The little liquor factory of the "Rota Brothers" had to be enlarged. A new building was added to the old one, almost just as big. The liquor they produced was quite successful, and was already selling from Pascara to Palermo. Orlando turned out to be a precious help in the production, and Manfredo in the sales field. Enzo directed the factory and the personnel, while Ruggiero took care of the administration and legal problems. They were a harmonious group, a formidable team.
Initially Orlando and Manfredo rented a small house in Spezzano, but then built their own house on the factory's land, at the opposite side of Enzo and Ruggiero's house. The four friends also opened their own shop in Catanzaro, at the side of the cathedral, and Manfredo, when he was not traveling to widen their market, managed the shop. It was funny to hear him talking with the customers in a mix of Calabria and Sicily dialect, with his Piedmontese accent.
Enzo was going out from their shop and was untying his horse to go back to the factory, when he heard someone calling his name. "Enzo, aren't you Enzo Rota?" He turned and saw a very young man, dressed in the latest fashion, extremely elegant.
When the youth smiled at him, Enzo recognized him, "Ranuccio! What are you doing here, dressed as a dandy?"
"And you? How are you?"
"Good. I am now a liquor maker. But you?"
"Oh, I am now a lord!"
"I can see. But what happened, did you find some buried treasure?"
"Well, treasure... yes, but buried... not yet," the young man said, giggling, and started to tell him his story.
He continued to work in the hotel in Aci. The fall of the Bourbons didn't change things so much. Everything was practically just as before, except now there were many English gentlemen touring the island to start businesses. So, a certain Jonathan Duncan, a rich fifty-four-year-old Englishman, arrived and stopped in his hotel. The man at once started to court him, showering him with kindness and gifts, until he asked Ranuccio squarely if he wanted to make love with him. At first Ranuccio hedged, as the man was too old for him. But somewhat because of the man's insistence, somewhat because he felt obliged for the expensive gifts he received, one night, after his shift, he went to the client's room, let the man undress him and they started to make love.
Although the man was thirty years older than him, he had a quite good body and was skilled in bed. He made the youth terribly excited and when the man asked Ranuccio to penetrate him, the youth didn't step back; on the contrary, he liked that union very much. The man literally lost his head for him -- showered him with presents and not one night passed without him inviting Ranuccio to his room, to his bed. The man had a tender and protective attitude towards him, and this pleased the boy. Ranuccio gradually became aware that he was not going with the man only for his gifts or for the physical pleasure he was getting, but also for the feeling of being filled with tenderness and warmth -- in his previous relations with other men, or boys of his own age, besides Cesare, there had been nothing but just sex.
When Jonathan had to resume his journey, he proposed Ranuccio to become his boyfriend, to go live with him in England. Ranuccio told him that he felt really good with him, but that he was not in love with him. The man answered that this didn't matter -- he just didn't want to lose him. He told the youth he was really rich, he had no family, so he wanted to adopt him and he would become his heir. Ranuccio could live comfortably, without needing to work any more. The young man told him that he didn't dislike at all having sex with him, but he also liked having boys or young men with whom to have fun, and he didn't feel like renouncing all that.
The Englishman answered, "To me, it is enough you that spend your nights with me, in my bed. You take me as you are able to do. During the day, you can do anything you like, have all the adventures you want, if you will just remain my boyfriend."
In the end Ranuccio accepted. He quit his job, and Jonathan had a good wardrobe made for him and took him to Palermo, to the English Consul Office. There, he legally adopted him. He never made him miss money, he almost spoiled him. They were now going to the north. They would travel along the new Italian Kingdom. Then they would go to England through France.
"But how do you manage with English?" Enzo asked him.
"He knows Sicilian and Italian, and he is teaching me to speak English."
"But what does he do? Does he live on inheritance too?"
"He could. But he is a wine and liquor dealer. By the way, if you want, I will introduce you to him. If he likes your liquor, he could order a large quantity. He is at the hotel now. Don't you feel like getting to know him, talking with him? If you take him some samples..."
"That could be an idea..."
"But, aren't you here with Ruggiero?"
"I guessed so, when I heard you both disappeared."
"There are rumors about us, in our village?"
"No. That is, nobody knows you are together. They simply say that you also joined the picciotti and that Ruggiero left with the Garibaldians, like many others. But as I knew about you two..."
"Do you have news about my father?"
"He is managing rather well, but without your help, he can barely make both ends meet."
