They got to Giulio's house.
As they were in, Giulio asked, "Do you feel hungry?"
"No, not at all."
"Do you have some whisky?"
"Yes... I need some too. On the rocks?"
"No, neat. A double one."
"Yes, a double one."
They sat at the living room table, each with his glass in his hands, sipping from it, each plunged in his thoughts.
"My god what a turd she is!" at one point Giulio exclaimed, "... or, better, what a turd am I. I lived a whole year with her and..."
"What do you have to blame yourself for? Nothing." Osvaldo said, looking askance at him.
Now that Giulio had come to know about him, he was feeling embarrassed, but his embarrassment was mixed with rage towards his sister.
"Yes," Giulio contradicted him, "my ingenuousness. Her travels to Rome... she screwed with that Antonio, I bet."
"It's probable. And he introduced her to Papa."
"And she's very happy, it seems."
"Yes... and nicely integrated." Osvaldo bitterly commented.
They finished their whisky. Then Giulio said, "I feel completely torn apart. Let's go to bed, can we?." and he stood up, moving to the sleeping area.
Giulio said, "I don't feel like having a shower, tonight. You?"
Osvaldo noticed that Giulio was baring himself completely, like the other times in the hotel, therefore, after a short hesitation, he also took off everything. They slipped under the sheet.
"I switch of..." Giulio said.
"Yes, let's sleep. Unless you would like to talk..." Osvaldo said, and he hoped his friend did want to talk.
Talk about Letizia, possibly, but above all about him, about his homosexuality that Giulio had now got to know.
"No... I don't feel like. Tomorrow, possibly. Do you think you'll go back to Milan at once?"
"I don't know..."
"Can't you stop here for a while?"
"If you like..."
"Yes, please. Good night."
"Good night, Giulio."
But Osvaldo wasn't able to fall asleep. His brain was in turmoil. After a while he became aware that Giulio was crying. He turned towards him, being careful not to touch him.
"Why? Why?" his friend sobbed.
"You're really suffering, aren't you?"
"I loved her, I truly loved that... that bit of turd!" Giulio sobbed.
Osvaldo lifted himself onto an elbow and looked at him. In the subdued light from the street lamps that was shining into the room through the open window, he saw that Giulio was curled up, almost in foetal position, and shaken by sobs. Osvaldo, without thinking, girded him with an arm and caressed his hair.
"No... you don't have to cry for her... she doesn't deserve your tears." he said gently.
"She killed me... she killed me..." Giulio whined.
"No, you're strong. You're better off having lost her, as she's like that, isn't that so?"
"Yes, true, but..."
"Don't think of her any more, Giulio. It will pass... You'll see, it will pass."
"God, my god, but why?" the friend asked, curling himself against Osvaldo and leaning his head on his shoulder.
The boy, at that intimate contact, skin against skin, felt aroused at once and moved away slightly so that Giulio wouldn't be aware of it. But at the same time he could understand that his friend was in need for his warmth and that, however much it might cost him, he couldn't push him away. So he caressed him.
"Calm down, Giulio... come on... calm down..." he whispered.
"Crumbled... everything has crumbled... everything..."
"So you'll rebuild it all. Now you are just a little in shock. Try not to think about her, Giulio."
"That piece of shit..." Giulio sobbed, squeezing more against him and encircling his back with his arms. "Don't go to Milan immediately, please, Osvaldo."
"No, I'll stay here until you feel better."
"Sure, I swear it." Osvaldo said sweetly, lightly caressing his check wet with tears.
Giulio embraced him tightly, as a shipwrecked man clings to a lifebuoy. Osvaldo could no longer prevent his friend from feeling his erection.
He stammered in confusion, "I'm sorry Giulio... I can't..."
Giulio clung more tightly to him, pressed against him, and Osvaldo then felt that his friend was also aroused. This threw him into complete confusion, almost panic. Giulio caressed him, raised his head and his lips searched for Osvaldo's.
"Giulio..." the boy murmured, feeling his head burst.
Giulio's hand sought his friend's genitals and caressed them while he was kissing him on the mouth. Osvaldo trembled, tried to resist, felt lost... and started, hesitantly, to caress his friend in an intimate way. Now both the boys were fully aroused and were searching for each other, almost thirstily. Osvaldo couldn't understand anything any more, and let himself go.
