As the show draws closer to the end, the butterflies are swarming in my stomach. How is this going to go? What’s going to happen?
“Relax Sydney, I can practically hear your heart thumping from over here,” Desiree says with a grin.
“I know, I just don’t know if we should do this.”
“Oh, shut up. You know you want to talk to Conrad again, and he obviously wants to talk to you too. You must have made an impression on him.”
“I just feel guilty about lying about my age. What if he figures it out?”
“How would he do that? You think he’s going to ask for ID or something?”
“No, and I sure hope not anyway, I told him my real name. I didn’t want him calling me Jane."
“I wouldn’t worry about it. And who knows, maybe Conrad wouldn’t care even if he did find out your real age. You may not be of legal drinking age, but you are of legal consent age. Therefore, you’re both free to do as you wish provided it’s mutually consensual.”
“Geez, been watching a lot of legal shows lately?” I laugh.
“Maybe a few,” Desiree admits.
The music ends, and the whole room bursts into another round of applause.
“Man, they are just so good, aren’t they? We’re going to have to download their album if they have one available,” I say.
“Maybe that’s a question you could ask Conrad.”
“Or you could ask Harrison?”
“Maybe. Okay, let’s go get ‘em.”
Desiree practically jumps from her chair, gesturing for me to hurry up and get to my feet.
“Eager?” I tease her.
“I just don’t want to waste any time. We’ve got some major hotties to attend to.”
We navigate the crowd and manage to push our way to the stage. When we spot the band, admirers of the female variety surround them.
“Figures. Let’s just wait,” I grumble, beginning to lose my nerve.
“No way. We’re pushing our way in there,” Desiree says confidently.
Once again, her fingers grip my wrists firmly, and we move forward. As we reach the edge of the crowd, I manage to dislodge my wrist from Desiree’s grip. She surges through the crowd, and I decide to hang back on the outskirts. Unlike Des, who doesn’t care what others think, I don’t want to seem too eager. My eyes find Conrad, who towers over everyone. He’s chatting with admirers, smiling and laughing. Damn, he’s sexy. I can’t see Des in the mass of bodies, but I assume that she’s somewhere in the mix. I don’t know what to do with myself, so I just kind of stand there awkwardly, twiddling my thumbs, waiting for the crowd to disperse. I look back at Conrad, and this time I catch him staring right at me. He smiles and starts moving towards me. The butterflies begin swarming again.
“You kept your promise,” he says when he approaches me, and he seems to be genuinely happy about it.
“I said I’d find you,” I reply.
“I figured you were just being nice.”
Does he think I’d blow him off? This surprises me.
“Anyway,” he continues when I don’t say anything, “there’s a band after-party tonight, at Harrisons. I wanted to know if you and your friend wanted to come along.”
A party? Now, this I don’t know if it's a good idea.
“Um, I’m not sure.”
“Of course we’re coming!” A loud voice suddenly says from beside me.
Desiree throws an arm around my shoulder.
“Des…” I murmur.
“So where is this party?” She asks Conrad, ignoring me.
The lead singer, Harrison, comes into view next to Conrad.
“My place. It’s on 31 Mayburn Street,” Harrison says.
I realize I recognize this address because it’s in the same neighborhood that Des and I live in, about two blocks from my house.
“I know where that is,” Desiree, says, “we’ll be there.”
“Do you girls want to ride with us, or do you have a car?” Harrison asks, smiling smoothly at Desiree.
“Well, I have a car, but we’ve had too much to drink to take it. I was going to leave it at the club overnight and catch a cab,” she explains.
“No need. Conrad here only had one or two drinks all night, he can take it for you,” Harrison offers, “can’t you Conrad?”
“If that’s okay with you?” Conrad asks Des, “I only had one beer.”
“And one shot of tequila,” I chime in, causing him and Harrison to chuckle.
“Yes, let’s not forget that shot,” Conrad nods, “but that was a few hours ago, so I think I’m okay now.”
