?
Roger pushed Fuyuki on his back and stripped away his clothes. The young man fought back but Roger slapped him hard.
-You won’t disobey me!-he hissed and forced himself upon Fuyuki.
The pain tore him from inside like a knife and Fuyuki cried out in agony. As the response was even more brutal, Fuyuki passed out.
Hours later he woke up hurt and dizzy in a dark room; he was tied to the bed. After moments of confusion memories came back forcefully; his whole body ached and his lower lip was split. The air around was stale and smelled like a cellar. He quickly guessed that the room was somewhere underground. He couldn’t do anything; at least for the moment he was helpless.
Father came and untied him, leaving him a few moments to stretch his limbs. He then grabbed him by the elbow and dragged the reluctant young man along a dimly lit corridor. They climbed a row of stairs and got…into the old house. Again and again memories came back and Fuyuki shuddered. Father pushed him in the shower, handing a set of clean clothes. Fuyuki undressed and started the water; he stood under the brisk flow and closed his eyes. Panic erupted from his inner and he burst into tears, sobbing helplessly. Shaking wildly, he could hardly wash himself. It took him almost half an hour to calm down and get dressed. Leaving the shower he found some food set on a table but he was unable to swallow even a morsel. He hid his face in his hands, trying to scrap up some hope to survive to the oncoming ordeal.
What was about to come was now even harder to bear than before. For twenty years he has had just scattered hopes that he might have been an individual and not just an object used at will for other’s pleasure. But now…now he was loved and he was in love. He became a PERSON, only to find himself stranded in a nightmare.
As Father walked in, Fuyuki shut his mind; he stood up and followed him at the end of the corridor. He entered, shut the door and sat on the bed. The smell around him made his body cringe. Beyond the scent of the burning incense, he could detect the well-known acrid smell of sweat and sex. He took a deep breath to calm down while the door cracked and a stranger entered the room.
Fuyuki complied with his demands avoiding to look into his face. He totally shut his spirit as the stranger took over his body. He endured until his body betrayed him giving in to the pleasure that took over the pain inflicted. He lost the battle between his body and mind over and over again, day after day, night after night until his shattered spirit became just a shimmering light in the night of misery.
Locked up in the underground room, he cried for hours until his stomach revolted. Father forced him to eat and ended up tying him down to the bed to prevent him from killing himself.
On another location a young man was pacing up and down in his estranged location. Space suddenly dilated around him and from one end to the other of the house there was only a void of dead silence and loneliness. For the first time of his adult life Yoshiasu was completely shattered by the sense of loss. The flat that was once his home was crushing him down with its emptiness. He roamed around the house over and over again, touching every item that belonged to Fuyuki. He took out the drawing of “The Lost Butterfly” and watched it intently like he was trying to get in touch with his lost love.
He could barely eat but forced himself to do it in order to preserve his strength and the sharpness of his mind. He wasn’t going to give up on Fuyuki but the pain of loosing him, the faceless fear of not knowing his whereabouts were cutting deep.
At night he fell into bed completely exhausted but moved on Fuyuki’s spot. He forcefully shut his eyes recalling the soothing warmth of the slender body cuddled in his arms. And he cried, broken and helpless with no one around to soothe him except maybe the faint scent of wildflowers left by his lost butterfly.
From Yoshiasu’s flat the collected data were sent to the crime labs. Detective Harrows talked to the neighbors; fortunately one of the ladies remembered a bulky man with strong jaws and bushy eyebrows who was dragging a staggering young man. She gave the police the best description she could, adding some important clues to the already piling data.
Just as he expected, the lab results confirmed some of the detective’s suspicions; the blood belonged to Fuyuki but the body fluid and the unknown fingerprints lead them to a man named Jack Rogers. The guy was known to have a record of violent behavior and a number of domestic violence complaints. Each time he escaped justice since his wife wasn’t willing to testify against him.
Then searching deeper in this guy’s personal history, detective Harrows found the piece of information he needed for the whole picture. Jack Roger had three children: a girl and two boys. His wife died years ago and the now grown-up children moved out. But in its early past the Roger family had had a sixth member: a little boy named…Fuyuki. The child was reported missing when he was about five years old and he was never found. There were rumors about Jack Roger being the culprit in the child’s disappearance but despite all efforts police couldn’t find solid evidences against him.
