It is really hot in Atlanta on this late August night.
I wipe the beads of sweat off my forehead with the back of my hand as I rush down Bar Street. I'm late. Caroline's going to kill me. The rubber soles of my worn Converse sneakers slap against the pavement as I run past all of the bars, pubs, and dance clubs that line the street. I shake my head at all of the auto-tuned pop music that I hear on my way. The mechanical, electronic music that pollutes today's airwaves absolutely breaks my heart. It's got no soul…no substance…no passion.
Thank the gods for blues rock. That is some good, hard, gut-twisting stuff.
I slow my steps as Donovan's comes into sight. Donovan's is the only place I go on Bar Street. The beer is ice cold, they serve the best hot wings in Atlanta, and the blues and classic rock musicians that play here are ridiculously talented.
The best part about Donovan's? It's owned by my best friend and roommate, Matt Donovan.
I'm a bit biased. If you knew Matt you'd be biased, too. He's the best friend a girl could ask for.
I walk through the glass doors of Matt's bar. The place is packed. People of all ages, races, and professions are crowded into the dimly lit room. Excited chatter and the clinks of beer bottles fill the air. The bar's atmosphere feels especially positive tonight, and that makes me very happy.
I muscle my way to the bar and see Matt pouring someone a beer. As he makes his way towards me, I rap my knuckles on the wooden countertop to capture his attention. A sincere, gentle smile spreads across his face when he sees that it's me.
"Caroline's going to kill you for being late," he says as he slides me a bottle of SweetWater Georgia Brown. I twist the cap off and take a long drink of booze.
God, I love good beer.
I barely finish my swig before Caroline appears at my side. A frantic look is painted on her doll-like face.
"Could you be any later, Elena Gilbert? Hurry up, get on stage!"
She digs her fingers into my arm and drags me to the small stage at the back of the bar where Bonnie and Tyler are waiting for us. Tyler gives his guitar one last tune-up while Bonnie pounds pulsing rhythms into her bass drum. They both grin at me as I settle onto my piano stool.
"Way to show up, Billy Joel," Tyler quips. I playfully throw one of Bonnie's spare drum sticks at him. Bonnie laughs. Caroline snatches the drumstick off the floor and sighs loudly. She adjusts the microphone and points the drumstick at me.
I nod. She asks the Bonnie and Tyler the same question, and they also respond in the affirmative. A smile crosses Caroline's face for the first time tonight.