Jump to content
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. 

Together We Can Fly - 8. Chapter 8

Neither Toto nor Michele felt like telling the world just yet. They returned to the party, slipping back in largely unnoticed, and tried to act normally, at least until Claudia buttonholed them in a corner. Daniele hovered a couple of metres away, equally eager to hear what was going on.

“Well?” Claudia asked.

Toto and Michele exchanged a glance.

“We… we’ll let you know,” Toto said.

Claudia spread her arms impatiently. “That’s it? You’ve got to give me more than that!”

Toto and Michele backed up against the chestnut fence at the edge of the garden, closing the gap between them so they stood shoulder to shoulder. Claudia stared at them attentively, taking the measure of them, but then she backed off; she seemed satisfied by what she had seen.

“All right,” she said, “that’ll do for now. Come on Daniele, let’s dance.”

Daniele blanched. “Dance? With you?” he said, as she tugged him away by the arm, leaving Toto and Michele alone in the flickering light of one of the burning torches.

“Thanks, Toto,” Michele said.

“No problem,” Toto replied. “This thing, whatever it is… it’s just us for now.”

The rest of the party passed in a colourful blur. Toto and Michele chatted to the other guests, returned for more drinks, and danced a little. A new excitement had taken root in Toto’s chest; he could feel it growing within him, and he was eager to explore it further, but there was also doubt. Would things still look the same in the morning?

As the night eventually started to wind down, the guests began to leave in twos and threes. Patrizia was one of the first to go, shepherding a tired-looking Daniele with her.

“I’d better get this one home before he drops,” she said to Toto and Michele as she left. “I think he’s had a great time, though.”

“Yeah, he’s quite the dancer. We’ll see you soon, Dani,” Toto said.

“G’night guys,” he replied sleepily. “I’m happy for you.”

“What on Earth do you mean?” his mother asked him gently as they departed up the steps.

“There he goes again,” Michele murmured. “How does he know these things?”

“Daniele has super-powers,” Toto replied, “didn’t you know? You should hear about his stories.”

Michele yawned. “I don’t think I could handle that much energy just now.”

When the time came for Toto and Michele to leave, they tracked Gianni and Angelo down outside the bar and thanked them for their invitation.

“You’re welcome, guys,” Gianni said. “Thanks for coming.”

“I’ll see you in the morning,” Toto said.

Angelo nodded. “I’ll tell Alfredo to put on his best collar.”

Toto and Michele left the Villa Cimbrone alone, climbing back up past the vegetable garden as they headed back towards town. After a short while they turned off down a back route, which few of the other party-goers were likely to take. The path descended past a view of the valley; they paused under a spray of pink oleanders, leaning on the wall.

“Want to hang out again tomorrow?” Toto asked. There was more he wanted to say, but he sensed that this was not the moment.

“Sure,” Michele replied. “What time?”

“How about an ice cream lunch?”

Michele smiled slightly. “Sounds good.”

Nervously, Toto took his hand for a moment, and they continued on their way. Maybe, he thought, after lunchtime had been and gone, they could spend some time on their own.

* * *

After everything that had just happened, Toto might have expected some exciting dreams but, when he eventually got to bed, he practically blacked out. Afterwards, he only recalled a vague image of wings.

Toto awoke to the sound of a church bell. The sun was already streaming through the cracks in the shutters. He opened his eyes and stared blankly at the ceiling for a moment, but then it hit him.

Their private moment on the terrace. Michele’s tears, and his hand in his own. Their tacit agreement that whatever they had discovered between them was, for now, a secret.

Is all this really happening?

He glanced at his clock and then jerked up into a sitting position. Almost ten o’clock. He was supposed to be walking the dog!

Flying out of bed, hopping over his party clothes, which were lying all over the floor, he hurried to the shower to freshen up.

Less than half an hour later he was knocking on the door of Gianni and Angelo’s apartment, hurriedly dressed in a polo shirt and shorts. The couple lived in a small apartment block just off the square with the fountain, near the hotel where Gianni worked. Their home was on the first floor, a short climb up a cool stairway with an arched ceiling that was lined with rich green pot plants.

The latch turned and the door opened to reveal Angelo. He looked tired and was sipping a cappuccino. He smiled.

“Come on in, Toto,” he said.

