Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Episode 07-II | Front and rear

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.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Episode 06-II - An odd type of community


Realizing I had tensed up, I recalled a zen monk's advice to relax. He was just a novice, but years ahead of me into the practice.

"I might not sleep some nights. But still, I shall try to relax. Not fighting my feelings, nor the situation. I will calmly breath in and breath out. Aware of breathing, I let emotions and thoughts cross my mind. Like night birds in flight. I don't try to catch them. I surely don't cogitate shooting them. No corpses of emotions and thoughts, you know..." The young monk had a sweet smile, and once it gradually overtook his face, it would just as slowly fade, but never quite disappear. "And in the morning, having relaxed might do better, even, than a tense, drugged sleep."

But easier said than done. Because once I had surrendered to my recollections of Angelo, it felt more like a World War raid of thoughts and feelings than a simple flock of birds frolicking across my mind.

I know, I am being unjust -- with myself, with Angelo, and with our budding love.

I am contaminated with everything that happened afterwards, how gloomily our relationship ended, and doing no justice to the empowering sense of well being, joy and happiness that invaded us both from the moment we met, when we were just fifteen.

Angelo had been ultimately as lonely as I had. We were both an only child and, in a way, orphans too. And suddenly, we had found in each other a best friend and lover.

I am letting my bitterness and sorrow overshadow how we delighted in each other's company. How we became accomplices at school, knowing what the other was thinking with just one glance -- and helping each other with tests that otherwise would have been really hard. As a team, we excelled.

I am trying to recall how our sensuality build in a series of innocent episodes, until it actually exploded into our inebriating sexuality. How in school I often glanced sidewards at Angelo, when he was concentrated in reading, and how I eagerly drank his beauty. 

I was convinced that his beauty was necessary for my survival.

I recall sometimes losing myself contemplating just his forearm, noticing every little detail of it, from the marbled paleness of his skin that lent his entire figure a deceiving veil of purity (and again, I am losing it here, because at fifteen I had no reason to believe that anything about Angelo was deceitful), to the veins popping on the surface of the muscles he had started cultivating, and that would lead to his physical perfection just a few years later. I remember being thrilled -- and excited -- at the rays of sun dancing on the hair of his forearm, and almost getting a sensation of vertigo from that vision. 

Maybe because I was always too close to Angelo -- still, longing to have him even closer and hold him forever in my arms. As if I saw him in a microscope, I was constantly overwhelmed. I never stopped marveling at his chiseled beauty.

I can still recall the thrill of glancing at Angelo's naked body for the first times, in the shower, or when he went to bed -- he enjoyed sleeping naked, perhaps just to tease me. Our nudity would become usual when we discovered "The Sources", and when we started making love there. And it became natural, too, to the point that, years later, Angelo's nudity wouldn't necessarily arouse me any longer.

 We spent hours at the natural pools, and also at the swimming pool that my father had built as his legacy to me, swimming naked when Catherine was not home -- and she usually wasn't! I'll have to agree with Angelo -- we never again were so free as when we were teenagers. Which is pretty uncommon and a privilege in adolescence. I owe that one to Catherine.

The rural landscape that enveloped us was boring, and again I recall Garcia Marquez and his 'Hundred Years of Solitude', because we tried to conquer those Hundred Miles of Solitude around us and stamp it with our youthful energy. We were screaming like crazy at the top every mount we climbed -- despite having ran uphill, we were never breathless, never tired, doing everything to escape boredom as if it were a plague.

We were often dancing, too, like two madmen. I hadn't been so much into music before I met Angelo. Carlo would sometimes listen to opera when he was painting, but I thought those people screaming their life and love and tragedies and daily affairs plus death out of their lungs was pretty weird, funny and kitsch -- and I still do. Catherine did not enjoy music so much -- her thing was cinema, probably from having dated more than a movie maker in her youth in Paris, and all the hours spent at the Cinematéque Française -- though she did listen every now and then to jazz, mostly the soundtracks of the nouvelle vague movies. Back then I thought jazz was a boring cacophony, until as a young adult I started going to a Jazz Bar near the apartment Angelo and I rented in Vice City. Then, it became the soundtrack to my life.

Angelo loved American pop -- what else? -- and he gave me this taste for songs in English. "It is the most beautiful language to be sung, don't you think?", he enthusiastically stated, more than once. I don't think I agreed with him, but I am sure I did not want to confront him, either. And so we listened and danced to the American hit parade of the late eighties and early nineties -- whatever we got on the radio, from TV clips and the albums Catherine would sometimes bring us.

"I'm not sure whether I appreciate this influence Angelo is having on you, Laurent. The US? Couldn't he have picked a more interesting country, with a richer and deeper cultural life? Aren't your tastes and interests becoming a little too shallow and limited, my son?" 

