The 24th of December didn't took too long to arrive. John had been extremely nervous about that day coming, never he was used to those social events. He had clubbed a little bit in his early 20s, but even back then he felt more obliged by social constructs to do so more than anything else. He was much more focused on his own individual goals than to share anything with anyone, which admittedly lead him to become oblivious to emotional intelligence, or at least not very keen to use it. Empathy was the same as common courtesy to him, rather than a genuine behavioural need.
However, as the famous painting's title says, "The Sleep of Reason Produce Monsters". For the whole week, since he had read the note, he has been fantasizing about the nightmarish disaster that the event will be. Naturally, he was excited about the idea of spending an evening with more than a can of beans and Comedy Central, but at the same time he also felt an increasing anxiety of being inadequated to partake with the other guests. What would they think about him? Would they find him interesting? Would have been weird for their daughter's boss to be present? He didn't know. He just googled online some courteous things to do and brought a bottle of Pinot Gris, a white wine, since apparently in Catholic culture it is forbidden to eat meat on the 24th of December. Or was it every Christian? Or every Christian but Catholics? Did he fuck up? Did he....?
"JOHNNY!" without even realizing it, immerse in the ocean of thoughts he was navigating into, he drove himself to Falcone's mansion. Yes, mansion. Unsurprisingly, Giorgia's family was rich. If he recalled correctly, both his parents were the owner of quite the large law firm, she revealed it to him when he asked how come she was so versatile with contracts. She lead him to a private parking lot in the back of the house, and they passed by a large olive grove, that extended for a good 2 miles in lenght, judging by sight only. <Rather than moving from Italy, they seem to have moved Italy here.> John joked to Giorgia, that seemingly appreciated and giggled. As he put his foot outside of the car, he received a spank on the back. It wasn't very hard, but still made John flinched. "Oh you must be my little princess's head! Nice to meet you, big boss!" what DID manage to surprise him was what he saw next. A perfectly normally sized couple in their fourties, and child no older than 15. They were all extremely normal. And yet they were undoubtly Giorgia's family. The man who just had greeted him was large, balding man, about 5'9 tall, wearing a Royal Navy Blue Adidas track suit and an undershirt tank top that would have been white, if it wasn't for the copious stains of grease and oil. Seeing the grill nearby and some fishes being smoked on some sort of inside campfire, it didn't take long to understand the man to be the designated chef. His wife had the same cheerful look as Giorgia, and her face looked exactly the same, minus being aged. She was occupied cutting some salmon and frying some sepias or some calamaris, or what in the world that was. The youngster was a little further away, just playing basketball by himself, but John easily recognized him, since his underling had a picture of him on her desk. He didn't look much taller than his dad either, probably around 5'11 or maybe 6'. Were did Giorgia got her height was mistery.
What wasn't a mistery however is the rest of the scene. John had been working with some Italians and he very well know that by "just relatives" they meant such extended family that they didn't share one single strip of DNA with most people they were dining with. It was a good 80 people he saw around him, and he got there fairly early, so they would probably multiply before dinner.
"DAD! PLEASE! Don't be forceful with Johnny!" That name again. "He's fragile! I told you!" she instinctively grabbed his arm and got him closer to her, protectively. "It's nothing really, don't worry. Your daughter seems to think of me as a terracotta vase. I should have not revealed her my condition." they laughed at the expenses of Giorgia, who frowned in response. "Nice to meet you Mr. and Mrs. Falcone, it's quite the pleasure for me to encounter the couple that raised this formidable woman." "Oh, call me Giulia, no need for formality, and thank you! But don't get too attached to appearances, she can be quite the little pest when she wants!" "MUM! the woman, who had now spoken for the first time, had a much thicker accent than her husband. She had probably immigrated later on in life. "You're right, my apologies dear. She's a huge pest! Especially figuratively!" "MUM!" "Oh come on sweetheart, your mother is just joshing around, it's a good way to get to know your friend, eh! And she's right Johnny" great, now he also had catched up on that. "Feel free to call me Francesco, or Frank if it's easier for you say."
The chit chat went on for a while, and John tried to interact with multiple people, but it was socially exhausting. Especially during dinner, while they were forced to look in each others eyes by proximity, he felt so much at a disadvantage with everyone involved. As the stereotype goes, literally everyone in the event, children included, was overly extroverted. The pinnacle of his frustration came when a couple of the children, who were probably 10 and 8, mistaken him for one of their age and invited him to play with them with some gifts they received. He went red in embarassment, but to avoid being unpolite, he agreed and started playing. He hated to admit it to himself, but it was enjoyable. The colours, the lack of responsability, being able to sit down on the ground just 'cause it felt appropriate. That was something he never experienced ever since he was a little kid. He never gave himself an occasion to just relax ever since he escaped from the orphanage. It had jut been work work work ever since then. This was... nice. Adults were playing cards in the meantime, some Italian card games he didn't know or cared for. At some point, Giorgia came to thank him for babysitting his little cousins, but he was a guest and it was not his responsability, and so she forced her brother to keep playing with them. He was ashamed of admitting it, but while he said to Giorgia that it was not a big deal to do it, he was actually loving the sensation, and felt sad about having to stop to save his face.
What was happening to him?