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Life, love and all that jazz

by c m

Chapter 4

Fifteen years later

Jordan here. It's evening, and I've just returned from the wake following the burial of my beloved James. He died peacefully in his sleep a week ago. He was eighty-seven. Friends and neighbours have been kindness itself to me, but I can't get used to the empty house and the absence of his voice and his laugh – and, above all, of his touch.

I suppose I always knew that he would go before me, but knowing and dealing with the reality of it are two very different things.

We had a wonderful, extraordinary thirty-five years together. He was truly my everything. Oh, for sure I still have my music, my reputation, my awards – but what are these compared with the love of a man I'd have given my life for?

Time will heal; everyone says so…but it doesn't feel like that right now.

I need to keep busy; everyone says so – and I have my small group of students who I coach and mentor…but it's hard to focus on them right now.

I have some of the best years of my life ahead of me; everyone says so…but it doesn't feel like that right now. It feels like a prison sentence.

I'm sure things will look better in the morning. But right now, I'm going to get very drunk and try to forget that my lodestar has been snatched from the firmament of my universe - and with it all the light in my life.

A year later

The pain hasn't gone away, but it has lessened. James always took joy from the time I gave to helping a small number of students who show particular ability with their musical studies, and continuing to do so has somehow helped with adjusting to his loss.

Right now, I have three students who each get two hours of mentoring and tuition from me each month in addition to their college studies. Mostly I go to their college for these sessions, but sometimes they come to me. When they do, they usually stay over in one of the spare rooms and, if I can, I invite someone connected with the profession to join the two of us for dinner to give them insight or encouragement into the world of professional music in all its forms. At the moment, the three students comprise two boys and one girl. The girl, Genna, has just finished her college course. Of the boys, Rupert, at eighteen, is in his first year and Ezra, at twenty, is about to start his final year.

Of them all, Ezra – an aspiring jazz trumpeter - is the one who has the most natural talent. He is, indeed, exceptionally gifted. He also happens to be gay. He's totally open about it – indeed, the fact that I'm gay and very successful in the same field and on the same instrument in which he wants to make his career is one of the reasons he wanted to work with me. I'm delighted to be able to support someone from the LGBTQ community, but the reason I accepted him as one of my proteges has nothing to do with his sexual orientation, only with his precocious talent. But it has led to us having some very open and personal conversations. Ezra is very direct and to the point. Yesterday, for example, as we were finishing up, he asked me:

'Jordan, do you mind my asking if the age gap between you and James was ever a problem?'

'Personally, or professionally?'

'Both, I suppose. I just wondered if you found there was prejudice out there that related to the age gap rather than to the fact that you were gay. Or maybe both but made worse by the gap?'

'Remember, Ezra, that when James and I married, I wasn't famous. By the time I'd acquired a reputation in the industry, people knew that I was with James, so it wasn't news. That doesn't mean some people didn't think it a bit weird, but anyone who got to know us just saw two people who loved each other. Professionally I don't think it hurt; the music community has always been pretty gay-friendly. And the tiny minority of bigots would have been 'anti-me' whether I was with someone older than me or the same age.'

'If it's OK to ask, what attracted you to someone so much older than you?'

'That's hard to explain, Ezra. But what it definitely wasn't was some kind of weird, inverted Oedipus Complex that meant I wanted, deep down inside, to sleep with my father – or a father figure. I liked…the maturity of an older man, and, if they had the right personality, I found the good-looking ones powerfully sexually attractive. I certainly wasn't attracted to all older men 'per se'…many of them would have sent me running a mile. But when I saw James for the first time I just kind of knew. And after our first conversation, I was sure.' I smile at the recollection. 'Although I had a girlfriend at the time, actually.'

'A girlfriend?!'

'Yes…it's a long story, Ezra.'

'Would you share it with me?'

I pause and look into his eyes. He's genuinely curious.

'OK, Ezra, but not right now. I have another appointment in a few minutes, but next time you come down and stay over for dinner, I'll tell you all about it.'

