By Kimyōna Akage (奇妙な赤毛)
“Justin Preston!” a voice calls over the din of the symphonic band warming up. I start from my fingering and look around. The voice calls my name again. I can’t see who’s calling my name until Carson Finn of the varsity orchestra mounts the podium and blows our conductor’s whistle. There’s immediate silence.
“Once again,” he says, sounding annoyed, “I need Justin Preston to meet me in the instrument lockers. Now.”
Everyone stares at me as he steps off the podium and heads out the door. I nearly bite my reed as I maneuver my bassoon’s butt strap into my left hand so I can carry my bassoon with one hand and pick my way through the seats. My second chair looks like she’s about to cry as my first chair slaps my ass and makes a comment about making messy cork wax with the Prince of Double Reeds.
That’s really what we call him. He plays just about every double reed instrument in modern orchestral history. Even the sarrusophone, which is an actual instrument. We borrowed Mr. Sparks’ iPhone to Google it when he brought it in for Period Ensemble rehearsals last year. Oboes and its siblings are his specialty though. He’s in the instrument lockers putting his oboe together, not looking at me. I’m watching him roll his reed in his mouth a little too long and I have to suck on the spit that’s threatening to fall out of my reed.
I end up choking on my own reed.
He glares at me before recognizing me. “Justin, right? You’re fourth seat bassoon.”
I nod, my bassoon’s bell knocking against my head when I straighten.
“You were second seat last month when I sat in on your seat test. Why fourth?”
“I caught strep throat and couldn’t play for two weeks.”
He stops waxing the cork joint on his bell to look at me. “From your boyfriend?”
I roll my eyes. “From my little brother. He’s eleven.” And a little shit for spitting in my orange juice; I’m going to put catnip in his drum kit. With three cats in the house, I’m sure one of them will trash it.
Carson shrugs and puts his reed into the oboe. He plays a few notes, fingers rolling over the keys in a manner so skilled even the most het of the straight guys gets hot under the collar. Satisfied with its sound he pulls his reed, double-checks a sticky key, and takes it apart. When it’s back in the case he offers it to me. I just stare at it. I can read his name and address on the metal plate embedded into the leather. It looks old.
“Take it.” He sounds annoyed again.
“Why?” I blurt. That’s one of his oboes. He’s offering it to me. That’s about equivalent to someone handing over their highly protected virginity. I’m getting flashbacks to last year’s formal when Daniel Ellison tried to force himself on me in the restrooms; I yelled for an adult and I still don’t regret it.
“Because starting next week you’re taking private lessons from me.”
“But I don’t play oboe!” I don’t. When I was six I was told that my fingers were too long to not play bassoon. I fell in love with it and never considered the oboe. Besides, the only person I know who could play it effortlessly was trying to shove one of his off on me. The fact that it’s his oboe has me torn between just running and listening to the voice in my head telling me to stop being a spaz.
“You will by the end of the semester. Mrs. Richards wants you to join varsity orchestra as my third oboe.”
Third oboe. There are currently seven seats in varsity and the first three get solos. I take the case just to have him stop staring at me and make my way back to my seat in symphonic, the case under my seat like a bomb.
The sympathetic looks I’m getting from the double reed section are almost as disconcerting as having to spend hours with the strictest musician in the school.
Last bell rings for the day and I find myself sitting on a bench in the instrument lockers. I’ve had the oboe for a few days now; thanks to the internet and a lot of hand massages from my mom I’ve figured out a lot of the fingering for the oboe. I’m nowhere good enough to pick a note without peeking at the positioning of my fingers – which some may be wrong since I don’t have a reed to check pitch – but at least I shouldn’t embarrass myself for my first lesson with Carson.
My fingers ache at the thought. My fingers are freakishly long and not used to folding themselves in half to press well-cared-for but still old keys. I’m pretty sure that I’m not rolling my fingers back properly when fingering the notes that need a half-covered hole. Right now “embouchure” is a dirty word because I’m sure my mouth doesn’t know what to do with a reed that small.
Carson’s head peeks out of one of the practice rooms that dot the locker room. He actually smiles and opens the door wider. “You’re here, great. Come on in and get set up.”
He flips through a book as I put the oboe together. It’s similar to the bassoon in that regard, though I’m using the stick of cork wax that I found in the case instead of my own so it smells musty. Little-known secret: I’m learning to make my own waxes and shines for instruments. Which is why my bassoon never smells as bad as everyone else’s.
I practice basic fingering for a little bit. His C key always sticks and doesn’t loosen unless you use it a lot. He’s staring at my hands when I look up.
