The notary stopped to dart a glance at the audience. He met only unmoving faces, except for Anastasia, who looked at him with wide, disbelieving eyes, filled with tears. He continued.
Alessandro turned his eyes surprised. He hadn't expected a cent of money. Now he was curious to hear the condition.
The notary took off his glasses and stared at Alessandro who stared stunned back. He hadn't expected money, and under these circumstances he didn't want any of it. The church could do what they wanted with that. He felt everyone's eyes on him. Waiting. Lurking.
Alessandro slid on his chair. Twenty million Euros? He had never been interested in the family's wealth, but this sum was exorbitant. He had known that there was money, but not in this extreme abundance. What could he do with that? Ten lives wouldn't be enough to spend it. And the church? What could, what would they do with it? Care for the poor? Build hospitals? Spend it for research? For the fight of diseases? Or decorate their order? The prior of Santa Maria Novella would be ordered to Rome when he could bring such a fat piece of prey... Then he swallowed hard. That would mean... he had to father a kid? How? And why? How ridiculous. His thoughts raced while everyone was still staring at him from all sides. Ideas of artificial insemination crossed his mind. He could do this. He could... yes, that was the only thing he could do. There was no way he would marry and fuck a girl.
At the same moment Luca's face appeared. How much fun they had. Have. Could have.
Alessandro nodded slowly. "I need time to think it over, please."
The notary rose from his chair and shook the hands of all. Then he took Alessandro aside and handed him an envelope. "This is for you. Your father handed it personally to me, shortly before his death."
Awkward silence. The rest of his family had gathered on the floor, whispering and glancing occasionally at Alessandro, leaning against the wall beside the group, reading his father's letter.
when you read this you will have heard my last will. You will find it very odd. But what did you think will happen? I decided to add this stipulation concerning you, when I felt my time was coming. My heart is weak and you did not do anything to help me improve my state of health.
You are the last one carrying our name. Our family is weak to the final shoot. Washed-out by centuries. And perverted. You know what I mean by this. But our family has not survived to perish in shame and disgrace. It must be carried on.
If you go and search for a woman that breeds children, be careful. Arrigo will watch you. It is YOU and only you who will carry on the family's name. It might be, that you will gain pleasure in this.
Matteo di Gondi-Lucertola"
Alessandro gave a helpless snort of disapproval. His father couldn't even bring himself to sign himself 'father'.
He folded the letter and fanned himself with it. He knew he was being watched. Everybody was waiting for his decision. And if he going to throw it into the wind, he would have the scorn of his family for all time. His uncles would end up with nothing. No doubt it was on him to save the Gondi- fortune. He wouldn't have a single silent minute again. "You must not give away twenty millions of the hard-earned money of the family. Gained over centuries. Lost very little of it." he could imagine his uncles now.
He had a life-long right to live at the palazzo, but that was all. His father had left no further money for him; everything was bound to the condition to marry and become the father of a son. A son - mind you. How many tries would it need to become the father of a son when it could be always girls? That thought amused him somewhat and he turned to his family.
He met the compassionate, old eyes of Anastasia, a little, fragile woman with a little, black hat. The eyes of his uncles were empty. And his mother? The once beautiful Valentina, the princess of Firenze, now destroyed by alcohol whose signs she could hardly cover. Not even with her black veil.
Alessandro shook his head. It wouldn't be complicated, but it would be against Alessandro's concept of his life. He wanted to study. He wanted to become a historian. He wanted to be free.
Alessandro closed his eyes. "I have one week to think it over. I'll let you
know my decision."
On the other hand, there was someone who could help him. Not with his decision, but by his presence. He knocked at the front door of Luca's home, a palazzo like his own, though comparatively much smaller, and not with the same rich abundance of masterly worked stone masonry. He faced Luca's brother, thankfully it wasn't Dante. He didn't want to see that angry face. Heaven knew how that could be Luca's brother.
Marcello looked him up and down, chewing at a tramezzino. Of course, it was the lunch break. Apparently the family gathered at home then. "What do you want?" Marcello asked. "You have the biggest talent for showing up at the wrong time."
Luca's fork fell onto his plate and he rose. "Sit down, son", Niccolò growled. "What do you want this time?"
He felt Dante's glaring stare. He felt Marcello's curious eyes, and Giano's almost embarrassed look. Just Luca's face was glowing with excitement. Alessandro avoided looking at Niccolò. Silently he let Clarissa put him a piece of rabbit on his plate, with glazed carrots and break off a large piece of bread for him. "There you have it, now enjoy your meal." She looked friendly and motherly. Alessandro's heart tugged, but bravely he took his fork and tried a piece. It melted on his tongue. "You're an excellent cook, signora."
Clarissa was pleased. It seemed as if the chatter had died when Alessandro had joined the table. Everyone was eating in silence, passing an occasionally stare over the table to the unwelcome intruder. Luca winked at him from time to time, and Alessandro loosened up somewhat. With his bread he took the last remainder of the sauce and sighed. "That was the best rabbit I've ever eaten, thank you", he said as polite as he could. Niccolò eyed him. "And why have we the pleasure of your company?" he asked, reaching for his pipe, stuffing tobacco in it.
Clarissa wondered about Alessandro. He had lost his cocky behaviour and it appeared to be an actually charming boy.
