‘What was that?’
‘Pardon?’ I said, startled. ‘Oh, nothing, just talking to myself. So if you didn’t want to be a police officer what did you want to be?’
‘Strangely I wanted to be a doctor, despite my bad people skills.’
‘There’s nothing wrong with your people skills,’ I responded. ‘You managed to ask me on a date didn’t you.’
‘It’s not quite the same as dealing with patients though,’ Andrew laughed.
‘So why didn’t you become a doctor Andrew?’
‘Call me Andy, everyone else does.’
‘So why didn’t you become a doctor Andy? It’s not a bad profession that your parents would disapprove of.’
‘It takes years of training to become fully qualified and my father didn’t want me wasting my time and money studying when he could get me a job with the police straight away. I must have been the youngest police detective to ever enter the force.’
‘Well I suppose that’s an accomplishment of sorts,’ I joked.
‘And I’m assuming it wasn’t your dream to become the lackey of some admin big cheese. What did you want to do?’
‘You have to promise not to laugh,’ I said, feeling surprisingly nervous about telling Andy more about me. ‘I was going to be a rock star.’
At this point Andrew promptly burst into hysterics, tears falling down his cheeks as he waved his hands in my general direction.
‘Don’t laugh,’ I protested feebly, finding myself laughing too. ‘I’m the lead singer in a band. We’re not very successful yet but we do exist. Why are you still laughing?’
‘I just can’t see you in a band,’ he said, calming down enough to speak and wiping the tears from his eyes. ‘You seem like such a good girl, I can’t imagine you rocking out on a stage in front of hundreds of people.’
‘Firstly, who says ‘rocking out’ any more, and secondly, next time we have a gig you’ll have to come to see for yourself what I look like in a band. If we ever have a next gig.’
‘Why won’t there be a next gig?’
‘I haven’t spoken to any of the others since I started work at the office and they only ever call me if we have a gig or on the off-chance we need a practise.’
‘That’s a bit weird,’ Andrew confessed. ‘I thought bands who wanted to make it big had to practise all the time.’
‘Well Julian likes to work differently,’ I said, not trying to hide the hint of annoyance in my voice. ‘He’s our lead guitarist so thinks he’s God’s gift and is in charge of the rest of us.’
‘If he’s so arrogant why don’t you kick him out or something and replace him with someone else?’
‘In my experience,’ I said, leaning in, ‘there are very few lead guitarists who don’t think they’re the best thing to happen since sliced bread.’ This prompted a laugh from Andy that I couldn’t help responding to. ‘Of course that’s probably a huge generalisation, but in Jules’s case it happens to be true. And although we wouldn’t tell him so, he’s good at what he does and he writes most of our songs for us.’
‘Are they any good?’
‘I think so.’
‘Can I hear one now?’
‘You want me to sing,’ I exclaimed, fear gripping me for the first time since we’d sat down.
‘We’re in a restaurant, I don’t want to disturb the other people,’ I said pathetically.
‘It’s alright, Marco won’t mind and it’s not like there are loads of people here.’
‘But I’ve never sung on a date before,’ I protested, running out of excuses. ‘I usually try to avoid it.’
‘Why?’ Andy asked. ‘I’m sure you have a beautiful voice. Please sing something.’
‘OK I’ll sing if it will stop you nagging,’ I said, laughing nervously. I mentally went through our best songs. Should I sing ‘The Boxers’ or ‘We Are The Tyrannical Crew’? I finally settled for something mellower and lyrical, choosing my favourite song, ‘Hundred Flowers’.
I couldn’t look at Andrew as I sang. Without the security of the band behind me and in the quiet of the restaurant I felt scarily exposed. But the notes came out clearly from my mouth and my fingers silently mimed the chord patterns I would be strumming on my guitar as I sang.
When I finished the restaurant was as silent as it had been when I began. I didn’t dare look up at Andrew, thinking that he now thought I was mad.
After what felt like an age of silence Andrew finally said, ‘that was beautiful.’
‘Yes, it was wonderful. And that’s one of your band’s songs?’
‘It’s my favourite,’ I said shyly.
‘I can see why. You sing it so beautifully.’
I was blushing like an idiot now. For some reason Andrew’s compliments made me feel warm and fuzzy in a way I hadn’t felt in ages.
‘Was it something I said?’ He asked, his hand reaching out to touch mine.
‘The reason you’re not looking at me.’
‘No not at all,’ I said, still not looking up. ‘I just get nervous sharing things like that with people I barely know.’ I felt a hand gently cup my chin, making me look up and Andy’s face was directly in front of me.
‘You shouldn’t be. You’re amazing Alannah, don’t tell yourself anything different.’