"I would like to see him again, to help him... but I don't know how to do that, I don't want to leave Ruggiero... and I can't."
"You made your choice."
"Yes, but... And the villa in Nicolosi? Do you have any news?"
"I've heard that don Raffaele had it taken down and they are building a new one."
They chatted some more, while Enzo went back to the shop to take a bottle of each kind of liquor they produced, then they went to the hotel. Enzo met Jonathan -- he was a lean man, elegant, not handsome but interesting and with a friendly smile. Ranuccio explained to him that Enzo was his childhood friend and that he was now living with his man and they produced liquor. The Englishman seemed interested. He tasted the various kinds of liquor, and especially a wine flavored with quinine and a type of mandarin liquor met his appreciation. He asked to visit the factory to see their production and Enzo invited them to be their guests for lunch on the following day. Then he went back to the factory.
He told Ruggiero and the friends about his meeting and the prospect of selling liquor also in England. Then they talked about the agreement between Ranuccio and Jonathan. "How much that man could have lost his head for Ranuccio! It seems weird to me that he says Ranuccio can go to bed with whomever if he just continues to go to bed with him..." Enzo thoughtfully concluded.
Orlando said, "I could never stand it if I know that Manfredo has sex with others!"
"Well, each one of us is different -- possibly that Englishman understood that this is the only way to have Ranuccio."
"But this Ranuccio, as he likes youths, how can he think of living with a man who will became older and older? When he is forty, that man will be seventy!" Manfredo said.
"Well, he must have thought of that too. Evidently he is not worried. I think that the real problem is not so much the age distance, if Ranuccio was in love. The problem is how can one live with a person he doesn't love," Enzo said.
The day after, when the two arrived, they showed them the factory and the Englishman got a favorable impression. While they were at the table eating, Enzo noticed that Ranuccio had an affectionate attitude towards Jonathan. Later he took him aside and asked him what he had in his heart.
"Well, he makes himself likeable. He is a man with a strong but gentle character. I feel ok with him. And the fact he is not at all jealous makes me feel free. When I have an adventure, I can tell him without worries."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes. It is now five months we are together."
"But what if one day you fall in love with another man?"
"I will be careful so that it does not happen."
"But you know very well that one cannot command love, don't you?"
"Well, I hope it doesn't happen. After all, I am really fond of him. I don't want to deceive him."
"He... is he in love with you?"
"I don't know. He never told me clearly. He says he fell in love just once, but he also says that before meeting me he was only looking for adventures but that now I'm all he needs. He says he got tired of chasing trousers. And then he says he likes the way I fuck him -- he says it makes him feel twenty years younger..."
"Well, if it's not you who feel twenty years older..." Enzo said seriously.
"No. I like it a lot doing it with him, even if at times I like doing it with a handsome boy. I really like him. He has lot of experience -- he had had Italian, Chinese, African, Arab boys... and Europeans also, of course. He traveled a lot and he still travels a lot. He took in his bed sailors, hotel boys, servants and masters, aristocrats and soldiers... And of course he is able to make you enjoy as very few could do, I assure you. I go to bed with him more than willingly, don't worry. Moreover, he is an interesting man, he always has a hundred things to tell you, and he knows how to tell them in a nice way -- one could never get tired listening to him. When he was a boy, he was the lover of a Lord of the Indies Company who made him the sole heir of his trade enterprises, and that's what he wants to do with me. No, I really feel too good with him..."
Jonathan placed a huge order and paid it in advance so that they could increase their production further, buying more distillers and hiring more personnel. He only asked them to have specifically printed labels for the liquor they would send him and he drew them. Ranuccio and Jonathan stayed there a few more days then left for the north, their next stop being Salerno, then Caserta.
The meeting with Ranuccio and his news about his father opened again the problem Enzo had always had in his heart. He talked about it with Ruggiero. The man asked him if he wanted to go back for some days to meet his father again.
"I'm hesitant -- on the one side, I would like to help him, to see him again, but on the other side... I know he can't stop me from living here with you, but I would regret having to quarrel with him."
"But you don't need to tell him you are here with me, do you? You just tell him you are here, you have a good job..."
"But what if he asked me to take him here with me? You understand I cannot... I think that Dad could never understand, accept..."
"I agree, yes. But if you want to make peace in your mind, in my opinion, you have to go. Just postponing the problems further can only make you feel worse..." Ruggiero said to him, gently caressing him. Enzo nodded.
