Luca's tongue remained at the corner of his lips. Attentively he followed the lines his pencil drew upon the paper and saw Alessandro's face developing. He wasn't that good with sketching, at least not as good as his father was, but it was enough for everybody to recognize to whom it belonged. Now the body... with an open zipper, the erect penis jutting out from the slit of his underpants. He drew it longer than it was in reality and Luca grinned mischievously.

There was a knock at the door and hastily Luca closed the bloc of paper to hide the drawing. "Come in", he said and Giano opened the door. "What are you doing here in the dark on this sunny day?" he asked. "Want to come with me?"


"Just walking."

It was the middle of the week and tomorrow would be Luca's birthday. "Alright." Luca rose to his feet.

"I saw you recently with the Gondi-Lucertola boy", Giano started once they were outside. The Montori-house was situated next to the river because it had once housed places for dyed clothes that had to be washed in the Arno. It once was a poor quarter for minority workers and Jews, but now, since the factories had vanished, it looked brighter and a lot cleaner Luca assumed. Black-dressed, old women limped to the church of Santa Croce, their black handbags pressed tightly to their flabby breasts. Giano and Luca made room for workers, carrying desktops, mirrors and wardrobes to pass.

"Do you know him?"

Giano shook his head. "I just know he isn't good for you." He briefly embraced Luca's shoulders and ruffled his fingers through Luca's thick, blond hair. Luca liked Giano's touch as much as he disliked it when his mother did the same, but he couldn't express why. Perhaps because he felt so comfortable in his brother's presence. "And how do you know so well that he isn't good for me?" he asked.

"Luca." Giano stood in front of his younger brother and looked at him with serious, brown eyes. "I just know it. They and us - it doesn't fit together. They are different. You can't rely on them. One day they are your friends, the other they don't know you anymore. Please spare yourself a lot of trouble."

"There's nothing between us, not even friendship." Luca defended himself. "He knows so much about history, and it's fun to listen to him."

Giano looked flabbergasted. "He knows about history? That's new to me. I thought a boy like him wouldn't have had other interests than to be a plague for the world."

Now Luca laughed. "You are the one who is snotty, my dear. YOU draw the lines that separate us, isn't that so? You know fairly well that aristocracy hasn't the power anymore, the times are over when a noble man could decide about life or death. And haven't you told me always that the common Florentine was a rebel, fighting each supremacy, no matter if it was a religious or an earthly one?"

"The common Florentine once burnt a priest whose commemorative plaque you still can see in the pavement at Piazza Signoria! They tore apart the bodies of their enemies and ate them!"

Luca rolled his eyes. "That's old-fashioned stuff! Can't we never begin again without it?"

"Now, who was the one interested in history, eh?" Giano asked half-amused, tripped over an uneven kerb and almost had a crash with a Vespa. The driver shouted obscenities but Giano just grinned. "This town! About time I was off."

"I'll miss you like hell", Luca said.

"I'm not out of the world, piccolino. I'll have a lot of time in-between the semesters and will visit you. Or you'll come to me. It's just a cat's jump away."

Suddenly it struck Luca. "Alessandro starts his study too, but in a month, unlike you."

He saw Giano's dismayed face. "What is he studying?"

"Art history, don't worry."

"Well, then...."

"Do you think you will like the university? I mean, certainly you'll have to share a room."

Giano nodded. Actually this was the only thing that bothered him. He wasn't used to sharing his privacy, but he had to make the best of it. He couldn't afford to rent a room. But deep down he was relieved that his parents had allowed him to start studying at Pisa's university. Now he was out of the family's grip and could begin his own life - which was a privilege for an Italian boy who usually remained in the circle of the family until he married. To go from one prison into another, Giano thought. He would be the first medic medic in the family of Montori who were dyers in the medieval ages and delivered to the houses of the Medici clothes and fabrics. When this trade had died and was replaced by machines, they had joined the workshop that created stone-mosaics that were even exported all over the world. But Giano liked to use the skill of his fingers for a different profession. "Anyway", he said aloud, his brown eyes serious. "Watch out for yourself." He breathed deeply the fresh-muddy scent of the river.