The living area was a light and airy space with French doors leading onto a small balcony overlooking the head of the Valle del Dragone. To the left, there was a kitchenette and a living area with a squashy leather chair and sofa. A shelf on the wall bore a floral tribute to Angelo’s late father Andrea and Gianni’s grandfather Vittorio. To the right, there was a dining table with four chairs and a doorway leading to the rest of the apartment. Toto knew the layout well, having stayed here for a few days after he ran away from home.

Gianni was sitting at the table, sleepily sipping an orange juice. Angelo had obviously been sitting with him, as they each had a plate with a half-eaten croissant and some apricot jam.

“Ciao, Toto,” Gianni said. “We were just having some breakfast. Have you eaten?”

“No, I just woke up and I… ah… thought I was going to be late. I came straight here.”

“Come and join us, then. I think we’re all having a slow start today.”

There was a ‘prrrt’ and Ennio the cat sprang up onto the back of the leather sofa, demanding attention. Toto paused to say hello, and got his hand much rubbed for his trouble. Ennio purred vigorously, leaving traces of drool on Toto’s fingers.

“He remembers you,” Angelo grinned, bringing Toto a fresh croissant on a plate and another glass of juice as he sat down at the table. Toto thanked him and picked at the croissant with his clean hand, dipping it in a spoonful of apricot jam on the side of his plate.

“Did you have a good night last night?” Toto asked.

“It was great,” Gianni replied. “How about you?”

Toto chewed the soft and crunchy croissant reflectively. “Yeah, it was… ah… interesting.”

“You and Michele disappeared for a while,” Gianni said. “Where did you get to?”

“We were… you know… talking.”

“Talking, eh?” Angelo teased. “Sounds serious.”

“No!” Toto replied, a little too quickly. “It was just, you know, dumb teenage stuff…”

Toto rubbed the thumb and fingers of his catty hand anxiously under the table. He didn’t like hiding things from the others, but he and Michele had agreed to keep things secret, and he wasn’t about to break his word.

“‘Dumb’ is never a word I would use to describe the two of you, Toto,” Gianni smiled, finishing off his croissant and wiping his fingers on a paper napkin. “I’m sure your chat was deep and meaningful.”

Toto could feel himself starting to flush. Thankfully, he was spared any further awkward explanations by Alfredo, who emerged from the hallway door, nudging it open with his beardy snout. Finishing off his own breakfast, Toto got down on his knees to greet him and was rewarded with a slobbery tongue to the nose.

“Eeeuw,” he said, wiping his face with his polo shirt.

Laughing, Angelo passed him a lead, which Toto clipped onto the dog’s red leather collar.

“That’s Alfredo’s version of a kiss,” he said. “You’re an honoured guest.”

“Yeah, well, we’re old friends, aren’t we?” Toto said, rising to his feet. “Come on then, Alfredo.”

“Thanks, Toto,” Gianni said, handing him a spare key. “After you’ve brought him home, just chuck the key through the cat flap.”

“I will. Ciao, guys.”

“Ciao, Toto,” Angelo said.

Toto let himself out and descended the steps into the street, Alfredo snuffling by his side. He continued down the hill, taking a quiet stairway that led down into the valley. Toto paused, looking out at the view, while Alfredo lifted his leg on a clump of weeds at the edge of the path.

“What’s next, Alfredo?” he asked. “Where do Michele and I go from here?”

Alfredo merely looked up at him, his black eyes button-like under his straggly white eyebrows.

“Look at me,” Toto said conversationally. “I’m asking advice from a dog.”

They went on down the steps, crossing the main road, and continued down the quiet old footpath so they were enveloped by olive trees and grape vines. The cicadas were already scraping loudly in the morning sun. Before long, they had reached the bottom of a flight of broken concrete steps where, a couple of years ago, a younger Toto had sat in fear and fury, tugging at his hair and cursing his luck after being caught trying to kiss Michele by his father.

Toto crouched down and scratched Alfredo between the ears. The dog wagged his tail and plopped his bottom down on the ground.

“I don’t know how far to go with Michele, Alfredo,” Toto admitted. “I’m worried I’m going to scare him off.”

Alfredo answered this with a whine.

“What’s that?” Toto asked. “You’re saying I should go at his pace? Well, I’ll try. I’m just not sure what that pace is. And what if it isn’t enough for me?”

