“Lincoln, are you listening?” Khalid squeezed my shoulder, but I didn’t turn back towards him.
“Debate class, Arabic, Stay behind you! got it,” I mumbled and Khalid said something else. It was there, across the courtyard where we were eating lunch on a rare not-killer-heat day. Behind a wall of glass windows I watched him twist and stretch into impossible positions. I wasn’t sure why Ali ever let him leave the safety of the Hamad compound, but there he was.
A famous yoga guru was visiting Satra and of course Emerson was invited to participate in his expert level classes. I’m sure Ali was paying big for it. There were two other equally thin Arab men contorting themselves on either side of him. They were mocha bookends to show off his pale, but far-from-vanilla body.
It was the end of my first week and I’d worked endlessly to learn as much as I could. Mr. Hamad had said I could start business classes once I had passed to level 3 in Arabic. Mr. Bashir, the language teacher, was astonished how quickly I learned phrases and vocabulary. He actually smiled a few times. He had a gray tooth in front, but his approving grin still made me happy. I live for achievement.
I’d always been the best. School, sports, work. My dad raised us to do better than he could. My teachers were always surprised because they saw me as a dumb jock. Arabic was just another subject and it actually made sense to me.
I turned my attention back to Emerson. He had his legs up over his head again in inverted position and his shirt slumped down along a strained, impressive little six-pack. He had smooth white skin that looked like something my tongue would enjoy. My cock strained my pants, aching for that muscled little bubble ass he shoved towards the window.
“No way, Lincoln. No. Fucking. Way,” Khalid said behind my shoulder as I mindlessly shoved salad past my lips.
“What? I’m just looking at the yoga. Maybe I should take the class sometime. It looks fun. I could stand to work on flexibility…” I said around a mouthful.
“He is so off limits. Trust me, we’ve all wanted a bite at that apple. He’s never even alone! See that man sipping coffee and wearing a suit in this heat?” Khalid said.
I followed his finger to see a hulking pile of brown rocks with a pencil thin beard line across a handsome face watching Emerson intently and checking his phone. He had on an expensive suit and dark sunglasses that had him looking extra intimidating. “Oh,” I sighed.
“No, no, no Linky-dink. That is not a good idea. You want to go to war with a family? That’s how to do it. Seriously, off limits. That prince is well secured,” Khalid put a hand on my arm with a gentle squeeze. He kept it there and rubbed my arm to calm my racing heartbeat.
“I’m just looking. I just… you know… he likes me. He needs friends. He seems alone. I just want to be his friend,” I fumbled and took my eyes away from the beautiful show he provided. I reluctantly looked over at Khalid. He smiled unconvinced.
“Trust me. He’s not alone or lonely. He’s raising kids and planning charity events with his Lion’s money. He has enough going on without you in the way… Let’s get going. We can be early to the debate class. It’s interesting. You’ll like it. I promised Samir you’d be productive,” Khalid said. He stood and adjusted the prominent bulge in his camo jogger pants.
“I don’t feel like debating anyone. Why don’t we hit the gym? I could use a good workout after this,” I stood and pushed my erection to the side in my blue uniform pants. I needed to go work it off with Khalid. I gave one last look to the yoga studio and they were wrapped up. I froze. Emerson was crouched near a blue gym bag sipping a water bottle with one of those rubber sippy spouts. It made him look adorable.
I caught Emerson’s bright blue doe eyes and he set his bottle down as a wide grin spread across his soft pink lips. He stood up and waved and signed “How are you?” through the tinted glass. I heard his guardian stand and soon caught his angry glare. Who would dare interact with his prince…
“Oh, hello… Samir’s boy, right? I didn’t recognize you. I guess you’re ok,” the guard said and sat back down when I nodded. He didn’t know my name but knew to whom I belonged. I wasn’t sure if that should offend me, but his size clearly intimated that it shouldn’t. I nodded at him with an innocent smile and without correction.
“I’m good, Emi! I didn’t know you studied here,” I lied in signs to Emerson across the courtyard. His whole body smiled at that.
“I used to. I graduated, just taking yoga. Ali likes me to stay flexible,” he blushed at that.
“Maybe you could show me some things!” I signed, looking for excuses to watch his beautiful moves. “I’m sure Mr. Hamad would like that.” I came closer to the window. It must have looked weird to other people for two people to have a conversation with their hands from opposite sides of the glass.
