Okay, I love the character of Peter Smith-Kingsley in this movie ut we know so little about him. From a couple of things he says I decided that maybe he isn't quite so innocent as everyone else makes out. Nothing really bad, just a life. Anyway I hope you like it, I tried to keep everyone in character while keeping in mind the attitudes to homosexuality of the period. Do try and enjoy, oh and please review; reviews make Peter smile and that lights up my life : )
A WHOLE BUILDING?
Don't look back, that was what Peter always thought. There's no point dwelling on the past, it only leads to pain and regret and depression. All of which was wonderful for music but was rotten if you were just trying to live your life. That was why he had left England.
You see the problem with being Peter Smith-Kingsley, with being the younger son of one of the wealthiest families in England, with a Duke and several Earls among the branches of the family tree, the problem with all of that was that there were very few others like you and therefore you tended you see the same people over and over again. Unfortunately for Peter this was made worse by the fact that many of the people he was forced to socialise with, on an almost daily basis, were people whom he would sooner never see again in his life.
The private school which Peter had attended as a boy was the best in the country. In the past the sons of many of the crowned heads of Europe had attended this particular establishment. Peter's father and his two brothers had attended as had his mother's brother and her cousin, even Peter's older brother had been there although he had been expelled in his fourth year and had been educated at home after that.
When it came time for Peter to go he had asked whether he could not be schooled at home as well but his parents refused, Edward was a special case they told him. And so he was packed off to this formidable establishment with the weight of family tradition bearing down upon him. It just so happened that most of the other boys who would be attending with him were in exactly the same boat.
So Peter had tried to get on with making his family happy. He made friends, he applied himself to his studies, he kept out of trouble and found favour with both teachers and students. His love of music and languages might have led to bullying from some of the other boys who were more interested in rugger but his dry wit and easy charm saved him from such a fate. All in all Peter's days at school could be said to be peaceful and fairly happy; his nights however were a different matter.
Rumours of buggery and unnatural lust permeate the fabric of many establishments such as Peter's school. But these rumours are never spoken of outright, no complaints are ever made and no action ever taken. Such things are illegal but worse than that they are shameful and even potentially ruinous to any family connected with such a scandal.
We shall not dwell on those things that happen in the dark but suffice to say that by the time Peter left the school, through no particular incident he had decided that he was homosexual.
However as we have said English society is somewhat limited and so everyday Peter was forced into contact with young men with whom he had been at school, young men who knew his shameful secret, had heard him cry out in the dark for more. They knew and were cold towards him, after all how could you ever be totally at ease with one of them around. Not that they would ever rat him out, there was a code to be kept to and while he might be a rotten little queer he was still an old school-friend, a bond which could not be broken however much they all might like it to be.
There was also the question of his music. Peter lived for his music; he loved the soaring feeling he got whenever his hands brushed the polished ivory of his piano, the delicate emotions which each note could stir. He loved to play music, to listen to it on records, to watch and listen to others play. He spent so much of his time at concerts and recitals, wrapped in the most perfect happiness he thought one could ever imagine. Music was his soul, his life, the thing that made him Peter. He wanted to write, to conduct, teach, play…
But his parents thought it was not a dignified career. Why could he not go into politics like his father, or show some interest in business like his brother. But all Peter wanted was music. That was when he left his parents house for good.
He got a place in London and began to advertise in the local papers. He would teach or play for a neat little sum and his name brought in good business. Peter was a success. Some of the best classical musicians to visit London met with and played with him and although his family still did not entirely condone his activities they somehow always managed to slip his success into conversation with some of their slightly lower class acquaintances. But it was not long before catastrophe struck.
His name was Alistair and he was a violinist with a touring orchestra, wintering in London. Alistair seemed to make the world light up for Peter. The way he smiled, the way he laughed, the way he leant so close to Peter when they were together, his lips touching his ear whenever he whispered to him.
Peter was in love, quite utterly. It broke his heart when Alistair told him he was engaged. Alistair laughed at the look on his face and asked why he looked so down and Peter couldn't lie to him.
After that no one saw Peter for a few weeks until the bruises had healed. His body had mended but not his heart and it seemed to him that there was not a face in London which was not laughing at him in disgust.
