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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 - 6. Thursday

Thursday

On Thursday morning, Reza made his excuses at breakfast time, explaining that he had agreed to spend the day with the local boys he’d met earlier in the week. Mum and Dad seemed a bit surprised by his sudden sociability, but they raised no objection.

Reza wasn’t sure exactly when Gianni and Angelo would be arriving, so he headed straight to the cathedral square after breakfast. As it happened, they weren’t there yet, so he perched for a little while on one of the stone benches under the pine trees and watched the world go by. His camera hung around his neck, marking him out, he now realised, as a hapless tourist.

He thought about Otto.

He tried not to think about Otto.

Looking desperately around the square in search of a distraction, Reza noticed that the cathedral’s great bronze doors were open. Curiously, he rose to his feet and strolled across the square towards the plain but imposing building. Tentatively, he climbed the stone steps.

This was what Christians did at times of confusion and crisis, wasn’t it? Seek guidance at church? Okay, so it wasn’t a mosque, but maybe he would find inspiration all the same. Cautiously, he stepped through the doors.

The cathedral was cool and airy inside, with plain walls whitewashed like the exterior. Sunlight streamed in obliquely through a row of windows up near the roof, bathing the space in a gentle, reflected glow. A rack of votive candles burned brightly near the altar.

Reza wandered up one of the aisles and halted as he found himself next to a confessional. The curtain over the nearer door was open. The temptation was too great to resist: he slid into the booth and sat down on the seat inside, pulling the curtain shut behind him just to see what it felt like.

From behind the wooden fretwork panel in front of him, someone cleared their throat politely.

Sì?

Reza yelped in shock and drew back in his seat. He hadn’t really expected anyone to be in there.

“Um – hi,” he mumbled.

“Do you wish to confess, my son?” came the voice, switching instantly into English.

“Umm… maybe? Only… can we do this face-to-face? This is… kinda weird.”

“Well, this is a little unorthodox, but all right…”

Reza heard movement from the other side of the wooden screen. He popped his head and shoulders out of the confessional just as the priest did the same. They blinked at each other in the light, mirroring each other in a way that was vaguely comical.

The priest, a shortish, rotund man with thinning hair and spectacles, offered Reza a puzzled smile as he took in his appearance.

“Well, my son,” he said, “this doesn’t exactly look like your usual milieu.”

“No,” Reza admitted. “I’m a Muslim. Sort of.”

“Then, ah – how exactly do you think I can I help you?”

Reza shrugged. “I reckon a lot of our teachings are probably pretty similar. I could just use some guidance.”

The priest nodded. “Very well. Pull up a pew.”

“I’ve been having impure thoughts,” Reza explained once they had sat down.

“Well, that is hardly unusual…” the priest began.

“…about another boy,” Reza interrupted.

The priest’s eyebrows rose. “Oh, I see. That sounds like it could be quite a problem for a young man of your – ah – background.”

Reza shrugged. “I don’t care too much about that. I don’t really, you know… practice that hard.”

The priest placed his fingertips together thoughtfully. “And, yet… it still troubles you?”

“Well, it’s messed up, isn’t it? I mean, I have a girlfriend…”

“So, what is it that’s bothering you the most?” the priest asked. “That the object of your thoughts is a boy, or that you’re being disloyal to your girlfriend?”

Reza frowned. “Well, I dunno about Tania anymore,” he admitted. “I’m starting to think that maybe she isn’t my, you know…” he tailed off, wondering exactly what he was trying to say. “I was fine with her a few days ago,” he added in frustration.

“And this boy you speak of…” the priest prompted.

“I’ve only known him for four days!” Reza burst out. “Just, I dunno… tell me I’m being stupid, or something, would you?”

To Reza’s surprise, the priest chuckled. “My son, I couldn’t possibly do such a thing.”

“What…?” Reza protested.

The priest smiled. “This is something you’re just going to have to figure out on your own, I’m afraid. I have no authority to offer you instruction. All I can tell you is this: you are clearly questioning yourself and striving to find your path… and that, I’m pleased to say, is the first hallmark of an enlightened mind.”

