Sheet Music - A Rock 'n' Roll Love Story (6 page)

“It’s too personal.  I can’t.”

“Then, you wrote that song for yourself?”

“I guess you could say that,” she replied.

“That’s a cop-out and you know it.”

“Michael, I can’t.  Gary hasn’t even heard it and I don’t feel it is ready to be played on stage yet.”

“Okay, fine.  Then I guess we’ll have to work on it some more.”

Annie grabbed her acoustic guitar and headed back on stage to a roaring applause from the audience.

“That’s what it’s all about,” Michael nodded, knowing exactly what Annie was feeling at that very moment.

An hour and a half later, White Rush was packing up their equipment with another exuberant gig under their belts.

“Before you leave, Michael, I have something for you,” Annie said, touching him on the arm.  Then she bent behind her guitar cases and picked up his leather biker jacket. “You forgot this last night,” she said, casually handing it to him.

“I knew it!” Gary shouted, as he headed for the van with his arms loaded down with cables.  “He’s screwing her!  I told you guys this would happen,” Gary screamed toward Buzz and Ivory.

Michael tossed his coat onto a nearby cocktail table and caught Gary just as he came off the stage stairs.  Quick as lightening, Michael clamped his left hand around Gary’s throat, and pushed him up against the wall with a loud thud.  His right hand coiled behind his head, balled into a fist, and aimed for impact against Gary’s face.

Michael’s speed caught Gary off guard and the cables fell from his arms.  Gary stood there, arms flailing like a helpless rag doll, desperate to loosen Michael’s grip around his neck.

“I'm not
screwing
your ex-wife,” Michael spat his words between clenched teeth into Gary's face.  “And I resent the fact that you're implying I am.”

An eerie silence fell around the stage stairs while the bodyguard swiftly flanked Michael’s right side, every-ready to quell a fight.  Luckily, the only people left in the club were the wait-staff and bouncers picking up after a busy night.  Everyone stopped what they were doing when they heard the raised voices coming from the stage area.  You could have heard a pin drop.  Annie was afraid to draw a breath.

“I think you should show her some respect and say you’re sorry,” Michael hissed, as he squeezed the flesh around Gary’s esophagus a bit tighter.

“Go to hell,” Gary coughed.  Before the last word was out of Gary’s mouth, Michael’s fist began to throttle forward.

“Michael!” Annie shouted.  “Don’t!  He’s not worth it!”

The bodyguard caught Michael’s fist in his pizza-sized palm and stopped it cold before it hit its intended target.

“Okay people, fights over,” the low growl of the bodyguard’s voice called out to the few remaining workers in the club.  Then his eyes shifted to Michael.  “What the hell are you doing, man?” he asked in a hushed tone for Michael’s ears only.  “You better hope he doesn’t press assault charges.  That prick is just stupid enough to file just for the thrill of it!”

Gary stormed out the back door, leaving the cables on the floor and the rest of the equipment still on stage.  Annie was torn between rushing to Michael’s side or following Buzz and Ivory.  Sheepishly, she chose her band mates and began to head outside behind them.

Michael caught Annie before she reached the door and pulled her into an empty dressing room beside the hallway.  “Look, I’m really sorry about that,” he said, pacing relentlessly back and forth in front of her.  “Man, I haven’t felt rage like that in a long time.  I really wanted to kill him.”

Annie snickered and Michael’s feet finally stopped.  He turned and looked at her quizzically.  “Part of me wanted you to kill him or at least hurt him a little bit,” she said shrugging off her ambivalence.  Michael’s face softened.

“Hey boss man, we gotta hit the road soon,” the bodyguard called into the room.  “People out here are getting nosey.”

“Yeah, I’ll be right out,” Michael yelled back over his shoulder.

“Good thing we have a day off tomorrow,” Annie commented.  “I think the band could use some time and space after tonight.”

“Probably right,” Michael replied, his voice trailing off.

“Do you have any plans for tomorrow?” Annie asked pensively.

“Yeah.  I’m supposed to be seeing my son.”

“Your son?”

“Yes, I have an eleven year old son with my ex-wife.  On very rare occasions she actually allows me to spend time with him.”  His voice was heavy with sarcasm.

“You sound as if you don’t expect to see him tomorrow.”

