Rhythm and the Blue Line Ch 03
© 2011 All rights reserved
"Hi, Mom," Ryan said.
"Hi, sweetie. How are you? I've been worried about you. Maybe you should come home while you heal up."
"I'm fine, Mom. Really, I'm fine. I promise." Ryan stared at the ceiling. "The insurance is covering it. I can come off the crutches this week, and they'll give me a soft cast for a week or so."
"I called you last night but you didn't answer. Were you all right?"
"I was fine. I was with the band last night. I didn't hear my phone and when I checked messages it was too late to call back." Mentally, Ryan sighed; she knew she'd left at least two messages telling her mom where she'd be.
"All right, hon, so long as you're okay. Did you have fun?"
"Yeah, we got a lot accomplished." Ryan hated the way her parents dismissed the band as a hobby, as something to pass the time. They had no idea, she thought, of how hard she and the others were working. "In fact," Ryan continued, "I was going to call you later. Lara's been working hard and it's paid off. We're going to be headlining at the 9:30 Club in a couple of months."
"What day will that be?"
"I'll have to double check with Lara but I'll let you know," Ryan said. She steeled herself against what was probably coming and wondered why she'd bothered to hope it would be different.
"I don’t know, hon." Her mom tsked. "JT might be playing that night, especially if it's a weekend. I'm never sure of his schedule, and you know how your dad wants to go to the away games. Still, someone will probably record it, right? You can show us later, at home. It'll be so much calmer."
"Mom, this really means a lot to me." Ryan forced her voice to be even. "We have new material that I think will go over well, and like I said, Lara's been trying like crazy to get us this booking."
"I'm sure she has, Ryan. You know how much it means to JT, though, to have us there, and how your father enjoys it."
"It will be in December," Ryan said through gritted teeth. "JT's season will be over." Why? she thought, furious. Why does sports always trump anything else?
"Now, Ryan, you know how your father and I feel about those places you play. We're not comfortable there."
Ryan sighed. "Mom, you could sit with friends of mine that you know. No one would make you feel uncomfortable."
"Ryan," her mother said in a voice that was both soothing yet distant, "we wish we could go to everything you and the boys do, but that's just not possible."
"Right." Ryan dropped her head. She was angry but tired and didn't want to talk anymore. "Look, Mom, I have to go. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She waited—just barely—until her mother said good-bye, then clicked the phone shut.
Why do I do this to myself, she wondered as she stood resting on the crutches. She stared at the wall as though the answer might appear in the eggshell paint. It was useless and she knew it. Hadn't years of the same thing taught her anything? Hadn't she learned over the past twenty-three years what the answer would be? She stared at the phone in her hand. Apparently not.
"You'd come if I had a dick and was hitting some stupid ball." She glared at the phone. When she heard a noise behind her, she started and turned to see Brody stifling a laugh.
Ryan gaped; she had forgotten Brody was there. It hit her that he'd heard not only the conversation, but her last comment as well. She felt the blush start at her toes and race to her face with lightning speed.
"Oh. Oh, my God." Ryan bit her lip. "I am so sorry. I forgot . . . I didn't realize . . . oh, crap." She dropped the crutches to the floor and leaned against the wall. "Shit."
"It's not that bad," she heard him say around a chuckle. "I used to argue with my parents all the time."
Ryan looked at the floor, lost for words. She wanted to curl up on the couch and be mortified in private. Later, when she felt up to it, she'd hammer out some awful song on the keyboard to get it out of her system. After that, she could go back to more productive music. In a few days, she might even be able to look at him again.
"Look," she said when she managed to find her voice again, "I'm sorry, really. Thanks for everything, but . . . ." She pushed herself off the wall and leaned down for her crutches, nearly falling in the process.
"Whoa, whoa." Brody caught her around the waist and she grabbed at his shoulders on a reflex. "Are you all right?" he asked when she had her balance.