“Well then, it looks like we’ve got ourselves a designated driver. Let’s get out of here,” Des announces, happily, as she digs into her purse and hands Conrad her keys.
“Okay well, I’m going to go help load the gear. Conrad, I’ll see you guys real soon,” Harrison says with a wink and saunters off.
Conrad, Desiree and I leave the club, and Des leads us to where she’s parked.
“Nice ride,” Conrad compliments as he heads towards the driver side.
I’m about to reach for the back door, but Des nudges me forward to sit up front with Conrad. I give her a questioning look, but she just waves me on.
“Go for it,” she whispers before climbing into the back seat.
We head away from the downtown area, and towards the suburbs. Nobody speaks up for nearly five minutes before Des sticks her head between the front seats.
“So quiet in here, let’s turn the music up,” she says, reaching for the volume on the stereo.
“So Conrad, tell us about yourself. Have you lived in Mayfair long? This town isn’t that big, so I feel like we would have seen you before,” Desiree asks.
“I’ve only lived here since April. Though I wouldn’t consider this that small a town,” he replies.
“Well, it’s no metropolis, that’s for sure. So where are you from?”
“I lived in New York City before I came here.”
“New York City? Wow, why would you ever leave that place? I’ve always wanted to go there.”
“It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. Sure, there’s a lot to see and do, lots of cultures. But it’s also just a loud, over-crowded city that frankly, I’d had enough of. I wanted something a little slower paced, so I found myself here.”
“Well, if you were looking for slow and quiet, you chose the right place: good ol’ Mayfair, North Carolina. I guarantee you’re going to get bored with this place,” Desiree says as she slumps back into the seat.
“Oh, I don’t know. It has its good points,” Conrad replies, and I swear I see him glance at me when he says it.
“I like it here. I feel like I’d prefer to live here than in New York City too. I like the peacefulness. I like knowing who my neighbors are,” I say when I realize I haven’t contributed to the conversation at all.
“I couldn’t agree more,” Conrad says.
“Well, I’m dying for some big city excitement back here,” Desiree, grumbles.
Another ten minutes and more small talk later, we pull into our neighborhood. I can’t help but feel guilty as we pass my house on the way to Harrison’s.
“I’m surprised that Harrison lives in a neighborhood like this,” Desiree comments as we pass her house too, which is only a few doors down from mine.
“We’re actually roommates,” Conrad tells us, “he was living in an apartment, but we figured this way, we’d have more space, including a garage to practice in. It’s been serving as a bit of a crash pad for the whole band lately though, which is starting to get old.”
Oh, My. God. He lives in this neighborhood? I turn in my seat and exchange a look with Des. I can see by the look on her face that this information pleases and amuses her.
“Wow Syd, that means you guys are practically neighbors,” she reveals, flashing me a mischievous grin.
My eyes go wide, and I want to reach over and smack her. What is she thinking?
“What? Really?” Conrad says, “Where?”
“On this street actually,” Desiree adds.
I’m going to kill her.
“Yeah, I live with my parents,” I admit.
Lot’s of twenty-one-year-olds live with their parents, don’t they? He’s going to see right through me.
“That’s cool,” he says instead, “makes sense for a college kid. Why waste money on rent when you can just stay at home a little longer and save up for the future.”
“Exactly,” Des says, kicking the back of my seat lightly, “but how great does this work out? We can just walk home tonight after the party.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Conrad agrees with a nod.
A few short minutes later, we pull up to a small brick house. There are already a few cars parked in front.
“The guys aren’t here yet,” Conrad tells us, "It looks like we beat them all.”
“Whose cars are these then?” I ask.
“The blue truck on the driveway is Harrisons, the red car is Jake’s and that ugly mustard yellow monstrosity is Kevin’s old mustang. I think the black ford belongs to Jake’s girlfriend. Anyway, we all took the van tonight.”
I nod my understanding.
“Where’s your car?” Des asks.
“My bike's in the garage.”
