Disclaimer: The characters of Twilight are owned by Stephenie Meyer. The content, ideas and intellectual property of this story are owned by Just4ALE.
A/N1: Happy holidays, everyone! RL has been a little topsy-turvy, so I decided to post this outtake - written for the Fandom Gives Back compilation - before it all gets away from me.
So here it is: Tony gives his perspective on ch 7 (The Guess Who) and ch 8 (Queen) of Tunes with Tony Masen… the garage incident, and when Izzy stopped calling in.
Electric Light Orchestra: On Blue Days, Black Nights, and Living in Twilight
"The team looks good so far. I just hope the pitching is up to par this year."
"I don't think the Giants' problem is with the pitching. Righetti has some great bench strength," Eleazar says as he follows me into the garage.
"I hear that-"
In a parking spot near the construction debris, there's a petite woman and a larger scruffy-looking man struggling. "What the- HEY!" I shout as I drop my helmet.
The next thing I know, the man throws the woman against the wall and takes off running, and Eleazar instructs me to stay with her as he chases the guy.
Holy shit. I quickly walk over to help her as she sits on ground, slumped up against the wall.
She's looking down and rubbing the back of her head, so I lean over and extend my hand. "Here, are you okay?"
She looks up and I instantly recognize her. For a second, I'm thrilled.
It's the woman from Jake's Bike shop!
Then one word is all it takes to turn my world upside down. I'd recognize that voice anywhere.
And suddenly I'm in hell as I realize who I'm really looking at.
Oh, no, no, no, NO. Fuuuuck!
I back away, and she stands carefully, takes a step toward me, and repeats her question about my identity.
I must have been a real asshole in my past life. As if I haven't had enough shitty luck in the last ten years, the beautiful woman I'd seen in Jake's shop is my favorite listener.
I try to blame her confusion on her banging her head against the wall as Eleazar returns, but she's persistent and there's hopefulness in her voice as she explains who she is.
Oh, I know who you are, sweetheart. I wish to God I didn't…
I don't have time to waste. I continue with the charade as I ignore her and gather my things, then hurry to Eleazar and lean in to talk to him.
"I gotta get out of here. Follow my lead, and don't tell her anything."
I introduce her to him using the information she'd just provided and point out that she might need medical attention. Then I shove my helmet on, hop on the bike, flip down the visor, and rev the engine.
With a quick glance, I note the bewildered/hurt expression on her face as she stares at me. Then I take off.
I probably leave skid marks.
I drive fast until I'm several blocks away, then I pull into a random alley. I get off the bike, flip the visor up, and gasp for air as I lean over and put my hands on my thighs to steady myself, not sure if I'd actually taken a breath since I left her.
What the fuck? The woman I'd gotten friendly with on the radio is the same woman I've been hoping to run into again at the shop. But I wasn't planning on having a "relationship" with the bike shop woman, just maybe a casual hook-up-or five-if I could charm her.
And my friendship with Izzy from San Francisco, well, that … that's just …
I straighten up, rip off my helmet, and throw it against a nearby metal dumpster. "GOD DAMMIT!" For good measure, I kick the dumpster too, and it slams into the wall with a loud bang. "Fucking hell!"
A voice to my right interrupts my meltdown. "Hey!"
I turn and note the scowl on the security guard's face as he walks slowly toward me.
"What are you doing, man?"
I shake my head and splay my hands in front of me as a gesture of peace. "Sorry. Bad morning." I point to my bike. "I was just leaving."
The guard nods and watches me warily but lets me go, and within seconds I'm on the Triumph riding home.
Images of her hopeful, then bewildered eyes float in front of me, and I drive faster, hoping the speed will chase the visions from my head, but my mood has only gotten darker by the time I get home.
I enter and don't even bother to take off my jacket before heading to the kitchen. I toss the keys on the counter, put my helmet on the table, and quickly dig into the liquor cabinet. Normally, I wouldn't be drinking at six a.m., but we're far the fuck away from "normal."
