Rhapsody for Piano and Ghost
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by Barrie Abalard
Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica/Gay Fiction
Description: Genre: LGBT Paranormal
Fitz Gaffney finally has some breathing room. His mother's out of town, his piano teachers have backed off, and he gets to spend time at a school where he only has to be adequate for an entire year before all his responsibilities comes crashing back in again. With this freedom comes the realization that he's lonely, but his first attempt at dating goes horribly awry.
Fitz's new -- but possibly imaginary -- friends, Julian and Serge, want to help him find happiness. His used-to-be-stepbrother Ari Scheffield wants to help him gain confidence and a little much-needed cool. His housekeeper Marguerite wants to keep fowl in the back yard for butchering because duck confit is expensive and she has pillows to re-stuff. And his possible new boyfriend Garrett wants to prove he didn't mean for their first date to end with Fitz lying unconscious in a dumpster.
All Fitz wants is someone who cares about him, and suddenly there seems to be a glut. How's a shy guy to know what's real when he's confronted by crazy ghosts, a less than truthful boyfriend, and relatives with hidden motives? It's a Rhapsody For Piano And Ghost.
eBook Publisher: Loose Id, LLC, 2011
eBookwise Release Date: July 2011
35 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [339 KB]
Reading time: 209-293 min.
Between art history and music theory, there was exactly enough time for a crash course in caffeine. Fitz liked to get the largest cup they had, a full thirty-two ounces, and fill it with one-half hot chocolate and one-half black coffee. He wrapped it in one of those sleeve things and moved down the line, scooting his leather messenger bag along the metal ledge until he came alongside the pastries. It was a tough job choosing between a hunk of cream-cheese-frosted carrot cake or one of those big bran muffins, but he finally made his move and went for bran, then stepped to the cashier to pay.
Once he found a place to sit where he could eat his snack and fuel up, he looked around. Attending a private academy for the performing arts locally for a year had been his mother's idea; a kind of roll toward independence with training wheels before the decision would be made as to which university he should attend. To hear his mother talk about it, it was as if she were holding a sweepstakes. Many will enter; few will win. Her optimism about his future wasn't exactly contagious. Like all the other kids' mothers, Adelaide Gaffney insisted her son was a prodigy and that schools should line up to get a chance at him. But like most teenage boys, Fitz assumed she was dreaming at best or deluded at worst because he had always been a rather uninspiring student, except for music.
Fitz had begged her to allow him a year off between the intense all boys' Catholic high school he'd attended and university. This was the best offer he got, a compromise of sorts that would allow him time to adjust to being an adult. He'd actually been quick to enroll, especially since Adelaide had just married husband number eight and planned to spend the entire year in France. Fitz had nearly ten months ahead with little in the way of responsibility or supervision and was finding he liked it very much indeed.
If he was lonely, he only noticed it at moments like these, when he sat under an umbrella in the patio dining area, by himself at a table meant for a group of students. All around him, conversations swelled and receded like waves, peppered with exclamations and profanity. He wondered vaguely if it was because he'd spent his formative years in competitive private school, with only his mother and his music teachers to interact with at home, but it seemed almost like everyone spoke in a foreign language.
It only reinforced what he'd worried about all along: If his mother was wrong and he wasn't special, he was just different. And different had never been, nor ever would be, a good thing at school. Different got you singled out by teachers and shunned by your peers--if you even had any. As far as Fitz could see, he was out of luck.
Once he was done with his muffin, he took his coffee and headed for the music building, where he was likely to have to wait outside his classroom for a while until his teacher showed up, apologetic as always, with keys. No one could have been more surprised than Fitz was when a hand came down on his shoulder after he threw his trash away.
Fitz turned to look directly at black words imprinted on a red T-shirt: EXPENDABLE.
All right. Probably another pop culture moment where I'm going in without a clue.
"Hi, you're in music theory with Dryden, right?"
"Yeah." Fitz lifted his chin so he could look into the face of the man who'd stopped him. The first thing he saw was pointy hair. Like it had all been gelled up in the center to form a ridge on the top of a nicely shaped head. "I am."
"So am I." That was followed by a fairly dazzling smile.
"I'm Garrett. Garrett Fender."
"Hi." Fitz held out his hand, then realized it had a huge cup of coffee in it. "Nice to meet you." There was a moment or two of helpless fumbling and a lot of looking stupid before Fitz stopped trying to do something normal and gave up.
"I don't suppose you have a name?"
"Fitz." He found he could still smile. That probably counted for something.
"Are you from around here?" Garrett asked, moving forward and then using his hand to sweep Fitz along, indicating they should head in the direction of their class.
