Rehearsal: A Different Drummer by LK Hunsaker
Susie Brooks is a nineteen-year-old dance teacher whose main stability through an uncertain childhood was her best friend, Evan Scott, a guitarist with a flair for the business world. Evan's other best friend is Duncan O'Neil, also a guitarist, but with a flair for attracting women's attention while hiding his past. When Duncan moves into Evan's world, he changes the dynamics not only within the band, but within Susie and Evan's relationship. The three friends find themselves struggling with love, loss, and secret passions during the turbulent Seventies. A Different Drummer is the first of a series of four.
“Hey sweetie, wanna dance?”
Duncan raised his arm to wipe sweat rolling under his chin onto his sleeve and threw her a glance, not bothering to turn the bar stool in her direction. Shagged brown hair topped her average-height frame, not much shorter than he was, he supposed. Modern, including her willingness to approach him in such a direct manner. “Thank you, bu’ I am workin’.” He looked back to check on his ordered beer, smoke choking his mouth and throat.
She moved closer. “Not at the moment, you’re not.”
Returning his eyes, he noted a tenacity in her expression and body language. A quality he liked, to a certain extent. “Well, y’ are right. At the moment, I am tryin’ t’ cool off a bit. Then I am goin’ back t’ work.” A trickle of sweat began rolling down the side of his face from underneath the damp hair falling over his forehead, and Duncan leaned his head forward to pull the bottom of his T-shirt up, rubbing it across his face and letting it fall again. Then he shoved the hair out of his way, irritated at himself about forgetting to bring an elastic to pull the back of it off his neck. It was sticking against the wet skin.
Accepting the mug that finally came across the bar, he took a large swallow, enjoying the coolness of the glass against his hand and the stream of liquid pouring through his body.
The girl cuddled into his shoulder, a musky scent accenting her warmth. “Are you ever here when you’re not working?” Fingers with painted nails touched the bare skin of his arm.
Ignoring a snigger from the bartender, a new employee Duncan didn’t like much, he again raised the mug to his lips, allowing time to consider an answer, to let the weak American beer quench the dryness of his throat. “Now and then.” The chill of the glass distracted him from the girl’s flesh pushing against his.
She broke through, sliding both hands around his fingers and the heavy mug, pulling it from him. “So maybe you’ll dance with me another night?”
Looking up to question her, he watched as she sipped his beer, keeping her eyes on his. Narrow eyes. Lashes painted longer than natural matching thick black lines extending from the corners; the brushed-on green of her lids attempting to extend the brownish-green of her pupils. It didn’t work well.
She rubbed a finger around the edge of the mug. Offering.
Duncan studied her. She wasn’t bad-looking. Fake, but not snobbish. And who was he to be too particular? “Maybe.”
She grinned, pushing the drink back toward him.
He watched her move away, flaunting the beer to her table of friends, repeating the conversation, he figured, making it more than it was. Duncan never understood the infatuation girls had with guys in local bands. Hell, this wasn’t even a good local band. His mates were okay guys, as far as it went, but barely third-rate musicians. It didn’t seem to matter. They were just background noise for the pick-up lines and the attempts at relaxation by intoxication in the dark out-of-the-way bar.
And dark was helpful. It disguised the niched plank floor and scratches in the old wood tables with only patches of varnish left as pointless protection. Duncan could imagine his mother cringing about him playing at the little dive, though it was better than many he’d played. For the most part, it was kept clean, though likely not clean enough for her. He was just as glad she didn’t know how he was living – day to day, city to city, jumping from one third-rate band to another while doing whatever other cash jobs he could find.
Ordering another beer, he watched the small crowd, studying the ones he recognized as regulars and the few he didn’t. Mostly, he played to the same group every weekend. It was only a paycheck. There wasn’t one, he imagined, who would even know if he played a wrong chord now and then. They weren’t listening, not more than enough to go through the motions of dancing, or swaying somewhat to the beat. Their drummer was at least decent. They kept a good beat going.
A movement from the table of Thiel College students caught his attention; they were always easy to spot, dressed too well for the bar full of locals and holding their chins higher than necessary. One of them actually rose to retrieve his drink from the bar instead of barking an order at the girls serving. Duncan watched him: the only male at the table without a cigarette hanging from his mouth or fingers. Worst part of playing in bars; the damn cloud of nicotine.
The guy was heading in his direction. Duncan turned back, waiting to catch the bartender. “Is tha’ beer comin’ tonight?”
“Make that two. And a wine spritzer. After his, of course.” The guy stood beside him.
Wine spritzer. For the girl at the table sitting sideways in the chair with her legs crossed and her shoulders straight, Duncan guessed.
“How long have you been playing?”
Glancing up to make sure the college guy was talking to him, he answered … barely. “A while.” He looked away again.