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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.

The Summer of the Firefly - 6. Chapter 6

August unfolded in a haze of hot days and warm nights. Gianni and Angelo spent many of their days together, either puttering around the town or collapsed under trees in the villa gardens, occasionally playing a few rounds of gentle football; the dusty summer heat prevented them from doing anything much more strenuous. From time to time, Gianni would cycle over to Angelo’s house – an exercise at which he was improving – and they would spend the day in Scala, but seldom without Claudia, who continued to trail around after Gianni with embarrassing persistence.

At home, Gianni and Marina circled around one another somewhat cautiously, but no further tense words had been exchanged between them following their conversation with the priest at the birthday party. Gianni hadn’t been back to church since, however, and spent his Sunday mornings back at the house, often reading. Gianni could tell that Marina was ashamed to be going to church without him, but had decided not to let his guilt at her discomfort force him to go against his will.

One Wednesday morning a couple of weeks after the birthday party found Gianni and Angelo climbing the steps up towards the vegetable garden and the Villa Cimbrone. Anna was due to take them down to Amalfi later on to get their wedding clothes fitted, but in the meantime Angelo had suggested that they take a walk. Gianni, who had been wanting to explore more of the lanes around the town, readily agreed.

As they traced the familiar route up past the Convent of San Francesco, Gianni wondered which way they were headed, and explained to Angelo about his wanderings before the birthday party. Angelo was highly entertained when Gianni told him how he had become uneasy as he passed the quiet and isolated houses down below their favourite vantage point and had been startled by the dog barking in the overgrown grounds.

“There’s nothing to be frightened of,” Angelo laughed. “My cousin Viola lives down there with her husband Giovanni. Their neighbour, Paolo, works in the kitchens at the Villa Maria. I’ve met his dog – it wouldn’t hurt a fly.”

“Oh,” Gianni replied, feeling foolish.

“You big townie,” said Angelo with a grin.

“And I suppose you wouldn’t be freaked out if somebody dropped you in the middle of Soho on a Saturday night?” Gianni retorted.

“Soho?” Angelo repeated blankly.

Now it was Gianni’s turn to laugh. “Forget it.”

They passed the vegetable garden, where the two boys briefly discussed relieving old Alfredo of some of his tomatoes, before descending the sweeping stairway that led to the Villa Cimbrone. Before long they arrived at the top of the flight of steps leading down into the valley that Gianni remembered noticing before.

“Down here?” Gianni asked with interest.

Angelo nodded. “Into the depths,” he said with a grin. “Don’t get scared.”

“Shut up,” Gianni said, giving the other boy a shove on the shoulder.

Angelo was undaunted. “Make me,” he goaded Gianni, his eyes alight with mischief.

Infuriated, Gianni found himself unable to think of a retort. This seemed to cause Angelo even greater amusement.

“Pussycat,” Angelo teased. But before Gianni could react to this latest assault on his manliness, the other boy had disappeared off down the steps with a cry of “catch me if you can!”

Gianni went hurtling down the steep steps in pursuit, quickly leaving the houses behind him as he chased Angelo down the side of the rocky valley. Stone paving soon gave way to broken concrete as rugged cliffs loomed up to one side of the path.

As he approached a sharp hairpin bend, Gianni realised with triumph that the other boy had halted just around the corner, but then he too skidded to a halt, falling to his knees at the foot of the steps. Just at the far side of the footpath, a section of wall was missing, leading to a sheer drop of several metres down to the path below.

“I forgot about that,” said Angelo, looking from the gap to Gianni. “Are you okay?”

Gianni nodded, dusting himself down. “I’m fine.”

“In that case...” Angelo grinned again, and ran off down the next flight of steps.

Cursing, Gianni set off in pursuit once more. Angelo had soon reached the bottom of the main flight and switched back down the last few stairs to join an earthen path below. Gianni, not far behind, jumped the last couple of steps and sprang forwards. Grabbing the other boy from behind, he wrestled him to the ground and held him down.

“Not... a... pussycat,” Gianni panted.

Angelo, still laughing, raised his hands in submission. “Okay, you win.”

Gianni released Angelo and stood, sticking out a hand to help the other boy up. “We keep ending up on the ground,” he said.