“You should call him Samir, everyone calls him Samir. It’s Lara Travesti confusing that you don’t. There are many “Mr. Hamads” in our home. I’m a Mr. Hamad too actually. Ali and I married in New York years ago so he could come and go in the US. Here it’s not legal of course, but his family adopted me and gave me their name so I would be safe in the kingdom.” Emerson signed and raised his ring finger to show a gold band. He pressed it against the glass and I saw a very tiny diamond lined script on it that shone, “Ali.” This boy was marked.
I felt Khalid pull on my arm, smelled his cologne that buzzed like a neon pawn shop sign, and then felt his lips at my ear, “Let’s go, Lincoln. We will be late.”
I turned to see him give a wave and smile to Emerson. I instantly felt like punching him in the face for interfering with my game here. “So go without me,” I growled.
“No,” Khalid said, turning to me so Emerson couldn’t see him. “This has gone far enough, boy,” Khalid’s voice was thick and threatening. It was just icy enough to snap me out of my fantasy. I thought of Mr. Hamad… er Samir… maybe I should call him that. I realized maybe Khalid was right. It was time to go.
I turned back to Emerson who looked confused and a little upset that we were turned away from him and talking which is actually quite rude. “So sorry!! He just reminded me that we have to go,” I signed, “We have a class to get to… Debate.” I must have looked as bad as I felt because Emerson was picking up on it.
“You ok? I mean… Are you happy?” he signed and offered a slight smile.
“I am,” I signed with a lie. I couldn’t ever be happy walking away from him, no one could… “See you at dinner.” I forced a smile and Emerson returned it as the guard went inside the studio to fetch his things.
I stopped at the doorway and saw him clutch his water bottle as the guard hefted Emerson’s bag over his shoulder, gave him a genuine smile, and nudge him towards the exit. The guard’s adoring eyes indicated that he shared my crush. The boy was indeed well protected.
Debate class. It was nearly full when we got there. I didn’t care anyway. There were 25 or so good-looking arab boys of various sizes, not an ounce of ugly in the whole bunch. They sat around tables making a box inside the room. Everyone was facing each other, quietly awaiting something.
I felt 50 eyes on me when we walked in and then they quickly turned to eye Khalid as though asking why he had brought me. He said something in Arabic that I didn’t yet know and a few of them responded with smiles and laughs, maybe scoffs. I looked back at Khalid and he smiled warmly and pushed me towards two empty seats in the giant square of tables.
Khalid kept his hand on the center of my back just under my backpack, guiding me like a child. I went a few steps and then turned to him with an annoyed look. He gave me a disappointed look and shoved me towards the empty chairs. We took our seats and I took out my notebook and a pencil.
The door opened again and I saw Anders from my morning classes. He was guided by an Arab boy who nearly matched his stature, thin and light. Anders was nearly as tall as I am, missing it by just a few inches. But he was underdeveloped, thin, quiet, and missable. He always looked somewhat alarmed, anxious, on edge. Seeing him out of our normal three desk setup, he moved with a cautious grace as though he wanted to melt into the wall. It was actually pretty cute.
The boy guiding him did not address anyone. He looked almost as nervous and slight as Anders. I shook my head at the scene. Anders deserved better than that. It was the weak leading the weak. They took the last vacant set of double seats. Anders caught my eye and gave me a hopeful smile and a wave. I returned it with a sad look that made him cock his head sideways in confusion. I wished he could sign.
The instructor came in then, an older man with a thick black beard and Santa’s tummy in a red, worn sweater with a black tie poking out from a white button up. He shuffled to the large chair by the window and coughed before unleashing mumbles that sounded like Arabic.
I caught “situation,” “Yemen,” and “unpleasant.” I liked puzzles and my brain immediately went to work piecing together what he was talking about. More words: prayer, birthday, men, children, balloon. I was drawing a blank and Khalid looked over me as though he expected me to follow along.
A guy in a black polo shirt and neatly trimmed beard, maybe 20 years old, started talking when the instructor finished. He offered me more words: tragedy, death, blame. I took my pencil and started to write down the words I understood. Khalid looked over with amusement.
“A balloon killed someone in Yemen?” I whispered to him as another guy started speaking in argumentative tones.
He laughed a little too loud and I looked around to see everyone had stopped and was looking at us.
Khalid looked around as though they would Manavgat travesti be glad he interrupted the discussion. In Arabic, he said, “The boy thinks there is a killer balloon terrorizing Yemen.”
