Stefan pulled up somewhere in the city, in front of a brick building that looked like a small factory or warehouse. It reminded Samir's of the sweatshop back in Gaziantep. He followed Stefan inside, up some stairs to the first floor, through double doors, and into a large room with vaulted ceiling. Glass windows high up in the roof gave the only outside light. Riveted steel beams ran across the space between the two longest walls. There were no other windows, it was sparse, but furnished like a scene from a theatre.
A large double bed was offset by two big spotlights on tripods, a screen zigzagged around the back. There was an armchair, also on a tripod. "This is my studio," Stefan gestured with an outstretched arm. "What do you think?"
"Neat," Samir replied, but honestly, he didn't know what to think.
"Would you do me a tiny service in exchange for a phone?"
Samir wondered what service. He looked at Stefan questioningly.
"Hey, nothing terrible, but if you do This for me, and things work out, you get your own phone and maybe more. Would you like to make some money?"
Stefan sat down in the armchair and indicated the bed to Samir. There were no other seats. Samir perched himself on the edge at the bottom of the bed, facing Stefan.
"This is the deal. You make a few poses. I take some photos. If they are good, you can come back again. That all depends how good you are. But you get a phone, either way."
Samir felt like when He was in the refugee camp in Syria, being taken to see the European guy in his portacabin. Except this was slightly different. If he gets a phone for a few photos, 'what the hell.'
"What kind of photos?"
"Some sexy poses, without your clothes on," Stefan watched his reaction.
"Just photos, but they have to be good. And then you could come back. You get the phone when you come back. If you're into it..." Stefan hesitated a moment. "You come back with another boy and we can make a sexy film."
There was no doubt about what he was getting into here, but was it that bad? Photos, a film, in exchange for a phone, maybe more.
"Okay," Samir decided to take the risk.
Stefan stood up and moved to switch on the spots standing each side of the bed. As he was doing this he smiled at Samir. "Get undressed then."
Samir striped off his clothes, standing by the foot of the bed in his underpants as Stefan got behind the camera. "All your clothes, Samir," he smiled. "It's only you and me. Don't be shy."
Samir stepped out of his underpants and stood naked before the camera and Stefan.
After adjusting the lens and setting his camera up, Stefan came around to stand in front of Samir. "I need you to have a hard-on. These are sexy photos."
Steve's arm touched his chest, and his hand moved downwards.
"Where the hell did Samir get to?" Amar was annoyed as he addressed Firas.
"I haven't seen him all afternoon."
Amar didn't understand why he felt angry at Samir's disappearance, it was a new emotion. Somehow he had come to expect they would always be together. Being separated after getting picked up by the police in Rhodes was the first time they had been apart. Gradually, Amar was realising Samir was independent, maybe they wouldn't always be together. It annoyed him because he loved the boy and he was worried about something happening to him.
Hall and Rifat joined them at their tent, they had a plastic bag with bread.
"We got bread and cheese from the Red Cross," Halil announced.
Amar was still thinking about Samir, "Have you seen Samir?"
Halil shook his head. "Last I saw him, he was talking to that guy with the flash car." Rifat put the bag down.
"What guy?" Amar didn't know who Rifat was talking about.
"Stefan," Firas added. "He's always hanging around."
Amar turned his regard to Firas, "You know this guy?"
"Not really. I've talked to him, that's all."
"I'm gonna go look for him. Where did You see them? Amar asked Rifat.
"By the main gate."
"I'm coming too," Firas told him.
"Eat first," Hall looked at both of them.
"No later. Save us something," Amar wanted to find Samir.
"Okay. You want us to come with You?"
Amar turned back as they were leaving, "No it's fine, thanks. See ya later."
They left Halil and Rifat to eat their bread and cheese and made their way over to the main gate. It was as they were approaching the entrance they saw Samir walking up the street outside the wire fence. They met at the gate.
"I was worried about you," Amar glared at him.
Samir looked rather sheepish. He had decided not to tell Amar about Stefan, well at least not everything. He thought he might get jealous if he knew what happened. The problem was, he hadn't had much time to think up what he would say, and now he needed to give them answers. Not just to Amar, but Firas was giving him a weird look.
"I'm sorry," was the thing he said, giving Amar a little smile. "This guy Stefan wanted me to go with him to this studio he's got near here. He takes photos, and... well he's promised me a phone."