I pour a quick shot of Jack and down it. The warm soothing feeling is noticeably absent, and I feel like I'm coming out of my own skin. I pace, debating whether to have another but while I'd like nothing better than to drink this last hour into oblivion, a different feeling gnaws at me. What started in the garage has quickly snowballed into this giant need to put a lot of distance between me and this city, that radio station, and her.
"Aren't you Tony Masen?"
But is she okay?
I brush off the thought and pull out my cell as I walk quickly to my room and call the station manager while shoving things in my duffle bag.
"Joe, it's Tony. Listen, man, I have a bit of a personal emergency and have to leave town for the rest of the week. Sorry for the late notice, but we have those old shows all ready to go. I should be back by Monday, but I'll let you know if something changes. I've got my cell if you need to reach me. Bye."
Within seconds the lights are off, my gear is in hand, and I'm on my way out.
I ride across the city to my bike storage space in South Beach. I'm not quite sure where I'm headed yet, but I decide to take the more agile of my motorcycles just in case.
It doesn't matter where you go, you just need to get far away from her.
Unfortunately as I consider my direction, the pause allows the discomfort I've been tamping down to bubble back up to the surface.
"No, wait, it's me. Izzy- Izzy from San Francisco?"
I take a deep breath and try to visualize a place, a location, anywhere, but instead all I see is her violently thrown against a wall.
And I just took off on her.
Are you okay, Iz?
I shake my head, realizing my direction is inevitable, and I give in so I can put this behind me and just get going.
About twenty-five minutes later, I pull up to El and Carmen's place in the outer Richmond when it dawns on me that I'm not quite ready for this conversation; Eleazar is a good friend and a straight shooter, which I appreciate, but he may give me a lecture I don't need, since I'm well aware I'd just been an asshole.
I take off the helmet and set it on the bike, then dig into one of the side compartments to grab my emergency stash. I haven't smoked in a long while, but right now I need it. I find a half empty pack of Marlboros and a book of matches, and light one up, taking a long drag and hoping the nicotine will hit me fast. Then I settle myself down on the stairs to their apartment.
What could I have done differently? What should I have done?
I look up and find Carmen standing in front of me. She and El are very good at keeping up appearances and always remembering to call me Tony.
I offer her a small smile. "Morning, Carmen. How are you?"
"I'm fine." She gestures with her thumb over her right shoulder. "I just came back from walking the kids to school because Eleazar got stuck at work. He said someone got attacked in the garage?"
I rub my hand over my hair and nod. "Yeah."
She stares at me. "Are you okay?" Then she glances down at my hand and frowns. "Are you… smoking? I haven't seen you do that since…" She looks at me with concern. "Dios mío, whatever it is, it can't be that bad, can it?"
I shake my head. "No. Nothing like that, hon."
"I have to go get my stuff and then head to work or I'm going to be really late. There's some coffee ready in the carafe; do you want a cup?"
"Yeah, actually, that'd be great. It'll help keep me up while I'm on the road."
She points at my cigarette. "Well, you can't come in the house with that. If Eleazar has to smoke outside, so do you. I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?"
"Sure, don't rush."
She steps around me and goes inside but leaves the door open. After about a minute or two, her phone rings, and I catch her end of the conversation. I know enough Spanish to realize I'm one of the topics of discussion.
"Hola, mi sol! ¿Terminaste ya?"… "¿Donde?"… "Oh, no, él está aquí."…"Sí. Esperando por ti…Se ve mal."… "Mmm… okay. I'll see you later."… "Te amo."
She finishes the conversation, and then I hear the door close and her heels on the stairs. As she passes, she touches my shoulder before turning to face me.
"Here," she says, handing me a mug of coffee and an ashtray. "I left the door unlocked in case you want to go inside. Eleazar is on his way home now."
I put out the cigarette. "Thanks."