Luca remained silent. He didn't know what this special feeling was, he shared with his older brother, but it was very special. And then, when Giano left for Pisa, Luca would be alone. His friends from school-days were out of reach - emotionally. He couldn't share his feelings with them.

He searched for Giano's hand and entwined his fingers with his brother's. Giano turned his head and smiled melancholically. "What do you wish for your birthday?"

"A bit late for you to ask, it's tomorrow."

Giano nodded, a little spark in his eyes, indicating it was just a rhetoric question.

An Alpha-Romeo passed slowly on the street between the walls of the river and the house fronts. The last sunbeams sparkled upon the waves' surface; an orange- reddish glimmer, broken by the darker silhouette of Ponte Vecchio. Florence woke to a new life. People returned from their daily tasks, tourists strolled relaxed, tired from sightseeing, looking for a place to rest and to eat.

The car drove along the river-way, until it appeared again deep down the quayside and came to a halt next to the river shore on a grassy bank. It joined other Alphas and bright red Ferraris. Luca and Giano squinted up their eyes. "The lot is gathering."

Luca recognized Alessandro's dark shock of hair as he stepped out of the car. He didn't know what they were doing there, but it was a ritual that took place usually each Saturday evening. They gathered, chatted, had a drink for an hour or two and parted again.

"Are you sure you want to be friends with him?" Giano mumbled.

Luca shrugged his shoulders, still staring at the figure of the young man in the distance. He seemed to hear his laughter and the clinking of Prosecco -glasses. Florence' rich youth celebrated themselves. Youth and careless life. Luca doubted that he wanted to belong to them.

* * * * *

A multi-voiced 'Happy Birthday' greeted Luca when he opened the kitchen door the next morning. The table was covered with a fresh white cloth and a chocolate cake was standing upon it with 17 burning candles. His mother Clarissa stood with red cheeks behind it, next to her husband and Giano. The other brothers seemed to sleep still - as usual Luca thought a little bit sad. But then he detected the heap of wrapped gifts next to the cake and his face was charmed by a broad smile. Clarissa hugged and kissed him, Niccolò ruffled his hair and Giano shook his shoulders before each one of them burst into a happy laughter. "Actually it's you, Mamma, who should be congratulated", said Giano, "to give birth to that piccolino here."

Clarissa waved him off and Luca grinned, before he closed his eyes and tried to blow out all the candles with one breath. He forgot to make a wish, but then, he didn't believe in wishes anyway. Everything came as it came and it would be alright. The fatalism of the Montori-family was well-known.

"Unwrap your parcels, dear, and then we all can have a piece of that cake of yours", Clarissa said, while his father sat down expectantly at the table. Brand new shoes appeared and a couple of fashionable shirts he would need for the next summer. The heavier parcel hid a collection of tools. Luca looked up surprised, delighting in the old, but looked after and oiled chisels, drills, acute hammers sandpaper and grainer. "They're the tools from Grandpa", Luca said, turning and weighing them in his palms.

"Yes, son", Niccolò said proudly. "They are always passed from father to son. Now it's you, since you'll join the workshop."

Luca pondered why he hadn't given them to Dante or Marcello, then it dawned on him that Niccolò had high expectations of his youngest son. His stomach lurched. Could he hold a candle to Master Niccolò who was the boss of the workers? But he pushed aside his concern and enjoyed the obvious affection.

"Open mine", Giano said and Luca unwrapped the paper and a metal box full with different kinds of pencils appeared and a book that guided talented people how to draw. "Lately I've seen that you started again", Giano explained, "and so I thought it can't harm that you know how to draw lines before you cut them into stone." He winked and Luca stuttered his thanks to all of them. It wasn't even his eighteenth birthday and he was showered with gifts. He wondered if he was worth them all.

"Coffee-time!" Clarissa called, sat the pot upon the table and Niccolò started to cut the cake. They were in the middle of a joyful chat when a knock came at the front door. A minute later Dante appeared in the doorway, incompletely dressed, with mussy, black hair and rings under his eyes. His face showed his scorn. Behind his back appeared another figure. Luca gasped. "Alessandro!" he exclaimed involuntarily.

"Happy Birthday, Luca", Alessandro said, bowing slightly in direction of Luca's parents, stepping into the kitchen, by pushing Dante away. He carried an obviously heavy bag. "You must excuse me that I burst into your home this way, but I have to deliver this to the birthday child."

