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Chapter Twenty-four: Luke defends Sandro
Luke said to Tom, “As soon as we get home, and before I go back to work, I must go and see Sandro and Mamma. I must get them reconciled. Sandro has big exams coming up in nine or ten weeks, and we must make sure that he is emotionally OK. I need to spell that out to Mamma, in case Sandro has not made it clear. I don’t know what I can do about Massimo. I don’t want you to come with me, I need to do this myself. I know you feel guilty about egging on Sandro to get involved in sex, but I would have told him exactly the same as you did.”
When they got back to Trabizona, Luke immediately took the train to Dorothea and Massimo’s. His mother was surprised to see him, and so was Sandro. Luke asked his mother to come for a walk in the nearby park and he spoke to her in English, “Mamma, I gather that my brother has upset you by telling you that he is gay. Please tell me that you still love him and that you will be brave and support him. I know that he is in love with a man and that has upset you, but he has big exams coming up in a few weeks. He is a good student, he stands a chance of a scholarship and nothing must come between him and his work. If he felt that you no longer loved him, it could have disastrous effects on his exam performance.
“You have never condemned or reproached me for being gay, and I can assure you that my parents were just as shocked as you were when at the age of just eighteen, a year younger than Sandro, I told them that I was gay and was having it off with a boy at school. As yet, we don’t know much about the man that he has fallen for, but Pop says that the guy has a good reputation, and Sandro is a very sensible boy. He loves his academic work, and has said that this guy has promised not to hinder his studies. I can tell you that Tom and I were both very supportive of each other during our first exams and I am certain that regularly having sex together actually improved our exam performance! And please, please don’t think that either of us or his uncles have led him astray.
“So please, Mamma, be nice to Sandro. You and I both share his genes. He needs your love and support, and may need it even more in the future if things go wrong for him.” After this long speech, Luke, ignoring the few passers by in the park, put his arms round his mother, hugged her tightly and kissed her emotionally. It was the first time that he had ever shown her the kind of deep and indescribable love that sons can feel for their mothers. She could feel the tears on his face. Any resentment she might have had against her two sons being gay melted away there and then.
She put her hands on either side of Luke’s face and kissed him. “Luca,” she said “It did come as a big shock to me, because we had never expected that Sandro would turn out like you, in spite of the similarity of features! But heredity is inescapable, and I certainly don’t want to lose your brother. I’ve already told him that I still love him, and I’ll tell him how you have pleaded on his behalf! What’s more, you don’t have to worry about Massimo. Massimo loves Sandro just as much as if he were his own son, and after the momentary shock of Sandro coming out to us, he told him the very next day that he still loved him and they are now good mates again.”
When they got back to the house, Sandro was there talking happily to Massimo. Luke explained that he had come to defend his brother, only to find that he had been worrying unnecessarily. He shook hands with Massimo, put his arms round Sandro and whispered, “Best of luck with your new man!” kissed him and said goodbye. Massimo was touched by Luca’s loyalty to his brother and his concern for him.
In spite of his needless panic, it was a relieved Luke who returned to Trebizona, rejoicing inwardly even though he had to stand on the crowded train back home. He found that Tom had already rung Leonora to tell her that they were back. She arrived the next day from home. She was only going to Bologna one day a week, and the rest of the time was revising for her exams. The boys told her that the following Wednesday they were having a friend round to eat. This was Ben Curtiss.
Chapter Twenty-five: A big change for Leonora
Ben arrived about 7 pm. Tom was cooking, so Luke acted as host, and poured Prosecco for the guests. He had expected that Leonora would clam up and not talk. He had not expected that Ben would be very chatty either, but Ben needed someone to talk to, as he had just broken up with Giovanna. He had finally realized that she was never going to commit herself to a long-term relationship with him. Tom thought that the company of someone entirely different, and younger, like Leonora, might cheer him up. Luke was sceptical. He said that women were not worth the trouble. But to his surprise, Tom was right.
Ben and Leonora both seemed to enjoy each other’s company, and the evening was a great success, ending with a rather illegal bahis fuddled Luke and Tom performing Per questa bella mano. It was a good job that the apartment had such thick walls, as the neighbours, even Italian neighbours, might have objected to arias at midnight. Tom noticed Ben writing his phone number on a piece of paper and giving it to Leonora, who gave him a paper in exchange.
