I stare at the phone and then at Paul. Having now painstakingly calculated the moment when my parents might be the most agreeable, I prepare to make the call. 6 ‘o clock—Mom, Dad, and Cordelia have just finished dinner. Chances are Dad’s sitting watching television in the living room with Mom and Cordelia is off in her room blasting Rubber Soul. Calling now would mean I would probably make it before Mom and Dad start yelling for her to turn down the music.
I look over at Paul’s casual long-sleeved blue shirt and nice pants. We had promised John and Lydia we’d meet them at the Indian restaurant in an hour. There’s no way the call could take up that much time.
Paul cues his head toward the phone. “You ready luv?”
I take a deep breath and put on a confident smile. “Yes, I am.”
I pick up the phone and dial.
“Hi Mom, it’s me Julia.”
“Oh hello sweetie! It’s so great to hear your voice! Haven’t heard from you in a week. How’d that last performance go?”
“Well. Very well, it’s just I—“
“Your cousin Michael is over and his fiancée, Stephanie. Delightful girl you know, so sweet and well mannered. I’m so happy that Michael has finally found someone he wants to settle down with.”
“Yes, I am too. Just Mom—“
“I have some news that I was calling to tell you.” My voice comes out a great deal more seriously than I had meant.
“Oh. What? Is something the matter? Something wrong?”
Realizing I was bringing the tone of conversation down, I pick my voice up and try to sound as happy as possible. “No, of course not, Mom. You see, on Friday—our last performance, John and Paul came to visit.”
My mother’s voice refuses to mimic my cheerful air. “Oh, I see.”
“Yes well, it seems the whole thing was one big misunderstanding—“
“Misunderstanding, was it? Oh, I see. Dear, you do mean those Beatles don’t you? I don’t want to be getting you wrong.”
“No, it certainly is. Yes, ‘those Beatles’.” I smile at Paul so that my frustration doesn’t begin to affect him as well. It will clearly be a great deal more difficult to persuade my mother that it was a miscommunication and everything is all right now, than it was for me to be convinced. Then of course, she still thinks Pam and I are friends.
He smiles back and my mother continues.
“Honey, have you really not learned by now?”
She sighs. “Learned how absolutely untrustworthy this bunch of wild, worthless…mop tops are?”
“But Mom it was—“
“It was a misunderstanding?”
Why does she have to make me feel so childish? I know what I’m doing. I’m not just some sophomoric twenty year old with a teenage infatuation for some rock star heartthrob…
“Yes, they really had been separated.” …Am I?…I feel myself unable to look up at Paul and embarrassed at the fact I’m pleading for my mother to understand right in front of him. I know I’m right, Paul loves me. I trust Paul. Paul cares. “She just hadn’t been over it yet, that’s all. Mom—“
“He’s there, isn’t he?”
Her question throws me off guard and I can’t help but take a quick glance up at him. It’s then I realize how curled up I’ve become in the chair—cowering, hiding my head almost. “Yes…yes, he is.”
“Has he been sleeping there?”
“You know…you’re apartment.”
“Well, Brian, their manager, had bought John and Paul a place to stay for the past few days.”
“And have they been using it?”
“I think John may be, but Paul might have stayed one or two nights here. It’s easier you know, instead of having to take a bus back at night. It’s…dangerous.”
My mother sighs again, her suspicions clearly being answered. Her tone is now increasingly more serious, almost pitying. “You really think you’re in love, don’t you?”
I was prepared for this question. “I am, it’s not an infatuation.”
Her voice surprisingly softens. “Honey, do you honestly think—“
I look up into Paul’s eyes. They smile back at me—deep pools of love. His lips send me a silent kiss. I beam. “I don’t think Mom. I know.”
The breathiness of her voice is startling, yet gives me a relief to know this argument will soon be over. “Yes dear. Would you like to speak to your father? He’s been asking for you.”
I hear a bit of an awkward, hushed argument go on between my father and mother. Finally, my dad picks up, evidently not pleased, yet obviously making quite an effort to sound content. “Hello sweetie.”
“Mom says you had some news.”
“Yes, I did.”
“She told me the news, you know.”
“Good. I just didn’t get to finish telling her all of it.”
My father’s voice becomes completely silent. “You’re not pregnant, are you honey?”
