All are seated. Dad sits at the head of the table, Mom is beside him, Stephanie is next, followed by Michael, Cordelia, Paul and me.
Cordelia is clearly elated to be sitting next to a Beatle.
Each of Mom’s delicious dishes is passed around, accompanied by the usual compliments and small talk. Everything is pleasant, everything that is, until Michael takes his spoon and taps his glass.
He clears his throat, smiling. “All right, I felt now would be the perfect time for an announcement, since everyone seems so happy and of course, since I’m so happily settled with the love of my life.”
Stephanie smiles and blows him a kiss. He catches it.
I watch as Mom takes a forkful of her mashed potatoes.
Underneath the table Paul takes my hand in his, placing it on his knee.
“Well, I got some news today and I’m not sure how it will go over with this crowd. Personally, I’m proud to be telling you all this, but I know I’ve gotten mixed reactions from my friends.”
Mom quickly takes a bite of the mashed potatoes.
“Honey, is this something you didn’t tell me?” Stephanie asks.
“No, I haven’t told anyone here yet.”
“Well, we’d certainly like to hear it,” Dad says.
“Oh yes, definitely,” Mom says, reaching for another forkful of mashed potatoes.
Michael puts on a huge grin. “Well, here goes. I’ve been drafted!”
Mom drops her spoon. Paul squeezes my hand. All is silent.
My cousin, who has always been there for me, has always taken care of me, is being shipped off to war. What if he dies? What if I never see him again?
“Are you serious?” Dad says.
“Most certainly. I’m headed off to Vietnam!”
Cordelia is quiet. Mom doesn’t reach to pick up her fork.
Stephanie’s eyes are wide open. “But what about us honey? What about our marriage?”
“It can wait, Steph. I’ll be back soon and then I can start up in dentistry and we can get married and have our three boys.”
“But Michael war is dange—three boys?…I thought we were having a two girls….”
“I thought we wanted three boys….”
“No Michael! That’s what YOU wanted. I wanted a girl! You never care about what I want!”
I can’t believe it. Michael has just announced to the table, to his beloved fiancée, that he is going off to war, and might perhaps die, and never come back, and all SHE cares about is the gender of her child!
I lose control.
“Who CARES about what you want? Michael just told us he might be running off to die for a senseless cause and YOU are complaining about a child that doesn’t even exist!” I yell.
“Julia!” Dad booms.
Everyone turns to look at me.
“What? Is it so wrong to think that fighting over the gender of a child that may never exist is a bit trivial when we’re dealing with the fact that someone that I love just may be running off to die?”
“Honey, quiet down,” Dad says, with characteristic restraint.
I raise my voice. “Why? Is it so wrong for me to care about my cousin? Is it so wrong for my to say that I care about my cousin and care that he is about to get himself killed?”
“JULIA, SHUT UP!” Dad yells standing up.
I sink in my seat, face burning.
Maybe I should have stayed quiet.
I question Paul with my eyes and he looks at me sympathetically.
Michael’s face looks worn. “Jeez, if I’d known I would cause this kind of upset I never would have said anything. I don’t know about all of you, but I’m proud to be defending our country with President Johnson.”
“FOR President Johnson is more like it,” I say.
“Marcy’s dad says that President Johnson’s got a stick up his ass,” Cordelia says, clearly happy to add something to the conversation.
“Cordelia, watch your language!”
Cordelia hangs her head. “Sorry Mom.”
I try to hold back the laughter beginning to form and I notice that Paul is doing the same. I look away, knowing the worst thing would be to see him laughing, which would automatically start me on the road toward hysterics.
Dinner finishes in uncharacteristic silence.
The table is cleared and I watch as Michael tries to console a now sobbing Stephanie. He takes her into the den and closes the door. I enter the kitchen to help Mom and Cordelia with the dishes yet can still hear Stephanie and Michael’s screaming over the spraying faucet.
Suddenly the door to the den springs open and Stephanie runs upstairs, covering her face. She carries her bags downstairs, opens the door, runs out, and drives off.
