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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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

The Star in my Eye - 7. Chapter 7

Gianni awoke on Christmas Eve to find Sami’s bedroom door open and his bed slept in, but empty.

Curiously, he padded down the wooden stairs to the dining area in his bare feet and pyjama bottoms. There was no sign of the little boy on the upper ground floor, either.

Gianni had just enough time to begin to feel concerned before he heard rustling sounds coming from the den downstairs. He crept on down the spiral stairs, wondering whether he was about to catch Sami in the middle a loss of self-control.

But, as it turned out, the little boy had not succumbed to temptation. Watched with curious, doggy interest by Alfredo, and dressed in nothing but a pair of pyjama shorts, Sami was poking about in the small pile of presents under the Christmas tree, examining the gift tags. He had already turned on the colourful fairy lights, which sparkled cheerfully amidst the prickly green branches. There was no sign that he had attempted to open anything.

“It’s Chris-mas!” Sami said excitedly, looking up at Gianni with no guilt in his large brown eyes.

Gianni nodded. “It certainly is. Felice Natale, Sami.”

“Some of these presen’s are for me!” Sami observed.

Gianni smiled. “Of course they are. You didn’t think Angelo and I would leave you out, did you?”

Unexpectedly, Sami sprang across the room and threw his arms around Gianni’s waist.

“Thank you!” he cried.

Awkwardly, Gianni wrapped his arms around the little boy’s bare shoulders. “Steady on, son,” he laughed. “You don’t even know if you like your presents yet.”

“I’ll like them!” Sami insisted stubbornly.

Another set of soft footsteps on the stairs announced the arrival of Angelo, who chuckled at the scene unfolding in front of him.

“I see someone was too excited to stay in bed,” he remarked. “Although… as to which one of you it was…”

Gianni waved the joke away. “What do you think, Angelo?” he asked. “Do we have time to open a few of these before we start on the Christmas dinner?”

Angelo nodded with an amused half-smile. “You’re the expert, Gianni. I’ve never roasted a whole turkey before, but… I don’t know how much longer we can ask poor Sami to wait.”

* * *

With much still to be done before they could get the Christmas dinner in the oven, Gianni and Angelo hastily dressed in the previous day’s clothes. Showers would have to wait.

They got Sami dressed in the most festive thing he owned, which was a warm jumper in a mottled bottle-green colour that reminded Gianni of Christmas wreaths and holly, and reassembled hastily in the den. By unspoken agreement, Gianni and Angelo sat down on the corner sofa, allowing Sami to take the lead in picking and handing out the presents.

Sami went straight for a lumpy, roughly-wrapped gift near the front of the little pile of presents, which he waved at Gianni proudly. Gianni took it from him and inspected the gift tag.

To GiANNi,’ it read in wobbly, childish writing, ‘froM SAMi.

“Thanks, son,” Gianni said. “What’s this you’ve got for me?”

“It’s a…!” Sami began, but Angelo quickly pulled him onto his lap, stifling the next word with a couple of fingers to the mouth.

“Shh!” he whispered.

With a chuckle, Gianni tore off the loose wrapping paper, discarding it in the bin bag that had been brought down for the purpose, and examined his gift.

It was a mug: not a traditional porcelain coffee cup, but a large, heavy-duty mug of the type Gianni had grown up with. Emblazoned on one side in large black letters was the slogan ‘#1 Dad’.

Gianni laughed. “Thanks, son, this is brilliant,” he said, reaching out for a hug, but Sami was already off, scuttling back over to the pile of presents.

“Get one for yourself this time,” Angelo told him.

“Okay!” Sami replied eagerly.

Sami unearthed a small, floppy package and tore the wrapping free, revealing an A.C. Milan football shirt. His face lit up when he turned it over, revealing the name SAMI on the back and a large number seven.

“Coo’!” he yelped. “It’s me!”

Gianni grinned at his partner. “Nice one, Angelo,” he whispered.

