Garen sat in chemistry, class had only just ended and kids were leaving the room but Garen was ordered to stay. He sat in his desk looking at the 8 out of 30 scribbled in red pen on his test booklet. There were no words for the shock he was feeling. Finally, when everyone had left, Mr. Hughes got up from his desk and walked over to where Garen was sitting.
"Yours was the lowest mark in the class, Garen everyone else at least passed. You need to get your act together and..."
"Mr. Hughes, I'm trying as hard as I can I just froze during the test is all, I..."
"No excuses, you either need to do some real work and fix this mark or you need to seriously re-think taking this class, perhaps you're more suited to an easier chemistry class."
"I'll fix it sir."
"You have a lot of work to do, it may only be mid October but a quarter of your marks are already in and you're not passing."
"I'll fix it sir."
"How are you going to fix it?"
"I dunno, I guess I'll just..."
"That's what I thought. I have some work booklets for you to go through. There are 27 of them here. I want you to take them down to the office and make a copy of each one for yourself. Each is about 5 pages so it shouldn't take you more than 30 minutes to photocopy. When you're done, leave the originals in my drop box in the staff room. I expect you to hand one of these booklets in, with all the questions in it complete, every Tuesday and Thursday, hopefully this will help your marks somewhat."
"But I don't need all that extra work, I can manage without, I'll just study harder."
"I've been teaching a long time, this is what you need Garen. I suggest you get going before the office closes."
It took Garen 40 minutes to run off copies of all of the booklets. Each booklet was 30 questions and as he stood before the photocopying monster he could hardly keep from crying. Later on as he climbed the stairs to his locker and tripped over the top stair spilling his loose booklet sheets across the landing in front of him he did cry. "Fucking long legs." he mumbled as he picked up the papers, "Fucking papers, fucking teacher, fucking school. I HATE THIS FUCKING SCHOOL!" he shouted down the empty halls, not that it mattered, it was a Friday evening; all the teachers had gone home early and no one heard him.
As Garen walked down the red and white checker linoleum floor toward his locker he started to cry again. 'Why couldn't my parents just send me to the normal high school with all my friends where my marks are average. Why did they send me to the 'gifted school'? "Fucking gifted school." He mumbled as he turned the corner after the band room in the arts hall and walked down the short poorly lit hall that led to the instrument storage room and his locker. There were five lockers at the end of that hall under a flickering light. Garen's was in the middle. He struggled to read the numbers on his lock in the darkness and without his glasses. "Goddamn lock! Fucking light! AGH!!!" He kicked the locker and threw down his bag. Sitting down, his back against the locker he banged his head for a while. When he got tired of that he looked down to where, only 9 or 10 metres away, his little hall joined the main one. He started to think that he was the only one who had a locker in this hall; the band people only used it for equipment storage at the beginning and end of the year. The Janitors were so underpaid and lazy that they didn't even sweep it. Garen realized as he sat there that he could probably stay there in that dark hall for a whole school year, just sitting in the dark and no one would ever know. 'Would anyone care?'
As he brought his knees up to his chin and curled into a ball he heard a sound muffled through the wall next to him. He strained his ears and could make out the sound of a piano. It was very hard to hear but as Garen strained his ears further he could make out more of it. He wasn't sure if there were other instruments too because he could only hear the piano, but the music was so lonely sounding, so sad and yet so...haunting. He got up and walked to the end of the hallway leaving his bag and open locker behind him. He was surprised to find that the music wasn't coming from the band room but instead from the hallway next to it; the drama room.
The door to the drama room was open at the end of a short hall. Garen approached cautiously. As he got closer to the door where soft light and music were spilling out, he walked slower and slower until he was hardly moving. The music was so captivating. Finally he was standing in the doorway. Inside, a single stage light was turned on in the middle of the room casting a soft spotlight over a baby grand piano and it's player in the middle of the floor. Garen had never seen the boy at the piano before but the piano was facing the door so Garen was able to see the boy's face. The boy didn't look up, didn't see Garen in the doorway. He looked the same age as Garen with sandy coloured hair that hung just into his eyes. Garen watched in fascination, it was like being in the presence of an angel, this boy, his soft sandy hair, his slightly tanned face with the cutest little nose he had ever seen, this angel sat in a halo of light playing without flaw, the most brilliant piece of music Garen had ever heard. He couldn't look away though he tried. At one point he almost did but just before that happened the boy, without missing a note, turned the page in his music book and flicked his hair out of his eye with incredible grace. Garen was once more riveted. He was completely unaware of the metronome ticking in the background.