Reza frowned, trying to make sense of this rather enigmatic advice. “Umm, thanks, Father…”

“Stefano,” the priest put in.

“You’re not exactly how I would have expected you to be,” Reza said.

The priest shrugged. “Perhaps I’ve learned a thing or two during my time here.”

Reza strolled out of the cathedral a couple of minutes later. His chat with the priest had left him none the wiser, but he felt a little better about himself all the same.

Gianni and Angelo, he saw, had arrived in the square while he was indoors. They were back at their usual bench under the pine trees, chatting happily to one other. Reza jogged down the stone steps, then halted abruptly as two very small boys charged, giggling, across his path, closely pursued by a harassed-looking young woman in a rather old-fashioned dress.

Andiamo, Marco!” the dark-eyed boy who was leading the motley crew shouted back over his shoulder.

Aspettare!” the mousy-haired boy following him called back.

Mi scusa!” the young woman said breathlessly to Reza as she pursued the two unruly boys towards the road tunnel.

Reza shook his head at this odd spectacle, then ambled across the square to meet his new friends.

“Hi, guys,” he ventured as he approached. Both boys looked up, breaking off their latest whispered conversation.

Ciao, Reza,” Gianni said.

“Hi,” Angelo added with his usual amused half-smile. “You made it.”

Reza smiled. “At least you’re both speaking English to me this time.”

Gianni snickered. “Yeah, sorry about Angelo. I had to give him a proper telling-off for that.”

Angelo nodded. “My lips still haven’t completely recovered,” he said.

Reza cringed. “Argh, guys, do you have to be so…”

Gianni smirked. “Gay?” he teased.

“YES!” Reza exclaimed. “You see I, um…”

Am I really just about to tell them everything?

“…I’ve been having these weird thoughts about Otto.”

Oh!” Gianni replied. He put a hand to his mouth that didn’t quite hide his obvious delight… and then they were both off giggling again.

“And now we’re sort of going on a date.”

“Wha…?” Gianni burst into fresh laughter. “This is too much, Reza…”

“It was an accident,” Reza mumbled.

Angelo grinned. “Please say you’ll come for a walk with us,” he said. “I mean… we need to hear more about this.”

“A walk?” Reza protested. “I ditched my parents the last time they suggested something like that. That’s how I ended up running into you guys in the first place.”

Gianni got to his feet. “Trust us,” he said. “Sometimes a walk’s the best way to clear your head, and there are some great, really chilled-out places round here to do just that.”

Reza sighed. “Okay.”

* * *

Gianni and Angelo began by leading Reza up the winding steps that led towards the Villa Cimbrone. They paused by the vegetable garden at the top of the hill to cool down in the faint sea breeze, then, when they reached the villa gates, they turned down a steep flight of steps that led into the valley.

They descended through a patch of woodland in the shadow of the crag on which the villa gardens stood. As they walked, Gianni explained that this was one of the first walks Angelo had taken him on after he moved to Ravello.

“We weren’t really together yet,” he explained. “I hadn’t even realised that I was into boys – although, looking back on it, I guess there were signs I should have seen. I had no idea how Angelo felt, either.”

“So, how did you realise?” Reza asked.

“I had a dream,” Gianni replied. “Pretty corny, huh?”

Angelo clasped his hands together over his chest. “So romantic,” he sighed.

Gianni snickered. “Yeah, who’d have thought you were dream material?”

“Oh, you know I am,” Angelo whispered into his ear; smirking, the other boy swatted him away.

Reza turned to Angelo. “So, you already knew… how you were?” he asked.

Angelo shrugged. “I guess I already knew I was different,” he said, “but Gianni was the first boy who made me see it clearly.”

Reza scratched his head. “And I got the impression that everyone wasn’t necessarily… you know… okay with it straight away.”

Gianni and Angelo exchanged a more serious look.

“Things got pretty dark for a while,” Gianni admitted, “but, you know… the worst of it passed.”

“We had to work at it, though,” Angelo said. “We had to bring people around one by one. Even my big brother Petro needed persuading… although…” he snickered. “That might have had something to do with Gianni outing the two of us at Pietro’s wedding.”

