“Julia…what a surprise.”
“Hey, I was calling just to see how things were going. I’m sorry about the last time, the operator cut us off and I didn’t have another quarter.”
“Oh that’s all right, I was about to leave my flat about that time anyway, so I probably would have hung up soon as it was.”
“All right. So…how are things going?”
“Very well, thank you.” She gives an airy laugh. “You know, that Peter character called back a few weeks ago.”
“Peter Morrison. Remember him? Dashing blonde whose car I smashed into while he was bonking another girl…remember him now or does five months always make you forget people?"
“I remember Peter. What does five months have to do with anything?”
“Oh nothing. So how is Johnny boy doing?”
“All right I guess.”
“That’s nice. I’m glad to hear it. You know, I hope you don’t mind, I did go out with Peter a few times.”
“No…I don’t mind, but why would you date him if you already knew he cheats?”
“I was bored. John wasn’t coming around as often. Besides, with Peter around I might be able to convince Cyn that the child isn’t John’s.”
I must have heard her wrong.
Pam lets out a heavy sigh. “Yes Julia, that is exactly what I said. I’m pregnant. Bloody fucking pregnant.” Her tone is matter-of-fact. “Three months to be exact. And Cyn will undoubtedly put two and two together and figure it out without another man around me. Peter was a perfect choice. He had been calling to apologize to you and all that crap—wanted to ask you out again. Quite a bit late for that, if I do say so myself. You weren’t here. He asked me out instead. Perfect looks for the part. If the child is blonde, it’s more convincing to have him around to block out any suspicions of John. Just in case I can’t get an abortion. If I can, well then, hell, I don’t have to worry. That is of course, if I don’t decide to keep the little bugger. Hmm,” she laughs lightly. “Seems I’ve shut you up. Completely.”
“Look, I know this is a perfect time for an I-told-you-so but please, spare me. John and I were always extremely careful. The same could have happened with you and Paul.”
“Did you tell him?”
“’Him’ as in John? Well, I was going to. Thought I’d at least let him know. Tell him I’d handle it quietly. Try not to upset him and all. I knew he wouldn’t be leaving Cyn anytime soon and this would just make a bigger mess of things. But as things came to pass, no, I never told him.” She sighs.
“Why? I don’t understand.”
She scoffs. “Like hell you don’t. I’m sure John’s told you the whole thing. No doubt he thinks it’s all over his not leaving Cyn, though.” She cackles. “Oh that’s a gas, I was upset because of that, sure. But as it goes, it’s obvious you accepted him. Poor Paulie, no doubt he’s off sulking somewhere. Feel like breaking anymore hearts, hon?”
“Pam, what are you talking about?”
“Play dumb will you? Have you not looked in the nearest paper?”
“Lydia Milflow’s art, that’s what. I never met her, did I? Her silly little art exhibit has made it everywhere. Along with the headlines asking whom the girl with him is. ‘John’s elusive friend’ is even quoted for having spoken to the reporter! You’re pictured, with John, and the hideous nose ‘art,’ from here to Timbuktu! The teenybopper magazines even snagged a few of you and John sneaking out the door together—holding hands.”
Silence. I can’t believe it. How can anything be so misinterpreted?
She continues, “Oh but don’t worry, you won’t have to be pegged as ‘John’s elusive friend’ anymore. I did you the honor of giving the Daily Mirror your name! Peter agreed I should, too! Only fair. Julia Susan Elizabeth Anderson. No mistaking you. Ha. Of course, this does do wonders for getting Cyn’s prying eyes off my back, now doesn’t it? For all she knows, those long hours spent at my flat could have been long-winded calls to you, his love. And this lovely trip he and Paul have arranged to New York just makes it all the more splendid. No doubt John hasn’t called Cyn once! Is he there? I’m sure he is. Just call to your bed, I’m sure he’ll come right over.” Well so much for her returning to my close, spill-your-feelings out, best friend I used to know. I can’t tell her anything anymore. Next thing I know it’ll be on the front page of the tabloids!
“Pam, you don’t understand. I love Paul. John is not here. John is in his hotel room. You should know better than to think anything could happen between John and me.”
Her tone becomes crass. “Oh, should I?” She pauses. “To know better than to know that the one night I was going to tell John I’m pregnant and love him and anything he wants to do, I’ll do,” her voice cracks, now quivering. She takes a deep breath, speaking with increasing fury, “he chooses to inform me, the first moment he sees me, that he loves you!” She shrieks. She inhales with a trembling breath. She exhales.
