“Hold still, Franz!” Leopold gently admonished, knowing perfectly well it would only have effect for a few moments.
“Ja, ja, Leo!” Franz replied with exasperation, his story having been cut short. He remained in his pose for a silent moment, but when it seemed he could not stand it any longer, he burst out, “But, Leo, you never speak when you are working! You’re silent as death! It becomes tiring! May I not finish telling you how Schober tricked that lovely soprano into kissing him?!”
“Franz, hush! Close your mouth! This is the most difficult part, and I am nearly finished!”
“But what do you need my mouth for?!”
“I’m drawing your lips.”
“Oh,” Franz said and, for once, obligingly sat still in his original pose.
The boy named Leo blushed slightly at his own thoughts. He could think of a few other things he would like to use Franz’s mouth for, besides drawing. As he shaded in his rendering of those shapely lips with his pencil, he thought of how lovely they were when they formed an “O” for singing, and when they smiled at him playfully from across the aisle during Sunday morning mass.
Leo knew he should not think these things, of course, but he could not help himself. Franz, so talented and so handsome, filled his thoughts always. Franz’s person fed the passion in Leo’s heart, mind, and body just as Franz’s music fed the passion in Leo’s soul. His music filled Leo to the brim with joy and light. Such music as Franz’s, Leo felt, must be the earthly manifestation of God.
Leo admired his friend and looked up to him, though Franz was three and one half months younger. He was sure all of the other boys felt the same. Franz, with a soul that seemed sometimes to overflow into the room, especially when he was enveloped in music, was the center of their group.
Franz himself, of course, only felt this way about the other Franz – Franz von Schober. Those two were so well attached at the hip that they had fused their names together to make “Schobert.” It was silly, Leo knew, but he was disgustingly jealous of Schober. Deep within him, he knew that the two Franzes had something more. Oh, no one ever actually spoke of it, at least not without deeply couching it in classical terms. “Those two are as devoted to one another as Achilles and Patroclus” or “Nissus and Euryalus” were, they would say. People said the two had a “Romantic friendship.” It was all the rage round Vienna, Paris, etc. It was popular for two friends to be so devoted to each other. The old ladies crooned and the young ladies swooned when they saw those two handsome, talented, popular young men swaggering down the streets of Vienna with their arms round each other’s waists.
But Leo knew what Franz wouldn’t see. Schober was only using Franz. How could he possibly love him when he was always off gallivanting with some woman or some other man? Oh, Schober was a charmer, all right. Leo could see why Franz loved him. Handsome, funny, romantic, incredibly wealthy, and a poet! Poetry! So compatible with song! They often spoke of collaborating, those two Franzes.
Leo simply ached to have Franz the way Schober had him. To hold him close and breathe in his scent. To run his fingers through the lovely curls he had so painstakingly recreated on the page in front of him. To kiss those perfect, shapely, beautiful lips. Lips made to make music. To hear Franz’s melodic voice cry his name.
Leo snapped back to attention as Franz shouted his name. “What?” he responded blearily, having been broken out of his trance.
Franz laughed his glorious, sunlit laugh. “Leo, I thought I’d lost you! One minute you were drawing and the next – nothing,” Franz said, throwing his hands gently up into the air. “See?” he teased with a grin. “You find yourself tiring too!”
Leo mustered a good-natured smile, though genuinely hurt by Franz’s careless insult. He looked down at the page in front of him and scrutinized it, touching up a few things gently with his pencil. There. Finished. “Would you like to see yourself Franz?”
Franz’s face lit up and Leo’s heart soared. “Does this mean you are finished, Leo? You never let me see.”
“Yes, Franz, I am finished.”
Franz jumped up from his seat and scrambled over to the other side of Leo’s easel. For a moment, he stood silently staring, and Leo internally panicked. Had it been too revealing? A portrait was often more of a portrait of the artist than of the subject. Could Franz see how Leo felt?
“Leo…” Franz whispered in a dazed awe, still staring at his portrait. “You shall make me think far too well of myself. I am not nearly so handsome in the flesh…”
“You are,” said Leo quietly.
Franz’s head whipped up to meet Leo in the eyes. The silence of the room pressed around them and Leo’s heart was in his throat. “Thank you for drawing me, Leo,” Franz said, breaking the eye contact.
Leo gulped quickly, attempting to compose himself. “Th-thank you for sitting for me.” Damn that stutter. “I know you didn’t want to.”
“On the contrary, it was my pleasure, friend,” Franz reassured with another of his sunlit smiles.
The clock struck twelve. “I must be going, I am afraid,” Franz said over the chimes of the cuckoo clock on the mantle. “I am late to meet Franz for dinner. Guten Tag, Leo.”
“Guten Tag, Franz.”
Leo flopped back into his chair behind the easel as the clock went quiet. Gently, he stroked a pencil-shaded cheek. “I know,” he whispered. “You are the only Franz who will ever look at me so.”