The following story is about the development of a fully consensual and loving relationship between a man and a pre-adolescent boy. At some point through the story's progression, there will be a graphic display of sexual acts between the man and the boy meant to show the natural progression and development of an intimate and caring relationship. If the topic of man/boy sex offends you, or if this material is illegal in your place or residence, or if you are under legal age, please leave now.
Any similarities between the characters in this story and any persons living and/or dead is purely a coincidence.
This story is protected under the nifty archives license agreement, and the author (me!) releases the right for nifty and nifty alone to post it on the internet. Please do not post this story anywhere else without my consent or knowledge.
Hello to everyone out there. I am sorry it is taking me so long between posts, I always wind up rewriting half of what I end up with, and then spend a good deal of time trying to make the wording better. I really want to make this story as much as it can be, even in its first draft.
To those of you still reading this, thank you for being able to see past the fact that I haven't even shown a glimmer of a sex scene yet. I just feel there is so much that needs to be set up before sex would mean anything. But believe me when I say that I very much want to write it, even though I know I'm going to have a very hard time with it (yeah, I know, bad pun).
I also want to thank everyone who has sent me a response (even though it sounds kinda hokey). It means a great deal to me that people are reading this, and getting something out of it. I intend to ramp up the emotional roller coaster as much as I can, and take you for the ride of your life. I hope I don't let you down.
With that said, if you are reading my story, and you like it, even a little bit, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any feedback, positive or negative (or should I say "constructive"), means a great deal to me, and I promise to respond to all of them.
"Another thing you hafta keep in mind about the Mayans is their use of Hieroglyphs, which was strangely similar to the way the Ancient Egyptians used them. Both the Mayans and the Egyptians used Hieroglyphs in their..."
The last words in the Social Studies teacher's sentence were lost to Josh as he stifled a large yawn. Though he tried hard to concentrate on what Mr. Brown was saying, his eyes kept drifting to the clock. Time seemed to be moving extra slow, as if it were conspiring against him, and the closer the minute hand got to the time when the closing bell rang, the slower it moved. Giving up on forcing the clock hands to speed up with a heated gaze, he turned his attention back to his notebook.
Thinking about it later, he might have admitted to being a little bit distracted, but not nearly enough to explain what happened next. Out of nowhere, a large piece of chalk flew at his head. It hit him right above his ear, causing a stabbing pain that shot straight into his drifting consciousness. Small snickering sounds were the next thing he noticed, followed by bouts of laughter. By the time he rubbed enough pain out of the spot where the chalk had hit, the entire classroom was laughing at him, it seemed.
"Next time you might decide answering the first time I ask ya, rather than the third, that way you might avoid my less subtle methods of getting your attention. Sound like a plan you can deal with Josh?" Mr. Brown asked, casually picking up another piece of chalk from the blackboard tray.
"Yes sir. I'm sorry sir." Josh said with his head bowed.
"Now that I got your attention; can ya tell me why the Mayans wrote Hieroglyphs in their tombs?" The teacher stood patiently, tossing his newly acquired piece of chalk in his hands.
Now that the eyes of every single student in the room was riveted on him, Josh had no choice but to scramble for an answer. "Um, was it to honor the dead, and to tell the story of their conquests?"
The teacher arched his brow. "Not bad for someone who wasn't listening worth a darn. Not only were the Hieroglyphs meant to tell the story of the deceased's past, but also to ward or scare away raiders."
When the teacher turned back to the blackboard to continue with the lecture, Josh finally let the tension slip from his body. With the moment of interest apparently over, eyes in the room slipped off of him, making him breathe much easier. When his eyes settled back down on his notebook, filled with doodles of Treble Clefs, eighth notes, and quarter rests, instead of notes about Mayan culture, he began to realize how it had been possible for a piece of chalk to strike his head from the middle of nowhere.
Even armed with that knowledge, he still found it hard to concentrate on the teachers words. Luckily, since his attention had been diverted from the clock for so long, the minute hand had taken the opportunity to advance much further. It only had a few more ticks to go until the bell finally rang. When it did, Josh was the first one out the door, having crammed his books into his bag faster than a gunslinger would have holstered his gun.
Bolting through the hallways as quick as he could before it became a sea of people; Josh cut a straight path to the office. His mother was waiting patiently inside, standing and straightening her tight navy blue dress as soon as she saw him.
"There you are. You got here quickly, didn't you? The bell most have just rang. Are you ready to go? I've got the car parked out front."
Josh responded by bolting back out of the office and through the main doors. The car was waiting for them, just like his mother had said, though it still amazed him that it was still running. The poor little Saab had rust spots all over it's white body, and it didn't respond very kindly to it's passenger door being opened, emitting a whining metallic sound.
"There is no need to be in that big of a hurry Josh, You got here so quick, I doubt Mr. McNealy has even left his classroom yet." His mother said, traversing the stairway down from the main doors much more slowly due to her high heals. Opting not to go around to the driver's side, she instead leaned against the rear door next to Josh.
Forced to wait yet again, he started tapping his fingers lightly on his knee, fingering one of this favorite songs. Though time had seemed to slow down to a crawl again, it wasn't so bad now that he was no longer in the classroom. It would only be a few more minutes until his first official lesson at Mr. McNealy's house.
If he hadn't been staring off into space, he would have missed it entirely. Just by shear happenstance, he happened to glance out the driver's window to watch a few busses leave the parking lot, when a sleek blue convertible came up beside them, parallel parking right in front of them. Even several moments after the car had come to a complete stop; Josh still couldn't take his eyes off of the letters printed in bold on the back bumper. Letters that spelled "Corvette."