The words dropped like pearls from Alessandro's lips. Clarissa and Niccolò sat flabbergasted, not able to talk. Giano had pulled up his eyebrows and said nothing either.

"Here, this is for you." Alessandro held out the bag. "You can open it here, it's nothing naughty." He turned to Luca's parents. "And then, Madama e Messer, I would like to ask you politely if I can take Luca with me. I have a surprise for him."

Giano's eyebrows vanished under his mob of hair, due to the old fashioned noble addressing of his parents. He looked the young lad up and down, not knowing what to think. Alessandro was his age, but in his fine clothes, black silky trousers, and lace-covered jabot on the white shirt along with the black jacket he thought he could see a noble man that belonged to another epoch. Clarissa darted a glance to her husband who cleared his throat.

"Well... young man. You act as if you would ask out our daughter for a ... date."

Luca hid a snort with laughter. He still held the bag in his arms, not daring to pull out the contents. It felt heavy like a stone. "Pull it out", Alessandro said.

Finally Luca did as he was asked. Between the colourful paper appeared a blue stone, bigger than his fist, and Niccolò gasped. He craned his head over the table and fished for his glasses. "Hand it over, son", and reached out his hand. "That's Lapis lazuli", he said after a closer examination. He looked up. "Where did you get this?"

"That's my gift for the start of your apprenticeship", Alessandro said instead of an answer. "Make something nice from it."

Luca stared alternatively at the stone, his father and back to Alessandro. Lapis lazuli was as precious as diamonds, well, almost. But in this size of the stone it costs a fortune. It could be ground to make paint of a heavenly blue the old masters had used for their frescoes, or it was used for intarsia and mosaics at his father's workshop. But no matter for what, the old masters of arts sold their lives for a piece of it, and the rich patrons of those times had been stingy enough just to buy an ounce. And now he stared at the biggest Lapis lazuli stone he had ever seen - and probably his father too.

"You haven't answered my plea", Alessandro asked politely.

"What have you in mind with my brother?", Dante said grudgingly from the door, eyeing the stone.

"Nothing that will harm him."

"Well," Niccolò said, returning the stone reluctantly, "if Luca likes to go with you..."

"That was a scene!", Luca laughed, when they were outside the house on the street, meeting the usual old, black-dressed women on their way to Santa Croce. "They even forgot to take me to church, wow."

"Indeed? Well, I usually only go to church when I want to look at the interior."

Luca was silent. They stood again at the riverbanks, now sun flooded with sharp shadows and angles. "Can I ask you a question?"

Alessandro nodded. He swung his arms while he walked on confidently, bathing in his bold success.

"Why are you so interested in art?"

"Aren't you? I thought it was natural as a Florentine child."

Luca shook his head. "I don't think so. I take it for granted", he said in a sudden realization. "And", he hesitated, "I've seen better."

"Better what?" Alessandro came abruptly to a halt.

"Better towns. This one," he made a wide movement with his arm, "is so old, it's gloomy, it's... I can't explain. I feel sometimes choked from the shadows and the narrow lanes. The mud, the tiny pavements, the loud tourists. Had you never the wish to go away?"

Alessandro gave a muffled sound of laughter. "I've been away and I always returned." He walked on.

"Where?" Luca followed him excited. "And where are we going to? What surprise do you have for me?"

"The surprise is for later." His blue eyes were deep. "If you want to go with me, that is."

He'd got Luca of course on the hook and he knew it. They passed anglers lined up on the lower banks, sitting patiently upon their stools, reading the Sunday newspaper, puffing smoke into the warm air and sipping occasionally at a bottle of Grappa.

"What about swimming?" Alessandro asked. "The Cascine park has opened again and the pool is heated."

"I don't have any swimming clothes with me", Luca said shocked. And anyway, he didn't want to undress in front of this good looking guy. He caught a look from aside. "You don't have to be shy, we can borrow them", Alessandro said.

"But it's not warm enough to swim."

Alessandro rolled his eyes. "Then suggest another thing."

Luca sighed. "What do you do usually with your friends? Just hanging out and riding the bikes?"

