Chapter 2:

A free drink in Harmony

Bonded by Music

That Saturday night, Eloy had expected to end in the typical nightclub with neon lights, a crowd of people dancing and bumping into each other, and music so loud that you had to shout in order to be heard over the noise. He had gone to a few of those since he arrived in Japan, mostly with other tenants of the share house. But even though the experience was quite fun, it wasn’t something he needed to repeat very often. He felt as if he was getting old, and having to wait until late to go out was something that he found more and more difficult to do.

It turned out that the bar where Eloy was supposed to get a free drink couldn’t be more different than what he had imagined. He hadn’t bothered to search for information about the bar after realizing that it was placed in the middle of Shinjuku’s nightlife area. He had just assumed that it was another club like the several that surrounded the area, with bouncers guarding the entrance and people dressed to party hard waiting in line to let loose.

Instead, through the glass windows of Harmony, Eloy could see people of very different ages and classes sitting at the tables, talking animatedly. Also, the music that reached him from inside at that moment was classical instead of the usual dance, something that he hadn’t expected to listen to in that area.

“Jeez, you could have told me that we were going to a comfy bar. I would have dressed more appropriately.”

Eloy made an apologetic grimace while looking at Cara, the Irish, foreign student who he had met a couple of years ago in a conference, and who had since become one of his best friends. Throughout the walk from the subway, Cara had been struggling to maintain her balance in her high heels and was still gripping Eloy's arm, using it for support.

“Sorry, I didn’t know it was this kind of bar,” Eloy admitted. He opened the wooden door while continuing to hold onto Cara with his other arm and entered together with his friend.

Just as Cara had mentioned, the bar had a cozy atmosphere, with warm colors and plush seats at the tables. However, Eloy didn’t pay much attention to the decoration. His eyes were automatically drawn to the stage on the other side of the room, specifically to the grand piano that was positioned there. In fact, the classical music he had heard outside was being played on it, as one of the customers was performing a piece that Eloy was sure belonged to Mozart, even though he couldn't identify the exact composition.

“Are you kidding me?” Cara stared at Eloy in disbelief. “Hey now, Eloy, if you wanted to come here you didn’t need to make up a story, you know?”

“I didn’t make anything up!” Eloy protested, but Cara was smiling with skeptical amusement. “Damn, I’ll show it to you. Follow me.”

Since most of the tables were occupied, they approached the bar instead. They managed to find a pair of empty stools and sat on them. Behind the bar counter, there were two waitresses, one with rather short hair and the other with a high, braided ponytail. The second one noticed Eloy, and after opening her eyes in surprise, smiled at him and started to approach them.

Eloy began to think about how to introduce himself in a way that wouldn't make him look like a fool who just wanted a free drink with a pathetic excuse. He had the sentence more or less decided in his head when the waitress stopped in front of him, smiling even more widely.

“So, you’re the guy who helped Genta, right?”

Eloy’s eyes snapped open while Cara chuckled next to him. Well, at least now he knew the guy’s name.

"Okay, fine. I see that you didn't lie. My bad," she said, playfully bumping her shoulder against Eloy's. The latter barely noticed it, though, as he was looking at the waitress with confusion.

“But how did you know that it was me?”

The waitress chuckled and bent down slightly, crossing her arms on the bar counter.

"A 1.90m tall foreigner with glasses, an earring, and a handsome face? We don't have that many of those, you know?"

“Oh, so ‘handsome face’, huh.” Cara smirked and elbowed Eloy, whose eyes had managed to open a bit wider after hearing the description. “Seems like you caught the attention of Glaring Dude. Although he was exaggerating a bit: you're just around 1.85m, right–?”

“Wait, Glaring Dude? Is that what you call him?” the waitress asked with barely contained amusement.

Eloy threw a look at Cara, who quickly covered her mouth with her hand.

“Thank you, Cara,” Eloy said, causing Cara to join her hands in an apology while muttering a slightly embarrassed ‘sorry’. Their reaction elicited a laugh from the waitress.

“Well, I have to say that the pet name suits Genta quite well.” At that moment, the other waitress gestured to her colleague. The woman nodded before refocusing her attention on Eloy. “So, have you thought about your free drink?”

Eloy realized then that no, he had not.

“Uhm, a lemonade–”

“A gin and tonic,” Cara interrupted, offering Eloy a look when this one looked at her without understanding. “Dude, if they’re going to invite you to a drink, at least ask for something classier than a lemonade.”

Eloy sighed in resignation, while the waitress chuckled at their exchange.

"You heard the boss," Eloy said, causing Cara to briefly lean her head against his in an affectionate gesture.

“Okay, a gin and tonic for free, and a lemonade,” the waitress said with amusement. Then she looked at Eloy directly, and after offering him a warm smile placed a hand on his arm. “And thank you very much for helping Genta. He's been going through a rough time these past years, and he needed a kind act from a stranger to restore his faith a little, you know?"

Eloy opened and closed his mouth, unsure of what to say. In the end, he simply nodded, causing the waitress's smile to widen a little more before she released his arm.

“I’ll try to talk to you guys later. In the meantime enjoy the drinks and the music!”

The waitress came back to her duties, leaving Eloy and Cara on their own.

“Well, we finally have a name for your mysterious friend,” Cara said, leaning her cheek on her propped-up hand. “I’m curious to meet him. And also to know why those jerks were going after him.”

Eloy shared Cara's curiosity but kept his thoughts to himself. He knew Cara well, and showing too much interest in someone - especially if that someone was a guy - would trigger her Casanova mode. Just then, the waitress with short hair approached briefly to serve their drinks, leaving them with an amicable smile.

“All the staff looks really nice,” commented Cara while Eloy poured the contents of his lemonade into his glass. “So, start thinking about what you’re going to play. My angelic voice can adapt to what you choose.”

Eloy was about to take the first sip when Cara suddenly said that. He stopped mid-air, his movement frozen, and stared at his friend while she succeeded in tasting her drink.

“You’re joking, right?” He hoped that she was teasing him, but when seeing the confusion in her eyes, he realized that she was being serious. “Cara, it’s been years since I played anything.”

“Really? But I heard somewhere that playing is like riding a bike. You just don’t forget it.”

“Maybe not, but I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to do it well.”

“So? I’m no expert here, but I’d swear that the person playing right now isn’t precisely a professional, and he seems to be having fun nevertheless.”

Eloy sighed and looked towards the stage. Looking at that piano, Eloy couldn't deny the surge of nostalgia it brought. However, there was also a lingering fear from the perspective of sitting in front of it and attempting to play, only to discover that he had lost his ability.

He suppressed another sigh and averted his gaze from the piano. He turned towards Cara, contemplating whether to admit the true reason for his hesitation, or change the subject altogether.

The second choice was winning when Eloy heard the waitresses greeting someone cheerfully on the other side of the counter. And for some unexpected reason, his heart skipped a small beat as he saw that the newcomer was none other than Genta.

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