“Must be the effect you have on people,” said Angelo, accepting the proffered hand and lifting himself off the ground. “You fight well, though.”

Realising he was still holding the other boy’s hand in his own, Gianni tugged it away quickly. “I didn’t know I could,” he admitted.

“Gianni Fortuna: outwardly a pussycat, but dangerous when roused,” Angelo said, a mischievous glint back in his eye.

Gianni clenched his fists and rolled his eyes. Angelo laughed once more, and set off along the path. “Come on, then.”

They had arrived in the dappled shade of a small olive grove. The pathway seemed to lead around the base of the crag upon which the Villa Cimbrone stood, high above. In between the trees, Gianni could catch glimpses of a view across the valley towards the village of Pontone.

Angelo led the way along the narrow path. Trainers kicking up clouds of powdered earth as they walked, the two boys passed a series of small plots of steep hillside land, many of which had been cultivated with a wide range of produce: as well as olives, Gianni saw plantations of lemons protected with green plastic nets, crops of grapes and long, green squashes hanging from carefully trained vines. The plantations further up the hillside towards the cliff overhung the path, providing a sense of quiet enclosure and welcome relief from the sun – Angelo helped himself to a low-hanging lemon as they passed. Despite this abundance, however, the land seemed deserted, and Gianni felt that he and his friend were alone in the leafy seclusion apart from the numerous lizards bathing on the sunnier patches of wall.

The two boys wandered in amicable silence through the quiet lane, until they began to round the end of the rocky crag and a view over the lower reaches of the Valle del Dragone opened out before them. The terraces of the cultivated landscape swirled around the undulating rocky slopes as if carved into the hillside with some giant comb, and in the distance Gianni could see the blue sea, peeping through between the tree-crested foothills of the valley; it gave him a pleasant thrill to think that he would finally be seeing it up close that afternoon.

Gianni realised they had stopped. He watched with puzzlement as Angelo approached one of the stone boundary walls and scrambled up onto it.

“Do you need to pee or something?” Gianni asked.

The other boy shook his head. “Follow me.”

Angelo disappeared over the other side of the wall. Curiously, Gianni followed his lead and hoisted himself untidily up onto the wall. Angelo reappeared on the other side and helped him down.

They were on a small hillside plot, where a few olive trees grew out from between tufts of dead and dusty-looking grass. Angelo indicated that Gianni should sit, and he did so, leaning against the wall in the shade of one of the olive trees and looking out over the valley; the other boy plopped himself down next to him. From where they were seated, they were hidden from the path.

“What if we get caught?” Gianni asked.

Angelo shook his head. “This is Sergio’s plot. He wouldn’t mind.”

There was a pause, during which the cicadas in the trees, which had fallen silent as they clambered over the wall, resumed their chorus.

“What are we doing here?” Gianni asked at length.

Angelo gave Gianni a conspiratorial glance and reached into his pocket, drawing out two slightly battered old cigarettes and a box of matches. “I swiped these from my dad’s desk drawer. Want to try one?”

Gianni looked sceptically at the two cigarettes. “Have you ever smoked before?”

Angelo shook his head again. “No.”

Gianni’s parents had abhorred smoking. So did Gianni, if he was honest with himself, but his friend was looking at him expectantly, and he didn’t want to be accused of being a ‘pussycat’ again. After a moment’s thought, Gianni reasoned that it probably wouldn’t hurt to try just the one.

“Okay.”

Placing the two cigarettes inexpertly between his index and middle fingers, Angelo used his free hand to strike a match. This he used to light the cigarettes, before blowing out the match and treading it carefully into a bare patch of dry ground. This accomplished, he passed one of the cigarettes to Gianni.

Gianni took the lit cigarette and held it by the filter as he had seen Giancarlo, his father’s business partner, do on many an occasion, and looked at it dubiously. Then, going for broke, he placed it in his mouth and took a drag.

The urge to cough was immediate. With some effort, Gianni suppressed it, and felt a minor hit from the nicotine within. The taste of the smoke, however, was bitter, acrid and unpleasant, and he wasn’t able to hold it in for long. He exhaled quickly and breathed in a welcome lungful of clean air.

Gianni looked across at his friend, who was watching his reaction with interest but hadn’t yet tried his own cigarette. “Go on, then,” Gianni urged, waving his cigarette at the other boy.

