Nostalgia

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Gay and Lesbian  |  House: Booksie Classic
Based on the news: Restaurant Offers 50% if You Turn Off Your Phone

Nostalgia. Anthony had no idea that that one word can change his life when it is said by a nonsense boy while he is in the middle of announcing his restaurant's new campaign.

Submitted: November 15, 2015

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Submitted: November 15, 2015

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Nostalgia 


"Listen, here, everyone!" Anthony dinged an empty wine glass. 

Everyone stopped what they were doing. The sounds of silverware clattering against plates, chatter, and typing died away. Most people looked up from their phones. Some people gave Anthony a questioning look; others gave him an irritated one.

Anthony smiled at all of his customers before beginning his announcement. "As the owner of Anthony's Italian Bistro and Bar, I would like to offer you all a 50% discount." Everyone in the restaurant whooped and cheered. Anthony smirked. His ultimate weapon had yet to come. "If"—someone started groaning, others attempted to listen attentively— "everybody in the table don't play their phones for the entire time until you ask for the check." Anthony ended with a smug grin at his victory. Now, everyone started groaning and booing at him. "This includes staring at it, touching it, sniffing it, listening tentatively for any sounds from it, or even acting anxiously without it."

"Tyrant," somebody muttered.

"Excuse me?" Anthony exaggerated an offended look. "I am anything but. Look at me." —Anthony indicated his appearance. 

His hair was sprinkled with glitter. One of his ears was pierced with a silver hoop in it. His face was plastered with a huge grin to show all of his white-pearl teeth. He was in a tight dress shirt with a blood red thigh-length overcoat and slacks. The tie rested sloppily around his neck.

The guy snorted. "Oh, crystal clear, fag—"

"What's your name?" Anthony asked inscrutably. 

"Benjamin," the guy said curtly without looking at Anthony.

"He's right, though," a girl next to Benjamin, who must be his girlfriend, said haughtily. "It's our rights to do whatever we want." Almost every customer hit the table and yelled as an official act of joining the Anthony-insurgent group.

"What about my right? My restaurant?!" Anthony snapped. "You all expect to have a comfortable and clear-minded working space, don't you?" He eyed each table carefully. The crowd gradually became quiet again. "That's what I thought."

"C'mon, baby, let's go." Benjamin tugged at his girlfriend's arm forcefully, while throwing some bills and coins onto the table. "I can't tolerate this selfish jerk anymore." With that, they stormed out the door.

“It’s, um, not only about that, is it?" A teenager, probably a few years younger than Anthony, asked with uncertainty. His parents and siblings stared at him with dismay. It gave Anthony an impression that the boy must be very shy. 

Anthony raised a brow. "And who might you be, boy? Why do you think there's something more?"

The boy cleared his throat and looked around tentatively before speaking. He must have been scared and panicked that all the attention was on him. “M-my name is—" he cleared his throat— “V-Valentino,” the boy stammered. "I saw the way you had glanced around before this whole chaos started"—he gestured around vaguely with one of his hands—"And it's not just distaste I saw in your eyes." 

"What is it, then?" Anthony challenged. He wondered how this boy could possible know him when this was certainly the first time they met.

"Nostalgia." Valentino muttered, staring down at his laps.

The restaurant was now completely soundless. The customers were looking back and forth between the exchange of the two males. 

"I...I" It was Anthony's turn to stutter. The words choked in his throat and he couldn't seem capable of getting anything out. He turned away, suppressing the urge to yell, walk away, or cry.

However, he couldn't do any of those things.

He was Anthony Francesco after all and he would always cope with his vicissitudes with confidence. This boy had no idea what he was talking about. He had no right to speak to him like that.

Anthony turned back to the crowd and smiled specifically at Valentino. He had to let that nonsense boy know that he couldn't easily be affected by that nonsense suggestion. 

"I just value family-and-friend time. After all the work and school, these people are the ones you like to go back to the most. You'd never know how much you need them and they need you until you set aside all the distractions and focus on what really matters." Anthony recovered to his old, confident self and smirked. "Besides, there's a study that provides plausible evidence that when people have company, they enjoy food more. Simply, this campaign will boost my sales." 

The crowd went still for a bit then nodded. Essentially, they did not expect more from the restaurant’s owner; money being the first priority. When nobody seemed to question Anthony anymore, they went back to their food. 

"Enjoy the 50% discount, people! The staff will be watching!" Anthony ended his speech and left. As he walked away, he could hear people laughing and talking.

Sometimes, we might wonder what we should talk to someone, but if you just didn't think about anything, the conversation might just start from something that didn't make any sense at all.

Anthony smiled at himself with satisfaction.

