Somebody to Love

Chapter I

Who was this man, and what was he doing at the radio station?

Grace paused in the act of leading the Brownie troop out of the studio.  She couldn’t help staring. 

The man who stood at the end of the hall, a sheaf of papers in his hand, was well over six feet.  Broad shouldered, with light brown hair, he looked like he was in his late twenties.  He was one of the handsomest men she’d encountered in a long time.

But that wasn’t why she was feeling such a jolt to her senses.  No, it was something else about him.  An air of quiet command and capability surrounded him, the kind of aura that made men and women sit up with respect and listen.

Grace felt her heart ping as the stranger met her gaze head-on.

He wore a navy suit and stylish glasses.  As he studied her, Grace exhaled in a long sigh and realized she’d been holding her breath.

“Who’s that?” 

One of the Brownies pointed at the unknown man.

Behind the stranger, Mr. Armstrong, the station’s owner and manager, rounded the corner.

Uh, Grace...?”  It was the voice of Paulette Nichols, one of the mothers accompanying the troop on their tour of the radio station.

Grace snapped back to attention.  She had to refocus on the troop, and finish up the tour she was giving them.  Later she could ponder the fact that this man was eliciting a strong reaction within her.  A reaction that made her feel like a guitar string that was plucked and set vibrating.

Grace swallowed.  “I don’t know who that is,” she answered the young girl’s question.  “But the other man behind him is Charles Armstrong, the owner and manager of radio station WQNJ.”

Charles Armstrong stepped forward, smiling at the girls.  “Hello there.  Glad you could see the station,” he greeted them.  “I hope you enjoyed the tour.”  His jovial face, framed by thick white hair,  beamed at the group. 

He was answered by a chorus of yeses.  He turned to Grace.

“Grace, you haven’t had  a chance to meet our new advertising and events director.  This is Brian Talbot.  Brian, Grace Norwood.  Also known as Grace Harmony, our late afternoon DJ.”

Brain Talbot took a step towards her.  Grace extended her hand, feeling smaller and fragile in comparison to his height.  His hand, large and masculine, was warm and strong as it grasped hers.

“I’ve heard a lot of good things about you,” he said.  His voice was deep and the timber was friendly and pleasing. 

So this was the new ad director!  Grace knew he’d started this past Monday, but he was usually  out on the road by the time she arrived at the station.  She had to agree silently with Tina, the secretary, who’d called Brian “hot.”

She gave him a bright smile and stepped back, freeing her hand.  The warm feeling inside her remained

 “I’ve heard good things about you too,” Grace responded, smiling.  “I’m glad to meet you.  Welcome to WQNJ.  You’re going to love it here.”

Where his hand held hers Grace felt as if vibrations were humming and then traveling up her arm and through her entire being.  Her heart skipped along with the music.

Brian was giving her an appraising look, and Grace suddenly felt self-conscious.  It was a feeling she rarely experienced.

Why did the man of her dreams have to walk into her life when she looked like an eighteen-year-old?

Of course, she knew she couldn’t tell from his outer appearance if this man really was the stuff that dreams are made of.  But he certainly looked the part.

While she looked like a young hippie.

To go along with her radio show at the oldies station she usually dressed in clothes that were similar to the styles of the late 60’s and early 70’s.  But Grace found herself wishing she hadn’t selected her long, tie-dyed pink and purple T shirt to wear over a white turtleneck top with her faded pair of jeans.  For just a moment, she wished she was wearing a simple business suit.  Or a feminine dress.  And that her hair wasn’t pulled back in a scrunchie.

She had to bring her scattered thoughts together.  She still had the Brownie troop to consider, and soon it would be time to go on the air..

“Grace Harmony?” He repeated Charles’ words, emphasizing the Harmony.

“It’s my middle name,” she explained hastily. She was used to people’s surprised reactions, and had even told the troop about her family’s unique names.

“She’s named for a famous rock and roll singer.”  The solemn voice came from LaShone Nichols, Grace’s personal “little sister” from the Big Sisters program.  “She told us her mom liked the singer’s voice a lot.”

Grace caught a hint of amusement in Brian’s hazel eyes as he smiled at the Brownies.  He turned back to her.  “That would be...?” he prompted.

“Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane,” Grace said.  “And Harmony for--well, because my parents love music, and thought it was a cool middle name.”  She turned too, and winked at the girls

“I think it’s a pretty name,” another girl added.

