Giorno Giovanna stood outside the main building of the new private college named Vento Aureo. He swallowed down the anxiety that was threatening to bubble up his throat. He was early, very early, but he’d scheduled to meet with his advisor before his class. He hadn’t been able to meet with him before the semester began and he had to stay in contact with him because of his scholarship. He saw other people walking into the big building and he followed someone inside. He was overcome by how well designed the building was and how open it was. He easily found the elevator and punched in to go to the third floor. He was a bit nervous, but then, he was always nervous.
He was relieved the building was easy to navigate and had plenty of signs directing the way. He found Professor Kujo’s office. He pulled open the door to find the large office occupied by a large man with a white suit on. He turned toward him as soon as he opened the door.
“Mr. Giovanna,” he said and nodded to him.
Giorno swallowed convulsively. “D-Dr. Kujo, nice to meet you,” he said and extended his hand to shake with him.
He reached forward and shook Giorno’s hand in a tight, firm grip. Giorno tried to smile but found he couldn’t. His stomach was in knots so far today. This man was imposing.
“Have a seat, we’ll talk a little about your academic career. I was disappointed that you didn’t come during the advisement period,” Dr. Kujo said with a narrowed glance at him. He indicated a chair next to his desk. He sat down in his own chair and waited for Giorno to sit down as well. He sat down slowly.
“I know, sir, I wasn’t able to get here because I didn’t have my bus pass yet,” Giorno explained with a look at the floor.
The professor looked at him for a long time before he spoke again. “At least you were able to come early today.”
Giorno nodded toward him. “I took basic classes for this semester, according to the catalogue that I have to have for graduation. I have your first level biology class today.” He kept his eyes on the floor as he spoke. His nerves were a jangle from the natural presence this man exuded. He naturally wanted to keep his eyes off him.
“That’s good, but from now on, we plan your classes together,” he told him. “But do you have any questions about the school or classes?”
“No, not really. Just glad to be here and have the opportunity to go to school.” Giorno was ready to be out of the office by now. He had an hour before class started still and he wanted to explore the campus a bit.
The professor nodded. “Alright. See you in class later, then.”
Giorno left the office and breathed a sigh of relief. He then headed toward the stairs, so he could go down and look around the campus. He found his way to the area between all the buildings where a little seating area around the trees had been set up. He saw the four large buildings that surrounded the area and smiled. It was such a lovely campus. Four main buildings were all there was to it, but then it was a relatively small school compared to the big state school. The school was situated nearer to Chesterfield than St. Louis and had a large percentage of pre-med students in it. There was a transfer program set up with Washington University Medical School that made the transition from the small private school to the large university easy. The sciences were the largest portion of the classes offered at Vento Aureo.
For his first semester, Giorno had taken the basics. Biology, English, Psychology, and Finite Mathematics. All four were necessary for graduation, so he figured that was the best place to start. He was really interested in biology, so that was his declared major. He was thinking of possibly becoming a doctor if he could manage the coursework. He sighed as he sat down on one of the benches in the open area. Despite the warm weather, he wore a hoodie in bright blue. He never went anywhere without his hoodie. He checked the time and figured he should make his way to the biology classroom. It was in the same building his advisor and teacher had been.
The biology classroom was on the first floor, so it was easy to find. He found a seat in the back because he didn’t want to sit too close to the professor. He pulled out his notebook and book, glad that the scholarship paid his books and supplies, or he’d never have gotten them. He huffed a deep breath because he was hot. August in Missouri was miserable for him, but he didn’t have much choice but to wear the hoodie. He put his head down to wait as others started trickling into the classroom. He looked up as the tall form of Dr. Kujo came into the room.
He stood up in the front of the room and waited for everyone to get seated. Giorno noticed the class was full. He glanced beside him to see a guy that looked a bit older than most the fresh out of high school teenagers like him. He had chin-length straight black hair and blue eyes. Giorno noticed he was wearing a white t-shirt and a pair of jeans. He kept looking over at him. He swallowed and hoped he hadn’t attracted attention already.
