Sunday, August 30, 2009

LS – Part 2

She didn't know why she was so nervous as she watched the first of the lyrics pop up on the screen above the bar. This was her signature song: she knew it by heart, and it was always a hit whenever she sang it. But the time for second guessing her choice had passed, and so she jumped right in with her nearly perfect falsetto of Prince's "Kiss", to the excited hoots and hollers of the other people in the bar, some of whom stopped in thEir tracks and turned to look at her after the first few high pitched notes.

She leaned back a little when she went to hit those extra high notes, even though she could probably hit them in her sleep. She grinned a shy little grin as she watched the reaction of the crowd, and proceeded to bring the house down with the end of the song, reaching way up to hit those classic Prince pitches. She went out with a bang, then simply replaced her microphone as the crowd applauded and screamed with glee. She gave them a joking little half bow and made a speedy retreat to her booth. "Thank you, Heather!" was the cadence she sped to, but the KJ's next introduction was lost in a foggy jumble as he came back into view.

His beaming face practically sang to her, and even though she could tell the intro to the next song had begun, she could see that he was clapping for her, shaking his head in a combination of awe and disbelief. She brushed off the non-verbal compliment and bit her lower lip as she plunked back down into her spot.

Brushing that same pesky hair back behind his ear, he leaned back and just stared at her. She could only take so much of his pensive gaze. "What?" she asked, playfully impatient. Shaking his head, he simply said "Wow." 'Really? That's all you've got?' she found herself asking herself. As if he knew her very thoughts, he elaborated. "I had no idea that Prince was really a cute chick with red hair and freckles. Guess you can hide a lot inside a purple velvet suit."

They both shared a laugh at his ridiculous idea, and then she remembered something. She and her friends used to sing karaoke at sports bar where they practically owned the rotation. It was their Thursday night place, and the bartender knew them as regulars. He was quite a character, and a bit of a flirt, but what bartender isn't. So one night, she had gotten up to sing "Kiss", which was of course a big success. Afterward, she walked over to the bar to get herself a drink. The bartender met her across the bar and said, "I gotta tell ya, I'm a little turned on right now. That was hot." She thanked him with a laugh and went back and told her friends about his compliment. "I think I finally found how to tell when I've found the right guy for me: he'll get hot when I sing Prince!"

She laughed a little harder remembering that one, trying her best not to apply that criteria to this stranger sitting across from her. Then she saw it. His eyes sparkled with a hint of intrigue, but then there was the tiniest hint of sadness in them. If she hadn't been looking so intently into them all night she might not even have noticed, but she did. It was almost as if some secret part of him was hurting for some reason.

Stop reading too much into things, she reminded herself, as she let her mouth draw back into an even bigger smile than the one she was already wearing; a smile that, if he was paying attention, might have

told him more than she should have let on.

She was getting ready to ask him about his next song when Dana the bartender showed up with a couple fruity looking drinks. I started to protest, seeing as how I hadn't ordered any drinks. "I know you didn't order these, but he did." She winked at him as she set the drinks down and sached back and forth with ease through the crowd, back to her spot behind the bar.

"What's this?" she asked, swishing the colorful concoction around with her straw and giving the drink a sniff. "Just try it. I have a feeling you'll like it" was his response. Grabbing his equally fruity drink, he pulled out the straw and tossed it aside, taking a good healthy swig from his glass. It did look and smell delicious, so she took a drink.

He waited until she clearly had a mouthful of the stuff to tell her "You're having Sex with an Alligator right now." She unsuccessfully tried to stifle a laugh, but managed to suck some of her drink down the wrong pipe. A nice, embarrassing coughing jag ensued as he watched, laughing despite his best efforts to refrain. A little stream of drink had managed to work its way down her nose, but as she went to wipe it away he, with napkin in hand, beat her to it.

"I'm sorry. I really had no idea you would be that amused." A truly apologetic smile graced his face, but he couldn't hide a little snicker. She rolled her eyes at him playfully. "Fantastic. Another wonderfully embarrassing moment in your presence. Lucky me…"

"Lucky me" he corrected gently, leaning in almost impossibly close, catching her gaze long enough for the sparkle in his eyes to tango just a moment with the glimmer of hope in hers.

Her rate started to race as she imagined he might be planning to do something else (which would make for one of the most memorable nights she'd had in far too long). Just then, however, the voice of the KJ broke into their moment to ask "Is he still here?" over the sound system.

"Gotta go. That's your surprise." He once again flashed that brilliant smile of his. "Don't go anywhere."

As if.

She watched him hustle up to the front and whisper something to the KJ. And then the song began.

No way. She couldn't believe it.

His voice, a little rougher, but still pitch-perfect broke out.

"Oh-oo darling…" She loved this song!

"…please believe me…" Oh, I want to, she thought.

"…I'll never do you no harm…" Of course you wouldn't.

She smiled at her own little mental retorts, smiling even bigger when she saw him pacing his way over to their booth, stepping to the swanky beat of the music.

