Sheet Music - A Rock 'n' Roll Love Story (7 page)

“Three times in rehab?” Annie asked.

“It wasn’t easy for me to admit I was an addict.  But after doing drugs for ten years they no longer did anything for me except to make me sick.  I knew then it was either get clean or die.  When those are your only options, it’s easy to make the right choice.”

“I’m glad you didn’t let the drugs win.”

“So, how about you?  Are you in recovery too?”

“From what?” Annie asked.

“I don’t know, booze, drugs.”

“You’ll laugh when I tell you this, but I never had much interest in doing anything like that to excess - except for music.  I like having control of myself.  I’ll have a drink from time to time but being drunk has no appeal to me.”

“You’re smart.”

Michael stopped in mid-thought, suddenly mesmerized by the smile on Annie’s magnificent face.  “Why are you smiling?” he asked.

Annie shifted her position on the couch.  “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to interrupt you.  But I couldn’t help thinking of how different you are in person from what I thought you’d be like.”

Michael chuckled.  “Oh, really?  What exactly were you expecting?”

“Do you really want to know?”

“Sure,” he answered, resting his head back against the couch, his face turned toward her.

“Okay, I guess I was anticipating a man with an enormous ego and a rock star attitude.  But after spending some time alone with you, I realize you’re actually kind of reserved, soft spoken and shy.”

Michael smirked and rubbed his eyes with his fingers.  “Well, I can agree with some of what you said.  But, trust me, I do have an enormous ego and an attitude but I make a serious effort to leave that all on stage.  I don’t consider myself shy though.  I think I’d call it ‘guarded’ and that is more out of necessity than a personality trait.”

He studied the lines of her delicate face as if etching each detail to memory.  “You have no idea how difficult it is for me to open up to new people.  I’m always searching for their hidden agendas.  Do you know what I’m saying?  So much of my life is public.  The little bit that remains private is really hard for me to expose.  I hate to be that cynical but I guess it comes with the territory.  It’s difficult for me to trust, and that’s probably because I’ve been screwed too many times in the past.”

Annie leaned in closer to him.  “Do you think I have an agenda?”

A sly grin appeared on his chiseled face.  “My gut instinct tells me no.”

“Good, I’m glad you think that because I don’t have an agenda,” she said.

Michael smiled lazily at her.  For some reason he was able to relax with her which was rare for him.  It felt comfortable, like he’d known her all his life.  It felt right.  They continued to stare at one another in total silence, their eyes liquid and smoldering.  He wanted to touch her so badly.  It was pure torture being this close to her and not touching.  Finally, unable to handle the mounting sexual tension, Michael turned away.

“Are your parents still living?” he asked, desperately trying to get his mind off her mouth.

Annie stiffened.  “No,” she answered quickly, suddenly nervous where the conversation was drifting.

“My father died when I was in my early twenties,” Michael stated.  “And I lost my Mom a couple of years ago.”

Annie nodded.  “I think I read something about that.”

“What about your brother?” he asked.  “You mentioned something the other night about a younger brother.”

“He’s gone too,” Annie replied.

“Really?  Wow.”

Annie shifted uneasily on the couch.  Then her head dropped into her lap.  “I don't like telling people this because when I do people tend to look at me differently and get all sympathetic when it really isn't necessary.  It was a
long
time ago.  I think Gary is the only one that knows the full story.”

“You don’t have to tell me, Annie.  I was only trying to get to know you better.  That’s all.”

Annie tipped her head back and gazed out the window.  “I lost my family when I was fifteen.  It was a car accident and I was thrown from the car,” she said quietly.  “I was the only one that survived.”  She raised her eyes to his.  “Like I said, it was a long time ago.”

He was silent for a moment, choosing his words carefully.  He sensed there was a lot more to that story but also knew it was none of his business and decided not to push the subject.  “Even still, I’m guessing that really shaped your life.”

Annie refolded her legs.  “It’s safe to say, I’ve been taking care of myself since I was fifteen.”

He took a sip of his water and set the glass back on the coffee table.  “I have a brother, but we’re not close.”

Annie cocked her head in surprise.  “Really?  I’ve never heard you mention him in interviews.”

