(Warning: as slashy as it can get without any actual touching.)
I leaned on the music-room door, listening to Jim’s piano playing. The ripples of his music wrapped around me, and I closed my eyes.
When the song ended, I peeked round the door. Jim looked up, not startled or defensive the way I would have been, just easy and smiling. ‘Want to come for a stroll?’ I said.
‘Got to practice, sorry.’ My heart dropped. ‘Come and listen?’ And it rose again.
The only chair was broken. Did I dare to sit next to him on the piano stool? Not quite. I bounced up and sat on the grand piano.
‘God, you are such a non-musician,’ said Jim.
‘What? Do people not sit on pianos?’
‘Well, evidently you do. It’s all right. Stay there now.’ That easy smile again. Tall, sporty, musical, beautiful. Why did he even talk to me?
I watched his hands as he started to play again. His dexterity, his golden skin on the ivory keys. The flow of music through his body, down through his arms, his shoulders. The way his expressions changed with the music, frowning intensely, softening as the music softened, sensual expressions, pain and bliss. I pressed the palms of my hands to the piano, feeling the notes against my skin.
I couldn’t fathom what it must be like, to be able to create such beautiful sounds, to express so much. To take the tangle of emotions in my chest and spin it out in a golden thread of music instead of blubbing it out in the loos. I couldn’t fathom why someone like him would let someone like me hang around him, with my awkwardness and my puny body and my stupid hair and my ignorance of whether people sat on pianos.
As he played the last chord he looked up and caught my eyes. Flustered, I started clapping.
‘Needs a bit of polish, huh?’ he said.
‘No, it was good. Really good. Great.’
He chuckled. ‘Want to hear another? I always think of you when I play this piece.’ And his head was down and into the music before I had time to blush. He thought of me? He thought of me while he was making music?
I listened, trying to recognise myself in the sound. It was a fast piece, beginning playful and capricious then soaring off on wild flights of joy, twisting and turning, full of laughter. Me?
I hugged my legs with delight. I lay down on the grand piano, smelling dark wood and beeswax, my ear to the music, my chest to the music, feeling the strings of the great heart thrilling underneath me, echoing through my bones. I spread out my arms. It was me. I could hear myself how he heard me, mirrored in his music as I was mirrored in the polished wood. He was telling me in music things he could never have told me in words, things I would never have believed if I hadn’t felt them running through my whole body. Through our bodies, mine and his.