A wire burnt in his stomach. He looked up, directly into Luca's dark eyes, framed by his even darker lashes. He had one of his thin eye brows arched and looked puzzled. Or sad. Or he was thinking about another. They sat at a tiny café, indoors, because it had started to rain again. Tristano had chosen the darkest corner. The espresso machine was gargling and puffing, while a footsore family of tourists flopped upon the dark wooden chairs. Tristano looked away and instead eyed the man, standing at the counter, ordering in ungainly Italian two cappuccini. He had surely been surprised by the bad weather in his baggy shorts, his black socks and sandals. Tristano closed his eyes for a moment. Some guys were really an unappealing sight.
Luca's hand reached out and snapped the stone from Tristano's palm. It was a Lapis. Luca held it close in front of his eyes. "It really is the colour of your eyes", he said.
The wire burnt stronger. Like heartburn. What was he to say? What did he want? Tristano's whole life had turned upside down in one short night. If he thought about the hours with Luca, he was likely to scream with joy. Scream with passion, with longing; he could hardly restrain himself from ripping off their clothes and, prostate to the ground, to be taken by his friend. Every single fibre of his body, of his nerves, were tingling.
The guy at the counter made frantic signs and movements towards the menu that was written with white chalk, offering cappuccino for 1 Euro and he apparently didn't agree with the price he had to pay. Tristano grinned and winked at Luca. The wife of the guy came and joined in the argument; in a mixture of German, Italian and English.
Luca rolled his eyes. How could the tourists know about the odd Italian custom that a drink cost double if you have a seat at the table than when you were drinking it, standing at the bar? He shrugged. Not his problem.
Luca's father had almost had a fit when he saw his son with his slightly blue, bruised chin, where Raniero had hit his face, and the crusted blood on Tristano's nose. Coppo had to stop him from going and beating up Raniero. Wow. Inwardly Luca had enjoyed the loving attention his father all of a sudden had shown. What had happened to him?
Tristano cleared his throat. "I think your father is on your side, isn't he?"
The guy turned away a little miffed with the cups in his hands, carrying them to the table. The kids were nagging him about something. The barman, a short, black curly haired boy, grinned.
Tristano glanced at him, then his eyes returned to the plates of stone he had dropped onto the blue-white checked tablecloth. "My father? I don't think I'll tell him what happened."
Luca felt a pain in his chest. What did he mean "what happened"? "Do you mean the one-night stand with a guy? Me?" he asked. His voice betrayed hurt. "Your aberration? Your dirty little secret?"
Tristano dropped his head. "I haven't even told them I broke up with Carolina", he mumbled. Luca reached over, took Tris' hand and stroked it between his palms. "What have you told her?" he asked.
The guy was still staring. Luca leaned over and demonstratively planted a resounding kiss upon Tristano's lips. Then he returned the stare until the guy looked away. Feeling much better, Luca said good humouredly "Well, if it has to be, she can fight with me, but I know who'll be the winner in the end." He winked.
That was the question Luca had feared. Oh god, what should he do? Tristano saw his hesitation and didn't blame him. If he had a boyfriend like the smart, beautiful Alessandro di Gondi-Lucertola, what was he - Tristano d'Astangli - compared to him? Nothing. "Sorry for asking, Luca. I know about you and... you must miss him like hell?"
Last night I didn't, Luca thought. Holy shit, why did life have to be so complicated? "Do you want to see me?" he asked. Tristano nodded and locked his eyes with Luca's.
Subconsciously Luca's hand groped for his cross that always lay upon his chest. It wasn't there. With a jolt he remembered having taken it off. It must be laying on Tris' nightstand. "I forgot my cross", he said.
Tristano's eyes lit up. "I'd say that's a good reason for you to come with me." He gave a lopsided grin. Luca watched him silently for a long time. This wasn't a laughing matter he felt. "It's about you or him, right?" he asked. "Do I have to decide?"
The kids on the next table argued about the plastic umbrellas attached to their ice cream. Their parents still threw curious looks.
His mobile played its electronic melody, and Luca snapped out of his reverie. The display showed Sandro's number.
Tristano's heart bled. If Luca wasn't with Alessandro because of his wealth, he must be in love with him, he thought. And the night they had shared would remain a one-night stand.