'Total coincidence that he picked this song' she reassured herself. But she couldn't help but think of it as some sort of sign. Of what, she didn't know, and she didn't really put much stock in signs anyway. Still, she read so much into the words that he was now singing from one knee directly in front of her.

"Oh-oo darling…" Yes?

She brought a hand up to her chin, a tiny bit embarrassed by all of the hoots and attention they were getting, but thrilled at the same time that he was giving his to her.

"…please believe me…" I really want to.

"…I'll never le-et you dow-ow-oon…" Sigh.

She watched him in wonder, amazement and adoration as he belted out the last round of lyrics, really playing it up for everyone, but especially her. And it was there again, those two somethings: the one that told her he was interested and ready to learn more, and the other that spoke of the hidden hurt she couldn't imagine.

His eyes shone so bright, were so full life, as he came to the end of his song. His voice could probably do whatever he wanted it to, she figured, as he hit every tough note throughout the song. As he got to the last note he stood up, took her hand in his and held it to his chest.

That note could have lasted forever and she would have been a-ok. His hands were perfect, and seemed to fit perfectly over hers. She thought she felt the slightest quiver as he held her close like that. Was he nervous? She looked up from their entwined hands as he finished and caught him staring down at her. Everyone was cheering with such gusto that he let her go, gave her a wink and gave everyone else a sweeping, exaggerated bow before walking away to return his microphone.

At the moment, another familiar sound of a cowbell broke through all the ruckus of the busy bar. Could it be that late already? "Last call people" Dana shouted from behind the bar, and the KJ picked up the cue and announced last call again over the p.a. system.

"What's wrong?" he asked as he plopped down beside her this time, taking a chug of his newly acquired water. "I can't believe it's last call already." "Oh, that. Why, ya didn't get all your drinking in?" he joked. She turned to face him and raised an eyebrow, best she could muster, anyway, and he chuckled at her effort.

"Not it at all. I've just… had a really good time tonight." It was his turn to be taken aback a bit this time, and he smiled as he looked down at his cup of water, playing with the ice cubes. "Me too."

Monday, August 24, 2009

Somewhere in the middle…

With one finger pressed against her ear, her free hand flipped through the pages of the immense song book, looking for her next song as she silently prayed for all she was worth that the monotone and off key version of 'Cracklin' Rosie' would be over soon.

Jewel… Natalie Merchant… Natalie Imbruglia… Prince (why not?). All of these jumped to mind as she scanned the pages. She was always looking for something new to sing that she might be able to pull off with some tiny bit of success.

Then she heard it.

She still had her finger pressed tightly against her ear when she realized that the cracklin' crooner had finally finished his less than stellar performance, and had been replaced by a voice she hadn't heard before. Not at this place, anyway. Being a regular haunt of hers she knew by sight and sound all of the regulars and even some of the not-so regulars. He was new for certain. And there was something in his voice that made her look up from the book and turn to face him.

He wasn't singing a dark, angsty, throaty metal song, nor was he singing some saccharine, forlorn, heart-wrenching ballad. In fact, he was singing some crazy Adam Sandler song, an inappropriate one at that. So she did manage a little chuckle while everyone else was laughing hysterically, but that certain something, that hint, that tone in his voice that held her attention didn't allow for more than that.

As he stood there holding the microphone, belting out those comical and crude lines, really playing to the ever-increasing crowd, all she could do was stare at that dark haired man. A little disheveled (but in all the right ways), his gestures and his smooth voice seemed to flow from him almost effortlessly. He could have been relaxing on the couch watching TV, or sleeping, even, for all the effort he appeared to be putting into this performance. It just seemed second nature to him.

It wasn't until she heard the rip-roaring applause and shouts of approval that she realized he had finished his song, or that she had been staring so intensely at him that she had half crushed her poor little water cup. She shook her head and released the grip of her now cramping fingers and looked up to see the KJ giving her a strange, part creepy, part flirtatious look. Feeling a little embarrassed (he must have mistaken her stares as directed at him, the poor fella) she immediately stood up and turned away, grabbing the mangled cup and making a bee line for the trash can. Not the most glorious getaway, but she needed a breather.

She tossed the cup in the trash and started to make her way back to the booth she had taken up when she noticed that he was the one watching her now. Her eyes met his just long enough for her to see a little smile cross his lips, and to feel her face grow distinctly warm. She quickly looked straight ahead to her destination and quickly plopped herself down in her seat, more grateful than ever that the back of the booth rose well above her head, giving her just the cover she needed to bury her head in her hands in embarrassment.

The booth shook slightly under the weight of some presumptuous patron who clearly didn't see that she was sitting her and obviously not looking for company.

"Are you done with that?"

She clearly recognized his voice. What was he doing? Had he come to confront her about her inglorious episode of unabashed ogling? A dozen other unpleasant possibilities popped into her head and she steadfastly held her head-in-hands position, thinking that maybe if she didn't look up, he would just… you know, go away. But there was a playful hint in his tone, and his voice held that same mystical power that she couldn't resist. Okay, so maybe it wasn't mystical, but something about it practically forced her eyes to look upon him.

