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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

La Bella Vacanza - 3. Monday

Monday

“Amalfi?” Reza echoed.

Mum nodded, sipping on her breakfast cappuccino. “Down on the seafront. The guidebook says it has quite a buzz to it.”

“Like, more than this place?”

“Come on, Reza,” Dad interjected. “Are you still claiming that you’re bored here?”

Reza smirked slightly. He was pushing their buttons, and he suspected they knew it. “Well, who wouldn’t be?”

“I saw you with your camera, yesterday,” Dad replied. “You were fascinated, and you know it.”

“I don’t do fascinated,” Reza said. He stretched and brushed a few croissant crumbs off his bright white shirt. “That sort of thing just doesn’t fit the image.”

“All right, dude,” Dad commented wryly. He turned to Mum. “Shame on us, Helen… how selfish we’ve been, dragging our poor boy to such a terribly dull place.”

Mum placed her coffee cup carefully down on the table and leant forwards, staring intently into Reza’s eyes. Reza cringed slightly: he knew that look, and he could never stand up to it for too long.

“I swear to you, Reza,” she said in an intense, over-exaggerated whisper. “I will get a smile out of you before this week is out.”

Reza could feel his self-control cracking already. “Quit it, Mum,” he protested, but then the battle was lost. He was forced to glance away, trying to conceal his laughter. When he was able to face his mother again, she was sitting back in her chair, looking pleased with herself.

“Such a sunny smile,” she glowed. “You should let it out more often.”

“I’m sixteen, Mum. I’m supposed to be cool. Smiling is so…” he faltered.

Was I about to say ‘gay’?

It was a word that he and his mates had been throwing around casually for years, but it suddenly seemed discordant.

Why DIDN’T I say it?

But Mum interrupted his thoughts.

“It looks like the buses leave every twenty minutes or so,” she said, peering at the guidebook. “We’ll need to buy our tickets in advance.”

“Wait a minute… buses?” Reza protested.

Mum gave him an amused smile and nodded. “Unless you’d prefer to walk.”

“Umm… no, thanks,” Reza replied, picturing the long, steep descent through the valley and the foothills.

“Poor Reza,” Dad teased again. “First, deathly boredom, and now no air-conditioned SUV to ferry him personally from place to place.”

“Yeah,” Reza concurred. “What are you guys doing to me?”

* * *

As it turned out, the bus was air-conditioned, but it was so full, and the sun streaming in through the windows was so strong, that it scarcely made a difference. It was like an oven anyway.

Half the town, it seemed, wanted to go down to the coast that morning. Reza and his parents had arrived early and were lucky enough to get seats, but the standing room in the aisle was jam-packed. Obvious tourists with cameras, rucksacks and sunhats were jammed in cheek-by-jowl with weary-looking locals who looked more than ready for the summer holiday season to be over. Watching them swaying back and forth as the bus tackled the first few hairpin bends down the valley was amusing at first, but Reza soon got bored with it and turned his attention to the window.

Rocky cliffs rose around them as they descended the valley between Ravello and the village on the side of the neighbouring mountain. Now and then, they passed a small olive grove or lemon plantation, but they were mostly surrounded by woodland scrub.

Left to his thoughts, Reza soon found himself brooding about the two boys he had met in the square yesterday. Back at school, being ‘gay’ was something to be mocked or made fun of. Anyone who admitted to it would probably be committing social suicide. Reza had never even met a gay person before, so far as he knew. But Gianni and Angelo had seemed so unrepentant about it, so unashamed… almost proud. They made it seem like it was perfectly normal for two boys to be together… and had even laughed at him for being slightly weirded out by it all.

I thought this was a Catholic country? I didn’t think they allowed that sort of thing.

Suddenly, Reza wasn’t sure what to think any more. Part of him even wanted to meet the two boys again so he could find out more about them.

