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James Carnarvon

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  1. James Carnarvon

    Chapter 6

    I stand corrected. Glad you enjoyed the chapter!
  2. If you’re looking for excitement and instant gratification, you’ve come to the wrong place. Milo is a slow-burning tale of romance and long-buried secrets that takes place over a long summer in the rural quiet of southern France. Bookish Milo is fifteen and is coming to terms with the feelings he has developed for Estevo, the handsome young man his parents have hired to fix up the decrepit villa in which they are staying. Milo’s parents seem set on helping Estevo’s family, but won’t let on why. The stage is set for a tale of many twists and turns that unearths family secrets that go back for generations. This is apparently Talo Segura’s first long story and, with this in mind, he has done a great job. Many new writers rush straight to the exciting parts and leave themselves nowhere to go. Instead, Talo bides his time, painting an evocative picture of languid summer days, interweaving the beauty of Milo’s surroundings with the sense of decay that pervades the villa and its grounds. It’s as if the place is slightly lost in time, which neatly parallels the underlying story of misunderstandings and unspoken history. The descriptive writing is skilful, using not just visuals but also hot and cold, sound, light and dark to immerse the reader in Milo’s world. In these vivid surroundings Talo develops his story slowly, creating many interesting characters along the way, and incorporating enough twists and red herrings that I was never sure exactly how the piece was going to end. The first couple of chapters are written entirely from Milo’s point of view, so I did find it a little jarring when, at the start of chapter three, Talo suddenly introduces different viewpoints, a pattern which continues through later chapters. To some extent it serves the story, but we, the reader, end up knowing many of the secrets before the main character does. Conversely we experience a number of scenes from Estevo’s point of view before we find out for certain what his feelings are for Milo. In some ways I found myself wishing that we had seen the story from just one or two perspectives. This, however, may be more a matter of personal preference. One last thing – it’s really worth reading Milo twice, because once you understand the truth behind the story you will see many of the scenes in an entirely new light, and you will see how intelligently written the story is. I’ve given this four stars because there’s always room to do better. I very much look forward to seeing what Talo produces next. ------- Favourite character: Milo, without a doubt. I really identified with his shyness and awkwardness. To begin with he hides in his books, focused entirely on his own feelings, but as the story develops he grows in empathy for the others around him and starts to appreciate the struggles that lie beneath their seemingly simple lives. Favourite scene: Despite what I’ve said about multiple viewpoints, possibly the scene between Milo’s parents in chapter seven where we learn they suspect more about Milo than he realises. It’s full of hope.
  3. That was very sweet, Talo. You've created lots of interesting characters and I don't think I could have told you at any point exactly how this was going to end, so you kept it unpredictable. The pace and intensity of storytelling has been very gentle throughout. I actually liked that. It meant it felt real rather than sensational. If this is your first long story, I'm sure your future efforts will only get better!
  4. James Carnarvon

    Chapter Nine

    Being 'in the closet' can make a person quite self-involved, because the issue you are wrestling with seems so big and vital to your place in your family and in the world. As such, the way Milo worries that John and Estevo may be arguing about him - when, in fact, something much bigger is going on - is great writing. I'm not surprised that Estevo is lashing out, because everything he thought he knew about himself has just crumbled around him. I also like the way the gathering clouds hint at the emotional storm that is probably coming. I keep coming to these chapters when I'm really tired and ready for sleep, so sorry for not being as articulate as some of the others Talo, but I'm enjoying your story. I think I might go back and read it all again when you've published it all, so I can follow the story and characters a little better.
  5. James Carnarvon

    Chapter Eight

    I like the way you did this. There was clearly some connection of this sort, but for John to be Estevo's father, for example, would have been too obvious. I tend to favour writing from a single character's viewpoint, but storytelling from multiple viewpoints has its benefits too. We, the readers, are in on the secret before Milo and the others are, and we can only imagine how it might play out. I'm still enjoying the imagery, too. I like the image of an overgrown ruin of a once grand garden. It links nicely to the theme of long buried secrets.
  6. James Carnarvon