The absurdity of the question causes me to laugh. I guess it would be out of place to make a point that Paul and I always use protection. “Dad! No! Of course not! I just wanted to say that I was hoping that we, well, Paul and I, could come and visit sometime this week.”
“Oh,” I can hear him smile with relief. “Uh, yes. Yes, I suppose that might be nice. What day are you planning on honey?”
“Would tomorrow be good for you?”
“Tomorrow? Well, uh, yes. Yes that would be great.” I can hear him tilt his head away from the phone and mumble the message to my mother who responds with utter silence. He returns to the phone bursting with what seems a false enthusiasm for meeting a man I know my father does not respect. Hopefully this visit will change that…“Yes, definitely! Michael could come and pick you up.”
“No, no. I’d hate to inconvenience him. We could use public transportation, like I usually do—“
“No Julia, I will not have it any other way. Michael will pick you up.” I listen as he yells across the room. “Michael! You wouldn’t mind driving Julia and her boyfriend here from her apartment tomorrow, now would you? Nah, of course not, I knew it. See Julia?”
“Wonderful, now you’ll stay the night. Possibly two nights—“
“One at most Dad, Paul has to return to England by the first. It’s scheduled.”
“Oh, alright. One night then.”
There is a moment of silence.
“Julia honey, I’d ask you if you wanted to speak with Cordelia but she’s currently out with a friend. Michael’s here. Would you like to say something to him?”
I check my clock. Already 6:30! “Oh, uh—I would, but Paul and I really have to be going. We’re meeting John and Lydia in the Village.”
“Alright honey, now remember I love you, and so does your mother—so don’t—don’t do anything drastic.”
I laugh. “I won’t Dad, believe me. And I love you, too.”
“Remember you can tell us anything.”
“YES Dad, I love you.”
“Alright sweetie. Love you too.” I hang up.
Paul looks up from a reverie. “Well?”
I smile and throw my arms around his neck, moving into his lap. “Tomorrow.”
He grins. “Tomorrow it is then.”
We rush to the Indian restaurant but are inevitably a half an hour late. Gupta walks us to where John is waiting.
“Eh, finally here now aren’t you?”
I sigh. “I’m sorry, we tried to hurry—“
“Must have been a bit busy, eh Macca?”
“Come off it.”
“Come off what? I wasn’t the one on top of her—“
“John, people can hear you…” I say, trying to quiet him down but inevitably falling into that stage whisper which always seems to draw more attention than if one were to say nothing at all. “Besides I was calling my parents.”
“Talk about strange fetishes….”
Paul rolls his eyes and sits. “We’re going to visit her parents tomorrow.”
John smirks. “What? You’re that close already? Already trying to make it in her with her folks?”
“Yeah well,”—I sit down—“Paul thought it would be a good idea if he met them before I told them that I was going to join you guys on tour.”
John grins. “So you’re coming?”
I exchange looks with Paul. “Well, I certainly have every intention to. After all, I am twenty two.” I sit up straight. “And am legally able to do what I please.” I sigh. “Just…Paul’s right, it would be ten times better if I at least had my parents blessing.”
“It’s not like you’re getting married, you know.”
“Yes, but it means me staying in a hotel with four males,” I feign disgust, mimicking my Great Aunt Ruth whose face I can picture being absolutely appalled at the thought. She once even criticized me for wearing jeans, calling it ‘unladylike.’ But then again, what can one expect from a person born in 1898?
I continue my sour look of disdain and horror, bringing my voice to a low gasp of a whisper. “…Maybe even sharing a room with one.”
John laughs. “Yeh, I suppose if they knew about you and Paulie, screwing at all hours of the day and night, and still hadn’t met him they wouldn’t be too pleased.”
John’s blatancy embarrasses me. I find myself unable to look him in the eye. I begin to once again doubt my actions. I was right, wasn’t I? Love is enough for sex. Especially with a Beatle. I went over this enough times. I am acting appropriately. It’s okay to stray from the fold every once in a while.
I cover up my insecurities with a quick change of topic. “Uh, yeah, exactly. Where’s Lydia?”
“She left a bit ago. She said she had forgotten something. Went back to the flat probably. It’s been a while now, hasn’t it? I don’t know, maybe she went for a walk.”
“A walk?” I ask.
“Hell, how am I supposed to know?”
“You think she’s alright?” Paul asks.
“Should certainly hope so.”
I stare out onto the dark streets through the musty window, now beginning to worry, lost in my own reverie.