'That would be amazing, Jordan...and thanks. Umm…it is… have asked these questions, I hope?'

'It's fine, Ezra. Feel free to ask me anything. And well done today; you have a real gift. See you next month.'

'Thanks, Jordan. You seem to know how to bring out the best in me.'

'That's what I'm here for.'

Then, as he left, he turned to me and said, 'May I give you a hug? You're the only person I can talk to about all these sorts of things.'


And he hugged me. It was the first close physical contact I'd had with anyone since James died. And it choked me up. Stupid, but it did. There were even a couple of tears before I caught myself. But enough for Ezra to notice. He was all concern.

'What's the matter, Jordan? Was it something I said or did?'

'No, Ezra. Well, yes in a way - but in a good way. It's just…that's the first time anyone's held me since James died.'

'Ohh…that is…do you want me to…? May I…?'

And he hugged me again, tighter and for longer this time.

'I'm sorry if I made you sad, Jordan, I didn't mean to. But if you ever need a hug, I'd be happy to give you one. Anytime.'

'Thank you, Ezra. That's very kind of you.'

'No prob,' he said with a smile, 'you're an amazing man and you deserve to be happy, not sad.'

And he left.

But his words have stayed with me. And the feel of his arms around me.

Six months later

Ezra giving me a hug at the end of our sessions has become a bit of a ritual. A ritual I have to say that I look forward to. And one that he seems genuinely to enjoy; the hugs are warm and long and not in the least bit forced. They give me both comfort and – I must be honest – no little joy. Ezra is, after all, a very good-looking young man.

And he's going to graduate in a few months' time - and his talent has blossomed. As a reward – and maybe a chance to set him off in his career - I've invited him to play with me at a gig that I've accepted in London.

'That's amazing, Jordan, thank you so much. Will we stay over in London?'

'Yes; I'll book us a couple of rooms at a very nice little hotel I know where I've stayed before.'

I realise that I have no idea if he has a boyfriend and, if so, whether he'd like him to come along too.

'Do you have a boyfriend who you'd like to bring along as well?'

He smiles.

'No…but thank you for asking. No-one special.'

''OK…but…I have to say I'm surprised. I mean…you're a very good-looking young man.'

'Well, thank you, but…I guess I just haven't met the sort of guy I'm looking for yet. And…it's kind of you to offer to book two rooms, but I'd be happy to share a room with you.'

'Share a room with me?'

He blushes.

'Yes…you know…twin beds…help keep the cost down.'

Well, that's a surprise. Maybe there's more to those hugs than I thought. But he's my student. It wouldn't be appropriate. Although - also to my slight surprise - I don't find the idea unappealing. As I said, he's a good-looking boy. Sexy in fact. Not that the thought of sleeping with him has ever crossed my mind.

'That's OK, Ezra. The gig is paying well. We can afford it. But thank you for the thought.'

'Oh, OK.'

I think I catch a slight disappointment in his voice. Or perhaps I'm sensing something that isn't there.

That night I dream of the night all those years ago when I crept into James' bed and told him that I wanted him more than I wanted Ellie. In my dream, as then, I reach out and put my hand on his shoulder and he turns toward me. But the face I'm looking at in my dream isn't James'.

It's Ezra's.

I wake up with a start. What the hell's all that about? I tell myself not to be so idiotic. I'm almost fifty-eight and he's barely twenty-one. It's ridiculous. But suddenly all I can hear is James laughing his head off and telling me not to be so stupid.

But in the morning I book two rooms as I intended.

The day of the concert arrives. I've ordered a car to take us both to London – and bring us back the next day. I don't much enjoy driving, and we'll both be exhausted the day after the concert - and it's not as though I can't afford it.

'We'll check in at the hotel first to drop off our bags,' I tell the driver, 'and then we'll go to the club so that Ezra can get the feel of the place.'

'Very good, sir.'

Ezra is suitably impressed, and we have a relaxed and enjoyable trip to London.

When we reach the hotel, the manager, Andrew, is there to meet us as we check in. I've stayed at the hotel many times and he greets me like an old friend.