Reza laughed. “You did what?”

Gianni offered his boyfriend a shamefaced smile. “Yeah… not my finest moment.”

Angelo paused to embrace the other boy for a while. “It’s all in the past.”

Reza glanced away while the two boys had their little moment, and saw that they had touched down on a quiet earthen path that skirted the side of the valley amidst lemon plantations and olive groves. He had to admit that he was intrigued by their surroundings, and he began to wonder if he’d missed out by not doing something like this sooner. He lifted up and snapped a couple of photographs while he was waiting.

“So, how long did it take you to officially get together?” Reza asked once the two boys had released each other.

“Most of the summer, I guess,” Gianni replied. “A few things got in the way for a while…”

Papà died, for one thing,” Angelo said quietly.

Gianni nodded. “Yeah… although that kinda brought us closer together, in the end.”

“So, you took weeks… months even?” Reza asked.

He thought of Otto. It had only been days.

Angelo shrugged. “Not exactly. I guess it was really kinda gradual, right from the beginning.”

Gianni nodded. “Even though we didn’t really understand what was going on ourselves, half the time. We really didn’t have anyone to talk to who could help us make sense of it.”

“Is that what we’re doing, Reza?” Angelo asked with a cheeky smile. “For you and your pool friend?”

Reza shrugged. “I guess. At least you’re making it all seem a bit more normal.”

“I’m glad we’re helping,” Angelo said. “I mean,” he added innocently, “who wouldn’t want a holiday fling with a hot German boy?”

Gianni elbowed him hard in the ribs. “Hey!”

Angelo smirked. “Green eyes, Fortuna.”

They walked along the path in peaceful seclusion, alone apart from the scraping cicadas and the lizards that basked in patches of sun; the wily little creatures darted away through cracks in the stone walls at their approach. At one point, the three boys paused so Reza could capture a photograph of one. Under the zoom of his camera lens, he watched the rhythmic pulsing of its throat for a while, hypnotised by its beady black gaze.

After a short time, the path emerged from the valley and began to turn to follow the coast. They paused for a rest in the dappled shade of an olive grove, settling down under the gnarled old trees.

“So, what are you going to do about your ‘date’ with Otto?” Gianni asked.

Reza shrugged. “I dunno. It’s all too weird. I’m… pretty freaked out about the whole thing, to be honest.”

Gianni scratched his head thoughtfully. “It sounds like you’re not totally sure you don’t want something to happen, though?”

“I dunno…” Reza repeated. “Ugh, I’m so flippin’ confused!”

Now it was Angelo’s turn to shrug. “If you want my advice, just… go with the flow, and see what happens,” he said. “What’s it going to matter beyond this week, anyway?”

* * *

Reza hung out with Gianni and Angelo for the rest of the morning. When hunger began to make its presence felt, they went for lunch together in the cathedral square; Reza ordered a panino loaded with mozzarella cheese and grilled aubergines, which turned out to be tasty but quite messy to eat.

As the hottest part of the day loomed, Reza said goodbye to his two friends and retreated to the cool of his hotel room for a while. As it turned out, he had thoroughly enjoyed his walk around the crag with Gianni and Angelo, and he was just as thoroughly annoyed with himself about it: first for enjoying something so obviously grown-up and square, and second for all the time he had wasted by not exploring the area a bit sooner.

At one point, he had even persuaded Gianni and Angelo to pause for a group selfie with a view of the bright blue sea behind them. At least he would have something to remember his new friends by.

Reza didn’t feel able to face Otto just yet, so he took a shower and lay down in his underpants for a while to re-energise, luxuriating in the air-conditioned cool.

He supposed he should text Tania, so he picked up his Nokia off the bedside table and sent her a message.

Hey, how’s it going?

Tania replied right away. ‘whereve u been? >:[

soz, been busy.

Should he tell her about Otto? It was important to be honest in a relationship, right?

…but what would be gained by doing that, really? He wasn’t even sure how he really felt about the other boy. Why mess things up with Tania if this was all just… some passing moment of teenage hormonal chaos?

yea well ive been soooo bored without you D-;

I’ll be back soon. :)

ull owe me big smoochies for leavin me hangin all week!

umm, yay? Hehe.