“Yes, it is,” Brian said, still regarding Grace with an amused smile.  Why did that smile make her feel like her insides were melting?

She had to get back to the tour and conclude with the girls before she went on the air.  And not pay attention to the devastatingly masculine man who towered above her by a foot. 

Smiling at the troop, she said, “thank you so much for coming today.  Tina has some gifts for you as you’re leaving--WQNJ Frisbees for you girls, and coffee mugs for your moms.” She met the glance of Paulette Nichols, one of the chaperones, whose daughter she had come to know well in the last six months.

“What do we say, girls?” Paulette asked.

A chorus of thank you’s reverberated in the corridor.  As they slowly filed out, holding the Frisbees and coffee mugs, Grace gave quick hugs to LaShone, and Maritza, her roommate Yadira’s “little sister”.  “Yadira and I will see you guys next week!” she told the two.

Charles and Brian called  goodbye to the girls as they trooped out into the cold January afternoon.

Grace turned.  Brian had moved so he stood right behind her.

She tilted her head to look up at him, inhaling the scent of a subtle but masculine cologne. 

“You certainly have an unusual name,” he remarked.

“Yes, well, I like it,” she said lightly.  Her heart was beating more rapidly than usual.  “And it goes well with my special show, so I use it on the radio.”

“Your special show...?”

“The Love, Peace and Happiness Hour.  The show I do from five to six,” Grace said.  “That’s when I play music from the late 60’s and early 70’s.  From three to five, and then from six to seven,  I play the regular oldies from the 50’s through the eighties.  But during my show, I concentrate on the  music of those idealistic years.” 

She recognized the note of pride in her voice.  The show had been her own idea, and Charles Armstrong had liked it.  Apparently, so did their listeners.  The response had been enthusiastic, and she now had a large audience for the show.

“You know,” she finished.  “That time when the ideals of peace, love, and happiness were so prominent.”

“In other words, the hippie era.”  Brian said.  Grace thought she detected a dry note in his voice.

“Well, yes,” Grace said.  “When everyone believed that love was all you need, as the Beatles said.  And world peace and happiness were possible.  There was a song with that title--I play it as the show starts--by the Chambers Brothers.”

“Love, peace and happiness.”  This time there was no denying the sardonic tone of Brian’s voice.  “Yes, I’ve heard your show.” 

Grace stared at him.  “You sound so cynical.”  She said it quietly, trying to keep her voice from sounding as shocked as she felt.  Who didn’t believe in those ideals?  Or at least yearn for them?  He sounded...almost bitter, she thought.

Brian’s handsome face had taken on a skeptical expression.  “Yeah, well,” he said, his tone dropping lower, “it’s hard to believe in those ideals when life has taught you otherwise.”

Grace’s mouth dropped open.  She shut it hastily.  She’d met people who felt the same, of course.  People who looked at the negatives rather than the bright side of things.

Somehow, it shocked her that Brian was one of those people.

And the disappointment that swept through her core at his words surprised her.

“Happiness, yes,” Brian was continuing.  “That’s possible.  World peace....highly unlikely.”

“And love?”  The question was out of her mouth before she could stop it.

“Love...?”  Brian’s expression darkened.  “Improbable.  In fact, impossible.  At least...for some people.”

Poor guy.  It was the first thought that flew into Grace’s head.  What had happened to him to make him so cynical about love?

And why did it bother her so much?

“I don’t agree,” she whispered.  “Everyone is capable of finding love.”

“Platitudes from the anti-war era.”  Brian’s eyes met hers squarely, and she recognized the challenge there.

Beside her, Charles coughed.

She had momentarily forgotten his presence.  Glancing at the friendly face of her employer, Grace collected herself.  “I better get ready to go on the air,” she said. 

She tilted her chin up further, standing as straight as she’d learned in ballet classes.  “Why don’t you listen to my show?  It might change your outlook,” she suggested.  Although her words were as challenging as his, she said them in a kind, soft tone.  She didn’t want to fight with the man.  Only to convince him he was wrong.

“I always listen to the station.”  Brian’s words were unadorned but firm.

“That’s good.”  She left it at that.  Smiling once more, she finished, “I’m glad to meet you.  I’m sure I’ll see you soon.”  She glanced at Charles, noting his expression looked highly amused.  Had he found the interchange between her and Brian funny? she wondered.  “Thanks for letting LaShone’s troop visit today.”

