The incredible beauty of it all. Terraces of green cascading down to the indigo of the Middle Sea. The sun casts a mellow glow of gold to everything it touches, while the mildest of breezes cools me as we walk the narrow path.

I had always thought that there could be nothing more beautiful, nothing that would allow me to feel closer to my God than to look out into the Sound on a cold winter's day and watch eagles soar over blue white glaciers. Mountains of rock and lichen with streams dancing down granite walls. The subtle grumbling and heaving as rivers of ice shift imperceptibly under their own weight.

Even seeing pictures of this has not prepared me for the vista now opening before me. From far below I hear a child call; what I can't imagine, for my Italian is poor at best and he is a long way off. In a bobbing boat at least a quarter mile from shore, I see a man stand and shout something back.

"What are they saying?"

She turns to me with a slight smile. "It doesn't matter, caro. Tell me what you see... What your heart feels."

I am silent for the longest time. I continue to stare at this indescribable scene of loveliness and a tremendous wave of... of... of what, I can't begin to fathom. I dare say this is one of the few times in my life that I truly am at a loss for words. My soul drinks in the beauty and I can't help myself. Tears seep from my eyes. They silently course down my face and I don't care. I stand and stare and feel the sun upon my back, almost lulling me, beckoning me closer, luring me to be enveloped by it.

I feel her hand upon mine. A soft but well-used hand that is unafraid of hard work begins to exert the slightest pressure on me. I am so thankful she has brought me here. How did she know I would be mesmerized by it? In order to drink it all in, I lean closer to the edge as its beauty calls me.

She grabs my arm firmly to pull me back. "Benito! Be careful!"

I shake my head to clear it. "I... I wasn't even here. I was just... being part of it all." I feel my typical blush spread across my face for no apparent reason. I really didn't mean to scare her. "Sorry, Ma. It's just so lovely."

She looks at me askance and we end up having an odd conversation with her stating the obvious: I am not her son and she is not my mother. Indeed, originally I had some difficulty calling her "Ma", but Ray had insisted. I would have preferred not to, if for no other reason that I did have a mother, although she has been dead for more than twenty-five years. No one can take her place.

She stands beside me now in what must be one of the most beautiful places on earth and tells me I must address her by her given name: Guenevere, that she allows me to shorten to Gwen. The beauty of her name matches the blue of the sea and I recognize her to be a very vibrant, alive woman. Her dark eyes seem to dance in rhythm with the waves far below.

"What?" she softly asks.

It seems that I remain tongue-tied, but for different reasons now. And then I understand: Oh my god, she's interested in me as a man! And I don't mind because it's not about my looks, as it is with Francesca. Gwen is not her daughter. God! I get so weary of being chased all over Chicago. I have heard the women call me "Eye Candy" and I silently protest the objectification. I seek peace but have not found it, until I look into Gwen's eyes here on the Isle of Capri. She is accepting me for who I am, not what I represent. She offers me a haven, a peace for my soul. How did I miss this??

"Why did you bring me here?"

She gives a low chuckle and asks, "Do you really think it was entirely Raymundo's idea to bring the family, you included, to Italy? Pah! He thinks he is showing brotherly love for you, but I tell you, Benito, you let him keep thinking that. Let him think it was all his idea. I know better."

"Gwen, why? Why?"

"Does this place not please you?"

"Of course, it pleases me."

"I know you are a troubled man, one who seeks peace. Just look out there, Benito," she murmurs as she sweeps her gaze out to sea, "and drink it in. This gives you some peace?"

I have no idea where the stirrings come from. She is lovely, soft, and unassuming as she turns her head toward me. I can't help myself. I lean in to her as she leans into me. Our lips touch tentatively and then in a rush, I am exploring the recesses of her mouth and she returns it four-fold. My head reels with our passion and we part, finally, reluctantly.

I gulp in embarrassment. "I'm so sorry, Gwen. I had no right to do that."

"You did that because I let you and wanted you to do it. What's wrong with that?"

"I don't know."

"Benito, is it our age difference? Do you see me as a shriveled up woman, bitter about everything and taking it out on the world?"

"If I thought that, I would not have kissed you and you certainly wouldn't have kissed me back. Not that way."

"So, caro mio, what's the problem here? Can't two people feel something for each other?"

"Ray." It is the only word that I can get out. God! Why is life so complicated?