Alfredo yawned.

“You’re right, Alfredo. I probably am boring you. Let’s go and find something gross for you to roll in.”

* * *

By lunchtime, Toto and Alfredo had done a full circuit of San Cosma and had returned to the apartment. After taking a few sips of water from his bowl, the dog puttered straight over to his bed by the French doors and collapsed onto it.

Sometimes I envy you, Alfredo. You make life look so simple.

After a short break at home, Toto adjourned to the square and sat at one of the benches under the umbrella pines to wait for his friend. He watched the summer visitors as they passed through the space, taking selfies or photos of their loved ones. A few came and went from the cathedral, whose doors stood open at the top of the steps. For a while, Toto tuned into the droning of the cicadas and allowed his mind to drift, staring vaguely at a couple of feral kittens that were resting in the shade under the trees. They groomed each other and stretched out their legs, splaying their little claws.

The sound of approaching footsteps roused Toto from his reverie, and he looked up to see Michele approaching. To Toto’s surprise, Michele was accompanied by Daniele, who was bouncing along by his side. He was in lavender again today.

“I picked up a stray on the steps,” Michele said as he arrived. “He seemed to think an ice cream lunch was a great idea.”

“Oh, ciao, Dani,” Toto replied. “Were you – ah – wanting to hang out with us this afternoon?”

Daniele shook his head. “Papà’s taking me to Salerno,” he replied.

“Shopping?” Toto asked. Daniele nodded.

“That’s cool,” Toto said.

Privately, Toto was relieved. I like spending time with you, Dani, but I want Michele to myself today.

“So, how about those ice creams, then?” Michele asked.

They adjourned to an ice cream parlour in the corner of the square that specialised in exotic home-made flavours. Toto opted for three scoops in a tub, ordering luxurious black cherry and coconut balanced with a tangy mango sorbet. Michele went for a trio of citrus flavours while Daniele ordered two scoops in a caramel cone, coming away with a large scoop of chocolate and a large scoop of honeycomb.

“I don’t think you could get a much sweeter ice cream than that, Daniele,” Michele said as they returned to their perch under the trees, the younger boy sitting between them.

“You’re pure sweetness already, right, Dani?” Toto replied. “It stands to reason.”

Daniele smiled, and continued licking his ice cream without saying anything.

“He’s playing it cool, now, Toto,” Michele said. “Even Dani’s realised how lame you are.”

Daniele giggled, and hurried to save his ice cream as it threatened to topple.

“Oops,” Toto said. “Disaster averted. Daniele would never call me lame, would you, Dani?”

“No, I’d…” Daniele began, but then he stopped short, and his face fell. His whole demeanour changed, as if he had just seen something frightening.

Puzzled, Toto looked up, and caught sight of Enzo and Filippo crossing the square together. They were heading towards the tunnel out to the main road and paid no attention at all to Toto and his friends.

“Oh, hey, Dani…” Toto said. “You don’t need to be scared of them.”

Daniele seemed to have lost interest in his ice cream for the moment; dribbles of melted chocolate and honeycomb trickled down his fingers, leaving droplets on the paving stones.

“It’s just…” he said uncertainly.

“Just tell them to get lost next time and walk away. Filippo is all talk, and he’s as dumb as a pigeon. He’s not actually going to hurt you.”

“What about Enzo?” Daniele said in a small voice. “I heard he put his father in hospital.”

“That’s different, Dani,” Michele said. “I think Enzo was paying some stuff back there. Last time we spoke to Enzo… it sounded like Giuseppe had been beating him for years.”

“Really?” Daniele replied, faint hope playing about his eyes.

Toto stared incredulously at his friend. “Are you saying we should be feeling sorry for Enzo, Michele?” he said.

Michele shook his head, looking uncomfortable. “No, not exactly, but… maybe you just need to face him, Dani.”

So do you, I think, Michele

“Why don’t we go and see him, then?” Toto said.

Daniele blanched. “What, now?”

Toto shook his head. “No, take it easy, Dani,” he said. “But maybe, if we all meet up again soon, we could swing by the garage. You’ll see for yourself that he’s just a sad loser with one friend and no prospects.”

“Okay,” Daniele said reluctantly, taking a lick of his ice cream. He sounded far from convinced.

