"Hello, Strawberry luv!"
The girl holding the phone, being so addressed, exclaimed, "Jemmy? Is that you?"
"At the moment, I’m Paul," the caller, Paul McCartney, replied with a laugh. "I’m at the office right now. I got back a couple days ago. How are you doing, my dear?"
"Wonderful, thank you," the girl, Lissa, nicknamed Strawberry, answered. "How are you?"
"Nothing to complain of," he said and she could hear the cheerfulness in his voice. "I just called to see how you’re doing."
"Can you talk for a while?" Lissa asked, twisting the telephone cord with her fingers.
"Yeah…just a minute; let me close the door." She heard him put the phone down and heard a door click shut and then open again. "Susan! Can you see to it that I’m not bothered for an hour or two?"
"Sure, Paul," came a faint voice.
Paul picked the phone up again and said, "Okay. So now we can talk. What have you been up to lately?"
"Are you still Paul or are you going to be Jemmy for me?" Lissa asked teasingly.
"I’ll always be Jemmy for you, Strawberry. I’ll always be my real self. Come ’ead, luv, talk to me."
Lissa told him about what had gone on in San Diego after his departure, how the fans had screamed and wept and then told him her routine at home. "You know, Jemmy, it’s summer vacation and all I’m doing is sleeping in and writing, reading and playing my guitar. All my friends are in summer school so I’m kinda…lonely."
Paul took a deep breath and said, "Well, my dear, I had more than one reason to call you. I wanted to know if you’d like to—you’re not doing anything, so—would you like to come here, to England?"
The world spun around Lissa and when it finally steadied itself, she laughed. "That’s a good one, Jem luv. Tell me another story."
"No, I’m serious. I’ll send you the tickets and you can stay here at my house. I’ll show you around—there are fountains to play in here too, you know."
Lissa laughed at that allusion to their crazy day together a week ago in San Diego’s Balboa Park.
"It’s prolly a bit more complicated than just going there, Paul," she said seriously. "My passport has been outdated for over ten years and my parents would never let me—"
"I got you a job," he cut in quietly. "There’s a play going on in London, a new one, being world-premiered, and I got you a role in it—the writer and director are mates of mine. You’ll have the supporting role—I couldn’t get you any higher because they’ve never seen you but that they were willing to give you that role says a lot. I told them that you’re an American girl, sixteen years old, and they said that was fine; you’re just what they need."
Lissa knew from the dead seriousness in Paul’s voice that he was not joking. All she had to do was accept—
"Paul, I don’t know."
He knew that she was not being coy—she’d called him Paul for the first time. "Please, luv; I’d love to see you again and I gave them my word that you’d be there."
He knew she had acting ambitions. She was trying to break into the acting world and he wanted to help her. He knew that she could be somebody, just given the opportunity.
To Lissa, this was painful. She wanted to go—being in a new London play was quite a thing to put on one’s résumé. And to see Paul—but her parents—
"Paul…" she began and he could hear the tremble in her voice, "could you talk to my parents? I never told them you were Paul McCartney; they really thought you were an acting pal of mine. I really want to go and I know they wouldn’t want to deny me a chance like this, but going so far away—"
"All right, Lissa, I’ll talk to them. I’m a parent too; I know what you mean. Put them on."
Lissa put the phone down and Paul could hear her yelling, "Mommy! Daddy! Someone’s on the phone!"
"My dad went to the store," she said into the phone a moment later. "Let me explain this to my mom first and then you can talk to her. Hold on."
"All right," Paul agreed and waited.
Lissa turned from the phone and took a deep breath. She explained everything to her mom and her mom liked the idea of the play, but she was a bit incredulous to the fact that Paul McCartney, the Paul McCartney, was inviting her. Lissa handed her mother the phone and watched as they talked. Her mother hung up the phone after finishing and turned to Lissa. "I don’t know about this, Lissa. You say that’s Paul on there, but…"
Lissa understood her mother’s skepticism and just nodded her head. The phone rang again and Lissa put it to her ear. "Hello?"
"Lissa, I think it would be better if I just flew out there. I’ll be there—today’s Tuesday—I’ll be there Thursday."
Lissa gave him her address and then said, "Paul, you don’t have to come out here."
"If I want you to come here, then yes, I do," he answered argumentatively. In a softer tone, he added, "It’ll be better if I do come. They’ll believe me then. Don’t worry about picking me up—I’ll find my way."
Lissa stared at the phone and put it back in its cradle dazedly. A nervous feeling began to roil and rumble in her stomach. The future seemed to have opened up before her eyes, demanding her to choose.
