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Chapter Eight

Leonardo had gone to practice with Claire. She was having problems with perfecting a part in her piano piece and had gotten Leo to help her seeing as he was a former student. That left Al all alone during the practice period during college hours.

His fingers glided over the piano keys, following the pattern of the piece he’d been playing over and over again. The silent studio made it easier for Al to spot and undo his mistakes. He’d play the tape on the record that sat on a stool beside him, listen for a while then pause to play the piece on the keyboard.

He was honestly enjoying himself seen it’s been a while he’s been on his own while reflecting on his music.

Esterphina was coming around to help him head to his next practice period in the next hour or so. Master Rutherford wasn’t around that day and he had to spend all his periods on his own or with Leonardo.

He stopped the music player before started playing the piece again from the beginning, but he stopped suddenly as the door to the practice study creaked open.

Straining his ears, he tried to listen for any indication of who it was, but he only heard inaudible muttered and couldn’t attach a name to the voice.

“Oh, you’re here,” the person that had walked in finally spoke up as Al heard the sound of footsteps make their way towards him. He shifted on his seat, realizing who the voice belonged to now.

What’s Kenneth doing here? He wondered as the sound of footsteps stopped in front of him.

“No welcome? So you’re rude now?” Al heard Kenneth laugh as he heard the chair beside him make a creaking sound.

Al felt a slight wave of paranoia overtake him when Kenneth took the seat beside him. He fidgeted with his fingers in an attempt to calm his nerves. He still didn’t know why Kenneth was in the practice studio. Did he want to continue the circle of terrorizing him from a few years ago?

“I remember when I used to play the piano,” Kenneth trailed as Al heard the piano keys begin to play. I noted that Kenneth’s playing was rusty, he missed a few keys but it was still good. If it had been someone else Al would have paid attention to the music and try to decode what the person was playing, but this was Kenneth, the very unpredictable Kenneth.

“In fact, I’ve been thinking of taking it up again. It’s not going to replace my sax playing. I just want to have it on my belt,” Kenneth said before letting out a little chuckle. “You look like you’re about to pass out. You’re still like that?”

“I...” Al trailed, not knowing what to say as a hand wrapped itself around his shoulder. He felt dizzy from the smell of perfume when Kenneth pulled him to himself, his harsh laughter close, straining his hearing.

“Come on, play for me. Are you still shit?” Kenneth laughed as Al shut his eyes. He’d closed the binds of the studio’s windows to prevent the sun from playing intensified blurs of color, but his eyes felt hot and blurred just from the frustration of Kenneth just being there.

“Come on now, play for me,” Kenneth repeated in a teasing tone as he took one of Al’s hands in his before dropping it on the keyboard. Al withdrew his hand, holding it in a fist as he shrugged himself away from Kenneth’s grip.

“What are you doing here?” Al finally croaked, getting up from his seat.

“Ah, don’t get angry now,” Kenneth laughed, but Al could hear that his voice was strained. He probably hadn’t expected him to react the way he did.

“I’m looking for Leonardo, but apparently he isn’t here,” Kenneth answered, making Al raise a brow in question.

“Why are you looking for him?” he asked, hearing Kenneth chuckle.

“You’re a little bold now, aren’t you?”

Alejandro didn’t address the mock question. Did Kenneth really that the way he’d treated Al then was just a joke, and could easily be forgotten? Was Al supposed to smile and laugh whenever Kenneth said something rude and demeaning? Was that how jokes worked?

“Why are you looking for him?” Al repeated instead. He wasn’t going to run around with Kenneth in circles.

“If you insist on knowing...” He heard Kenneth mutter as the sound of the seat beside him move made him stiffen. Kenneth’s breathing was on the same level as his face now, and he only confirmed Al’s suspicions when Kenneth’s placed his hand on Al’s shoulder.

“Tsk, standing without support? You’re going to fall, where’s your walking stick?”

“Answer my question,” Al sighed in irritation.

“I’m looking for Leo to ask him something in line with a contest. Apparently, people will be scouting at a state piano contest. I feel Leo might be interested,” Kenneth finally answered.

“The how does that have anything to do with you? Besides, Leo is a conducting student,” Al said, trying to figure out if there was anything more behind Kenneth’s words.

