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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.

Together We Can Fly - 11. Chapter 11

Please note that the flashback at the end of this chapter features a character considering suicide, which may be distressing for some readers. If you prefer, you can skip the flashback scene with no harm to the main story.

“So it’s true, then?”

They were in the cathedral square. Claudia was perched against the railings, the distant hillside of Scala spread out behind her, her dark eyes demanding answers. Above them, the cicadas chattered away in the umbrella pines. Toto and Michele stood facing her, side by side in the shade of the trees.

“Yeah, it’s true,” Toto replied. “We’re really together.”

Claudia turned sharply to his companion. “Michele?”

Michele nodded. “It’s just like Toto said.”

Claudia shook her head, her face registering tremendous satisfaction. “I never thought I’d see the day.”

Toto shrugged. “Neither did I.”

“I thought Angelo was pulling my leg when he first told me,” Claudia said, “you know what he’s like. But then you sent me that tease of a text, Toto...” she shook her head in disbelief. “Did you really kiss in front of Gianni?”

“What?” Michele exclaimed. “No! We just… oh, wait, I get it.”

Toto chuckled. “Someone’s been embellishing their story. We just did this...” he took Michele’s hand.

“Oh, I’m going to kick my brother’s ass,” Claudia muttered.

“You should have seen Gianni’s face when we did it, though,” Toto said. “It was a picture.”

Claudia smiled slightly. “So…” she said, folding her arms and giving them an appraising look. “Would you kiss in front of me?”

“Seriously?” Michele asked.

“A girl’s entitled to some proof,” she said casually.

“We’re… kind of being a bit private about that stuff for the moment, thanks,” Michele replied, glancing around at the busy square.

Toto leaned across and gave Michele a quick peck on the cheek. “There,” he said to Claudia. “Satisfied?”

Claudia shook her head despairingly. “That’s so lame, Toto. I need to see some snogging!”

Toto smirked. “What you need is a boyfriend, Claudia.”

Claudia flicked her hair in a dignified manner. “It’s not my fault I haven’t found anyone worthy.”

“Apart from Toto, that is,” Michele said, raising an eyebrow.

Claudia glared at him as Toto dissolved into laughter. “Don’t you start sassing me about that, Michele,” she said. “If you think I can’t manage two ass-kickings in one day, you’re very much mistaken.”

“I’m sure he’s really scared,” Toto panted.

“But seriously,” Claudia said, smiling, “we’ve got to celebrate. Meet us tonight? I’ll try to get Angelo out here, and I’ll see whether Gianni’s working or not.”

Toto nodded. “I could do that. Michele?”

Michele also nodded. “Sure, why not?”

“First we have to take Daniele out for the day,” Toto said. “We kind of owe him.”

Claudia nodded. “Fair enough. See you later, hopefully. I’ll text you.”

Toto and Michele said goodbye and set off across the square, side by side but not quite hand in hand. The town was waking up around them, with early visitors enjoying morning coffee and breakfast snacks at the bars.

“Where do you think we should take Dani today?” Michele asked.

Toto gave him a sideways look, remembering the idea he had been flirting with a couple of days ago. “I think he’d enjoy going to the beach again,” he said. “How about Maiori? Would you be up for that?”

“Sure, of course.”

“I just thought…”

“That I couldn’t handle seeing you in your swimming trunks all day, Toto?” Michele teased. “I mean, I’ve seen more than that now…”

Toto flushed. “Oh, boy, you’re on form today. Poor Daniele doesn’t know what he’s in for.”

“Do you need to pick up some things first?” Michele asked.

Toto nodded. “Want to come along? I could give you a lift down the hill afterwards.”

“Sure, okay.”

They took a detour along Via Roma. Toto let his friend into the apartment, and they climbed the stairs together. Michele perched on the end of the bed as Toto rooted out his swimming things and a towel. Seeing his friend sitting there in the quiet of his own bedroom gave Toto pause for thought, and he gave Michele a meaningful look.

Michele shook his head with a smile. “Don’t get distracted, Toto. Anyway, your father might hear us.”

“Oh, all right,” Toto said, disappointed. “I’ll just go and put these on,” he added, waving the swimming shorts in the air.

