Vincenzo estimated that it’d take twenty minutes to get to his house. They were running, too, and there wasn’t much traffic to dodge.
They got home at 12:23, almost one hour later.
He hadn’t meant it. A night of partying and getting chased by your rival would’ve sent him home sooner. But when Sylvia wanted to makeout on every other corner, flipping off the rare car in case it was Hannigan to piss him off, he couldn’t say no. He couldn’t say no when she’d wanted to take off her heels and, being who he was and what he wanted to explore, he asked to try them on. It was a mess—he almost rolled his ankle near the gutter—but it was a happy mess. An explorative disaster that had Sylvia laughing and him smearing away her lipstick with his tongue.
When they finally returned home, he’d lost his hat somewhere in a bush and Sylvia had dropped her shoes in the middle of the street “for good luck.” Why, he didn’t know. If anything, it’d cause a car crash.
He knew the risks of being this exposed out in the open, but he couldn’t help it. Becoming more and more daring throughout the evening, he’d even go so far to say that he liked it. From standing up to Sylvia’s mother to kissing in the park to outsmarting Hannigan and his cronies. He felt good. He felt in love.
He felt safe with her.
His Nonna had passed out for the night with a book in her lap and tea by her bedside. He made sure to kiss her goodnight before gently shutting her bedroom door.
When he came back to the foyer, he told Sylvia, “Let me call Campo and tell him what happened.”
“Of course.” She glanced into the kitchen. “Could I possibly make something to eat? I didn’t eat much today.”
“Of course, of course.”
“Would Nonna be cross? Did she make dinner tonight?”
“I told her we’d be eating at the party. Ask me if you need help finding anything.”
As she left, he caught himself smiling at her. Seeing her at both her most mundane and most elegant, what was better than that?
He knew, at least for her, what would be better. She’d stated it several times, her wants. He’d been trying to find a way around them all night.
He calmed himself down and rang for Campo’s home. This night had slapped him silly. He needed to come back to his senses.
Someone picked up. “Hello?”
Vincenzo furrowed his brow. “Hello?” he asked in Italian. “Why’re you using Campo’s personal phone?”
His father hung up.
Feeling the anger already foaming in his stomach, he rung the number again, finger jabbing into the rotary. What was he doing, picking up Campo’s private line? Was he still at the party?
He picked up again. “If you call—”
“I need to speak to Campo.”
“Because Hannigan’s people found me when I left the party. I left to get drinks at the Viola Tavern and, after walking home, Hannigan’s men surrounded us and chased us away. They somehow knew where I was going to be when I hadn’t told anyone where I was going.”
Severo thought on this, made Vincenzo listen to the whistle in his dying lungs. Then he asked, “What of it?”
“What—It’s the second time Hannigan’s found me this year. He found me behind the Black Kitten—”
“It seems like they have a problem with you keeping in touch with those freaks you fancy at those bars.”
Vincenzo blinked several times. Even with his life in danger, he was still on this. What was it with old men and their fascination with another man’s romantic life? “What does that have to do with anything?”
“I’ve mentioned this to Campo multiple times, and he agrees that you spend too much time there. You’re becoming more of a target the more you parade your fetish around on a leash. If this continues and you start placing the Family in danger, you’ll pay for it. I’ll make sure of it.”
“Now shut up and don’t call back. And don’t go out with that freak again.”
And he hung up.
Vincenzo stared into the dark end of the receiver. Comebacks and criticisms came seconds too late. Still, how he wanted to say them. How he wanted to run to Campo and tell him everything about Hannigan and his father. He’d expose him, show Campo he was nothing more than a spineless, abusive wretch of a man who was using his personal line for some unknown reason.
But it wouldn’t do much good. He couldn’t bother Campo on his birthday of all days. He’d call him tomorrow.
And maybe his father was right. Maybe he should’ve been stepping back from the bars. His life would’ve been easier. Everyone would’ve been more pleased and less tense around him. They’d leave his sexuality alone.
But that’d never happen. He needed to be with someone like Sylvia for his mentality. She had been the only one after twenty-three years to understand him in such a personal way. He couldn’t have that with any other girl.
“Vincenzo, when you have a moment,” Sylvia said, and ducked her head back into the kitchen.
He did have a moment to spare, but he took several more on the couch, refocusing himself on who mattered most.
During his very short phone call, Sylvia had properly wrecked his kitchen. Already, soup and vegetable slices stained the counters. She’d left the fridge open for easy access, but she also had every cabinet and drawer open. He couldn’t judge, as he’d never made his own dinner before, but something about her destruction was at once admirable and a bit concerning.
“I was on the phone for no more than two minutes,” he said. “Is this how you cook?”
She set down her ladle. “It’s usually worse.”
He looked over her shoulder to see what monstrosity she had cooking. “What’re you—?”
