The orchestra house was especially loud that day and it was overwhelming to think that the people coming in were there, expecting to listen from him. Never did Kaelan expected his wildest dreams forming to life. It would have remained as that if two weeks ago’s encounter with Mr. Yakamura never happened. Kaelan decided to de-stress in room 123, it had become his place ever since and Mr. Corioli, the orchestra’s oldest maestro, made it almost always available for him every time. That day though, another person, who introduced himself as Kuichiro, was already there playing trombone. Kaelan easily gave up the room and just walked away when Kuichiro called him out through a loud G  from his instrument.

The room, as always, had been so stationary. The guys were standing beside the coffee table on the across-end of the door. He adjusted his glasses as he continued telling the story with his broken English to Kaelan. “It’s a sorry not to play on stage before my family back to Japan.” He sounded funny but as juice-less as Kaelan was he remained stiff until Kuichiro told him, “Why don’t you play the piece on the 30th?” No way would he, or he could? It started the more interactive conversation between the two which led them to Mr. Corioli’s office.

The old maestro was in his per usual plaid and jumpers. He was pacing back and forth on the poorly varnished floor. He couldn’t cancel the show since it was published a week before. In such short notice, it would be difficult to find another orchestral pianist, especially, it was a season for houses to host different musical plays and productions. Then, came in his door Kuichiro who must be the most enthusiastic person he ever met. Kuichiro sure was difficult to understand but it was all about getting used to. The door opened upon his approval, but his eyes beamed pleasantly when he saw Kaelan tailing behind.

“Maestro, sorry disturbing you. Kyo is something to say.” Kuichiro said.

“I think I have something to tell him as well. Can you leave us for a moment?” It had been years of knowing; months of convincing, he hoped it was time. “Kyo, this is an unusual time you get here. I hope you’re here for the same purpose I am thinking.” Mr. Corioli wanted Kaelan to perform but he was always rejected, saying that he couldn’t. For some reason he knew it wasn’t solely his personal choice. A simple yes would save El Encanta for a yet-another faux pas. It would’ve been the second time, they cancelled a show this year alone.

Kaelan’s answer was the reason why the show happening in four hours would be his debut as a pianist. “Just like how we met.” Kaelan said in a murmur.

“You’re taking him for granted.” Tiffany said and she had been on and on with the Kyle topic after the phone call. She had watched her two friends for years and she strongly believed they were made for each other. She took one of Venice’ red lipsticks and glided it on her lips. A red lipstick was a make-it-or-break-it for some other girls but for Tiffany, it never went wrong. “Terrible,” she shook her head.

Venice looked at her, newly applied lipstick. “Your red lips have always been perfect, you know.” She said as she was choosing among her violets.

Tiffany rolled her eyes when she pointed out that it wasn’t her lips she was talking about. “See? Taken for granted!” She pulled the one with a pinkish shade of violet. “That will go with your dress.”

“He’s my friend, he’s different.” Venice made a statement, she realized Tiffany was having a wrong idea about how she treated Kyle. She sprayed some watermelon-scent perfume on her nape, then her wrist. She checked her bag once again to see if she got everything she needed inside.

Her red lipstick made her teeth extra white as she enunciate each word clearly. “You. Don’t. Give. Him. A. Damn. Chance.”

Venice sighed, tired of their topic.

“Dream on, you won’t meet anyone as great as Kyle.” Tiff said before going inside the bathroom. Venice yelled before the door completely shut, “How much did he pay you?” She got no reply.

Very soon, as the clock stroke 12, Kyle came looking extra prepared and extra handsome, Venice hardly admitted. “You never fail to amaze me, you two.” His eyes adored her plum lips then through her dress. Her car needed more time at the repair shop so she had carpooled with Kyle as Tiffany wanted. Her friend couldn’t stop talking about how that was Alex and her’s first proper date because of college. She said double date was going to be fun so they had to plan it next. When Venice glanced up the rear mirror, she caught him stealing a look but he only smiled at her. She thought she heard Tiffany’s voice saying: Dream on, you won’t meet anyone as great as Kyle. “Won’t I?” She murmured under her breath.

Kaelan chose to stay in room 123, looking at himself through the glass caging in the Stradivarius. His hair styled like the 80’s, gelled and side-swept. As he meekly search for the nervousness on his face, there was none. Expressing was a difficult act, especially when one had never gotten a chance to practice it since childhood. Kaelan’s father taught him not to show he was vulnerable because the weak comes last and being the last makes your existence irrelevant. Although in a calm physique, Kaelan donned it he was anxious. It was no different than a de ja vu. It was as if everything happened in take two. He would get nowhere trying to measure how nervous he was so Kaelan decided to take a quick walk outside. Not the best idea when the show was about to start in thirty. Passing through people now, and later his audience, was definitely causing his blood to burn in every possible way that  was good. He’d always wanted this. No one knew him but listened. A totally different case in business where people had to know exactly what you were and what you had to get them sit and lend an ear.

