“May I remind you that you only have one summer to secure a proposal from John and break up his band?” Thorne spat at me from the grungy armchair of his hotel room, which was a dingy little cave with horrible yellow wallpaper.

“Yes.” I pulled the collar of my sweater to get some air. This room was muggier than the pub and that was saying a lot.

“And may I also remind you, that if you do not secure a proposal. Or break up the band. You are expected to terminate him.”

“… Yes.”

“And may I furthermore remind you, that if you do not secure a proposal, if you do not break up the band, and if you fail to terminate him… then I will do it for you. You understand?”

I took in a deep breath, my chest in a clench. “Yes.”

“Then choose your next actions very carefully,” he said leaning forward and pointing to his open palm. “Because as of today… The Beatles are still in full force of becoming famous!”

“The Quarrymen,” I said.

“Excuse me?” Thorne asked through his teeth.

“Um, they’re called ‘The Quarrymen’… named after John’s high school… Quarry Bank Grammar School…See, they won’t become ‘The Beatles’ until 1960 Hamburg. Actually, funny story there. Did you know that—”

“I don’t care if they’re called ‘The Philharmonic of Liverpool’ they’re not going to be a band! And they’re not ever going to become The Beatles!”

“Okay. Yeah.” I coupled my sweaty hands together.

“You have less than a hundred days to break up the band,” Thorne said, sitting on the edge of his seat. “If for any reason. Any reason at all, I find that this mission is compromised. Then John Lennon will be terminated, in order to protect the timeline.”

My mouth flattened into a line. There were so many reasons why the mission was already compromised, but I wasn’t about to get into it. John was a snarky little bitch, but I didn’t want to live the rest of my life with his blood on my hands.

“Do you understand that?” he asked.

Yes.” I said, hissing the ‘s’ on the end of my word.

“Then get rid of the band,” he said, dismissing me with a nod.

Thorne followed me to the door. Slammed it behind me and loudly slid the chain lock in place. I sighed heavily. This partner of mine was the main stressor. If it weren’t for him, I could trash the council’s requirements and go at my own pace. Flirting John out of his band was already hard enough without being on the end of Thorne’s virtual leash.

The sun had almost set. I had no choice but to walk back to Mendips and regroup. As I walked past the rustling green trees and mothers calling their children inside, I found myself withdrawn and less involved with enjoying the oddities of the past. I had to think this out. How in the world was I going to get John? And how would I know if I had him?

An idea came to me. I got to Mendips, struggled to shut the heavy gate, then zipped through the kitchen and up the stairs past the grey cat. My bedroom door gently clicked shut and then I took one of my cardigans and stuffed it under the crack, just to be sure that no one would barge in on me or any peeping Johns would catch me with futuristic technology.

I activated my IND and asked aloud, “How did John’s first wife know that he was interested in her?” I couldn’t think of a more accurate way to tell if I were on the right track or not.

The answer appeared on my screen.


“Cynthia Powell knew that John had developed feelings for her the day he serenaded her with the then-popular song, ‘Ain’t She Sweet’.

“Okay,” I sighed to myself. At least, I had something tangible I could look for. But how would I get him to sing me that song? And then how do I get him to give up singing altogether?

I felt drained after my terrible interactions with both John and Thorne. My IND powered off and I curled into bed. Putting off the impending doom until tomorrow.


The next morning, I saw John on his way out, shutting the gate behind himself. I rushed to meet him. And I mean rushed. About halfway down the street, he saw me running right at him, he stopped dead in his tracks. His eyes wide.

“Hi,” I said panting and hopping to fix the back of my heel that was all folded in from putting my shoes on in a hurry.

“Hi…” he said with a half-laugh. “Hold this, will you?” Suddenly, he thrust his shoulder bag and guitar into my arms, almost knocking me onto the sidewalk.

“Wait a minute,” I said. John didn’t wait, he began to unbuckle his belt. “What are you doing?” I asked, slapping my hands over my eyes.

