With my hand secured in his, we walked to the front door of his house. Not even for a single minute did he let go of my hand. Even while driving, he kept my hands in his only letting go occasionally to work on the gear shift. And I liked it like that.
“I wish I have three hands right now. One to work especially on the gear shift,” he mumbled trivially as he looked ahead while driving.
I glanced at him. He glanced back at me. And then we laughed.
We had dropped David home from school before we go to his place. I know it’s an understatement to say that David was more than excited to see Xavier again. I still don’t know how these two boys came to be so fond of each other. But seeing them having good time together just made me happy inside too. They looked like two puppies from the same mother.
He opened the door with the other hand and pushed it wide open for me to enter. I stepped in and stopped short at the door. I’d been here before but it was still hard for me to get used to its splendidness. I suddenly felt like running away, scared that I would mess up the gleaming marbled floor if I step in any further.
Xavier pulled me in by the hand he was holding and closed the door behind us. I followed behind him as he led me in. I couldn’t hold back my eyes from checking out every single thing again; the bright and spacious living room, starting from the expensive leather couches to the walls and the sparse but expensive artifacts.
We saw his grandmother, Allie, playing the sleek black grand piano which was placed near the foot of the staircase, which sweeps its way up to the next floor, on an uplift part of the floor.
I know that tune.
I smiled to myself.
“Grammy! Alana’s here!” Xavier declared.
She stopped playing the instrument and faced us with a warm smile fully spread all over her face.
“Alana! You’re back!” she cheered sweetly.
“Hi, Allie,” I smiled back.
It was impossible not to when she was being so sweet.
I whipped my head towards where the barking came from and beheld, the great brown hound galloping towards us. I almost ran away. Captain was too huge for me to believe it was actually a dog. It came and bounced into Xavier’s opened arms.
“Hey buddy!!” Xavier chuckled and stroked its back as it stayed hugging the master.
“Say hi, to your old client. Go!” Xavier told him.
Captain came and bounced around me.
“Look at that. Look at that. He’s asking for your starbursts,” Xavier laughed.
I laughed too.
“Guess she has none today, Captain. It’s sad. Now bark,” Xavier ordered.
Obediently, Captain started barking loudly at me. My heart jumped to my throat. With a high pitched shriek, I fled and hid behind Xavier, clutching his arms in tight grips. His laughter boomed, echoing and filling the big room.
“Xavi!! Don’t be bad!!” Allie admonished.
Xavier smiled at me over his shoulder and he lightly tapped his temple on the top of my head.
Allie waved him over to her, “Help me with this thing, Xavi. My fingers are becoming so short. I can’t reach the keys!” she complained cutely like a child.
“Sure,” he replied and pulled up a stool from a corner, kept it next to Allie and asked me to sit there.
He jogged his way around, placed his backpack on the floor and sat with his grandma in front of the piano. Captain sat next to his legs on the floor like a very loyal squire to his knight. I waited eagerly for him to start playing the grand instrument. I had already seen him play the drum and he ROCKED. I wondered how good he was with the piano too.
His fingers began running over the keys and I let the music take me over and enchant me.
I know this song.
When Allie began to sing, her aged voice still enchanting and sweet (even the slight quivers in her voice because of her age was still very cute), I hummed along with her. I couldn’t hold back myself. This song was too familiar with me and it felt so nostalgic to hear it again from an aged voice. It reminded me of Mrs Clayton.
Allie looked at me excitedly, her eyes growing bigger in happiness, “Dear, you know this song!”
I beamed shyly with a nod, “Uhh... Yeah.”
She turned to Xavier and exclaimed, clapping a little like a kindergarten kid, “She knows my favorite song, Xavi!”
Xavier smiled at me, the kind of smile where the glow of its genuineness reaches every nook and corner of your eyes.
“Can you play?” Allie looked back at me.
“No. I don’t know how to play,” I shook my head.
I was and am not a music maestro like her grandson.
“Well, that’s okay,” she waved a hand with a light laugh, “You can sing with me. Start from the beginning again, Xavi,” Allie ordered Xavier, taking my hands in hers.
My jaw literally dropped and I felt my eyes widen.
Sing with her?
“I... I’m... I’m not good,” I flushed bashfully, forcing back my jaws closed.