 

A knock on the door made Anthony look up from his book. He adjusted his reading glasses, got up, and called out, "Michele, is that you? Are you done publishing the new campaign on the restaurant's website—"

When he swung open the door, he was amazed to see Valentino— the Nonsense Boy— standing awkwardly in the doorway. Anthony raised his brow in a questioning look. "Who let you up here?"

"I let myself." Valentino said, ashamed. He bent his head and started shuffling uncomfortably from one foot to the other. "I sneaked upstairs when no one was looking."

"I should fire them all," Anthony muttered under his breath. Then, he loudly said to Valentino, "Practically, downstairs is my restaurant, my workspace. Upstairs is my home, my office, my privacy!" Anthony said furiously. "Ciao!" He said this while slamming the door. 

"Wait!" Valentino pushed the door back with his arm. He was quite strong, to Anthony's surprise. "I just want to continue our conversation."

"There's nothing to continue, boy." Anthony made a shooing gesture. "Now, go back to your mother. She must be worried sick by now."

“I’m not a boy, anymore." Valentino fidgeted with the hem of his gray V-neck sweater and bit his lower lip. "I'm 18, technically an adult." He looked into Anthony's eyes for the first time.

Green. Green was all Anthony could process. Green like the lushes of the trees. Green like the mixture of emeralds and jades. Green like envy and poison. Green.

There was something that intrigued Anthony about the boy. He looked nervous but confident at the same time. He wouldn't let people offend him. He liked to defend people. And he couldn't stand people calling or seeing him as a child. The boy looked...flexible.

"I'm in college now; no longer a kid." Valentino raised his chin. There was nothing lofty about the posture at all. He didn't look overly proud of himself, either. It was like the boy was merely stating a fact that he wanted everyone to accept. "I'm living in a dorm, so there's no curfew anymore. I can be wherever I want."

"Does anyone in your family know?"

At that question, Valentino's head dropped so low that all he could see was both of their feet—one with shoes and the other without. "Doesn't matter," he replied darkly. "They hardly know I exist, anyway."

Compassion washed over Anthony's eyes. "Technically an adult, huh?" He smirked.

Valentino risked a quick glance and nodded childishly. "Yeah."

 Anthony stifled a laugh. “Come in, then, adult."

 

"Cool room," Valentino commented in awe. There was a sparkle in his eyes. 

A leather chair and a gigantic wooden desk adorned one side of the room. Posters of different bands and singers from various times —from the Beatles to John Lenon to Lady Gaga—and different famous quotes, such as 'Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.’ by Martin Luther King Jr., adorned the walls.

In one corner of the other side of the room was a queen bed with teal-colored sheets. Near it was a humungous purple wardrobe—one of the largest Valentino had ever seen. There were also a couch and a few beanbags surrounding a home theater and loud speakers in the other corner. Separating both corners was a corridor, probably leading to other rooms or the mystic labyrinth of this place.

At the far end of the room was a glass door, opening to a balcony overlooking the beautiful scenery of the glistening canals of Venice, where gondoliers rowed their gondolas even in the middle of the night.

Anthony pointed to one of the corners with couches and beanbags. "Sit wherever you like."

Valentino started walking to the corner. Suddenly, he steered to Anthony's bed and plopped down.

"Wow, you're not as naïve as I thought you'd be."

"You said it yourself: 'Sit wherever I want.'" Valentino did air quotes with his hands like rabbit ears and shrugged. However, as nonchalant as Valentino looked, Anthony could still glimpse that the other boy was blushing.

"Okay, then." Anthony plopped down and scooted over so his back hit the headboard. Then, he closed his eyes and cherished the feeling of being watched. 

A comfortable silent—at least that was what Anthony thought—followed. He decided to break it. "What?"

"What, what?"

"When I close my eyes, it doesn't mean that I don't feel eyes on me." He opened his eyes and sure enough, Valentino was looking at him with fascination. "I'm not an exotic animal, you know."

"Who said that you are," Valentino mumbled. "You just look like...an ordinary nerd. That's all."

"It's just the glasses." Anthony mused. "And the ordinary part? Probably it's because I'm not wearing flashy, fit clothes; earrings; and glitter. A plain white T-shirt and black shorts. Typical pj clothes."

"Sure."

"Hey, relax." Even as Anthony said it, Valentino seemed to tense further. "Then, let's just talk about what you came here for."

Valentino exhaled and nodded, glad that the subject was no longer about him. "Right. So, nostalgia," Valentino said but it came out similar to a question as if he wanted Anthony's confirmation. 

"Yes," Anthony said calmly but his hands were bracing against the mattress. "You're right."

Anthony took a few deep breaths before starting his story. "It was on a Christmas Night, and my family and a few friends came to my place to celebrate. I had no idea why my friends were there, I swear I didn't know. Maybe it's because I just moved to Venice for college— I got a scholarship— and they knew that the first year was the hardest. I just finished my finals as well. So, I guess they all flew from Milan. It surprised me to see them there, that night."