Their bodies intertwined, wrapped around each other, clutched and searched for each other with growing ardour. They brushed their erections one against the other almost to recognize, to feel and to appreciate each other. Osvaldo was overcome by Giulio's impetuousness. He didn't think or reason any more, he only savoured those sensations he had believed to be forbidden and even impossible.
Giulio was kissing, touching him squeezing against him in some sort of desperation, like a shipwrecked man struggling to survive. Osvaldo answered and reciprocated mindlessly, his brain totally empty, blank as an untouched page. Their breaths came faster, panting. They didn't speak, both had their eyes shut, they were only feeling the mutual pleasure growing in a giddy way.
Now Giulio was on top of him and was clasping him tightly, moving his pelvis up and down, brushing his hard member against Osvaldo's groin and massaging Osvaldo's with his pubis, continuing to kiss him on the mouth. Osvaldo could feel him contract and dart on top of him, between his arms, and was feeling his body and head ablaze, and yet in paradise.
Giulio was strong, passionate and virile and Osvaldo was giving himself to him without restraint, giving him at the same time his strength, his warmth and his excitement.
He felt Giulio tremble strongly, all of his body stiffened while he continued to rub on him, up and down, and finally unloaded between their bellies that were almost stuck together and then Osvaldo reached his orgasm as well.
All of a sudden Giulio relaxed on top of him. Their mouths parted but Giulio leaned his check against Osvaldo's cheek. He could feel Giulio's short, fast, almost hoarse breath near his ear. He felt him gradually relax more, and caressed his back for a long time. Then he became aware that Giulio had fallen asleep.
He kept Giulio on top of him a little longer, then slowly turned onto his side, making Giulio slip down next to him; Giulio moaned and slightly tightened his embrace around Osvaldo's body, but without waking up.
Just then Osvaldo became fully aware of what had just happened, and his heart skipped some beats. It continued to beat, slowly but with some violence.
"My god, what did I do! I shouldn't have allowed it to happen!" he thought, in terror. "Tomorrow morning... he'll hate me... He'll think I took advantage of him in his despair... He will won't want to see me any more..."
Slowly, gently, Osvaldo wriggled away from Giulio's body. He espied the expression on his face. His friend was asleep with a sour countenance. Then Osvaldo laid down, looking at the coffered ceiling and at its play of deep shadows.
"What should I do, now? Possibly get up and go away at once... disappear from Giulio's life... He wanted me as a friend, and not... not in this way. And now I've disappointed him; I have surely disappointed him... Fucking shit, what a turd I've been... I should not even have touched him, not even to stroke him..."
So Osvaldo was not able to sleep a wink.
"No, I must have the courage of my actions. Tomorrow morning I'll ask him for forgiveness... and tell him that if he wants, he'll never again see me... Perhaps he'll forgive me... I didn't it on purpose, maybe he can believe me... Maybe he'll believe that I just wanted to be his friend, I just... But I've not been able to control myself, just that... He can understand that, possibly..."
It never occurred to Osvaldo that it had, after all, been his friend who had reached out for him, and that in any case, Giulio was also aroused. He was feeling guilty because of a desire he had not been able to restrain. He felt as if he had betrayed Giulio's friendship and trust, and that very much because he had intensely enjoyed that contact, from the first moment to the last.
Much later, Osvaldo too fell asleep, but it was a very disturbed sleep and only in the morning did he calm down and fall in a deeper sleep. And his dreams were confused, almost nightmares.
He wasn't aware of Giulio waking at around eight o'clock, getting up and going to have a long shower. He didn't hear Giulio dress, leave the sleeping area and move to the kitchen to fix breakfast.
At around nine, Giulio sat on the edge of the bed, at Osvaldo's side, and called him several times, in a low voice. When Osvaldo finally surfaced into consciousness, he didn't dare to open his eyes. He could feel Giulio's presence there, close to him, and guessed that Giulio was looking at him.
When Giulio called him for the umpteenth time, he finally found the courage to open his eyes and to look at him. Giulio had a serious expression and was peering into his eyes, without saying anything.
Finally Giulio quietly said, "Breakfast is ready, in the kitchen. Do you feel like getting up and coming to eat?"