But that did not mean she wouldn't look for and buy the albums we requested her.

"Never mind, maman. I like Britpop better than grunge." Not that it made any difference for Catherine, but I had finally realized that, in listening to songs in English, I'd prefer Oasis to Nirvana, and on a different ground, anything Annie Lennox to everything Madonna.

It were times of limitless discoveries, made more fun and wider because Angelo and I had each other as magnifying glasses.

Why, then, even while making this effort to stick to the good elements of that early stage of our relationship, do I have to recall that conversation that we had at the lake? We had just had a fight over something silly -- and it might have been a dispute about music, even. Angelo was always down rating my preferences, saying that I was too conservative and rather limited. He loved to remind me that I had been born at one forgotten edge of the world, making the tropical paradise of my childhood sound like a nasty uncivilized corner where there were cannibals who still dedicated themselves to black magic and sacrificial rituals. He was Roman, a citizen of the metropolitan world from birth.

"Why, then, are you with me, Angelo?" I had finally complained, one day, when his criticism felt too much to bear. I might have been particularly sensitive over some issue at school, I don't remember. Or it might have been the time when he started his campaign to get rid of my glasses, saying they made me particularly ugly, and trying to get me to wear contact lenses. "'Sometimes I think you don't like me at all..."

"Look around, Laurent." That's all he commented.

But there was nothing to see, really. Just the boring rural landscape, and two boys lost in it.

"Look around us, Laurent. Do you see anyone else?"

My heart skipped a beat. I still couldn't rationalize what Angelo was trying to tell me. Years later, I would turn the lyrics of Radiohead's song 'All I need' into the hurtful sentence Angelo uttered that afternoon. Because of that, I can't remember what he told me at the edge of the lake, when we were "lying in the reeds", exactly like in the song.

"I only stick with you because there are no others." Angelo did not say that, but that's what he meant. He might have said something, "Do you see any option for me?"

How is that, for a love declaration? And it might have been on our first anniversary, I don't remember. I tried to celebrate those dates, but Angelo always and simply dismissed them.

"I am not gay, remember, Laurent? I'm gay just when I'm with you!" He sighed. "It's all your fault, Laurent. It's all your fault!" He did not hide the melancholy that was depressing him.  

Yet, though Angelo was not gay, we probably had sex that same day, maybe more than once, for horny teenagers we were, with lots of time and the whole house available to us. Sex in the swimming pool, sex in the kitchen, sex in the balcony, sex in the backyard. Left alone in my house, we felt free to do it wherever we wanted.

That sets this conversation by the lake before my coming out, when I finally tricked Angelo into being my official boyfriend.

For some time after my coming out, we were expectant about Catherine's decision on Angelo moving in with us. When one day she called me into her room, I knew it must be it -- she had arrived to a decision.

"Mon cher. This is going to be a bit weird. But we have to talk about it."

Catherine was looking prettier than ever, all dressed up for a date, having added make up and perfume. She was wearing a designer's gown -- most probably Yves Saint-Laurent, the couturier I got my name from.  Of pale salmon, it enhanced my mother's natural colors and lovely curves. She looked happy, too, so I thought the conversation shouldn't be about anything nasty nor difficult.

"Every boy has to have a man to man conversation at least once. About the facts of life, you know. But being a woman, I was avoiding that. Until I actually understood that because I am a woman I can take better care of that than a man ever would..." After this short preamble, that left me wondering where our conversation was heading to, Catherine blurted, "Are you and Angelo having sex yet?"

"We are..." I mumbled, blushing.

"I thought so. What are your... positions, if you know what I mean? Comparatively... Relatively speaking?"

"Maman!" The way she posed her question was funny, yet I understood it perfectly and blushed even more.

Catherine was surprised when I finally told her that I was topping Angelo. She had never given a second thought about homosexual relationships, though from then on she would include at least one gay character in each of her novels, sometimes in very prominent roles. But at that point, all she had were a few stereotypes in which she had framed me and Angelo -- and because he was the dominant alpha male most everywhere he went, or at least he tried to be, even when we were among adults, Catherine and whoever looked at us as a couple would have thought Angelo was dominating me... And he was, even if he was the bottom. 

I have to confess that, because of my refusal to vary positions, we had also conformed to those stereotypes as a couple. That was a bit sad and boring for two very young and horny men, who could have played and experimented so much more. I am the one to blame -- but I can already say that such a conformation wouldn't last until the end of our relationship, and later I would be forced to bottom for Angelo.

