Lydia finally returns to the cash register to complete the elderly woman’s purchase. I watch as the woman leaves happily with her newly acquired merchandise.
Lydia’s face lights up as if reality has just hit her for the first time. “So wait, you mean to tell me Pam is pregnant?“
I look up to respond but we’re interrupted by a thirty-something brunette wielding a tabloid and three shopping bags from all different stores. We turn to help her as she quickly glances up from her paper. Her eyes flash. She does a double take. I gaze down at the paper to find a blown up picture of me that I had sent to Pam in the mail right before my trip to England.
At least it’s a semi-attractive shot of me…and not some terrible picture with my eyes half-closed, my tongue hanging out, and my face blown up like a balloon.
A press shot of Paul and John sits beside my smiling face. Beneath the pictures rests a poorly lit shot of what must be the three of us eating at the Indian restaurant. The headline reads: “Love Me Don’t: ‘Just Good Friends’ Says Beatle John.”
My eyes return to the woman’s face, her eyes still fixed on me. I turn to Lydia to speak.
“May we help you?” Lydia asks.
“Man…” the brunette says looking towards Lydia.
Lydia smirks. “Is there anything you would like assistance with?”
The woman looks around us as if to search for potential paparazzi, or perhaps, her true interest, The Beatles. Her eyes disappointedly fall back to me.
“Uh, yeah…I’m interested in bed sheets….” Her eyes dart back and forth as she leans in. “I was gonna get violet, but Hon, I’ll take whatever color John’s sheets are.”
This is going to be a long day…
When work finally ends Lydia and I rush to the nearest newsstand to pick up the latest tabloids.
News certainly has a way of spreading like brushfire—from The Daily Mirror to The National Enquirer in just a few hours.
The same picture of me heads every paper with the exception of the few branding the shot of John and me running out of Lydia’s exhibit, hand-in-hand, exchanging laughing glances. “Actions sing louder than words: Looks like Beatle John Wants to Hold Her Hand,” says the text beneath one of them.
“Shit,” laughs Lydia. “Looks like you’ve got your work cut out for you. So, do you intend to buy them and help to pay these lovely reporters or just remain the mature adult that you are and simply walk off, rising above it all?”
We lock eyes and giggle.
“All right, I’ll buy them for you,” she says. “After all, they do all promote my work rather well. We can just call it my ‘free publicity collection.’”
After purchasing the four tabloids that directly mention the story and every newspaper that might indirectly allude to it, we leave to meet up with Paul and John.
We reach the hotel at 6:30 and hope they’re there. Lydia recalls the room number (apparently it was some topic of conversation between John and her the night they’d slept together) and the hotel clerk calls up. He tells us to “go right up,” looking us both over as if we were some sort of groupie or prostitute.
I protest! I am not a groupie! I am not! Groupies are not told by their beloved stars that the love is mutual! And I care a great deal deeper for Paul than the average “groupie.” AND he feels the same. Does he not? If only the damn clerk could hear me….
We hurry to the elevator, my speech merely being screamed in my head. A man reading The Daily News wipes his nose and turns the page.
“Lydia, since the guys are leaving tomorrow, do you think it would be that big a deal if I wasn’t to go to work?”
“Julia, I’m not going to work tomorrow. I mean sure, I love Jake and all, but this will probably be the last time I see them for a long time and I want to make the most of it.”
The man looks up casually from his paper and does a double take. I make a mental check to see if we bought The Daily News.
“Yes, we did,” Lydia smiles knowingly.
The man’s eyes crawl sheepishly back to the print but nonetheless peer timidly above the edge of the paper. I ignore his stare, but remind myself of how tactful I have to be with our conversation.
The doors slide open, and as a precaution Lydia and I walk off at the level below John and Paul’s.
Besides, we can always walk the next flight.
We wait until the man has entered his room and clamber up the crickety stairs. I knock on the door using my ‘da-da-di-da-da’ rhythm and it is answered with a ‘da-da’ from the other side. The door flies open and a grinning John and Paul greet us.
“Oh luv, I missed you so much!” Paul takes my arms, swings me around, and kisses me. He winks.
He knows how adorable he is.
“I missed you, too,” I smile.
Lydia laughs at us. John stares at Paul with a half-smile. He turns to me.
