Rufino Coppola was a man that many people called a womanizer. He never wanted to settle, nor ever found a reason to do so. He was an acclaimed Italian fashion model who traveled the world, took many women to bed with him, and in the morning, he’d be on a plane flying to another fashion show halfway across the world. No woman ever stood out to him, he had seen Italians, Polish, Americans, Russians, French, but none of them ever stuck out to him as much as when he landed in Greece for a photo shoot.
She said her name was Andromeda. She was gorgeous, her radiance created some sort of magnetism that Rufino couldn’t get out of his head. Her beauty was unmatched by any woman that he had ever seen. Beautiful blonde locks, crystal blue eyes that stared through his soul, leaving him absolutely speechless. He had stopped her after finishing the photoshoot, rushing after her in the streets, stopping her and asking her if she felt any desire to grab a drink with him. Luckily for Rufino, she accepted.
One thing led to another, Rufino woke up in a hotel room alone. This was something he had never experienced, he was usually the one to do this. While he couldn’t get this woman’s face out of his head, he had deemed her a waste of time as she felt the need to leave him. No one left Rufino Coppola. Except for the mysterious blonde woman he found on the streets of Greece.
Rufino continued with his modeling career, stopping in New York for fashion week. He was staying in the brilliantly expensive W New York, a hotel situated dead center in Times Square, overlooking the beauties of the women who walked around the streets. The night prior to the beginning of fashion week, Rufino had been preparing to go out for the night, hopefully finding a woman at a club to take back to his lavish hotel room. That all changed when a dainty knock graced his hotel door.
Rufino had thought it to be some sort of housekeeper and had shooed them away. Another knock at the door, this time just slightly more forceful. He ignored it once more, up until the knock pounded and the whole room seemingly shook. He turned and stormed towards the door, preparing to criticize whoever was knocking with the wrath only an Italian would understand. He swung the door open and was greeted with nothing but a basket. A basket holding a baby boy.
Rufino didn't want anything to do with the child. He was in his prime, why would he want to take care of some sort of irritating newborn. He closed the door on the child, and he must’ve done it rather hard as the child began crying. It wasn’t just a gentle cry, the child began sobbing. Even though he would rather be partying and getting drunk and waking up in the morning with no recollection of the night prior, he took the child into the room.
He cradled the child, the same way he had once cradled his baby brother when he was newly born. It brought a weird feeling of nostalgia back into Rufino’s mind when life was simpler. When his life wasn’t plagued with drugs, alcohol, airplanes, fittings, and dozens of things he simply couldn’t even remember.
Taking the child from the basket revealed a letter, a letter from the Greek woman who Rufino had believed to be Andromeda. However, her name wasn’t Andromeda, and she wasn’t some simple Greek woman he had the chance to sleep with. Her name was Aglaea, and she was a goddess. She would never see the child again, but she wasn’t going to leave him on the streets, and she wanted to give him to Rufino.
Even though Rufino wanted absolutely nothing to do with the child, he had an obligation. He was obliged to raise this child, for the simple reason as there was no one else who could. Rufino knew what it was like to live without a reliable father figure, and he needed to clean himself up if he wanted to assure his son lived a good life. With the money that Rufino had made, he bought a rather expensive loft in Manhattan. He needed to give himself a good life, but needed to make sure his Elio lived a good life as well.
In the loft in Manhattan, Elio grew up a normal life. Rufino continued his modeling and fashion career, but stayed situated in surrounding areas and no longer wanted to travel the world. The letter that was from Aglaea revealed everything. However, it didn’t reveal the purpose of the small diamond necklace that laid trapped between the blankets of the basket. Was it a gift from her? Was it an accident? He had no idea, but he had assumed it was a gift to Elio, and had gifted it to him on his first birthday, and told him never to take it off.
Elio, watching his father’s passion, grew a keen eye to fashion growing up. Not just fashion, but the concept of beauty. The idea of modeling, the idea of looking great from all angles. It was something that plagued Elio’s everyday life. Elio had been gifted with his father’s looks, but also his mother’s. Even as a young child, people always complimented Elio’s looks. Older women, agencies that worked with Rufino, everyone was fascinated with the aura that Elio gave off.