I’ll wait for Paul, she thought, clenching her teeth to rid herself of her nervousness. There’s no use in worrying over this…if I can go, I will. But if I can’t…
It was Thursday morning. Lissa had not slept well since Paul’s call on Tuesday and she looked at her alarm clock. Seven o’ clock. She thrust her head under her pillow and tried to sleep, but she couldn’t. She began imagining things for her stories, as she was a writer as well as an actress, and that helped her to drift in and out of sleep until nine o’ clock, when she finally decided she couldn’t sleep anymore. She got out of bed and turned to fix it and then went to the kitchen and hurriedly made some breakfast. After that, she began to get ready; Paul was coming today, wasn’t he?
She put on a white tanktop and dark blue jeans—simple clothes that still looked nice. She straightened her wavy reddish-brown hair with a blow dryer and curled her bangs, brushing them into place. She then applied her makeup and managed not to go crooked when she did her eyeliner and then she added mascara and lip gloss, saving the touch of lipstick for later. It was ten o’ clock when she finished.
She took out her guitar and played all the songs she knew over and over, singing along, trying to keep her increasing nervousness at arm’s length. Her voice had sufficiently warmed up and was in fine form. She sat at her keyboard and played all the sheet music that was lying around her guitar and then played her scales until both hands flew through "Für Elise" with no mistakes.
It was eleven o’ clock when she finished.
She got online and checked her mail, worked on her webpage (every teenager seemed to have one) and wrote pieces for her stories until the computer’s clock read 1:16 PM.
Where was Paul? She wanted to scream, getting more nervous and jittery by the second. She changed her outfit five times, ending up in her original, and fixed her fading makeup.
The kitchen clock read 3:07 PM.
C’mon, Paul, she thought and felt as if everyone in the family were staring at her. They’d all asked why she was dressed and made up, but she had only said, "A friend’s dropping by."
Lissa sighed and picked up a book and settled herself on her bed to read. She ended up dropping the book on the floor and she closed her eyes, trying to gain the sleep lost in those nervous days after Paul’s call.
As soon as she began to drift, she heard the doorbell ring, though muffled by her closed bedroom door. She lay there, eyes wide open and rather annoyed. The doorbell rang again and she knew that she was going to have to get it. She dragged herself out of bed and ran her fingers through her hair, bringing it to rest in waves on her young shoulders. She gave herself one quick glance in the mirror and then went to the door and opened it without bothering to look in the eyehole. She was so dazed that she didn’t even look directly at the person on the stoop after she opened the door.
"You look a bit tired, Lissa luv. Come here."
Lissa’s head jerked up. "Jemmy!"
It was Paul, at last! He gathered her in a hug and pulled her up slightly. "How’re you, my dear?"
"Great, wonderful," she murmured, completely happy to see him. "I thought you would never come."
"You know me better than that," Paul replied with a smile.
"Yeah…so come in! Here, let me get that for you." She took the suitcase in Paul’s left hand. "And take off your shoes, please; we have white carpet."
"Anything for you, love," he answered sweetly.
Lissa smiled and she shut the door behind them. "Should I get my parents now?" she asked nervously.
"No, not quite yet," Paul replied, looking at her with a soft smile on his face. He put an arm around her shoulders and gave her a half-hug. "Why don’t you show me around?"
"Okay," Lissa agreed. "Well, you’re in the dining room now—behind you is the kitchen." She tugged at his hand and they took about four steps forward and Lissa said, "Here’s the living room," and then turned back and led him into a small hall. "That door on the left is my parents’ room, this middle one is mine, and the last one is the playroom. That door goes to the laundry room and garage—" she nodded at the open door at the end of the hall (which makes it sound as though the hall were large, but it was quite small—the rooms were all within a few feet of each other) "and behind me is the bathroom. Come on; you can leave your things in my room."
She opened the plain white door and when he walked in, he couldn’t help smiling. His upper body was reflected in the mirror against the wall straight ahead of him and there were some pictures and poetry stuck in the sides of it. The mirror was part of a dresser and on top of the dresser besides books and small boxes and pictures, he saw quite a few CD cases in a row across the dresser, against the mirror. He went through them and Lissa blushed and sat on her bed as he looked around. Most of the 60 or so CDs sitting there were Beatles/solo Beatles CDs. He turned from the CDs and looked at the Yellow Submarine calendar on the wall and the posters and pictures on the same wall and on the back of her door. There were pictures of her choir, her friends, a panoramic school picture and lots of Beatles pictures. He saw a picture of himself with Linda and smiled affectionately at it. He turned back to Lissa and felt something brush his head. He looked up and saw a Yellow Submarine inflatable sub hanging from the ceiling just above his head.
"So I take it you’re a Beatles fan?" Paul laughed.
Lissa blushed again and inclined her head. He sat next to her on the bed and put his arm around her. "So, Strawberry luv, who’s your favorite Beatle?"
"Do I have to answer that?" she shot back, her familiar spirit shining through her eyes.
"Of course you do," he said with a grin.
