Sheet Music - A Rock 'n' Roll Love Story (4 page)

“Hey Mike, we’re all heading across the street to shoot some pool and maybe have a couple of beers if you feel like joining us,” Buzz offered.  “Although, being Friday, I’m sure you’ve already got plans.”

Annie stood beside Buzz and held her breath waiting for Michael’s answer.  She knew he no longer drank and wondered how he would respond.

“Sure, sounds great,” Michael replied, tossing his leather coat over his shoulder.  “Will my car be okay here?”

“Michael, this isn’t Boston,” Annie teased.  “It will be fine.”  She smiled at him and he returned one to her.  Every time he looked at her she felt naked and exposed to her soul.  It was uncomfortable and exhilarating all at the same time.

He walked beside her, cutting an impressive image against the night sky, wearing a lived-in pair of jeans and a tight t-shirt.  Being beside him she had never felt so alive.  Self-consciously, she tugged at the bottom of her soft pink half shirt in an attempt to keep it from riding up and exposing too much of her stomach.  The motion was not wasted on Michael.  Several times she caught his eyes surveying her curves, which made her skin flush.

When they reached the door of the bar, Michael yanked it open with his right hand.  Gary entered first and Buzz followed.  Then with the fingertips of his left hand, he softly pressed against the bare skin at the base of Annie’s back.  Gently he guided her ahead of him and into the bar.  Annie felt a shiver of heat dance up her spine when she felt his touch.  She bit her lip and swallowed hard.

Inside, Michael quickly scanned the room.  It did not look too crowded and no one seemed to notice or give a damn who he was.  Over the years it became increasingly harder for him to go out in public and simply blend in to the scenery.  When he was on stage that was different: he was out there exposing himself to the world.  But when he was off stage, he wanted desperately to be left alone.

“Al, why don’t you go grab a pool table before they’re all taken,” Gary suggested.

Annie nodded and began to walk off with Buzz at her side.

“Al, wait a minute,” Michael said, “What do you want to drink?”

Annie stopped in her tracks, turned around, and headed back toward Michael.  “Do I look like an ‘Al’ to you?” she asked, a sly grin curling her full mouth.

“No, but I heard Gary call you that so I thought…”

“Gary only calls me that because he knows how much I hate it when he refers to me by my initials,” she interrupted, her voice slightly raised.  “You can call me Annie…and I’d love a club soda with a slice of lemon, please, if it’s not too much trouble,” she teased and went back to the pool table.

Michael could not help smiling to himself.  After a week of working together, she was finally beginning to relax around him and more of her real personality was coming out.  She was a real smart ass and he loved that in a woman.

He ordered the drinks and turned away from the bartender’s inquisitive stares before the questions started.  Annie and Buzz had already racked up the pool table and began the first game.  Michael watched her move effortlessly around the table.

“That’s twelve-fifty,” the bartender shouted to Michael.  “Hey, aren’t you…?”

Michael ignored the man and tossed a twenty dollar bill onto the bar and headed off with the drinks toward Annie and Buzz, leaving Gary at the bar by himself.

“Do you play?” Buzz asked, taking the mug of beer from Michael’s hand.

“Let’s just say I play guitar a lot better than I play pool.”

“You know, it would be really cool if you played with us sometime,” Buzz said.

“Sure, if you want me to.  It’s really hard sitting back and listening while other’s get to jam.”  He handed Annie her drink and took a sip of his own club soda.  “Maybe next week I’ll join you. ”

“Cool.”

“Where’d Ivory sneak off to?” Michael asked.

“Ivory?  Oh, he’s probably outside getting stoned.”

“Yeah, I noticed he seems to do that a lot,” Michael said.

“Well, are you two girls going to play pool or stand around shooting the shit all night?” Annie asked, and then laughed at her own joke.  Michael spun on his heel to face her.  She was leaning against her pool stick looking as if she were bored with the world.

“I don’t think she knows who she’s messing with, Mike.” Buzz laughed, jabbing an elbow into Michael’s ribs.  “You want to teach her Defaulta lesson, or should I?”

Teach her a lesson?  Michael wanted nothing more.  But suddenly Brian's words of wisdom crept into his brain and he forced the carnal urges he had for Annie from his head.  He had to at least
try
and keep things on a business level with her.

