Enzo leaned out of the window to inhale the wonderful smell of the garden. He felt serene. His glance flew among the threes and the flowerbeds. He saw Ruggiero and brightened up. He was beautiful. June sun made his dark hair shine. He saw him turning and followed the direction of the glance of his man. Lucia, the youngest waitress of the countess, was going towards him with some flowers in her hands. The girl stopped in front of Ruggiero, who greeted her with courtesy. Enzo couldn't hear the sound of their voices, but at once noticed Ruggiero's gallant attitude and the flirtatious posture of the girl. "If she hopes to ensnare him, she is in for a surprise!" Enzo thought with a superior smile. The two were talking. Shortly afterwards, Ruggiero took her arm and led her towards the park. The crisp laughter of Lucia reached the library window, while she followed him.
Enzo was somewhat perplexed, and asked himself why his Ruggiero was behaving in such a gallant way with the girl. He had to admit she was pretty, but... his Ruggiero told him he never felt attracted to girls... Exactly. Therefore he had nothing to fear, Enzo told himself. When they disappeared from his sight, he resumed tidying up the library without thinking any more about them. No, he was running no danger from that side. If he made sweet eyes to Marzio, the assistant cook, then he would really have to worry. Marzio was the most handsome of the servants, even if he was clumsy and a simpleton.
When on that night Ruggiero took him in his arms and made love to him with his usual manly enthusiasm and virile sweetness, Enzo mentally called himself stupid and his light worry of the afternoon melt like snow under the hot sun -- Ruggiero was his splendid man, his lover, as always.
In the boy's heart, serenity was back. On the following days, he was almost happier than before. He readily obeyed the thousand orders of the young countess. In fact, it had been a while that don Raffaele mainly addressed Ruggiero and his wife mainly addressed Enzo. The young countess directed the house with a strong wrist, and although she left some autonomy to Enzo, it was clear she wanted to be always informed about everything. Ruggiero was often out of the villa during the day to care for the tasks his master gave him.
Sunday came, and they all went to the Mass. Enzo noticed that when leaving the church, Ruggiero lingered near the masters, who were greeting the people as usual. But he saw Ruggiero had a gallant attitude with the girls accompanying their parents to pay homage to the masters, a little too gallant. Why did he have to do that? He never acted this way, up till then. What was up?
Enzo felt troubled, or rather, really annoyed. This change in his Ruggiero was unexplainable, weird, he didn't understand its meaning, its reason. So Enzo felt, for the first time in his life, the bitter taste of jealousy.
When Ruggiero looked towards him, Enzo said, "Let's go back to the villa."
"You go first. I'll come in a while, with the masters," the young man answered, lightly shrugging his shoulders, and turned to greet another family, openly smiling to the seventeen-year-old daughter who lowered her eyes, but only after throwing Ruggiero a glance that Enzo judged to be provocative. The boy went away with long steps, without turning back, stiff like a rooster, confused and angry.
Reaching the villa, he checked that everything was in order for lunch, then withdrew to his little bedroom. He threw himself on the bed, still dressed, on his belly, hopelessly trying to calm down, not to think about the odd attitude of his man who preferred to play the cockerel with girls more than to go home with him.
He stayed there, somewhat sulky, gloomy, agitated, when he heard the door opening and Ruggiero's voice cheerfully saying, "Ah, you are here? They are waiting for you at the table, what are you doing?"
"I don't feel like eating. I won't come," Enzo answered, tense, without turning to look at him.
"What's up? Do you feel bad?"
"I just don't feel like it."
"Come on... Are you tired?" Ruggiero insisted, sitting on the bed's edge and trying to force him to turn.
Enzo resisted him, "Leave me alone, I don't feel like it."
"Well, I'll tell them you don't feel okay, or else they would think it is strange that you don't want to come..." Ruggiero said, standing up. He lightly slapped the boy's ass and went away.
Enzo felt bad -- he imagined his man would insist, would embrace him, would feel he was sad and want to know why... but instead... a slap on his ass and goodbye! Right, he was only interested in his ass anyway, to give vent to his yen, as long as he hadn't find something better. "I am just a hole to fuck," he was telling himself, trying to send back the tears that were pushing behind his eyes.
He tried to tell himself he was wrong, but the fascinating smile that Ruggiero had for those girls, and his withdrawing in the park with the young countess' waitress flashed back in his mind, convincing him he was right. Ruggiero told him so many times he loved just him that he ended up believing it. But then, why did he treat him in such a way? Why did he leave him alone now instead of trying to understand?