"Yes..." Osvaldo hesitantly answered, trying to work out his friend's expression.
"It might be better if you have your shower first." Giulio suggested, still serious.
"Yes, it would be better." Osvaldo answered, remaining still and feeling more and more hesitant.
"Good, I'll wait for you in the kitchen." Giulio said standing up and leaving him.
Osvaldo knew that he was getting a splitting headache. He stood up and went, almost staggering, to the bathroom where he washed himself for a long time and the shower allowed him to relax a little. He dried himself, went back by the bed to dress and then joined to Giulio in the kitchen.
They ate the breakfast in silence, almost slowly, without looking at each other.
Then Giulio said, "I've to talk with you, Osvaldo."
"Yes..." the boy answered, trying to suppress the tremors that were invading him.
"Let's go in there... on the armchairs."
"Yes..." Osvaldo repeated, feeling is headache becoming worse.
They moved in the living area and sat on two armchairs that were next to each other.
"About last night..." Giulio started to say, but then became silent.
"No, wait..." the other interrupted him.
Osvaldo became silent, his heart in turmoil. He could feel the blood thundering in his temples with such a violence that he was afraid it would really blow out from one moment to the next.
Giulio was silent, then in a hesitant tone he spoke again, "I... I'm sorry, Osvaldo... I'm really sorry..."
"Don't interrupt me, please... It's so difficult what I've got to tell you... I... I didn't want it, Osvaldo... I really didn't want... didn't want to take advantage of you because I know that you are gay..."
Osvaldo looked at him in surprise, without understanding. His friend had his eyes cast down, his hands on the arms of the chair, gripping them violently.
"Osvaldo... I respect you, and... and I like you..." Giulio resumed to say, "You've got to believe me."
"Yes, I know..." the other answered, with a kind of sob.
"You've to believe me, I didn't mean to take advantage of you..."
"Advantage?" Osvaldo asked, even more confused.
"Yes... I didn't intend to use you, Osvaldo, believe me."
"No, really not. I desired you, last night. I really desired you... but I didn't want to fuck... I wanted... I wanted to tell you... I wanted you to feel... that I need you... that I... that I love you, Osvaldo!" Giulio murmured and a tear ran down his check.
"You... you love me?" Osvaldo asked with a weird voice.
"Yes, I only became aware of that last night... when I realized how much of a burden it has been for you being near me all this time..."
"A burden for me, Giulio?"
"Yes... to hold back, to hide... Last night, in my despair, something like a veil was torn aside and... and I understood I'm in love with you and... and that is the only reason why... why I reached for you... I wanted you. I didn't want to take advantage of you because I know you are gay, I didn't want just to get a load off, believe me, please..."
"Good heavens, Giulio... say that again..."
"What?" his friend asked, in a dejected tone.
"That you... that you love me..."
"Yes, Osvaldo, and I'm serious. You are all I ever searched for, everything that I wanted and desired in her that has been so miserably shipwrecked. I felt as if I had lost everything... I had lost my life, you know... but then... but then, all of a sudden I understood that on the contrary, it's all in you. You are the person I always searched for... the one I have always needed..."
Osvaldo was feeling his head spinning, "But I'm a boy, a male, I'm gay... But you..."
"But I love you, Osvaldo. And I desire you, physically too."
"No, Giulio... you've had a bad shock; you're only confused, as I am too..."
"But you Osvaldo... don't you feel anything for me?"
"I... I desire you Giulio, and from the first time I met you, or rather, even before meeting you, when I found your photographs. And then, gradually, I became aware I was falling for you, Giulio..."
"So, then?" Giulio asked raising his eyes to meet Osvaldo's and looking at him in an almost imploring way.
"But I'm gay, you know that. To me it's just natural feeling attracted to you, so handsome; to fall in love with you, you are so exceptional... But you aren't gay, you can't fall in love with a boy, with a male."
"But I've already done so." Giulio affirmed.
"No. You think you have. But it is only the backlash of the disappointment you got from my sister. You're now just mistaking friendship and affection with love, Giulio." Osvaldo said in a grieved tone.
His friend looked at him, serious, "You really think that?"
"Are you convinced?"
