The day Cesare meets Micheletto, he puts a prop blade to his throat, scowling. Micheletto doesn’t even blink, as if being pinned to the wall by a rock star in nothing but body-paint is part of the job description.
His chokehold is sloppy as hell, and he’s not placing his weight right. If Micheletto wanted, he could snap a wrist, break a few ribs, take out some kneecaps all in one go.
He does none of those, merely waits until Cesare blows a strand of curly hair out of his dark eyes, grumbling,
‘God, you’re a bore.’
From the other side of the room, Giulia puffs out a perfect smoke ring, mouth a bruised shade of red.
It will be a few years before they bump into each other at MTV music awards. Micheletto shadowing some up-and-coming actress; The Borgias are collecting half a dozen trophies. Cesare is in a suit, with Ursula on his arm, radiant and perfectly coiffed.
Half an hour into the after party, Cesare backs him into one of the cubicles and blows him right there on the bathroom floor. His Ferragamo tie winding tight around Micheletto’s fist, eyes glassy as his breath get shallower---
They are still the same colour of fall, like something that should belong to a woodland creature.
His kisses though, are rougher, conquering, not searching.
They don’t say goodbye.
Giulia thinks they are trapped in a melodramatic silent movie with no subtitle. Cesare thinks she’s full of shit.
The whole thing starts with a death threat, the second one, to be precise, in the form of human ears sent through the post (fake ones, but still). Cesare gives in to Rodrigo’s insistence and agrees to be strapped with a babysitter for the time being. Lucrezia thinks it’s hilarious, but then, she doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that not all attention is good attention.
She’s also the one who suggests that for the latest music video, everyone should dress up as members of the clergy, while engaging in fake orgies.
Sometimes her head is a scary place to be in.
Augustino, his business partner, recommends him for the job, because,
‘Spoiled brats, chopped-up body parts, religious fanatics in every state screaming for the stake. You’d love it, man.’
Micheletto gives him a look.
‘Okay, all I’m saying is, you’re the zen-ist motherfucker I know, you’ll roll like a rolling stone with this bunch.’
Plus, it goes without saying that Violetta is expecting in a few months’ time, and Augustino is a functional nervous wreck.
Vittoria shuffles into the room in her usual biker jacket and boots, all hunched shoulders and fleeting eyes. Giulia almost dislodges Cesare off the armrest as she hastily makes room on the couch.
‘Oh sweetie, it really isn’t so bad to be objectified from time to time.’ She runs her fingers through Vittoria’s short auburn tufts, secretly missing the feel of golden locks against her skin, ‘I find it empowering when people think you’re nothing more than a pretty face. And look at Ces,’ Giulia slaps one leather clad thigh closest to her elbow, ‘thriving under all that attention.’
‘Like a weed, even.’ Juan chirps from the floor, Cesare kicks him in the shoulder, hard.
At that moment Rodrigo storms in with the phone still attached to his ear, Lucrezia tittering behind on lethal heels.
‘Alright, I’ve talked to a few people; this guy is ex-marine, got quite a reputation in the business. Now, before you start objecting,’ he slants a stern look in Cesare’s direction, ‘the choice is between having him here, or cancelling the whole tour.’
Lucrezia peers at the sullen faces over the tortoise rim of her glasses, ‘I have made arrangements with the venues and hotels. He will be given full access to all the locations.’
‘Is he gonna hold my dick while I piss?’ Cesare rolls his eyes; Giulia covers Vittoria’s ears in mock outrage, ‘what’s rock’n’roll without a little death threat?’
‘Your carelessness can potentially put yourself, the band, AND the fans in danger.’
Giulia doesn’t care what everybody else says, a man who can silence Cesare like that is pure management gold.
Within the first hour, Cesare manages to disappear from the set while Micheletto has gone to talk to the security on site. He budges into the bathroom, half expecting the guy to be slumped in a corner with coke up his nose, or a groupie in between his legs; only to find Cesare sneaking a cigarette with Vannozza, the makeup artist.
He frowns; Cesare waves the pack of Marlboro in his direction,
‘I don’t smoke.’
‘Of course you don’t.’ Cesare snorts, ‘don’t drink either, I suppose.’
‘What’s the point? You take bullets for other people for a living.’
‘I make sure neither my client nor I have to take a bullet.’
‘But you will, for me, if it comes down to it, right?’
‘That’s fucked up,’ Cesare laughs, ‘the pay can’t be that good.’
Micheletto doesn’t bother to argue; people outside the profession rarely understand anyways.
‘Next time, tell me where you’re going first. Then we can both get on with our lives in one piece.’
Vannozza looks between those two, one finely arched eyebrow climbing to her hairline.
Giulia meets Vee when she’s seventeen and not at all famous. Back then Vittoria has limp blond hair and dirt beneath her bitten nails. Giulia helps her to lift a double bass about the same height as them off the van, and concludes the newcomer is either a very timid boy or a really, really flat-chested girl. Eitehr way, pretty damn cute.
Their friendship revolves around Giulia either coaxing, dragging, or needling Vee into doing things: painting her nails, buying a bra, kissing boys, walking in heels. Things that, by now, Vee has rejected slowly and surely, with the exception of the band.
Sometimes Giulia misses the Vee who, perhaps foolishly, lets herself being led into situations she’s not entirely comfortable with. She likes the Vee who mumbles without meeting people’s eyes more.
But not half as much as she loves the Vee who’s no one’s fool, who has grown to fight and scratch and run away.
Juan is the easiest out of them all, really. But nobody seems to care when there is a guitarist who is bi by admission and a bassist who is bi by definition. The general consensus is that Vittoria is still making her mind up whether to be a girl or a guy, let alone which gender she prefers sleeping with. On the other hand, Juan’s version of self-discovery is to smoke copious amounts of weed and bed as many women as he can. One time he runs off to Spain with some nameless girl, and has to smuggle himself back because he’s lost his passport. Rodrigo very nearly blows a vessel when he finds out.
But of course, the cover story for US weekly is a picture of Micheletto, snapped near Cesare’s house at some late hour. The headline reads: ‘new man in rocker’s life?’ which is just plain awful.
‘Who wrote this?’ Giulia wheezes, sounding like she’s having a fit, ‘that Savonarola dude? Seriously Ces, he has the hots for you. No one invests this much time and energy into someone he supposedly detests.’
Cesare narrows his eyes at the little close-up of Micheletto’s face, staring straight into the hidden camera; pale eyes come out nearly white in the poor lighting.
‘New man in my life? That’s a bit worrying. You looked like you were ready to strangle someone in their sleep.’
Even Vittoria cracks a smile at that, doodling on a piece of napkin without looking up.
‘Not unless I’m paid.’ Micheletto says evenly. There is a moment of stunned silence, then Giulia inhales in great big mouthfuls, feigning panic,
‘You, I like you and all, but has anyone ever said you have a crappy sense of humour?’
The truth is, they’re probably the most irrational, self-centred group of people who happen to be thrown upon one another for support: Rodrigo is always in between lovers, each one younger than the previous; Lucrezia is sleeping with the chauffeur, plus the rumour about her and Cesare having a thing will never go away, despite husband number one and two; Giulia is hiding a previous marriage and an abortion, thanks to a killer publicist; Juan is forever drunk on fame and alcohol and whatever mind-altering drugs money can buy, and nobody wants to touch the situation with the sister-in-law with a ten feet pole.
It’s a miracle how they manage to function at all.