* * *

Once Daniele had set off home, Toto racked his brains for somewhere he and Michele could go where they could be sure of being alone. Eventually, he settled on the summit of Monte Brusara, where he had spent a memorable evening with Gianni, Angelo and Claudia a couple of years ago.

Michele seemed happy to go along with his plan, so they stopped off at Toto’s apartment to grab a supply of water and then set off on foot, Toto’s shoulder bag bouncing off his hip as they went.

Toto watched his friend as they walked down Via Roma, weaving between shoppers in the shade of the overhanging buildings. He could feel all their old habits and ways of communicating lurking just out of sight, threatening to take over. If they did, he worried that the chance of going any further with Michele today might be lost.

It had been easier and safer when Toto thought he had no chance. Now that he knew Michele felt something for him too, he had to be worthy of it. The thought left him feeling paralysed and awkward. With dismay, Toto realised he had no idea how to take the next step.

They walked past Toto’s Vespa and out onto the footpath by the cliff. The cathedral and houses of Scala glared across the valley with no sympathy at all for his dilemma. On impulse, Toto plucked one of the pink oleander flowers that lined the path and placed it over his ear, hoping to elicit a reaction from Michele.

Michele glanced at him and smiled slightly.

“Dork,” he said.

Well, ‘dork’ was better than nothing.

Come on, Toto, what’s happened to your confidence?

They reached the square with the fountain. Toto glanced up at the arched façade of the hotel, where Gianni had probably started his shift at work by now.

I could have asked Gianni and Angelo for advice this morning, but no, we had to go and keep this to ourselves…

They were enclosed by old houses for a while as they made their way up to San Martino, the part of town that wrapped around the base of the mountain. Their footsteps echoed up the alleyway, joined by snatches of music or conversation from the houses that they passed. A small group of swifts flew over the rooftops, uttering their usual shrill cries.

“Do you ever still pretend?” Toto asked.

“Pretend what?” Michele replied.

“That you can fly.”

“That was just kids’ stuff, Toto,” Michele replied. He sighed. “I wish I could, though.”

They reached the end of the street and stepped out through the archway of an old city gate into a tiny little square at the junction of several paths. Toto stepped out into the centre of the square, staring up at a little chapel that stood there, and flapped his arms hopefully.

“God, give us wings!” he cried. “Let us leave our earthly woes behind!”

Michele walked up beside him and gently pulled one of his arms back down. “Yeah, that’s going to work,” he said.

“Worth a try, though?” Toto said wistfully. “I mean, I’ve been a good boy, haven’t I?”

“Oh, yeah,” Michele replied. “Never a sinful thought.”

Their path continued as a steep stairway that led them up past an imposing curved wall of houses. House martins flew in and out from under the eaves. San Martino was a quiet end of town, and they saw nobody else apart from a couple of elderly locals who were tottering back down the steps on their way to the shops. They exchanged a polite greeting and continued on their way.

After a while they reached a side turning and began the serious climb up the mountain, following an endless flight of steep steps. It was tough going in the afternoon heat of the July sun, but they persevered, hugging patches of shade and grabbing a snatch of sea breeze whenever they could find it. They drifted between small hillside villas as they climbed, and before long both Ravello and Scala were falling away below them. The Valle del Dragone was a meandering serpent carved out of the hills, wending its way down towards the blue sea, the Torre a small speck in the distance.

The steps brought them to the highest part of the mountain that could be reached by road, where they paused at a viewpoint for a rest and breath of air. They could now see the coast in both directions, stretching off to the east beyond Maiori.

Uffa, it’s so hot. Is it much further, Toto?” Michele asked.

“There’s a steep climb through the woods,” Toto replied, “but that’s the fun part.”

Michele smiled. “I sometimes think we have a strange idea of fun.”

Toto tugged at Michele’s arm. “Come on, let’s get into the shade.”

The road had turned into a concrete path serving the last few mountainside houses. Toto wondered whether all the locals had taken shelter from the sun, as they had seen nobody else since they began the steepest part of the climb. They walked along together, almost hand in hand but not quite, and Toto wondered what would happen if he just reached across and grabbed it.

He tried it. Michele jumped a little, gave Toto’s hand a quick squeeze, and then let go.

“Not here,” he said.

Disappointed, Toto walked beside his friend in silence for a while. Before long, the whitewashed houses thinned out and began to be replaced by olive trees and farmers’ sheds, and they were swallowed up by fragrant woodlands.