Within a couple of weeks, Ben and Leonora were dating regularly. Leonora was a new person. She still worked hard with her revision books, but was cheerful, even chatty, at mealtimes. She started going out in the evenings, and Tom noticed that Ben spent far fewer evenings in the lab than previously. “I wonder if Ben likes opera,” Luke wondered. When her exams were over, Leonora moved back to Bologna, but Ben was still absent in the evenings and his car was clocking up a large kilometerage. Sometimes he arrived late at the lab in the morning, having, Tom reckoned, spent the night in Bologna and driven back in the morning.
By mid-July, Tom ventured to ask Ben if he and Leonora were dating regularly. Ben said that not merely were they dating, but that he was going to ask her to marry him! Tom said that it had not taken Ben long to fall in love, and was he sure that it was not a rebound effect after Giovanna. Ben replied that he had fancied Leonora from the first time that he met her. Tom secretly hoped that this was true. It would be an emotional disaster for Leonora if Ben let her down.
He said to Ben, “Leonora has led a very sheltered life, and is very religious. Don’t upset her by getting too passionate too soon. She has to totally reorganize her life if she has decided not to spend it in a convent. Be careful and don’t rush her. I think that you would be very good for one another, but you BOTH have to certain that you have met the right person. Why don’t both of you come and eat with us? I like cooking for Leonora! No-one will talk about your relationship, because I won’t tell Luke.”
So the following Tuesday (it was a week in which there was no opera performance on the Tuesday, as the season was nearing its end) Ben and Leonora arrived together. Tom felt that he was too involved with both of the guests to judge objectively, as well as being busy cooking, so he asked Luke to observe Leonora closely and try and see whether she seemed attached to Ben. As it turned out, the shy Leonora seemed to have vanished. She not only seemed to sparkle when she looked at Ben, Luke even noticed her reach out and get hold of his hand as they sat down at the table. Because of Ben’s presence, Luke did not say grace, he and Tom just made the sign of the cross unobtrusively before eating. The evening went amazingly successfully. The men drank quite a lot, and Luke noticed that although Leonora did not drink much, she still seemed to gaze happily at Ben. She told the boys that she had decided not to become a novice; that when her exam results were known, she was going to train as a teacher of primary-school children. Tom said that it was too late for Leonora to go back to Bologna, she must stay the night at his place. They left on a late tram. “I wonder if Ben has taken Leonora’s virginity yet!” said Luke in his usual crude way.
Tom looked a bit shocked. “She’s very religious. She must have fallen for Ben very hard if she’s letting him fuck her,” he said. “Although Leonora is incredibly sweet, and I’m very fond of her, the very thought of taking a woman’s virginity scares the pants off me!” he added.
“Well, I guess that removing your pants is the best way to begin!” joked Luke.
Chapter Twenty-six: The new répétiteuse
It was one of the days towards the end of the opera season when there was no evening performance, and Luke could spend the day at his desk. He was looking at the details of the four applicants shortlisted for the job of répétiteur at the Teatro Musicale. All the four were well qualified. There was a man from Mannheim, Italian by birth, obviously keen to go back to his native land, a lady from Antwerp, Dutch by birth, obviously keen to break into the Italian opera world, a man from Copenhagen and one from Stockholm. There were no Italians working in Italy on the list. Why would they ever want to come to Trabizona? It was not one of the well-known opera houses. All four of the shortlist were due to come for interview that day and the next. The job of répétiteur is a difficult balance of skills needed, between language coaching and musical style. Looking at the applicants’ CVs, it was fairly evident that the different candidates had differing strengths in those two areas. Luke reckoned that the two who looked best on paper were the Dutch lady from Antwerp, and the Frenchman working in Stockholm.
Cornelio, his boss, had not yet pronounced his opinions, but he was not dismayed that no Italians working in Italy had applied. He said that Italians always believed that there was no quality in opera illegal bahis siteleri outside Italy, whereas he himself was wide open to the world of international quality. It was self-evident both to Luke and Cornelio that the prime qualities sought were musical and Italian language skills, because not all the singers, not even all the chorus members, were Italian. Accordingly, Cornelio had decided that the interviews should be in Italian, in spite of the fact that the international language of opera is very largely English. In that way the everyday skills of the candidates would be tested.