“Are they cramping?” I shrug. I’m not going to admit that my mom soaks my hands in Epsom salts for half an hour after practice. “You should stretch them more. Your hands don’t do me any good if they can’t move.”
My fingers stop moving as my brain stutters over his words. I can’t even blush because all the blood is heading south. Shit. I duck my head and mumble something along the lines of, “Thanks.”
Luckily he doesn’t notice any of my spazzing and just nods. He only has eyes for his oboe, the one I have in my hands. It’s fairly possessive and I wonder how old this oboe is. His dad is an oboist and his mother plays the clarinet. It’s public knowledge – band gossip is only truth when it comes to instruments – that he plays his father’s oboe, a gift for getting first seat in varsity orchestra. That was early sophomore year. He’s a senior now.
“It’s my first,” he says quietly as if I couldn’t keep my thoughts to myself. My hands still and then tighten around the joints protectively.
He meets my eyes and there’s passion behind his straightforward gaze. “Because the fastest way to become better is to play a difficult instrument.”
His words ease the aching in my fingers. The way he puts it makes so much sense. I remember my first bassoon, a rental with sticky keys that nothing could alleviate. But when I got my first bassoon – my only bassoon and the only girl I’ll spend the rest of my life with – playing was effortless. My mom actually put me on a time limit each day; I couldn’t put her down.
We’re staring at each other for at least a minute too long before my finger twitches the wrong way and I misfinger a note. His lips twist disapprovingly and whatever was passing between us is lost in him correcting my placement. It’s how we spend the rest of the week’s lessons, him in close proximity, hands all over me breaking bad habits before I start them.
Next week Carson had something special for me. It’s in the form of a tin about the size of his hand, thin and rectangular. He selects something from it, reverent, and offers it to me. It’s the most beautiful reed I’ve ever seen. I know what an oboe reed looks like but this was different.
An oboe reed is longer, thinner and finer than a bassoon reed. But both types of reed are handmade. This one was as well except the craftsmanship was a work of art. The curvature is nonexistent, a gradual elegant slope from the cord to the near-translucent tip. Bassoon reeds lack that delicate elegance and that’s why I don’t reach for it. Carson smiles, sympathetic.
“Don’t worry, it’s not yours yet. You’ll get this when I decide you’re good enough. For now, you learn to play this.”
I nearly loose a sigh of relief when he puts that reed away and pulls out a synthetic reed. Handmade reeds are good and worth the money we pay for them. Professionals have a lot, each reed for a specific sound the musician wants or a certain orchestra or ensemble they’re a part of needs. I have three, two for regular use, one just in case my reeds decide they want to split halfway through the Christmas concert. Considering Carson’s career he probably has at least ten between all his instruments.
The synthetic reed has no taste as I stick it in my mouth to wet it. My tongue rolls it idly and I already miss the texture of a real reed. Watching Carson slip his reed in his mouth made me very jealous of his tongue. By the end of this I’m going to want to crawl into his mouth and rub my face against it.
In a nonsexual way, of course. Sexually, I’d rub myself all over his fingers. Those are sexual objects.
“Justin?” I look up to see Carson watching me. He smiles and I nearly faint, the blood going south so fast. “If you’re back with me I’d like to teach you how to hold a reed. Again.”
I’m bad at holding a reed in my mouth. At least an oboe reed.
Bassoon reeds need strong lips to hold it in place as well as keep a good seal. That kind of strength shuts an oboe reed down and forces the air out my nose and dislodges a booger. Carson snickers and I want to put the booger on his nose.
“Your embouchure is nearly perfect,” Carson says admiringly as he turns my head with firm fingers on my chin. “It’s the pressure that’s stopping the flow.”
He really needs to stop talking. It’s all coming out innuendo and if I pop one I will kill myself with this reed. He’s chewing on his lip now, considering his fingers. I refuse to consider his fingers for reasons mentioned above. He points his pinky finger at my lips.
“Fit your mouth around my finger as I showed you with the reed,” he commands. “The reed is too small for you to learn the proper pressure on.”
I swallow and stare at the pinky finger in front of me. He wants me to put his finger in my mouth. My heart drops into the pit of my stomach as I flush and lean forward. It takes all my self-control to resist running my tongue against his finger as I close my mouth around it.
“First, I want a bassoon’s embouchure.”
I comply, rolling my lips inward and finding the sweet spot right behind his nailbed. If I couldn’t smell him, I’d think I was handling my own reed. I blow out of habit, letting the air flow out my nose instead of through my nonexistent reed. He nods approvingly and my tongue twitches.