Blood shot into Alessandro's face. "Nobody's going to call me a queer," he hissed dangerously. "I'm warning you."
Dante just laughed. Luca came down the staircase, wondering about the scene in front of him. But Alessandro took his arm and shoved him out the door.
Luca stopped in his tracks. "Geez, I forgot to tell you. Dante found a drawing of mine. I mean of you. All naked..." he blushed and shuffled his feet.
Luca nodded. "Dante called me names. I don't know what's gotten into him. He has never act this way before."
Luca sniffed at the glass. He didn't like grappa but nonetheless he sipped a bit of it. Then he shivered. Alessandro grinned. "And what now?" he asked. "Will he tell your parents?"
Alessandro swallowed the second grappa. "For some people it is. That's the concept of life. To survive. To carry on the family's name. To hand over your possessions." He shrugged. "To me it's not important. I didn't ask to come into this world. It's my life now. I don't feel a responsibility to society."
Alessandro looked up surprised. "I told you, you're much too serious for your age, amore." He leaned over. "That was a philosophical opinion. Tell me more."
Alessandro shook his head. "It isn't so easy. What if nature stops us from giving?"
Luca grinned. "I know. But what's all this talk about?" he asked warily.
Alessandro looked out of the window. Over the expanse in front of the church of Santa Croce strolled the usual groups of tourists, gathering in front of the monument of Dante Alighieri.
Luca was shocked. "No, you're kidding me." But Alessandro's eyes told him that he wasn't. Luca emptied his grappa in one go and coughed.
Luca shook his head. This was impossible to believe. "And who will get the money if you turn it down?"
They fell silent.
Luca stood on the pavement. His head swirled. "What will it mean to us when you marry?" he shouted after Alessandro's back, not caring about the people passing by.
Alessandro waited for him to come closer. "Probably nothing. I'll continue my life. But", he hesitated, "that's not what I want, you see? I don't want to live a life of hiding, of lies. It soils our relationship. It puts it into a corner where it doesn't belong. I don't want to become one of those cowards, living their real life in a fantasy world. Or in gay bars, carefully hidden in the darkest corner. I am out. I am gay. Everybody shall know."
Luca said nothing, but he understood. "You've slept with girls before", he mumbled.
Alessandro turned furiously. "And so what? Haven't we all before we realize what we really want? It wasn't a mistake. I won't say it wasn't worth it. It's not that different."
Alessandro looked at him surprised. "I hadn't expected such corrupt ideas residing in your mind, gioia", he said calmly. But the idea had fallen on fertile ground. Could he find a girl to make an agreement with? Perhaps it wouldn't be that difficult when he could promise a generous compensation.
Luca couldn't object. More than anything he wanted to comfort Alessandro. The ridiculous clause couldn't be the end of the world. "May I come to your place?" Luca rubbed Alessandro's back.
He sat with Luca on the loggia in the wicker chairs. After yesterday's rain the air was fresh and clean, and a mild breeze was getting up. He didn't want to end their days together this way. Their days before he started his study at Pisa. On the other hand, they hadn't made a pact. They were sharing the bed, that was true. But how much of his time was Luca allowed to give him? He, being the protected chicken of the family. Not of age, jealously watched by his big brothers. Admittedly, Luca was intelligent, and he had good talks with him he didn't dream of having with his buddies. Just the opposite. But was this the start of a real relationship? It couldn't be. Both of them were much too young.
Alessandro sighed. "If only it was that easy. You remember the kids of Michael Jackson? I guess he made a similar agreement. You don't believe in the slightest that his kids were sired in a natural way, do you."
Alessandro flinched. Could you play with humans? What if his son found out that he was fathered without love? Just to fulfil a monstrous last will? Because money was more important than the birth of a new human? Even if that new born would have the best conditions in which to start his life? Wealth, care, perhaps love in the circle of a family? And who would that be, eh? His drunken mother, who didn't care the least about other people? His uncles and their wifes, who weren't able to breed kids themselves? Another idea crossed his mind.
Alessandro leaned forward. "Yes. I can't father children, imagine that. And what then? Would the money be mine or the church's?"
Alessandro leaned back again. Luca was right. There was no way out.
He pulled Luca along with him, giving him the grand tour. But it wasn't showing off, Luca sensed that. He just should learn more about Alessandro's household. He felt as if he was visiting a museum and he was glad when he could return to Sandro's room under the roof. Nothing of what he had seen was cosy enough to live in.
Luca had so many questions still to ask on his behalf. He was very confused about the events. He couldn't grasp the wealth this family had gathered over the centuries. He couldn't even comprehend the change Alessandro was going through. It was as if he would turn into another under his hands. He pulled him to the bed, pulled away the curtain, and fell with him between the soft pillows. This at least was something he understood. A place for withdrawal. A comfort. A place of their own with no stares, no nasty names called, and reality could wait outside.
It wasn't long before their sex drive gained the upper hand. It wasn't to see if Luca had learnt to hold out; it was a play, nothing more. And he could repeat it as often as he wanted. "That's the good fortune of being so young," Alessandro said indistinctly, sucking at Luca's cock, dangling in front of him, while Luca did the same for him. "That's called 69."
Luca moaned and rolled his eyes. "No more of that education, please", before both burst out into a heartfelt laughter.