Thursday, October 4, 2012

Chapter 28

“New York?” I repeated, almost as if to nobody.

“London’s over, kid,” Claude answered.

He then said something about being really excited and how he’d contact me soon with all the information I would need for the move. I hung up the phone in a daze. I had just accepted a position that required me to move to New York City? And soon, by the sound of it. I couldn’t believe it. What was I going to do? How was I going to tell John?

On Sunday I stayed in all day waiting for John to call. It was his birthday and I wanted to be sure and wish him a happy birthday. Because Paul was busy composing music for the film, The Family Way, he and Christine had decided not to go to Spain after all, which was no disappointment to me. By midnight he still hadn’t phoned, so I decided to go to bed. At 12:30am my telephone rang. Luckily I was still awake, though lying in bed, in complete darkness. I contemplated not answering the phone, but decided against it. I dragged myself out of bed and, annoyed, made my way down the hallway to answer the phone.

“Hello?” I answered, irritation in my voice.

“Hullo, Mmm…aggie,” John slurred on the other end of the line.

I sighed into the phone.

“Well, aren’t you going to wish me a happy fuckin’ birthday then?” he asked.

“It’s 12:30 here. It’s not your birthday anymore.”

“Bollocks. It’s half past one here and it’s still me bloody birthday. It’s my bleeding birthday ‘til I wake up the next morning.”

“You had a good time then, I take it?”

“Tell me happy birthday,” he said.

I sat there in silence. It sounded to me he’d already had a happy birthday. I wasn’t sure why he needed me to wish him one.

“Tell me happy birthday,” he repeated.

I sighed heavily into the phone.

“Fuck’s sake, Maggie, tell me happy birthday!”

“John, I can’t call you at your villa in Spain, because Cynthia might answer the phone. Fine. I’m okay with that. I understand the way things are. But then I couldn’t tell you happy birthday when I wanted to tell you a happy birthday. So instead, I waited here all day thinking you’d probably call so I could wish you one. You didn’t. Just now I was in bed. Trying to go to sleep. It’s 12:30 here. It’s not your birthday anymore.”

“Tell me happy birthday,” he said.

“Oh for God’s sake, happy fucking birthday!”

John started laughing wildly. I wasn’t amused.

“Too busy drinking to call, I guess?”

“Oh, come off it. You know it’s hard for me to phone from here with her around all the fuckin’ time.”

I debated whether or not to tell John about New York right then, but in the end, I knew it wasn’t the right time.

“It’s hard and I hate it and I hate not having you here on me birthday. I miss you,” he said.

“I miss you too,” I said.

The last couple of months apart had really put a great deal of strain on our relationship. We hadn’t spoken to each other much and when we did, our conversations often ended in an argument about one thing or another. Through all the strife however, I still loved him madly. And just then, when he told me he missed me, I could hear the love in his voice too. Our fighting over the past several weeks had been the result of our sheer frustration over the seemingly unsolvable predicament we had gotten ourselves into. Though our conversation had gotten off to a rocky start, we talked into the wee hours of the morning. We laughed and cried about everything that had been going on with both of us and it felt just like old times. It was so easy to talk to him. I should have told him about New York right then, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I loved him so much. Every breath I took was for him. How could I leave him? It was an impossible situation.

A couple of weeks had passed and, as good as John’s and my conversation had been on his birthday, and as much as I really didn’t want to, I was moving forward with the plan to move to New York. In doing so, I told absolutely no one in the Beatle camp; not even Christine. I didn’t want to risk the possibility of word getting around to John. I wanted him to find out from me, but not over the phone. Our relationship was much too deep for me to spring the news on him in such an impersonal way. He deserved more. Unfortunately, the time for me to go was getting nearer and nearer and I wasn’t sure exactly when John was coming back. I had asked him a couple of times, but he was always rather flippant in his response, telling me he would be back “once the film was done.” I think he didn’t want me to know exactly when he was coming back in order to spare me from having to countdown the number of weeks I still had left before I could see him. So instead, I was at home counting down the number of days I had until I would maybe never see him again. It was absolute torture. I felt like I was lying, not only to John, the love of my life, but to everyone in my life that was most important to me.

One day my parents phoned and, though there was every probability of them telling Christine’s mother, even though I asked them not to, I chose to go ahead and divulge my plans to them.

“You’re coming home?!” my mother squealed, elation in her voice.

“Well, if by home you mean America, then yes,” I answered calmly.

“When did you decide this? Or better yet, why did you decide this? Is everything okay? You’re not in any trouble? On second thought, I don’t care. My baby girl is coming home!” she said without taking a breath between questions.