"Yes." Fitz followed him. "I'm... I live here. In LA."
"I see." Garrett smiled again. It was an amazing smile, slightly toothy, and Fitz was beginning to think of it as the DimpleMaster 5000. The perfection of each individual feature fought for dominance on Garrett's face, but there were no decisive winners. Fitz figured eventually Garrett would get around to telling him what he wanted. He'd probably gotten something stuck on the bottom of his shoe and needed someone on whom to wipe it. That was the sort of thing Fitz expected from his classmates in general.
Garrett continued, "So since you live here you could tell me if there's anything interesting a guy could do on a Friday night."
"I'm probably not the best person to ask," Fitz replied truthfully.
"I don't go out much, really." Or at all.
"Guy like you?" Garrett slipped a hand behind Fitz's back, between his shoulder blades, and circled lightly with his fingertips. Fitz stilled. So far Garrett wasn't indicating his interest was anything more than idle curiosity. Was he? "You should be going out often. You're young. You're hot. You dress nice. Why not?"
"Yeah, right." Fitz looked down to cover the sudden heat in his cheeks. Sure he dressed okay. Clothes magically appeared in his closet whenever his mother came home from shopping at boutique stores. He was a walking GQ ad because she grouped things together and made him memorize what shirt went with what trousers and quizzed him endlessly with regard to socks and shoes. He had little doubt he could dress himself, but it was so much easier to let her do it, and it seemed to give her pleasure.
Since Adelaide had been out of town, he'd entered more revolutionary territory. He found comfort in the long black coats and tight jeans he got from the stores his mother never set foot in. He'd studied all the kids in school and set his sights on dressing like the guys who wore eyeliner, lots of jewelry, and attitude. Like attitude was the new black. Since then Fitz had gotten his ears pierced and secretly coveted a tattoo.
Fitz realized he hadn't spoken when Garrett's face fell.
"Whatever." Garrett started to turn away.
"No, wait." Fitz grazed Garrett's arm with the knuckles of the hand holding his coffee. "I didn't mean it like that."
"How did you mean it?"
"I don't know." Fitz tried to come up with something. "There's a ton of places you can go and listen to music. And there's no end of clubs around here."
Garrett leaned forward. "Anyplace to go dancing?"
Fitz nodded. "Yeah, sure. There's dancing." He wondered if he sounded confident enough that Garrett wouldn't be able to tell he'd have to look all this up on the Internet.
"Anyplace I could dance with you?" Garrett eyed him boldly.
All thought flew from Fitz's head and settled somewhere just south of his studded leather belt. "Uh..."
"It's not a difficult question, Fitz."
"Sure." Fitz clutched the strap of his messenger bag tightly. He was beginning to regret the muffin and coffee because his stomach clenched a little. "Yeah. There are places we could go."
Garrett dug something from a pocket in the front of his impossibly tight pants. When he took Fitz's coffee and replaced it with his phone, it was still hot from his body. Fitz's fingers stilled as he registered this fact, soaking it in with a vicarious sort of thrill.
"I'll put my cell number in." Fitz added name and number to the contact list and saved it. When he looked up, ready to trade it back, Garrett was drinking his coffee.
"Sweet and rich," Garrett sighed, handing it back.
Fitz blushed again, wondering if that was some sort of double entendre, if Garrett had come to a conclusion about more than just the coffee.
Garrett leaned in and spoke in Fitz's ear. "That's just how I like it." Garrett's lips curved up in a barely there smile that most people would have to practice in the mirror. "Listen, I have to go because of work, and I know Dryden gets all bent out of shape if you're absent to his class. When the sign-in sheet comes around, will you put my name down? Garrett Fender?"
Fitz bit his lip. "Do you think that's okay?"
"He'll never know the difference," Garrett assured him. "And get an extra copy of anything he hands out. Do you take notes?"
"Sure," Fitz began. To his shock, Garrett leaned over and gave him a sloppy kiss on the lips like it was nothing.
"Thanks. You're a lifesaver. I'll call you on Thursday night--Friday at the latest--and we'll see what we can do this weekend."
"Okay." Fitz tried not to look around. He didn't care if anyone knew he was gay. He'd been out since...well, since forever, pretty much. Adelaide had just assumed he swung that way and asked him outright around his fifteenth birthday. After a brief hesitation, he'd nodded, and since then she'd announced it wherever they went. He'd never had to tell a living soul himself. School was different, though, because she wasn't there to trumpet the good news.
