Sunflower Act 1 Prologue Domenica; May 3rd, 1958 Small lights shone from the top of Amalfi's Sant'Andrea Cathedral, being the only thing kept on after midnight. Marco's window was open, letting the ocean breeze cool his face. His hands stuck out of the window, feeling the bricks on the outside wall. Moving to the left, Marco's hands reached a small ledge that connected the two levels of his house together and looking out, the street below was only eight meters away from him. Slowly Marco looked out with his head to the Cathedral and made a leap down to the ledge. Above, a bird abruptly flew off the roof, letting dust fly onto Marco's face and making the first noise he had heard that quiet evening. The ledge was about a foot across, enough for Marco to balance walking on it until the ground below rose enough to where he could safely jump off. Into the midnight he soon went, Marco's shoes and day clothes still on in the place of pajamas. Once he was far from the house, Marco reached into his shirt pocket for a cigarette. He thought of his Nonna and father smoking outside while his mother glared through the window, she might have been the only woman in all of Campania who didn't smoke. Via Mateo was very empty, even if it was a Sunday night, it seemed everyone for miles was responsibly sound asleep. Marco could barely see the Cathedral's lights through the trees and buildings now, but a faint ghost-like glimmer still showed through branches and open verandas.
When he reached Piazza Duomo, Marco headed to La Valle dei Mulini, his favorite corner store. Inside, a very tired looking boy sat at the counter, his drowsy eyes almost falling asleep. The clock on the wall read: 4:56 am. Marco was the only other person in the store and as he opened the door, the boy was jolted awake by the sound of the bell. He turned his tired head to look at the clock before greeting Marco, "Buongiorno."
"Ciao," Marco said, looking guilty. He headed to the back of the store with purpose, trying to get out of the boy's way as quickly as possible. When he got to the southernmost wall, he eyed their book sale rack and started to thumb through piles of torn encyclopedias with cheap euro stickers on them. Today's picks were between a dusty English dictionary and "A Guide to Baroque Architecture." Marco chose the Baroque book and headed back to the counter. It cost him 5 euro, a great price for something of its age. probably first edition. Silently Marco handed the clerk the money and let him keep the change. Outside La Valle dei Mulini, there were small tables surrounding every storefront and the fountain of Sant'Andrea, Marco didn't have a lot of time on his hands to read before the sun came up so he decided to hold back opening his new book until he was home safe. Usually, the Donati house was up by 6:30 leaving Marco plenty of time to get home, but lately, Nonna had been waking up early to make sfogliatelle or sew Marco's father's business suits. Not wanting to risk a beating, he passed his normal table on the piazza and walked home. The streets were empty this early in the morning, leaving Marco alone in his thoughts. Aria and Carlo, his best friends, hadn't called that weekend. He had been waiting by the house phone all Saturday and Marco would have called himself, but he was more afraid of the phone not being answered than he was of having no call at all. Home arrived quickly, the back fence was small enough for Marco to get over and he could climb his father's ladder onto the first-floor roof easily. Making sure his footsteps were light, Marco walked across the ledge of the roof and back through his open window. The clock read 5:15 am, Nonna would be up in half an hour. Quietly, Marco slipped out of his day-clothes, avoiding the creaky spot on his floor and sat down on the edge of his bed. Looking out through his window the Cathedral's lights were still gleaming, but instead of becoming entranced in their beauty, Marco shut the blinds and hastily fell asleep.
A Noise From Above; May 4th, 1958 The Donati house smelled like freshly baked bread, tomato sauce boiling and basil from the garden. The smells were wafting through the house like invisible presents, making Marco lift his head up and enjoy them instead of focusing on his book. The Baroque architecture encyclopedia came very interesting to Marco, he had always had a soft spot for old churches and beautiful Roman-catholic murals. Their intricacy and heavenly figures made him fall in love with the world like he had never been before. Marco was planning on becoming an architect after he finished high school, moving all across the world to build fanciful houses and exquisite monuments to Pluto and Venus. Soon though, his thoughts were interrupted by a noise from outside the large window on the Eastern wall of his room. Marco walked over and gazed out, below him stood a tall, black-haired figure. He kept silent as the man walked past, calling to someone up ahead. The second figure slowly walked into view from the window. Marco had it by then, it was Simon Leroux and Mrs. Cielo. Simon taught French at Montagno school and Mrs. Cielo, his wife, taught Language Arts. Marco could make out a few words of their conversation, things like, 'Ciao' and "The weather has been great lately." All sounding monotone and unnatural.
The words were suspiciously plain for a couple that had just been wed, surely there was something they could talk about that wasn't so ordinary. Marco felt guilty for his thoughts, feeling nosey he tried to block their words out of his head. Getting up, his hand suddenly slipped from the windowsill, knocking a stack of books to the ground and making a loud crashing sound. The two looked up to Marco's window, as he ducked beneath the sill. Marco held his breath waiting for the sound of footsteps to return, it took a moment but finally, Mrs. Cielo spoke again and Marco let out a deep breath. Simon had always been interesting to Marco, he had a bold personality but only let it show when he felt it necessary. Marco thought he looked like your average French teacher, tall, well dressed and wise. He kept quiet for the most part but was not strict at school. He had freckles that lined his face from his eyes to the bottom of his nose and around his neck. Marco liked talking to Simon, he could hold a conversation very well but lately, Simon had seemed morose and quite timid. Not taking extra time throughout the day for school walks around campus, or talking to his students. His and Mrs. Cielo's conversation sounded familiar to Marco. Simon had stopped his deep thoughts and speeches in class, starting to speak only about simple things. He didn't smile as much and always left school early instead of staying, as he usually did, to organize extra projects and field trips. Marco's mother always said he overthought everything and could never just accept the simplicity in life. So, when Marco had thoughts about Simon's sudden change in enthusiasm, he thought back to his mother's words and tried to act like everything was normal.
Simon In the summer of 1955, Montagno school had started to build a second wing of campus for language teachers. Simon was a twenty-one-year-old immigrant who needed a job and luckily was hired as Montagno's French teacher. There, he met Mrs. Cielo and in three years they would be wed.
Marco remembered his first day of French, it was freshman year and he barely spoke a word of English, let alone French. His mother had insisted that he learned multiple languages and by her luck Marco got accepted to go to Montagno as an English-French student. Simon was well-spoken and responsible. He let people call him by his name, instead of 'Sir' or 'Teacher'. The whole school practically fell in love with him. Marco would come home and tell his parents about French every day after school, at the end of it all Simon came over for dinner a few times. Marco's family held large town gatherings every Sunday night and wasn't willing to leave anyone out. By the time freshman year was over Simon had become a friend of Marco's family and practically all of the Amalfi coast.