Detective Harrows was getting seriously worried: this was definitely a dangerous guy and Fuyuki’s life was hanging on a thread.
Police traced down the Roger siblings and asked them about their father’s whereabouts but they knew almost nothing. Since they have left the family they were in no contact with him. As for their former brother, all they knew was that he had disappeared and that he was probably dead. Their old home was probably deserted and locked up. Dead end.
But neither the detective nor Yoshiasu were giving up. Yoshiasu contacted the Roger siblings and asked them to meet him. He waited for them at the hotel where he stayed. The first who came was Janice, a pleasant looking woman in her early thirties. Despite her calm composure, Yoshiasu was able to detect that there was something bothering her deep inside. The two brothers, Peter and Michael arrived together; they were more restrained and distant. Yoshiasu invited them to sit and put some juice and coffee on the table; this looked like a difficult meeting for all of them.
Janice and her two brothers sat in silence, watching and listening to Yoshiasu. He took out two photos and handed them out.
-This is Fuyuki, your brother. The first picture was taken at the hospital shortly after I found him dumped in Central Park. The other photo was taken while he was living in my flat. Help me find him! Please!!!
Watching them Yoshiasu could see horror and disbelief washing over each of the three faces. The young men looked skeptical but Janice was deeply touched and troubled by what she has just seen. She was still holding the photos when Peter, the elder brother spoke:
-I’m sorry to disappoint you. I don’t think we can help you. We’ve already told to the police: our little brother died when he was about five years old. Our father was a strict person, there’s not much love lost between us but I’m sure he has nothing to do with this. So, you have to excuse us but we have nothing else to say.
The two men stood up ready to go when Janice broke the silence.
-SIT DOWN!- she said firmly.
-I said sit down! You know nothing because you were too young at the time. You Peter, you were 7 at the time and Michael was 6; but I…I remember everything.
I’m sorry Mr. Tanaka that I never had the courage to speak up about this but now I’m ready to come clear with everything.
Peter and Michael watched her in disbelief. It was clear that they knew nothing and that they dreaded what might come out of their older sister’s recounting.
-Fuyuki was in fact our first cousin. His mother was our mom’s favorite sister. She died in childbirth, while the baby’s father died previously in a car accident. They loved each other but they didn’t have the chance to marry because of the accident so Fuyuki was…an illegitimate child. Mother insisted that we take him in our family, much to our father’s displeasure. He has hated his sister-in-law but finally he gave in to mom’s pleas.
-Fuyuki was a beautiful baby and he grew into an even lovelier child. He was a very good child, mild, pleasant and cheerful. Everybody loved him…except father. Day by day he came harder and harder on him. Despite that Fuyuki loved him and never disobeyed him.
And while Peter and Michael liked boy’s rough-and-tumble, Fuyuki spent most of his time in the garden, watching the butterflies and drawing them. He was gifted- a real talent.
Janice stopped for a moment; she fumbled through her wallet and took out a small, yellow piece of paper folded in four. She handed it to Yoshiasu; he unfolded it and almost cried out: it was one of Fuyuki’s butterfly drawings.
-Keep it-said Janice. I had kept it since that horrible night when Fuyuki…disappeared from our family.
I was ten years old so I clearly remember everything. I wasn’t very sleepy that night and I felt thirsty, so I went down to the kitchen to pour me some water. I walked in silence not to disturb the others when I heard father’s voice in Fuyuki’s room. The door was cracked open so I hid and watched what was happening. Father was towering above poor Fuyuki, holding the belt in his hands. Fuyuki was sobbing. Father was telling him that it was about time that he paid for all he’s got from the family…then he ordered him to get naked. He stood there with that evil smile over his face and…
Janice’s voice dropped. She stood silently for a moment then took a deep breath and continued:
-Our father…raped our five years old brother. I was so frighten that I couldn’t move so I had to watch and listen to all. For years Fuyuki’s screams and cries haunted me. I don’t remember how I got back my room; but I remember seeing him as he carried Fuyuki’s body in a blanket to the backyard. We had an old shed there where our father had his “personal headquarters”. Nobody dared to go there, not even mom. It was strictly forbidden.