After the unbroken sun of the mountainside path, the dappled shade of the trees was a welcome relief. Toto turned them up a stony, earthen side path and they climbed through woods of chestnut and wild scrub. Clumps of ferns grew in the shadier spots among the tree trunks. Their shoes kicked up little puffs of dry soil, and loose stones clattered away as they walked. The path was at least as steep as the stairway they had climbed before, and they took it slowly.

“Did you and the others really carry a load of camping gear up this?” Michele asked, sounding impressed.

“Yeah, well, when you have muscles like mine…” Toto said.

Michele gave Toto’s upper arm a squeeze. “They’re like spaghetti, Toto.”

“But you like spaghetti, Michele.”

Michele shrugged. “I know I do.”

After much exertion, they finally surfaced on the rocky ridge at the top of the mountain. Suddenly they could see down the other side. Far below, the leafy Sambuco valley wound down towards the sea at Minori. On the far side of the valley, perched at the top of a soaring mountainside covered in dense trees, a tiny convent stared out towards the sea.

Toto reached out again for Michele’s hand, and this time he allowed him to hold it.

“Okay, that is a pretty cool view,” Michele said.

Toto, however, had lost all interest in the scenery. He was looking at Michele, savouring the feeling of his warm, dry hand sitting in his own. Mustering his courage, he dared to give the other boy a quick kiss on the cheek.

Michele blinked and gave Toto an uncertain look.

“What’s wrong?” Toto asked.

“I… sorry, Toto,” Michele replied, flushing a little. “I wasn’t expecting that.”

So, you were surprised. But not in a bad way, right?

“Let’s go on a little further,” Michele said.

They turned towards the sea and walked on along the rocky mountain crest. Scrubby trees crowded in and out from both sides, but occasionally they glimpsed views down to the landscape below, catching a snatch of turquoise water or a flash of the terracotta rooftops of Scala.

Eventually they reached the final rocky plateau, where Toto had camped with Gianni, Angelo and Claudia. They wandered down to an area in the shade of the trees where the rocks gave way to a softer patch of dry grass, and they sat down together, leaning against the trunk of one of the larger trees. Toto took off his shoulder bag and dug out the water bottles, handing one to Michele. They were quiet for a while as they sipped at the water, refreshing their sun-baked senses.

When they had finished, they placed the bottles down in the shade of the tree.

Toto took his friend’s hand again, his heart drumming nervously against his chest. “I really, really like you, Michele,” he said.

Michele’s brown eyes turned towards him. “I know, Toto,” he said.

Embarrassed and exposed, Toto went on, “I think… you know… I really do love you.”

Michele gave Toto’s hand a squeeze, but he made no move to come any closer.

“You mean the world to me, too, Toto,” he said, “but… aah!” with a grunt of frustration, he left the sentence unfinished.

Toto cast his eyes down to the dry grass, looking at the ragged tufts and stalks.

Is that all…?

Michele got up and walked across the clearing, where he stood in the baking sun, hands in his pockets. He kicked at a small stone; it skittered away, coming to rest among the trees. Toto watched him for a few moments. He showed no signs of coming back; he dug at the loose stones and dirt with his foot, shoulders slumped.

Toto hated to see his friend this way, so tortured by something that he couldn’t quite understand. Warily, he got up and approached the other boy.

“Michele…” Toto began, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder, but the other boy shook him off.

“Leave it, Toto,” he snapped.

Toto turned away, upset and confused. “So, is that it?” he mumbled, walking away. “Am I wasting my time here?”

There was a long silence; Toto stared miserably at the stony floor.

“No…” Michele choked, a catch in his voice. “Please don’t think that.”

Toto turned back to look at his friend and was dismayed to see a tear rolling down his cheek.

“Then what is it?” Toto asked desperately.

“I’m scared, Toto!” Michele burst out. “All this… it’s too much! I don’t know what to do… what am I going to say to my parents? To Father Stefano?”

Toto crept towards him again. “You haven’t told them? Not anything?”

Michele shook his head. “Nothing.”

“Michele… your parents are great… how bad could it really be?”

