The first time I met Edoardo was an early dinner at our home, when he had cooked. After having failed in engaging in any sort of conversation, we moved on from the living room to the kitchen area, where it had taken ages for him to prepare some very simple pasta with olive oil and herbs. It was rather plain and tasted to almost nothing in my opinion, despite him praising the Italian homemade pasta. Later that evening, I was going to assault the fridge looking for a proper meal, but at the table I tried to please him by eating as much as I could from that unimaginative food.
In a bad way, Edoardo reminded me of Tarso. He was just as silent and reserved as my great-grandfather had been. That went so well with Angelo and Catherine, who could be so talkative. But because I was also more silent than not, and a 'good listener' like my mother had already stated, it was often that between Edoardo and I a very tense, uncomfortable silence fell.
My first impression was that he was ill humored, bad tempered and arrogant, and I wondered why my mother had fallen for him. He was good looking and well built, attractive in a very manly way -- but so had Carlo been.
I might have been simply jealous. I had never seen Catherine trying to speak Italian to my father -- first of all, because Carlo's French was fluent, if tinged by a rather charming accent. But Edoardo's was really poor -- he had never properly learned French, and he was never going to. I thought it was extremely indelicate of him to try to impose Italian right from his arrival.
"I heard you speak good Italian, Laurente!" were Edoardo's first words to me. I hated how my name sounded when he pronounced it, like a stone falling on cement, or like a long burp, though he had tried to compliment and include me in the Italian night we were about to celebrate. "But it can always improve, don't you think?", he had added. But I did not want to speak Italian, and I did not say a word that evening that was not in French, though I normally used Italian words with Angelo. And I felt mad at Catherine for actually trying to speak their language. Why hadn't she ever tried it with my father, and only criticized him in the rare occasions when he had accidentally exclaimed something like "Madonna mia!"... Why?
"Because they were our guests at the table and at our home, Laurent. And you might as well try to please guests and make them feel welcome, can't you?" Catherine had reprimanded me, weeks later.
And it was about to get worse. When I finished my food, realizing there was only more of that plain pasta to eat and no dessert, I thought dinner had finished for me, and saying "Excuse me" I stood up to take my plate into the kitchen.
"I haven't finished yet!" Edoardo declared, rather sharply.
"Oh, I am sorry..." And I truly was. I had done that mistake before, with a few others of Catherine's guests, and I was again ashamed. Some of them had been famous movie directors and accomplished writers or brilliant professors, and yet none of them had told me what I heard next.
"Now sit." arrived the order from Edoardo. He made a hand gesture that was not the least inviting, but demonstrated his was the last word about me standing up and walking away or not.
"I beg you pardon?" I still tried to be polite, but no longer sincerely. My heart was pumping hard, my hands had started shaking.
Edoardo did not repeat his marching order. He just glanced in my direction with a severe look, lowering his eyebrows like he often would glance in my direction. He had said it once, and it should be enough, his demeanor indicated.
That moment, I decided my whole future, concerning my relationship with my mother's greatest and perhaps only love, who was the father of my own boyfriend.
I turned my back on Edoardo and walked into the kitchen area.
"Laurente!" I heard him shout, and at the same time coming from my mother, "Where do you think you're going, Laurent?"
"To the toilet." I replied. It wasn't true, but it was the only reply that occurred me in the heat of the moment. It was almost a polite and very appropriate excuse, had I intended to come back. And then, giving in to my anger, I blurted "I need to shit."
It was the equivalent to an scandal in our house. Of course there had been quarrels and fights before -- Carlo and Catherine, Angelo and me. But it was the first time I was confronting an adult -- and if there is one thing I can thank Edoardo for, and that's the only thing I can think of, plus the fact that he had the ability to please Catherine and make her truly happy, is that he aggravated me so much and constantly that my daily confrontations with him, sometimes with shouts, sometimes in a tense silence, were very important in my blossoming into a young adult, developing my own confidence and imposing the limits that people could not trespass with me.
That evening of our dinner, I went upstairs and waited for Angelo to show up in my room -- the room that we were going to share. But he never came. Although it was a Friday night and he could and should have stayed with me, Edoardo decided to tow him away to their motel room. I did not see Catherine either, because she did not come to my room -- I heard the door of hers bang, and that ended the disastrous night.
It might have been my first clash with Edoardo that changed plans for us all -- and instead of Angelo moving in first, Edoardo moved in with him at once.
Catherine never talked to me about that incident.