What was more, Josh knew he had seen that car before. He first heard about it in the library. A couple of boys who had been sitting at the computer next to him, who were supposed to be researching the culture and customs of Chile, had been looking at cars instead. Ordinarily, Josh would have just ignored them and continued doing his own research, but one of the boys had said that he had seen a really cool car in the parking lot, and knew where to find pictures on the internet. Curious, Josh watched out of the corner of his eye as the pictures loaded.
"You see? That's the car I saw! It was sitting out near the football field way in the back of the parking lot. I don't know which teacher's driving it, or maybe it's not one of the teachers at all. But it's there every day, so it has to be someone who works here!"
The boys had talked back and forth about it until Mr. Brown had come by. When the teacher saw what was on the screen, he threatened them with detention if he saw anything again that didn't have to do with South American culture. Even though Josh knew he should not have been interested, he silently agreed with the two boys, even if he didn't know anything about cars. Those cars were "awesome!"
What surprised him even more was who got out of the car. It was Mr. McNealy. Josh had to wipe his eyes out and look again just to make sure. Though he hadn't thought of it before, he probably would have guessed Mr. McNealy drove a nice car, but not something this nice.
"Hello there Mr. Chambers, Miss Chambers. I'm sorry it took me so long. I had a little more straightening up to do than I expected." The teacher bowed his head apologetically.
"Not a problem, we weren't in that big of a hurry, were we Josh?" His mother said with a wink.
Josh responded with a look that could melt though an Eskimo's igloo.
"Are you two ready to go?" The teacher asked, keeping his face neutral.
Josh shook his head vigorously.
"What are we waiting for then? Are you going to ride with your mother, or would you like to ride with me?"
Josh jumped out of his car seat. "Can I mom?" Josh stole another glance at the Corvette. "Can I, please?"
For a second, he actually thought his mother would say yes, as she appeared to be considering it, then finally she spoke. "Don't worry; I'm sure you will get plenty of opportunities to ride with him later. For now, I think its only right for me to take you the first time like we decided earlier."
Josh's shoulders visibly slumped. "Okay," was all he could say, turning back to sit in his mother's car. The teacher and his mother exchanged a few words and a quick goodbye before she came around and buckled herself into the driver's seat. A few seconds latter, they were off, following behind the blue Corvette.
Eventually, his eyes slid away from the vehicle ahead of them, frowning as he looked around at his own car. Josh kicked at the flimsy plastic siding that came down from the console, his eyes wandering from the cracked dashboard, to the broken cassette player, to the torn upholstery of his chair.
"Mom, why are we still driving around in this? I mean... weren't you going to get a new car once you got your promotion?" Josh asked with a slight frown as he glanced up at the several torn spots in the ceiling.
His mother let out a sigh. "You know perfectly well why that is. I might have gotten a raise in salary, but that doesn't mean I'm making tons more. And though I got a small signing bonus, all of that money was spent on moving." When the car came to a stop, she put a hand on his knee. "Josh, next year, after Christmas I will be getting another bonus. After that, I promise I will get a newer car, okay?"
"Yeah, okay." Josh replied as sincerely as he could, letting his eyes slip back to the car in front of him. "So... what do you think about Mr. McNealy's car?"
She rolled her eyes. "Those cars are a complete waste of money. While I prefer not to judge other people's buying habits, I know that I would not throw away my money on something like that, even if I had all the money in the world." After a minor struggle to get the car into gear after pulling away from the stop sign, she looked down at Josh, keeping her voice smooth and low. "Josh, I know you might think its `cool' to drive a fancy car, but God doesn't care what kind of car you drive. God cares about how you treat people, and how much you give to others. He doesn't care about material possessions. Do you understand?"
"Yes mother," Josh huffed, defeated.
It wasn't more than a few minutes when the car came to a stop, pulling up into a driveway. His mom responded to something Mr. McNealy said, and then she killed the ignition. Josh looked up long enough to see her shaking her head. "I can't believe how close he lives. At least you wont have far to walk."
Josh didn't respond, instead he reached toward the door. She put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. "Before you go in, there is something I want to give you."
"I thought long and hard about this, and I know how much you love the piano. I know you are getting to the point where the piano we have at home just isn't good enough, and you want to practice on something better. If you want, you can stay at the school longer to practice, or you can practice here. Whether you actually can or not depends on Mr. McNealy. I don't want you to become a thorn in his side, and when he asks you to leave, don't argue with him. When you do have to leave, I want you to call me with this."
She reached into the back seat and pulled up her purse, fishing her hand inside of it until she pulled out a small grey object attached to a clip. When she opened it up, with its glowing number pad and little monitor, Josh immediately recognized what it was.
"Now, when I got this programmed, they said they configured it to only call certain numbers, so I put our home number, my office number, and 911 into it. If you need to put more numbers into it, I can use a password to add them, but don't think you can go calling everyone you want. I only want you calling me with this, or your piano teacher if you are going to be late. Otherwise, DON'T use it. I'm trusting you with this new responsibility, so please don't disappoint me. Now that you have a cell phone, you have no excuse not to call me when something comes up. Also, don't give your number out to ANYONE! The only people who should know it is me, and maybe your piano teacher. Do you understand everything I'm telling you Josh?"
Josh nodded. "Yes mother."