“Think we should wait for her?”
“To eat, you mean?”
She’s fine, she must be fine. I shouldn’t worry. I mustn’t be over-reactive, overprotective, paranoid or any of my many other human neurosis. Lydia’s fine. I look to face the others and smile. “No, I’m sure she’s alright.”
Paul catches Gupta’s glance and calls him over. We make our selections and Gupta leaves to put in our orders. Lydia still hasn’t returned.
“Maybe I should go look for her?”
“Jules luv, it’s dark out. It’s just not safe for you. You can’t go alone.”
“Yes well—oh come on John, back me up on this one.”
“I agree with you, Paul. Juli, you should have one of us go with you. Who knows what finger pie craving loonies are out there?”
“Yes, well I’m old enough to handle it myself thank-you-very-much.”—I stand up—“I’ll be back soon. See you later.”
I walk out. The streets are muggy yet the darkness sends shivers down my spine. I look for a direction and decide on the road to Lydia’s. A few stray couples walk by yet the streets are eerily empty for a Sunday night. Maybe John and Paul were right. Maybe I should have listened.
I continue to walk a few paces forward as a humid breeze blows through my hair, leaving its dewy residue on my face. My heel is caught in the cracks between the sidewalk and I struggle to free myself.
As the sidewalk finally releases me and I look up to continue my journey, I spot a man with wild dark hair running towards me, at full speed, screaming. I panic and turn back towards the restaurant. The man comes up behind me and grabs my shoulders before I make it to the door.
I shriek. The man spins me around. I hear Paul and John rush out the door.
“Hey Juli Baby! Has it been that long?” The man smiles. Light filters through the fog from the lamp overhead. I make out his brown eyes and hair, his perfect smile…Charlie! I burn with embarrassment.
As John and Paul rush up behind me I start laughing. They stop moving, clearly puzzled. “Charlie!” I smile. “It’s so great to see you!”
He grins. “Yeah. It’s even better being greeted as if I’m a rapist.”
My ears pulse. “Sorry about that.” I remember John and Paul and turn to introduce them. The mistaken deception leaves a look of aggravation on both their faces. I apologize and their stolid stance relents a little. Paul maintains a look of distaste as he glances over at Charlie. Well there’s one friendship that will never happen…
Charlie smiles through the uneasiness. “Yes, well I had originally come to meet Lydia here. We had made plans a while ago. Is that why you’re here as well?”
So that’s why Lydia had “forgotten something” at her house. She probably had remembered Charlie at the last minute and could already predict the beauties of Paul and Charlie meeting again…only too late, of course.
I must admit it’s great seeing Charlie. However, must it be on one of my ever-precious seven days with the John and Paul?
I sigh internally yet plaster a huge smile on my face, to prepare for introductions. A mischievous smirk spreads across John’s face. I close my eyes and pray that tonight will not be as painful as it appears.
John and Charlie shake hands. Paul’s chance comes and I watch as Charlie’s knuckles turn a violent shade of white. Charlie cringes and I decide it’s time to usher them in. We return to our spots and Charlie sits to my right. I figure Lydia will sit between Charlie and John and I position myself accordingly. An uneasy silence prevails and John continues to smile.
“So uh Charlie, been in any plays since the last time we saw you?”
He laughs. “It’s only been a few days.”
“Oh yes, I suppose I forgot. You were a rather impressive Romeo, you know. Really seemed to fit the part—feel the part, head on—“
I glare at John. He ceases. “…Gear job. Really.”
Charlie is gushing pride. “Oh wow. My God, thank you. Really thank you. I really don’t know what to say.”—he laughs nervously—“My God, oh wow. You have no idea what it means to hear you,”—his voice lowers—“John Lennon, say that to me. I mean. Wow.”
John seems overly amused by Charlie’s admiration yet as long as he refrains from sparking Paul’s anger, everything should run smoothly—I hope.
Gupta brings our orders. Charlie rubs his hands together and smiles. “Mmm-hmm. Smells great as usual. Perfection once again, G.”
G has always been Charlie’s nickname for Gupta. The rest of us always call him Gupta, but that’s Charlie—always being different.
Gupta beams with joy. “Thank you very much. You know I love to hear your flattery.”
“But it’s always true.”
“I wish it were so. But now,” Gupta bows his head, glancing briefly at the table. “Enjoy your meal. But wait. Lydia? Did she leave?” He sends me a genuinely curious look.
