491. - Lucien
It feels both amazing and wrong to be here; like I'm not the right person to represent these people, not a person to look up to, but they prove me wrong pretty quickly. They all have their own stories, heart breaking in different ways, but it seems they have found their peace here.
"Alors pourquoi avez-vous déménagé de France ici?" One of the boys asks me. With the hot sun glaring down on us the match has ended; we're now sitting in the shadow, all enjoying a nice bottle of cold water. Almost all the boys around me speak French better than they do English, coming from countries where it was the official language. I've offered to continue in English for those who don't speak French as well, but they all protested: they see it as a learning opportunity.
"Well..." The simple thought of the reason makes me smile. Across the field I find Emma, who's now braiding daisies into flower crowns with some of the younger kids. Children are welcome here from the age of twelve, which is just another thing that breaks my heart. Imagine kicking your child out at an age that young. Emma doesn't notice me looking, but all the boys surrounding me follow my gaze. "I fell in love."
"And that's why you moved?"
I nod. "But I don't live here all the time. I have a very... irregular life, and I partly still live in France. But this place now is my home as well. Because of her."
Another boy looks up at me with bright eyes. "What does it feel like to be in love?"
The question knocks the air out of me. Beforehand we were briefed how traumatised some of these children are, how much they hate themselves because that's what they were taught. How they hate that part of themselves that got them here in the first place. The kid who asked is easily going on eighteen, if not older, and the question makes it seems like he's never had so much as a crush - or at least, he didn't get to enjoy it. "Well... For me it means that I'm not complete without Emma. When I'm away from her, I feel empty and a little lost, and that feeling doesn't go away until I'm with her again."
Sanchez, a twelve-year-old, tips his head to the side and looks at me with large bambi eyes that melt my heart. "Are you going to marry her?"
My gaze finds Emma again. This time she notices, and she waves at me. All the boys, myself included, wave back. "That's the plan, yes."
The video is up. With Brie as an interviewer I've also filmed a second video that tells the story of me and Ezio from my perspective, and that explains why I've never been explicit about my sexuality in more detail. Gabriel's really been at my side every step of the way and while I've always considered myself an ally, I'm well aware I'll never quite be able to grasp the situation like he does.
Eailyn called that a rather well known tv-show asked for an interview on the whole situation, but I've been hesitant to take that. It would give me a wonderful platform to clear the air, but there's still a lot of people who are saying this is a PR-stunt.
On advice of Eailyn both Emma and I have turned off the internet on our phones and are just enjoying a quiet night indoors. Gabriel has been spending quite a lot of time here, so it's nice to have the house to ourselves again. Emma made her truffle pasta, I made my fondants and we went through two bottles of wine before landing ourselves on the couch with one of my favourite movies this time - Moulin Rouge. Emma tries suppressing her smile as I sing along to all the parts of the Elephant Love Medley.
"How often have you seen this movie?" She asks when the song is over.
"About as often as you've seen Pretty Woman." I chuckle. "I grew up on it. Played all the songs on the piano, until my brother got sick of it and ripped up all the sheet music."
"What a dick."
With a laugh, I kiss her temple. "Bummer for him though, because I had it all memorised. Only played it more after that."
"I know I haven't heard many stories about you and your brother, but it seems a miracle that you never murdered each other."
"Oh, we've tried." At her shocked look, I raise my hands in innocence. "Kidding! We beat each other up but we never actually tried killing the other."
She looks at me with a gaze I can't quite define. It's full of question, but also sympathy and other things I can't name. No question follows, though. We continue the movie and by the time the final scene comes on, Emma is clutching my thigh so tight that I'm pretty sure I'm going to have bruises tomorrow; Christian returns to the stage to sing with Satine, which is enough to have tears roll down her cheek already, but when the curtains close she crawls onto my lap and grasps my shirt, desperately trying to hold back her sobs. Despite having seen this movie an endless amount of times, I feel tears stinging in my own eyes as well as we watch how Satine succumbs in Christian's arms.
"You could have told me she was going to die!" Emma exclaims when the credits start to roll. "Movies are supposed to have a happy ending!"
I wipe the tears from her cheeks with a low chuckle, still blinking away my own. "No, they're not. The ending is one of my favourite parts of the movie."
She sniffles, welcoming Frank in her lap as she glares at me. "I know you've always had trouble with your emotions, but if that's one of your favourite parts I will now classify you as a psycho."
"How about I get you a cup of tea to recover with?" I smile, gently nudging her off my lap. "And then we'll watch something more lighthearted to make up for it."
When I head towards the kitchen, my phone rings. It's a number I don't recognise, which is odd, because very few people have this number. I groan, fully expecting my number to have leaked somehow and it now being in the hands of countless magazines and other gossip companies. I pick up to make sure, and I'm greeted with something entirely different.
"Hey. I think we have to talk."
Despite not having spoken to him for nearly ten years, I recognise his voice instantly. "Ezio."
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