“It’s nice to have him here, isn’t it Al?” Esterphina asked, dissolving into small talk as they continued to eat at the dining table. She’d been talking about Leonardo who was at the apartment she shared with Al to celebrate her brother and Kenneth’s victory regarding the contest. It was a week after that, but she’d just been able to reach out to Leo recently.
“Thank you for coming,” Ester said.
“It’s no problem at all,” Leo said as he picked at the pieces of meat on his plate. “Thank you for the food.”
Al could tell that his sister was happy to have Leo over. Apart from him and Leo becoming close friends which made his sister happy, Ester adored Leonardo like every other student in their college. Al smiled when he thought about it. How couldn’t she? Leo was one of the model students Lecturers and students alike were sure was going to have a big break after graduation. Al could already see that from learning and practicing with him. He was well versed in everything he did, from conducting, playing the piano violin and Saxophone.
“Ah, don’t thank me for the food. It’s not a problem really. I’m happy you’re enjoying it,” Ester said with a light chuckle as they continued to eat the food she’d made. It was rice with diced meat and sauce.
It was raining, and Al could hear the rain droplets hitting the window glass and aluminum sheet roof. He could feel the breeze on his skin, as well as hear the subtle thunder in the distance. The atmosphere felt fitting. It matched Al’s deep thoughts and mind that was currently swimming with one question — what had happened that made Leo kiss him that night? He wanted to know why Leo had done that.
When they were done eating, Ester cleared the table with Leo, and Al sat by the dining table doing nothing as Ester and Leo talked and washed the dishes. Al was restless since his one question was still floating around in his mind. He tried to calm himself down by humming a composition he was trying to master with Kenneth at the moment. They’d been rehearsing more frequently since their win.
It had been a week since then, and Kenneth had gotten the ego boost he’d wanted. People were approaching Al as well. They were nicer to him, and generally more likely to start a conversation with him. Al wasn’t sure why it made him feel uncomfortable, but it did. Maybe it was because he knew they were trying to make a connection of some sort. It was something common in the music and the entertainment industry in general.
Al and Leo didn’t talk much after the kiss. Things had changed, and Al could feel it. Leo was more hesitant to touch him, and Leo wasn’t starting random casual conversations with him anymore. It crushed Al’s spirit, and he hadn’t had the will to ask Leo what was happening, but sitting by the dining table with Leo in the tiny apartment he shared with his sister, Al decided that he was going to ask Leo about it before he left.
“Maybe we should have some music playing. Would you like to play anything, Al?” Al heard his sister ask from the other side of the room. He got up from his seat by the dining table when he heard Ester and Leo leaving the kitchen for the living room. The apartment was familiar to Al, and he could find his way around easily but touch and intuition. He followed them to the living room, trying to follow his sister’s voice.
“I could play something,” Al said, hearing his sister clap her hands in content. Al made his way to the piano keyboard they had set up at the corner of the living room. When Al felt the keyboards smooth surface with his fingers, he made to take a sit on the stool he knew was beside it. He then started playing the composition he’d been humming to himself throughout the evening.
It was ′To—′ by Edgar Allan Poe.
The composition blended well with the sound of the rain. Esterphina and Leo listened quietly, and Al could only hear their periodic movements. He wondered where Leo was as he played, his fingers hitting the keys in the steady timing that he and Kenneth had agreed on. He wondered if Leo was close. He wondered if Leo was staring at him, and he wondered what Leo was thinking.
He eventually finished the piece and he could hear both Esterphina and Leo clap briefly for him. He smiled a bit when Esterphina went on to vocally praise him like she usually did. Al felt blessed to have such a supportive sibling.
“I think I should be leaving.” Leo’s voice made the slight smile on Al’s face fall.
“Ah, already? I wanted you to maybe play a piece for us. I was maybe planning to play my violin as well,” Esterphina said.
“Maybe next time.” Al heard Leo say in a small yet firm tone — his decision was final.
Al got up when he heard Leo’s footsteps move in the direction of the main door.
“I’ll show him out,” Al said when he felt his sister’s small hand take a hold of his arm. She let him go, allowing him to follow Leo to the main door. Al heard a small surprised gasp when the door creaked open. Al realized that Leo might not have known he was being followed, and that Leo had probably turned and was now staring at him in shock.
“I wanted to escort you out,” Al said, feeling his heart beat against his chest as he closed the front door behind him quietly. He rested his weight on it, listening to the sound of Leo’s breathing as he tried to put his thoughts into audible words.
“About that night—”
They both paused mid-sentence, realizing that they’d been talking at the same time. They laughed, the incident providing the needed comic relief in the tense atmosphere.
“You go first,” Al muttered, running a hand through the long bangs that covered his eyes. He could hear Leo sigh, and soon Leonardo started talking.
“About that night... I’m sorry for kissing you. I’m not sure why I did it.” Al didn’t know why it felt like his heart was sinking at Leo’s mere words. He couldn’t really explain the feeling — he felt crushed.
“Oh,” Al muttered, biting his cracked bottom lip as he heard Leo sigh. “So, it was just in the moment?”
“Pretty much,” Leo replied. Al felt like his throat was clogged, and he didn’t really know what to say in response.
“Claire told me you might like me — have romantic feelings for me... If that’s true, I just wanted to tell you that I don’t feel the same way. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Al muttered, not denying the claim. He didn’t want Leo to hear the hurt in his voice. Al started to scold himself mentally for thinking that there might have been something more to the kiss — his wishful thinking had failed him again.
“So, see you,” Leo eventually said after a long period of silence. Al soon heard him walk away, the sound of his footsteps diminishing with each step he took, and the sound eventually vanished completely. Al stood by the front door for a while, just reflecting on what had just happened. He then opened the door, walking back into the living room of the small apartment.
His sister’s voice trailed into the distance as he headed directly for his bedroom, not wanting to be questioned. He soon found himself on his bed. He then buried his head in his pillow as strands of his long dark hair clung to his face that was now wet with tears.
Al cried silently as he mocked himself for having believed that Leo might have felt the same way about him. He misread Leo’s kindness to him as usual. There was no way Leo would love him.