That day after school, Jude ran straight to Mikael's house. He wasn't even sure that Mrs. Adams would let him into the blond's room when he was so ill, but he had to try; this was news that couldn't wait.
The Adams' lived on the other side of Spring Hill from the high school, but the "other side" of a town of barely fifteen hundred people was only about a mile. It took Jude about ten minutes to half-run, half-walk to the run-down little house that sat just inside the railroad tracks that served as the town's unofficial boundary. Within seconds of knocking on the door, Mikael's mother answered it and greeted the boy with a warm smile; this was clearly a different household when the old man was away.
"Hello, Mrs. Adams. May I talk to Mikael?" Jude asked in his most polite voice. He held up his own biology book, using the only excuse he could think of that would actually get him in the door. "I have his homework from the last couple of days."
"All right, but make it quick, Jude," Mrs. Adams said kindly but firmly, opening the door further and ushering the brunette inside. "Mikael needs his rest if he wants to get better."
"Yes, ma'am," Jude replied as he made his way toward the staircase that led to Mikael's bedroom. He'd never seen the house so clean before; he guessed that when she didn't have her alcoholic husband to take care of, Mrs. Adams, a stay-at-home wife and mother, had to do something to occupy her time.
When he reached Mikael's bedroom door at the top of the stairs, Jude entered without knocking, not out of inconsideration, but out of habit; it might as well been his own room. Inside he found the blond sitting at his digital piano with a pair of headphones on, playing a piece that Jude could see but could not hear. Mikael had not heard the boy enter and he continued playing; Jude sat on the bed across the room and watched his boyfriend delve into his own personal universe, seemingly aware of nothing but his own fingers and the music that they were creating. Jude loved to see Mikael like this; he'd always imagined that Beethoven or Bach went into similar trances when they had created their own music -- some of the most enduring pieces in the history of man.
Suddenly Mikael looked up like a deer in the woods that had been startled by a broken twig and spun around on his stool to face Jude.
"Hey!" he said with a bright smile; even though he knew that the enthusiastic grin was genuine, Jude could tell that the blond was not quite one-hundred percent.
"What were you playing?" Jude asked.
"Just something I've been working on," Mikael replied off-handedly. He always down-played his talent on the piano; Jude would have died if just once the boy had admitted how good they both knew he was.
"You wrote that?"
"Composed," Mikael corrected gently. "I had to have something to do, being confined to this room the last three days."
"You composed that in three days?" Jude asked, his jaw dropping; he should have stopped being amazed by Mikael's musical abilities years ago, but he couldn't help it. "Will you play it for me?"
"It's not finished yet," the blond replied, waving about ten pages of hand-written sheet music in Jude's direction. "I've only got about five minutes so far."
"Let me hear what you have," the brunette pleaded; at that moment he wanted to hear Mikael's piece more than anything in the world. "Please?"
"Well…" Mikael shuffled the sheet music in his hands nervously; Jude knew that the boy would not want anybody to hear his composition until it was finished, yet he also knew that his request would not likely be denied. "All right."
To Jude's delight, Mikael turned to face the piano and pulled the jack from the headphones input. As he began his piece -- light and airy with smooth yet dazzling runs and majestic chord phrases -- the smaller boy could tell that Mikael considered it to be his magnum opus, his own "Années de pèlerinage". There was something different about him playing his own piece than when he played something composed by Chopin or Schumann; there was a different passion in these notes, probably because they came not from a printed page purchased off the Internet, but rather from Mikael's heart and soul.
Jude listened as the piece slowly crescendoed into a thundering climax with heavy chords accented by lightning-fast melodies, which had become something like Mikael's signature. Goosebumps rose on the brunette's arms as the musical pandemonium gradually died away into a variation of the soft introduction. As the piece drew to its conclusion, Jude noticed that Mikael was no longer reading his sheet music; he looked at the clock on the wall to see that nearly nine minutes had passed since the blond had started playing.
"You made up the end, didn't you?" he asked as soon as his boyfriend had looked up from the keyboard.