The next day father declared that Fuyuki was in the hospital and then we never spoke about him again. That was the day when mom stopped to smile and from that day her health slowly declined. Night after night I kept hearing her crying. I married early and escaped from the hell. Mother died a little bit later. The boys moved out eventually, leaving our ”honest businessman” father alone in his fortress. He lives in different places but we don’t keep in touch.
This is the TRUTH and I’m ready to testify against this monster that happens to be our father.
-Janice!! You can’t!- protested the boys.
-The hell I can’t! I can and I will! I don’t blame you if you don’t support me; you were too young and you knew nothing. But I knew and I loved Fuyuki and I couldn’t save him when I was a child.
Now I’m a grown-up and I won’t let father destroy my baby-brother entirely. This man is a vampire feeding on the innocents!
- Tanaka!-she said turning to Yoshiasu. This is my card; give it please to detective Harrows and tell him he can call me anytime for any help. Please, hurry! Find my brother and bring him back to me. I miss him so much and for so long!
Yoshiasu left the Roger siblings to set things between them and hurried to catch the detective at work. They talked on the phone and Yoshiasu sent the data via internet; detective Harrows set the search for Fuyuki and Jack Rogers in motion.
Jack Roger was put on nationwide pursuit and he was finally cornered in his hometown. The neighbors spotted him at his old house late at night; police caught him and searched the house and the whole backyard thoroughly. They found a lot of incriminating evidence of what the “honest businessman” was doing but Fuyuki was nowhere to find and Jack Roger wasn’t eager to speak up. At their enquiries he kept smirking and saying:
-You won’t find him! Never! He’s mine!
Desperate Yoshiasu called Janice and asked her to come down to the city to help them. First hours of the morning she was already there and met with Yoshiasu and the police. They kept searching for clues. Janice looked around and sighed:
-What a dreadful place…I never thought I’d come back here.
-Do you have any idea about a hiding place?-asked the detective. Until now, we couldn’t find anything.
-Let me see-said Janice. Things have changed here, at least some of them. Let me recall the old days, maybe I’ll come up with something.
-Please go around as you wish. But remember, time is short. Your father is in our custody for two days now which means that Fuyuki is in danger of dehydration or running out of oxygen-said the detective.
Janice took the visibly shaken Yoshiasu with her and made a quick tour of the house then they left for the backyard. The old shed had been demolished and the whole place was leveled. Only a couple of small molds lay scattered and there was nothing else to be seen. Janice paced up and down, brows furrowed in deep concentration…Suddenly she shouted:
-Bring a police dog here! Quickly! This is where the entrance to the cellar under the old shed was. I clearly remember the tree from the opposite side of the fence to be in line with that. I’ve been here once and got caught and I cannot forget the spank Father gave me for meddling around his “private space”.
The dog was brought at the site and in a short while he became restless and whined, trying to dig in a certain spot. People gathered and soon unraveled the cellar door hidden under the thick bricks of grass. The row of stairs was dark and the air was stale but breathable. The molds seen from the outside were in fact camouflaged air holes where the entire underground facility was continuously aired. It was the dog that led them to the door of a particular room. It was locked from outside but they broke in. There was a commuter near the doorframe and they turned the light up.
Fuyuki was inside, tied to the bed and blindfolded. His breath was shallow and he had already lost conscience. Detective Harrows called for the paramedics to come as close as possible; he then untied the young man, lifted him up and carried him out.
-He’s alive, thanks God!- he shouted to Yoshiasu and Janice who were anxiously waiting in the yard. Go to the hospital! I’ll be there later!
The paramedics took over Fuyuki and put him an IV and an oxygen mask. Janice took Yoshiasu and they followed the ambulance in her car.
It took Fuyuki three days after being rushed to the hospital to regain his senses. Re- hydrated, rebalanced, sedated into a deep sleep to aid the recovery, he was now totally confused. Through his eyelids he could sense that it was light around him and the air was clear and smelled different.