“I don’t know, Mom. It all happened sort of suddenly. This photographer I know just told me he’s setting up a studio over there and that he wanted me to work with him.”

“Photographer? What do you know about photography?”

“Well, nothing really, but he trusts that I’ll pick it up.”

“How well do you know this man, Maggie? I mean, he just offers you a job without you even having any qualifications?”

“What if it all goes belly up?” my father’s voice rang in. He was obviously listening over my mother’s shoulder.

“Then it goes belly up,” I answered. “And I’ll figure something out from there. But it’s a great opportunity. I didn’t see how I could say no.”

“You don’t even have a degree to fall back on now that you loused that up,” my father said.

“She doesn’t need a degree. She’s very bright. And she can always just come home and get a job here if things don’t work out in New York,” my mother replied.

I could tell that was really what she was hoping would happen. She’d love for me to have to come home with my tale between my legs.

“Henry’s girl is doing some real work,” my father said.

“Oh?” I asked. I had no idea who Henry was, nor did I care.

“Well everyone’s so against the draft these days, so she’s out registering boys who want to go out and fight for this country.”

“Oh, Maggie doesn’t want to do that,” mom said. And then, without giving me a chance to reply, continued with, “I hear Edith’s daughter just got a job in the television shop downtown. They received a whole shipment in of color televisions!”

“Now that’s a job that has no future. Television, hmph. Rots the brain,” dad chimed in. “Signing our brave youngsters up for service, that’s a job a person can be proud of.”

“What is there to be proud of about sending people off to die?” I asked. “At least television can bring people some enjoyment.”

“Listen, young lady,” my father started.

“Oh, who wants to think about that now,” my mother interrupted. “War… such a nasty business. Now, Maggie, you just keep us informed.”

“I will,” I replied, thankful for the change of subject.

I hung up the phone with only one thing on my mind: there was no way I was going to move back home. No matter what happened in New York, I was never going to live with my parents again and that was for certain.

Since I was already a U.S. citizen, there wasn’t much for me to do in order to get ready for the move to New York other than to notify my landlord and to arrange a moving company to ship my stuff overseas. This time I wouldn’t need permission to enter the country, much less to live there. I was going “home”, though it sure didn’t feel like it. I’d come to think of London as home. I was comfortable there. I knew a few people who lived in New York and I had been there several times, but the idea of living there, while somewhat exciting, still seemed frightening. A New York model, Vivienne, whom I met while I was in Paris, and had stayed in contact with, had been looking for an apartment for me in the city. Space was a bit more expensive in Manhattan than it was in London, so I was going to have to downsize considerably, but that was fine with me. She found me a little apartment on the third floor of a building on 8th Street, near Broadway, on the edge of Greenwich Village. Vivienne said it was a quaint little place in a happening area, so I told her to sign the papers, sight unseen. I only hoped she knew what she was talking about.

On Saturday, the 29th, George and Pattie stopped by for a visit. They had been back home from India for about a week and wanted to tell me all about their trip. Pattie brought me this colorful Indian tunic that was long enough to be worn as a dress. I oohed and aahed over it for a couple of minutes before George interrupted.

“Eh, Maggie, I don’t mean to alarm you, but I think someone’s nicked all your stuff.”

“What?” I asked, not thinking.

“You mean you hadn’t noticed?!” George exclaimed.

“George, that’s not very polite. Maybe she’s going for a minimalist look,” Pattie smiled.

My heart sunk. I had become so used to the idea of moving, I had forgotten I hadn’t told anyone else about it. They were the first people that had been over. I struggled with how to answer while George wandered off.

“Here, here, I’ve found it. It’s all in boxes in the other room,” he said.

“Don’t tell me you’re moving again?” Pattie asked. “This place is fab. You couldn’t ask for a better location than right across from the park!”

“Yeah, where you going then? No one’s said anything to us about you moving,” George said.

“Um… well…” I hesitated. “That’s because no one else knows.”

“You what?” George said. “Not even John?!”

I shook my head slowly.

“Oh, Maggie,” Pattie said, eyes wide. “Where are you going?” she asked, in a way that told me she was afraid to know the answer.

“Okay, you guys, I’ll tell you. But you must promise to keep it under your hats.”

“Come off it, Maggie, you know you can trust us. But why you’re keeping it a secret in the first place, I don’t understand,” George said.

“Because I don’t want anyone telling John before I do. And I don’t want to tell him over the phone.”

“But if you’re just moving round the corner or something?” Pattie said, a pleading look in her eyes.