“Sorry!” Suddenly, he smelled a tropical fruit, sweet and mild. Kaelan looked at the poster in the woman’s hand and he couldn’t swallow the embarrassment. It was only his silhouette but still disturbed his sanity.

He only walked passed the girl to avoid contact. Perfect timing when Kuichiro came into the scene. “Where you go?” His crooked English in the limelight once again. “Model?” He asked. Kaelan gave him a questioning look. “Girl behind you. Looks like a model.” Kaelan glanced back to the woman he bumped into awhile ago. Kuichiro displayed his inner playboy, “She watch later, I wish. You see her?”

Kaelan shrugged off but not as much as he usually did. “Don’t know. She smells like summer.” After he caught himself doing that, he ushered Kuichiro back to the staff room before he got more out of context.

***

As the claps faded out, the oboes beautifully chorused the beginning of enchantment. The veteran musical orchestra goers found it very different from the original El Encanta selection; some were disappointed, some were pleased. To someone who heard one for the first time, every moment was only magical and a dream-come-true. Venice felt it was de ja vu but sensed something was off.

His fingers danced across the keys comfortably, easing every movement feeling at home with the whites and the blacks. He heard the cymbals emerging from the entire orchestra and confidently chided to their tempo. Blending and stressing the melody into the music creating perfect harmony. The live performance was definitely tiers above their practices. As it was nearing the final movement, he paid one pan of look around to the audience; each had different stares in their eyes: discerning, amazed, intriguing, happy, bored, satisfied. He expected those from them but he had to take a second look at the front row- nearly missing one note in the process.

Kaelan lost it. Her auburn long hair and black highlights framed the face of the girl in his dreams; high and soft-edged nose, defined upper lip paired with a plumped cleft lower lip. With her eyes closed, he swore his chest beating out of tune of his music and forgetting the forte at the last line.

Rachmaninoff no. 2 ended as Mr. Corioli signaled the orchestra to rise. He was left sitting on the stool, still can’t take his eyes off her. “Is this a dream?” Alex, the second violin, noticed he was out of his mind tapped him. He stood hurriedly and bowed with the others.

As soon as they left the stage, Alex put his shoulder around Kuichiro and Kaelan. “Hey! Follow me out. I’ll introduce you to my girlfriend.”

Kaelan could not care less. Kuichiro, on the other hand, was intrigue asking where she was at the audience and how long they have been together. There went the bragging Alex who was giving Kaelan the eyes all throughout because he knew he never had a girl. The latter did not seem to bother as he looked around as if searching for something.

“I almost get distracted by her smile.” Alex continued happily. “I regret giving her the front seat, she’s drawing too much attention.”

As if the words “front seat” sparked an idea who the girlfriend was. His steps halted but he was too curious his steps paced much quicker when he recovered. Kaelan was ahead of them and the two were just confused what was with him. He was not as calm as he used to. Alex was even more surprised when Kaelan asked him which side his girlfriend was. He was hesitant to answer because he could not guess where this tall Japanese guy was going with the question. Kaelan looked at him in the eye, seriously spoke, “Tell me.”

Still confused but Alex gave in, “Alright. At the right side.” The answer was responded by dismayed look. Kaelan’s eyes were profusely moving all directions. “I know that look. Don’t tell me…” He did not say it out loud but he bet Kaelan saw a girl at the right side of the front row earlier. He smirked and just tapped his shoulder, “If it’s really Tiffany, I can only send my apology hugs to you.”

Alex led them to his girlfriend, every step Kaelan guess became more solid. She was right there, sitting and spacing out. Only five steps more, when a random audience came to him, making him face his back to the group which Alex went.

“Sugoidesu ne…[You’re amazing…]” Words he only managed to catch in that long statement, he gestured the piano. Kaelan was more into what Alex was saying to his girlfriend since he cannot see them.

“How was it, my sweet cupcake?” he talked so different.

“It’s fine. You look handsome, by the way.” she said.

“Thanks, you’re stunning. But I saw you sleeping during the last score.”
The girl had her eyes closed when Kaelan stared at her face. “Sorry.” his girlfriend said then giggled. “Oh! Here’s Kyle and Venice. You know Venice, right?”

The stranger, on the other hand, noticed Kaelan was not with him. Kaelan immediately cut it short. “Hai, domo arigatou.” He could not stay in the hoods anymore. He turned to where he had been listening.

He could not explain how much relief it was that the girl who had her fingers intertwined with Alex was not her- not the person who owned the face of the girl he had been dreaming about.

“So how is it?” Venice seemed unprepared as she inwardly panicked at Alex’ intrusion to her lone time.

“Ah… It’s wonderful.” then, she looked confusedly at him.

“Oh, I’m Alex, Tiffany’s boyfriend. It’s good to finally meet you.” She inspected him and stared at their hands. Just then, Alex turned to Kaelan’s direction asking him to come closer. Kaelan just realized that he stopped walking as soon as he laid eyes on her.

“Venice.” She identified herself. Kaelan walked toward the group, still staring.

“Oh! The model!” Kuichiro proudly remembered, trying to get Kaelan’s approval. Kaelan was only magnetized.