Finally when the piece reached the end a man stepped out of the shadows from Garen's right and walked slowly toward the boy at the piano. "The was very good Thomas but not quite perfect yet, next time no metronome." The spell was broken, Garen realized how stupid he must have looked standing in the doorway and he decided to very quickly leave before he was caught in an embarrassing situation by the most beautiful boy he'd ever seen.
Garen stepped out of the school and into the rain. Looking up at the grey clouds he waved his fist and shouted, "What the fuck!?" There was no response.
Upon arriving home, Garen's mother took one look at her cold wet son and immediately started letting him have it. "Why didn't you wear a rain coat, you know this is so typical of you. You just don't plan ahead for anything and now you're all wet and you're going to drip water all over the carpet all the way to your room. How is that coat supposed to get dry by tomorrow? I'm not going to run the dryer for one coat you know. I really wish you could just be more responsible." Garen didn't hear anything his mother was saying; he'd heard it all before. One time he'd even tried saying "It's nice to see you too." But that didn't go over very good so he never tried it again.
Sitting in his room that night in front of his computer he logged on and discovered that no one out of his contact list of only 5 were online. To make matters worse he still hadn't gotten any e-mail. Not that he expected any, compared to the other guys on the website where he'd posted his profile, he was less than adequate to form a relationship with. His hair was dark and funny, his nose too big, his body, although no longer fat, was shapeless and pale. He didn't much care for sports because he wasn't very good at them. His school marks proved he wasn't very smart either.
Since he'd come to realize that he was gay a year and a half earlier he mysteriously lost his sense of humour along with his ability to simply talk to other people. He was quiet, withdrawn, sad, and nobody knew why, or seemed to notice.
He went through his folders until he arrived at his journal file disguised as nothing of any interest. No one used his computer but Garen felt safer that way. He scrolled to the end of the journal and started writing about his test then about the boy he'd seen. To his surprise he wrote way more about the test because when he started thinking about the boy he stopped writing and just sat and pictured the boy, the boy named Thomas. He could hear the music in his mind. How much he wanted to hear that music again. He closed the file and thought about doing some more work on a story he was writing for fun but he just wasn't that interested.
Getting into bed, Garen pulled up the covers and put his head down and wrapped his arms around himself. This was the loneliest time for him, the time when there was nothing in his world, only black, and empty, and himself. All the warmth had to be imagined, all the warmth came from his own arms, and that's the way it would always be because Garen would never find the strength to tell anyone how he felt inside, not that it would matter, he wasn't worth holding at night anyway.
The morning was cold and wet, Garen walked down the sidewalk looking down at his feet as he walked. All the leaves were in the gutter; there were none left on the trees. Glancing up at the empty branches of all the trees down the street, Garen noticed how dead and colourless everything looked.
Chemistry was no easier than before, he'd finished his first workbook over the weekend but that was about all he did. The rest of his time was spent sleeping, playing computer games or just doing nothing. He sat through all of his classes at the back of the room. Brainy kids surrounded him; none of them thought like he did, none of them were any fun. All they cared about was cramming their big heads with more and more stuff as fast as they could so that they could get out of school sooner and get high paying jobs and spend their lives fighting for a few pennies more and then finally die; monetarily rich but emotionally broken. Garen sighed; he wouldn't even have the money.
When the bell rang he grabbed his coat and walked to the main doors. When he got there he saw out the window that it was pouring rain and being in no mood to venture out into the weather he sat down at a nearby bench and watched everyone moving around him. He sat apart from all these happy talking people all in their own world. Garen glanced out the window and saw two boys, probably 10 years old running and laughing and playing tag in the rain. He smiled as he watched; their lives were so simple, so nice.
30 minutes latter the halls were empty except for the occasional teacher staying late to do some marking. Garen was about to leave when his mind wandered back to the boy at the piano. He knew it was pointless, but still he decided to walk past the drama room and see if the boy was there. The room was empty.