"See you." Garrett lifted a hand to wave and rushed off so fast that Fitz's own hand, which had gone up to return the gesture, seemed to hang there in the air, having no real purpose, long after Garrett was gone. Fitz realized this and tucked it under his other arm. He didn't look around to see if anyone was watching, and when Professor Dryden came, Fitz followed the rest of the students into the room like always.
"Oh my word." Julian gripped Serge's hand in his. He peered into the garbage Dumpster behind the Hart and Hound, the old--and arguably notorious--Anglophile dive. "That's terrible. Who on earth...? That's a perfectly lovely Armani jacket!"
"Trust you to be shallow," Serge muttered.
"Certainly I'm not blind, Serge." Julian smoothed a hand over the wrinkled fabric, lovingly tracing the sleeve down to the ribbing on the cuff. "I can see that it's last year's jacket."
"I believe I was referring to the boy wearing it."
"It's none of our business." Julian bit his lip. "Do you suppose we can take it?"
"I blame Les Mis. You've become a grave robber."
"There's 'more of gravy than of grave' about this one, though." He indicated the body that was lying amid a pile of food trash. "Unless I miss my guess entirely, he's not dead."
"Then what the hell do you think you're doing?"
"Give me a hand with this, will you?" Julian had climbed up on a wooden crate and was in the process of trying to tug the jacket off the young man's body and over the high side of the bin. "It's heavy, and it smells."
"He is and he does. I beg you not to lose your humanity entirely. I'm certain at one point you must have had a shred of decency. What else could I have seen in you?"
"Let me think. It was 1924, and when we met, I was doing my famous plantain dance. Long before, I might add, anyone else did a banana dance."
"You're rewriting history again."
"I am not. I remember distinctly thinking of bananas and realizing I would need something far more substantial hanging about my waist if I were going to hide my manly charms."
"Who. The fuck. Are you?" growled a youngish voice from inside the Dumpster. Its owner was clearly the worse for wear.
"Look what you've done," pouted Julian. "You've woken it up, and now I'll never get my jacket."
"Fine. Take the jacket," the voice barked. "Just shut the fuck up. My head is killing me."
Julian leaned over and redoubled his efforts. "There, did you hear that? He wants me to have it."
"In that case..." Serge stepped up to the edge of the bin in an effort to help. "Although how the word fuck--a perfectly fine old-fashioned expletive--has become the cultural equivalent of shalom, I will simply never understand."
An enraged face appeared above the blue metal lip like a demented, overly emotional Kilroy. Black hair that couldn't be natural framed a rather sweet face, striped with guyliner that ran in rivulets down cheeks so smooth they had to be--at best guess--maybe eighteen. A grimy hand with black lacquer on the nails swiped away tears.
"Shalom, little garbage boy." Julian spoke the last words carefully and clearly, as if the boy were hard of hearing or foreign or both. "And fuck you as well this very fine evening. May I have your jacket, please?"
Serge smoothed the blanket over their sleeping charge. It had taken a long time to convince the young man to come with them, longer still to calm him down and persuade him it would be safe to bathe and rest. Now--finally--at nearly three a.m., he slept under the down comforter in their borrowed house. Julian sighed and peered down at him. Scrubbed clean and free of his attitude, he appeared to be a comely young thing. He hadn't said much about himself, which Serge didn't find particularly problematic. Julian was less enthusiastic about making him at home.
"He seems so peaceful when he's asleep. To look at him you wouldn't think he could be such an impossible toad when he's conscious."
"He's a very young man. Barely out of high school," Serge replied. The barest hint of an accent that had once been French still softened his voice. Julian responded to it as he always did, by melting a little, the rough edges of his personality smoothing out under its warmth. But not entirely.
"A boy who got himself sublimely pissed and thrown into the rubbish."
"I think he was embarrassed and hurt. Do you think he's even old enough to drink? I did wonder."
"He had a false ID." When Serge arched a brow, Julian shot him a defiant look. "I didn't take anything."
"What else did he have?"
"Not much. Credit cards. Two condoms. A pillow pack of lube. A box of mints. Fifty-three cents."
"Poor little man."
"Not so poor he can't wear an Armani jacket."
Serge took Julian's hand in his and continued to look down at the boy. "I wonder what his name is?"
"His license says William Jefferson Clinton."
Serge chuckled. "He's a cheeky one."
"Did we go to the pub especially for him?"
"I wondered if you were going to ask that." Serge met Julian's gaze with something of a twinkle in his eye. "Yes. I think so. His head is full of beautiful music. He calls to me."
"I always know."
"Of course." Serge slipped an arm around Julian's waist, under the sweater he always wore in the evenings, even when it was a hundred degrees out. "You are very clever, my love."
