Hidden Talents

A Sanitaria Springs Story

By Ryan Bartlett


I woke with a yawn and a stretch. Kale’s bed faced the window, and as pale morning light flooded the room I saw snowflakes falling outside. I yawned again, snuggled against my pillow, then rolled over and instinctively reached for Kale, only to find he’d already woken. I lamented his absence, but his bed was simply too warm and cozy to get out of just yet. As I lay there I smiled at the memories of the night before, thankful for stolen moments like this.

It was the end of January, and with a little planning Kale and I managed to get his house to ourselves for the weekend. After winter break Robin joined the JV wrestling team and, much to everyone’s surprise, Lucien joined with him. They had a tournament in Albany that weekend, and while Kale and I went to most of them, Kale explained to his parents he needed to stay home and study for a big test in AP History. The guys didn’t mind; there would be plenty more opportunities for us to cheer them on, and besides, Alec and Sasha would be there to support them. Mr. and Mrs. Kirkwood trust Kale; they know he’s not the type to throw a party while they’re gone, so they left him at home while they traveled with the boys. All Kale had to do was check in with his mom a couple of times a day.

The tricky part was my parents. While they aren’t the warmest and fuzziest of people, they do love me and want me to be safe. Even though they like Kale, they probably wouldn’t just let me sleep over at my boyfriend’s all weekend without his parents there, so we concocted a story. Originally we’d planned to go to Albany with the Kirkwood’s. My mom talked to Mrs. Kirkwood and gave me permission to go, but when Kale and I changed the plans I neglected to tell my parents. Oops.

Alec and Sasha were away at SUNY Albany now, and while we missed them, we were able to keep in touch on Facebook and on the phone. Kale and I spent most of our time with Lu and Robin, but this weekend would be just for us. I thought we were being so sneaky, and it was kind of romantic, stealing a weekend for ourselves. I didn’t find out just how sneaky Kale could be until I arrived at his house Friday evening and walked in to find him putting on a tuxedo jacket.

“What are you all dressed up for?” I smiled. He was so cute! His jet black hair was gelled and combed neatly into place. His blue eyes sparkled mischievously, and dressed in the tuxedo he’d bought for last year’s prom, he looked like a teenaged James Bond.

“Our date, silly.”

“I thought we were going to order some pizza and watch a movie?”

“I did tell you that, didn’t I?” Kale grinned.

“Kale, what are you up to?” I grinned back excitedly.

“It’s a surprise.”

“Oh, I love surprises!” I squealed in delight.

“I know you do, but we have to get going and you need to change.”

“What am I supposed to wear? I didn’t bring…”

“I took care of it,” said Kale. “Your stuff’s laid out on my bed. We’ve got reservations to keep, so go change and be quick about it!”

“Yes, sir!” I snapped a crisp salute and practically ran up the stairs.

When I arrived in Kale’s bedroom, I found my prom tuxedo laid out on the bed. I wondered briefly how Kale had gotten it out of my closet, then it dawned on me: Austin. I’d seen the two of them with their heads together, whispering conspiratorially, in the lunch room a few days ago, and they got strangely quiet when I sat down. This must have been what they’d been talking about. I’d initially felt bad, leaving Austin alone with my parents by himself for a weekend, but knowing he was in on Kale’s plans eased my guilt. I shook the thought from my mind and quickly put on my tux.

“You look beautiful,” Kale smiled when I walked back down the stairs and found him holding my overcoat.

“Thanks,” I blushed. “I see your little helper snagged my coat for you too.”

“Can’t have you freezing to death,” Kale grinned as he helped me into the heavy wool coat. “I’ll just lock up and we’ll get out of here.”

“Where are we going anyway?”

“I told you, it’s a surprise.”

“This is so much fun,” I squealed again.

An hour later we reached Binghamton, and Kale parked the Audi outside the Number 5 Restaurant. It’s this great steakhouse they opened inside an old fire station, and we enjoyed a wonderful meal together. Still, as nice as the restaurant was, it wasn’t fancy. We didn’t need to be so dressed up. I kept pestering Kale to tell me what else he had planned, but he wouldn’t budge. He just smiled wickedly and repeated his mantra, “I told you, it’s a surprise.”

We finished our meal and got back in the car for the short drive to the Broome County Forum. Kale held my hand as we walked up to the box office, where I was finally able to read the marquee.

“The Dance Company of Binghamton presents Swan Lake,” I read. “You’re taking me to the ballet?”

“Last summer when my parents took me and the boys to New York City for the weekend, they dragged us to see this ballet. I thought I’d be bored out of my mind, but it was so beautiful and you…”

“I was so jealous. I would have loved to have gone with you!” I bubbled.