Rufino enlisted Elio in an esteemed all-boys private school in Manhattan. The Buckley School of New York City, which was both expensive, and highly regarded. Rufino wanted Elio to garner a good education. However, what seemed like a great life from the outside-looking-in was far from that.
Rufino was hiding a liver cancer diagnosis from everyone. The over-abundance of alcohol drinking had gotten to Rufino, and he didn’t know how much longer he had left. No piece of him wanted his son to see him like this, nor did he want the world to see him wither and decay from the man he once was.
While Rufino was struggling with a hidden disease, Elio was dealing with bullying. Bullying from his fellow classmates as Elio began to discover his inner feelings. Slurs that Elio had never even experienced were being thrown at him, some making fun of his Italian nationality, others being his sexuality. Elio experienced this bullying up until the 8th grade until the biggest moment of an unnatural life happened.
Elio was walking home from school, wiping a tear as it dripped from his eye as the snow began falling from the sky. It was cold, he was wearing a thin jacket over his uniform. He heard snickering behind him and had assumed it was the boys who had teased him earlier in the day. He couldn’t bother to listen and took a quick shortcut down an alleyway to escape from them. This would later prove to be a bad idea.
He continued walking down an intricate series of alleyways, each seemingly getting him deeper and deeper into a labyrinth of garbage-smelling, dark, and quiet brick walls. He was getting lost, and getting nervous. He looked towards the snowy gray sky and saw a creature dart across the rooftops. He had assumed it was a pigeon due to the quick flight but wasn’t too sure.
He continued walking and saw the creature again. Slightly larger than a pigeon, but still small. It had seemed like it was following him though, which gave him a weird sense of uneasiness. He walked a little faster and could hear the clattering of wings above him, seemingly going at the same speed he was. He began running, and suddenly heard a swoop of wings behind him. He turned to see a large bird come racing towards him. He ducked, the bird’s claws snagging on to his backpack and ripping the whole thing open, causing papers and folders to go flying everywhere.
He was absolutely terrified and went sprinting back in the direction he came from, the bird following him. He was getting out of breath and had taken a wrong turn along the way, leading him into a dead-end of a fire escape, a garbage can, and three brick walls. He jumped onto the ladder of the fire escape and began climbing as fast as he could, the bird constantly dive-bombing at him.
Elio couldn’t go anywhere else. If he continued to climb the fire escape, he was simply going to end up on the top floor. There was nowhere to go once he got there. He sat against the iron staircase, tears streaming down his face. He clutched the necklace, and he could hear the bird come swooping down once again. Suddenly, the necklace in his hands became much larger and a large squak filled the air.
He opened his eyes to see the bird, a Stymphalian bird, impaled on the edge of a bronze Misericorde dagger. The bird tried clawing at Elio once more, but it eventually dissipated into a cloud of dust and disappeared. The dagger transformed back into the necklace in his hands. He scrambled down the fire escape and ran back towards his home, not even bothering with grabbing the now shredded backpack he left in the alleyway.
Elio was too scared to admit to his father what had happened and had confessed to himself that his father probably wouldn’t believe the story, and would’ve pushed it off as some sort of childhood fantastical imagination. He kept that secret hidden for many years, continued to attend school, continued to not worry about the constant bullying, and had no idea what was going on in his father’s life.
Rufino was dying. Plain and simple, and he did not have much time left. Yet, he still did not want to confess this to his son. This concept of dying frightened him, he couldn’t imagine how much it was going to frighten his young son. He just couldn’t admit to his son what was going on, he just couldn’t. Yet, his son was harboring many other secrets.
He was gay. He had been attacked by a Greek mythological bird. His necklace was also a dagger. What else could be stranger than THAT? However, he just had to continue on his usual schedule. Be the son that was the good one. Don’t cause any issues. Don’t bring things up to Dad that he’s not going to understand. Don’t be deemed crazy by talking about ancient birds and transforming necklaces.