But, somehow, the idea of kissing Tania didn’t seem as exciting as it once had. There was a different set of lips playing on his mind instead…

Oh, GOD!

* * *

After couple of hours, Reza decided that he could put off his meeting with Otto no longer. He sprayed himself with a fresh coat of deodorant, then searched through his luggage for the best of the clean shirts he still had left…

Best to make an effort for the kid, right?

…and came up with a slim-fit, lavender number that suddenly seemed awfully gay.

Oh, well…

He donned a fresh pair of navy blue shorts, fixed his hair and then set out for the poolside, certain that he would find Otto there.

Sure enough, he found Otto’s family lined up on their usual sun loungers as he approached. The bond-haired boy looked up and sprang to his feet, breaking into an enthusiastic grin as he approached.

“Hi, Reza!” he said eagerly. “You look nice.”

“Umm… hi,” Reza replied with an awkward smile.

Otto turned to his parents and exchanged a few words with them in German, then gathered up his things.

“What did they say?” Reza asked.

Otto shrugged. “They said to have a nice time.”

Reza glanced Otto’s parents, who had returned to their reading without so much as a glance in his direction. Only Otto’s sisters seemed to be watching: they both offered him infuriatingly innocent smiles.

“Um, great, I guess…”

“I need to get dressed,” Otto said.

They returned to the hotel and made their way up the internal stairs until they reached the lobby.

“You want to come with me?” Otto asked.

“Ah… no, it’s okay,” Reza replied quickly. “I’ll wait for you here.”

Otto giggled quietly. “Okay, Reza. Five minutes.”

Phew. Dodged a bullet there…

As promised, Otto bounded back down the stairs a few minutes later. He had upgraded to a tight-fitting, navy-blue shirt and had brushed his mid-blond hair, totally changing his look from sun-worshipper to… something else.

“Check you out with the actual clothing,” Reza said.

Otto smiled. “It is just temporary,” he replied.

“Um…”

Not for the first time, Reza wondered if his date could really be so clumsy with his English, or whether he knew exactly how he sounded.

He laughed nervously. “Let’s go, shall we?”

Otto fell in step beside him eagerly as they stepped out through the front doors, following the wisteria tunnel until they came out on the public street.

“So, do you know where to get the best ice cream?” Otto asked.

“Yeah, I reckon I’ve got that figured,” Reza replied.

“Perhaps we take it in turns to lick a really big one?” Otto suggested lightly.

Another hideous image filled Reza’s mind, and he burst into reluctant laughter. This time, he definitely wasn’t buying his friend’s innocent tone.

“Ugh…” he spluttered, “that’s totally gross, Otto.”

“Yes, totally gross.” Otto replied, beaming winsomely.

Reza threw his eyes to the heavens for a moment.

HOW did this happen to me…? I mean, anyone…?

What would his mates back in Guildford do if they could see him now? Would they point and laugh? Would they turn away in disgust? Would they even recognise him?

“What have you done to me, Otto?” he asked. “Why am I… going out on the town with you? I mean, I have a girlfriend…”

Otto frowned thoughtfully for a moment.

Ja,” he ventured, “but she is not here. And I think… maybe you do want to be here?”

Reza glanced at him. “Sort of,” he ventured.

Otto shrugged. “I’ll take that. I can work with it.”

Oh, man… does NOTHING put this guy off? Is he just riding high on some kind of weird, no consequences, holiday courage, or is he like this ALL the time?

For his own part, the best he felt he could hope for right now was that this was all some kind of holiday madness. He hoped it would pass when the time came to go home.

The early evening sun was still beating down fiercely as they reached the square and began to cross it. Reza cringed in embarrassment as he caught sight of Gianni and Angelo sitting on a bench in the far corner. Angelo gave him a double thumbs-up and Gianni blew a kiss at him, after which they both dissolved into silent giggles.

Thanks a LOT, guys…!