"I'm fine. I am!" she protested when he gave her a skeptical glance. "It's just family drama, that's all. It's a cycle, I'm used to it. I'll get over it. I just need some comfort food and a nice dark movie and I'll be good."
"What kind of comfort food?"
Ryan studied him, looking for any signs of a joke, but found none. His golden-brown eyes were serious. Or, she amended, as serious as Brody Lang was likely to get.
Ryan noticed that he still had his hands on her waist. Not sure just what she thought about that, she stayed still.
"Yes, sushi." She gave him a wry grin. "No one else in my family can stand it, so I guess it's my way of getting back at them. When I get ticked off at my family, I go get sushi."
"All right." Brody nodded and stepped back. He made sure she was steady, then leaned down and picked up her crutches. "So, where are we going?"
"Excuse me? We?"
"Why not?" Brody flashed her a lazy, sexy grin that unsettled her just a little. "You look like you could use a little time to cool down, and I haven't had dinner. I'd make something, but I already know you don't keep real food around here."
"Are you hitting on me?" Ryan asked as she got her crutches under her. "Because if you are, you picked a bad time. I'm not great company right now." She made her way to the kitchen, where she'd left her purse.
"Well, if I'm seeing you at your worst, then it can only get better." He stepped in front of her and caught her eyes. "This is your worst, right?"
She scoffed. "You're lucky that was just a phone call."
* * *
Ryan eyed the pile of ginger Brody had piled on top of his sushi roll. "You're going to destroy your sinuses with that," she said, gesturing at the pink strips.
"Nah." Brody grinned. "Ginger's nothing compared to the smelling salts we use during games." He took a bit of wasabi and placed it on top of the ginger. "Well," he said in response to Ryan's skeptical look, "if you're going to eat it, you might as well do it right."
"I'd prefer to keep my taste buds intact." Ryan shook her head. She picked up a roll with her chopsticks, dipped it in the soy sauce and placed it in her mouth.
"So, tell me about your band," Brody said. "I think that's so cool. I am completely musically un-inclined. I couldn't even play the triangle."
"What do you want to know?"
"How about the name? Seems like a good place to start."
"Well, we thought about Fugitive Vampires, but that just sounded too pretentious." She looked at him, concerned as he coughed. "You okay? Want some water? I told you that was too much ginger."
He took the water and after a deep breath, took a careful drink. "Thanks," he said. "Sorry, I wasn’t expecting that. You don't look like the Fugitive Vampires type."
"Oh, no?" Ryan raised an eyebrow. "You never saw me during my Goth phase."
"You never had a Goth phase."
"Want to bet?" She tapped her earlobes. "That's where the piercings came from. I left my hair alone, but I did the black clothes, the black nail polish. It lasted about a month. Too much trouble to maintain."
"Good decision." Brody started to load up another sushi roll. "Anyway, you're distracting me. You guys must have a name."
She smiled. "Imaginary Grace."
He paused, considering, then nodded. "I like it."
"Thanks. So do I. Lara, our singer, she has a thing for eighties' music. You may not know it, but it's from 'Melt with You' by Modern English."
"Oh, hey, I know that song." Brody grinned. "From the Taco Bell commercial."
Ryan laughed. "That's the one." She shook her head. "It took a long time to settle on that. When we first started in college Lara came up with a new one almost every day."
"What were some of the others?"
"Oh, God, I can hardly remember. I tried not to let them stick in my head. Pink Pandas was one, I think; she'd just been to the zoo for some breast cancer event and tried to combine them." She smiled at the memory. "I didn't even need to offer an opinion on that. The guys pretty much keeled over when they heard it."
"I think I can understand. That's . . . pretty bad." Brody ate some more sushi. "How long have you been at it?"
Ryan laughed. "Forever? No, not quite. Lara and I have been friends since high school, and when we did a music project for a class, we found we worked well together. So we kept at it. We wanted to be in a band, though, not just the two of us. One day we were talking about it in our psych class in college, and Nate—he's our bassist—heard us talking. Anyway, he said he was interested. It kind of went from there."