Lying…she must be lying. She can’t honestly believe that John loves me….
She continues, “And to think there was a time you were unsure of Paul’s love! Remember that? You thought he preferred me!” She cackles. “Maybe he did, but not for long. You knew what you were doing with that ghastly manipulative game of yours, playing with Peter’s heart and toying with Paul’s.”
“Playing with Peter’s heart? What kind of crap is that? He loved me so much that he felt the need to jump in the backseat with another girl!”
Pam laughs lightly, having now regained her strength. “I can’t believe what absolutely perfect timing you have for calling. Right during an argument about you! John eventually stormed out after your call. You know that? Never to return again. It’s amazing. You fucking hypocrite. Not only do you destroy my one hope of finding love, but also double-cross every bit of goody-goody ‘don’t be a home wrecker’ crap you ever told me! ‘Oh, but what about his wife, Pam? He has a child Pam!’ You insensitive, heinous bitch. Of course, it’s great you decided to call right before I went out, hoping to stop me from seeing a newspaper!”
“Pam…you have to believe me…I had no idea. John’s just my friend. He’s never said anything about love! We’re just friends.”
“Right hon, sure. Makes a great story now doesn’t it? Just Julia, whatever you do, try not to mention my pregnancy to John. Not that he’d care much. I’m sure you’ve been keeping him too busy to think. In fact, I think I’ll let you get back to him. Have fun shagging! Break a dick! Hopefully his!”
She hangs up. The buzzing dial tone resounds as the final word.
My mind is blurred. I feel as though I’m being thrown about in a spinning teacup and the brake has been long lost. I’m being catapulted into the air, missing the crowds of spectators, and now am banging heavily down a steep hill of pavement, rocks, and shattered glass.
The bathroom door clicks and my tumbling stops, replaced by the monotonous drone of the phone. Paul steps out, a large grin plastered on his face, his lower half covered with a white towel. He walks towards me, his lustrous hair shedding droplets of water with each effortless step he takes.
His smile fades with one glance towards me. I remain frozen.
“Everything alright? Call Pam yet?” He gestures towards the phone with his chin.
My eyes follow the length of my arm until it reaches my hand, still tightly grasping the receiver.
I realize I haven’t taken a breath since she hung up and part my lips. I take a deep breath. “Yeah, I did.”
He catches my eye, with a twinkle in his own. “Maybe it wasn’t such a good idea.” He laughs.
I wish I could laugh.
“Paul, yesterday John and I walked about New York. We stopped at Lydia’s latest exhibit, where there were media men. I didn’t originally realize they’d be there and in seeing them, suggested to John that we leave. He said ‘No,’ and made it clear he wanted to bring Lydia some publicity. A few pictures were taken of us looking at a painting of hers. John was interviewed but fell short when it could have been revealed that he hadn’t been to any of Lydia’s previous showings. So I filled the reporter in on her past exhibits. Pam says it made the papers.”
Paul raises his eyebrows. The warm vapor formerly surrounding him seems to turn cold. He pulls his arm around me. I can feel the chilled droplets of waters penetrating the back of my shirt. “Well that can’t be too bad luv. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about.”
“Yes but now I’m quoted as ‘John’s elusive friend.’ To make matters worse, Pam took it upon herself to give the Daily Mirror my real name. All I need is to find ‘Julia Susan Elizabeth Anderson—Lennon Home Wrecker’ across the headlines.”
He chuckles. “Oh come on luv, I’m sure it’ll never get that bad. But wait…aren’t you Julia Elizabeth Anderson?”
“Susan is also my middle name, I just tend to leave it out. Makes my name too long. Usually my parents use it more than anything.”
“Ah, I’ll have to remember that.”
“But Paul, what if Cyn reads it? I know she will. Don’t you think she’ll find it extremely suspicious especially if the paper alludes to John and I doing other things?”
Paul squats down next to my chair, placing both hands in his lap, his towel becoming loose. “Look Jules, Cyn understands the twists of the media. They’re desperate for a story. Even if there isn’t one. I’m sure she’ll overlook it. She knows better.”
“I hope you’re right. I also hope that my name is all Pam told them.”