He gulped, not sure if he should continue but did so anyway. "They decided to spend the night. My parents slept in one room while my friends—best friends you may say— crammed into my room. We talked and watched movies and just did random stuff. I was so happy. Then, I came out to make them a midnight snack—pasta. We ate and laughed. At the last minute, they—they chose to sleep in my spare rooms." Tears dropped onto Anthony's hands. His glasses further fogged his vision but he didn't bother. He was now sitting with his knees bent toward his chest and his arms hugging his knees. He had no idea when Valentino had moved next to him, but he was there. There to comfort him. Valentino put his hands on his shoulder.

"You can stop if you want to," Valentino whispered softly.

Anthony shook his head vigorously. "I've already told you this far. There's no turning back now." 

The boy just nodded and gestured for him to continue. "It was three in the morning when I woke up again. It was the smoke that woke me up, actually. I coughed and sat up. My first thoughts were my friends and parents but I knew that it was too late. If I had opened the door, I would've been charred like a barbecued chicken." Anthony laughed half-heartedly. "I realized another thing: I did all that. The fire came from the stove I'd forgotten to turn off. Their rooms were a lot closer to the kitchen than mine." Anthony sobbed and Valentino squeezed his shoulder lightly as an encouragement.

"I broke the window of my room and jumped out into the canal. I was selfish. I felt like I was. Maybe they were still alive but I chose myself."

"Or maybe not," Valentino whispered softly, trying to alleviate Anthony's pain. "You did what you had to. Or else you might've died."

Anthony looked into Valentino's eyes, trying to find a deeper meaning in those words. Then, he turned forward and stared at the posters on his walls without actually focusing on them.

"That was why I value family-and-friend time. Every time I look at families and friends, I always thought of my mistake. A silly mistake."

"An irrevocable mistake," Valentino interrupted.

"Nonsense."Anthony shook his head. "I want people to know how much family and friends mean before everything's too late. Before they don't have a chance to ever see them, talk to them, laugh with them, or hear their voices again."

"I understand," Valentino talked into his hands grimly after a long time. Now, he mimicked Anthony's position.

"How can you ever understand?" Anthony snapped. "How can you?! You're just a kid! You've got family. You're—"

"They're not my REAL family!" Valentino snapped his head and shouted ferociously into Anthony's face. His eyes now shone with anger like a forest burning. "I was adopted." His jaws were clenched tightly and he was breathing hard.

"I'm sorry," Anthony said, his voice dropping quickly. "I didn't know."

"Next time, don't assume that you know everything about someone. Don't assume that your life is the only one filled with pain!" Valentino got up and walked quickly to the door. "I'm leaving."

"Don't," Anthony pleaded, following Valentino to the door and caught his arm. "Please, Valentino, I'm sorry." He then spun the boy around to face him.

Valentino turned his head away and sighed. "I've never opened up to someone before. Heck, I've never cried in front of someone before."

"There's always a first time for everything." Anthony turned Valentino's head to face him and smiled.

Valentino blinked and two drops of unintentional tears fell from each eye. Anthony moved his hand from Valentino's chin to brush away the tears. The other hand was still clutching Valentino's arm for Anthony feared that the boy might broke down any minute. 

To Anthony's amazement, Valentino used that as a momentum to swing his other arm and hug him. Valentino stood on his toes and clung to Anthony’s shirt tightly. It was a miracle that Anthony hadn't jumped away, but it did take some time for him to react to the touch. Slowly, he released his grip from Valentino's arm and put both hands behind the boy's lower back. Valentino cried a bit on his shoulder before letting go.

"God, I've never hugged anyone since—since forever." Valentino pushed back his messy hair and looked into Anthony's eyes.

"Like I said, there's always a first time for everything." Anthony smiled and pushed the stubborn lock of Valentino's hair over his ear. "Everything's gonna be okay. You don't have to tell me the story, okay?"

"I don't think it would be fair if you told me your story and I don't tell mine in return." Valentino sniffled. "I'm perfectly fine."

"Come here, then." Anthony pulled at Valentino's elbow and dragged both of them to sit against the door.

"Okay." Valentino cleared his throat. "I'd always been at the orphanage since I could remember. My parents died because of an unknown reason. I was left there, but I was happy. It felt like home, like I belonged there. I had hundreds of siblings, friends, teachers, and adults I counted as parents. These people had been my family until I was adopted. Still, I've always felt hollow inside, knowing that my parents were gone, you know. I want to be like other families, but what I got wasn't what I'd hoped for at all." Valentino swallowed a sob and Anthony patted his hand.

"I was six when I got a family. Everyone in the orphanage cheered for me. Not that the orphanage was bad or anything, but a family can provide us a better future. At home, it wasn't what I thought at all. I have three brothers and two sisters. Everyone treats me like a servant. They make me do all the chores and when they're angry, they'd blame everything on me. My father even beats me. It's better, though, when I started college." Pools of tears started forming in Valentino's eyes again. 

