"Come with me back to Paris, my love", Francis said as he reached up to caress his beloved Antonio's cheek. Antonio, handsome and charming Antonio, his recurring summer love. Antonio who was strong and well toned, with skin blessed by the hot Spanish sun and eyes that shone like a green summer field. Antonio, his closest friend, and the truest of them all.
Years ago, as children, they had met on the tomato fields outside of a farm. The farm was owned by Antonio's family, and he had been running around helping his father, and Francis had been an outsider, running and playing alone. His parents had bought a summer home outside of Zaragoza, near the farm, and he hadn't strayed far from their property.
When they first met, at 6 years old, they could not understand what the other was saying. But even without a common language, they had the understanding innate to children, and could play together all the same. With each passing summer, their understanding grew, as they learnt to speak each other's native tongues.
"Francis…" Antonio smiled weakly, apologetically, at the request before kissing his forehead. "That's not something I can do right now."
Unlike Francis, who has been lucky to be born into wealth, Antonio had always been a hard worker of a simple background. He had worked tirelessly at the farm ever since they had met, and during autumn, winter and spring he had also studied French, privately, with an old lady in the city. All of their conversations were held in French, now, and while Francis normally did not like accents butchering up his beautiful language there was nothing more beautiful than hearing "Francis" whispered with Spanish influence from his lover's lips.
"But why not?" he asked. He knew he was being selfish, horribly so, but when he was in Paris he couldn't help but miss his Spaniard so much that it hurt sometimes.
"My tomatoes", Antonio chuckled at first, before a grim serious tone took over his voice. "And the farm. My father is sick, and Alejandra has decided to move to Italy. I have to work even harder, Francis. I can't leave." His arm pressed Francis closer as if to say "I'm sorry", and how could he not accept it? His lover was too caring for his own good. Francis wanted to tell him to forget about his sick father, his leaving sister and the tomatoes that had surrounded them during their first meeting. He wanted Antonio in Paris, with him, always.
"I know", he sighed and snuggled against Antonio to get as close as he could. His arm was lazily draped over the farmer's well toned stomach, caressing his waist and side to remember this body for those nights in Paris. The nights when he would have other lovers in his bed, but still feel so lonely.
The lovers in Paris were not even comparable to his Antonio, and he would sleep with them out of their simple accessibility, and not an ounce of love. Sometimes, when he was with them, he wondered if Antonio also took other lovers to his bed during autumn, winter or spring. He wondered if Antonio also led other lovers into the barn, to make love to on a hand knitted quilt on top of the hay. He dared not to ask, and instead simply indulged in the summer love which they shared.
"But Francis", Antonio said, as if he suddenly had got a flash of genius. "You can stay here! You could help me with the farm and cook dinner with me every night. We would make love every day until we fall asleep of exhaustion, and we could watch the sunset every night, hand in hand, for the rest of our lives."
His lovers-on-the-side, those temporary lovers he took when not in Spain, often called Francis romantic. He was a charmer, and oh-so seductive. But hearing Antonio spew such sudden affection, such utter unintentional poetry made him feel inferior.
The only response he could give was leaning up and kissing him, kissing him as passionately as he could, receiving it back just as much as he gave.
It was soon for seconds, so they settled for loving kisses and caresses, an affectionate affair on top of their quilt. Only with Antonio could such acts truly entice Francis, for he was the only one his heart beat this quickly for, the only one he could sit next to for hours without speaking, the only one he could truly say he sexy, romantic, charming Spanish farm boy: the one he almost considered moving to Spain for. But reality struck him hard across the face.
"Antoine", he said softly into Antonio's ear as his neck was lavished with kisses. "My love, you know I would want to live with you too. But Spain is not right for me. My life is in Paris." It hurt him to say that, but he couldn't bear lying to his beloved.
Antonio smiled back sadly at him. "I know Francis", he said and kissed him again before rolling off, retaking his old position with Francis in his arms. "Every summer I wonder when you'll show up. Those summers that take longer, I wonder if you will show up. Sometimes I wonder how many more summers you will keep coming here."
Francis shared his fear. Sometimes they would send letters but letters got lost on trains or destroyed by a downpour. It was never certain that they would meet, and Francis feared for the day his parents would realize the reason he wanted to come to Spain each year with them, even after becoming an adult, wasn't to enjoy the Spanish nature or the delicious tomatoes on the farm next to their summer house, but to indulge in lustful activities with the farm boy. They would prevent him from leaving Paris in any way, surely, perhaps even make him heirless.