“And you’re probably right about that.  The visitation schedule has a way of changing last minute - every time.”

“Well, I hope you get to see him.”

Michael stepped toward her and stopped, gazing into her eyes.  They stood silent, each wanting to say something but the words failed to leave their mouths.  Annie had questions.  Michael had the answers.  They both wanted each other.

“Ah, boss…” the bodyguard’s head popped into the doorway again.

“Yeah, I’m on my way,” Michael replied.  “I guess Bull is getting itchy.  I better go.”

“His name is Bull?”  Annie asked.

“Yep.  It’s short for Bulldog.”  Michael smiled and headed toward the door.

“Have fun with your son,” Annie said, as she watched Michael disappear around the corner.

 

 

 

Annie spent her day off catching up on housework and laundry.  Through it all, her thoughts were consumed with Michael.  She wondered how his day was going with his son, what they were doing and where they went.  Was he seeing his ex-wife too?  Maybe that was part of the deal.

Bottom line, she wondered if he was thinking of her as much as she was thinking of him.  She seriously doubted it.  By eight o’clock she had fallen asleep in bed while watching the television.  Several hours later a low rumble woke her.  She sat upright in bed, peering toward the kitchen door.  A shadow appeared behind the window curtain that hung on the door and then she heard the knock.  Annie sucked in a deep breath.

She darted from her bed and quickly peeked out a side window toward the driveway.  The moon illuminated Michael’s shiny black Porsche.  There was no time to change, put on make-up or, even comb her hair.  She grabbed a satin robe off the chair and ran her fingers through her hair as she went to the door.

Cautiously, she pulled the door open a crack.  Michael stood on the step wearing a white t-shirt and worn blue jeans with holes in both knees.

“Did I wake you?” he asked, his smile warming her.

“No, I was watching TV,” she replied.

“You’re a lousy liar,” Michael laughed.  “Can I come in?” he finally asked.  “Or would you like to talk through the crack in the door?”

She rolled her eyes at him and opened the door.

Michael stepped into the tiny kitchen and scanned the room.  It was comfortable and homey.  Then his eyes fell upon her.  She was standing a few feet away from him, bare-legged up to her firm thighs, and wearing a sky blue nightie, trimmed in white lace.  The robe she wore hung loosely at her sides.  Her hair was loose and wild.  His heart began to beat faster.

“Wow, do you always answer the door looking like that?” he asked, his eyes starting at her toes and working up toward her hips.  He wondered if she was wearing panties.

Annie quickly pulled the robe tightly around her narrow waist and blushed till her face was hot to the touch.  “I wasn’t expecting company,” she sighed, pulling nervously at the hem of her robe and nightie.  It was a useless effort.

“Kind of makes me wish I was your mailman.”

Annie giggled at the thought of him wearing a postal uniform.

“Come in, the living room is in there. Make yourself comfortable.  I’ll go change,” she said, heading into the bathroom, relieved to be away from his stare.

A few minutes later Annie emerged from the bathroom wearing a pair of boxer shorts and a baggy t-shirt.  Michael was sitting on her couch, remote control in hand, quickly flicking through the cable channels.  Annie stood, hands-on-hips, and laughed at the vision.

“That must be a guy thing?” she said.

“What?”

“Guys and the remote control.”

“Oh, I suppose so,” he laughed and turned off the television.

She sat beside him on the couch, tucking her slender legs beneath her as she sank into the flowered seat cushion.  She was wondering why he was there; after all, it was against the rules -- or so he said.

The couch was positioned in front of a large picture window, directly opposite her bedroom.  The television sat on a table, half way between the two rooms, and swiveled around making it possible to watch from either area.

Michael had his head tipped over the back of the couch and was gazing out the window and up at the moon and stars.  Annie loved to do the same when she was feeling sad.  Several minutes passed and Michael sat quiet, deep in thought.

Finally Annie spoke.  “Did you have a good time with your son?” she asked, staring at the exposed skin on his throat and wanting to kiss it.

“I didn’t see him,” he answered blankly, still looking up toward the sky.

“I thought you said…”

“I was wrong,” he snapped, suddenly jerking his head upright.

Annie jumped.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you,” Michael apologized.  “It’s my ex-wife up to her usual tricks.”