The flirty insult he’d planned for her slipped away. The smells, salty like home, and the bag of clams, still fresh from being caught that week. He was brought back to his childhood with what Sylvia was making. That feeling of protection and safety, however strong it already was, grew thicker around him.
“You’re making clams and pasta?” he asked.
“Uh, yes. I think. It’s your grandmother’s recipe. She tried teaching it to me this morning, but I don’t know. I have garlic, and I notice Nonna bought fresh Parmesan yesterday.” She read the clams’ label. “I’ll get better at this. I’m not used to cooking for two.”
Every time Vincenzo came home, whether he was thirteen or twenty-three, he was met with his Nonna cooking. It was his one constant, something he knew that’d never change. To see Sylvia trying her best to replicate that feeling, even though she was trying to boil the pasta and the clams in the same pot…
He hugged her from behind, burying his head into her back. He called her his wife in his head, but she must’ve been more than that. She knew what made him happy at the right moments without asking. She was a soulmate to him. She was his angel.
Before she shook him off or he pulled away, he took her hand and led her up the stairs.
“Oh my,” she said. “Where’re we going?”
He brought her into their room and closed the door behind him.
“Now, what’s this?” she asked, smiling.
“Hm?” He kissed her, then again, backing her into bed until he was straddling her. Mezzanotte, who was sleeping on his pillow, got up to see if she needed to run or not.
“Did something click?” she asked.
“I’m not sure.” He parted her bangs to better see her. “I’ve been thinking over what you said to me in the park. About wanting to, you know, make love.”
“Oh.” She tried closing her legs. “You don’t have to. You don’t have to force yourself.”
“I know. It’s just, I’ve been so afraid of this side of me, I never trusted myself to be intimate with another person before. It’s true that I’m not as…forward as you, but that doesn’t mean I’m…” He searched for the right words. It was hard to describe something so twisted in your own head. It was like chopping away vines. “I’d like to try, to be more open, with you. I’d like to experiment.”
Sylvia touched her chest, holding her breath at what he’d just said.
“Because I want to,” he confirmed. “Not because I’m pressured. I feel comfortable enough to try things with you. You…” He laughed at himself. “It sounds silly, but I feel safe with you.”
“How is that in any way silly?” she asked.
He said, “I don’t know. It doesn’t feel manly.”
“Feeling safe with a woman?”
“I guess.” He pinned her to the bed with his body and kissed her. Mezzanotte wagged her tail at his movement. He wished cats weren’t like this. They watched everything.
He stopped fully, too fearful of moving another inch. “What? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing,” she said. Since kissing her, her face had turned redder. “I just want to ask, since you’re experimenting…”
His heart skipped.
“May I touch you?”
His body did what it knew best and locked up, protecting him from any outside threats. With being in a relationship, he knew this’d come up eventually, but he wasn’t ready to tell her the truth yet. Cruelly, he thought it would’ve slipped out by now. His family would’ve taken her aside or she’d brush against his pant legs and realize, “Oh.” “Oh, you’re different.” “Oh, you’re just like me.”
Then he’d have to go into why he hid so much from her. Why it was a big deal in the first place. Why he’d been so, so scared to tell her the truth. Because she’d think him a liar. Or a girl. Or someone who was faking it for attention, just like his parents thought, even though he’d told them time and time again that it wasn’t a big deal when he knew it was. He knew nobody understood it, so they wanted their explanations solved and questions answered.
So he never spoke about it. Not even to his friends. Or to Sylvia. He passed. That was all that mattered.
He just wanted to be Vincenzo DiFiore, a man who wasn’t interested in sex who wasn’t forced to say or do anything he didn’t want to do.
But then, he realized who was underneath him: his stability who accepted all parts of him.
He gave her a small, small nod, barely registering as consent, and braced for the worst.
Working with his pace, Sylvia slowly wiggled her arms free, reached up and over his head, and wrapped her arms around him.
She curled her fingers in and out of his hair, messing up his gel and re-creating his natural curls. She didn’t give him enough room for him to do the same, so he just sat atop her, watching her watch him. He usually didn’t make eye contact with people for this long. He felt himself go hot, everywhere.
“Okay,” she said, and dropped her hands. “Thank you. I wanted to fix that for forever.”
“Your hair. I love it greased up, but I love this look even more.”
“But don’t you want to, well, touch anywhere else?”
She looked down at his crotch. “No.”
“I’m not. While I would enjoy touching you there, well, you don’t want me to, right? I can see it in your face, and it’s not as if I need that part of you in order to feel loved.”
“But you do.”
She shrugged. “I’m just an incredibly horny girl,” she said. “My hands are perfectly adequate in relieving that for me. I do like thinking about it, though,” she added. “That can’t be helped, unfortunately. I love you way too much.”
He almost fainted. His body was so rigid, and then to hear that? He almost crumbled into dust.
