The taxi left them in front of an eight-storey redbrick building. To one side of the entrance there were some brass plates. One of them read "Aphrodite Films - III floor - staircase B".
"Are you ready?" Giulio asked.
"Yes, ready." Osvaldo answered.
They went into the hall. The stairway B was on the right. They went upstairs to discover a closed door with the same plate. They rang the bell. A woman of about thirty-five came to open the door. She wore sober make-up, an elegant and not showy dress and round and big glasses. Her blond hair, almost certainly peroxided, was in a page boy cut. Peering though her glasses, she looked at them with a serious expression.
"I'm Leo Morassi and he is my cousin. We have an interview."
"Oh, yes, we are waiting for you. Come in. If you can wait just for a few minutes, the doctor will receive you soon."
She made them sit on a wooden chest carved in gothic style, rather incongruous in that almost bare room. The woman sat at a grey metal desk and started to put in order some papers she was taking from a tray to sort into some orange Perspex files. The room had three doors - one to the exterior from where they had entered, and two more on the wall opposite. Behind the woman, hanging on the wall, there was a large frame with a silk print representing a Venus, plainly inspired by the Botticelli one, but standing on a bed instead of on a shell. On a low table near the chest, was a big chromium-plated ashtray and some magazines - Oggi, Panorama, Epoca, Novella 2000.
The woman ignored them, she seemed engrossed in her job until a buzzer sounded on her table. The woman took the receiver off one of the three telephones and answered.
"Yes, doctor... Yes, they came, they're here now. Of course. I think so... Alright." She put the receiver down and stood up looking at them, "Follow me, please..."
She opened one of the two doors. They entered a room with a big table and a dozen chairs all around, some metal cabinets along the walls, and then knocked at another door. She opened it and gestured to the two friends to enter.
It was an office with some pretence to elegance. Behind a wide polished wooden desk was sitting a man about forty-five years old, tall, lean, wearing informal but elegant clothes, an agreeable face adorned by a pair of well trimmed moustaches. The man stood up and went to meet them, studying them.
"Welcome. You are Leo, I presume," he said giving his hand to Osvaldo, "as you are the younger. And your cousin, what's your name?"
"Giulio." Osvaldo said.
The man shook hands with Giulio. "Good. I'm Rolando. Do have a seat, please. So, then, you would like to be actors for us."
"Yes, doctor. It's something of an old dream of ours, since we were adolescents. We often talked about it, my cousin and I." Giulio said confidently.
"But you never acted before, is it correct?"
"No, but just to... to amuse ourselves, at our friends' home, with our girls, some short films with a video camera." Osvaldo said.
"Family movies... for a souvenir..." the doctor said.
"Not really. Our families... it would be better if they never see them." Osvaldo giggled.
The doctor smiled and said, "I see. Scenes somewhat... audacious."
"Yes, clearly, rather explicit." Giulio said with a conspiratorial smile.
"Therefore you should have no problem performing in erotic scenes."
"While we fuck? We don't think we would, even though there we were all friends, while here... possibly at first..." Osvaldo said.
"You have not to worry about that. Many actors at first have some erection problems. But here we are all friends. I presume you will soon be at your ease, if you come to work for us. But I have first to check two or three things. First of all, even though my first impression is good, I need to see you naked. Would you have a problem to undress now?"
"Not at all." Giulio said and, standing up, started to undress.
Osvaldo at once followed suit. In a short while they were both totally naked. Meanwhile the man had moved around the desk and drew near the two boys. He looked at them from head to toe.
"Yes, two good bodies... especially yours Giulio... and with an average endowment..." he said. He stretched out a hand and tested their arm muscles, then fingered the two youths' genitals, but without persisting too much.
"If you will perform well, you can be good. Are you ready only for straight performances, or also bisex?" he asked.
"Straight..." Osvaldo answered and Giulio confirmed.
"Alright. Thank you, you can dress again now." the doctor said going to sit behind his desk again. Then he stated, "In our movies we cannot use condoms, our customers don't like seeing them. Therefore you need first of all to undergo an HIV test and for other STDs, which you will have to repeat every three months. We want to protect our actors, you understand..."
"Yes, of course, no problem."
"I'll give you the address of a laboratory that has an arrangement with us, that will give you the results within the day. You will pay for the tests, but give us the receipt and if you work for us, you will receive the money back with your first pay. Otherwise the expenses will remain at your charge. Is that alright?"