Nesting; May 5th, 1958 Rows of students lined the gym floor, waiting for morning announcements. There was not a single space in Marco's head for thought, as all of its usual open area was being taken up by his classmates' voices. Teachers were shuffling in through the right-hand door, signaling everyone to be quiet. Mr. Jiliani came in looking extra excited for his morning advisory announcements. "Ciao tutti. Hello all." He said walking up the center of the gym. "Today marks one week before the Spring Dance, so please make sure you dress accordingly and be in the courtyard at 10:30." Mr. Jiliani shot a look at Aria, who had started to fiddle with Carlo's shirt collar. It was then that Marco's eyes almost shut out of boredom, thinking about all the places he could've been right then, other than school. It wasn't that he was ungrateful for Montagno school, but Junior year hadn't been suiting Marco well. Aria and Carlo had traveled off into their own little world, no calls, no lunches together anymore, just silence. He yawned looking up at the ceiling and to his surprise, he saw movement among the scaffolding. It seemed that there was a small bird perched in the rafters. Marco could barely make out its true size but he could tell its chest was a beautiful silver-blue and its head had a black stripe that touched its beak. The bird was not accompanied by a nest or even a song, just a feathery creature all alone in a room full of people. Marco felt bad, Mr. Cangialosi probably would have killed it if it interrupted his announcements. Marco peaked his head over the crowd of kids to find Simon. The small bird remained seated on a plank of wood high up in the ceiling as Marco's gaze found it's target. Trying to stay quiet he nodded to Simon to get his attention, then eyeing towards the doors, Marco made a run for it. From the hall, Marco heard Mr. Cangialosi pause, feet shuffling and a 'Scusi', before he began talking again. A moment later Simon appeared from the other side of the hall, "What are you doing?" He whispered.
"There's a bird," Marco hesitated, rethinking the crazy idea he had a moment before.
"A bird?" Simon looked puzzled.
"In the rafters- I need your help to get it down." Too late now.
A small bird trapped in the rafters of the gym wouldn't have mattered to Marco a week ago but something had struck him that weekend. He needed to cheer up Simon, Marco didn't care if they weren't really friends or if Simon was perfectly okay with his being. He just needed to help this bird and help Simon and maybe help himself. Soon the gym floor was emptied, letting Simon slip away to his classroom for a moment to greet his advisory before returning to the hallway.
Simon was Marco's advisor along with all the other French students, Aria and Carlo weren't among his peers in that class, making work a lot easier but advisory was tedious, except for today. Kids shuffled out of the hall, chatting and staring at Simon who was busy bickering with the custodian to get a ladder. Mr. Giallo was holding onto his step-stool tightly, questioning Simon suspiciously. Finally though, Marco spotted his eyes roll with a sigh, as he handed over the ladder.
The gym seats went up high enough for Simon, who was already very tall, to reach the rafters, but the bird had lodged itself just far away enough from the highest seats that extra height was needed to get it down. Marco held the bottom of the ladder steady, as Simon slowly climbed its steps. The bird ruffled its feather occasionally as he drew closer, but it seemed very calm in demeanor. Marco remembered seeing Mr. Giallo keep the gym door open a crack during lunch periods to cool down the room, it must have flown in the afternoon before.
Simon was on the top tier of the ladder by then, his hands reaching out into the rafters. The ladder below him trembled a little as he made one final grasp at the bird and barely caught it in his hands. It let out a small chirp but kept itself seated securely in the palms of Simon. He slowly lifted the bird up and observed it cautiously, "This is Eurasian nuthatch, poor thing probably lives in the old tree outside." He pointed to the oleander that grew next to the gym. "Is it hurt do you think?" Marco asked.
Simon ran his finger along the bird's back, it looked very at home in his cupped palms, letting him pet its feathery body freely. "No, just a little scared." Simon's voice was quiet and calm, as he started to climb down the ladder ever so slowly.
Marco walked to the oleander with him, stroking the birds heads, making sure it was alright, no broken bones, or lost feathers. Once the tree was in sight, Simon let go of the nuthatch, as it eagerly flew to an inward branch, settling back down to its home in the trunk. The two stood under the shade of leaves, watching for a moment as the bird returned to its normal way of life, so tranquil and still, like nothing bad could ever happen under that oleander. They stood there for what could have been hours but all it really was, was five minutes away from the rest of the world. Simon only looked down at his watch when the bird had completely hidden itself within the trunk of the tree and was no longer audible. "It's almost time for class."
Marco nodded and walked through the gym doors quietly.
Piazza I -
Via Lorenzo was empty, quite odd for a spring day but it had been that way for weeks now with no explanation. Marco decided to walk off the path and onto the paved road, eyeing posters hung up on the walls of buildings, decorated with the words 'Partito Democratico Cristiano'. Under the words there was a red crossed shield printed with 'Libertas'. Marco never had enough attention or patience for politics, in fact he hadn't had a single conversation about an election in his whole life. Memories of war and American soldiers' voices echoed in his head, Marco shivered.
As he got closer to Sant'Andrea, cars started appearing again and he was forced onto the walkways until he got to the piazza. Via Duca Mansone and Via Lorenzo met at the center of Amalfi, making Sant'Andrea and the Chiostro del Paradiso popular spots for visitors and locals alike. The most southern of the two streets, Via Duca Mansone, was the way back to school and home for Marco, leading onto Via Mateo and finally the tall, white house, carved into the side of cliffs like a fortress. You could hear footsteps from a hundred meters away up there, Marco's inlet of a street was rural to a fault, but to make up for this, his mother held dinner parties for neighbors to ensure they kept a social life. His street reminded Marco of Simon and Mrs. Cielo's coming and going down below his window. Something about that night made him feel so old, like maybe a secret had led him away from a life of blissful ignorance. There wasn't anything suspicious about their meeting, but it just seemed so rehearsed and sad. Marco knew Simon as a loving, caring person, not someone to keep things inside or be so quiet, was this his chance to help someone? Make new connections? Grow up. After everyone had already strayed from the path, it was finally Marco's turn. He was a junior in high school and for years he had felt left in the dust. It was his turn to move away from the ever-so familiar feeling of home and evolve, whether that was a good or a bad thing. It wasn't all poor though, maybe Marco had already caught on to his new home, maybe home didn't have to be a place, but a person. Amante's cafe was where Marco found himself most lunch periods, Juniors and Seniors at Montagno School were allowed to leave campus to eat. Carlo and Aria would usually ask Marco if he was sitting with them, but like most habits they used to forgo, this had stopped. Euros never spilled out of Marco's family but he almost always had some saved up for lunches out. He had brought with him 'A Guide to Baroque Architecture.' That past weekend, Marco had skimmed through it while trying to ignore Simon's voice on the street, but it was time he had given the book his full attention.