    Chapter 12

    I can't believe you just binge read the whole thing! One or two chapters at a time works best for me - but I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks!
  7. James Carnarvon

    Chapter Five

    Nice bit of misdirection about what's going on between Marie and Morris by making us see it through the filter of Corinth's assumptions. Now that she's passed those ideas onto Milo, things could really get messy. As to Estevo and Milo... too soon to call what's going to happen there! Or whether the apparent history between Milo's father and Estevo's mother is going to be significant to their relationship. Still enjoying the portrayal of languid summer days. Looking forward to the next chapter.
  8. James Carnarvon

    Chapter Two

    I particularly like the way that, from his parents’ point of view, all that is going on with Milo today is a haircut, whereas in reality he’s having to cope with the ongoing weirdness with his cousin and now the arrival of this handsome stranger. When will the scales drop, I wonder?
  9. James Carnarvon

    Chapter One

    Great start! I am immediately taken with Milo as a character and I liked his ambivalent reaction to his cousin’s uninvited attention. I look forward to finding out more about all these characters. I have already painted a clear picture of the location in my head thanks to your descriptive writing, which is nicely evocative without being too directive. I particularly liked the way you described how the early morning weather felt, not just how it looked. Bringing the other four senses into it always makes it more vivid.
  10. James Carnarvon

    Chapter 12

    Gianni and Angelo: The Awkward School Years? I’m not sure that would be quite so magical! Be careful what you wish for, I guess. When books I have loved have had sequels that were not originally intended, it has sometimes been disappointing to the point of diminishing the original ending. Thanks for the tips regarding other sites, that’s really helpful, and I may follow it up. I think I made the right decision by basing my story here.
  11. James Carnarvon

    Chapter 12

    Always, always leave them wanting more! Thank you for reading, travlbug. Your comments have made me smile.
  12. James Carnarvon

    Chapter 12

    Thanks redwood! Some of the comments on earlier chapters have credited me with more cleverness or subtle messaging than I really brought to this, but on this point I can say yes, those things were absolutely set up to recur and play out differently later on. I had brief character outlines and a family tree of the two main families and wrote to a carefully planned twelve chapter outline. I knew exactly what each chapter needed to achieve from a plot and character point of view. This is how I roll as a writer. The fascinating thing for me, though, was that once I started writing, the characters really did take on a life of their own and the antagonistic characters became significantly humanised. The climax at the terrace was planned from the beginning, but the tone of the ending changed to something much more optimistic.
  13. James Carnarvon