She only hesitated a couple of seconds, and then handed the phone to Josh. "I want you to keep this clipped around your belt when you're not in school, and either in your pocket or your bag when you are. Keep it with you at all times, and if you have to leave it, let me know why you won't be able to answer, is that understood?"
"Yes mother." Josh clipped the phone onto the belt around his narrow hips holding up his dressy shorts.
She nodded her head. "Alright, you go ahead and enjoy your lesson now. I have to go back to the office. I should be home around six or so. Call me when you are leaving the piano teacher's."
Josh nodded his head once more, popping the door and letting it creek open. Quickly grabbing his bag out of the back, Josh waved as she started up the car and pulled out of the driveway.
Once his mother's car was gone and out of sight, he let out a great sigh of relief. Slowly turning back toward the house, Josh took in the picture of where Mr. McNealy lived.
The house itself wasn't much to look at. Like most houses in the neighborhood, the bottom half of it was composed of brick, and had a blue siding above that. The garage door, which was also painted blue, was now closed. The grass in the yard looked freshly cut, and the bushes skirting the front walkway were neatly trimmed. When the wind blew slightly, Josh felt a few autumn leaves brush past his face, falling from the large oak, landing softly on the grass. When he walked up the few steps to the porch, and glanced at the wicker woven swing hanging to the side of the front door, he felt a sense of homeliness much greater than the drab little apartment they lived in.
Though he noticed that the large wooden door behind the metal screen door was cracked slightly open, Josh decided to ring the doorbell anyways. It did not take long before he heard footsteps pad toward him from the other side.
"Mr. Chambers, there you are! I was wondering when you would come in. For a second I had thought that you had changed your mind and did not want lessons anymore," Mr. McNealy smiled at Josh, opening the screen door, letting him in. "Would you like something to drink before we begin? I have soda, juice, or milk, name your delight."
"Um, I'll have a glass of milk, if that's okay?"
"Not a problem. Please come this way." The teacher extended his arm, showing him the way into his kitchen.
Not wanting to spoil his clean carpet, Josh removed his shoes and placed them neatly by the door before stepping off the wood surrounding the entranceway. He followed the teacher past the study on his left, and into the living room. Mid-walk though the hall, he almost yelped in alarm when he felt something furry brush against the side of his bare leg. When his gaze fell toward the floor, his wide eyes unexpectedly met those of a furry feline.
"Oh, I see Peter has come out to say hello. You are not allergic to cats are you?" Mr. McNealy asked from the open kitchen.
Josh shook his head and squatted down, running his slim hands though the cat's fur. "Nope. I like cats. Do you think he'd mind if I picked him up?"
"Not at all. Peter really likes people. Sometimes a bit too much, especially in the mornings." The teacher joked.
"Yeah, I remember you telling me about that. So this is the culprit, huh?" Josh asked, hugging the cat close to his chest, earning a contented per from the feline.
"That's Peter. I've had him since he was a kitten. He's the most friendly Cheshire I know, and that's pretty rare, since most aren't." A few moments later, he had a glass of milk poured and set it on the coffee table in front of the couch. "Go ahead and have a seat. Take off your pack, get comfortable, and make yourself at home," The teacher offered, taking a seat himself in a recliner.
Realizing that he still had his backpack slung over his shoulder, Josh let Peter down along with his bag and let himself sink into the fluffy white couch, grabbing the glass along the way. The living room was definitely one of the largest he had been in, not that he had been in many to begin with. There was a large vaulted ceiling above him, with a low-hanging ceiling fan. There was a nice big fireplace opposite the kitchen with several pictures sitting atop the mantle. One looked like a picture of Mr. McNealy, and two old people, which must have been his parents. They looked nice. The picture next to it made him blink twice. It was another picture of the teacher, except now he was behind a large piano on a stage. The next picture was from much further away, taken from what must have been a balcony, or somewhere up high. Not only could the stage be seen, but also the orchestra behind him, and rows upon rows of people shrouded in darkness.
Before Josh could move his eyes to the next picture, an unexpected visitor jumped into his lap, letting his tale swish over his bony kneecap, almost causing him to lose his grip on his drink. After taking another large swallow, he set the drink back down and stroked the purring cat's soft, thick fur.
"Thank you for the milk, Mr. McNealy."
A large smile grew on the teacher's face, and he let out a small chuckle before he replied. "You are very welcome Mr. Chambers," The teacher said, trying hard to hold in his laughter.
"What?" Josh asked, lost in bewilderment.
Mr. McNealy made a small motion with his hands, drawing them across his upper lip. Immediately, Josh's fingers flew to his face, coming back with a slight white residue. If Josh had been listening closer, he would have sworn he had heard the teacher giggle. Quickly using the back of his hand, he wiped the milk mustache off his face, trying to keep his cheeks from reddening more than they were already.
"Would you like some more?"
"No thank you sir." Josh shook his head adamantly.
Suddenly, Mr. McNealy's face grew serious. "Josh, while I truly admire your etiquette, I would prefer if we stayed on a first name basis while you are here. Would it be alright if you called me Steven? You only need to call me sir, or Mr. McNealy at school, okay?"
Josh nodded his head and shifted uncomfortably. "Sure, I guess."
"And in return, is it okay if I call you Josh?"
Josh quirked his head and looked at the teacher funny. The teacher's face was completely straight; he could tell if he wasn't joking. "Yeah, of course you can. I'm only a kid. It's me who's supposed to call you by your last name, not the other way around!" Josh protested, sitting up on the couch, scaring Peter out of his lap.