Michael remains standing in the doorway to the den, covers his face and walks back inside. I watch as Paul gets up from his seat next to my dad in the living room to walk inside.
I return my gaze to the sink and finish the dishes. I turn off the faucet and sit down at the table, facing Cordelia.
“Mommy, is Michael gonna die now?”
Mom sighs, glaring at me, as if I was the reason Cordelia would ask the question. She turns to Cordelia smiling, “No honey, of course not. He’s going off to war and it’s dangerous, but he’ll be just fine. Don’t you worry.”
“Mom! How can you lie like that? Shouldn’t she at least know he’s going into a war where he might be killed?”
“Killed?” Cordelia whimpers.
“Julia, I’ve had enough of you tonight. You’ve caused enough trouble as it is. Don’t work on causing more.”
“What? Are you blaming me for Stephanie leaving?”
“Not entirely. But you certainly didn’t help the situation. Why don’t you go talk with your father? He’s sitting all alone in the living room.”
“Well, he does have Cloe….”
Mom rolls her eyes.
“All right, all right….”
I walk out and sit in the chair facing my dad.
“That Paul of yours is quite a character.” He laughs. “We disagree on almost every topic. That is—with the exception of you. We both agree on loving you.”
“Honey, why don’t you sit closer to me?” He points to the couch beside the chair.
I walk over.
He smiles. “Good. Now dear, he mentioned that there may be something you might like to ask me about.”
I suppose now is as good a time as any….
“Yes, well, Dad…” I smile my best smile. “I was hoping you would give me your permission to go on tour with the Beatles.”
Dad sighs. He looks down at the carpet and then back up at me. “Tour, as in constant airplane trips and hotel stays with four men?”
“Umm…well…actually it would probably be more like five—their manager…”
He takes a deep breath.
At least he’s trying to remain calm….
He looks back up at me. “Would that mean you sharing a room with them?”
“More likely just Paul….”
“‘Just Paul’ eh?” He chuckles. “Does it really mean that much to you?”
“Yes Dad, it does.”
Dad clears his throat. “Now look, I know, at first, I may not have seemed very pleased with the fact that you are dating a hooligan—Paul, but I’m thinking I may have overreacted. Honey, Michael’s going to war, and with the threat of death there always comes a time to reevaluate one’s perceptions of things, and well, I guess compared to a lot of horrible things out there, dating Paul registers rather low on the list.”
I remain speechless.
“So basically, what I am saying is, although I know you’re going whether or not I give you permission, I’ll give it to you nonetheless.” He pauses. “Sure sweetie, have fun.” He smiles.
I give him a hug. Mom walks in with Cordelia trailing her.
“What’s this?” Mom asks.
“Dad just gave me permission to go on tour with the Beatles.”
Mom looks at Dad and places her hands on her hips. “On tour with the Beatles?”
“Yes, I was invited to go on—“
Mom interrupts, “Why was I not consulted first?”
I look at the carpet. “Well, I was talking to Dad, and it just seemed like a good time to ask…”
“You mean all four Beatles asked for you to join them on tour? As the only girl with them?” Mom asks.
Mom laughs. “You mean that much to them?”
“Um, I guess, if you put it that way. But, really I’m not as close to George or Ringo, but I know John and Paul like me, and so I guess they all just sort of agreed then.”
Mom grins. “Well then, have fun dear.”
“What? Julia gets to go on tour with the Beatles?” Cordelia screeches. “No fair! Why does SHE always get to be with them? She’s my sister but she keeps them all to herself!”
“Cordelia, I did get you that George Harrison autograph. Didn’t I?”
“Yea but…” She pouts. “That’s it. I love the Beatles just as much as you, and you actually get to BE with them.”
Paul and Michael walk in from the den laughing together.
Paul crouches down next to Cordelia and places his hand on her shoulder. “Well you know luv, if it means that much to you, and if your parents would allow it, I could probably get you front row tickets to the New York show.”
“Oh Mommy, Daddy, could I?” She squeals.
“Oh Mommy, Daddy, could she?” Paul asks, wide-eyed, trying to imitate Cordelia’s incredible squeal.
