Tom has been with Dickie “every moment since he moved into Dickie’s house.” Over the course of the few days after the trip to Rome, Marge makes herself scarce, and is “cool” toward both Tom and Dickie when they see her at the beach. Tom realizes that Marge is “much fonder” of Dickie than he is of her. Tom also feels that Dickie is enjoying his company, and that he’s doing a good job of keeping Dickie “amused.” Tom studies Italian with a local young man named Fausto, writes to Herbert with falsely encouraging news, and lazes about on the beach. Tom and Dickie make vague plans for traveling Europe together over the next several months, and though Tom attempts to exclude Marge, Dickie mentions their plans to her. Tom notices that Dickie occasionally takes Marge’s hand and is making an effort to be “attentive.”
The halcyon days of Tom’s stay in Mongibello are marked by his and Dickie’s intense enjoyment of the present and their looking toward the future—a future in which each figures in the other’s life and in which the luxury and ease that defines Dickie’s life goes on for both of them. This excites Tom, but Dickie’s fear of excluding Marge soon begins to cloud that excitement. Tom does not want Marge to be the recipient of any of Dickie’s affections, and the physical aspect of his and Marge’s relationship puts Tom on high alert. It is the one thing that he and Dickie cannot share.
Dickie goes up to Marge’s house, hoping to reassure her and to invite her to Cortina. Tom follows him in secret; he has pictured Dickie embracing Marge, and he simultaneously wants to see it and “loathes the idea” of seeing it. When Tom arrives at the house, he can see Dickie kissing Marge through the window, and it disgusts him. He runs all the way home to Dickie’s, where he throws some of Dickie’s art supplies out the window. He then goes into Dickie’s room and tries on Dickie’s clothes. Dressed head-to-toe as Dickie, Tom imitates Dickie’s voice and enacts a scene of murdering Marge by strangling her until she goes limp. “You were interfering between Tom and me,” he tells her imaginary corpse. “No, not that! But there is a bond between us!” Tom imagines Marge and Dickie making love, then dons one of Dickie’s hats. Right at that moment, Dickie walks into the room.
Tom’s worst fears are confirmed when he comes upon Marge and Dickie embracing. Marge’s “disgusting” femininity combined with what Tom perceives as her encroachment on his relationship with Dickie drives him to the very edge of madness, forcing him to retreat into a fantasy of himself, as Dickie, murdering her. Though as he enacts the fantasy, he denies his attraction to Dickie within it, the moment is bizarre and tinged with desire to be like Dickie, to be with Dickie, and to abandon his own self in order to carry out his deepest feelings as Dickie.
Although in the past few weeks Dickie has welcomingly lent Tom his clothes, he asks Tom to “get out” of his outfit. Tom tries to act casual, asking Dickie if he’s made up with Marge. Dickie insists that he and Marge are “fine,” and then tells Tom “clearly” that he is “not queer.” Dickie tells Tom that Marge thinks Tom is queer because of how Tom acts. Tom insists that he isn’t, as does Dickie, and Tom then asks Dickie if he is in love with Marge. Dickie tells Tom he is not, but accuses Tom of being “obvious” about his dislike for Marge, and making her feel bad.
Dickie’s discovery of Tom dressed head to toe in his clothing spooks him, to say the least. It forces him to confront Tom about his sexuality, sharing with Tom that his suspicions are supported by—perhaps even engendered by—Marge. When Tom denies his “queerness,” Dickie vehemently denies his as well but, unable to let the issue go, notes that Tom seems to be taking something out on Marge.
Tom attempts to reassure himself of Dickie’s affections while Dickie spends the afternoon painting. By five o’ clock Tom feels that things are back to “normal,” and he and Dickie spend time conversing in Italian with Fausto. Tom hopes that, with hard work, he can make his Italian “as good as Dickie’s.”
Tom’s anxiety after his confrontation with Dickie is palpable, but the time the two share practicing Italian reaffirms Tom’s hope that he and Dickie remain on the same page, and that he is on track to become more like Dickie every day.