“Hey, do you remember where I put my car keys?” Leonardo asked All who was sitting at the grand piano they had tucked it the side. He was pacing about the living room in their small townhouse in France.
“I’m not really sure where I put it,” the blond man said with a sigh, coming to a stop in the middle of the room.
“You’ll find it,” Al encouraged him, trying to remember where he might have put it too. They had come home together yesterday, both exhausted from their individual group practices.
“Have you checked your car?” Alejandro muttered. Leonardo let out a sigh, and soon Al heard footsteps scrambling away. He turned his attention back to his piano, testing the keys as he thought of yesterday’s practice.
“Do you need help with the language?” one of the stagehands, Louis, had asked in accented English. Alejandro has flushed, muttering a ‘no’ before scrambling away.
Alejandro bit his bottom lip as his fingertips touched the cool piano keys. He did need help, and he was still struggling to sit Leonardo down and have a proper talk with him about it. He understood that Leo could help him if they could find the time. He knew his boyfriend was busy, but aside from James and Kenneth who lived downtown by the busy street markets, Alejandro didn’t know another English speaker that might have time for him.
Expect Louis, but he made Alejandro uncomfortable with his flirting, so he wasn’t an option.
When he and Leonardo had gotten to France, things had been hard to adjust to. Aside from France being hotter than the United Kingdom in general, the Language was also a problem for Al. He had felt quite confident in his beginner French when he had stepped out of the plane into Paris, but soon French natives had started talking to him in very thick accents that he couldn’t compute—they sounded nothing like his teachers back home. Thankfully, Leonardo’s French was better, and they managed with that.
“You were right!”
Alejandro’s head jerked up at the sound of Leonardo scrambling up the stairs.
“It was in the car. I never took it out of the ignition,” he went on, talking about the keeps he was looking for. Alejandro followed the sound of the man’s feet and gasped when he was suddenly pulled into a hug from the back while sitting down.
“Thank you. We’re down on gas from the car being on all through the night, but otherwise, things are okay,” Leonardo said, reaching over Alejandro’s shoulder to press a piano key.
“Practising for something?” he asked his boyfriend with longish dark hair as he leaned a bit and pressed his chin on the man’s head of hair.
“Yes,” Al said, feeling compelled to hum and play the tube of his piece on the piano. “It’s for the Italian performance I told you about,” Alejandro said, and Leo stood up straight nodding his head as he squeezed the shoulders of the darker-skinned man.
“Yes, you told me about that.”
Leonardo and Alejandro did not work with the same orchestra. Alejandro’s orchestra was a well-established one that had gotten him on contract after he had won a contest, and Leonardo’s was a start-up that took a lot of local gigs. The age average of members of Leonardo’s was also younger. Alejandro still felt like he was a student and child in the midst of his own peers even though he was close to twenty-four in age. In fact, the only other person who wasn’t in at least their late twenties was Louis who was twenty. He was the youngest member of the orchestra.
“Well, I’m heading out for practice,” Leo said after Alejandro didn’t say anything for a while. “I’ll be going to the market. Do you want anything?” Leo asked, and Alejandro nodded. “The market” was a connection of busy streets close to the town center downtown. Lots of people had open-air stands where they sold everything from clothes to electronics. A big attraction to the place was the music that was always in the air, and the cafes and bakeries that were nestled behind the sidewalks that had been turned into kiosk stations.
“Scones,” Alejandro said, remembering the taste of the one he’d had with James when they had met up for coffee last week. “I’ll like scones.”
Leonardo laughed—that clear ringing laughter that Alejandro loved so much. Al wanted to turn around and kiss him, but he was already running late. The man knew that. Leonardo squeezed the man’s shoulder one last time before picking up his bag and making his way towards the door.
“I’ll be back at nine,” he said, opening the door. Alejandro hummed from his position at the piano, showing that he understood. “Bye then,” the blond man said, closing the door behind him.
Practice for Leonardo didn’t feel like work. It was fun, lively and his orchestra mates took frequent breaks to talk and stretch. When he had been asked to join as a conductor in his last year of college Leonardo hasn’t been sure what to think, but now, as he sat in the now-empty hall as he flipped through a book of sheet music, Leonardo was glad he joined.