"You're completely right of course, that has been the way of things for some time now in western culture. The child must address the adult by his or her proper name, and the adult can address the child any way they please." The teacher leaned back in his chair. "That doesn't make it correct however. I believe, at least as far as the relationship goes between a mentor and a pupil, that respect must go both ways. How could I expect you to take me seriously if I don't take you seriously? That is why I call all my students by their last names. It shows that I respect them as much as they respect me. And that is why I asked if it was alright to call you Josh. While I know it's okay if I do, I felt it would be disrespectful until I asked."
Josh looked long and hard into the teacher's face. He could tell that Mr. McNealy meant what he said, even if it sounded really strange. He always wandered why Mr. McNealy called everyone by their last name. None of the other teachers did. He remembered him saying something about mutual respect on the first day, and he guessed it just made sense for him to call everyone by their last names. Josh knew that, at least for him, even though it took him a while to get used to it, it made him feel more grown up to be called by his last name. It made him feel more important. And now that the teacher was asking to call him Josh, instead of just doing it... it just meant more somehow.
"It's alright if you called me Josh." Josh smiled openly at the teacher.
The teacher smiled broadly in return. "Thank you Josh. Now, I think we have dallied a bit too much, don't you?" The teacher stood up. "Are you ready for your lesson?"
Josh excitedly sprang out of the couch, giving poor Peter, who had been lying beside him, another scare. Before proceeding to the kitchen, the teacher grabbed up Josh's empty glass of milk. "My studio is just on the other side of the kitchen. You actually passed by it when you came in," the teacher explained after dropping the glass in the sink. "It's right around here."
When he crossed though the opening from the kitchen into the dining room, he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw what was at the far end of the adjoining room. Now, Josh had seen many pianos in his life, and had played on a few as well, enough to know the difference between an upright and a grand, and even hear the difference across the range of pianos. Though the piano in the music room was much nicer than the one at home, it still wasn't as nice as the one that was in his church. The baby grand in the music room could only be a little over four feet long, while the piano at the church had been at least six feet. And since that piano was so much bigger, he could really tell the difference in how they sounded. He supposed some of it might have had to do with the fact that the piano in the church was in such a large open space, but he could tell the notes sounded fuller. The base sounded deeper, and the treble sounded trebler... if that was even possible, Josh smiled inwardly.
What he saw now was even bigger than that. He didn't even know that they made pianos this large. It almost took up the entire studio, its legs reaching almost to the end of where the wooden floor ended, and the carpet in the dining room began. The piano was already open and even from here; he could see how incredibly long the thick, copper clad bass strings were. Somehow, with its monstrous size, its shiny black paint, and the curves of its gold soundboard, it seemed larger than life. It seemed too good to be real.
Josh snapped out of his euphoria when the teacher motioned for him. "Here, come and sit on the bench. Let's adjust it to your height."
As quiet as a mouse, Josh crept around the piano, catching a glimpse of its polished ivory keys. The teacher was standing there patiently waiting for Josh to sit, but his legs wouldn't budge. Somehow, it just felt wrong to disturb the sanctity of the piano, like he would defile it somehow if he sat in front of it. Thinking as fast as he could, Josh shook his head briskly. "No, I want to hear you play."
The teacher looked at him questioningly at first, and then his face softened. "Hmm, I suppose you're right. It's only fair that I play a bit for you, since you have played so much for me."
Josh breathed a deep sigh of relieve as the teacher took his seat at the piano, pulling the bench up closer. "What would you like me to play?"
Josh shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno. Can you play something fast? Or something really pretty maybe?"
"What about both?" The teacher asked, giving Josh a fast smile. Josh nodded his head. "Alright. Why don't you go ahead and pull up that chair over there." He indicated the fold up chair leaning against wall between the bay windows. Once Josh was situated, the teacher began.
The song started slowly, both of the teacher's hands fingering up the keys, ending in a soft chord. Then one of the most beautiful melodies started that Josh had ever heard. It almost sounded like someone was taking long, deep sighs, drudging up sad memories, trying hard not to cry. Then it was like that person gave a quick shake of their head, as if battling his inner demons, and that's when the fight began. More and more the man struggled, until his demon was released. From one end of the world to the other, the man and the demon fought, the outcome undecided, until by some miracle, the demon seemed to evaporate into the wind, vanquished. Gratefully purged, he started dancing. It was a beautiful dance, matched by the most graceful melody Josh had ever heard. The man danced through green courtyards, around sparkling fountains, and though the gates of a great white castle. Faster and faster he went, twirling around surprised spectators, until his boundless energy could no longer be contained. Miraculously, he lifted himself toward the sky on angelic wings, dancing lightly on the rooftops, letting his feet lightly tap on the shillings. Up and down he went, sometimes slowing down, sometimes flying blindingly fast, finally coming to rest atop the highest tower. He stayed there a bit prancing and turning somersaults. Then, slowly, the energy seemed to seep out of him again, and he became sad, just like how he had been in the beginning. He only moped around a little bit though, then, as if his final decision was made, he spread his wings and dove headlong into the ground, pulling up only at the very last second. After flying at break-neck speed, skillfully avoiding every obstacle in the way, racing back around the fountains, and back through the courtyards, he set his sights for the highest mountain. It was only when he was at the very top, could he see his final goal. Though his decent started carefully, he threw all caution into the wind when he saw what he realized mounted to the very meaning of his entire existence. The angel then landed, proudly lifting a golden chalice, signifying the end of his long journey.