“Maggie?” George said.

“I’m moving to New York.”

“Bleedin’ hell! And you expect me not to tell John?!”

Pattie stood there, agape.

“Look, I just don’t want him to find out from someone else before he hears it from me. And this is kind of a big deal, so I’d like to tell him in person. The problem is that he won’t tell me when he’ll be back home. Do you happen to know?”

George shook his head.

“But surely you won’t be gone long?” Pattie said. “And, he can visit you there and you can visit him here. It’ll be fine. I know people who make it work.”

I didn’t respond and George just stared at me. The optimistic look on Pattie’s face vanished as she understood that I had no intentions of trying to make it work. Then, as if from nowhere, tears began to well up in her eyes.

“Oh, Maggie!”

And as she moved toward me to give me a hug, I followed her and also began to cry.

“We’ll miss you!” she said, squeezing me tightly.

“Why are you doing it?” George asked, a cold tone in his voice.

“Because I can’t do this anymore, George,” I replied.

“But he loves you. And you love him. I know you do!”

“I do, but it’s not fair to either of us anymore. Or Cynthia.”

“Get away, you know the score, Maggie!”

“George, I’m sorry you had to find out first. It was wrong of me to tell you before I told him. I shouldn’t have put you in this position.”

“Isn’t there anyway you two could make it work?” Pattie asked.

I smiled at her and shook my head slightly.

“Right, Pattie, we’d better go,” George said.

She hugged me again and made for the door.

“We will miss you, you know, Maggie? It’s not every day any of us can find a mate like you. Sorry things had to work out like this. We only wanted you and John to be happy. We all love you. Take care of yourself, yeah?”

He turned to go and I grabbed him and hugged him. He had a thin frame and he smelled of incense. I squeezed him tightly, teardrops falling onto his denim jacket.

“Keep in touch?” I asked.

“Course,” he smiled, and then turned to leave.

And that was the last time I ever saw George Harrison.

Exactly one week later, on the next Saturday I was getting rather anxious as I only had a few days before I was set to leave and I still didn’t know when to expect John back. He was still being vague with his return date. Luckily though, it didn’t appear that George had told John about my move. Poor George. It was really asking a lot for him not to divulge such important information to someone who was like a brother to him, but it was a testament to his character that he kept the news to himself. Everything in my apartment was packed. In fact, the things that weren’t completely necessary were already gone. I had only the essentials left. I was going to ship the rest the day before I left. And I was ready to leave. I had finally spoken to Lydia and explained to her that I was moving to New York and would no longer need her services. To my surprise she was perfectly cordial and wished me well. In fact, she said she’d love to come visit me in the city if I’d have her. I told her we’d have to see how it went. It’s not as if she and I were ever on friendly terms. She was my agent and I was frequently annoyed by her. That was pretty much the extent of our relationship.

There came a knock on my door that put the fear of God into me. I wasn’t expecting anyone. Who could it be? With my heart beating a hundred beats per second, I slowly opened the door.

“Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun,” Paul and Christine stood there singing the words to the popular wartime song, wearing barbershop quartet hats and pinstripe vests, hands out in a “ta-da” fashion.

“What in the hell?” I asked.

They broke up laughing.

“Hey, no need for the language, we’re just having a bit of fun,” Paul laughed, pushing his way past me into my apartment.

“Where’s your furniture?!” Christine exclaimed.

“What are you two doing here?” I asked, annoyed. They had nearly given me a heart attack thinking they were John.

“We come to ask you if you want to…” Paul started.

“Uh, I’d like my question answered first, thank you,” Christine interrupted.

“…go to Paris with us tomorrow,” Paul finished.

“Oh, you want your question answered, do you? I haven’t heard from you in over two weeks, so-called best-friend of mine. And you just show up here asking if I want to go to Paris on such short notice?”

“Where is your stuff?” she repeated.

“New York,” I answered.

“What’s it doing in New York?” Paul asked.

“I’m moving there in a few days.”

“What?” Christine asked, obviously shocked.

“Look, I haven’t heard from you in a long time…” I started.

“When were you going to tell me?” she asked.

“Better yet, when were you gonna tell John?!” Paul asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, frustrated.

I wasn’t prepared for this. I had to think. When was I planning on telling Christine, my best friend for over a decade? I hadn’t thought about it. I hadn’t heard from her in a while and I was hurt. I felt unloved. Unwanted. I just wanted to go to New York and forget about everyone and everything. But now they were standing in my living room, obviously upset, and I had no answers for them. I felt awful. I wanted to run away.