    Chapter 12

    And thank you all for staying with me to the end, even after it looked like the worst was going to happen. Keep the faith! It has been a pleasure to share the story with you all, and to generally have such positive comments is a powerful validation of my work. I wish I could say I’ll be back on here with new material soon, but the reality is that I haven’t written a thing other than rewrites on this story for a number of years since it was first drafted. I live a busier life now than I did when I first wrote this. The other ideas I have had have also not been gay stories per se. But who knows - if I continue to lurk here, I may be inspired. It has to be said that I rather had my heart on my sleeve when I wrote this. I’m not sure lightning could strike twice, at least not yet! johnnyd, sorry, I hadn’t picked up on that comment yet, but the web site sounds interesting. I will definitely check it out.
  14. All Gianni could think about was how he wanted to be alone, somewhere he would be safe from the stares and gossip of passers-by, and how he needed to get there as soon as possible. Grabbing his bicycle from where he had left it propped against the wall the previous day, he mounted it and rode out into the street without looking. He already knew where he was going, and he wasn’t going to waste time playing it safe. Turning down the hill, he made straight for the avenue of oleanders and swung the bike straight down the long, sloping stairway. The joints of the ancient bicycle screamed in protest and his new shoulder bag flapped wildly about his waist as Gianni thundered down stone step after stone step, and the violent, juddering descent shook his bones, but he didn’t care; all that mattered was that he get away from his grandparents as quickly as he could. As Gianni cleared the last of the stairs, the shaking finally ceased and he swept out into the square, dodging between startled onlookers and scattering pigeons, which rose into the air with a disorderly clatter. Blindly, he headed straight past the cathedral, towards the lane that led out the other side. “Gianni! Gianni, wait!” A young male figure was running towards him, his forgotten football rolling away towards the railings and the view across to Scala. The knife twisted a little deeper, and Gianni pedalled harder. “Get lost, Angelo!” he cried. Angelo skidded to a halt, looking frightened, as Gianni shot past him, almost knocking him over. “I’m sorry!” Angelo shouted after him, but Gianni didn’t want to hear it. He pedalled on, past the ceramics shops and the Villa Rufolo, making for the steps up towards the Villa Cimbrone. Not wanting to be followed, he turned at the last second and set off up the back street, winding between the small white hillside houses as he climbed. When he ran out of road, Gianni ditched the bicycle at the bottom of the steps and took to the steep stone stairway at a run, breathing hard but clearing two steps at a time. Before long he was at the top of the hill, where the back street rejoined the main path next to the restaurant where Marina had had her birthday party, and he headed along the shady lane past the terrace with its many tables. Just before the vegetable garden, he turned off onto the narrower path as he had planned, brushing through sprays of overhanging vegetation and stumbling down the steep steps beyond until he arrived at the quietest location he’d been able to think of in which to be alone – his and Angelo’s favourite vantage point. Sweat beading on his brow from the exertion of his flight, Gianni sank to the ground and propped himself up against the old stone retaining wall, eyes closed. So, his grandparents wanted him gone? Well, who was he to disappoint them? They needn’t ever see him again. When Gianni’s heart rate and breathing had slowed, he slowly opened his eyes. The sun was still shining on the distant hills, but not on Gianni, and the clouds that rolled across the sky were the thickest he’d seen yet. He stared for a while, transfixed, as the banks of clouds drifted slowly across the sky, making the golden sunlight that shone on the landscape rise and fall as they went. Where could he go? Ravello, which had once seemed to offer such limitless possibilities for exploration and adventure, now seemed so small; the narrow lanes and stairways that he had come to love now seemed like his prison; its once welcoming people his jailers. He didn’t know, not yet; but until he’d had time to think, he decided, this is where he would stay. The weather was still and sultry, and Gianni’s surroundings were silent but for the sound of his own ragged breathing. Left to his own devices for the first time, the stress of the last few days folded in on Gianni, and he put his head in hands once again. “Mum, Dad, where’d you go?” he murmured. There was no answer but for the rustle of a lizard