Sheet Music - A Rock 'n' Roll Love Story (10 page)

He slid the phone back into his pocket and looked back at Annie.  “Listen, there is something else I forgot to tell you last night,” he stated.  “I’m bringing a friend to practice with you today.  He’s a bass player.  We’ve know each other for years,” he said.  “His name is Samuel Isaacs, but everyone calls him Sammy.  I want him to jam with you today.”

“Why?” Annie asked, following Michael to the door.

“I think your band needs a bass player.  It will give you a richer, fuller sound.”

“I don’t think Gary will go for that.”

“I don’t give a shit what Gary has to say about it,” Michael replied.  “My job is to do whatever I feel is necessary to give your band a professional stage presence to better your chances of winning the final contest.  Plus, starting today I want you center stage singing lead vocals.”

“But, Michael…”

“Annie, you’re going to have to trust me on this.”

“What about Gary?”

“I’ll deal with him.”

“You make it sound so easy,” she replied.

Michael sighed.  “Nothing good is ever easy, Annie.  Remember that.”

“I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“I hope I do, too,” he smiled.  “Come here,” he said quietly, sliding his arms around her waist.  “Annie, I have no regrets about being with you last night, if that’s what you’re thinking.  Last night was…”

She lifted her eyes and met his.  “Sheet music?”

He smiled brilliantly.  “Yeah.  Perfect sheet music.”

Then his expression turned serious.  “Listen.  Right now the contest has to come first.  You can’t hang your whole band out to dry just to be with me; I won’t let you.  Somehow you’ve got to realize that this can’t happen right now.  Should we get caught, and the way my luck goes - we will, and that would be very bad.  I can’t let that happen.  And I really don’t want to be the reason that our management pulls the plug on the contest either.  I’d never hear the end of it.”

Michael scratched his head.  “There’s a lot hanging in the balance and I’m not sure it’s worth it for you to throw away the opportunity the contest is offering you.  You’ve worked too hard to get to this point.”

Reluctantly, Annie nodded in agreement.  Deep down she knew he was right.

He pressed his face into the warmth of her neck..  “I want you to know how much it will pain me to be in the same room with you now.  Every time I look at you I’ll remember what it felt like to be with you, to be inside you.”

Annie closed her eyes and shivered at the memory he was evoking.

“If I had my way,” she teased.  “I’d take you back inside and hold you hostage in my bed for the next several months or until you got bored with me.”

Michael raised an eyebrow and smiled.  “Sounds like a wonderful plan but I really don’t see myself getting bored.  You might get tired long before I do.”

“Is that a challenge?” she asked with a grin.

“Maybe.”  He kissed her softly on the lips and stepped off the steps into the driveway.  “I’ve got to go meet Sammy so I’ll see you at practice.”

Annie waited almost a half an hour before she left for practice on foot.  She used the time to blow dry her hair and tidy up her rooms.  She made the bed slowly, touching the side he had slept on as if he were still there.  She lifted the pillow he had used to her face and filled her lungs with the scent of his hair.  Then her tears came.  She felt empty.  On the way out of the room she caught her reflection in mirror above her bureau and stopped.  She inhaled deeply and slowly released the air from her lungs.  Somehow she was going to have to find the strength to pretend everything was still professional and businesslike between her and Michael, as if last night had never happened.  If that’s what he wanted, then that is what he was going to get.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

 

From a distance, Annie saw Michael’s car pull into the Play House parking lot as she crossed the town common.  Sammy’s tiny red Ferrari sports car pulled in beside him.  Annie’s stomach balled into a tight knot.  A feeling of dread erased the expression on her face.  A quick glance around the parking lot told her everyone was already waiting inside.  Exhaling heavily, she slowly continued walking.

Sammy got out of his car first and went to his trunk.  Sammy was several inches taller than Michael, very black and dangerously-good-looking, with a flawless smile.

Michael met Sammy at the back of the car and gave him a friendly hug.  “I’m glad you were available to help me with this project,” he said.

“Yeah, me too.  It was good to get your call,” Sammy replied with a big smile.

“Can I help you bring anything inside?” Michael asked, watching Sammy pop the trunk of his car.

“Whoa, who’s the girl?” Sammy asked, watching Annie approaching them.