"For instance."

"Do you have a girlfriend?"

Alessandro stopped and leaned his forearms upon the red-stony balustrade and looked down to the river. It shimmered milky green. "Why do you insist of me having a girlfriend? Because that's what the people say?"

Luca copied his composure, leaning over the balustrade. "I just thought..."

"I have a reputation to act as the people like to see me act. Sure there were girls."

Luca swallowed. "And why... what has it to do with me then?"

"With the things we did at the cemetery?"

Luca nodded.


"Right. But what are you then? You can't switch between boys and girls. You must decide."

Alessandro's eyes were dangerously dark-blue. "I do what I like" he said, his standard- sentence. "It isn't such a difference. When did you notice that you're keen on cocks?"

Luca flinched at the words.

"I suppose your family doesn't know, right?"

Luca bent his head.

"When will you tell them?"

"Don't know. It's too early. It's difficult. I don't know what they will say." He took a deep breath. "Last Sunday they talked about boys like you, and ... and about you being a faggot, and about Luciano..."

Alessandro turned his body towards him. "Luciano, the whore known all over town, who goes with everybody that has two eggs, right? Do they know more people like him? No. They identify a faggot with a horny swine that gropes everything, including little boys."

"And you ask me why I don't tell my parents?" Luca asked accusingly. Alessandro said nothing and Luca took it as silent agreement.

"Our hometown was built by homosexual faggots", Alessandro spat out finally. "Each palazzo, each cathedral, each church and each sculpture. And does it look like a wimpy town? No. I've never seen such a clear, upright, dark and manly town. The rest is cliché."

Luca wondered about his words. They sounded so mature that he didn't know what to answer.

"That's the reason you're interested in all this?"

"Part of, yes. Come now." Alessandro pulled Luca with him , aimlessly through the town, that was filled with the deep and clear sounds of the churches' bells, calling the people to Mass. They had a lunch at a tavola selva, a self-service restaurant near the cathedral, and Alessandro paid for him, accepting no objections. "It's your birthday today. Don't you have the intention to spend it with your friends?"

"Friends? Well, yes. Actually."

"Would you mind if I'd come with you?"

For the second time today Luca was put out. Here was the hero of the Florentine youth asking him, Luca Montori, to join his celebration with his friends?

Alessandro must have sensed Luca's confusion, so he said, "Sorry, it was a stupid question. Go and we'll meet again in the evening, alright?"


"Right here. I'm looking forward to it."

Luca examined the face before him. The expression was serious enough for him to believe him though a little voice in his head told him not to be too hopeful. He still longed to be kissed by his lips, to feel his tongue caressing his own, not to mention the things Alessandro did to him the day they had met. He felt a surging feeling welling up in his abdomen. Alessandro's eyes were promising, but Luca rose and left the restaurant, looking back to a waving Alessandro.

* * * * *

The Tabasco Bar was the oldest gay disco bar in the whole of Italy and no girls were allowed, and the irony was that this lascivious and naughty place was just a few steps away from the Piazza Signoria, where yet straights, local and tourists were gathering, but just didn't know about this. Alessandro guided Luca there and even he didn't know that the Tabasco was a gay pub only, thus he looked around astonished, glad that he had dressed in his brand new tight fitting shirt and matching trousers. "Was it difficult to slip away?" Alessandro asked next to him while Luca was still standing, watching the neon and chrome accents and the stunning reflective, metallic ceiling, festooned with phallic light bulbs jutting out.

The dance floor was empty and just a few guys was standing at the bar, clutching their drinks, trying to look as cool as they could.

"Actually no. I said I was meeting with my friends again."

"How was it?" Alessandro asked automatically, guiding his steps to the bar and ordering two Cinzanos.


The bartender winked at him, then at Alessandro. "Picked up fresh meat, eh, Sandro? The darkroom's empty." A salacious grin played around his thin lips.

"Darkroom?" asked Luca when the bartender served another customer.

"Heavens, you know nothing, do you," Alessandro asked amused. "That's where you and me could go to do whatever you dream of."

Luca blushed and bent his head over the Cinzano- glass. The ice cubes clinked and he sucked at the lemon-slice. "Is it really pitch dark in there?"