Mom and Dad laugh. “Certainly.”
“I might be able to get you tickets, too, if you wished….”
“No, it’s quite all right, I do believe us parents are a bit too old to appreciate real Rock and Roll…but I don’t know about Michael….” Mom says.
Michael blushes. “No, no, I couldn’t accept it….”
“Oh come on, Mikey, it’s just a ticket.”
“Mikey?” I ask.
“It’s me new nickname for him. I call my brother the same thing. Good ol’ Mikey,” Paul says.
“Hey, what do you say?” Paul asks, now facing Michael.
Michael grins. “Well, I normally would accept. And believe me, I’d love to, but I’ll most likely be in Vietnam at the time.”
“I guess not then,” Paul says.
There’s a cold silence.
“I get to go to a Beatles concert!” Cordelia squeals.
Paul laughs. “Gear.”
“Wonderful,” Mom says. “But that does mean, Cordelia, it is past your bed time.”
“Cordelia, you promised. No fuss.”
“Oh all right.” She walks around the room to give Mom, Dad, Michael, and me a goodnight hug. She stops at Paul. He kneels down again and gives her a little peck on the cheek. She blushes and runs upstairs.
Everyone sits chatting for another hour or two and then Mom and Dad go up to bed.
“So now, it’s just us,” I say.
“Yea, certainly is,” Paul says. He yawns. “Aw, maybe I should be going to bed, then.”
“Paul, this early?” I ask.
“Early luv? It’s midnight.”
Michael smiles. “All right, how about I go get your stuff from the car and when I get back you go to bed? After all, you can’t go to sleep without your clothes now can you?” Michael winks at me and walks out of the room.
Paul moves up next to me on the couch. “Well he’s right you know. Wouldn’t want us going to bed naked, would we?” He pokes my nose.
“Certainly not in my parents house!”
He kisses me. “Oh yea?”
He kisses me again. “Yea?”
I giggle. “Not in my parents house.”
He sits straight up and folds his arms. “You’re right, you know.”
Michael walks in, carrying the two suitcases. “What? Do you two not like each other or something?”
I laugh. “Like? Yes. Want to get caught by my parents? No.”
“Tsk, tsk, tsk. Paul, I must apologize for my cousin being such a prude.”
“Yeah, prude. But I suppose then I’ll be bringing these clothes up—these to Julia’s room, and these to the guest room.”
“Good idea,” I say.
Michael brings them up and I walk into my room. I turn on my lamp and sit down on the bed.
Haven’t been in here for a while.
I glance at my full-length mirror in the corner and follow the length of my desk. I look at my old flute case on the floor and my missing LP player, which I know is sitting happily in the living room of my apartment. My bookshelves are practically empty at this point, now holding only a few copies of Nancy Drew.
Michael walks in, grinning. “Here’s your case.”
“Your welcome. Good night, don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
“Good. Better not.”
I smile and he closes the door behind him. I pick up my suitcase and place it on my bed to open. I begin to undress and undo the latches. I open it and realize I’m staring at Paul’s clothes.
Michael gave me Paul’s suitcase! Uggh! If that was intentional I’ll….
Suddenly the door opens, and Paul walks in, fully dressed.
He brings his finger to his mouth. “Shh! Luv, you don’t want to wake anyone up do you?”
“No, but I’m not dressed. Ever heard of knocking?”
He laughs, “Not in your parents house.”
I roll my eyes.
“I came to get my clothes. If you want, you can come into my room and get yours,” he smirks.
“I’m not about to walk out in my underwear.”
“Fine,” he chuckles. “I’ll be the mature one and I’ll go get it.” He closes his suitcase and carries it back to the guestroom. He returns shortly, my suitcase in hand.
I place it on my bed and open it. Paul continues standing there.
“Well? What are you waiting for?”
“I’m waiting for my goodnight kiss.”
I give him a kiss and he smiles. “That’s all?”
“That’s all. After all, I do need my beauty rest, so, ‘Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say goodnight till it be morrow.’”
“Morrow eh? Does that mean I get to stay the night?”