"You’re smart; you figure it out," she said and stuck out her chin at him. He gave her another half-hug and he took another glance around the room. He saw a bookshelf against the other side of her bunk bed and a small dresser next to that. The room looked like it was ten feet by ten square. He wasn’t wrong.
He fell back onto her bed and stretched his arms out and then put his arms under his head. He closed his eyes for a moment and breathed in deeply; Lissa’s room smelled fresh and cool and he detected a trace of vanilla in the air.
"Paul," she said softly when he opened his eyes, "I’m nervous. I don’t know what they’ll say."
He pulled himself up and met her troubled brown eyes. "Don’t worry about it, luv. That’s why I’m here. Look."
He reached into his back pocket and pulled an envelope out. He handed it to her. Across the front her name was scrawled in his loopy handwriting. She looked at it curiously and opened it—a pair of airline tickets were inside.
"One is your ticket to accompany me back and the other is your return ticket," Paul explained quietly. "I know that I’m asking a lot from you, but in all my years as ‘Paul’ I haven’t met anyone like you. You didn’t greet me as a fan—you treated me as your friend from the moment we met. And you gave me a day of pure freedom—as Jemmy, as myself. So I want to spend more time with you—cement our friendship, like."
Lissa didn’t know what to say so she nodded her head.
"If you can’t go, then I’ll find a way to spend time with you here for a little while. I’ll save the tickets—they’re open-ended; you can go at any time. They’ll be right here, waiting for you."
"Paul, I don’t know what to say. Thank you…"
"Don’t worry about it, luv. Now let’s go talk to your parents."
Lissa swallowed nervously and stood up and led Paul out of her room. She seated him at the dining room table and then went to call her parents.
"Mommy? Daddy?" she called out into the backyard. "We have company."
"So you want to take my daughter to England—to be in a play?" There was a sharp edge to Lissa’s father’s voice. He sat across from Paul, his wife to his left elbow and Lissa quietly occupying the chair behind Paul.
"Yes, that’s pretty much it," Paul replied. "This is a big chance for her. Who knows; you may be seeing her face on People magazine when she comes home."
"Why are you so interested in my daughter?" Lissa’s father rejoined.
Lissa proceeded (helped by Paul) to tell the story of their meeting and when she finished, Paul explained, "You see, it is rare that I ever meet someone even slightly like your daughter. I like her; we’re friends. I knew she wanted to be an actress so I helped get her into this. I will—" Paul took a deep breath "—take over as her agent, if it’s all right with you. There is no other person supported by my company except for me. I will gladly make an exception for Lissa."
Lissa’s mother gasped. Lissa stood up behind Paul’s chair and rested a small hand on the wooden back.
"This is my chance," she said softly. "Paul wants to be my agent—he’s already put me in a play. This is what we’ve been waiting for for the last two years. Please let me go. Please?"
Lissa’s father sighed and looked at her. He knew that this could be it for her—
"You’ll take care of her, Mr. McCartney? Look after her? She is, after all, still an innocent child."
"I’ll take care of her as if she were my own daughter," Paul promised. "I’ll get her plenty of work while she’s with me—and she’ll always be with me."
Lissa’s father nodded at Lissa and she danced around the dining room; danced and sang. Paul watched her happily and Lissa’s parents smiled. So her fate was decided.
"Come ’ead, luv; we’re here."
Paul gently shook Lissa awake. She rubbed her eyes and blinked. "Paul…"
He had already stood up and was getting their carry-on bags. "Yes, luv?"
"I don’t feel too good."
Paul gave her his hand and pulled her up and she leaned against him slightly. Her usually bright eyes were dull and she was very pale. "Let’s get you off this plane, Lissa luv. You’ll feel better once you’re walking."
They exited the plane, walking slowly. The colour came back into her face and her pace quickened.
"I feel better now, thank you," Lissa murmured, straightening her posture.
A car was already waiting for them and the reporters followed suit.
"Sir Paul?" "Mr. McCartney…" "How do you feel about…"
The questions came at them like flies. Lissa ducked under Paul’s arm into the car and he said, "Not right now, mates; I’m a bit tired." He got into the car as well and shut the door sharply behind him. They were off to Sussex; it was already late at night. Lissa tried to look out the windows to get her first glimpse of England, but she was soon asleep, leaning against her beloved Jemmy’s shoulder.
Lissa awoke the next morning to find herself in bed, in a room she couldn’t remember going into the night before. She lay quietly for a few moments, remembering herself and taking in her surroundings. Then she got out of bed and opened her door, sticking her head out into the hall. It was quiet; Paul must not have been up yet. She padded softly over to the bathroom and began preparing herself for the day ahead; Paul had mumbled sleepily in her ear as she drifted off the night before, "We’re going to…the play…people…tomorrow…"
After the hour that it took for her to get dressed, brush her teeth, do her hair, and apply her makeup, she stopped to take a good look at herself in the mirror. The face reflected back at her was presentable enough and did not even suggest the nervousness that still pulled at her insides.