“I’m their only son,” Michele said desperately. “Family matters to them. They’re relying on me to… you know… And now I’m supposed to tell them, what… that I’m gay? That I’ll never give them grandchildren? That all those trips to church…”

He threw up his hands in despair and turned away again, shoulders shaking. Toto stood, frozen, desperately sorry for him but unsure what to do.

“Help me, please, Toto,” Michele said in a small voice.

Toto’s paralysis broke. He stepped forwards and pulled Michele into an embrace. The other boy held him tightly, shaking as he wept; Toto rocked him. Once again, Toto felt tears splashing down on his shoulders and his neck.

“It’s all right,” Toto said. “All this stuff you’ve been carrying… you’ve got to let it go.”


“I don’t know, Michele. Talk to them? Tell them all. I’ll help you. All these secrets, they’re destroying you.” Toto took his friend gently by the arm. “Come back into the shade.”

Michele allowed himself to be led back to their chosen tree, and they sat back down against the tree trunk. Toto passed the other boy his water bottle, and he drank deeply.

“How many more times are you going to save me, Toto?” Michele asked.

Toto shrugged. “As many as it takes, I guess.”

“Way to back a loser, Toto,” Michele replied. “I don’t deserve you.”

“Honestly, Michele, that’s for me to decide.”

“Some boyfriend I’d be,” Michele muttered.

Toto put an arm around Michele’s shoulders, pulling him closer. “I had this afternoon all planned, you know,” he said. “Time alone. It was going to be so romantic.”

Michele laughed slightly. “Sorry, Toto.”

He fiddled distractedly with his swift pendant.

“It all seems so simple for you,” Michele went on after a while. “How do you do it?”

Toto shook his head. “I’ve been terrified today. When I thought you didn’t like me, that was easy. But now… total pressure…”


Toto nodded. “For sure. Now I’ve got so much more to lose.”

“Thanks, Toto.”

Toto watched him for a moment; he seemed vulnerable, exposed, and more beautiful than ever.

“We should get moving soon,” Toto said, “because I’m getting the urge to kiss you again, and I don’t think…”

Michele cast him a look with his brown eyes and shook his head. “I’m not there yet. Sorry, Toto.”

“I know.” Toto stuffed the water bottles into his shoulder bag and helped Michele to his feet. “Let’s go.”

* * *

They continued their explorations. There was no more hand-holding, but Toto felt the atmosphere was easier. He thought he understood, now, what was holding Michele back. He was less certain how he was going to help him through it, but he would figure that out later. For now, Michele seemed happier, and Toto was content to wait.

They explored the slopes at the end of the mountain peak until they stumbled upon some old terraced vineyards. After pausing for a minute to take in the view, the whole of Ravello spread out below them, they turned back, realising they must have strayed onto private land.

They even played a little hide and seek among the trees. Toto smiled as he remembered Michele saying that Daniele seemed too old for the game.

What does that make us, then?

Toto thought this as he crouched behind a gnarled old chestnut tree, where a pocket of dense undergrowth helped to shield his position. Michele had been gone for some time, and Toto had last seen him heading into the trees on the far side of the clearing. He was just starting to feel pleased with himself when he was jumped suddenly from behind. Arms closed around him and rolled him onto his back. Dazzled by the sun shining through the trees and decidedly ruffled, Toto blinked skywards. Michele’s face loomed up into his view.

“Gotcha,” he said, smiling.

“Jesus, Michele,” Toto panted, “that was stealthy! You made me jump.”

“Yeah, you were owned,” Michele replied, helping him to his feet.

“It’s always the quiet ones… honestly, any time you want to wrestle, you just have to ask.”

“I don’t just now,” Michele said, “but I could take you.”

“Keep dreaming, boy.”

When they had had enough, they made the journey back along the rocky ridge. Ahead, there was nothing but green mountains and blue sky. Toto drank most of his remaining water and then sprinkled the last few drops over his face to cool it down against the relentless heat.

“Do you really wish you could leave this place?” Toto asked.

“Sometimes,” Michele replied. “It’d be nice to think I could.”

“I still think I’d like to stay here with you.”

“You know how I feel about that, Toto.”

“Yeah, I know.”

The steep, rocky path back down from the peak was treacherous under foot, and Toto soon realised that this was one of those places where going up was easier than going down. However, they survived the descent without incident, at least until they encountered a snake.