as it disappeared into the undergrowth. Unmoved, Gianni remained where he was, sobbing quietly to himself. * * * “What’s wrong, Gianni?” said Angelo. “I’ve got nowhere to go,” he replied. Angelo frowned. “That sucks. How come?” “Because I fell in love with my best friend.” Angelo laughed and stretched his arms luxuriantly, reclining against the rugged stone of the retaining wall with his hands behind his head. “Well, that was a dumb thing to do, wasn’t it?” He nodded. “I guess it was.” “You could go back to your grandparents,” Angelo suggested. “They don’t want me,” he replied. “Maybe you could come to mine.” He shook his head. “Not after what’s happened. Pietro would kill me.” Angelo looked thoughtful. “I suppose you could always go back to England.” Gianni shuddered. “Too many memories.” “Then why not live on the streets? Naples isn’t far away.” Glumly, he inspected his hands. “I don’t know how I’d survive.” “Well, I’m all out of ideas,” Angelo said. “Isn’t there anyone who’d take you?” “My parents would,” he said, “but they’re both dead.” Angelo shrugged nonchalantly. “Might as well die, then.” There was a flash of light and, for a fraction of a second, the landscape seemed to be ablaze, the trees that framed the view backlit with a vivid electric halo as they swayed in the wind. Angelo sat up excitedly. “Hey, cool,” he breathed, as a terrific, roaring thunderclap assailed their ears. “Wake up, Gianni! The storm’s finally here!” * * * Gianni awoke, and for a moment he didn’t know where he was. It was dark, but something was dazzling him – a moving light source, swaying back and forth over his head – and all around him was an untraceable sound like a restless rustling and roaring. Slowly, Gianni’s eyes adjusted, and the dazzling glare coalesced into the shape of a decorative lantern, which was hanging from a post at the side of the concrete path. Gianni sat up and rubbed his eyes as he remembered that he was still at the viewpoint. For how long had he slept? Checking his watch, he saw that it was almost ten o’clock – he must have been asleep for hours. A storm did indeed seem to have arisen while Gianni slept. The lantern’s chain squeaked in its bracket as it bobbed about in the wind while, on the other side of the wall, the trees that normally framed the view down to Minori and Maiori with stillness and serenity creaked in protest as they bowed to the harsh sea breeze. Gianni rose to his feet, his slightly-too-long hair blowing about in the wind, and stared down over the valley, where the lights of the lanes and footways quivered and winked as they flitted in and out of view. The horizon and the stars were lost in the shadow of a thick bank of cloud, which roiled and drifted in the darkened sky. There was an electric flash as a perfect fork of lighting descended on the rugged peaks above Maiori. Moments later, a colossal roar of thunder washed over Gianni, and he shrank back against the retaining wall, frightened; he had never heard anything like it. Anxiously, he glanced up at the sky, but there was no sign of rain – not yet. He would need shelter. Where could he go? The convent wasn’t far away, and he could take shelter in the porch, but it was too public, and too close to town – he might be found; the thought of being dragged back to face his grandparents made it hard to breathe. Panic beginning to set in on the fringes of his consciousness, Gianni looked to and fro, trying desperately to think of an alternative, but his mind had gone blank. There was a second flash of light, diffuse this time, and then another searing thunderclap – closer now. Gianni cringed, his nerve beginning to crack, and for a moment taking refuge at the convent didn’t seem like such a bad idea after all. But then, as he fought to recover his composure, he thought he heard a voice call his name from somewhere down on the hillside below. He looked around, puzzled. “Gianni!” There it was again, a man’s voice, more distinct now. Alarmed, Gianni ran forwards to the boundary wall and peered down into the darkness. Whose voice had it been? It had sounded like Sergio. It was then that Gianni saw it. Bobbing up the footpath, further down the hill, was a light source. It was someone with a torch – Gianni could tell from the way the light glinted and swung around, highlighting the swaying boughs and leaves of the adjoining trees – and they were looking for him. All thoughts of taking refuge with human company deserted Gianni’s mind. It was too soon. Grabbing his bag, which was dented in the middle where he had slept on it, Gianni slung it over his shoulders and then turned and ran back the way he had come. Heart racing, Gianni lurched uncoordinatedly from one side of the path to the other as he fled back towards the vegetable garden, picking his way up from step to step in the light of the overhead lanterns. He had almost made