She went back to her room and quickly unpacked her things—she had two medium-sized suitcases, one full of clothes, the other full of sheet music, books, her portfolio and copies of her résumé and headshot, stories that she’d been working on, etc. Another thing that she had brought, leaning against the wall by her suitcases, was her guitar. She opened its case and strummed an A chord and commenced playing "Blue Moon of Kentucky" as softly as she could, so as not to disturb Paul.
When she finished, she strummed the strings lightly and set about tuning it and then put it away. She sat on her bed swinging her legs for a moment and then left the room again, this time wanting to take a good look at Paul’s house.
It was nice, a bit modern-looking mixed with old things. She looked at the pictures on the walls and noticed all the plants and flowers on the windowsills. She found Paul’s kitchen easily and found a watering can under the sink. She watered all the plants and flowers and just as she leaned over to smell one, two hands clapped down on her shoulders, startling her.
"Good morning, Lissa luv," Paul said warmly. "Have a good sleep?"
Lissa inclined her head and re-addressed the questions to him.
"Best sleep I’ve had in a while," he answered. "Up for some brekky?"
"Sure," she said. "I’ll cook."
He looked at her doubtfully but then shrugged his shoulders. "Right, you’re a guitarist, actress, singer, writer and dreamer…I shouldn’t wonder if you turned out to be a world-famous cook."
She stuck her tongue out at him and in another twenty minutes, she had a hot meal on the table.
"I’m your manager now," Paul said as he began eating. "But you’ll have to explain a lot of this to me. I don’t know half of what you need."
Lissa explained the headshot process ("We’ll get you new ones, luv; I don’t like the ones you’ve got"), jobs ("I can figure that out"), the ten percent he was to get ("Ten percent’ll do. I won’t ask for more"), and anything else she could think of to say.
"You’re really sure you want to manage me?" Lissa asked, fixing him with a most un-childlike stare. "There’s more to it than you think—than I can even explain."
"Of course I’m sure, my dear! Why else would you be here?"
"I’m going to tell you how I feel straight up," Lissa went on, as if she hadn’t heard him. "I’m the only other act besides yourself that’s part of MPL. I don’t want to be a signed-then-forgotten act like those on your old Apple label. We’ll always be friends, but you can’t forget about me. You can’t just think of yourself and not of me. Because I came all the way out here and you’ve raised my hopes. Remember that you invited me."
Paul looked rather hurt at what she had said. "God, Lissa, I wasn’t even thinking like that at all. I wouldn’t forget you—and with you the way you are, I doubt I’d be able to. You’re not going to end up like those people on Apple. I’m gonna give you the boost you need."
"I didn’t mean to offend you, Jem dear," Lissa said softly. "I just don’t want something like that to happening. I’ve been trying to get into the business for a long time. I don’t want to end up going home, broken and beaten."
"That won’t happen," Paul promised. "And it would be hard for someone of your spirit to be beaten anyway. No matter what happens, you’ll go on. You have it in you." He sighed and tried to smile, but he was thinking about what she had said. As she was thinking about what he had said.
"C’mon, luv, do a little twist," the photographer called out and clicked away. "That’s nice—ooh, keep that smile! What a lovely girl, Sir Paul!"
"Mmmh’mm," Paul replied with a smile, not taking his eyes from Lissa. She was an investment, after all.
"All right, luv, that’s it," the photographer said to Lissa. She grinned and said a polite thank you.
"I’ll get the contact sheet done up tonight," he said to Paul. "You two can come back tomorrow and we’ll look at the sheet and see which ones you’d like."
"Yes, thank you," Paul said and shook the man’s hand. "Come ’ead, Lissa, we’ve got to get you over to that play rehearsal."
"Okay, Jemmy," Lissa replied, picking up her things.
He thought to himself that this wasn’t going to be so hard after all; he had a girl willing to cooperate.
They drove over to the theatre and Lissa felt her nervousness rise to her throat. Paul saw her expression and took her hand to comfort her. She looked at him with a smile and they proceeded up the long front steps and when they were inside, Lissa wanted to faint—it was a beautiful sight for a young actress.
Chandeliers hung from the ceiling and caught the faint light from the outside they had just came in from in their twinkling glass raindrops. There was red velvet carpet across the whole theatre, edged with gold and the stage—it was large, wooden, and obviously very new. It too had velvet curtains.
"Hello, Paul!" came a cheery voice. Someone came up from behind them and placed a hand on Lissa’s shoulder. "So this is Lissa!"
Lissa smiled shyly. "Hello, sir." She turned and extended her hand to the man speaking.
"I’m Bertrand Kensell," the man said, smiling at her with an odd look in his eyes. "I’m the director."
Lissa stared at him with her big eyes growing bigger. "Pleased to meet you."
