Sheet Music - A Rock 'n' Roll Love Story (11 page)

All four exchanged glances, muttering beneath their breath.

“Give the changes a week, and I guarantee you’ll agree it sounds better,” Sammy added, then headed back inside.

Michael was still on his cell phone when Annie and the others hit the stage.  Gary grabbed Annie by the elbow and stopped her.  “He’s got one week to prove his point,” Gary spat.

“Fine!” Annie answered, yanking her arm free of his grasp.

“And don’t say I never did you any favors,” Gary barked.

“I don’t want any favors from you, Gary!  If this works out and we win, it benefits you too, not just me!”

“Oh really? Well the way I see it, you've got a lot more to gain than just a record contract!  Don't think for a second I don't know what's
really
going on here.”

“You don’t see shit,” Annie screamed back, strapping on her guitar for the second time.  Suddenly she could hear her voice echo and realized how loud they had gotten.  Her eyes nervously darted around the stage and observed the stunned faces of her band-mates.  Then her eyes settled on Michael.  He had stopped talking into his cell phone mid-sentence.  The receiver hung loosely by his face.

“I’ll talk to you later, Brian.” Michael finally said, never taking his eyes off Annie.  Then he approached the stage.  “Is everything all right here?” he asked.

“Yeah fine,” Gary growled.

Annie darted off stage and headed straight for the bathroom.  A few seconds later they heard the slam of the bathroom door.

It was obvious Michael was at a loss of words.  He started to speak several times and then stopped as if trying to select just the right words to convey his point.  It was hard for him to believe things could have gotten this bad, and so quickly.  In less than two weeks, he had managed to transform a successful club band into a bunch of ranting lunatics, ready to rip out the others’ jugular veins.  Quietly, he entertained the thought of walking out the back door, never to be heard from again.  He didn’t need this headache and neither did they.  But, there was Annie to consider.  If he left, he would also be leaving her and the thought of that made his heart ache.

“Ah, listen,” Michael said, clearing this throat, and pacing aimlessly in front of the stage.  “I just got off the phone with Brian.  We’ve scheduled some time for you in the studio at his house next Monday night.  I figured you might want to hear for yourselves how much better you sound with the new changes in place.”

“You mean a recording studio?” Buzz asked.

Michael nodded.  His right hand rubbed contemplatively at his lips.

“You want us to record a demo?” Gary asked, with a hint of skepticism.

“Yeah, I guess you could call it that.  Are you interested, or not?”

“Shit, yeah!” Buzz answered with excitement.

“Okay, how about the rest of you?” Michael asked, scanning the others on the stage.

Ivory nodded and Gary shrugged indifferently.

“Sammy, can you make it?”

“Sure Mike.  Name the time and I’m there.”

Michael grabbed a piece of paper and began scribbling.  “I’m going to give you Brian’s address and trust you won’t be giving this to anyone outside this room.  For obvious reasons, he doesn’t want the general public knowing where he lives.”  He folded it in half and placed it on the edge of the stage.  “Bring all your equipment and be there by six o’clock.  I want you to practice here first before you head to Brian’s.  Okay?”

“Sounds good,” they answered.

“Annie has tickets and back stage passes for Thrust’s concert this weekend at the FleetCenter.  I expect you’ll all be there.  The other sponsored bands will be there too.  The promoters want to do some publicity shit and officially announce the contest.”  Michael sighed heavily and skewed his face in mock disgust.  “Not particularly my favorite thing, but it is mandatory for Thrust as well as you.  We’ll all have to grin and bear it together.”

Michael slid his cell phone into the back pocket of his jeans.  “I’ll be practicing with Thrust for the rest of the week in preparation for the concert.  If you need me, I can be reached at the phone number I wrote on that paper.  Work through the changes I made and I’ll see you Friday night.”

Michael gave a slight wave and turned to walk toward the back of the hall.  Suddenly he stopped and turned around to face them.  “Oh, and I trust you won’t kill each other between now and then,” he smiled and headed for the door.