'How very good to see you, Mr Pierce, and I assume this is your young prodigy,' he says, shaking Ezra's hand.

'I don't know about prodigy, but Ezra certainly knows one end of a trumpet from another.'

Ezra and Andrew both laugh.

'Mr. Pierce,' says Andrew, becoming serious, 'We have a small problem; the rooms I'd allocated to you and Ezra have both been flooded by a careless guest allowing the bath upstairs to overflow. I don't have two other rooms available, but I've taken the liberty of allocating you the Penthouse Suite which has two bedrooms - if that's acceptable. I will of course do it at the same price as your original booking. Or if you'd rather find another hotel I'd understand completely.'

'How do you feel about semi-sharing?' I ask Ezra. Although I think I know what the answer will be.

'I'm fine with that, Jordan, if you are.'

'Sounds like a good solution, Andrew, thank you.'

'My pleasure, Mr Pierce.'

The suite is impressive. Two bedrooms, each with its own en-suite, plus a large lounge, a dining area, a separate office and a little kitchenette off to one side, all with extensive views out over the London skyline. Ezra and I each select a bedroom, before taking our instrument cases with us and heading downstairs. The driver is waiting for us and takes us to the club in Soho. Outside the club, a poster proclaims that 'World renowned trumpeter and pianist Jordan Pierce' will be playing there tonight and, in smaller letters, 'and introducing Ezra Moran.'

'Oh my god, Jordan,' Ezra says, 'my name…it's there.'

'One day Ezra, and maybe not too far away, I have no doubt that your name will be as big as mine. So why don't you take a pic of this and when it's your name in lights, you'll be able to remember where it all started.'

So he does.

I know the owner of the club well. 'Banjo' Wilson and I have played together on a number of occasions around the world. We bump fists and exchange a brief hug.

'So, this is your protégé, huh?' He turns to Ezra. 'You picked the finest jazz trumpeter in the world to learn from, my young friend, so I can't wait to hear what you've got. Why don't you give me a preview?'

'Me? Now?' stammers Ezra.

'Well, I sure ain't looking at anyone else.'

He leads us both to the stage. I can see Ezra is nervous.

'No need for nerves, Ezra. You're good. Really good. And right now you're going to blow Banjo away. I'll play piano. Let's give him 'Someday'…no better place to start than with the master. Ready?'

'Sure, Jordan.'

I play the piano opening to the piece and see Banjo look at me and raise an eyebrow. It's an ambitious choice. Then Ezra hits his first note and we're away. Ezra nails it with a confidence and a tone and a rhythm that Louis himself would have been proud of. And he throws in a little twist at the end that just sort of makes it his own.

As the final note dies away, I look at Banjo. He applauds slowly, then gets up and comes over to me.

'So why am I paying you the earth when I could have had this kid all along for peanuts?'

And then he laughs, before going over to Ezra and shaking his hand.

'I think the punters are in for one big surprise tonight, kid. You have talent.'

'So…it was OK?' says Ezra.

Banjo gives his deep throaty laugh. 'Oh yeah. It was OK. See you both later.'

We go back to the hotel and get ready for the evening. We have a light bite to eat – can't play on a full stomach – before returning to the club. We're not due on until 10, so we enjoy some of the other sets that are on ahead of us. The place gradually fills up and by 10 it's heaving. Banjo goes out and introduces me. We've decided I'll do a couple of pieces with the in-house band first and then introduce Ezra.

I love performing. And the moment I hit the first note I'm in a different place. We play a couple of numbers for which I'm well-known. I figure that's the best way to make things easy for Ezra. When I beckon him onstage, the audience is already relaxed.

'Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to introduce a young trumpeter that I think you – and the world – are soon going to be hearing a lot more of. Ezra Moran!'

There is polite applause and I move across to the piano. We'll do a couple of pieces with the band providing backing, and then we'll both join the band to do full-scale numbers. As we did for Banjo, we start with 'Someday' and, like Banjo, the audience is knocked sideways by Ezra's performance. From there on it's all like riding a wave and when we finish there is wild applause. Ezra is dripping with sweat but flushed with pleasure. The band come and shake his hand – and so does Banjo. An informal jam session completes the night and Ezra and I finally stagger back into our suite at around 2 am.