"As am I," Bertrand replied. He turned to Paul. "She’s just the thing! She’ll fit the part of Kendra to a hair. It’ll look like it was hand-sewn for her. She’s perfect!"
Paul smiled and patted Lissa’s head. She looked up at him, shyness still lurking in her dreamy brown eyes.
"Now, Strawberry luv," Paul said, squatting before her and putting his hands on her shoulders, "I am going to drop you off every day. I’d love to stay with you, but I can’t. Any way, this is your field, not mine. Bertrand will take good care of you and I’m sure you’ll enjoy chatting with Mike Enmenster—the writer of the play. If you need me, the number is in your purse." He nodded at her blue woven purse with Beatles buttons on the front flap. "And if you need a ride or anything, just hail a cab and come to the office. Here." He handed her a small wallet full of bills. "If you get hungry, for the cab, or if you want to go shopping. I know you can take care of yourself; that’s why I’m not babying you. So good luck, my dear." He hugged her and said something to Bertrand and then left.
"Why does he call you Strawberry? How did you two meet?" Bertrand asked as soon as Paul was out of earshot. "I’m not prying, dear; I am simply curious."
"Umm, well…" Lissa told the story of their meeting. Bertrand laughed, to her surprise.
"I take it that you are being supported by him?"
"I live in California with my family," Lissa retorted, rather hotly.
"Gracious, child, I didn’t mean that. He’s managing you?"
"That’s Paulie all over. Kind, generous man. Now, I have promised to take you under my wing. I don’t usually do that. But I won’t have a problem with you, I can see. We’ll be friends, all right?"
He said it sincerely and in the friendliest tone possible. Lissa replied in the affirmative and he handed her a script and called out the writer to explain her character. She acted a little for them and they seemed to like her.
So went the first day. In the next week that followed, she hardly saw Paul at all. He took her to dinner one night but for the rest, she was at the play or doing other work he had put together for her. The pace of her work was exciting and she was thrilled with what she was doing, but she felt a queer sort of sadness. But on Sunday night, her eighth day of residence in England, Paul came by to pick her up and they spent the rest of the day together.
He bought her clothes and when she protested, he said in a dripping, crazy accent, "Tut, tut, me choild; all yer clothes are in the laundry!"
Her schedule relaxed a bit the next week and she was able to hang around the MPL office in the mornings and go to rehearsals and other things later in the day. Paul blew up her picture and had it framed and put it in the main hall, dead center on one of the walls, flanked by some of his gold records. She looked at it, her head cocked to an angle, proud not only of the picture and of the little "splash" she was making, but of Paul’s success as well. The album that had occasioned their meeting had shot to number one in the charts and he had given her a record copy with "To Strawberry" and a personal message written on the cover. She bought another album, also a record copy, and signed it "To Jemmy" with a message for him as well and inserted her headshot.
Paul set up a driver for her because he wasn’t able to be with her as much as he’d thought, due to the new album and all the business surrounding it. She made friends with her driver, Frank, quickly, and he always seemed happy to drive her around. He often met her at rehearsal, but just as often at the front steps of MPL.
"Can you take me back to Paul’s?" was a common request and she would get there, only to find that Paul was asleep or wasn’t there. It always lightened her step and brightened her smile to find him there, which was rarely, and Frank sighed at how much Paul’s absences brought her down. She talked a lot about "Jemmy" and their friendship and he was gaining some insight not only to the girl’s character, but also into Paul’s.
"Hello, Miss Lissa! Ready to go home?"
She laughed. "Stop calling me that, I’m only a kid. Yes, please. And hurry—Paul said he’s coming home so I’ve got to get dinner."
He smiled in his rear-view mirror at her and complied with her request. She was soon ‘home’ and waving good-bye to him.
She went inside quickly and started making them something to eat. She cleaned up everything Paul had forgotten to and put his new album on while she waited. She knew all the words to all the songs and had already picked out two of them on her guitar. She sang along and couldn’t help dancing too and waited for Paul’s laugh to come echoing at her from the front door. It was 8:30 PM, London time.
The album still played, over and over, and Lissa sat next to the arm of one of the couches, her cheek leaning against her hand. It was 1:30 AM. Paul came in quietly and saw the meal on the table, very cold. And he saw Lissa sleeping with her cheek on her hand. He felt a little badly over it and then gently shook her awake.
"Hi, Jemmy," she mumbled drowsily. "’d you eat yet? Dinner’s ready…I made it…"
"Shh," he said. "Go on back to sleep." He put his coat over her and patted her head.
The rational part of her mind was awake now and said, It’s all right; after all, this album has a lot of work involved with it. It’s okay.
Her mind said that again the next night. And the next. All of these nights found her sleeping with Paul’s album playing and dinner cold on the table. And always with promises that her beloved Jemmy would be home early this time.