Inside the bathroom, Annie fell against the door.  Her face was red from anger and embarrassment.  Several times she cursed to relieve the stress but it didn’t help.  Then she splashed cold water onto her face to try and extinguish the fire beneath her cheeks but even that didn’t work.  The metal trash canister beside her feet then became the unwilling victim of her rage.  Several times she kicked at it, muttering every expletive she knew.  Ten minutes passed, maybe more, as she paced the tiny room in search of a reason to go back out and finish practicing with her band.  Finally, she jerked open the door of the restroom and stepped into the foyer of the theater.

Michael was waiting.

“Michael, you scared the hell out of me!”

Michael approached her slowly, his eyes scanning her face.  “I
was
leaving but you seemed pretty upset; and I wanted to make sure you were okay before I left.”

Annie forced a smile onto her reddened face.  “Upset doesn’t even begin to describe it,” she joked.  “How long have you been standing out here?”

He laughed.  “Long enough to know that the trash can in there won’t survive the beating you just gave it.”

She wiped at her raw cheeks.  “Well, I’m sorry you had to hear that, but Gary gets me so damned mad.  Some times I swear I could kill him with my own two hands.”

Michael chuckled.  “Remind me never to piss you off.”

A pause fell between them and Annie began to drift toward the theater door.  “Well, I guess I’ll see you later,” she sighed.

“Annie…” he called to her.

“What?”

“I just told the others that I’ve arranged studio time at Brian’s house for your band next Monday night.  Can you make it?”

A smile spread across her face.  “I’d be crazy to say no to that.”

“Yes, you would,” he smiled.

“Then I’ll be there,” she replied with a wave and pulled open the large wooden theater door.

“Annie.”  Michael took a step closer and caught her hand.  Then gently tugged on her arm until she was pressed against his chest.  His arms quickly circled her waist and clung to her tightly.

“What are you doing?” she protested, her eyes raising to meet his.

“I don’t know and that’s been the problem since the day I met you.”

The smile faded from his face.  His eyes grew intense, as his hands fanned across her bottom.  He lifted her first, then began rocking her against his expanding groin.

Annie swayed with him.  She could feel muscles harden and tense then mold perfectly into the cleft of her body.  Her breath quickened.  Her heart raced out of control.  She saw his mouth descending slowly upon her.  It was open and ready with lips smooth and so very moist.  She could taste him by sight.  But, in the fleeting moment that comes before delirium takes over the brain, she stiffened and pulled away from him.

“Michael, this can’t happen.  You said so yourself.  So, why make it harder than it has to be?”

His lips found her throat as she squirmed in his arms.  “I don't think
it
could get any harder,” he teased.

“That’s not what I meant,” she protested, but his lips and tongue were still burning new paths along the length of her neck.  His large hands cupped her buttocks and held her against his body.  “Come on, Michael.  Stop it!”

Behind them, Sammy coughed loudly to make his presence known.  “Sorry to break up the party, but your band is ready to start practice, Annie.”  He tossed Michael a knowing look and winked.

The gesture made Annie’s face flush with embarrassment.  She gave Michael a hard shove on his chest and he dropped her to the floor.  “There’s no party, Sammy,” she answered with sarcasm, as she adjusted her clothing.  “It’s just Michael playing games.”

Sammy nodded and disappeared through the doors.  Annie turned to follow him but Michael grabbed her hand again.  She spun around irritated and glared at him.  His eyes looked hurt, as he cocked his head to look at her.

“I’m not playing games, Annie,” he whispered.

She shook her head in disbelief.  “Only a few hours ago you told me…”

“I know what I said.”

Her eyes filled with tears.  “Then why are you doing this to me now?”

“Because I want you.”

“And I want to win this stupid contest, but maybe we both want things we’ll never have,” she answered.

“Maybe you’re wrong.”

“It was one night, Michael; not a big deal.  It should be easy for us to forget about it and get back to business.  Right?”

Before he could reply, she pulled her hand from his grasp and slipped back into the auditorium.

 

 

 

Practice was uneventful the first two days without Michael.  Communications were tense and unyielding.  By Wednesday, Gary’s stubbornness had softened and the band slowly began to gel.  It seemed that without Michael hovering, Gary was free to relax.  Sammy had quickly fallen into place and everyone appreciated his efforts, including Gary.  Annie’s confidence began to blossom and the laughter had reappeared amongst them.

