2284 Chapter 1

Chapter 1

Pitto Kucera could hardly contain his mixture of excitement and fear. They combined in equal quantities extending from his armpits, producing a new crop of sweat oozing from his freshly showered skin, to the pit of his stomach which felt as if it was full of butterf lies desperate to escape. If he was honest, he was also still a bit high from his nineteenth birth-day party the night before and that combined with the early hour of the October morning added to the occasion. He was leaving home and embarking on the career for which he’d been educated at the Boys’ School in Paris. He couldn’t wait to be in charge of his own life and destiny and return to his birthplace, London.

His bright yellow antique sports car stood gleaming in the half-light of dawn on the semicircular driveway of his mother’s Strasbourg residence. It had been one hundred years ago, the safest and most powerful model of the Volx range which he had lovingly restored in his school holidays. It had taken three years to complete and his mother, Kara Kucera had from her impressive salary as agriculture supremo for Central Europe, contributed two-thirds of the cost. It wasn’t every day that the  first boy for  five generations in a family of women turned nineteen and not every day that that boy left home. Technically Strasbourg was not their home, though Pitto had spent his holidays at this mansion during his Paris boarding school days. Kara had grown up in London, as had her mother, grandmother and great grandmother before her. She understood that he was leaving her care, was returning to London and the theoretically and technically watchful eyes of her mother, grandmother and sister. There had always been intense rivalry juxtaposed with intense love between the women, and the family had been outraged when Kara moved here and sent their own Pitto to Paris. Kara knew they would be jubilant at the prospect of reclaiming him but she also knew her son. His worrying tendency for independence and hare-brained schemes told her they wouldn’t be seeing as much of Pitto as they expected.

‘Have you got everything?’ she called descending the imposing reconstituted marble front steps with her daughter, Hebe following close behind her.

‘I hope so,’ he replied, fussing around trying to get the last container to f it behind the black leather driver’s seat. ‘If I think of anything you can send it on the Trans.’

‘What about money?’

‘I’ll be OK.’

‘I can give you an extra K if you like,’ she fussed. ‘Until you get work.’

‘I’ll be fine, Mum. I want to do this on my own OK?’

‘OK, fine.’ She backed off, but the memory of her substantial contribution to the car sitting there in the drive almost drew a riposte. Just in time, she caught herself and remained silent. She would supervise from a distance; she had access to networks and surveillance of which Pitto, being male would be unaware. It wasn’t that he was slow when it came to computers, he could set up a website and generally plug into most things with relative ease. There were just some things they didn’t teach boys and even if they did get to learn about them, were denied access. She contented herself to look at her son and think how handsome he looked in his short tunic and sandals, his complexion a natural olive colour, lighter than her own and not tanned directly by the dangerous continental sun but glowing with youth and health. His tight curly hair he got from her side of the family, but the blond colour she remembered came from his father. He also had his father’s strong sculptured legs and broad shoulders but her wide nose and high cheekbones. Perfect, a genetic master-piece she thought, a bit like one of those ancient Greeks who could still be found in museums and books. ‘Won’t you get cold dressed like that?’ she continued, unable to stop fussing. ‘Put some leggings on.’

‘You’re just showing off, as usual,’ chimed in Hebe.

‘It’s called advertising Sis,’ He grunted as the container slid into place. ‘And anyway, it’s too warm to wear leggings.’

At twenty-six degrees it was only slightly above average for early on an October morning but the humidity and fore-boding stillness made it feel warmer.

‘It’s going to rain,’ continued Hebe unhelpfully. Her normally sensible tones gave way to an uncharacteristic petulance and did little to disguise her jealousy at Pitto’s impending freedom and the fact that she was going to miss her little brother more than she could let on. They all looked at the brightening sky to find that fantastical black clouds, stained red, pink and orange by the emerging sun surrounded them. ‘Red sky in the morning …’

‘I, know – “the shepherd’s warning”,’ replied Pitto.

‘It wasn’t forecast,’ added Kara ‘but that doesn’t mean anything these days. You will stop and take shelter if it gets too rough darling won’t you?’

‘Yes Mum,’ he pacified her as she kissed him. She folded him in her strong arms and gave him a huge squeeze. She smelt his muskiness and the fresh sweat produced by his nervousness and the threatening humidity. She understood suddenly that for all his bravura, he was still vulnerable and she loved him all the more. She was also mildly disturbed by the way his look and smell aroused her and she made a mental note to call the agency. She’d neglected her sexual needs over the last month with Pitto around. There’d been something not quite comfortable about hired men in her bed and her own son about to launch himself on the sex market. Now it was Hebe’s turn and he felt her arms almost crush him with love as the wetness of her sudden tears fell onto his shoulder. Kara was also tearful now and both women knew they were feeing the same things; they always did because they were essentially the same person. Pitto, anxious not to prolong the goodbyes, squeezed himself into the car, which was packed high with his worldly possessions. He threw a brave grin at his mother and half-sister, before setting the car off towards the gates and the unknown. The image of the two women stayed with him however, one the younger image of the older. Hebe at twenty-one was only a year younger than Kara would have been when he was born. He alternated between thinking of her as his sister and his young mother. He’d like to be able to look at older versions of himself and see what he would grow into. In his fantasies he’d imagined that, but he knew he was an original and his best place to find any more clues would be with his father.

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