Next, Sami thrust a large, squashy parcel into Angelo’s hands.

“From you?” Angelo asked Gianni, who nodded.

Looking intrigued, Angelo unwrapped the package, revealing a comfy-looking cushion. It was printed with a hand-drawn silhouette of two cats staring up at a single star; their tails twined together, forming a heart shape in the centre of the picture.

Angelo shot Gianni a familiar half-smile. “Two pussycats!” he said. “I love it.”

Sami was already working to open a chunky rectangular parcel.

Wha’?” he exclaimed, his mouth dropping open in amazement as he revealed a child’s digital camera; Gianni and Angelo had chosen it together on their laptop one evening, making sure to pick one with a chunky plastic housing designed for durability.

“Now you’ll be able to show us how you see the world,” Gianni said, “just like Claudia!”

“Thanks!” Sami breathed, staring at them both with his large brown eyes.

From Angelo, Sami served Gianni up with a warm woolly jumper and an artist’s easel that Angelo had made himself from local chestnut wood. Gianni ran his hands over its smooth lines admiringly, realising just how much care and attention had gone into it. He thanked his partner with a kiss.

Sami furnished Angelo with a pair of ceramic salt and pepper shakers with a lemon design, which Gianni had bought for the little boy to give him. When Angelo opened another of Gianni’s presents, a tight, fitted t-shirt made of a stretchy material, Gianni answered his partner’s surprised look with a wink.

Sami was soon outfitted with some smart white Nike Air trainers, a set of metallic finish colouring pencils that had him grinning like crazy, and the largest teddy bear Gianni had ever seen. Soon, they each had just one present left.

“An iPad…?” Angelo exclaimed in surprise on opening his last gift from Gianni. “How did you afford this?”

Gianni shrugged. “I’ve been saving some of my pay from the hotel. I thought it would be so much easier, you know? Like when you go out to give quotes to potential customers?”

Angelo nodded. “It’s awesome. Thanks, Gianni!”

Sami laughed delightedly as he tore open his final parcel to reveal a small, turquoise tie-dye t-shirt and a pair of smart, dark blue jeans.

“Yay!” he giggled. “Now I can dress like Dani!”

Angelo grinned at Gianni. “Great choice,” he murmured.

Which left just one last gift, a small, understated rectangular parcel from Angelo to Gianni.

Angelo gave him a slightly apologetic look. “I don’t know… this seems a bit lame after what you and Sami did for my birthday a couple of weeks ago.”

Curiously, Gianni opened the wrapping at one end and slid out a perfectly ordinary-looking, off-the-shelf picture frame. He turned it over and stared, momentarily caught short.

It was a photograph of Gianni and Angelo themselves, aged about fifteen. Examining it closely, Gianni supposed it must have been taken soon after their relationship went public – long enough for the dust from the disastrous wedding incident to have settled, but not long enough for them to look much more grown-up; Gianni still had his mop of slightly-too-long teenage hair, and Angelo looked just as beautiful as Gianni remembered him from that first, long summer together – a time seared deep on his memory. The photograph seemed to have been taken on the sun-dappled front terrace of Angelo’s family home in Scala; they had their arms around each other’s shoulders and seemed to be laughing at something the photographer had just said. They looked so happy.

To his surprise, Gianni found a tear in his eye, and he brushed it away.

“This is…” he breathed, “I love it. Thanks!” He frowned for a moment. “Who took it, though?”

“I’m not sure,” Angelo admitted. “I found it on the family computer. But… I think it must have been Anna.”

Gianni nodded slowly. “That makes sense. She was one of the first people to really get that we were serious about each other.”

“Can I see?” Sami asked, reaching for the picture. Gianni passed it carefully to him, and the little boy goggled at it. “That you…?”

Gianni nodded. “Yes, that’s us. We were young once, too!”

Angelo elbowed him gently in the ribs. “Hey!” he chided him. “We’re still young, Gianni. Don’t you forget it.”