She stares at me for a few more seconds and sighs, then leans in, kisses my forehead, and tugs at my ponytail. "You need a haircut."
Considering what I looked like when I first met Carmen and El, this is an understatement, and she's been harassing me about it for two years, but this touch of normalcy right now lightens my mood. "Ya think?"
She backs away from me with a smile. "I have to go. Whatever it is, you'll be all right."
I nod and raise my mug. "Thanks for the coffee."
"Anytime," she says and then leaves.
I sit and sip the coffee, the cool morning air enveloping me, and by the time I finish it and am on my second cigarette, Eleazar pulls up. He walks slowly toward me and stares for a moment, and I move over so he can join me on the stairs.
He pulls out his own pack and lights up. We both look out into the street and puff away; the silence is deafening, but I wait, knowing he's not going to let me off on this one. I'm right.
"You know I have no problem covering for you, but in this instance… I don't know why. I mean, that's her: the one who always wins."
The idea that Izzy would have bragged about her winning seems out of character. "Did she tell you that?"
He shakes his head. "Never said a word about it the entire time. Not even to Joe. Introduced herself as Isabella." He shrugs. "Why run? You know her."
I make a face. "I don't know her. And you're fully aware I don't get involved with anyone."
"You're already involved."
"You know what I mean. Look, she's just a listener."
"Bullshit. I may be good at staying silent about what I know, but that doesn't mean I don't hear and see. Fool yourself all you want, but don't try to fool me." He takes another drag from his cigarette then puts it out in the ashtray. "She's not just a listener, and you damn well know it."
I put out my own cigarette and rub my hands over my face. "I was never supposed to meet her."
"Maybe you were. She was there applying for the treasure hunt, you know."
I smile. Izzy is smart. From the little information I do have about her, I have a suspicion she has a good shot at winning.
"I see you've switched out bikes. Going somewhere?" he asks.
"I just need to get away for a bit."
"Did ya tell Joe?"
"Yeah, left him a voicemail. We should be fine."
"I'll bet quite a few of your "greatest hits" they'll play include her." He pauses. "I'm surprised you're not gone already."
"Yeah, I just… I really…" Fuck."I needed to know. How is she?"
"She's good. A bit banged up, but she'll recover. I left after the EMTs did." He smiles. "She's a nice lady – very special."
After many a meal with Carmen and El, I'm more than familiar with their less-than-furtive attempts at matchmaking. They use that word special when they find someone "nice" for me.
"El, what are you doing?"
"I'm just telling you what I saw! Definitely more than meets the eye with that one," he says. "There were two of them, you know. Two muggers."
My blood runs cold. "What?"
"She threw her bag at one, and when he left, the other came after her with a different purpose." He grimaces for a moment, then chuckles. "She was beating the hell out of that guy."
I listen in amazement as he recounts her telling of the events. Somewhere, "Larry" was feeling the effect right now. Then the guilt creeps up on me.
Two guys. What a horrible thing to deal with on your way to apply for something fun.
And you just ditched her, asshole.
"Joe has her number, you know. In case—"
I stand quickly. "In case nothing. I can't."
"Whatever, man." He shrugs and then stands. "Going anywhere in particular?"
I take a deep breath, exhaling slowly. "Eh, I think I'll head up the coast. Maybe around Mendocino, Fort Bragg."
"Not Reno? Or Vegas?"
"Oh, God, no. I don't need to deal with Irina again, and as far as the others… I just need be anywhere but here. Alone."
He claps me on the shoulder and looks me in the eye. "Well, get going and get your head on straight. And you'd better use the time to figure out what you'll say to her when she calls again."
I leave, hoping that the time and distance will help me figure out what to do.
The ride up the coast is a good distraction. I choose this route partially because there's no such thing as zoning out along the way.
Several hours after leaving the city, I've landed in Fort Bragg. Given my past, I don't need much in the way of accommodations. It's amazing how having a bed, toilet, and shower is sufficient, and I'm able to find a cheap motel quite quickly.