* * * *
Fitz didn't want to admit he'd woken up during the middle of that conversation. He knew if he stayed too still, they'd know he was faking, so he sighed and rolled around restlessly. He'd jumped like he'd been tased when he'd felt that hand on his forehead though, and he didn't know whether they bought the act or not.
He still wondered what the hell he was doing. His new friends had gone from trying to steal his jacket to taking him home for the night. And he had to admit it was a whole lot nicer than waking up in a trash container. They talked about him like he was a puppy they were going to adopt, and teased each other like they'd been together forever. Fitz thought it was kind of sweet.
Not like real people.
He got up as quietly as he could, wincing when his feet hit the floor. He hadn't mentioned it to his new friends, but he must have wrenched his back when he'd been thrown into the garbage, and it had hurt like hell ever since. He didn't show bruises easily, even though his skin was fairly light, but he'd bet anything that in a few days he'd look like bad fruit. He padded to the door and listened. Apparently his benefactors had gone to bed. The slighter one, Julian, who'd tried to steal his coat, had taken the rest of his clothes to wash. For the time being, he had on someone else's sleep pants. They almost certainly belonged to a girl, though, because they were sky blue and covered with clouds and fleecy sheep.
So why did they have girl clothes on hand? Maybe he didn't need to know.
Serge and Julian appeared a little odd, but he doubted, given the way they dressed, that either of them would be caught dead in anything colorful. Even before they'd pulled him from his none too elegant digs in the trash, he'd noticed there was something different about them. They weren't just dressed differently. They were otherworldly. He'd seen them in the dark at first, and they gave the impression they were monochromatic. Leached of color because of the way they dressed or the light from the mercury vapor lamps. He put it down to the fact that he'd been messed up, because later he realized they simply dressed like old-style, black-and-white portraits, and compared to everything around them, it could be they just weren't very colorful people.
When they'd all arrived here at the house, though, his impression hadn't changed. They looked not just old but old-fashioned. As if they came from a different time. He wondered if they were models or something. They had haircuts that were buzzed up the back and longer on the top, parted severely but not slick with stuff like in the movies. Julian wore tweed trousers and a white button-down shirt with suspenders and a thick cardigan sweater, and Serge had on a charcoal suit with a vest. They had shoes with perforations and designs tooled into the leather. They both wore hats outside but hung them up on hooks in the foyer as soon as they entered the house. Very odd, and yet...it was impossible to picture them wearing anything else.
Later Fitz heard them laugh somewhere--downstairs maybe--and crept from his room to have a look. He followed the sound of music: Strauss, "Tales from the Vienna Woods." Fitz could have played it in his sleep.
Julian's voice could clearly be heard coaxing Serge to dance with him. Yeah, okay. They were colorful. Just...not in a visual way. Padding forward, Fitz peeked from the gallery in the hall leading to the stairs and saw them in the living room below. It was a large space, and uncluttered, so there was plenty of room to dance. Serge, whom Fitz had begun to think of as the quiet one, took Julian into his arms, and they began to dance like people in the old movies Fitz and Adelaide sometimes watched.
Julian was graceful. Fitz had noticed a certain elegance in the way he'd moved when they'd walked here from the club. Julian's every movement was fluid yet controlled, as if any lack of restraint would cause him to whirl off and perform some complicated ballet moves. His long legs were strong. Fitz could see the muscles of his calves and thighs under the drape of his trousers. His back was strong and straight while his shoulders were... Fitz swallowed. For an older guy, he was hot. Julian held his head to the side a little, like he was Belle from Beauty and the Beast, and Fitz knew he'd been trained to dance like that. That it was something to do with...line, maybe. Julian's was flawless. It was a pleasure to watch, so Fitz sat like a child at the top of the stairs and spied on them through the banisters.
"You still dance like a god," Serge told Julian. He'd removed his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves, revealing fine, strong forearms. His vest fit him snugly, accentuating broad shoulders and a trim waist.
"When I'm in your arms, I quite forget everything else." Julian acted coy. He flirted more than anyone Fitz had ever seen, and Serge ate it up with a spoon.
"Perhaps we should find something more modern than a Strauss waltz." Serge broke away and left Julian standing there. A moment later, Fitz heard the music change to some old song about a skylark.
"Et bien," Serge said low in his throat, as if the act of speaking French caused his voice to deepen. "Viens avec moi, mon ange. Allons danser."
"Oh, Serge," Julian sighed. Serge pulled Julian to him again, this time more intimately. He slipped his hand around Julian's waist but dropped it low, to the base of his spine, pulling him in tight. His other hand pressed Julian's palm to his chest and held it there. Julian rested his head on Serge's shoulder.