"Yes, of course." Giulio answered.
"About your pay, we will give you 100.000 for each take, which will last about three hours. But the money will be paid to you only at the end of all the takes. This would be your starting wage. Later, if you are good, it can increase and by a great deal too."
"How many takes are needed to make a movie?"
"That depends. From a dozen, to double or three times that."
"And how much time does it take to make a movie?"
"Two or three weeks. But for you it depends on the number of scenes you have to perform in."
"And... at least at the beginning, he would have to carry on his present job, and I have to pass the exams at the university... Do you think they could be compatible, the two activities?"
"Yes, Leo. At the beginning you would just have secondary parts, therefore just few takes. And we never produce more than one movie a month."
"Do you use the same actors, in all your movies?"
"No, just some of them. The best ones, the most popular remain, it's obvious."
"How many will we be with?"
"At the moment, the movie we are shooting, we have seven in all, five men and two women. If you work with us, we will see. We have already planned three or four new stories... But we will talk about that after you sign the contract. I will show you where we shoot the movies, I will introduce you to the actors so that you can start to familiarize."
"Before we start... can we watch some takes, just to see how it all works?"
"Of course, we always do that. Well, then, I will give you the address of the laboratory. Go there at once, then come back here. The receptionist will give you the office times. Ah, and leave all your data with her before you go. I hope to see you again soon."
"Thank you, doctor. We are eager to start."
"Yes, sure." the man answered and pressed the buzzer.
Almost immediately the woman opened the door.
"Carla, give these young men the card for the medical laboratory, and write down their data. See you, boys."
Back in the entrance room they showed their ID papers to the secretary who transcribed their data onto two files then gave them back. Osvaldo was tense, and relaxed only when he put his forged ID paper back in his pocket.
"If you go immediately, you can possibly be back with the results before closing time. We have working hours with a break, from 9 am to 1 pm, and from 4 pm to 7. If you can't manage to be back in time, you can come tomorrow morning anyway. Doctor Papa will meet you again for the last details."
"Thank you, see you." Giulio said.
The woman saw them to the door and they went out. As soon as they were back on the street, Osvaldo said excitedly, "Letizia is here!
"Here? How on earth do you know?"
"Marina, the nurse, told me that on April the first Letizia came to Rome to meet the pope. It was not the pope, but doctor Papa, it's quite clear."
"You're right, hell! If he hired her, she really is here. She can possibly be performing already..." Giulio said, now he too excited.
"Let's hurry up and get these tests done." Osvaldo said.
They took a taxi and went to the laboratory where they presented the cards, filled up a form, and samples of their blood were taken.
"Can we wait here for the results of our tests?"
"They will be ready in one hour and half to two hours. If you want to go for a walk..." the nurse answered.
They went out to search for a bar.
"We are near getting a result, at this point. When we go back with the test results, I think he will made us sign a contract. I wonder if they will want us to undergo a fuck test?" Giulio asked, laughing with some tension.
"What effect did it have on you when he fingered your dick?"
"I thought he was also going to check my teeth as they do with horses. No effect, anyway. After all I think that the real stars will be our dicks. I think that the cameras will frame our cocks more often than our faces."
"Well, I think we will also have to show we are enjoying it... so we will have to make a face overcome with pleasure... or with lust... Well, we shall see."
"What possibly flunks us, you and I, is the fact we have always considered sex to be a way of behaving and not just as a purely animal instinct... Don't you think so?"
"It's possible. Moreover it is probably easier for a woman to fake pleasure, or an orgasm. At least women don't have problems of a hard-on and cum."
"I wonder how many guys in our situation would be excited just by the thought of doing it before a camera or in front of other people?"
"It's possible. But I also wonder that when we two have to do it we will discover that we are less inhibited than we thought." Osvaldo said pensively.
"It could be. I, for instance... I thought I would have felt ashamed letting a friend see me completely naked and with a hard-on... but on the contrary, with you, it happened almost naturally, without exhibitionism and without shame. But perhaps that was only because it was you. I mean, after all, one usually has more reticence baring one's soul than one's body. And with you I'm baring my soul... therefore I didn't have a problem when you saw my naked body. With a stranger... I don't know. But we'll soon discover that, I think."
They went back to fetch the results of their tests. They were not yet ready, so they had to wait some forty-five minutes more and they were both negative. They went by taxi again to the Aphrodite Film office, but when they got there it already was ten past seven and nobody answered. So they went to have supper in a restaurant and later back to their hotel.