There were also muffled sounds around and he had the distinct feeling of not being alone in the room. Uncertain about his whereabouts, Fuyuki wasn’t willing to open his eyes. He tried to pick up the thread of his memory from the last tangible event. Well those were disturbing events but at least they were certainties. The last customers came in pair and they played a cruel game of cat-and- mouse with him, until confused and totally shattered he fainted. After that there were scattered moments of feverish state and darkness, agonizing thirst and deadly silence. For a split second Fuyuki hoped that he had died and that he was in a place beyond any more hurt.
But somewhere deep inside there was still a grain of light that refused to die out. It was the only light that has kept him alive all those days and weeks of horror. Yoshiasu’s name and the memory of his love erupted in his mind and Fuyuki burst into tears.
He woke up sobbing violently and shaking. He curled into fetal position, burying his face into the pillow. He was unable to control the flow of feelings and he was struggling to catch his breath. A hand gently touched him and a voice spoke softly:
-Fuyuki, stop crying. I’m here; you’re safe now. Fuyuki, please…
Fuyuki turned up brusquely, eyes wide from shock. Yoshiasu was sitting on the edge of the bed and caught his hands.
-Your father is in police custody; he cannot hurt you anymore! Never!
He embraced Fuyuki and held him close; the younger man was trying to understand what his lover was saying. His sobs subsided a little and he buried his face in Yoshiasu’s shoulder whispering:
-I’m sorry…I’m sorry…I’ve tried…I’m sorry…Oh,God!…Don’t leave me, please…
-I AM SORRY!-said Yoshiasu almost shouting. I have promised to protect you and I wasn’t there when you needed me! You have to forgive ME…
-You were with me…in my mind…my only hope…
Yoshiasu sighed and squeezed Fuyuki. He wasn’t sure how much emotion could the fragile young man handle but he had to give a try; Janice was waiting for a chance to meet her little brother again after so much time.
-Fuyuki, there is someone who actually helped us to find you in the underground cell. She is waiting outside to see you. Do you think you can handle it?
-I…I think so-he nodded. His eyes lit up as he saw the woman.
-Ja…niss…-he murmured and took a deep breath.
Janice swallowed hard but it was no use; tears were running freely down her cheeks as she rushed to embrace and kiss Fuyuki.
-How?! How did you know?!-she asked incredulously.
-Your eyes and your smile are still the same, sister.
-And you’re as kind and beautiful as ever, baby-brother. Oh, how I longed to see you again…
Under the loving care of Janice and Yoshiasu, Fuyuki recovered more easily. Though he was still scarred physically and emotionally, he kept on focusing on the love he finally got. For the first time in his life there was somebody in this world for whom he, Fuyuki was the MOST IMPORTANT PERSON and that somebody was Yoshiasu. During the whole ordeal he’d been put through again, Fuyuki closed his eyes and mind and held on his love.
Janice, with her kindness and love brought back the happy memories of the short childhood and helped Fuyuki bond after twenty years with his lost relatives. Janice was at peace with herself; she’s got back her baby-brother safely and justice has been done. Even Paul and Michael softened and finally the family was reunited.
As Fuyuki was getting better new concerns aroused in Yoshiasu’s mind; he decided to ask him about before taking any action.
-Fuyuki, are you ready to come home? I mean, how you feel about coming back to the same place…you know…I can arrange so that we move to another location…
The young man stretched and looked at him, head slightly tilted.
-You’re wonderful but that’s the place where I had spent the happiest days of my life. I won’t run and let the past ruin what I cherish most.
-I bet you miss my cooking-he said with a grin.
They both laughed. Two days later they left the hospital; Fuyuki put up a brave face and shook away any concern. But Yoshiasu wasn’t easily fooled; he could sense the tension building up inside his lover the moment they closed the door behind them. After unpacking Yoshiasu turned to the kitchen to fix something to eat and leaving Fuyuki to adjust. He sat on the bed, looked around while scraps of memory flashed through his mind. Half an hour later Yoshiasu found him sitting on the same spot, gazing into nothing.
-You don’t have to pretend you’re OK when obviously you’re not-he said in a calm voice. We are together in this. The first night when you’ve disappeared I had a panic attack. I even moved on your side of the bed and slept there until you were found…
Fuyuki shivered but looked up and smiled to Yoshiasu:
-I’m so lucky to have you. I’ll be fine, I know; it’s just that I need some time to get over so many things…Now, can I help you with the cooking?