All the applicants were pretty good. When Pauline van Houtenstok was interviewed, she said to Luke: “I know your father very well. He sings regularly with us in Antwerpen. He is such a nice guy, even if he is gay.” This lady seemed to to Luke to be the ideal candidate, but as he said to Cornelio, his opinion might be too favourable, just because his father knew her. Even so, he took the opportunity during the lunch break to try to contact his father on his cellphone. He was successful, and David said that Pauline van H. was very good at her job, and would stand no nonsense from temperamental singers. By the following day, it was clear to both Luke and Cornelio that Pauline was by far the most outstanding candidate, and after the four had left, Cornelio immediately E-mailed her offering her the job. Within hours, she had replied, accepting the offer, but saying that she had to give Vlaamse Opera three months notice.
As Luigi, the current répétiteur, had only one month left before leaving, Cornelio told Luke that for the month of September, after the season had begun, the director of the first production and himself would have to share the répétiteur’s job, leaving Luke to take over Cornelio’s responsibilities. “I’ll make sure that you get paid for the additional responsibility,” he promised. The fact that he and Cornelio got on so well together was the reason why Luke enjoyed his job and put up with the poor pay and horrendous working hours.
Chapter Twenty-seven: Sandro’s first Pentecost term
Jon had found out when Sandro was due to arrive back in Camford and met him at the station. They loaded his luggage into the 4×4 and Jon then took him into the refreshment room and bought him a cola. “Neither your uncle nor I plan to interfere with your life, Sandro,” he said, “I just want to tell you that if anything goes wrong with your relationship with Jack, you must come and talk to us. Oh, and I will E-mail you with an invitation to bring Jack round for a meal within the next couple of weeks. David will be at home, and I want him to meet Jack. Is that OK?”
“Yes, I want you to meet him.” They got into the car and Jon took Sandro to Boni’s and helped carry his luggage to his room. They made their farewells, and David went to the SCR to see if there was any mail for him. Sandro got out his cellphone and rang Jack.
They had of course been in regular communication by E-mail over the vacation, but somehow Sandro found it inadequate. Because there had been no confession of love on Jack’s part, Sandro felt unable to pour out his feelings, so his writing was rather stilted. True, Jack had said how much he missed Sandro, but always coupled it with some lecherous desire, which however exciting it might have sounded, did not give any assurance of love, or indeed any indication of it. It was always about what Jack wanted to do with his cock, or with Sandro’s cock. Never had he said ‘I love you’, always ‘I miss you’ or ‘I want you.’
Exactly as in the previous term, Jack came round to Sandro’s room in college. No sooner had he entered than Sandro threw his arms round him and kissed him passionately. Jack reciprocated by undoing Sandro,’s belt with his left hand while his other was round the boy’s shoulders. He unzipped Sandro’s jeans and pulled them down to his ankles, then he removed Sandro’s shoes and socks and slipped his lower garments off. Sandro disengaged himself from Jack’s grasp and pulled his shirt off. Jack pushed the now naked boy over to the sofa, where he made him bend over. He knelt and began to kiss Sandro’s sweet brown arse. He rubbed his lips over the smooth hairless curves for some minutes before pushing his face into Sandro’s arse-crack and beginning to rim him. Sandro squirmed with pleasure at the delicious sensations in the lower part of his body. Jack’s long and agile tongue tried to push its way through Sandro’s sphincter. He did not succeed, but the sensations Sandro was experiencing were so strong that his prick, which had been rock-hard ever since Jack entered the room, now began to spit seed over the sofa. Jack pushed him to one side and began to lick the worn leather upholstery before wrapping his arms round the naked boy and kissing him for several blissful minutes.