When Marco arrived at Amante's, the piazza was only half full of people. A usual Monday afternoon, still and serene. Marco thought back to the past weekend as he sat back at his favorite seat by Sant'Andrea. The same clerk sat outside La Valle dei Mulini, his eyes finally looking rested. Marco waved guiltily, but the boy didn't acknowledge his presence.
Lunch went quickly, 'A Guide to Baroque Architecture' enveloped Marco in a world of academics he could truly appreciate. The church of Gesu, Santa Susanna, with all their pristine marble figures and Latin lettering across the top of immaculately chiseled pillars. Marco scribbled down notes in the margins of his page, preparing himself for Mr. Valeta's final exam that year, then another four years of scholarships, university, and jobs in far off countries. Truly, he was getting ahead of himself, but Marco didn't have much else to look forward to in the coming years, so letting himself dream was easy enough.
With fifteen minutes remaining until school began again, Marco started his walk back up Via Duca Mansone, when a few meters outside of the piazza he was pleasantly met by Simon. "Ciao," Marco said plainly.
Simon only smiled and nodded back to him, certainly still thinking about the bird, it was the kind of half-grin you have after saying something embarrassing about a friend. Instead of taking the easy way out and walking back to the piazza, Marco nodded along the path signaling they could walk together. No one spoke for ten paces, he tried to think of small talk but was faced with a question instead, "Why don't you sit with Aria and Carlo at lunch?" Simon asked reluctantly.
Marco sighed, not really knowing how to answer. "They stopped asking me to sit with them." The words were still raw in Marco's heart, he knew his tone came off rude but there was no way of saying it pleasantly anyway.
"I'm sorry to hear that..." Simon's reply was just as short as Marco's, brief and impersonal.
To get his mind off of the awkward exchange, Marco focused on Via Lorenzo, it was filled in with old Neapolitan-yellow buildings that had been worn down by storm after storm and battle after battle, leaving a rusty grey uncovered on roofs and around door frames. Bakeries, bookstores, and tool shops lined the sides, almost piling up on top of each other like the inside of a bee's nest until the left edge of the road dropped off onto an outlook over the sea below. Marco and Simon didn't stay there for long, but they took a moment to admire the ocean's waves splashing against a rocky coast. Everything seemed to age except for the ocean, Marco had sat on that outlook over and over again, the buildings around it had once been beautiful, new colors. Now the only thing that remained the same was the ocean and its indigo waters flowing every which way into tiny coves and onto huge expanses of beach all across the world. "We should head back, you have my class next, correct?" Simon looked down at his watch, five-til one. Marco nodded, walking back onto the path without looking back at Simon.
"Are you okay Marco?" Simon prodded at a weak spot again.
"Yes-" Marco began, "I just can't get that hold on life yet." He couldn't piece together the words he needed either. So much went on under his skin he didn't know what to tell Simon and what to keep buried away. Things bubbled up in his throat but he swallowed the secrets back down as soon as they showed themselves. The school was already quiet when they arrived at the front gates, only a few students still meandering around campus. Simon sighed loudly, showing a disappointment for being late. Marco's classmates sat on top of tables, in chairs, chatting in tongues that would sound foreign even to a polyglot. The large glass doors to Simon's class swung open as he walked through, a layer of dust kicked up from the floor. Marco followed quietly, looking down until he reached his desk, not acknowledging anyone, the fact he was late or the assumptions being made about his arrival by fellow students. Simon shut the glass doors and walked forward, leaving the hollow clicking sounds of his shoes behind as he stepped. A moment later he began to speak from the head of the class. "Salut." He began, pulling down a projector screen from above him. "Je déteste faire ça, mais aujourd'hui c'est le jour de la conférence. I hate doing this, but today is conference day." A groan spread across the room as students put hands on their heads and rolled their eyes. "Ca va aller, je sais, je sais. You'll be fine, I know, I know." The screen started to fuzz, "J'ai un film pour vous, cela prendra toute la période, alors profitez-en! Mon grand-père m'a montré ce film à l'âge d'une dizaine d'années. I have a film for you, it will take the whole period so enjoy it! My grandfather showed me this when I was ten or so." Simon's French was perfect, you could hear the west in his voice, like feeling a breeze through your window on a warm day. He nodded his head back to the office sitting behind another pair of glass doors, calling Marco in first. He quietly got up, drawing no attention to himself as his classmates occupied themselves in a grainy film titled, "La Règle du Jeu". From outside Marco could hear its chattery voices and the soft strumming of a guitar.
Simon's office was painted a deep red, the southern wall was made out of exposed brick, which at first came off very classy, but Marco wondered if it hadn't always been that way. The room was furnished with a floor to ceiling bookshelf, two velvet seats, and a matching brass coffee table.
Simon pulled out a file folder full of Marco's work.
Plants and books filled up the shelves on the wall, walking around a little more he noticed a large rusty clock on the wall, a few candles, some interesting rocks, photos from Bordeaux and even a green glass bottle lettered with the word 'Citron'. He immediately recognized it from the past summer, Simon had invited Marco and five other French students to spend two weeks in Bordeaux. Citrons had been a favorite among the group, Marco was heartbroken when he couldn't find them in Italy. He missed the taste of fizzy lemon and the faint whiff of cigarette smoke that lingered around the trollies who sold drinks on the street.
Everything felt welcoming and perfect in Simon's office but Marco noticed one odd thing, there was not a single photo of Mrs. Cielo anywhere. No photos, no notes that were once passed from one to another, nothing. After wandering around for about five minutes, investigating the lack of material love, Simon looked up from the folder, "Have a seat." He said, gesturing Marco to one of the chairs. His demeanor had grown teacher-like again, he could be so friendly yet so hidden seconds later. "Do you have any concerns about the rest of the year?" He asked.
"I don't think so, my classes are okay..." Marco trailed off.
"What about you?" Simon's thick French accent made Marco's leg feel like they were running through molasses. Often Simon would get stuck on an English word and the whole world seemed to pause as his brain shuffled through definitions looking for the right thing to say. Marco recalled a time Simon was on the telephone waiting for class to start, he had called out to Marco and a few others who had stayed behind that day, 'What do you write with?' He closed his eyes in frustration, 'A pen?' Marco had asked. 'Yes! Can you get me a pen?' The woman on the phone was very concerned but Simon had gotten his pen in time and was able to write down her number. Marco's love for language was fulfilled by walking around with Simon, pointing out the Italian signs and letting him figure out what they meant, or speaking to him in English then seeing how long it took for him to start back up again in French. Marco's English wasn't that much better than Simon's, but he could retain information better and it seemed with their combined knowledge, working through the world became easier.
