Sheet Music - A Rock 'n' Roll Love Story (12 page)

“Why?”

“Because I can’t listen to it,” her voice cracked with emotion.  Tears pooled in her eyes.

“You’re crying?”

“No.  I’m fine.  How about you?” she asked, wiping at her eyes.

“I’ve been better.”

“What's wrong?” she asked.

“It’s been a shitty week.  I’ve got too much going on in my life right now and it’s all pretty stressful.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Annie said, noting a hint of exhaustion in his voice.

“Brian and I have been... at
odds
this week.  There's been a lot of fighting.  He's not very happy with me.”

“I’m afraid to ask why,” Annie said.

Michael sighed loudly.  “He says I’m distracted.”

“And are you?” she asked.

“Yeah, with you.”

Annie closed her eyes and smiled through her tears.  He sounded like he was in as much pain as she was and for some reason this pleased her.

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Are you?” he asked with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

Annie wiped the rain water and tears from her cheeks.  “You’re giving me the impression that you think I concocted some sort of evil plan to complicate your life.  That was the farthest thing from my mind,” Annie whispered.  “Seriously, Michael.  It was one night, just one night.  You’re the king of one-night-stands, so please let it go.  I’m okay with it and you should be too.”

Annie inhaled slowly, gathering strength as she filled her lungs.  “You have a job to do that requires your full attention right now - as do I.  I think we need to eliminate the distractions in our lives so that we can both get back to business.”

A long silence hung between them.  Annie’s heart ached.

“Is that what you really want?” he asked softly.

Annie tightened her jaw.  “It’s the way it has to be.  You said so yourself.”

“Annie, you didn’t complicate my life.  You made it better,” he sighed.  “I want you to know that.”

She closed her eyes and sighed.  Silence filled the phone again.

“Why don’t you put Sammy on the phone?” he asked.

“Sure.  I’ll go get him for you.”

“Annie, are you still coming to the show Friday night?”

“I was given the impression that your concert wasn’t an optional event.”

“It isn’t.”

“Then I guess you’ll be seeing me on Friday night,” she answered and passed the phone over to Sammy.

“Hey Mike, how’s it going?”

“Shitty.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Sammy replied.

“What the hell is going on there?” Michael asked.

“What do you mean?  Rehearsals have been going pretty good.”

“I’m telling you now, Sammy.  If you lay a fucking hand on her, you’re all done!”

Suddenly the phone went dead.

Annie was bent over drying her hair in the bathroom, half listening to Sammy’s end of the conversation.  Suddenly Sammy appeared in the doorway of the bathroom.

“Did he hang up?” Annie asked.

“Yeah, you could say that.”

“What’s wrong?”

“Mike just threatened me,” Sammy stated, shaking his head in disbelief.

“What?”  Annie quickly stood upright.  “What did he say?”

“Honestly?  He said if I laid a hand on you, I was all done.”

“I don’t understand.”

Sammy ran the towel over his damp hair and then draped it around his thick neck as he plunked himself down at the kitchen table.  “Listen, I know about you and Mike.  So why don’t you fill in the blanks for me.  What exactly happened and why is he so pissed off?”

“He told you about that?” Annie asked.

“He didn't have to.  The day I met you in the parking lot it was written all over both your faces.  When you showed up, Mike suddenly lost the ability to form a complete thought.  I saw the way he was looking at you.  It was obvious that something was going on.”

“It was one night.  That was it.  End of story.”

“I’m not buying it.  So what’s really going on?”

Annie sat down across from him and contemplated her answer.  “I don’t know what happened.  We were alone a couple of times, talking, getting to know each other and then…I don’t know.  It doesn’t matter,” Annie shrugged.  “It’s over, long before it really began.”

“Bullshit,” Sammy replied.

“What?”

“I said: ‘bullshit’.  What you just said is a load of crap.”  Sammy leaned across the table closer to her.  “Listen, I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I talked to Brian yesterday, and he said Mike’s been moping around their studio all week.  From what I understand, he’s made a real ass of himself, too.  In fact, Brian asked him to leave practice yesterday and not to come back until he had adjusted his attitude.  So, would you like to try and tell me again what happened between you two?”

Annie began to cry.  “I’m in over my head, Sammy.  I can tell you that much.”