“In the guestroom.”
“Alright, alright. See you ‘morrow.’”
I get into my nightgown and go to sleep. I awake to the smell of pancakes. I dress quickly and come downstairs to a large breakfast already in progress.
Cloe runs over to greet me and I kneel down to pet her.
“Good morning late riser,” says Mom.
“Late riser?” I ask. “What time is it?”
“About nine AM.”
“That’s late? What time did everyone else get up?” I glance at all the smiling faces at the table.
“Seven,” says Mom.
“Seven-ten,” says Dad.
“Six,” says Cordelia.
“Didn’t sleep,” says Michael.
“Seven-forty-five,” says Paul.
“Wow, I guess I am a late riser then.”
“Yea, didn’t want to wake you,” says Paul. “We know how you like your beauty sleep.”
I give Paul a side-glance and Michael laughs. Everyone else ignores us.
We finish breakfast and everyone is in clearly much better spirits since last night. I decide not to bring up Michael’s being drafted, yet it still haunts my mind.
Paul and I collect our belongings and we prepare for Michael to drive us back to my apartment. We all congregate in the hallway and Cordelia gets Paul’s autograph and one last kiss on the cheek.
We thank Mom and Dad for their generosity.
“It was no problem at all. Feel free to come back anytime,” says Mom. “I’m just sorry that your first introduction to our family had to have such a dramatic edge, Paul.”
He smiles. “Oh it’s quite alright, Mrs. Anderson. Things happen in families. I understand.”
“Wonderful,” she says.
Dad grins. “Now you two better make sure you have a good time. Especially on tour. Just make sure to call, all right sweetie?”
“Of course.” I smile. I give Mom, Dad, and Cordelia one last hug before I leave. As well as a kiss for Cloe.
“I’ll contact you as soon as I get the tickets,” says Paul.
“That’s so kind of you, are you sure it’s all right?” Mom asks.
“Certainly,” Paul says.
“Thank you so much,” Mom says.
“No problem at all,” Paul smiles. He gives a wink to Cordelia and Michael drives us home.
The entire ride home is a painful attempt not to mention Michael being drafted. Finally we return to my apartment door and it’s time to say goodbye. Michael places down the luggage. I unlock the door and we walk inside.
We place the luggage down and I look up to find John sitting on my couch. He turns his head to greet us. “Oh hello then.”
“Of course. Hope you don’t mind, Lydia had let me in. She’s out now. I’ve just been sitting here, watching a bit of the telly, nothing too devious.”
Michael stands in awe, clearly not having had time to prepare to hold back admiration this time.
“No, I don’t mind, I just didn’t expect to see you, that’s all.” I look towards Michael who won’t take his eyes off John. “This, is my cousin, Michael.”
John gets up to shake his hand. “Hey. I’m John, if you haven’t picked that up by now.”
Michael smiles. “Hello.”
“Fan is he?” John turns to me.
“Why don’t you ask him,” I say.
“Fan are you?” he says to Michael.
Michael has clearly zoned out. “What? Oh yes, big fan. Wow. It’s great to meet you.”
“It’s nice to meet you, too,” John says.
“Woah, wow. Well, Julia, it would be great to stay and talk, but actually I can’t. I have to catch Stephanie before she makes her flight.”
“Flight?” I ask.
“Yeah, she’s headed back to her folks. I have to stop her, tell her I love her, you know, the usual.”
“Stephanie?” John asks.
“Oh, she’s my fiancée. We got in a bit of an argument yesterday and now she’s off—fifth time this month, actually—so I better go and catch her.”
“Ah,” John says.
Michael turns to me. “Yes well, Julia, I guess it’s goodbye for now. Won’t be seeing you for quite a while after this.”
“Michael, are you sure you want to do this? Is there no way for me to stop you?”
He looks towards Paul and John and gestures for me to join him outside the door.
“I’ll be a minute,” I say.
Paul nods and John says nothing.
I join Michael in the hallway. “I care about you and I don’t want to see you get hurt for no reason. This is a meaningless war. You’re life would be lost for nothing.”