As soon as I've dumped my stuff in the room, I take off in search of food and liquor, and find a nice local store where I quickly grab a sandwich and an overpriced bottle of some decent tequila. I smile but basically ignore the cashier trying to flirt with me, and make my exit quickly.
Once back at the hotel, I pace; I'm still wired. On a "normal" day at this time, I'd be winding down, reading for a few hours before heading to sleep, but today is not a normal day. Since I missed my run after work, I change into my running gear, and get going, hoping to wear myself out.
Usually during my daily run, I think about the previous night's conversations with Izzy as I plan my upcoming show, but today I want nothing to do with that. I really push myself, instead concentrating on my burning muscles and keeping up the pace as I race along the beach. It works for a couple of miles, but then it all goes out the window when a slim, dark-haired woman runs by me.
And suddenly, Izzy is the only thing I can think about.
For months, I've wondered what she looks like. Ever since the night she'd told me her name was Isabella, I've imagined a dark-haired, dark-eyed woman. Once, I'd even mapped her voice, personality, and intelligence to the woman I'd seen in Jake's bike shop, but I'd consciously separated the two in my head as soon as I'd caught myself thinking it. The woman in the bike shop was a fantasy. Izzy is…what?
She's something else entirely.
We've talked at length about so much, and yet almost nothing that has been truly personal. It's quite the dance revealing some things but not too much. Wanting her in but keeping her at arm's length. Every night, I revel in the details she shares with me, waiting to hear more, but knowing I can't really ask because I don't plan on reciprocating. I can't get any closer. I can't let her in any deeper than she is.
And she's far the fuck in.
Well, it's a good thing this happened then, no?
Yes. You can't let your past infect her. She's a good person.
"Definitely more than meets the eye with that one," El had said.
I replay many of our conversations, but these eventually morph into an endless loop of the morning's events: The attack. Our meeting. My running.
Before I realize it, I've returned to my room, showered, eaten, and can barely taste the tequila I'm drinking.
"No, wait, it's me. Izzy…"
Her eyes. Her face.
So hurt. So different from the brief time I'd seen her laughing in Jake's shop.
And I can't get it out of my head.
"Christ," I mutter as I pour more into my cup and wonder just how much distance I need to put between us - or alcohol I'll need to consume - to get some mental peace as my mind drifts to a conversation we had only a few weeks ago, shortly after I'd started calling her Queen Izzy…
I'm leaning back in my chair with my feet up on the desk, my usual position during one of our off-air chats. "Oh, come on, you've got to admit that Jeff Lynne overproduced some of their stuff."
"Yeah, but like I said, Mom really liked them. I think my parents had every single album. I loved Discovery."
I take my feet off the desk and sit up quickly. "Oh, no, you did NOT just admit that to me! "Disco? Very." You like that thing?"
"I know, I know. It was pretty disco-ish, but my mom was a fantastic dancer." She pauses. "No, what I meant was I liked the album pictures. Do you remember them? The Aladdin-ish guy finding the ELO neon disk and the guys on horses with swords drawn coming after him? I loved to look at it. Plus that album had Horace Wimp."
I grin. "You're kidding."
"Well, I was a little girl. I loved the voices on that song, and Mom and I would dance around to it and make Dad laugh. I think that's why he put up with it."
I try to imagine my favorite caller as a little girl. Of course, it would be easier if I knew what she looked like now. Despite the fact that she'd said she wasn't Italian, I like the image of a dark-haired/dark-eyed woman. It's completely different from any other woman I've been "friendly" with.
I pick up a pen and play with it. "That's sweet. Okay, that one I'll give you, but I don't know… I've gotta say I'm usually with you on your music choices, but this one makes me doubt your taste." I bite my lip and wait for her response.
"Hey! That's not nice!" I laugh as I get the reaction I'm hoping for. I really enjoy teasing her.