The reptile was curled up, basking on a sunny rock. Its beady eyes stared at them, tongue flicking out lazily every now and then. Its scaly hide was a drab brown in colour.

“Wow,” Toto said. “Um…”

“It’s probably harmless,” Michele said. “Come on, Toto.”

He took his hand and they stepped sideways around the creature, giving it as wide a berth as they could. The creature stayed where it was, either too lazy or too bold to flee. They backed away slowly until they felt it was safe to turn and hurry on.

Some time later, after a long and hot descent, they parted company in their usual spot by the ceramics workshop.

“See you tomorrow, Toto,” Michele said.

“Will you do what I said?” Toto asked. “Will you talk to your family about all this?”

“Soon… maybe,” Michele replied uncertainly.

“I’ll be there, if you need me.”

“Thanks, Toto.”

With a parting wave, Michele set off up the street that led to the square, leaving Toto standing alone, but not without hope.

* * *

Two years ago

Michele Romano, aged fourteen, sits at the family dining table with his parents Chiara and Davide. Empty plates smeared with traces of tomato pasta sauce are all that remain of the dinner they have just shared. A deafening silence reigns around the table following the story Michele has just told them.

A few days have passed since Michele’s fall at the Torre, and it’s his father’s first night home from a business trip to Rome. Over dinner, they got to talking about the events leading up to the accident, and this is the first time Michele has told his parents why he and Toto stopped talking in the first place.

“Toto kissed you?” Davide says at length; he is dressed in a casual polo shirt, having freshened up when he got home.

“That’s extraordinary,” Chiara adds. It’s her night off work, and for once she is dressed in her own clothes instead of her bar uniform. She is wearing a white blouse and a soft cardigan in powder blue.

“I never would have known that he was… that he was a…” Davide begins.

“Please, Papà!” Michele interrupts, begging him not to complete his sentence.

“And you… you don’t…” Davide falters.

Wordlessly, Michele shakes his head.

“You had no idea?” Chiara asks.

“No! I was… totally spun…”

“So, what happened next?” Davide asks.

“I freaked out and pushed him away! Salvatore saw the whole thing. When Toto realised that his father had seen everything, he… kinda split.”


“He didn’t go home for three days.”

Chiara puts a hand to her mouth. “The poor boy,” she says, “it must have been awful for him.”

“Are you serious, Chiara?” Davide splutters. “Michele’s the one who paid the price.”

“It wasn’t like that, Papà,” Michele says. “What happened with Enzo and the others wasn’t Toto’s fault.”

“I suppose,” Davide concedes, “but still… Michele, I would have been horrified if my best friend turned around and did that to me.”

“So, he really likes me,” Michele mumbles. “It’s not so bad.”

“And you’re still happy to be friends with him, after what he did?” Davide says.

“Yes! I missed him so much… we’ve been friends forever. I mean, look where I ended up without him…”

“And Father Stefano…”

“He’s the one who told me to go and find Toto again.”

Davide shakes his head. “What a mess.”

Chiara sighs, a faraway look in her eyes. “Poor Salvatore!”

Michele glances at her. “What do you mean, Mamma?”

Chiara puts a gentle hand on Michele’s shoulder. “Michele, all Salvatore has ever wanted is a more normal family life for his son. It’s why he works so hard in that shop. What kind of future does his family have now?”

Michele inspects his fingernails. “I’d never thought of it that way. Is it really so important?”

“Children, a family… it’s one of the things that makes us human.”

“And now,” Davide says, “Salvatore’s family name will die out.”

“But not yet,” Michele protests, wrestling with all these new ideas. “I mean, Toto… Salvatore will never see the day…”

For reasons he can’t quite understand, Michele finds himself blinking back tears. Chiara beckons him over for a hug.

“Michele,” she says, squeezing him about the shoulders, “having you is one of the best and most important things we’ve ever done. One day, you’ll understand what we mean.”

“Okay, Mamma.”

Davide embraces him too. “You’re a good boy, Michele. I hope Toto realises how lucky he is to have a friend like you.”

Michele doesn’t feel like such a good friend after everything he’s done, but he appreciates his father’s words all the same. Now, he must find a way to live up to them.

He swears that he will never abandon his best friend again.

Copyright © 2021 James Carnarvon; All Rights Reserved.
  • Like 17
  • Love 13
  • Haha 1
  • Sad 2
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. 
You are not currently following this author. Be sure to follow to keep up to date with new stories they post.