"What can I say? You inspired me," Mikael replied with a wide smile as he spun around to face Jude once more. "What do you think?"
"I think it's fucking incredible.'
"I'm glad you think so, because guess what it's called." The brunette looked at Mikael with an expression that clearly said that he had no idea. "It's called 'Jude's Rhapsody'."
"You wr -- composed that for me?" Jude asked, emotion threatening to overtake him. Part of him hated how emotionally open he had become since he and Mikael had started dating. "Nobody's ever done anything like that for me before."
"That's because nobody's ever loved you like I do." The blond rose from his instrument and laid on the bed, pulling his lover on top of him. He kissed the brunette passionately, thrusting his tongue into his mouth.
"Mikael, you're sick," Jude gasped when he was finally able to pull himself away; the boy had always been a bit of a germaphobe.
"The doctor said it's not contagious," Mikael replied, looking up at Jude; his eyes danced through strands of his yellow hair, which was not longer than he had ever let it grow before. "Besides, if I do get you sick, then we can miss school together."
Jude couldn't argue with that logic, so he allowed himself to be pulled back in. The boys made out like they never had before -- Mikael seemed to be livid with passion -- and they ended up shirtless; the brunette could feel more heat than usual from his boyfriend, probably resulting from the fever that the boy had been running for several days. Just as Mikael had reached for the button on Jude's jeans, a knock on the door stopped the boys cold. "I'm sorry, Jude, but you're going to have to leave now." The voice of Mikael's mother rang loud and clear through the bedroom door; thankfully she hadn't opened it to come inside. "Like I said, Mikael needs to get his rest."
"Yes, ma'am; I've just gotta pack up my school things and I'll be leaving," Jude called from on top of Mikael, straddling him at the hips. "I ought to be getting home, anyway."
"Okay, hun. I'll call your mom and let her know you'll be home soon." As soon as they heard Mrs. Adams trot down the stairs, the boys both jumped up and put their shirts back on, in case she should decide to return and enter the room.
"Wow, that was close," Mikael said with a sigh of relief. "Almost blew our cover there."
"Yeah, way too close for comfort." Suddenly Jude remembered the reason he had practically run to his boyfriend's house in the first place. "Mikael, Ricky Black knows," he said slowly; he tried to stay calm to down-play what a big deal it was. "He saw us under the bleachers."
"Has he told anybody else?" The calm in Mikael's voice almost made Jude want to throw him out the second-story window. He should have been freaking out, and instead he was lying on his bed without a care in the world.
"No, and I believed him when he said he wouldn't," the brunette admitted; maybe he was overreacting, after all. "He tried to get me to let him fuck me in the bio lab today after lunch."
"Well, did you? Was he as good as me?"
"Of course I didn't!" Jude looked at the blond like he was crazy. "Have you lost your Goddamn mind?"
"Relax, I was just kidding," Mikael replied, standing up and putting his arms around the smaller boy's waist. "So one person knows about us, and we don't think he's going to tell anybody. What's the big deal?"
"Maybe you're right." Jude shivered as the blond embraced him; he could feel his body heat through both of their shirts. Mikael's mother was right: he needed his rest if he was ever going to get better. "I have to go, before your mom has a coronary," he said, pulling away from his lover reluctantly and grabbing his biology book from the bed, stuffing it in his backpack. "You need to get better soon; I can't go too much longer at school without you."
"Yeah," Mikael replied. As Jude turned toward the door, the blond turned him by the shoulder and kissed him gently. "I love you, Jude."
"I love you, too." The reaction was purely automatic; Jude had not had to think about the words that came out of neither his nor Mikael's mouth. He guessed that it was a sign that the love between the boys was deeper than the every day high school romance: there was no drama in these three little words, and there wasn't any doubt that both had meant them with all of their hearts.
With a wide smile on his face, Jude bounded down the staircase and through the living room, toward the front door. "Night, Mrs. Adams," he said as he passed Mikael's mother sitting on the couch, just like he had hundreds of times since he was five years old.
This time was different, however. "Wait, Jude," Mrs. Adams said, rising and turning off the television. "I'd like to speak to you for a minute."