The bus driver blared his twin-tone air horn as they rounded a particularly blind hairpin bend, wrenching Reza back to reality. They had almost touched down on the coast road, and the sea was very close now. Needlessly, Reza touched the camera hanging round his neck to make sure it was still there.

It felt a bit strange to be surrounded by traffic and crowds again as the bus swept down into Amalfi. The resort sat in a deep impression in the mountainous landscape, surrounded by rocky, tree-crowned ridges and peaks. Ancient chapels and watchtowers, perched high up the craggy slopes, gazed out over the town. The vivid blue sea lapped at a grey sandy beach covered by ranks of colourful parasols. A few more umbrella pines dotted a seafront promenade backed by grand, terracotta-roofed apartment blocks, while smaller buildings clustered densely up the terraced slopes at the side of the valley. In the distance, Reza could see a marina lined with glinting pleasure boats. Passenger ferries plied their trade from a stone pier in the middle of the cove.

The bus dropped them off at a hot, shimmering square on the waterfront, and they followed the tides of visitors heading in amongst the buildings, glad to escape the noise and fumes of the traffic that crept and honked its way along the congested coast road. Surrounded by throngs of people, they found themselves in another square dominated by an imposing cathedral with a striking black and white tiled façade. A busy main street headed onwards up the valley, lined on both sides with colourful gift shops and boutique clothing stores.

“Wonderful,” Mum said, her eyes glinting. “Shopping!

“Oh, boy,” Dad muttered. “I’d better take out another small business loan.”

* * *

It wasn’t that Reza didn’t enjoy Amalfi, exactly… it was certainly a livelier place than Ravello, and he could easily imagine how you could spend the day there and not get bored. What with all the shops and cafés, crowds of people to watch, an actual beach to visit and maybe even water sports to try, it looked there was plenty to do.

All the same, as they slogged up and down the packed main street, filling shopping bags with clothes, colourful ceramics, fancy pasta shapes, lemon soaps, lemon sweets and lemon liqueur, Reza began to feel hot and bothered and hemmed in by the crowds. Down here, at the actual seaside, the air seemed stiller and stuffier somehow, the heat more intense and wearisome.

Could it be that he was actually missing the peace and quiet of their mountain retreat?

Reza shook himself and told himself not to be stupid. He took out his phone and texted Tania.

Filthy hot here 😮,’ he wrote. ‘What u doin?

hangin’ at Shireen’s. its rainin again D-;. wot bout u?

Mum’s shopping.

lol – ill send out the search party if ur not back in a week

Reza snickered. ‘R U dissing my Mum?

nah mommas boy honest XD

By the time they eventually sat down at a café for lunch, Reza didn’t think he would be able to face another ceramic bowl or piece of lemon-themed merchandise for several days to come. Looking at the groaning carrier bags heaped up at Mum’s feet, he hoped his parents had paid for a generous baggage allowance on their flight. It looked like they might need another suitcase.

“So, is Amalfi more to your liking, son?” Dad asked. “A bit more exciting?”

“It’s okay, I guess,” Reza replied. “but I’m ready to get back now.”

“Back up to boring old Ravello?” Dad replied with a puzzled smile.

Reza nodded. “Yeah.”

Dad blinked in surprise. “That’s a turnaround…”

Reza shrugged. “I’d just like to spend some time by the pool.”

…which was true enough, wasn’t it? Maybe the German girls would be there again.

* * *

Reza wasn’t disappointed. When he made it to the pool area that afternoon, the German family were already in their usual spot, lined up on the same five sun loungers. He suspected they had been there ever since this morning. Somehow, Reza doubted that anyone else would get a go on those particular loungers this week.

Reza took up position in the same general area as before. He had brought a book with him this time, mainly to give him a good excuse to be there on his own so he could watch the sisters without coming across as creepy.

To begin with, Reza reclined on the sun lounger without staring at the other family, enjoying just being there. He closed his eyes for a few moments, letting the afternoon sun wash over him, listening to the cicadas scraping away in the pine trees on the edge of the cathedral square.

