It was, all in all, a very nice day. One of the sort that many would call sun shiny. Not to hot, a little breeze, no chance of rain to spoil anything. One couldn’t have asked for a better day to be outside.
Oleksander Choroshko was one of the many that took advantage of just that. Sick of being in his dark room, just down the hall from the one person he could not understand and wanted so very much to, unable to work out his frustrations through his hands. The music was not coming to him today. There were times when it did so, eluded him, and today was one such, much to his frustration. He hated those times, feeling stripped of the only thing he felt he could do right. The Major couldn’t tell him he was wrong there. In that one aspect, that single solitary one out of all the world, he knew more than the older man and he would be damned to hell if he ever believed that to be false. Everything else The Major could have. But not that.
He had begun walking around the campus of the University that the Institute edged, through the green trimmed grass, stopping here and there to sit on a bench or a bit of wall a few minutes to watch the students studying or just relaxing there, careful to keep his powers in check. He was getting better at it, slowly. Even when he was a child, he remembered it all so vividly, things had never quite been normal. He’d had a violin pressed into his hands before he could even read and from then on it had been nothing but the instrument and the music. Friends meant nothing, his Father had always told him, but the music… the music would never be false, would never betray, and it could never die. Not as long as there was someone to play it.
His Father had been so proud of him when he’d gotten into the Conservatory. The youngest person in history to pass the exams. He had made the proctors weep. If only he could know if it was his own hand that had done so or merely the power he now found he held. Perhaps he would never know the answer. And after that, the concerts, the solos, the recording sessions. It had all been to much, and to empty. Looking out upon a group of students gathered in a circle, sitting under an oak tree in the grass, he wondered what it was like to have friends like that.
But it didn’t matter. Not really.
He no longer wanted to stay there, and so he pushed himself off the wall and began to walk, letting his feet take him wherever they wanted to go. For once he didn’t care, didn’t think a moment about what The Major would say if he got back late. It would just be more yelling, and he would deal with that when the time came. He was in no hurry now. The campus fell away from under his feet and the town of Anglia began, one sidewalk or another eaten up beneath him. The city was still mostly unknown to him but for the few times he had dared go out into it. But he didn’t fear it, at least. There was no reason to.
His Father had been so angry with him when he’d made his decision to come here. He’d as good as given up on everything he had worked his young life to achieve. What his father had wanted for him. But the path he had walked had been chosen for him, was restrictive and cold and that was not one he could stand. Music was not about cold and hardness, it was about life and warmth and all of the things he could feel around him but not put into words. That was what the music could do for him. His Father had screamed, the blows had hurt, but there was no changing his mind. He had to find his own path and letting go was part of that.
And now, in the present his path took him to parts of the city he didn’t know. Perhaps he was lost but for some reason he couldn’t bring himself to care. More streets. Corners, crosswalks, buildings. This city was not like Odessa. Odessa was old and thick and beautiful. This city was beautiful to, in its own way, but it was newer, sharper. He did not mind its difference. He slowly stopped, finally a reason to, a fenced court across the street catching his attention for some reason or another.
Boys were playing basketball there, moving madly around the paved court though there was no animosity there. They were having fun, which was perhaps what had caught his mental radar. Crossing the street he went to watch them play, hardly paying much mind to where he was. The thoughts of ‘low income area’ didn’t even occur to him. They were probably around his own age, a little younger, a little older but not by much. Diverse as well, which he did not get so very much back at home. He had never played much basketball, but he could follow it well enough, and they were all very good. As he watched he picked up more and more. He hardly noticed the time pass. They did not seem to tire or to notice him much, which suited him just fine. An hour, maybe more, before the last in a long series of games came to its end and several of the boys left for good this time.
It took him a few moments to realize it was himself being called to and he looked up from where he leaned against a bit of fencing.
“You wanna play?” And he realized, without having to really think about it, that he did.
“I am afraid I am not very good…”
The boy who’d called him over shrugged. “‘S just for fun anyway. C’mon.”
And so he went. And he played. At first he wasn’t all that great, but he’d been watching and he could move when he wanted to and had fast eyes and hands. And, though he would not admit it, the training he had gone through had made him a lot stronger than he’d realized up until now. It wasn’t long before he was at least keeping up with them and he no longer had to think so much about the game. He just played and that was all. It was like music, only the instrument was a ball and he was no more important than any other member of the orchestra. There were no real solos here. And, perhaps most important of all, he did not need to use his powers. They did not lash out as they could have and though he felt quite a bit what the others did the feelings did not suffocate him as they had so very many times. None of them asked him personal questions, about his accent, or anything else. It was bliss.
And the day passed, a blur of ball and concrete under his shoes, and shouts and sweat until it was well into the late afternoon and only when it started to get dark did enough of the boys finally have to go that there weren’t enough left to play a proper game with. So he was left with the one who had called him over originally, though now he was thinking again there was a bit of a problem.
“I do not think I know how to get home from here.”
“Don’t worry about it. You just tell me where you need to go and I’ll drive ya. ‘S better than trying to walk it this time of day anyway.”
So they had gone to the guys car, souped it up himself he said as they climbed in, and the guy had driven him back to the campus, music he had never had much experience with blasting out the windows. They didn’t talk the entire way, but the silence was comfortable between them. His destination was a little white lie on his part in not mentioning he was actually staying at the Institute and not in the dorms, but it was better to be safe. They pulled up in a parking lot and he climbed out of the car and shut the door behind him. The guy turned down his music some and called out the window after him.
“Same time next week?” He was grinning.
“I would like that.” Oleksander found that did, too. “Oh! But I never did ask your name.”
“Leonard. But only my Momma calls me that. You just call me Leo.”
“I am Oleksander.” He had to give Leo credit at least, he only winced slightly at the name, but that didn’t seem to derail him for long.
“It was fun. See you next week Zander.” Leo grinned broadly, like a cat, and took off.
Oleksander just watched until the car was out of sight and the music had faded, leaving him with the quiet of the night, and then began the trek back across campus and to the Institute. He was sweaty and he was dirty and he was tired and The Major was probably going to yell at him for coming back so late. But for once… The Major could stuff it where the sun didn’t shine. He had had fun.