Evidently not wanting to be outdone, Angelo placed his own cigarette in his mouth and drew in a deep breath. His reaction, however, was more extreme. Gianni watched with amusement as he coughed, spluttered and then doubled up, spitting out onto the ground with a muffled “Urgh!”

When Angelo had recovered, Gianni caught his eye, and they both laughed.

“That was gross,” Angelo said.

“Pretty much,” Gianni grinned. Reaching down, he stubbed his cigarette out on a nearby rock and trod it into the ground as his friend had done with the match. Angelo followed suit.

“Eugh, I can still taste it,” Angelo said. He cast about the plot for something to take the taste away but, evidently seeing nothing palatable, picked up the lemon he had liberated a few minutes before and looked at it contemplatively for a moment, before tearing into the skin with his teeth.

“Are you going to eat the whole thing?” Gianni asked with interest.

“Maybe,” Angelo replied, taking a slurp of the unsweetened flesh and visibly shuddering.

Gianni watched this performance for as long as he could manage to keep a straight face, but then reached into his own pocket and offered the small foil packet he found there to the other boy.

“Want some?” he said.

Angelo looked at the tablets of chewing gum in disbelief for a few moments, then threw the lemon into a patch of grass and took one. Flushing, but grinning in spite of himself, he pushed the laughing Gianni to the ground.

“Never underestimate a pussycat,” he said. “I should have learned that by now.”

Gianni, still shaking with laughter, made a rude gesture in return.

When Gianni had recovered his composure, the two boys scrambled back over the wall and continued on their walk. The earthen path gave way to a concrete surface as they crested the Valle del Dragone, drawing closer to the uneven wall of the rocky crag, and soon they were rewarded with a more open view of the sea, looking much closer now than it usually did from the town above.

“Look up,” said Angelo. Glancing up at the clifftop above, Gianni found himself looking at a distant balustrade dotted with marble busts.

“The terrace?” Gianni asked.

Angelo nodded. “You don’t think about falling any more?”

Gianni shook his head at once. “No way.”

“Cool.” Angelo smiled, punching Gianni on the arm. “Don’t ever do it again.”

* * *

The footpath – which, Gianni now realised, must be one that he had seen from the terrace above, which Angelo had called Via San Cosma – wound its way around the base of the cliff and past the tops of further olive plantations, offering panoramic views out to sea. Before long they saw the first signs of civilisation as they passed between a few isolated houses. Many of the houses had walls or gardens adorned with climbing flowers; the vines of indigo morning glory and dense carpets of bugonvilia in brightest magenta provided broad splashes of riotous colour against the plainer backdrop of the sandy-coloured local stone.

As the scattered houses began to coalesce into a small urban street, Gianni and Angelo entered a piazzetta at the base of the cliff, where a few people hovered quietly around a grotto in the rockface next to an ancient-looking church. The sound of running water could be heard emerging from the small cave.

“Pilgrims,” Angelo said quietly, in response to Gianni’s questioning glance.

The square brought them out at a hairpin bend on the quiet road that zigzagged down the hillside below the town. Small white villas clustered around the hillside in between the folds of the road, looking out to sea. The two friends set off up the road at a leisurely pace, and before long, Angelo had located a flight of steps leading back up into town; here they turned off, and they made their way back up the hill in the shade of the houses and tall stone walls.

As Gianni and Angelo stepped out into the sunshine in the gentle hubbub of the cathedral square, they caught sight of Anna seated at one of the bars and gravitated towards her. She gave them a wave as they approached.

“My two favourite boys!” she beamed. “Ciao!”

“Ciao, Anna,” Gianni replied as they joined her at the table.

“Are you ready to get your clothes fitted?” she asked.

Gianni exchanged a glance with Angelo, who shrugged. “I guess.”

“Great. We’ll get some lunch first, and then I’ll take you straight down to Amalfi.”

They paused at the bar for a light lunch of panini, after which Anna led Gianni and Angelo down a flight of steps that took them down to a terraced car park below the square. Anna’s battered white Fiat Cinquecento was parked in the lowest corner, overlooking the view across the valley to Scala.

