Caroline Ch. 08.03byVitorio©
If you are new to this series please read the intro to Ch 01 so you'll know what to expect. It isn't strictly necessary to read the earlier chapters but some of this won't make sense if you don't so I hope you will!
No sex in this one but it is important for development of what is to happen in future episodes and it does explain something very special.)
On Thursday afternoon of that second week at the villa we were all sitting by the pool sunbathing when the phone rang. Mike answered it and came back outside a few minutes later. There was something about him that seemed different, as if he was preoccupied but he immediately smiled at Jo and said, "That was Nardo. Guy will be here at lunchtime on Saturday. He's spending tomorrow in Milan and the factory then the evening with Nardo's friends before leaving to come here on Saturday morning."
"Oh Jo," I said smiling, "what will you do?"
Mike was looking at the both of us waiting, apparently concerned, for Jo's reply.
"I don't know," she said, "I'm sure that if he sees us both like this, (we were in our swimming costumes) he'll run a mile. He won't stay will he Mike?"
"No, I don't think he will. He'll think that Lena will tease him unmercifully and that you'll attack him like the other girl. You'll have to seduce him Jo, if you want him, but carefully." He looked at her intently, "Do you?"
"What, want him. Oh yes Mike, I do. I've been thinking all the last two weeks, since we left home in fact, trying to sort out my feelings for him. It can't be wrong Mike can it? Can it Lena? It feels so right. I dream of him every night, I think of him all the time," she looked at Mike and smiled, "except when I'm with you," she said to him.
"Jo, it is up to you. You know the issues. Do you love him?"
Mike was still watching her intently, "Yes Jo, do you love him?"
"Oh," she said sadly, "I don't know. I think I do. I feel about him like I feel about both of you but different." She looked at us both. "That doesn't make any sense does it? I don't seem to be able to make any sense of how I feel about him. Look, I think I love him but I don't suppose I'll really know until I've been with him will I? I have only met him three times after all." She looked at Mike helplessly, "Oh, it does feel right, I know it does."
He leant down and put his arms round her, "If it feels right then it is very possible that it is right. I say go for it, Lena, what about you?"
Well that was a silly question wasn't it. "Oh yes Jo, you've got to go for it. You two look right together and you won't really know until you bed him will you," I laughed.
"I think I'm going to," she said, "do you both mind?"
"Mind," Mike said with a laugh, "no of course not. Look, when he arrives on Saturday you two had better be wearing sarongs, that won't phase him too much. As we have lunch I will say that we're going into town this afternoon, why doesn't he sun himself by the pool. I'll leave some of my stuff in the spare bedroom for him. He'll think I mean that we are all going to town but you Jo will stay. Lena and I will stay out all afternoon leaving the rest up to you. How does that sound?"
Jo smiled, "I get the whole afternoon with him?"
"The whole afternoon."
"If you can't sort him out in that time you're not the Joanna I know," I said laughing.
Mike was looking at us both quite pensively now, looking from one to the other as if he was trying to decide something.
"What is it Mike," I said smiling.
"Oh nothing," he said, "nothing. Just thinking," and he smiled at me. "Let's go out for dinner tonight as a tiny celebration for Jo."
"Mmm," I said forgetting his thoughtful manner, "sounds good. Jo?"
"Yes, good idea."
So we went out for dinner. All evening however, Mike seemed preoccupied. That night he didn't sleep very well, tossing and turning and talking in his sleep; something he'd never done before. At breakfast he was the same, preoccupied, occasionally looking at us both as if trying to decide something. I must admit that I was getting quite worried. You know how I am with him, anything like this worries me so when he went out to get the morning paper I collared Jo in the kitchen.
"Jo, have you noticed Mike, he seems very preoccupied. Ever since the phone call yesterday. He hardly slept at all, tossing and turning. He was even talking in his sleep."
"Yes," she said, "he does seem to have something on his mind."
"I don't like it Jo. I don't like it when he's like this. It frightens me."
She turned to face me and took my hands in hers. "Don't worry Lena, I don't think there's anything to worry about."
"Why?" I asked suddenly thinking she knew more than I did.
"Come into the lounge," she said, "and sit down. I'll tell you what I think," she said, "but you must promise me that you won't say anything to Mike. Promise?"
Now I hate this but I knew she wouldn't tell me anything if I didn't so I nodded 'yes'.