“A motorcycle? Awesome!” Des whistles- impressed.
Desiree exits the Jeep and goes to sit on the front lawn, underneath the streetlight, leaving us alone. Conrad doesn’t move, and neither do I. The silence somehow feels loud. Conrad sighs and turns in the seat to face me.
“You seem nervous,” he says, his voice low and gentle in the now silent vehicle.
“I…I’m not,” I stammer, giving myself away.
“You know, I’m not going to bite.”
Conrad leans slightly over the center console, close to me, close enough that I can smell him, and of course, he smells fantastic. I couldn’t tell in the club. His proximity makes my heart rate pick up. His hair falls in his face, and he reaches up and pushes it off his forehead. Swoon!
“Is there going to be many people at this party?” I ask, trying to change the subject.
“I have no idea. The parties sometimes get kind of crazy and sometimes they can be pretty low key. Which were you hoping for?”
“Low key,” I admit.
“You’re not much of a party-goer either, are you Syd?”
“How’d you guess?”
Conrad taps on his temple.
“Lucky guess. So you don’t usually go to clubs or bars, you don’t drink much or go to a lot of parties either. You like to stay home and read a lot. So Sydney, what else do you do to get your kicks? A young girl like yourself must have something you like to do to let off some steam.”
“I like to go camping,” I offer.
“Okay, camping’s cool. What else?”
“I like to hike, and…”
“So, you like the outdoors?”
“Pretty much. I’m not very adventurous, I guess. I mean, it’s not like I’m unwilling to try new things, I’m here, aren’t I? I’m just more of a…a.”
“You’re cautious? That’s not a bad thing, Sydney.”
“I’m not like Desiree. She’s not afraid of anything. Sometimes I wish I were more like her.”
“I think that having complete fearlessness can have its drawbacks. A person like that can be impulsive, and get themselves into trouble if they’re not careful. For instance, she allowed me, a total stranger, to drive her nice ride, and take you girls to a random party.”
“She’s a smart girl,” I defend Des, “I don’t think she’d do anything too stupid.”
Conrad chuckles at that.
“Okay. Maybe she is. I just say it because I’ve known people like that. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. I just feel like there’s more to you, and I’m curious to know more.”
“You’re curious about me?”
“I think there’s more to you than a nose in a book.”
"You've gathered that from our short time together?" I challenge, and he smiles and nods.
“Okay. How about you? I have some questions too," I ask.
I try and come up with some interesting questions, but I start with some essential basics.
“First, how old are you?”
“How old do I look?”
Twenty-seven. Okay, I guess that’s not too horrible, but he’s still too old for me, I think.
“Come on, Syd, you can do better than that.”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“Do I strike you as the kind of guy who would have a girlfriend, but be sitting here with another girl I just met? I hope not.”
“No, but I don't know you well enough to make that kind of assessment, and it’s not like we’re doing anything wrong,” I reason.
“Well, I don’t, and for your information, if I did, I would consider this inappropriate behavior.”
“Good to know. So how long have you been a musician?”
“I’ve been playing guitar all my life since I was five. My dad played classical guitar, and I was instantly enamored by it. He taught me how to play, and I haven’t stopped since. I can also play drums and piano.”
“Wow. So you are multi-talented.”
“I just love music. Music can take you to different places, change your mood, or just be there for you when you want to wallow in whatever emotion you’re feeling at the moment.”
“Speaking of which, do you guys have your music available for download or a disc?”
“Have a new fan in you?”
“I thought you guys were amazing,” I say, and I know I’m gushing again.
“That’s great to hear. We’re working on a website right now, but we have a few discs in the van. I’ll give you one once everyone arrives.”
Just as he says this, I see a flashy black van pull into the driveway. “Speak of the devil,” I say.
“How about we continue this conversation later?” Conrad says, sounding hopeful.
I nod in response. I can’t believe this. He’s actually interested in me. This makes me happier than I thought it would, but also nervous, and a little scared.