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[Most of the characters in this story have appeared in my previous stories, but you do not need to have read them. This is my first story written in the third person. It tells of two gay couples and an Italian boy who is in search of love and adventure in the English university city of Camford. As usual with my stories, some places and institutions are real, others are fictitious.]
Chapter One: Sandro arrives in Camford
On a beautiful summer afternoon in July, 20—, Alessandro Mascagnoli got off the train in Camford station. Sandro was 19 years of age and had successfully made the journey on his own from the small town where he lived in northern Italy to London-Gatwick airport via Valerio-Catullo-Villafranca airport. From Gatwick he had taken the train to Camford, a trip involving a confusing train journey through the centre of London. It was less than a year since he had last been in Camford, but then he had been brought by his parents for his grandparents’ fortieth wedding anniversary, and his cousin Luca’s civil partnership ceremony.
Sandro had grown up very close to both his parents. As a teenager he had never felt rebellious, and his discovery at the age of about 16 that the man whom he had always regarded as his father, Massimo Mascagnoli, was not his biological father, instead of creating a barrier between them, actually drew him closer, as he was old enough to recognize the kindness and nobility of a man who could marry a pregnant woman and bring up her child at his own. Surprisingly too, this revelation did not alienate him from his mother Dorotea, but drew him closer to her as he felt full of sympathy for a woman who had been so deceived. However, he nourished a lingering deep-seated venomous contempt for the man who had twice seduced her. The unexpected visit to the family of his hitherto unknown English brother, Luca, whom he had always thought was his cousin, had precipitated his mother’s revelation of his parenthood. Meeting Luca and his relatives may have made Sandro wonder more about the world outside his home-town.
At school, he had had friendships with boys and girls of his own age but nothing really close. His closest friends had all been boys, but this did not stop him from looking with interest and excitement at some of the girls in his class at school, many of whom were very pretty. So it was with a sense of adventure and uncertainty about himself and particularly about his sexuality, that he had set out in great excitement, having surmounted the rather considerable barrier of gaining admission to a foreign university, the University of Camford. Apart from his family, there was no-one whom he really regretted leaving.
Sandro’s intention was to matriculate in October at Saint Boniface’s College to read engineering, but in the meantime he had been enrolled by his uncle on a so-called intensive course of English language at one of the numerous private language schools with which Camford is well endowed. It was not that he did not know English: he had been brought up as bilingual, as his mother was English and his father Italian. However, his pronunciation left a lot to be desired and his knowledge of English grammar was rather fuzzy. Moreover the College had insisted that he sit the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) and get the maximum grade.
His biological uncle David Singleton-Scarborough, Luca’s adoptive father, however, would not be there in Camford. He had recently started spending the summer months in the Dutch town of Heemstede, near Haarlem, where he was teaching singing and and having recording sessions for Philips. Accordingly, David’s partner, Luca’s cofather, Jonathan Singleton-Scarborough, would be keeping house for Sandro in their flat in Fountain Street until the Martinmas term began. It was a testimony to Jonathan’s deep love for David that he had separated himself from his partner for two months in order to oblige the needs of David’s extended family.
The bag that Sandro was carrying, together with a large backpack, comprised only part of his luggage. The remainder would be sent by an international road delivery service at some unspecified date in the future. Jonathan met him at the station and they loaded the two pieces of luggage into the back of the 4×4. Jon then drove them to Fountain Street. He never ceased to marvel at the resemblance between Sandro and his own adopted son, Luke, or Luca he was called by his Italian relations. This was scarcely surprising, as they were biological brothers. Both boys had long, very black wavy hair, both were tall and thin, and both were very brown-skinned.
Sandro had been assigned the small bedroom formerly occupied by David and Jon’s daughter Cathy. Cathy, who still had another year of study at Oxbridge University, had insisted on being upgraded to the other spare bedroom as soon as her brother and Tom had moved out, mainly because she wanted the en-suite bathroom. However, she was currently staying with one of her friends in canlı bahis Scotland. By the time unpacking was complete, it was turned six o’clock, and Jon and Sandro went out to eat at the Sparrowhawk, a pub close by the flat in Fountain Street.