One morning, she tripped gaily into Paul’s office, the receptionists knowing her well and letting her in after brief, friendly chats. Paul was behind his desk, on the phone, and when he saw her, he gave her what she already recognized as a "press smile" and slightly turned his back to her. She made a face at him and thought of pressing the hang-up button. She walked around his office, staring at the pictures and found that he had just arranged another wall for her. The script for the play she was in and all the magazines he had gotten her into during her short stay were clustered around her headshot. She smiled at it and sat at the chair in front of Paul’s desk but he didn’t pay attention to her. She sighed. He was taking good care of her career-wise, but what had happened to the Jemmy who had invited her here? She excused him because of the new album, but her vague sadness was growing stronger—she’d already been here for almost a month and they had spent about three days together.
She stared at the back of Paul’s head as he chatted into the phone and she heard only Paul McCartney speaking, not the Jemmy she had originally known. She suddenly rose from the chair and left the room, closing the door quietly behind her. Those walls for her, his helping of her career—she was completely grateful, but she was beginning to miss the man behind the smile.
As soon as she was out of Paul’s earshot, she took off running down the halls, the gold records trembling with each step she took. The receptionists called out worriedly as she passed their desks, but she did not hear them. She was out in the street now with Paul’s money in the familiar blue woven purse with Beatles buttons all across the front. If he was too busy to be with the girl he had invited, she was going to go around London without him. She walked to a pay phone to call Frank. He assured her he would be right over. When he did come, she said, "I don’t have play practice tonight, Frank. Do you think you could take me to all the Beatley places here? I’d really like to see them."
"Oh yeah, Lissa, I’ll take you," Frank replied and let her in the car and drove off towards Abbey Road.
They both danced across the famous crosswalk and had their pictures taken. Lissa scrawled her name on the concrete steps with a bit of chalk from the ground. They had lunch together and he drove her past St. John’s Wood, where Paul’s London home was (he still hadn’t taken her there yet. She always went back to Sussex when the day was over) and to all the other Beatles places he could think of. When she had rummaged through some shops for Beatles-related items, she asked shyly, "Do you think you could take me to Liverpool?"
Frank stared at her. "It’s a long drive, luv."
"Please? I don’t think Paul will mind." This was said rather sadly.
"All right, Lissa luv," Frank said. "I’ll take you. Now get in and let’s go."
"Thank you, Frank," she said sweetly and they both got in.
They reached Liverpool just before sunset. Lissa walked on the docks and watched the boats go by, rather cheerfully. They listened to a band playing at the Cavern and walked around, slowly spending the money Paul had given her.
They found plenty of Beatles shops and she went shopping again. After that, they ate dinner and strolled through Paul and John Lennon’s part of Liverpool. Lissa had bought a one-use camera and clicked away. They went home the same night and Frank dropped her off in Sussex small hours of the morning.
"Good night, luv," he said. "I’ll see you in the afternoon for your rehearsals, okay?"
"Yeah," Lissa replied, her eyes round from lack of sleep. "And thank you. I had a wonderful time."
"Don’t mention it. ’Bye."
"’Bye!" she called after his departing car. She smiled and hauled her bags inside and set them inside the closet by the door and put her purse on the table. She hummed a song to herself as she took off her shoes.
Paul had fallen asleep on the couch, having waited up for her. Her singing awoke him and he was instantly up and had his hands on her lower shoulders, clamping her between them painfully.
"Paul!" she cried. "You’re hurting me! Let go!"
"Where have you been?" he snarled at her. "You left me this morning and didn’t even come home. Where have you been?"
"I went to see all the places you promised to take me and never did," Lissa replied, just as angry as he. Her eyes glared back at him and he saw that un-childlike regard in them again. "I also went to Liverpool."
"Liverpool?!?" Paul seemed ready to have a heart attack. "Why didn’t you let me know? I have been here, worried sick about you!"
"For how long, Paul?" she said, wondering where these words were coming from. She had never spoken to anyone this way.
Paul stared at her and shook her slightly. He opened his mouth to say something, but he choked.
For how long, Paul?
Those four words said everything.
"I shouldn’t be hearing that from you," he spat, bringing her face to a level with his. "I have taken you into my home and company and have helped your career. And you run out, not even thinking to leave me a note to let me know where you were all this time? Your parents asked me to look after you; how can I do that if you’re running off to Liverpool?"
"How can you do that if you’re sitting behind your desk or when you leave me alone on this estate, promising me that we’ll be able to be ‘Jemmy and Strawberry’ and then never coming home?" Tears were gathering in her eyes. "Yes, you promised you’d help me and not forget my career. You’ve kept that promise—but whatever happened to the very first promise you made me, what was it, ‘I’ll be no one but Jemmy to you’?"
Paul let her go and turned from her then. She stood rubbing her shoulders for a moment, watching him. When he said nothing, she turned and almost ran to her room—shutting the door with an angry click and flinging herself onto her bed. She buried her face in her pillow and having cried herself out, fell asleep.