“Is that all that’s upsetting you? Is there anything else you’d like to talk about?”
It certainly is not. But should I mention Pam claiming John loves me, her pregnancy, the mention of Peter?
“Well no, not really, but I guess that’s all that can be expected after speaking to someone after your relationship has gone sour.”
Paul stands, grinning. His towel falls back into place. “No kidding luv. I know how that is. Say, how would feel to going out for breakfast?” His callused fingertips graze my cheekbone.
I smile. “I’d love that. Just first—maybe I should call and warn John?”
“If you wish.” Paul scribbles down the number to call, along with the password, and finally I’m put through.
“Hello?” a rather groggy sounding John croaks.
“ Hi John. It’s Julia.”
“Oh hello luv!” He laughs. “Seen the papers yet?”
“Well not yet but—“
“Yea, I just got up and I was looking at the tabloids. No doubt Lydia will have some wonderful publicity now! It’s great when they don’t know someone’s name—‘John’s elusive friend.’ Ha! Oh yes, but I take a particular liking to the other one. One paper was so presumptuous as to write you in as ‘John’s friend and potential lover.’”
My eyes widen. “Are you serious?”
He chuckles. “Utterly and completely luv! I’m sure Cyn will get a big kick out of that.”
“Are you so sure about that?”
“Of course I am! I was just telling her last night on the phone about our day. She thought it was nice that I was trying to give Lydia some publicity.”
Pam was wrong. He called Cyn! That’s so sweet! He must love her despite himself. But Lydia—he must not have divulged all the details of their relationship, and if my guess is right, she didn’t ask either.
“Glad you told her before the papers did.”
“Heh. Yea.” He pauses. “Our argument really affected me last night. I had to talk to her.”
“I’m happy to hear you did.”
John takes a deep breath. “Yea…but I should get going. Need to be gettin’ me some vittles! Can I call you later then?”
“You certainly may.”
“Alright, see you then.”
Paul yells from my bedroom. “Everything alright?”
I grin and yell back, “Yes it is!”
He walks into the kitchen area and smiles, now fully dressed and impeccably well groomed. “Gear. Let’s be going then.”
I stand up, fix the hem of my skirt, and he takes my hand.
We walk in the direction of the nearest café and as we make our way up the street, a man in a big yellow fuzzy outfit, complete with bright orange webbed shoes, and a bill protruding two feet in front of him, waddles past us. A sign dangles haphazardly from his neck advertising a restaurant in the West Village.
Paul smiles. “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, smells like a duck—“
“…Let me guess, it’s a duck?”
He clears his throat. “Burps like a duck…no, it’s a man in duck’s clothing.”
Breakfast is wonderful and the afternoon passes before I know it. Soon enough we return to my apartment. The phone rings. I pick it up as Paul sits himself on the couch.
“Hey Julia! It’s Lydia!” I can hear her smiling.
“Hey, how’s it going?”
“You won’t believe it!”
“I’ve been getting offers left and right for my work! My nose painting is even going to have be auctioned!”
“Are you serious?”
“Completely! I’ve gotten offers for over FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS for that thing! Can you believe it? FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS!”
I smile. “It’s wonderful.”
“Yea. It is. Pity that I know the only reason it’s selling is that all the Beatle fans think John likes it. But hey, who am I to complain? This new money will give me a chance to go out and buy supplies for something I can really be proud of and this teensy bit of fame might land it in a place where it might be noticed! And then,” she pauses to take a breath, “And then I could actually be recognized for my work! ‘World-renowned Lydia Milflow…’ oh gosh that sounds so great! My exhibit is practically mentioned in every paper from here to Timbuktu!”
Where have I heard that before?
She continues with increasing enthusiasm, “It’s wonderful! I’m getting offers! Even the chance to have my own showing—just me! Oh what will I call it?”
I laugh. “It’s great to see you’re doing so well.”
“Yes! I must thank you! If it wasn’t for you this never would have happened. I know John brought the fame. But you brought the instrument to bring the fame. And oh what an instrument he is!” she sighs. I raise an eyebrow. She takes a second breath. “Imagine if you had never met him. See? Your lousy sense of direction really comes in handy sometimes! And then if he had never taken a liking to you? I must thank you for being so likable as well! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”
“Your welcome! I’m glad I could be such a help.”
“Julia, you sound upset. What’s wrong?”