Alessandro nodded and Luca wondered how many times he had used it with other guys. "Been there?"


That moment Madonna started to roar up and filled the room with ear deafening music. Luca flinched but held his composure. As if they had waited for that cue the dance floor started to fill up and Luca stared at the writhing bodies where everybody thought he was a starlet, ready to be discovered by Giorgio Armani.

After he had finished his glass Luca asked boldly "You want to go there with me?"

"Huh?" Alessandro couldn't turn his eyes off the dancing, male bodies.

"To the dark room."

Finally Alessandro turned fully at him and examined Luca's innocent face. "If you like?" he raised an eyebrow suggestively, then he said, "No, you won't. The first time you should see it with your eyes." He paused. "It would be your first time, wouldn't it?" He saw Luca's face and got suddenly weak knees - a thing that hadn't happened in a long, long time for him.

* * * * *

Cool air wafted through the open loggia in Alessandro's room.

"You can stay over-night."

Alessandro went to the refrigerator standing in a corner, and pulled out a bottle of wine. "Like one?"

Actually Luca didn't. He'd had enough of the two Cinzano he'd had to drink and felt a little dizzy. But Alessandro opened the bottle and poured two glasses. "Salute", he said, raising his glass and Luca did the same. "To the night."

Luca just sipped and put the glass aside. "And where's my promised surprise?" he asked.

Alessandro looked confused. "I thought the Tabasco Bar was surprise enough?" He let himself fall upon an old-looking chaise-longe that was draped with a red cloth with fringes. Luca was still sitting in the matching arm-chair. Alessandro's room was huge and filled the complete upper floor of the Lizard-tower, Alessandro's home palazzo. Luca detected old, faint frescos near the high ceiling but couldn't recognize what they should show. An odd looking fireplace covered one wall, with an arcane roof, the other walls were covered by framed paintings and drawings of naked men - works of art. Luca detected the Davids from Michelangelo and Donatello, views of tight buttocks of all kinds, except they were all male.

In another corner hidden by a now pulled back curtain was Alessandro's bed.

"You like it?" Alessandro asked.

Luca asked himself with pounding heart why Alessandro didn't start. Neither he had kissed him nor did any kind of thing that Luca was waiting for. He took his glass and emptied it in one rush. Then he stood up, came over to Alessandro and sat beside him. "Why am I here?" he asked in a low voice. "Is there nobody else here in this large house?"

"Just my mother and she will be dazed from absinthe already."

"Absinthe? I thought that's forbidden?"

"Not anymore. Since they reduced the poison in it, it's not that dangerous anymore. But Madame has her connections and she knows secret places where the old recipe is still made. I'm sure sooner or later I can visit her in the loony house."

Luca was taken aback. How could he talk like this. "Don't you like her?" he asked, stretching out his hand furtively to stroke over Alessandro's chest.

"No. But let's not talk about this tonight." Alessandro pulled his shirt over his head.

Luca started to sweat when he started to undress himself. It was dark and so he was on the save side he thought, but Alessandro was watching him closely until he started to grin. "Luca, baby, let's get rid off that and hurry up. I told you last time you're looking fine."

Luca froze in his movement of pulling off his socks. "I thought you meant him." He pointed to his open zipper where a patch of snow white underwear gleamed in the darkness.

"This especially", Alessandro said, bending over to let his hand sink into the slit of Luca's pants. "Oh", escaped from Luca when the warmth of Alessandro's fingers met the heat of his awakening member. Alessandro played for a minute until the pants was soaked from excitement. Then he pulled Luca up, and hobbled with him over to the bed, stumbling over shoes and falling jeans.

Luca stroked Alessandro's naked, smooth chest, over the flat stomach and shoved Alessandro's legs up upon the bed.

With his face, bent over the erect, long cock, he remained in his position, crouched over Alessandro's legs, he took it all in. His first penis, and what was he to do with that now? He watched the red head, peaking out from the foreskin, the crystal drops building at the slit, showing Alessandro's excitement, the soft curve of pulsating, silky skin that covered a hard pole. Cautiously he lowered his head and started to lick until he absorbed himself totally into this lovely task, and he heard no more and was just feeling. He hadn't known of the intoxicating smell, how Alessandro's soft balls slapped his cheeks when he kissed them, until Alessandro was a wriggling bundle under his hands. "Fuck me", he groaned, reached out and tossed Luca a wrapped condom.