He decided to react. Tonight he would make everything clear with him. He would force him to make everything clear. Now he had to resume his self-control. There were several things to do... He stood up and went to the library to put the books that had been used in order. When he heard that the lunch was over in the dining hall, he went out to the garden and went to the stable. He asked Rocco if don Raffaele's horse was ready and Tano for the countess' gig, then, not feeling like to meet Ruggiero, he went to the park, wandering around here and there without a goal.
Toto, master Leo's dog, went towards him, wagging his tail. Enzo crouched down and scratched the nape of his neck. The dog brushed against him, almost like he felt the sadness of the boy, then sat at his side. When Enzo sat on the grass, the dog leaned his head on his lap. The boy caressed him for a long while. Then a long, modulating whistle sounded -- it was Salvatore calling the dog. The animal pricked up his ears and looked at Enzo. The boy said, "Go, you can go..." The dog, almost as if he understood the words, stood up, looked at Enzo once again, then ran in the direction of the whistle, which resounded again.
Enzo looked at him running away, then he stood up too and slowly went towards the small tower. Suddenly he heard a laughter and at once recognized it -- it was Ruggiero. Almost in answer, a feminine laughter followed it. Enzo run to the tower, up the staircase, and threw himself on the bed again. He felt like crying again.
He lay there for a long time, his eyes closed, but without sleeping, when the door opened, "Enzo..." Ruggiero's voice said. He heard him coming near him, and again sitting on the bed's edge. "What are you doing here? What's up?"
"Nothing," the boy murmured.
"How, nothing? You didn't come to eat lunch and you are still here on the bed. What happened?"
"Nothing," the boy insisted. Ruggiero caressed his chest, but differently from the other times, Enzo felt slightly bothered.
"Don't continue to say 'nothing'. What's wrong?"
The boy didn't answer. He would have liked to answer "it's you" but he kept silent. Ruggiero caressed his cheek, but Enzo turned his head to stop that caress.
"Enzo... aren't you... upset with me?" the young man asked, somewhat surprised by that reaction. At his lover's silence, he insisted, "What's up? Will you please tell me? What happened?"
"What happened to you, rather!" the boy answered with a sharp voice, without opening his eyes.
"To me? Nothing happened to me. It's not me who went to this bed, and refused to come to eat! What do you mean?"
"Sure, you had to play the fool with Lucia!" Enzo bitterly said, at half voice.
Ruggiero burst in laughter but his laughter, instead of soothing Enzo, made him furious.
"Aren't you by chance jealous, are you? Being kind with her doesn't mean anything at all, you, more than anyone else, must know it!"
"And this morning after the Mass, why did you make sweet eyes to all the pretty girls of the village?"
"Enzo! Is it possible that you don't understand?"
"No, I really can't understand."
"Don Raffaele... you know, he would find it odd I'm not married yet and just the same if I don't hang around girls. So then, I thought... it's all a scene for him, don't you understand? For him and for the others."
This explanation should have calmed Enzo down, made him tranquil, but it didn't have this effect -- it sounded like a weak excuse trying to hide the truth.
"It's not just a scene. It was enough to look at your eyes."
"Well, that means that I am a good actor, then."
"With whom? With me?" Enzo asked with harshness.
Ruggiero looked at him, astounded, then, feeling offended, he retorted, "Don't talk nonsense! How can you say such a thing?"
"Nonsense? Look, I'm not a fool, not me!"
"And instead you are one, if you think such things. You really are a fool!" Ruggiero quickly and firmly answered.
"And then, if I am such a fool, why you don't go with that very smart Lucia? Go, instead of wasting your time here!"
"Maybe you are right," the young man retorted, and left the room, upset.
Enzo heard the slam of the door like if it had been a stroke hitting him, like a blow inside his heart.
See, he was really a fool -- in this way, instead of attracting him, he just pushed him even farther than before. Why didn't he, instead, embrace him? Why didn't he try to understand what Ruggiero was really feeling, instead of accusing him, or provoking him?
He was cursing himself for his foolishness, when the door opened again. He held back his breath.
After a short while he felt Ruggiero's hand on him that was starting to undress him. "No, what are you doing?!" the boy said, stiffening.
"I want you."
"But I don't want it."
"You are mine, aren't you?" the young man insisted, continuing to undress him with feverish hands.
"Ruggiero... no..." the boy begged, but the man bent over him and made him silent by kissing him while continuing to undress him.
Enzo felt the man's desire, became aroused, surrendered, but he was not really happy -- he didn't want to simply solve everything with a fuck. But he didn't have the strength to push him away, to refuse him. Ruggiero, after getting him naked, undressed and went on top of him, continuing to kiss and caress him all over his body and, brushing on him, full of lust. Finally he managed to slip his hard and powerful rod all inside him.