His saving grace was an invitation to come to America and play a couple of concerts in New York. Peter took the next boat out and promised himself he would never go back to that place where every smile was a sneer and every look an accusation.
New York was good. It was perhaps not as wonderful as the people who lived there thought it was but it was pleasant at least. Slowly Peter began once more to come out of himself but he was more guarded, he knew he had to be more careful about himself. America was a good place to think about what he wanted to do next.
Three months after arriving in New York Peter found himself in Europe once more but on the continent this time. He moved though Spain and France and finally Italy, playing as he went. His talent for languages made him a pleasant traveller and his bank account meant that he was treated pleasantly everywhere he went. He spent some time teaching in Berlin, even considered staying there indefinitely but there was an incident with one of his students which caused him to move on.
When he reached Venice he knew he was home. He bought a little apartment off the Grand Canal and spent his time playing in churches and giving lessons although this time he was more cautious of his students. He loved everything about this city, the architecture, the people, the strange dialect which he picked up quickly. His home was shabby but his patrons didn't mind, all of Venice was like that and besides it suited him perfectly. He hummed as he walked the streets and built up something of a reputation as an affable is somewhat curious character whom the locals took under their wing almost immediately.
The only time he left Venice was to play in concerts. Sometimes he was gone for months but he always came back, he loved this floating city almost as much as he loved his music. The only place he visited frequently outside of Venice was Rome and it was while there that he happened to run into a rather raucous bunch of Americans in the bar of his hotel one night.
He had been running over the score for a new concert he was preparing for and had seated himself at the piano in the deserted bar after having closed the doors so that he wouldn't disturb anyone. However at about half past midnight the door crashed open admitting three loud and drunken men. Peter could tell they were American just by looking at them but decided to ignore them for the moment, he was busy.
But they had noticed the piano and, worse, him.
"I'll pay you a hundred dollars if you'll play some jazz for us," said one of them, a golden haired Adonis whom Peter was trying hard not to stare at even as he swaggered over and grinned brightly at him.
"I'm afraid I don't play jazz," Peter replied, eyes on the piano.
"Oh come on, you must know something. All you hotel lobby guys know something good, you just don't play it for the stiffs!"
Peter looked up at the chubby fair haired man who had spoken. He had the drawl of a rich, bored New Yorker and Peter was disinclined to humour him.
"I'm afraid you are mistaken," he said coolly. "I do not work here, I am in fact a guest. My name is Peter Smith-Kingsley."
"No shit!" cried the Adonis happily, clapping him on the back. "Freddy, you have insulted Mr Smith-Kingsley and I think you should apologise."
Peter flinched at the touch and cast only a slight glance at Freddy who gave a mocking bow and an even more mocking apology. Italy was getting like this lately, overrun by the dumb elite of America who took everything for granted. He had met enough people like that in New York and while the big city with its tall buildings that caressed the heavens seemed large enough to contain their oversized personalities Europe somehow seemed too small for them.
"Our deepest and most sincere apologies," said Adonis insincerely as he and his friends headed for the door. "We were just looking for a little fun."
Then Peter did something completely insane, just as they were hauling the door open once more he brought his fingers back down to the piano and knocked out a few bars of "Tu Vuo Fa L'Americano" before he could stop himself. It was not a song that Peter himself had ever played before but he had heard the tune many times and had simply translated it to the keys.
The men by the door stopped and Adonis grinned widely at him.
"Well what do you know, Mr Smith-Kingsley knows jazz," he cooed. He and his friends turned back to Peter who had begun to play once more another rag he had picked up from somewhere. The Americans grew closer, fingers twitching to the music, miming drums and trumpets. Adonis leaned over Peter's shoulder, hugging him around the neck.
"I'm Dickie Greenleaf," he said in Peter's ear, over the piano.
"I'm charmed," said Peter, and he meant it.
Dickie was amused by Peter. He simply didn't understand how you could hear a tune and then play it without ever having seen it written down or having it taught to you.
"It's called playing by ear," Peter told him but Dickie just laughed.
"It's called being spooky Peter! Spooky!"
Freddy wasn't too bad once you got to know him, a little obnoxious, loyal to Dickie but a decent guy. He and Peter fought constantly about music and the merits of both jazz and classical which only amused Dickie even more.