Not that it was an unpleasant thing in the least. His eyes were this amazingly deep, dark brown. Chocolaty, velvety, almost black, they sparkled full of life and laughter; a laughter that only moments later rang in her ears as she came to realize she was, once again, staring uncontrollably and unfailingly at this ruggedly handsome stranger.

"I-I'm sorry…" she stammered as she put one hand up in between them and used the other to shield her eyes, rubbing her temples as if she were trying to massage away the hold he had over her. "Here you go, I'm through with it." She pushed the book in his general direction without looking up from the table or out from beneath her shielding hand. Chuckling at her peculiar display of possible insanity, he reaches out for the book, but at precisely the right moment so that his hand brushes gently but purposely across the top of hers.

There was something electric in his touch, breaking her no eye contact resolve, and she almost instantly brought her face up to look at his. His face is turned up in this smile that could melt the polar ice caps, and his eyes were dancing in the dim light of the bar. She couldn't help but smile back. His expression was infectious. Before she knew it, she heard herself laughing out loud: at the whole situation, but mostly at herself. He joined in almost immediately, and the more he laughed, the more she laughed and pretty soon they had garnered more than their fair share of looks from the curious folks at some of the nearby tables.

A welcome break in their laughter gave her the chance to relax, take a few deep breaths and refocus her mind on acting a little less insane. Once she centered herself, she was able to look on him because she wanted to, not because she felt drawn to.

"I really am sorry. I have NO idea what my problem is tonight."

"Too much to drink?" he offered up with a wink and a smirk.

"No-o-o, I haven't, thank you!" she smiled back at him. "If I do drink, it's usually only one or two, and I am not that much of a lightweight." With that he gives a little laugh and looks down at the monstrous book in front of him, scanning the pages looking for his next crowd pleaser.

"So what's your next one gonna be?" Relaxing more and more into this situation, she leans forward and tries to guess at what song he might be planning to choose. But with one swift movement he brings a nicely toned forearm out in from of him, hiding the song list from her view, even scooting the book closer to his chest so that she really has no chance of reading what's written on the cramped pages.

"It's a surprise." With a sly little quirky smile he went back to his search.

She sat back in her spot and watched him for a moment or so, then crossed her arms. What is it about this guy, she thought to herself as she watched him search relentlessly through the endless catalog of songs. His skin was a nice, smooth shade of light brown (or was it just the dim lighting?) and his dark hair was pulled neatly back into a ponytail. It wasn't incredibly long, but when pulled up it did fall just past the nape of his neck. A few strands hung loosely out of place in front of his face, she noticed, as she watched him adeptly sweep them back behind his ear. He was wearing a gray t-shirt with the name of some band she had never heard of on it, and his arms, as she had noticed before, were very nicely toned. Quite muscular, actually. And the way the light in the bar hit them at that particular moment she made a mental note that they would be really interesting to draw. She smiled at that thought, and just as he happened to look up from his search.

"What's that for?" he asked as he slammed the book closed and leaned forward across the table, his lovely arms, all sinewy and strong bristling under the strain of his movement.

"Oh… nothing." He raised one eyebrow at her in her in disbelief. "Yeah, sure… nothing." He moved to get up from the booth, and she started to ask where he was going when he turned to her and said "It's a surprise, remember?"

She settled back down in her sit as, with a quick wink he assured her "I'll be right back" and made his way easily through the sea of partygoers to put in his next song. She smiled as she watched him, and thought about that old pick-up line 'I hate to see you go, but I love to watch you walk away.' Now I know exactly what means, she said aloud to herself. No one could hear her anyway.

It really was a fantastic view. He wore a faded pair of dark blue jeans that fit him oh-so well. That butt of his looked glorious, she thought, and laughed at herself and her crude observation. His thighs were strong and muscular, barely contained within the confines of his jeans (she had an eye for this sort of thing). The drape of his shirt revealed great potential for a nice pair of pecs lying just underneath, as well as a quite possibly perfect set of abs. With all this going for him, by her guesstimation anyway, she couldn't fathom why this attractive, interesting, and clearly talented creature had chosen her table to visit.

It's because you were staring at him like some lovelorn, horny or possibly insane crazy person was the thought that echoed through her head, and with that she laughed out loud again.

"You must have a lot of nothing going on in your head." Chills, the good kind, ran down the back of her neck and her arms got all goose pimpled at the simultaneous arrival of his silky words in her ear and the warmth of his breath so close to her neck that it practically fell moist on her skin. It really caught her off guard, and she replied "If you only knew" in a bit of a hurried and hopefully undetectably breathless response.

He cocked his head a little and crossed his arms as he looked at her with a amused grin, seeming to try and figure out what all her 'nothings' might consist of. That nonverbal exchange was all the confirmation she needed that she had him hooked, at least for the time being.

"So!" He burst out, almost as much to break his trance as hers, "when and what are YOU singing?" That same playful look came across his face and she smiled back "It's a secret." They both laughed and leaned in to each other, relaxing into their peculiar situation more and more as they voice across the speakers blurted out "And now, for the lovely vocal styling of Heather!"

"Oh! That's my cue!" She pushed herself up from her seat at the booth and headed toward the microphone.