© 2016-2019 Teddy S Bower
Over two years had passed since Jordan last performed in this hall. So much water had passed under the bridge during that time, much of which he preferred not to think about. It seemed like those times belonged to another life or even another person. Certainly, he was no longer the same boy that had performed in this place on that evening so long ago. That boy and those things belonged in another time and were best left undisturbed.
The intervening months had been a time of change and growth, a happy time compared to what had come before it. Jordan was excited about the future, and why not? He was intelligent. He had talent. He had good looks, and he was beginning to discover that people liked him. Some, for what they could get, sure. Those he had learned to avoid. He'd had plenty of that over the years with his parents and easily recognized the type, but there were so many other genuinely nice people who seemed to like him simply for who he was, no strings attached.
Today, for example, he'd been surrounded by teenage musicians most of whom were his age or younger. They were accomplished in their abilities, open and friendly, inclusive rather than cliquish. He was flattered that many of them had wanted to hang out with him during what free time they'd had available during the day. Several girls and a number of really cute boys had asked for his contact information, and he now had any number of slips of paper in his pocket with various screen names, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and other social media accounts, email addresses, and phone numbers scribbled on them. For someone who'd spent most of his life as shy and hesitant of relationships, he found this state of affairs at once intimidating, yet intoxicating in its possibilities. It felt so great to know he was liked and accepted.
Now, at the close of what had been an awesome day, he found himself backstage at Portland's Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall awaiting his queue to walk onto the stage for a guest piano performance in front of a full house. He'd been invited to return to his former hometown by the conductor of the Portland Youth Philharmonic Orchestra and was to be one of the several featured musicians at their annual spring concert and fundraiser.
The evening had been one of glitz and glamor as Portland's finest brandished their checkbooks in support of the Orchestra and enjoyed the concert. His was to be the final performance of the evening. He looked stunning in his black coat and tails with his black, shiny hair curling over his collar. He felt stunning, sexy even, dressed as he was, but he was trying hard not to be nervous. The most difficult part of performing was the waiting. His palms were sweaty. The butterflies were busy in his gut robbing him of the peace of mind he needed, but he knew they would quiet once the performance began. Just a few more minutes and he'd be out there playing that beautiful grand piano with all the passion he could give, backed by his new friends in the orchestra.
At long last, the stage manager gave him the signal, and he strode onto the stage to applause as he heard his name announced by the master of ceremonies. He bowed to the audience, nodded to the conductor of the orchestra, seated himself on the piano bench, adjusted his tails, and made sure all elements of his performance were situated to his satisfaction before indicating his readiness with another nod to the conductor. She raised her baton and on the downbeat the hall quickly filled with the sweet sounds of the orchestra as it swelled and subsided, leading to Jordan's entrance and the first familiar notes of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata.
He played from the heart, living the music as it flowed from him to mix with the sounds of the orchestra, and on to the ears of the listeners. Music was always a release for him, and to share his enjoyment of it with an appreciative audience was an exhilarating experience. The crowd that had gathered this evening was no exception. Energy seemed to flow from them to him and from him to them in a dance of emotion, passion, and sound that set spirits free to soar with the music into the architectural alcoves far above.
It ended all too soon. The last notes faded away, and the applause began, continuing unabated, as was expected at the close of a concert. Each performer of the evening took their bows, Jordan last, followed by the conductor and her orchestra. He turned to leave the stage but stopped in surprise when the conductor touched his sleeve and handed him a musical score with a wink and a smile.
"Jordan," she whispered in his ear, "I'm sorry to spring this on you, but I've so enjoyed working with you once again. Would you mind so awfully much helping us with the encore? It's a simple piece, and I'm sure you're acquainted with it. You'll do well."
Now was hardly the time or place to argue the merits of playing something he hadn't rehearsed with the orchestra, so he nodded, trusting in her wisdom and experience over his misgivings. He resumed his place on the piano bench, opened the music and bent the bottom, right corners of each page just a little so they'd be easier to turn.
The audience, now pleased that an encore was imminent, quieted as the conductor stepped to the microphone to speak.
"Ladies and gentlemen, it's rather an unusual occasion for me to address you at this point in our program, but I wanted to thank every one of you for your continued support of this valuable asset to the cultural fiber of the Rose City. Not only are you ensuring it's continuation, but you are providing invaluable cultural and education opportunities for the brightest and most musically competent talents of the next generation. All of us up here on the stage tonight are grateful, perhaps more than you know, for your support.