Firas' stare intensified. Amar was struck by a feeling of relief that nothing bad had happened, but that feeling was also mixed with a kind of anxiety about what exactly Samir had got himself into.
They started walking back across the concrete; it was very hot under the cloudless sky, with no shade at all on the open expanse of the port. When Amar glanced at Samir he looked odd, he had a sense, difficult to say where the feeling came from, but he sensed things were not quite right. It was nothing sinister, but Amar felt Samir was covering things up. Firas was certain he was, but he didn't want to say anything, not now, not just yet.
"Okay, it's no big deal," Samir looked across at Amar. "He took some photos, and if it works out I get a phone, maybe more."
"What type of photos? What is he, some kind of kiddie porn pervert?"
Amar was getting angry. Tgat was always the problem he had, Amar could easily lose his temper. Samir knew what he was like, so he tried to defuse the situation.
"Look it was no big deal. He's okay, really. Yes, he takes porno photos. Yes, sexy naked pics. But that's it. That's how he makes his living and has a nice car... blah, blah, blah. Take it easy, okay? I thought it was a chance to get a phone. For us. That's why I agreed."
Samir was nervous now, he hated it when Amar was like this. Amar caught himself, he knew he could easily blow a fuse, but that wouldn't help, wouldn't change anything.
"So what happened with this Stefan guy?"
"Like I said. We went to his studio, a sort of warehouse. Reminded me of the factory we worked in, in Gaziantep. Anyway, he took a load of photos of me... and if it works out... well. I get a phone at least, maybe even get paid."
"Naked, sex photos?"
Amar forced himself to take a deep breath. He could have slapped Samir when he thought about how dangerous that was and how stupid the boy was. But he controlled his emotions, told himself the boy was only fourteen.
Samir didn't see what the big deal was, bug he too wanted to calm things. "I'm sorry Amar."
"Halil and Rifat brought back bread and cheese. Let's hope they left us some," Firas changed the subject, hoping to change the mood.
It worked, Amar stopped his questioning and they walked back together to find Halil and Rifat. Samir thought to himself, 'it's good he doesn't know everything!'
As the sun was going down, the port lit up with the bright white light from the tall lampposts. Firas strolled with Samir towards the quay. Often they would walk together in the cool air of the evening, just until they reached the water's edge. Usually, the three of them would go, but Amar was still in a bit of a mood. You could look out from there to the harbour and sea beyond, watch the ships docking.
Tonight it was quite spectacular as a big cruise ship was coming in over on the far side of the port. The last rays of the fading sun reflected off the steel balustrades that bordered the multiple decks. The passengers on board were clearly visible walking on deck or standing watching the ship pull alongside the quay.
The many rooms with their little private balconies lined several decks of the ship from front to back. This was a beast of mammoth proportions that contrasted starkly with their own existence. There were other kids standing on the wharf, eyes fixed on this vision of another world floating by. Lit up like a sparkling jewel, a playground for the lucky Europeans who never even noticed that they, these urchin kids, existed.
"So what really happened with Stefan?" Firas asked casually.
The question caught Samir off guard. He had been observing the big boat, not thinking about anything, just wondering what it must be like to be on a ship like that.
"Nothing, I told you and Amar earlier."
"I know you never said everything. But Amar's not here now. I won't tell him. You know that."
"Well yeah, okay. But nothing much happened."
Samir started to turn away, but Firas stopped him. He pulled him back to face him. Stretched out his arm and placed a hand below Samir's chin, lifting his head upwards until he was staring directly into the younger boy's eyes.
"Don't lie Samir. I know you too well. We're friends aren't we?"
"Of course," Samir was halfway to telling him.
"So... tell!" Firas was insistent, Samir could not avoid looking at him, and he knew he would not let it go.
"We uh..." Samir's voice trailed off, he couldn’t get the words out. For some reason, it felt like a sort of betrayal. If he didn't say anything, he could pretend nothing happened.
"You had sex with him! That's it." Firas wasn't sure when he said it, but now he knew, he saw it in his eyes.
Firas dropped his arm and Samir looked away, staring out over the water again.
"I won't say anything, you know that, but you really need to be careful with that guy. He's dangerous, and he's using you."
Samir listened but had nothing to say. He replayed the events of that morning in his head.
"You never got any phone, did you?"
"Nah, I didn't, buy I will."
Firas didn't say any more, he knew only too well how people can manipulate kids. Samir was too gullible, but he would have to find that out for himself. The only thing Firas could do was to try to look out for him, he couldn't control him.