“Right, so when I heard it was being performed here, well…” Kale blushed.

“I love you,” I exclaimed and kissed him on the cheek.

“Come on, I’ve already got our tickets. Let’s take our seats,” he smiled brightly. His smile makes me so happy, and I’m glad it’s a more common thing then it used to be.

We made our way into the theater and found our seats. We were right in the center, not too close to the stage, but not too far away either, it was perfect.

“Aren’t you boys adorable,” smiled an old woman seated in the row behind us.

“Thanks.” We both blushed. Yeah, it was the ballet, but it was also Binghamton, not Manhattan. We didn’t need to be dressed in black tie, and Kale seemed to notice what I was thinking.

“We’re gay. Do we really need an excuse to dress up?”

I snorted and nearly choked on my laughter. “No, I guess not.”

“It’s nice to see young men who appreciate the fine arts,” the old woman added. We made polite conversation with her until the house lights dimmed and the curtain came up.

As the music started and the dancers took to the stage, Kale took my hand and leaned over to whisper in my ear. His lips were so close I could feel his breath as he spoke.

“Swan Lake is the story of Princess Odette who has been transformed into a swan by an evil wizard and forced to live on a magical lake formed by the tears of her grieving mother. Now the Swan Queen, she can only regain her human form at night and the only way the spell can be broken for good is by the power of true love. If the vow of eternal love is broken, she’ll remain a swan forever,” he whispered.

I squeezed his hand but didn’t say anything. I was mesmerized by the action on stage. The costumes worn by the swan maidens were gleaming white, and the soft blue light bathing the stage sent a chill down my spine. I was struck by the shear athleticism of the dancers as they twisted and twirled across the stage. They looked so delicate, but the movements they engaged in spoke of incredible strength and poise.

I sat forward in my seat and watched in awe as the dancers displayed their skills. The music and the dancing communicated every action so perfectly, more perfectly than words ever could. Kale held my hand the entire time but kept his silence until the fourth act, when he leaned in once more to whisper in my ear.

“Prince Siegfried has been tricked into breaking his vow of love and now Odette will be a swan forever. He makes a passionate apology and reaffirms his love but the evil wizard insists the prince marry his daughter. Odette and Siegfried jump into the lake, choosing to die instead. The swan maidens watch as the two of them ascend into heaven, forever united in love.”

As he spoke the mournful tone of the music plucked at my heartstrings. I watched the ballerina and as she twirled on the stage I felt every ounce of pain flowing from the Swan Queen’s fluid motions. A tear leaked from my eye and rolled down my cheek as the ascension unfolded before us. The music stopped, the curtain came down, the lights came up and I turned to Kale.

“Did you like it?” he asked nervously.

I threw myself into his arms and wrapped mine around his neck.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he giggled.

“That was so…I mean it was…I can’t explain…BREATH TAKING!”

“My mom once told me there are only two reactions people can have to things like opera, classical music and the ballet. They’ll either love it or hate it, and if they hate it they might be able to appreciate it, but it’ll never speak to them,” Kale squeezed me tight.

“It totally spoke to me!” I gushed. “When you were whispering in my ear, it’s like I didn’t need you to explain, I understood exactly what was going on. Thank you so, so much. This is the best date ever.”

“It makes me happy to see you happy, Chase,” Kale blushed and I kissed him on the cheek.

We left the theater and walked across the street to Starbucks. I talked the entire time, basically rehashing the entire ballet. Kale didn’t care. He sat quietly sipping his grande peppermint hot chocolate, the smile never leaving his face.

It was after midnight, and far closer to one than twelve, when we returned to Kale’s house. He hung up our coats, and when he turned I wrapped my arms around him. I kissed his lips and held the kiss for a long time. It was my way of thanking him for the perfect evening. He kissed me back with equal passion, and somehow we managed to get up the stairs and into his bedroom. Clothes were flying everywhere, a bow tie here, a coat there, and when we were naked we slipped under the heavy blankets.

Kale turned out the bedside lamp and took me in his arms. He kissed me again and began to nuzzle my neck. Eventually he stopped moving around and after a moment the slow rhythm of his breathing suggested he was asleep. My poor baby; it had been a long day at school, and then we’d come home late from our date; he was too exhausted to claim his reward. I can’t say that I blamed him. I yawned and fell asleep myself, clutching him to my chest.