“Alright, welcome to Bio 101. I’m Dr. Jotaro Kujo. Today, I’m going to pass out the syllabus and we’re going to talk about what’s on it and what’s expected of you to get a good grade in here. Then I’m going to pair you off and you’ll find out three things about your partner.” There was a general groan in the room. “None of that, now, please pass these out, you,” he said pointing to a guy in the front.
The syllabus came back to him and he looked it over. Seemed pretty standard set up for the class. Dr. Kujo went on to read most of it out loud to the class and ask if anyone had questions. No one did. Next came the pair up. Giorno hated these things, because he always got someone that was nosier than he’d like. The professor paired people up based on where they were sitting with the person next to them. That meant he was paired with the black-haired student beside him. Everyone turned their desks to face their partner.
“Get three facts about your partner. I’ll take up the papers when you’ve finished and that will serve as your grade for today,” the professor told them. There was another grumble as people shuffled out pieces of paper and pens.
Giorno pulled out his notebook and wrote his name at the top before looking over at the other student.
“Hi,” the other student started, giving him a smile. “I’m Bruno Buccellati.”
“Um, I’m Giorno Giovanna,” he said and wrote down the name on his paper. He wondered if names counted as one of the three items…
“Well, you need three things about me. So, let’s see. I’m twenty-three years old. Um, I’m attending college because my father wanted me to get an education, and… I like grilled scallops,” Bruno said with a nod. “Now you?”
Giorno swallowed and finished writing down what he’d said. “Um, well, I’m eighteen, I like Jeff Beck’s music, and I like chocolate,” he muttered, staring mostly at his hands. He looked up to see Bruno giving him an odd look. “I’m not too complicated.”
“What are you studying?” Bruno asked with a tilt of his head.
“Right now, Biology is my major, but I might do the medical program,” Giorno said with a vague smile on his face. “Um, what about you?” He thought this guy seemed to be nice by his face.
“I’m in biology too, but I have my eye on something to do with aquaculture,” Bruno explained.
“Alright class, that’s the end of class for today, pass up your papers,” the professor said and walked across the front of the room.
Giorno got up and scurried out of the room with the onrush of people. He really didn’t want to talk further. He had two hours before his psychology class, so he went back out in the middle area with the trees and shrubs. He felt at ease there with the plants. He wished he could have a garden at home, but he knew that would never happen. He spent the two hours watching people walk between the buildings and walk the paths. When it was time for his psychology class, he got up and went to the building across from the science building. This time the class was on the second floor. He found his way to the classroom and sat as far to the back as he could. He was tired as he put his head down on his desk. He had actually almost dozed off when someone shook his shoulder.
“Hey, can you switch me seats?”
Giorno looked up to see a boy not much older than him with a blue shirt on and a pair of jeans. He had a blue hat on his head and dark eyes. He looked nervous. The class had filled up and the only open seat was in front of Giorno.
“What’s wrong with that seat?” Giorno asked, frowning.
“It’s the fourth seat. I can’t sit there. The number four is bad for me,” he said and gave him a wan smile. “So, can you trade me?”
Giorno didn’t know what to make of this guy. He stared at his face for a minute, trying to determine what sort of person he was, but he didn’t have much time before he got up and moved to the seat in front of him. The other boy sat down behind him and clapped him on the back, causing Giorno to hiss and jerk forward. His shoulder was still sore. He smiled at the other boy though, trying to look like nothing was wrong. He was giving him that look though. That look that said he knew something was wrong.
He sat through the psychology class, reading over the syllabus, going over the text for the class, and discussing how the class worked. It turned out the class was mostly graded based on papers, which Giorno liked to do a lot. That meant time in the library and he loved to spend time in the library almost as much as he liked being outside. That was good since he had a lot of time when he could stay at the school rather than going home.
He sighed and checked the time. To make the bus, he had to leave now. He wished he could stay longer but the bus didn’t run late. He sighed and made his way to the bus stop. He waited for a few minutes, finding the bus was running late. He couldn’t count on the bus being late though. He had to be here early because he absolutely wasn’t going to call his step father to come pick him up. That would be bad.