"You are mine, mine, Enzo! Do you feel how much I like you? Do you feel how much I want you? I'll pull such ideas out of your head!"
Enzo shut his eyes. He liked that fuck, and very much, physically. He liked that strong, manly and hot rod rummaging, rocking inside him. But that was not the answer, that was not what he needed to bring back serenity in his heart.
The young man strongly shuddered and unloaded inside the boy with a set of powerful jets, moaning aloud. Then he relaxed, panting on top of him until his heart and breath rhythm were normal again. He raised himself on his elbow and smiled, feeling satisfied, he asked, "So then, are you convinced now that everything is like before?" Enzo didn't answer, but closed his eyes again. "So then?" Ruggiero insisted. Enzo didn't want to answer -- was it possible he didn't understand? The man pressed. "So, then?"
"So then, what?" the boy asked with a tired voice, opened his eyes and looked at him.
Ruggiero read a deep sadness in those eyes and looked at him, amazed, "What's up, Enzo? Why are you looking at me in this way? What should I do to convince you that I love you, that I will always love you, and nothing has changed?
"See? You now, for the first time today, said you love me. Why didn't you start with this?"
"But you know I love you, don't you?"
"No! No I don't know. It seems that you are just interested in fucking my ass. All you have demonstrated to me is that you love fucking me, not that you love ME. Can't you understand that?"
"No... I can't. All what was between us up to now, between you and me... it fitted you, didn't it? What has changed? Because I pretended to be gallant with those... flirts? Don't you understand I did it only to be able to continue with you safely? You know that women have never made me horny, never gave me a hard-on, don't you? How can you be jealous of... of a woman?!"
"It is not just that, Ruggiero."
"What else, then?"
"I have the feeling that... that you have gotten used to me... that you are getting tired of me."
"Don't talk nonsense! Getting tired of you! That's not true, Enzo! I need you. I feel happy only when I am near you. Really, nothing, absolutely nothing has changed for me."
"I don't know... I feel you are different."
"From the other day when you went to walk with Lucia in the park... and she made sweet eyes to you, and you were so gallant..."
"Enzo! But that... Do you want me to stop pretending to feel interested in that girl? In any girl? If this is what you want, all you have to do is just to tell me."
"And will you stop?"
"If this is the only way to make you happy, of course I will. You are the most important thing in the world, to me, really. You should not doubt that, not even for a moment. And if I earlier... if I had given you the impression that... that I only wanted to fuck you... I am sorry. Certainly, I like making love with you very much, but it is not true that the only thing important on you is your little ass. I would like you to be happy with me. I love you, Enzo, I really love you."
The boy hinted a smile, "Here, you really should have started from here, from these words," he repeated in a low voice.
"And I'm telling them, because I believe in them. Can't you believe me?"
"Yes, I can... now," Enzo said sweetly, starting to relax.
Meanwhile, he was telling himself he had been a fool for having created such a tension for nothing, for his childish fears. He repented. But at the same time, he also told himself that if he didn't react so, possibly Ruggiero would not become aware that he was making him suffer.
Ruggiero caressed him lightly, then lay at his side. They were squeezed together, side to side on the narrow bed. The young man emitted a long, held-back sigh, then he caressed Enzo's hand with his hand. The boy held it tightly and intertwined their fingers.
Ruggiero tightened his hold and raised Enzo's hand to his lips and kissed it, "I love you, Enzo. Believe me."
"Yes, I believe you."
"Forgive me for having given you a different impression."
"You don't have to ask for forgiveness. It is probably just me imagining all these. And I feel bad. Possibly it is you who should forgive me."
"No, if you felt bad... I thought I was doing the right thing, but... I should have talked to you about it beforehand, and asked you whether you would agree. I did the wrong thing."
"The important thing is you love me. And you make me feel it. I need that, Ruggiero."
"So then, do you forgive me?"
"Hug me..." the boy answered. Ruggiero turned on his side, made Enzo turn towards him and held him tightly in his arms and legs. The boy pushed his face under his head, with his body against him, lightly pushing. The young man caressed his back and the nape of his neck. "You didn't call me sparrow today, not even once..." Enzo complained in a low voice.
Ruggiero held him more tightly, "But you are my sparrow, my sweet sparrow," he said with vigor.
Enzo felt a sense of warmth. "I still behave like a child, I have to grow up. How could I be jealous of my man? If I continue to do such silly things, I really risk making him bored with me..." Enzo thought, regretting his behavior.
