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294 pages, Paperback
First published December 1, 2013
Alone in the darkness, he played Vivaldi.
"I feel like I'm disappearing," he whispered.
Life did not come with a soundtrack, and yet some low, haunting melody was drifting through the hall.
"I don't know," Darren said honestly. "I just feel like…I've been jarred. Shaken. Like something ripped all the cobwebs out. I don't know. Just…different. It's still there, you know. It's not gone, it's just…not quite…everything."
“What about St. John’s?” she suggested. “All boys, they’re bound to be gay.”
“You can’t make gay people Charley.”
“So why do single-sex schools churn out so many of them, huh?”
“They don’t, it’s a myth.”
“Yeah, right” She scoffed.
Jayden’s eyes flicked almost imperceptibly to his blazer. “St. John’s?” he ventured. “Yes. Are you gay?”
“He’s gay, you’re gay, what’s not to work out?” She sniffed and Jayden rolled his eyes.
He was shaking; his fingers were trembling in Mum’s. His chest hurt, and his face hurt, and he had the horrifying suspicion that he was about to cry.
“I've been….I’ve been scared to tell you, but I can’t….I can’t just keep it quiet anymore and…..and I….” The quiet certainty – the unsaid support, even though he didn’t know yet, pushed Jayden over the edge, and he said exactly what Darren had said. “I’m gay,” he blurted out, and the first tears spilled over.
“I’m gay, and I…I…”
“oh, darling, come here,” Mum crooned, coming around the table to sit next to him and hug him. She hugged him a lot, but not like this, not pulling him right in to wrap her arms around him and squeeze all the hurt out.
"I know it’s not the violin causing your…your illness, but it makes you worse. You know how I know you’re having a bad day sometimes? … You only ever play Vivaldi when you’re hurting and you’re miserable and I hate it because you’re not even letting off steam. You’re even more upset when you’re finished playing than when you started, and I…I hate it, Darren, I hate your violin. I hate your constant practice and I hate that you hate it, and I fucking hate Vivaldi.”
“I’m fucked up in the head and I don’t know why, and…I know it’s stupid, Jayden, believe me, I fucking know. And I’ve tried to get over it, I’m still trying, but it’s not working.”
“Look, I’m just saying…This,” Darren waved a hand between them, “isn’t going to be fun. I’m not going to be fun. Maybe every now and then I’ll be in the right place in my head to have silly dates out and go to parties with you, but there’s going to be days when I don’t want to know either of us exist, and there’s going to be days when I’m too tired to play because I’ve been up all night destroying my room, and…and I can’t promise…I can’t promise that I won’t. You know. Stop.”
"You are going to make the best of it because I know you.”
“What do you know?” Jayden whispered.
“I know you’re ridiculously dedicated, and you’ll stop at nothing to get — and keep what you want.”
“I feel like I’m disappearing,” he whispered.
“I fucking love you,” he said on the threshold, with that wide-eyed serious face that made Darren want to kiss him, and the anxiety knotted itself up into a tight, sulky ball in his gut. He let go of Jayden’s hand—and it ached—and put his game face on. Mother’s face. That steely, ferociously independent face. The one he wore whenever Father wanted an update on his progress at school. The one he wore whenever Mother would sit at the kitchen table and listen to his practice. The one that said, I’m exactly what you expect. I’m exactly what you want.
The one Jayden could see right through like a glass window.”
“It punched him in the chest like a heart attack, and his vision tunnelled on the impossibly beautiful, ridiculously perfect, ethereal shadow tracing the boards of the stage—and right there, right there, Jayden Phillips fell in love. The music stopped.”
“But the violin was a sad, solemn instrument, and it had taken Darren with it.”
He opened the door—and jerked back as a violin bow swept out to jab him in the throat. The music stopped, the quiet ringing in its place, and the boy holding the bow stared at him from close range. A boy with loose, dark curls, stunning green eyes in the naked light of the storeroom bulb, and a pristine black uniform, probably from one of the schools beyond Queen Mary’s Avenue. An ethereal, out-of-place stranger disturbed from a haunting sonata that made something in Jayden’s chest twist uncomfortably.