“Well today has been great, Paul and I went out. This morning I spoke to Pam, that’s all.”
“Uggh, no wonder. Tell me what happened—shit! Five o’clock already! I’m sorry, can we discuss this later? I have to leave now or I’ll miss my shift at Macys’s. I’m really sorry. But oh, I had wanted to check this. You’re returning tomorrow, right?”
I’ve hardly thought about work recently. Responsibilities.
“Yes, yes I am. John and Paul will have to amuse themselves for a day, which is such a pity since they’ll be leaving so soon!”
“And don’t I know it! Two days…Thursday. But I’ve been happy to cover your shift for Monday and Tuesday, you did it for me the last time I had that exhibit at the Tigerlily.”
“It was no problem and thanks again.”
“Don’t worry. It’ll be great seeing you tomorrow! I have a lot to catch up on. And hey, when the guys leave we can even have a girls’ night out. How’s that sound?”
I grin. “Wonderful.”
“Great! I’ll catch you later! Ack! I’m going to be late! Bye!”
Paul gets up from the couch.
He smiles. “She’s doing well I suppose.”
“Definitely. Off to her Macys’s shift. I’ll have to go back tomorrow.”
“Yea. But that doesn’t last all day, does it?”
“Ten AM to Five PM.” I sigh.
“Well that does leave us the other”—he pauses to count—“seventeen hours in the day.”
I grin. He gives me a peck on the lips. “So, are we seeing John today?”
“I think we might, he said he’d call.”
“We’d better wait. How about watching the telly until then?”
We make ourselves comfortable on the couch. I lean my head on his shoulder and he pulls his arm around me. I look at the television. The button is so many feet away. I look towards Paul. “So, who’s going to turn it on?”
Paul smirks. “I always could…” He moves in closer and his lips touch mine, his body slowly moving on top of me. I push him back.
I laugh. “That’s not what I meant.”
He smiles. “Oh yeah?” He kisses me.
“Well then, would you prefer I turn the telly on instead?”
I kiss him. “No, this is quite all right as it is.” I push him down and resume kissing position.
His kisses become more passionate as he unbuttons my shirt, throwing it onto the carpet. His hand moves up my leg as a stinging ring causes us both to stop.
Out of breath, I manage, “I suppose that’s John.”
The phone continues to ring.
“Yea, I’ll bet that is.” He gives me a soft peck. He glances into my eyes. “You should probably get it then.”
I stand up rather awkwardly and pick it up on its sixth ring. “Hello?”
“Hi, I said I’d call.”
I smile. “You certainly did.”
“Am I interrupting anything? Sound a bit busy. You didn’t answer right away and I wasn’t sure if I should just give up….”
I laugh. “No it’s all right. We were waiting for your call.”
“Yea, I’ll bet. But as it is, does the thought of the three of us going out appeal to you?”
“Well sure, I’ll go ask.” I cover the receiver with my hand. “John wants to know if we want to go out.”
Paul rolls his eyes, grinning. “Love to.”
I return to the phone. “Love to.”
“Alright, I’ll be over in a minute then.”
“Great, see you then.”
I place the phone down and turn back to Paul. “He said he’d be over in a minute.”
“Alright…but how about one more kiss first?”
I return to the couch and our lips meet. He pulls me towards him, wrapping his arms around me. The doorbell rings. I pull away. “How’d he do that?”
Paul looks up. “That’s him?”
“Must be, who else would it be?” I straighten my skirt and realize my shirt is lying on the carpet. I run to get it as the bell rings again. “Paul, maybe you should answer it.”
He laughs. “Alright, I suppose you’ll be in your room for a moment then?”
The bell rings a second time. “Yes.”
I run in and hear the small chain lock being opened and the door creak. I rush to button my shirt.
Of all my shirts, I had to pick this one today.
I overhear John laughing a bit and Paul desperately trying to sound serious. I quickly finish the bottom button and walk out. They both turn and John gives Paul a nudge, smirking. Paul stifles a laugh.
“What? What is it?”
“Your shirt’s buttons are off, luv,” John says with a gleam in his eye.
I look down and blush.
Well, whatever Paul tried to use as an excuse for me being in my room certainly has been completely disproved at this point.
I sigh and roll my eyes. “Be right back.”
They both snicker and I return to my room. After fixing the buttons and double-checking, I walk out and we’re on our way.
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