“Hmm,” he hummed, tapping a part of the piece on the page in front of him repeatedly. “I might have to rearrange this,” he said to himself before clicking the end of his mechanical pencil and scribbling on the margin. Leonardo was the last to leave most days. The practice room was a basement office that also served as a recording studio. It was cheap and practical. There wasn’t any need for a fancy building like the one Alejandro’s orchestra used.
I should leave soon. Leonardo thought to himself after checking his watch. He closed his book, tucking it away in his large sling back before getting up and turning off the lights. He left, climbing up the stairs to the main floor before leaving the building that was a mismatch of everything from a bookstore, CD rental, saloon, and of course the basement practice room. The owner rented by floor-level. There were three stories and a basement. The different aesthetics and styles of each shop made the place an ugly Frankenstein of a building.
Leo sucked on his teeth, looking away from it before making his way to the designated parking lot for his floor. When he got into his car, he drove to the street market, hoping that the cafe that sold the scones Alejandro loved so much would still be open by the time he got there.
The market was close to where James and Kenneth lived. They were both friends of his, from college, and practicing musicians themselves. James was a Jazz player who was focusing on getting EPs out with his band and securing gigs at weddings and formal events, while Kenneth was a prodigy type musician like Alejandro who was shooting for the more formal classical music scene.
Leo and Alejandro caught up with the two whenever they could. It was important to keep people you knew close when you were living in a foreign country.
Leonardo hasn’t been sure what life in France would be like when he and Alejandro had to move for work. It was stressful, and noisy, a huge contrast to where he had gone to college in the United Kingdom. It was also a lot hotter. However, the last part wasn’t too much of a problem for him and Leonardo. They were Italian and Mexican Nationals respectively. Their main issue was with the language. Leonardo was an intermediate French speaker, and Alejandro spoke beginner French with an English accent which made things difficult for him.
Leonardo’s brows furrowed together as his blue eyes scanned the road ahead. He knew Alejandro was struggling in that department, but he couldn’t do anything to help because his work kept him busy. They barely saw each other as it was now. A few words in the morning and maybe a couple of sentences in bed at night. It was starting to feel like they were roommates or siblings sharing an apartment and not lovers.
Leo sighed, shaking his head. He didn’t want to get himself upset with thoughts like that. He couldn’t do anything about their situation, and neither could Alejandro, so they would just have to get used to it.
The streets were busy with the after closing hour traffic of workers, but Leo was able to make it to the cafe just before closing time.
“Ah, I haven’t seen the other one in a while,” the large woman asked in a slurry French accent as she bagged the scones for Leo from behind the baked goods display case. “Is he doing well?”
“Oui,” Leo muttered, reaching out to grab the paper bag that the lady handed him with a smile on his face.
“Bel homme,” she said almost to herself. Leo smiled at that, wondering if Alejandro knew what her nickname for him meant.
A good nickname. Alejandro was indeed beautiful. As Leonardo walked out of the store’s door and made his way to his car, he thought of Alejandro, smiling a little as he realized how little time they spent together in the past few months. Al was busy with his intense routine to get him ready for two international events, and since Leo wasn’t just a conductor in his orchestra, but also a co-owner, he had a lot of administrative work he hadn’t signed up for thrust on his lap. He was okay with it. At least that was what he told himself.
Leo sighed, turning the key in the ignition before adjusting the driver’s mirror. He drove into the main road. The roads were free for a while, and then he got caught up in traffic. He groaned, glancing at the scones wrapped in the brown paper bag and sitting on the passenger’s seat. He licked his lips, wondering if Alejandro would still be awake when he got back.
Probably not. He thought to himself, feeling his jaw tighten in annoyance when a fact swerved in front of him to take his spot because he hadn’t been paying attention.
Leo sighed, resting his head on the steering wheel as he listened to the car horns and slow-moving tires of cars in the traffic jam. It was going to be another day of barely talking to the man he called his partner.