The bus came, and he got on. As he rode the bus, he thought about the people he’d met so far. He shouldn’t get too attached, though. He never kept friends for long. He sighed again as he came to the bus stop near his home. He got off and walked slowly toward the very normal looking suburban house. Everything looked so nice, nothing out of place. In fact, from the outside, their life looked perfect. Inside, though, that was a different story.
He carefully opened the door to try and get in without his step father hearing him. He really didn’t want a confrontation tonight because he’d had a good day so far. He stepped inside and listened carefully. His mother was probably passed out on the sofa with a half-gone bottle of wine. In her younger days, she would have been out partying up, but now all she did was stay home and drink wine and take her “special pills” that her friend got for her. He supposed being ignored by her wasn’t too bad. Now if his step-father would do the same, he’d be alright.
He was nearly to the stairs when he heard him. His step father was a big Italian man who was almost as imposing as his advisor and professor, but not quite. He was coming down the stairs and there was nowhere for Giorno to go, so he waited. He made sure not to look at him, keeping his eyes down. He hoped he just walked by. He stopped and stood there for a second.
“So, you think you’re something now that you got into that fancy school, huh?” he asked.
“No, sir,” he said and shook his head, still not looking at him. If he looked at him, he’d get mad at him and really do something. His shoulder was still bruised and sore from the last time he got mad at him for “trying to read” him, as he put it.
“Uh huh,” he muttered and walked into the other room.
Giorno didn’t breathe as he walked up the stairs as quiet as he could. He knew better than to bother him with any noise. He sat down on his small bed and put his bag down beside him. He let out a deep breath and started reading the first chapter in his psychology text book. He would go down after it got to be nighttime to find something to eat in the kitchen. He hadn’t eaten yet today, he realized.
Bruno Buccellati waited at his car for his two roomies to get out of their respective places. Guido Mista was the first to show up, slowly walking toward the car. He threw his bag in the back and leaned against the car with Bruno. Bruno was looking thoughtful.
“What’s up?” Mista said from beside him.
“Just another student in my biology class. Something was off about him,” he muttered.
Just as he was about to continue, their third came walking out to the car with his bag. He waved to them. “Hey, how was your first day?” Pannacotta Fugo called out as he got close.
“Good,” Bruno said with a smile. “Ready to go home.”
Fugo nodded and got into the passenger side to let Bruno drive. Mista piled into the back with the bags. They headed to their home in silence because they knew that once they were home, their other roommate, Narancia Ghirga, would want to know everything about their day. Bruno pulled into the long driveway that led to the main house of their home, Passione Villa.
Passione Villa was the name given to a house surrounded by some smaller houses. Fugo had received the land in an out of court settlement with his family. It had been vacant for years, and there had been squatters here and there over that time. Since moving into the place, Fugo and his roommates had been working on improving and remodeling the place. All around the house, there were half finished projects and spots where no one had touched it yet. Old, yellowing wallpaper clung to some of the walls showing its age and just how long it had been since it had been installed. Obnoxious roles and flowers mixed in different patterns clashing between the different walls.
As everyone came into the house, Narancia came into the front room.
“Well, how was the first day?” he asked excitedly.
Bruno smiled and flopped into the sofa (one of the few newer items in the house). “Ah, good, I realized how long it has been since I’ve been in school, seeing all those young kids.”
Mista snorted. “Hey, I’m one of those young kids. You act like you’re old at ripe old age of twenty-three. You ain’t that much older than me.”
“It was interesting to meet the other research assistants. I think I’m going to like working at this school,” Fugo commented as he flopped into the sofa.
Bruno was thinking about one person in particular, and he couldn’t get him out of his mind. He was lost in thought when Mista punched him lightly in the shoulder. “I said, did you meet anyone?”
“Ah, yeah, couple of other students,” he said with a small smile.
“You’ve got that look,” Fugo said from beside him.
“What look?” Bruno asked with a frown.
“That ‘something is bothering me’ look,” Mista answered, sitting down in the chair next to the sofa. “You get it every time something is eating at you.”
He sighed. “It’s just that this one student in my biology class, I think something’s going on with him. As hot as it was today, he was wearing a hoodie and jeans. And he was quiet.”