So, after settling some matters, Enzo took their gig and left for Sicily. He promised Ruggiero he would not be absent for more than a week. He was taking his father some money, liquor and food. All along the way, he felt upset, and his agitation was increasing as he was approaching his destination. He passed the straits, and embarked the gig on a ship. Then he took the road to the south. Although it was not the first time he had been on that road, he felt as if he didn't recognize anything. On the one hand he would have liked to have Ruggiero with him; on the other hand, he understood that it would not be wise. At half way, he stopped to sleep, but it was everything but a quite night.
On the day after, he reached the limits of his village. When he started to recognize the landscapes familiar to him, he felt a stomach cramp. Several times, he felt tempted to turn back the gig and run away. He abandoned his father without saying a word to him. Now he felt remorse. To tell the truth, he had never thought that he would not go back home when he went to Messina to look for Ruggiero. But the fact remained that he did so. He also hoped not to meet don Matteo or don Calogero, or even worse, don Raffaele. What could he tell them? How could he justify his disappearing? It was said he left with the picciotti, which was right in a way. That would be his official version. He was not the only one who did that...
He entered the village and took the way towards his home. His heart was violently beating. He felt his throat dry. He arrived in front of his house. He saw his neighbors, made curious by the gig and the horse's noises, peeping from behind their windows. Nobody came out, nobody greeted him -- they didn't recognize him, or if they did, they didn't know how to receive him, who knows? He pulled on the brake and jumped down.
The house door was almost closed but not shut. Should he knock or just enter and call his father? Was he at home? Or was he in the vegetable garden in the back? Or was he wandering in the village? He pushed the house door lightly, which barely squeaked, but it seemed to him like a really loud noise. He entered the kitchen -- all was exactly the same way when he left. Poor. He felt a vice at his heart, thinking that he, even if not living in luxury, was now rather wealthy.
"Dad?" he called at half voice. Not a noise, nothing. "Dad?" he called again, louder, going towards his father's bedroom. That door was also almost closed but not shut. He pushed on it and went in.
His father was in his bed, completely dressed, and was sitting up, "Enzino!" he said, and the young man felt emotion in the man's voice.
His father got up and extended his arms. Enzo took shelter in them and they tightly embraced. Then they parted, the man stepped back, looked at him from head to toe, his eyes glossy with tears, then said, "You are fine..."
"Dad... I'm so sorry..." Enzo stammered.
"No... no. I'm happy to see that you are fine. You have fine clothes. And you came."
Enzo noticed that his father didn't say "came back."
"Come to the kitchen, let's sit at the table... You are staying at least for a little while, aren't you?" the man asked, taking his arm and leading him to the kitchen.
He gave him a chair, took a wine bottle and two earth-ware glasses from the shelf and served both of them. He sat and pushed one of the glasses towards his son. "You can stay a little while?" he asked again.
"Yes, Dad, three, four days, I was planning on..."
"Good. There is not so much food at home. Do you feel hungry?"
"But you, Dad, how are you?"
"Fine, fine, thank God."
"How do you manage..."
"Without too many problems. No, not too many."
"I brought you something. It's outside, on the gig. I will go get it..."
"Later. Let me look at you, now..."
"I... I didn't plan on leaving for such a long time, Dad..." the young man said with an apologetic tone, feeling embarrassed.
"You have fine clothes -- do you have a good job?"
"Yes. I make liquor now. I brought you some..."
"Where do you live, now?"
"In the Continent."
"In the Continent? So far?"
"Well, just in Calabria, near Catanzaro. It is not so far."
"And you are fine."
"I am fine."
"This is the main thing -- health, a good job... what more can one desire from life?"
"You are a good man, Dad..."
"A good man? Bah, to me the only thing is to know you are fine. And... don't you feel lonely?"
Enzo feared that question. It was clear to him -- his father wanted to know if he was married. He prepared ten speeches, but in that moment none of the words he thought of came out.
"I'm living with a friend, Dad. You know him, he's don Ruggiero..."
"Ah, don Ruggiero... then he is in the Continent too. Do you work together?"
"And you live together, in the same house."
"He always liked you, don Ruggiero. I'm happy he still takes care of you. He is a good young man. And here you could not live together..." the man said quietly.
Enzo looked at him, astounded, "Well, also in the villa we were practically living together..."
"Yes, but... sooner or later you both would have to marry, it has always been this way here. Possibly nobody knows you there... at least, so I think."