There was an ice cream parlour at the end of the shopping street next to the cathedral. Reza had bought treats to take away there before, but this time he led Otto to an area of outside seating nearby, where he hoped they could eat without being disturbed.

Otto ordered a sweet mix of black cherry, chocolate and vanilla, while Reza went exotic with a combination passionfruit, mango and, of course, lemon. They ordered them sundae style, so they could eat them like a civilised dessert.

As they ate, they chatted. The longer they talked, the harder Reza found it to keep his defences up. There was something about Otto’s open excitement at being there that was almost contagious.

Reza learned quite a bit about Otto’s home life in Munich, including his school, his friends and his passion for winter sports. Reza had to admit that skiing in the Alps sounded pretty awesome. Surprisingly, none of Otto’s friends seemed to know he liked boys. Maybe this whole thing really was a form of strange holiday courage.

Did he have a particular friend back home that he was keen on, Reza asked?

At this, Otto blushed bright red. “Please don’t ask me that,” he said.

Otto was impressed when Reza described his parents’ businesses.

“So, you are rich?” he asked.

“Rich?” Reza replied in surprise. “I dunno… I’ve never thought of it like that.”

Otto smiled. “I’m dating a rich boy. How exciting…!”

Reza uttered another embarrassed laugh. “Ah, come on, Otto…”

Otto walked two fingers across the table and settled his hand on Reza’s for a moment. Thrown into panic at once, Reza tugged it away, glancing around the square in case anyone was watching.

“Um… sorry,” he said. “Not quite ready for that.”

“Worth a try,” Otto said philosophically.

When they had finished their ice cream, Reza called for the bill. Otto reached for his wallet, but Reza stopped him.

“I’ll get this,” he said, and then flushed at once at how the gesture could seem.

Otto grinned. “Okay, rich boy,” he said.

Reza laughed. “Shut up.”

“What now?” Otto asked as they left their table.

Reza hadn’t planned for this. He thought quickly, trying desperately to think of an option that wasn’t too romantic. “Umm… how about a walk?” he suggested lamely, painfully aware of the irony.

“A walk?” Otto smirked. “Okay Reza… take me for a walk.”

Reza shook his head despairingly. Oh, man, he even got off on THAT idea!

And, so, Reza led Otto on a walk around town, retracing his earlier wanderings in reverse. Otto, it seemed, had made it as far as the square and the main shopping street when searching for restaurants with his family, but anything beyond that was new to him.

Once again, Reza wondered at the different expectations people seemed to have of their holidays. Why wouldn’t they want to get out and explore…?

Umm, Reza, have you LISTENED to yourself lately?

When they got to the grand street at the top of the hill, Otto was impressed.

“This is nice,” he said, admiring the old palaces.

Reza smirked. “Yes, it is, Otto… and it’s been here all week.”

Otto smiled. “Are you making fun of me?”

Reza nodded. “YES!”

“Oh, really?” Otto replied, raising an eyebrow. “Naughty boy…!”

Otto reached out and began to tickle him in revenge, leading to a brief but frenzied wrestling match with much reluctant laughter on Reza’s part as he fought to escape the other boy’s surprisingly strong clutches.

“GOD, please stop!” Reza gasped after a while. Snickering, Otto released him.

Reza paused for a moment to catch his breath, recovering from the unexpected assault on his senses… which seemed to have had way more of an effect than it should. He adjusted his clothing, especially his shorts, as he tried to regain his composure and his dignity.

“This way,” he said, moving on down the street towards the public gardens.

* * *

Reza added as many additional detours and wiggles to the walk as his limited knowledge would allow, trying to put off the moment when they would get back to the hotel, but it arrived with a horrifying inevitability.

“So, here we are,” Reza said, as casually as he could manage, as they stood outside the hotel doors. “I guess I’ll go back to my room now.”

“I could come with you?” Otto suggested, trapping Reza in the hopeful stare of his baby-blue eyes.

We’re just going to hang out some more, right? That’s all that’s going to happen here…

“Umm… hehe…” Reza stuttered, “okay.”

Otto beamed. “Right on!” he exclaimed.

Reza facepalmed. “Do you have be so excitable?” he laughed. “It’s so…”

Embarrassing?