his way to the top of the stairway when there was a third flash of lightning and, with a crash of thunder, the lights went out. Gianni tripped over the top step and, with a cry of dismay, went sprawling onto the stone paving beyond, his left arm scraping the high stone wall painfully as he fell. Grazed but otherwise unharmed, he scrambled to his feet and staggered on down the winding, high-walled pathway, feeling his way through the overhanging vegetation with his hands. There was light in the leaden night sky, but not much, and Gianni only just stopped himself in time to avoid tumbling down the short flight of steps that led back out onto the main footpath next to the vegetable garden. Gianni came to rest against the boundary wall overlooking the aubergine plants and stopped for a moment, looking indecisively from left to right. The street lights sputtered back into life as he dithered, shedding pools of light on the stone paved lane. One way led back to town and the chance of shelter, and the other... But then Gianni remembered the man with the torch, who might have been Sergio, and who any moment would emerge from the very same side turning he had just escaped. They were looking for him: if he went back now, he would be found for sure. The matter decided, Gianni turned and ran away from the route back to the square. At the gates of the monastery, he followed the lane around and descended the sweeping staircase at a jog. Soon he had reached the top of the steep stairway down into the valley that he had chased Angelo down several weeks ago, and was about to plunge down it, but then he hesitated: it would be dark down there and, remembering the gap in the wall that he had almost gone through once before, he might break his neck. There was only one route left open to him: the archway leading to the Villa Cimbrone. It would be a dead end, Gianni realised, but maybe he could hide in the walled garden outside the entrance until the man with the torch had gone. Without another moment’s thought, he slipped up the darkened pathway, running his hand along the ivy-covered wall to guide his way. Lightning flashed overhead once again, dazzling Gianni in the darkness, and in the wake of the roar of thunder that followed, he thought he heard a secondary sound – a reverberating banging. Rubbing his eyes as he rounded the bend into the walled garden, he looked up and saw that, for once, his luck was in. The heavy wooden gates were still sealed, looming above Gianni in the darkness, but the small wicket gate had blown open in the wind: it was this he had heard banging as it swung back against its frame. There was a further flash of lightning, illuminating the distant sky on the other side of the opening with its harsh glare, and amid the roar of thunder that followed, Gianni thought he heard another voice call his name. Taking to a run once again, he leapt up the steps and through the open gate. The courtyard was in darkness, but Gianni could still see the purple sky, the tall pine tree that shaded the courtyard during the day now cast into a murky silhouette. Gianni hurried across the yard and onto the main central avenue, which was also in darkness beneath the shadow of its long pergola structure. Still following the indigo clouds, Gianni ran on down the earthen path as lightning struck again, casting the overhanging grapes and wisteria flowers into sharp relief. It wasn’t until Gianni reached the terrace at the far end that he allowed himself to stop and breathe. He came to rest against the stone balustrade between two of the marble busts and leant on it, closing his eyes and sobbing. He had nowhere left to run. There was another flash, and Gianni’s eyes flew open. For a fleeting moment, he saw the landscape far down below, with its tall cypress trees and snaking cultivated terraces, with perfect clarity, and then the world was thrown into darkness again. And as another thunderclap rolled overhead, closer now than ever, he saw further lightning in the distance: a jagged fork arcing down to something on the open sea. All that was left for him now was thunder, lightning and rain. Might as well die, then. Gianni lifted his bag over his head and discarded it on the floor. Shedding his shoes, he placed one foot on the stone balustrade, lifted himself carefully up and balanced on the edge, arms spread wide, curling his feet to grip the curving top of the wall. Down below, patches of light marked the concrete ribbon of Via San Cosma as it rounded the bottom of the cliff. “Gianni!” Not far away, the second voice again, but it didn’t matter any more. Calmly, Gianni closed his eyes and felt the wind as it blew through his hair, making his shirt and shorts flutter. All the pain of the last few weeks washed over him, from the death of his parents to his journey to Ravello, his hope and his disappointment, and the rejection