"You have to come back to Mongibello," he told Peter, the morning before they were to leave. "Marge will flip over you!"
Marge, so there was a particular someone rather than just the string of endless senorinas Dickie seemed to trail behind him. Peter had figured right from the start that Dickie wasn't homosexual. It bothered him only slightly, Dickie was exceptionally handsome but there was something sharp and occasionally rude in his manner which jarred with Peter, always so polite and kind. He had realised early on that Dickie was a man who liked to be worshipped but reserved the right to kick his worshippers should he feel they were in the way.
Currently Dickie was amused by Peter and was happy to have him around so Peter saw no reason why he should not do as Dickie wished. Rather one day in the sun than a lifetime in the rain. So he packed his bags and left with Dickie on the train to Mongibello.
It was a beautiful town and Marge was welcoming and friendly. She laughed at Dickie's story of how they met and apologised later on in private.
"Dickie just picks people up like a whirlwind. I hope you weren't too offended by the others, they have no time for classical music."
"And you?" he asked, expecting her to side with Dickie and jazz.
"Oh I love it. I keep trying to drag Dickie the opera with me but he'd rather die I think."
"I can believe that. Well if you ever need someone to escort you I'd be more than happy to."
"Oh Peter you're just wonderful!" and she hugged him.
Peter found Marge's friendship both convenient and comfortable. He rather outlived his amusement value when they reached Mongi and Dickie remembered he didn't have a piano for Peter to play. Instead Marge took him under her wing; they went on shopping trips and out to lunch. He took her to Rome to the opera but had to leave soon after that for his concert. Marge made him promise he'd come back to visit which he did and continued to do.
Although Dickie himself had no further use for Peter he seemed glad that Marge had taken a liking to him. For one thing it got him out of her boring intellectual conversations and helping with her book, tasks for which Peter was infinitely better suited. Marge even bought a little piano for her house in Mongi for Peter to practise on when he visited.
Peter went back to America for a while for a couple of concerts and met a girl called Meredith who knew Freddy slightly. She invited Peter to stay at her house over Christmas which he accepted even though he had been intending to spend Christmas in Venice this year. That was in October and by the time Christmas rolled around he was only to glad to be with Meredith.
Apparently Dickie had somehow found out about him and on his last visit there had been an explosive confrontation where Dickie had called him every name under the sun and professed himself utterly disgusted that he could ever have had such a close relationship with such a person. Peter had been banished from the sunlit circle and ran headlong into the welcoming embrace of Meredith Logue.
Meredith was a good enough girl and slightly smitten with him. He happened to find her journal lying open on the floor one day where she had dropped it. His name, written in capital letters and underlined several times, jumped out of the page at him and he could not help but glance at the few lines surrounding it.
"Darling PETER SMITH-KINGSLEY arrived today from Italy. He's to spend Christmas with us which is simply too wonderful. Peter is very talented and ever so handsome and he speaks perfect Italian, I think perhaps I should like to marry Peter, if not someone very like him. Dinner was fish which was horrid."
He closed the journal and slipped it into Meredith's room when she wasn't around. So Meredith wanted to marry him did she? Perhaps he should ask her, it was known that many men of his persuasion were married and even had children, why shouldn't he. Meredith was pleasant enough. But by the end of his time with her and her family he had rather changed that last opinion. Pleasant Meredith may be, downright decent even but dull as ditchwater as were her interminable relatives. On the whole he was rather glad to get back to his little apartment in Venice, despite the fact that in mid-January it was absolutely freezing and the winter flooding had made his front door unreachable except by boat.
He had only been home a week when he got a rather unexpected phone call from Marge inviting to spend the week in Rome with her.
"Haven't you heard Margie darling, I'm a despicable piece of scum whom decent people aught not to talk to," he said, but not viciously because really he was over Dickie and his little temper tantrum, he just didn't want to see Marge caught in the middle of a fight.
"Oh Peter I'm so sorry about the whole thing, really I am. I spent the whole of Christmas pestering Dickie about it. He'll be in Rome, there's some new jazz club opening and this famous trumpet player is supposed to show up for the opening. He and Freddy have done nothing but talk about it all holiday. Please say you'll come and keep me company?"
"And what does Dickie have to say about this?"