“I think I know that guy. He’s in my psych class. He sits in front of me. I had him trade me the fourth seat in the row,” Mista said. “I didn’t think about it then, but he was wearing a hoodie. He must have been hot…”
Bruno nodded. “Yeah, we did that pair up and find out facts about your partner thing in bio and he seemed to be wanting to get done as fast as he could.”
They were all quiet for a moment, then Narancia spoke up. “So what are you gonna do about him?”
Bruno turned to him. “What do you mean?”
“Well, obviously it’s bothering you. So that means that you wanna do something about it. That means you gotta decide what you’re gonna do.” Narancia smiled at them.
“Well, I guess first we should try to talk to him and maybe see if he’ll go out to get a coffee or something?” Mista mused and looked at the others.
“I don’t know that he would go out with someone,” Bruno muttered, thinking about the quiet blond. “He said his name was Giorno. Seemed like a nice enough kid.”
“Giorno,” Mista said. “Sounds Italian, does he look it?”
“Not really,” Bruno said and shook his head. “But that’s hard to tell, really.”
They sat silently for a few minutes and thought on the subject. “What if something is going on? He seemed jumpy,” Mista asked as he looked at Bruno.
Bruno shook his head. “I don’t know. We help him if we can.”
“Well, you know you can bring him here if you need to. We have the bedrooms here and the out buildings,” Fugo said as he stood up. “I’m going to the kitchen and finding something to eat.”
Bruno nodded but was still thoughtful. He wasn’t sure what he thought was happening to the blond boy, but he knew it was something. He could just sense it and he wanted to help fix it. Whatever it took.
Giorno got through Tuesday without incident at the school. Unfortunately, when he got home, he hadn’t been so lucky. He walked right into a fight between his mother and step-father, and he ended up getting hit in the process. Now, Wednesday morning, he stood in the bathroom trying to cover the bruising around his eye with a tube of cheap concealer he’d bought. If anyone looked closely, they’d see the bruise and the redness, but from a distance it covered it. It was sore, and he really didn’t want to mess with it. He sighed as he did as much as he could. Right now, he really wished this school had dorms.
He grabbed his bag and walked quietly down the stairs. Luckily, his step-father left for work earlier than he left, so he didn’t have to worry about running into him. He made his way to the bus stop and leaned against the sign. He was so tired that he nearly missed the bus pulling into the stop. He jerked and got onto the bus and watched for his stop. He didn’t want to miss it and have to walk even further. He got off and made it up to the campus with an hour left before his class started. He smiled to himself and went to the little park like area between the buildings.
It had turned really hot today, and he was really wishing his shoulder and arm weren’t still bruised. He wasn’t about to answer questions about what happened to it. What was he supposed to say? That he was eighteen and still putting up with an abusive step-father? It wasn’t like he had anywhere to go. He was only going to school because he’d gotten lucky, and he was doing his best to use the money from his scholarship wisely, but he knew it wouldn’t last all semester. He had no idea what he’d do when that ran out.
He sighed as he got up to go to biology again. He was really interested in the class, so he was happy he got to go three times a week. He liked all his other classes too and being able to get out of the house all week was well worth the work he had to put into the courses. He sat in the same seat as he had on Monday and found most the class did the same. He glanced over and saw that the one named Bruno had sat down beside him again. He hoped he didn’t try and talk to him today, he really wasn’t in the mood.
The class went well, luckily with no more pairing up moments. He took notes and listened to Dr. Kujo. He liked the man, even if he was imposing. He was so tired though; he hadn’t slept until late last night and he wanted to sleep in. He couldn’t take the chance, though. He had to be on time for all his classes no matter what. Going to school was the only way he had to get out of the household he lived in. He was about to get up and escape the room after they were dismissed when the black-haired guy beside him grabbed him by the arm. He jerked and looked at him.
“Hey,” Bruno said with a soft smile. “You look tired today?”
“Ah, yeah, just didn’t sleep well,” he told him, trying not to look him straight in the face. He knew his concealment of his bruise wasn’t that great. It wasn’t like he was an expert in makeup.
“That a fact,” Bruno continued to hold onto his arm and stop him from leaving.
“I really should go,” Giorno started and looked up at him and knew he suspected something already. He had the look. He wanted to bolt and hide, as usual when he was found out.