Recommended Comments

Chapter Comments

  • Site Moderator

Michele is indeed suffering under family pressure and the talk with them two years ago is weighing heavily on him. Both Toto and Michele are only children and for Michele's parents this new turn will be a painful issue. I think his mother may be more understanding than his father.

Italy is only now trying to draft new laws on same sex couples being able to adopt or have children. It's new ground and a timely issue. If this was already settled, it would make the going easier for Michele.

  • Like 3
  • Love 2
Link to comment

From what has been revealed in the flashback, Michele does indeed face problems at home should he decide he does indeed want to be with Toto. Salvatore appears to have accepted the inevitable about his son, but for Davide & Chiara...

I suppose this is one of the unexpected problems that can arise for parents who have only one son.

  • Like 4
  • Love 1
Link to comment

As suspected, there are many issues to be sorted, given time and understanding, truth will out, serious discussions will resolve issues and Love...will find a way!

Loved the following, well that and the quote...spaghetti arms!!!!!!

“Pretend what?” Michele replied.

“That you can fly.”

“That was just kids’ stuff, Toto,” Michele replied. He sighed. “I wish I could, though.”

They reached the end of the street and stepped out through the archway of an old city gate into a tiny little square at the junction of several paths. Toto stepped out into the centre of the square, staring up at a little chapel that stood there, and flapped his arms hopefully.

“God, give us wings!” he cried. “Let us leave our earthly woes behind!”

Michele walked up beside him and gently pulled one of his arms back down. “Yeah, that’s going to work,” he said.

“Worth a try, though?” Toto said hopefully. “I mean, I’ve been a good boy, haven’t I?”

“Oh, yeah,” Michele replied. “Never a sinful thought.”

  • Like 3
  • Haha 2
Link to comment
  • Site Moderator
22 minutes ago, drsawzall said:

"Never a sinful thought.”

Well, maybe only one or two.

I loved the spaghetti arms line too. Michele is probably the only one who could say it and not hurt Toto's feelings.

  • Like 2
  • Haha 3
Link to comment

"Well?" Claudia asked.  Toto and Michele exchanged a glance. "We… we’ll let you know," Toto said.  Claudia spread her arms impatiently. "That’s it? You’ve got to give me more than that!"  Claudia is such a girl! (Seeing the two together, she draws her own conclusions anyway. ^_^)

"G’night guys," [Dani] replied sleepily. "I’m happy for you."  From the mouths of babes.

Toto wakes with "...a vague image of wings." He says, "God, give us wings!" while in front of the church and by Michele's side.  I love Toto's mention of flight: His spirit is soaring, while in contrast, Michele's is horribly burdened by a sense of familial obligation. Worse, his true self is weighed down by secrets, as he has not yet told his family. As Toto says, "All these secrets, they’re destroying you." The solution is obvious, but can Michele force himself to tell them? (His parents' response to the disclosure of Toto's kiss seems a complete roadblock to his oath that he "will never abandon his best friend again." To do the right thing, he will have to act like the adult he is growing up to be.)

  • Like 4
  • Love 1
Link to comment

In retrospect it is obvious why Michele has been having problems accepting his feelings for Toto.  His parents are loving and seem to accept that Toto is gay.  They don't forbid Michele from seeing Toto.  They have let Michele know their expectations, and he feels a great deal of pressure to meet those expectations.  Toto shows restraint in order to support Michele as he tries to determine what he needs to do.  I appreciate Bella's support and help for Michele getting to accept his love for Toto.  Keeping this a secret is not the answer however.  I think both boys need to talk with Marta, Claudia, Bella, Anna, Angelo and Gianni to get advice on how to proceed.  Also, based on his past help and advice, Father Stefano would be a great support when finally talking with Michele's parents.  All may not be well in paradise, but it is improving. 

Edited by raven1
  • Like 1
  • Love 1
Link to comment
View Guidelines

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
  • Newsletter

    You probably have a crazy and hectic schedule and find it hard to keep up with everything going on.  We get it, because we feel it too.  Signing up here is a great way to keep in touch and find something relaxing to read when you get a few moments to spare.

    Sign Up
  • Create New...

Important Information

Our Privacy Policy can be found here: Privacy Policy. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue..