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Chapter Eighteen

“What did I do now?” Kenneth whined when James refused to talk to him. It was Friday and it was the general free practice period when James decided to spend his time in the abandoned studio. Well, used to. Kenneth had now become a regular visitor, sealing his corner at the worn out table he often sat on when he got there. They usually sat in silence as James looked through his notes until Kenneth got bored and started pestering him.

James ignored Kenneth, flipping to the next page as if Kenneth was nonexistent, and his bickering was just an inconvenient mosquito bite.

“It’s like that then...” Kenneth trailed, sighing when James still didn’t say anything after a while. “I’m still lost as to what exactly I’ve done.”

“Keep quiet!” James yelled, losing his patience. Kenneth looked over at the ginger-haired man that was now cursing under his breath as he ran a hand through his hair.

“You said something.” Kenneth smiled. “I feel like I’ve won something for some reason.”

James rolled his eyes before turning his attention back to the notepad resting on his lap.

“You know...” Kenneth started as James flipped a page. “It’s wonderful — sitting down and studying music like you’re doing, but I’ve barely seen you practice. It’s probably the reason why you’re still lingering in the low tens in the ranks...”

Kenneth suddenly stopped talking when James started laughing in a low tone.

“Okay then,” James started, putting his notes aside before crossing his legs and folding his hands across his chest, “teach me.”

“Is that sarcasm or are you being serious?” Kenneth asked his heart beating a little faster. Sure he’d been talking to James from time to time, but they’d been mostly arguments or him being ignored as he spoke. He didn’t think James had enough regard for him to ask him to do something like that.

It just had to be a joke.

James shrugged. “I don’t know. Interpret it how you like.”

Kenneth stared at him for a while before looking away. Somehow it felt like all his sarcastic comments and general rudeness was gone and he was just — nervous. It was an odd feeling that Kenneth tried to shrug off unsuccessfully.

“Okay then,” Kenneth started, looking over at James. “I’ll interpret it as a plea for help.”

James’ face immediately changed expressions and it was obvious that he was not amused. Kenneth laughed at the freckled faced redhead, getting up before heading over to him. He bent down, unzipping the black leather case for James’ saxophone before taking it out. Kenneth could feel James’ gaze on him as he let his fingers run through the cool metal James’ saxophone was made of. It was well kept, void of all the dents his own presently had.

“If you put my mouthpiece in your mouth, I’ll kill you,” James suddenly said when his sax was two inches away from Kenneth’s lips. Kenneth put the sax down, raising his hands in mock surrender at James’ words.

“I’m not sure what you’re afraid of, an indirect kiss?” Kenneth teased, watching in amusement as James’ face gained its characteristic tomato color when he was embarrassed.

I won’t actually mind kissing him if he let me. Kenneth thought as he watched the redhead sitting right in front of him try to calm down.

“Fine, use the sax.”

Kenneth frowned, staring at James. “I wasn’t daring you to do anything—”

“I said, use the sax.”

James’ words were firm, almost like a command, but Kenneth could catch the shakiness underneath it though, and he could clearly see that James’ was trying to prove something.

How childish. He thought as a smile tugged at the end of his lips.

Kenneth sighed, picking the sax up again before bending down then taking a seat on the wooden floorboards. He looked up at James’ sitting figure with a small smile, his dark hair falling to the side as he turned his head to look at the saxophone in his hands.

“When I play I try to enjoy myself. Be carefree, it’s obvious you try too hard or focus too much on being focused that you end up not being focused — are you following?”

“What?” James asked, raising a confused brow and in turn making Kenneth laugh. Kenneth shook his head before placing his lips on the instrument’s mouthpiece, then positioning the tip of his fingers over the keys. He blew into it gently, producing a string of beautiful clear notes.

He started playing Another Day in Paradise and James watched him with new found interest. The attention made Kenneth’s chest full in an odd way, and he almost missed a few keys in the process of trying to look over and observe James’ green eyes as he played.

After a while, Kenneth stopped playing and handed the saxophone to James. He wanted to roll his eyes when James wiped the mouthpiece with a handkerchief he pulled out from his trousers’ pocket.

“You’re just spreading whatever you think you’re cleaning.”

“Let me have my delusions, please,” James said, making Kenneth laugh. After a few minutes of James wiping and inspecting the wooden mouthpiece, he let himself to place his lips on it. He started playing the same piece Kenneth did, making the dark-haired man smile as he hummed along.

“Relax,” Kenneth reminded him when he noticed the force James was using. James rolled his eyes, annoyed by the reminder, but his shoulders did relax and he was breathing into the sax more freely.

“That’s a lot better,” Kenneth commented. He laughed when he saw the frown return to James’ face.

“Come on, don’t jinx yourself.”

James ignored him and played until half an hour to the end of the practice period.

“Hey,” Kenneth muttered. He’d wandered back to his corner of the room while James returned to reading through his music sheets. James turned over to look at him, raising a brow. Kenneth stayed quiet for a bit before saying what was on his mind.

“I was wondering how you felt about Leo hanging out with Al...” Kenneth started before letting out a low laugh. “You and Leo used to walk around together like you were glued by the hip.”

James shrugged. “It’s really none of my business.”

“Oh,” Kenneth let out, biting his bottom lip as he swung his legs from the table he was sitting on. James has scared the conversation away with his firm tone, so that room fell into a tense silence with Kenneth humming and looking about the room as James read, and occasionally flipped a page or coughed.

The period soon came to an end, and Kenneth got down from the wobbly desk as James got up from the seat before bending to pick up the case of his instrument.

Kenneth headed to the door, waiting for James to walk over to it before opening it for him.

James looked at him with a curious stare for a while before he eventually walked out of the room. Kenneth felt his face warm up as he followed the ginger-haired man out, closing the door behind him before he made to follow James.

“Kenneth, stop following me,” James groaned when Kenneth got into the same pace as him.

“Really? After the heartfelt moment we had in the studio. I’m hurt.”

“I don’t care, Kenneth.”

The two continued to bicker as Kenneth followed him to his locker and then eventually backed away when he entered the next studio he had a class in.

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