After a long period of silence, a voice, the teacher's voice, was trying to seep into Josh's thoughts. Finally his trance was broken when he felt someone gently shake him. "Josh, are you okay?"
Josh shook his head, as if waking up from a dream. "Yeah. That was... so beautiful. I've never heard anything like that before, I never even knew there was music like that. The way you played... Your fingers were like... They were going so fast it didn't even look like you were pressing in the keys. It was... amazing. You are so good!" Josh stared at the piano keys longingly. "Do you ever think I will be able to play like that?"
"Absolutely. It will take a lot of practice, patience, and perseverance, but I think you can do it."
"How long do you think it will take? I mean... before I could even start playing songs like that?" Josh asked breathlessly.
"That all depends on how hard you work, and how much you want to."
Josh sat up in his chair. "I REALLY want to!"
Steven let out a small chuckle. "Then I imagine it wouldn't take you very long at all."
Josh's smile spread wide across his face. "Then do you think I could try playing it now?"
The teacher shook his head. "I almost have to applaud you for your tenacity. Ten years old, and wanting to play Chopin's Ballade, a piece I didn't even learn until I was in college."
Josh's smile diminished, but only slightly. "I could wait a while on that one, I suppose. But I still wanna play something really fast, then slow like that, then really fast again!"
"Then I wouldn't worry. There are plenty of songs like that, and each of them would help teach you the technique necessary to play songs like the Ballade." Steven stood up from the bench. "Are you ready to begin then?"
Josh sprang up from his seat. "Yeah!"
"Then what are you waiting for? Let's get started."
Josh's fingers danced across the keys, tickling them lightly in the arpeggiated rolls of Debussy's Reverie. He had tried so many times to roll his fingers in such a way that made the song sound as light as an ocean breeze, just like the teacher had played it. Now he was so close. Josh moved with the music, his body swaying to the right for the high notes, and to the left as he arced his way down to the low notes. Motion was the key, Steven had been saying now for the past few lessons, and leading with your arms, not your fingers. When he came to the end of the passage, he let his fingers come to a rest. The motion is pretty good now, he thought, but it still didn't sound quite right.
"It's your legato fingering Josh; you still don't have a very good feel for it. You still want to play the notes separately, when they have to be blended together to create that flowing sound." The teacher came around to the right side of the bench and sat by Josh. "Follow along," he said, rolling his fingers. "Don't let a finger leave a key until the next one is played." Josh tried to mimic what the teacher was doing, but his fingers still popped up when he didn't want them to. He let out a small groan of frustration.
"Here" The teacher gently took Josh's hand. "Try to slide your fingers down the key. That will help prevent you from letting go of it." Carefully, Steven used both of his hands to manipulate Josh's fingers, sliding them down the keys one at a time, up and down the arpeggio. "You see? Go ahead and try it yourself." The teacher sat back a bit to give Josh room.
It still didn't sound as perfect as it did when Steven played it, but after playing it through several more times, it sounded better now, more like it was supposed to sound. When he was finished, Josh let his fingers off the keys and turned to smile at the teacher.
"Thank you so much Mr... I mean, Steven." Josh shook his head. "I'm still not used to calling you by your first name. It feel's so... weird."
"Why is that?" The teacher asked.
"I don't know. It just... is. You're like... my piano teacher, my band teacher, AND my music appreciation teacher."
"Not here. Here I am simply your tutor, and, since you have been around here so much lately playing, maybe even a little bit like a... like a friend," Steven said with a smile.
There was a long silence. Finally, Josh ended it with a smile of his own. "Yeah, I've been coming around a lot, haven't I?" Josh paused for a bit, and then his expression changed. "It's your fault you know, for living so close to me. You're like only five blocks away."
"My fault? How long have you been in your apartment?"
Josh's eyes drifted up towards the ceiling. "Um, since about a month before school started."
"Then I have you beat. I moved into this house at the beginning of the year."
Josh remained adamant. "Still your fault."
Steven rolled his eyes. "Alright, smart stuff." Then he got up from the bench, and walked over to the dining room table. "Before I forget, there was something I wanted to show you," He said, picking up some sort of pamphlet "Every spring, there is a music festival held in Boulder. Part of that festival involves a youth piano competition. There are several age categories, five to seven, eight to twelve, and thirteen to seventeen. For the most part, only classical entries are taken, though there have been several jazz pieces, and ragtime, of course. Does that sound like something that would interest you?"
Josh's face immediately lit up. "Do a lot of people play in it? Do a lot of people go? Can anyone play? What do you have to do to get in?"
"Whoa, back up a second there; let me answer those questions one at a time. Yes, The Boulder Music Festival is a fairly popular event, so there are usually many participants, and a large crowd. When I went last year, there were about a hundred participants, which were divided up over the weekend. Entries do have to pass an audition, whose difficulty depends on the age category. Auditions are usually held during the month before the festival, though the deadline to register is in January." Steven handed the pamphlet to Josh.
The picture on the front showed a large crowd of people all seeming to mill about in a large outdoor amphitheater. The Flatirons were in clear sight behind the stage structure, and on the stage there was a large, black grand piano. Josh quickly scanned through the pamphlet before looking up at the teacher again. "How hard are the auditions? Do you even think I will be able to get in?"
