The Prince(4)

By: Tiffany Reisz

He watched as Matthew tiptoed into the church and crept up to the sanctuary door. Much less circumspectly, Kingsley followed him and peered inside.

At the piano sat a young man…lean, angular, with pale blond hair cut in a style far more conservative than Kingsley’s own shoulder-length mane.

Kingsley watched as the blond pianist’s hands danced across the keys, evoking the most magnificent sounds he’d ever heard.

“Ravel…” he whispered to himself. Ravel, the greatest of all French composers.

Matthew looked up with panic in his eyes and shushed him again. Kingsley shook his head in contempt. Such a little coward. No one should be cowardly in the presence of Ravel.

Ravel had been his father’s favorite composer and had become Kingsley’s, too. Even through the scratches on his father’s vinyl records, he had heard the passion and the need that throbbed in every note. Part of Kingsley wanted to close his eyes and let the music wash over him.

But another part of him couldn’t bring himself to look away from the young man at the piano who played the piece—the Piano Concerto in G Major. He recognized it instantly. In concert, the piece began with the sound of a whip crack.

But he’d never heard it played like this…so close to him Kingsley felt he could reach up and snatch notes out of the air, pop them in his mouth and swallow them whole. So beautiful…the music and the young man who played it. Kingsley listened to the piece, studied the pianist. He couldn’t decide which moved him more.

The pianist was easily the most handsome young man Kingsley had ever seen in all his sixteen years. Vain as he was, Kingsley couldn’t deny he’d for once met his match there. But more than handsome, the pianist was also, in a way, as beautiful as the music he played. He wore the school uniform, but had abandoned the jacket, no doubt needing the freedom of unencumbered arm movement. And although he was dressed like all the other boys, he looked nothing like them. To Kingsley he appeared like a sculpture some magician had turned to life. His pale skin was smooth and flawless, his nose aquiline and elegant, his face perfectly composed even as he wrung glorious noise out of the black box in front of him.

If only…if only Kingsley’s father could be with him now to hear this music. If only his sister, Marie-Laure, were here to dance to it. For a moment, Kingsley allowed himself to mourn his father and miss his sister. The music smoothed the rough edges of his grief, however, and Kingsley caught himself smiling.

He had to thank the young man, the beautiful blond pianist, for giving him this music and the chance to remember his father for once without pain. Kingsley started to step into the sanctuary, but Matthew grabbed his arm and shook his head in a warning to go no farther.

The music ceased. The blond pianist lowered his arms and stared at the keys as if in prayer before shutting the fallboard and standing up. For the first time Kingsley noted his height—he was six feet tall if he was an inch. Maybe even more.

Kingsley glanced at Matthew, who seemed to be paralyzed with fear. The blond young man pulled on his black suit jacket and strode down the center of the sanctuary toward them. Up close, he appeared not only more handsome than before, but strangely inscrutable. He seemed like a book, shut tight and locked in a glass box, and Kingsley would have done anything for the key. He met the young man’s eyes and saw no kindness in those steely gray depths. No kindness, but no cruelty, either. He inhaled in nervousness as the pianist passed him, and smelled the unmistakable scent of winter.

Without a word to either him or Matthew, the young man left the church without looking back.

“Stearns,” Matthew breathed, once the pianist had gone.

So that was the mysterious Mr. Stearns who inspired both fear and respect from the students and Father Henry. Fascinating...Kingsley had never been in the presence of someone that immediately intimidating. No teacher, no parent, no grandparent, no policeman, no priest had even made him feel what standing in the same room with the piano player, with Mr. Stearns, had made him feel.

Kingsley looked down and saw his hand had developed a subtle tremor. Matthew saw it, too.

“Don’t feel bad.” The boy nodded with the wisdom of a sage. “He does that to everybody.”

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