She simply left home, without warning me where she was going. And if she would return. I had to go into her bedroom to check whether her traveling bags where there or not -- to actually start hinting that she had probably gone abroad, maybe to Belgium where she was still teaching. I don't remember exactly for how many days she was gone, but nevertheless, enough for me to again feel the panic of losing my mother. Angelo knew nothing either, and at school we just sat side by side apathetically. Every time I was struck by the fear of having lost my mother's affection, I was back at Punaouilo, to the days when she had returned to France and for months not given me any news. The difference was that now Carlo was no longer there for me, and he hadn't send any news in years himself. I was all on my own.
It was a rather puzzling process, that of growing up and yet, going back to infantile feelings of abandonment; that of developing the confidence to confront Edoardo and yet being terrorized of losing my mother. I was tore between two extremes, aggressiveness and passivity -- and that's how I grew up to be what I am. That's also how I forgot about Carlo, trying to find a balance between fighting for my space and dignity in my own home, and at once relegating all the things I found unacceptable in Edoardo -- for the promise of being still loved by my mother.
For the first time in all those years, Catherine did not call me from Belgium to check how I was. Not even once. I cried everyday, sitting in her empty room. If I was still in doubt, her silence and the ostracism I was condemned to, made me fully realize there was a new condition for Catherine's affection -- or maybe, a new opportunity? Being a good student, obedient, taking care of the house chores and respecting my mother's need for privacy and distance had never facilitated my access to her heart. Maybe bearing Edoardo was a new key I was being given the chance to try?
When she came back from Belgium, and Edoardo moved in with Angelo a few days later, I had fully repented. I was determined to soften my edges and be as polite as I could, even if I sounded hypocrite. I'd do anything for my mother, even treat cordially her loathed boyfriend. That I sometimes forgot was also my boyfriend's father.
And that is why it was easier for me than for Angelo to pardon a few things coming from Catherine and Edoardo --- because when I thought of my mother, I was willing to forgive and forget. While Angelo didn't think of anyone but himself.
It was a very uncomfortable and delicate situation when Edoardo and Catherine made love in their room, that was directly next to us. I had heard Carlo and Catherine making love before, and I have already expressed how happy I was when the sounds of their intercourses reached my room, for it meant that after their quarrels, they were making peace that way. And Catherine had never brought any lovers home, at least not when I was there. So this was new and confusing to me, as much as it was annoying to Angelo.
And Carlo had always been a gentle lover, and his love making must have been the same, despite or perhaps because of his being well endowed and easily hurting Catherine when he penetrated her.
Edoardo, if I was to take his son for example, would need to be a fierce and very skilled lover to make the best use of a rather mediocre tool -- and that's exactly what he was. We would often wake up to the sound of their bed forcefully banging against the wall dividing our rooms. Catherine did not hold back her moaning under Edoardo's power, and his grunts were heard even louder than my mother's cries when they came.
We would each time be awoken by their noises, which we listened to in dismay. No, it did not excite us the least, nor inspired us to do like them.
First of all, because my relationship with Angelo remained a secret kept from Edoardo. Around Edoardo, we had to pretend to be two little boys, and look like brothers, never like lovers. I tried to constantly tease Angelo, and give him hard-ons, but that only upset him, and in time I had to stop.
"Now quit it, Laurent! I'm not letting you make me gay before my father, too! No way! There is no coming out because I am not gay, do you understand it? Opening up to my father is not an option. That's it!"
"Why are you so afraid of your father?" I had challenged Angelo.
"I am not. But I know him. It will only worsen things."
I couldn't imagine it being any worse than it already was. We had lost our freedom at home. And since the door to my bedroom couldn't be locked, we were confined to have sex in the bathroom, with the shower and the music on. It was a rather melancholic backlash from the times when we had taken the whole house for our experiments with different positions and add-ons, like whipped cream from the kitchen or the very convenient lounge with interchangeable cushions at the living room.
And it did get worse.
From the fight that had started at the adults bedroom upstairs, Angelo and I knew we just had to wait for a while until the storm fell upon us, too. Edoardo came down to the living room to meet us. He spoke only Italian, but I understood it fairly well.
"Do you have anything to tell me, Angelo?"
"Nothing new at the front, father."
"Well, maybe at the back?" I gasped at Edoardo's words, and I was not quite sure to have understood them, but Angelo kept on his cool act. "Because I think you do! And just before you say it, let me tell you already... I am disgusted!"
"Really, father? Why?"
I thought Angelo's cynical approach was dangerous, for it seemed to aggravate Edoardo. But this time it was my turn to just be present and silent, like before Angelo had stood by my side when I came out to my mother.
"Don't mess with me, you little brat! You know perfectly well! This is unacceptable!" Edoardo's deep voice thundered.
"It depends on who is willing to accept what..."
"Now shut up, Angelo! You have not been invited to speak. This is a sin! This has to stop! This is filthy, this dirty, this is unnatural..."
