Chapter 4:

A forgotten feeling

Bonded by Music

Genta blushed even harder, snorted, and crossed his arms tightly.

“Yeah, I do. And yeah, I know I don’t look like the type who likes to do it.”

Eloy had to bite his lower lip not to laugh at the extremely defensive reaction, not wanting to risk that Genta thought that he was being mocked.

“I don’t think there’s ‘a type’ to like music, or anything.”

Genta relaxed visibly at that. He cleared his throat and uncrossed his arms again.

“And what about you?” Genta inquired, as if wanting to redirect the topic away from him. “Do you also like singing?”

Eloy shook his head.

“Playing. I used to play the piano, years ago.” Eloy offered Genta a mocking smile. “Do I look like the type who plays it?”

Genta snorted and took a sip of his drink, fighting back a smile.

“Actually, yeah, you do.” Genta pointed with his eyes at Eloy’s hands resting on the counter. “You’ve been tapping at the counter with your fingers this whole time, following the rhythm.”

Eloy rapidly removed his hands from the counter as if it suddenly burned. He hadn’t realized that he had been doing that.

Genta offered him a silent look while taking another sip. Then, after a few seconds, he spoke again.

"Are you two planning to stay late today?"

“I’m not sure, but knowing Cara, I don’t think we leave before 1 AM. Why?”

“The bar closes at 2 AM, and it usually takes the staff around 30 minutes or so to clean everything. If you hold on until then, I can talk to the staff so that you can play then.”

Eloy blinked a couple of times. “Why?”

Genta shrugged. “It seems like you didn’t like the idea of playing in front of a crowd. So I’ve thought that you’d be more comfortable doing it with fewer people around–”

“No, I mean, why would you do that for me?” Eloy clarified. “If it’s for my help in the store, we’re already even with the free drink, so–”

“It’s not for that,” Genta interrupted, tensing a little before changing his weight from one foot to the other. “I don’t know many people that are into playing and stuff, so I’m just curious. That’s all.”

Eloy snorted softly, nervous all of sudden. “Well, don't expect much. I doubt I can offer a decent performance.”

Genta shrugged. “It was just an offer. You don’t have to take it if you don’t want to.” Genta finished what remained of his drink. “I’ve got to go now. Have a nice evening with your girlfriend.”

“Friend.” Genta stopped when he was about to leave. “Cara is my friend, not my girlfriend.”

“Oh. Good to know.” Eloy must have made a face after hearing the curious remark because Genta continued speaking. “Narumi mentioned that you were ‘pretty cute’, and that it was a pity that you weren’t single.”

Eloy chuckled, surprised. “And Narumi is…?”

“The waitress with short hair.”

“Good to know,” Eloy repeated ironically. He hesitated before adding something else, but then Genta nodded goodbye, so he simply raised briefly his hand in farewell. It wasn’t as if Genta and he were friends or anything, so talking about his sexual orientation was uncalled for.

He spent the next couple of minutes watching Cara’s performance. After she finished, he made sure to applaud as hard as he could. He kept doing it until Cara was sitting next to him again, with a wide smile on her face.

“Damn, it’s been a while since I sang that song.” She took a sip of her gin and tonic before nudging him. “So, did I sing well or you were too busy flirting with GD?”

“GD?” It took Eloy a moment to understand that it was the acronym for ‘Glaring Dude’. “You aren’t going to let that go, are you?”

“Oh, come on, it’s a good way to talk about him without risking other people overhearing it.” Cara left her drink on the counter again before resting her elbows on it. She then intertwined her fingers and rested her chin on them. “But you haven’t answered my question, or denied you were, in fact, flirting.”

Eloy sighed patiently, eliciting a chuckle from Cara.

“Yes, you sang rather well. And I wasn’t flirting, just talking.” Eloy wasn’t sure about mentioning Genta’s offer, but eventually decided to do so, realizing that Cara would probably be angry if he kept it a secret and found out about it.

He assured Cara that she didn't need to wait with him until the bar closed, but obviously, Cara was still there when it was 1:45 AM and people began to leave the place. The more people left, the more nervous Eloy felt. He hadn’t noticed that his legs were bouncing up and down until Cara placed a reassuring hand on his knee.

“Damn, you really are nervous, aren’t you?” She chuckled, her tone comforting. “Look, if you really don’t want to do this, we can leave, you know?”

Eloy was about to nod and accept the new offer when Mako, who had started wiping the now empty tables, turned towards him and smiled.

“The piano is all yours.”

Those five words were all Eloy needed to change his mind once again. Because certainly, the perspective of facing that magnificent piano only to discover that his fingers didn't obey him like they used to was scary. However, deep down, he felt that letting that opportunity pass would be an even bigger mistake. If he walked away without playing, he knew he wouldn't come back another day. After all, he hadn't even considered playing again until Genta made that offer. It was now or never.

Eloy stepped onto the floor and started walking towards the piano. His nervousness intensified with each step, and when he finally sat on the small bench, his hands were sweating so much that he had to wipe them on his jeans.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and focused on relaxing his body, hoping that muscle memory would kick in. Eloy was so lost in his own world that he didn’t notice that Mako had stopped wiping the tables, Narumi was no longer organizing the drinks in the bar, and Cara stood with her phone in hand. The three of them were focused solely on him.

He didn’t notice either how the door of the bar opened again, and someone else joined the silent crowd. With his eyes still closed, Eloy allowed his legs to position his feet correctly on the pedals, and his arms to reach forward until his hands were extended over the keyboard.

Just then, he opened his eyes. And after clearing his mind, he let his fingers play by memory.

The song that Eloy’s fingers happened to remember wasn’t a complicated one, but it made his arm hair stand on end. It was the song that changed everything. The one that frustrated him when he tried to play it on his small battery keyboard, and realized he couldn't do it justice with his dominant right hand.

It was the song that fueled his desire to start studying piano, and the one he had played countless times whenever he needed to feel at ease.

After playing the last chord, it took Eloy several seconds to lift his fingers from the keys. He snapped out of his trance and let out an incredulous chuckle. He had forgotten how strange yet amazing it felt when his hands moved on their own. He had missed it.

Suddenly, applause filled the room, startling him and reminding him that he wasn't alone. He had barely noticed that Cara had seemed to record his performance, since the woman’s mobile was pointing at him horizontally, when realizing that there was someone else in the bar besides Cara and the waitresses.

“Well, if you ask me, I think that was one hell of a performance,” Genta said while leaning against the counter. He wore a wide smirk, and his words sounded genuinely impressed, causing Eloy's ears to turn red.

Eloy chuckled awkwardly and adjusted his glasses.

“I probably won’t be able to repeat it again if I actually think about it.”

“Well, practice makes perfect, so please come again whenever you want!” Mako interjected suddenly, while Narumi nodded enthusiastically from the counter. “We are also open on the afternoons, except on Mondays, and we’ll be really happy to hear you play again.” Mako glanced at Genta slyly. “Who knows, maybe in that case, a certain someone will have a reason to visit us more often.”

“Oi, what’s that supposed to mean, Mako?” Genta retorted, his face now adorned with a blush that caused the waitresses to laugh with amusement.

Eloy smiled, his gaze drawn to the piano once again. Maybe he had made a mistake. Because there was one thing he was certain of now: playing it just once wouldn't be enough.

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