He dropped his forehead against hers. She cooled him down. “Thank you.”
“Of course. This’s about you experimenting with what you’re okay with, and I’m okay with it all.”
He kissed her lips.
“And nothing is mandatory.”
He dipped to her neck.
She gave him a moan. “Unless you’re okay with it. Neck kissing is lovely.”
He ran his hands through her hair, taking off her wig and throwing it somewhere near Mezzanotte. He loved her a thousand times more. Here he thought he should’ve been doing so much more that he hated. It was what a man was supposed to do with a woman, to perform their duties. Now, not only did he not have to do it, she wasn’t expecting it and understood why he couldn’t.
Well, partly. Whenever he was ready to finally tell her, he knew he’d be okay.
As he went to lick her neck, she moaned into breaking off with him.
“You okay?” he asked.
Upon hearing her hesitation, he pulled himself up and made sure she was alright.
She was, but that wasn’t the problem. Hiding her face, she snaked her free hand down to her crotch and covered herself. Her face had turned redder. “I got excited again,” she confessed.
He kept himself from looking down. For his sake and hers. Did he have to do anything? Should he try? Did he want to?
Just a bit. A taste, even, just to say he’d tried it.
She took a peek at him through her fingers.
“Do you want me to relieve you?”
“Only if you want to.”
He looked up.
“Only if you want to.”
He breathed into her neck, taking in the lingering perfume that clung to her soft skin. It’d be okay. It was just them, alone, and his father wasn’t even a phone call away because he’d told him not to call him again.
But why couldn’t she take over? He knew men were supposed to take the first steps in a relationship, but it felt nice knowing a woman could handle the reins when you were too scared to walk.
Stealing one last kiss from her, he slipped down from the bed and found himself on his knees like a squire about to be knighted by his queen.
She tightened her knees.
“Sorry.” He backed up. “Is this too much? Is it—?”
“No, it’s okay. I just didn’t want you seeing anything that might…alarm you.” She parted her legs. “This okay?”
“Yeah,” he said, but his mouth had gone dry. He’d read novels about romance and studied poetry describing passionate nights between lovers. Watching Sylvia’s hand disappear underneath the dress, he didn’t feel at all ready. He felt weak, weak for her.
After knowing he was okay, Sylvia lifted up the rest of her dress as curtains to her play.
He worked quickly. For a daft moment, he didn’t know how to take off her stockings. He thought her slip had some type of zipper on it like a pair of pants. He never knew she wore so many layers. He was probably a hypocrite in that regard.
He didn’t know what to expect. The part of the body that he’d been agonizing about for years, it looked pretty well normal by his standards. Dare he say it, but he was a bit jealous. It was different than what he’d envisioned—definitely hairier, and bigger—but it was as soft and pink as his and, as she bit her lower lip, just as sensitive, it seemed.
He played with her using his hand. He’d seen this in artwork and knew it happened often, but he never imagined himself doing this with anyone before. Certainly not on his knees, maneuvering his weight so as not to make it awkward.
Whatever he was doing, it was doing more for her than it did for him. Upon the first touch, she grabbed the sheets and melted into a moan. Her parted legs lifted up the dress and gave him more room to work with. “Oh, Vincenzo.”
Dumbly, he nodded like she was asking him a question. He was so focused on pleasing her, he didn’t realize where he was in the process until it was very prominently in front of him.
He licked his lips before trying to please her in a new way.
He didn’t know how women—or men, he considered—did this well, or at all pleasurably. It felt too delicate in his mouth and too lost in his hand. But he couldn’t stop. Her begging that he “keep going” because he was “so good,” how could he disobey her? He thought kissing was enough. This opened so many new doors for him.
Too many doors. Between his legs, a damp warmth was beginning to spread. He covered it with one hand, but the tightness of his pants did him no favors. He hoped it’d go away or that it’d magically let him cum and get it over with. He had a job to do here and this was distracting him.
With his confidence rising, he looked up to see if he was doing okay.
Gasping on the love leaking from her lips, Sylvia clawed into his hair and pushed him even deeper.
He gagged. Mezzanotte meowed and scratched his thigh. Was this better? Worse? Was she close?
Quivering on a whimper, she tightened her knees around him and moaned his name. Every time he pulled back to breathe, her hips bucked for him to come back.
This was it. He knew it. All the writings he’d studied. The illustrations. It didn’t make sense, but hearing her moan his name made all the sense in the world.
If you were to ask him, he didn’t know why he kept her in his mouth when she came. Maybe because it was his and her first, together, and he didn’t want to disappoint her by pulling back. He might’ve also wanted to taste it. He was experimenting, after all. He couldn’t say he hated the taste if he’d never tried it before.
He also wanted to “be there” to experience it. With his eyes closed and mouth occupied, he could sense her all around him. She’d groaned louder, more desperate, and when she released, the inner parts of her thighs shivered around his cheeks. He wouldn’t forget that.