Luca froze. He had expected Alessandro to fuck him. He panicked. He didn't know what to do. Sandro lifted his head "You haven't done it before, huh?"

"Of course not."

Alessandro's head fell back. "Just shove it in." Alessandro was too horny to give lessons. Impatiently he took the condom, ripped it open and rolled the moist rubber over Luca's penis. He didn't bother with lube. Then he straddled Luca, and let his pole slowly enter him. Luca lay on his back and felt very strange. Somehow it was wrong. He saw the pain in Alessandro's face and didn't understand his self-violence as he was riding Luca frantically. But after a while Luca didn't worry anymore, but surrendered to the sight of Alessandro's hand engulfing his own cock while he rode Lucas' and brought himself close to explosion with each stroke. It didn't last long until both reached their peaks and Alessandro freed himself, dropped the condom to the ground, and stretched out beside Luca. He murmured something, gave him a kiss and fell asleep.

Despite all this Luca remained unsatisfied. Sleepless he lay beside Alessandro and listened to his steady breath. In the middle of the night he got up and stood in the loggia. A soft breeze cooled his face and body. He sat into the wicker chair and stared at the cupola of the cathedral, bathing in the moonlight.

This was it? Just this? And for those few minutes he should fight so hard, betray his family and friends pretend that he was another, or, that he was exactly the same as his friends, trying to bed the chicks to find out it wasn't worth it at all? He could do better with his hand because he then had the imagination of a friendly, loving, tender hand.

Suddenly he remembered Alessandro's words when he was asked what he wanted from Luca: 'sex' had been the answer. Only sex and nothing more and he got it.

Disappointed he tiptoed back to the sleeping Alessandro, stood a while next to the bed and watched. This was his first man, but to be honest, Alessandro had used him for own satisfaction and didn't care one bit about Luca's. Probably he thought that what he did was enough. He didn't even kiss him the way he had heard of - and partly experienced too, there at the cemetery.

But then his eyes caught the beauty of Alessandro's body, laying limp and relaxed under the light bedcover. His velvety skin had a light tan from the first sunshine; parts were darker such as his face, under arms and neck, the rest was lighter. He looked so innocent while sleeping, that Luca thought to see an almost different young man; the cocky look from his blue eyes hidden behind closed lids, the mouth, relaxed and the lips a little parted. Somehow the nose gave his face a matured touch - relentless perhaps; a family heirloom. His father had had the same, like the mayor had and the brother he had met in the church.

But Sandro was a loner, despite all of his buddies; Luca didn't want to call them friends. They had fun together, no more. Mindless fun, as an adolescence had all the right to have. And Luca? He was at the football match with his friends this afternoon - AC Firenze versus Lazio Roma - the tickets had been a gift from his brothers, not knowing that Luca wasn't the least interested in football, but in the naked, muscular legs and butts of the player.

He had almost given in and had slipped under the sheets next to Alessandro, to feel his body close to him again. He had never shared a bed with another. He was unfamiliar to another's breath, the movements of the bed and Alessandro's sudden closeness had scared him more than it had pleased him.

Instead he looked for his clothes and put them on silently. He was startled by the touch of a hand on his shoulder. "Where are you going?" Alessandro said with husky, sleep drunken voice. "I said you can stay overnight."

Luca turned so abruptly that Alessandro's hand fell from his shoulder. "You think I could stay away all night long? Father would lock me up."

Alessandro looked unsure as whether to laugh or not. "Lock you up? For what reason?"

Luca sighed and shook his head. Must have been due to Sandro's sleepiness that he didn't understand. "I've never been away for a whole night. Mother will think me in hospital."

Alessandro said nothing, he was just staring. Luca sensed the warmth his naked body radiated, and had the urge to hold him tight. He wanted to press his body into the other, wanted to being held and comforted.

"You didn't like it", Alessandro said softly.

"What didn't I like?"

"Sex with me."

Luca turned away caught.

"No, look at me", Alessandro said quickly, again putting his hand upon Luca's shoulder. "You aren't of age, I do understand that your parents will be afraid. On the other hand, since when do Italian parents bother with their kids going early to bed, hm?"