"Well," she says, "you can mock my musical tastes all you want, my friend, but I'll have you know you asked an ELO question the first night I found your show!"
"I must have been having an off night."
"Ha! Well, for someone who doesn't like them that much, you sure play them often enough. I swear they're in the lineup at least every other week."
"I only play them because I know you like them."
"W-what?" I hear the surprise in her voice. "Really?"
Ooh, too much? I try to cover. "Well, you and every other crazy fan out there."
"Ah, that makes more sense." She chuckles.
I don't know why, but something about her makes me want to be as honest as I can. Last week I'd told her the Lennon story, which was a LOT of information for me to share.
"But mainly for you, darlin'," I say.
"Oh, thanks," she says, and I think I hear a smile in her tone.
We're silent for a moment, and then I decide to press her on a related topic. "So, any ELO songs in your top five?"
"What are they, military secrets, Iz? Are you ever going to tell me your list?"
"Sure, at some point."
"But not now, huh? Okay. Just tell me you have some cool songs in there."
"Well, apparently that's a matter of opinion. What can I say?" She pauses for a moment. "I know what I like and I like what I know."
I laugh and toss the pen back on the desk. "And it's Genesis lyrics for the save! Excellent." I hesitate, then say, "Are they in your top five?"
The alcohol finally does the trick, and I manage to drink some water before crawling into bed.
"Ssstill don't know ur topfife," I say. Then I pass out.
The week passes by in a blur. The motel actually has a computer in the lobby, and I use it daily to do research for the show. I run and hike a lot during the day, and read and drink at night. At some point I even manage to find a local bar with an upright piano in the back. There aren't a lot of customers, so the bartender lets me play. It's been a while and I'm a bit rusty at first, but it's therapeutic to get lost in the music, and I find my groove pretty quickly. I even make five dollars in tips.
As I make my way back to the city on Sunday, I'm still not sure what I'm going to say when she calls, even though I've thought about it all week. I basically have two choices: deny or admit it was me.
Denying would be the easier route. Act surprised when she asks what happened. Lie through my teeth. After all, my whole life is a lie, so what makes this situation any different?
She does. She makes it different. She makes you different.
During the week, I've replayed almost every conversation we've had, trying to get a better handle on her. The fact of the matter is she's been just as good as I have at revealing very little, so I never found out her age, marital status, or what she looked like. Hell, I didn't even know what part of San Francisco Izzy from San Francisco came from.
What I do know is that she is smart and tenacious. There's almost no way she'd believe the lie.
By the time I get home, I figure I'll play it by ear. Feel her out during our conversation. If I sense the lie won't work, I'll admit it was me:
"You took me by surprise. There's some stuff you don't know about me, and… I wasn't ready to meet you. I'm kind of a recluse in real life. Pretty private."
I'll apologize for running out and hope to hell she accepts it and pray that we can just turn back to what we were: DJ and listener.
"She's not just a listener, and you damn well know it," Eleazar's voice reminds me.
Yeah. I know.
My first night back in the studio is nerve-wracking. In an attempt to delay the inevitable, I've planned the show around bands I know she doesn't like or know too much about. I steel myself for her call in between trivia segments, and every time the phone rings, I jump. By the end of the night I haven't heard from her, and I'm somewhat relieved.
She doesn't call in the next three nights either, and I realize that she could have taken some time away from the city just as I did. Maybe she's visiting relatives or friends. I'm not concerned because I think the more space we can put between that morning and our next conversation, the easier it will be.
Over the weekend, I settle back into my normal routine. Errands. A long bike ride. Exercise. Reading. Research and preparation for work. Sunday night dinner with Carmen and Eleazar and their kids. Eleazar says nothing, but I can feel his look and almost hear his thoughts. I pretend I don't see that he's dying to ask me what I think about her absence, because I don't want to think about it. It's temporary.
What if it's not?