Marco also often wondered why a French man would come to Italy to teach his language to kids who were already going to an English-speaking private school. Especially so young, Simon had just turned twenty-three that month. "Not really… I'm doing okay. The dance will be fun, I guess." Marco avoided the serious things he would have loved to talk to Simon about and even worse, he knew the dance wouldn't be fun.
Scienza; May 6th, 1958 Across campus from the language building, stood Montagno's original math and science labs. Marco would walk across the quad every morning after history to go to his Chemistry class. Aria would catch up with him around halfway across the grassy fields every day, while Carlo would only have to walk inside the wings of the school to get to science.
After a long night of dreaming about Sant'Andrea, Marco found his walk through the quad drowsy and long. His lips felt cracked again, Aria even noticed this time. "Do you need some chapstick amico?" She laughed. Marco hadn't received any calls from her after school the day before and this walk was the first time she had spoken to him all week.
"No, I'm okay." Marco tried to hide the bitterness in his voice, the things Aria and Carlo did were just subtle enough to go under anyone else's radar, except for Marco's.
"So…" Aria looked at Marco to get his attention.
"So…" Marco repeated.
"I've been thinking a lot about Carlo- stuff like the dance." Aria's face turned red. Marco furrowed his brow.
"Well, why not ask him- or whatever you were thinking about doing?" Aria had a way of throwing boys away like pieces of trash, surely people noticed but could never get her to apologize.
"I was thinking of asking him." Silence, "Are you thinking of bringing anyone?" She asked, almost suspiciously.
"I don't know yet, I hadn't really thought about it." "Well you should think about it, I bet there's a girl who would love to go with you." Aria smiled at Marco and ushered him to walk faster.
Marco thought of every girl in the grade, one by one slipping out of his mind. As he thought, the giant wooden door to the science lab pushed open for Marco, and Aria, a girl, Sophia Greco, met his eye line as he watched Aria walk in without him. For a moment a vision of the fountain on the piazza flashed in front of Sophia's face, which Marco found strikingly similar to one of Sant'Andrea's cupids. Her olive skin turned grey and her features became accentuated. "Marco?" She looked confused.
"Sorry," Marco realized he was staring, but still there was no denying anyone who came face to face with Sophia, even for a moment, could become entranced very quickly. They exchanged a quick greeting, before she left the science building hurriedly. Sophia was top of Marco's class, taking Latin and French and rumor had spread she was taking extra math courses during school holiday. Her family was from Bari, beautiful just like her. Just like the fountain, Marco thought he might have just met a saint in human form, but all Sophia really was, was a girl that happened to pass by Marco in the halls every few days. He tried to forget, but could not.
Carlo was sitting alone saving a spot for Aria, she waved to Marco as he hesitantly walked to the other side of the class and took his seat, alone. Marco was happier when all three of them sat together but anything that made Aria happy, he found himself doing, even when his own best friends were starting to act like strangers more and more every day.
After the class settled down, Ms. Giacomo spoke, "It's Lab day!" She said excitedly- as the class scowled at her in unison. "I handed you the papers yesterday, please either work by yourself or get into groups of two. If no one wants to work alone, there will be one group of three." She said, with her hands folded onto the desk in front of her, surveying the perfectly organized room around her. Carlo and Aria ran directly into a corner of the classroom, as Marco watched from his desk. Carlo smiled happily after Aria had finished delivering what seemed to be her own diatribe of romance. Marco still doubted the stability of their relationship, but at least he didn't feel envy towards them. Soon the branches of Aria's tree would slowly break and leave Carlo wounded on the ground below. Marco walked his way over to them, eyeing a glare coming from Carlo. "You look happy..." Marco nodded at Aria, acting surprised.
"Mhm." Carlo nodded.
He looked malicious, what had Marco done? Absolutely nothing. Had he gone mad and forgotten some awful secret he had shared about Aria? Was this hysteria? Or was it just unfairness. Like a lump in your throat you can't swallow. A bear reality.
"So…. can I work with you guys?" Marco repeated Aria's line dramatically.
She spoke quietly, "We thought that you could work alone Marco- I'm so sorry." Carlo put his hand on her shoulders, she scowled as well, but her eyebrows softened as to apologize for their actions.
Marco looked down, "Uhm," He paused, "Sure. I'll see you guys later then." Never in five years had this happened. Marco wasn't sure if he was angry or sad or maybe nothing at all. If it hadn't been for Aria and their childhood together, would he have even cared? Maybe Marco would have been just as bad as Carlo if the roles were reversed.
Quickly Marco headed to the other side of the room with his notebook to start working, his brain felt empty, no time to think now.
The Piazza II Science was over, though that didn't mean the pain was going to be accelerated. A prolonged stinging came with being left, Marco assumed no one had gone through that junior year, yet it felt like it was only him now that hadn't felt it. Marco pulled out his wallet and started to look through it for spare money. Amante's was waiting for him.
Evviva!
He pulled 20 euro out from underneath his school card. Walking up and down the brick streets of Amalfi, a trip to the piazza was fifteen minutes. If Marco walked fast enough, he could get there in ten and have extra time to read at a table. The day was warm and the air was brushed with that familiar smell of the ocean below him. All through town you could hear the voices of fishermen yelling to each other from the docks up to the cliffside and back down again.
Marco had come up to the piazza sooner than anticipated. He checked his watch, it read 12:00 pm. He still had an hour before class. His eyes scanned for an open table to set his books down on. The piazza was busy with people, yet no noise came from them, all were occupied in food, papers, or coffee. Finally, Marco spotted, not an empty table, but an empty chair facing the one familiar glint of hope in his life. Simon's legs were crossed and his eyes were covered with sunglasses. He sipped another macchiato from a tall glass as he read a book entitled, "Encyclopedia of Modern Roman history, Ed. 7." He seemed to know everything about history, it didn't matter what kind or how old, he would study it. You could ask Simon questions all day and he could always answer. Marco went up to him, "Ciao." "Salve Marco" Simon answered, looking up from his book. "Can I join you?" He asked, nodding to the crowded order lines of Amante's.
"Of course," Simon smiled as Marco sat down on the metal chair. He found himself befriending Simon in a way, yet their conversations always ran dry.
"It's funny seeing you here every lunch." Marco managed a laugh.
He had known Simon for two years, Simon had seen Marco's house, his family, everything. The only thing that Marco felt kept Simon away from being a friend was his occupation. It was inappropriate to be a teacher's true friend just like it was inappropriate for two teachers to become romantically involved. Graciously enough Simon had already married the woman that worked across the hall from him. Marco's words were simple and polite, even if they both wanted to talk for hours about everything that swept through their minds, some secret mutual agreement stopped the genuineness of their conversations. Marco's thoughts were drawn in like blackout curtains hiding him from the outside world. Silence broke over them for a moment, then, "Can I ask you something weird?" Marco asked.
