Chapter 9: The Sweet Spot

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic

Reads: 54

Blue

The Sweet Spot hits the sweet spot as a band about 10 p.m. 

After a couple hours playing a random set designed to please as many people as possible, we're coming together as a lousy little cover band. Not bad considering the band was thrown together at the last minute and then slapped with a fucktard name.

Hate doesn't even begin to describe how the four of us feel about being in a band called The Sweet Spot.

And Bryson knows it; we've begged him more than once to let us change the name. But he just smiles and shakes his head, saying we'll someday thank him for the gravel in our guts. 

Pretty sure I'm the only one in the band who knows that's a Johnny Cash reference.

I don't miss the irony: the man I idolize is not completely different from the man I once despised. Until a plane crash wiped out everything but a massive load of guilt and regret where my old man was concerned.

Frasier Bryson is applying the same Get Tough principle to his cobbled-together band that Bill Daniels applied when raising me. At least, I guess that's what he's doing.

I've been on lead vocals most of the night while also playing bass, with Corey taking over vocals for a few songs when we don't need him on keyboard.

By the time I realize I haven't yet seen Keegan at the party, I've switched to acoustic guitar and told the guys we should go ahead and do the Frasier Bryson mix we planned, even though Bryson himself hasn't showed up. 

I invited him to the party, but I wasn't sure if he'd come.

There's a buttload of people in the house and even more milling around in the front and back. We have to stop playing at eleven thirty to keep the local cops off our backs. We're running out of time.

I don't need to look at my twelve-string Gibson as I start the haunting intro riff of "Comrade in Arms." That song, like all of Bryson's songs, is embedded in my fingertips.

But I look down anyway, staring not at the strings but at the words scrawled in Sharpie on the worn mahogany body of the guitar: Monti, Cunny, Hud. Heroes of Hell's Highway. Lameass Singers

I know better than to look at those names. I know what kind of memories it'll stir up. But I do it anyway.

The guys signed my guitar as a joke after a karaoke contest I won handily. I was basically the only one in our unit who wasn't completely tone deaf.

A scene flashes into my mind: four of us from the Hell's Highway Company tossing a football around, lackadaisical in the desert heat, but needing some kind of diversion. 

I can see Cunny's red hair and lopsided grin, with those pearly-white teeth of his that seemed to gleam in the sun.

It is seriously weird, the things I remember.

Cunny had fumbled the football, and it knocked off the expensive sunglasses that were a gift from his girlfriend. He accidentally stepped on them, crushing them with his heavy boot, and then furiously unleashed a blue streak of swear words. The rest of us doubled over laughing.

If it was anybody else, it wouldn't have been funny. But Cunny was one of those people who could make you laugh just by walking into a room. And we were desperate for every chuckle we could get.

I've stopped playing and singing before the song is over. People are staring at me.

I shake my head to clear the lingering vision of Cunny, then launch into "Gild the Lily," the tune I sang in the tree for Keegan. It stings a bit, that she's not around to hear the song.

I've known her for all of one week so it's ridiculous to be feeling this way. I need to grow a pair and stop mooning over this girl. It's pathetic.

Keegan told me she'd probably be late to the party. She's worked late every night this week. 

She did get the reporter job she talked about, and she seems to have a full load of classes. Every time I've seen her this week, she's either on her laptop or phone, or with her nose in a textbook. 

She works a hell of a lot harder than I do, that's for sure.

I've started picking up the school paper every morning on campus and checking for any stories with Keegan's byline. She writes well. The girl is smart.

And already, apparently, firmly stuck in my head.

I stare into the crowd, trying not to think about Keegan. 

That's when I see Bryson slip into the living room, wearing his standard denim shirt and jeans and holding a red cup.

Not that I'd admit it to anybody, but I am about as excited as a little kid who's just spotted Santa.

Earlier in the evening, I asked Kendra to let Bryson in without making him pay the cover we charge everyone else and to make sure he got a beer. Kendra gave me her usual baleful stare. But I knew she would do it. 

Bryson finds a spot along the opposite wall to lean on while he sips his beer. He gives me a smile and a friendly wave. The little lights Kendra strung from the ceiling shine down on his mane of white hair.

There are some girls in the music program who claim to have the hots for Bryson, and not just because of his celebrity status. He does look good for his age, fit and tan, and always wearing this amused expression on his face.

It's hard to read him, impossible most of the time to know what he is thinking. It makes him seem mysterious and cool. To girls, anyway. 

Hell, who am I kidding? To me, too.

I've slowed down the tempo of "Gild the Lily," added a weepy guitar flourish in the middle, and a keyboard and guitar flourish at the end.

The other guys in the band were anxious about making changes to Bryson's work, and Corey hasn't tried to hide the fact he doesn't like what I've done.

"Sounds kind of sugar-coated, if you ask me," he sniffed when I first played it my way for them. "Where the hell do you get off thinking you can improve Bryson's stuff?"

As if that bushy-haired maggot Corey would know a good song if it came up and bit him in the ass. I can't figure out how he even got into the program. He's probably got a rich daddy who made a big donation.

"Well, that's what Bryson gets for making us call ourselves The Sweet Spot," I snarled at Corey. "We're gonna sing sappy sweet songs."

