Thursday, 24 February 2011

Excerpt Day – The Substitute © Tionne Rogers

Excerpt

 

When I left the palace, the sun was shinning over the square. I had still some free time left before 16:00, but it wasn't enough as to do something else like visiting the Cathedral. I located a nice bench, sunny, and after the extremely cold cellars and prison from the Venetian Dukes, any source of heat was more than welcome. I went straight-forward to it, evading the bird food sellers for the hundreds of doves pestering the place. I sat and took out of my backpack a very cheap paperback copy of “Le Rouge et le Noir” I bought some time ago. If you don't learn French with Stendhal, then you're a hopeless case. I tried to read but the pigeons in Venice are real bullies. I mean; they are bigger than normal doves, have an attitude and are convinced that tourists are supposed to feed them as much as they want. If you refuse, they bring more friends in and start to peak your shoes. Forget to shout or stamp with your foot on the floor. They're unimpressed.

 

After a while of our happy moment together, doves and me -reading the same sentence for like 10 times-, I realised a few things. One: doves had given up and two: sun was away. Well, sun was blocked to be precise. By a huge man. Big, like 6'1” foot tall, dark coat, short hair and with a love for his gym.

 

“Is Julien out of his father's house?” He asked in English with a baritone voice which sent shivers through my spine.

 

“Not yet,” I whispered. He just made the gesture to sit beside me and I was clever enough as to move as fast as possible, otherwise he would have crushed me. Are Europeans not supposed to be sophisticated and polite?

 

“Stendhal was a good diplomat, but I prefer Lampedussa's view on the subject. Attaining power is relatively easy. To keep it is the hardest thing,” he stated looking directly into my eyes. For a second, I felt like I was seven again and forgot to study for the test. I gulped and quickly recovered myself; I didn't want a literature or politics lecture!! OK, let's make a stupid remark, so he gets the hint and disappears. Didn't your mother tell you not to speak with strangers? Probably not, with your gorilla size, strangers go elsewhere.

 

“Really? I thought it was an adventure novel. I have the comic,” I replied with my best dork face. Was that a flash of anger that quickly passed through his eyes? Now it's working.

 

“Already demoted to comic?” He softly said with that polite tone that teachers use before starting to shout. He's going to be a tough one. Next level of pissing people off. Before I could open my mouth to make the second great phrase, his piercing stare abruptly stopped me. Without the blinding sun, I had now a clear view of his face. Although it was a handsome one, the aura of power and danger around him increased my nervousness. My first impression was, that he was the result of a coupling between a lion and a cobra. His features were strong, aristocratic and masculine, steely blue eyes like the stormy sky, brown hair, around his forties, but it was hard to tell and an unmistakably air of superiority. He sat in that miserable bench like in a throne, and I was intermediately correcting my slouched but comfortable posture.

 

“Konrad von Lintorff,” he introduced himself, extending his hand towards me. I shook it without realising what I was doing and automatically replied “Guntram de Lisle.” A second later I was chastising myself; not only I had revealed my name to a perfect stranger, but I had given him another topic; “what a strange name you have." My parents must have been high when they chose it.

 

“Do you take your Christian name after the King or the Opera?”

 

“I don't know.”I admitted dumbfounded. Right, excellent Guntram. Escaping from the Literature class to the History one. Is there any willing wall who would let me hit my head against it?

 

“It's an old Frankish name, but you don't have a French accent when you speak English,” he stated. Why does everybody immediately assume I'm French? I don't deny my roots, but I'm much closer to Argentina than to France or the United States.

 

“I was born in New York but lived most of my life in Buenos Aires. My father was French and my mother partly German, I think. I'm not sure.” I dutifully repeated under his scrutinizing eyes. Or was it my grandmother?

 

“Pumpkin, there you are!!!” Someone yelled at the top of his lungs. There was this fine example of the Gaucho race and for once, and only this time, I was happy to hear his embarrassing name calling.