“Maggie, love, you can’t leave without telling John,” Paul said, a serious look on his face.”

“I don’t believe you!” Christine yelled. “You’re so selfish.”

“I’m selfish? You didn’t know, Christine, because you haven’t been around! You don’t care about anyone anymore but Paul. And that’s fine, I get it. But don’t call me a bad friend for not reaching out to tell you something that was happening in my life, if you haven’t shown an interest in months!”

“Don’t you dare try to put this on me, Maggie! You’ve been so high and drunk all the time I just couldn’t relate to you. I didn’t know how to be around you anymore. I didn’t know what to say or do. I just had to distance myself from you.”

“Yeah, well I’ve been clean for weeks, but you wouldn’t know that either.”

“Girls, I’m very sorry you both have hurt feelings, right? And, I may be totally off here, but I think the bigger issue is that you’re about to leave and I know for a fact that John has no idea because I spoke to him a few nights ago and he didn’t mention a thing. Now, that is the biggest load of bollocks going at the moment, in my opinion. So, what gives, Maggie?” Paul said, obviously annoyed.

“It’s like I told George…” I started.

“George knows?!” Paul squealed.

“He and Pattie stopped by last weekend and I had to explain to them where my stuff was.”

This was getting complicated. I never meant to throw George under the bus. I knew the guys normally told each other everything and I should’ve known how Paul would feel that George hadn’t told him. I shouldn’t have said anything, but it just slipped out. I had kept it from them all so John wouldn’t find out; to make things easier. But, it only seemed to be making things worse.

I sighed, audibly.

“Oh, well we’re very sorry this is all so exasperating for you, Maggie,” Paul said sarcastically, rolling his eyes.

“Paul,” Christine said.

“No, it’s not right, Chris. She’s got to tell John,” he demanded.

“Tell John what?” a voice said from the front door.

John was standing in the doorway. His hair was shorter in the back and around the sides and he was wearing little round glasses with wire frames. He had on a blue sweater with a cream scarf and blue, purple and white striped pants. I thought I was going to faint. My breathing became shallow and a pain shot through my chest. I was having a panic attack, or a heart attack. Either way, I hoped it would kill me then and there. I sat down on the floor, hung my head between my legs, and took deep breaths, trying to calm myself. John ran over to me.

“Maggie?!” he exclaimed.

“Should we phone someone?” Paul asked frantically.

I shook my head.

“If she even still has a phone,” Christine muttered under her breath.

“Maggie, love? You all right?” John asked, worry in his voice.

I felt like I was going to vomit, but I nodded my head at him anyway.

“She’s fine. She’s just having an anxiety attack. And serves her right,” Christine said.

“Anxiety attack?” Paul repeated.

“Yes, she’s panicking. Aren’t you, Maggie?” Christine asked.

I nodded, my breathing slowly returning to normal.

“Not quite the reaction I expected,” John looked up at Christine and Paul and chuckled. Then he added, “You been burgled?”

“Uh, think we’d better go, Chris,” Paul said.

“Fine with me,” Christine said. “See you guys… or maybe not,” she added as they left my apartment.

“Maybe not? What’s she on about?” John asked. “And what are you doing having a panic attack at the mere sight of me? I’m not that frightening, I hope?” he asked, taking me into his arms.

I began to sob.

“Christ, I missed you. Feels like eternity since I’ve held you,” he said, kissing my forehead.

“John,” I whispered.

“There, there. You all better now?” he asked, raising my chin up to force me to look at him.

He looked beautiful. He was slightly tanned from the Spanish sun and his hair was fluffy in a way I’d never seen before. He looked almost like a different person.

“John,” I repeated.

“I love you,” he said, leaning in to kiss me.

“I love you too,” I said when we’d separated. “But there’s something I need to tell you. I didn’t want to tell you over the phone.”

“Don’t tell me you really have been burgled?”

“No,” I said.

This was it; the greatest dilemma of my life: to stay or go?  Was I really going to tell him I wanted to end it? I didn’t want to end it. In fact, I wanted desperately to not end it. But, I knew it didn’t matter what I wanted; what either of us wanted. I took a deep breath,

“John… I was offered a job… in New York.”

He looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“And I’m taking it… I’m moving to New York in a few days.”

“You’re having me on?” he said.

Tears began streaming down my cheeks.

I shook my head, “I have to go, John. I can’t do this anymore.”

“What the bloody hell are you on about, girl? Can’t do what anymore? I haven’t seen the sodding likes of you in nearly three fucking months!” he raised his voice.

“John, please don’t do this. I don’t want to fight.”

