Chapter 29:

Opening up

Bonded by Music

Seeing Eloy sitting on his sofa caused Genta to feel nervousness invading him.

He had known that, sooner or later, he would need to stop making up excuses and face Eloy properly. However, he hadn’t expected that it was that same night. And he couldn’t feel less prepared for it.

“...and since you hadn’t invited him yet, I did.” Genta came back to reality, realizing that he hadn’t heard half of what his mother had said. “So in the meantime, why don’t you show Eloy your room? Don’t worry, I’ve tidied it and your clothes aren’t scattered around anymore–”

“Thanks, mom,” Genta interrupted her before she could give even more unnecessary details. “But it’s too small and there’s not much to see there. He’ll probably be more comfortable in the living room.”

“Oh, but I would like to see it.” Genta stared at Eloy, and suppressed a gulp when seeing him standing up. He managed to suppress a curse, but the sigh he exhaled sounded defeated.

“Okay, sure, gimme a minute.”

Genta took off his shoes, made a quick visit to the bathroom to wash his hands, and finally approached his mother to deposit a quick kiss on her cheek. Then he finally walked towards the only bedroom placed at the other side of the living room.

He went straight to his bed to leave his backpack on it, and started taking his things out of it. He didn’t turn around when hearing Eloy enter after him.


“I told you it was small.”

“No, I mean, it’s a nice bedroom. Mine feels super empty in comparison.”

Genta turned his head. Eloy sounded sincere while taking a look at the set of drawers and shelves that had been installed between his bed and his mother’s.

“Yeah, we had to do quite a tetris so that all of our things fitted in here,” he said, crossing his arms while fully facing Eloy. “But Mr. Mori helped us arrange it.”

“Mr. Mori? The man you were looking for that day in the 7-Eleven?”

Genta was surprised that Eloy remembered that. Eloy really paid attention to details, showing he cared. It was because of that he had started to…

No, it wasn’t the time to think about that.

“Yeah, he’s our landlord. He’s a nice man. He rents us this house for a very fair price.”

“Ah. I thought this was your mother’s house.”

“No, the one we had to mortgage is in Kyoto and it’s a lot bigger, although it needs urgent repairs. Not that we can afford doing that now.”

At that moment music started to sound in the living room, confirming Genta’s suspicions that his mother was trying to give them privacy. At any other time, he would have appreciated it; right then, it made him tense.

“I’m sorry.” Eloy suddenly said. “I should have told you that I was coming. But I was afraid that you refused and kept avoiding me. Or well, texting me saying that everything’s fine, when obviously it’s not.”

Genta exhaled a short, shocked snort. People often told him that he was too blunt and direct, but damn, for sure Eloy hadn’t fallen short right then.

“So are you going to tell me what’s wrong?” Eloy said, with a soft, interested tone that caused Genta to gulp.

He exhaled a deep breath and sat on his bed, with his arms still tightly crossed in front of his chest. “You really don’t know why I’ve been avoiding you?”

Eloy also took a seat in the only chair of the room, probably to prevent him from having to raise his face to look at him. A new nice gesture to add to the collection. “I mean, I guess it has something to do with what happened with Taichi, but I don’t understand the relation between that and–”

“He really was my best friend.”

The admission caused Eloy to open his eyes more in surprise. Probably everyone had thought that Taichi was just another bully who wrongly self-proclaimed himself as his friend. But that was far from being the truth.

“We met in middle school. Our parents worked in the same company, and his father was the classical jerk. He thought that money and fame automatically made him superior, but also wanted everything in his life to be perfect, including his son. It was a shitty way to raise him. And at some point Taichi simply started to believe that he had the right to do whatever he wanted, as long as he lived up to his father's expectations. Which, eventually, included bullying a student called Hikari.”

Genta had managed to sustain Eloy’s gaze despite the tight pressure in his chest, but eventually the fear of seeing rejection in Eloy’s eyes made him avert his own.

A heavy silence fell between them before Eloy broke it. “I’m sorry, Genta. It had to be tough.”

Genta exhaled a humorless laugh, initially thinking that Eloy was being sarcastic.

But then he looked at Eloy, and realized that he wasn’t.

“Are you serious right now? Haven’t you been listening?”

“Yes, I did.”

“And you don’t despise me?”

“Despise you? Why should I?”

“Because the only thing Hikari did to be bullied was liking boys, and I can’t stop thinking that if we had met then, it could have been you!”

Genta snapping with guilt and frustration aroused Eloy’s understanding expression.

“Genta, you weren’t the one doing the bullying.”

Eloy’s reassuring words only made him feel worse.

“But I let it happen. I didn’t do shit to stop it. I–” Genta clenched his jaw and averted his eyes again. “I chose to look away. And I knew it wasn’t right, but I knew that if I said something, I would have to fight Taichi, as it ended up happening, and with me he was always nice. He never laughed at me for loving singing above everything else, and always went to see me in all the festivals I did. To me he was a good friend, and at the time I didn’t want to lose that.” Genta gulped, trying to uselessly remove the lump in his throat, “I was selfish, and a coward, and a jerk–”

Just when his voice was breaking, Eloy left the chair to sit on the bed next to him, setting a hand on his shoulder.

“Genta, look at me, please.”

He took a deep breath, brusquely wiped out the tears that were about to form in his eyes, and looked at Eloy. All his efforts not to cry went to waste, though, since the affection he saw in Eloy’s expression made new tears appear.

“It had to be tough,” Eloy repeated. “And since I wasn’t there, I don’t know if you could have done things better.”

“I could.”

“But what I know is that someone who is selfish, a coward, or a jerk wouldn’t admit what you’ve just admitted, and neither would be reacting like this.” Eloy smiled while pressing Genta’s shoulder. “When I first learned about the contest, I told you that you were a decent guy. The way you always care about everyone is just one proof that you are. A past mistake doesn’t annul that. And, for sure, isn’t going to make me like you less.”

Genta’s heart skipped a beat when hearing the last part, but he told himself that with that ‘like’ Eloy meant as a friend. One thing was that Eloy was gay, and another that he was going to automatically like him. Besides, Eloy himself had admitted that he considered that idiot ex-idol attractive, as much as it annoyed him.

At that moment a soft knock sounded at the door and Hiromi’s voice sounded at the other side. “Dinner is ready.”

“Okay, give us a minute to finish here and–” Genta blushed, realizing too late it could be misinterpreted. “I-I mean, it’s not that we’re doing anything–”

“Son, there’s no need to panic: if you need a few more minutes to finish whatever you’re doing, I’ll wait.”

“Mom, I told you that we aren’t doing anything!”

His mother’s quiet chuckle was all the response Genta got. He then glared at Eloy, who was also laughing now, but against his will he ended up joining Eloy.

“Your mom is really nice,” Eloy said after calming down, causing Genta to smile.

“Yeah, she is.” He sighed and stood up. “Come on, let’s not make her wait longer.”

“Okay, but one last thing.” Genta didn’t see the hug coming. “Sorry for not stopping you on Saturday. Neither of us would have worried so much if I did.”

Genta exhaled an incredulous snort.

“Silly,” he said, just before hugging Eloy back, hoping that he couldn’t hear his racing heart. “And thank you.”

In the end, they made Hiromi wait a bit, although the wide smile on her face when they joined her for dinner showed that she didn’t mind.

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