* * *

While Sami took himself off upstairs to experiment with his new camera, Gianni and Angelo set to mad work in the kitchen, attempting to ready the turkey for roasting. Gianni had been busy, working with the local butcher shop to source all the ingredients he needed, or at least the closest he could get to them from what was readily available in the area.

Soon, everything was laid out on the breakfast bar. At one end, the raw turkey sat on a large plate, looming intimidatingly over everything else. Next to it, there was a small mountain of salsiccia fresca, onions and pancetta, destined to be turned into sausage meat stuffing and pigs in blankets. In the middle of the bar there were eggs, butter, bread for crumbing, flat leafed parsley, dried mixed herbs, salt, pepper and an enormous Ravello lemon, ready to be turned into the lemon and herb stuffing that Gianni remembered his mother making. Finally, at the far end, there were the two stalks of Brussels sprouts and a large bag of potatoes for roasting.

Angelo exhaled slowly. “I don’t know, Gianni,” he said. “Are you sure you know how to cook all this stuff?”

Gianni nodded. “I remember pretty well and, what I wasn’t sure about, I looked up.”

Angelo shook his head disbelievingly. “It all looks so heavy.”

“And we haven’t even got to the Christmas pudding, yet,” Gianni added. At Angelo’s nervous look, he chuckled. “Don’t worry, I picked up some antacids as well.”

Angelo smiled helplessly. “All right… just tell me what to do.”

Gianni thrust the onions towards him. “Could you chop these and soften them in a pan? I’ll start turning out the sausage meat.”

They set to work; Angelo, always adept with his hands, made short work of chopping the onions with a sharp kitchen knife. Gianni found emptying the sausages easier than he had expected, and had soon moved onto shredding the pancetta for the stuffing.

“Sami’s not going to be able to eat all this stuff, is he?” Angelo said, watching Gianni’s efforts with the pancetta as he stirred the onions, which were sizzling gently in a small frying pan.

Gianni looked up. “No, I guess not. But… it’s not that big a deal, right? He can just have a bit more of the other things. The rest of us shouldn’t have to miss out.”

“I hope he gets that,” Angelo replied. “But… this is your show today, Gianni. I know you want to do the full traditional thing. I’ll go along with whatever you decide.”

“Thanks,” Gianni replied, only slightly uneasily.

He’ll get it, right?

“I’m glad you liked the photo,” Angelo said after a while.

Gianni nodded. “It really took me back… I was almost there for a minute.”

“I do miss those days,” Angelo admitted, “when it was just the two of us.”

Gianni gave him a curious glance, remembering how touched he had seemed by Sami’s birthday present.

“I thought you were starting to take to Sami?” he asked.

Angelo gave him a slightly awkward smile. “Oh, I am,” he said. “He’s great. But this…” he tailed off, as if trying to find the right words.

“…wasn’t quite your idea of parenthood?” Gianni ventured.

Angelo inclined his head. “I guess not.”

Gianni frowned. “But… what else is there, for people like us, I mean?”

Angelo dabbed a little olive oil into a frying pan and set it to heat up, then shuffled over to join Gianni. He threaded an arm around his waist for a moment.

“I suppose I imagined us both a little older,” he said, “maybe raising a couple of bambini we’d produced ourselves.”

Gianni gave him a puzzled frown. “But how…?”

Angelo shrugged slightly. “There are other ways… like surrogacy. They let same-sex couples adopt here if the child is a birth child of one of the parents.”

Gianni felt his heart sink a little, and he brushed his partner’s arm away. “I’m sorry…” he mumbled. “I guess I’ve rushed you into this.”

Angelo shook his head. “Don’t look at it like that,” he entreated Gianni, calming him with a quick kiss on the cheek. “We had an opportunity to see what parenthood was like, and we both agreed to take it… I mean, Sami needed a home right away. It’s not like he could wait a few years for us to be ready…”

“But…?” Gianni prompted, sensing that his partner had more to say.