He could keep all that hidden. He could keep these secrets. However, he just couldn’t when it happened again. Walking home from school on his fifteenth birthday, he decided to take a detour. Enjoy a walk through Times Square, enjoy the nice weather outside. That was until he heard a sniffing and a deep growling rasp. It wasn’t human. It wasn't an animal. It was beastly. He looked and saw a set of piercing red eyes staring at him through the legs of passersby.
Elio began sprinting. He didn’t stop, and he could hear the pounding steps of the hound behind him. Gaining on him, closer and closer. He continued sprinting, not even knowing where he was going, but knowing he couldn’t stop. He couldn’t stop running or he was going to end up in this beast’s stomach. The steps behind him never seemed to cease, and he broke away from the seemingly endless crowd, as to where his arm was snagged by a tan-skinned man with locks of curly hair.
The man claimed to be a satyr, and to what had been going on in Elio’s life, he didn’t seem to doubt it. The man showed him a hoof for proof, and Elio was sold. There wasn’t much else he could doubt anymore, so why now. The satyr told Elio that it was a hellhound chasing after Elio after smelling him, and soon enough, it would catch up. Elio prepared and broke away into a back alley, waiting for the creature to arrive.
Once it did, Elio was terrified. This beast could kill Elio easily with a simple scratch or bite. Elio climbed on top of a dumpster, as the beast pounced, Elio snatched his necklace off, transforming it into his celestial bronze Misericorde dagger. The beast’s jaws opened, and in what seemed like slow motion, Elio took his dagger and shoved it deep into the stomach of the beast. It whimpered like a dying dog, and though injured, was ready to attack once more.
Elio ducked out of the way, jumped off the dumpster, and as the beast prepared to strike again, Elio stuck his dagger and shoved it right between the hound’s eyes, finishing it off for good. The satyr introduced himself as Davis and told him that he needed to go to camp, unless he wanted to be attacked by more and more oncoming waves of creatures out for his blood.
Elio was dumbfounded by this idea of camp. What camp? Where? Davis said that his father would most likely know more about it, and that he needed to get home, grab his belongings and get on the road. Elio raced home with Davis at his side, getting to the loft as soon as possible. Running through the streets, rain began to pour. Stormy clouds took over the sky of New York City. Elio raced to the loft doors, burst open the door and to his utter shock, couldn’t believe what the inside of the loft revealed.
His father hanging. A dining room chair kicked out from underneath his feet slammed against the hardwood floors. At his feet, a letter. Two letters. One written from the mother he had never met, the other from his father. He erupted into tears, Davis tried helping, but Elio was so distraught.
The letter from his mother was the letter that he had written to his father many years ago. The one from his father revealed his Stage 4 liver cancer diagnosis, and the fact that even though his expertise as a father might’ve not been the best, he wanted Elio to know that his love for him was relentless and never-ending. He never wanted Elio to see him suffer, nor did he want Elio to feel the burden of having to take care of him.
Through sobs, Elio packed his things up, while Davis took down the father’s body and wrapped him in the bedroom sheet. With nothing but a duffel bag to his name, he took off with Davis towards a mysterious camp he had never heard of, but a place Davis had acclaimed was a home for all sorts of kids like him.
There was nothing. Elio had nothing. He had Davis and this promise of a camp. Regardless, where else could he go? No home, no family, no friends, it would be like nothing changed in the eyes of everyone in his life. The bullies would have one less target to worry about, which gave Elio some deep-down relief about the situation. Yet, an endless sorrow plagued him.
It was an expedition to camp. Four more hellhounds had attacked on the way to camp, the first time being around eight hours into the trek with two of the four. The second being less than thirty minutes away from the camp. With Davis’ help, they had managed to kill the beasts. Through Davis, Elio found some relief. Some sort of happiness despite the fact that everything was crumbling to the ground around him.
Yet when Elio finally saw the campgrounds',' the orange tee-shirted teens, the beautiful cabins and with a single tear rolling down his cheek, he smiled.