He smiled.  “We’re not close,” he laughed.  “His name is Tom.  He’s eight years older than me and did everything right.  He was my mother’s favorite and a big bone of contention between her and I.  He was the stereotypical over achiever: college graduate, still married to his first wife, had kids that my mother could actually see, and became a college professor at Columbia University in New York City.  Kind of hard to compete with that.”

Annie touched his arm thoughtfully.  “How could you say that, with all the awards you’ve won and the success you achieved with your music?”

Michael inhaled deeply.  “My mother only chose to see the long haired musician and recovering addict side of me.  Sure, I got married, but then I got divorced.  I gave her a grandson, but she never got to see him.”  He glanced off toward the bedroom.  “No matter what I did, it always paled against what my brother did.”

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

He shrugged.  “Don’t be.  Families suck.  I spent most of my life trying to prove myself to her.  Now that she’s gone, I realize the only person I had anything to prove to was myself.”

“That’s very true,” she replied.

He looked back at her and grinned.

Annie shook her head and stiffened again.  “The fifteen years I had with my family were hell.  My father was a drunk: a really mean drunk.  He was a liar and a cheat, treated my mother like shit, and verbally abused us all.  We were constantly moving because he could never keep a job.  In some ways, it was a relief to be away from him.” 

Tears spilled from her eyes.  “I do miss my brother though.  He would have gotten a kick out of my music career.”

Michael wiped the moisture from her cheeks.

“This is depressing.  Can we talk about something else?” she asked.

“Sure.”

“So why did you get divorced?” he asked.

“Wow!  That’s a bit direct - and another depressing subject.”

He quickly turned to look at her.  “That’s probably too personal.  Never mind.”

Annie tipped her head nervously.  “No, I don’t mind answering.  It’s really pretty simple,” she said with indifference.  “Gary had a weakness for groupies.”

Michael stifled a laugh.

“You’re smiling, so let me guess, you have a weakness for groupies too,” she said.

Michael shook his head.  “Hardly.  But groupies are a by-product of the business, Annie.  They’ll always be there.  You can ignore them for so long, but sooner or later…”

“So, that justifies cheating?”  Annie’s back began to stiffen.

“No, it doesn’t make it right, it just is what it is.”

“That’s bullshit.  If you really loved someone it would be easy not to cheat.”

“Yes, I suppose so.  But I’m willing to bet you’ve had a few male groupies panting over you from time to time at a show,” he said.

Her eyes shifted toward the kitchen.  “I've had male
and
female groupies hit on me.”

“And you were never tempted?” he asked.

“I didn’t say that.”  Her eyes slammed back into his.  “Okay, yes, I did it one time and I’ll never do it again.  I found out the hard way that I’m not a one-night stand kind of girl.  The intimacy means too much to me.  I did it purely for revenge.  I wanted Gary to know the kind of hurt he was making me feel every time I caught him with someone back-stage.”

“Did Gary get jealous?” he asked, the grin fading from his mouth.

“Yes, he did.  But, in the end, it didn’t matter to me that I had hurt him.  I was too disgusted with myself.  I vowed then I’d never demean myself like that again.  When I got home the next morning I packed what I could in a suitcase and left Gary, and that was the end of it.  I filed for divorce a couple of weeks later.”

“You mentioned something about a drummer?”

Annie met his gaze.  Her eyes stung with tears from reliving the memories of Gary’s infidelity.  “I feel like you’re interviewing me.”

“That would be a switch; me being the interviewer.”  He reached out and took her hand in his, kissing the knuckles.  “I’m sorry.  Forget about it.  None of this is really any of my business.  I hate it when people pry into my personal shit.”

“I met Joe after I left Gary.  He was different from most men, he made me feel good about myself; which is something Gary never learned how to do.  It lasted about six months.  Short and sweet.”

“What happened?”

“One of our gigs got canceled so I decided to surprise him and show up at his show.  Instead, I got the surprise.  I caught him in the back room with a girl and that was the last time I saw him.”

Michael quietly gasped: “Wow.”

“Maybe now you can understand why I have no tolerance for groupies or men that cheat.  Every man in my life - going back to my father, has been a liar and a cheat.  I seem to be a magnet for them.”  Annie pulled her fingers through her hair.  She wondered if she would ever find a man strong enough to break that cycle.