Angelo sighed slightly. “It’s just… you’re still the star in my eye, Gianni. You’re still the one my world revolves around. I…” he hesitated. “I’m not sure I was quite ready to take on someone so totally dependent as Sami. I mean, we have so little in common, and he has all this emotional baggage…” he gave Gianni a slightly sad little smile. “I don’t think I was quite finished being young together.”

* * *

The guests started arriving a little before two o’clock, ready for the late Christmas lunch, some of them still dressed in their best church clothes from Mass that morning, others dressed more informally.

By then, the turkey had been cooking for some hours, and the potatoes were roasting around the edges, taking full advantage of the enormous range oven they had fitted. The Brussels sprouts had been trimmed and peeled ready for boiling, with crosses cut into the harder core to make sure they cooked through, and the Christmas pudding was poised for steaming. Gianni and Angelo, now both freshly showered and changed, had washed up everything they could during the course of the morning. Against the odds, everything was under control.

Pietro and Anna were the first to arrive. They came bearing two bottles of good quality white wine from one of the local producers who supplied their restaurant, Da Rossi. The wine list was a point of pride for Pietro, who liked to point out to guests at their restaurant that the bottle on their table was produced right here in Ravello.

Buon Natale,” Pietro said, embracing Angelo and shaking Gianni’s hand firmly. “A traditional British Christmas dinner? I’m intrigued.”

Anna greeted each of them with a warm smile and a kiss on each cheek. “I’m just glad we’ll all be together.”

There was a thundering of feet on the wooden steps and Sami appeared, eager to show the guests his new camera. He was followed by Alfredo the dog, who must have been keeping him company in his room.

“Ciao, zio Pietro!” he piped up. “Look what Gia’i an’ Angelo gave me!”

“Wow, let’s see!” Pietro replied with exaggerated enthusiasm. He knelt so Sami could show him all the buttons and knobs. “This looks like a great gadget.”

Anna chuckled as Sami babbled away excitedly, showing Pietro all the functions he had figured out so far, as if the young businessman had never seen a camera before.

“Boys and their toys,” she murmured to Gianni and Angelo, brushing her long dark hair behind her ears.

Pietro whispered something in Sami’s ear and tickled him playfully for a second. The little boy giggled, pulling away in protest at the same time. Beside them, Alfredo barked excitedly, tail wagging; Pietro gave him a scratch between the ears.

“Why don’t you let us take the young maestro here down to the den for a bit?” Pietro suggested. “We can teach him how to become a true paparazzo while you wait for the other guests.”

Next to him, Sami nodded vigorously.

“Don’t go without a drink,” Angelo said.

“Right…” Pietro nodded. “A beer, please… and another one for Sami.”

No!” Sami laughed.

“All right, then,” Pietro conceded. “An aranciata.”

Angelo passed them two drinks from the fridge and they set off down the spiral stairs.

“What would you like, Anna?” Gianni asked.

“Just a sparkling water, thanks,” she said. At Angelo’s raised eyebrow, she laughed. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m just saving myself for the wine.”

Angelo grinned and passed her a cool glass bottle.

“Pietro really seems to have settled into his ‘cool uncle’ role,” Gianni told her. “Who’d have thought he’d be so good with children?”

Anna smiled. “What can I say? He’s not all business. I wouldn’t have married him if he were.”

“I think you could make great parents, one day.”

Anna gave him a neutral gesture. “When we’re ready, perhaps. Right now, we still have our hands full with the restaurant.”

There was another knock at the door. Angelo opened it to reveal Anna’s father, who had arrived alone, free of his hotel uniform for once, with another bottle of wine in one hand.

Papà!” Anna beamed, embracing the new arrival.

Sergio chuckled in surprise, hugging her back. “Would that my customers would always make me feel so welcome,” he remarked, before turning to Gianni and Angelo. “Compliments of the season,” he rumbled, bowing graciously.