A few moments later Toto emerged from the bathroom, fully prepared – as Daniele had been last time – for a quick change on the beach without any embarrassing fumbling. His swimming trunks were concealed under a pair of baggy khaki shorts. He found Michele lying back on his bed, staring at the ceiling.

“Having second thoughts?” Toto asked hopefully.

Michele sat up. “Maybe later,” he laughed.

With a shrug, Toto grabbed his shoulder bag. He filled it with three bottles of water, his towel, his beach mat and the inflatable beach ball.

“Let’s go,” he said, helping his friend up off the mattress.

Locking the apartment up behind them, they made their way down through the shops to the spot where Toto kept his scooter, exchanging a wave with Anna, who was taking a delivery of fresh goods at Da Rossi.  Offering Michele his spare helmet, Toto stuffed the shoulder bag into the storage compartment of his Vespa. Michele climbed aboard, Toto gunned the engine, and they set off the short journey back down the hill.

A few minutes later, they coasted to a halt outside the gates to Daniele’s house and Michele rang the doorbell. It was Daniele’s father, Paolo, who came out to greet them.

Buongiorno, boys,” he said with a smile. “I’m sorry, but Daniele’s not here. He set off alone on his bike earlier this morning.”

It hadn’t occurred to Toto that Daniele might be unavailable, and for a moment he was put right off his stride.

“Oh, really?” he said blankly.

Paolo shrugged. “He didn’t seem to think you would be coming for him today.” He paused, with a puzzled frown. “Come to think of it, he was back awfully quickly after he went up to see you yesterday. Did something happen between you?”

Michele shook his head. “No, signore. Toto and I just got a bit wrapped up in our own stuff yesterday and Daniele got left out. We were hoping to make it up to him this morning.”

“Did he say where he was going?” Toto asked hopefully.

Paolo shook his head. “Sorry, boys, he just said he was going for a ride. If I see him, I’ll tell him you stopped by.”

“Thanks, signore,” Michele said. “Tell him we’re sorry we missed him.”

“I will,” Paolo nodded. “Ciao,” he called, heading back towards the house.

Toto exchanged a glance with his friend. “Well, that sucks. What do we do now?”

Michele nodded. “Go without him, I guess,” he said.

Toto bit his lip. “Do you… ah… want to ride with me?”

“Like a proper boyfriend?” Michele smiled. “Sure, okay.”

* * *

They paused at Michele’s house to pick up his beach things, and then Toto kicked the scooter into gear once more and they set off back up the hill. As Michele closed his arms around his chest, Toto felt their physical connection once more and revelled in it.

They zipped up the zig-zagging road together and rattled through the main road tunnel. Soon they were flying down through the Valle del Dragone, the olive trees and wild scrub scrolling rapidly past them as they went. Toto remembered the similar journey they had made to visit the Torre, and marvelled at how much their world had changed since then.

As they made their way down a long straight section of the valley road, Michele loosened his grip a little and Toto felt his hands beginning to explore.

“Do you mind?” Toto laughed, wobbling a little as a couple of fingers made their way between his shirt buttons somewhere near his navel.

“Sorry,” Michele’s voice replied. “Just… investigating.”

“Investigate later! I don’t want to crash and kill us both.”

“All right, boyfriend.”

“That still sounds weird.”

“Yeah, well, you’re weird. Do I let it bother me?”

Toto rolled his eyes. “I think I liked you better when you were shy!”

Michele laughed. “Dish it out but you can’t take it…”

The cliffs soared above them as they entered the series of hairpin bends in the lower part of the valley, passing the Pontone turning. They climbed a narrower section of road past a few old houses and olive groves, dodging oncoming traffic, and before too much longer they broke out of the valley and were confronted by the endless blue sea, stretching off to the distant, hazy horizon. Toto glanced repeatedly out at it as they zig-zagged their way down towards the coast, wanting to fix this memory in his mind forever: riding down to the sea with his boyfriend at his back, the summer sun twinkling off the wavelets below.

Joining the busy coast road at the hamlet of Castiglione, they began to wind around its many blind corners and bends and Toto concentrated all his attention on the traffic. Cars, vans and local buses jockeyed for position on the narrow and twisting road, hemmed in on the landward side by cliffs and stone retaining walls. The opposing traffic passed with blasts of warm air, ruffling their hair.