On the way to the pub, Jonathan said to him, “Non parlamo Italiano! From now on, I will no longer speak Italian to you. Everything you say must be in English. If you don’t know the words, think of a different way to say the same thing in words that you do know. If that’s impossible, then ask me in English what the word you need is, and I will tell you. But the only way for you to get really good at speaking English is never to use your native language. I will try, when we are together, to try and improve your pronunciation. You know most of the words, but you don’t always say them in the right way. English is much harder to pronounce than Italian, because there are very few rules, and words are often not spoken the way they are spelt. Every evening before you go to bed, I will allow you to talk to me in Italian for not more than half an hour, just so that you can relax before you go to sleep.”
It was unfortunate for Sandro that his brother Luca, whom everyone who did not know the secret of the two boys’ parenthood thought was his cousin, was not around to welcome him. Luca had just gone to live in Italy with his partner Tom Appleton, where they had recently got jobs in the city of Trabizona. Sandro did not know his uncle David’s partner very well, they had only met about twice, but he felt that he was going to get on well with this elderly man whom his uncle loved so much. The guy, even though he was approaching sixty, seemed to understand the feelings of teenagers.
This feeling of Sandro’s was strengthened when they reached the pub. “As you’re 19,” said Jon “it’s quite legal for you to drink alcohol, so I am going to buy you some English beer. I don’t know whether you drank beer at home, but it is essential in this town to be able to drink and to enjoy beer. Most people don’t like beer the first time that they taste it, or even the second or third time! But if you persevere, you realize that it is one of the most enjoyable and refreshing drinks there is. A lot of women don’t like beer, but that’s because they are not prepared to make the effort to learn, whereas men think that it is manly to drink beer, so they do make the effort. It’s not true of course, but it makes men happy to think so! Language skills are just the same. You have to persevere and work hard to learn to speak a language well.” He presented Sandro with a half pint of Camford’s local brew, West London Bitter. Sandro tasted it and pulled a face.
“It’s very bitter,” he said. “What does ‘persevere’ mean?”
“Yes, it takes quite an effort to get used to it. Drink it up and you can then have a cola if you want it! ‘Persevere’ is perseverare in Italian, not very different. When you meet the kids from the language school, you’ll probably find that they are very juvenile and childish. Don’t drink the rubbish beer or the alcopops that they drink and steer clear of hash or hard drugs. If you don’t enjoy their company, don’t worry, the boys and girls you’ll meet when you move into college will be much more interesting.”
The next few minutes were spent by Jon telling Sandro what the various items on the menu were. The pub did have a few Italian dishes, and Sandro ended up choosing lasagne. “That won’t taste like the lasagne that your mother cooks!” said Jon.
“It’s fine!” replied Sandro. Teenagers are always ready to eat most kinds of food. He finished the beer and asked Jon for a cola.
“Here’s the money,” said Jon, “go up to the bar and order it yourself. I don’t think that they will ask for proof of age, as you are not buying alcohol, but if they do, show them your passport. You need practice in doing things like buying drinks.” They ate their meal, both having two courses, and Jon consumed a pint of West London bitter. Jon paid the bill for the food.
When they got back to the flat, Jon took a copy of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ from the shelf and told Sandro to read out loud from it. First Jon read a paragraph, telling Sandro to listen carefully, then Sandro read the same passage, and Jon corrected his pronunciation. “We’ll do half an hour of that every evening,” said Jon. “You’ll find that it is the best way to improve your pronunciation. It won’t always be the same book, and sometimes we’ll use a newspaper.”
They then had a long chat in Italian, in which both agreed that the complexity of their family relationships was not only confusing to themselves, it must totally baffle people outside the family. Sandro was in many ways so like Luke, that Jon found it easier to think of Sandro as another son rather than his partner’s nephew and Sandro found it easier to think of Jon as another father rather than his uncle’s partner. When speaking of Jon to other people, he resolved to call him his uncle. ‘Co-uncle’ seemed bahis siteleri an unintelligible word, as well as being hard to say. Sandro went to bed thinking that England might be enjoyable as well as extremely interesting. Jon went to bed missing his son, whom he had not seen for six months, his memory having been awakened by Sandro’s amazing resemblance. He just hoped for the sake of family peace and quiet, that Sandro did not turn out to be gay.