"How many of you are there in the band?" Brody took a drink of the sake.
Ryan sat back. "Five. We have a drummer, Mitch; he was Nate's roommate in college. Our first guitarist was a friend of Nate's, but that guy went to grad school, and we haven't had a steady one since then. But guitarists are a dime a dozen."
He stared at her. "Really?"
"No." She shook her head and smiled. "Not really. But there are a lot of them out there and most of them think they're the next Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix. Jason's okay."
"You guys all get along? I mean, it's a team effort, right?"
"Most times." Ryan took another sushi roll. "It's not always easy. Jason's still . . . working on fitting in."
Brody nodded but didn’t say anything more, wanting to keep things light while they ate. Ryan seemed to be a lot more relaxed than when they'd left.
He hadn't planned on asking Ryan out, especially after that phone call. Brody knew a lot of people preferred to be alone when they were angry; he was a prime example. Ryan, though, had looked more hurt and sad than angry. Brody knew he wasn’t the most perceptive guy, but he'd seen her expression and hadn’t been able to just leave. And you think she's cute,
he told himself. Well, perhaps not exactly "cute." She was attractive, no question, but had a little bit of an edge that made cute seem too soft a word.
"So," Ryan said, "My turn. What's it like playing hockey for a living?"
Brody had to grin. "It's fantastic. I absolutely love it. I don't think I ever wanted to do anything else, and so to get to the NHL . . . sometimes I still can't believe it."
"Your parents must be proud."
"I hope so." He nodded. "They did a lot for me, taking me to practices, paying for equipment, anything I needed. They can't get to many games—they live in rural Michigan and I have younger siblings—but they watch. They were really supportive. You can't get to this level without that support, at least not most times."
"That's great." Ryan's tone was neutral and she stared past him.
Brody wondered if he'd said anything wrong, but couldn't think what.
"Sorry." Ryan gave him a rueful half-smile. "Told you I wasn’t the best company tonight."
"That's okay." They ate in silence for a while, and then Brody asked, "So, what movie are we watching?"
"We again?" Ryan sipped at her sake. "I'm not sure I recall inviting you."
"I'm not sure you're ready to be left alone yet," Brody said. "Besides, I like movies."
"You don't know what kind of movies I like," Ryan pointed out.
"Let me think." Brody made a show of studying her. "Well, let's see. You said a dark movie, didn't you? I'm thinking something with Schwarzenegger and a lot of explosions. Or maybe something like 28 Days Later
, that was pretty dark."
"You think so?" Ryan rested her chin in her hand. Her eyes glinted. "You willing to take a chance? What if I like some surreal, Lars von Trier type of stuff?"
Brody raised an eyebrow. "You asking me to see a movie?"
"You have no idea who von Trier is, do you?"
"Nope, but it doesn't matter. Question still stands."
Ryan leaned back and tapped her fingers on the table. "Sure, why not? Think you can handle it?"
"Ooooh, a dare." Brody widened his eyes. "I can't back down now. Tell you what: if I absolutely can't stand the movie and leave, I'll take you out for sushi some time. If I make it through the whole thing, you have to play me one of your songs."
"Hey, wait," Ryan said, startled. "I don't remember offering to make any bets."
"Then what?" Brody asked. He couldn’t help it; it was fun to see her get a little shaken up.
"Why can't the bet be that I take you out?" she countered.
"Doesn't work that way." Brody shook his head. "if I have to take a chance, so do you." He grinned. "If you don't like playing in front of people, that should make your gig next month interesting."
"I'm fine in front of people." Ryan nodded. "Fine, you've got a bet."
"Cool." Brody reached over and squeezed her hand, surprising both of them. To cover his discomfort, he stood and gave her a sly smile. "Now, how about that movie?"
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