"Ray, what?" she persists. She won't let it go and I'm not entirely sure I want her to, not here, not now.

"Ray, I-had-better-keep-my-hands-off-his-sister, no-matter-how-hard-she-comes-after-me-or-he-will-kill-me, after-he-castrates-me-Ray. Gwen, I didn't give Francesca any reason to hunt me. I have felt so attacked every time I come to the house. The only reason, aside from the fantastic meals you cook, is that despite Francesca's innuendoes and Ray's obvious angry threats to me if I should cast even a glance in his sister's direction, is that I really like you."

I'm on a roll here and, despite having that flippant thought, I realize I need to vocalize something I've felt for better than two years. "You don't play the games. You are what you are: a loving, caring woman with a family that has run semi-amok. Good heavens! You comfort me, too! How many times, when I've stayed over, have you sat down at the kitchen table, late at night, and plied me with cookies and warm milk... And then, you listen to me. Really listen."

She gives my arm a squeeze and nods for me to continue.

I'm not sure where I'm going with this. I now see how much she cares, and it definitely is not in a motherly way. "You have no idea what joy that brings to me. Sometimes I feel my voice is being drowned out by the cacophony of 'Do this,' 'Do that,' 'What's in it for me?' and the ever popular 'I don't give a rip about what you want, I want this!' It's all so exhausting and I often wonder why I bother."

"You bother because you care, even if they don't, Benito."

I'm perplexed. "So, by that logic, then you are telling me you care, but I don't appreciate you."

"Care, schmare. You know that is untrue. I care. You care. It is time we recognized that."

"Gwen, I am so weary. So lonely. I don't want to burden you with all this," and I heave a deep sigh in frustration.

"Have you asked yourself what I feel?"

"Of course! You must have the satisfaction of raising your children to be successful," I artfully dodge her question.

"And what of finally burying my husband, the drunk? The one who verbally abused me and the kids. Oh, the names he would call me! I was worthless; I didn't speak the way a girl of Italian parents should speak; I didn't make him happy; it was all my fault. And that was how he acted in front of the kids."

She averts her eyes to look out over the sea as she recalls it all in mind-numbing horror. With tears in her eyes she turns back to me. "I've never, ever told anyone this. I guess you know about pain, Benito. I know I can trust you not to hurt me like Gino did. My mother never told me that I had a right to stand up for myself. That he had no right to come home from spending the night drinking... To climb the stairs and enter our room, him stinking, reeking with alcohol and cigars, demanding my body in his drunken stupor... Coming to the bed where I lay and hitting me across the back. On my head, my arms, anywhere he could reach. And that was before he took off his belt and lashed me, calling me every name he could think of in Italian and English. Sometimes he used the buckle end and I knew I would have to wash the bed linen before the kids saw the blood.

"His other torture was to leave me alone, when I had a night without him hitting me, but it was no better and I cried myself to sleep because I had no one to talk with. No one to listen to what he put me through. I thought no one would understand, let alone believe me. Not the Father, not the kids, no one, Benito. You think you have a corner on the Lonely Market?"

She is openly crying and I gently wipe my fingers across her cheeks. I take her in my arms and let her sob against my chest. I had no idea it was so devastating for her. Eventually her cries quiet and I stand a bit away from her so I can I kiss her tears away. Kiss away the hurt. The loneliness.

"What do you need? What can I give you?"

She looks deep into my eyes and whispers, "Be my friend. Listen to me and I will listen to you, caro."

"I will," I promise. "At least as far as Ray will let me."

"Damn Raymundo!! My son is not your head nor your heart. Let him solve his own problems. I am sick of him playing 'Lord of the Manor.' I may be Italian, but this macho image Italian men dandy about is driving me into the ground. Raymundo is not my husband, may he not rest in peace. Raymundo doesn't talk with me. If anything he talks AT me. I'm sick of it. You, Benito, are a soft-spoken man who knows his mind while still respecting the opinions of others. Do you understand any of this?"

"Yes, I think I do," I answer.

The sun is sinking and we find ourselves still standing in the same spot. We haven't needed to speak, for enough has been said. The only thing that is important is that we hold and draw strength from each other. Eventually she gives a slight shiver in response to the cooler breeze. I look at my watch.

"When is the last boat back to Naples?"

With a start, she looks around frantically. "My god, we'll never get back to the dock in time. Raymundo will be beside himself!"

