Chapter 26: Photographs and Memories
It didn’t take long at all before they settled into an easy routine. Every morning, Cyrus would show up at Will’s house after Will had gone to school and his parents to work. Then, he and Hayden would go somewhere, whether it be to a movie or restaurant, or even just back to Cyrus’s hotel to hang out. Regardless, they’d spend the day together, then pick Will up from school so that he didn’t have to ride the bus. For the rest of the evening, either the three of them would hang out, or Cyrus would head back to the hotel and give them some brotherly bonding time. It was a good system, and one that kept everybody happy.
For every day that Cyrus spent in Greensboro, there was some specific memory that he would always associate with that spring break. These memories were cast in a golden haze of happiness - the sort that came with the exhilarating rush of the beginning of a new relationship, even if it was simply an enhanced version of what the two best friends had previously had.
Tuesday’s highlight was the Record Repository. In the search for Hayden, Cyrus had come across it and remembered it as a really neat cross between a record store and museum. There were old gramophones and rare records on display in one area, then a collection of vinyls for sale in another. What had really stuck out to Cyrus as unique, however, was the Man Cave section in the back - a tiny, soundproofed room with a vintage record player for testing out the vinyls before purchasing.
It was to this little room that Cyrus and Hayden headed immediately after selecting an album, and they were relieved to find it empty.
“This is pretty sweet,” Hayden said, looking around appreciatively. The walls were painted a light gray color, and a bright red couch sat in the center of the wall directly across from the turntable. Framed silver and gold LPs hung on the walls, and Hayden gazed at them in reverence. “Wow.”
Cyrus closed the door behind them with a click. There was a sign on it that read, This room is provided for your listening pleasure, but please be mindful of other guests. We request that you limit your time to fifteen minutes, or else be willing to share. Cyrus wished they could have the room all day, but rules were rules.
When he turned, Hayden was already at the record player, loading on Bad Company’s Bad Company. They settled down on the couch as “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love,” came blaring through the speakers. Hayden put his head back and grinned up at the ceiling. “You have no idea how long I’ve been waiting for this.”
“Why didn’t you just get it at Jerry’s?” Cyrus asked, moving to join him.
“I wanted the first time I heard it to be just right. Not me sitting in my dorm room, you know?”
Cyrus’s heart leapt. “And this is just right?”
Hayden turned to look at him. “Yeah.”
A rush of affection seemed to warm Cyrus up from his head to his toes. It didn’t take long before their music-listening session turned from innocently sitting side by side on the couch to something more. By the time the first side of the record ran up, Cyrus and Hayden were flushed, their lips warm and swollen and grinning like idiots. Looking down at Hayden pinned halfway beneath him, Cyrus said, “I should get up and flip that.”
“Yes, you should,” Hayden replied, leaning up to press a kiss to Cyrus’s lips.
“I don’t want to.”
“Neither do I,” Hayden muttered.
Cyrus laughed quietly, but managed to pull away and cross the room to flip the record. The first bars of the title song “Bad Company” drifted through the air. Cyrus lingered a minute, watching Hayden laying with his eyes closed and humming along. When the lyrics started, he sang quietly along with them.
“You know we were only supposed to be in here for fifteen minutes,” Cyrus pointed out.
“Screw the rules,” Hayden said. Cyrus came back over to the couch, shaking his head.
“Have I ever told you that you’re a bad influence?”
Hayden nodded. “Yep.” Cyrus was about to reply when Hayden held up a finger. “Wait. Wait for it.” They let the song play for about ten seconds before Hayden belted out with the music, “That’s why they call me Bad Company, and I can’t deny.” He grinned that adorable lopsided grin, and Cyrus found himself returning it.
“Dork,” he said affectionately.
Hayden simply continued singing as he gathered Cyrus in his arms. They listened to the second half of the album with their heads resting side by side on the armrest and legs intertwined. Eventually, Cyrus closed his eyes. He reveled in the warmth, the closeness, and the comfort as he let Paul Rodgers’ voice singing about sea gulls wash over him. Cyrus never wanted the song, or the day, to end.
Not every highlight involved Hayden and Cyrus having alone time, it turned out. Wednesday’s memory was as simple as being in the cheering section at Will’s soccer game. The cold metal bleachers were filled with parents decked out in school colors and cheering for their kids. Cyrus and Hayden weren’t totally out of place, but the majority of spectators were either much younger or much older than they.
After picking up a hotdog and drink from the concession stand, they found a spot near the front of the stands, where they had a clear view of the field. Cyrus noticed that when Will came onto the field, he first scanned the bleachers, waving once he found Hayden. His entire face lit up upon recognizing his brother, almost as if he’d been worried that he wouldn’t come.
