Control Is Everything
Marie was the first, and she taught Alessandro about control.
As was the family custom, the summer Alessandro was 16, his parents informed him that they were going on a two-month cruise. Alessandro's mother and father had both the time and resources to engage in extensive recreation. His father maintained the business with trusted employees, whose lineage included a longstanding relationship with the Pareja family: their ancestors had worked for Alessandro's ancestors, on and off, for five generations. The stability of the family business allowed Mr. and Mrs. Pareja to spend most of their time seeking the solitude of private travel, visiting parts of the world where they recreated the lifestyle they had grown accustomed to, so that when they were on safari they brought crates of good wine and cheese and meats with them and trunks of clothes, their evenings spent stylishly doing nothing but sipping wine and nibbling on cheese and cured meats.
As far back as Alessandro could remember, his mother and father were distant ideas. Even as a young boy, he recognized that he was their progeny and as such was subject to their decisions until he came of age. He had known nothing else; when he was in primary school, his friends had told stories of dinners they had with their parents and outings they'd enjoyed when their fathers did such and such things and their mothers had cooked something special for some occasion or other. He had once tried to inquire into these strange accounts his friends spoke about, to his parents, and was told that in their own family it was different; Alessandro belonged to a family who had already planned his life, and it would be a wonderful, careless life, a life of ease, and he didn't need to worry about the banal things other people did or had.
"Simplify your life," his father had told him, "for you need not worry about anything else except what it is that you choose to go after."
Alessandro's life was simple. His days were marked by routine: school, sports, reading, and instruction from a tutor, on and off, for certain subjects. His caregivers consisted of the family cook, Giuliana, who also managed the house while his parents were away, and a small army of other employees who managed the maintenance of the Pareja household, consisting of a driver, six servants, and a gardener. It was Giuliana who took care of the boy, giving him structure so he would learn to discipline himself, and who occasionally gave him tender care and comfort when Alessandro grazed his knee or fell from a tree after having climbed it when he was six, and other occasions when the boy was hurt from misadventure. Alessandro led a quiet existence, his knowledge of the rest of the world limited to what he learned from schoolmates.
Twenty years ago, the summer Alessandro was 16, his father called from the private cruise he and Mrs. Pareja were taking, and told Alessandro he would be spending the summer in the family's villa in Toscana while being tutored in French language. Their family business, essentially beer and chocolate, had important holdings in France and Switzerland among other countries, and it was important for him to be fluent in French. His father said he had hired a tutor to give Alessandro daily instruction. He was to spend up to four hours per day learning, except for Sundays, and for the rest of the day, he could do whatever he wanted.
It suited him to be alone in the large villa that summer. He was lanky and on the thin side, and very interested in the simple goal of building up his muscles, starting the day with a disciplined swim in the pool.
Each morning, he got up early and did his laps in the pool, dreaming about a stronger chest and torso. The cook would leave his breakfast in the cabana beside the pool while he swam; after the 50 laps he would have breakfast and then had the rest of t