I blink my eyes like a doe.
“Yeh Juli, I missed you too. But for Christ’s sake, it was only a few measly hours.”
Noticing the awkward conversation break, Lydia chimes, “What are tonight’s plans?”
“Well since we’re leaving tomorrow, we thought it should be extra special. So, unless you have had anything else in mind, how’s about we have an exciting evening dinner in Central Park?” Paul says.
I can smell marijuana smoke wafting through the room and notice the window open. I decide not to say anything.
“Sounds great,” I say.
“Mmm…definitely,” says Lydia looking flirtatiously at John.
So much for Jake tonight.
John perks up. “Yes-yes-yes! We just need to determine where we’ll get the food. Luckily, while we eat we’ll be hidden beneath the shroud of darkness.” He directs his gaze towards me. “No more cameras.”
“Are you sure it’s so very safe and we won’t get mugged or something?” I ask, looking at Lydia who knows just as well as I do of the dangers of the park at night.
“Don’t worry, we’ll protect you.” John smirks as he wraps his arm around Lydia, who melts as if on cue.
So much for reason.
We race to the sidewalk and debate which restaurant we’d like to take out from the most. In the midst of an argument over Chinese vs. Mexican food, John dashes through the door of a liquor store. The three of us consider joining him inside but second-guess ourselves as we recall the rumors the four of us have already started.
Ten minutes later John pops back out, displaying a 1955 Vintage bottle of champagne. “Thought we might like something nice to drink with our meal,” he laughs. “That is, if we can agree on one!”
“Oh John! That’s so sweet of you!” Lydia exclaims as she throws herself to his side.
“Yeah, thanks,” I say, knowing how expensive it is, yet also remembering how little my tongue will enjoy it. I curse myself for not loving alcohol and resolve to drink for social purposes more often in order to force my mouth to get used to it. “That’s really generous of you.”
“Yeh, thanks Lennon, but you know I thought we’d agreed that I’d handle the drinks today.”
“Oh well, guess I forgot then, Macca.” The faint light from the storefront reveals an unusual look of mischief in his eyes. I have to wonder what this rivalry is about.
“Alright, I’ll get the food then…and what exactly will this food be?” Paul asks.
Lydia, John, and I speak at once. We laugh and finally agree that since the pizzeria is the closest, pizza will be our choice. Deciding two pies is enough, Paul places our order.
The four of us wait outside in order to maintain some sense of anonymity. John pulls a box of cigarettes from his jacket pocket and flicks on his lighter. The flame ignites the tip and quickly cools to orange embers in the March night air. He offers one to Lydia and she accepts. He places the second cigarette between his lips and lights it. He hands it to her, keeping the first one dangling. She wets it in her mouth and glances at him seductively.
I look up at Paul, whose face has lit up with a boyish smirk. “I’ll light my own, thanks Johnny luv.” He says, batting his eyelashes.
“Aww shut up, Pudgie.” John retorts.
John alters his voice, “Pudgie, Pudgie.”
“Fuck off Lennon, I’ll have my own fag then,” Paul says, looking annoyed and embarrassed as he lights his cigarette.
I lean forward to take a deep breath of the clean air. I accidentally gulp the smoke and start into a brief coughing fit.
Why must this always become such an issue?
“You alright luv?” Paul asks worriedly, hitting my back gently.
Embarrassed and red-faced I sneak some fresh air through my nostrils and hold back my cough. “Yeah, I’m fine.”
I sit upon the steps outside the pizzeria. I watch as Paul sends a side-glance towards John. Inhaling with all his might, Paul fills his mouth with smoke, and with one huge burst of air, blows it all directly into John’s face. John glares and returns a puff of smoke to Paul. Lydia and I exchange glances as Paul and John continue to exchange puffs of smoke. This carries on until a boy comes out of the pizzeria to inform us that the pizza is ready.
We start our walk towards Central Park and find a dark grassy spot near 72nd street. The ground is hard and icy.
“We should have brought a blanket,” I say.
“Ah, it’s alright,” Paul says. He places down the two hot pizza boxes and takes off his jacket, offering for me to sit on it.
“Paul, don’t do that. You might catch a cold,” I say, shivering.
“Don’t worry luv, I’ll be fine. As long as you promise to help keep me warm…” I can hear him smirking.