“Yes, we expect she’ll be back soon. She had forgotten something at home.”
Gupta sighs with relief. “Ah, very good. Enjoy.” He leaves.
Charlie turns to me jokingly. “Forgotten something? Like what? Our date?”
Paul raises an eyebrow. John snickers while picking up a carrot from his plate. “I think that might just be it.” He bites the carrot and begins to chew.
Charlie laughs nervously. “Yes, yes. Must be. Ha.”
John continues, “So I suppose you and ‘Juli baby’ must come here often. Mhmm?” He sneaks a glance at a very stiff Paul. “Just you two…alone?” He chews.
Charlie eases. “Why yes, actually we have. Number of times it must have been.” He looks towards me for confirmation.
“Yes, but with the rest of the group usually—“
“Group?” Charlie seems puzzled. I tense up.
“Yes group…Lydia, you, me…James…”
“Well, not usually. Isn’t it usually just us?”
I feel three sets of eyes penetrating my skull. I swallow. “Yes, I suppose you are right.”
John smiles triumphantly. I watch Paul’s anger burning deep within him, a cauldron overflowing with fuel. I fear the moment the flames ignite.
In an attempt to calm him down I reach beneath the table to gently touch his knee. It startles him and he looks up at me with an expression of complete surprise. My cheeks burn scarlet. Behind me Lydia’s voice chimes, “Hello everybody!”
She is smiling brightly. She glances over at me from above Charlie’s head. She rests her hands on his shoulders and leans to greet everyone. Her eyes send me sympathy.
“Seems my presence has been long overdue. I’m sorry I didn’t return earlier—“
John looks her in the eye, his arms crossed. “Find what you had forgotten?”
Her eyes dart left, “Yes, I believe I did.”
“As if it were right under your no—“
I interrupt, bursting with false enthusiasm. “Oh! You must be hungry! I’m sorry we started without you, but we were a bit hungry. Yes, hungry.” I sigh. The excess of my vain effort forces tears to burn the back of my eye sockets. I smile pushing the pain into the mere corners of my mouth. “Here, if you need something, you can have some of mine. Otherwise we’ll get Gupta…”
Charlie’s teeth fill his mouth. “Lydie!” He stands up and does our traditional ‘theater crowd’ kiss-kiss on either cheek. Charlie had seen it done in France and we’ve adopted it ever since.
Lydia smiles. She raises an eyebrow as she glances from John’s sarcastic stance to Paul’s subdued hatred. Her smile fades.
Charlie shouts across the room. “Hey G! Lydie’s back! Time for the usual!” Unlike most would expect, no one bothers turning around. Charlie is well known in this part of town and everyone just accepts his vociferous vivacity, a trait I’ve found to be almost endearing about him. Rarely would I have even picked up on it, but for some reason in the presense of John and Paul, Charlie’s every flaw is magnified to incredible extremes.
As Lydia sits, she gives a friendly nod to John and Paul. Paul returns a half-smile. I accept that as a bit of progress for the night.
“Hello luv,” John says.
Lydia smiles. It’s clear she’ll never get over her incredible adoration for John. Lydia’s main dish is brought over. My food is already cold. I haven’t touched it. I’m not hungry.
I look over and notice Paul hasn’t touched his either. It’s awful. Truly awful. One of my rare moments with the man I hold dearer to me than all the world and here we are, miserable. Life’s too short for this sort of petty upset. I can already predict how easily it would all be solved once we had left. I never understand such stupid anger. It must be jealousy, and although flattering, I must say it’s destroying my night terribly.
But what would cause John to act as he is? Why must he get so much satisfaction out of Paul’s pain and Paul undoubtedly looks like he’s in pain. It’s moments like these the one thing I want to do more than anything else is just kiss him. Kiss him and make everything all better. But does that work? Would such a thing solve everything that’s wrong here?
Yes, yes it would. I certainly haven’t been unfaithful. Charlie loves me as a friend and nothing more as far as I’m aware. John is simply my good friend. Not to mention, Paul’s best friend, who is obviously having a bit too much fun at this teasing game.
I look deep into the back of Paul’s eyes. They have glassed over, but I can feel what he’s going through. I can feel his misery.
Emotion overcomes me and I kiss him. In the midst of the miserable silence, I lean towards him, pull my arms behind his neck, and kiss him in a moment of wild embrace.