I brush off the thought and finish the evening with them. On the way home, I notice a dive bar that I used to visit on occasion, and stop and go in, checking to see if it still has the old piano in the back. It does, so I ask the bartender if she'd mind if I played for a while. She gives me the okay, so I grab a beer and then settle in for an hour, playing whatever hits me.
By the time I'm done, I feel relaxed, and it's only then I realize how uneasy I'd been. The idea that Izzy wouldn't call in again is wrong. She's just on vacation.
It's temporary. It has to be.
As I roll into week two, however, I'm no longer so sure. There are some trivia segments I positive she'll know, but she never calls. In a sad turn of events, with each hour that passes, and each call that comes in that isn't her, my discomfort grows. While the logical part of me realizes that whatever distance she's putting between us is probably for the best for both of our sakes, I can't help what I feel.
I want her to call in. I need it.
And still, she doesn't. Not even when I throw out some Queen trivia and hint that she should take a chance.
By Thursday night, my show feels off. Hell, my whole routine is off. I'm wired and edgy, and I'm eating and sleeping less. I find another fairly empty bar on Friday afternoon and play at their piano for a while. The weekend is overcast and gray, but it feels like it never gets light at all. Day and night blend together and before I know it, it's Sunday.
I bow out of dinner with El and Carmen because I don't want to have the conversation I know El is dying to have. Instead, I spend several hours at the bar playing. My melancholy is very much evident as the bartender gives me a drink on the house and asks if I'm okay.
Blue days. Black nights.
But other than that, I'm fine.
By week three, I'm willing to try anything to get her to call in. I leave more hints in the clues. I devote Tuesday night's trivia to piano men and bands with famous keyboardists. I play songs I know she's requested when she's won on previous segments.
Morning don't get here tonight...
I will the clock to slow down. I don't want to see five a.m. only to have another night go by without hearing her voice.
And when it does, the emptiness I feel gets a little bigger.
As I leave early Thursday morning, I find Eleazar waiting for me in the garage. We haven't talked much this week, and I know he's been giving me space. We both know I fucked up, but he's too good a friend to rub it in my face.
"Hey, what's up?" I ask.
"Nothing. Just checking in with you." His eyes narrow. "You don't look so good. Are you sleeping at all?"
I shrug. "Yeah, enough."
It's clear he doesn't believe me, but he leaves it alone. "Well, listen, next week I'm switching to days because they asked me to help out with the treasure hunt. The new guy is too junior to help with the logistics on Friday/Saturday morning, so we're trading time slots."
I nod, not really knowing why he's telling me this. Maybe he's worried about not being around for me. Maybe he's just making small talk.
Or maybe there's a different reason altogether, I realize, as he shoves his hands in his pockets, looks down, and says what he really wants me to know. "I saw her, you know."
While I'd love to pretend I don't know who he's talking about, I don't bother; he can see through me. "Where?"
"Here. The conference room, yesterday morning. She got selected for the treasure hunt."
I try to look impassive, but the information is unsettling. Somewhere underneath it all, I've been harboring a small hope that there was some other possible reason for her absence; that perhaps she'd been sent out of town on assignment or had an extended family emergency, or something… anything. But getting confirmation that she's definitely still in the area and isn't calling on purpose makes my heart freeze.
I turn to stone, when you are gone, I turn to stone.
I realize El is now staring at me, and I need to respond.
"Is this Joe's way of covering the station's ass so she won't sue for the attack?" I say sarcastically.
He rolls his eyes. "No. From what I've heard and seen, their applications were really strong and her hunt partner is quite the personality. I'm sure you've seen his ads around town. Jake, from Jake's Bikes?"
Impassivity suddenly goes out the window as I learn this news. "Is she with him?"
Thankfully, I don't need to specify what I mean. He shakes his head. "I don't think so. Not from what I could tell, and they don't live together. Or at least they don't have the same address."
I frown. "How do you know that?"
"I saw their applications. Joe has them."
Applications. Huh. Interesting. "Oh."