Michael glanced up from the trunk lid, caught sight of her, and froze.

“Who is she?” Sammy asked again, this time looking at his friend.

Michael mumbled something incoherent, his eyes still glued on Annie, the color drained from his face.

She was still wearing the jeans from the morning and the same white blouse tied at her waist, her blond hair floated around her beautiful face in the breeze and sunglasses hid her eyes.

Sammy gave Michael a shove on the arm.  “Hey!  Are you deaf?  I was asking you a question.  Who is she, is she part of the band?”

“Yeah,”  Michael cleared his throat, his eyes never leaving Annie.  “Her name is Annie and, yes, she’s part of the band.  That was two questions, not one.”

Michael awaited her with a sly smile, damp hair haphazardly falling over his sunglasses.  Annie looked away from Michael before her knees buckled, and extended her hand to Sammy.

“Hi, I’m Annie Logan.  You must be Sammy,” she said, giving his hand a firm, confident shake.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” Sammy replied, kissing her knuckles before releasing her hand.  “Mike’s told me a lot about your band.”

“Oh really?”  Annie replied, shooting Michael a quizzical glance.

Michael remained frozen, unable to form a complete thought.

“Don’t worry, it was all good,” Sammy reassured.

“Well, I should get inside,” Annie stated, before Michael had a chance to say anything.  “I’m sure they’re waiting for me.”  She smiled at Sammy and headed for the side door.

Sammy’s eyes turned to Michael who was still staring at Annie as she disappeared into the building.  “Cat got your tongue?” he joked.

“Huh?”

“Never mind.”  He handed Michael a box of cables and started loading up his own arms to head inside.

“Wait,” Michael said.  “Listen, there’s a situation I’ve got to tell you about before we go in there.”

“Would this situation have anything to do with the fact you’re screwing the girl?” Sammy replied, with a knowing grin.

Michael met Sammy’s gaze.  A nervous smile curling his lips.  “Is it that obvious?”

Sammy laughed loudly.  “Well, let me ask you this: did you stay at a hotel in town last night?”

“No.  Why?”

“Because your hair is still wet and I know your house is over an hours drive from here.”

“Shit.”

Sammy shook his head and continued to laugh.

“I should have known better, but she’s so damn…” Michael shook his head.

“Hey, you don’t owe me an explanation.  I’m not your keeper.”

“Brian can't find out about this or I'm dead,” Michael said, taking another box from the trunk.  “We had to sign contracts stating we'd have no personal contact with our bands so Brian
can't
find out about this.  He's already threatened me once.”

Sammy chuckled again.  “If Brian sees the two of you in the same room, he’s going to know.  Trust me.”

“Really?  Is it
that
obvious?”

“Just a bit.”  Sammy picked up his bass guitar case.  “Well, if nothing else, I’d say judging by the look on your face, the sex was worth it.”

Michael smiled.  “You have no idea.”

Sammy grinned and shut the lid to his trunk.

“She’s not the situation I wanted to talk to you about,” Michael stated.

Sammy spun around and faced Michael.  “Then what is it?”

“The guitarist in this band is a prick.  He’s been giving me a hard time about the changes I’ve been trying to put in place.  I’m certain he’s going to have some serious issues with you joining them today but, too bad.  I’ll deal with him, but I wanted to give you a heads up about what’s been happening.”

Michael began walking towards the door.  “Oh, and not that this will mean anything to you, but the guitarist I’m talking about is the ex-husband of Annie.”

“Man, you really like living on the edge!”  Sammy shook his head and opened the door.  “Do the guys in Annie’s band know what’s going on between you two?”

“Nope, no one does and that’s the way it has to stay.”

“That’s what you think,” Sammy said under his breath.

Inside the auditorium, Buzz and Ivory were almost done setting up the stage.  They stopped when they saw Michael and Sammy approaching them.  Annie came out of the bathroom and flanked Michael and Sammy, giving the appearance that they had all arrived together.  Gary sat idly on top of an amplifier, his guitar still in the case at his feet.

“Jesus, did she come in with him?” Buzz muttered under his breath, the memory of Saturday night’s fight still fresh in his brain.  He looked over at Ivory and shook his head.  Ivory reached into his pocket and sparked a fresh joint, clearly uncomfortable with the situation.