Steven waved his hand and shook his head. "I'm sure you will have no problem with it. The audition is mainly to screen students who don't have anything prepared, or are so far from playing their song correctly, that it would be best for all if they didn't compete, if you understand my meaning."
"You mean kids who enter that can't really play." Josh reiterated.
"Basically. Believe me Josh; you won't have a problem with the preliminaries."
"But what if I screw up really bad?" Josh averted his eyes downward.
"Josh, you won't screw up. And even if you did, the level of music you are playing... if anything, they will clap if you stop abruptly, not boo."
Josh looked back up at Steven again. "You really think so?"
Steven nodded. "I know so."
"Okay, I'll do it then." Josh stated, shoring up all the resolution he could find.
"Very good. I know you are going to knock their socks off!"
"So, are we going to finish the Reverie today?" Josh asked after Steven put the pamphlet back in it's holder on the table.
"Josh, we've already been at it for over two hours. I think it's time for a break. I was also thinking, if you were interested, and if it was ok with your mother, we could go out for dinner."
"Dinner? Really? Where would we go? Mom and I never eat out... she thinks it's a waste of money." But Josh didn't let himself get downtrodden for long. "I'll call her right now!"
In a flash, Josh had his cell phone off its clip and hit the button that called mom's office. The phone rang several times before someone picked up at the other end.
"Timber Ridge Apartments, Nancy speaking."
"Um yeah, is mom there? It's Josh." Josh spoke back to the phone.
"Oh hi there Josh, wait one second, I'll go get her." The female voice replied.
To prevent himself from fidgeting, he hopped off the bench, and paced around the piano. Steven calmly took his seat behind the piano bench.
"Josh," His mother finally responded through the phone. "Are you coming home now?"
"Actually... Mr. McNealy said he would take me to dinner. Can I please go mom, pretty please?" Josh asked with his puppy dog voice. If anything would work on his mother, that would.
"Dinner? Are you sure the teacher asked you and not the other way around?"
"No, he asked me mom, I swear!"
"Alright, I suppose its okay then. Where did he say you two were going?"
Josh froze. "Um, hold on a sec," He said, bringing the phone away from his face. "Where are we gunna go?"
"Where would you like to go?" Steven asked quietly.
"You mean I get to choose?" Josh almost couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Sure. We can go anywhere you like," Steven said, folding his hands in his lap.
"But... I don't know anywhere. Except for maybe Wendy's or Subway." Josh said, but he knew someone like Steven would want to go somewhere nicer than that.
"What kind of food do you like?"
A little frown formed on Josh's face. "I don't know. I guess I like Italian."
Steven seemed to consider this for a moment, and then nodded his head. "Italian huh? Then tell your mother we will be going the Olive Garden, does that sound okay?"
"Yeah, I've heard of that place! But... isn't it supposed to be really expensive?" Josh asked, trying to keep his jaw from gaping.
"No, it's not that bad. Don't worry about it." Steven reassured him.
Josh hurriedly brought the phone back to his ear. "I guess we're going to the Olive Garden, is that okay?"
For an almost uncomfortable length of time the phone was silent. "I guess that's fine honey, you just be sure and thank him properly."
"Thank you SO much mom, I will!" Immediately he turned to Steven, his face bright. "She said I could go!"
"So I gathered. Let's go then, shall we?"
"Are we going to take your car?"
Even though Josh had now ridden in it several times, Steven's Corvette was still the coolest car ever. It was SO much nicer than his mother's car, and she had said in no uncertain terms that they would never have a nice car. Josh gave an inward groan, then shook his head. It didn't matter anyways, as long as he got to ride in Steven's car from time to time.
"Of course we are. You weren't planning on walking, were you?"
Josh broke into a wide smile. "No way."
When Steven opened the door to the garage, Josh hesitated again. It was going to take him a while to get used to the idea of riding around in such a nice car. He was still afraid to touch it, fearful that he might get his fingerprints on the perfectly clean blue paint. The last thing the teacher would want were some little kid's finger prints all over his really nice car.
"Come on Josh, go ahead and jump in." Steven prompted, opening his own door.
"Right." Josh said, trying to sound sure. As carefully as he could, he opened the door, and got in; making sure his phone wouldn't scratch the black leather seats. By the time he had the door closed; Steven had the engine fired up, and the garage door open.
The trip to the restaurant didn't take nearly as long as Josh expected, probably because Steven kept accelerating really fast after every stop light, making Josh grip at his seat. After a few more times however, he really started to like the feeling of power being able to zoom past everyone in their more normal cars. Another strange thing he noticed was, Steven seemed to be completely different when he was behind the wheel.
"Are you having fun yet?" Steven asked after coming to a rapid stop at another stop light.
Even though Josh was still gripping the seat, he had a wide smile on his face. "Yeah, this is so cool. I wish my mom's car was like this. I keep telling her that it's going to die any day, but she keeps driving it." Josh looked at dash board with envy. "But mom says that cars like this are a waste of money."
"And is that what you think as well?" Steven asked, easing up from the light this time, instead of gunning it.
Josh shrugged his shoulders. "I dunno. I mean, I know mom's kinda right. People don't need cars like this just to drive around, but... I don't know. I think people should be able to spend their money on what ever they want, as long as they can afford it, and they aren't hurting someone else."
Steven nodded his head. "Yes. While it is always a good idea to be careful with your money, that doesn't mean that you can't have some of the things you want."
"Like a Corvette?" Josh gave Steven an impish smile.
"Yeah, like a Corvette." Steven said, smiling.