“Oh, don’t be shy. Look who’s around! There’s no one!” she beamed reassuringly, patting the back of my hand.
Of course, there is.
“Let’s begin,” he smirked, pushing the sleeves of his shirt further up his elbow and began playing the music again.
I felt my back heat up and I might probably melt like wax in embarrassment. Allie began to sing again, her head swaying slowly from one side to the other.
Stars shining bright above you,
When she looked at me signalling to sing along with her, I took a very very deep breath with large amount of courage (fighting all the whilst to ignore Xavier’s gaze) and started to sing. I didn’t want to disappoint someone like her. She was too sweet and warm to disappoint and I could, somehow, see Mrs. Clayton through the spark of excitement and romanticism in her eyes.
Night breezes seem to whisper I love you,
Birds singing in the sycamore tree,
Dream a little dream of me
Xavier’s smile was soft and deliberate as he listened to us. His eyes were on the keys but the soft curve on his lips does all the speaking; that his mind was not there but here, listening.
Sing nighty night and kiss me,
Xavier’s deep voice joined ours in the song.
Just hold me tight and tell me you miss me
I felt my chest tighten. The way his eyes looked into me as the words sailed out of his mouth in his deep, passionate voice sent a tingle down my stomach. I mean, an enormous bunch of tingles down my stomach. I smiled and blushed.
It’s surprising how every little thing he does can make me blush so easily.
Among the three good singers (including Captain), I felt like a frog croaking but they made me feel so comfortable with them. Allie and I started laughing when Xavier added funny acapellas in the song and Captain started howling along, sensing his knight’s enthusiasm. With a flare of mastery on the keys, Xavier ended the song.
Xavier stood up whilst picking his backpack from the floor.
He then took his grandma’s hand, bent down, and kissed it like a gentleman, saying, “You’re the best, Grammy.”
“I know. I know.”
She knows. Now if this isn’t Xavier’s grandma.
Xavier saw me suppressing my humor and he chuckled.
Before we moved up the stairs to his room, Allie told us that Elaine, their housekeeping, has made her usual masterpiece of cupcakes and we must have them. She said they taste like heaven.
“It seems like you and Allie are exactly the same thing,” I said with a low laugh as we climbed the stairs.
He laughed, spinning back at me and climbing the stairs backward, “Well, she taught me everything I know.”
I smiled back.
“I didn’t see the piano last time. Is it new?”
“Nah. We used to keep it in a spare room. Grammy said she want it in the living room so we moved it out.”
So like that, we went up the stairs talking randomly and in the next minute, we were in his amaaaazing room. The first thing my eyes fell to was the king-sized bed in the middle of the room, covered in snow white sheets, and I remembered a bit about how he said he couldn’t sleep on pink bed when he crashed in my room drunk. I almost giggled remembering it. He was so cute and funny that night.
So that part was okay.
Until the awkward part came about, we both stood next to the door for sometime, awkwardly staring at the bed. Silence fell and tension rose like mist all of a sudden. That strange tension, I’d never felt with anyone before, not even with him. But now, it was starting to ooze from us and diffuse in the room like some poison gas, suffocating us both. I could sense that he was feeling the same tension as his usual cheerful aura suddenly changed to something tense and his body stiffened beside me.
And when the back of his hand lightly grazed upon mine, Oh My God, my body went nuts as a spark of the strange feelings exploded deep down in my gut, nearly making my knees wobble.
Oh God, this can’t be happening.
This is so embarrassing.
I bit down my lip hard till it almost bled and I heard both of us suddenly clear our throat together at the same time.
Glancing at each other, we laughed at that and the air seemed to become lighter in within seconds again.
Thank God, that trick worked.
He took my hand and led me in. I followed him quietly.
“Make yourself at home. Mi casa es tu casa,” he smiled, setting his backpack down on one of the couch in front of the glass wall.
“Uh... Ummm... Thanks,” I nodded, nervously chewing the insides of my lips.
He looked like he wanted to come to me and ease me of the tension he saw through my stuttering and all, (of course, he saw through me. He’s a genius, right?) but he didn’t, knowing it would only worsen the situation. And I was actually glad he didn’t. A small touch with the back of his hand was enough to explode a punch of feelings inside my gut, I couldn’t possibly have him hugging me or something, right?