“She’s all yours,” Michael chuckled.

“Okay, tough girl, rack ‘em up and lets go,” Buzz said.

“I’ll play the winner,” Michael said, and retreated back to the bar and stood next to Gary.

“What’s the matter?  Don’t you play pool?” Gary asked.

“Yeah, but I’m not very good at it.  Besides, I thought maybe Buzz wanted to play with Annie.”

“He can try, but she’ll kick his ass.  Does every time.”

“You sound like you’ve been on the losing end of that deal,” Michael remarked.

“You could say that.”

So far, Gary showed no hostility toward Michael.  Perhaps he was finally realizing he wasn’t the enemy.  “Are Buzz and Annie a couple?” Michael asked.

“Are you serious?  I don’t think Buzz would know what to do with someone like Annie - or with any female for that matter!”

“They just seem…close.”  Michael took a swig of his drink and continued to watch Annie and Buzz in the throes of a playful contest.

“Nope, they’re just friends,” Gary replied with a note of contention in his voice.  “So, tell me: what do you think of our band?”

Michael couldn’t help but detect the sarcasm in Gary’s voice and realized he must be treading on thin ice.  “I was going to discuss that with all of you at Monday’s practice.”

“What’s wrong with right now?”

Michael looked at Gary and studied his expression.  Why was Gary always looking for a confrontation, Michael wondered.  “Look, Gary, just so we’re both on the same page, why don’t you tell me why you’ve got such a problem with me?”

“You know, you’ve got a lot of fucking balls…” Gary started.

“Hey, the guys at the end of the bar are asking if you’re Michael Wade from the band, Thrust?” the bartender inquired.  Several patrons now eagerly wanted to hear the answer to the question.

Michael felt cornered.  On one side he had Gary itching to pick another fight.  On the other, he had close to a dozen people beginning to take careful notice of his presence at the bar.  Nervously, he began to look for the exit.  Across the room, Annie was noisily reveling in her win over Buzz and was making her way back to the bar.

He reached out and touched her shoulder then bent in toward her opposite ear.  “I’m gonna have to leave,” he said.  His face brushed against the soft, golden strands of her hair and, for the first time he could smell her fresh scent.

“I was wondering how long it was going to take everyone to notice who you are,” she answered, a hint of disappointment in her voice.

“Not long enough.”

He was staring at her again and she shifted her weight nervously.  The thought of him leaving saddened her.

“Well, it’s getting late.  I should probably get going too.  I’ll walk out with you,” Annie blurted.

“Oh, that’s fucking beautiful,” Gary muttered to himself, but loud enough for Buzz to hear.  “Like we didn’t see that coming!”

“Is there a back exit we can use?” Michael asked.

“Yeah, follow me,” Annie answered.

“I’ll see you at the gig tomorrow night,” Michael said to Buzz.  Then he quickly disappeared out the side door, right on Annie’s heels.

The air was clean and cool outside.  Stars filled the cloudless, early summer sky.  Michael stood uneasily, looking over his shoulder, waiting for the onslaught of curiosity seekers.

“Can I give you a lift home?”  As soon as he asked the question he knew he was in trouble.  Brian would be pissed.  To hell with Brian.

Annie laughed.  “I only live about a mile down that road,” she said pointing off to her left.

“Oh.”  He laughed and slid his hands into his pants pockets.

“You can walk with me, if you want,” she suggested nervously.

Michael nodded and followed Annie down the narrow sidewalk.

“Are you cold?” he asked, thinking he detected a slight shiver from Annie.  “You can wear my coat if you want.”

“No, I’m fine,” she answered, but Michael’s hands were already draping his coat around her shoulders.  “Thanks,” she said.

She pulled the collar up closer to her face and shivered again but this time it wasn’t because she was cold.  With the worn leather against her cheeks, she could clearly smell his masculine aftershave, and smiled.  She felt warmed to her core and safe.

They walked in silence for several feet until Annie finally got the courage to break the awkwardness between them.

“So, if you don’t mind me asking, what do you  think of our band?”

“I was hoping to talk to you about that,” Michael replied.

Annie stopped on the sidewalk and faced him.  “Oh God, you don’t like us,” she sighed, looking away from him and clenching her fists into tight balls.

