Dangerous to Know & Love(9) by Jane Harvey-Berrick

Even Kirsty was taking things seriously, sitting at her desk with her laptop in front of her, eyes squinting at the screen.

At least Lisanne had a rehearsal with Roy and the rest of the 32o North guys to look forward to. Roy had even offered to give her a ride. Lisanne had thought that one over for a while, but she decided that having two scary looking tattooed men visiting her dorm room in the same week might get her something worse than a reputation.

“If it gets late, call me and I’ll come pick you up,” Kirsty offered kindly. “Any time up until midnight is fine. Jeez, if you’re not done by then, you won’t have any voice left to speak of!”

Lisanne agreed gratefully and set off to catch the bus.

Roy opened the club’s door after she’d pounded on it for a good three minutes.

“Sorry, baby girl. Didn’t hear you. Mike had the amps turned up to 11.”

He grinned at his own joke, and Lisanne smiled as he swept her into a rib-cracking hug.

“We’re gonna warm up with some Etta James before we go onto the new stuff. It’s always good to mix in some oldies to get the audience going. You know Something’s Got A Hold On Me?”

“Sure, didn’t Christina Aguilera cover it a couple of years back?”

Roy frowned. “Yeah, but Etta did it better. Hey, that rhymes!”

“We could try Dirrty?”

He looked at her sideways. “You think you can pull off a song like that, baby girl?”

Lisanne blushed and looked down. “I know the melody,” she said quietly, feeling like a fool. Of course, she couldn’t pull off being sexy. That was a lost cause.

The rehearsal went well and they were beginning to get a pretty good set together – it was a little bit conservative for Lisanne’s tastes – although she kept that thought to herself. About three quarters of the songs were a mix of old and modern classics with some indie rock thrown in, but the rest were original. Carlos, the bass player, could sing a good harmony and his voice blended well with Lisanne’s.

But she was still curious about one thing.

“I really like the new material,” Lisanne said, casually. “But you’ve never said which of you wrote it. I really like Last Song and On My Mind – those are beautiful.”

“A friend,” said Roy. “He doesn’t play anymore.”

Lisanne looked him in the eye. “Do you mean Daniel?”

There was a sudden silence, but Lisanne held her ground.

“You know him?” said Roy, cautiously.

“He’s in one of my classes. We’re working on an assignment together. He told me… some stuff.”

“Yeah, Dan wrote those songs,” said Roy, at last. “He carried on writing songs until about a year and a half ago. Kid was a genius.” He shook his head. “But don’t ask him about it because he won’t talk to you. Understand?”

Lisanne nodded. Yes, she understood.

The confirmation stunned her. It was only what she’d suspected for a while now, but hearing that it was Daniel who had composed those beautiful songs hurt her heart in ways she didn’t understand. She could only imagine how she’d feel if she lost her music – it was such a huge part of her life. What would it be like for your world to end like that – a slow descent into silence? She couldn’t bear it – she’d go mad.

It was amazing that Daniel was as together as he seemed – so controlled. And then Lisanne thought about the effort it must take to appear like that. She remembered his flashes of rage when she’d made assumptions about him. Not that she blamed him. In fact, she blamed herself for her casual stereotyping. Hell, no wonder he didn’t want anyone to know about him. And she realized how many value judgments she made every single day based solely on appearance: she’d assumed Kirsty was vacuous because she was pretty; she’d assumed Roy was a scary, violent criminal because of his size and his tattoos; and she’d assumed Daniel was a jerk because he kept people at arms’ length. She didn’t want to think about how shallow that made her.

Lisanne was glad to accept Roy’s offer of a ride back to the dorms, grateful that she didn’t have to call Kirsty out so late, and too tired to care what anyone thought should they see her with him.

They were quiet for most of the ride, and Lisanne was content to simply stare at the washed-out colors of the night, buildings bathed in an amber neon glow.

Eventually, Roy cleared his throat, announcing to Lisanne that he had a question for her.

“You must know Dan pretty well if he told you about himself,” he commented carefully.

“Not really. Not well.”

“Hmm, because he almost never tells anyone who hasn’t known him for years.”

Lisanne shrugged, not wanting to explain that she’d uncovered his secret by accident.

“Like I said – we’re working on an assignment together.”

“Hmm,” said Roy again, but didn’t push her.

He let her out at the dorm rooms, simply saying that he’d see her at the next rehearsal. His face was thoughtful as he drove away.

Kirsty was propped up in bed reading a book when Lisanne dragged herself through the door.

“Good rehearsal?”

“Yeah, it’s going really well,” replied Lisanne with a tired smile.

“Great! Because I’m getting together a load of people to come see you when you have your debut.”

“What? Not… not people from school?”

Kirsty rolled her eyes. “Duh! Do I know anyone else? Of course it’s people from school. Everyone’s really excited to see you. I’ve been telling them how amazing you are.”

“Kirsty! You’ve never even heard me sing! Why would you say that?”

“I’m being supportive. We’re roommates and that’s what roommates do. Besides, I know you’ll be awesome – Roy told me you were the new Adele when I met him at the club.”

Lisanne was taken aback.

“Roy said that?”

“Sure! And a load more stuff that I promised not to tell you in case you got up yourself.”

Lisanne shook her head. “No! Please don’t tell me! It’s going to be bad enough falling flat on my face without having people from school see it. Please, Kirsty, not the first gig. Maybe one later in the semester.”

“Uh-uh, I’ll be there, cheering you on. Besides, Vin wants to see you in action, too.”