Eventually they swerved down into Minori, and Toto guided them carefully along the busy main street, watching out for holidaymakers and stray children and dogs. The pine trees of the bustling promenade flicked by, and then they were rising again, circumnavigating the hill that separated Minori from its larger neighbour.

By far the largest beach on the coast, Maiori’s long seafront stretched out before them: a long strand of cream-coloured apartment blocks punctuated by the occasional church, shaded with umbrella pines and plane trees.

They parked the scooter in a quiet alley in the centre of town and then wandered down the broad main street, where the Reginna Maior stream flowed down a leafy culvert in the centre of the road on its way to the beach. Shops and cafés lined the space, the traders going about their business, heedless of the two Ravellesi in their midst who were walking just a little bit too close together.

The dark cobble stones of the broad promenade were already radiating heat in the summer sun. They stepped out onto a pier at the mouth of the stream, where the waves lapped at a bank of glistening rocks. The sand of the beach was a volcanic grey, with fragments of seashell sparkling in the sunlight. The broad bay stretched out to either side of them.

“I know it’s weird,” Toto said, “but I wish we could have brought Daniele with us today. He’d have got a kick out of coming to a beach this big.”

“And seeing us together,” Michele said.

“Yeah, why’s he so into that, do you think?”

Michele shrugged. “I guess it just shows him that anything’s possible. Maybe he needs that.”

“Do you think he’s…?” Toto began.

“Who knows?”

Like at Amalfi and Minori, parts of the beach had been privatised by beach bars and were dominated by ranks of colourful parasols. Toto and Michele chose a quieter spot where the morning beachgoers were more spread out, and set up a base camp with their bags and beach mats.

Reclining on his beach mat, Toto stretched out his legs and glanced along the coast. He observed the green mountains receding to the west in the direction of Amalfi and Positano, among them the ridge of Ravello and the crag of the Villa Cimbrone. He wondered, again, why he would ever want to leave this place. Why shouldn’t he stay and look for work instead? Michele and Salvatore had made their feelings on the subject very clear; but in the end, Toto thought, wasn’t it his own decision to make?

At that point, Michele started to remove his shirt, and Toto was hopelessly distracted by the sight of his bare chest and the stars of sunlight glinting off his pendant.

“God, Michele,” he protested. “Did you have to do that? I was just having a deep thought.”

“I guess there’s a first time for everything,” Michele replied. “Your turn, now.”

“All right,” Toto grumbled, setting to work on his own shirt buttons.

Michele watched openly as Toto undressed. Toto, caught between embarrassment and excitement, flushed. “Stop perving over me, Michele,” he whispered.

Michele smiled and lay back on his beach mat, hands behind his head. “Why should I? After all this time, I think it’s my turn.”

“Oh, it’s like that, is it?” Toto said, placing two fingers on Michele’s stomach and walking them up towards his chest.

Michele laughed and batted his hand away. “Not here, Toto.”

“Do you think anyone would really care?”

“They might.”

Toto shrugged. “Well, Isabella’s right. Gayness happens. They should all just get over it.”

“So, what was your deep thought?” Michele asked.

“I’ve been thinking about what you said, about not giving up my future by leaving school.”

“And…?”

“I get it,” Toto said. He paused, searching for the right words. “I know you don’t want to feel like this thing between us is holding me back. It’s just… it wouldn’t feel like giving up my future, not to me. I love it here, and I love you. When I think about my future, this is what I see.”

Michele sighed. “Go to university, Toto. Give yourself a chance. This will all still be here when you come back.”

“But would it?” Toto asked. “I mean if, by the time I’m old enough to go, we’re still together… and off I went on my university adventure… would you really still be waiting for me when I came home?”

Michele rolled his eyes. “Of course I would! After everything we’ve gone through to get here, do you really think I’d just forget you and move on?” He took Toto’s hand. “I love you too, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

“Wow,” Toto said quietly. “That’s the first time you’ve said that to me.”

“Well, it’s true,” Michele said. He stretched. “Look, I don’t want this to spoil our day. If you won’t listen to me, listen to the others. See what they say when we meet up later.”

“All right.” Toto gave his hand a squeeze. “I do, you know.”

“You do what?” Michele asked.

Toto leaned over his friend. “Love you,” he whispered in his ear.