"It's early to go to bed. Perhaps I can do some drawings..." Osvaldo said taking his album and opening it at a new page. He sat at the table. Giulio went near him, standing.
"Will you draw me?"
"Do you want me to? I can try. Possibly not really you, but a character inspired by you."
"I have to assume a special pose?"
"I never drew portraits, but if you want I can try."
"Do I have to undress?"
"Why not." Osvaldo answered, anticipating the vision, then said, "Take a pose as if you were having a shower..."
Giulio, naked, went in front of the window curtain, and posed as if he was washing himself. Osvaldo was aroused, but as he had his clothes on, he didn't worry. He started to draw.
"This is the first time I've ever had a model sitting for me." Osvaldo said, looking a times at Giulio and at times at the drawing he was tracing on the sheet. "I'm not a portraitist or a painter. I'm just a comic strip designer so don't expect a wonderful result." Then added, "Make a merry face for me, as if you're singing under the shower. Yes, I think you will really become one of the characters of my stories..."
Giulio giggled, "I'm already following my own career, a porno actor and a comic strip model! You see, when one has hidden talents..."
"At this point your talents are hidden no more; you totally unveiled them for me. That forelock gives you the appearance of an urchin... Here you are! Come and see."
Giulio drew near him. "Wow, beautiful! Yes, even though stylised, he's really me, that boy. Will you give me this drawing?"
"Yes, of course. But now I would like to do another drawing. You're entering in a room where she is waiting for you, quite naked, on the bed... Put on a lecherous expression for me..."
"But I should have a hard-on..." Giulio said, laughing.
"Don't worry, I can draw that without problems... No, turn just a little, three-quarters. You are showing yourself to her, and she sees you naked for the first time and she has open wide eyes because she thinks you are wonderful..." Osvaldo suggested and started to draw again. "What effect does it have on you, Giulio, sitting naked for me?"
"None. Really no effect. As a character, how do you imagine me? What will I do in my life?"
"The private detective. One of those who before they are able to solve a case, have three or four adventures... A man of action, but refined, cultivated, a sportsman, elegant... Black hair and eyes of a deep blue, piercing. One that women cannot resist and that men envy. Clever, incorruptible..."
"Yes, I like him. And what would you call him?"
"What name would you like?"
"I don't know... Joey... Joey Donovan..."
"Very good. I really think I will submit him to our text author. He can became a successful comic strip, such a hero."
Giulio laughed, "But then you have to pay me some royalties!"
"Of course. Here, I'm almost done... Joey Donovan is going into the room of the very rich client for a very private encounter..."
"Let me see... Yes, amusing. So it risks being a porno comic."
"No, I wouldn't do such a drawing. In this scene you would still have your jeans on, possibly with just the top button undone... otherwise my publisher wouldn't accept it." Osvaldo said, winking.
"Well, It's now time to sleep. As I'm already naked, I'll go and wash before you." Giulio said and went to the bathroom.
Osvaldo put away his album and started to undress. When they were in bed, they chatted some more.
At a certain point Giulio said, "It's best sleeping in the nude. But I have always slept with my briefs on. How about you?"
"Always totally naked at my apartment. But at my parents or friends' home, I usually wear briefs or pyjamas too. But I agree that naked one feels better. After all we should put on clothes only to defend our body from the cold, in my opinion. I fully understand the nudists."
"I'm starting to understand them, now. It gives an incredible feeling of freedom. And not only physically, but above all psychologically."
"Tomorrow morning at nine we will meet doctor Papa again... and I think he will have us sign the contracts. You more than I have to be very careful about what kind of contract you sign."
"Why I more than you?" Giulio asked.
"Because I had anyway given false personal particulars, therefore if I break their contract, they cannot do me any harm."
"I see. But anyway I don't know how can they do anything legal against us. I think that to shoot this kind of movie here in Italy is illegal or at least bordering illegality. If not because of other things, because I doubt if they pay taxes on their revenues..."
"Well, so our eventual revenues would also be tax free..." Osvaldo answered with a smile.
"When Letizia was saying to her colleague that a woman can earn a lot more amusing herself... she was talking about this job, don't you think?"
"I really think so, Giulio. I think that she can earn at least three million a month or more, if I've done my calculations correctly. That's double what she earned as a nurse."
"Do you think that is this what attracted her?"
