Excerpt from Loving Dr. Martin
Serena almost felt bad for womankind as she stood near the mic on the side of the stage and watched her boyfriend, Michael, perform his guitar solo in front of the crowd. The screaming female fans were pressed against the edge of the stage, reaching for him. Their band, It’s Complicated, was playing at the Paradise Rock Club near Fenway, a stone’s throw from Boston’s world-renowned baseball park and a short subway ride to Boston University where they went to school. Consumed by the sounds coming from his guitar, the boisterous crowd of mainly college students shrieked as Michael crouched at the edge of the stage.
“I love you, Michael!” a fan yelled.
As always, while he played the riffs for which their band was quickly becoming famous for, Michael was lost to the outside world. At over six feet tall with a lean, muscular frame, he had presence. He cradled his sleek John Petrucci and let his fingers fly over the strings. His wavy light-brown hair fell frequently over his forehead as he played, and every time he flicked it out of his eyes, he sent the women in the audience into hysterics. His muscular thighs strained against his jeans and his sweat-soaked black T-shirt was plastered to his chest. Serena’s attention was caught by a young woman who had lifted her shirt and was wiggling her large, unrestrained breasts while waving her arms and hollering for Michael’s attention. In short order, she was escorted away by a bouncer.
Too soon, Michael concluded his guitar solo. He looked up, caught Serena’s eye, and winked. She blew him a kiss full of promise and turned to face the audience. They’d given up trying to explain what kind of band they were. Their music was mostly rock, a little hip-hop, some jazz and folk, and a whole lot of fun. Hence, the band’s name. Of all the band members, Michael might have been the most popular with the ladies, but Serena had been told her powerful, soulful voice, combined with his melodious panty-melting baritone, was a magical combination. An hour later, they were finally allowed off stage after performing several encores.
“That was awesome, guys. We rocked it!” Michael said as he high-fived the drummer, Devin, in the greenroom backstage. Patrick, who’d been on keyboard, approached and gave Devin multiple hand slaps. “Yo, Devin, that was sick what you did tonight. Are you high on something? ’Cause you were out of this world on those drums, man!” Playing drums was a full body experience for Devin. He delighted their audiences with the acrobatics he performed with his drumsticks— though his handsome looks, muscular frame, and tattoo sleeves didn’t hurt his popularity either.
“Thanks, man,” Devin said. “Hope you don’t mind that I went off script.” Patrick was enrolled in the music engineering program at Berklee College of Music and worked closely with Michael on the songwriting.
“If you’re going to play like that, I say you can go off script anytime,” Kiera, the final member of the band, told Devin. She was their bass guitarist, with bone-straight blonde hair that fell past her shoulders but came short of obscuring the tattoos on her upper arms of her music heroes—Paul McCartney on the left and Marcus Miller on the right. She wore artfully ripped jeans and a black vest over her tank top. Spotting her girlfriend off to a corner, she left them to walk over and chat.
Half an hour later, Serena waved as Devin, Patrick, and Kiera collected their equipment and left the club. Alone at last, Michael sank gratefully into a chair and pulled Serena onto his lap to straddle him, kissing her full lips greedily.
“You’re like a goddess when you sing,” he said against her lips in that British accent that made her want to behave in very improper ways.
“You’ve said that before, but I don’t see you worshipping me,” Serena replied with a coy smile.
“Believe me, darling, I worship you.” He leaned back to gaze at her. “I worship your earlobes…” He kissed each slowly. “…your beautiful hair.” He ran his hands through the silky black waves cascading down her back and kissed her on the temples. “Mmm, definitely your lips.” He placed his soft lips on hers and worshipped her until she was forced to pull away, breathless.
She came up for air and looked at him tenderly. “That was an awesome show tonight. Your guitar solo had the crowd screaming and all the women begging to marry you.”
“Just the women?” he asked with a naughty grin.
“The women and the men. You are irresistible.”
He placed kisses all over her warm, brown face. “There’s only one woman I want to marry.”
Serena wasn’t ready yet to have that conversation. After all, they were still young. She’d just turned twenty the previous month. Instead, she said, “I’ve told you time and time again that you can’t marry Professor Rosales.”
Michael allowed her the side step. “Why not? She’s gorgeous.”
“That’s not enough to marry someone.”
“Her body is…” He brought his fingers to mouth as he smacked his lips.
“What body?” Serena pretended to be incensed.
“What body indeed? Yours is the one that I can’t get enough of. This arse that I can barely cup.” He proceeded to demonstrate. “These sexy hips… I want at least three boys from those hips.” Serena slapped one hand away. “Oh, and a girl too.” She slapped the other. With a laugh, Michael drew her close once again. “But your spirit is what I love most about you. You are an incredible woman. You’re beautiful, smart, and people love you. I don’t know what you’re doing with a mere mortal like me.”
“I was just asking myself the same question this morning.”