Oh Lord, I’m going nuts.
“I’ll just go down get the cupcakes,” he said and quickly walked out of the room.
Once he was out, I face palmed myself, plopping down on a couch and let out a strangled groan.
I sat on the couch for a while, looking down at the green lawn below while I waited for him. I was feeling major nervous to the fact that I was in Xavier’s room. The last time I was here, well, we did have some (God, I can’t believe I have to say this!) sexual tension rise between us but it wasn’t as intense as what I was feeling now.
That morning, when he went downstairs to wait for me, I was feeling completely normal being in his room alone. I felt as normal as a human being could possibly be even after we, both, almost went over the edge... but now? I couldn’t even sit straight! I couldn’t stop chewing my nail! I couldn’t stop blinking! And he hadn’t even said a word yet, besides welcoming me warmly to his room and saying he would go down to get cupcakes, minus all his ever cockiness.
I realized I had so started to lose track of time or whatever whenever I was with him. He always managed to get me so lost in him so very easily and irresistibly, and he was the only person who had intimidated me that bad.
Damn. I was losing to him.
He was winning me over.
I knew that I was connecting with him spontaneously and in ease more and more each minute and it all felt... Alright. It felt like it was supposed to be and sooooo awkward at the same time.
I have to stop thinking about him. Else I’m sure to make a complete fool out of myself by saying or doing something stupid.
To distract my mind away from his thought, I stood up from the couch and looked around his room. First I checked out the CDs which were neatly piled up in the shelf beneath the TV; Guns and Roses, Black Sabbath, Avenged Sevenfold, Scorpion, Iron Maiden, Led Zeppelin, Kiss, Smokie, Mr. Big, Bullet for my Valentine, Arctic Monkeys, Eminem, Fort Minor, Linkin Park, Jay-z, Coldplay, One Republic, The Script, Ed Sheeran, Jason Mraz and a lot, lot more.
He doesn’t stick with one genre. He goes for everything. I don’t know if he like all of them but I guessed he listen to all of them (at least once). But the majority of the shelves were taken up by heavy metal.
I still don’t understand what is so amazing about heavy metal when you can’t even hear the words clearly. All I can get is some crazy haired grandpa’s bouncing about in skinny jeans, screaming time and again.
Anyway, the thing is, he was organised. Just like how I figured the last time I was here in his room. The CDs were arranged neatly according to the genres. In the lower shelves, I found some action movies and UFC championships. Obviously, he must be loving them the way I love starbursts. An involuntary giggle leaped out of my throat when in the last shelf I found Ratatouille!! I found that so cute and funny of him. I mean who knew the street-lord would actually watch Ratatouille. But it seemed he did watch a lot of animation too. One whole shelf was dedicated to it.
I heard his footsteps coming inside.
I turned and asked him as he came in, “You watch Ratatouille?”
It was impossible not to smile.
He had a tray filled with cupcakes of all colors and two packaged-water in a hand.
He raked his hair with the other hand whist balancing the tray with the other hand like a pro and smirked, “I’m thinking of going to Paris to marry that rat chef.”
I laughed. And he laughed too.
As he went to keep the tray on the table in front of the couch, something in between the CDs of animation movies caught my attention. I pulled it out to see. It wasn’t a CD. It was a framed photograph. There were two boys in the picture; arm in arm and looking very happy. One was Xavier, I was sure. He was around the age of eleven-twelve (back then when he used to be lanky and stealing Starbursts). And the other was a younger boy in glasses about the age of six-seven. In one glance, he reminded me so much of David; The glasses and the way he was smiling, where the lips curved slightly with a bit of teeth showing and the light in the eyes, so bright till it seemed to be blinding themselves because of their narrowed eyes. So cute.
I didn’t know Xavier has a brother. Hmm.
“Is this?” I turned to ask him but he was already standing behind me. “Your brother?” my voice faltered out in a faint tone.
Something about the color on his face, the silent, impassive look, and the way his pupils dilated when he saw the picture in my hand indicated that he was not excited about this.
Oh God, was I not supposed to see it?
“Yes,” he took the picture from my hand and looked down at it somberly, “Kevin.”
“I didn’t know you have a brother.”
“Most people here don’t know.”
“Where is he? Is he in New York with your parents?”
It took him a second before he answered....