Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chapter 2

I was caught off guard. Why was Paul calling? Christine hadn't had enough time to phone him and tell him everything that I had just told her. We had only just hung up the phone a few minutes earlier. It must've been John that called him. Yes, I was sure that was it. John had already called Paul up to brag. That jerk.

"Yes this is Maggie, Paul," I said.

"Oh I'm sorry, Maggie I didn't recognize your voice. You sound a bit different, do you have a cold?" he asked.

"I may be catching a bit of something, I don't really know," I lied.

I wasn't about to tell him I had been crying over John.

"Was there something you needed, Paul?" I asked.

"Oh, yes sorry... err... Maggie, I'm not sure exactly how to begin," he said.

Then I became worried. What was he about to tell me? I couldn't for the life of me imagine. All sorts of ridiculous thoughts began running through my mind. Was he about to tell me John had told him we screwed and asked him to call and let me know he never wanted to see me again? Was he about to tell me John had been involved in a car accident on the way home and was injured seriously or even dead? Or was it something not having to do with John at all? I had noticed Paul looking at me earlier during the night. His eyes were on my legs, then on the little amount of cleavage I was showing. I knew what womanizers the Beatles were, but his girlfriend’s best friend? Surely he wasn’t about to ask me out? What if it’s just sex he wants? Maybe he wants to come over? Maybe John had told him what happened between the two of us and now he thought he deserved the same treatment from me? Or maybe it had nothing to do with me at all? Maybe he was thinking about asking Christine to marry him and wanted my advice! I knew none of these were very plausible, but I couldn't come up with anything else that made any more sense. He had never phoned me before.

"Just spit it out, Paul. It's late," I snapped without meaning to.

"It's about John," he said.

Damn it. I knew it. Why couldn't it have been the marriage proposal thing?

"Yes, what about him?" I asked.

"Well, I know it really isn't any of my business, but what exactly is your problem?"

"With what?" I asked through gritted teeth.

"With John."

"You're right, Paul it really isn't any of your business," I said angrily.

"Well, it's just that he tells me the two of you had a really great time tonight, then suddenly you just shut down. He can't understand it. He's really torn up," Paul said.

"He can't understand it?!" I asked furiously. "He's married, Paul. What exactly is there to understand?"

"What?... Cyn?... They're not in love," Paul said matter-of-factly.

"Then why are they married?" I begged.

"Because they are," he said. "That's their business, you know. Anyway it really has nothing to do with you and him."

"Oh my God," I said. "Does Christine know you think this way?"

"I understand the situation," he said.

"Look Paul, I'm sure you already know something happened tonight between John and I, so you should know this as well, I never meant for it to and if given the chance I would go back and undo it. It was wrong and it never should have happened. Got it?!"

"Don't you like him, Maggie?" Paul asked.

And with that simple question all my anger at John for having Paul call me was washed away. I felt like I was in junior high school again broken hearted over a boy I wanted so badly but knew I couldn't have. And I began to cry for the billionth time that night.

"Oh, Christ, Maggie I didn't mean to make you cry," Paul said. "I'm surrounded by bloody basket cases here."

"What do you mean surrounded?" I asked. "Is John with you?"

I had just assumed John had called Paul and told him everything. I never imagined him to be there with Paul. Or even less, to be a basket case over what happened. Then again, perhaps Paul was exaggerating?

"Yeah, would you like to speak to him?" Paul said in a lighthearted manner.

"No! Thank you anyway, Paul, but no."

"He's really upset at the way things ended, Maggie. Torn to pieces over it. I've never seen him this way over a bird. Usually very collected, you know."

I didn’t know Paul well enough yet to determine whether or not I could trust him. I went back to junior high in my mind and had a picture of John hanging over Paul's shoulder whispering things for him to say to me. Or was Paul being sincere? I didn't know what to believe. And I wasn't sure it mattered. None of it made John any less married. I decided not to respond.

"He just can't understand why you can't understand that's it's complicated between him and Cyn. And I can't either to be quite honest. They've known each other for a long time, Maggie. They have a child, you know. It's not as simple as that they're in a loveless marriage and that he's a lying cheater."

"Oi!" I heard a voice protest in the background and I couldn't help but smile through my tears, recognizing John’s voice

"You should talk to him, Maggie. Sort things out between you two. I think he honestly likes you. Must do. He came over my place crying his eyes out because he says he thought there was something between you then you suddenly sent him home. He says he felt a…” he said. “What was it, mate?” I heard him ask away from the phone.