“Look, what’s going on? I can tell something is. You don’t look well, and you have a very badly covered black eye you didn’t have on Monday. Let me help you,” Bruno said with a sad look on his face.
Giorno swallowed thickly and shook his head. “It doesn’t concern you.”
“But I want to help you, maybe I can just be someone you can talk to?” Bruno still had a hold on his arm and he wanted to escape but he was trapped.
“I-I don’t w-want to talk about it,” he mumbled and turned away from Bruno to look up at the front where Dr. Kujo was watching them.
“Giorno, right?” Bruno asked and let go of his arm and smiled again.
“Yeah,” he said and looked up at him. If it wasn’t for the fact he believed what he said, he might have walked away. But there was something about him that said that he was being honest with him. His concern seemed genuine and he was so tired of hiding from everyone.
“Come on, let’s go somewhere and talk,” he said and put a hand on his back.
Giorno tried to say no, he really did, but he couldn’t. He wanted someone to talk to. He wanted someone to listen to him. He wanted so much to be like everyone else around him. Maybe he could help him? Maybe he couldn’t. He wouldn’t know unless he took the chance with someone who was reaching for him.
Bruno steered Giorno to the area between the buildings and sat down on one of the benches beside him. “Now, who is it?”
Swallowing thickly, Giorno looked at him for a moment and decided he could trust him. “M-my step-father,” he finally said in a near whisper.
“How long?” Bruno asked and Giorno didn’t catch any accusation in his tone.
“I don’t know. Since I was four when my mother got married to him,” he said as he licked his lips.
Bruno was quiet for a moment. “What do you want to do?”
“I-I want it to stop, but it won’t stop. I’m just a burden to him and my mother. He thinks that I’m going to school to make him look bad. And my mother just doesn’t care. I think I could disappear and she’d never notice,” Giorno stared at his hands as he spoke. He didn’t really know why he was telling this stranger about his life, but it felt comfortable.
“Do you want to leave?” Bruno asked him finally after a few minutes of silence.
Giorno looked up at him and shrugged. “I don’t have anywhere to go. I’m here on a scholarship, and it isn’t enough to pay for an apartment, especially not here. I don’t know what else I could do. I’m stuck in that place.”
Bruno looked thoughtful and then reached out and took his hand. “You could come with me.”
“What?” he asked and looked at him suddenly. What was this strange man asking him now?”
“I live in a place with lots of room and some good people. We call it Passione Villa, I know a funny name, right? But we’re all people without a place to go, so we came together,” he told him with a gentle smile.
Giorno looked at him and shook his head. “How could I…I mean, I couldn’t just leave!”
“Why not? You said yourself they saw you as a burden and your mother couldn’t care less what happened to you. So, just leave it. Leave them.” Bruno looked sincere to Giorno’s eyes and he wondered if this was the chance to actually leave and be happy.
“H-how could I do that? I just met you,” he stammered, not sure if he was being weird or not. To go off with some stranger and live with them.
“Why don’t you come home with me today. I drive, so you can get to school easily enough with us. I think it might be what you need,” Bruno said with such sincerity that Giorno almost said yes on the spot.
“I don’t know. I mean, how can I just leave everything I know?”
“What you know isn’t good for you. You can be free of them, if you want. I know I’m going quickly, but you know you won’t be able to keep up with school if this continues. You already look like you’re about to fall asleep in class. How long before you actually start sleeping in class and missing the lectures?” Bruno squeezed his hand and sighed. “You need to think about yourself and your future.”
“How about… about I think about it,” Giorno said with a nod. “I have to think about it.”
“Okay, then after your last class, meet me here. I get done in about four hours. Do you think you can do that?” Bruno asked.
“S-sure,” Giorno said and nodded. “I’ll meet you here in four hours.”
He had to decide if he was going to go with this stranger. But then what did he have to lose? It wasn’t like he was safe at home. He wasn’t exactly going to excel at his classes if this kept up at the same rate it was going so far. He was confused but he wasn’t going to go anywhere else. He watched as Bruno got up and left him sitting on the bench. He sighed and hoped that the rest of the day went well, but he couldn’t be sure of what would happen.