The tourist family left the cafe, not without given them a last curious look. Would it be the same in the future? Would Tristano have to stand all those looks, all those comments and humiliation like that he had already endured from the likes of Raniero and Luca's brothers? His life could be easy. He could live his life at Carolina's side - or any other woman's. He could make his family happy and not throw them into uncertainty and fear. Tristano's knowledge about the homosexual scene was very minor. If Luca was really lost to him then he had to look for others.
He gave the barman a sign, then he paid for both of their cokes and waited for Luca to finish his phone call, pretending not to listen.
Luca's face was glowing when he hung up. "Imagine that, Giano has moved in with his boyfriend. This coming weekend I'll visit him."
Tristano tried a brave face, but his heart was heavy. How could he make himself fall out of love? The best thing would be not to see Luca anymore, but that was impossible. And to be honest: a person unhappy in love craved to be unhappy, with every sign of masochism. He suffered when he saw Luca, but he was happy.
Luca's smile faded and suddenly he felt like a traitor. The night with Tris shouldn't have happened. He felt a great attraction, but not enough to give up Alessandro. It had been hard enough to maintain a cheerful voice when he was talking with Sandro on the phone.
Luca felt awful when he made his way home. Clarissa examined the blue bruise on his chin and muttered unhappily under her breath. Niccolò sat brooding and cleaned his pipe. "Your father said, your class mate Tristano was in a fight", Clarissa asked. "He was protecting you?"
Clarissa exchanged a worried look with her husband.
Marcello stomped into the kitchen, his black hair still wet from a shower.
Marcello gave him a nasty look. "I was at the gym", he said.
Luca placed the box upon the table and saw the bruised wrists. "Do they still hurt?"
Luca was perplexed at first but then he hissed "And since when do you ally with jerks like Riefoli? Do you know what he said to me?" Luca nodded to himself. "Yes, you do. They were your words."
Niccolò shifted uncomfortably on his chair. Yes Coppo had told him, and in the same breath he reminded him to remember his own youth. Luca was seventeen, and had every right to sow his wild oats.
Niccolòs face was flushed and he banged the table. "Basta, Marcello." His voice was dangerously low. "I've told you before, I do not tolerate this kind of speech. When will you come to your senses? Get a grip on yourself. And try to use your brain", he added. "Luca's your brother and we all love him."
He jumped up and rushed out of the kitchen. In his room he fumbled Alessandro's letter from his trouser pocket where he had stuffed it. The lines blurred in
front of his eyes. Angrily he wiped the tears away.
I'm back at my daily labours. Well, actually I love it, even if it means being separated from you. I haven't told you, but I was very grateful for your help. You are better than Anastasia, and it meant a lot. How are your brothers doing? Is Dante still in hospital? I hate to say it, but somehow I feel a gleeful satisfaction. He definitely hadn't thought that an uptight faggot like me would beat him, right? Anyway... I hope your apprenticeship is going well. Have you lured Tristano into your bed yet? ;-)
Giano has decided to move off the Campus and live with his boyfriend. A bit rash, if you ask me. I have never thought that this important a decision should be made so early in a relationship, but apparently your brother has it bad. This means of course, that there's always a bed free in my room for your visit. IF you really want to use it, that is...
Have you made plans for the summer? In two weeks your workshop closes and my holidays starts the same day. Think about something to do, and I'll pay. Oops, that was in the typical Gondi-manner. Secretly I dream about making out with you at the seaside. What do you think?
Leoni is becoming a real plague. Thankfully she has provided me with her notes but now she wants a reward. I was trying to dissuade her with a dinner invitation, which she has accepted. Do you think that was all right?
OK, I have to return to my books now. Tomorrow we'll have our first test and I'm not prepared. Franco and Claudio send their greetings. They still bubble on about the Gioco and the calf. By the way, we have an invitation to visit Venice...
See you soon. You'll come next weekend?
I miss you,
You making out with me at the beach sounds brilliant. I can hardly wait. To be honest, I too have an invitation to Forte dei Marmi by Rosso and Michele. Well, Micky and I fell out for he can't accept me to be a shit eating monster, as he says, all of a sudden. So, it's just you and Rosso. About Tristano. I'm not sure about his plans. I'm unsure about everything. I had a fight with Marcello. He thinks I'm a slut.
Will you pick me up Friday evening at Pisa? I need you so much,
He was jerked out of his thoughts by the knock on his door. Clarissa peered into the room. "Everything all right with you? Like to come down for dinner?"