“Spark, you fool,” I faintly heard John say.

“Right, thank you for that,” Paul responded to John into the receiver, then continued speaking to me, “He said he felt a spark or something. And that tells me he really likes you. He doesn't just use that sort of fruity language for no reason. And then he asked me to phone you up because he said you seemed angry when he left you at your place and probably wouldn't want to speak to him," Paul said.

"I was angry at myself. Angry for allowing things to go as far as they did," I said.

As oddly easy as it was to talk to Paul I suddenly realized how strange it actually was to be having this conversation with him, someone I had never even spoken to on the phone before. He was practically a stranger when I thought about it in those terms.

"Look, Paul I really appreciate what you're trying to do here, as far as helping out your friend and all, but I'm sort of uncomfortable talking to you about all of this."

"You wish to speak to John then?" he said his voice trailing off as it had when I heard him speaking to John away from the phone.

Then I realized he was handing the receiver over.

"No!" I yelled into my phone.

But it was too late. He had handed the phone to John.

"Maggie?" I heard a voice so small it was barely audible say.

I did not respond. Instead, I sat and held back my tears as well as my breath. Hearing his voice just brought back the pain and anger at what had happened.

"Are you there?" John asked.

I didn't want to speak to him. I didn’t want him to hear my voice. I didn’t even want him to hear me breathing, so I continued holding my breath.

"She's hung up, Paul," I heard him say. "I told you she doesn't want to speak to me. Don't know why you gave me the bloody phone."

I could hear the pain in his voice and I released my breath and cried.

"Maggie, have you hung up?" Paul's voice returned.

"I told you I didn't want to speak to him," I said through sobs.

"Christ, you're as torn up as he is. It's bloody ridiculous is what it is. I do wish you'd speak to him."

"I can't," I said catching my breath.

"Yeah all right. I s’pose I understand," Paul said. "Speak to you later then, love."

And we hung up the phone.

Days passed and I hadn't heard from John. In fact Paul and Christine hadn’t even mentioned him. We all went to a party one night and I finally met Ringo and George. I already felt like I was part of the family since during the course of Paul and Christine’s relationship I had met several members of Paul’s family, so it was fitting that I should finally meet the “other members” of his family. And though I already knew Paul and John, I was once again star-struck in front of George and Ringo. John wasn't at the party and I didn't ask where he was.

George was lovely. He wasn't the "shy one" like everyone always said at all. In fact, he was very talkative and friendly. And funny. He was so funny. Maybe even funnier than John. I spoke to him for quite a while. He had very interesting things to say and I loved his Liverpudlian accent. It was slightly different from John’s and Paul's though I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. Maybe it was a little thicker than theirs? Though he was funny, he wasn’t always clowning around or saying things just to get a reaction like John did. He seemed pretty mature for his age. He was very insightful. And Ringo was just a hoot. He was probably the easiest of the four to talk to. There was no flirting or ridiculousness going on when we talked, just two normal people having a conversation about anything. His wife, Maureen was there and was just as friendly and easy going. She and I got along fine. The two of them were very down-to-earth. The party was fabulous, but as odd as it was, I found myself missing John. I didn’t want to miss him and I definitely didn’t miss certain things about him, but things were more quiet and calm when he wasn’t around. And though that was nice to a certain degree, I missed the level of excitement he brought to a room when he was present.

A few monotonous weeks of traveling between home and school and home and work passed until one day when I was at school, I overheard a couple of my classmates speaking to each other about the Beatles.

“Can you imagine, I’ve never seen the Beatles live in concert? I mean, I’m living over here where they actually live, and they go perform in my home town in America when I’m not there?! My mother and sister went to see them without me! Can you believe it? It’s too much to bear!” one girl, who was obviously American, screeched.

“Oh no! That’s awful! I’ve seen them once in concert, but not here in London. It was when some mates and I were on holiday in Spain, of all places. They were fab! Absolutely fantastic! My favorite is Paul. ‘Course, I think he’s the only one single now. Maybe George? I’m not sure. I haven’t really been keeping up. Too busy with school lately and that,” said the other girl in a distinctly British accent.

“Oh, mine is John. I know he’s married, but it’s not like I would ever stand a chance anyway. Still, given the opportunity…” said the first girl dreamily.

“Pamela, you’re so bad!” laughed the other.

And I had to stifle my laughter. That American girl didn’t know how good her chances actually were! Especially since she was quite attractive. Maybe I should have offered to introduce her?