"I think he's trying to find a way and a time to tell us something about himself, something painful but important. I also think he's going to tell us he is Guy's father."
"His father?" I said astounded.
"Yes," she said, "I think that Mike is Guy's father."
"Why, how do you know. Oh tell me Jo, tell me!" I was shocked. This was something I'd never suspected. Oh they looked a bit alike but I had no idea.
"Look Lena, I don't actually know. I said 'I think'. You see, I look at Guy differently from you Lena. I'm sure I love him, even after this short time, so when I look at Guy and Mike together I look at them both through the eyes of love, because I love them both, differently I know, but I do love them so I notice things that maybe you don't. They are so alike. Build, height, facial expressions, mannerisms, all those sort of things that he couldn't possibly have picked up from just living with Mike for a few years. And why did he live with Mike for all that time at University? Remember when they smile at you, it's the same smile isn't it?"
I had to admit that, while Guy hadn't smiled at me that often, I tease him too much, remembering when he did, it was like Mike's.
"And their eyes. They both do it. Oh, I know that Guy doesn't do it to you but he does it to me. Not the same intensity but certainly the same way."
I don't know why, fear of the past I suppose, but I didn't want to believe her. "But surely all that could come from their closeness, their living together."
"I don't think so," she said. "Anyway, there's something else."
I was getting a bit fearful now, what else in his past could threaten my future with him. "Oh please tell me Jo," I pleaded tearfully.
She became stern, taking on her 'mum' role. "Now look Lena, this isn't anything to worry about. Of that I am certain. I think that he is going to find it difficult to talk about this so he'll need your help. I'm sure he wants to tell us, it's just choosing the right time and plucking up courage. Now listen, when you first met Gianna did she grill you about how you felt about Mike?"
I tried to remember back. "Yes, she did. She sort of cornered me the first time I met the family. She asked me how I felt about him. That was early days wasn't it so I didn't really know. I can't remember what I said but it was probably that I liked him a lot."
"Is that all, did she do it again?"
"Come to think of it she did," I said. "At the party. She cornered me again and asked if I really loved him. And she asked about you, how I felt about you. Was I jealous. Funny, I didn't think anything of it. Why do you ask?"
"Well she did exactly the same to me at the party as well. Asked if I loved him, was I jealous of you, that sort of thing. She was checking us out Lena, seeing if we were genuine."
"I don't know really, I'm only guessing but I noticed that when they met they kissed on the lips. That's unusual isn't it?"
"Not really, they always kiss hello on the lips. Oh," I said suddenly falling in, "he doesn't kiss other women on the lips when he says hello does he?"
"No he doesn't," she said. "Another thing. They held each other close for just a little bit too long for a 'hello'. Anyway, when she had finished asking me how I felt about Mike I suddenly saw something. I said to her, 'You love him too, don't you?'. She said that she did. I asked her if he knew and she said that he did. Lena, it was the way she said it. There is a story here but I think it's a very difficult one so you must help him. I'm sure he wants to tell us, needs to really now he knows I'm going to go for it with Guy."
She knew me too well, "Lena, you mustn't say anything to him," she said sternly, "let him choose the time and place. It'll be before tomorrow anyway. He'll have to do it before Guy arrives because he won't get the chance afterwards. Remember Lena, you promised."
I did didn't I, and she was usually right wasn't she but it was so difficult. When he came back he was still preoccupied, sad even. I got more and more worried until, after lunch, I couldn't hold back any longer. When Jo was in the kitchen and mindful of my promise to her I said to him, "Mike, what's the matter. Something's wrong isn't it, is it me. Please tell me." I was being crafty really. I knew that if he thought he was hurting me it would force his hand, and it did.
He reached up, cupped my face in his hand and looked at me with sad eyes, "I'm sorry precious, you are right. I shouldn't make you worry. Will you ask Jo to come in, and bring a bottle VM Reserve. I think I'm going to need it."
I went into the kitchen. "He wants you to come in and bring a bottle," I said.
"You haven't said anything have you Lena?" she said, beginning to get angry with me.
"Oh I'm sorry Jo," I said tearfully, "I only asked him what was wrong and said he was worrying me."
"Thank god for that," she said, "what wine."
"The VM Reserve."
"Oh, then this is it I think. That's his favourite."
We made our way back into the lounge with the wine and three glasses. He motioned us to sit, me next to him.
