It was the last period before the school period ended that day. Master Rutherford was helping Leonardo and Al arrange a composition. Al fidgetted on his seat, rather conflicted. He’d tried to oppose the paring but Master Rutherford had pulled him aside and made him reconsider his stance.
Leo and the master were discussing as the master tested keys. He was standing by Leo’s right-hand side, showing the blond young man some ideas to try out.
“I think we’re done,” the master said as Leo noticed Al turning towards his voice. “You two can work on it by yourselves now. I’ll be back by the end of the period,” he said before walking away from Leo and towards his desk to pick up some files before heading for the studio’s exit. The door clicked shut behind him soon after, making Leo turn his attention to Al who had his gaze fixed on the door.
“He’s gone,” Leo said, wondering if Al was trying to figure that out.
Al’s voice was thick — defensive. Leo sighed, running a hand through his hair before he turned his gaze to the piano keys in front of him. The row of white keys that were dotted by the occasional black ones held his gaze as he wondered about how he would handle the situation.
Al didn’t want to talk to him and was full out avoiding him. He wondered how were they supposed to work on their projects together given the situation.
“Al,” Leo started, turning his gaze back to him. It seemed he’d taken his gaze from the door to fix it on the piano keys in front of him. “I know you don’t want to work with me for whatever reason but trust me when I say you don’t have to,” Leo said, watching as a confused frown formed on Al’s face. he watched Al bit his lower lip as if in thought before turning his head towards the direction of his voice.
“What do you mean?”
Al’s soft voice said, making an audible appearance for the first time in a week. He’d been quiet mostly, and when he did talk his voice had been firm and harsh. Leo smiled, happy that he’d finally caught Al’s interest.
“Just pretend that I’m the CD player. Say stop and play when you need me to. I won’t say anything. I won’t be Leo for the period,” Leo said. He watched Al frown for a while before his facial features relaxed.
Al then ran a hand through his dark long hair, exposing his marble white eyes as he pushed his overgrown bangs aside.
“Okay,” he finally said, making Leo let out a sigh of relief.
“Okay. I’ll take it from the top, ready?” Leo asked, receiving a nod from Al in response.
Leo spent the next two hours pausing and playing the piano at Al’s request. They eventually took a break, and a smile broke on Leo’s lips when he looked over at the wall clock hanging above the door to notice it was about fifteen minutes till the end of the session.
“The period is almost over, we should stop now,” Leo said getting up from his stool to stretch. His back hurt, and so did his fingers from playing repeated keys. None the less, he was happy. Al had accepted his help, no matter how small.
“Kenneth told me you said yes to playing with him at the contest,” Leo said, trying to initiate conversation with Al. Maybe now he’d be a little more open to talking to him.
Leo watched as Al shrugged in response, running a hand through his hair again as a finger on his free hand tapped against a piano key.
“Yes, I did,” he eventually said, making Leo hum as he nodded to himself.
“It’s a good thing. Maybe you two can get along now,” Leo said, turning to look at Al. He raised a brow in confusion when he saw him frowning.
“What? Did I say something wrong?” Leo asked, heading over to the stool Al was sitting on.
“It’s nothing,” Al said, waving it off. “I just don’t think we can be actual friends.”
“Is there a reason for that.”
“I don’t like to talk about it.”
Leo nodded at Al’s answer, looking down at him before resting his hand on the edge of the piano. It was then he realized he still didn’t know much about Al, apart from the small details he shared with him from time to time.
“I understand, don’t worry, I won’t ask again,” Leo said, watching as a small smile formed on Al’s face. Leo stared down at him, before reaching out his hand to brush away the long bangs from Al’s eyes. Leo watched as Al stiffened at his touch, a frown forming on his face, but he didn’t move.
“Will you ever cut your hair?” Leo asked out of the blue. “You have a really nice face and you hide it under all this hair...”
Leo wasn’t sure what he was doing anymore when he let the base of his thumb caress the area under Al’s eyes before moving to his cheek. Maybe it was because he hadn’t been up close to the pianist for a while? He wasn’t sure, but right then and there he knew all his attention was on Al, his eyes observing his oval-shaped face as well as his eyes that forever held a blank dead stare. They looked lovely, framed by his thick lashes and brows.
“What are you doing?”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking about it — sorry again,” Leo apologized, taking away his hand immediately Al’s voice brought him out of his trance. He looked down at his guilty hand, tucking it into the pocket of his trousers as if not trusting it to behave properly.
“Sorry,” Leo repeated, not knowing what else to say. Leo’s eyes widened briefly in shock when Al laughed. He didn’t know what to think but settled with grinning from ear to ear. He hadn’t heard Al laugh for a while and the sound was pleasing.
“It’s okay,” Al assured, turning his head away from Leo. Leo didn’t know what to say so he didn’t reply. Instead, he returned to the stool behind the piano he’d been using to wait for the siren to go off.
“The orchestra members complained to me that you’re being too strict on them...” Master Rutherford said, making Leo roll his eyes before he turned his head to look out the window, making out the emptying parking lot through the branches of the tree just outside it.
“They’re stubborn,” Leo said plainly before letting out a sigh. Lectures were over, but Master Rutherford had called him back to his office for a talk. If only Leo knew the talk was about the orchestra, he would have found a way not to come.
“I understand what you mean, seeing as they’re practically a whole new set, but please try to give them a reason to give you the respect you deserve as their coordinator.”
“And how am I supposed to do that?” Leo asked, straightening up as he looked straight at his instructor.
Master Rutherford shrugged, running a hand through his dark hair that was starting to show signs of greying.
“That’s for you to decide.”
For me to decide. Leo thought, trying to digest the Master’s words as he wondered if the plan he had brewing in his mind was a little too much. The master did say that it was for him to decide.
Leonardo nodded at the master’s words before allowing himself to leave the office when he was dismissed. He strolled to his assigned locker in the now empty hallway, a tad surprised to find Claire waiting by it. She waved at him when she noticed him approaching, making Leo smile at her a bit.
“Why did you wait for me? We’re not even going in the same direction,” Leonardo said, making Claire shrug as she watched him open his locker to pick up his bag.
“I’m doing what friends do, Is there anything wrong with that?” She asked, making Leo shake his head as he shut his locker. He turned to face her, taking in her bob cut and wide pearly white teeth smile.
“There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong at all,” Leo said, smiling when Claire nodded in contentment.
They left the school building and went their separate ways at the car park. Claire had a small car she came to school with, while Leo often took public transport or a cab. He would have asked Claire to drop him off, but they weren’t heading in the same direction.
He waved her car off when it drove out the college’s gate. Leo stood by the street until he found a cab to get into, and as he went through his phone in the back seat of the cab, a small smile formed on his face when he remembered Al letting him help him that afternoon.
He’ll open up eventually. He thought, soon feeling his face warm up when he remembered what he’d done back at the studio — holding on to Al’s face as he’d talked. He couldn’t explain his behavior, and he couldn’t explain why Al had taken it so lightly. The whole situation was eating him inside.
He began to think that maybe what he’d done had been out of the excitement he’d felt at having Al respond to him again, but as much as he tried to convince himself that that was the case, something deep down within him was telling him that it was completely false.