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Chapter Four

Since master Rutherford informed Al that he’d be taking Leonardo on as a new student he’d been worried. He suspected the master no longer had faith in him and his playing. Maybe he just wanted a student that would have an immediate career after graduation.

Al kept zoning back to the time when he and Leo had played together. He was good, very good for that matter.

“Leonardo? As in Leonardo Abate? He’s one of the school’s prodigies. You should be happy you’re having a chance to study with him.”

Esterphina had told Alejandro when he had mentioned the topic of Master Rutherford taking Al. Her words only had Al worry all the more. She didn’t understand why he was in a state of distress and panic.

So when Al heard the door to the music room creak open on the day of the dreaded pairing with master Rutherford’s new student, his mind was sent into a state of panic.

He sat by his piano quietly as he strained his ears to listen in on the conversation Leonardo and the master were having.

“Al, you remember Leo, don’t you? He’s the young man that played with you the other day.” Al turned his head towards the master’s voice, a flood of bright blinding clours attacked his eyes. He must have looked towards the window. The sun and bright lights, in general, did that to the partial or full darkness he usually subjected to.

“Yes,” Al responded.

How could he forget? He’d been worrying about the said man for the past week.

Al reached out his hand for Leo’s never the least. Leo offered it, pulling it back a little in reflex as Al started to trace it.

“That’s how he gets to know people,” Master Rutherford said, answering Leo’s unasked question. It calmed him down a little, and he let Al go about whatever he was doing.

Leo took his hand way when Al let it go. He brought it to his chest, rubbing it with his free hand. He frowned, deciding that was in indeed a weird way to learn to know someone.

The master directed him to the free piano, taking out a fresh set of music sheets he wanted them to revise together.

“Sonata in E Major by Bach,” the master said as he handed the notes to Leonardo. “I’ll have to play it on tape for Al,” you can read the sheets and get accustomed to the piece as Al practices.” The master suggested, heading over to his desk. He fished about his cabinet for a while, retrieving a CD he then inserted into a small player Leo hadn’t taken notice of before.

Leo read and went over the script as Al played. He’d memorized the keys years ago like most music students and was only reading through to get accustomed to the song as he tried to do some revision with his eyes. He suspected he’d have to change some notes or their intensity considering what he was hearing from Al wasn’t exactly the same.

As Al played and tried to get used to the notes, Leo changed and altered the music written on the sheet to try and compliment Al’s playing.

He took a break from doing that, dropping the now randomly inked music sheet on his piano keyboard. He then turned his attention to Al and the master. He noticed Alejandro didn’t seem to have any special technique, he just tested keys to see if they sounded similar to the ones playing in the background. Once in a while, he’d ask for the music to be stopped so he could practice a part he’d put together.

Never the less, Leo was fascinated by his playing. Most visually disabled people opted for the brail sheets and here he was, putting everything together with just his ears.

He took notice of how Al’s fingers felt the keys with differing intensity, that was probably how he got the substituted notes he opted for.

“I think you’ll be able to play the first part together in a few minutes,” Master Rutherford said, satisfied with Al’s playing. The young man seemed to be extra conscious of the way he played today. It didn’t bother the master as long as it brought forth results.

Leo nodded in agreement to the master’s words before sitting up on his seat by the piano. He cast a gaze at the bronze-skinned student sitting at the only other piano in the room. He turned away, looking over the music sheets he’d made adjustments to.

They played together soon after with Mr. Rutherford smiling in the background. He watched the students with pride. There was no doubt in his mind that he’d made the perfect duo.

“You play very well, “Al commented after they’d played the piece together for the third time. Al had been prepared to loathe the man in front of him, but the way he’d been patient with him as he played and offered help when Al’s notes didn’t match up erased those thoughts from his mind.

Leo’s hand had been soft yet strong. It was something Al associated with kind yet strongly opinionated people.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Leo said with a smile as he went about adjusting the sheets again. They’d played well, but Leo was excited about this new idea of altering music, none of his past masters and Madames would let him do anything like it.