When I got home from school, I threw all my belongings on the table and promised myself I would start studying later. I didn’t have to go to work that evening, so I decided to take a quick nap on the sofa and when I woke up I would study. I turned on my television set to find news coverage of the Beatles in America. It wasn’t their first time there, but you would have thought it was the way the crowds were carrying on. I changed to another channel and there they were again. Wasn’t there any real news on that evening? I switched the channel again and finally found something other than Beatle coverage. It was a really ridiculous comedy, I still wasn’t really fond of slapstick British humor, but I left it on the channel anyway and plopped down on my sofa, quickly drifting off to sleep. Hours later I awoke to a pitch-black apartment and the remembrance of my promise to myself. I flipped a light on, went over to the table and took my books out of my bag and began to study. After a while my stomach was aching with hunger, so I scrounged up a snack and returned to the table to study. I studied for hours, and at some point must’ve fallen asleep because the shrill ring of the telephone jarred me from my peaceful slumber and I awoke with a pounding heart and paper stuck to my face. At first I couldn’t remember where I was, as I was not used to sleeping at my dining table. And in a daze, I searched hastily for my telephone while catching a glimpse of my clock, 6:20 AM. Who in the hell would be calling this early, unless maybe it was my family back home? They always seemed to forget the time difference.

“Hello?” I said into the telephone more accusatorily than anything else.

“Maggie! Hullo, love!” I heard.

And though I was not yet quite awake it took me no time to recognize the voice.

“John? It’s 6:20 in the morning.”

“Sorry, love, can never quite get the time difference down. I’m in America now.”

“So I hear,” I said.

Even if I was a bit annoyed at being woken up, I was glad to hear his voice, though I hated to admit it. It was loud on John’s end. Between music and people talking I could barely hear him. I assumed they were at a party. When they weren’t working the Beatles were always at or having a party.

“People are soddin’ crazy here, you know, in this native land of yours. We’ve gotten all sorts of bizarre fan letters and threats. Georgie Porgy’s been a little afraid at times.”

“But you’re not?” I asked, amused.

“Hell yes I’m scared silly half the time! We’d be fools not to be, but that’s just part of it I s’pose,” he laughed. “Then there’s all the fuckin’ reporters asking all the same borin’ questions over and over. It’s mind numbing, you know. But Brian won’t let ‘em ask us anythin’ real. So it’s sort of not all their fault really.”

“Well, it sounds like everything is all right, right now at least. Having a party?” I asked.

“Oh you know, just a few friends over to keep us entertained. We invited some stars, but no real good ones came. Still there’s booze and pot and that’s enough to keep me mildly happy. We’re here in some bloody millionaire’s mansion. They’re lettin’ us use it for a while, but we’re just trashin’ it, you know,” he laughed.

I was surprised at how good he sounded. The last time I had spoken, or not spoken rather, to him when he was at Paul’s house sounded completely miserable. So, he was obviously past being upset, or else he was so high on adrenaline, if not another substance, he was merely feeling good just at that moment. Maybe it was a little of both?

“And the others?” I asked.

“Other than George and myself bein’ scared for our bloody lives when we go out, you mean?” he laughed. “They’re great, you know. We like America, just a little more wild here than in Britain. That’s all. You can tell your friend that Paulie’s being a good little boy. Faithful and all that crap,” he said.

“I’ll be sure to let her know,” I said.

“So how are things with you, then? Haven’t spoken to you since… well, since our last meeting, if that’s what you want to call it. You were sort of angry then. Wasn’t sure if I should try to get ‘hold of you, you know.”

“Uh huh. I’m fine,” I said.

“Are you? Based on last time, I’m not so sure I should believe that.”

“I was just mad at the situation, John. It was just wrong, you know?”

“Nothin’ wrong about that, love. Nature, that was. Screwin’, it’s just natural,” he said. “Christ, what do they teach you girls here in America?” he said in a comical voice almost as if he wasn’t saying it to me.

Then I heard a couple of girls giggle loudly, which told me all I needed to know.

“Why am I not surprised?” I asked amusedly.

“I don’t follow, love,” he replied somewhat confused.

“That there are girls with you.”

“Oh, Maggie… jealous are we?” he taunted.

But I wasn’t. I liked him, as wrong as it was, and I knew he’d probably sleep with those girls among a number of girls while they were in America, but I also knew they didn’t mean anything to him. And so, I wasn’t jealous in the least. Maybe that was the way Cynthia viewed his infidelity as well?

“Nope, just passing judgments,” I teased.

“Ah yes, America, land of the judges, home of the uptight,” he said.