“It’s a duet contest, and I plan to play with Leo... or do you have a problem with that?” Kenneth asked, making the sides of Al’s lips curve down in a frown.

“You haven’t played the piano in years,” Al muttered. He felt Kenneth pat his shoulder as a mocking laugh rang through the studio.

“Don’t worry about that. If you haven’t noticed, I’m not exactly on the same level as the rest of you. I pick up things and perfect them quickly. If it was a solo contest I wouldn’t be here, but since it is why don’t I have someone nearly as good as I am play with me?”

All could feel his jaw tightening at Kenneth’s words. Nearly? Leo was one of the best players he’d heard. He’d heard Kenneth paying before. It was good- clean, but it didn’t have the same effect as Leo’s playing.

“Also, now that I’ve told you could you at least point me to where Leonardo might be?” Kenneth asked as Al ran a hand through his long hair. It had come undone from the weak rubber band Esterphina had given him that morning.

“Check one of the practice halls. He’s helping his friend go through a piece on the violin,” he muttered, taking a seat beside his piano again. He was irritated. The way Kenneth used his words to run in circles had taken a huge chunk of time from the period. He’d have to feel the arms of his open watch to feel for the time. He’d only gone halfway through the piece he was practicing as it was.

“Why does he bother doing this like that?” Kenneth groaned, obviously referring to Leo. Al could pick up the annoyance in his tone. He began to wonder if there was something wrong with helping your friend out.

“I’ll be off then,” he heard Kenneth as he heard the door to the studio creak open. The door clicked shut soon after, and the studio was soon washed with silence again.

Al placed his fingers over the piano keys again, testing them out before pausing to start the CD player still seated on the stool beside him, so that he could listen and play from scratch.

His mind kept going back to Kenneth and what he’d said about asking Leo to be his partner. Al wasn’t sure how Leo was going to respond to that. From what he’d picked from talking to Leo and his friends it was obvious had never had any sort of interaction with Kenneth... Well, not a long enough one to know his nature.

What if Leonardo said yes? Worse still, what if they became friends?

Al shook his head. There was just no way in the world that could happen. Leonardo was a decent person, and he read people too well to think Kenneth as decent.

Al continued to play until the siren went off to indicate that the period was over. He stopped the CD player, feeling the edges of the piano for the hinge so he could cover the keys with the lid. When he successful covered the keys, he felt the pocket of his trousers for his phone. He didn’t use it to do much, just press the button that called Esterphina.

“Hello, is your period over Al?“His sister’s voice asked, flooding the studio when the dial tone stopped playing.

“Yes,” he muttered, drumming his fingers against the smooth surface of his trousers. He wouldn’t have called her if Leo was there... he would have waited to be honest, but he wasn’t sure how long it would take for Leo to get back.

“Okay, I’m coming to get you. I just have to take permission from my instructor and then I’ll be on my way,” she said as Al muttered something almost inaudible in agreement.

Esterphina cut the call and Al could then return the outdated brick phone back to his pocket. He sat still, humming to himself as he waited. Sometimes he wondered if he was a burden. Esterphina had to stop doing or turn a huge amount of attention to him, and now Leonardo more or less did the same.

Maybe if he’d learned to read and write using Braille like most people with his condition he wouldn’t have to depend too much on people. He’d been stubborn back then so learning was difficult, and his parents had focused more on his music and that was another fault.

Am I even good at that? Al asked himself. Was he a good musician? Was he just average or possibly even and no one was telling him.

“I’ve told you before. It’s the same way people are fascinated with parrots that know a couple of words. They’re not celebrated for knowing how to say them well, but for the simple fact that they can say them at all.”

Al grimaced when Kenneth’s words from a long time ago buzzed in his mind. Al wasn’t sure why that made him annoyed. Maybe it was because it had some truth in it, or maybe it was because Kenneth had compared him to a parrot... or maybe both.

He shook his head. Was he here simply because he was a blind person that could play the piano, or was it because his music was actually good?

All didn’t have much time to think it through because the door to the studio flew open with a loud creaking noise as Esterphina’s voice flooded the room soon after.

As Alejandro followed her out of the room he decided to think about that later. Not now, not now when he’d picked up his confidence to a reasonable extent.

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