We now had everyone laughing and my face went red and hot.
“Perhaps you should get running, young one, Yemen is not far from here,” the instructor told me in English with a sneer.
“And what did you get from the discussion?” the instructor turned to Anders, thinking he spoke English like me.
“I am Anders,” he said quietly with a big goofy smile towards me and no clue what was going on. “Pleased to hello.”
The room roared again with laughter at that.
“Idiot,” one guy said in Arabic.
Another said something I couldn’t make out, but it didn’t sound friendly. I turned to Khalid and he just shook his head no… like this had nothing to do with us.
“He’s not stupid! He doesn’t speak English! Some of you don’t speak it that well either! Stop laughing at him.” I stood up suddenly angry. It was one thing for them to laugh at me, but my defensive mechanism kicked into gear when I saw a look of confusion and embarrassment on Anders’ face.
“Sit down, Lincoln,” Khalid commanded from his chair next to me. He pulled me back down into my seat. A few of the guys eyed me with interest, not used to seeing foreign boys forget their place.
“No,” The instructor said, returning to Arabic. He raised a hand to Khalid, “If the cub is wild, let him show it. It is his right to bring dishonor to his lion if he has not been taught his place.” He spoke slow enough for me to understand it.
“Forgive me, sir,” I said in Arabic realizing this would reflect on Samir. I continued in English, “I just don’t like seeing someone bullied. We’re all here to learn, right… sir?”
“Is that true? What do we think of that?” The instructor asked the class in Arabic. I was getting confused with the changing languages.
“No,” A man next to Anders spoke up first and did so in British English, “They, these ‘cubs,’ especially the blonde ones like these two. They come here to peddle their bodies, to sell their holes to the generous elite of Arabia. They prey on those of us fooled by their beauty. And now they demand respect? They are beneath us. It’s a waste to have them in a class like this, teach them the art of argument.”
“Fair point!” The instructor turned to me and said in English, “Do you deserve equal respectability? Do you deserve this entire class accommodating your language needs so that you can berate us and not even in our own tongue?”
“Again, I apologize a thousand times, sir,” I said in my struggling Arabic now fearing the attention I had drawn.
“Leen-un,” Anders looked at me with frustration and hopelessness. He fumbled with my name. “Don’t waste for me to trouble. Please.” He meant he didn’t want me to get in trouble taking up for him. I was sure everyone understood it but they just started laughing like assholes.
Maybe it was me. Coming from a deaf family where I had to communicate and defend them, when someone laughed I lost it. Good people don’t need to laugh at others. My dad always raised me to know that everyone has the same value. Everyone deserves dignity.
I stood up again, kicked the chair behind me and it made a louder than necessary bang against a metal filing cabinet. Everyone froze and looked at me.
“Khalid, take him to the discipline office. Take his little friend too,” the instructor barked. “We will waste no more time on these two.”
Khalid stood and nudged me gently towards Anders. I jerked away from his touch and grabbed my backpack. I offered my hand to Anders when we neared him.
“We troubled?” Anders whispered to me with fear in his eyes. He reached up to take my hand. His was sweaty and cold.
“It’s ok. I’m troubled… I mean… in trouble, not you,” I assured him and gave a big smile. “I’ll make sure they know it’s me not you.” I pulled him up and held his hand as we left. The class went back to whatever they were debating. We weren’t of interest anymore.
Khalid grabbed my wrist and tapped the daddy button on my watch when we got outside. Samir’s face appeared a minute later.
“What’s wrong, my love? I have been busy today.” He said when his handsome eyes appeared on the watch face.
Khalid filled him in on what I’d done. He made it sound worse than it was.
“I had to stand up for him,” I interrupted. “They were making fun of his English and one guy pretty much called us prostitutes!”
“You must learn to control yourself! You represent my family there, little one. You represent me.” His words were harsh but he didn’t sound like he meant them.
“I’m sorry, sir. I didn’t think about that. But it’s not right. They were awful to him. He was nothing but polite and… He’s just a little guy.” I flashed the watch over to Anders so he could see. He gave a hopeful smile with big blue eyes.
“And now you have caused Side travesti problems for HIS owner as well.” Samir emphasized ‘his’ as though he was my owner.
“What happens now?” I asked and brought the watch back to face me. I pulled Anders into my side so Samir could see both of us.