"Gwen, I seriously doubt that. After all, I am a Mountie, and Ray will know I will take care of you," I grin tenderly at her.

It is quickly decided to walk back to a B&B, or pensione as it's called in Italy, we had spotted on our way here. Surely, they will have rooms and some kind of restaurant. We can call Ray over in Naples to let him know we must stay over and will be on the first boat back in the morning.

I really don't know how it happened. Or, maybe I don't want to know. A delicious meal, candlelight, soft Mediterranean breezes, much honest and uninterrupted talk as we discover each other, reach agreement, and find a single room at a pensione several blocks off the main plaza. She giggles from the bathroom and complains she has no night clothes, let alone a toothbrush. It's hot and I simply strip off my shirt and jeans and stretch out on the bed. This is novel, very novel, I think to myself, as I idly wonder how Ray would react if he ever found out.

The thought is quickly banished as Gwen comes out of the bathroom and wears only her slip. Her hair cascades across her shoulders like a dark shadow and her face is all lovely angular planes in the moonlight. It's been much too long and my body seems to have a will of its own.

"Well, now. Are you glad to see me or is that a ruler you have in your shorts?"

"Huh?" I'm somewhat embarrassed by my rapid response. I have no answer for this and sit up to hold out my arms to her. She slides into them and pushes me back down onto the bed. I feel her groping into the opening of my boxers and she pulls me out.

"Benito! Where have you been hiding this big thing?"

I quickly deflate. More limp than a dishrag, and she senses something is wrong.

"Gwen, where did you learn these words?"

"What's wrong with them? My parents never told me anything about the birds and the bees. It was Gino who said them."

"And what was his word for intercourse?"

"Mattress mambo or fu---"

"--Gwen, the term is fornication if both parties are unmarried, adultery if one or both is married to someone else. If they are married to each other, then it can be called an act of procreation, as long as both parties consent. Nothing more or less. How did he speak of a woman's body?"

"He always called me a whore who would put out for anybody. I never did, but he didn't believe me."

I am a bit taken aback and then realize her husband must have accused her of what he was doing; a typical blame and guilt shift, all the more to control her.

I pull my boxers off and gently remove her slip. "I think you need a lesson in anatomy, Gwen. How did you feel when he referred to you this way?"

She thinks for a moment and then blurts, "Dirty. Worthless."

I smile at her through the darkness and place her hand again on me. "The name for this is 'penis'. Can you say that?"

"Penis. Penis, penis, penis. Yes, I can say it, but it's still your co--"

"--I ask again, how did you feel, what did you feel, when Gino used those words?"

She whispers in a small voice, "Dirty."

"Can you say 'penis' and really mean it?"


"And these are testicles."


"Now hold that thought and them too," for I was beginning to respond to her touch again, "while I explain the female anatomy. These are the nipples of your breasts."

I know I have her full attention, for she moans softly. I trace a finger past her navel downward. "This is the entrance to your vagina. Here are the outer labia or lips with the sensitive clitoris nestled within and the inner labia."

She is writhing on the bed but I press on. "If I insert my finger, I find the knob of your cervix and the G spot. This is sensitive also, isn't it?"

"Please, Benito!!" she begs but I am not finished yet.

"Please keep holding my testicles and penis. There is a correct name for the liquid that I am leaking. What do you call it?"

"I'm not sure."

"No, it's name is not 'I'm-not-sure,' but rather pre-ejaculate. It is a small volume of seminal fluid and sperm from my seminal vesicle and prostate gland that is being squeezed out due to my erection. The rest will be emptied when I ejaculate fully."

"I thought that's a hard-on."

"Say 'erection'," I direct, as I move my finger.

"E... God!... rection."

I withdraw my finger and notice the old scars and welts over her body that glimmer faintly in the moonlight. I lightly trace each and every one of them with my tongue, trying to kiss away her hurt, erase the scars.

Gwen is lightly pulling on my penis to arouse me further. She stops when she hears me mumble, "Bastard."

"What, Benito?"

"I fail to understand how your husband could treat you that way. It was he who had the dirty mind, not you, Gwen. You are beautiful. Let me worship your body in all its glory."

I take her in my mouth and rouse her as she has never been treated before, exquisite mind and body numbing sex until she has been fully satisfied and I am totally spent as well. As I lie atop her with sweat dripping down, she sweetly whispers to me.

"We mustn't tell Raymundo."


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