There was another smile, the scrape of tines, and a pause.
“I also know that your father left you and your mother.”
Though he squirmed in his chair, Alessandro tried to not feel humiliated by that truth. He had learned from his father that men were either wolves or sheep, and this man was a predator sizing him up. Was he, Alessandro Monotti, a threat to this man? The man’s knife and fork remained intent on his meal. Alessandro shivered at an unexpected breeze. Wolves hunt in packs, but few know that wolves are cannibals, that they find other dogs delicious, and that they eat their prey alive. The alpha male always ate first.
“Relax, I know many things about you; it is my business to know things. I know, for example, that you like to test boundaries. I also know that you have a vicious temper.”
“Vicious?” The inflection in his voice betrayed him. How did he know?
“School records – I had a look at your file. You like getting into fights.” He wiped the edge of his knife against the tines. “I admire that.”
“You admire that I get into fights?”
“It shows that you have a mind of your own, though one should learn to balance thought and feeling. This moving around, the life of a military brat – how do you feel about that?”
The man was on the hunt. He had a scent in the air. Alessandro said nothing. He waited. The man cut and ate, cut and ate another piece of stuzzichini.
“What does she have to say about that, about her husband leaving her alone to support a son?”
“That’s between them, sir.”
“Is it? You don’t think that you deserve even a modicum of respect?”
The man’s eyes examined him the way a teacher did with a slow student. More than just the correct answer was in the balance.
“I’m just a kid, sir. I haven’t had a chance to earn respect.”
“Then decency then, and honor,” the man said. “Men are supposed to have honor. You’re a young man.” He paused to drink some wine. “Your father left you to take care of your mother. Where is the honor in that? Furthermore, he disrupts his son’s education and has him enroll in another school far away from his friends. That’s no life.”
Their eyes met. The man reached for his glass of white wine again. The glass sweated in his hand. Alessandro had intended a smart reply, but the words came out wrong.
“I’ll make friends.”
“Which is why I thought that we should get to know each other. You need at least one friend. I’d like to be that friend. You’re a long way from the Arno, Alessandro Monotti. In case you haven’t noticed, this isn’t Florence, this isn’t your Santa Maria Novella.”
“I’m impressed that you knew my neighborhood. What is it that you want in your friendship with me?”
“You’re straight to the point – another trait I admire about you.” The fork and knife came to rest on the rim of the plate. “It’s not so much what I want, but what I can offer you. I’d like for you to know that you have a home here and that I’m your friend.”
“You’re recruiting me then?”
“And I thought I was being subtle,” the man said.
Excerpt with permission from Winter Goose Publishing, 2016.