The girls giggled again and I joined them on my end of the receiver.

“You made it perfectly clear you didn’t want me, love, so I had to go and find a couple bright-eyed birdies that did. And surprisingly, that was not as difficult a task as one might think.”

“I’m sure,” I said.

“Well… someone had to fill the void,” he laughed.

And I laughed. It was good to speak to him. I had missed his sense of humor.

“Ey! I wrote a song about you,” he blurted out.

“What?” I asked hoping I had misunderstood him.

“You heard me,” he said.

“You didn’t?” I asked hoping he was just joking.

“It’s not one of my best, mind you, but it’s a nice little tune. Paul helped me finish it,” he continued as if he hadn’t heard me.

“Why did you…” I started again, but was having difficulty completing my thoughts.

“I’ve never had to chase a girl, you know?” he said.

“Then don’t,” I said, but he didn’t seem to take notice of that comment either.

“Well, maybe in the early days, but that was all just bullshit. Childish games and that. Tryin’ to one up the other boys by trying to pull birds I knew I had no chance with,” he continued with a little giggle.

I sat silent, not really sure what he expected me to say.

“I won’t tell you which song it is if that’ll make you less uncomfortable,” he said sensing that I was uneasy. “But when our new LP comes out, I’m sure you’ll be able to guess.”

My heart sank.

“John,” I said.

“So, anyway Maggie, I was wondering…” he continued ignoring my uncertainty.

After all that business about the song, I couldn’t imagine what he was going to ask me, but I was almost positive I didn’t want to know. And I was certain I didn’t want to get into a serious conversation over the phone, or anywhere else for that matter.

“Yes?” I asked nervously.

“D’you think there’s any sort of hope that we could be friends then?” he asked.

I exhaled a deep sigh of relief and he took notice.

“What the bloody hell d’you think I was goin’ to ask? You to marry me? Christ, don’t get so excited.”

“Friends… huh? I’m not so sure John.”

“Come off it, Maggie. Why the hell not?”

Then I heard the girls on John’s end say something I couldn’t quite make out and the noise in the room quickly lessened. I suppose people had gotten the hint that he needed a bit of privacy.

“Honestly?” I asked.

“It’s all I ever ask for, love.”

“I’m not sure you’re capable of just being friends with a girl,” I blurted out.

“Sod off,” he said. “I’ve got loads of friends that are girls. Sure I’d shag any one of ‘em if they gave me the chance, but they don’t and I respect that, you know... For the most part.”

I laughed though I wasn’t sure he was joking.

“I just like being with you, you know. And if we can only be friends, then we’ll only be bloody friends as much as I may not like it.”

“I suppose we could try it,” I said.

“Oh you suppose do you? Well, I guess I should feel honored then?”

“Yes, you should actually,” I teased.

“Oh yeah? Well, good because I really want to get to know you better. I mean I already know you pretty well if you know what I mean… he said in a comical voice.

I did know what he meant, but I wished I didn’t. I chose not to respond to that comment.

“Right. Well then, now that’s settled, I better be going. Brian’s going to have one hell of a phone bill to pay. Not that I care, mind you. My money anyway, eh?” he laughed.

“All right John. Have fun,” I said.

“Speak to you later, love.”

After we hung up the phone I sat trying to figure out what had just happened. And how it had happened? How had John been able to talk me into something like that after what happened between him and me? I didn’t really think we were capable of being just friends. Why had I agreed to it? We hardly knew anything meaningful about each other, much less had ever been friends. We had only ever met four times and each of those times consisted of hardly more than my attempts to ward off his flirting. And then there was that whole sex in the back of his Rolls Royce issue, which I could still barely believe happened. He was married and I couldn’t stand the idea of being “the other woman.” But that’s what I was. At least that’s what I was on that particular night. And we now were going to try and be “just friends”? After I left him in his car, refused to let him come into my house, and then wouldn’t speak to him? This “friends” thing was never going to work. Was it? Or, maybe it would be okay? I would just have to make sure never to let myself get that carried away again. It just couldn’t happen another time. I hated the idea of breaking up any home, much less the home of a world famous Beatle. But the fact that I was undeniably attracted to him was going to make things that much harder. What was I going to do if he did try anything again while we’re “just friends”? Just keep denying him until he’s too hurt to be around me? Some friendship that’ll make. Still, I loved being around him so much. Trying to at least be friends with him sounded like an appealing idea, even if at the same time, it also sounded virtually impossible. This had disaster written all over it.

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