There was the faint hint of a smile in his eyes. Eyes, big and gleaming black in the darkness of the room. "If you want, I'll take you home."

"You don't have to, it's not that far away." Why was it so difficult to speak? he thought. And why couldn't he answer Sandro's question. Did he like the sex with him, or not?

"Perhaps you expected a turn, I mean, you wanted to be fucked?" Alessandro suggestively raised an eyebrow and Luca blushed. He was thankful that it was dark in the large room.

Alessandro lifted his chin to look him in the eyes. "Did you?"

Slowly Luca shook his head. "I... just wanted to be close to you." From the distance he heard the bell tower chiming the second hour. What the hell... he would be late anyway, so it didn't matter if he stood here for another hour. He didn't protest when Alessandro undressed him again, this time carefully and without any attempt to arouse him sexually. Then he took his hand, pulled back the bed cover and pushed him gently between them. "Do you think I'm a sex maniac?" Alessandro grinned. "I am." He stretched out beside Luca. "But I do have another side, you know."

Luca lay still and wondered if Sandro was putting on the attitude of the stud about town, hiding his soft side. A macho, he thought. A gay macho. He felt Sandro's hands upon his body, stroking his cheeks, his neck and his arm. "I didn't want to make it bad for you. Your first night I mean. You just turned me on."

"It wasn't so bad", Luca managed to say. He gradually relaxed under the strokes. Thinking of it, it wasn't bad at all. He couldn't compare how it should be, considering he had no experiences. But what now?

"You'll be going to Fiesole?" Luca asked.

"No, of course not. Mamma is going alone, like she always did. My bro..." he closed his mouth and fell back between the sheets. He forbade himself to think about that, like he had done in all the years past.

"Your... what?"

"Nothing. I'll stay here until I'm off for Pisa. And, as I said, we can have a lot of fun until then." He peered into Luca's face. "Don't you think?"

"And what then? You have your fun and go away." He remembered Giano suddenly. "My brother is going to Pisa as well, but later."

"You said that before. How many brothers do you have?"

"Three. No sister."

"And he will study medicine if I remember right."

"Yes, Giano."

"Giano Montori." Alessandro pondered loudly. He surely remembered Giano Montori. The guy with the blond mop of hair like Luca. Standing in the darkest corner of the bars, where nobody could see him, but he could watch the action from aside, without having to participate. A sly grin played around Alessandro's mouth. He bet that Luca didn't know that. He bent over. "You're much too serious for your age, amore. Why do you bother what happens when I'm away? I never promise. So, if you would rather leave and search for someone you can live happily ever after with, I won't stop you. But one thing be assured: you won't find him. It's just fun. Sex."

Luca swallowed. He knew that Sandro was right. Man was promiscuity, wanting to shed his semen into all four cardinal points and never cares afterwards. That's all. No, he didn't believe that seriously. What about his father then? Did he have other women for a change? And why was Sandro's conception of youth wrong? Luca closed his eyes. It wasn't wrong for sure. If he just could overcome his reluctance and be as Sandro was...

"Why don't you let me show you how good it can be?"

Sandro's words pierced his ears. He wished above all things in the world to be loved, but he was scared as well.

Alessandro was still staring. Then he scrambled over Luca's body and stepped out of the bed. He crossed the large room to its other side; his naked butt gleaming stark white. Luca couldn't suppress a smile. He adored Alessandro's straight, long legs and the confidence with which he walked in all his nudity. He didn't suffer any inferiority feelings.

He watched how Alessandro opened a drawer of a beautiful chest of drawers. Florentine intarsia, he recognized with narrowed eyes. Old. Very old. Then Alessandro returned with a linen cloth-covered book.

When he pulled back the cloth, Luca gasped. "I found it in a secret layer beneath the drawer. There's a knob you have to press and the bottom vanishes, revealing another shelf."

Alessandro hesitated. Why was he telling Luca this? He had never shared this secret with anybody. He briefly shrugged his shoulders and sat upon the edge of the bed, next to Luca. "It's a diary." He turned the first, brittle page. Luca detected a fine handwriting, flourished, almost impossible to read. The paper was a sort of a parchment, stained with dark brown blotches and an odd smell came from it. "The oldest inscription belongs to 1429", he said.