"So, how did you get a Corvette anyways? Don't teachers not make a lot of..." Josh caught himself in mid sentence. Why did he just ask that? That had to be one of the rudest things he could have possibly said. "Sorry." Josh quickly apologized.
"Don't worry about it. No... You're right; teachers don't make a lot of money. But I wasn't always a teacher." Steven said quietly. Josh could hear a tinge of sadness in his voice, even though he was trying very hard to hide it.
The rest of the trip was quiet, but luckily was over with only a few more sharp turns. Steven carefully pulled his car into an open space near the back of the restaurant. The parking lot seemed rather empty, but it was probably because it was a Tuesday night, and there weren't a lot of people who ate out Tuesdays, Josh guessed. As carefully as he had gotten in, he managed to get out, trying to touch as few parts of the miraculous machine as possible.
As he had guessed, the restaurant wasn't very busy. The hostess took them right away, and led them to a nice quiet corner booth, as far from the bar and smoking area as possible. Even after they had their drinks ordered, Josh was still looking at the menu in dismay.
"Even their children's dishes are eight dollars, are you sure we should have come here?" Josh shifted restlessly in his booth.
"Josh. Don't worry about it. I'm paying. It's not a big deal, order whatever looks good." Steven said softly, only pulling up his menu when he saw Josh look back at his.
After staring at it long, hard, and intensely, he finally reached a decision. "I guess I'll get the seafood ravioli then."
"That's fine with me; I'll probably get the shrimp scampi." Steven said, taking a sip of his water.
Not much was said until the waitress came and took their order, Josh still feeling a little uncomfortable being in such a nice restaurant. A few times, Josh thought about asking Steven more about what he used to do... before he was a teacher, but he didn't think that would be right. He was probably some really good musician, maybe even a professional, if he could buy such a nice car. The way he played the piano, it was just so incredible; he must have been a star. Josh shook his head. Then why is he just a teacher now?
"So Josh, is it true what your mother said?" Steven asked, startling Josh to the point where he almost spilled his soda.
"Huh?" Was all Josh could sputter out in response.
"That you spend all your allowance buying piano CDs? You must have quite a lot of them."
Josh turned a bit red. "Yeah. I usually buy one CD a month. I got a whole bunch of Mozart, his piano sonatas, and some of his symphonies. And I really like his Requiem, like the Lacrimosa, that one's my favorite!"
"Yes, the Lacrimosa is very beautiful, and very solemn. Do you like solemn pieces?" Steven asked after swallowing a piece of bread brought out by the waitress.
Josh's brow furrowed in concentration. "Yeah, I think I do. I've always liked the minor pieces more, I don't know why. That's why I really like Beethoven. His songs are so... I don't know how you say it..."
"Passionate? Yes. Beethoven was really the first composer to push such themes. There are a lot of people who say Beethoven came before his time, and that he belongs more in early romance more than late classical period."
"Really? I think I like romance more than classical then. Chopin is in romance, right?"
Steven smiled broadly. "Yup, he is. Chopin is one of my favorite composers. Chopin, Scriabin, and Rachmaninov."
"Rack-man-off? Who's he?" Josh racked his brain; he could have sworn he had heard that name before.
"Rach-man-inov. He was a Russian composer. Most of his works were written during the late 1800's. Rachmaninov wrote some of the most technically challenging piano music there is." Steven sipped at his water. "I bet you have heard some Rachmaninov before, you just don't recognize the name. Did you ever see the movie `Shine'?"
"Oh yeah! That's where I heard it! Didn't that guy try to play that one concerto, and it caused him to have a heart attack or something?"
"David Helfgott, yes. He had a stroke in the middle of performing Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto."
"Yeah, I remember. But wasn't it also because his dad was really mean?"
"The stress that his father put on him during his childhood definitely had something to do with it, yes. But if you remember, he did get better in the end, after his father died."
Josh was about ready to say more about David's father when the food came. It looked SO good, and after catching a whiff of it, he realized how hungry he had truly been. Thoughts of music temporarily forgotten, he started wolfing down pieces of ravioli. Only after he was done did he realize that he had eaten everything, while Steven was only partway done.
"Sorry," Josh said, abashed.
Steven only smiled between bites. "That's okay, don't worry about it. We can order some more bread, if you like."
"Naw, that's okay."
For several minutes, Josh waited patiently for Steven to finish, thinking about the various things they had talked about. He wandered if Steven had also played Rachmaninov's Third Piano Concerto, and maybe that was what the picture was that sat on top the mantle. Or maybe it was one of Beethoven's piano concertos. Any concerto must be hard though, he thought. He couldn't imagine how hard it must be to play the piano, watch the conductor, and play right along with the symphony at the same time.
"I kinda have a question. How do you play in front of a bunch of people? Don't you get scared? With all those people, aren't you afraid you'll mess up, and everyone will laugh at you, especially when you are trying to play those really hard songs? What if you wipe out?" Josh asked, his face a picture of concern.
Steven put his utensils down and his expression grew serious. "That's why you practice a whole whole lot. I remember the first time I preformed in front of an audience. I was scared out of my mind. But I had played my song so many times, I thought to myself, what if I just pretend that I'm just practicing again, and I am all by myself." Then Steven's face softened. "Remember the first time you played for me? Remember how nervous you were?"
Josh couldn't look Steven in the eye, but nevertheless replied. "Yeah."