Michele’s brown eyes looked at him softly. “Well, Toto…” he began, putting his arms around Toto’s waist; Toto’s breath caught in his throat, and he had just had time to wonder what was coming next when Michele grabbed the waistband of Toto’s swimming shorts and yanked it up so hard it made his eyes bulge.

Jesus Christ!” Toto yelped.

“Wedgie!” Michele laughed. “I told you I’d get my revenge.”

* * *

The rest of the day passed in a bit of a daze. They played ball, they sunbathed, they ran and they swam and, at some point, they paused for panini and ice cream. Toto watched Michele intently as he ate, and when some of Michele’s ice cream dripped down onto his bare chest, Toto had to fight an intense temptation to lean over and eat it himself.

Michele’s eyes seemed to dare him to try. “Something on your mind, Toto?”

“Only that I want to ravish you,” Toto replied.

Ravish?” Michele raised his eyebrows. “That’s a big word, even for a linguist.”

Toto raked the sand with his fingers. “I have lots of words for you, Michele, but I don’t want to make you blush.”

Michele smirked. “I think we’re way past that now, Toto.”

Toto nodded. “I know, I’ve created a monster.”

Michele finished off his ice cream. “In that case, you’ll have to be the monster hunter. Catch me if you can!”

He scrambled to his feet and ran off, laughing, towards the water’s edge.

“I’ll always catch you, Michele!” Toto shouted, rising to his feet and giving chase.

Toto caught up with his friend in the shallows and, in the midst of what followed, they even forgot to worry about who might be watching.

When they had finally had enough, the two tired boys got dressed again. Toto brushed the sand off his feet as best he could before putting his socks and shoes back on.

Although it had been a wonderful day, there was something missing. As he laced his trainers, Toto realised it was Daniele, with his bright, unjaded eyes and enthusiastic smile. Toto had got so used to the younger boy’s devoted company throughout the summer that, now, he felt his absence.

Is this how a parent feels when their child grows up and leaves them behind?

But that wasn’t it, not yet – he knew Daniele would have loved to be with them today, if he had thought he was welcome. Toto wondered if the younger boy had had a good day on his travels, and whether they would be able to catch him tomorrow.

As he packed his bag, he paused for a quick look at his phone, and found a text from Claudia.

Angelo and Gianni are free tonight. Meet us in the square at 7PM.

“We’re on for this evening,” he told Michele, who nodded.

“Cool.”

They made their way back to Toto’s Vespa, drinking gulps of water, and saddled up once more. Michele’s arms encircled him again, and they set off.

* * *

Toto ran Michele back to his house, and they kissed goodbye quickly in the street. He returned home alone, glad of the chance for a rest after their exertions on the beach. He climbed into the shower, washed all the sand and salt from his body and his hair and then flopped on his bed in his underwear, losing himself in a book for a while.

The warm afternoon ticked slowly by, punctuated by the cracked-sounding church bells that chimed each quarter hour. There was a steady flow of quiet footsteps and conversation as visitors wandered up and down Via Roma below the open window. After a while, Toto began to feel drowsy, and he allowed himself to doze. Eventually, he fell asleep, and he dreamed of flying.

* * *

Shortly before seven o’clock that night, Toto dressed in a fresh shirt and jeans and adjusted his hair in the bathroom mirror. When he was satisfied with his appearance, he set out for their meeting in the square, exchanging a wave with his father, who was alone in the shop.

When he rounded the corner of the square, he spotted Claudia, Gianni and Angelo at once. They had colonised a table at a bar on the far side of the square and had already rustled up two more chairs. The sun was sinking low in the sky, casting a golden glow on the whitewashed façade of the cathedral and across the light grey paving stones, punctuated by the long shadows of the umbrella pines. A group of local children were having a kickabout in the middle of the square. Toto made his way carefully across the space, dodging a football that crossed his path as he went.

Claudia waved cheerfully at Toto as he approached. He was just about to greet her when he caught a movement in the corner of his eye found himself face-to-face with Michele, who had arrived at the same time. Michele was looking as wonderful as usual, dressed tonight in a black shirt and charcoal skinny jeans. Toto smiled awkwardly at him and received a crooked smile in return.

“Here are the conquering heroes,” Angelo said, raising his glass of Sprite. “Ciao, guys.”