by his family and friends. In his mind’s eye, he pictured his parents on an unknown, sunlit beach. Come on in, Gianni, the water’s lovely! And on the terrace, Gianni leant forwards and allowed himself to fall. A flash of lighting, a clatter of metal on concrete, and then two hands grabbed him around the waist and pulled him backwards. Gianni toppled off the balustrade, tumbling down over another figure and landing sprawled on the ground with a cry. Tearfully, he scrambled to his feet, and turned to see his rescuer clambering to his feet in the light of his discarded torch. Angelo looked back at him, his dark eyes frightened. “Gianni!” he cried again. “Leave me alone!” Gianni shouted. Lashing out at the other boy, he pushed him to the floor and turned back towards the balustrade. Lightning flashed, and Angelo was on his feet at once, interposing himself between Gianni and the edge. He put two restraining hands on Gianni’s arms. “Don’t do this, please!” Gianni was about to shake him off, but then looked to the sky. The first cool raindrops had begun to fall, and they splashed on his face, mixing with his sweat and tears. “It’s raining,” he said. “Come on,” Angelo replied. Still holding one of Gianni’s arms, he tugged him away from the balustrade, scooping up his torch on the way, and they ran into the shelter of the open temple structure at the end of the avenue. There, Gianni did shake his arm free, and he sagged to the ground, propping himself up against the outer wall, shaking as he wept. “Why are you here?” he said. Angelo knelt beside him, looking concerned. “Why do you think?” “You should have let me go,” Gianni replied. “Nobody wanted me here. I just wanted to disappear.” Angelo shook his head. “You’re wrong. Everyone’s been worried since you ran off. When Marina and Vittorio realised you weren’t coming back, they went spare. They went to the payphone and called us right away.” “Why?” Gianni asked. “We’re family,” Angelo replied. He put a tentative hand on Gianni’s shoulder, but Gianni shook him off and put his face in his hands. “What is it?” Angelo said desperately. “What have I done?” Gianni looked up at him, tears still coursing down his cheeks. “I thought you loved me.” Angelo’s brow knotted and he cast his eyes down to the floor. Outside the temple, the rain was now coming down in earnest, great sheets of it which roared against parched earth and formed a slick on the tiles of the terrace. Droplets of water broke over the outer wall, wetting the back of Gianni’s neck. When Angelo’s eyes came back to meet Gianni’s gaze, they, too, were glistening. “I do,” he said. Gianni blinked for a moment, and shook his head. “I don’t believe you,” he said. But he wanted to – how he wanted to. Angelo gave him a searching look. Reaching down, he gently took Gianni’s hand, and this time Gianni didn’t resist. As before, Angelo’s hand was warm and dry to the touch, and Gianni felt a strange tingling run through his entire body. “But... the wedding...” Gianni said. Angelo looked pained. “It shouldn’t have happened like that,” he said. And this time, with a sudden sense of understanding, Gianni thought he knew what the other boy had meant. “I’m sorry,” he said. Angelo released Gianni’s hand and scrunched up against the wall next to him, so that they were shoulder to shoulder. Gianni could feel the warmth of the other boy’s body through his shirt. “It wasn’t a good time,” Angelo said. “Not just because everyone was watching, but because of papà. You saw how Pietro was that day.” Gianni nodded. “Does Pietro hate me now?” Angelo shook his head. “He’s sorry he shouted at you.” “Really?” Gianni asked. Angelo nodded. “He’s out there searching for you right now. So are Sergio, Viola and Giovanni, Father Stefano, and Fabrizio as well. Mamma’s at home with Claudia, and Anna’s with Marina and Vittorio.” Humbled, Gianni stared at his hands. “All those people?” he said. “Yeah.” “I thought they all hated me,” said Gianni. Angelo shook his head. “They were just spun.” A thought was slowly dawning on Gianni, and he looked across at his friend. “What about you?” he said. “Do they... do they know?” Now it was Angelo’s turn to inspect his hands. “I’m not sure,” he said awkwardly. “I think Anna may have worked it out, though – I thought I saw something in her eyes when I left your grandparents’ house to look for you.” “I’m sorry,” Gianni said again. He made to get up, to give the other boy some space, but Angelo grabbed his hand again and pulled him back down. His gaze was steady, unguarded. “She’ll understand,” he said. “And maybe if she does, the others will too.” Gianni scrunched himself back in next to Angelo. He turned to face the other boy, a nervous lump forming in his throat and his heart beating hard as he gazed back into his dark eyes. “So are we...?” he began. He never got to finish the question. Angelo leant