I pull back to find a wide, bright-eyed Paul. He’s smiling. A new flame is lit inside me and I want to move towards him again, kiss him again, but I know that at this point I’ve already drawn enough attention to myself.
I recompose myself, as does Paul, both of us finishing an embarrassed laugh. John sits, arms crossed, eyebrow raised, while Charlie just bursts out laughing. Lydia soon joins him and we all find ourselves immersed in our sole relief of the fog-thick tension—utter hysterics.
From that moment on the group’s spirit is lightened. The time becomes enjoyable and at least Paul seems happy. Sometimes people just need a reminder of what’s truly important. Charlie is free to be himself and I’m glad to not have to look at him through a microscopic lens.
The night passes by quickly and as Paul pays the bill, John and I find ourselves in a rare moment outside the restaurant, alone. John is smoking.
I shake my head ‘No.’
The smoke from his cigarette drifts lazily through the night’s haze. He takes one long drag and sits down on a nearby stoop. I sit beside him. He continues to stare straight before him. “Nice night.”
“Yeah, sort of muggy though.”
“Yeh. Humid.” He looks towards me, elbow resting on knee and cigarette sending a trailing gray cloud. “Lydia’s a gear friend of yours. You know, real nice and all…but you do realize she wasn’t the reason I came all this way?” He pauses. “You do realize I came all this way to see you and this is the closest I’ve come between twenty minute visiting periods?”
His comment stings. I had thought about that before but how would it be possible to spend a day with John, if it would mean leaving Paul all alone?
Silence. He shakes the ashes off his cigarette’s end. He stares forward again. The smell begins to make me lightheaded and a bit nauseous. I close my eyes and ignore it.
“Luv, do you not care? Do you bloody not care? I know you love Paul and all but Juli luv, have you forgotten me?”
I stare into his eyes, now covered by some shield of glass. His stare pierces my heart and I want to look away. I don’t.
“John, I’d never forget you. How could I? You’re John Lennon. But you’re more than that. You are a wonderful person who is fabulous to be around—that is when you’re not baiting Paul.” I sneak a glance in search of a response. There is none. “Look, I want to spend time with you alone. It’s just difficult with Paul.” I look at the step below.
“Yes well luv, we’re friends aren’t we? And I hate to be all tut-tut and all but you’ve ignored me this whole bloody time. I mean how would you feel if the woman you loved paid no attention to you?”
My heart jumps. I turn up my head to face him. His eyes hold a mischievous twinkle. A teasing smirk tugs at the corner of his lips. “Got you there. So you are listening…”
I look away, embarrassed at my outward response. I do my best to seem as indifferent as possible, as if he hadn’t just picked up my heart and thrown it to the ground, but I know I don’t succeed. It’s normal to be surprised when a man who is supposed to be your friend suddenly acts as if he loves you. Particularly when that man is none other than Beatle John Lennon.
It takes a moment for me analyze my own reaction. I stick my tongue out at him. Did his comment really hit me? Did I really feel something for a second there?
“Seriously John, I love having you as my friend. And you’re right, it’s unfair that you came all this way and we’ve done nothing together, alone, that is. I’ll see what I can do.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Alone, eh?” He sends me a suggestive wink.
“You know what I mean.”
Paul, Lydia, and Charlie emerge from the restaurant and walk slowly over. The laid back surrounding is comforting yet I know tomorrow Paul will be meeting my parents and tension begins to form in the back of my brain.
Paul stands in front of me. He looks a bit dazed, hands in pockets. I look into his eyes; he’s deep in thought.
Charlie mumbles something to Lydia and she laughs. John continues to silently smoke.
Charlie smiles. “Hey what do you all say to coming back to my place?”
I open my mouth to speak but Paul interrupts me. “Oh, we’d really love to but we have to get up early tomorrow morning. Meeting Jules’s parents and all.”
Surprised by Paul’s clear desire to go home, yet aware that he’s right, I agree.
“Well I’m up for it,” Lydia says.
John jumps suddenly to life. “Yes, of course. I’m game.”
As we say our good-byes for the night, John’s face appears particularly sullen. Lydia wishes me luck, and Charlie’s last words are, “I’ll be calling you.”
Paul puts his arm around me, a gesture that I appreciate but almost wish he hadn’t in the muggy heat. We walk home in silence, perhaps both becoming more attuned to the pending day of stress that lies before us.