Michael climbed the stage stairs two at a time and quickly surveyed the area.  Sammy followed, bass guitar case in hand.

Annie stood to the side and wondered if Michael had informed Sammy of the hornet’s nest he was about to walk into.

“Okay, I’m glad to see everyone is here,” Michael stated, pushing the damp hair off his forehead.  “We’re going to mix things up a bit today and see if we can get a stronger sound out of you.  First, I’m adding a bass player,” Michael announced, waving Sammy over to his side.  “This is Sammy Isaacs.  He’s played with us on and off for years.  He has the best ear for bass in the business so he’ll mesh with you guys perfectly.  He’ll be helping you guys out for a while.”

“Excuse me?” Gary snipped, jumping down from his perch.

“Sammy, you can plug in over there,” Michael directed, ignoring Gary’s remark.  “Secondly,” he continued, staring straight at Ivory, “I want you to start leaving the dope at home.”

Ivory dropped the joint from his mouth and snuffed it out on the floor with his foot.  “What the hell, man?” he cried in protest.

“I guess the temptation is too much for the ex-junkie,” Gary snarled, in Ivory’s defense.

Michael’s head swung around to face Gary.  “I’m going to forget you said that because you’re obviously misinformed.  Now, shut the hell up and let me finish.”  Michael glared at Gary for several awkward moments until he felt satisfied his voice had been heard.  Then, without removing his eyes from Gary, he added, “And lastly, I want Annie out front on lead vocals.”

“Who the hell do you think you are, Wade?  You can’t cruise in here and change our whole fucking band around to suit your own needs,” Gary spouted, taking two steps closer to Michael.

“Don’t make this personal, Gary.  I think you should read your copy of the contract.  I have the authority to change anything I want about this band until the contest is over.  After that, you can do whatever the hell you want.”

“You made it personal, Wade.  Not me,” Gary shouted, taking two more aggressive steps toward Michael.

“If you’re smart, you’ll stop right there,” Michael replied, his voice a low steady growl.  “Like I already said, you’ve been misinformed.  Now, can we get on with this practice or would you like to stand around and waste some more of my time?”

Annie took her place at center stage and strapped on her guitar.  She didn’t dare look over in Gary’s direction and Michael was thankfully out of her view too.  The pressure in her chest was overwhelming.

For the next hour Annie sang her heart out and tried her damnedest to dodge the daggers shooting from Gary’s hateful eyes.  This was the worst environment she had ever played in, even worse than after their divorce.  As far as she could see, no one was going to come out a winner in this situation.  Either Gary softened and accepted Michael’s musical direction, at least until the contest ended, or the band was going to break up over it.  She saw no other solution.  For the very first time, she regretted submitting their demo tape into the contest.  Then Michael caught her eye.  He smiled encouragingly and she melted.

“Sounds great, guys,” Michael praised them from the empty first row.  “Take a break.  I need to make a phone call.”

Buzz quickly grabbed Annie by the arm and dragged her and Ivory out the back door.  “Look, this is getting way out of hand.  We need to have a band meeting immediately or I get the feeling Gary is going to quit.”

“I know, I know.  I’m getting the same feeling too,”  Annie replied.  “And it’s all my fault.”

“It’s not your fault,” Buzz replied, leaning up against a tree.

“I’m the one that entered us into that contest!” Annie shouted.

Suddenly Gary appeared on the back steps, rubbing his forehead as if he had a splitting headache.  “That guy is an asshole,” he announced.  “I don’t know how much more of his crap I can take before I walk.  I don’t need this shit.  This is supposed to be fun!”

“I agree,” Ivory added.  “Just because he had a drug problem doesn’t mean I do.”

“I don’t think you’re giving him a chance to prove his point,” Sammy said from the doorway.  The four of them turned around, startled by his deep, Lou Rawls voice.

“Of course you’d say that, you’re his fucking friend,” Gary shot back.

“True.  But I’ve seen Mike in action and witnessed some of the miracles he’s produced out of shit.  Unfortunately, I have also been on the sidelines when he and Brian have gone toe to toe over creative differences.  They’re both good, but most often, Mike’s ear is better.”  Sammy came down the stairs to stand at their level.  “I think you need to hear the end results, with the changes, before you go pissing into the wind.”

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