Rhythm and the Blue Line Ch 02
© 2011 All rights reserved
"So, Mark, what's the story with Ryan?" Brody asked a couple of days later. They sat in the dressing room, lacing up their skates before practice.
"What?" Mark looked up. "What story?"
Brody shrugged. "She seeing anybody?"
Mark narrowed his eyes. "I don't know. Why?"
"I don't think she's your type."
"My type?" Brody raised an eyebrow. "Why not?"
Mark stood and grabbed his helmet. "Her IQ is bigger than her bra size and her voice doesn’t squeak."
"I like smart women."
"Since when?" This was from Drew Stamenski and drew hoots from the rest of the team. Brody's penchant for hooking up with women who weren't exactly intellectuals was a constant source of amusement to his teammates.
"Since always," Brody said. "They're more fun to talk to."
"Is that what you do?" Ray Callahan, the team's tough guy, grinned and tapped him on the leg with his stick as he walked by. "And here I thought you were getting laid all this time."
"If you spent less time thinking about what I was doing, maybe you'd get laid," Brody tossed back.
More snickers and catcalls rattled through the room, along with mocking advice for Ray on finding some post-game company. Brody grabbed his stick and helmet and headed out to the ice, eager to get a little skating in before practice started in earnest.
* * *
Ryan looked up from her endless data entry when her phone rang.
"Hello. Ryan Bancroft."
"Hey, Ryan. It's Lara."
"Oh, hey. What's up?" Ryan took advantage of the break to stretch. Lara Cohen was her best friend since high school, her roommate and the band's lead singer.
"Not much. Just checking in. I might be a couple minutes late to pick you up for practice."
"Okay, thanks. Thanks for picking up the synth and the guitar. Sorry I couldn't help load it in." Ryan felt guilty about that. Her keyboard was nominally portable, but not with her cast, so Lara had had to take it with her the night before.
"Don't worry about it. I'll meet you at the door."
"Thanks. These damn things are a pain in the ass." Ryan glared at her crutches.
"So, how's Trout these days?" Trout was Lara's boyfriend, and Ryan could never figure out how he'd come by his nickname. At least, she hoped it was a nickname.
"He's good." Lara sounded happy and Ryan smiled. Lara went on a little more, but Ryan let her mind wander and launched the app on her smartphone to start writing down a melody that had begun to coalesce in her mind. She was soon engrossed and it wasn't until Lara shouted her name that she realized she hadn't heard anything for the last few minutes.
"Ryan! Geez. Are listening or not?"
"Cool. Tell me later." It was an exchange they'd had many times before.
Ryan was silent for a moment as she got the basics of the melody down. "Okay. So, is it just Trout that makes you go on like this, or would it be any guy?" She snickered at Lara's indignant huff.
"Stop that. You know I love him."
"Ah." Ryan nodded. "I see. If love makes a person this goofy, then I'm glad I can live vicariously through you."
"You're just jealous. You'll see. When you find someone, you'll be crazy like I am."
"If you say so." Ryan let the subject drop. They talked for a few more minutes, setting up details for the evening, and then Ryan got back to work. The next two hours zipped by as she worked to get all of her data entered and fill out her work log in time to meet Lara. She finished with a few minutes to spare, grabbed her bag and crutches and got down to the door of her building around 5:15. Lara was there ten minutes later.
"So, I went on about my guy," Lara said as they pulled onto 395 South to head to Lorton. "What about you? Any prospects?"
"Don't think so." Ryan's mind was only half on the conversation. The melody that had gotten into her head at work was coming faster now and she tried to follow it as she tapped at her phone's screen. "I met a guy the other day, though."
"Who? Who?" Lara reached over to poke her in the ribs, but Ryan caught her hand and placed it back on the wheel. For once, she was grateful for the slow traffic, as it kept Lara's speed under control.
"A friend of a friend."
"Come on, you can't leave me hanging like that. What's his name?"
Ryan sighed. "Brody Lang. He's a friend of Mark's." Lara would figure it out in a minute, she thought.
"That's kind of neat." Lara hadn't processed the last statement. "You don't meet a lot of Brodys. I mean, the only one I've even heard of is the one that plays . . . ." She gaped and stared at Ryan. "Oh, my God. You met Brody Lang? Mark's teammate?"
"Eyes front," Ryan ordered.
Lara complied but couldn't stop talking. "Ryan, that's fantastic! Did you meet him through Mark? If Mark is an example, hockey players are way cool."
"He's fine. And you don't even like sports." Ryan tried to deflect the conversation. Lara, however, was a guided missile.
"I like sports just fine," Lara countered. "Trout's a big sports fan, we watch a lot of games. You're the one hating on sports. Anyway, what was he like? What did you say?"
"You're going to miss the exit."
"I am not
. Now, talk. Or I'll make you talk in front of the guys." Lara turned on her blinker and slid into the right lane.
Ryan decided to talk in the car. The band was great. Except for the guitarist, they'd all known each other for a few years now, having met and formed the band in college. Still, Ryan had no desire to have this discussion in front of them, and she doubted they would want it either.
"Okay. The other day I came home from shopping, and of course I dropped everything. I ran into Mark, and Brody was there. Mark introduced us, and they helped get my stuff inside. Brody even put stuff away." She couldn't suppress a smile at that. "We talked a little, then he left. That's it."
