Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chapter 3

Though I was still in shock at the terms John and I had decided to base our relationship under, I still could not wait to get to school, and to meet Christine for lunch later to tell everything. I was so excited I dressed as fast as I could, threw all of my books into my book bag, and hurried out the door to catch the bus. While I was riding through town I noticed the headline of a newspaper the man across from me was reading: BEATLES CONTINUE TO LEAVE THEIR MARK ON U.S. and a large photo of the fab four was below it. And I couldn’t help but smile. I actually knew those guys. And now I could safely call all of them my friends. Or at least, I hoped I could.

I sat through my first few classes barely able to concentrate on the words my teachers had been saying, much less the ideas they were trying to get across. Then finally a discussion caught my attention and brought me back into the real world.

“Take the Beatles for instance,” a classmate of mine said. “They are doing for popular culture what very few before them have done.”

I didn’t know what she was talking about or how the conversation had landed there, as my mind was previously thousands of miles away, but she had my attention now. In fact, I was downright interested even though I had no idea what they were talking about.

“And is that a good thing, or a bad thing?” my professor asked.

“Well good of course,” a male student answered.

“Ah, but some might not agree with you about that,” my professor stated.

“Just the people who are afraid of any bloody change that may come. And who cares if they agree or not?” the same student added.

“Well, let’s see,” my professor said moving around the classroom. “Is there anyone in this room brave enough to disagree? Anyone who thinks that maybe the Beatles are not having the best affect on society? Or anyone who thinks that maybe people are giving them too much credit? That maybe what seems like a cultural phenomenon right now may seem dull or ordinary later, once all the excitement has worn off?”

“But you could say that about anything,” a boy with a Beatle haircut said. “Who’s to know what might happen in the future?”

“Well, I think the Beatles are here to stay, and I for one am very glad about that,” a cheery female student interjected.

“I think someone’s in love,” another girl said in a singsong way.

The first girl’s cheery look never faded, but her face turned bright red as everyone in the classroom laughed.

“Well, I’m not afraid to go against everyone and say that I think they’re a bunch of bloody yobs. With their ridiculous hair and public antics. Anyone that’s got any amount of brains can see they’re that way for pure marketing strategies. There’s nothing at all authentic about that lot. Bunch of working class clowns, they are,” a very proper looking boy near the front of the classroom said.

The classroom erupted in a chorus of boos and I was glad to hear them. And just as I was getting interested in my class, it was over. Afterward, I hurried over to the little café where I was supposed to meet Christine for lunch. On the way, I passed a large advertisement someone had posted inviting people to join together at the airport to welcome the Beatles home from America next week. It was like everywhere I went I was being bombarded by the Beatles. I couldn’t escape them, which on that particular day I didn’t mind so much since I was in a good mood, but had been that unable to escape them a few weeks earlier, I probably would have shut myself in my apartment until the Beatles where no longer the subject everyone wanted to talk about. Which, would have probably been a very, very long time. When I got to the café I found that even despite my speediest efforts, Christine had still beaten me there. I threw myself into a chair at the table where she was sitting and proceeded to tell her of my literal wakeup call without even saying hello. She watched me with a look of disbelief that at first I didn’t understand. But I finally figured out that she had probably just been surprised I was speaking about John since I had made it pretty clear that I never wanted to talk to, or about, him again. In fact, she and Paul had avoided bringing up the painful subject at all costs. They had even kept quiet the details of the premiere for the Beatles new film, “Help!”, but I’m not sure how because, had I been Christine, I would’ve wanted everyone to know that I had gone to the premiere of the film!

“So what does this mean?” she asked after I had finished recounting every last word John and I had spoken to each other over the phone. “I mean, you forgive him, obviously?”

“It’s not about forgiving him, really. He didn’t do anything wrong. I mean, he did, but not all by himself.”

“Then why were you mad at him in the first place?”

“Christine, I was mad at myself. He’s married!” I started a little too loudly, and then quickly brought it down to a whisper. “I mean, honestly, I guess I was mad at him for putting me in the position, but one person can’t be a cheater unless they have someone to cheat with.”

“So now you’re just going to go on like nothing ever happened and try and be his friend?” she asked.