That feeling again… could it be that he was actually glad to be back amid the peace and quiet of the hills?

Reza frowned. That was impossible, surely… it wouldn’t be like him at all.

Perhaps a swim would help. Hiding his Nokia carefully in the folds of his towel, he dived in at the deep end of the pool and swam a few lengths at a brisk crawl, shattering the peace of the poolside setting for a while. The rippling water felt wonderfully cooling on his bare skin after a busy morning spent traipsing around the dusty streets of Amalfi.

In between lengths, he was vaguely aware that the German boy was watching him again. He shrugged off this vaguely annoying attention and concentrated on perfecting his rhythm.

When he’d had enough, Reza hoisted himself up the pool ladder and stretched back out on his sun lounger without bothering to dry himself. The fierce afternoon sun, he figured, would do that soon enough without his help.

Once he’d got comfortable, Reza glanced idly over towards the German family, hoping to see what the sisters were doing, only to find himself staring in dismay.

Oh, crap… he’s coming over!

Sure enough, the teenage son had stirred from his sun lounger and was strolling round the head of the pool. His build was light but athletic, and he seemed quite at ease in his purple swimming shorts and flip-flops. His mid-blond hair shone in the sun. Reza thought he looked like a proper golden boy, with the sort of effortless good looks that so disrespected the painstaking labours that lesser beings like Reza had to go through to look attractive.

Reza eyed the German boy suspiciously as he perched on the edge of the neighbouring sun lounger, looking down at him with an enigmatic smile. His soft-looking hands patted a gentle rhythm on the edge of his seat.

Hallo,” he said.

“Um… hi.” Reza replied.

“You’re a good swimmer.”

“Umm… thanks, I guess? I’m Reza.”

“Otto,” the other boy replied, extending a hand. Trapped in the gaze of those baby-blue eyes, Reza shook it dubiously.

“Pleased to… um… meet you. Have you been here before?”

The boy named Otto nodded. “Ja… I mean, yes. When I was twelve. We had a lovely time, so here we are again.”

“You like the sun, huh?”

Otto smiled. “For sure.”

Reza sat up a little straighter, wanting to speak to the other boy on his own level. “Don’t you get, like… bored, sitting here all day?”

Otto shrugged. “I… am not bored now,” he said simply.

Reza eyed him warily. “Oh-kaaay…”

“You checked in behind us,” Otto observed. “You were here yesterday afternoon.”

Reza nodded. “True.”

Otto frowned. “Then where have you been all day?”

Reza smiled slightly. “We didn’t come here just to sit by the pool the whole time,” he said. “Have you even been up to the villa gardens?”

The blond-haired boy’s open expression clouded slightly. “What gardens?”

Reza snickered. “Oh, boy…” he said, sinking back down onto his sun lounger.

Otto smiled obediently, although he looked confused. “What’s so funny?”

“Nothing,” Reza replied. “Tell me about your sisters.”

“Oh, them?” Otto replied distractedly, glancing across at his family without much interest. “The big one’s called Lina. The smaller one’s Ingrid.”

“Lina…” Reza sighed, watching the girl in question, who was now in the middle of applying a fresh layer of sun cream. “I like that.”

As he said this, Lina asked Ingrid to rub some more sun cream onto her back, much to Reza’s pleasure.

“Do you have any brother or sister, Reza?” Otto asked.

Reza shook his head, glancing idly back at the other boy. “No. It’s just me.” He paused. “You speak English pretty well, Otto.”

Otto grinned. “Ja, das ist gut,” he replied, and they both laughed.

Reza sat up again, surprised at himself.

What am I doing? It wasn’t THAT funny.

It was a totally lame joke, in fact… but, somehow, Reza couldn’t quite bring himself to tell Otto that. The German boy seemed too earnestly pleased to have made a friend.

That was all that was happening here, wasn’t it? The other boy wasn’t… checking him out?

Come ON, Reza. You’re seeing gay boys everywhere now!