“Holy shit!  You’re in love with him, aren’t you?”

Annie dropped her head to the table and began to sob.  “Totally, out of control in love with him and I’m so damned angry for allowing it to happen!  Realistically, I have to ask myself what the hell I was thinking.  I’m not his ‘type’ at all.  Getting involved with him was a huge mistake!”  Her eyes lifted to Sammy, brimming with tears and begging for an answer.  He opened his mouth to speak but she continued to talk, like a faucet that couldn’t be shut off.

“The chemistry between us is so intense it scares me to death.  I’ve never felt anything like it.  He’s like a drug to my system.  When he’s near me, I involuntarily tremble.  Never in my life have I felt anything this powerful.”

Annie straightened her back in the chair.  “But, you know what?” she shrugged.  “None of that really matters now because we can’t be together.  Michael says the contest rules forbid any personal contact.”

“Well, I haven’t read the contract but I’m willing to bet Mike is right.  It makes sense that there’d be a clause like that built into the contract.  And I’d also say, by the look I saw on his face the other day, he definitely has feelings for you too.  Why else would he threaten me like that?”

Annie rolled her eyes.  “If he feels anything, it’s lust, something he probably feels several times a week with a different girl each time!”

Sammy chuckled.  “Mike is not the playboy you think he is.  A lot of that has been seriously blown out of proportion in the media because it looks better for his stage image.  Sure, he’s had his share of women, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen him with anyone at all.  Truth be told, I know for a fact that Mike is tired of going home to an empty house.  We’ve had many conversations about it.  He wants the whole Norman Rockwell thing, a wife, two-point-two kids and a dog,” Sammy joked.  “Most would look at him and think he’s a guy with everything, but for the last five years he’s been pretty lonely.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.  I know he wants to settle down.  But he hasn’t been able to find the right woman to settle down with - yet.  Maybe you’ll be the one to change that for him.”

“Don’t even joke about that.”

Sammy’s gaze turned serious.  “I wasn’t.”

A paused settled between them.  She shifted uneasily in her chair.  Sammy sat quietly, looking out the window at the rain.

“I’m sure Michael would be furious if he knew I was talking to you about this,”Annie said.  “And I’ve probably said much more than I should have.”

“Yeah, he would be pissed.  I’ve known Mike for a long time and he’s always been a very private man.  I think the only person he’s ever opened up to is Brian.”

Annie wiped her eyes again.  “Did you know Beth?”

“Shit!  Yeah.  I’ve known Mike since before he was married to Beth - back when Thrust was just getting started.  I’m dating myself by admitting that, but what the hell.”

“So you knew his ex-wife?”

“Yep, and I didn’t like her either.  No one did.  She was the bitch from hell.”

“I can’t imagine Michael being with someone like that.”

“Drugs will do crazy things to your brain and cloud otherwise good judgment,” Sammy said.  “Thank God we all survived when so many others didn’t.”

“You too?” Annie asked.

“It wasn’t possible to hang around with Thrust back then and not be a user of some chemical.  But that was then and this is now and I should get going.  I believe the rain has stopped and you should try and get some sleep.”  Sammy stood and walked toward the kitchen door.

“I’d offer you something to change into but I don’t have any men’s clothing,” she said.

“Hey, I’ve lived through much worse,” Sammy smiled.  “Are you excited about the concert Friday night?”

“Yeah, I can’t wait,” Annie replied.  “I haven’t seen Thrust perform live since their ‘Rock Hard’ tour a few years back.”

“Wear something sexy.  It will be fun to drive Mike crazy,” Sammy laughed as he stepped out into the darkness.

 

 

 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

 

It was noon when Annie finally woke.  She had four hours until the limousine came to get them.  Excitement already coursed through her veins and the knot in her stomach had returned.  She opened up her closet and stood staring aimlessly at the contents.

Sammy thinks she should dress sexy, then sexy it is.  She pulled the hanger out with her short leather skirt on it.  Michael likes leather, she remembered, and tossed the skirt on her unmade bed.

From her bureau she selected a tight white Lycra half shirt with cap sleeves and laid that on top of the skirt.  She stepped back and viewed the combination displayed on her bed.  Not bad, she thought.  Her black leather boots with the three inch heels would match perfectly.  All she needed now was a coat.  But not just any coat.  She went to her coat closet and pulled out an old black leather biker jacket adorned with zippers.

