Sunday 1st March 2009

by Tina

The room was small and air-conditioned, with dim incandescent bulbs giving the room an overall comfortable glow. A big, flat-screen TV sat on the last wall, with two microphones attached to the CD player below it. A huge table sat at the center, empty plates previously filled with Chinese food littered on it. Ten people, including me, were sprawled on the faux leather couches surrounding it just enjoying the night and each other’s company. Some were talking, a couple were singing, some were pawing through the songbooks and programming the videoke machine to queue the songs while I sat watching them all in amusement.

“All these singing is making my hungry again,” Von commented after he had programmed his song into the queue. “Can we get more food?”

“You’re always hungry,” Chiara retorted. “When did this guy every stop talking about food, Ruth?”

“Never,” I said with a grin. “In fact, Von always has a stash of food in his drawer which keeps our team well-fed.”

Von shot me a look and crossed his arms grumpily. He lives to annoy us, but he often backs down whenever people start ganging up on him. “I hate it when you guys do that to me.”

“Oh shut up, Von,” I said good-naturedly, slapping him on the arm. “Go get the microphone and sing again so you can get your hunger out of your mind.”

“Yeah, we can use more of your amazing voice,” Mitchie, one of my best friends, said with a cackle. Chiara laughed and raised a hand to Mitchie for a high five. Von frowned.

“I’ll show you girls,” he grumbled. “And then I’m never sharing any food with you!”

The opening notes of the next song started playing and Von grabbed the spare microphone and started singing with Ellen, one of our logistics people. Despite Von’s hunger, he was hamming it up on the microphone. Ellen was shooting annoyed looks at Von, who was stealing her spotlight, but Von was pretending to be oblivious. Beside Ellen sat Ian, her boss, who watched the entire scene with an amused smile.

I sat back and looked at the guy who sat on my other side, Matt. He’s the newest member of the team and none of us knew him that well yet, so we invited him to our night out. Much to everyone’s delight — okay fine, especially mine — he agreed to join. However, he’s been quiet all evening and I couldn’t really think of anything to talk about with him…so we sat together, saying nothing.

The song finished and Von stood up and bowed to his imaginary applauses while Ellen threw a balled up tissue at him. I shook my head and chuckled. Matt being a wet blanket is not going to ruin my evening.

Although I really wish we’d talk. Or do something.

“So what’s the next song?” Chiara asked.

“Who hasn’t sung yet?” Mitchie directed the question to everyone. I tried to sink into my seat and disappear within the dimness of the room, but I was no match for my friend’s sharp eyes. “Aha, Ruth!” she said, brightening.

“Uh…no thanks.”

“What do you mean no thanks?” Chiara said. “You will be singing!”

“Yeah, come on, boss,” Von cajoled.

“Guys, I’m tired, I really want to — ”

“Oh no you don’t!” Mitchie said, grinning. “You’re not going anywhere until you sing. Come on, I’ll choose a song for you.”

“No really, I don’t sing.”

“Come on Ruth,” Von said. “For me?”

“No way.”

“Aw just this once,” Tom said, joining Von. “We have to hear you sing!”

“I’m choosing a duet for you so you won’t feel conscious,” Mitchie said, winking at me. “Choose your partner!”

Argh, I knew she’d do this to me. I glanced around the room and everyone was looking at me expectantly, all except for the guy that sat beside me.

“And it has to be a guy,” Mitchie added in the last minute. I could feel Von snickering beside me and a quick elbow at his ribs shut him up.

“Do you guys really want to hear me sing? It’s really not such a good idea,” I said weakly.

“Yes we do, especially after everyone here has sung,” Chiara said. “Everyone except you and Matt. Hey Matt, why don’t you sing with Ruth?”

My face definitely felt hot as soon as Chiara said those words and I felt like I wanted to disappear. Mitchie grinned at me as she entered the keys and Tom handed me the microphone. The other microphone was still with Ellen, and she extended her hand to Matt.

I was kind of expecting that he’d accept the microphone and the challenge of singing with me and nervous butterflies started flying in my stomach. However, they quickly disappeared when he shook his head politely and said, “I’m really a solo person. I’d sing after Ruth.”

The room fell silent, and I felt my cheeks flame up more, but from a different kind of feeling. The others glanced at Matt and me and then each other. Mitchie opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, another voice popped up from beside her: “I’ll sing with you, Ruth.”

It was Ian. He reached for the microphone from Ellen and gave me a quick smile before turning to Mitchie, “Make sure you choose a song that we can both sing.”

“Sure thing,” Mitchie said, entering the numbers on the machine. Von handed me the microphone, and I felt Matt reach for the song book and sit back on his chair, not paying attention to any of us. My stomach fell.

He doesn’t want to sing with me. It should not matter, but it somehow did. I felt like…he doesn’t like me.

I raised my eyes and saw Ian looking at me. He smiled softly, as if to comfort me, and oddly, it was enough to comfort me. The hell with Matt. At least for tonight.

Ian gave me an encouraging nod, and pointed to the TV. The visual cue started counting down and I opened my mouth to sing.

[1016 words]

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