Buonasera,” Toto replied, pulling out a chair to join them at the table. Michele sat down next to him, and Toto automatically took his hand.

“So,” Gianni said, watching them keenly over his glass of fresh orange juice, “it looks like there have been a few… changes around here?”

Toto and Michele exchanged an embarrassed glance.

“You could say that,” Michele replied.

Angelo grinned. “Of course, we all know Toto’s been hopelessly in love with you for years, Michele… but you’re a revelation.”

“I guess Michele just couldn’t keep resisting Toto’s charms,” Gianni thew in.

“Maybe it was his soulful brown eyes,” Claudia said with an exaggerated sigh.

“And hey… being openly lusted after for over two years has got to be flattering,” Angelo added. “Maybe it turned Michele’s head?”

Toto and Michele glanced at each other again, and Toto shook his head incredulously.

“Jesus, guys,” he protested, “this is three against two!”

Angelo laughed. “That didn’t seem to bother you when we were playing volleyball.”

“But seriously, we’re happy for you,” Gianni said. “Let us buy you both a drink.”

He summoned a waiter, and Toto and Michele both ordered Lemon Sodas. Soon they were each equipped with a glass of the bittersweet, sparkling drink. Angelo raised his glass again, and they all chinked them together in the middle of the table.

“To the queer boys of Ravello,” he said, “and their token female admirer.”

“Thanks a lot, Angelo,” Claudia grumbled, as the others laughed.

“It’s true, though,” Toto said. “Don’t you ever feel outnumbered?”

Claudia narrowed her eyes at him. “I can hold my own.”

Angelo smirked. “I’m not even going to touch that one.”

“Eugh,” Claudia said, wrinkling her nose in disgust. “Get your mind out of the gutter, Angelo.”

“Trust me,” Gianni said, shaking his head, “there’s absolutely no point in asking him to do that.”

“So, Toto…” Angelo said. “How exactly did you… ah… win Michele over?”

Toto glanced at his friend. “I didn’t do anything, really,” he said. “I had no idea he was even into me, until Claudia and Daniele staged an intervention.”

“Daniele was a part of this?” Gianni asked, surprised.

Toto nodded. “He’s a smart kid.”

Angelo looked closely at Claudia. “So, you’ve been playing matchmaker, have you?”

Claudia rolled her eyes. “It was so stupid,” she said. “There was this girl, and Toto was thinking the worst of Michele, and… I just wanted to give them both a shake.”

“Hey,” Michele said. “It’s not like this has been easy for us, you know.”

“Family stuff, right?” Gianni said, more gently.

Michele nodded. “Yeah.”

“And is it all okay now? At home, I mean?” Gianni asked.

Michele shrugged. “It’s as good as I could expect.”

Gianni raised his glass. “To fractured families,” he said. “Maybe one day all this stuff will cease to matter.”

“So, what’s next for you guys?” Angelo asked.

“We’ve been talking about that,” Toto said.

“Taking things slowly, then?” Gianni asked.

Toto exchanged another glance with Michele, and they both flushed.

“Um… not exactly,” Michele said.

Claudia spun round to him with great interest, but Gianni cleared his throat before she could comment. “Moving on… what exactly have you been talking about?”

“We’ve been talking about whether I should quit school,” Toto explained. “It’s Papà who wants me to go to university, not me. I like it here! And now we’re together…” he looked at Michele.

Michele shook his head. “I think he should keep going,” he said. “Toto’s smart. He could go a long way. I don’t want to be the reason he gives up on all that.”

Claudia frowned. “Are you seriously still stuck on that, Toto?”

Toto nodded. “Well, yeah.”

“I told you before,” Claudia said. “I’m totally going to university. There’s a whole world out there… you’ll never see it all by just staying here.”

“I hate to say it,” Angelo said, “but my little sister has a point. Why close those doors before you’ve even got to them?”

Toto appealed to the final member of the party. “But you stayed here, Gianni, and you’re doing really well with your art. Couldn’t that work for me, too?”

“Toto, I’m a waiter in a hotel,” Gianni replied, “and I doubt I’ll ever be more than a small-time local artist.” He took Angelo’s hand. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with my life, thanks partly to this idiot here, but I’d have gone to university if I could – or, at least, I’d certainly have thought about it.”

Toto frowned. “So why didn’t you?”