"Go ahead."
"In your office… there were no photos of Mrs. Cielo on the wall anymore."
Simon looked up, surprised. "Oh," He sighed, "That is an odd question."
"If it's not any trouble…" Marco tried to take back his words. The line of courtesy slowly fading off into the distance.
"It's not, it's okay." Simon nodded, getting his thoughts together. "We were due to be married in a courthouse on January 5. With only one witness," He paused. "In the end, she didn't think it was a good idea. At first, we stayed together but I decided it was best if I moved out. We are still on good terms, I'll bring her coffee, but… nothing else." Simon said. "Too young."
Marco frowned, "I'm sorry." He couldn't manage any other words of remorse. He felt his curtains draw tighter together as he spoke.
The quiet returned, it seemed Simon had gotten sad again. He reached for his bag, rummaging around for a moment. Marco heard him take something out, it made crunching sounds like paper being balled up. Simon looked up again, holding the thing behind his back as if Marco hadn't heard. He sat back down and leaned forward so his elbows could rest on the table. Simon smiled at Marco and handed him a small box covered in newspaper. He hesitated at first, Simon nodded saying, "Open it... it's for you." He still sounded dismal, but his eyes looked excited.
Marco ripped the paper off and opened the box, inside was a tiny wooden sunflower. Its stem twisted and turned into loops; then branched into a large ring of yellow petals. Marco ran his fingers across it, taking it out of the box and holding it up to the light, a smile across his face. Thoughts of the bird, family dinners, and swimming in blue water outside of Bordeaux all came back to him. "Do you like it?" Simon asked.
"I love it." Marco said, "But why for me?" He looked up.
"Because you're my friend and I thought you might need a good luck charm..." Simon laughed. "It reminds me of you… you'll always find the light no matter how dark it feels sometimes."
Marco felt the curtains fall off the rod, a breeze bursting through his brain like words filling every vein in his body. "Thank you," Was this a sign that he had silently helped Simon, had words paid off? Maybe. "It'll seem terrible for a while, but please trust me when I say you're more than your struggles." Simon said.
All Marco could do was smile with joy, like no other time in his life he smiled, not because everything was perfect right then but because he finally had hope that in a few days, a week or a month, things would start to get better.
"We should head back to school?" Simon said quietly. The afternoon sun had very suddenly become clouded over.
"Yeah, that sounds fine." Marco shivered in agreement as they both started to walk back up Via Duca Mansone. After passing tourists and locals alike, the stillness of Via Mateo was a blessing. Even then, however, its bricks were uneven and shabby, making it so you had to watch your feet constantly if you didn't want to fall straight down the cliffside. Marco felt a grin appear on Simon's face, a happy energy emerged into the atmosphere. After a few minutes of walking, he missed their conversation. "Come sta andando il tuo giorno? How is your day going?"
"Meglio ora. Better now." Simon looked at him.
"Anche mio. Mine too." Marco smiled.
Everything felt calm for a moment as Marco sensed complete peace, they had stopped at the road's outcropping over the sea again. Chatting on and off, finally without any barriers, when they were interrupted by footsteps off an alleyway connecting onto Via Mateo. Aria and Carlo groaned as they walked into Marco's path, "Marco?" Aria called.
The two turned around to face them. "Aria?" Marco called.
Her face changed, from bitter to a fake smile as she eyed Simon, she exaggerated her words as she spoke, "We've been looking for you everywhere!"
"I'm sorry I didn't sit with you guys, I just..." Marco started to speak with a sourness in his voice, "I wanted to sit in the piazza, get some French studying down."
"Huh..." Carlo raised an eyebrow at Simon.
There was a cold pause, everyone staring at each other in suspicion. Simon looked back down at his watch, "It's 12:55- head to class." He said sternly, pointing Carlo and Aria back up Via Mateo.
They stayed put for a moment glaring, but soon enough made their way back down the alley, leaving Simon and Marco just standing alone. Marco, looking sad, picked up his bag and the box which enclosed the sunflower inside and said goodbye to Simon. "Where are you going?" He replied, trying to keep up with Marco's pace.
"School," Marco said.
"You can't walk with me?" Simon asked.
"Not anymore, no." Marco looked back, frowning. "Simon, there are a thousand ways to get back to school, I'm sure you'll be okay." He said exasperatedly. Marco felt a rigid embarrassment in the pit of his stomach, every good idea about letting go and starting fresh flew out of his brain like paper airplanes being thrown thousands at a time. Had he really just stooped so low that his only friend was a teacher? No, he couldn't do that Simon, they were friends and Marco shouldn't feel ashamed. As he walked he glowered at the sun, trying to erase the incident from his mind.
When Marco returned to school, he meandered to history as slowly as he could, running his shoes across every blade of grass that lined the stone path to Mr. Rossi's classroom.

Girasole; May 7th, 1958 Small ridges covered the sunflower's petals from where streaks paint hadn't been smoothed out perfectly, Marco could see little brushstrokes of orange and brown in between yellows and golds. The stem and leaves of the flower were left wooden and unpainted, making the flower look brighter and bolder. Simon was too smart sometimes. Marco sighed. He set the carving down next to his bed looking out the window onto the world below. The sun had started to make its final descent over the horizon, barely shining through the green treetops. Aria hadn't talked to Marco all day and Carlo glared down at him anytime they crossed paths. It was like a switch had flipped off in their heads, the switch that told them to befriend Marco. Before, the three of them would sit on the bus together, talk day and night, and plan about running away together. Now, Aria and Carlo couldn't be bothered to talk to Marco.
The sunflower looked like it was getting taller, its petals reaching for the sun. Marco blinked and it stopped of course, but what didn't stop, was Marco's thoughts of Simon. It was odd what had changed this year, sometimes it felt like everything had shifted. As much as Marco was growing into himself, there was a layer of unacceptance beneath his skin. Carlo joked about all kinds of terrible things, Marco had just then realized maybe it was for the best that they weren't friends anymore. Carlo was full of hate, was it because he was insecure, or just because that's what the world had made him feel.
The dance was in five days, Marco had no intention of inviting someone to be his date. His parents, oddly enough, were planning to have Simon over for dinner that night, along with their whole neighborhood. Dances felt foolish, Marco would rather run around town, or simply stay home and read. Surely there was some way to get out of this, social events weren't entertaining to Marco and worse yet when you had no one to bring along for the nightmare.
As he thought about ways to escape, there was a knock at his door. He sat up, "Come in." Marco called.
His mother stepped through the doorway slowly, her face was soft and inviting as she sat down on the corner of Marco's bed. "Marco?" She called, as his eyes drifted everywhere but to her.
"Yes?" He said vacantly.