Somewhat to Anna’s surprise, Gianni and Angelo offered to sit together in the back, which was a bit of a squeeze. However, after a certain amount of fumbling and fidgeting, they were strapped in and on the move. Gianni, who hadn’t been in a car since his first arrival in Ravello, was briefly reminded of his journey up from Naples with Pietro; casting his mind back, he realised how much his life had changed since he had made that journey, and with a pang of guilt he wondered if he had ever felt as happy living back in London.

Gianni glanced across to his new friend. Angelo’s companionship, he knew, was a big part of it. Angelo, looking back and perhaps sensing something in his eyes, only smiled.

Anna backed the car out of her parking space and then drove up through the car park, emerging next to the ceramics workshop where Angelo often left his bicycle. As they set off down the Scala road, Gianni leant across the vehicle and peered out through the far passenger window, where the view of the valley and the looming cathedral of the neighbouring town now scrolled past outside. He remained so poised until Angelo interrupted him by grinding the knuckles of one hand vigorously into the top of his head.

“Gerroff,” Gianni shot at his grinning friend, sitting up and smoothing his hair. Anna looked back in the rear-view mirror, amused.

“Behave yourselves, now, boys,” she said. “Don’t make me come back there.”

Before long, they had passed the Scala turning, and the road became unfamiliar to Gianni. He turned to look out of his own passenger window; having swung around the hairpin bend at the Scala junction, they were now headed gently down into the Valle del Dragone, and the view was in his favour.

As the car descended into the valley, the scenery opened out and they passed between the two towns, whose hillside buildings and churches glared at one another across the gulf above. Down below, the serpentine road became leafy and rural as it clung to the steep, cliffy terrain below Ravello. Wild thickets overhung the road from the left, while olive trees unfurled down the cultivated slopes to the right. Gianni peered down into the bottom of the sun-drenched valley, looking for the Dragone itself, the brisk torrent that he knew was down there somewhere.

Before long they were passing beneath the lofty crag on which the Villa Cimbrone stood, and a complicated squiggle of hairpin bends brought them to the turning for the village of Pontone, which was now some way above them. Onwards and downwards they drove, the valley becoming ever steeper and more rugged, and at last the rocky waterway came into view, coursing briskly down the valley right next to the road.

Then the river fell away again, followed by a steep, ancient-looking footpath that Gianni followed with his eyes, while the road drifted up the side of the valley in search of a less challenging route. After a while the road became incredibly narrow, and Anna was forced to reverse to let a stream of traffic, led by a bus, negotiate the winding bends as it climbed back up the hill. Passing, the bus driver thanked Anna with a brief blast of his twin-tone air horn.

The lower reaches of the valley, which he had hitherto seen only from a distance, made Gianni feel small with their combination of harsh, rugged cliffs and verdant lemon plantations, all crowned by clusters of fir trees. Ahead, he could see that the cliffs came to an end, and he realised with some excitement that the coast must be nearby.

The landscape was becoming more cultivated, dotted with villas, when the sea suddenly burst into view. Over the low parapet wall of the road, the ground fell away steeply, leaving Gianni with an unbroken expanse of blue stretching out to the horizon. Gianni stared at it, only dimly aware that they were now surrounded by hillside houses and ornate lamp standards as the road began its final, tortuous, zig-zagging descent towards the water.

They hit the main coast road amidst a cluster of buildings and sheer stone walls, and it wasn’t long before they rounded a small headland and were welcomed to the village of Atrani. Atrani, it seemed, was a densely packed forest of tall, angular houses that bristled out of the foot of the Valle del Dragone like some great crystalline structure, all wearing the same weather-worn off-white render; the main road swung across the back of the small sandy beach on a high viaduct, and Gianni craned his neck to get a better look at what was going on down below. However, after what seemed like mere moments, they had slipped into a narrow tunnel, leaving the intriguing village behind them.

Gianni’s first impression of Amalfi itself was of a forest of parasols. The town was built at the head of a broad cove, and along the water’s edge a wide, sandy beach opened out, backed by rugged stone breakwaters. Upon the sand, Gianni observed serried ranks of sun loungers and colour-coded umbrellas, under which dozens of people could be seen reclining or relaxing with drinks, while their friends and family splashed about in the shallows.