“I know, it sounds impossible,” I said. “But it’s worth a try, don’t you think? I really enjoy being around him, and you’re my best friend and you’re dating Paul, who is his best friend, so it just seems everything would be a lot easier if we can make it work. Then we can all just hang out like friends.”

Christine gave me a worried look. She had heard how upset I was after that night with John and I knew she was thinking exactly what I had really been thinking, that it would never work, but I refused to tell her I agreed. I wanted to stay positive.

“Well… it would make things more comfortable. Paul and I wouldn’t have to watch what we were saying around you, or make sure you two don’t run into each other, in the way we have been. If you think it’s possible, Maggie, then I say, ‘great!’” and with that, the expression on her face changed into one of hope. “So, he says Paul’s been good, huh? I’d believe that if I was there, but I know how those boys are when they’re away from home and the girls are throwing themselves at them.”

I couldn’t believe it. Was Christine telling me she knew that Paul cheated on her and she allowed it to happen? I wasn’t sure I should ask if that was what she meant. It really wasn’t any of my business, so I just decided to let it go. But I really was surprised. I had never thought of Christine as the type of woman who would put up with that in a relationship.

“I’m surprised he didn’t tell you about Shea Stadium,” Christine continued.

“What about it?” I asked.

“They played Shea, Maggie. They filled it actually.”

“What? You’re kidding!” I screeched. “You mean they did a concert at the baseball stadium?”

“Yes! There was somewhere around 56,000 people there! I can’t believe you didn’t know. Don’t you read the paper?” she laughed.

“Oh my God! That’s unbelievable,” I said.

And it really was. No one had ever played there before. Aside from the baseball teams. I thought about my class and what that girl had said about what the Beatles were doing for popular culture. They were changing everything. They really were.

“No kidding. Paul was so excited I could barely understand him he was talking so fast when he called. Full of adrenaline,” she said. “And...”

‘There’s more?” I interrupted.

“You’re not going to believe this one,” she sounded as if she couldn’t believe it herself. “I’m really surprised John didn’t mention this.”

“Come on, Christine! What is it?” I couldn’t stand the way she was slowly torturing me.

“They’re going to Elvis’ house in Bel Air in a couple of days,” she said quietly.

“What?!” Somehow I had managed to scream and whisper all at the same time.

“But you can’t mention it to anyone; they don’t really want it getting around to the press.”

“Is Elvis going to be there?” I was so confused.

Christine laughed.

“Of course he’s going to be there. What did you think? They’re just going there for a tour while he’s out?” she laughed.

I really was surprised John had not mentioned that. Elvis was John’s hero. Maybe he didn’t want to risk me telling someone and it getting around to reporters? Or maybe he didn’t want the other people at the party to overhear him?

“Elvis and the Beatles together,” I said to no one in particular. “That’s some kind of phenomenon all in itself I think,” I laughed remembering what my professor had said earlier about “cultural phenomenon.”

“So anyway, do you think you’ll come to the airport with me to welcome the boys home in about a week?” Christine asked.

“Oh I don’t think so,” I said. “I mean, Cynthia will probably be there don’t you think?”

“Well, you’re probably right. I guess it might be a bit awkward in front of Cynthia, I mean you’re seeing John for the first time since you two… well, you know?”

I frowned at her. I did know and I just wished I could quit having to think about it already. I thought I’d feel guilty for that for the rest of my life.

“Yeah I think I’ll sit that little meeting out,” I said. “But maybe after we’ve gotten the awkwardness out of the way I’ll be able to be around the two of them. I mean, I’ll have to be around them together if we’re going to be friends, right? Otherwise it might seem a little suspicious.”

“I guess so,” Christine said. “I don’t know if Cynthia will be there or not, but I was planning on going to visit Mo tonight, if you want to come with me. You know, just to check up on her. I can’t believe she’s due in just a few weeks. Why, realistically, she could have the baby any day now! I’m so excited for them. Ringo’s going to be such a good daddy.”

Maureen and I had gotten along famously when I had met her several weeks earlier, so I didn’t see a problem at all in going to her house for a visit. And without John there, I didn’t think it would be too uncomfortable even if Cynthia did happen to be present. Although, I really was hoping she wouldn’t be.

