After breakfast, I offered to let Leila use the shower first, but she said she was thinking about soaking in the bath for a while, so I might as well be first. When I came back from my shower, she was on her tablet, working on a story.
“Is that the one with the minotaur?” I asked her.
“Oh,” she shook her head, “I finished that one. This one has a unicorn.”
“And a princess?” I teased.
“Too typical,” she replied. “But there is a musician.”
“I like it already,” I said as I sat on the edge of the bed to put on my socks. “What is the plot going to be?”
“Well, I’m just starting out,” she explained. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen… I might have something happen to her while she’s on her way somewhere.”
“Wow, yeah, that really sounds like it’s in the beginning stages.”
“Well, I did start it just this morning,” she giggled.
“While I was in the shower?”
“It wasn’t that long of a shower, was it?”
Leila showed me her tablet, which had only a few paragraphs in a text file.
“Oh, I see. It’s brand new.”
“Well, I look forward to reading it,” I told her. And it was true; I always enjoy reading what she shares and letting her know my thoughts. Last year, she wrote a spooky story involving Loki and an incubus in Hades’s underworld, and it was quite a read, to say the least.
We chatted for a little while longer before I had to meet up with Killian and head over to symphony hall for our meeting. I left her with a hug and let her know we’d call as soon as we were free to meet up with them again. The meeting was a lot of little things, getting ready, making sure our instruments were tuned while on the stage, and so on. There would be one final check right before the performance, of course, but this was our time to check for major issues– especially for oboes. The conductor ran us through a few scales and had us practice some of the more pivotal points in the pieces.
Once that was done, the company treated us to a lunch of soup, sandwiches, and salad; plenty of nutrition without being too heavy. It was more or less the middle of the afternoon by the time the last of the talking points had been covered and we were free for a few hours. When we came back, it would be in formal attire, and the seats would start to be filled.
It took Leila a few rings to answer the phone. “Stefan, hey how did practice go?”
“It was just fine,” I told her. “I think you’re really going to enjoy tonight’s performance.”
“That’s exciting,” she said. “I’ve been looking forward to it ever since Killian said you were both performing.”
“Is that so?”
Then I heard Larsa shouting in the background. Screaming, If I’m being accurate. “Oh, no– what is that thing?! Leila, we have to get out of here before it sees us!”
Killian could hear it, too. “Were in the world are they?” He looked a little worried.
“Larsa, you’re fine,” Leila assured him, clearly distracted from the phone call. “It’s just a statue… or something like that. It can’t even move.”
“But it’s huge!”
“Yeah, so’s the Space Needle, and you weren’t scared of it,” Leila pointed out.
“Lei–” I began, but they were still talking to each other, wherever they were.
“The Space Needle isn’t a giant black bug with dozens are sharp teeth!”
Leila sighed. “He’s cute,” she said over the phone, “but you weren’t kidding when you said he’s excitable.”
I laughed a little at that. “If it’s any comfort, I think half of it is just him playing around.”
“Half?” she scoffed. “I don’t know whether that’s an understatement or an exaggeration.”
“It doesn’t feel too much like babysitting, does it?”
That had her cracking up. “He only disappeared on me while I was turned around once. Today. He only disappeared once today.”
“Where are are they?” Killian asked again.
“Where did you take him?” I asked her.
“Oh, we’re– Larsa, just– just read the plaque, okay? Wow, Stefan, how did you never watch the ‘Aliens’ movie with him?”
“Well, when we were younger, his mom said it was too scary for him. And by the time he got older, we were focused on other things,” I explained. “Wait, are you at the science fiction museum?”
“We’ll be there in a few,” I said, and gestured for Killian to head to the parking lot with me.
By the time we got to the Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame– which was really close to the Seattle Space Needle– we found Larsa and Leila near the Legend of Zelda exhibit. Larsa was excited to see Killian, and was back in his arms faster than a lightning strike.
“Aww, they’re so adorable,” Leila said when she came up beside me.
“You want a hug, too?” I asked her, catching the hint.
She grinned up and me and wrapped her arms around my torso; I returned the embrace.
“It was nice of you to bring him here,” I said once we let go.
“He’s having a lot of fun,” she told me. “I’m kind of glad I’ve been here before, so I don’t feel like I’m missing much.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at that statement. “Did he tell you how things went when he first came to the States?”
She looked up at me with wide eyes. “Noooo…..”