To the back of the beach ran a grand promenade lined with palm and pine trees. Traffic and tourists bustled along this thoroughfare in equal measure. Not far behind, a sheer wall of stucco render denoted the sturdy hotels and palazzi of the town itself, more of which could be seen creeping deeper into the valley and up the steep hillsides to the rear. In the distance, beyond the beach, Gianni could see a large marina filled with gleaming white yachts.

“What’s with all the parasols?” Gianni asked, gesturing out at the sea of coloured umbrellas.

“Bars,” Anna replied. “You have to pay to use the beach.”

“Really? Is that allowed?” Gianni said, frowning.

“Don’t you have to in England?” Angelo asked.

Gianni shook his head. “Never.” He paused. “At least, I don’t think so.”

They descended onto the promenade. Anna guided the car slowly and carefully along the busy road until they reached a waterfront square, where ranks of local buses stood with their doors thrown open against the shimmering heat. Cars, buses and taxis seemed to be flowing in all directions, and Gianni became thoroughly confused, but Anna seemed unfazed and squeezed the car into a small parking space which she found on a lower level of the square, overlooking the water.

Anna stepped out of the car and pulled the seat forwards to let her passengers out. Angelo was first to get out, levering himself around the door jamb and hopping nimbly out of the vehicle; moments later Gianni followed, and felt the heat of the sun at once on his face and arms as he set foot on the dusty paving stones.

Uffa, it’s a hot one today,” Anna sighed as she shut and locked the doors. “Let’s get out of the sun.”

They scrambled up the ramp to the main square and waited for their chance to cross the road. The oppressive growl of engines and the tooting of horns seemed to be all around them in the dusty heat, and Gianni, who had now spent some weeks in the largely car-free quiet of Ravello, found the clamorous noise and bustle disorientating. Feeling that he’d lost the ability even to cross the road safely, all thoughts of the beach forgotten, he hung back and waited for Anna and Angelo to take the lead before stepping out into the traffic.

When they had safely negotiated the road and slipped between the first tall buildings of the town to take shelter in a quieter square just behind the seafront, Gianni breathed a sigh of relief. They were surrounded by hotels, shops and bars, which were swarming with tourists; but what really caused Gianni to stare was the sight of the town’s imposing cathedral. A great flight of stone steps led steeply up to a Palladian façade finished with a complex mosaic of black and white ceramic tiles, while to one side stood a domed bell tower, also ornately decorated. It was, Gianni contemplated, almost the exact opposite of Ravello’s cathedral, which, although roughly the same shape, was striking in its simplicity.

Gianni jumped as he felt a hand on his arm. It was Angelo.

“Come on,” the other boy said.

Anna was waiting a few metres away, at the foot of a busy thoroughfare that led deeper into the town.

“Pietro said you were a daydreamer,” she smiled at Gianni as the two boys caught up with her.

“Sorry,” Gianni said. “It’s just... all new.”

They made their way slowly up the narrow, bustling street, weaving their way between other pedestrians, seeking patches of shade wherever they could and dodging out of the way of the occasional scooters and cars that made their way through the tide of people. The shops and bars seemed to be doing brisk trade, with several premises displaying prominent racks of postcards, calendars, novelty clothing, bottles of wine and lemon liqueur and dried food in decorative packaging to satisfy the passing tourists. Unused to such busy conditions, Gianni began to feel claustrophobic, and was relieved when they stepped into a small clothier’s store and away from the crowds.

The low-ceilinged, air-conditioned shop was mercifully cool and quiet compared to the heaving street outside, and smelled of new fabric and leather. Gianni allowed himself to relax a little as his eyes adjusted to the relative gloom of the artificial lighting. The walls of the shop, he saw, were covered in wooden shelves stacked with smart shirts, and rails of suit jackets and trousers in various shades of black, grey and even white. Looking around, Gianni saw racks of ties and cabinets full of glinting cuff links. In between the racks of clothing, narrow mirrored panels had been installed, and Gianni saw his reflection and those of his cousin and his friend reflected back from various directions.

“Buongiorno,” said a professional-looking saleswoman, stepping forward from behind a counter at the back of the shop.

Anna returned the greeting. “I’d like to get wedding clothes fitted for my two boys here,” she said. “Something formal.”