"Oh, really?"- I watched Catherine trying to readjust our roles in sex as she had pictured. My feeling is that, as much as she showed interest for me, her son, she was also researching for a new scope of characters she hadn't envisioned before. "Then I'll have to go into something else before we talk about condoms and all that..." Catherine was determined to act like my father, and the thought crossed my mind that she could be doing field research with me for a scene she might want to write between a boy and his father. "I know you have taken to... your father... in terms of... size matters!"

"Mom!" I exclaimed again. I couldn't think of anything else to retort, and a sentence of more than two words might get me stuttering in that situation. Still, I looked at her dazzled, wondering how could she know...

"Laurent! It shows, you know. When you were a boy, even Joanna was commenting on it, when she bathed you. And of course I've seen you naked, darling. And I've seen you wearing swim trunks more than once, haven't I? And now that you keep having these involuntary erections even at the lunch table... Especially when Angelo is here with us..."

"Mom, please!" I felt like fainting. I wanted to evaporate. In fact, just at hearing those things from Catherine, blood had rushed into my organ and it was inflating already.

"I just want you to be careful with Angelo, will you? I have... experiences with that, do you understand, Laurent? Don't think hurting is nice, my son, because it is not. That is not to be a man's pride in love! It is not size that matters, but how you use it... Are you following me?"

"Mom..." I repeated. I guess all that talk suddenly reverted my shame into pride, and I blurted. "Angelo loves it!"

"Good, Laurent." Catherine blinked at me. And every once in a while the image of my mother looking pretty in her sexy designer's gown had popped into my mind, years later, as I was having sex with partners that were particularly impressed with my size. "Now. I will also ask you to be discreet when you and Angelo do it, now that we are going to live together..."

And that was how Catherine announced Angelo was moving in! I exulted, but before I could manifest my happiness, she quickly moved on to another subject.

"I have met and spoken to his father." Catherine smiled, sweet and mysterious. "He is a very traditional, conservative man, and though he is very busy at the moment looking for a place where he can open a restaurant, and not seeing much of Angelo lately, he was not happy to be separated from his son... So this is going to be a first period of experience, when Angelo moves in..."

Something in Catherine's words, or how she did not finish the sentence, or maybe her intonation, or how she looked merrier than I had ever seen her -- and I knew it was not about my boyfriend moving into our house -- rang an alarm, as I felt my heart sink.

"First? Will there be a second period?"- I was in dismay.

"Yes, darling. When Edoardo moves in, too."

"What?" I gasped.

"I am dating Edoardo." I was so dumbfounded that she had to clarify, '"Angelo's father! You knew his name, didn't you? Isn't that wonderful, Laurent? It is now all in the family... You and I, Angelo and Edoardo..."

I wanted to faint to escape that scene. The thought that my mother was dating the father of my boyfriend was not very appalling. It was very wicked, indeed. And the perspective that Edoardo was later moving in with us took away all the pleasure and joy of Angelo moving in first.

"I don't know, mom..."

"I hope you understand the situation, Laurent." Suddenly, Catherine had become very serious. "You love Angelo. You long to be close to your boyfriend. Everyday. He is moving in with us. It is exactly the same, with me and Edoardo. I am sure you understand that, Laurent!"

"You... love Edoardo?" I had never seen my mother talk about love before. I knew she had lovers, that she dated every now and then, but love... love was very definitive, I thought! And for adults, it implied many things. "Are you going to marry him?"

"Is that why you look so worried?" Catherine laughed. "No, Laurent! At least, not yet. I hope you understand it. You are old enough for that, already. And now you have your own experiences about love, don't you? This is a fresh start for you and me, do you realize that, my son? We were... never really a family before..." It hurt me to hear Catherine dismissing Carlo like that, but her resentment against him did resonate with me. "And now, we might build one. With our boyfriends! Don't you think this is pretty cool, Laurent?" Catherine rarely used slang, and it sounded so misplaced in her discourse. I realized she was trying to reach out for me. "And because it will be two small families joining, we shall immediately experience a new family conformation, how about that? But that is not what's important here! I hope you understand it changes nothing in our relationship, Laurent. You and I, we are the original pair. And we have to stand for one another, no matter what! Do you think you can do that, darling? For me? For us?"

I did not quite get whether "us" meant she and I, or she and her lover. But I understood Catherine's offer at once. She was no longer addressing a childish teenager son. She was asking me to act like an adult. She was giving me the opportunity to grow. To take responsibility for the forthcoming new period in our household. I was flattered.

"Yes I can, maman."

And with that, bright and beautiful like a night butterfly, with a light kiss on my forehead, off Catherine went happily to her date -- with Edoardo, I was suddenly aware.

Angelo heard the news that same evening. He was as worried as I had been. And our happiness of finally living together -- we were starting our life as a couple, that would last eight years -- diminished at the perspective of living in an odd type of community.