The 14th of February doesn’t mean anything to him. Never has.
It’s stupid to choose one particular day of the year to celebrate love, when maybe you neglect your significant other for the rest of the year, isn’t it?
He kind of hates it, even more so when his mother’s smile turns sour as soon as she realizes that she’s gonna spend her first St. Valentine’s Day alone.
Having Niccolò hasn’t changed that, so he shouldn’t have been disappointed when no red rose turns up neither on nor under his desk, unlike some of his classmates.
Shouldn’t frown at the text saying that his boyfriend will be busy studying until late. They had discussed this, they had come to an agreement that it would be better to get everything done during the week so that they could fully enjoy their Saturdays and Sundays together. Even if it meant seeing
each other only at school from Monday to Friday. ‘It’s a Thursday like any other. Get a grip, Martino.’ He tells himself, frowning when he gets a notification about a new follower on Instagram.
Is it yet another girl who wants to be his ‘fag hag’? Or some marketing account that has a special offer for this SO NOT SPECIAL THURSDAY?
‘Follow_the_red_thread’ started following you
He smiles as he clicks on the avatar - a red thread that leads to a yarn heart- not even questioning how Niccolò got hold of a smartphone to set this up.
What does he have in store for him, this time? Silly videos with obscure references to ‘The Last Man On Earth’ ? Clues on where to find him?
Well... There’s only one photo, for now, and it’s a copy of Stefano Benni’s
‘Ballate’. The caption says ‘I’m open book to you, now <3.’ and the hashtags instruct him to look into his bag.
‘When did he put it in here?’ How can he have failed to notice that, once again?
He goes straight to page 36, where he comes across another string of red thread that holds together two tickets for the Bioparco. So Niccolò is there, right?
There’s a new photo on the account, now, though. A bike, locked on the gate of what looks like his own apartment building.
The caption says ‘We’ll go there together, soon. Today I’m taking you for a ride somewhere else.’ He dashes down the stairs, hoping to see Niccolò sitting
It takes him less than ten minutes to get there, and there’s a ticket under his name waiting for him at the desk, but his boyfriend is nowhere to be seen.
Follow_the_red_thread, in the meantime, has uploaded another pic to its gallery.
‘Looks like this pensive lady has a gift
for you.’ A red flipbook has been left by her feet, and it’s a wonder that it still there when
Martino finally locates the statue of Muse Polyhymnia.
He curses under his breath, as he sees a stick man riding a bike and another one showing up from around the corner as soon as he is gone. There’s no heat in his words, though, and he can’t fight the fond smile that find its way on his lips as the story unfolds under his eyes.
The stick man’s got something in his hand - could be a brush but, since he then starts drawing on the ground, it’s probably chalk.
On the last page, however, the stick man leaves without revealing what he has drawn. There’s a short red yarn string - glued in the shape of a heart - and a quote underneath, instead.
‘The heart always finds its way home.’ It says. Indeed it does; Martino knows where to go,and yet he double checks on Instagram for the latest
clue. Just to be sure. A close up on a piece of red chalk. No caption. No hashtags. Looks like he will have to cycle back to find out what that is about.
By the time he gets back, the drawing of their hands is all smudged and the red string that was supposed to connect their pinkies is gone - probably someone picked it up and threw it away, because they can’t let others have nice things, can they? - but thankfully Niccolò has just sent him a picture of how it looked straight after he finished working on it.
He must be spying on him from the window, to upload the photo with such flawless timing but, when he looks up, there’s no one there.
‘The red string of fate can get tangled, can get so thin and torn that you can barely see it anymore, but it can never break.’ He wrote, as a caption. As soon as Martino is done reading that, he notices that there are now six photos in Follow_the_red_thread’s gallery.
‘Hurry up, the show is about to start.’ Niccolò tells him. Hashtags ‘#nowlistenandshiver and #thisoneisforyou.’
Martino runs up to his flat so fast that he can barely breathe, when he gets to his front door. He has to lean on it, while he frantically looks for his keys, and that’s when he sees it. A red notebook, wrapped with a red string. He picks it up, cuts the string with the sharpest key he’s got and... What’s this?
‘You are not alone, you hear me?’
‘A ballad for my love’
‘I suck at titles, I give up.’
The first page of the score is a mess, scribblings and faint erasure marks everywhere. Giovanni would probably be able to hum the tune, if he saw this; he always had the highest marks in Music and retained some of that knowledge to learn how to the play the guitar, but Martino is at loss.
He doesn’t know what to expect. Can’t even imagine how that will sound.
As he opens the door, he spots a note dangling from the lamp beside it.
‘This is your ticket. Now tie the string to your little finger, and follow it. It will lead you the most exclusive venue.’
Which, of course, turns out to be his own bedroom.
Niccolò is sitting there, with a loose red string tied to his little finger as well and a keyboard on his lap.
“Now listen and shiver, Marti. This one is for you.”
It’s a soft, yearning, piece. He feels it in his bones, singing how blessed Niccolò believes to be for having him in his life. How grateful he is for Martino’s patience, his support, his love.
Not only he’s got goosebumps, but he got teary eyed too. Great.
“Well, that wasn’t too bad.” Marti sniffles, joining him on the bed. He snatches the keyboard from his hands, tossing it on the floor, so that he can put his legs around Nico’s waist and drag him into a passionate kiss.
“Not too bad, huh? So you you did like it...” Niccolò grins, wiggling, when they part.
“Just let me show you how much.”