The next day, Paul had left early as usual. She wasn’t surprised, but she was a little disappointed. She had hoped he would be there and they could talk and close the widening rift between them. She sighed and made herself breakfast and prepared for the day and Frank appeared to take her to MPL for her daily schedule. When they arrived, she waved a sad good-bye to him and he watched her lonely walk up to the door.
"Hello, Susan," she said quietly to the receptionist who usually gave Lissa her schedule.
"Hello, Lissa," Susan replied, handing her a piece of paper. She regarded Lissa for some moments before saying softly, "Lissa dear, did something happen between you two last night?"
"What makes you say that?" Lissa replied, though her eyes were still puffy from crying.
"He came in here as mad as a hornet this mornin’ and turned the picture of you on his office wall around until it was against the wall. He wouldn’t say why."
"I don’t think I can—talk about it, Susan. I’m sorry. We just had a disagreement last night." Lissa proceeded down the hall to Paul’s office and opened the door just enough for one eye to see in.
Paul was standing and looking out the window with his hands in his pockets. Her picture was turned against the wall. She watched him for a moment and then left MPL for the theatre and Paul for Bertrand.
In the course of the next two weeks, she noticed her daily schedules getting smaller and smaller. When she had first arrived, she could hardly breathe for all the work Paul had gotten for her: the play, for one; ads, interviews, a commercial, photo shoots—but now it seemed like he had indeed forgotten about her. She grit her teeth at the thought and made herself shrug her shoulders and threw herself into the play.
Bertrand noticed something odd about her expression—from Paul’s ‘forgetting’ onwards, he saw the original spirit and sparkle he had originally loved were now subdued. Even though her acting was still as good as it was when she had walked in, it was missing that thing she could put into it when she was happy. Bertrand was concerned about her prolonged dejection and after seeing the dark shadows under her eyes deepen every day, he left rehearsals one evening and went to MPL to speak to Paul.
"There’s something wrong with her, Paul," he said when admitted. "She’s not happy. What’s wrong?"
Paul waved his hand. "It’s a personal matter," he replied. "It’s not something to be discussed."
"Can’t you help her?" Bertrand countered.
Paul stared at Bertrand as if he were looking right through him. He didn’t answer.
Lissa stared at the piece of paper in her hands. The only thing on it was ‘PLAY REHEARSAL 5:00 PM’. There was not a single mention of any other job. She sighed and stared out the front window of MPL. The play was opening in two more weeks. Just a little longer and it will all be over.
And she didn’t mean just the play.
It was opening night. Paul drove in and found a place to park and then went down the red carpet, smiling and being ‘Paul’ for the cameras.
He had front row tickets and had brought some other friends along with him, including Frank, Lissa’s driver, at Lissa’s personal request. It was the first time they had talked to each other in weeks. Actually, it was the only time Lissa managed to catch him not working.
He took his seat and stared at the stage, his emotions turning his insides and rendering the put-on pleasant expression he wore more painful by the moment. It was even more painful when people congratulated him on what he had done for the young actress.
The theatre was soon filled and the play began. Paul fixed his attention on the youngest actor there, a girl with brown hair and bright brown eyes. She was smiling and obviously very happy. What he didn’t know was that she had forgotten about his slighting of her—just for the nights the play was going to run.
She was amazing. He admitted that and even felt a twinge of pain about it. He wished that they had just stayed Jemmy and Strawberry instead of becoming Paul and Lissa. But he couldn’t think of any of this happening any other way. He had to be Paul to get her work and she—he winced. The only time she was ever ‘Lissa’ was when she tried talking to him after their argument. It was a wound that had cut deep into their friendship and had not even begun healing.
The play ended and there she was, eyes a-star, making a sweeping final bow, her features glowing in the golden light. He led the standing ovation and she looked at him and smiled, but there was no Strawberry in that smile. It had taken her two months to reach that point. It had only taken him a couple days after her arrival.
Nevertheless, he waited for her and she came out the stage door laughing and happy.
"Lissa," he called to her softly and offered his arm.
She looked at him nervously and he could see uncertainty in her eyes. She nodded to her companion and said, "Tell Frank I’m going home with Paul."
Her companion nodded, leaving Paul and Lissa alone. She tried to make light-hearted conversation but made a dismal failure at it. She asked him how he’d liked the play and he said that it was great.
"How many more shows does you have?" he asked her, feeling guilty because he had to ask.
"Seven," she replied. "Eleven if it gets good reviews. If it does really well, they’ll tour America and let me know…they’ll call me at home."
He didn’t reply.
They got in the car and drove off silently.
He didn’t come to any more of the shows, not even when the eleventh ended the play’s run. The play people were going to America—and she would meet them there.