“Mustn’t let Mimi see me drainies,” he said cheerfully, letting his nice crisp slacks fall to the sidewalk. Underneath were a pair of tight, tight dark jeans, with rolled cuffs. I stared at him completely stupefied as he stepped out of his clean-cut trousers and stuffed them into the shoulder bag in my arms.

Then complete and utter awkward silence. I could tell by John’s dancing eyes he was wondering why I had chased him all the way down the street. Either that or he was weirded out by how I was staring at him. Okay. It was probably the staring thing.

“So, John, how are you?” I finally asked.


Birds chirped in a nearby tree. I held my breath and smiled. Not this again. “Just fine?”

“Fine is fine. And that’s what I am,” he said, giggling. I wanted to shrink into the floor I was reliving the nightmare conversation with the AI Lennon in the train car.

“… And how are you, Miss Hollywood?” he added.

I was so relieved that he had continued the conversation with me that all that came out was a high-pitched, “Good!”

He laughed. “’Good’? Well, that’s fine, Miss Hollywood. You’re good and I’m fine and that’s fine and good.”

“I guess that’s right,” I said. He gave me a small smile, his lips pressed together tightly. I gestured to the guitar on his back. “Do you usually bring that with you to college?”

“Ah, well…” He turned his head to his guitar. “Generally, yes. But today, I’m bunkin’ off lectures. That’s just between you and me, alright?”

“Oh.” I wasn’t surprised but disappointed. “Well, what are you doing instead?” I asked.

“Some of my friends, they’re skipping too and we’re going to have a group practice,” he said. “I have a group, you see.”

I perked up like a dog that just heard the grocery gofer bot enter the house.

“Can I come with you?” I asked, my over eager words blasting out like a cannon.

John tilted his head. “Aren’t you Barrell’s dear deer model?”

“He’s not expecting me today,” I quickly reassured him.

“Oh.” John resituated the guitar on his shoulder. “Well, you can come along then. I don’t mind. We could always use a bit of an audience to practice on.”

No, actual way! I bounced on the heels of my feet.

“Great!” I practically shrieked. Well, at least I felt like shrieking it deep inside me. This was it! The inner sanctum. The real treasure. I could figure out the inner workings of the band and then destroy them. Wow. I had never felt more like a super villain.

“Do you have any money?” John asked. “For the bus?”

“I forgot to bring it with me,” I said. Which was true.

First of all, how inconvenient to have to carry around actual physical paper and metal coins when you want to purchase something. And second of all, I love the way the Liverpudlians said ‘Bus’. It always made me crack a smile and want to repeat it under my breath. Boose, boose, boose.

John scratched the back of his head. “Alright, then. It’s a bit of a walk, but not long. We’re just going to my mum’s house.”

“Oh, really?” I asked, with my fingers to my lips. I was a little surprised that his mother would allow the band to rehearse when they were all supposed to be in school. But then again, was I? I read that Julia wasn’t much for rules and I was dying to see John’s relationship with her play out in front of me.

As we walked, John asked me half a dozen questions on the widest variety of subjects. How are the American cinemas? What’s it like to be draped with a dead dear? Do you think extra-terrestrials exist and if so what sort of animal do you think they most resemble? I was beyond delighted. This was the most I had ever gotten in with him. He called me “Hollywood” or “Starlet” the whole time, but still! That walk to Julia’s gave me actual hope. Not only that maybe I could get this to work, but maybe if I had to go through with a marriage, he was at least funny, and we could be friends.

“John, can I ask you—”

“You want to know why I don’t live with my mum,” he said, as if he had been anticipating the question the entire walk.

“I’m sorry,” I said, cupping my hands under my chin. “It must be a complicated situation.”

“There’s nothing complicated about it,” he said. “Me dad pissed off when I was a baby. And mother couldn’t cope with me, so I was moved in with my Auntie when I was five.”

“I’m sorry,” I said again, not knowing what else to say. “That must have been hard on you.”

“Mm. Not really.”

His apathetic shrug was almost convincing. Almost. I knew historically, of course, how he really felt. I could recite every painful lyric of the song he wrote about his mother abandoning him.

 “She’s the one who taught me to play actually. Introduced me to Elvis Presley and all that,” he said.