"I wanted to check on you." She said hesitantly. There was no denying she had noticed the bitterness in Marco the past few days. He hadn't eaten much and the lack of talk about his friends couldn't be helping his case either. Marco looked out his window, trying to decide what truth to tell his mother. Would she understand his sadness? Would she even understand his happiness? "Did you ever feel…" He started. "Have you ever felt abandoned?" Marco finally let his eyes meet hers.
"Marco, everyone feels abandoned sometime in their life, but you decide if you want to treat that as a bad thing, or a fresh start. Leaving is okay, living your life in pity is not. There are other things out there for you and I think you've already found what that thing is."
Marco's eyes turned to hers, "I feel like I've done something wrong, but I can't understand what it is…" He inhaled sharply, "Aria and Carlo have just completely shut me out."
"You know you're not in the wrong and I do too- Marco, you're smarter than you give yourself credit for." She paused. Never had he felt so close to his mother, "If you were doing something wrong, you'd know. Just because you speak to different people, don't go with kids your age, or disagree with your friends, doesn't mean there's something wrong with you."
"Mhm..." Marco thought for a moment, "Thank you." He said.
"Now take a deep breath my child and remember, the most intuitive minds have seen the most hurt." She put a hand up to Marco's cheek, kissed his forehead and said a warm buonanotte, Marco slept soundly that night.
La Fontana dei Sogni There was a whirling sensation that moved up Marco's body so fast he could have sworn he was flying, but alas his feet were still planted firmly on the brick center of the piazza. Everything felt normal, just as they had been moments before, when Marco had fallen asleep, except that he wasn't in his bed anymore and his mother had disappeared. He couldn't help but cry out into the overbearingly bright sun, "Hello?" His shout faded into the void like a piece of cotton being swept from the ground.
Everything around Marco glowed with an angelic light, making it hard to open one's eyes completely, his head felt weak but somehow as Marco stood in the middle of the deserted piazza, the feeling of a pillow cushioning his dizzy head lingered. From across the expanse of tables and chairs, Marco finally heard a voice reciprocate his call, it was a lady, dressed in a Deity's tunica, covered in a salty smell only acquitted to the ocean below. "Chi e la? Who's there?" She was standing in Sant'Andrea's fountain, sitting on the edge of a marble pedestal. Marco hesitantly walked towards the girl, trying to squint through burning lights, "Chi sei? Who are you?"
Not long after he asked, Marco's question was answered, it was Sophia and she was glowing brighter than a thousand stars ready to burst out of the sky. Suddenly he felt the rushing feeling come back, sweeping him off his feet, but before he could fall, a hand reached out and caught him. "Vieni con me. Come with me." Sophia stepped out of Sant'Andrea's thrown and led Marco up Via Mateo.
"Where are we going?"
"You'll see." Sophia looked back at him with a mysterious expression.
As they left the enclosed air of the piazza, Marco broke into a heavy sweat and jolted forward from his bed. An instinct inside his body told Marco to try yelling once again, but as he looked around the room he saw Sophia sitting in her ocean-soaked robes at his desk. "Sei reale- Are you real-" Marco pointed to her with wide eyes as she got up and walked towards him.
"Se vuoi che io sia. If you want me to be." She pushed back the wool blanket covering Marco and to his surprise, layed next to him as if it was supposed to be like that every night.
"Cosa stai facendo? What are you doing?" Marco whispered to Sophia, who was now no more than a centimeter away from his face.
"Sta bene, It's okay," She pressed one cold palm to his chest, signaling for Marco to relax, "Torna a dormire. Go back to sleep." He felt Sophia's breath on his neck, making every hair on his body stand on end, then before Marco could pinch himself or kick the phantom out of his head, Sophia pressed her lips to his and ran a hand through his hair slowly.
For the second weary time, Marco shot out of bed like a rocket and let out a guttural shout from a parched throat. "Caro?" His mother's footsteps were audibly sprinting up the stairs.
"Mama!" He cried, but it was too late for comfort, Marco was running towards the bathroom feeling an acidy burn well up in his stomach rapidly.
Seasons; May 9th, 1958 Marco was sick. His face was pale, sitting on the bathroom floor, passing time until he felt better. School had been called off for Friday, there were severe storm warnings as far north as Naples and as far east as Salerno. Thoughts of his mother and the ghostly memories of a foggy fever dream rushed through Marco's head. The last thing he could remember was a conversation with his mother about Aria and Carlo, then a nightmare, then darkness. She'd never been one for comfort but something had come over her the past evening. Marco missed his mom, she was only in the kitchen, yet that walk through the house seemed like miles. Even if his body was rebelling against him, Marco felt better than ever inside. Any negative thought about Aria had vanished, he had gotten over it. Realizing there was something new for him now.
Rain started to hit the shingles on the roof, banging above Marco's head like a drum set handed over to a small child. Frantically searching for a distraction, he noticed a stack of books by his sink, all old torn up paperbacks from his father's brief stay in the states. The first one was entitled 'The Age of Innocence', Marco's hand reached out for it, feeling the broken spine. As he took hold of the book, pages started to fall out. Though it seemed they had never been bound in the first place. Marco started to unfold a particularly fragile one, inside, was not a novel's page, but a letter. He recognized the handwriting as his mother's Italian cursive, signing it to her husband, Marco's father. He read:
Caro Angelo, Spero che tu stia facendo bene, ci manchi di tutti i giorni. Non è solo me più qui a casa. Ho aspettato di dirti da giorni, ma io non ho avuto il coraggio che sono incinta. So che non si può tornare a casa, ma mi manchi così tanto. Amalfi vi aspetta, come sono io. Dear Angelo, I hope you're doing okay, we miss you every day. It's not just me at home anymore. I have been waiting to tell you for days, but I just didn't have the courage, I'm pregnant. I know you can't come home but I miss you so much. Amalfi waits for you, as do I. Her words were short, it looked like it was written in a rush. Marco remembered the time when his parents fought about the states. His father was a traveler and an interpreter, while his mother was simply a homebody. It had separated them into almost friends instead of lovers, not to mention the blasphemy that came along with the fact that Marco's father hadn't served in Russia. By the time the war broke out he had already escaped to America for a job. Marco recalled times as a young child that his father was called a bastard or a coward for not going to fight, his mother stayed inside all day and hardly ever brought home grocery for fear of someone from town cursing her husband. By the time the war was over, Marco's parents would exchange greetings in the morning but hardly ever talk to each other besides that. From the outside, it seemed the only thing keeping them together was money and Marco. It wasn't as if they fought all day, although sometimes Marco thought anger would be better than just pure silence. Things got in the way of life, but if you could see through them, everything would work out in the end. Marco silently thanked his mother for writing the letter, before promptly passing out from a feverish head.