“Sure I’ll come,” I said.

Then I noticed a table of girls sitting a little ways away from us in the café and they were reading a magazine and looking over at us and whispering. One of them even went so far as to point at Christine even though she had seen me look at her.

“Um, Christine,” I said. “Have you ever been photographed with Paul?”

“Of course,” she said. “Nearly every time we’re out. And tons at the premiere for ‘Help!’”

“And do you ever see those photos published?” I asked.

“Well, once in a while, but hardly ever. I think Paul gets Brian to ask the newsmen to keep things quiet and usually they’re pretty respectful.”

“But have you ever been recognized?”

“Only a handful of times,” she said. “But, I think that’s pretty good for dating a Beatle. Could be a lot worse, I think.”

“Yes, but I think you’re being recognized right now,” I said as two of the girls marched over to our table.

“You datin’ Paul McCartney, then?” one asked in a very thick accent.

“No, we’re just friends,” was the standard line Christine had been told by Brian to give anyone who asked.

“ ‘Snot what this fan mag ‘ere says,” said the second girl in an accent that was, if possible, even thicker than the first’s.

“Well, I’m sorry, but they’re mistaken,” Christine said while looking at me with eyes widened as if to imply it were time to go.

“An’ yer a bloody Yank too ain’tcha?” the second girl said in a tone that was more accusatory than curious.

“Yes, well I’ve been living here now for a few years,” Christine said as politely as possible.

“She ain’t bloody attractive enough for Paul soddin’ McCartney if you ask me,” the first girl said to the second as if Christine and I were not sitting right in front of them.

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing no one did ask you, then,” I said.

I couldn’t believe the nerve of these girls.

“Look, luvvy,” the second girl said to Christine completely ignoring me. “You tell Paul if he ever gets tired of you, which can’t be too far from now if I were guessin’, I’d be more than ‘appy to take ‘im in.”

The first girl cackled an evil laugh and the two of them departed back to the table from which they came. Christine stood and looked at me as if she might cry. I followed her lead guessing it was time to go but as we were on our way out of the café one of the other girls at that table shouted,

“Aw, where ya goin, luv? I was gonna ask ya for yer autograph!”

And the whole table of them howled.

That evening Christine and I traveled to Sunny Heights in Weybridge to visit Maureen, and though we talked on the way there, neither of us brought up what had happened at the café that afternoon. I felt bad for Christine but figured it was probably just something you had to deal with if you were going to date a Beatle. I wondered if being married to one was any easier? Or maybe it was that much harder? Cynthia wasn’t present when we arrived at Maureen and Ringo’s home, but Pattie, George’s girlfriend was. I had never met her before, but she seemed to be a nice enough girl, though I did not find her to quite be at George’s level. Pattie seemed a bit preoccupied and somewhat flighty. She was very friendly and immediately gave me a hug and began chatting as if we were lifelong pals. I felt a bit uncomfortable with them, as they were all Beatle girls and I was just a friend, but Maureen helped me feel more at ease. She wasn’t as big as I had seen some pregnant women get, but she was definitely very pregnant. She looked like she was ready to have the baby at any second.

“Do you have names picked out yet, Maureen?” I asked.

“Call me, Mo, love, everyone else round ‘ere does,” she said. “And we’re thinking Zak for a boy. Don’t know that we’ve come to an agreement if it’s a girl though ‘cause Richard’s just sure it’s gonna be a boy,” she laughed.

“That’s a great name,” I smiled.

We drank tea and I sat and listened to them share stories about their Beatles. Some good, some not so good, and some I was altogether shocked they would share with each other. And by the end of the evening, I didn’t feel like an outsider anymore at all. I felt like they had welcomed me into some sort of “members-only” Beatle club.

