The CD felt like a brick in David’s hands but he managed a smile.
“I had heard you talking about them last week,” Andie said with a shrug, “with Martin.” Her smile broadened and her cheeks blushed.
“Speak of the devil,” said Martin, squeezing into the trailer’s cramped kitchen and heading for the counter with his stained, ocean sized cup in his hand. The rumble of the crowd and warming concert faded as the door closed behind him.
“You mean after the Markee show?” asked David as Martin reached between them for the coffee pot.
“Yeah,” said Andie.
“Right.” David gazed back down at the glistening cover with neon swirls and crouched squirrels playing accordions.
“What’s that?” asked Martin, leaning against the cabinets and peering down at the case with his brimming cup in hand.
“Nothing,” said Andie, turning to add a creamer to her drink.
“Whoa.” Martin deftly snagged the CD from David. “You trying to burn my eyes or my ears?” He chuckled. David gave him a sickly smile.
Andie snapped her gaze from her mug to Martin then David. “You guys were joking?”
“Joking?” asked Martin.
“When we were talking about them earlier,” explained David with a cringe. “Andie overheard us.”
“And what? You thought we were serious? Best new band of the year? These guys?” Martin gawked then glanced between Andie, the CD and a downcast David, and routed through the triangle again. The merry twinkle in his eye subsided a few degrees along with the curve on his wide lips. “Oh…Sorry.”
“You’re not kidding me are you?” asked Andie, covering her mouth with her hand.
David managed a weak half smile. “No. These guys are terrible.”
“Awful,” agreed Martin. “Nails on chalkboard awful except worse. They’re so bad…” Martin trailed off in his supply of additional analogies as David gave him a nudge in the gut. Shoving his coffee cup to his lips, Martin filled his mouth with the too hot brew.
An awkward silence hung as if trying to add another uncomfortable track to the CD.
“I’ll see you on stage,” said Martin to David. He gave Andie an apologetic grin. “Sorry again…”
She shrugged and then cast her gaze over the assortment of tea bags cluttering the counter while Martin stomped down the trailer and back outside. David delicately placed the CD on the tiled surface between them, as if the horribleness might come bursting through the shiny plastic.
Andie waved off the gratitude and plucked up the CD like a dirty rag. “Please.” She raised a skeptical brow at the squirrels and then flipped the case over to read the list of songs. “I was wondering…” She shook her head and lowered the CD, placing one hand on top of the plastic as if to make it vanish.
“What are you doing?”
“You said you didn’t want it.”
“Yeah, but…” David wiggled the CD free from her obscuring grip and took it back in hand. “You gave it to me. You can’t just take it back.”
“I have the receipt. Let me get you something that doesn’t include ‘Railway to the Nut-hole’.”
“I don’t know.” David stared into the cover’s neon swirls. “It’s growing on me.”
“Do you really want people looking in your CD collection coming across that? What would they think?”
“At least there’s a good story to go with it.”
Andie felt her cheeks warm and stared into her coffee mug where foam clung to the inside edges. The milky swirl seemed to shape into a furry, acorn craving rodent.
“Really,” she said, gazing back up at David. “Let me get you something else, something decent for your birthday.”
“There’s no back-ses on gifts.”
David sighed and ran his fingers around square edge. Andie frowned as a sly smile crept onto his lips.
“You have said you had the receipt right?”
“Yeah,” she said slowly.
“Then how about we go together? You can return it and we see what else is there.”
Andie tapped her fingers on her lukewarm cup in time with her rising heartbeat. “Alright. I guess that’s fair.”
“After the show?”
“Today?” Tucking away some strands of ragged curls, Andie looked down over her grungy jeans and faded sweater. “Ah…um…alright.”
The door rattled again and Becky poked her head, complete with headphones and a wobbling microphone before her mouth, into the trailer. “5 minutes you two.”
“Ok,” said Andie and Becky jerked back outside, slamming the door closed.
“I should get going,” said David.
“Yeah, they’ll want you backstage.”
David waggled the CD like a taunting toy. “I’m keeping this though.”
Andie rolled her eyes but failed to suppress a smile as she followed David to the door. “Fine.”
“Meet you in the booth afterwards?”
“Sure, if Martin hasn’t turn me inside out for such a horrendous gift by then.”
“This is probably the best they’ve ever done,” said David, opening the door and motioning her out.
A blast of crowd noise and the wail of the opening band soared over them like a flood. Andie paused on the asphalt and glanced over her shoulder with a frown.
“What do you mean?”
“They may not play good music,” said David, yanking the trailer door closed, “but they’ve gotten me a date with the prettiest sound engineer on the tour.” Leaning in, he gave Andie a swift kiss on the cheek. “See you after?”
“Yeah,” she said with a stutter.
David gave her a beaming grin and headed toward back stage.
“Three minutes,” shouted Becky from the stage entrance.
Andie gripped her cup and scurried to the sloped booth nestled by the erected proscenium, squirrels against neon swirling in her thoughts.