“Nonna and Nonno couldn’t afford it,” Gianni said. “If your father has managed to save enough money to support you, I think you’d be mad not to at least seriously consider going.”

“But what about my life in Ravello?” Toto asked.

“It’s like I said,” Michele put in. “It’ll all still be here when you come back.”

Gianni nodded thoughtfully. “If you decided not to even give it a go… if you gave it all up now… then it would always be the thing you never did, the bigger future you never explored.”

Toto nodded. “I guess.”

“On the other hand,” Gianni went on, “if you go away for a couple of years and, in the end, you decide that you still want to come back and live the rest of your life at home, then at least you’ll know that you gave it a chance.” He paused, and then he smiled. “Since coming here, I’ve come to think that the things we regret the most are always likely to be the things we never tried.”

Claudia stirred her glass thoughtfully, so that the ice cubes chinked together. “There was a line I heard in a movie once,” she said. “I thought it was pretty cool. It came down to something like this… that sometimes you have to go away before you can come back and find your people.”

“See, Toto?” Michele said quietly. “You’re the only one here who thinks quitting school is a good idea.”

Toto chewed his lip thoughtfully. “All right. I’ll think about what you all said, I promise.”

* * *

They stayed at the table until the sky grew dark and the street lights flared into life. Amidst the cheerful hubbub of a summer evening in the square, they enjoyed a few more drinks together, and were just beginning to talk about moving on to somewhere else for dinner when it happened.

Toto glanced up from his orange juice and saw Daniele’s parents, Patrizia and Paolo, moving across the square towards them. It may have been a trick of the light, but he thought Patrizia looked very pale.

Buonasera,” Paolo addressed their group. “I hoped we’d find you here. Have any of you seen Daniele today?”

Toto shook his head. “No, signore,” he replied. “What’s wrong?”

Patrizia wiped a tear away from one eye. “He set off on his bike this morning and he still hasn’t come home,” she said. “We’ve been so worried. It sounds so stupid, but… we were hoping he might have caught up with one of you and lost track of time.”

Glances were exchanged across the table and anxious heads were shaken.

“You should call the police,” Gianni said at once, “report him missing.”

Paolo shook his head. “We have already, of course, but they haven’t a clue where to start looking.”       

“Toto? Michele?” Gianni asked. “Do you have any idea where he might have gone?”

They exchanged another glance, and Toto shook his head. “No,” he replied, “but, I mean, we could think about it… come up with a few ideas… we’ve taken him to several places.”

“That’s great, Toto, but it’s not enough,” Angelo said. “We need to get out there and start searching ourselves.”

Patrizia gave him a pleadingly grateful look. “Really?” she said, “you’d do that for us?”

“Don’t even ask,” Angelo replied. “We’ll do it, right, Gianni?”

Gianni nodded. “Of course.”

“Count us in as well,” Michele said.

Toto nodded. “Totally.”

“And me,” Claudia added.

Angelo nodded. “All right,” he said, rising from his seat, “the more the better. Get together as many people as you can. We’ll go in pairs, each taking a different part of town.”

“I’ll get Papà,” Toto said.

“And I’ll ask Mamma and Pietro,” Claudia added. “They’ll be at the restaurant, it’s just down the road.”

“Thank you all,” Paolo said gratefully.

“If he’s out there, signore,” Gianni said, “we’ll find him.”

* * *

Nine years ago

Angelo Rossi, aged fifteen, paces around the family home in Scala like a caged animal. It’s dark outside, and his friend Gianni has been missing for several hours. Angelo was the last person to see him alive as he charged across the square, distraught, on Anna’s old bicycle.

Most of their friends and family are out searching for him already, but Angelo, to his total frustration, has been benched.

His mother Marta is on the sofa, cuddling little Claudia, whose large brown eyes look frightened.

“What’s going to happen to Gianni, Mamma?” Claudia pipes up.

“I don’t know, cara,” Marta replies, “but Pietro and the others are doing all they can to find him.”

Angelo clenches his fists so hard that his fingernails cut into his palms.

“Please, Mamma,” he begs, “you have to let me go!”

An image from a few weeks ago has risen up in Angelo’s mind and won’t go away: Gianni, standing on the balustrade at the Terrace of Infinity, staring transfixed at the ground at the foot of the cliff far below.