“For an oboe you have to pull your lips in more so your teeth make the seal at the edge of your lips and not in the middle. Good. Now blow. Stop, stop. If you keep your cheeks that firm you’re going to close off the reed. Let them and the area around your mouth puff a bit.” He watches me try and fail. There’s that annoyed slant to his mouth again. He pulls out and kindly suggests I practice at home.
Carson is in a bad mood today. I can tell because when I meet him he just grunts at me. Instead of making a beeline to the practice rooms he picks up his things and gestures for me to follow. We head for the basement where the library stacks are. Further back, past the rare book room the previous principal’s widow donated to the school, I see practice rooms. They’re gross, soundproofing at least two decades old and peeling. I wince when I see the unpainted cinderblocks through holes in the panels. The sound of us setting up chairs and stands sounds off-key.
“Once again we’re going to get you to hold a reed,” he says, tossing me mine.
I’m not going to go into detail about this. Needless to say, I still haven’t figured out how to relax my face muscles enough to allow for some puffing. After years of keeping a firm face it’s hard. After a half hour of this, Carson was at the end of his patience. He tells me to put away my oboe. We’re not going to be playing anytime soon.
“I hope you kiss better than you hold a reed because god, do you suck,” Carson mutters under his breath. The click of latches closing punctuates his annoyed tone perfectly. My teeth grit in a way I was grateful that I didn’t have a reed in my mouth.
“Try me and find out,” I retort unthinkingly.
He shrugs and says, “Sure,” then turns on me.
Truthfully, when he came at me, hand raised, I thought he was going to punch me. I’d punch me. His hand went to the oboe in my hand and took it, leaving it to rest on the stand, possibly crushing my reed. As I open my mouth to warn him that he’s crushing his precious reeds, he slots his mouth against mine, climbing into my lap. I do what I’ve always wanted, licking into his mouth, running the tip along the ridge of his hard palate, catching my tongue against his teeth as he curls inward, shuddering. I pull out before he accidentally bites me.
He chases after me, smooth-worn fingertips from years of fingering keys slipping down the back of my shirt. They’re cold, as if his oboe transferred its chill to him rather than Carson warming it. I lean back in the chair, trapping his fingers. They dig in.
Now, he’s too far away. If he leans the entire distance, he’ll be licking my collarbone the entire way—which he’s doing now. I groan and he hums contentment against my neck. I reach for his knees, surprisingly knobby for an avid swimmer and pull him closer. He lets out a noise as he rocks back and glares at me first, then down to my pants. I’ve been hard since he climbed into my lap. He rocks against me, once, obviously testing me.
I grab his ass and rut against him. He does that inward curl-and-shudder again, and I have to nose at him to get him to look at me again. His pupils are blown wide and he’s flushed from his hairline down into his shirt. I kiss him gently, like I’m learning the feel of a new reed, and he falls into me. He tastes like his reeds, I realize as my hands are crawling up his back, bracing it so I don’t gain distance from him. The next time he curls inward and shudders – nipping at the edge of his lips this time – the movement is shifted lower into his hips and he rolls against me. We moan into each other’s mouth as our dicks brush.
“Tip your head forward,” he gasps at me. My brain is barely working, overloaded from the feel of Carson against me. I hadn’t even registered one of his hands’ getting loose and playing along my hairline until now. I nod, taking the time to acquaint myself with the artery pulsing strong in his throat. It’s following a tempo much higher than the metronome ticking away the minutes somewhere in the practice room.
No, it’s the school’s bell ringing the hour. Five p.m. I’m suddenly grateful for the fact that no one is down here after two. We’d definitely be caught and I want to do more to Justin before lesson ends at six.
He’s more sensitive where his throat meets his collarbone than under his jaw. He shifts and I jolt as he places a sucking kiss at my hairline on the back of my neck. It hurts a little and I wonder if I’ll have a mark there by the end of this. He’s grinding against me, our dicks sliding easily restrained by our uniform pants.
His other hand is suddenly free and reaching for my belt. It pauses. In pants and shared breaths that multiply in the room I give consent and my belt and snap comes undone in what seems like one movement. Smooth fingertips followed by what feels like sandpaper fingers slipped inside my pants, wrapping around my dick. I thrust up into his downward stroke. It’s my turn to arch back away from him. I’m already seeing stars as he leans in and scrapes his teeth against my Adam’s apple.