“Of course, signora,” the saleswoman replied, giving Anna a practiced smile and fixing her eyes on Gianni and Angelo, who exchanged a nervous glance. She stepped up to Gianni, who looked up at her warily, and took him by the shoulder. “Let’s start with this one.”

There followed an in-depth discussion between Anna and the saleswoman about what colours the two boys should wear. Eventually it was concluded that they should wear black, as Pietro would be doing, with white shirts and matching silk ties in lavender.

With this decided, the saleswoman produced a tape measure from her pocket, and Gianni, who had never worn a suit – let alone be fitted for one – obeyed her instructions with self-conscious embarrassment as she proceeded, with brisk efficiency, to take his measurements, including his chest and waist, the length of his legs, the length of his arms and his collar size. Angelo looked on with evident amusement as Gianni stood straight and flapped his arms on demand while the saleswoman wrapped the tape measure about various parts of his person, noting down her findings as she went.

Muttering thoughtfully to herself, the saleswoman plucked various items down off the shelves and, checking the sizes, piled them up carefully on the counter. When she had found everything she needed, Gianni was ushered into a small fitting room to the rear of the shop to try the clothes on, while Angelo took his turn to have his measurements taken.

The fitting room was cramped, but had a stool and a full-height mirror. Pulling the curtain shut, Gianni set about getting changed. Donning the shirt and suit, he found that they fit comfortably, the precise measurements giving them a tailored feel that he was unused to. He spent some time fiddling with the tie, however, trying to remember the one lesson his father had given him on how to tie one.

When he was satisfied with the knot, Gianni adjusted his hair once more and inspected his reflection in the mirror. Surprised at how smart he looked, he nodded to himself and, leaving his day clothes and trainers in the corner, slid the curtain aside and padded back out onto the shop floor.

Anna and Angelo were waiting by the counter, the latter with another bundle of clothing in his arms. Anna flung her hands to her mouth.

Bellissimo!” she cried. She stepped forwards and adjusted Gianni’s lapels. “You look very handsome.”

Gianni glanced enquiringly across at Angelo, who was looking on in silence. After a pause, the other boy nodded.

“Now you, Angelo,” Anna prompted. With a start, Angelo turned and made his way across to the fitting room, with one last glance back at Gianni. Gianni gave his friend an encouraging smile as he went.

Angelo was in the fitting room for a couple of minutes, during which time Gianni inspected the case of cuff links. Varying from simple to elaborate designs, many consisted of carefully carved coloured stones set into gold or silver trims. They gleamed, somewhat hypnotically, as they reflected the cabinet lights.

There came the rattling, shuffling sound of the curtain opening, and now it was Gianni’s turn to watch as his friend stepped self-consciously back out onto the shop floor. Despite his apparent unease, Angelo wore the suit well; it broadened his shoulders and hung snugly about his chest and waist, emphasising his shape.

Bravo!” Anna clapped. “That’s perfect. What do you think, Gianni?”

Both she and Angelo looked expectantly at Gianni, who flushed at once. “Er – good,” he blurted out, feeling suddenly embarrassed. Angelo cocked his head curiously, a strange expression registering briefly on his face; Gianni thought it might have been surprise, but it was gone too quickly for him to be sure.

Anna turned to the saleswoman, who had returned to her position behind the counter, and was now nodding.

“What do you think?” Anna asked.

“I think they will do nicely,” the saleswoman replied.

“I agree,” Anna nodded eagerly. “We’ll take them.”

* * *

When their purchases were completed, Gianni, Anna and Angelo returned to the teeming street and sought out a bar where they could take a break in the shade. Finding one near the cathedral, they sat down in the shade of a parasol and ordered ice cream and lemon sodas.

“We’re not finished quite yet,” said Anna. “We still need to find you both some smart shoes.”

“Okay,” Gianni and Angelo replied.

Anna turned to Gianni. “So, what do you think of Amalfi?”

Gianni cast his eyes about the square, which was still thronged with people, who together set up quite a hubbub. “It’s really busy.”

Anna laughed. “You’ve spent too much time up in the hills.”

“Is it always like this?” Gianni pressed.

Anna thought for a moment, and nodded. “During the holiday season.”

