Excerpt “Hi, you two.” Andy stepped back and held the door open. “Come on in. I just need to shut down my computer and get my coat, and we can get going.”
“Sure.” Noah smiled. “Andy, this is my daughter, Emily. Em, this is Mr. Andy Lane.”
Emily looked up at Andy, her eyes wide with curiosity. “I’m Emily Coleman-Davis,” she said, smiling shyly.
Andy squatted on his heels, putting himself closer to her level, and held out his hand. “Hi, Emily. I’m Andy. It’s very nice to meet you.”
Emily seemed to lose a bit of her shyness as they shook hands. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Andy. Do you have a dog?”
Andy appeared to take the left field question in stride, but then, he worked with kids at Kaufman’s, so he probably had a fair bit of experience with their random jumping from topic to topic. “I wish I did, because I like dogs a lot, but my landlord doesn’t allow pets.”
“I like dogs, too! I hope Snoopy likes me, I wore my Clifford shirt for him!”
Noah chuckled, impressed by Andy’s demeanor with Emily. He’d known plenty of adults who weren’t parents who simply didn’t know how to relate to little kids. They tended to be either condescending or dismissive, but Andy’s manner was putting Emily immediately at ease. “Why don’t we let Mr. Andy get his coat, Em?”
They stepped inside, and Noah looked around, curious about Andy’s home. It was clean and neat, although furnished in a “bachelor chic” style he remembered having in his own place before he and Jeff had moved in together. But there were unique touches, too, such as the framed posters of various music festivals and some autographed photos of musicians on the walls. One corner of the living room was obviously Andy’s practice area, containing an armless chair and a music stand. A mandolin rested on the chair, and there was a banjo case propped against the wall as well.
Andy went over to his desk to shut down his computer, glancing at them with a sheepish smile. “Sorry, I was checking email and time got away from me. I won’t be but a second.”
“No rush,” Noah said, looking at one of the posters, which was for the Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival. Emily moved to the mandolin. “Don’t touch, Em. That’s Mr. Andy’s.”
“This guitar looks funny, daddy,” she said, pointing to the bottom-heavy, teardrop shape of the mandolin’s body. “It looks like it’s going to have a baby!”
Andy laughed as he finished powering down the computer and went to join Emily. “It does, doesn’t it? It’s called a mandolin.”
“Man-do-lin,” Emily repeated, then looked up at Andy. “Can I touch it, please?”
Andy sat down cross-legged on the floor and picked up the instrument, holding it out to Emily. “Sure, you can touch it. It’s not fragile unless you drop it, but we won’t let that happen, will we?”
“No!” Emily shook her head, her expression solemn, although Noah saw the excitement in her eyes. She reached out with one hand to stroke the wood of the case and brushed her fingers over the strings. “It sounds sorta like a guitar, though. But funny.”
“It’s kind of like a guitar,” Andy explained, nodding at her observation. “But the shape of it makes it sound different.” He flipped the instrument onto its side and played a few chords, his graceful fingers dancing on the neck. “See?”
Noah found himself watching as closely as Emily did. Andy really was a natural with children, and Noah could easily imagine him as a teacher -- or as a dad. The thought made him blink in surprise, and he chuckled quietly. Andy might not have minded being looked at in that light, but no doubt Void would have been horrified.
“Pretty!” Emily clapped her hands in appreciation. “I like it. Do you play other instruments too?”
“I play the banjo, and I play the guitar a little, but I prefer the mandolin and banjo. What about you?” Andy gave her a curious look. “Do you like music?”
“Uh-huh.” Emily nodded. “I have a keyboard that plays Disney songs. I like to sing, and I like to dance, too!”
“When she isn’t wanting to be a pediatrician, she wants to be a gymnast, or a ballerina,” Noah explained with a grin. “Or maybe all three. Right, Em?”
“Yes!” Emily grinned and nodded. “Thank you, Mr. Andy. I like your man-do-lin.”
“You’re welcome.” Andy placed the mandolin carefully back on the chair and stood up, grinning back at her. “You just let me know if you ever want a private concert.”