"And he also has her number…"
I look up in disbelief. "El! What did I say?"
"Yeah, but that was before we both realized how badly you screwed up here. I was being nice before. You look like shit and your program is off. You should fix this."
He's right and we both know it, but my pride won't let me, and it goes against everything I've done to protect myself for the past three years. "You know I can't get involved."
He stands up straighter and folds his arms across his chest. "Too late for that, dontcha think?"
"Really, it's better for her this way."
The idea of me calling her feels invasive. It breaches the unspoken agreement of not discussing anything personal. And yet…
What would I even say?
"What people normally say," he responds, answering my spoken thought. "Hello. How are you?"
Have you been all right, through all those lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely nights?
I shake my head. "I…I can't overstep my bounds. I need her to call in."
I'd tell you everything, if you'd pick up that telephone…
He cocks his head and looks at me in disappointment. "Doesn't look like that's happening, does it?" He takes a deep breath and exhales slowly, then shrugs and throws his hands up. "Okay, well, do what you have to do and try to get some rest. Call me if you need me."
He leaves and I'm alone with my thoughts and feelings.
The emptiness threatens to consume me, and I struggle to shake it off as I hop on my bike and go home. I've been on my own for years and have never felt lonely. But now...
I'm conflicted. I don't deserve her forgiveness or her friendship, but I want them both, and if I could turn back the clock, I would.
My only hope is that she's still listening, and that something I say will finally get her to call.
Oh, Izzy, give me some time… I'm living in twilight.
I barely get three hours' sleep that afternoon, and wake up anxious and blue, knowing the only thing that will soothe me is the piano. I shower, then grab my stuff and make my way to one of my old haunts.
I have no idea what I've been playing, or for how long, when a hand takes my empty glass from the top of the piano and replaces it with a full one.
"Jerry says this is on the house if you'll stop playing that band."
I stop immediately and try to remember what I've been playing. Then I snort when I realize what it was, and take a long swig. Jesus, I'm really messed up.
And I can't get it out of my head.
"Not an ELO fan, I take it?" I yell to Jerry, the bartender.
"Well, one song maybe, but you were on a medley. Maybe if you'd been playing Fire on High..." He laughs. "Go back to Skynard or CCR."
"Ah, clearly a man with good taste," I say, raising my glass to him. "Thanks."
The pretty blonde waitress with the nice rack is still standing next to me, and I note she's appraising me with more than a little interest, so I ask, "What about you? Any requests?"
She steps in closer with a flirty smile. "Me? I barely knew anything you were playing. Jerry said it was a bunch of seventies stuff." She wrinkles her nose. "I don't like the old dudes."
I nearly choke on my beer and then burst out laughing. Oh, the irony.
She instantly backtracks, thinking I misunderstood her statement. "Oh, no! I mean I don't like old music. I don't mind older guys."
"Oh, okay," I say, turning back to the piano.
When I start playing some Yes, Jerry yells, "Yeah, that's more like it!"
"I'm Morgan, by the way," she says.
I don't look at her as I continue playing. "Hi, Morgan. Anthony."
"You know, you've been great entertainment tonight. The customers really like it."
I glance around and note that the place has filled up a bit. Clearly it's later than I thought. I look at my watch and see it's eleven twenty.
"Well, I'm glad." I stand and step around the piano bench. "It was nice meeting you."
She frowns. "Oh, you're leaving? I barely got a chance to talk with you." She steps closer to me. "I take a break in ten minutes if you want to stay and… chat."
I reach into my pocket to pay for the second half-consumed beer. It's funny, but once upon a time, Morgan was my type. Hell, not even a year ago I probably would have flirted right back and then fucked her in the supply room before I left for work. But now…
I don't give a shit about this blonde in front of me. I do, however, care about a certain brunette I know who DOES like the old dudes.
No I can't get it out of my head.
The hurt in her eyes.
Now my old world is gone for dead.