"Possibly... But perhaps not just this. Possibly also the idea of doing it in a... fantasy situation."
"Bah! And yet I wouldn't have said that Letizia is an exhibitionist."
"Neither would I, Giulio, but... who knows? We will see anyway. Let's just hope we can meet her soon."
"Assuming that she really does work at Aphrodite, and that she still works there... and also that she is there these days."
"What would you feel, Giulio, seeing her between the legs of another man?"
"Rather bad, I think. I have probably idealized her too much."
"I don't think it's your fault."
"Not my fault, but possibly I unwittingly caused it."
"How come? In what sense you could have been the unwitting cause of her... of her choice?"
"Perhaps I didn't give her what she needed."
"But you couldn't get some men for her with whom she could fuck, could you?" Osvaldo said, knitting his eyebrows and shaking his head.
"No, not that, no. But I don't know, I confess to you that I'm feeling rather confused. I really don't know what to think. If I made some mistakes with her... I'm asking myself where I could have been wrong."
"Who said you did something wrong. As you described your relationship to me, I believe you have been... perfect."
"Nobody is ever perfect."
"Anyway, I would have behaved exactly as you have done."
"Yes, I know. We two are really similar about how we see things, how we think."
Racing through Osvaldo's mind was the thought, 'If only you were gay too, we would be a perfect couple. Heaven knows why the first time I find my ideal partner he has to be a straight boy? You're even better than my Marco...'
Giulio asked, "What are you thinking about?"
Osvaldo thought that it was the classical question between two lovers when they are living their first days of love. Each of them wants to know everything about the other, and especially his thoughts...
But he answered, "Of my friend Marco."
"You are very close to him. You often mention him."
"I would like to meet him."
"Yes, perhaps one day..."
"If you like him, he has to be a special boy."
"Yes, he is special. And Marco's wife is special too."
"Good for him."
"It's a pity you live in Milan and I in Florence."
"But we will stay in touch, won't we?"
"Of course. These days together are tying us very strongly."
Yes. This common search... our sharing fears and hopes... Osvaldo, the more I get to know you, the more I feel as if I've known you forever."
"It's the same for me, Giulio."
"In a way you are the brother I never had."
"And you too..."
"You are just two years younger than me, and yet I feel you're like an older brother." Giulio said.
"According to my fake ID card I'm five years younger than you, remember?" Osvaldo said with a smile.
"Very well built, to be twenty-two, Leo!" Giulio said; he was smiling too.
"I'm a precocious boy!" he answered back with a laugh.
They fell asleep.
In the dead of the night Osvaldo woke up. He had an erection. He looked towards Giulio. He could barely see his shape. He felt tempted to switch on the light, to pull out the sheet from his body to admire him, but he didn't, afraid he would wake him up. He also desired to touch him... it was a torment feeling such a strong desire, loving him more and more, and having not to show it. A sweet torment having him so close by and yet so unattainable.
And Giulio was peacefully sleeping, totally unaware of the tempest that was stirring up beside him. Loving without being loved back... Being considered a brother was good, of course, but it was other that he wanted, that he desired... and he knew he could not even hope. He very cautiously got off the bed and went to the bathroom. For the first time he masturbated, fantasizing about Giulio... He went back to the bed and slipped under the sheet.
"Can't you manage to sleep?" Giulio asked him, his voice blurred with sleep.
"I'm sorry I woke you. I needed to go to the toilet and tried not to disturb you..." Osvaldo apologised.
"No, it doesn't matter. I too am having a bad sleep. I had weird dreams..."
"I was tied and Letizia was on a bed and a queue of naked men wanted to screw her and I could not stop them... She was not tied, and was there, her legs spread, waiting for them... Se didn't seem happy but not vexed either. She seemed just indifferent..."
"It was just a dream, Giulio..."
"Yes... but it hurt me. I was feeling powerless. I was not even able to talk. I wanted to shout NO! but my voice didn't come out..."
"Then I happily woke you."
"Yes. Do you believe in dreams?"
"No, not at all. It's just our psyches unloading. I don't think they have any meaning... Let's try to sleep, now."
"Yes, it will be better. Do you know the time?"
"It's... three thirty."
"Good night, my friend."
"...'Night, Giulio. And try to have nicer dreams."
"I hope so. Till tomorrow..."
Osvaldo slowly slipped again into sleep and was barely aware of his friend's tossing and turning, restless, on the bed.