I already knew about that, but still managed to give him a solid, “Oh, really?”

“We get on.” He shrugged. “I think you’ll like her too.”

We reached Julia’s place. I could see how this was the “more common part of town” as Mimi had once called it. Julia’s home was nestled into a row of small and battered houses.

John knocked on the door and stuffed his hands into his pockets scuffing the surface of the porch with his shoe. I tucked my blonde hair behind my ear and tried to look presentable, whatever that means.

The door swung open and a petite and beautiful auburn put her hand on her fist.

“Excuse me, madame,” John said in a low resonating voice. “Have you heard about the wonderful new Hoover model? This one of a kind handy dandy little model does it all. The tile, the rug, the drapes and the family dog.”

“And the ice box?” she asked without missing a beat. “And the ceiling? And the cooking?”

“For fifty quid it will replace ya. Go to work for you. Bathe your kiddies. And kiss your man goodnight.”

“Get in here,” she said with a sharp smile on her face. She wrapped her arms around his neck and drew him into a tight embrace. “What have I told you about knocking, love? Just come on in. You’re always welcome here!”

When Julia saw me, her eyes formed into cheerful little crescent moons. “Ah, who’s this?” she asked with a laugh. “You’ve brought a girl to group practice, have you?”

“Surprise, surprise,” John said.

“This your steady?” she asked, a mischievous brow raised.

“Rockers don’t steady,” John said with his nose wrinkled. “This is my mol.”

I looked at them both with an uncomfortable grin. They might as well have been speaking a totally different language. “…What?”

Julia extended her petite hand. “I’m Julia,” she said.

“Emmeline.” I took her hand gratefully.

“Emmeline?” she asked. “Well, that’s a German name isn’t it?”

“American,” John said, unabashedly sticking a cigarette in his mouth in front of his mother.

“American! We have a real Doris Day on our hands! Well, then you will love John’s group, because they play real, American rock n’ roll.” She winked at me.

“Skiffle,” John said from behind his cigarette.

“Come on in. The boys are waitin’ for you.” She grabbed me by my elbow and led me inside, hugging me close.

Julia led us into the kitchen where two other teenaged boys huddled together at the table. The kitchen was teeny tiny. I had seen 2109 play kitchens bigger than Julia’s. But it smelled warm and delicious. A pot of beans boiled on the stove.

“Miss Hollywood meet the Quarrymen,” John said sweeping his hand out to the boys.



I had to refrain from covering my mouth or squealing out loud. Little baby George Harrison! He was so young and so cute, with his serious dark features. He hadn’t even grown into his face yet. He was still a freaking child.

“George is our lead guitarist.” John pointed to each member seated at the table. “This is Colin on drums.”

The drummer was a boy I didn’t recognize. But I came into the mission with those expectations. The Quarrymen would go through a handful of drummers before finally signing on a young man they called, “Ringo”, thus completing the “fab four”. They were not to be completed for another four or so years.

“And John Lennon is lead vocals and rhythm guitar,” John said pointing to himself.

“Ah, nice to meet you John Lennon,” I jested extending my hand for him to shake.

Julia walked over with a large plate of food. “I’ve made beans and toast for everyone,” she said with a peppy kick to her voice.

“Where’s Paul?” John asked, looking around the table.

Little mini George held up his finger. “He had to help his Dad, but he’ll be ‘round right after finishing up.”

John curled his mouth into a cartoonish frown and growled.

“Go easy on him, Johnny,” Julia said, sweeping around the side of him and putting another plate of food on the table. “I feel so sorry for Paul. He’s lost his mother hardly a year ago. Now how would that be?”

Hearing her say that made my spine go numb and I plopped into a chair as quick as possible to relieve the strange feeling. Julia herself only had a few weeks left to live. Glass wall, Emmeline. Just like Dr. Greggs said. Put them behind a glass wall.

John sat next to me and did something that I could not ignore. He put his arm behind my chair and leaned toward me. I could feel my eyes spark.

“Pass me the toasties there, would ya?” he asked.

Was this it? I mean, this was very clearly, a twist and lean, no question about it. This is exactly what Que did for me the night he left. I handed him the plate of toast and John scooped food mercilessly into his mouth, none the wiser to my little insight.

