Chapter 22:

Falling for you

Bonded by Music

Tears had barely started rolling down Eloy’s eyes when Genta softly pushed him inside the office and closed the door behind them.

“Sit down,” Genta said in a gentle tone, leading Eloy back to the sofa. “And now, cry all you need, okay? There’s no reason to play tough, damn.”

The contrast between Genta’s initial soft attitude and his last brusque comment made Eloy laugh through his tears. He took a deep breath that came out a little trembling and removed his glasses to leave them on the table.

“Sorry. The day’s just being a little shitty, that’s all,” he said as he wiped away his tears.

“Yeah, I can see that.” Genta sat down next to Eloy and looked at him. “Do you want to talk about it?”

Eloy was about to shake his head and insist that it was just stress. But when he saw that Genta really looked willing to listen to him, he ended up telling him about his conversation with Cristina almost word for word.

“Wait, did she really say that?” Genta frowned even more than usual after Eloy reached the part in which Cristina mentioned his parents. “What the hell, she has no right to tell you all that bullshit! There’s a name for that, right? Emotional blackmail or something.”

Eloy chuckled because Genta looked really angry now. Seeing him so bothered on his behalf felt kinda nice.

“Yes, maybe it is.”

“No, not ‘maybe’: it clearly is. So screw what she said, okay? You aren’t doing anything wrong. If she doesn’t like that you participate in the contest, it’s her problem, not yours.” Eloy nodded in silence, but he got lost in his thoughts without noticing, something that Genta did notice. “Or is there something else bothering you?”

This time Eloy didn’t hesitate as much as the previous time.

“I guess that sometimes I worry about what my parents might think.”

Genta frowned, this time with confusion.

“But you said that they were okay with it.”

“Yes, they are. Actually, they’ve always supported me, no matter what I chose or wanted.”

Genta nodded in silence. “What’s the problem then?”

Eloy swallowed, trying to finally remove the lump on his throat, but it just got worse.

“I guess I’m just afraid of disappointing them.”

Genta’s eyes snapped open. “Disappointing them? You?”

“Yes, me,” Eloy said with a definitive tone that made Genta’s eyes open even wider. “Because between my sister and me, I’ve always been the one giving them more trouble. Elia has never had any adaptation problems, she has always known that she wanted to do media studies, and she’s already living on her own and doing something she loves. But I…”

Eloy interrupted himself when feeling that his tone was about to break. Genta didn’t say anything during that pause. He just kept waiting patiently until Eloy gulped again and continued.

“When I started middle school, I experienced bullying,” ‘because that’s when I discovered that I was gay,’ Eloy thought, but he didn’t bring himself to explain that at that moment. “And I know it wasn’t my fault, but still, my parents had to deal with it, and suffer from it. Eventually it got better, but at some point, I had to choose a grade, and unlike Elia, I had no idea of what I wanted to do. So I studied one grade, but I realized that I didn’t like it. I managed to finish it, switched to a completely different master, I slowly became interested in Japanese culture, and during the next three years I exclusively worked on that until getting this scholarship. And throughout all those changes, my parents were there. They never complained about anything, but having a son who’s already close to his thirties and who still has no clue about what to do with his life after doing his PhD is a damn valid reason for them to be disappointed, especially when I haven’t stopped worrying them during almost all my life.”

Eloy brusquely wiped the new rebel tears that had appeared on his eyes. A new silence fell, during which Genta didn’t say anything either. Eloy then took a new deep breath and looked towards the floor, still without meeting Genta’s eyes.

“I’m sorry, at my age I should be more mature instead of being here crying about first-world problems–ouch!

Eloy rubbed the back of his head, in the place that Genta had just smacked with enough force to startle him, but without being painful.

“First, from now on, I’m going to hit you any time that you bring up your age,” Genta threatened while Eloy stared at him wide-eyed. “Second, there’s nothing wrong with crying when you need to vent. And third, problems are problems; no matter if they are ‘first-world’, that doesn't make them less valid. And once all that has been clarified,” Genta placed a hand on Eloy’s shoulder in a gentle way that contrasted with his previous smack, “what if you aren’t too sure about what to do? That’s not important. But being one hell of a guy who doesn’t easily give up, who always gives his all at everything he does, and who is there when you need it, all that is important. And someone like that, someone like you, there’s no way that you can disappoint your parents. Or anyone, actually.”

Eloy swallowed thickly, feeling the lump in his throat even worse than before. He opened his mouth to speak, but he instantly realized that he wasn’t going to be able to say a word.

Instead, he leaned forward and hugged Genta tightly.

“Thank you,” he managed to say. Genta snorted softly while returning the hug, and Eloy immediately felt himself relaxing.

“You’ve been helping me so much already. It was my turn now.”

Eloy chuckled, still without breaking the embrace. “This is not a competition, you know?”

“Says who?” Genta ironically said, making Eloy chuckle again. “So? Are you feeling better now?”

Eloy nodded and - a little reluctantly - separated from Genta.

“Yes, much better.” He recovered his glasses from the coffee table and stood up from the sofa. “Now I can go back to getting frustrated while playing that impossible score.”

Eloy had expected to make Genta snort with that comment, but this one was still serious when standing up.

“About that, what you’ve said before about wasting time changing it, you’re probably right. If you hadn’t adapted the score, you would have mastered it by now.”

Eloy sighed while putting his glasses back on.

“I know. But don’t worry, I was already planning to simplify it to–”

“But if you had done that, it wouldn’t be that good,” Genta said with a definitive tone that took Eloy by surprise. “You didn’t just ‘change’ the score: you improved it. Now it doesn’t just sound better, it sounds unique. It’s our version of the song, your version. And remember what Shiratori said: she wanted originality and uniqueness. With the performance we’ve planned, we had the first. Thanks to what you’ve done with the song, we also have the second. And that means that there’s no way that we’re not going to pass this challenge.”

Eloy slowly closed his mouth again, since it had opened while hearing Genta talk.

“Damn, what is with you and speeches today?” Genta averted his eyes to the side while crossing his arms, looking clearly embarrassed, so Eloy rapidly talked again. “Hey, I don’t say it in a bad way. Although you should be careful.”

Genta frowned this time confused.

“Careful? Why?”

Eloy’s heart started beating a bit faster, but he managed to hide it while crossing his arms and smiling at Genta.

“Because if you say those things so casually, you may accidentally make people fall for you.”

Genta snorted. “Oh yeah? In that case, should I worry that you may fall for me?”

He said that in a clearly mocking tone, as if he didn’t believe that could even be possible. And that made Eloy look at Genta seriously, straight in the eye.

“Who says I haven’t done it already?”

Genta’s eyes snapped wide while staring at Eloy. But then, almost immediately, he barked a laugh and elbowed Eloy.

“Good one,” Genta said, clearly thinking that he was joking. “Come on, let’s not make Mako and Narumi wait more.”

“Go ahead,” Eloy said. “I need to send a text.”

Genta nodded with a smile and left the room. Once alone, Eloy extracted his phone and clicked on his chat with Cara.

‘I think I’m falling for G…’

Eloy stopped typing, sighed, and deleted the message, deciding it would be clever to wait until he wasn’t in a post-crying, vulnerable state to make sure that he wasn’t confusing his own feelings.

Although, deep inside, he suspected that, by then, they were clear enough.

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