La Spiaggia I; May 10th, 1958 Sunday morning started off blustery and unpleasant, Marco could see rain clouds coming in on the horizon and by the afternoon the whole sky was blanketed with layers of wispy grey. He had recovered nicely the night before and felt a surge of pleasantry come over the world as he woke to the sound of his mother coming up the stairs to take his temperature. '98.6' He was alright! Marco smiled reading the numbers before getting up promptly to see what Nonna had made for breakfast. Cornetti, piping hot, Marco couldn't help but sit down and start eating as soon as the dining room was in sight. "Do you want an espresso?" His mother asked.
Marco nodded, he wasn't one for caffeine but this morning he felt like a new person, a person with a mission.
As Marco's mother brought him the small glass of almost-black liquid, he thought of the fever dream that had crept into his mind two nights before. Although the thought of its mysterious tone, and blinding lights made Marco's teeth chatter, there was something about Sophia dressed in angelic robes that was so beautiful. He couldn't help but fall in love with her misty kiss. Marco had never heard himself think such things, loving a girl you barely know, loving anyone at all? Such madness swirled around his brain for hours until he thought he might go mad.
Later, before the storm got any worse than a sprinkle of rain, Marco decided to ride around the coastline on his bike. He spied a lovely stretch of beach down the cliffs from Atrani, the water was calm and its surface was crystal clear. From the road above, Marco could see shells and a huge conch laying in the water, even the sand looked smooth and untouched. Marco wondered why it was so vacant, just waiting to be walked upon. He thought someone would have claimed the beautiful land before him but it seems as if no one but Marco knew it was there. All weekend he walked along the beach, thinking of the summer ahead and smoking the occasional cigarette. It was a habit no 17-year-old should be proud of but Marco had a taste for smoking like no other.
Nonna Donati was busy making food for Monday night, while Marco's parents walked along their neighborhood, knocking on doors and leaving invitations for dinner before the inevitable spring dance.
Sera del Ballo; May 11th, 1958 Against his better judgment, Marco started getting ready upstairs hastily, even if he wasn't sure he would even be attending the dance that night.
A pair of grey tweed pants and a white button-down shirt lay on top of his dresser, freshly ironed. The pants fit him very well, making his 5'10' stature seem mature and lengthy. The shirt was loose and thin, oversized yet comforting, it clung to Marco's body in a relaxed way that made him feel intimately folksy. Soon, his mother's voice called from downstairs to say that dinner was ready and that guests had started arriving. Marco walked downstairs listening for the doorbell and for Simon to greet his father in the entryway. But after a moment, he got bored of walking so slow and ran down the stairs ferociously, where Simon was already waiting among another large group of guests. He smiled great big and shook Marco's hand excitedly.
"I didn't hear you come in!" Marco laughed.
Simon was wearing his usual feldgrau khaki pants and a black jumper tucked neatly into his waist, finished with a crisp pair of oxfords. Marco's father led Simon to his place at the table before distracting him from the other party-goers with conversation. Marco overheard words of Pietro Nenni, the economy, and France. It seemed like hours before everyone sat down for dinner, Marco was surrounded by people of his own family to flat-out strangers shaking his hands as if they had known each other for years. Marco's nonna and a handful of neighbors, aunts, and cousins had joined them for the meal. There was never silence, everyone was having conversations with one another. A woman from across the street named Francesca was yelling across the table to Aunt Amaya about her work, while Nonna Donati told stories to a group of children at the far left end of the table.
The food was very good at Marco's house, all Sardegnian specialties from his father's side of the family. Tonight's dinner was lamb cordula and cannolis for dessert, delicious, and although Marco was only seventeen, his mother let him sip a glass of prosecco. "Growing up, are you?" Simon laughed as he glanced down to see Marco, not so politely, take a large swig out of the crystal goblet in his hand.
"I guess." Marco shrugged kindly. From across the table, many girls eyed the pair of them, without saying a word Marco nodded his head over the table to Simon as if to notify him of what was going on. He realized a moment later that the five years that separated him from Simon didn't even seem like one on their faces. Marco tried not to stare back but he couldn't help beam in the presence of an angel. Sophia from science, Sophia from his dream, Sophia in his heart, sat right across the table from him. The woman next to her was blonde-haired, and taller, a cousin perhaps, or maybe just a close friend. Marco looked her in the eye unconsciously but stared down at his napkin quickly after with embarrassment. The two girls drew back from the table, whispering to one another. Marco poked Simon's shoulder and once again nodded back to them smiling. Simon's eyes widened, he uttered a whisper to Marco, "Is that Sophia Greco…" "Yes!" He said excitedly, though he tried to calm himself after an echo of his enthusiasm made its way back to his brain.
"She's in my class Marco." Simon said through gritted teeth.
"I know-" Marco pleaded, "but her friend isn't." He smiled.
They were interrupted but Sophia, "Ciao Marco…" She smiled widely.
Sophia was taking French with Marco and Latin with Aria, she was clever and had a keen eye on the world. Montagno was filled with her silent wisdom, like every invisible battle plan of Minerva, stretching out across the mountain tops.
"Salve," Marco began, trying to figure out if she recognized Simon, "This is my friend S-"
"Ciao Simon." She nodded without smiling back at him, "This is my friend Louisa,"
"I'm older- by four years." Louisa interrupted.
"Mh." Simon smiled nervously, chewing a bite of eggplant, sticking out his hand to meet Louisa's.
She spoke again, "Do you know of the piazza concert tonight? By Amante's-" "We have two extra spots... and would love some company." Sophia intervened.
Before Simon had the chance to speak, Marco accepted, "Sure, we can go, what time?"
"Right after dinner ends. It'll be better than that stupid dance anyway." Louisa cooed.
Marco raised his eyebrows at Simon, somehow trying to apologize for what he had done. "We'll see you there." He waved to them.
Sophia smiled, "See you there." She echoed as they walked back to their seats skipping like stones on a pond.
Simon put a hand to his forehead, "Is something wrong?" Marco asked half-heartedly.
For a moment he looked angry, but the divots in his face softened to a nervous frown. "You really want to go to that concert?" He sounded exasperated.
"Why not? I know you're not a student, but I can't imagine why any 23 year old wouldn't want to go to a piazza concert."
Simon took a long sip out of the crystal glass next to his plate, "Fine. But I'm not going to-" He stopped for a moment, "Fine." He repeated, slumping into his chair with a jittery laugh.
It was an odd thing to see Simon's 'human' side, the side of him that was really going to attend a concert on the piazza, or the kind that drank prosecco instead of tea. Marco loved it. Nothing bad seemed to happen when you were around people you trusted, for this he was thankful, but most of all he was glad that the past week of coaxing and conversations had gotten Simon out of his rut. The reason behind a person's sadness is personal and as much as Marco would have loved to know what was causing Simon all this pain, he let it go, finding that talking about such things didn't come easily.
