Out-and-regretting-it comprehensive attendee Jayden Phillips turns his cast-iron plans for life upside-down by falling in love with private-school violinist Darren Peace, a sardonic boy with the craziest hair Jayden's ever seen.
But all is not what it seems, and Jayden's bullying problem becomes meaningless when he is confronted with what the music does to Darren. How do you stop a dangerous depression rooted in the same thing that makes someone what they are? Dark moods, blank apathy, and the undertow of self-loathing all simmer beneath Darren's dry and beautiful veneer, and Jayden feels powerless to stop them.
Then a mugging gone wrong takes the music forcibly away, and Jayden is finally given the chance to change Darren's life -- and, quite literally, his mind.
The moment the curtain went up, Jayden was captivated. He hadn't really talked to Darren about this. The first minute of the play was Cooper writing letters while Darren played. Nothing else. Just a man at a desk, and a violinist. And Jayden hadn't known what to tell Darren to play. So the first haunting notes that drifted away from the boards and fluttered in the air were new, and beautiful, and fitting.
And then they screeched into a violent clatter of fury when Cooper threw himself up and began pacing, mumbling to himself. Inaudible at first, and then growing louder, but Jayden heard nothing.
He tracked Darren's smooth glide across the floor, the blank expression on his face visible even from here, and heard absolutely nothing that Cooper said. The dialogue that he'd spent hours slaving over just disappeared in the wake of the furious crescendo from Darren's violin.
There was a beauty in the music -- it was unique. Darren had spent several weeks just rehearsing with Pete, following him around in readings and playing anything that fit what he said and did at any time. It had changed subtly every time. And now, Jayden knew he'd never heard quite that combination before, and he never would again. Tomorrow, it would be different -- only the odd note, here and there, but different.
For the first time, Jayden followed the music and the musician, not the actors. Pete's Cooper was brilliant as always; Mum's Jayne fretted and worried in all the right places, but Jayden hardly noticed. He followed Darren, from the smooth way he could walk and play like it was the most natural thing in the world, to the raised eyebrow and curled lip when Cooper begged him to stop at the end of the first act. The way he stuck out his chin, turned his head so deliberately, and drew out the final C.
He wasn't acting, Jayden knew it. It was all Darren, and he knew it, and he couldn't wipe the smile off his face, because he did it all so beautifully. Halfway through the second, he drove Cooper to distraction by following one of the other actors around the stage so closely, they almost collided with the violin twice. He met every challenge with an eye roll, a turn of the head, a twist in his body that screamed insolence, and when he deviated from the plan just enough to pause, bow, and make way for Jayne -- who ignored him, of course, as she couldn't see him -- Jayden almost laughed out loud in surprised delight.
He should have known.
He should have realised sooner, but he didn't.
The climax of the play -- the hospital room, Cooper finally driven to madness pleading for the imaginary soloist to be gone -- was cut out by the lights, the spotlight booming as it was switched off, and the roving lights around the stage formed a ring of tiny lights around the patient and the source of his insanity.
And Jayden's breath caught in his chest.
Even from the stairs, he could see the faintest glimmers of copper in Darren's hair. The music wrapped itself around that white face, tracing the straight nose and cupping the set of his jaw. He was bolt-straight, swaying only in the upper body with the movement of playing, and entirely monochromatic. Dark hair, dark clothes, bleached-white skin, the glint of light off the polished wood of the violin, flashing off the bow with every high note, flickering along it with every long one ...
Cooper screamed for the final time, but Jayden heard only the music, Darren unwinding with a fluid ripple and crossing the stage, the notes bowling along in the air like moths in a frenzy, the lights catching his face and his shoes and his hair in short sputters and false starts as the lights followed him like a mobbing crowd.
Darren stopped, at the far right and downstage, and turned bodily towards the stairs. When he looked slowly and deliberately up, still playing, one of the roving lights flirting with the line of his arm and the sharp cut of his elbow as he sliced a long rattle of high, tight notes off the strings ... Jayden's heart stopped. He was too far for it to be real, but when Darren's eyes came up, Jayden could imagine that shimmer of pale green swimming in his gaze.
It punched him in the chest like a heart attack, and his vision tunnelled on the impossibly beautiful, ridiculously perfect, ethereal shadow tracing the boards of the stage -- and right there, right there, Jayden Phillips fell in love.
The music stopped.