"It's kind of like how I told you then. When you play, it should just be you and the music. No one else matters, whether it's just one person, or an audience of thousands. The audience can be there before and after you play, but during it, you and the piano are all that matter."
Josh's shoulders slumped. "I guess so."
"Hey, I know it's a hard thing to do. Like everything else, performing in front of others is yet another skill, but with the right mindset, it becomes much easier." The teacher said softly, picking up his fork again.
After the waitress refilled their glasses and Steven had taken another drink, Josh sprung his next question. "Do you think I will ever be able to really play those really hard songs, like in Shine?"
"Of course you will. The only problem you will run into, at least with Chopin and Rachmaninov, are the very large chords. What we are probably going to have to do is roll them, since your hands are so small."
Josh gave Steven a mean look. "Hey! It's not my fault my hands are so small. I'm only ten after all. I'm sure they'll get bigger when I'm older."
Steven gave Josh a sly grin. "Maybe, but you never know. It could be that your hands have finished growing, and you will be stuck having to stretch your fingers way out to hit an octave."
"No way! In fact, I bet my hands will be even bigger than yours eventually."
Steven arched a brow. "Doubtful. Here, hold up your hand."
Josh put his elbow up on the table and spread his hand. Steven put his own hand right up next to his, touching Josh's palm with his own.
"You see, you have a long way to go, my young apprentice."
Steven's hand easily enveloped Josh's, the end of his index finger only reaching up to Steven's first digit. Josh gave a mock huff and batted Steven's hand away, crossing his arms. "It still doesn't prove anything."
"Whatever you say, my young padawan." Steven teased.
"Padawan? What, am I your Jedi now or something?" Josh gave Steven a funny look.
"That's right. And I am sure that master Yoda would agree with me, though your mediclorians are off the scale: `much training in front of you there is, yes.'" Steven tried to maintain a wise Jedi master's face for as long as he could, but Josh could tell that he was going to break out into laughter at any moment. When the teacher's laughter escaped him, he couldn't help but get swept up in it as well.
Finally, after having laughed hard enough to make his sides ache, he smiled up at Steven. "I didn't think teachers liked Star Wars. I thought only kids, and maybe teenagers would like it."
"Oh come on, I'm not that old! I was only a little kid myself when the first Star Wars movie came out. But even though I was only four or five, I still remember how cool I thought it was, because back then there was nothing like that. Though the special effects aren't much compared to what's out now, they were MUCH better than anything before. Steven almost looked like he was lost in a dream. "But if you ask me, I think the musical score is what made those movies. If there was one thing it did right, it was going against the late seventies pop music trend."
"I never thought about it like that."
Even though Josh had seen the first three Star Wars movies several times, he never realized how much the music affected the movies. He tried to think of how movies like Jurassic Park, and the Lord of the Rings would be if they didn't have music, and he knew they wouldn't have been nearly as good. The right music at the right time made them all so much more powerful. It made them into movies that grabbed at his very soul.
With only a few more bites of his food left, Steven gave up on the meal, and when the waitress came around, she took their plates, and asked if they wanted dessert.
"Do you want dessert Josh?" Steven asked again.
Josh shook his head in refusal. "No, I'm fine, thank you."
"You sure honey?" The waitress asked, "The chocolate cheesecake is really good."
"Josh, you can get it if you want it, its okay." Steven reemphasized.
Josh felt stuck. In the very few times he had eaten out with his mother, they never ordered desert, it was like food like that was forbidden. His mom was also a firm believer that candy in general was bad, and had no part at all in the healthy daily diet. But, at the same time, he didn't want to be rude and turn down the teacher's offer. For a long while, he sat there uncomfortably, trying to decide what to do.
Finally Josh spoke. "No thanks, I better not have it."
Josh could clearly see the waitress was disappointed, but Steven only nodded his head. "Maybe another time then, huh kiddo?"
Josh managed to smile and nod.
The ride back to Josh's apartment was mainly uneventful. Steven took it easy with his car, not going too fast, probably so as not to upset their full stomachs. When Steven pulled into an empty space near his apartment, Josh was slow to get out of the car.
"I'll see you in school tomorrow, alright Josh?"
Josh didn't know why, but he really didn't want to leave. Sullenly, he responded. "I guess."
Steven's face grew concerned. "Hey, what's wrong?"
Honestly, Josh didn't know what was wrong, all he knew was he really didn't want to go into his apartment and spend the next few hours all alone. But, why would that bother him? Until recently, he had always been alone for several hours before his mother got home, and it never bothered him before.
Josh shook his head. "No, nothings wrong. I really enjoyed dinner, thank you so much for taking me out."
"It was my pleasure Josh, I hope we can do it again sometime. Now go ahead and run along, I'll see you tomorrow."
Josh tried his best to put a sincere smile on his face. "Alright. I'll see you tomorrow."
Josh didn't go back into the apartment right away. He stayed outside and watched as Steven pulled away, turning his car around and driving off. Even after he was gone, his eyes still lingered on the street corner where he had seen Steven's car disappear. He forced himself to take a long, deep breath. Somehow, his backpack seemed to grow ten pounds heaver when he shifted its weight, and the soles of his shoes stuck to the pavement, making the process of turning back towards his apartment door no easy task.
"Quit acting silly," Josh said to himself. "It's not like I'm not going to get to go back over there. He said I could come back any time I wanted, even after band, if I wanted, and that's just what I'm going to do. Tomorrow's a brand new day, and with Steven's help, I will be able to play any song I want, even the Pathetique."