I want to feel him. My hands move upwards and he chuckles, extracting himself from me to let my hands coax first his sweater and then his shirt off button by button. My mind jump-starts as I watch his hair fall back in place and I follow the line along his throat, across the arch of his collarbone and down his inner arm to his nipple. He shucks off the rest of the shirt. I tongue it experimentally.
As expected, he curls inward over my shoulders, scrabbling at my back with a choked moan. I swirl my tongue around it quickly and went lower, nipping at his ribs.
“Justin, please,” he begs hoarsely as he bucks up at me. I can’t help but laugh.
“I’m not that flexible.”
Before I can finish the sentence, he’s squirming out of my lap. I catch him and bear him down to the ground where he takes my shoulders and pushes me lower. There’s a faint throbbing in my knee until his buckle distracts me. His belt comes apart easily. He’s eager to get rid of his pants and wriggles enough that I can get them down to his knees. I hear his foot kick off his shoe before he sticks a thumb into his pants’ waistband and tug one leg the rest of the way off. I kneel between his knees and breathe on his erection as it half pokes out of his boxers. Before he can take a gasp I swallow him. My name gains an extra twelve syllables and I hum around him.
His hands are grabbing at my shirt, bunching it at my armpits. I slide back – teeth gently scraping against him, he keens and I’ve found my new favorite sound – and let him take the shirt. There’s a plop from it landing wherever he threw it; I could care less, I’m nosing his legs further apart.
My head is up and hands are clearly away from him. He reaches for me and repeats himself. “You have to talk to me, babe; you said no.”
He blinks away the lust for a moment and that annoyed slant to his mouth comes back. I want to kiss it but no is no.
“I want to do you too.” He rolls onto his side and I get the hint. I so get the hint. The sound of music stands scraping along the worn carpet sets my teeth on edge but it doesn’t stop me from rotating around so we’re facing each other. He’s shoving my pants down as fast as he can while I go back to swallowing him.
He teases me, a lick to the underside as if I’m a sax mouthpiece drying out that drags across my frenulum before worrying at my urethra. I buck and he hums around me, too hot and too wet. I can hear the smugness in it. I worm my tongue in between his foreskin and crown as my fingers massage his balls. I’m going to cheat and I don’t care. Two fingers slip back further until I find his puckered hole then it’s a game of just enough pressure to tease but not enough to coax him open. He sucks me deeper and harder.
After that, it’s an infinite loop of sensation. We’ve set a rhythm of alternating thrusts, trying not to choke each other in our haste, though I’m pretty sure Carson has no gag reflex with how deep he’s taking me.
Without warning, I come, crying out something around Carson’s dick, and it’s enough to send him over the edge. I swallow what I can. What dribbles out of my mouth is forgotten as he gives one last suck before things go hazy.
Reality rebuilds itself around us slowly. My knee felt like I tore a hole in it when I slipped and I could still feel the ghost of Carson’s dick pulsing in my throat. I hear Carson breathing, too close. When did he move, I can’t remember. I swallow and Carson speaks.
“The carpet, no, the entire room is shit. I’m having the boosters to fix these up.”
He’s so sure of it it makes me laugh. “Why? No one comes down here.”
Carson smiles and I’m suddenly grateful I never provoked this side of him before. We’d have been fucking from day one and I’d be even more behind. “Exactly.”
Even though I’m spent, my dick pulses at the possibility of more. Of whatever this was.
Carson has his head on straighter than I do because he reaches for me, tucking me away gently and doing up my pants. I reach forward to help him but his are already done. I reach again and this time I find the bundle that was his shirts. I untangle them and get him to stop threading my belt to slide his arms into his shirt. I button while he buckles, both of us smiling though light kisses left in the afterglow’s wake. He shakes out his sweater and pulls it on. Somehow my shirt ended up in it and it pops out with his head. We’re laughing too hard to do anything but sit back down.
His phone vibrates. It takes a couple of tries, but Carson makes it to his backpack. He groans. “I have to get going if I’m going to make my next lesson.”
I nod, the mood gone even though the giddy holy-shit feeling is still there. I get my shirt on; Carson packs up our instruments. He packs my reed back into his case; looks like I still haven’t earned take-home rights yet. We head out, Carson making sure that the door locked behind us.
Just as I’m about to say bye, he catches me and pulls me close. “Private lessons at my place on the weekends. You’re good, but not that good.”
I’ve been around him long enough I know he’s still talking about my embouchure and not my oral skills. I laugh and kiss him. “I want breakfast.”
“When you earn your reed.”
I knew it was going to be this way. “Deal.”