Marta looks anxiously back at him. “There’s a storm coming, caro. I’m worried. The last thing we need is to lose you too.”

“I won’t get lost!” Angelo insists. “It’s just… I think I know where to find him.”

“Then let me phone Pietro,” Marta says pleadingly, “and you can tell him!”

Angelo shakes his head. “No. It has to be me.”

Marta sighs. “All right, Angelo,” she says, “but take a torch, and be careful.”

Angelo hurries over and kisses her on the cheek. “Thanks, Mamma,” he says.

Soon he is on the road, pedalling hard, almost flying down the hill that leads out of Scala, street lights flashing by as he rides. The first clap of thunder rumbles in the distance.

“Please, God,” he prays, casting his eyes skyward, “if you’re out there, don’t let him go before I’ve told him how I feel. I don’t care any more if everyone knows!”

Angelo powers the bike up the hill into Ravello with barely a thought. A flash of lightning illuminates the old buildings as he approaches Gianni’s grandparents’ house. Noisily, he dismounts from the bike and props it up against the courtyard staircase. Drawn out by the racket, Anna appears at the door to Marina and Vittorio’s home.

“Angelo?” she exclaims. “What are you doing here?”

“I have to find him!” Angelo replies desperately, taking the torch from his pocket and preparing to leave.

Anna hurries down the steps, placing a restraining hand on his arm. “But it could be dangerous! The others…”

“No!” Angelo shakes her off, staring at her fiercely. “You don’t understand. I think I know where he is, and I need to go NOW.”

Anna tales a step back at the ferocity of his reply, a look of dawning realisation upon her face. “All right, caro,” she says, “then hurry.”

Without another word, Angelo sets off at a run. He pounds down the avenue of oleanders next to the cathedral and sets off across the square, which is quiet tonight thanks to the oncoming storm. He runs down the lane that he saw Gianni flee along earlier, soon fetching up at the foot of the long stairway up the hill towards the Villa Cimbrone.

Slowing down as little as he dares to conserve his strength, Angelo hurries up the steps, passing under the brightly lit porch of the convent. A rising wind is rustling the great pine trees in the gardens beyond. Lightning flares and thunder rolls again as he passes the restaurant on the hill, although the rain itself has yet to arrive.

“Gianni!” he calls into the night, unable to restrain himself any longer. There’s no answer, of course, and he hurries along past the vegetable garden.

He doesn’t know how his friend can have got into the Villa Cimbrone at this hour, but instinct drives him on. He is certain, somehow, that he is heading in the right direction. And sure enough, when he gets to the entrance, he finds the small wicket gate open, blown off its latch by the wind. Angelo crosses into the darkened gardens and heads straight along the main central avenue, guided only by the beam of his torch and the purple night sky above.

“Gianni!” he calls again.

He pauses, panting, at the corner of the terrace, then lighting flashes as he sees the boy he loves, arms spread as he balances on the edge, feet curled over the top of the balustrade.

Angelo is running again.

No, Gianni, he thinks, not today.

Copyright © 2021 James Carnarvon; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

Just now, drpaladin said:

I had a strong feeling they should have looked for Daniele before going to the beach.

Good call!

To be honest, I struggled a bit with this chapter. I could have done with having a bit more dramatic material left to cover, and it became more of a final victory loop for the ensemble. I hope you enjoy tomorrow's payoff!

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21 minutes ago, drpaladin said:

I had a strong feeling they should have looked for Daniele before going to the beach.

But that would have taken the drama out of the story!

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55 minutes ago, Ivor Slipper said:

But that would have taken the drama out of the story!

Not necessarily. Looking might have been in vain and we'd still end up right here.

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A lovely day for Toto and Michele to experience la joie de vivre and explore their blossoming relationship. At the end of a perfect day, they sit with friends who understand them and provide positive reinforcement.

Yes, Toto, you need your education if you really want to fly....

About that perfect day:  The news that Dani is missing changes everything in an instant. (In viewing the construction of the story, I love the juxtaposition of the joy of young lovers to the heartbreak of a missing child.)