 

“Hi there. I'm glad you could understand the map and make it”. I retorted and gave Fefo a hug.

 

“You're so hilarious. You should start an acting career.” Was his reply, patting my back with more strength than necessary. “I came to tell you I have business elsewhere and can't see you till tomorrow. Were you already at the cave? Creepy. My mother hates us, pumpkin.”

 

I'm slow. I need some time to process and by the look of the whole story, it seems I was brushed away. All over.

 

“I could come.” I said hopefully, knowing how pathetic I sounded, like the smallest brother left behind.

 

“Better not. It's for grown ups," he whispered. “You could stay with your friend here... Mister???” He shouted clearly and loudly. I think the winged Lion on top of that tower didn't hear you.

 

Do you dare to call yourself my brother, my friend??? You threw me into the snakes' pit without a second thought!! Tomorrow I'm going to kill you because now it would be bloody and messy.

 

“Konrad, Herzog von Lintorff,” he curtly said, not looking thrilled at all or shaking hands at all.

 

“Fedérico Martiarena Alvear. How do you do?”

 

Awkward moment. The German was not so loquacious as my first impression was and the soft whistle of Fefo after hearing that he was a Duke was not helping at all. He just made a short movement with the head, giving him a blank stare.

 

“Have to run. Take care and don't get into trouble.” With that, he sprinted away, leaving me at the mercy of killer doves and stony Germans. Time to make an exit.

 

I turned around to face him. I lifted my head, since my great 5'4'' allowed me to reach, with lots of luck, his shoulder. I opened my mouth to say the usual goodbye.

 

“Do you want to visit the Correr Museum?”

 

Yeah, but not with you. “I don't want to take more of your time” That should do. Aristocrats are touchy if you believe novels.
“I insist.”

 

Nope, does not work. Let's try tactic number two. Play the imbecile. Just when I was going to elaborate something about Mc. Donald's...

 

“Rest assured I will enjoy our time together.” He shut me up before I could say something else, giving me a very small smile while his eyes lit a gentle light. “Besides, your friend has just appointed me your guardian.” He was clearly amused with the task. “I hope you don't bite,” he chortled while I was finding the situation utterly absurd.

 

We entered inside the big building and I went to the ticket office, but he held me strongly by the arm.

 

“There is no need for that. I'm one of the patrons.”

 

Wow. He's truly loaded.

 

“Come. I'll show you the room map and the coin collection. Later we can see the paintings”\

 

I was in awe when I saw the rich room, full with showcases and maps. It was the first time I saw something like that. I slowly walked around, taking in every little detail of the pages and books laying in display. At some point, I remembered my companion and lifted up my gaze to find him intensively looking at my direction. I don't know why I blushed and immediately fixed my eyes into the shelves.

 

A middle aged man in a dark blue suit approached us and whispered something in his ear. “Send a curator here” he curtly ordered, his lips drawing a tin line. It was the first time I saw a museum clerk run fast, with only one look from him, radiating displeasure, I totally sympathized with the poor man. I guess the Duke is used to be obeyed and his wrath must be something to be seen.
“I'm afraid the Director needs to have a word with me.”

 

“Oh, Thank you very much for the visit. It's been a honour to meet you, Duke.” Well, protocol lessons were not a total waste of time.

 

“Please call me Konrad. Someone will accompany you and hopefully I can re join you for the painting rooms.”

 

“I don't want to be a nuisance, Sir,” I said. Who knows? Maybe I can escape now.

 

“Konrad, and you are not. It will be an insult to the Venetians if you don't allow them to show you their glorious past,” he spoke, leaving no room for discussion. Perhaps in Europe aristocrats are not so out of office as I used to believe. His cold, imposing stare makes our school principal look like a little mouse.