"There, men also have to marry sooner or later, Dad."
"And then, you two, how do you plan to manage?" the man asked.
Enzo was more upset than ever - it seemed his father understood everything, and he seemed to react well, but the young man was not yet sure whether he was just interpreting things according his desires.
"We... we don't want to marry, Dad." Enzo said, feeling he was trembling.
"Yes, I understood that. But if you live together, and if you don't marry, sooner or later..."
"Well, Dad, Ruggiero and I, we can say... everybody believes us... I hope this doesn't annoy you, but..." he was not able to find the words. He was studying the sharp face of his farther.
"What?" the man asked with a quiet voice.
"Well, he... everybody thinks he is my brother. Ruggiero Rota... Also the papers we have..."
"Ah, your brother? Rota you said? Therefore, my son?" the man asked, knitting his eyebrows.
"As different as you are?"
"Of... of two different mothers, we say... You were a widower and..."
"You would be the second bed's son... I see."
"Forgive us, Dad."
"Well, possibly this is a solution. Even if it makes me feel odd having don Ruggiero as a son... I must have had him when I was twenty years old, don't I?"
"Are you mad at us?"
"Mad at you? Enzino, no. You have found the solution to your problem."
"But you... did you know?"
"I was not sure, but I have thought about it..."
"Enzino, if you are so, I am happy that you found a worthy person like don Ruggiero. And that you can be together without worries."
"Doesn't that upset you?"
"Enzino, in this world there are as much different situations as there are Christians -- show me just two people who are alike! Some are common, others rare... even though less than one could presume."
"What do you mean?"
"That you are not the only one who prefers this solution. When I was going to the belvedere in the evenings, I had two close friends. We were like brothers, especially with one of them. When we were kids, we also had some fun together... yes, I mean... well, you understand, don't you? When kids start to feel some urges... But I felt attracted to girls, and to me that was just a game, but not to him. He trusted me, so he told me. In front of the others he talked like everybody, about girls, and pussies. But he was different. And one day he told me he had fallen in love with one of our mates, but he didn't know what to do. I was seventeen then, he, Leoluca, sixteen, and the other, Pino, eighteen... He was a handsome boy, Pino. Somewhat like your don Ruggiero, just younger."
"But who are they? There is no Leoluca in our village."
"No, they are no longer here. So then, I was telling you... My friend was suffering -- if you like a girl, he said, you can make her know through one of her brothers, one of her cousins. But with a boy, what can one do? Moreover, a girl can make you understand whether she likes you or not. But a boy, what if he then tells the others? So I talked in private with Pino one day and told him -- do you know there is a person who has lost his head for you? Well, to make a long story short, it took them almost a month, but in the end they were together, and I was the only one who knew their secret. But one day Pino had to marry. And then also Leoluca. After they were married, they continued to meet in secret -- they were really in love. But Leoluca's wife became suspicious. She thought he had another woman. So she decided to catch them red-handed, together with her brothers, to put him to shame... and they found them together. They had to leave our village at once, with just the clothes they were wearing... I never saw them again. I don't know what happened to them. Someone says they are shepherds at Leonforte, living up the mountain, having a hard life. But if at least they are together..."
"When did that happen?"
"Before you were born, about twenty years ago. Therefore you did the right thing to leave."
"I was afraid you would be angry..."
"No... and I'm happy you told me. And that you came back to tell me you are fine. And I hope that our Lord will help you two."
"Since when did you know, Dad?"
"Well... I can't say exactly. Possibly when I noticed in your eyes there was the same light that was in Leoluca's eyes when he confessed to me he was in love with Pino... and I knew you were not courting any of the girls in our village... And when I noticed that same light also in don Ruggiero's eyes when he greeted me at the tavern and told me you were a very good farm-hand... and he was so kind with me..."
"Several times, I had the feeling that you knew, but I didn't dare to tell you. Your friend Leoluca had more courage than me."
"He was not my son. He would never have said it to his father, he would rather die."
"Why with one's father there need to be such fear?"
"Because a father can never be a friend, there is a generation of differences. It is a different relationship..."
"But I love you, and I know that you do too."
"It doesn't matter."
"But we are talking now..."
"You are an adult now. You possibly became an adult exactly the day when you parted from me. Possibly sons should always leave their fathers, in order to become adults. Anyway... tell don Ruggiero I am glad to have him as... as my son. I'm happy with that."