forwards, their lips touched, and a hundred long summer days blossomed in Gianni’s mind. * * * It was some time later that saw an exhausted Gianni, supported by Angelo, climbing the Bishop’s Way to the rear of the square. The late summer thunderstorm had spent its fury while they sheltered together on the terrace, and they had waited until the rain had stopped before braving the walk back down to town. A lone female figure was standing out in the darkened street as Gianni and Angelo emerged from the steps and made their way up towards the courtyard. She was on the phone, and turned as she heard the two boys approaching. “Pietro!” she gasped into the mobile phone as she saw who was coming up the street. “Pietro, he’s here!” With a cry, Anna hung up and ran down the street to meet the new arrivals. Angelo released Gianni from his clutches and stepped aside as she swept Gianni into a hug, showering him with kisses. “Thank goodness you’re all right,” she said. Then, when she had released Gianni, she turned to the other boy and embraced him too. “And thank you for finding him, Angelo.” “Sure,” Angelo replied, looking embarrassed. When Anna had let Angelo go, Gianni closed the gap between them once again, so that they both stood facing her. Anna, standing back, gave the briefest of glances from one boy to the other, but then she shrugged. “We should get you both inside,” she said. Gianni’s reunion with his grandparents was awkward to say the least. Although Marina and Vittorio were relieved to see him – Marina, too, swept him into a hug as he stepped in through the door – the harsh words of their earlier conversations still hung over them like a cloud. Anna got back on her phone to recall the search party, and one by one they returned to the house before going on their way – Gianni even got a rough handshake from Pietro – but Gianni was relieved when they had all gone. It was only Angelo that he was sorry to see go – he, along with Anna and Pietro, were the last ones to leave, and Gianni followed them out into the street. He detained Angelo just outside the courtyard, while Anna and Pietro waited a polite distance away. “Thanks,” he said. Angelo shrugged. “No problem.” Gianni put his hands in his pockets and scuffed the paving stones with one foot. “See you tomorrow, in the square?” Angelo gave him a familiar half-smile. “Yeah, okay.” Gianni smiled back. “Cool.” With one last glance back at Gianni, Angelo turned and went to join his brother and his sister-in-law, and they headed up the hill together. Left alone, Gianni watched them recede into the darkened street until they were out of sight. Marina and Vittorio were waiting for him at the dining table as he returned wearily to the kitchen. He approached them slowly, unsure how to begin. “You must be tired, son,” Vittorio said. Gianni nodded. “I am.” “Why not go and get some rest, caro?” Marina said. Gianni nodded again and made for the stairs. As he passed the table, he paused, and turned back to his grandmother. “Do you want me to stay?” he asked. Marina nodded. “If you want to, yes.” “I do,” Gianni said, “but I need you to understand me. Can you do that?” Marina nodded once more. “I’ll try.” Satisfied for now, Gianni made his way the stairs. Half way up, he turned to his grandparents once more. “Good night,” he said. “Sleep well, son,” Vittorio replied. When he had returned to his bedroom, Gianni dropped his damp bag on the tiled floor, shed his shoes once again and sank gratefully down onto his bed. Opening the top drawer of his bedside table, he fished out Angelo’s pendant and examined it. The wood, polished from wear, glinted in the light of his old desk lamp, highlighting the careful etching of the cat and the stars. Gianni raised the pendant to his lips and kissed it once, then placed it down on the tabletop. Forcing himself to his feet, Gianni stripped off his shirt, shorts and socks and lay back down on the bed. His tired eyes roved around the room, until they settled on the wall above the bed, where something was missing. A lone rusty nail protruded from the wall, a pale square on the whitewashed wall where the tapestry should have been. Sliding off the bed, Gianni reached underneath until he found the black wooden frame. Taking care not to cut himself, he slid the tapestry out from under the bed and examined the damage. The glass was cracked, but not broken, and he thought it would hold for now. Carefully, Gianni lifted the frame up above the bed and hung it over the head of the protruding nail. For a moment he paused, re-reading his parents’ last message. Always be true to yourself. Perhaps, he thought, he could do it after all. -End-
  15. James Carnarvon

    Chapter 11

    I’m actually glad you’re wrestling with that question. In my mind, at least, there are no ‘bad guys’ in this story.
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