 

A really kind old lady was picking me up and started the tour. I was afraid I'd say something silly or out of place, but if I did, she was nice as not to show it. She led me through the rooms and bore with me for two hours. Honestly, I don't know because time flew by. We waited for 15 minutes at the entrance of the painting rooms, but our own German didn't make an appearance. She nervously told me to continue with her, and I could feel that she was uncomfortable to disobey the order.

 

I was mesmerized by an icon, I think that is the word, depicting the Tree of Life. I had no idea what it was, but it was beautiful with those vibrant colours and full of energy.

 

“Do you like it, Guntram? Someone whispered in my right ear, making me jump out of my bones. I tried to regain my composure.

 

“Yes, indeed” I looked around to see that my guide had vanished into the thin air.

 

“Why do you like it?” The German asked.

 

“I don't know much about art. It intrigues me.”

 

“But there must be a reason for you to like it”. He pressed. Yes, he does not take a "no" for an answer. Time to embarrass myself, except this time I didn't want to look like the ignorant country boy I already look like.

 

“The figures are alive” I blurted out, expecting a laugh.

 

“True. That is the essence of art.” He said softly, giving me a comforting look.

 

“I realise now how ignorant I'm.”

 

“That's a good start.” Silence engulfed us. I tried to break the tension by looking somewhere else, but I couldn't shake the feeling of his eyes on my back. It was nerve-raking. We are in a Museum! Can't you find something else to do? I looked through the window at the column and strangely the doves flying around like a whirlwind gave me a sense of peace. The Piazza was losing the frenetic river of tourists and slowly settling down. The waiters at the Florian Café made a huge contrast to the imposed calm of the sunset, madly running to remove the outside tables and get rid of the last coffee clients as they prepared the inside tables for dinner.

 

“I think it's enough for today. Let's have something to eat,” he said to me, taking me out of my reverie and pulling me from the arm, as if I were a rag doll, with a gentle but firm grip. Time to reaffirm my grounds in a polite way. Sort of.

 

“Please, I don't want to impose myself any further.” I said putting some emphasis on the “I don't want” part; perhaps he now gets the message.

 

“Nonsense,” was his eloquent answer as he quickly pulled me towards the stairs, exit and look now, we are on the street! Civility was not really working at all with this meddling giant!!

 

“It's unfortunate that my house is not open yet and taking someone so young as you to a hotel would be totally inappropriate,” he said as matter of fact, while he led me with ease through the streets maze and not falling miserably into dead ends like I do.

 

Excuse me?? In which century does he live? Has no one told him that nowadays is okay to go to hotel restaurants and that there is no shame in sitting in the parterre of theatres? I honestly tried to slow him down by dragging my feet, but a sharp look from him made me change my mind. All right, you won, only because I was hungry; the chances that I find Fefo and go to dine at our favourite fast food chain were truly slim and finally I was totally fed up with said food.

 

We stopped at a small door and two small windows with no visible sign at all. An opium smoking room perhaps? No, not such luck. Never remotely exciting ever happens to me!

 

© Tionne Rogers

 

The Substitute

Author:  Tionne Rogers

Publisher:Lulu Marketplace

Genre: GLBT

Buy Link (FREE until MARCH 10th)

“I understand this is all new to an inexperienced youth like yourself. I was half expecting your rejection, but I'm willing to wait, that you become my lover. I will provide, take care and see that no harm falls upon you, as long as you respect me and behave according to your status. As I said, you are the most adorable thing that had caught my attention in years. You have to be mine and I have every intention to win you over.” “I'm 44 and way past the age for playing. You are everything I've dreamed of for a lover and a companion in life. Your beauty and innocence makes you perfect for me."

With these words, Konrad von Lintorff, a Swiss German banker declared his intentions to a 19 years old penniless student. Guntram was young, kind hearted and exactly looking as Konrad's former lover.

Can a young sweet boy survive the High Finance World and the love of a possessive and violent man?

Follow Guntram's diary through a story of intrigue, love, sex, betrayal, secret societies, deceptions and murder.

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