"Yes, I am, Giulio."
"But you are in love with me..."
"Yes, I am, that's true."
"But last night I wanted to make love with you, and I'm happy I did."
"You were just confused. You just needed warmth and affection, and to feel needed... and there was only me, there, near you..."
"But I was also aroused... and I enjoyed it..."
"That was my fault. I aroused you without realising it because I embraced and caressed you. And I too was aroused and lost my self-control... and I'm sorry. I didn't deliberately take advantage of you, believe me... but it happened..."
"I know you didn't take advantage of me. And I was feeling so good in your arms. I needed you. Heavens, Osvaldo, I still need you."
"But I'm gay, you know that. To me it's natural being attracted to you, so beautiful, and to fall in love with you... But you... you aren't gay, you can't fall in love with a man." Osvaldo repeated.
"But I am in love with a man." Giulio insisted again, almost in a whisper.
"No, you think you are. But it's... it's just because of the shock you had with Letizia. You're really mistaking friendship with love, Giulio." Osvaldo repeated.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am."
"Are you really sure?"
"Yes, Giulio, I'm really sure."
"And yet you said you are in love with me..."
"Yes, I am in love with you."
"And I tell you again, I wanted to make love with you, I wanted it, do you understand? And I'm really happy I did. It was really beautiful."
"As I told you, you were in some mental confusion. You needed some human warmth... and I was the only one next to you..."
"But I was really aroused... and I really enjoyed it!"
"Again, it was my fault. But I didn't take advantage of you..."
"I know you didn't take advantage of me. And I did need you. I still need you."
"I would like being able to give you my friendship... forever. Last night... we were weak, both of us... Possibly also the whisky we had, the pain, the disappointment, the rage... it all played us a bad trick."
"But I wouldn't call it a bad trick at all! I really gave you my love, and I felt yours. Love, can't you understand?"
"Giulio, let some time pass... and you'll realise that I'm right."
"Alright, Osvaldo. But stay near me, please."
"Yes, of course, Giulio... of course."
They both became silent, for some time, without looking at each other.
Then Giulio said, "Do you feel like going out for a walk, downtown?"
"Yes, that's a good idea."
"Let's go, then."
They went out, took a taxi and got out near Santa Maria del Fiore. They walked side by side, in silence. They stopped in front of the window of a handicrafts shop and looked at it for a while.
"Do you like handicrafts?" Giulio asked.
Both would have liked to talk, to talk of this and that as if everything was normal, usual... but the words seemed not to be able to come out.
They stopped in front of Giotto's bell tower. "It's beautiful, isn't it?"
"Really beautiful, yes." Osvaldo answered.
Suddenly Osvaldo remembered Leo. He had to let him know how things had gone, about what had happened.
"I've to go and see Leo, the boy who gave me the ID paper..." he said.
"Who, Leopoldo Morassi? But then, he does really exist? You know him?"
"Why yes, I have to let him know what happened as I used his name, his identity."
"Yes, I think you have. So then... will you go to see him now?"
"I was thinking that way..."
"I'll go back home then. We'll meet later, at my place?"
"Does it bother you, Giulio?"
"No... I'll wait for you."
"Sorry, but I didn't think of it before..."
"No, no, it's alright. See you soon."
It was clear that Giulio didn't really like parting, but Osvaldo didn't feel like meeting Leo together with his friend.
"Just a moment, Giulio. I'll check first if he's at home. I'll just make a call."
Osvaldo went into a bar and to a public telephone. Leo answered, his voice slightly drowsy.
"Hello... who's speaking?"
"Hello, Leo, this is Osvaldo... Did I wake you up?"
"It doesn't matter, it's time I woke up. How are things going? Did you find your sister?"
"Is she alright?"
"Yes... Listen, I'm back in Florence again. Can I come and see you?"
"Of course you can. But... is everything alright?"
"I'll tell you... Can I come now?"
"Yes, sure. Where are you?"
"Near Santa Maria del Fiore."
"Good. Meanwhile I'll wash and dress. See you soon, then."
"See you soon. And thanks. Bye."
"Bye." Leo answered and hung up.
"Well, Giulio... I'm going."
"I'm sorry, Giulio, but..."
"No, no... will you be back for lunch?"