“Aww,” Lydia coos.
John looks at her, placing down the champagne bottle. “Yeh, it’s not that cold.” He then removes his jacket and sits Lydia down upon it, smiling with triumphant masculinity.
I snuggle next to Paul. We open the boxes and dive for the slices. John and Paul seem particularly hungry. The warm aroma of tomato sauce, mozzarella, and garlic dances to my nostrils. I take my first bite as John picks up the bottle.
“Time to open the party!” he says, removing the foil, and positioning himself to open the bottle.
“Guess we’ll all drink from it—we have no glasses,” Lydia says. She laughs, “The universal bottle.”
He chuckles. “Alright then,” John says, as he pops open the champagne. “Who’s first?”
“Ladies first,” says Paul.
I roll my eyes, hidden by the shadow of nightfall. I formally decide that if passed to me, I will drink from it and pretend to like it.
John turns to me, but then hands it to Lydia.
She takes a gulp. “Mmm.”
She passes it to Paul who takes a swig. He looks at me questioningly, but hands it to John. He gulps, and rather barbarously wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. He gives it to me.
He’s testing me.
I take a swig. Bubbles tickle my taste buds but the bitterness of the liquid turns my stomach. I swallow and pass it to Lydia matter-of-factly.
All eyes are on me. Lydia looks the most surprised, especially having known me all through high school, college, through to now. John looks satisfied. Paul bites on the inside of his right cheek and gives me a side-glance. I pretend not to notice and smile as I pick up my pizza. Lydia shrugs and continues to drink. John picks up his fifth slice of pizza.
The night moves slowly and peacefully. An unusual contrast of tranquility and tension overcomes me. Time seems to stand still, allowing us our night together, yet the unflinching reminder of their departure still tugs at my heart.
Long after the pizza and champagne are finished, we decide to walk home. Having not been in my own apartment in over a day, I suggest we walk back to my place. It’s late and paparazzi is unlikely.
The bus ride back takes about an hour and a half. When we finally reach my apartment, we’re exhausted. Lydia plops down on the couch and leans her head on the armrest. John sits beside her. Paul sits cross-legged on the floor, staring into space. I excuse myself to the bathroom to wash up.
In the midst of washing my face, the phone rings. I quickly dry my face and hurry out but Paul catches it on the second ring. I hear him talking into the mouthpiece as I approach him.
“Yes please hold on, Miss,” Paul says, placing his hand over the mouthpiece. “It’s Mrs. Barrett, Pam’s mother. She says she needs to speak with you, immediately.”
I blink silently and accept the phone.
“Hello dear, is this Julia?” A British accent that is strangely familiar to me sounds from the phone. “This is Mrs. Barrett,”—a pause—“Something’s happened to Pam, and I didn’t know who else to call.” Her voice cracks as if on the verge of tears. Pam’s mother obviously cares a quite a bit more for her than she thought.
“Love, I know you’re all the way in America, but I think it’s important that you come to England if at all possible,”—another pause—“I’m sure it would mean a great deal to Pam, and myself…”
I realize I haven’t spoken yet.
I can’t believe what I’m hearing. Pam is supposed to be okay, the one with the upper hand, alive and well.
“What happened?” I force the words from my mouth. I look up at Paul who’s troubled eyes look attentively upon me. Lydia and John are sitting completely stoic.
“I don’t know if Pam told you, love, but she was pregnant. I believe it was that Peter of hers…” She chokes on tears. “She went illegally for an abortion and it seems she went to the wrong person. They used nothing for pain. They didn’t even sterilize their tools. She’s at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital right now.”
I’m numb. The words hit my ear and bounce off.
She’s wrong about Peter and I’m the only one who knows the truth—aside from Pam, that is.
“The doctors are working on her now. It would be best if you could schedule a plane immediately.”
“Is she conscious?”
“I don’t know. It seems Peter found her at home in agony and called for an ambulance. She tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen. The hospital telephoned me. Peter and I are in the waiting room now. Can I count on you to come? I’ll reimburse you for whatever the ticket costs. Just please—“
“Yes, I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Thank you dear, I truly appreciate it. I’m sure Pam will as well. Goodbye.”
She hangs up and the tone blares. My knuckles are white from gripping the phone too tightly. I stare at the receiver in disbelief.