"Another reason I'm speaking right now is that I'm a romantic at heart. I can't say any more than that, but where love is concerned, I believe that wherever possible we should facilitate it. If you feel as I do, I think you will enjoy our encore this evening, so without further ado, Portland Youth Philharmonic Orchestra presents, from Walt Disney's Cinderella, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes."
Once she had returned to her stand, the conductor raised her baton, and on the downbeat, the music began. Jordan followed the score intently, playing exactly what he saw written in the score while keeping a watchful eye on the conductor's beat.
The song immediately caught at Jordan's heart reminding him of Jonathan and the things that would never be. This song had been Jonathan's song, their song, his song for Jonathan, and the song that had given words to the longing he'd once held in his heart for the love of his friend.
He remembered all too well the last time he's seen Jonathan that morning when everything had come tumbling down. It had ripped shreds in his heart seeing Jonathan standing there on the sidewalk watching as the vehicle he was in pulled away from the curb. It was not how he'd wanted things to end, but one can never go back and change the past, or the decisions that get made there.
He'd grieved for Jonathan who'd been effectively lost to him since that day, but he'd been determined to move on with his life with the new family, in the new location, so far away from this place that had once been home. He wanted to let the past stay in the past and live his life from the present forward. It was the only option that made any sense.
It had only taken a moment for this piece of music to brush his resolve aside and once again uncover the love for his friend that had been hidden away in the corner of his heart; only a moment for that love and that familiar feeling of longing to grow and fill his being. With that longing also came the pain of those years, knowing he could never have the love for which he'd longed.
His resolve won through in the end. He'd have none of those thoughts, he decided. He'd play the rest of this piece, take his bows one more time for the audience, hop the shuttle to the airport, and fly back home to Charleston. It was where he belonged now. A place where there were no lost loves to cloud his dreams, no relationships to distract him from his aspirations, and no reminders of the past to make him sad. Sadness had been his way of life during the years of abuse. Relationship was unsafe. He would have no more of it.
The music carried on, Jordan playing by rote. A turn of the page revealed a notation on the score indicating a tenor solo, and at that moment he heard footsteps approaching from behind. Someone passed him and stood to face the audience, microphone in hand, at the curve of the piano, almost, but not quite within reach from where he was sitting. Jordan paid no attention, simply going through the motions, wanting only for the music to end. His emotions were now stored away where they couldn't hurt him; his feelings pushed down into a place where they would never master him again.
As the music neared the soloist's entrance, Jordan glanced quickly from his page to the conductor, then to the soloist, watching for visual clues regarding the performance. At that moment his world stopped. His heart leaped up into his throat, and his mouth went dry. The soloist was Jonathan. He was wearing a pink, long-sleeved, button-down dress shirt with the cuffs rolled crisply back, and khaki dress slacks. Around his neck was a dark colored bead necklace and a matching bracelet adorned his left wrist. He was a little taller now than Jordan remembered, his jaw a bit more square, looking more like a man now than a boy, but still with that wavy blond hair, friendly manner, and ready smile.
Jordan was momentarily unaware of his surroundings. His eyes and hands did what they were supposed to be doing, but the mind controlling them was stunned into bewilderment and confusion. Jonathan's proximity represented everything he'd been trying to forget, and at the same time seemed to be the only thing that could ever fill his need. It was overwhelming.
The music carried on in spite of the struggle taking place inside the young man at the piano. Only a few seconds had elapsed since Jonathan had walked onstage, and soon he lifted the microphone and began singing in his clear tenor voice.
A dream is a wish your heart makes,
When you're fast asleep.
In dreams, you will lose your heartaches,
Whatever you wish for you keep.
Have faith in your dreams and someday,
Your rainbow will come smiling through.
No matter how your heart is grieving,
If you keep on believing,
The dream that you wish will come true.
The verse ended, the musicians started on the interlude, and Jonathan began to speak.
"Ladies and gentlemen, My name is Jonathan. I want to thank you for allowing me onto your stage this evening. I'm not a professional musician. I'm just your ordinary, everyday senior, out at Washington County's Liberty High School."