I go over to him, put my arms on his shoulders, and look him straight in the eye.

'You were bloody fantastic Ezra. Every bit as good as I knew you'd be. No…even better than that, actually.'

We hug. With real affection. And realise that we are both wet and sticky with sweat.

'Ugh. Definitely shower time,' I say.

'Yeah, me too,' says Ezra.

'See you in the morning,' I say as we each head to our respective bedrooms.

In my bedroom, I strip before making my way into the capacious en-suite. I turn the shower on, and the room becomes steamy. I step under the shower head, close my eyes, and sigh with pleasure as the hot water cascades over my body. Then I'm aware of the sound of the door to my bathroom opening. I turn to face the sound, wiping the water from my eyes - and there he is.

'Ezra! What are you doing here?'

'I wondered if you'd like me to soap your back for you?'


'Look Jordan, I want to do something to thank you for tonight. For the opportunity. For all your kindness to me.'

'Ezra…you don't have to thank me and you certainly don't have to…I mean…I don't know exactly what….' My eyes have travelled down his body. His naked body. He is very fit, very sexy, and very – indeed rampantly - aroused.

'If you were about to say I don't have to have sex with you, then I know I don't. But I'd really like to. If that was something you'd like too.'


'It isn't just about tonight, Jordan. I have…feelings for you. Deep feelings. I have had for a long time. I hope you don't think that's wrong, I know there are years between us, but age doesn't matter does it?'

'Age doesn't matter, no - and I like you a lot, Ezra. More than like you. But you're still my student. Having sex with you would be…inappropriate.'

'But I'm twenty-one, Jordan. I'm not some under-age boy. I'm certainly no virgin and I've had enough relationships to work out what it is I really want. You know I told you I hadn't found the right man for me. Well, I sort of had actually. It's you, Jordan. I'm like you were…I want someone mature and kind. A relationship like you and James had. Why do you think I asked you all those questions? And it's not as though we don't know each other quite well; we've spent a couple of hours together every month for more than two years. And - if I remember rightly - I think you'd known James a lot less well than that before you, well, you know… Of course, you may not feel the same…about me, I mean…but, well, I have to ask. And if you don't mind my saying so, it looks as though the thought of having sex with me isn't an idea you find totally unappealing...'

And he's right. On all fronts. The presence of his naked body and the evidence of his arousal have had their inevitable effect on me, and he's right about how long I'd known James before we'd done what he now wants us to do. I am truly in a quandary. What would James have done? What would he want me to do?

But I know the answer to that.

Long before he died, we talked about life after he'd gone. He told me that I should find someone else to be happy with. Maybe someone more my own age or…and he said this with a twinkle in his eye…maybe a young man like the one he'd found such happiness with. I look at Ezra. Would it be possible? I like him. A lot. I find him attractive. We share interests. He's bright. Would it be so wrong?

'Why don't you soap my back and let's see what happens,' I say with a sigh.

So he does.

And not just my back.

And the long and the short of what happens is that we end up in bed together. His youthful energy and enthusiasm make it a night to remember. That he feels a passion for me I can no longer doubt; I am filled with its evidence – as is he with the evidence of the passion he has so unexpectedly awoken in me.

And lying there in the afterglow, I know James is happy for me. And I, as I had never thought possible, feel happy once again too. I look across at the sleeping form beside me.

Ezra is lying flat on his back, one arm thrown above his head in an arc against the pillow. His dark-skinned, naked body contrasts starkly with the whiteness of the sheets. His breathing is slow and even. He is truly beautiful. I kiss him lightly on the forehead before pulling the covers over us.

And I have the best night's sleep I've had in ages.

Yes, I was exhausted – and not just from the gig – but there's more to it than that. I think fate may just have given me the chance to write a new and unexpected chapter in the book of my life.

I can't wait to take up my pen.


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