The bed was still warm and toasty, but the fond memories woke me up, and it was time to find my man. I climbed out of bed and looked for my bag, but it had mysteriously disappeared. I looked around the room and discovered that not only was my bag gone, so were the clothes I’d worn the night before. I could have raided Kale’s drawers but then I noticed his fluffy terrycloth bathrobe strewn over his desk chair.

I know Kale better than he knows himself in some ways. While I wouldn’t call him a neat freak, his room is usually immaculate, and I knew the robe wouldn’t be left where it was unless he’d intended me to find it. I rolled my eyes, chuckled at the gesture and wrapped the oversized robe around me before setting out in search of Kale. As I walked down the stairs the house was flooded with the strains of a beautiful but haunting melody that I instantly recognized.

The Kirkwood home has always struck me as an interesting contrast. Mrs. Kirkwood worked as an interior designer in New York City until Robin was born and her talent was reflected in the elegant décor. It wasn’t opulent, but many of the things in the house looked as if they could have come from a museum, treasures passed down through the generations of an old family. At the same time the place was warm and inviting. I’ve been coming to this house since I met Kale in the first grade and I’ve always felt comfortable and welcome.

When we were younger I was ill mannered enough to ask Kale where all the Kirkwood’s money came from. I mean, let’s face it, Mrs. Kirkwood hadn’t worked since Robin was a baby, and while a judge makes good money, well, you don’t get rich being a civil servant. Kale explained it had something to do with his great grandparents, the timber industry and a family trust.

Judge Kirkwood had deep roots in Sanitaria Springs, but after college he and Mrs. Kirkwood settled in New York City, where he served as a deputy federal prosecutor. When Kale was a toddler and Robin was just learning to crawl, their great grandparents died, and the Judge and his wife moved their family home. With the death came the family trust and a Steinway grand piano that lived in the Kirkwood’s family room. Over the years Mrs. Kirkwood subjected each of her boys to piano lessons, but Kale was the only one who took to it.

Kale’s skill at the piano is such a closely guarded secret that I, his best friend since first grade, didn’t find out about it until after we started dating. I never asked what the big secret was; I didn’t have to. The answer became clear the first time Kale played for me. He pours his heart and soul into the music he plays, it exposes his soft, vulnerable underbelly, and that’s not something just anyone gets to see.

Obviously his parents know what he can do. He went from taking lessons to being able to play by ear by the time he was twelve. Robin knows, so does Jamie, but they understand their brother enough to protect his privacy. Outside the family I think I’m the only one who knows what a talent Kale has, but I’m hoping to change that. Alec and Sasha are our best friends. Alec asked Kale to be his best man when Sasha marries him, and I think it would be a stunning gesture on Kale’s part if he played the music for their first dance as husband and husband.

I found Kale seated at the piano as his fingers danced across the keys. There was a roaring fire on the hearth, and he sat with his back to me, but it wouldn’t have made any difference. I could have been standing in front of him and he wouldn’t have seen me. Unless he’s using sheet music, his eyes are always closed when he plays. I leaned against the frame of the entryway and watched him play the somber music from the fourth act of the ballet we’d attended the night before.

In my humble opinion there is nothing more beautiful than Kale when he plays the piano. He sat at the bench in nothing but his pajama bottoms and I watched his muscles move with the music. Kale’s athletic but not the traditional jock. He swims and plays soccer with me, and it’s given him a lithe and lean look. As the music came to an end I padded across the wood floor, bent down and wrapped my arms around his waist from behind, then rested my chin on his shoulder.

“That was pretty,” I stated and pressed my cheek against his.

“I thought it would sound better on the piano,” he admitted.

“You say that about everything,” I teased.

“Because it’s true,” he snickered.

“Thank you again for last night.”

“It was my pleasure. I’m just sorry I fell asleep on you.”

“You could make it up to me,” I grinned wickedly.

Kale sat up straight and pulled me around in front of him. I was pinned between him and the keyboard. The keys tinkled under my butt, and Kale giggled as he reached behind me to close the lid over the keyboard. He wrapped his arms around my waist and rested his head just above the knot in my robe. I reached down to stroke his silky black hair, and he looked up at me with those stunning blue eyes. The robe fell off my shoulder, and as I reached to pull it up, Kale grabbed my wrist and whispered, “No.”

“No?” I quirked an eyebrow.

He released my wrist and made short work of the knot in my robe. It fell open, exposing my naked body.


He looked back at me, mischief twinkling in those blue eyes.

“In front of your precious piano?”