“I’m still can’t believe you have to pay to use the beach.”

Anna smiled. “Were you hoping for a swim?”

Gianni shrugged. “Maybe.”

“There’s a free beach at Minori,” Angelo chipped in. Gianni glanced across at him. “We could go there some time – if you’d like, I mean.”

Gianni nodded. “Yeah. That’d be cool.”

A couple of hours later, Anna dropped Gianni off outside the ceramics workshop. Disembarking from the car, laden with carrier bags containing his new clothes and a smart pair of black leather shoes, Gianni waved his cousin and his friend off as they set off back down the road towards Scala.

After the dust and hubbub of Amalfi, it was a relief to be back among the quieter and more spacious lanes of Ravello. Wandering up below the great stone arch, Gianni entered the cathedral square, where the quieter hum of activity and the song of the cicadas in the pine trees helped to soothe his frayed nerves.

Gianni scratched his head; he was feeling slightly peculiar, although he couldn’t define exactly how, and decided that the best thing to do would be to get out of the sun. Making his way across the square and up the avenue of oleanders, Gianni headed back home to show his new acquisitions to his grandparents.

* * *

Strings of coloured lights and streamers hung from every corner of the vaulted ceiling, and candles twinkled from every table. Bouquets of flowers adorned every spare surface, and all around him smartly dressed people were talking and laughing. The boy drifted around the party, alone, taking in the haze of colours and myriad perfumes that surrounded him.

“Make way for the happy couple!” said a booming voice.

The crowd parted and a spotlight shone, revealing Anna, in a beautiful white gown, and Pietro, in a dashing black suit. They beamed and waved at the crowd, all of whom applauded, the boy included.

Then strange, bouncy but romantic music began to play, and the bride and groom began to dance. Two by two, the rest of the crowd followed suit. As he watched, the boy saw his grandparents swaying, locked in an embrace, while Pietro’s parents twirled laughingly around one another nearby. He even saw Claudia, who was dancing a jaunty step with Anna’s father Sergio. As she turned, she saw the boy and beamed.

Respectfully, the boy backed away, for he had nobody to dance with. But then someone took him by the hand, and tugged him onto the dance floor. The boy felt his partner put an arm around his waist, with a touch that was electric, and nervously he followed suit; then, slowly, they began to dance. Looking up, the boy found himself staring into a pair of familiar, dark eyes: Angelo, dressed in his smart new wedding clothes, gazed attentively back at him, with a familiar half-smile playing about his lips.

“It’s you...” the boy breathed.

Angelo grinned. “Want to go on?” he whispered.

Yes. Yes, he did. As if in a trance, the boy nodded, and they began to pick up speed, turning around the dance floor. Faster and faster they went, until the boy became giddy, and the twinkling lights and candles dissolved into a multicoloured blur of fireworks, and he thought his heart might explode.

Back in his room, Gianni awoke with a gasp and struggled to disentangle himself from his bedding. Feeling too hot, he threw back his damp sheets and sat up, hugging his knees, his heart pounding and his eyes wide. From out on the landing, there came a quiet cough as one of his grandparents shuffled to the bathroom.

What had just happened? What did it all mean?

Copyright © 2019 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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The trip to Amalfi accentuates how quickly the London boy has become acclimated to life in a small, rural town. A busier city has suddenly become an alien environment.

Gianni's dream of dancing with Angelo at the wedding party mirrors his hidden desires for his friend. Gianni will be a very confused boy and he has no one to talk it out with except the óbject of his attention. How would that conversation go?

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19 minutes ago, travlbug said:

The author is very good indeed to make a trip clothes shopping so intensely interesting. (As an aside, glad to see that the boys are disgusted by the cigarettes to the point where Angelo is willing to suck on a lemon to get the taste out of his mouth. [And shame on you. Gianni, for making him do it when you had gum in your pocket all the time. :lol:])

The boys' reactions at seeing each other smartly dressed are muted but present.  Thereafter, on the way home, Gianni feels "slightly peculiar" and dreams that night of dancing with Angelo, who has an "electric touch." He wakes up, thinking "What had just happened? What did it all mean?"  Well, Gianni, if you really don't know, let me explain.... 😂

 

Just to say, some of your comments have been making me laugh a bit too much!