The bell soon chummed in the distance, ending the three-hour session.

Master Rutherford dismissed them soon after. As Leo packed up his stuff, his gaze wondered to Al who was still sitting patiently on his stool. He wondered where the man would end up spending his lunch break and had a slight feeling to ask him to lunch. That had how Clarie and he had become friends. Although Leo came of and proud and snobbish most of the time he did enjoy company, and his friends knew how sincerely nice and friendly he was.

“Are you eating lunch with anyone?” Leo asked, eyeing Al with his blue eyes. He watched as a look of surprise took over Al’s face.

“No,” Al muttered, picking at the lint on his jeans. He wasn’t sure why he felt flustered. Maybe it was because no one had ever bothered to ask.

“Esterphina, Al’s sister, usually comes to pick him up sometimes,” Mr. Rutherford informed, slipping into the conversation as he busied himself at his desk.

“That’s not bad,” Leo said with a sigh. “I wanted to invite you to eat at my table,” Leo said with a sad smile. Al smiled too, thinking that was rather thoughtful of him.

“I could ask her not to come,” he muttered, earning a hum of approval from Leo.

Leo guided Al to the cafeteria with him. Apparently, he didn’t have to do much since Al pretty much knew his way around. That didn’t prevent Leo from holding on to his hand as he felt around with his walking stick though. He was too scared of the young man losing his way in the stream of students.

“Who’s that?” James asked as Leo and Al approached his table, giving their conjoined hands a questioning look.

“Al, the player I was telling you guys about,” Leo replied eyeing Marie and Clarie who was also at the table. They waved at him, before muttering their greetings to Al.

“Oh,” James said remembering, his frown quickly replaced by a smile. Al was blind so that pretty much explained the hand holding. He let his eyes wander over the dark-haired man. So this was the famed disabled player?

There was a scuff from the corner of the table. It seemed Clarie just registered who the man in front of her was. Marie gave Clarie a look of disapproval before turning her attention to Al.

“That was Claire. She’s always bitter. You’ll get used to it like the rest of us,” Marie said with a chuckle as she rearranged the stubborn stands of hair of her pixie cut.

“Oh,” Al muttered, trying to find the distinction between the two girls voices.

He was soon startled by the sound of a chair being pulled.

“Sorry,” Leo chuckled as the blind man literally jumped a meter away, “I thought you’d like a seat.”

Al felt his face heat up in embarrassment as a couple of chuckles echoed through the table’s surface. He took the seat, fiddling about with a stray toothpick his fingers had found on the table. Leo asked Al what he wanted to eat before excusing himself from the table to get it.

“How’s Leo enjoying it?” Clarie asked when Leo had moved out of earshot.

“Excuse me?” Al said with a frown. He wasn’t sure he was the one she was talking to.

“Sorry,” Clarie muttered, remembering the man couldn’t see and wouldn’t know he was being looked at.

“Alejandro, how’s Leo liking his lessons?” Clarie asked instead. She felt a twig of pride at restructuring the sentence, it sounded so much better than the rest.

“Fine I guess,” Al responded, thinking of what else to say. He hadn’t been able to socialize with people like this before. “We played Sonata in E major.” He added, running a hand through his dark hair.

“Really? I was just practicing that!” Marie chipped enthusiastically.

They soon got into a full-fledged conversation about Bach compositions, stopping periodically to explain to Al who was talking.

Leo came over soon after with the cafeteria’s excuse for food. He smiled, noticing that Al seemed to be getting along with his friends.

He’ll fit in just fine. Leo thought to himself as he placed a test of food in front of Al.

He watched him eat, turning periodically to find Marie giving him curious glances. He ignored her looks and continued his observation of Al. The dark haired man had seemed reserved and shy at first, and that was definitely not a kind Leo could work with. It was nice and maybe a tad appealing to find out he was more than just that.

He turned to find Marie looking at him again. He acknowledged her stare with the rise of his dark brow. Marie blinked, a little startled. She waved him off, picking up her cup and sipping its contents.

She decided she could confront him later, now was just not the time.

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