And Edoardo would have gone on with his ranting if I hadn't interrupted him.
"And this is the Medieval ages, again." I blurted.
Our luck was that I spoke in French, and Edoardo didn't really catch it.
"What did you say there? Repeat it! Repeat it to me if you are a man, Laurente! What did he say?" Edoardo demanded translation from Angelo.
And I think I would have repeated it, if Angelo hadn't asked me to go upstairs.
"Let me sort this out with my father. Please, Laurent, please!" It was the first, and perhaps the last time that I saw Angelo kindly asking me to do anything, almost imploring it.
And that's how it got worse. We started being stalked. From then on, Edoardo would break into our room, always checking and trying to catch on us.
"You have no right to come into my room like that! You will have to knock first!" I had hurled at him once.
"I will come in whenever I want!" he had retorted, just before storming out of the room, banging the door behind him. "My son is in this room, too!"
That's how the only privacy we'd find was in our bathroom. But even there. We almost had a double heart attack when we were at it, and suddenly Edoardo was banging at the door, almost bringing it down.
"Go away! We are fucking!" I had shouted. In French, because I did not really want Edoardo to understand it.
Next, Angelo was pushing me away, and swiftly getting dressed, and going out of the bathroom to calm his father.
"What did you tell him? Have you explained that we shower together to save water, haha!?!" I had ironically inquired.
"Shut up, Laurent!" Angelo had retorted; our sex session for that day being thus canceled. "Go fuck yourself!"
Most of this happened when Catherine was away, be it for a few hours or a few days. She had changed her teaching routine and never again spent more than a week in Belgium -- and even that was long enough for our home to be turned into a battle field. But when she was home, though there was tension and often mutual provocations between Edoardo and me, it was all veiled and kept at a decent level. He loved Catherine, and so did I -- but we found it unbearable and impossible to even accept the other's presence in the same room.
But when the sounds of my mother and his father making love would start, it was Angelo who responded worst. He felt so tormented. Often, he left the room, which we considered to be our private kingdom, and went downstairs; other times, he tried to muffle the sounds by burying his head in a pile of pillows, when he would snatch mine even. Once, he said he thought the noise was aimed at him, as if his father was demonstrating how a true man behaved, making love to a woman.
"You have to consider, Laurent, that they could be making a baby!" he threatened.
I was immediately alarmed. Sharing a territory that in sixteen years I had never fully conquered, to which Catherine had always been a reluctant queen? The idea seemed hideous. A baby was too definitive an establishment of Edoardo in our household -- because I still hoped that someday Catherine would realize the loser jerk he was, and get rid of him.
"Oh gosh, no! Please no!" I grimaced and shivered at the prospect of having to compete for attention in my own home with a baby brother. But I knew Catherine had no talent as a mother, and she wouldn't make that mistake again, not when she was over forty already.
I was surprised when one day, after having started narrating what he thought was being enacted on the other side of the wall, Angelo had screamed above the adults moans and groans.
"Wooohooo! Go, go, go, go, goal!!!!" he shouted.
For a moment, Catherine and Edoardo had silenced, and I was afraid that they had mistaken Angelo's voice for mine. For a whole minute I awaited for Edoardo to storm into my room, and finally try to beat me. But they had simply resumed their love making, muffling the sounds, at least for the rest of that session.
"Please, Angelo. We have to respect them..."
"Respect? What do you mean by 'respect', Laurent? They are not showing any respect for us! Listen! Today it must be anal! It's when your mother screams the most!"
"Angelo!" I was truly offended, "This is my mother's house! You have to respect her."
"And we finally come to this! Yes, this is her house! And I respect her. You know that very well, Laurent, how much I admire your mother! But I am not going to let her rule over me. Catherine can rule over the other two meek men in this house... But not over me!"
"What are you talking about, Angelo?" But I knew what he was talking about. My mother manipulated Edoardo and me the whole time, making us practice hypocrisy as the highest form of art, for it actually was the only thing to keep us at a minimum convivial level, instead of exchanging punches from breakfast until supper.
"I am talking about leaving, Laurent. That's what I am talking about!"
"Would you do that to me, Angelo?" My voice broke with my heart at the perspective of being abandoned again.
"From the day I got here, you know very well what my single plan is, Laurent. I am not staying in this God forsaken, shitty hole! And you can come with me or not, I don't care. I am leaving. You can stay in this hellish situation, if you wish, but I shall not. I know you don't have much will or determination, so I will share mine with you. Are you coming with me or not, Laurent?"
Author's note: having been imported from a former version of the story, some of the comments below are dated previous to this post. Once the plot has not been altered, just the pagination, I am keeping them since they are very dear and precious to me.