The week went by fast and I could feel the anticipation for the Beatles’ return home. The air was thick with it. It seemed like everyone was talking about them and excited for their arrival. Or maybe it just felt that way because I was so excited. But as the day drew nearer I became more and more nervous. What if John had been drunk or something when he called me? What if he doesn’t remember our conversation at all? Or what if he changed his mind? I hadn’t heard from him again, maybe he decided being “just friends” would never work. Or maybe he had just said that so he could be near enough to me again to try and sleep with me one more time? I couldn’t let that happen. If that were the case, we’d have to stay away from each other. And then Christine and my friendship would eventually dissolve because we wouldn’t be able to be around each other as often. Then, not only would I lose my best friend, but I would no longer have a connection to the band I had worshiped for so long.

Every thought imaginable was running through my head when the day of their arrival finally came. And I was ill. I had literally made myself sick thinking about how wrong everything could turn out. I stayed at home wrapped in a blanket and nauseous watching their arrival at the airport on television, and then I drifted off to sleep. When I awoke the next morning I was feeling a great deal better. The extra amount of sleep I had gotten the night before seemed to have helped tremendously. As I was getting ready for school the phone rang.

“Hello?” I said curious as to who would be calling at that time of the morning.

“Bunk off school today an’ come with us,” a voice said.

My heart pounded in my chest. It was John.

“I can’t,” I said.

“Come on, Maggie, you can play good little school girl anytime,” he said.

“You mean like today?” I asked smartly.

“Um… NO, I mean like any other time,” he said in a comical voice. “And thanks for comin’ to welcome me home, by the way. Some sodding friend you are.”

“I couldn’t very well meet you at the airport with Cynthia now could I?” I asked.

“And why the hell not? You’re my bloody mate aren’t you?”

“Yes, but…”

“Then you should’ve been there,” he said. “But don’t worry, now’s your chance to redeem yourself,” he said.

I felt bad. Maybe John really was going to try at being friends. And I desperately wanted to try too, so I decided I would go wherever everyone else was going.

“Who else is…”

“We’re all goin’ over this house in Oxfordshire for a few days. Just to relax a bit, you know,” he said.

“Who is going?” I asked.

“Well you know, everyone really.”

“That means Cynthia will…”

“Yeah, her and me and Julian, and Paul and Chris, and Rich and Mo, and Pattie and George,” he answered.

“And me? I’m going to feel like a fool,” I said.

“And George Martin and his wife, Sheena, and Brian, and Neil and Mal,” he continued.

“Oh,” I said a bit embarrassed about my previous comment. “Must be a pretty large place to accommodate such a crowd?”

I had a mental picture of myself being the only single person there wandering around while all the other couples sat around nuzzling each other affectionately. But it sounded like there would be enough people that I wouldn’t stand out too much like a sore thumb.

“Yeah, it’s huge,” he said without picking on my earlier comment. “So, I’ll tell Paul, and he and Chris can come and pick you up. Be ready in a bit, love?” he asked.

“Um, I suppose so. Yes I can get ready pretty quickly.”

“Right then, see you in a while,” he said.

I hung up the phone and raced to my closet and pulled out my suitcase. I began throwing anything that seemed remotely appropriate for a weekend in the country into the suitcase. What the hell was I doing? I hadn’t gone to the airport to meet him because I didn’t want to see him for the first time again in front of Cynthia and now I was going to spend a three-day weekend in the country with him and his family? It was completely absurd yet I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to fill my suitcase. I wanted to see him and to hug him and to laugh at his ridiculous jokes, and all those wants were making it impossible to see the flaws in this seemingly perfect weekend. Before I knew it, there was a loud knock on my door. I finished shoving things into my suitcase and then tried to force it closed. Another knock. I couldn’t get the damn thing to close. It was just too full. Yet another, much louder knock. And this time the knock was steady and it was obvious that it wasn’t going to end until I had finally answered the door.

“Damn it Christine, hold on!” I yelled through the door while I was unlocking it.

But when I opened it all I saw was Paul standing there grinning ear to ear.

“Oh, sorry Paul, I thought…” I started, and then decided I didn’t have to apologize to him. He was the banging on my door. “Why the hell were you banging?” I asked.

“I wasn’t,” he said plainly.

“Then who…”

And before I knew it I was being scooped up into the arms of, and off of the floor by, someone who had hurried in through the doorway past Paul.

“John?!” I shrieked in surprise.

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