“What gave you that idea?  I think you’re great.”

“Your statement sounded as if it was going to end with a ‘but’.  It’s okay.  I mean, that’s part of the deal, right?  You’re supposed to give us your professional opinion at the end of the week, right?”

“Okay.  Individually, I think you are all very talented.  But together, I think some of the dynamics are wrong.”

“What do you mean?” Annie asked, feeling the sweat collecting on her palms again.

“Well, for starters, I think you should be the front person of the band.  You have much more stage presence than Gary, your vocal range is fuller and…,” Michael tried to stifle a laugh but was unsuccessful.

Annie stopped again.  “And what?”

“Well, honestly, you’re much sexier to look at.”

Annie felt her face blush with fire and she quickly looked away from Michael and began to walk again.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I didn’t mean that to sound sexist but that’s the way it is in this business.  Sex sells.  It’s that simple.  Plus, you can play guitar better than any…”

Annie spun around.  “Excuse me?  You better choose your next few words very carefully, Michael, if you don’t want to sound sexist,” she said playfully.

“This isn’t going very well, is it?  I’m a man of few words for a reason, Annie, and this is why.  I didn’t mean to imply anything by that comment.  Can we just say that I was completely blown away by your guitar playing and leave it at that?”

“Thank you.  That sounds much better,” she smiled.

They walked in silence for several minutes.  Annie’s head swirled with so many thoughts.  She suddenly wished she lived much further down the road so she could have more time with Michael.

“Annie, how much do you know about me?” he asked, a hint of concern in his voice.

“Probably more than you’d like me to,” she smiled.  “I’ve been a fan of your music for as long as I can remember.  In fact, it was because of your guitar playing that I chose to pursue the guitar.”

“Wow, when you say it like that, it makes me feel pretty damn old.”

“You’ll be thirty-eight on your next birthday.  That’s not old.”  Annie stopped at the end of her driveway and paused, looking up into his magnificent face.

Michael stared back at her, his face serious but his eyes warm and inviting.  He shifted uneasily on the sidewalk.  “Annie.  Is that your full name or a condensed version of something else?”

Annie smiled.  “That’s an interesting question.  Not too many people think to ask me that.  I guess they just assume my name is Ann and Annie is my nickname.”  She glanced up at him and tipped her head shyly.  “Actually, my full name is Angelise.  I was named after a great-aunt or something but my younger brother could never pronounce it so everyone stated calling me Annie.”

“Angelise is a beautiful name.”

“You can call me that if you like.  I answer to both.  Just don’t call me Al.”

“I won’t make that mistake again,” he laughed.   “I’ll call you Annie.”

He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully and smiled.  “I think if I were to shorten your full name I’d call you Angel.”

“If I ever have a daughter, that’s what I’d like to name her.”

A pause fell between them and Michael began to visibly fidget.

“What’s the matter?” Annie asked, seeing the look of confusion on his face.

“I don’t know anything about you but you say you know so much about me.  Makes me feel at a disadvantage.”

“Well, that’s because my life hasn’t been written about in books,” she laughed and Michael smiled.

“Don’t believe everything you’ve read, Annie.”

“Are you trying to tell me what I’ve read is a bunch of lies?”

“Most of it’s true.  I’m not necessarily proud of it nor am I making apologies for it either.  Living through some of that crap made me into the man I am today.” 

“I like the man you are today,” she smiled up at him.

Silence blanketed them again while each studied the others face.  Annie felt like a teenager on a first date.  Michael was so real and down to earth.  It was hard to believe he was the mega rock star that he was in reality.

“How long have you been playing?” Michael asked, breaking the trance he was in.

“Since I was thirteen.”

“So how many years is that?”

“Michael, if you’re trying to figure out my age, just ask me.”

“Anyone ever tell you you’re a real smart ass?” he said with a sly smile.

Annie stifled a laugh.  “You wouldn’t be the first one to call me that.”

“I like that in a woman.”

Again, they shifted uneasily, removing the space between them.

“I’m thirty-one,” Annie announced.

“Excuse me?”

“You wanted to know my age, didn’t you?”

“Oh, right,” Michael sighed, staring blankly at his feet.  He could not believe how nervous he was.  What was it about Annie that seemed to drain all rational thoughts from his brain?

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