I let Larsa lead Killian off to another exhibit in the museum, and walk more slowly with Leila. “He flew in through New York,” I began to explain. “He insisted on seeing the Big Apple.”
“Was he disappointed that the apples there aren’t all that big?”
“He knows what the phrase means,” I said, “but that didn’t stop him from joking about it.”
“You said he always has good intentions,” Leila pointed out.
“He does. He makes people laugh.”
“You don’t think he’s up to a bit of schadenfreude?”
“Do you?” When she shrugged, I said, “Larsa isn’t out to annoy anyone. If he’s playing, he’ll knock it off before other people get mad. He didn’t cause too much ruckus with the Aliens display, did he?”
“Well, he didn’t attack it…”
“And it didn’t sound like he was screaming as loud as he could,” I added. “If he keeps at something, it’s genuine. I mean, half the time something gets clarified for him quickly, it’s still genuine, but…”
“But he’s not going to play ignorant when someone’s annoyed?” she filled in for me.
“Right. So, did you two already explore the music side of this place?”
Leila shook her head. “We came here first after lunch.”
“You two took your time, huh?” I replied as we kept walking. “We had sandwiches; what about you?”
“Sushi,” Leila said. “He really likes fish.”
“You noticed?” I teased. “Yeah, and it’s a good thing Killian isn’t adverse to Japanese food. Oh– did he have a lot of green tea?”
She giggled a little. “Don’t worry, I made sure he slowed down. And he agreed on no alcohol ’till the banquet.”
“And he didn’t whine?”
“Not much. I think it helped that we hared a couple flavors of ramune for dessert.”
“You’re a good friend,” I told her. Well, I’m sure she already knows that, but it’s nice to hear sometimes.
We went on following Killian and Larsa from a distance. We had enough time to pass through the fantasy art gallery and then visit the various music-related exhibits. It was just about time to head back to the hotel to get changed, and Larsa was content that he’d seen enough, so we started making our way back to our cars.
We were walking along the sidewalk when suddenly Leila called out, “Watch out!” and grabbed my hand. She pulled me back, closer to the wall, and shouted something at the trio of teenagers who were riding their skateboards through the area.
“You saved me again,” I told her once things settled down. With her eye for detail, she was really good at looking out for dangers.
“They look like the type of kids who don’t care who they knock down,” Leila grumbled.
I didn’t mention anything to her about the fact that she was still holding my hand.
“Anyway,” she went on, “we don’t need you sore for your concert tonight.”
“Thanks for that,” I told her with a happy grin on my face.
“Are you okay?” Larsa asked as he and Killian walked over to us.
“Yeah, fine,” I assured them. “Let’s get going.”
We continued on to the parking lot. Leila still held my hand, and I took comfort in her warmth and protectiveness. She let me ride in her car so that Killian and Larsa could ride together in his; Larsa was sure to want to tell his boyfriend how much he’d missed him, and fill him in on every detail of his day. He probably wouldn’t be done sharing everything by the time we got back.
Once we’d returned to our hotel room, I let Leila take over the bathroom so that she could focus on doing her hair the way she wanted, and get dressed, and do whatever else she needed to do. Meanwhile, I could get into my clothes in the main room. It was a lot of layers, but depending on what Leila had brought with her, it might still be less complicated. I saw Leila go into the bathroom with the covered dress she brought with her, and I busied myself with dressing layer by layer.
Orchestral musicians have to wear white tie and tails, which is pretty much about as formal as it gets. The white shirt is really nice, but a little too much on the crisp side to be considered comfortable. I kind of liked the coattails as far as image goes, but the white tie is really difficult to keep clean. I was trying to get the cuff-links fastened when Leila came back out. It took me a minute to look up, and by the time I did, she was right next to me, putting her hand on my shoulder.
“Hey,” I said, “do you need help with anything?”
“No,” she replied. “Do you?”
I didn’t answer the question. I had turned to face her, and what I saw was incredible. I’d never seen her wear a dress like this before, something long and sleek, something formal and… Well, I was at a loss for words. It wasn’t a ball gown– not the kind with the wide skirts and many layers. It wasn’t completely form-fitting either, but it did accent her form nicely. It was almost… Kind of like one of those gowns you see on movie stars or famous singers when they’re being photographed on the red carpet. Don’t question me for comparing Leila to someone that famous; she deserves it, really. She deserves to be recognized for her talents in writing and creativity. They should treat authors the way they treat actresses, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, really, a lot of movies wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for authors writing the stories.