Jack was reluctant to think that his affection for Sandro was anything more than attraction to a sweet-natured canlı bahis siteleri young man, but he was wise enough to know that he had to be nice and supportive to Sandro, at least until the lad’s exams were over. They resumed their twice-weekly trips to the Fitness Centre and the cinema, where of course they held hands. In the second week of the term, they went to eat at the flat in Fountain Street with David and Jon. As the older men were both chemists by training, much of the conversation was on chemical topics. Sandro listened at first politely, but found his attention wandering as the conversation progressed. He reached out under the table and got hold of Jack’s hand. To his surprise and disappointment, Jack withdrew his hand and gave Sandro an impatient look. Later, Sandro realized that this was the first indication he had had that Jack was cooling off.
Chapter Twenty-eight: Bastian’s hospitality
Soon after Easter, Luke and Tom went with Bastian and Sescandante out to dinner at the gay restaurant where Bastian was a regular customer. In spite of its upmarket shops, the boys had not realized how sophisticated a city Trebizona was. In their birthday visit to Agostino’s restaurant, they had been too wrapped up in themselves to notice the rest of the clientèle. Tom had few acquaintances outside the university apart from his elderly piano teacher, and Luke’s job rarely took him front of house at the theatre.
The restaurant was quite busy with smartly dressed men in their late twenties and thirties, quite different from the rather shabby young people who made up most of the student population, or the T-shirted or leather jacketed population of an English gay pub. Luke had recently temporarily abandoned his preference for Giorgio Armani, and purchased a new Tom Ford suit. The narrow-legged trousers suited his skinny figure very well, but all that Tom said was that he preferred Luke with his trousers off! Tom only wore fancy clothes to please his mate, a feature which endeared him greatly to his father-in-law David, who, although he did not dress scruffily, rarely wore fancy clothes when he was not performing professionally. Most of Luke’s work colleagues were too badly paid to wear designer garments, so he did not usually wear suits or other designer clothes at work, unless he was meeting eminent conductors, directors or singers. Bastian was delighted with his two fashionably dressed companions and spent several minutes exuding charm, much to Sescantante’s amusement. Sescantante said to the boys, “Please call me Arturo when I’m not at work.”
They lingered over the Prosecco for a full half hour while perusing the menu. The boys suddenly realized that they were being shown off to the more well-heeled gay population of Trabizona. “Everyone will now know that we’re gay,” muttered Tom to Luke.
“What is there to be secretive about?” asked Luke, “Are you ashamed of me?”
“Of course not, I’m proud to be yours,” replied Tom. “It’s just that I have a nagging fear that you’ll see someone here whom you fancy,” he added.
“What the fuck does it matter if I do?” said Luke, “I’ve promised lifetime fidelity to you, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate male beauty when I see it!” The two older men were much amused by this conversation.
“You’ll meet some of these guys at my summer party,” said Arturo. From time to time in the course of the meal, various acquaintances of Bastian came up and greeted him. Luke and Tom were conscious of being scrutinized by these young men, and Luke was embarrassed.
They had the restaurant’s tasting menu, which was basically a large number of very small helpings of food, each course being accompanied by a small glass of an appropriate wine. There were seven courses and seven wines in all. “Bastian,” Tom said, “this is fantastic hospitality! If you insist on treating us, we are determined to return your generosity. We’re not classic impecunious students, you must know that from our clothes. I and the lady who cleans for us will produce for you both a very acceptable meal. Obviously it won’t be as fancy as this, but we will ensure a high standard of food and wine. It might take us a few weeks to get it organized, though. Compared with chemical research, cookery is just a matter of care and imagination. There are no unknowns about where the result might take you.”
Chapter Twenty-nine: Tom’s birthday
Luke often reflected about how lonely Tom must get late in the evenings, with nothing but books, the piano and the cooking stove for company, so on the occasion of Tom’s twentyfourth birthday early in June, he negotiated with Cornelio for an evening off work. He went to the local shops and bought cold meats, cheese, salad materials, panini and ready-made desserts and a bottle of Prosecco and a carton of orange juice for himself, who was driving. He had told Tom that morning to finish work at 5 pm. As soon as Tom got home, they loaded the food and drink and eating utensils into the car and set off into the countryside. Luke had made sure that there were rugs in the car and had other necessaries for lovemaking with him. It was a lovely warm evening, so they changed into shorts before leaving.
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