"I'm sorry you two," he said smiling his wan smile. "I've been a bit distant since yesterday haven't I? Well, I've been trying to work up courage to tell you about a time in my past. A time of which I'm not very proud but something which you both should know." He looked at us both helplessly and his hand crept into mine and squeezed tightly. Jo was right, he was going to need me. I hoped I could be there for him.
"I don't know how to start," he said looking upwards with a bleak expression.
"Can I help," said Jo.
He was startled, "I don't know what you mean Jo," he said.
"You're trying to figure out how to tell us something. I think it's something we already suspect, at least I do. Guy is your son isn't he?"
He looked shocked, "How did you know. Only three people know," he said. "Jo tell me."
"Is it true?" I asked him.
He took a deep breath and said in the saddest voice I ever heard from him, "Yes, it's true." He squeezed my hand tightly and I squeezed back to tell him I was there. He looked defeated, beaten. He looked at Jo again, "How did you find out?"
She smiled, "Oh I didn't 'find out', I just suspected," and she went on to tell him about how similar she thought they were and about Gianna. "I just put two and two together and came up with 44," she said. "I don't 'know' anything."
He turned to me, "Lena, did you?"
"No," I said, "I always thought he could be your son but that was just because you lived together. I had no idea." I thought it best not to say that Jo had told me all this earlier.
"He doesn't know, I suppose," said Jo.
Another deep breath, "No he doesn't. It was decided," he said with some bitterness, "that it was best he didn't know."
My heart went out to him then. He couldn't acknowledge his own son! I put my arms round him and held him tight just to let him know I loved him.
He pulled away gently. "I need to tell you the whole story. I'm not very proud of it and it's painful but you both deserve to know. Particularly as you are going to be my wife Lena, and you Jo, a potential 'daughter' as well as lover." He smiled sadly at us both, took a deep breath, and began.
"Many years ago, when Maria was about two, Silvio had to go back to Italy to deal with some complicated family business. We knew he would be gone for several months but it came out of the blue when he phoned me to say that he wasn't coming back. He'd fallen in love with a young girl and she was pregnant with his child. He asked me to look after Gianna and the children and said goodbye. Just like that.
"Well, you can imagine how I felt. He was my best friend, I was his best man. I was devastated and I had to tell Gianna. Can you imagine." He looked so sad as the memory of that time washed over him.
"Well," he continued, "I should tell you that when she was your age Gianna was an extremely beautiful woman. The two children had had little effect on her figure and her personality then was no different to that now although she was more quiet and withdrawn. Of course I'd always liked her, we were friends and she was married to my best friend. Now however, I had to tell her about Silvio and look after her. The inevitable happened.
"When I told her, as gently as I could, she completely broke down and ended up crying in my arms." He looked at me, "Lena I couldn't help it. I didn't want to it just happened. She was so vulnerable, so lovely, so available!"
I squeezed his hand to show I understood.
"I fell in love with her then, totally, completely, absolutely in love. Unfortunately it was also a totally selfish and possessive love," he added bitterly.
"I had to arrange for the small café they had to be sold and to buy a house for Gianna and the kids. They had no money so I had to support them. Luckily I've always been fairly well off so I could afford to. So I saw a lot of her. By now I was besotted and virtually ignoring my wife Patricia and my kids. Gianna didn't seem to fall in love with me so quickly or so completely. She was still loyal to Silvio despite his desertion of her. It's her religion and culture I suppose but, after a while she gave in, as it were, and we became lovers. It was marvellous, I couldn't get enough of her. I was living two lives you see, at home with Patricia my marriage was floundering. Oh I didn't care, I had Gianna didn't I? I neglected my daughters and my wife. I was intoxicated with Gianna, she was like a drug.
"But after about nine months this wasn't enough for me. I wanted more, to possess her, to call her mine, so I told Patricia that I wanted a divorce and I asked Gianna to marry me. Stupid really, Gianna was mine really – she loved me you see but that wasn't enough for me. I should have known better. She refused of course, she was still married to Silvio, there was no such thing as divorce for her, no matter what he did. I was furious but I needed her so, so much. I needed a fix of the drug." He looked beaten, forlorn as he revisited his feelings.
"I formulated a plan. To force her to marry me, or so I thought. Birth control was up to me wasn't it, with her catholic background, so I purposefully made her pregnant hoping she would change her mind. All it did was to make her feel guilty and me seem like a pathetic wretch.