Leila’s gown was a rich sapphire blue, and I swear it was made out of pure silk; I was almost afraid to touch it. The dress flowed down her body as though it were made of ripples of water. The sleeves were just off her shoulders, and the silk flowed down her chest, pulled together on one side of her body, all the way down past her hips and along one leg. The other side had sort of a slit starting partway down her leg, and she’d found just the right smoky gray tights to put on under it. The pools of silk would have to be picked up when she wanted to walk, but for a look that beautiful, it was worth it.
She had managed to weaved part of her copper curls into braid, then pulled them together at the back of her head in a way that reminded me of a lovely medieval maiden. Her earrings were dangling sapphires and opals that glittered in the light of the lamps, and she had a ribbon-like choker to match.
I’m not sure how much she realized I was staring at her as she pulled a pair of shoes out of her suitcase. They weren’t exactly high heels, in the sense that they didn’t have the spikes, but it looked like they were as formal as they could get otherwise. That was one of the things I appreciate that about Leila; she’s practical most of the time, but she could really be formal when she wanted to. She sat down on one of the armchairs to slip on her shoes, then started pulling on her long sapphire gloves.
“Did you get those cuffs under control?” she asked in a teasing voice as she watched me.
“Duly subdued,” I told her, showing her both of my wrists. “Leila, I have to say, you look amazing.”
“Thanks,” she said as her gaze fell back down to her gloves. I think her cheeks were a little pink just then, too.
“I mean… Wow. I know I’m going to be on stage later, but I’d love to be the one escorting you to your seat.”
She giggled. “You and your honeyed words,” she said. “I’m sure Larsa will do a fine job of looking after me.”
“I agree, but still…” I slid on my socks and shoes. “Killian is going to have to work extra hard to focus on his music, too.”
“Oh, I’m sure,” Leila said. She got up and helped smooth out some of the folds in my shirt. “You brought your lint roller, right?”
“Of course,” I told her. “Can’t leave home without it.” That’s one of the responsibilities of having long hair: keeping things tidy, especially on formal occasions.
I stepped into the bathroom to wet my hair just enough to keep it sleek and under control, then set about gathering it together tightly, but also in the right position to be comfortable and not pull. Once everything was where it should be, I sprayed it with a small amount of hair spray– just to keep strands and wisps from escaping later– and wrapped a white hair tie around it. Leila help smooth it and comb it out before passing the lint roller over my back a few times.
Then she brought my my tailcoat.
“Thanks,” I said as I let her help me slip it on.
“It looks good on you,” she told me, her gaze avoiding mine just a little. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you this dressed up.”
I touched a stray curl that bounced near her temple; it was too lovely to tuck away. “I… I don’t think I’ve ever seen you this dressed up. It really suits you.”
Her cheeks pinked more, and she turned away. “I’m going to get cavities from those sweet words of yours.”
“Maybe,” I chuckled, “but what if I help make sure you brush your teeth?”
I knew that would get a giggle from her.
“I mean it, though,” I went on. “You’ve always dressed your best in the past, but you’ve never had a dress like this before. You’re great no matter what you’re wearing, but–“
“Stefan,” she said, trying to sound stern.
“What I mean is, you look better in that dress than anyone else would.”
“If you keep flattering me, we’ll never make it to Symphony Hall.”
“Right,” I said. “Okay…”
“Your backpack,” she said, pointing to the yellow and blue one on the bed. It had everything I needed in it for the concert: phone, wallet, instrument, and so on. We’d have small lockers at the concert hall for holding our things, and the backpack helped me keep everything together.
“Thank you,” I told her as I hooked the bag onto one arm. She was always great about helping me make sure I had everything I’d need. “Are you ready?”
She checked her purse’s inventory, then gave me a happy nod. “Everything is here, including the tickets.”
“Fantastic!” I said, offering her my arm and opening the door in one sweeping motion. “Shall we be off then, milady?”
Leila giggled and shook her head. Hearing her laugh is one of the best things in life. Knowing that she’s happy helps calm me down, and I definitely needed help staying calm that night. In fact, what I really wanted right then was a good, strong hug, but I had to wait till we got downstairs. My heart was pounding and my mind was racing, and I really didn’t want to read into things or over-step any bounds. She’s my best friend in the whole world, after all.
A bit of an unusual video today, but it’s so interesting seeing technology and biology interact like this. Plus, I am particularly found of the eighties.