The wind was blowing straight in from the sea, letting rough waters make their way into the river estuary through the opening in the brakewater. The boat bounced up and down, spraying me with the cool white foam flying off the tops of the waves as they were slashed by the bow, and with each passing swell the electric hollow rollercoaster feeling in the pit of my stomach was switched on and off. Ahead of us, the sea turned into a brilliant turquoise as if underneath the water the seabed itself was glowing with light, and then farther along suddenly darkened into a deep fathomless blue that I´d always found unsettling. Even now my heart beat a little faster with the thought of us gliding recklessly hundreds of yards above the invisible, dark sea bottom, with only an insubstantial and treacherous liquid sustaining us from the deathly, mysterious depths. To shake off these thoughts I scampered back to Ivan, shedding my disguise of rags and ´70s sunglasses and trying not to fall overboard.
“Do we have enough gas to get to Torre del Lago?” I asked, dropping down on the seat next to him.
He made some quick mental calculations, and nodded. “Not enough to get back, though. Why?”
“I´m meeting Angelo there tomorrow at .”
We had cleared the wavebreaker and he steered the boat to the north, but a frown was deepening between his eyebrows.
“What is it?” I asked, even if I already knew what was bringing him down.
“Is that where you´re planning to dump me?”
Overcome by the feeling in his voice, I stood up and hugged him tightly from behind.
“I´m not going to dump you,” I answered, my voice sufficiently convincing now that he couldn´t see my expression. “We´ll decide together what´s the best thing to do.”
I felt him relax in my arms. “We better.”
I should have gone into the cabin to put away the groceries before the choppy sea ground them into pulp, and to hook up the TV, but these were going to be the last two days I´d ever see Ivan. I remained standing behind him, kissing his smooth neck and my hands resting on the narrow muscular waist, while my skipper manouvered the boat ever farther from the shoreline.
“Why Torre del Lago?”
“Angelo took me there last summer,” I explained. “There´s a gay beach, a few gay clubs, and a gay cruising area in the pinewoods behind the beach. That´s where I´ll – we´ll – meet him because it´s dark and safe.”
“Gay pinewoods? At night? That´s safe?” Ivan seemed alarmed with all three concepts, each more worrying than the previous one.
“Well,” I hesitated, “perhaps it´s better if I go there alone.”
“No.” He shook off my hands. “I´m in trouble already, have been since yesterday, and now I´ve practically stolen this boat for you. So what difference does it make if I stay with you a little longer? Why do you keep selling me short?”
“Because every minute you spend with me you´re getting deeper into that trouble. It´s just not right.”
“I´ll be the judge of that. I´m not a little kid, you know? I can decide for myself.”
“Can you, I mean legally? Are you really eighteen like you said?”
He didn´t answer.
“Ivan…” I said, laying my hands on his shoulders, half expecting him to shake them off this time as well. My erection was pushing painfully against the leg of my pants, and as the boat swayed he could feel it press against his back. “I don´t think the Italian law is as strict as American, but when they catch me I´ll probably get the local equivalent of death penalty for what I´ve done to you.”
“But you´ve done nothing wrong!”
“You didn’t think so the night we first met.” I slipped my hand under his t-shirt, my fingertips tracing the curves of his taut abdominals.
“No one will ever know about that.”
“Let´s see what they do know. I´ll check if the TV works.”
The abbreviated early morning news were on, and as expected we were the main headline. Ivan couldn´t hear the commentary to where he was standing, and I had to relay it to him over the wind and the low groan of the motor. Through the cabin door, I could only see his legs and the lump of his groin, and the smooth hard curve of the muscles of his belly when the wind occasionally picked up the waist of his t-shirt. We´d have to find a place to anchor the boat soon.
“The call was anonymous,” I called out to him, relieved that Luca had at least had the common sense of not to implicate himself and Angelo. “They say I´d left the house only moments before their arrival, and – wait – happened to catch you riding your scooter alone and abducted you. And you´re just barely seventeen.”
Unfazed by the revelation, Ivan called back, “Why not steal just the scooter? Why me, too?”
