The days melted away as spring kicked into full gear. The buds on the trees blossomed into flowers, and warm, sunny days became more and more frequent. Cyrus had almost managed to forget his college apprehension, and that was, of course, due in large part to Hayden. Whenever he saw Cyrus repeatedly checking his email, or staring at the letter deferring him from Princeton, Hayden made it his mission to distract Cyrus. It was usually effective, but on one particular day, Cyrus was being stubborn.
“I should have found out by now,” he complained. “I mean, how long could it take?”
“Stop worrying about it,” Hayden replied from his spot on the couch, feet propped up on the armrest. “It’ll come when it comes.”
“But I have to know,” Cyrus said, scowling. “I have to.” He fingers clicked hard on the keys.
“Taking it out on your computer won’t help a thing,” Hayden pointed out, glancing over at him. “Come on, give it a rest.” Cyrus just frowned, but didn’t look up. Hayden waited a beat, then sighed. “How about we go out for a bit? You’ve been in here all evening, maybe you’re just stir crazy.”
“I dunno… How about the music room? We could polish off ‘Fool in the Rain,’” Hayden suggested. “You were doing really great last time.”
Cyrus didn’t look too enthusiastic about it, but he nodded. “Fine.”
Hayden had to drag him past the little office where they picked up their mail, for he had gotten in the habit of checking for letters every time he walked past. For once, Hayden was being the sensible one by telling him that mail was only delivered to campus once every afternoon, but that didn’t stop Cyrus from checking after breakfast, lunch, and sometimes between classes.
Rainclouds loomed in the dying light, and Cyrus looked at them with apprehension. All he would need would be for it to rain right now. That would cement his terrible mood. They made it to the music building alright, but there was no guarantee that they would make it back to the dorm just as dry.
“You remember what I taught you last time?” Hayden asked when they were sitting at the piano bench. Cyrus nodded, positioning his fingers on the ivory keys. “Okay, well that gets us up to the first refrain where he repeats, ‘Light of the love that I found,’” Hayden said. “That goes E, D, C, E, D, C, C.” As he said each letter, he played the corresponding key. “You try.”
Cyrus played the same keys, but they didn’t sound quite the same.
“Your rhythm is off just a little bit. Try thinking of how they sing it in the song; each key corresponds to a word,” Hayden instructed.
“I don’t know how they sing it in the song,” Cyrus responded, his eyes on the keys.
“I’ve never heard the song,” repeated Cyrus, looking up.
Hayden shifted on the bench to look at him. “What do you mean? I’ve never played you this?”
“No,” Cyrus shook his head.
“Then… you’ve been playing this blindly?”
Cyrus shrugged. “Not entirely. I figured hearing you sing it was all I needed, right?”
Hayden’s eyes widened, and his face morphed into one of a thousand different emotions. When he finally spoke, his voice was thick, “Cyrus…” he trailed off, shaking his head. Composing himself, he said, “Let’s just play, huh?”
Cyrus wasn’t quite sure what he had said to garner such a reaction, so he just went on with playing as usual. Hayden sang along, but it sounded like he did so with more emotion than before. Hayden kept playing even after Cyrus had reached the end of what he knew. Dropping his hands to his lap, Cyrus just watched as Hayden carried on, “Ooh, and my body is starting to quiver, and the palms of my hands getting wet. I’ve got no reason to doubt you, baby, it’s all a terrible mess. And I will run in the rain ’til I’m breathless, and when I’m breathless I’ll run ’til I drop, hey. The thoughts of a fool’s scattered careless, I’m just a fool waiting on the wrong block.”
When at last Hayden stopped playing, Cyrus was disappointed. It was truly beautiful to both watch and listen to. “That was wonderful.”
Hayden blushed. “Come on, we should get back to the dorm before it rains.”
Cyrus nodded and felt some of his previous irritability slipping away. “Though that would be kind of poetic, wouldn’t it?”