“Would you like a Cognac to whet your appetite, Sergio?” Gianni asked.

“Alas,” Sergio replied with a nod, “you know me too well.”

Once Anna and her father had been dispatched to the den with their drinks, a gentle hum of conversation started up below, punctuated by Sami’s enthusiastic babble. Gianni fired up the cooker rings, heating the water for the sprouts and the Christmas pudding.

“So far, so good,” Angelo said.

“I hope all the others are having a great day with their families,” Gianni said.

Angelo nodded. “Me too. Although…” he twisted his mouth awkwardly. “I’m not holding out too much hope for Marco.”

Gianni shook his head. “Me neither. Do you think we should have invited him?”

Angelo shrugged. “That might just have made things worse.”

“I guess. I just wish there was more we could do.”

Last to arrive were Marta and Claudia. They knocked on the door together; Marta’s mouth creased in a smile when Gianni opened the door to them, and they exchanged greetings before she stepped inside to embrace Angelo.

Buon Natale, Mamma,” Angelo said as they exchanged kisses.

Claudia grinned at Gianni as she crossed the threshold. “Where’s the little troublemaker?” she asked.

“In the den,” Gianni replied. “Just follow his voice! But… grab a drink first.”

Soon, everyone was equipped with a glass, and Gianni and Angelo were able to spend a few minutes with their guests before the dinner demanded their attention once again. They found Marta and Sergio ensconced on the sofa together, while the others milled around the cosy little room, admiring the Christmas tree or the glowing embers in the wood burner. Sami had monopolised Claudia and was bombarding her with question after question about his camera. Claudia, who was an adept photographer, was doing her best to explain.

“I love what you’ve done with this space,” Anna said to Angelo. “When I remember how it used to be, back in Nonna and Nonno’s day… nothing more than a chilly storage room.”

From her perch on the sofa, Marta nodded. “They say a good kitchen is the heart of the house. I suppose that’s true; after all, Marina and Vittorio always made us feel very welcome upstairs, but it’s nice, sometimes, to have somewhere a bit… softer to retreat to.” She cast her eyes across the room, to the corner where Claudia and the little boy were still busy talking. “Do you like your new home, Sami?”

Sami looked up for a moment; his answer was simple.


Gianni and Angelo exchanged a satisfied glance. It seemed like their old apartment was already forgotten.

* * *

The turkey was cooked and resting on a plate, the roast potatoes and the pigs in blankets were waiting in pre-heated dishes and the Brussels sprouts had been cooked until they were al dente and still a fresh, appetising green. Angelo summoned the diners to the table while Gianni put the finishing touches to the dinner, making the gravy from the turkey’s own juices. One by one, the guests ascended the spiral staircase and took their seats politely, except for Sami, who was bouncing around the room, chatting rapidly to everyone with a faintly mad, staring look that Gianni wasn’t sure he cared for.

Someone’s over-stimulated…

The table was decorated with candles and a centrepiece of glittered pine and olive fronds. Gianni had not been able to source any Christmas crackers, but the window wall was festooned with paperchains he had made with Sami.

Eight people was a large party to fit into a small house, but Marina and Vittorio’s dining table had coped with larger parties before. Gianni and Angelo sat at opposite ends of the table, with Sami at Gianni’s right hand and Claudia at his left. The old church pew had been pressed into service to seat Claudia’s side, for without it they would not have had enough chairs. Angelo had added his new cushion to the scatter cushions already deployed on the pew, making sure that his mother and Sergio were comfortable.

Sami looked at the enormous turkey with wide eyes as Gianni began to carve it with the sharpest kitchen knife they owned.

“It’s huge!” he exclaimed, before descending into a slightly unwarranted fit of the giggles. Claudia shushed him, attempting to distract him with a quick thumb-wrestle.