Reza scratched his head in confusion. The two boys he had met yesterday must have really got under his skin, somehow. Even now, he could still picture them, giggling away at his awkward reaction to them.

But Otto, it seemed, wasn’t finished. He fixed Reza with a cheeky smile.

“So, if you have no brother or sister, I can have you all to myself?” He asked innocently.

Reza stared at him in disbelief.

Oh GOD!

Okay, so maybe that wasn’t appropriate language for someone who was supposed to be a Muslim. But still… oh, GOD!

“Ummm… Otto, what are you…” Reza began, unsure whether he should be amused or horrified. He could feel an awkward laugh trying to burst out of his chest, and hoped desperately that the other boy couldn’t hear it in his voice.

“Sorry,” Otto said with a smile. “I just think you are cute.”

OH GOD!

“Seriously…” Reza began, desperate for the other boy to stop… but then he put a hand to his own face in horror.

Ugh. Am I actually BLUSHING right now?

At that moment, Reza’s phone chimed. He lay back down to pick it up with a sigh of relief, desperately grateful for the timely interruption.

THANK YOU, Tania!

“Who’s that?” Otto asked as Reza glanced at his girlfriend’s message.

“Ummm… nobody. I’ll just be a minute, Otto.”

“Okay, sure.”

Reza concentrated on his phone, carefully avoiding the other boy’s bright blue eyes. It gave him much-needed breathing space.

hey there sexy,’ Tania’s message read. ‘wot u doin now? mum still shoppin? :D

Nah, I’m by the pool now.

ooo, sounds nice. jells again D-;

There’s this German boy here… he’s totally flirting with me!

EW, Reza! wtf XD

‘lol I know, right?

‘shove him in the pool or sometin! XD’

Haha… I’ll think about it. x

Smiling, Reza returned the Nokia to the folds of his towel. Otto, he saw, was also smiling, hoping to be let in on the joke.

“What’s up?” he asked.

“Um, nothing…” Reza replied.

“Okay,” Otto replied mildly. He lay back on his sun lounger, stretching his golden frame out in the dappled shade of one of the small trees.

“So, you’re just going to stay here with me now, are you?” Reza asked.

“If you don’t mind,” Otto replied nonchalantly. “I’m bored with them over there.”

“No… you just go right ahead,” Reza said. The urge to giggle stole back over him again, and he worked hard to swallow it. He stared at the other boy, unsure what to say or do next.

This was turning into one seriously strange afternoon.

Copyright © 2022 James Carnarvon; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

49 minutes ago, Ivor Slipper said:

There's a wordplay joke in that sentence, but I won't go there...

When has a wordplay joke ever been too far to go?

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11 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

When has a wordplay joke ever been too far to go?

In this instance, I think just mentioning it is there will enable those so inclined to discover it for themselves. 😉

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1 minute ago, Ivor Slipper said:

In this instance, I think just mentioning it is there will enable those so inclined to discover it for themselves. 😉

Succinctly put.

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1 hour ago, Ivor Slipper said:

In this instance, I think just mentioning it is there will enable those so inclined to discover it for themselves. 😉

But it's so much better from you.

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5 hours ago, James Carnarvon said:

Succinctly put.

Groan, talk about an attempt at successful rejoinder...

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This is moving along nicely. Otto took a gamble there and it paid off. Wonder what other strange things are going to happen to Reza during the rest of the day?

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The best thing Reza's parents could have done for him at his age is exactly what they have done.

He's left an insular cocoon of his life back home and all of a sudden he is finding out that life, as he knows it, is not all all black or white, that there are varying shades and nuances.

That he is growing on this trip, is a testament to his internal dialogue, finding some subtitle and some overt differences are normal! 

I imagine Reza's life will never be the same again, and that's for the better!!

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Late to start this story, but appreciating the vicarious vacation!  I do agree with @drsawzall in the assessment of his parents:  he is most fortunate (and I bet he'll be most appreciative of them as he grows even older!).  Wonderful writing!

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