"12 years of torture." Anthony's face became serious and indignant. "It's illegal. Why don't you press charges on them?"

"They've always reminded me that they're being merciful for adopting me. Gave me food, shelter, education and such. I should be grateful, they said. It's perfectly just that I repay them." Valentino shrugged.

"If they treat you so badly, how come you're able to be here tonight?"

"It's all Susanna's work." Valentino mused. "It's her birthday. She's the youngest and everybody loves her. She's the kindest one, too. She made my life there not as miserable as it could've been."

"She just asked them?"

"Yes." Valentino averted his eyes. "And no." He went silent.

"Talk to me, boy," Anthony coaxed. He bumped their shoulders together. "I want to help you. I can help you."

"My parents and I made a deal," Valentino said at last. "I can only go if I let my dad beat me and accept the double load of chores during weekends and holidays."

"Why...?"

"Susanna needs me. She's always protected me against others. It's the only way I can repay her." Valentino whispered. 

"I hate your logic, boy." Anthony shook his head in disapproval.

"What do you think I could've done?!" Valentino spoke furiously to the floor. He, too, was ashamed of himself. "What do you expect from me?" He whispered to himself more than to Anthony.

"Does it still hurt?" Anthony asked softly.

"I've been through worse." Valentino turned his back toward Anthony.

"That doesn't answer my question." Anthony put a hand on Valentino's shoulder. "Let me see. Let me help you."

"It's just bruises and gashes."

"Gashes?"

"Kitchen knife."

"Valentino." Anthony used his authoritative voice. Valentino slowly turned around.

"I just met you..." 

"Trust me?" Sincerity flashed over Anthony's eyes. "I really just wanna help."

Valentino reluctantly grabbed the hem of his sweater and took it off. If it were under any other circumstances, Anthony would've enjoyed the rippled muscles and well-built profile of the young man in front of him. But the wounds that marred across his arms, stomach, and chest was too much that it broke Anthony's heart.

"Jesus," Anthony gasped. "They're not humans."

"Don't be ridiculous," Valentino muttered. "They help me with lots of things."

"Lay down on the bed." Anthony got up to his feet and walked toward the hole that led to other mysterious corridors. "I'll get the first-aid kit."

"I'm not supposed to clean it. They'll notice." Valentino said in a pleading tone.

"It'll get infected." Anthony put his hands on his hips and looked down like he was trying to scold a three-year-old kid. "Besides, you said before that they hardly know you exist."

"It's just— I don't know." Valentino looked up. Tears threatened to fall again. "It depends on their moods. Sometimes they keep a close eye on me to make sure I don't do anything that seems stupid or vulgar to them. Other times, they completely ignore me." Valentino sighed. "Anthony—can I call you that?"

"You can call me anything."

"—I once cleaned the wounds and did every way to hide the evidence of what I'd done. It only got worse"—Valentino face fell—"They starved and detained me in the storage room for a whole week."

"Subhumans,"Anthony seethed.

"Susanna sneaked in and helped me, though. Such a good little sis," Valentino said defensively, not sure if Anthony would do anything reckless.

"I insist." Anthony pointed to his bed. "Go."

"...okay." Valentino decided not to argue. The new semester just started and he would stay only on the campus, anyway. It's unlikely that he would run into any of the family members.

After cleaning the nasty wounds, Valentino put his sweater back on and walked to the huge wooden desk.

"What are you doing?" Anthony arched his brow, even though Valentino couldn't see it.

"You'll see." There was mischief in his tone.

Valentino ripped a piece of scrap paper out and picked out a pen. A minute later, he reappeared in front of Anthony. 

"I gotta go. It's late." Valentino handed Anthony the piece of paper he had written on. "Here."

"What is this?" Anthony stared closely, despite his reading glasses on. "Your phone number?"

They slowly made it to the door. "I figure that maybe we could keep in touch? Even if we depart today?" Valentino blushed.

"I'd love to." Anthony smiled like he'd never smiled in his life before.

"Good." Valentino opened the door and started stepping out. "Text me or call me whenever you like."

"Hey, Valentino." Said boy turned back, one hand still on the door. "I'm 26. Is the age gap too much for you?" Anthony leaned against the door frame with his arms crossed.

"Good thing that I've always failed math, then." One corner of Valentino's mouth curved up. So far, that was the closest thing to a smile that Anthony got from this boy. "Numbers have never mattered to me. Why should they now?"

"Boy, you're a keeper." Anthony reached out, laced their hands together, and squeezed firmly.

"Good night, Anthony." Valentino found himself smiling widely, so he quickly ducked his head and hurriedly left.

"Totally a keeper." Anthony chuckled.


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