“I must say,” Marta observed, watching Gianni’s efforts with interest, “this may not be the sort of Christmas dinner I’m used to, but it smells beautiful.”

Pietro was eyeing the dish of steaming Brussels sprouts dubiously. “I’m no expert on British cuisine…” he began.

“What cuisine?” Angelo snickered.

Pietro flicked a dismissive gesture at him before turning back to Gianni. “…but aren’t these supposed to be one of the most reviled vegetables in the British tradition?”

Gianni chuckled. “Perhaps they’re an acquired taste,” he replied, “but they’re alright with sausage meat and gravy.”

Carefully, Gianni dished up six plates of carved turkey, starting with the guests, topping each one off with a scoop of each of the stuffings and a couple of the pigs in blankets.

While the others began helping themselves to vegetables, Gianni carved Sami a large slice of turkey and added a generous scoop of the lemon and herb stuffing. The little boy regarded his plate with a surprised and disappointed frown, then cast a faintly accusing glance at the turkey dish.

“But… why don’t I have…?” he protested, pointing at the sausage meat stuffing and pigs in blankets.

“Oh… I’m sorry, son,” Gianni replied, “but they’re pork. You know you’re not supposed to…”

“But I want some!” Sami interrupted tearfully. “Why can’t I?”

“Sami…” Angelo said awkwardly.

“No!” Sami cried. “It’s not fair!

“Would you like some more of the lemon and herb…?” Gianni offered desperately.

NO!” Sami shouted.

He swept a small hand across the table and thrust his head down on his arms. Displaced, his plate tottered briefly on the edge of the table, then tumbled to the floor, where it broke in two with a loud crack, spilling his lunch all over the terracotta tiles.

There were tense intakes of breath around the table. Looking at all his guests frozen in identical expressions of horror, Gianni felt a stab of anger well up inside him. Surely, he’d worked too hard on this event for the atmosphere to be spoiled like this…

“Sami,” he said, his voice shaking slightly, “I’m afraid you’ll have to go to your room.”

Sami thrust his chair back from the table so fiercely that it looked about to tip over, but Anna intervened to stop it. Tearfully, Sami ran for the stairs, pausing on the bottom step for one last, parting shot at Gianni.

“You don’t even like me!”

And then he was gone, apart from the sound of him crying loudly in his bedroom.

Feeling suddenly weak at the knees, Gianni sank back down onto his chair.

“I’m sorry, everyone,” he croaked.

Angelo rose from his seat. “I’ll… see if I can calm him,” he said.

Gianni nodded wearily. “Tell him I’ll send some food up to him in a few minutes.”

He moved to pick up the spilled meal, but Anna placed a restraining hand on his arm.

“I’ll get this,” she said gently, sliding out of her chair to pick up the wreckage and gently deflecting Ennio the cat, who had made a beeline for the slice of turkey.

“Thanks, Anna,” Gianni murmured. He turned back to the other guests. “Please… get started, or it’ll get cold.”

While Anna disposed of the waste and washed her hands, Gianni listlessly carved his own helping of the Christmas dinner. He no longer felt very hungry, but Sami’s distant cries had, at least, begun to subside under Angelo’s quiet ministrations.

In awkward silence, the others began to eat.

“Gianni…” Sergio ventured after a while, “I can assure you that you aren’t the first parent to have experienced something like this, and you won’t be the last. Big social events can be hard for bambini.”

Anna nodded. “And I’m sure Sami didn’t mean what he said to you at the end.”

Gianni, however, wasn’t so sure. No part of the last few months had gone the way he’d expected.

What if he’s right? What if I don’t… like him?

“Sergio’s right,” Marta said reassuringly. “Young children are easily overwhelmed when there’s so much attention and excitement. Why, I remember one time, when Claudia was just a toddler…”

“Oh, Mamma,” Claudia said, laughing in a mortified sort of way, “please don’t tell them the poo on the ceiling story.”