Yes, he could feel Ruggiero's warmth, the warmth of his love. Also earlier, when he took him, he didn't just fuck him, as he irrationally thought. What happened to him? Why could he feel so uncertain about the love that was so strong? His beloved man was there, wrapping around him, holding him, and protecting him, as always, notwithstanding his foolishness. How not to be grateful to him?
But Ruggiero was also immersed in thoughts while continuing to gently caress him. His sparrow needed him, and he really did somewhat neglect him. He took a little too much for granted that all was proceeding well between them, therefore he had not been careful enough towards him. The sweet Enzo completely entrusted himself to him, he had to be more careful. He couldn't allow himself to lose him. Nobody had ever given him so much love as that marvelous boy. He should not wound him. He had been superficial -- he had to admit that. And then, it was true that although he felt nothing for those girls, and he would never do anything with them, yet it was also true that he was pleased, and amused to pretend to court them, to feel being desired. He really did it only to "look like the others" but also because those glances also gave him a subtle pleasure. And thus, he didn't think he could wound the only one he loved.
They were squeezed against each other, silently asking for each other's forgiveness, each of them trying to make the other feel how much he loved him, each of them conscious of how much he needed the other. And spontaneously the desire rose in them again, tender and strong, and gradually their caresses became more intimate and they started making love again with renewed passion. The rainbow went back to shine in their hearts.
At suppertime, the young countess Eulalia saw Enzo serene and smiling, "Do you feel better, don Vincenzo?" she asked.
"Yes, countess, thank you. Now I feel good."
"What did you have? We were worried about you."
"Nothing, perhaps I was just tired... I just felt somewhat weak, but all passed away."
"Take care of yourself, you and don Ruggiero are the pillars of this house," the young countess said with an amiable smile.
Don Raffaele nodded and added, "Especially now, because I intend to send don Ruggiero to Messina for some business, the house will be entirely on your shoulders, don Enzo. Don't desert us now!"
Enzo looked with surprise at Ruggiero and read in his eyes his same surprise. It was a short, imperceptible glance.
Ruggiero hesitantly asked, "To Messina? Me? When?"
"I still haven't decided when, but soon. I thought we have to open a warehouse there for our wine, to do business with the Continent. Our wine, I thought, could find a better market in the Continent than here. I wrote to a friend in Messina who can enter into a partnership with me. He is co-owner of the sea carriers' agency connecting us to the Continent, and he will provide especially low fares. It's still to be decided, and you, don Ruggiero, are surely the best person to get this business started."
"Do I have to stay there for a long time?" the young man asked, still hesitant.
"No, just the time to investigate the problem and eventually to get it started. But we will discuss this matter tomorrow. Now let's enjoy the meal in peace," Don Raffaele answered. A light air of awkwardness surrounded the table, but the masters seemed not to be aware of it.
After supper, as soon as the two lovers could withdrew to the tower, Ruggiero said to Enzo, "I didn't know about that. But I will not go to Messina without you."
"They would never send us there together. They want me to stay here to manage the house."
"Then I'll simply say I don't want to go."
"How can you, love? Refusing to go to Messina, but with what excuse? You would risk making the master mad at you, and it would be even worse. And if he sacks you, we would be separated all the same. And if I was also dismissed, where could we go? What could we do?"
"But I don't want to be parted from you, my little sparrow!"
"Just for a while... then you'll be back, he said. We will overcome this period."
"Oh, Enzo! Will we ever be together quietly?"
"We will. Let's thank Heaven for what we have..."
Ruggiero was still hesitant but Enzo convinced him to accept it. The day after, don Raffaele explained his plan in detail to the young man, and they started to prepare for the journey to Messina. The master counted on Ruggiero because he appreciated his organizational talent and also because he was a lawyer, he could eventually draft advantageous contracts. So Ruggiero had to prepare for the journey. Don Raffaele made him take the phaeton and sent Alfio, the son of master Leo, with him as a helper.
"I'll think of you all the time..." Enzo said when Ruggiero was getting ready to leave.
"I will miss you," Ruggiero answered.
"Try to finish the work soon, and well, at least you can come back. I hope don Raffaele doesn't intend to have you there forever, does he?"
"No, certainly not. That's why he sends Alfio with me. Once the business starts, he has to remain there in Messina to manage our master's business. Take care, Enzo, my sweet sparrow."
"You too, Ruggiero."
"I have to go, now. See you soon..."
Enzo saw his man stepping onto the driver's seat, freed the brakes and the phaeton went out of the gate, going down to Nicolosi. It would take the road through Pedara, then go down to Giarre, and then follow the sea road towards the north, to Messina. Enzo thought that for the first time, he would really use his little bedroom and his small bed. He certainly would miss his man very much.