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Part of your story's fine craftsmanship is your uniting of the landscapes and cityscapes:   "Atrani, it seemed, was a densely packed forest of tall, angular houses that bristled out...."  "Gianni's first impression of Amalfi itself was of a forest of parasols."

Your advancing of the relationship between Gianni and Angelo is similarly managed by making its  narrative details occupying to the reader in the present while glancing ahead (and back):  Angelo helping Gianni balance on the skateboard, for instance--a quiet reminder of his getting Gianni down from the high-perched wall.  Such details of construction resonate quietly and effectively.

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Thank you, James. You have a nice style of writing that is very readable. I really like these characters you've created, and I am really enjoying their story!

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Beautiful story telling and a captivating chapter, I am eager for more. However, I have one bone to pick with you, I am sorry because I cannot help myself, Palladian is the wrong word to use to describe the Cathedrals/Duomi of Amalfi and Ravello. Palladian means that a building reflects the style of 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Neither the Cathedral of Amalfi or Ravello are Neo-Classical and thus Palladian, they are both primarily Medieval, either a bit Gothic or Romanesque and in Amalfi's case there are some later additions. I am an architectural historian and so I really couldn't help myself from pointing this out and do not want to sound like a jerk because I have really been enjoying this story thus far. 

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On 5/4/2020 at 9:38 AM, Hubert11 said:

Beautiful story telling and a captivating chapter, I am eager for more. However, I have one bone to pick with you, I am sorry because I cannot help myself, Palladian is the wrong word to use to describe the Cathedrals/Duomi of Amalfi and Ravello. Palladian means that a building reflects the style of 16th century Italian architect Andrea Palladio. Neither the Cathedral of Amalfi or Ravello are Neo-Classical and thus Palladian, they are both primarily Medieval, either a bit Gothic or Romanesque and in Amalfi's case there are some later additions. I am an architectural historian and so I really couldn't help myself from pointing this out and do not want to sound like a jerk because I have really been enjoying this story thus far. 

I stand corrected. Glad you enjoyed the chapter!

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The description of the cathedral in Amalfi had me going to Google to take a look.  The shopping trip was painless, but Gianni's reaction to the traffic was interesting.  Like @drpaladin pointed out, Gianni is finding the life in the small town comfortable.  Like Gianni, I find that it is strange to be charged to go to the beach.  Where I lived before retirement, all beaches were public property and open to all. I am glad that the boys find smoking distasteful.  Also, I think that Nonna is trying very hard not to make an issue of religion, even though it is very important to her. Gianni and Angelo are inching closer and their conversations more intimate.  I continue to find these chapters very enjoyable to read. 

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1 hour ago, raven1 said:

The description of the cathedral in Amalfi had me going to Google to take a look.  The shopping trip was painless, but Gianni's reaction to the traffic was interesting.  Like @drpaladin pointed out, Gianni is finding the life in the small town comfortable.  Like Gianni, I find that it is strange to be charged to go to the beach.  Where I lived before retirement, all beaches were public property and open to all. I am glad that the boys find smoking distasteful.  Also, I think that Nonna is trying very hard not to make an issue of religion, even though it is very important to her. Gianni and Angelo are inching closer and their conversations more intimate.  I continue to find these chapters very enjoyable to read. 

It's always nice when a new reader finds and appreciates one of my older stories. You're very kind to take the time to comment on each chapter. I'm glad you're enjoying it, and thank you for reading!

I hope you enjoy the rest!

I'm currently weighing up whether or not to write a sixth Ravello story. 😅

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4 minutes ago, James Carnarvon said:

It's always nice when a new reader finds and appreciates one of my older stories. You're very kind to take the time to comment on each chapter. I'm glad you're enjoying it, and thank you for reading!

I hope you enjoy the rest!

I'm currently weighing up whether or not to write a sixth Ravello story. 😅

My advice? Go for it!  I have fallen in love with this story and the beautiful setting and people you have created.

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6 minutes ago, raven1 said:

My advice? Go for it!  I have fallen in love with this story and the beautiful setting and people you have created.

I will probably go for it if I can break a good enough story. All I have at present is a title and a handful of possible moments and disconnected ideas. I'm currently working hard on other, non-GA writing too. But give me time. 😊

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