“I’m sorry,” Michael said.

“Don’t be.  It made me a stronger person,” she shrugged.  “I don’t expect much from a man but I do expect loyalty and I know I’m worth it.”

“I have no doubt you are.”

She quizzically studied his expression.  “Did the groupies break-up your marriage?”

Michael shook his head.  “Well, I’m sure it didn’t help matters but I can honestly say my fidelity wasn’t the only issue that ruined my marriage.  And I should also add that Beth wasn’t exactly faithful to me either.”

“If that was the case, then why did you get married?” she asked.

“We never should have gone down that path.  It was a train wreck waiting to happen.”  Michael sighed and dropped his gaze to his lap.  “Listen, I don’t typically talk about this, it’s one of those personal areas of my life that I don’t usually share, but since you answered my prying questions, I feel I owe you the same.”

“You don’t have to.”

“No, I want to.”  He shifted uneasily on the couch.  “Beth and I were friends that did a lot of drugs together and on occasion ended up in bed.  It never should have gone further than that, but stupidly, I allowed it to.  She wanted to have a baby and kept pushing the marriage subject until I finally gave in to the idea.  I figured it would be nothing more than another party, an excuse to do more drugs; which it was.  But eventually the party had to end.  Unfortunately, by the time that finally happened, my son was in the picture.”

“That’s really sad.  Sounds so empty.”

“It was,” he said.  “And expensive.”

“I’ve spent the last six months taking back control of my life,” she said with pride.  “Figuring out who I am and what I want in life.”  Annie looked him deep in the eyes.  “I know exactly what I want now and I won’t ever settle for less again.  It hurts too much.”

Michael rolled his head closer to hers on the back of the couch.  “You’re right about what you said earlier.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“You said if someone was in love it would be easy to be faithful.”

“Yes.  I believe that’s true,” she answered.

“That’s probably why it’s always been easy for me to cheat.”

“What are you saying?” she asked.

He tipped his head back and gazed up at the sky.  “You probably won’t believe this, Annie, but I’ve never been in love.”

She touched his shoulder.  “Never?  How could that be?”

He looked at her, serious and introspective.  “Nope.  Never.  I’ve cared a lot about some of the women I’ve been with but I can’t say I’ve ever felt that ‘weak in the knees’, ‘can’t live without you’, feeling I’ve heard associated with being in love.”

“What about your wife?”

“Not even close.  Don’t get me wrong, I obviously had feelings for her otherwise I never would have stayed with her as long as I did.  But, it definitely wasn’t love.”

“Did she know?”

“Well, it’s not like I ever shouted it at her but I’m sure she must have known.  It’s pretty obvious when someone’s heart isn’t in it.”

“I’m shocked,” she said, shaking her head.

“I thought you would be,” he chuckled.  “I’ve never admitted that to anyone.”  He reached out and stroked her cheek with the back of his fingers.  “I haven’t given up hope though.  I think there may still be time for me find my soul mate,” he smiled.

Annie sighed and closed her eyes.  “Well, I sincerely hope you find her.  But I have to say, now that you’ve told me all of this, I’m even more relieved you didn’t stay the other night.”

“Why?”

Annie’s lips curled.  “Well, had you stayed…”

“The sex would have been phenomenal,” he interrupted with a sly grin.

Annie covered his mouth with her hand.  “What makes you think that?” she asked, stunned he had been so blunt.

“Your kiss,” he replied, raising one eyebrow seductively.

“My kiss?  What about my kiss?”

“I’ve heard people say the eyes are the windows to the soul.  Well, I feel you can tell a lot about a person by the way they kiss.”  He leaned in toward her until their mouths were almost touching.  “A kiss can be very revealing,” he said provocatively.

Annie closed her eyes.  She could feel the heat from his breath and swallowed hard.  “And what did my kiss reveal?” she asked, her voice a mere whisper.

His lips brushed up against hers.  “A serious amount of chemistry between us.”

“Chemistry?” she sighed, feeling the tip of his tongue against her lips.

He pulled back slightly and peered at her through questioning eyes.  “I suppose now you’re going to tell me you didn’t feel it?” he smiled.

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