James, you are pure evil for juxtaposing Daniele's disappearance with Gianni's suicidal thoughts and gesture:  I refuse to fall into the trap of thinking that Dani is contemplating suicide himself.  At the time, Gianni thought he was being rejected by his own true love and the local community, whereas Dani is a sensitive boy who is asked by his friends to give them space for a day. My fear is that he goes off for a good mope and finds himself trapped--unable to go home--and is in need of rescuing. And Toto and Michele know just the place to look!

Spoiler

By the old stone bastion:

Anxiously, Toto peered over the stone wall next to the stairs, where a thin strip of uneven ground and trees was all that separated them from the sheer drop to the valley bottom.

“Daniele?” he called again.

“Over here! Come and look.”

Toto and Michele turned in relief towards the sound of Daniele’s voice, and Toto saw the younger boy’s blue eyes peeping back at them from a small opening, half-concealed by scrub, in the rocks below the bastion.

Toto stared back at the younger boy, realising that to get to the opening, he must have climbed over the wall and scrambled along the rocky ledge with the drop at his back.

“Daniele, what are you doing?” Michele protested. “That looks really dangerous!”

“It’s my new secret place,” Daniele’s voice floated back.

 

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35 minutes ago, travlbug said:

James, you are pure evil for juxtaposing Daniele's disappearance with Gianni's suicidal thoughts and gesture:  I refuse to fall into the trap of thinking that Dani is contemplating suicide himself. 

 

You don't really think I was trying to sell you that idea, do you? 😨

It was meant to represent the desire to save someone you care about, and how Angelo knows better than most that time could be of the essence.

Edited by James Carnarvon
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8 minutes ago, James Carnarvon said:

You don't really think I was trying to sell you that idea, do you? 😨

No, not really--just the idea that both disappear and could be in danger. (Dani may be sensitive, but he's not that sensitive.) Gianni and Dani have different motivations for their actions; and while I personally dismissed the idea of Dani considering suicide, someone somewhere may read about Gianni's situation (right after reading about Dani's disappearance) and presume the worst. That said, a careful reader won't.

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8 hours ago, Ivor Slipper said:

But that would have taken the drama out of the story!

Not to mention the Grandma's....

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AFter spending a beautiful day together and meeting friends for dinner, Dani's disappearance is distressing.  I honestly think he is alright.  He probably went to...

Spoiler

his special place

and fell asleep after an exhausting day riding around Ravello.

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There was a line I heard in a movie once,” she said. “I thought it was pretty cool. It came down to something like this… that sometimes you have to go away before you can come back and find your people.”
 

A line from one of my favourite films - Cinema Paradiso. I’ve noticed a few other connections too in the names of a few of the characters, like Alfredo the dog, Ennio the cat, Toto and Salvatore.

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1 minute ago, Mawgrim said:

There was a line I heard in a movie once,” she said. “I thought it was pretty cool. It came down to something like this… that sometimes you have to go away before you can come back and find your people.”
 

A line from one of my favourite films - Cinema Paradiso. I’ve noticed a few other connections too in the names of a few of the characters, like Alfredo the dog, Ennio the cat, Toto and Salvatore.

Absolutely - great catch!

Also, Michele's name is a nod to another great Italian movie, Io Non Ho Paura (I'm Not Scared).

More about my Influences and Locations (a bit out of date now, but still...)

Have you really never read this story before...? Filling in the gaps? You're certainly going for it tonight!

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1 minute ago, James Carnarvon said:

Have you really never read this story before...? Filling in the gaps? You're certainly going for it tonight!

Must have missed it. I was writing earlier, but just having a laptop on my knee was far too hot, so I thought I’d catch up on some reading.

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6 hours ago, James Carnarvon said:

Absolutely - great catch!

Also, Michele's name is a nod to another great Italian movie, Io Non Ho Paura (I'm Not Scared).

More about my Influences and Locations (a bit out of date now, but still...)

Have you really never read this story before...? Filling in the gaps? You're certainly going for it tonight!

I read this and went to the blog's page.  The influences described was interesting.  What I liked most were the pictures.  I admit I recognized some immediately, because I look online for a picture whenever you identify a location in the Ravello stories.  What impressed me with you pictures were the ones of the alleys, tunnels, pathways, hangouts and orchards.  Things I never thought to look up online, but added a lot of texture. Thanks! 

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The one thing that really surprised me was the church. For some reason that has never been in my mind as a pristine white building, but rather old stone. Evidently something I've missed while reading. 

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