-Sure-said Yoshiasu. It’s already done. Let’s eat; I’m starving.
Later that day Angela and George called and they came to visit. They were relieved to see Fuyuki back on track and Yoshiasu happy again. They looked great to; Angela was expecting her first child and the couple was filled with the excitement of expectation. They left for home in the evening chatting happily. Yoshiasu took a shower and sat on top of the bed reading something, waiting for Fuyuki.
He became suddenly aware of the muffled sounds coming from the shower. He knocked at the door and called:
-Fuyuki!…Fuyuki, are you OK?
As the noises became more intense he decided to take action. He dropped his bathrobe and entered the shower. Fuyuki was crouching on the floor, crying bitterly. Yoshiasu picked him up and cupped his face with both hands trying to understand what was torturing him. Fuyuki averted his gaze, hands gripping on Yoshiasu’s hands.
-I…I missed you so much but…I…I feel tainted and I…can’t…I’m so sorry…that I couldn’t-the rest of the words ended in sobs.
The understanding sank on Yoshiasu; Fuyuki was blaming himself for the ordeal he has been through, for not being able to fight back and he felt like he had betrayed the love the two of them shared. Yoshisu sighed; there were still so many wounds to heal and loose ends to tie up until the fragile equilibrium of Fuyuki would be mended. But Yoshiasu was more determined than ever to love and protect him and help him back on track. So he held him close and let the shower wash them both.
-You can cry out everything now-he whispered in Fuyuki’s ear. This water will wash away all the misery. You are the purest human being I’ve ever seen and I won’t give up on you.
He held Fuyuki until the younger man cried out all the bitterness and hurt piled up inside.
He moved his hand along his back and under his touch Fuyuki’s body felt more fragile as he’d lost some weight during captivity. Yoshiasu stopped the water and handed a towel to Fuyuki; they walked together to the bedroom and Fuyuki folded in his arms.
-Have you seen Father?- he asked in a small voice.
-Yes. He is a bully and a madman. I’m glad he’s locked up. You don’t need to worry about him.
Fuyuki shifted a little.
-I was so afraid that you might not want me anymore-his voice trailed.
Yoshiasu turned Fuyuki towards him and kissed him gently. As his lover moved closer, he slowly undressed him and kissed him again deeply. Fuyuki moaned and melted in his arms. Driven by the emotional turmoil, they made love like never before reaching unexpected peaks. They finally relaxed, panting from exhaustion and fell asleep holding each other closely.
But before their life could get back to normal they had to pass another major challenge: the trial of Jack Roger. As police and prosecutors finished their work the trial was due to begin. The trial caught up a big interest; not only that it was a shocking case but it involved one of the young emerging artists of the country.
Though he could’ve avoided it because of his emotional scars Fuyuki bravely decided to attend the trial. Yoshiasu was deeply concerned about how he would cope with it but he had to admit that Fuyuki needed to face his fears in order to get over them and to start a new life. Still even Yoshiasu dreaded the first encounter with Jack Roger whom he had not seen since the day Fuyuki was found. Tens of curious eyes turned to them when Roger was brought in.
He had a confident smirk all over his face; when he spotted Fuyuki, he launched towards him with a sneer:
-You little bastard! Wait until I get my hands on you!
The guards held him back and Fuyuki’s eyes clouded with pain. He faced him and asked in a restraint voice:
-Why? Why do you hate me?
This painful question made the headlines of every journal. It was the question that troubled every decent person: why would anybody turn into such a monster? The first session of the trial presented the case as the police unraveled it, piece by piece then the pile of evidence was brought to the Court’s attention.
The Janice testified (while her father growled “Stupid bitch…just like your mother…”) it proved to be the hardest of all. The long buried memories of the horrors endured by a small child shocked the audience. At that moment Fuyuki got sick and while Yoshiasu was helping him up, he fainted. Yoshiasu picked him up and left the Court room hurriedly; he took him out to a bench and laid him down, massaging his temples and his hands until Fuyuki got back to his senses. He then called a cab and took him home.