I didn't change the tune out of spite, though. I really like what I've done to it, and I can't resist trying it out in front of him. 

"Gild the Lily" sounds more soulful my way. It throbs with this delicate anguish that suits Bryson's bittersweet lyrics.

But I'm sweating bullets as I start playing it in front of him. I have no idea how he'll react. It is a ballsy thing to do, messing with his work.

I'm about halfway through the song when I see Hunter stumble in from the kitchen, his whole body draped around some good-looking brunette in a skintight dress and stilettos. 

No doubt he'll be peeling that off her very soon.

Hunter raises his hand in a sarcastic salute. "Soldier boy!" he shouts, like we're best fucking friends. 

He's wearing a shit-faced grin. He's drunk off his ass. "How about something other than this stupid sixties shit?"

I ignore him and keep singing, not daring to look over at Bryson.

Then I see Keegan slip into the living room from the kitchen. She comes to a stop alongside the brunette and stares at me with her mouth slightly ajar. 

I don't know if she's heard the whole song. She must have just gotten home. But she has such a yearning expression on her face, and she's listening so intently, that I'm sure she understands where I'm trying to go with it. 

At least, I want to think she does.

Before I know it, the song is over. And it's already eleven thirty.

"That's it, everybody," Corey yells, holding up his hands as a bunch of people protest. "We gotta keep the cops happy." 

The guys immediately start breaking down the equipment. I whirl around, suddenly remembering Bryson. But he's gone.

"Hey, did you see where Bryson went?" I ask the band guys. 

They shake their heads. They probably never even noticed he was here. Most of them are fucking clueless.

I look around the living room, then walk through the crowd in the kitchen and stick my head out the back door to scan the deck. No sign of Bryson.

I go back to the living room and help with the break down, feeling a twist in my stomach, unsure what Bryson's sudden departure means. I would have thought he'd hang around to give us some feedback.

I'll admit, I'm a little scared now of the repercussions. It was probably a dumbass move, daring to mess with Bryson's music. What if he doesn't take it well? 

Truth is, I have a habit of making dumbass moves.

Keegan is still standing a few feet away, still staring at me. She's wearing a T-shirt and jeans that fit her well enough to almost give me a hard-on just looking at her. 

She runs her fingers through her hair, and for a moment, I forget all about Bryson and my possibly messed-up future in the music program. I only think about how good my housemate looks.

Hunter belches loudly, then grins and salutes the brunette as she prevents him from falling over.

Or tries to salute her anyway. Dude can't even make his fingers touch his forehead. 

Someone—probably Kendra—cranks up some Adele, loud enough to be heard but low enough to keep us out of trouble. The party will probably go on for a while, at least out back. But I'm done.

"Who the fuck put this shit on?" Hunter yells, slurring his words as he punches buttons on his phone, trying to change what's coming out of the speakers placed all over the house.

"This shit will not stand," Hunter roars. "This is my house, and I am not throwing a party where fucking Adele is playing." 

Something I don't even recognize starts playing instead. Hunter's got shit taste in music. Almost as bad as Kendra's.

I head up the stairs to my room, pulling out the key as I remember Max has been in there all evening. I need to get him outside to do his business.

I'm just unlocking the door when someone touches my shoulder. I turn to see Keegan standing just inches away from me. 

And of course, my dick responds. 

I try to look like I'm facing her while twisting my probably noticeable erection off to the side. 

"Blue, can you help me with something?" Keegan says.

"Sure." I almost choke on the word. As if I'd say no to her.

"There's somebody in my room. I think they're having sex in there." 

She blows out a long, frustrated breath. "I forgot to lock the door when I left this morning, like you told me, and then when I went up there, it was locked. But I know I left the key in the door. And then I heard them. . ." 

She looks pissed. I can't blame her. Two sets of strangers fucking on her bed in a week. Welcome to college life, little girl.

"I tried banging on the door," she continues, "I told them to get out. But they are ignoring me. Can you give it a try?"

"Jesus, I'm sorry." I push open my bedroom door, and Max rears up excitedly, first in my face and then in Keegan's.

"Don't worry," I assure her as she pets the dog, and I place my guitar in its usual spot on the chair. "I'll get them out of there." 

I'm watching Max warily. "Hey, is it okay if I take Max outside first? He's been in here for a while, and when he gets excited, he sometimes pees on the floor." 

"Sure, of course."

I gesture to Max. "Come on, boy, let's go." He follows me into the living room.

I could just send the dog outside on his own. But there are too many ways for him to get in trouble while the party's still going on. Some assholes got him to drink a bowl of beer not too long ago.

I push a pathway for Max through all the people still clogging the kitchen, then stand on the deck as he finds a spot in the yard. 

When he's done, I take him back to my room. Keegan's sitting on my bed.

"Come on," I say, gesturing toward the stairs, trying not to picture her in my bed, "let's get those assholes out of your room."

More Tangled Up in Blue coming soon! Please SHARE this story with your friends.

© 2020 Emily Blaze All Rights Reserved

 


Submitted: December 30, 2020

© Copyright 2021 Emily Blaze. All rights reserved.

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