Adorable?

Cute?

OH GOD!

Wondering what on Earth he was doing, Reza led the other boy through the lobby and unlocked the door to his room, ushering Otto through into the cool gloom.

Otto looked around the spacious room as Reza shut the door behind him.

“Very nice,” Otto said. “It’s bigger than mine.”

“Well, you know…” Reza said.

Otto nodded. “I know,” he smiled. “Rich boy.”

Reza made his way towards the shutters leading out on the balcony.

“Shall I open this…?” he began, but Otto caught him gently by the arm and shook his head.

“Let’s keep it this way,” he replied.

Um…

Otto was still holding Reza’s arm. He drew a little closer.

“Do you like me, Reza?” he said quietly. “I’ve been hoping…”

Reza’s mind was threatening freefall. Complex thoughts seemed very far away right now.  “Umm… hehe…” he managed, “a little, I guess?”

Otto’s mouth quirked in a smile. “I can work with that.”

Otto moved closer again, and before Reza had even had a chance to process this, the German boy’s lips were pressing softly against his own.

Part of Reza wanted to pull back, but the rest of him… well… somehow, it wouldn’t let go.

Otto’s arms snuck around his back, and Reza horrified himself by responding in kind.

Am I really doing this? AAARGH!

Time and consciousness seemed to have become jumbled, and Reza surrendered to it. Now there were hands undoing his shirt buttons… someone else’s hands. Okay, fine… whatever…

Just when, exactly, had Otto’s shirt ended up on the back of the chair next to the shutters? He really wasn’t sure. His own… he really had no idea where that had got to. Now they were making out, chest to chest, with absolutely nothing between them.

Suddenly, randomly, Reza began to laugh. Otto drew back for a moment, smiling in a dazed sort of way.

“What is it, Reza?”

“I have a girlfriend!” Reza giggled, his knees sagging slightly.

“Do you want me to stop?” Otto asked.

Reza glanced up at the other boy’s inquisitive stare.

“Um…” he managed, but then he started laughing again. Otto cast his eyes downwards for a moment, smiling at what he saw there.

Starting to chuckle himself, Otto nudged Reza back a little, and he fell back onto the bed. At once, Reza flipped onto his belly and tried to crawl away, still giggling, but Otto caught up with him before he could escape at the other side. One hand came down to either side of Reza’s chest, trapping him, and Reza turned onto his back, only to find himself staring straight up into those baby-blue eyes.

“Um… hi,” he said.

“Hi,” Otto smiled, then he dipped his head down a little and, um… something began to happen.

Soft kisses were working their way further and down Reza’s chest and stomach. From his vantage point, all he could really see was Otto’s blond head bobbing about as he approached… then there was a zipping sound.

Oh God, was that my SHORTS?!

Nope, sorry. This officially can’t be happening. There’s no way that I’m about to be…

OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD! OH MY GOD!

Reza’s fingers tightened on the bedsheets, digging into them with desperate strength even as he seemed to float up into the air from somewhere round his midriff. He looked on with wide eyes.

Hello, reality? Please… wake me up when he’s done!

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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I think with Reza it’s important to avoid labelling ( and self-labelling). It all depends on how he processes this.   
fabulous story, James.  

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My fellow readers have dissected this chapter so thoroughly @James Carnarvon they have left me with only one observation to note which was not noted by anyone else "Reza jogged down the stone steps, then halted abruptly as two very small boys charged, giggling, across his path, closely pursued by a harassed-looking young woman in a rather old-fashioned dress. “Andiamo, Marco!” the dark-eyed boy who was leading the motley crew shouted back over his shoulder".

I could not have imagined being so fond of Marco when he first made an appearance in the Ravello series, but by the end of the "Dani books" I found myself feeling very "protective" of him for want of a more appropriate word. For him to make an even fleeting appearance in this story warmed my heart. He is a character whose back story I would love to see explored by your good self @James Carnarvon if you are ever inclined to do so. 

I will now proceed to read the final chapter. I have already noticed the dreaded Completed status of this story. 

Edited by Summerabbacat
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