“I always like it when young people visit,” Charles said.  “It opens up the world of radio to them.”

“And gets us some more listeners,” Brian added.

“True.”  Charles said.  “You don’t have to be old to listen to oldies.  It’s some of the best  music ever written.”

“I agree.”  Grace smiled at them both.  “See you later.”

She left them in the hall and walked past the reception area to the studio.  Since the speakers were always turned to their station, she could hear the song that was playing--a favorite by The Supremes.  Quietly slipping into the small room, she greeted Will, the late-morning and early afternoon DJ. He’d stayed later today so she could give the tour.  He nodded back, and handed her the headphones.

“Here.”  He also gave her a slip of paper with news about an accident on Rt. 46 tying up afternoon traffic.  “Just got this.”  His tone was low.

“Okay.  I’ll announce it right after the news,” Grace said, sliding into her seat.

The song ended, and the radio station’s call letters were announced, followed by the voice of Jan from the newsroom.  She’d have a few minutes of national and local news and weather before coming on the air.

She had already chosen music for today’s show.  But as she sat there, looking at the CDs she’d lined up, Grace had a new thought.  She decided to add one song.  It was a personal favorite, so she had no trouble finding it.

She listened to the news, but her mind raced all the while.  She was still tingling from the encounter with Brian, and unsure why.  She’d met plenty of handsome men before.  She had even liked some of them. 

Including Todd.  Now that was a mistake.

But she’d never had quite so instantaneous a reaction to anyone she’d just met as she had to Brian.

She mulled over their meeting.  It was sad, she thought, that Brian seemed so skeptical about life and love.  Perhaps he’d just never met the right person.  Or he’d been hurt in a previous relationship.

Growing up, Grace had never tired of listening to the story about her parents’ meeting.  Her mother loved to tell how she’d met Grace’s father, how they’d been instantly attracted and fallen quickly in love.  Grace had always wondered if someday the same thing would happen to her.  It had happened to her brother Don, now happily engaged to his girlfriend.

She’d never expected to find herself attracted to someone who was so obviously not interested in romance.

She suppressed a groan.  Well, she thought, perhaps he just needed to find the right person.

On that thought, the engineer in the next room signaled through the glass.  She’s be on the air in half a minute.

She straightened slowly, anticipation curling within her.  She might not be visible to the listeners, but she was on stage nonetheless.  She loved this part of her job.  She smiled, knowing it would show in her voice.

Carl, the engineer, signaled again, and the theme for her show began.

“All our love, peace and happiness, we’re gonna give to you...”

She waited for the song to play for a half minute.  The she leaned toward the microphone.

“Hello, and welcome to our Friday afternoon edition of the Love, Peace and Happiness hour!” she said brightly.  “Your hour to relax and unwind after a hard day’s work.  It’s Friday, and we anticipate the weekend!”  She paused for only a split second. “This is our show where you’re invited to tune into the music from the late 60’s and early 70’s, and recall those years when everyone  believed in peace, love and happiness; and strived to attain those ideals.”  The music slowly faded. 

“This is your flower child, Grace Harmony, host of the show,” Grace continued enthusiastically.  “I have some great songs lined up for your listening pleasure.  First, a traffic note:  there are back-ups on Rt. 46 headed west from Netcong to Hackettstown, all due to a fender bender at the bottom of the Hackettstown Mountain.  Expect some delays; and as our weatherman Tom said, sleet should be arriving later so watch out for those slick spots!”

She went on.  “For those of you new to the show, we showcase the music of that era that was so full of idealism.  If you have a favorite, let us know!  We’ll see if we can squeeze it in near the end of the show.  Any questions?  I’m this station’s resident Flower Child. My parents met at the Woodstock festival, and I grew up listening to this music.  It’s the best.” 

She grinned as she continued.  “Now, those of you who’ve listened in before know I’m named for my mom’s favorite female vocalist, Grace Slick, of the Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.  And of course I love their music!  Now we’re going to hear one of their most popular songs.”  She reached for the CD.   “Oddly enough, I met someone recently who just might need what the song suggests: Somebody to Love!”  She inserted the CD in the “cart” machine and turned the dial as she finished speaking.
As Grace Slick’s powerful voice vibrated  through the air, Grace leaned back in her seat.  She wondered if she looked as mischievous as she felt.  It was always fun to spontaneously chose a song that fit the moment, and this one seemed to suit her meeting with Brian.  He definitely needed somebody to love.