“What do you mean?” Annie asked, realizing it was none of her business.

“She knows how tight my schedule is, and yet, every time one of my planned visitation days rolls around, mysteriously my son can’t make it.  She also knows I don’t have the time to drag her back into court every time she disobeys the custody agreement.”

“When was the last time you saw him?”

“He’s almost twelve and I haven’t physically seen him since his tenth birthday.  We talk on the phone a lot but it’s not the same.”

“That’s a lot of time in between visits,” Annie said, reaching out to touch Michael on the forearm.  Feeling her touch, he turned to face her.

“It’s in my lawyers hands now.  I’m through playing her games.”  Michael shifted on the couch.  “Listen, I didn’t come here to complain to you about my ex-wife.”

“I don’t mind listening,” she said.

Michael shook his head.  “I’m really sorry about all of this.  I feel like I’ve drifted into your life and totally messed it up.  I’ve started fights with your ex-husband and probably driven a permanent wedge between you and the rest of your band.”  Michael ran his hands through his long dark hair and pulled it tight between his fingers, making a ponytail.  “I bet you’re wishing you had gotten Brian or someone else from my band to sponsor you in the contest.”

Annie gave Michael a playful shove on his shoulder.  “You’re crazy, you know that?”  Then she got off the couch and headed toward the kitchen.  “Would you like something to drink?” she asked, opening the refrigerator.

“Water would be nice.  Thanks.”

Michael watched Annie move around the dimly lit kitchen.  She was humming softly to herself.  Even in the bulky clothes she had changed into, she was still a knockout.  She came back to the living room carrying two glasses of ice water.   Michael had both muscled arms draped over the back of the couch, which pulled the t-shirt tight across his chest.  His broad thighs spread out at forty-five degree angles in front of him, as if he were making a statement.  He was studying her movements with interest.  Seeing his gaze made Annie stop in place, nearly dropping the two glasses.

“What’s the matter?” she asked, suddenly feeling naked again.

“Gawking at beautiful women is another guy thing, Annie.  Sorry, but I couldn’t help myself.”

Annie set the glasses down on the coffee table and turned to him.  “Do you want me to change again?  I think I might have a burlap bag around somewhere that I could slip into.”  She tried to stifle a laugh as she sat back down and pulled her knees up to her chest as she did.

“It wouldn’t matter.  You’d still be gorgeous.”

Annie reached for her glass and took a sip of water.  “Michael, what’s it like to play on stage in front of twenty thousand adoring fans?”

“Whoa!  Where did that come from?”

“I’ve seen you play in concert and it’s amazing to watch you and Brian interacting with each other and the audience.  I know what that’s like for me as a spectator to watch but I’ve always wondered what it’s like for you to be up there playing and in the moment.”

“Sex.”

“Excuse me?”

“It’s like sex,” Michael stated.  “Think of the best sex you’ve ever had and multiply that feeling a hundred times.  That’s what I feel when we’re all clicking in sync.  It’s pure magic.  I remember the first time it happened, too.  The noise terrified me.”

“Really?”

“Yep, I could feel a vibration coming at us from the back of the arena before I could really hear their voices.  Then the roar hit us like a tidal wave.  I was having trouble hearing our music through the monitors.  Brian was loving it and I didn’t know whether to turn and run or stay and sop it up.  It was a feeding frenzy and I felt like the main course.  I’m sure all the drugs and booze in my system at the time only amplified my paranoia, but it was totally intense.”

Annie’s eyes widened when she heard Michael refer to his drug abuse.

“You seem shocked to hear me say that.  Ex-junkies don’t object to talking about their old demons, Annie.  You said you’ve read about us, so why the stunned look on your face?”

“You’re so blunt about it.”

“I call it like I see it.  All my years in recovery taught me that,” he said.

“Have you ever gone back to the old life?”

Michael smiled.  “I personally don't know of any addict that didn't find themselves drifting back into their old ways after coming out of rehab.  It took me three times before I was finally able to put it behind me.  I've been clean and sober now for over a decade but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't still tempted.  I think that will always be a part of me.  It took me a long time to realize I didn't need the shit in my system to be a good musician.  And once we
all
got rid of our demons, we were free to enjoy making the music again and that's what it's all about.”

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