“Don’t want to fight? I rushed over here just after we got in! I wanted to tell Cyn it was over soon as the fucking plane landed, but I remembered how you asked me not to. So, soon as I put me bleeding luggage in the house, I fucked off over here because I was so bloody desperate to see you. I been dying in sodding Germany and Spain for months not seeing you; barely able to speak to you. Dying of not being with you and the second I walk in the fucking door you tell me you’re moving to blinking New York fucking City? Aaaah!” he let out a guttural moan and cupped his face in his hands. “Are you trying to kill me? Because that’s what will happen if I can’t be with you, Maggie. I’ll fucking die,” he started to sob.

“John, please don’t,” I said, wrapping my arms around him tightly.

We sat there sobbing together until neither of us had anymore tears to shed and then we sat in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Then finally John spoke.

“Don’t you love me anymore?” he whispered.

It was then that my heart shattered into a million pieces and I knew it would never be whole again.

“With every fiber of my being,” I replied.

“Then how can you do this to us?” he asked.

“Because, John, you and I are not the only ones involved.”

He didn’t respond. We’d had this conversation before. There was no reason to rehash it.

“In another lifetime?” he asked, after some time had passed.

I only nodded my head, unable to speak.

John stayed the night that night and we stayed up all night talking, sharing our hopes and fears for the future. We promised each other we’d remain friends and he promised me he’d never love another the way he loved me. But I couldn’t make the same promise to him. Not because I didn’t believe it was true, but because it was much too painful a thought. He made me promise he could come and visit me whenever he was feeling lonely, to which I agreed, but only as friends. I told him I never wanted to lose him as my friend and he promised to call every week to update me with what was going on with everyone. He made me promise to phone the moment I got settled in New York and I told him I would. On Sunday morning, John wanted to make love, but the idea of experiencing that connection we had to each other when we were physical made my heart wrench. I told him we couldn’t; that we were just friends now and, as difficult as it was for both of us, we didn’t do it. We wandered around the park for most of the day and then went out for a bite to eat. By the time we got back to my apartment, we were both exhausted from having not slept the night before, and the sheer emotion of it all and we passed out in each other’s arms, not waking up until the next day. Monday I had to finish shipping the rest of my belongings back to the states and I couldn’t bear for John to be with me when I did it, so we said our goodbyes.

“‘Til we meet again, Miss Jones,” he said in an uppity tone of voice.

“Don’t know where, don’t know when?”

John giggled, and then pulled me to him kissing me with an intense passion.

“I love you more than you will ever know” he whispered in my ear.

I felt a lump rise in my throat.

“I’ve never been made to feel more loved in my entire life, John Lennon. And I will never love another man the way I love you.”

I had promised myself I wouldn’t speak those words, but in the end, I couldn’t help it. I wanted him to know just how much he meant to me. We kissed again, tears trickling down both our faces.

“Look what you’ve done now, love. You’ve gone and messed me makeup,” he said in an effeminate voice, rolling his eyes and wiping the tears from under them.

I giggled and kissed each of his damp cheeks.

“Do be careful, love.”

“I will.”

And with that, John left my apartment. Luckily I had things to do to take my mind off events, or I probably would have spent the rest of the day sobbing. After I’d taken care of the last few things on my “To-Do” list, I decided to phone Christine. No answer. I suddenly remembered she had gone to Paris with Paul. I felt awful for not telling her goodbye, so I wrote out a long letter and caught the tube over to St. John’s Wood, and posted the letter through her letterbox. It wasn’t my favorite way of telling her after all we’d been through, but I explained everything in detail, so hopefully she’d understand. After that, I was totally drained, so I returned home for one last night.

My flight left Tuesday morning, promptly at 9:30am. John had offered to take me to the airport, but I couldn’t bear it. It had been hard enough to say goodbye to him at my apartment; I didn’t want his face to be the last thing I saw before I left London. I was afraid if he was there I might not be strong enough to get on the plane. I was afraid I might just stay in his car and ask his driver to take us to the end of the earth somewhere where no one knew his name or that he was married. Somewhere where no one had ever heard of The Beatles. But I knew that no such place existed and so I told John thanks, but no thanks. I wanted to be alone. To make a new start of it on my own. And so I did. I caught a cab to Heathrow, through Notting Hill and Kensington, past the locations of parties and photo-shoots, through Hammersmith and Chiswick, past the memories of drug-filled nights and shouting matches, through Brentford and Lampston, past the anger over other women and the hurt of losing a child.

It may have been the swingin’ place to be at that time, but for me Claude was right; London was over.

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