“Venice meet Kyo. Kyo meet Venice.” The closer Kaelan went, the similar their faces had gotten. Everything about them was the same. Her face, height, skin, clothes- even that meeting was the same. He questioned if this was a repetition of his favorite dream.

He thought he heard Alex introducing his girlfriend, Tiffany, to him but Kaelan could not let a second go to know whether he was imagining things or not.

Definitely, it’s de ja vu. No. De ja vu had to reoccur real events. Then, was it premonition?

“Ahum!” Venice made a sound. She recalled Kyo’s name repeating when she woke up last time.

“I have to go now?” she said looking very conscious by his stares. As much as she wanted to breakaway from those, there was an unknown sensation that pulls her to him- cedarwood scent.

“Oh right. Say my hello to aunt, uncle, and grandpa.” Tiffany hugged her.

Venice smiled at Alex. “Nice meeting you, Alex” and quite hesitantly, she looked at Kaelan as she spoke his name “and Kyo.” She walked out of the crowd. The guy who Kaelan supposed was Kyle followed her after glaring at him. Seven seconds looking at that Kyle guy, he’s the annoying, rich, and egoistic type.

“So, it’s not my Tiffany, huh?” He nudged Kaelan with his elbow while his brows wiggled.

Kaelan disregarded the reaction by checking his phone when it vibrated a notice to read a message, not knowing Alex was peeking.

Fr: Kikio
Kyo, Bryan said he’s gonna shop with me today but he said he’s busy just now. Can you clear his schedules?

He shook his head at the message. Calling her number, he realized Alex was giving him a look. People kept doing that to him a lot lately. “What?”, he asked.

“Your sister has an attitude. She needs some hitting in the butt.” Alex commented.

Kaelan glared at him. “Do it, you die.” he said just before his call connected. He explained to his sister that Bryan did not mean to break the promise but something important must have come up. He could almost tell that Kikio was not half-convinced. She should learn that things would not always go her way.

Kaelan felt the need to go straight back to Zuttoko. However, Alex insisted that he should join their celebration. He was not even that hard to persuade that time because there were many things bugging him and they needed answers immediately. Among those things was the mystery behind the girl named Venice.

“Excuse me, someone’s floating.” Alex elbowed his side.

He was thinking how he could ask about her. He only wanted to know just how real she was. It sounded stupid in his mind, how much more when he say it aloud. Kaelan could not believe it, he even doubted his own eyes. Maybe, he was hallucinating. Maybe, she was not real. When he was too clouded, he uttered, “Hey…” leaning toward Alex. At the very second he did, Kaelan backed off.

“Hey, what?” Alex asked when Kaelan did not say anything further. He was facing his girlfriend though.

Kaelan was too serious about the thoughts but seeing how Alex focused on his girlfriend broke his courage. He would not get answers, he thought. He turned to the other side, their backs facing. “Nevemind.” He dismissed.

“Kyo! Why are you throwing tantrums now? Look at what you did to Tiffany!”

Innocently, he refused to acknowledge that he did anything. He did not remember moving harsh enough. Or, maybe he did. He turned to see what could have happened when a fluffy white cream touched his cheek.

And that did it to Kaelan. He was frustrated since the beginning of this nonsense party; he could not get answers; then, a prank. It was building up along with the laughter around him. He blankly and yet so calmly stood up from his seat. The crowd turned quiet guessing if he was mad.

“Kyo!” He heard Alex called when they reached the men’s room. He used the sound of the faucet to muffle his voice which irritated him. The other guy was just all smiles.

“Ha ha ha! This is why I love pranking you, look at you,” Alex said while Kaelan intentionally squeezing the liquid soap noisily. “Times like this is when you are a person.” Kaelan glared at him. Of all the times he received glares that day, it was right to claim his turn. “Are you a humanoid. You don’t even know how to stretch your face.” He pinched both of his cheeks and played with them like a rubber band.

He hit his hands and acted punching him but Alex stopped his fist. “This is one of your bad habits, Kyo. Saying nothing and hitting when you feel like it.” he said. “Right, this is a special treatment.” Alex widely smiled.

Kaelan discarded his mocking. He was clean, he never hit anyone. But it was true that he showed a lot more emotions to Alex and Bryan than most people- that included anger.

Alex nudged him again, almost teasing. “You wanna ask something?”, naughtily sneered.

Kaelan rinsed his hands, still not giving a word. He took some paper towels to dry his face and hands; again, he rolled out papers like there was no tomorrow.

“Venice Alexa Young, Harvard University, 3rd year, marketing, 20. You’re welcome.” Alex rapped the facts about Venice before stepping out.

Kaelan was astounded, confused, “I-I’m not interested!” He stuttered intending to shout but his recollection was getting in the way. He breathed heavily, trying to remember what he just said. “What? Venice Alexa? Harvard?” He was too off-guard to remember the next ones. “Where’re his manners?!” He was complaining when another person came in. He mumbled to himself while scratching his head “I wasn’t paying attention.”

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