“Who’s Vin?”

“Red T-shirt guy!” said Kirsty with a giggle. “I saw him in the cafeteria today and he asked me out. We’re going for dinner and a movie tomorrow.”

“That’s great! He’s really cute.”

“Yes, he is. Although I seem to remember you said he was ‘okay’ but not your type. Of course, we all know who’s your type, don’t we? How is Daniel?”

Lisanne pretended to be very busy unpacking her purse, which as it only held her cellphone and wallet, took some serious acting skills. She couldn’t pull off indifference very well. Insouciance was harder. And casual could just f**k off.

“We’re just doing this assignment. He probably won’t even speak to me when we’re finished.”

Kirsty didn’t reply, which made Lisanne look up. Her roommate was leaning back with a small smile on her face.

“Want to take a bet on that, roomie?”

* * *

On Wednesday morning, Lisanne got a text from Daniel.

* D: Want to study and smuggle chips in library later? *

She smiled to herself. Playful Daniel was her favorite. No, wait, Sexy Daniel was number one, but playful was good, too.

She texted back immediately.

* L: Yes to study but what do I get

for not reporting serious biblio violation? *

* D: You drive hard bargain!

Ok – you choose flavor, I’ll buy. Good enough? *

* L: thinking about it *

* D: playing hard to get? *

* L: who’s playing? *

* D: Are you sexting me? *

“Oh my God!”

He was definitely flirting with her.

* L: shock! *

* D: bbq flavor? *

* L: and cheesy chili. 4 pm. Don’t be late. *

* D: wouldn’t dare ; ) *

Flirting, possible sexting, and a winking smiley.

The next two hours were tortuously slow. Never had Lisanne’s classical music composition seminar seemed so deadly dull. Root chords, dominants and subdominants didn’t even have the usual frisson of BDSM to enliven the proceedings. Professor Hastings behaved as if he was curing cancer, and neither a giggle nor a raised eyebrow was allowed under his watchful, querulous gaze.

Eventually, Lisanne was released – ten minutes late. Damn it! Daniel would have a field day with her being late.

Her shoulder bag thumped painfully against her hip as Lisanne jogged across the campus to the library. The quad outside was filled with people hanging out and enjoying the Fall sunshine.

She hurried inside, searching the occupied tables, looking for his trademark spiky black hair.

But when she saw Daniel, he was talking to the redhead who’d been draped all over him at the club. A cold feeling crept up from the pit of Lisanne’s stomach as she gazed at the beautiful, curvaceous girl in front of her. She couldn’t help wilting under the weight of comparison with her own meager figure.

“I’m sure I can think of something more fun than studying,” the girl said slyly, leaning forward to give Daniel a view over her impressive assets.

“I’m meeting someone for a study session, Terri.”

“I’ll write you a permission slip. You can study later.”

Then she bent down and whispered in his ear: a flirtation that had the opposite effect from the one she’d hoped for. Daniel leaned away from her, regarding her coolly.

“I’m busy, Terri,” he said curtly, then looked past her when he saw Lisanne.

“Hi,” she said, quietly. “Sorry I’m late. My class ran over.”

Terri turned and glared, a sneer on her lovely face.

“You’re kidding! A study date with a bookworm? When you get bored of her, call me.”

She stalked off, tossing her magnificent mane of hair over her shoulder as she went.

Lisanne wished someone would dig a big hole so she could quietly fall into it. Then they could shovel the dirt on top and plant some grass. Maybe a few flowers.

“Don’t let her bother you, Lis. She’s just a bitch,” said Daniel, softly.

He crumpled up a piece of paper as he spoke, and Lisanne hoped that Terri’s phone number was scrawled across it.

“It’s okay,” she said shrugging it off, even as she felt her throat tighten uncomfortably.

In truth she was used to girls like Terri talking to her with such condescension. Didn’t make it sting any less, though.

“No it isn’t okay!” he said, crossing his arms over his chest, a movement that caused his biceps to bunch up under his t-shirt.

Lisanne licked her lips as they continued to stare at each other in silence, then she remembered where she was, and turned to pull out her books, notepad and laptop.

“So,” she began, without daring to look at him, “a model for corporate governance within a framework of societal responsibility. Fun times.”

She glanced up as Daniel cracked a smile. “Yeah, and don’t forget the chips.”

Then he winked at her and she felt some of the tension fade away.

“You’re so bad!” she said, rolling her eyes.

“Better believe it, baby.”

Ninety minutes later, Lisanne’s head was ready to explode. Even though Daniel had patiently explained again (and again) the theory of subsistence marketplaces and poverty-based market opportunities, the words and phrases all blurred into one, making less and less sense.

“I’m going to flunk out of this course, I know it!” she groaned, stabbing her pen into her notebook hard enough to break the tip.

“No you won’t,” said Daniel calmly. “I won’t let you. You’ll be fine – it’s just a lot of new stuff to take in.”

Lisanne shook her head.

“It’s like doing one of those dumb math problems: three people are driving at 20mph in a car carrying two gallons of gas and a horse doing yoga, when a car traveling at 30mph with two clowns drinking cola collides, what time is it in Tokyo? It doesn’t make any sense and the only answer I ever come up with is who cares!”

Daniel laughed. “A horse doing yoga? Did I read you right? I think you need coffee.”

“Yes,” she moaned. “I need caffeine, intravenously.”

He smiled. “I know just the place.”

While he gathered up the empty chip bags, Lisanne continued to moan and hold her head, just in case it really did split in half and her brain dribbled across the table.

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