Luca shook his head. Clarissa sighed inaudible and sat beside Luca upon the bed. "I'm sorry, gioia. Your father has tried to speak with Marcello, but he's so stubborn that he wouldn't listen. I wonder what it is,", she stroked Luca's hair who lay outstretched, his head upon his folded arms, "where all the hate comes from." She lifted Luca's face. "I was proud of you today. You stood up for yourself." Her glance fell upon Luca's letter to Alessandro. "Do you write to tell him all this? Is he a support for you, or does he suffer the same?"
Luca nodded his head, which could mean anything.
Luca sighed, rose and came to his feet. "I don't want to talk about it. I'm hungry."
Leoni was clad in fashionable pink, but it clashed with her hair and the leafy-green eye shadow she had used to make her eyes bright and colourful. Alessandro shuddered inwardly. As always she had no idea about clothing.
Alessandro shot forward and took her hands that she had clenched into fists. "You need to tame your temper", he said soothingly. "How often did that cause you trouble, eh? As long as we've known each other, and that's." he counted, "roughly fifteen years."
Leoni enjoyed the feeling of his hands, embracing her own. She opened her fists and started to stroke Alessandro's palms. She still remembered all of his sensitive places. "So, Claudio bragged?" she said.
He nodded. "Well, just in front of his friends, in case you wondered. Was it good?" He cocked his head and fluttered a bit with his black lashes. Leoni melted. "Not as good as with you", she whispered.
The wine arrived. Alessandro pointed to Leoni for her to taste it and she blushed. Damn, Alessandro. He always came up with some crazy and unconventional ideas. She bravely tasted the wine without actually tasting it, and nodded hastily as soon as she had finished sipping. The waiter poured her more of the wine and went then to do the same for Alessandro. Leoni nibbled nervously at the unsalted panino, laying in a bread basket. His eyes were unreadable. The look he gave her was confident and not in the least amorous. But she wasn't going to give up. His boyfriend wasn't here and he must be horny. Right? If he closed his eyes, he wouldn't notice who was jerking him off. Blowing him. And he wouldn't notice whom he entered.
Alessandro nodded. It was a lie, but a good humoured one. Claudio had said, that Leoni had literally jumped into his bed, and he wouldn't had been a gentlemen if he had thrown her out. Alessandro hid a grin. Bastard. "Well,", he said aloud, "actually I thought you were after me, and then I have learned that you dragged him into your bed for the past two weeks? What's that supposed to say about me?" He rolled his eyes in mocking indignation and Leoni laughed.
The large antipasti plate arrived. The waiter placed it on a side table and bit by bit filled their plates with salami, dried tomatoes, fried green asparagus, pickled beans and mushrooms, ham and melon, black olives, anchovies and sliced parmesan. Leoni stubbed out her cigarette and started to pick on the vegetables. All of a sudden she wasn't hungry anymore, but tried not to show it. Thank god Alessandro didn't know everything. Claudio was just an episode for her. But there had been Timo before Claudio. She had dumped him, because he had become too clinging. Claudio was cute, but he hadn't enough money to hold her. She watched Alessandro eating. "Is there really no chance for me?" she asked him with her head tilted to one side. She washed away her question with the rest of the wine. "I mean, you started with girls, so why shouldn't you return to them from time to time?"
Alessandro moaned into his napkin. "Not that again, Leoni. You've asked me before and I answered clearly and without a chance of being misinterpreted. No. There will be no return. Why should I ?"
Leoni swallowed an olive. "And what if Luca's a little slut? What makes you sure that he's waiting for you?"
Leoni's words rang a bell in Alessandro mind. Hadn't Luca written that his brother thought Luca a slut? Why? Tristano, was whispered within him. The blond guy with the attractive face and body. Blue eyes like a Lapis Lazuli. Weren't those Luca's words? Still finding himself but obviously gay. Alessandro's grin faltered. "You're imagining things. And if so, so what? We never promised faithfulness."
Leoni's eyes lit up. "Ah, that's great. So, if you have an open relationship, there IS a chance for me."
Alessandro leaned back, chewing. "Jesus, Leoni. Who's the slut here? What do you want from me? Go to Claudio and blow him, if you're in need. Or spread your legs and let him fuck you."