Luca looked up. "And what is it? Who has written this?"

"You remember the day at the Novella-church? The fresco I showed you, made by Masaccio?"

Luca nodded excitedly and rose to a sitting position.

"It's not his, but of his master Masolino."

Luca had heard this name before, but couldn't remember who he was. Masaccio - Masolino ... those names were easy to mistake.

"This chest is really ancient, you know. The intarsia were made by the workshop you'll soon be attached to, but many years afterwards. Nobody found the secret drawer though. At least I guess no."

Then it wouldn't had been here anymore, Luca completed the sentence in his mind. "And what is the interesting part of it, besides that it is ancient?"

"That it is incomplete. The last pages are missing. He didn't finish it, which is a pity because it stops at the most interesting part."

Luca looked down again and tried to decipher the handwriting. Alessandro turned on a little lamp standing on a small nightstand. Then he started to read out loud:

                                                                                                          "Budapest, Gennaro 1429

His name was Tommaso di Ser Giovanni di Simone Guidi di Monte Cassai and he was descended from an old family of carpenters - cabinet- and chests makers. Even as child he had been bigger and stouter and stronger than other children - the opposite of me. His younger brother called him, deprecatingly, Masaccio: the big Thomas, the colossus.

He came into my workshop there in the town of San Giovanni Alt'ura in the fruitful ground of Tuscany. He came and I was lost. One look into his fiery, black eyes and I was ablaze. Although the love between two men in the Republic of Tuscany was not scorned, the eye of the priest was omnipresent and the people easy to be influenced.

I could have been his father, but neither of us minded. He considered me as his mentor when I taught him to guide his paint brush, to use the pencil filled with the red powder from the Arabian town Sinope to transfer his cardboard to the bare walls.

He was sixteen when his wild mind wanted to break free from the claustrophobic conditions of our village. It was Firenze that called him, the town where Master Giotto had worked, the true explorer of the old art to paint a three-dimensional painting - height, width and depth - and I knew it was just a matter of time when my Tommaso would excel myself.

I had to follow him wherever he would go.

He arrived at Florence with his mother and brother in 1417 and settled down at the parish of San Niccolò Oltrarno, me on his heels. He entered my circle of painters and we continued our collaboration of equal to equal - not of master and pupil. Tommaso was exceptional. He improved my more modest style of painting by introducing me to three dimensional techniques. He wanted more. He wanted everything. His brother had found a work in Bicci's workshop as odd job boy. I was scared of him. When my Tommaso was glowing with artistic fever - Giovanni was glowing from something unnatural I could not grasp. But I was as much aware of that as Tommaso was unaware of it."

Alessandro closed the book carefully and looked at Luca. "Masolino was a painter himself, but most of all we know his name for Masaccio - or Tommaso as he is named in this diary. It seems as if they did everything together." A spark appeared in his eyes. "You get the message?"

Luca was confused. "You mean they were more than pupil and master?"

"What more? Of course more. Masolino writes they were equal. They shared more than the workshop together."

"The bed?"

Alessandro nodded.

"That is written down here? You must give it to the museum, Sandro. It's most precious I'm sure."

Alessandro pressed the book to his naked chest as if to protect it. "It's mine. I found it." He looked into nowhere; out between the loggia's pillars, into the starred sky. Luca watched him curiously. "What do you suppose is missing in that diary?" he asked softly.

Alessandro didn't answer. He rose, crossed the room once more and hid the book in the secret drawer. He already regretted haven given his secret away. Perhaps it wasn't safe now anymore. But a look into Luca's innocent, somewhat glowing face, soothed him. Luca wouldn't take his fortune from him, would he.

He pushed Luca aside and lay beside him. Then, without a further word he started to kiss Luca's lips, made him moan until the pearly laughter of his appeared. Alessandro was not able to resist it. His body pressed upon Luca's, he slid and wriggled until their penises were aligned and enjoyed as well the growing excitement as Luca's gentle hands, stroked his back and buttocks. And Luca started to get happy about losing his shyness and fears. Nobody was going to hurt him.

Part 6