"Dickie doesn't get to say anything about it. And when he sees you the most he's allowed to say is "sorry" and he knows it."
"Dear Margie, giving orders suits you."
"Maybe I should try it more often."
They laughed and when Peter arrived in Rome Margie and Dickie were there to meet him and it was as though nothing had happened at all. Peter never did get that apology but he didn't really care, where Dickie was concerned complete silence on the subject was as much of an apology as he needed.
After that Peter had a lot of concerts. The next time he heard from Marge was a distraught phone call asking him to come to Mongi because Dickie had left her and she didn't know what to do.
Peter spent a month at Mongi with Marge, a month of tears and vitriolic monologues and more tears. Occasionally they would receive cryptic notes from Dickie who was apparently in Rome. Marge said he'd gone there after a trip to San Remo with a friend from America, Tom Ripley.
Peter just nodded to these things and held her when she cried and took her drink when her hand shook.
Eventually he decided staying cooped up in Mongi was doing her no good. They would go to Rome, he would take her to the opera, if she wanted to she could look for Dickie. She agreed.
"You're a good man Peter," she said quietly and gave him a watery smile. "Maybe I should marry you instead."
"Sorry darling, you're not my type," he told her softly and she laughed.
They went to Rome and Marge went into full socialite mode. Shopping and having lunch and showing off to the world and especially Dickie, if the bastard was watching, that she was Marge Sherwood and she didn't need to be anything else, although all the while she gripped ever tighter to Peter's arm.
At the opera he bumped into someone who turned out to be the mysterious Tom Ripley. He wasn't gorgeous and he wasn't arrogant and he wasn't really much apart from Tom Ripley but Peter liked that. Although they only met twice he hoped they would meet again.
He spent Christmas in Rome with Marge and then went home to Venice. He was home a week before news of Freddy's death hit the papers. He went back to Rome, there were questions from the police, seemingly endless questions. For some reason the Italian police seemed to be obsessed with the idea that the case had to do with homosexuality, a subject about which he lied with great skill and railed about in private.
In the end he had to go back to Venice, he had a concert and students who should be getting his full attention. Of course the Venice police decided to question him as well, more for the sake of gossip than anything else.
A short while later he got a call from Tom Ripley asking if he could visit. He wanted to talk to the police but he didn't want to go by himself and what with Marge being back in America visiting Dickie's father…
Peter accepted immediately. Poor Tom, from what he could make out the Rome police had tried to say that he was dead too and that Dickie had murdered him in San Remo which was ridiculous. Even worse was when the Roman inspector who came to Venice to question him accused Tom of killing both Dickie and Freddy. He thought Tom was going to have some kind of breakdown right there but then they produced a suicide note, supposedly written by Dickie, addressed to Tom.
Tom looked heartbroken when he read the letter but for some reason Peter was convinced it was a fake. People like Dickie Greenleaf did not kill themselves just because they were suspected of murder. And Dickie would certainly have never killed Freddy, unless it had been some kind of accident. The whole thing was very confusing.
Peter took Tom home with him. Tom had walked straight over to the piano and ran his fingers over the cover.
"Do you play?" Peter asked.
"A little," he replied shyly.
"Be my guest."
As Peter laid the table for lunch he watched Tom at the piano. The more he looked at him the more he just wanted to put his arms around him and make all this horrible confusion go away.
"Don't you just take the past and put in a room, in the basement, and lock the door and never go in? That's what I do."
Peter didn't even have to think about that one.
"God yes," he replied, making an attempt at flippancy. "Though in my case it's probably a whole building."
Tom went on talking and Peter listened. Tom said sometimes you just want to give someone the key to the basement and let them bring the light in, clearing everything out, all the darkness and all the monsters that you've kept down there. Peter smiled to himself. It was definitely the music talking, Tom was hardly the type to even pick a pocket never mind do something so horrible that there would be demons down there.
He wished he could have Tom's key, not to open the door exactly but just so that Tom would know it was safe. He wished he could give Tom his key but maybe that wasn't such a good idea. Tom seemed to think him a paragon and perhaps Peter was just selfish enough not to want him to think otherwise. Besides, darkness, demons, depression… they were better for music than for just living a life and right now Peter just wanted to live his life, maybe even live it with Tom.