“Are Will’s parents coming?” Cyrus asked conversationally.
“Nah, they work until a little later in the evening,” Hayden said. “Will usually carpools home with a kid up the street.”
Suddenly, the crowd erupted in a cheer as a boy on Will’s team scored a goal. The nearest kids rushed over to him, high-fiving the star player and jumping up and down excitedly. Cyrus cracked a smile.
“You ever play any sports?” Cyrus asked.
“I played football for a year or two as a kicker. I didn’t like it much; everyone was too competitive, so I quit,” Hayden said. “How about you?”
“I ran track at one of my schools. But you know me; any sports would detract from my academic time, so…” Cyrus shrugged.
“I could see you being a swimmer.”
“It’s been forever since I’ve even set foot in a pool,” Cyrus said, looking out at the field. “I wonder if I still remember how.”
“I’m sure it’s just like riding a bike.” Hayden watched as a boy passed the ball to Will, and he headed down the field with it. “GO WILL!” he shouted, grinning when Will’s head turned towards him ever so slightly and broke into a smile. He must have heard.
Will approached the goal and drew his foot back. He sent the ball straight through the goalie’s legs and into the net. “YEAH!” Hayden cheered along with the rest of the crowd. Cyrus whistled and clapped in support, but he was mostly thinking about how supportive Hayden was being. He was playing the perfect role of the older brother.
Sliding his new cell phone out of his pocket, Cyrus raised it and snapped a picture just as Hayden turned towards him, a proud smile on his face as if to say, That was my brother out there. His eyes were warm and sparkled in the afternoon light as he said, “Sneaking pictures of me?” Cyrus smiled at him innocently. “Well, I’ll forgive you. I’m aware that I’m so attractive that you just can’t help yourself,” Hayden continued with an air of mock arrogance.
Cyrus rolled his eyes, looking down at the new picture on his phone. It was nearly perfect, but missing something that Cyrus just couldn’t pin down. There was simply something about that moment that couldn’t be captured in a still photograph, but would always look better in memory.
Will’s team won, of course. “After all, Will was on it,” was Hayden’s reasoning. “It was pretty much a given that they’d win.”
“You did really good,” Cyrus said as Will walked over, looking tired but satisfied with himself. He offered a cold water bottle that the younger boy took gratefully. “That was an impressive goal.”
“Thanks,” Will said, beaming.
“I think you mean that was an impressive goal and three assists,” Hayden said, voice filled with pride. More than anyone else on your team. Not that anyone’s counting,” he joked. “You were awesome, little bro. I wonder if we can convince Cyrus to make a detour for ice cream before he takes us home,” Hayden added in a stage whisper.
Will looked at Cyrus hopefully, and Cyrus didn’t even consider saying no. “No convincing needed,” he replied. “Come on.”
They walked off of the field together, Hayden slinging one arm around his brother and the other around Cyrus as if it was the most natural thing in the world. It certainly seemed like it.
Will directed Mr. Hill to a small ice cream parlor nearby that had so many flavors that it was honestly hard to choose. In the end, Cyrus settled on Moose Tracks, and they chose to eat at a table outside as the sun went down.
“When do you guys have to go back again?” Will asked.
“Friday night,” Hayden replied, liking a stripe around his ice cream cone. “Our flight is at what? Seven?”
“Seven,” Cyrus confirmed.
Will frowned. “It feels like you just got here.”
“I know,” Hayden sympathized. “I don’t want to leave yet either, believe me.”
“We’ll be back soon enough, though,” Cyrus assured him.
“We?” Hayden asked, raising a brow.
Cyrus froze, cursing his hasty tongue. “I-I mean, if that’s okay-“
Hayden was grinning. “I’m just messing with you, Cyrus. Of course it’s okay. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
“Glad to know my opinion matters,” Will muttered, faking a glare.
“Fine,” Hayden said. “Does Cyrus have your permission to come back, seeing as your approval is obviously the final say?”
“Yeah, of course,” Will said, smiling now. “I just wanted you to admit who’s boss.”
Hayden rolled his eyes.
“Oh, and that reminds me,” Will said to Cyrus, “You’re invited over for dinner tomorrow night, my parents say.”
“Me?” Cyrus repeated.
Will gave him a look. “No, that stranger behind you,” he said sarcastically, a bit of Hayden shining through in him. “Yes, you.”
“Oh,” Cyrus said. “Um, okay.”
“It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”
“I’m not,” Cyrus said. That was a lie, he realized as an undeniable pang of fear struck him. He had no reason to be - it wasn’t like they were Hayden’s parents - but he still couldn’t shake the butterflies in his stomach. This was bound to be interesting.