Fitz bit his lip. They were...amazing together. The contrast of Julian's light hair and Serge's dark; the way they rubbed their bristly cheeks together. It was an act as intimate as naked foreplay. Fitz shifted in his seat, stuck now, not wanting to rise from his perch because they might see him, and not really that thrilled to be sitting there watching because their mood was very clearly turning more romantic. Serge began to sing to Julian, a clear, lovely baritone voice that seemed to throb with desire.
Wow. What wouldn't Fitz give to have someone hold him like that? The right someone, he clarified, not a guy who was going to try to get him high and then throw him into a trash bin because he refused to bend over in the bathroom...
Before he knew it, Fitz was blinking back tears.
Julian raised the hand he'd had draped around Serge's neck and cupped the back of his head to pull him in for a kiss. And what a kiss it was. Fitz rolled his eyes. He would think two guys who'd been together long enough to finish each other's sentences would have at least taken the edge off a little before then.
But Julian kissed Serge like it was time to get off the amphibious assault craft and storm the beach at Normandy. And Serge...well, Serge just worshipped Julian. Like he'd found the cure for cancer. And it went on and on, long after that skylark song was over and two more besides it, until something about nightingales came on and the two men were beginning to get touchy-feely.
By now Fitz couldn't tear his gaze away. He hoped to heaven he didn't have to wait until he was that old for some guy to want him like that. He was definitely going to have to head to bed before these two went any further, or he'd cream himself. It helped to remember he was wearing some unknown girl's pajamas. He began to rise to his feet when a hush came over the room. The music had finished playing, but Serge and Julian still danced as though they heard it.
"Serge." Julian tipped his head back to give Serge access to his neck. Fitz heard his moan--a low cry deep in his throat--when Serge bit down on the hump of muscle at the junction of his neck and shoulder. Both of Serge's hands slipped down to Julian's ass cheeks to hold him steady while they ground against one other.
"On y va?" Serge asked between kisses. "J'en ai besoin, mon ange."
"Of course, my lover." Julian pulled back to answer him. "I need you as well."
Fitz saw Julian leap into Serge's arms, and he wanted to hold up a score card or something, like a perfect 10.0 from the American judge, when Julian locked his ankles behind Serge's back and Serge took his weight without skipping a beat. They rocked together briefly, sinuously, and then Serge began to move. Fitz assumed he was heading in the direction of the nearest bed and had a moment of blind panic when he realized they might head his way, up the stairs.
Instead they seemed to be going in the direction of the nearest wall, and Fitz's heart nearly burst with joy. His mouth went dry, and he was alternately besieged by excitement and shame.
Ohcrapohcrapohcrap... Should he...could he watch?
On the one hand, Fitz would be delighted to see these two in action. He'd clearly underestimated the sheer, blessed hottitude that could exist between two weirdly handsome older guys. He and his dick were firmly and inconveniently engaged in an act of voyeurism the likes of which he'd never experienced since Adelaide's second husband, Edward the Exhibitionist, went after the pool boy when Fitz was in second grade.
But back then the idea of a man getting banged by another man simply didn't have the oompah it had for him now. He'd thought someone was going to be injured, and he'd been bewildered and hurt by Adelaide's abrupt and angry reaction when he ran to her and reported what he'd seen.
Alternately--and more unfortunately--there seemed to be no getting rid of the deeply inculcated shame of that Irish-kid-from-a-Catholic-school upbringing. So naturally, generations of guilt weren't wasting any time making him feel awful about watching virtual strangers get it on.
What to do?
Then his old guys did something so shocking that Fitz's brain shorted out like a rat had chewed through his power cord.
When Fitz got up from where he'd fallen to the bottom of the steps, he thought maybe he'd imagined the whole thing. Or that he'd hit his head on the way down instead of just tripping a little while trying to flee and sliding down on his ass.
Because Serge and Julian had made their sexed-up, nugget-grinding way to the far wall of the living room, which was cream colored, wainscoted in white enameled paneling, and solid as...well...as any wall could ever be, and they'd simply...disappeared through it.
Fitz headed for the bedroom they'd left him in and crawled back into bed. Fucking Garrett and his damn drugs. Fucking ecstasy.
First he narrowly escaped getting his cherry popped in the bathroom of a damned club; then he woke up in a trash bin with some old English guy trying to yoink his jacket; next he hallucinated ballroom dancing and old guys making out and disappearing into thin air. He felt tears sting his eyelids but refused to give in to them.
He needed a good night's sleep and maybe a quart of coffee in the morning and he'd be good as new.
Nothing good could come of that.