Is it possible? Did I really just have that conversation?
“What is it, Jules?” Paul asks.
Their anxious faces confirm that it’s reality.
“It’s Pam,” I watch as John’s face hardens. “She’s in the hospital.”
Time seems to speed up and life becomes blurry. I realize I’m going to have to tell John the child is his and shudder at the thought. All eyes are on me in eager anticipation.
The tension builds at my temples and suddenly makes me want to burst out laughing—burst into hysterics and never stop. I hate moments like these—carrying so much weight, but all my light heart wants to do is give way to senseless hysteria, leaving me for an insensitive fool.
I focus on the crease where the ceiling meets the wall. I can not bear to stare back into their eyes. I’m forced to adjust my eyes to their faces yet choose to look through them.
“Pam’s in the hospital…” I repeat. I wonder how far I should continue. It would be unfair to break the pregnancy news to John in front of everyone. “John, may I speak with you privately?”
Maybe not the best approach, but certainly the only one I can think of.
All eyes turn on John.
A look of terror sweeps across his face. His eyes probe at me with tentative inquisition. He follows me into my room. I close the door.
“What…what is it?” he asks.
I take a deep breath. “Pam was pregnant and she didn’t want to keep the child so she went for an abortion, illegally, of course. It appears that the man who did it neglected the use of novocaine as well as the use of a sterilized knife.” My wording is simplistic. I feel like I’m explaining the events to a five year old boy, trying in the most gentle way possible, so as not to send the poor child into a screaming tumult of emotions. “The child was yours.”
I seem to verbalize everything John had been predicting and fearing. It’s only now that I feel the weight of my words.
John drops his body onto my bed, sitting with his face bathed in his hands. It brings me back to my first meeting with him in England, in Redlees Park, on my way to see Pam for the first time in fourteen years.
He releases a burst of air from his lungs into his hands and looks up—eyes fearing the worst yet pleading for the best. “Is she alright?” he asks in a small voice.
I return his troubled gaze. “I wish I knew. I just spoke to her mother, who was beside herself. She told me to rush right over. She’d pay for the ticket as long as I’d leave immediately. She had been telephoned by Peter. The two of them are in the waiting room now.”
“Peter Morrison. If you recall, I dated him for a short while. Pam’s been seeing—“
“Yeh, yeh, I know. I remember Cyn telling me. Bloody bastard.”
“Yeah well, Pam’s mom thinks that’s the same ‘bloody bastard’ who got her pregnant.” It’s only after my lips close that I realize how easily my words could be taken offensively.
“That is, I don’t mean to say that you are a bloody bastard for getting her pregnant. It’s not your fault about the abortion…“
John waves my words away with his hand as he turns away from me, facing my night table. “How long have you known?”
I pause. “Well, Pam’s mother just called, I—“
John shoots up but still won’t face me. His arms flail. “You fucking know what I mean. That she’s been pregnant, how fucking long have you known?” His hand gives a calculated air-striking motion with each word. His eyes crawl back to my face.
I blink, suddenly nervous. “Only a day or two…” John looks ready to roar with rage, but weakness forces his shoulders to cower as he faces my window’s brick wall view. I make a quiet attempt at a credible reason. “When I last spoke to Pam,”—I take a deep breath, ready to hurry my explanation—“I finally learned why she did what she did to me…and a lot of it had to do with you.”
I stand beside him as he continues to stare through the glass at the wall. “She loved you. And so when she realized she was pregnant, she decided she would follow whatever you desired in terms of the child. Abortion, adoption, birth—anything. Thing is, the day she was going to finally tell you, I called, you overheard her speaking with me, and the rest is history. She thinks you love me,” I try to express the ridiculousness of the statement in my voice. John turns his head from the wall towards me. I continue, “I tried my best to explain that we’re just friends,” I catch his eyes, “close friends maybe, but friends nonetheless, but she wouldn’t listen.”
His eyes are closed windows.
There’s a silence. John’s mind drifts quietly above my head.
“I’ll have to go with you then. We can take the same flight tomorrow morning but Brian will somehow have to get you a seat. We’ll separate from Paul at the airport. Lydia’ll have to stay here. We’ll have to get our cases back from the room.” He releases a deep sigh.
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