Leonzio walks back into his office, and I try grinning at him, but it turns into a grimace when he notices that Dante is gone.

"That...that cretino!" He covers his face with a palm, the other on his hip. "I told him to wait!" Sighing, he shakes his head. "How are you feeling, caro mio? Is the soup helping?" He turns his sulking gaze to me.

"Oh, yes, thank you again, Leonzio." I nod rapidly. "I, um, tried to tell Dante that you wanted to talk but...he was gone when I turned around."

"It is a small matter, surely." He waves it away, momentarily making another face as he sits down next to me, pressing the back of his hand to my forehead. "You are feeling better, temperature-wise. Would you like to talk about what happened...?" He asks, his gaze searching.

I look down at my hands in my lap, then nod. "I...Kevin and his friend dunked me into the fountain. They soaked my backpack, too. They usually just shove me around, but...this time...I got scared," I pull my knees up to my chest, "I'm afraid of water, so...when I couldn't breathe, and they didn't let me up...I just panicked. I got so scared and..."

Professor Vesci frowns, wrapping an arm about my shoulders. "It is alright now, Caleb. You are safe."

I don't realize I'm crying until he wipes my cheeks again. Shamed, I let out a small laugh. "I'm sorry..."

"You have nothing to apologize for, caro mio. Did they also give you this bruise on your face, then?"

"Kevin's friend punched me when I bumped into them. I didn't see them coming, so...they were kind of mad. That was when they dragged me to the fountain." I shrug, "I'm...glad it's over."

Leonzio nods, hugging me tightly. "I am, too. Do you want me to talk to them about it?"

I reel back, blinking rapidly. "No! No, no, no. It's fine, really. I don't want there to by any trouble over this. I'll just stay out of their way. It'll be..." But Leonzio is frowning at me, shaking his head now.

"They are bullies. Bullies are insistent. But oh, I can be insistent too, they will see. I will talk to them tomorrow, if I do not find them today," He states, getting up.

I clutch his sleeve, "No, Leonzio, I'm serious--"

"As am I, Caleb. I could hardly be joking. Questo non può andare su."

"Dante told me to call him if they give me trouble again," I blurt. Just don't you go hunting for them! If they were to hurt Leonzio because of me...I don't know what I'd do. It's embarrassing enough that I have to be protected like a high schooler, when I'm in college...but if Leonzio gets hurt...

A slow smile spreads through his face, suddenly happy.

I open my mouth to question his expression, but then it clicks. ""

"He is attractive, for a cretino, you know,"

My face burns, and I scowl up at him, "Leonzio! He just felt obligated because he saw them pushing me around. It's not like he likes me or anything. Plus, he gives off weird vibes when he stands around staring the way he does! Everyone's afraid of him! A-and I'm not gay!"

"Did he say he felt obligated?" The art professor arches a brow, giddy smile replaced by a small frown.

I bite my lip, caught. "Um, no, actually."

Leonzio grins again, patting me on the head. "Then, if he does deal with them, and they still bother you, I will teach them a lesson. I can't let them continue to harass you, my adoptive figlio. Even with a bad boy to cover your back." He moves to the door, then points over to a stack of canvas on top of a stack of papers, winking. "You can help yourself, if you need something to pass the time while your clothes dry. I am going to check on the class. There are some tools in the desk drawers, if you need any." And he leaves, still beaming.

Ducking my head, I pull a small piece towards me, smoothing it over my knees. Really, how can he think Dante would even...just because... I chew on the inside of my cheek, thinking back to seeing him in the doorway a few minutes ago. Standing there, dressed in a simple grey shirt, oil-smudged jeans and black leather jacket, he looked almost surprised when he saw me. Leonzio didn't warn me against him...(he did the opposite, if anything...) does that mean he doesn't know about the rumors? Or he doesn't believe them?

...not that I believe them. Because, well, I don't.

I open the first drawer on the desk, digging around for a pencil. Maybe he's just being the doting father...? Leonzio and I have known each other for a few years now, even before I enrolled into this college. He could be teasing me for my lack of a love life... Pouting to myself, I close the drawer, trying the next one for a pencil or a pen. People can be so confusing sometimes!

"Ah! Found one," I ease the drawer closed, settling back into the desk chair as I straighten the canvas again. I lift the pencil, ready to start drafting a drawing, only to get distracted by the thought of silvery, slate eyes. I'd never heard of him being with anyone, come to think of it...but then again, I've never heard of him being nice to anyone, either. Or even just having friends. He's always floated by, alone, every time I saw him in the hallways.

And so I start to sketch out a draft, with a detached, confident steel gaze on my mind.

The End

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