The house was quiet when Lissa awoke two days after the play’s last show. She knew Paul wasn’t home; he rarely was anyway. She packed her things and made an effort not to cry. That could wait, she told herself. She wouldn’t ruin her last glimpse of England by seeing it through a blur of tears.
When she had finished, she called Frank. Knowing he would not be there for a while, she left the house and walked the grounds, letting the sunshine warm her goodbye. She walked to the shoreline and wove her steps in and out of the small waves that nibbled at the sand. She soon put her shoes back on and trudged through the meadow-grass back to the house. She suddenly thought of something and, seeing that Frank still wasn’t there, she went into the house, ripped a page out her notebook lying on top of her carry-on bag, grabbed a pen, and proceeded to write.
I am sorry for what happened between us. Sometimes I have thought that maybe it would have better if I never came at all and we had just stayed apart, remembering that special day in the park. But even though things have happened between us, I don’t regret coming. I am thankful to you for all you’ve done for me, for inviting me in the first place and taking me into your home. I will always be in your debt.
I am sorry for what I said to you when I came back from Liverpool. It was true and the truth is not what I am sorry for, but the pain I inflicted upon you when I said it. I hope you can forgive me. I never meant to hurt you.
Congratulations on the album. I will always remember it fondly and every song will bring me some memory of you. The day in the park, your first promise to me, your help, your home and—you. I thank you for an unforgettable summer.
I’m going back home now to get on with my life. School starts in a few more days and I need to be with my family. I’ll understand if you don’t wish to manage me or even call me anymore, though it will hurt. I will miss talking to the Jemmy I loved so much. I’ll try to hook up with my old agency back at home. You may have opened enough doors for me for them to get me more work. I don’t know.
So I guess this is goodbye. I never thought I’d have to say that to you, but maybe it’s true after all. Goodbye to England, London, MPL, and you. Please remember that I’ll be your Strawberry always. I’ll never forget you.
I love you.
That was the most honest letter she could write. Dramatic, tearful—it didn’t matter. He would know how she felt. So it’s goodbye after all.
She folded the letter and wrote his name across it and left it on the counter. And then she was on the plane, going home. Her family was waiting for her.
Paul came home late that night and when he didn’t find Lissa sitting up late, assumed she had gone to bed. He dropped his keys on the counter and took off his coat. He folded it and turned to put it on the counter and saw her letter. Across the front it said, Paul McCartney (Jemmy). He unfolded it and began to read.
Five minutes later, he had opened her door and found that the letter was true. She was gone. Every drawer was empty and the bed was made. He almost hit himself for getting open-ended tickets. He’d lost her. He went out to the kitchen and grabbed the phone and hurriedly dialed Frank’s number.
"Lissa?" Frank said drowsily when Paul demanded information. "I took her to the airport this morning and saw her off. She went back home, Sir Paul."
"No," Paul breathed and slammed the phone into its cradle. He wrapped his right arm around his chest and rested his left elbow on it, biting his nails. He picked up the letter and read it again. But this time, the Jemmy he’d promised always to be broke through and said clearly, "I don’t need to forgive you. It’s you that should forgive me."
And he turned away from the letter and for some reason, there were tears on his face.
The weather was scorching hot and he was uncomfortable in the loose clothes he was wearing. He ran his hands through his hair nervously and approached the door. He rang the doorbell and stood back, waiting. He heard a young girl’s voice call out faintly inside. He swallowed. The door opened and there was his Strawberry, staring up at him with those dreamy brown eyes of hers.
"I was wrong, Strawberry; I broke my promise to you. And I’m sorry." His voice was thick and he felt something wet on his face. He knelt before her and took her hand. "Can you ever forgive me for what I did to you?"
The songs from his album flew through her mind, each note of each song bringing back those lonely nights when her heart was heavy with disappointment and his broken promises; when she wanted so badly to approach him about his treatment of her, but was barred from him because he was always Paul and not Jemmy. He put their work first and not their friendship and that hurt her long after she had returned home. And he had not called after her…
They could sort through everything later. They would thrash it out completely as it needed to be but for right now, he was here and he was Jemmy and that was all that mattered.
She ran to him and threw her arms around him. "Of course, Jemmy." His tears had touched her off and she was crying. He stood up and put his arms around her.
They stood for a long time, just holding each other.
"Jemmy?" she said softly. "I was wrong, in my letter."
"It wasn’t goodbye after all."
It was sunset and the stars began to appear in the sky. They walked out in front of the house to see the stars.
"Look," Lissa said, pointing up at the sky.
Paul followed her finger. The rest of the stars weren’t very bright yet and what she was pointing at stood out from all the other stars in the sky. He saw two stars, so close that they could be said to have been side by side. And they were both burning brightly.
Copyright 2000 and beyond: Lissa Michelle Supler. This is original copyrighted work and may not be reproduced in any form, by any means, without the permission of the author. Permission may be obtained by e-mail.
E-mail the author!
Get Back Home!