Alec arrived home before teatime. The twenty-minute walk had tired him and it was very hot. The patio was quiet and cool, and he fell on the rocking chair with a contented sigh. Smoke appeared out of nowhere to curl on his lap demanding some attention.
- Hello, boy! – Alec whispered in his soft voice, the one he used for patients and cats – Had a nice day? That’s my cat!
Smoke purred and settled on Alec’s knees to sleep a little bit more. Alec relaxed caressing the cat’s soft fur and closed his eyes for a moment, or so it seemed to him. He woke up about an hour later, to the sound of some thundering music coming from upstairs. Smoke startled and ran to the kitchen. Alec smiled.
He got up and silently climbed the first flight of stairs. He recognized the piece playing, something grandiose and mounting like a wave. Maurice loved it and listened to it all the time, it was some piece by… oh, what was the man’s name? Something German, he was certain… not Beethoven, though… not Bach either… he knew it was another name but couldn’t remember it.
On the first floor he saw Julie, sitting on the stairs, with a book. She smiled at him and put a finger to her lips to ask for silence, but got up to kiss him.
- Hello, Da – she whispered.
- Why don’t you sit on a chair in the living room as normal people do? – he asked in the same hushed voice.
- I was sitting there. I came out here to listen to the music. I love Händel!
That was it! Händel! Something about fireworks, he believed.
- I’m going up to change. I expect we will be having tea soon.
He climbed the second flight and slowly walked to the room. The door was open and he could see Maurice and not be seen. He stopped. Maurice was listening in absolute rapture. He was flushed, his eyes were wide and very dark, and he was breathing heavily and leaning slightly forward in his chair as if the music was actually pulling him closer to the gramophone. He looked so beautiful! Alec just stood there feasting his eyes. He had seen that face before, he had seen it quite often, but not in those circumstances. He had never caught Maurice listening so intently to music before.
The ending of the piece was approaching; even Alec’s untrained ears could recognize that much. He could see Maurice moving in time with the music, a slight sway, almost imperceptible, as the final notes seemed to climb through his body. With the last note, he fell back, limp and spent, closed his eyes and moaned.
- Oh, God!
Again, Alec had heard that moan before, but again too in quite a different situation. He entered the room and Maurice opened his eyes and smiled, before standing to kiss him. An absentminded, drowsy smile, as if he had just woken up. His cheeks were still flushed, his breathing was settling, but still quite fast and shallow, and he had tears in his eyes.
- Hello, Alec. Had a good day? – Maurice’s voice sounded somewhat shaky, and his kiss was sweet and loving but he was still somewhere else.
Alec kissed him back and softly touched his arm to verify something.
- You’ve got goosebumps! I had no idea listening to music was such a physical experience…! I’ve been watching you for the last two or three minutes, and you looked just like you do when we are…
Maurice bit his lip and smiled in a most mischievous way, before answering in a voice still a bit tremulous. He was still flushed and wide eyed.
- Good music is just like good sex. It takes you by surprise, you have to be all there, moves you to tears, ends in fireworks and you’re always a bit sad afterwards.
Alec looked at him in amazement. What an association to make!
- So, bad music would be like what? Bad sex?
Maurice threw his head back in a hearty laugh, and then looked at him, his eyes glittering.
- I wouldn’t know, Alec. I do not listen to bad music and I never had bad sex…