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."
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."