But he loved his parents. He loved their support of his career as an actor in the Théâtre du Châtelet, he loved their enlightened view on sex before marriage and he loved them for being so trusting in him. Even if he disagreed he didn't want to leave them disappointed, as beautiful as his love with Antonio was, it wasn't well accepted. Such were the times, he thought sadly, and shared another lazy kiss with his beloved.
Two weeks later was the day Francis' train departed. He always hated that day the most, and on his way to the train station all he could think about was Antonio's farm and his sunny smile. How he would miss his farm boy, his beautiful Antoine, endlessly. Like he always did.
They had said their goodbyes the day before, in a much more intimate way than a simple kiss to the cheek, so Antonio was not seeing him off at the station. It was a sad thing, really, and no matter how many years passed it seemed like leaving only got more hurtful each time, rather than more bearable. He blew a kiss towards the green landscape and each and every farm he passed on the long train way back his Paris, his city. His life, as he had described it.
It was too late that he realized his life had been with Antonio, and nowhere else.
The next time he returned to Spain, a year later, the farm was abandoned and the tomatoes untended to, most of them dead. The cattle was gone and the house empty, though some homeless people seemed to harvest the fields and seek shelter in the barn during the nights.
Since his Spanish was weak he couldn't ask the locals of Antonio's whereabouts, and he spent the rest of the season in his room at the summer house, writing love letters without an address.
Two years later, during fall, he received a letter from his Spaniard. It was hidden in the stack of fan mail he got as a famous actor, so he only saw it two weeks after receiving it. He recognized the handwriting instantly, despite the few letters they had actually shared, and ripped open the envelope without his usual tact. He read it once without comprehending a thing, twice and not getting what it said, and then a third time, slower, to understand the meaning.
Dear Francis, Antonio started. A sun was scribbled with the ink next to it, and it was so childish that he couldn't help but chuckle. He was shaking, he realized, that was how much he wanted to see what it said.
If you came to Spain three years ago, and every year since, I am so sorry. My father died, and running the farm was harder than I would ever have thought. Thieves, lying employees and debts ran me into the ground. I wrote to Alejandra, who had moved as soon as Father died, and she allowed me to move to Italy with her. I live in Sicily now. It's really sunny, and I have a work at a restaurant owned by a lovely boy named Lovino. We grow tomatoes in the back and watch the sunset together whenever we're free. We're very happy.
I hope that you don't see this as a betrayal. You will always be my best friend, Francis. At first, I regretted not going to Paris with you when I had the chance. I would love to see you perform and applaud along with the fans, and I would love to see the street you grew up on, visit your favourite café and eat the most French of dishes you could cook. But it didn't turn out that way.
Lovino is really wonderful, I am sure you would like him. Perhaps you could visit us sometimes? We're too busy, and too poor, to go to Paris, but I'd love to see you again and talk about the past. And of course, taste our tomatoes. Lovino loves them just as much as me, and sometimes I think we're a match made in heaven. I know you teased me about obsessing over them too much, but how could I not? Tomatoes are what lead you to me, and me to Lovino.
Have you met someone special? I can't think of you being single, you have too much love to spread. Is it a woman? A man? Do you have children? Are you married? I've thought about this a lot, and I don't think I'd find peace if I didn't know. Whatever kind of person who is now lucky enough to call themselves your lover I am sure they're wonderful. I hope you're as happy as I am.
I love you Francis. I will always love you. You are my best friend, and if Lovino and I could get married I would want you to be my best-man.
Francis was crying at the end. His tears smeared the ink but he would never have to read it again. He was happy. Of course he was happy, Antonio was alive, Antonio thought about him.
Antonio was with someone else.
It was weird, but Francis had never found someone he felt a connection with again. He had a short lived fling with a waiter named Mathieu a year ago, and had dated a German named Gilbert for a month, but those had been relations build on lust and a perverted friendship, not love.
Francis wanted to write a response. He wanted to go to Sicily, more than anything, and steal Antonio away from the Italian tomato-lover. Then he wanted to take Antonio's hand in marriage, disguised as a woman if he had to, and move back to the farm outside of Zaragoza, where they would scare away the thieves and crows. Antonio would rebuild the barn and the house, sow the fields again, and once more harvest his beloved tomatoes there. And Francis would help, he would buy cattle, feed the hens, pick the eggs and cook as much paella and gazpacho as Antonio would want. Then they would stare at the sunset every day, hand in hand, for the rest of their lives.
He was ready to do all this, to give up his career, his fans and his friends. He was ready to sell everything he owned for train and boat tickets for one to Sicily, and then for two to Zaragoza. But that's when he realized something, studying the letter and the envelope carefully. Antonio had forgotten something. There was no address back to him.