An almost imperceptible giggle escaped him as he kissed just below my belly button. I let the robe fall from my other shoulder and puddle on the ground around my feet. I closed my eyes and tilted my head back as Kale softly and slowly kissed from my belly button to the base of my rapidly stiffening erection. I gasped in ecstasy when he took me into his mouth and placed my hands on his shoulders to brace myself when my knees went weak. For several moments the only sound in the room was the crackling of the fire, my soft whimpers and the occasional slurp as Kale worked his magic between my legs.

When I didn’t think I’d be able to take anymore, when I felt I was on the verge of climaxing in his mouth, Kale released me. He took me by the waist and his thumbs dug into my hip bones, tracing small circles into the tender flesh. He lifted me up and sat me on the keyboard lid. His body filled the void between my legs and we shared a kiss. He pulled on my bottom lip with his teeth and let it snap back before stooping down to pick up the robe, extracting a condom and a small tube of lubricant.

“I figured you meant for me to find that robe.” I rolled my eyes and giggled.

“Why else would I hide the rest of your clothes?” Kale grinned wickedly as he rolled the condom over his erection.

“I figured you just liked seeing me naked.”

“True enough,” he smiled and then he stood between my legs and wrapped his arms around my waist. His fingers played my spine like the piano, dancing up and down, coming to rest at the small of my back.

I felt the tip of his erection pressing at my entrance as he took one of my nipples in his mouth. I’m very sensitive there and whimpered my pleasure as he plucked me with his lips, his hot breath making the little nub harden. The nipple play was just a distraction though, and soon I felt him inside of me. I tensed at first then relaxed to allow the invasion to proceed. I wrapped my legs around him, pulling him deeper into me, and when he pulled his lips away from my chest, I took his face in my hands and kissed him. I moaned deep into his mouth as he took me, thrusting in and out with reckless abandon until his legs grew weak.

Sex with Kale is always most passionate after he’s been at the piano for a while. I think it’s because all of the emotion he puts into the music comes rushing back into his body and he needs a release.

I stopped him and pushed him back onto the piano bench before he could stumble. I slipped down from the keyboard and straddled him, nestling his erection inside of me. I put my arms around his neck, he put his around my waist, and we held each other as I rocked my hips back and forth. Eventually we tumbled from the bench in a tangle of arms and legs, and Kale pinned me under his body. His eyes locked on mine as he took me, each of our bodies writhing in pleasure. When we shared our mutual climax, Kale collapsed against me and panted for breath.

We snuggled together for the longest time just staring into each other’s eyes as the fire crackled on the hearth.

“Promise you’ll never leave me,” said Kale.

“Kale, you know I’d never leave you. Where’s this coming from?” I asked, puzzled.

“I just worry sometimes, like maybe I don’t show you enough how much you mean to me.”

“Hey, you came out for me, remember?”

“Well yeah…”

“That might be the bravest thing I’ve ever witnessed.”

“Really?” said Kale as he rolled on his side and propped himself up on his elbow.

“Doubly so, because I know you were scared, but you did it anyway. You did it for me.”

“Yeah,” Kale nodded.

“And then our date last night; that was amazing, but you know it’s not just the grand gestures, Kale. You show me you love me all the time. Like last week.”

“What did I do last week?”

“When we were watching that movie with the guys, you kicked your shoes off so you could play footsy with me. That was adorable,” I smiled.

He blushed and looked away but a small grin spread across his face.

“Sometimes I don’t know about you,” I punched him playfully in the arm. “Always inventing things to worry about.”

“I’m not trying to invent things it’s just…look at the year we’ve had. First my heart surgery, then Lucien came into our lives with all the terrible things he’s been through, now Austin too. We lost Charlie…”

“I’m not following you.”

“Well, look at all the tragedy and loss that’s happened around us. I just get scared sometimes because, well, you’re my everything, Chase.”

“Kale we got through all that together, didn’t we?” I asked as I reached out and gently stroked his bypass scar.

“I know. It’s just…I guess my worrying is my awkward way of telling you I love you. My life would be so empty without you Chase. It’s like I’m the moon and you’re my sun. The moon might be beautiful to look at, but it’s only pale reflected light. Without its sun it’s bleak and cold. That’s what I would be like if I didn’t have you in my life.”

“It’s a good thing I’m not going anywhere then, huh?”

“I love you so much,” Kale finally smiled and met my eyes.

“I love you too,” I kissed him and pushed him on his back. I put my hand on his tummy and traced my finger across his baby smooth flesh until my thumb brushed against his pucker. “Now, do you have any more condoms?”

The End

If you’d like to know if Kale is right, if the music from Swan Lake really is more beautiful on the piano, I’m sure he’d invite you to compare.

Original arrangement: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ea90L91eZk

For piano: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WlvXneu6oY