“Wait – they´re saying that you´re exceptionally attractive – here´s the photo, they´re right – and I´m a sick murderous pervert, and there should be death penalty in
Despite my dismissive version of the newscast I couldn´t help a rush of the old familiar panic, but smiled nevertheless when I heard the urgency in Ivan´s voice.
“Which photo?” he called. “Was it good?”
“Yes, very good,” I reassured him. Brutta figura was the worst thing imaginable to an Italian. “Here´s more of them, you´ll soon be as famous as I am.”
His family hadn´t provided only the best photos in the family album, there was a statement as well. “They´re asking me to let you go, and not to harm you…”
“Are they on TV?” Ivan took a quick peek into the cabin.
“No, not yet, it´s just a written plea.” I listened to some more. “They think we might be in
He sneaked a quick look into the cabin again, smiling proudly. The last piece of information the newsdesk had was that the owner of the house – Carlo´s name wasn´t mentioned – was living abroad and the authorities hadn´t been able to reach him yet. I wondered how long it would take for the police to connect Carlo and Angelo, and if the fact would be sufficiently incriminating to throw Angelo into jail. Then the newscast was over, promising live coverage with ´an expert panel´ starting at nine. Out of Ivan´s sight I sat on the berth, my head resting on my hands, as I tried to figure a way out for my friends. It was useless, of course, as even giving myself up wouldn´t now stop the investigation no matter what lies I told the police. Furthermore, the agonizing moment when I´d have to leave Ivan was inexorably moving closer at seemingly increasing speed, as if the time itself was accelerating, and I still had no idea how to make it happen. No amount of reasonable talk would sway him; in the end I´d have to resort to something vile.
There were no secluded bays in this part of the coast, but we anchored the boat near the shore in front of a wide swath of forest with only a barely visible strip of a beach beneath the trees. A few other boats had chosen the same area but as all of us had done it for privacy´s sake none of them came alarmingly close, and in fear of powerful binoculars we always wore sunglasses and headgear when out in sight, even while swimming. We splashed like two children, had sex, napped, devoured sandwiches, had sex again. Every now and then I caught him staring at me coldly, aware of the impending betrayal, but the stare always melted into a smile and an embrace with the certainty that he´d outwit me when the moment came. In the meanwhile, the TV news and commentary went from bad to worse as there was no word from Ivan to his parents, and by the time we woke up on Monday morning the whole country believed I´d done away with him and dumped the body in the sea in Ostia, or in certain more pictoresque versions into the river Tiber in the very outskirts of Rome after repeatedly having had my way with him. Ivan´s parents kept asking for silenzio stampa, which the news organizations naturally ignored; Ivan was far too good-looking, perfect for the role of the innocent, and there was much emphasis on his age. Marinella was interviewed by the Berlusconi´s flagship Channel 5, Ivan´s schoolmates and cousin by RaiUno, and the lesser characters of the drama by the equally lesser channels. At first we made fun of the newscasts, although somewhat awkwardly, and then stopped commenting on them altogether as the more vicious pundits took over.
Late in the Monday evening we had our last swim, reluctantly scampered back onboard, our spirits dampened and heavy, and soon before sunset Ivan switched on the motor. His eyes shimmered in the last warm rays of the sun as he looked at me, there was a twitch to the side of his mouth, and I had to turn away to clear the sudden lump in my throat. The night fell; the pinpoints of light of the coast slowly slid past us as the digital numbers of the GPS display clicked closer to the location neither of us wanted to reach. Then, inevitably, I recognized the lights of Torre del Lago and the flurry of people crowding the beachfront bars, and the night breeze carried the music to us over the water. It was already ten past eleven, and we didn´t have time to find a proper place for the boat. Protected by darkness, Ivan took us as close to the shore as he dared, anchored the boat, and we took off our clothes and stashed them into the plastic bag along with our money. The water felt cold as I slipped in, holding the bag high above my head, closely followed by Ivan.
“What if someone rams into the boat,” I asked him, bobbing in the waves and looking back at the dark hulk silhoutted against the night sky.
“No one will, I think this is a restricted area because of the beach,” he answered, kicking water next to me. “And it´s too close to the shore anyway.”
I felt his warm hand touch my arm underwater, and we turned and swam towards the lights and the noisy, happy crowd.