Chapter Two: Problem at the opera house
David Singleton-Scarborough breathed a sigh of relief as the last pupil of the day left his house. The boy had been rather a pain. He persistently failed to get the tempo of the aria he was singing right to David’s satisfaction. Sometimes David wondered whether starting teaching was the right thing for him to have done. One of his reasons for doing so was so that he could spend more time with his partner Jon. However, things had not turned out that way. When his sister Dorothea, known by her husband as Dorotea, asked if he could keep an eye on her son Alessandro while he was polishing up his English prior to entering Camford University, David had said that he himself couldn’t do it, but that he would ask his partner Jon. So Jon agreed to spend an extra couple of months in the apartment in Fountain Street, Camford instead of sleeping every night in Heemstede with his lover.
David liked living in the Netherlands. Although he missed the academic hothouse atmosphere of Camford, the relaxed atmosphere of the Low Countries suited him. He was after all, half Dutch by birth. But at the same time, he also missed Jon. In Heemstede, he had more time to think of his partner than during his recital tours and opera engagements.
David got up and went into his office, where his PA, Loesje was checking his diary for the following week. “Net zodra je klaar bent, Loesje, ga maar een beetje vervroegd naar huis.” (As soon as you’re done, Loesje, you can go home a bit early) he said. When she had gone, fancying a bit of phone sex, even though it was only 4-30 pm in England, he reached for the telephone to ring Jon. However, at that moment there was a ringing sound from his laptop. It was Luke, calling from Italy via Skype. David looked at the handsome image of his twenty-three-year-old son. He radiated contentment. ‘Married’ life with his partner Tom obviously suited Luke. “Hi, Dad, after six months, I’m finally doing something interesting, and I need to ask you something. Our head répétiteur is leaving shortly, and my boss is looking for someone to replace him, and being very international in outlook (otherwise he wouldn’t have hired me!) he is thinking about someone from Northern Europe rather than another Italian. Do you know of any good répétiteurs who might want to gain experience in Italy?”
David thought for a moment. “There are very good ones in Copenhagen, Mannheim, Antwerp and Lyon,” he said, “but whether any of them might want to go to Trabizona, I don’t know. I’ll send you their names by E-mail, and their E-mail addresses if I can find them, which I doubt. How are you, and how’s Tom?”
“I’m fine. As for Tom, his Italian has now taken off! For months he’s been trying to talk Italian to me in bed. All the dirty words I learnt from the students in Bologna, I’ve taught to him, but a month ago I forbade him from speaking English to me, not just in bed, but all the time! That made it hard work for him, but now he’s starting to think in Italian, and we never use English in the house! He says it has made things so much easier in the lab, being able to talk to technicians, students and clerical staff, instead of just scientists. Do you know what he said to me in bed the other day? ‘Mi piace tuo cazzo bello’!” (I love your beautiful cock).
“It sounds to me as though he has finally succumbed to the charms of Italy!” David replied. “Italy has attracted Englishmen since the days of the Anglo-Saxons. No less than three Anglo-Saxon kings went on pilgrimage to Rome and died there.
“Anyway, I’m very glad that Tom has broken through the barrier. It is very hard, however much of a foreign language you can understand and read, to actually go out and speak to people. Now that Tom has gained his confidence in communicating, his vocabulary will increase like a bomb. But keep up the daily flash-card exercises. That is the best way to expand his vocabulary easily. The dirty words will help. There is nothing more limiting than not being able to curse in a foreign tongue! Sometimes when you say or do something, Luke, that I like or approve of, I regret that I’m not your biological father. I can’t even claim credit for your big dick! But I’m glad that Tom appreciates it!”
“It seems strange,” replied Luke “that Tom is such a big lad, and yet only has an average-size dick. But it’s good enough for me. I wouldn’t wish him any different. He’s my big boy from the North! He wouldn’t half be embarrassed if he could hear what we’re talking about!”
