Cheers for the reviews, and I hope I have answered your questions.
Shay was lying on my back and kissing my neck.
'Beautiful,' he murmured, nudging my legs further apart. He wriggled into a more comfortable position and sighed contentedly. 'Hmm.'
I grabbed his hand and kissed it. It was rough and calloused and he had short nails that always had dirt underneath. There was a smudged, thick outline of a dragon over the top of his hand; a decade old tattoo, done by someone learning the tricks of the trade while incarcerated. It was absolutely horrible. He had this shit all over him; mythical creatures and eagles and cartoon characters. Some of it was passable, but most of it screamed 'prison tatt'.
My skin was different, and darker; a naturally dusky olive with a tan over the top, while Shay was more of a honey colour. My hair, which had once been black, was now streaked with reddish-blonde tints from working in the sun, and I had godawful chest fur, against which I waged an ongoing fight. I suspect I might have been losing. I was continually getting ingrown hairs.
'You right?' he asked.
'Yeah, no worries.' I dropped his hand and stared at the bed head. 'I was thinking about tomorrow. I hate working on Saturdays.'
'I'll come with you if you want. Nobody will mind.'
'That's not the point,' I sighed.
'Hey, hey, hey,' he interrupted, stroking my hair. 'Don't sulk. It'll only take an hour or so, and then we'll be done. Maybe afterwards we could go and see your grandfather. Maybe you and him could sort stuff out.'
I pushed my lover off me. Earlier this evening I'd gotten the impression that he wanted to discuss something, but in the interests of getting laid, I'd ignored the situation.
'You look like him,' Shay continued thoughtfully. 'You both have big ears and wonky noses.'
'Keep going with that flattery,' I grizzled. I knew what he meant about my nose and ears, though; my grandfather, father and I all share the same traits. 'And give up on the idea of a reconciliation. It's not going to happen. I'm not interested.'
Shay rolled onto his side and made eye contact with me. 'He's old. He might die soon.'
'I'm actually surprised he's still alive,' I admitted.
My boyfriend blanched. 'Carmine, don't be fucking stupid.'
'I'll be as stupid as I want, thanks,' I replied firmly. 'Drop the subject. Drop, drop, drop…'
I paused and looked at Shay. He shrugged.
'Drop it,' I finished.
He was annoyed with me. I could see it flashing in his dark brown eyes, but I knew he wouldn't say anything. Not now, anyway. He rarely pushed me. It was one of the things I liked about him.
'My legs are dead,' I complained.
I'd gone to the gym with Shay this morning, a feat that occurred only once or twice a week, despite his continued pleas that I join up and regularly attend. Frankly, I didn't care for the gym. I was happy the way I was. If Shay wanted to be mister muscle man, that was up to him.
The sole reason behind my attendance this morning was my desire to make amends for my recent behaviour regarding my family. It wasn't fair to take it out on Shay. I could see where he was coming from, and I knew he wanted me to reconcile because he thought it was in my best interests.
'Yeah, yeah,' he grinned. 'No gain without pain, remember?'
I rolled myself a cigarette and wound down the window of my truck. Shay was driving. He always drove. He was one of those guys who liked to be in control of the car, and I was happy enough to let him.
'What if I don't want to be muscley, huh?' I asked.
'That's up to you. I like you the way you are.'
'Me too. Especially the smoking part.' I lit up and inhaled. I leaned over and patted his leg. 'Sorry, I shouldn't tease. You know I love you.'
Shay rolled his eyes and turned on the radio. 'I reckon you should. I'm doing your job with you.'
We worked for the same company, but in different capacities. He was a landscape gardener – and a fucking good one at that – and I was a building apprentice. He earned more money than I did, but his job was also harder. He'd won awards for his work, and was expected to maintain a certain standard, while I was almost always with Rob, who covered for me whenever I messed up. Nonetheless, our work often overlapped and today the task was one that we were both familiar with.
'I'm grateful,' I assured him. 'Really. Even if I don't sound like it.'
Shay scoffed, but my words were the truth, and when we arrived at the client's premises, my gratitude grew tenfold.
I'd foolishly thought that the client was just another everyday Joe; yet another Brisbane resident who'd been caught out breaking the water restrictions and had decided they 'urgently' needed a water tank if they were going to keep their garden in order.
My assumption had been horrendously incorrect. The client wasn't a stranger; he was my goddamned, interfering, grandfather.
'Carmine,' he greeted, opening the door.
I stood speechless on the doorstep. I couldn't believe he'd actually gone so far as to order a watertank simply to gain an audience with me. If I hadn't held such fond memories of him, I would have reached inside and strangled him.
'Hi,' Shay offered. 'We bought your tank around. Where do you want it? The order says it's only being used for collecting water for using in your garden, so maybe we should find a central location so…'
'No, no, no, no, no,' I interrupted, pushing my boyfriend away from the door. 'No way. We're not doing this. We're going.'
'You can't go,' Nonno argued. 'I've already paid.'
'I'll get you a refund.' I offered angrily. 'I can't believe you did this.'
I glared angrily at my grandfather and grabbed my boyfriend's arm. 'We're going.'
'We can't go,' he replied guiltily. 'That wouldn't be fair.'
Shay hated letting our bosses down, and he hated letting a client down. He always tried to do what he perceived to be the right thing. Walking away from a man in his eighties and telling him he was going to have to settle for a reimbursement was something he clearly wasn't comfortable with.
