16. GENTLE

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Garden of Earthly Delights, Bosch, 1515
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     Isaac spent most of his lavish Italian trip with Charlotte. She knew a lot about where they stayed, and took him to many restaurants and stores and clubs he would've otherwise never known about had he gone off on his own. He could honestly admit he enjoyed his holiday, excluding the occasional morning or afternoon meal in which Josiah and Isaac didn't speak, so instead Dahlia ranted on about a guy she'd met or her new dress or complain about the workload of her classes.

During their second to last breakfast in Italy, Dahlia decided to stray away from all three topics and, instead, focus on her intense love of expensive champagne.

"I'm still debating if Italy makes the best one or—oh! All this talk about alcohol made me realize that I forgot to tell you about what happened to that drunk man, Isaac."

"I-it's fine, really. I don't need to know," he stuttered. In fact, it was the last thing he wanted to hear about.

"Wouldn't you be glad to hear that he got arrested?" she asked cocking her head to the side.

"Arrested...for what? He technically didn't break the law, just called me a fag," Isaac said sheepishly. "If anything, he was praised for his bravery."

"Actually, Autumn told me he assaulted some wealthy businessman and now he's pressing heavy charges. I heard the bottle went right through his hand. Left a damn bloody mess, so they tried to be discreet about it. Though I honestly think it's because the groom was embarrassed since the man was his cousin."

Then it all came flickering back in flashes—the events from the wedding he tried to bury. Suddenly, his waffles looked unappetizing.

A loud shriek came from the chair he pushed back. "I think I'll head out now."

Then entered a voice he hadn't heard directed to him in days. Raspy and tired, there was obvious lack of restrain. "Let me guess. You have plans to meet little miss Charlotte."

He was not in the mood to deal with this right now. "I actually don't, Josiah."

"She should've been arranged to be your suitor," he said, stabbing a roasted potato with his fork, "bet you two would've gotten hitched right away."

Isaac clenched his fists and started to make his way across towards Josiah. "Why don't you just stick that fork—"

Before he could reach him, Dahlia crossed his path. "Woah, there, easy. I'll handle him." Dahlia rested hands in Isaac's shoulders and shot Josiah a sharp look. "Go have fun."

Fun—he wanted it, craved it, but he couldn't find it if it slapped him in the face. He wished he could've spent the day with Charlotte, but she was meeting up with old friends.

Walking along the ocean shores, he found serenity in volatile waves. It was odd, how a roar was sometimes tame while silence was always deafening. Finally, he settled on a small pub Charlotte introduced him to. It was the local, hole in the wall kind, the kind that let nameless musicians and angsty poets perform to their hearts' desires as customers threw darts and mingled. Isaac planned to be the protagonist in this setting, sitting isolated at the counter until the bartender noticed his sulking and asked him about his day.

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