“Yes, you bahis şirketleri have certainly inherited my crude way of talking. That’s a dubious advantage of being brought up by two men, without a mother. For instance, I can’t imagine many fathers ever discussing the size of their sons’ cocks with them! But that comes from swimming naked in our indoor pool. It would have been a lot more difficult for us if you had been straight. You would have cringed, as Cathy often used to, especially when your Pop and I used to talk about women. I just hope that Jon and I are not going to have that sort of problem with Sandro. He’s a sweet boy, and I hope that he rapidly gets his uncertainty about his sexuality cleared up. I would hate your mother to accuse Jon and me of tipping him over the fence into gayness. Still, we shall know within the next year or so! Luke, are you busy this weekend?” (It was Friday afternoon).
“Not really,” replied Luke. I’m working tomorrow night, but only from five till about eleven. I’m free all day Sunday, though we’re going to my mother’s for lunch and dinner. Why?”
“I’m missing Jon, and I’ve no lessons this weekend, because a lot people are on holiday. If I can get a plane tonight, I’m minded to come and see you both.”
“What a brilliant idea! I’ll make up a bed for you and Tom will come to Valerio-Catullo to meet you, because I’m working tonight.”
“Right! I’ll ring you from Schiphol to confirm that I’ve got a seat on the plane. The flight’s at 7-30, so I should arrive about 9-30 pm.”
All went according to plan. As David emerged from the arrivals gate at Valerio-Catullo, Tom rushed up to greet him. David embraced him and gave him a quick kiss. They both noticed on each other the fragrance of Storing pour Homme, the gay perfume that they both used. Tom led him to the car park and unlocked a small white three-door Fiat. “Non parlamo Inglese!” he said, “solo Italiano.” They put David’s bag on the back seat and climbed in. Tom continued in Italian, “I’ve just bought this car from Massimo. He got it for Sandro to learn to drive in, as it’s small and easily manoeuvrable. But Sandro has now passed the driving test and in any case is in Camford, where cars are a liability. So Massimo offered it to me at a bargain price. Because I had only had a license for four months when we got here, I had no problems in adapting to driving on the right. It’s much easier for me to get to the lab by car than to use the bus, whereas Luca can easily go on the tram to the Teatro Musicale. We’re lucky enough to have off-street parking at our apartment.
“There’s a restaurant next door to the opera house that specializes in after-show suppers, so we’re taking you there to eat. We’ve booked a table for 11 pm, which is a bit late to eat, but I guess that you need some food!” They drove into Trabizona and Tom parked the car. At that time of night it was no problem.
They got into the restaurant and sat at the bar, awaiting Luke’s arrival. Tom’s cellphone rang. It was Luke, speaking in English. They had a major problem at the opera house. As he was leaving the building after that evening’s performance of ‘Rigoletto,’ the tenor had slipped on the stairs and broken his ankle. The hospital said that he must not walk on it for 48 hours. There was no understudy, and no-one in cast or chorus could sing the role tomorrow night with less than 22 hours notice, so Luke wondered if his father could step in. Otherwise they would have to cancel the performance and give the audience their ticket money back. He knew that David had sung the role of Il Duca di Mantova in Antwerp the previous year. David sighed. “I can’t get away from my job, can I?” he said. “Not even for a weekend with my family! Tell Luke that I’ll do it on condition that they assemble the cast principals and the répétiteur tomorrow afternoon to rehearse with me, and get me a vocal score, and that they have someone on hand to make sure that the costumes fit me! It’s too short notice to be able to get the orchestra in. Oh, and ask them to provide a free seat for Tom!” Luke was delighted and said he would ring back in ten minutes with his boss’s decision, and that he would be along to join us in half an hour.
Needless to say, they accepted David’s offer, and Luke joined David and Tom for a very late supper. He said that he had E-mailed his mother to warn her that her brother would be joining them on Sunday. Tom was delighted to get a chance to hear David sing again. David was secretly pleased that after twenty years as an international artist, he had finally got the chance of singing in an Italian opera house, and delighted that it was his son who had got him the chance. The three of them consumed only a single bottle of wine with their meal, and at David’s insistence, they were in bed by 1-30 am.
Chapter Three: David gives a ducal performance
The three men had breakfast at 9 am the next morning. David had brought his laptop and from it extracted the names of répétiteurs that Luke had asked for. Luke went off to the opera house to find out who was going to contact the other cast members, who would not be best pleased at having to give up their Saturday afternoon for an extra rehearsal.
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