He paused, smiled, and waved when a few cheers went up from various parts of the concert hall. Obviously, there were some alumni or students of Hillsboro's newest high school in the audience.
"I'm the kid around the corner or the one across the street," he continued. "I'm no different than anyone else up here on the stage except that instead of playing the violin, cello, or the piano, I've come to give a message to someone here tonight who I care very deeply for.
"To you, my friend, I want to say this:
"Two years ago you quoted the verse I just sang and wrote eloquently to me of the dreams you carried hidden deep in your heart. Circumstances kept me from responding to you that day or on any of the days that have followed. What I came to say to you this evening is what I would have said then had it been possible to do so. If you still carry those dreams within you, please believe the words of this song you know so well. Those dreams are within your reach tonight. The only thing required to make them come true is for you accept the gift I offer you. If, after all of the misfortune that's come between us, you still feel the same about me as you did then, I'll pledge to you now those things that have always been yours: myself, my heart, and my love."
While the audience cheered Jonathan's words, Jordan became nearly overcome with emotion. He'd been from the depths to the heights in less than five minutes. He was deeply touched by his friend's words and the storybook way in which the young man had declared his love. The notes on the page blurred for he could no longer see to play them through the tears.
They say music is the deepest form of expression available to the soul with which it can give voice to the emotions contained within. That was certainly the case with Jordan at that moment. His joy created the music from somewhere deep within and it flowed from his heart as the tears were flowing freely down his cheeks. Never taking his eyes off Jonathan, he played like he'd never played before, expertly blending his music with that of the orchestra as Jonathan began the words of another verse.
A dream is a wish your heart makes
When you're feeling small.
Alone in the night you whisper
Thinking no one can hear you at all.
You wake with the morning sunlight
To find fortune that is smiling on you.
Don't let your heart be filled with sorrow.
For all you know tomorrow
The dream that you wish will come true.
As he sang the final words the curtain began to fall and the last strains of the orchestra to fade. Jonathan stood, still facing the audience, with head bowed, eyes staring at the floor while the applause rang through the concert hall and the curtain found it's limit just an inch above the stage floor. After a few moments, his body turned. His eyes slowly lifted, looking hesitantly into Jordan's.
"I love you, Jordan," he whispered unheard above the fading applause.
Jordan saw Jonathan's lips move and knew what was said. Many years had passed since anyone had directed those words his direction. It was more than he could take in. Surely this wasn't possible. He was living in a dream from which he never wished to awaken, but yet it was true. Jonathan was still standing there looking into his eyes almost fearfully.
'Oh, My God, he's afraid I don't want him!' The thought struck terror to his heart.
As the members of the orchestra began to stir and move about, Jordan rose from the piano bench and walked calmly toward his friend. It was only a few steps, and upon nearing Jonathan, he was surprised to see those beautiful green eyes brimming with tears. He wanted so badly to throw his arms around his friend, to hug him, hold him close, and tenderly kiss those lips, but at the same time, he wanted those moments to be special, personal, and private. He reached out to brush a tear off Jonathan's cheek as he spoke quietly, "I'll still have you, Jonathan Alan Carmichael. Forever please, if you don't mind. I love you too."
The feeling that passed between them with that touch and those words was the most incredible thing either boy had ever experienced. It was like coming home; like assurance that nothing could ever be wrong again as long as they maintained the connection; like love.
Amid the post-concert hubbub, they headed backstage to Jordan's dressing room where he quickly changed out of his concert attire and grabbed his travel case from the dressing table. That done they left the concert hall by way of the elegant lobby and from there out to the street beyond. They knew in a short while they must part company once more, but this time they had a little time to plan for the future, and this time the future would not be without hope, for where there is hope, despair cannot remain. Where there is care and compassion, loneliness will fade away. Where there is love and mutual admiration, happiness will flourish.
Don't you just love a happy ending?
This story is part of the 2018-2019 story challenge "Recovery". The other stories may be found at the challenge home page. Please read them, too. The voting period of 4 January to 25 January 2019 is when the voting is open. This story may be rated, below, against a set of criteria, and may be rated against other stories on the challenge home page.
This challenge is to write a story based on the recovery of one or more of the cast from a dark place. There is no picture. Instead we are looking for tales which are able to paint a dark word picture and show recovery and hope.
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