"As you've guessed the baby was Guy. She refused to acknowledge me on the birth certificate entering Silvio's name and, afterwards she refused to have sex with me because she said I would get her pregnant again. That's why I had the vasectomy, it was the only way I could prove how much I wanted her. Thankfully, or perhaps not as the case may be, she still loved me and our relationship went on for almost three years. Years during which my behaviour towards Patricia and my kids was despicable. She had refused the divorce in the first place and stuck by the children and me I suppose, although I was a worthless case then." His self disgust was evident as he spoke of that time.
"Then the thunderbolt out of the blue. Silvio rang. His love and his daughter had been killed in a car accident and he believed that it was God's judgement on him for leaving Gianna so he wanted to come back and he wanted me to ask her."
He looked at me with eyes full of pain. "Can you imagine that Lena, he was asking me to go to the woman I loved more than anything and ask her if she would take him back. You see," he seemed devastated by the memory, almost in tears, "I knew she would. Not out of love, she loved me, but out of duty. Oh Lena, Lena I didn't know what to do."
He was almost distraught as the memory of all those years ago flooded into him. How must he have felt then, I can't imagine. The only problem was, I was jealous of her. Can you believe it, jealous of a love 25 years old. Jo saved the day. She came over and knelt before him.
"Mike," she said, "you don't have to go through this you know. It's enough we know you're Guy's father," and she took his hand in hers.
"You need to know and I need to tell you, to tell you both," he added looking at me. He knew, he knew I was jealous of Gianna then.
He carried on, "I had to ask her. God, I didn't want to. I knew what she'd say and she did, she took him back. I raged, I shouted, I accused her of not loving me but she was adamant. Then I had to bloody arrange it. She had to tell him about us but he didn't hold it against her. How could he, he'd abandoned her. He didn't hold it against me either. I'd looked after her and his children for nearly four years and almost destroyed myself in the process. He vowed to treat Guy as his own and he has all these years. And I watch my son call someone else father." He was crying now, crying for a lost son. I wasn't jealous any more, I loved him how could I be jealous. I held him tightly to me and shushed him like a baby but he wasn't finished.
"Lena, I had to watch them together. I knew he was making love to her, the woman I loved. Oh how it hurt, it was destroying me. I started drinking, staying out. Poor Patricia and my kids. Then the final humiliation, she was pregnant. I suppose I could take the fact that he was sleeping with her and deal with it with a bottle, but now she was pregnant. I still loved her you see, despite her returning to him. I loved her so desperately, even more so I suspect, because I knew I couldn't have her. I think I went into a sort of 'walkabout' mode. I got in the car and just drove. I didn't tell anybody, I just left. I don't know where I went. I'd stop at a Little Chef or some hotel to eat or to sleep. If I needed clothes I bought them. Days passed, I don't know how many and I don't really remember where I went. Patricia told me afterwards I'd been gone for 12 days.
"Well I ended up in the Lake District. I was sitting in the car in a car park overlooking Derwent Water. It was just right you see. I could drive the car off the edge and 100 feet into the lake."
"Oh Mike," I said as I squeezed his hand. I reached for him again and I kissed him hard to let him know I was there. Jo was still kneeling at his feet holding his other hand.
"It was the only way out as far as I could see," he said in that stony voice that signalled the pain of the memory. "If I killed myself I wouldn't have to face the fact that she was gone from me. The pain would go away. I wouldn't have to face Patricia or the kids. It was the way I could avoid all my responsibilities." He looked at us both one to the other, "I think it's the lowest I've ever been in my life. I would have done it too, I was ready."
I squeezed his hand again trying to tell him I was glad he didn't. I couldn't speak, the power of his 'confession' was gripping me as well. I was living this with him. I loved him you see.
"Anyway, I didn't do it. I didn't have the courage." he smiled a streak of gallows humour, "As I sat there I realised what a pathetic wretch I had turned into. Every thought in my head was 'I'. What about other people, how did they feel. What effect would my killing myself have on them. I realised that I had been totally and completely selfish. Everything I did to Gianna, making her pregnant, trying to force her to marry me, the vasectomy, was for ME. I hadn't thought of her at all, what she wanted. And Patricia who'd stood by me despite the way I treated her, despite asking for a divorce. And my kids, poor Belinda who was most affected never really got over it. Throughout the whole time I hadn't thought of anybody except myself."