Reluctantly, Serena pulled away. “We need to get back to campus. I’ve gotta put in a full day of studying tomorrow for my organic chemistry exam. It’s my last final before winter break.”
“You know you’re going to ace it.”
“Acing comes from studying. Speaking of acing, let me see if Dr. Lee has posted our biochemistry results yet. I asked Amy to send me a text when he did.” Serena got off Michael’s lap and went to search her bag for her cell phone. Not finding it, she glanced puzzled around the room. “I was on my phone just before the show. I must have left it somewhere by the stage.” Before she could take off, Michael pulled her back in for a lingering kiss. Serena sighed. Being held and kissed by Michael felt so right; perhaps studying could wait. But she did need to go find her phone.
“I’ll be right back,” she promised and hurried away.
She found her phone where she’d hastily tossed it behind the amplifier when she’d realized it was still in her hand when she’d walked onto stage for the performance. She retrieved it and walked back to the office as she checked her messages for the one she sought. In addition to being a biochemistry professor, Dr. Lee was also the pre-med advisor and Serena needed to do well in his class if she wanted a strong letter of recommendation when it came time to apply to medical school. She found the message from her friend and quickly skimmed it. A big smile broke on her face and she took off at a near run to share this success with Michael. He’d likely roll his eyes affectionately at yet another exam she had aced. But as she approached the office, she heard voices and slowed down. Just through the doorway, she could see Michael listening intently to a smartly dressed man with a British accent. His style was sharp, but still casual—jeans with a gray jacket over a black shirt.
“You have a small but devoted fan base in the UK,” the stranger said. “They feel a connection with you because you’re British. I’ve been following your band for a while, and I think it’s time to step up to the big stage. I can open some doors for It’s Complicated in London. What do you say?”
Serena scoffed. They were college students for crying out loud. It was wonderful that they had fans that far away, but they weren’t about to move to a different continent.
“I’ll think about it,” came Michael’s response.
At Serena’s gasp, the man looked up and caught sight of her. He gave her a warm smile, which she didn’t return. He returned his attention to Michael. “Give me a call.” He gave Michael his card and shook his hand. As he approached Serena, he said, “You were incredible tonight. I hope to see more of you.” She stared at his retreating back and then walked slowly into the room.
“Who was that?” she asked.
Michael rubbed the back of his neck. “That was Oliver Ross. He’s the manager for Tornado, The Beats, and several other bands based in the UK who’ve become quite successful.”
Michael came to stand in front of Serena and took her hands. He took a deep breath and his words rushed out in undisguised excitement. “He wants to sign our band and help us break into the music scene in London and from there, who knows how far we’ll go! This is our big break. I’ll talk to the others tomorrow and then I’ll give him a call. This is incredible.”
Serena pulled her hands out of his. “What about school?” she asked. “I’ve still got the rest of junior year and senior year to do and you’ve only got six months left until graduation.”
“We can finish later. Let’s see where the music thing goes. This is the chance of a lifetime. This is our chance to take It’s Complicated to the international stage. Don’t you want that?”
“I want to be a doctor.”
“But, baby, you sing like an angel.”
“That’s no guarantee. You’re talking about taking a huge risk. Interrupting my studies and leaving my mom to move to a country where I don’t know anyone.”
“We’ll be together.”
“It’s not enough.”
Michael stumbled back as if she’d punched him in the chest. “I thought you loved me.”
Serena softened her voice and stepped back in close. “I do love you, Michael, but I can’t do what you’re asking. It may be a great opportunity, but it’s a risk I’m not willing to take. After the upheaval of Dad cheating on Mom and leaving us, I need stability in my life. Great bands fail all the time. That’s the nature of the music business. But all doctors who finish school get jobs. I need that.”
Michael looked at her as if she was speaking an ancient language long extinct. “You can’t be serious. How can you possibly turn your back on this opportunity?” His expression suddenly changed. “You don’t believe we can do this. You don’t believe in me.”
“It’s not that at all. This band is amazing.”
Michael’s voice became pleading. “I promise I’ll take care of you, Serena. You can transfer your studies to a university in the UK. Even if I have to get a job as a waiter or janitor to make ends meet, I promise I’ll take care of you.”
After her father’s betrayal, Serena knew she couldn’t count on that. “I need to be able to take care of myself. I’ve had a clear plan for my life since I was eleven years old. I’m going to finish college, go to medical school, become a doctor, buy a house, and take care of my family. Moving to London to sing with the band—not part of the plan.” She took a deep breath. “This has been fun, Michael, but it was never meant to be the main path I was going to walk in life.”
“I can’t believe you’re turning this amazing opportunity down. What’s wrong with you?”
“There’s nothing wrong with me. There are just things more important to me than music.”
“More important than me.”
Serena said nothing. Michael stalked away and grabbed his guitar, then spun back toward Serena.
“You’re a coward. You’ve got all this talent and you’re just going to let it go to waste because you’re scared.”
“You think I’m going to fail? Watch me.”