Relieving that particular moment was like opening a dam. All the memories locked up inside came back accurately. The process was painful but unstoppable. Each and every night of the trial Fuyuki cried himself into sleep, held tightly in Yoshiasu’s arms. But with family and friends around him, he got over the pain step by step.
The evaluation made by the police psychiatrist gave sense to the image of Jack Roger.
Jack Roger was an animal of prey. He watched the little boy growing up and noticed its unusual beauty. He soon realized that this child could become a good source of income and that he was totally defenseless. With a weak and frightened aunt as a surrogate mother the little boy had no chance against Jack Roger’s will. What the perpetrator never suspected was that the night of horror had a witness: the ten years old Janice. That night she took a narrow escape and remained unharmed.
Jack Roger took pride in his business so he kept detailed records /even videotapes. For years he trained and used the child as a prostitute; when he got into trouble, he simply sold him but kept his track just in case. When Fuyuki ended up badly beaten and dumped, Roger thought that the young man died, so he was thrilled to see his photo later in a nationwide newspaper.
Just like the spider, he carefully cornered his victim and took him away as soon as the underground bunker was ready. Fuyuki’s cell was connected to the house and as soon as the he regained consciousness, Jack Roger was back in business. He put Fuyuki on the market the first day they got home and never left a day out. Soon his bank account was growing steadily so he couldn’t be more pleased.
Based on the huge amount of evidence, “Father” was easily sentenced to life in prison but as he took hard the end of his reigning over Fuyuki, after two month he got an extensive stroke and died in the prison hospital three days later. The story of the Monster and The Lost Butterfly came to an end. After 20 years Fuyuki was free at last.
Another year was ending and the oncoming one held the promises of new beginnings. Yoshiasu and Fuyuki spent the Christmas with Janice and her family; on the second day Peter and Michael joined them with their wives.
Fuyuki’s beauty and kindness charmed everybody, especially Janice’s six year old twins, Robert and Molly. They also took a like on Yoshiasu and they were happy to find two young adults who never got tired of them and never complained about them being nagging and noisy.
The New Year brought another happy event: Angela gave birth to her first child, a little boy named Thomas.
-I feel a little bit lost with so many men around me-smiled Angela counting her well-wishing party. The three of you were already a handful; now Thomas is joining the gang…I have to put up some strength to face you all!
-I wouldn’t be concerned-said Fuyuki. You’ve already rendered us speechless with such a beautiful baby!
-Sweet Fuyuki! You’re as charming as ever-laughed Angela, glancing lovingly at the sleeping baby.
The warmth of love encompassed them all, leaving the shadows of the past locked up in the passing year.
Wishing to give a boost to their life together, Yoshiasu secretly booked two tickets for the Cherry Blossom Festival in Japan. When time has come he took Fuyuki by the hand and it was only in the airport that the young artist learned about their destination. He was deeply touched and amazed. The festival was a dream comes true.
It was a particularly mild, warm spring so when they arrived every tree was in full blossom. The sight was simply magic. Every breeze moved along its warm wings endless flurries of white and pink petals. Yoshiasu and Fuyuki traveled from one place to another, from orchard to orchard, filling up with endless beauty. Finally they stopped in an old orchard of a remote location. They asked for permission to visit and as they were granted, Yoshiasu took Fuyuki by the hand and walked down the narrow pathways that lead through the fresh light-green grass, under the heavily blooming branches. Yoshiasu picked from the distance a large old cherry tree and took the amazed Fuyuki there. He let the young artist fully enjoy the enveloping shower of soft petals. Fuyuki’s amethyst eyes gleamed like gems in the mist of golden light pouring from above. He leaned against the tree, watching with withheld breath the magic of Nature. He turned to Yoshiasu with a look of rapture all over his face.
Yoshiasu cupped his face with both hands and looked deep into the shimmering violet-blue pools and asked in a slightly trembling voice:
-Fuyuki, will you marry me?
Fuyuki’s eyes widened in surprise, he blushed but whispered:
-Yes. I will…
Yoshiasu bent over him and kissed him deeply until they were out of breath. They married in two weeks in Canada. Fuyuki took Yoshiasu’s family name, Tanaka.
Yoshiasu took a new job that enabled him to travel a lot along with Fuyuki who had exhibitions all over the world. They were young and on the height of their creative powers.