"Thank you, Dad. He too will be happy."
Enzo gave his father his presents, the money and promised him he would send him something every month, "Move to a better house, Dad."
"No, I'm affectionate to this one."
"Then have them fix it up."
"People would wonder how I found the money..."
"Tell them I now work in the Continent."
"Yes. But I will not say where -- I don't want somebody passing there to find you."
"And don't tell people I'm with Ruggiero. He doesn't want his family to know where he is."
"I understand. I hope you can be happy."
"I am, Dad. Ruggiero is an exceptional man, he really loves me."
"Do you desire to come to the Continent too?"
"No, because my roots are here. Your mother is resting here, and one day they will bury me at her side. And then, it is better if you two don't have... your father between you. Thank you, anyway, I'm glad you asked me."
After three days, Enzo said farewell to his father and took the way back to Catanzaro. The journey back was totally different -- he felt light, merry, absolutely fine. The fact that his father knew and accepted them with such serenity, was like a salve to him. He was not aware beforehand how much that secret had been a burden for him. Back home he told Ruggiero the long conversations he had with his father. His lover was pleasurably surprised.
"Your father is an exceptional man, open-minded, understanding. Anyway, it is not without reason that you are such a splendid boy. And I really feel he is somewhat like my father, now."
"He told me never to displease you, do you know? He said you don't deserve sorrows."
"I don't think I'm running such a risk. What do you think?"
Enzo pulled his lover to himself and embraced him, "Do you remember our first time?"
"Sure -- you asked me if it would really be good for you also..."
"And you said -- it will be beautiful, you'll see. Trust me. And I trusted you."
"Yes, you trusted me. But before that, you wanted to see it..."
"And I pulled it out."
"And you said -- my God! How big is it! It is so thick and long that I'm a little scared... Are you still scared of it?"
"No, on the contrary..." Enzo smiled, starting to undress him, filled with desire. When they were naked, the boy said, "What do I have to do, like on that first time?"
Ruggiero understood and guided him in a half embrace, without speaking, made him kneel on the bed, and knelt behind him, continuing to caress him. Enzo shuddered, but so did the young man at his back, conscious they were recreating the atmosphere of that first time. "Bend forward, now..." Ruggiero whispered in his ear.
"This way?" Enzo asked with emotion.
"A little more," Ruggiero answered, caressing with gentle pleasure the beautiful, fresh body offered to him. He perfectly remembered the desire and the fear of the virgin boy, and this blend of feelings gave him an incredible sensation of tenderness. Certainly, he wanted him on that day, but he also wanted give him pleasure, and not only get it for himself.
Enzo felt the warmth of the young man's body adhering to his. The sensation from the contact of naked skin on naked skin was something new each time, so very beautiful. He felt the hard rod brushing between his small butt, and this sensation was also so very beautiful. And when the pole's tip lingered at his little hole, that intimate contact made him shiver, and the shudders of his lover told him the intensity of the desire pushing the young man to him.
"Oh, Enzo!" Ruggiero murmured, his voice hoarse with passion, and started to push.
The boy felt a sweet pleasure feeling that hot, alive, strong, shuddering flesh opening its way inside him, "Ooohhh... yes..." he moaned when the man's pressure became stronger and he slightly pushed back, to make him understand how much he desired him.
The young man then resumed pushing and Enzo felt he was filling him, gradually slipping inside him, and it was very, very pleasurable. The sensation of his flesh stretched to the limit, made his pleasure more intense. Enzo was pleased -- at last... he thought with sheer joy.
He heard Ruggiero heavily breathing and thought with pleasure that it was him who excited him to that point. He felt him continuing to enter inside him calmly, but with a will, and felt a sensation of fullness. He could feel it sinking inside him, big, full, majestic, until it was completely embedded in him.
"Alright?" Ruggiero asked, his voice hoarse with emotion.
Then the young man slowly started to move back and forth and Enzo started to moan. Ruggiero began to caress his body and his turgid genitals.
"Ohm that's great!" the boy murmured when his lover speeded up his rhythm.
Enzo felt exulting, and his joy swept through his entire body, sending him to ecstasy. The boy trembled, and his trembles became convulsions when he reached a sudden, strong orgasm. Then Ruggiero emptied himself inside his boy, and Enzo felt he was in paradise. He thought that the just consumed union was the longest and the shortest moment of all his life, and also the most beautiful, every time.