Leoni grimaced at the obscene words. She fought with herself whether to tell Alessandro about her deal with his uncle. It was her choice now. What if she told him and both sides were satisfied? They could marry and the child would be Alessandro's? She inwardly shook her head. There was still the option that he would say no. Alessandro was unpredictable. She finished her plate and then rummaged in her tiny handbag. The second course was served, steaming bowls of baked fish with crunchy slices of Sicilian lemons. Alessandro inhaled the scent of rosemary, olive oil, garlic and anchovies, and his mouth watered. He tried to distract himself from his thoughts with the meal, but a sort of a barb had hooked into his head, that hurt and made him think constantly about Luca. Why had he said that he was becoming a slut? And why had Leoni repeated his words?
Silently he watched Leoni. The deal with his uncle came to his mind. The deal he was still unsure about. He needed to find a wife. Perhaps. If he want to keep the money. If he wanted to continue his careless lifestyle. He imagined himself having to work to pay for his study as Giano did and shook his head. He had no time for working. There was so many other things he preferred to do. Like lying in bed with Luca - for instance. He could maintain the affair with him even if he was married. Nobody would care. At the same time he laughed about how stupid he was. Luca wouldn't accept. It was either him or Leoni, both was out of the question.
There was just one point to clarify; did he like Luca enough to make this sacrifice? He never saw them both as a couple that would stay together for good. Surely not. They were much too young for that, and life was full of guys waiting to be conquered. Tristano for instance.
Alessandro ignored the pain starting somewhere near his guts. Losing Luca would not be an easy thing to take - for whatever reason it happened. Yeah. For whatever reason. He stared at the steaming fish, buried under a layer of roasted, brownish yellow lemon slices. Very slowly Luca had crept into his heart, or that place where feelings were produced. But he would never ever admit it. Showing too much of your feelings was a sign of weakness. Matteo, his father, had taught him that since he was a toddler. And it was very, very hard to realize that this was wrong, and in consequence to make the next step; show your feelings.
One hour later Leoni started to hiccup and even Alessandro wasn't quite clear why he was there and not at home in his bed. They giggled like they had once when they were digging in the sand as children before they finally decided it was time to leave. The night was sticky and empty of stars; from afar the white marble of the Leaning Tower shimmered like pale bones. Its colonnades appeared like black, longish eyes, watching. "I like to go up there", Leoni said, louder than necessary. She swayed and clutched Alessandro's upper arm for support.
Alessandro felt dizzy and tried to shake it off. Then Leoni stumbled over her feet into the kitchen and rushed to the water pipe, pouring herself a glass of ice cold water she immediately drank down. "Like one?" she asked and filled her glass once more. "That's the fish", she chortled, "it likes to swim."
She turned her back on him and fumbled with her handbag. Then she offered him the glass and he drank without looking. A second later, Leoni clung like a
leech to him, undressed him impatiently, opened the door to his room and Alessandro was pushed upon his bed. He lay outstretched there, felt that he was
naked, and then his mind was blown out like a candle.
Leoni moaned. "What a noise, Alessandro", she muttered. "Oh god, my head!" She crouched on the edge of the bed and held her head. "It splits. I need an aspirin." Then she looked up. Slowly. Not missing an inch of Alessandro's naked body in front of her eyes. The strong, tanned legs, the silky heaviness of his testicles and his penis, soft and delicious and ready to be swallowed, all of it. The flat stomach and the tender skin - she remembered all of it very well. But Alessandro had gone to the bath to dissolve aspirin, one for him and one for her. She followed him with her eyes, the view of his firm, slender butt cheeks made her private parts twitch - like a tiny orgasm. She moaned. Her eyes were clear and her head didn't hurt in the least.
Alessandro came back, dressed in fresh jeans and she looked on regretfully. She had given everything last night... although... He placed a glass with a milky fluid on the table at the window and sat down and ruffled his hair. The brown locks, mussed but beautiful she had loved the most in the past when he had been mad about her. She swallowed the drink and wiped her mouth.
Funny, but for the first time in his life, Alessandro felt embarrassed. He had been sore before, but the reason for that had never been a woman. "Why should I be sore?" he snapped, "you've certainly got no cock to make me sore."
She rose and said with honeyed voice. "No, dear, but *your* cock. See," she bent down and whispered into his ear, "you were fucking me like Jupiter's hammer. And he was very tireless." Her palms traced a line over his shoulders and down his chest, coming to a rest in his lap, stroking the bulge. "I'm sure you've forgotten all about your little fuck buddy in Firenze now. Haven't you?"
He shook her off and stared angrily into her face. "Fuck off, Leoni. I don't want to see you for the rest of the day, OK?"
She smiled and slipped through the door.