'Oh for Christ's sake,' I snapped. 'If you want to help him, go ahead. I'm sitting in the truck and waiting.'
'Maybe that would be best,' Shay agreed. 'Here are the keys. Your grandpa can show me where he wants the tank.'
The situation made me unspeakably angry. I went to the truck and sat in the cab, mentally raging at my grandfather for being so goddamn interfering. What didn't he understand? I didn't want to reconcile. I didn't want him coming to my home, or my workplace, or putting guilt trips on me. Frankly, I'd have loved to known how he tracked me down in the first place.
After perhaps half an hour, someone opened the passenger side door. It was Nonno. He tried to climb in, realized that the manoeuvre was too hard for someone his age, and instead leaned on the passenger seat, staring pointedly at me.
I turned the music down. 'What do you want?' I demanded.
'I want to know if you're well. I want to know if you're safe.'
'I'm well and I'm safe,' I replied shortly.
He sighed and took off his hat, placing it on the seat. 'Carmine, how old are you?'
'So why are you doing this? Why are you running away?'
'Because I don't want anything to do with any of you. That's why I left. That's why I didn't come back. Look, if Mum and Dad have forgotten about me, why are you pushing this? They've gotten over it, and you should do the same.'
Nonno shook his head. 'Carmine, your father is no longer with us. He died six months ago.'
'Oh.' I turned away. 'Right.'
'You don't care,' he accused. His face turned bitter. 'My son left you his money. If nothing else, I expect you want it. You might not care for your family, but I think you will care for his money. That is right, isn't it? Never mind. I will give the solicitor your address. He can contact you. You don't need to see me again.'
He shut the door to the cab and walked away.
I closed my eyes and tried to make sense of my emotions. I was in pure shock, pure and absolute shock. My father had died? He couldn't die. He was only fifty. No, sixty. Shit, what did it matter how old he was, he had still been too young to die.
'Wait,' I called out suddenly, clambering out of the truck and following Nonno. 'Wait. You were kidding weren't you? About Dad? He's not really dead, is he?'
The expression on his face told me it was true.
'Oh fuck,' I swore. 'Shit Nonno, I'm sorry. Look, don't worry about the solicitor. I don't need the money. I know I'm not rich, but I'm not having problems. You keep the money.'
'I can't keep the money! You need to go and claim it.' He pointed to the house. He was angry, but he wasn't bitter. He knew from my reaction that it wasn't the money I was interested in, and I could tell this relieved him. Nonno didn't want to have a gold-digger for a grandson. 'See this house? It is yours. You need to live here.'
'I'm not living with you,' I argued.
'You don't need to worry about that; I'm going back to Italy. The government, they've said I have to go back. Your father isn't here to support me.'
'Look, you probably won't have to go back. Find an immigration lawyer. Use the money Dad left you. You can keep living in the house for as long as you want.'
'I don't have any money. Your father left everything to you and your sister. He had an old will. He never expected to die. He died at work, in an accident. How can you expect that?'
I didn't know whether to cry or scream. My father was dead, I was the beneficiary of a house and an undisclosed amount of cash, and my grandfather needed financial support in order to remain in the country. My parents had divorced when I was five, so it wasn't reasonable to expect my mother to support Nonno. My sister, from what I remembered, would scream blue murder before handing over a cent. It was up to me to organize support, and we both knew it.
I rolled a cigarette and lit it, my hands shaking. I was a selfish bastard, but even I couldn't force him back to Italy. None of his family was there. I remember, as a child, going overseas to visit him and being surprised at how all of his children and brothers had left the area.
He must have decided to immigrate to Australia in order to be closer to his family. It would have been a hard decision; he'd lived in Campania his whole life. Even if his family weren't with him, he was in a part of the world that he understood, and where he could fluently speak the language.
'Here's the deal,' I offered. 'I'll contact the solicitor and get the money and the house. I'll give the house and the money back to you, and you can stay in Australia. In return, you have to promise to stay out of my life. No more coming around to my place, and no more buying stuff from my employers. Deal?'
'You think I wanted to see you only because of the money? Because I wanted to stay in Australia?'
'No,' I admitted. He wouldn't have sought me out solely for the money, he had too much pride. 'But I think I'm offering you a fair deal. I give you the money, and in exchange you stay out of my life. Do we have a deal or not?'
Nonno was disappointed. 'Carmine, you were always my favourite.'
I drew on my cigarette. 'Nonno, this isn't personal. Really. It's just best for all of us that I stay away.'
He stared at me, his dark brown eyes faded with age, and streaked with red. He was old, but he wasn't feeble, and he wasn't losing his mind.
'You're a good boy for helping me,' he sighed wearily. 'Come inside and we will call the solicitor. We'll see what he can do for us, eh? Then…then if you want to turn your back on me, you can. I'll wait for you to come back. You're a decent man, Carmine. You'll change your mind, and when you do, I'll be waiting.'
There was no point arguing with him. He'd soon realize that I wouldn't, in fact, change my mind.
'Let's call this solicitor now,' I suggested. 'We can do it while Shay does your watertank.'
My easy acquiescence pleased him, and seemed to reinforce the idea that I'd be open to further contact.
'Ah, that sounds more like it.' He remarked, rubbing his hands together.
'Nonno,' I warned.
He held his arms up in a mock show of defeat, but his face showed his glee. The bloody bastard thought he'd won. Nonno genuinely believed it was only a matter of time before I decided to initiate contact.
I didn't have the heart to correct him. He was old, and he was in need. There was no need to be unnecessarily cruel.