"Good. So then I will do some shopping and then I'll fix our meal. See you later."
Osvaldo looked at him going away. He felt an impulse to call him back, to go with him to meet Leo, but he didn't intend to talk with Leo only about his sister. He wanted to tell him about Giulio and him as well and he wanted to have the boy's advice, so he preferred to meet him alone. He walked towards the hospital.
Leo welcomed him with his usual open smile, and wearing his tracksuit, as always. The boy at once noticed the tense expression of Osvaldo. He asked him in and they sat down while Osvaldo told him all about their trip to Rome.
"I haven't yet called my parents..." he concluded, "I don't know what I can tell them."
"Yes, I can understand that. But what's the matter with her? From what you said to me, she wasn't like that before, was she?"
"At this point I can't understand anything any more. I would say she wasn't, anyway. She didn't seem so... but... did she always lie, or can she have changed, all of a sudden?"
"She can possibly have always fought against that instinct, until the meeting with that actor... freed her. Therefore, perhaps, she has always been like that, even though she never lied to you, don't you think?"
"Yes... it's possible. But how is it possible that I never noticed anything at all?"
"You know, it's often the same for us gay people too. We don't live openly, we don't express our sexuality, out of fear and conditioning... we try to convince ourselves we are not really gay, until we are no longer able to control ourselves and in the end we get to accept ourselves..."
"It wasn't so for me. I accepted myself at once."
"Well, you've been lucky."
"And after all, the only thing she does extra, so to speak, is just performing for those movies. And very often we gays don't content ourselves with just one partner, do we?"
"As long as one isn't loved, yes, it is so. But she had Giulio's love, and he's a splendid person."
"Well... evidently it wasn't enough for her. Anyway she didn't return his love. It could be that now the bottle has been uncorked so to speak, she needs some adventures, some transgressions, some... sex for the sake of sex. But then she will possibly cool down, she can come back to being more... calm and balanced..."
"It could be so, yes. But what's left of her..."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, you made with the parallel with an uncorked bottle, and I at once thought of a sparkling wine bottle. You uncork it and some comes out, more comes out, until the sparkling subsides. But in the bottle there remains more or less only a third of the wine. The rest has gone, wasted."
"That's partly true. But at least that third can be savoured and drunk. If the bottle stayed closed, nothing would have been lost, but then nobody could drink from it either, do you see? Do you understand what I mean?"
"Yes. We shall see... But at this point it's up to her to eventually look for us. I don't even know where she lives... Moreover, what do I have to say to our parents? The truth? Or that I didn't find her? I'm not able to make a decision, to understand what I ought to do now."
"If you say you didn't find her, they will worry and possibly report her disappearance... If you tell them the truth... she can afterwards not to have the courage to go back, even if she wanted to or needed to."
"A half truth, then? But what?"
"I don't know... that you met her, that she's in good health... but that for some reason... I don't know..."
"If I tell them I met her, that I know where she is, they will ask why she didn't say anything. They will ask me where she is and what she's doing."
"Yes, it's a really big mess. You can tell them that you found her, that she's alright, but that she's passing through a crisis period and therefore she needs to be left alone for a while... that you contacted her through friends in common but you don't know her address... That she asked you to be left in peace for a while, and that you promised her you will..."
"They will ask me where she is, what she does... if she has work..."
"You can try to give them general answers, but reassuring ones."
"It will not be easy. I'll have to carefully think about it. Anyway I can do nothing but invent something. I'll call them this evening, I think."
"This entire business has troubled you a lot, hasn't it?"
"Yes, from what I knew, I suspected I would find her there. But it's not really what she does that troubles me, but all the poison she threw at Giulio and me. I really didn't expect that. That she would be angry, possibly yes, but... not all that hatred. You should have seen her eyes, Leo, they were frightening. It felt like having an alien in front of me ... no, worse than an alien."
"It could probably be just a rebellious phase. It wouldn't have been easy, not even for her, I think."
"Yes, it could be as you say. But it was horrible, I swear. Really horrible."
"I believe it. It's enough to look at you, to understand it... And her boyfriend, how did he take it?"
"Giulio? Yes, I want talk with you about him as well..." Osvaldo said, and then he told Leo all that had happened between them the previous night.