But he did spit it out afterwards. He had to make sure none of it stayed inside him. He couldn’t contextualize it in a healthy way yet. Maybe later, when he had a few more tastes of her.
After cumming, she rightfully collapsed, arms shaking to keep herself vertical. Her head sagged as she panted back her hot breath. Mezzanotte, all too curious, jumped onto her thigh and sniffed her.
“Did I do that right?” he asked, trying to push his cat away.
Without the words to answer him, she took him by the jaw and kissed him. Even when he’d done such a dirty act. She must’ve been more adventurous than he was.
Trying to keep up with her, he used his dirty hand and went to touch himself. It was still warm there.
A knocking came from downstairs.
The strength of the knocking alone indicated that something was wrong, but Sylvia slamming her knees together reaffirmed that concern. “That’s him,” she whispered. “The same knocking. The man who broke into my house.”
It surprised him how quickly his arousal turned to bloodlust. Heart icing over, he jumped to his feet and wrenched open his bedside drawer.
Sylvia, still overtaken by pleasure, reacted slowly as he handed her his gun. She fondled it with the knowledge that she did know how to use it but wouldn’t if she didn’t have to.
“Use it,” he whispered, “if you need to.”
“Alright,” she said, and hid her exposed body underneath the covers.
Without explaining himself, Vincenzo tiptoed down the stairs, grabbed one of the kitchen knives still on the counter, and headed for the front door.
How dare someone take this away from him? How much more would he have to fight to be with her? Why was the world so against people like them?
It’d always be this way. Nobody understood them, people who’d been shaped outside of the ideal mold. But he wouldn’t stop fighting for it. He wouldn’t stop visiting the Black Kitten or kissing his lover. That was his world, and nobody was going to take that away from him.
Just as the man went to knock again, Vincenzo said a prayer and opened the door.
The man jumped back. He stood tall with his bowler hat adding to his height. Vincenzo was surprised by his speed and went for his stupid jacket first, but he didn’t reach him quick enough and he escaped down the street.
He was the fucking man from the Viola Tavern. The one sitting with the other man. Of course. He hadn’t made the connection because of the cursed alcohol, but now it made sense. Now he just needed to see his face. Then he’d ruin him.
Knowing he couldn’t reach his car in time, Vincenzo ran like a dog in chase of a rabbit. Underneath every street lamp they passed, he tried to catch any more characteristics of the man, but anger misted his sight. To think he’d almost taken Sylvia away. He’d not only kill him, he’d kill the man he was working for, his family. Everyone who wanted them dead for how they loved.
After three streets with no more than fifteen feet separating them, the man turned a sharp left down an alley. Vincenzo, chest panging hard from the chase, gave the corner a wide berth.
He was met with a leaky dumpster and a chain-linked fence almost ten feet tall. Something rattled and fell in the road near it, likely his agile perpetrator able to scale fences with ease.
Wheezing, Vincenzo rattled the fence to test its durability, then tried finding a way to climb it. Finding nothing to get him over easily, he cursed and hit the fence. He was alone. Sylvia, his Nonna, they were alone in an unlocked house.
He wiped his hand on the alley brick and ran back home.
Sylvia had learned her lesson and stayed locked inside their bedroom. He had to announce himself before she unlocked it. She had his gun in her hand.
“Did you get him?” she asked.
“No.” He kissed her and flopped into bed. He fanned out his sweaty dress shirt.
She sat beside him. “Do you think this’s because of me?”
“I think it’s because of both of us.”
“Jealousy is a deadly sin, isn’t it?”
“I’m sure that’s it.”
“It must be, isn’t it? I don’t want to think of any other reason.”
He caressed her face with a tired, clean hand. He’d never let anyone hurt her, even if the world had other motives to end their lives.
“Oh, God, the pasta.” She bolted up and jogged for the door. “I’ll make you a plate, if it’s ready.”
Vincenzo sprawled out across his bed like a defeated king. He wanted to feel relieved that most of the day was peppered with goodness and even joy, but he just felt hollow inside. He tried to be normal and couldn’t. Happy but couldn’t. He was wrong. Broken.
When Sylvia came back, she had two plates of what could be considered clams and pasta, but he wasn’t hungry.
Reading him, she set down the plates and sat next to him. “Hey.” She curled his bangs around his ear. “It’s okay.”
He closed his eyes. It could’ve been. He dreamed of a cottage the two of them owned, with a dog and a kid they’d adopt off the streets. She was there with him in that dream, just as she was here now, caring for him. He was okay in both worlds.
As they snuggled together in the real world, her kissing his fingers one by one before moving to his lips, he was reminded of what he had. What he needed to protect: both her and himself, and what they’d created together.
If this could be their new normal, how happy he would be.
Next: Coming October 19th