"Ryan, you're hopeless." Lara shook her head. "You didn't get his number? Or give him yours?"
"It never came up."
"Did he seem interested?"
"I think so," Ryan admitted. "We were both . . . testing the waters, maybe."
"Think you'll see him again?" Lara pulled into Mitch's driveway.
"Maybe. I see him come and go. He lives in our building, a few floors up." She didn’t say that she'd considered giving Mark her number so he could pass it on. "You'd know him, too, if you didn't spend all your time at Trout's. Why do you even pay rent on our place?"
"Okay, Ryan." Lara ignored the last part. She turned off the car, released her seatbelt, and turned to face her friend. "That was an opportunity. Maybe you both missed it, that happens. But don't
let it happen again."
"Yes, ma'am." Ryan saluted and laughed at Lara's frustrated glare.
* * *
Brody whistled as he walked to the lobby to check his mail. He nodded at a few of the other tenants that he knew, and was about to turn around to go back up when he saw Ryan and another woman outside the door. Ryan was still on her crutches, and had a laptop bag on one shoulder and a guitar over the other, while the other woman had her own bag and was pulling a large rectangular case behind her.
"Here, I've got it," he said. Ryan looked up with a small but grateful smile and he wondered why his stomach took a sudden lurch.
He held the door back as she shuffled in, and kept a hand on it as her friend followed. Once inside, Ryan leaned against the wall and sighed in relief. Her friend did likewise.
"Thanks," Ryan said again. "That was so much easier. Brody, this is my best friend, Lara Cohen. Lara, this is Brody Lang."
"Hi. Nice to meet you." Lara smiled and shook his hand.
Brody gestured at their bags. "Hi. You look loaded down. Can I take something?"
"Absolutely!" Lara handed him the handle of the case with an exaggerated sigh. "Ryan, you really need a smaller instrument. Like a piccolo." She shook out her arms.
"What is this?" Brody asked.
"My keyboard." Ryan shifted the bags on her shoulders and pushed away from the wall, then balanced on her crutches. She turned to Lara. "Thanks. I'll make it up to you, I promise."
"You better." Lara pretended to scowl, then smiled. "Are you good here? I was going to head to Trout's, but I could help you get that upstairs."
Ryan turned to Brody. "Would you mind taking that up to my place? If you have the time, I mean."
"No problem. I can get the guitar, too, if you want."
"Thanks." She slid it off her shoulder, handed it to him and turned to Lara. "Looks like you're free to go fishing."
"Oh, you're hilarious, Ryan." Lara shook her head, then blew blond curls out of her face. "Nice to meet you, Brody, really. Ryan's told me a lot about you." Ryan glared but Lara ignored her.
"No kidding?" Brody looked from one to the other, and decided to say no more.
"No kidding." Lara laughed. "Take it easy, Ryan. I'll talk to you tomorrow." She went back out the door as Ryan waved.
"Never mind her," Ryan told him as they walked to the elevator. "She just likes to put me on the spot. It's a best-friend thing."
"Guys do that, too, but it usually involves beer first."
Ryan laughed as the elevator doors open. Brody stood aside to let her in first, then pressed the button for her floor.
"So," he asked, "what's in there?" He gestured at her laptop bag.
Ryan stared down for a moment, then looked back up. "How melodramatic does it sound if I say it's my hopes and dreams? My passion?"
"Sounds cool, actually," Brody said. He held the door open as Ryan shuffled into the hallway, then grabbed the keyboard case handle again and followed her out. "You pack them very efficiently."
Ryan laughed. "It's just a laptop, but that laptop has my life's work on it."
"Well, now I have to ask: what's your life's work?"
She gave him a half-smile as she unlocked her door. "My music, my songs. I want to see my name in lights, play Carnegie Hall, all of that stuff. Well, Madison Square Garden anyway." She pushed the door open and swung herself inside.
Brody followed, taking time to look around. He'd barely noticed anything about her apartment when he'd helped her with the groceries almost a week ago. Now he saw the vacant keyboard stand in the living room and an acoustic guitar propped up in one corner, along with a small amplifier and an empty guitar stand. There were guitar strings in packages and broken ones strewn on the counter, and he saw some cables in a pile on the floor.
"Wow, you're serious about it, aren't you?" He set the case he was carrying down by the keyboard stand at Ryan's direction and set the guitar case in the corner.
"I try to be." Ryan set her purse down. She wobbled as she tried to struggle out of her jacket and put the laptop bag down at the same time and gave Brody a grateful smile when he took the bag and set it down. He put it on the table gingerly, seized by the odd feeling that her dreams might break.
"What kind of music do you play?" he asked.
"Think of The Hold Steady meets Veruca Salt."
"That sounds really cool."
"We hope so. Here, I can clear off a spot for you." She glanced back as she made her way to the sofa. "Sorry it's a mess. Lara spends a lot of time at her boyfriend's and I get busy and forget to straighten up."
"That would be . . . Trout?" Brody recalled the earlier conversation.
"Yep. No idea how he got the name, but that's her boyfriend." Ryan shook her head. "He's a nice guy, really, but I just give her a hard time. I figure it's only fair, since I have to hear about all the drama. And there's plenty of that."
"Drama has its fun aspects."
"Well, takes all kinds."
Ryan laughed and gave Brody an apologetic smile as her phone rang and she answered it. He shook his head in silent understanding and started to look through some CDs that lay on the coffee table.
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