That night Garen had an e-mail from a 40-year-old man who claimed that problems with age difference was just something stupid that society made up for no real reason. Garen threw it out without finishing it. Sitting back he wondered if that was the best he could do, he attracted the attention of a 40-year-old pedophile.
The week crawled by, on Wednesday it stopped raining and instead just turned cold. When Friday arrived he decided he'd give it one last chance, if Thomas wasn't playing piano then he'd go home and not bother staying late again.
As Garen rounded the corner he heard the music and his heart was instantly racing. He stood in the doorway once again, same boy, same song, it was like a whole week hadn't gone by. The way he moved, there was so much grace in every motion he made. The way he gave his head a quick jerk to get the hair out of his eyes, the way he gently bit his bottom lip when concentrating, the look of focus on his face. Garen scarce blinked.
The following week on Wednesday, Garen saw the piano boy in the cafeteria. He wanted to get up and say something but he couldn't. Thomas was unreachable, he belonged to a different world; he was an angel and angels can only be loved by other angels. The final blow was when Garen looked up from his food and saw Thomas sitting with a girl. She had hair much like Thomas' only longer. Not nearly as good looking as Thomas but Garen guessed that to a straight guy, she was probably incredible.
That Friday Garen was feeling too depressed to see Thomas play, he went home and instead was haunted by him all night. He dreamed of Thomas sitting at the piano, playing that music. Thomas the boy that Garen knew so little about yet wished he could know everything. All he knew was his first name, exactly what he looked like and that he could play the most beautiful piece of music Garen had ever heard, not to mention that it got better and better each time.
On Friday October 5th Garen stood once more in the doorway as Thomas played. This time however Thomas only played for about a minute before he suddenly stopped. There was silence, 'he's playing without the metronome' Garen thought. Then suddenly he was aware that Thomas was staring at him from over the piano. There was a slight smile on his face. Garen was terrified but there was nothing he could do, he was staring into the deepest brown eyes he'd ever known and he couldn't look away. Suddenly Thomas spoke, Garen had never heard his voice and was surprised both by its depth and its softness. "My teacher's not coming this evening, I'm practicing alone. You can come in."
Garen couldn't he just shook his head slowly and started to back down the hall. Suddenly Thomas looked sad, he sighed and looked back down at his piano and started playing again; slowly, sadly.
Garen froze in the hall. He hesitated then suddenly found himself walking forward. He stepped though the door and into the halo of light around Thomas and the piano. Before he knew it he was sitting on the bench sharing the light of heaven with the most beautiful boy in the world. Thomas became aware of the boy next to him and looked over and smiled. "Hello." He said softly. Garen just smiled, he was too afraid to talk. "Can you play?" Thomas asked.
Garen forced a reply. "No, never learned."
"Really? Well it's not hard; this piece is called Moonlight Sonata by Beethoven. Here, sit like this..." Thomas put an arm around Garen and pulled him in. Garen jumped slightly and Thomas quickly let go. "I'm sorry." He turned red and looked away.
"No, you just...well I wasn't expecting to be... it's okay." Garen insisted. Thomas said nothing and was about to start playing again when Garen decided on something bold. He put his arm around Thomas and pulled him close until they were sitting together, their sides touching. Thomas smiled at Garen and started playing again. Garen watched his fingers lightly touch the keys, dancing over the keys without any effort. He never removed his arm from around Thomas, it just felt so amazing. Finally a little clock on the floor next to Thomas beeped and he stopped playing. "It's time to go." He said. Garen stood up, so did Thomas and they stood in the empty drama room together facing each other.
"I'm going to be playing this at the Remembrance Day ceremonies on November 11 at city hall..." Thomas trailed off. "I don't even know your name." He mumbled.
"Thomas looked unsure for an instant then tried again. Could you come?" He asked very nervously.
Garen almost cried, "Yes." he squeaked.
They stood facing each other for a minute more and then something incredible happened; the angel who's eyes were now the only thing Garen saw, leaned forward slowly, put his arms around Garen and they kissed.
Later on, backstage at the Remembrance Day ceremony, Thomas stepped off the stage and into Garen's arms. "You were incredible." Garen whispered.
"I hope so, because that's the last time I'm going to play that."
"Yeah, I don't want to play anything that sad again."
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