“I have a big meeting this afternoon, I’ll send Zaid to straighten it out and collect you. They won’t go hard on my boy, but you may have bought Anders a flogging. Disturbing a class is a big infraction. Who is your master, boy?” He looked over to Anders.
“Master? I belong Master Al-Harthi, Ibrahim Al-Harthi,” Anders said happily. He obviously missed the part about a possible flogging.
“Oh…” Samir started. “How did he afford a cub? They’ll likely give him a few lashes and send him home. His master is lucky Anders even gets to attend there.”
“No way. No lashes. I’ll take them. I did this. No way I’m letting him get in trouble for it!” I insisted and held Anders protectively. He melted into my muscles. He pushed into my chest and looked up at me with eyes awakening to the horror that he would receive.
“Whips?” He said weakly. “Please no. I… No please.” A few tears rolled down his cheeks.
“Don’t worry. If they try it they’ll have to get through me first,” I assured him and rubbed his back.
“I don’t want you whipped. They will not mark my boy. We give too much in donations,” Samir said. He looked over at Anders with pity. “Damnit, Lincoln. You got him into this and your foolishness will only make it worse. You will not interfere. Keep your mouth shut and wait for Zaid. You will do as you’re told, do you understand?”
“Yes sir,” I said and tried to look contrite.
“You will learn, little one,” he sighed. “Be good. Listen to Zaid and do what he tells you. He is good at smoothing things over. I’ll see you at home.”
My watch went dark again. “I promise I’ll protect you,” I assured Anders with a hug. We followed Khalid and Anders’ guide across another courtyard and into a glass building.
They had me and Anders waiting in a little white room with one of those mirrors where you know people are looking in on you from the adjacent room. We sat side by side in our matching blue uniforms at the table, occasionally catching each other’s’ eyes in the mirror.
“Is your… guy nice to you?” I asked him, finally breaking the silence.
“Guy Nice?” he asked, not understanding. “Master Al-Harthi?”
“You call him master?” I asked slowly and made motions to help explain my words.
“He come to here for learn me the Arabic so I have work businessing get money,” He picked over each word trying to make sense.
“You like him?” I asked with confusion, again making signs to help explain my question.
Anders thought for a minute and blushed. “He… He care for me.” He looked uncomfortably at me in the mirror and then lowered his eyes to the table.
Just then the door opened and Zaid peeked in. He turned behind him and called, “Our property’s in here.” He pushed the door open and gave me an annoyed look. “I straightened it out. Let’s get going home.”
“Wait, what about my friend?,” I started, but a short, dark, chunky man had joined Zaid at the door. I felt Anders rise at my side.
“Sorry, master,” Anders said in his clunky Arabic.
“Your ‘friend’ is of no concern to me. Believe it or not I have work to do today and it is more…” Zaid started impatiently but I cut him off.
“Please, I can’t leave until I know he is safe,” I squeezed Anders’ hand and got an odd look from his master.
“He deserves whatever he gets,” his master said harshly. “He is lucky to be here and I’m not sure why he would disturb a class like that. It is inexcusable.”
“There, you see? inexcusable, not to be excused, mustn’t be so naughty. Now let’s go,” Zaid reached for me, but I held my ground.
“Whatever his punishment, I will take it. He doesn’t deserve it. He did nothing wrong,” I said firmly.
“Please ‘Leen-un’ no troubled for me,” Anders said in a soft voice as his face hovered near my shoulder. It only made me want to protect him more.
“Lincoln, is it?” Anders’ master asked me with an oddly disarming smile. I nodded. “Lincoln, little one, you belong to an influential family. You don’t have as much to learn as he does. Please do not risk yourself or do foolish things for this one. He is not worth it. He will either be punished here or at home. Maybe both. He must learn how things are done here if he wants to stay and work here. He must learn his place at the bottom of our society.”
“But sir,” I tried to make my voice sound controlled and respectful. “It was I who caused the problem. He only got in trouble because of me. Please don’t let them punish him.”
“Lincoln, we must go. If his master wants things done a certain way it is not for us to interfere,” Zaid urged and walked towards me. He put his hand on my shoulder and tried to push me towards the door. He didn’t have his younger brother’s strength though. I was determined to stay.
“Leave me here then. Please, I have to explain things. I can walk home if I have to,” I insisted without raising my voice. I looked Zaid in the eyes to show him I meant business.