“Perfect,” she sighed.  This would make the outfit work magic.

Annie slipped into a hot bubble bath and tried to relax.  She tried to think of anything other than Michael, but she couldn’t, tonight would tell her everything she needed to know without having to hear him say it.  His actions would speak for him, and whatever happened, she would have to accept it and move on.

At four-thirty on the dot, the limousine pulled into the Play House parking lot.  Annie was walking across the town common when she saw the long, sleek vehicle arrive.  Buzz, Ivory and Gary quickly took their places in the back seat.  Seconds later Annie, reached the car.

“Good afternoon, Miss,” the driver stated.  Annie noticed the quick once over he gave her with his eyes which made her beam.  The completed outfit was sensational.  She left her long blond hair down, wild and untamed on her back.  The coat finished her reckless look perfectly.  She felt like Cinderella on her way to a rock ‘n’ roll ball.

Annie slipped into the back seat and sat opposite Buzz and beside Ivory.  Her eyes darted nervously around the compartment and smiled proudly.  They all looked great.

“Whoa, Annie!  You are a sight for sore eyes,” Buzz commented first.

“Never mind me.  You guys look amazing!  You
all
clean up nicely,” Annie applauded in appreciation.  “Ivory, I've never seen you looking so good!”

“What about me?” Gary chided, with the ever-present hint of sarcasm evident in his voice.

“You too, Gary.  Handsome as always,” she sighed.

Buzz mixed drinks and Annie accepted one with reluctance.  She hardly ever drank liquor, but tonight was a special occasion.  The conversation was continuous until they reached the Boston City Limit sign on the highway, then they all became lost within their own thoughts.  Annie’s eyes drifted out the tinted window.  The liquor in her belly seemed to magnify her nervousness.

“You’re thinking about him, aren’t you?” Buzz asked in a hushed tone.

Annie jumped at the intrusion to her trance.  “Who?”

“Mike.”

“Maybe.  Why do you ask?”

“I don’t know,” Buzz paused, making sure Gary and Ivory weren’t listening.  “For the record, I think you two make a great couple,” Buzz whispered.

“It doesn’t matter.  We’re not a couple,” Annie replied.

“Oh, I thought…” Buzz’s voice trailed off to silence.

A few minutes later they were pulling up in front of the FleetCenter.

“Check this out!” Ivory screeched.

Before the limousine had come to a complete stop, an attendant was opening the door.  Light quickly spilled into the backseat.  All four occupants sat frozen in their places.  Outside, photographers waited along with hundreds of screaming Thrust fans.  Red felt ropes hung from brass supports in an effort to hold the crowds at bay.  A royal blue carpet ran from the entrance of the FleetCenter and down to the curb.  The scene was reminiscent of stars arriving at an Oscar Award Show.  Except they weren’t stars.

Gary stepped out first and camera flashes illuminated the night.  Ivory and Buzz followed with Annie at their heels.  All of them were speechless, mouths gaping in awe of what they were witnessing.  Nothing had prepared them for this - not even in their wildest dreams.

“This way please,” the uniformed doorman instructed, opening the door to the FleetCenter.

Inside the lobby there were more security ropes directing them down a gauntlet toward a greeting area.  They were being led to an area in which they were to meet Brian Lofgren and Michael before being directed into the press room to wait for the show.  Behind the ropes were more photographers.

The four of them clung together closely and waited in line with the other finalist bands.  Seven more people arrived behind them.  The line moved slowly.  Annie’s hands began to sweat.  Finally the line rounded a corner.

“Wow, that’s Brian Lofgren and Mike up there,” Buzz reported.

Annie’s heart began to pound.  She fought the urge to run back to the door.  Then she saw Sammy grinning ear to ear at her.  Two strides later and he was at her side, taking her by the hands and holding them outwards as if to dance.

“Ooooh, sweet Jesus, Girl,” he cheered, then pressed his face to her cheek to speak privately.  “When I suggested you dress sexy to drive Mike crazy, I didn’t mean dress to kill him!  That poor bastard won’t be able to perform once he sees you,” he said, chuckling loudly.

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