As he lead me up the stairs, I found myself thinking of Giovanni in a less harsh, stylized light. I'd been too hard on him before, it was clear now. He wasn't crazy, I was just hard to deal with
"Which one is your room?" I asked, keeping my free hand behind my back. After the baby's mother had whisked him off, I'd gone back to feeling small and doll-like. It didn't help that Gio was holding my hand, but I understood why he was doing it now, so I let it go without complaint.
He pointed, then sped up and suddenly stopped in front of a door with a biohazard stick at his eye level. "This one. I have a lot of books."
After a few moments of silence, I realized he was waiting for me to respond to that. "Oh, er. That's lovely. W-what sort of books?"
"All sorts." He opened the door and walked in, pulling me with him. The first thing I noticed was the size of the room. It was quite a modest space for being part of such a large house, but the strangest thing was how
not strange it was. Most of the wall to the right of the door was plastered with posters from operas, concerts, magic shows, and any number of open-air festivals, quite a few of which had apparently been in America and Italy. The opposite wall was home to no less than three shelves placed at different levels, all of them cluttered with books and bizarre knick-knacks. "Is that a foot?" I asked, pointing to one of the lower shelves.
Giovanni sat on the desk in the corner, resting his own feet on the swiveling desk chair. "It's a model. One of my dad's friends gave it to me a long time ago."
"No, just a foot fancier." As my face twisted into a horrified grimace, he chuckled and leaned back until his head met the wall. "Just kidding. You were right, she's a doctor." He gestured towards the surprisingly undecorated and unassuming bed. "Have a seat."
While I had admittedly expected a four-poster bed with an elaborate canopy, the simple twin bed with green sheets and no headboard seemed to fit Giovanni much better than what I'd imagined for him. I sat on the edge of the bed, then pulled myself into a more comfortable position that unfortunately didn't allow my feet access to the floor. "Your family's very nice."
He smiled warmly at me, then picked up a solved Rubik's Cube and twisted the panels out of place. "Thanks. They really like youI knew they would, but now you have to believe me." The Rubik's Cube clicked incessantly away as he jumbled it. "You're wonderful, after all."
I hid most of my face in my scarf, even though it was obvious he'd made me blush yet again. "Does Saffron visit often?" I didn't know why I'd asked, but I had. Perhaps because I wanted to talk about her, to learn more, and couldn't think of an appropriate pretext.
At any rate, all I got was a shrug. "I guess. Usually not on weekends, not lately anyway. She comes over more than Basil does, though."
"He and I don't get on." Giovanni made a face at the freshly-solved Rubik's Cube, then set it down on the desk. "Basil doesn't have a sense of humor."
Unable to curb the urge, I chuckled into my scarf. "And you think I have one?"
"You're laughing aren't you?" He hopped off of the desk and moved to sit on the bed next to me. "You laugh with me a lot more than he does."
The sobriety in his face did not sit well with me. Only half intending to, I inched away from him, feeling guilty, but still doing it. "It's good to have someone to laugh with," I said, lamely, I knew. It could have been worse.
Giovanni reached over to pat my knee. "Yeah. You really need somebody. Even Saffron noticed, and she doesnt pay enough attention to those kinds of things."
That didn't surprise me. Only Giovanni could and would stare at me that hard and come away with more than a headache or a joke. "Why do you have so many postcards on that shelf?" Some of them were stacked face-up, and the stack was as tall as the length of my hand from my index finger to wrist.
He moved his hand off my knee and pushed himself up off of the bed, then bounded over to the shelf with the postcards. "I have friends all over the world," he said, sounding proud, but not braggy. "In Guam, and Colorado, and lots in Sicily. Some of them are cousins, though." He handed me the stack.
"Cousins count." I thumbed through the postcards, smiling broadly at the occasional doodle or message I could understand. They were full of in-jokes, but it wasn't hard to make guesses about them. I knew Giovanni well enough by now, I might have been right about some of them. "Wait. What does this one say?" I held up one that was covered in, I swear it must have been Korean. It should not have surprised me.
That's from Hyun, she lives in Seoul. I went there with my dad for a medical thingy. We met a lot of people, but she's the nicest." He turned the card over in his hands. "She named her baby after my dad."
"Wow." There were several more cards like that, thanking him for being "a dear", or sending blessings to his father and the rest of their family. I wondered how many trips he'd taken with his dad. "You make friends everywhere you go, don't you?"
He nodded, then collected the postcards and put them back on the shelf. "Dad wants me to know about the world like he and Mom do." Suddenly, an excited grin conquered his features and set up a flag in his eyes. "Guess where they met!"
A bit startled by the outburst, I moved back to press my shoulders against the wall. "I-I don't know. Montreal?"
"Nope. Santa Barbara, in California." For some reason, he looked proud of this. Then he calmed down just as suddenly and sat on the desk again. "Mom was break-dancing with a bunch of her friends, and Dad watched them for most of the day. When it got dark, he asked if he could buy her an ice cream."
I just smiled. It was a nice story, but I didn't really know what I could say.
"How did your parents meet?"
The smile vanished. I turned my back to him and pulled my knees up to my chest. Why had he asked me that? He'd never been mean before, not really mean. I rubbed my nose with the back of my hand. "How can you
? Don't youdon't you even know what happened?" There was no way he couldn't know.
"Of course I do." He was hugging me. How had he gotten from the desk to the bed so quickly? I wanted to turn around and hit him in the mouth. "But that doesn't mean nothing else happened before that." He sighed, it tickled my ear. "Oy, no wonder you're so sad and lonely. You won't even let your memories keep you company."
My pride evaporated, and I turned around to let him hug me properly, and hug him back just a little. I think I might have cried, but Giovanni was hugging me so tightly it was too difficult to really tell.