“I’m defending the American way.”
“American way? By killing people?”
He lowers his voice. “I don’t want any damn Commies taking over our country.”
“Oh Michael! I can’t listen to you when you speak like this. It just makes me nauseous. I love you. You’re whole life you’ve watched out for me, and taken care of me, and now it’s my turn. You’re being foolish.”
Pressure begins to build behind my eyes and I’m holding back tears.
“Listen Julia, I don’t have time for this. Stephanie’s going to catch that plane and I’ll be in deeper shit than I am already. I have to go.” He stares into my eyes. “Look, everything will be fine. I’ll return and everything will be okay. I understand war is dangerous and not necessarily pleasant at all times but I’ll rough it out. I’m brave and I can take it. And if by any chance I am hurt or injured or killed, listen, I’ll be proud of it. So you shouldn’t worry about me. I love you too, and this means a lot to me. You have to understand that.”
“Wait, look, just one last thing. If I do die, please, whatever you do, don’t come to my funeral. My death would mean I went out in glory and I’d hate to have to look down and see that I caused you to cry. I in no way want to hurt you. I care too much about you for that. All right? Promise me that.”
“Promise you what?”
“That you won’t come to my funeral.”
“Damn it Michael! You’re making me so miserable!” I catch a tear as it begins to fall down my face.
“Don’t be, you know that’s the last thing I want. I’ll want you just to carry on and live. Live life to the fullest. Everyone says that and it’s corny and I know it, but I want what’s best for you. Promise?”
“If that’s what would make you happy.”
“All right, I promise.”
“Good. And oh yeah, one last thing. Make sure you marry that Paul fellow, he’s a keeper. And loves you a great deal.”
I smile. “Take care, Michael.” I give him a hug.
“I will, I will. But now, I must go sweep Stephanie off her feet!” He grins. “See you later?”
“See you later,” I smile, holding back another series of tears. “Love you!”
“Love you too!” he yells as he hurries down the stairs.
I find myself unable to move until I hear my apartment door open and catch Paul and John peeking out.
“Everything alright?” Paul asks. “We didn’t hear anymore talking so we figured he left and that you ought to come back in.”
I’d hate for them to see me crying like this.
I refuse to turn around and face them, trying to recompose myself and stop any more tears from forming.
“…Luv?” Paul asks. “You alright?” He walks out and takes a few steps towards me.
I feel completely together and turn around. The hallway is dimly lit but I can see John’s face peering from the doorway, spilling light from my apartment onto the floor. Paul puts his arm around me and walks me back inside.
I lock the door and the three of us are seated on the couch.
“Is it anything you want to talk about luv?” John asks.
I look at him and laugh. “I don’t know why I’m so upset. He’s just going into war. He may be fine. I’m just being ridiculous.”
“Any war is upsetting,” says John. “There is so much senseless killing and hatred, news like that could ruin anyone’s day.”
“Certainly luv. Jules, it’s natural for you to worry. Death isn’t a cheery topic to deal with.”
“Yea, I know. But I feel stupid worrying so much. He’ll be fine. I’m sure. Maybe I just need to do something to get my mind off it.”
“Well we could go out,” Paul says.
“Hey watch it Macca, I exist too. I came all this way to see her and you’ve had full claim the whole time. I say it’s my turn to take her out,” John says.
“Oh, I see it. So that’s the way it is. You wanna take out my girlfriend and have some fun do you?” Paul laughs.
“Oh yeah?” Paul ask.
“I say we arm wrestle over it.”
“Fine with me,” says John.
The two of them kneel against the coffee table and grab fists. I watch as they both seem to sincerely get into it for a while but then Paul feigns agony and dramatically falls to the ground.
Paul stands up and mockingly glares his eyes. “Okay, you win this time Mr. I’m-taking-your-girl-out-Lennon. But next time. Just you wait.”
John cackles. “Next time. Ha. Come on luv. We’re going out.”
I stand up to meet John at the door. Paul lies down on the couch and kicks up his feet, flipping on the television. He turns his head with a pout. “Have fun.” He winks at me and we’re out.