A phone that won't ring.
What have I done?
I manage to smile and hand her a ten. "Actually, I have to go to work."
Her smile falters, and she steps back. "Well, come back and see us when you've got some free time."
I grab my helmet from the top of the piano. "Will do." I wave at Jerry on the way out. "Thanks."
"Good to see you, man."
As I drive to work, I process through the last ridiculous half hour. A waitress who doesn't like seventies stuff, but doesn't mind older dudes like me. A bartender who'll pay me to switch the music. And a band that's haunting my subconscious.
There's a glimmer of an idea forming, but I've had so little sleep lately, it's just out of reach, so I try to focus.
Skynard. CCR. Yes. ELO…
"Maybe if you'd been playing Fire on High…"
There it is.
I suddenly recall a conversation Izzy and I had two and a half months ago…
"Oh, my God, my dad LOVED taking us on road trips. Almost every vacation it seemed like we were in a car for hours, and in preparation, my parents would both make mixed tapes of their favorite music."
"And that's how you learned about the bands?"
"Yeah, sort of. They played a similar trivia game to the one you do. The winner got to play a tape of their choice for twenty minutes, and then they'd ask a different question."
I smile as she shares another Izzy fact. "What bands were on the tapes?"
"Oh, jeez, seemed like every one. Um … The Who, Pink Floyd, Golden Earring, Steve Miller, The Stones, Wings, ELO-"
Whoa, two of those things were not like the others. "Wings? ELO? Really?"
"Hey, what's wrong with them?"
"Both your parents put them on their tapes?"
"Hmm, I'd say my mom more than dad. Although Fire on High was on Dad's list of driving songs."
"Hold on; songs about driving, or songs that are good to drive to?"
"Good catch!" she says. "Songs that are great for road trips."
I pause to consider it. "Yeah, he's right. It is."
"Oh, definitely, but when I was really little, they'd have to skip the beginning. Freaked me out!"
I grin. "Do you know what it says?"
"Obviously you can't see me right now, but I'm rolling my eyes. Of course I know…"
Of course she does.
As I walk into the studio, I decide to change the program plan. I'm done pussyfooting around with subtle hints. While I can't blatantly come out and say, "This one's for you, Izzy!" I can reference something she's specifically told me and hope she hears all I'm not saying:
"Hey Fogheads, I've got a busy set for you tonight, so let's jump in.
"With Memorial Day behind us and July Fourth just over a week away, we're moving quickly into summer. What does that mean? Baseball, barbecues, and family vacations.
"Tonight's program is devoted to the road trip. Nothing says family bonding like being trapped in a car with people who seem hell-bent on annoying you. Of course, the trip goes more smoothly when you have great music, so let's get into some driving songs; not songs about driving, but songs that are great to drive to.
"First up: This British band was accused by Christian Fundamentalists of inserting satanic messages into the songs on their 1974 album. In response, they followed it up the next year with an album that begins with rather ominous music and what sounds like the devil when you backmask. Other than a choir of angelic voices singing an additional four words, the song is purely instrumental.
"Name the band and this fantastic driving song. And for the gold star, tell me what the opening subliminal message says. Fans of this band will definitely know this..."
The phone rings before I even finish, and my heart leaps… only to fall when Cara from Alameda calls in and answers. She gets it right and makes her song choice.
As I play the trivia song for Cara, and Izzy doesn't call in the rest of the night, I know all too well how true their backward message is:
"The music is reversible, but time is not."
But oh, Izzy, you have no idea how I wish to God it was...
A/N2: Aw, poor Tony. (But he kind of deserved it. Just saying.)
Thank you to Irritable Grizzzly for her beta work.
Post A/N:Not mine - lyrics from ELO's Can't Get It Out of My Head, Telephone Line, Turn to Stone, and Fire on High.
Mini shout-out to Genesis's I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe) as well.
Note that the full backward message in Fire on High is: "The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back. Turn back."