Dinner went by fast, everyone over the age of 17 had a head full of wine by the end of the night. Louisa had come over to ask about Simon, he said that he was from Bordeaux and taught at Marco's school for a living. "Sei Francese? You're French?" A girl sitting a few seats away asked very loudly.
"Uhm. Si… l'ultima volta che ho controllato. Yes… the last time I checked." Simon raised his eyebrows.
"Dici qualcosa in Francese. Say something in French." The stranger beckoned him, as many other ladies joined the row of chairs.
"Vous etes tous tres ivres, You all are very drunk." Marco choked on his water, as the crowd swooned ignorantly.
Their back and forth of languages lasted the rest of the evening until Nonna Donati slowly, but triumphantly shooed many of the girls out, leaving Simon, Marco, Louisa and Sophia to walk to the piazza. You could rarely hear this much noise on a Monday evening, but this night, the piazza was booming with instruments, voices and cheering. Even Via Mateo had people crowding its sidewalks. It was a joyful sight, Marco could even hear fireworks over the bay, and a constant pitter-patter of feet shuffling to: 'Il Cielo in una Stanza'. Sophia walked in front with Marco, leaving the two others meandering behind. "I don't believe Aria." She whispered out of the blue, as to confront Marco of some debilitating rumor.
"What?" Marco said, puzzled.
"I don't believe you love Carlo." So, it was a debilitating rumor Marco would be facing tonight.
He stopped in his tracks. "What did you say?" He paused, "What did Aria tell you?" A pit in his stomach was forming and he could feel his cheeks becoming flushed.
Sophia stopped too, "Did I say something I shouldn't have?" She looked concerned.
"Are you joking?" Marco repeated. "Aria told you I," He put his hands up in quotations, "love Carlo?" The anger was bubbling up inside Marco, did Aria want him dead? Or worse yet, she wanted him alive with the weight of public humiliation on his shoulders.
"I don't believe her! I thought you'd want to know what Aria was saying about you." She pleaded. "It is after all… a big deal." She looked down.
"What did she tell you exactly?" He turned to face Sophia.
Marco could see her take a long deep breath, "It was Thursday and she came up to me after science…" Science, of course it was science. "She said that she suspected you had feelings for him, or something like that, something really strange." She trailed off, "Like the things you hear about in… mental institutions."
Marco grimaced, "Who else thinks that?"
"Just me… I don't remember her telling anyone else."
"You don't believe her?" He tried to assure himself everything was alright.
"No. I don't believe her." Sophia answered firmly.
Marco felt disgusted like he would be sick again. He thought back to science.
I helped her, I congratulated her, and then she goes off and tells Sophia Greco I love him!
"She also told me Carlo was her date to the dance and that maybe you were jealous." Sophia added quickly.
"I think she's the jealous one." Marco took a breath, it's over, it's over, Aria and Carlo are out now, it's okay.
Even if it was true, which he knew it wasn't, would it have made a difference? He thought back to his mother's words, 'You're not doing anything wrong'. No one else's knowledge of you matters, only the things you know about yourself. Marco laughed suddenly, "Leave it to Aria to get more absurd with her rumors every day."
Sophia nodded, "There's more wine at the piazza… but if you need to go back home that's okay too." She put a hand on Marco's shoulder.
He looked back at Simon and Louisa, they were smiling and laughing, doing a sort of dance-like walk. "No... we're gonna stay."
They picked up the pace, following street lamps to the piazza where every kind of friend, musician, lover, and family awaited them. Drinking, singing, and eating, all as one.
The concert started at 12:00 and subsided at 3:00. People started to fizzle out after two hours but the four friends stayed all the way until the Amante's staff kicked them out of the piazza for the night. Sophia reached for Marco's hand, he let his fingers intertwine with hers delicately. As for Simon and Louisa, they danced together, spoke about the Romans, but never touched. 'Better off friends,' he told Marco as they walked up Via Duca Mansone. Sophia and Louisa had decided to walk slowly back home, leaving Marco and Simon to clumsily step up the cliffside alone.
Epilogue La Spiaggia II From the top of Via Duca Mansone, you could almost see the neighboring town of Atrani, where Marco had found his beautiful untouched beach. "Can I show you something?" He pointed a finger to the east.
"What is it?" Simon asked curiously.
To which Marco replied, "You'll see." And smiled, starting to trot down the street.
It took a hasty amount of drunken effort to get down the rocky path below Strada Statale. Rocks slid under Marco's feet and landed on the shore below with a poof of sand coming up below them. "Stai bene? Are you okay?" Simon laughed.
"Si si si,"
Finally, the two reached the bottom of the path, where Marco collapsed onto the sand as Simon surveyed the dark horizon with joy. "What is this?"
"My beach." Marco looked up to the rising crescent moon.
Everything was quiet for a moment, Simon asked Marco for his lighter, pulling a cigarette out of his pocket. "I know this might be weird," Marco began, feeling a sudden nerve rise in his heart, "Have you ever loved someone… instantly?" He thought of his dream, and how untouched and perfect everything had been, the only person who could understand that feeling he thought, was Simon.
He laughed, "Uhm. I guess so... not in a very long time however-"
"Huh." Marco sighed. He really didn't know what 'love' felt like, but this might have been it. Marco guessed love was getting lost on tiny streets, singing to music you didn't know the words to, and finding peace in someone. Even with the fog of uncertainty in the air, this new 'discovery' was beautiful and Marco couldn't help but thank Simon for helping him grow and find ways to realize there's more to life than what meets the eye. "I had a dream." "Oh?" Simon sat next to Marco on the warm sand, crossing his palms over his knees.
"About Sophia," Marco said faintly, "She was like an angel…" He stopped, feeling a rapid whirling in his stomach, "She kissed me, but in the morning I woke up and I was sick."
"A fever dream?" Simon asked.
Marco nodded. "Do you think she's… someone special?"
"I do." He felt warm with happiness.
"The only reason I ask such a question is because I'm planning to take another trip to Bordeaux this summer, there's only going to be four students going, that's all the money I have really. Could you see yourself in Bordeaux?" Marco smiled, "I could… but what does the trip have to do with Sophia?" "I'm choosing three more of you to go, she makes the cut for grades and I wondered if you knew if she would be willing?"
Marco thought for a moment, "Absolutely, she loves your class and talks about you a lot." He hadn't spoken with Sophia much over his time in school but everyone knew she was a sucker for French class and that more than anything she wanted to travel.
"I'm thinking July 3rd, we'll take the train?"
"Perfect." Marco shook Simon's hand, sealing the summer's trip.

To be continued...