It was raining heavily when practice ended on Wednesday and Sammy offered to drive Annie home.

“I only live a mile down that road,” she protested.  “I won’t melt!”

“Suit yourself,” he shrugged.  “I’ll be leaving in five minutes, if you change your mind.”

Annie stuck her head out the front door of the Play House.  The wind had picked up considerably, blowing the rain sideways.  Gary had already left and Buzz and Ivory were about to.  She pulled her head back inside and caught Sammy just as he was about to exit the back door.

“Sammy,” she called to him.  “I think I’ll take you up on that ride offer.”

“Then, come on, girl.  Get your ass back here!  We’ll make a run for my car.”

Together they made a mad dash for Sammy’s car but the doors were locked.  In the seconds it took for him to unlock them, they were soaked to the skin.  Inside the car, Sammy shook his head and sprayed more water at Annie.  They laughed so hard the windows quickly fogged.

“I’m drenched,” Annie giggled.  “Even my feet!”

“It’s only water!  I’m not going to melt,” Sammy replied in a girlish voice.

Annie gave him a playful shove and smiled.  She really liked Sammy.  In the short time she had known him they had become good friends.  She felt safe with him.  Somehow he knew just what to say to make her smile.

Sammy started his car and headed down the main street toward Annie’s apartment.  The rain pelted the windshield with such force they could hardly see the road.

“That’s it,” she shouted.  “That’s my driveway on the right.”

Sammy drove his car up onto the grass to get as close as possible to Annie’s back door.

“Why don’t you come in and dry off a bit and wait until the rain stops before you head home,” Annie suggested.

“Actually, that sounds good,” he replied, smiling broadly.  “Get your house keys ready,” he said.  “On the count of three.  One, two…”

Annie bolted toward the door before Sammy had finished the count.  Behind her she could hear Sammy yelling about her foul play.  A second later he was beside her on the steps as she fumbled with the slippery keys.

“Sounds like your phone is ringing,” he said.

“Oh no, I think you’re right,” Annie answered, struggling to get a good grip on her wet keys. 

Finally, the door burst open and they both fell into the kitchen, wet and laughing.  Annie ran to the phone, attempted to pick it up, then roared with more laughter when it slipped from her hand and fell to the floor.

“Hello,” she finally called out, placing the receiver against her slick face.

“Annie?”

“Yeah, who’s this?”

“It’s me, Mike.  Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten the sound of my voice?”

Annie’s heart immediately began to thump harder in her chest.  She took the phone into her bedroom and sat on the bed.  All it took was the sound of his voice and she was at attention, her whole body on full alert.  Sammy was still in the kitchen laughing, standing in the puddle his wet clothes were making.

“What’s all the noise?  Are you having a party?” Michael asked.

“No, it’s just Sammy.  Wait a minute, Michael.”  Then she called to Sammy.  “The bathroom is over there.  Grab some towels and dry off,” she directed, putting the phone back up to her ear.

“What is
he
doing there?” Michael asked, hating the tone of his own voice.

“He gave me a ride home from practice because it’s raining pretty hard here,” she replied.  “We’re both soaked to the skin.”

Sammy returned from the bathroom with towels in hand and tossed one to Annie in the bedroom.  Then he disappeared into the kitchen.  Quickly she began to dry off while pinching the phone between her face and shoulder.

“I know it’s late, but I was wondering how practice is going?” “It’s been a struggle but I feel like we’ve finally turned a corner,” Annie answered.

Annie took a deep breath and prayed she could maintain control of her emotions.  But hearing the soft texture of his voice was making her feel weak and vulnerable.

“How’s Sammy working out?” he asked.

Annie smiled to herself.  If it hadn’t been for Sammy’s strong shoulder to cry on this week, she knew for certain she would have fallen apart.

“Sammy’s been very supportive to me and a great addition to the band too.”

“What about Gary?”

“Well, Gary will always be Gary.  But I must say, he’s lightened up a lot without you being at the practices.”

Michael sighed.  “I’ve been known to bring out the worst in people.”

Silence fell between them.  If it weren’t for the gentle rhythm of his breathing, she would have thought he had hung up.

“I miss you,” he said in a whispered tone.

Annie closed her eyes.  “Michael, please don’t say that.”

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