There were a few chuckles around the table at that, and the atmosphere eased slightly. Anna passed Gianni the potatoes, and he spooned a couple onto his plate, feeling slightly better, before adding a few of the sprouts that were sent his way by Claudia.

Angelo reappeared just as Gianni finished pouring a little gravy on his lunch. He was carrying something in his left hand, and his expression was uncharacteristically serious.

“Sami’s settled down,” he said to Gianni, “but I’m afraid he’s broken his camera. I think he must have thrown it across the room.”

He held up the damaged object. Its colourful housing looked intact, but there was a crack across the clear plastic lens that protected the optics. It looked like it had caught an unlucky blow on the corner of the wardrobe or the door handle.

“Oh!” Marta gasped. “What a shame. Why would he do such a thing?”

“Maybe he thought he wasn’t worthy of it,” Angelo murmured quietly, hanging the broken camera from the back of his chair.

Gianni sighed. “Never mind. Get stuck in, everyone.”

* * *

Everybody was very nice about the meal, and even Gianni felt he had done decent job of roasting his first turkey, but the glow had gone out of the day. After years of eating Italian food, the roast dinner suddenly seemed heavy and stodgy.

After ten minutes or so, Gianni served a small helping onto a sturdy plastic camping plate and took it up to Sami’s room. The little boy was lying on his bed when Gianni arrived, sucking his thumb, but sat up and took the plate from him without a word.

“If you eat your main course,” Gianni said, “you can come down for pudding if you want to.”

Sami shook his head and set to work on his meal in silence.

By the time everybody had finished eating, the second side of the turkey breast was still untouched.

“But… there’s still so much!” Anna said, putting a hand to her mouth in dismay as Angelo conducted the carcass away to the breakfast bar.

“Don’t worry,” Gianni replied, attempting a smile, “this is all part of the tradition. Tomorrow, it’ll be cold turkey with salad… on Boxing Day it’ll be turkey sandwiches…”

“Or maybe turkey and mozzarella panini,” Angelo chipped in.

Gianni nodded. “That’s right. We’ll keep going until we’re sick to death of it.”

Pietro shook his head. “I had no idea your customs where so strange,” he chuckled.

“What about the Brussels sprouts?” Gianni asked. “Are you a convert?”

Pietro stroked his top lip thoughtfully. “I’ll get back to you.”

The Christmas pudding was also a talking point. Cautioning their guests about how rich it was, Gianni served out seven small helpings with a spoonful of homemade brandy butter and a sprinkling of sugar.

“This’ll glue your insides together,” he said.

Marta sniffed at it delicately. “It’s definitely no pandoro,” she said, “but I like the look of all the fruit.”

After a while, Sami appeared with his empty lunch plate. Hopefully, Gianni spooned a little of the rich dessert onto a small plate and offered it to him.

“Thank you,” Sami mumbled, carefully avoiding Gianni’s eyes, and he retreated to the den to eat it.

Morosely, Gianni raised his wine glass to the assembled guests.

“Merry Christmas, everyone,” he sighed.

Copyright © 2023 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. Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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3 hours ago, pvtguy said:

At their mid-twenties, Gianni and Angelo both realize they are ill-prepared to be parents of a child of Sami's age, but their desire to help him outweighs their uncertainty.  Every parent makes mistakes great and small daily - that's just part of growing into the job.  Their lack of knowledge about the Muslim faith, traditions, etc., really are showing up but I do have a question:  are they absolutely positive that  Sami is Muslim?  There are Christians to be found in Arab countries too.  Simple questioning of Sami, as was suggested, about what he ate could have resolved this problem.  

You raise a very good question @pvtguy. Sami may not be Muslim, he could be Christian or he could be Jewish, particularly if his family fled Ethiopia. Jews formed 50% of the population in Ethiopia at one point in history. I can only but imagine the persecution they face in that part of the world now, particularly given so many Northern African countries seem to be politically unstable and ruled by despots.

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