“If you call getting soaked to the bone poetic.”
They made their way out of the music room and down the stairs, coming to a stop before the double glass doors that displayed the cascading water flooding the outside. “Well, looks like you got your poetry,” Hayden said dryly. “Fabulous.”
“I don’t suppose you happened to have brought an umbrella?” Cyrus asked.
“Do I even own an umbrella?”
“I don’t know, do you?”
“I don’t know.”
They stood at the door and just watched the rain for a while. “So… what should we do?” Cyrus asked after a few minutes.
Hayden was quiet for a moment. “Are we cliche?” he asked out of the blue.
“Are we cliche? You and I?” Hayden clarified, still staring out the window.
Cyrus shrugged. “No... I guess? I mean, we’re not exactly fairytale romance, are we?”
“No, I guess we’re not,” Hayden frowned, sounding disappointed.
“Is… that a bad thing?”
Hayden shook his head. “No. I was just thinking about those super cliche movie scenes where the couple kisses in the rain for no reason. But we’re above cliches, I guess.”
Cyrus looked over at his boyfriend’s profile and the look of subtle, but genuine disappointment on his face and felt a rush of affection. “Maybe, but I don’t think we’re above making exceptions for things now and then.”
Looking over at him, Hayden’s mouth quirked into a smile. “Yeah?”
Taking Hayden’s hand, Cyrus pushed open the door to the outside and pulled him out into the rain. Everyone had taken shelter inside, so they were alone. Still, in the interest of not being seen by those who might happen to be looking out the windows, they stuck close to the side of the building.
As Cyrus watched, Hayden’s disheveled blonde hair was flattened from its usual spikes into a soaking wet mop. Cyrus shivered as the chilling rain began to seep through his clothes before wrapping his arms around Hayden’s waist and pulling him close for warmth. Turning his face down to meet Hayden’s, for the blonde was just a hair shorter, Cyrus leaned forward.
Even wet, their kiss was perfect - gentle and natural. Cyrus could feel the heat of Hayden’s arms where they wrapped around his lower back in protective ring of warmth. It was a hundred times better than any movie ever made it seem. Cyrus didn't realize until later that, from that moment on, the thought of college hadn't crossed his mind for the rest of the day. Not for the first time, Cyrus found himself grateful that Hayden was so good at distractions.
It was two days later when Cyrus and Hayden stopped by the mailroom and found that they, for once, had mail. “Me too?” Hayden asked in surprise when the lady brought over three huge envelopes - one for Hayden, two for Cyrus.
“You too,” she confirmed in a dull monotone.
“Thanks,” Cyrus said almost in a daze. He stared at the envelopes in his hands as they walked out, hardly seeming to be aware of where he was going. He glanced at the return addresses; one was from Princeton, and the other from the University of North Carolina.
Standing outside the mail building, Hayden looked at the envelope in his hand. “Well. Should we open them now? Or go back to the room? Or…”
“Let’s go back to the room,” Cyrus said. Even though he had been waiting for this day for the past few weeks, now that the paper was in his hand, it was all too real. Maybe it was like a Schrödinger thing; if he didn’t open the envelope, he would be both accepted and not accepted, and wouldn’t have cause to be happy or sad. Plus, if it was an acceptance letter, Cyrus was sure he didn’t want to have a meltdown in public, which was a definite possibility.
It’s a large envelope, Cyrus thought. They usually only send those when you’re accepted. The pit in Cyrus’s stomach widened into a gaping chasm. Scowling, he told himself to shut up and focused on putting one foot in front of the other until they reached the dorms. He could see Hayden watching him with concern out of the corner of his eye, but didn’t say anything. What was there to say?
Back in the room, Cyrus and Hayden sat on the couch, each with their mail in their laps. “At the same time?” Hayden asked.
“One. Two. Three.”
Hayden ripped open his envelope as Cyrus ripped open the one from Princeton first. He felt physically sick as he drew out the packet of papers and read the first sentence.
Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you a position in Princeton’s Class of 2019.
Cyrus’s heart felt like lead as Hayden let out a whoop of joy. “I got in to the University of North Carolina!” he exclaimed, grinning. His eyes were wide and bright, but his enthusiasm faltered when he noticed the expression on Cyrus’s face. “What’s wrong? Did you not get into Princeton?”
Shaking his head as if to say, No, the opposite. Hayden misunderstood his meaning. “I’m sorry,” Hayden offered, though his eyes betrayed the fact that he was secretly pleased. “But maybe that’s for the better. I mean, you didn’t want to go anyway, did you?”
Cyrus sighed. “No, I got in, Hayden.”
“W-what?” Hayden faltered.
“I got in,” he groaned, tossing the letter in Hayden's direction. “And now my mother’s going to force me to go, and I’ll be up in New Jersey while you’re in North Carolina, and…” Just thinking about it made Cyrus’s throat tighten and his eyes begin to water. He pressed them shut, determined not to cry.
Cyrus let Hayden pull his head down to rest on his shoulder. He felt Hayden rubbing comforting circles on his back, but still didn’t open his eyes. “It’ll be okay,” Hayden said after a few beats, sounding sad, but determined. “If you haven’t noticed already, I kind of really like you, Cy. If you’re willing to try to make it work, I’m more than willing.”
This time, Cyrus did open his eyes. “Really?”
“Of course, really.” Hayden smiled at him. “Will likes you, and I gotta admit, I think you’re pretty freaking awesome. I’d be a fool to let you get away just because of a few states in between us.” Part of Cyrus’s despair fell away, but not enough. Hayden paused. “What’s in the other envelope?”
Remembering there was a second, Cyrus tore it open, albeit slower than the first. After scanning the cover letter, he announced, “I got into the University of North Carolina too.”
Looking a bit taken aback, Hayden asked, “Really? I didn’t know you applied.”
“I did,” Cyrus muttered, half embarrassed. “Back when I had a crush on you… I hope that’s not creepy.”
“Nah,” Hayden assured him. His eyes flickered from Cyrus's to the letter in his hand.“But did you… Do you think there’s a chance? You know, that you could go there?”
Cyrus chewed on his bottom lip. “Princeton has been my mother’s plan for me literally since I was born. I’m definitely going to try to convince her, but there’s…” He looked up, defeat already in his gaze. “I have to be realistic.”
He tried to ignore the way Hayden’s face fell. “Of course.”
“I’m going to try as hard as I can, Hayden. I promise. I’ll beg and plead and kick and scream, if I have to.”
“Yeah, but…” Hayden frowned. For a moment, Cyrus was hit with a crushing fear that maybe Hayden didn’t want him to be at the same school. “Just don’t make this decision for me, okay? If you want to go to Princeton, I don’t want to hold you back. I’m not saying I don’t want you to come to UNC, because I definitely do, it’s just… I want you to do what you want.”
Some of Cyrus’s fear eased. “I don’t want to go to Princeton, honestly.” He paused before continuing, “When I applied to UNC, it wasn’t for pre-med. It was for fine arts. Going to Princeton was something I had to do, but when I applied to UNC, I only had what I wanted to do in mind. I want this.”
Hayden studied his face for a moment before nodding. “Okay. Okay, then.” He stood up. “But, you know, I might not even end up going there. I still can’t afford it. But at least you’d be in the area.”
“About that,” Cyrus said, “I have an idea, but I don’t want to tell you until it’s more certain. Just don't decline it yet, okay?”
Hayden looked at him in suspicion, but seemed to realize it wasn’t the time to push it. “Okay… Well, I’m going to go Skype Will and tell him the good news at least.”
“And I’ll, uh, call my mom, I guess,” Cyrus said, wincing.
“Good luck with that.”
“Thanks.” He was most definitely going to need it.