The blonde kid that was introduced to me as Colin, eyed Julia at the stove and then leaned over to John. “I don’t know if I can set up the drum kit. The front room is pretty small.”

“Set up what you can,” John said, still inhaling his mother’s cooking.

Colin’s mouth twisted and he sighed. “We could still be using the Shotton’s air raid shelter, if you hadn’t rammed a washboard through Pete’s head.”

I choked on my beans at that. There was that anger issue I had heard so much about.

“Want to join him?” John asked him calmly. “A drum kit through the head wouldn’t be as pretty, now would it?”

Footsteps approached and a young dark headed boy appeared around the corner. “Sorry, I’m late.”

“The prodigal son!” John cried with his arms outstretched. “You’ve come back to me.”

I honestly thought that I would be horribly intimidated to meet Paul McCartney. But there in 1958, my first impression of him was that he was a round faced kid with better eyebrows than me.  

Paul stood at the edge of the table. Julia placed her hand on his arm, like she had done with me at the front door. She must have been that kind of person. The one that feels comfortable with everyone and makes everyone feel the same in return.

“Would you like some beans and toast, love?” she asked him.

“Oh,” Paul put his hand on his stomach. “Thank you but I’m terribly full, I just had bacon butties with my Dad. Thank you, though.”

Something that I found strange was that when Paul talked, he sounded like he tried to lighten his Liverpool accent. Which was a funny contrast to John, who lived in the nicer area of town and was being constantly scolded by his aunt to use ‘better English’, yet he seemed to pack on the working class accent just to spite her.

Paul’s eyes danced around the table until he made eye contact with me. “Hello. Who’s this?”

“That’s Emmeline,” Julia jumped in. “She’s from America.”

“Really?” Paul asked in all excitement.

“We love America. Don’t we boys?” Julia prompted while putting a pot into the sink.

“The movies are good,” Colin said.

“Coca Cola,” George offered.

 “The music is so much better in America!” Paul chipped in. “I really love American music. It’s the only music I listen to!”

“And Elvis. Ah.” John cupped his hands to his cheeks and pretended to fawn like a fangirl, which brought out a hardy laugh from Julia. He jumped from his chair and shook his hips. “Elvis is the king! He’s the king, baby! And not just the music, you know? The whole persona. He’s larger than life! But still someone you could share a pint with. I bet if we ever met, we’d be mates straight off.”

“Yeah… Unless you offend him by dethroning him and loudly voicing your anti-war sentiment,” I said quietly to myself, but not quietly enough.

“De-throne Elvis?” John scoffed, followed by a chorus of laughter from the other boys. “No one is going to dethrone Elvis. He’ll always be the king. Biggest name in music from here till whenever.”

“Yeah, maybe. That could happen this time,” I said with a shrug.

The boys got carried away talking about American music from the fifties. Some I knew right off the bat and others I had no idea what they were talking about. I decided the best course of action was to remain silent in my seat so that I didn’t slip up and say anything that would be out of decade or out of place.

But there was something else throwing me off. I couldn’t get rid of this lump at the top of my throat. A red fiery lump that I couldn’t swallow. Some moments I could ignore it and then other times it made me so uncomfortable I wanted to jump out a window.

I kept trying to swallow my toast around it, but it hurt too much. And not to mention that the burning was crawling into my nose and watering my eyes.

“Right. Let’s get to practicing,” John announced.

Everyone was ushered into the small little parlor of Julia’s house. Julia herself, slid a couch up against the wall so that Colin could have more room for his drum set. Seeing that couch all piled against the other furniture so that her son’s band could practice in her tiny little room made me wonder how Julia and Mimi were even related, let alone sisters.

Suddenly, I felt a drop of wetness form around my nose. I touched it and examined the clear discharge. What in the Galactica is this? A bodily fluid was actually dripping out of my nostrils.

“I’m going to go powder my nose,” I awkwardly spat out with my hand over my face.

The Quarrymen were dead silent as I excused myself with a weird little dip through the door and into the kitchen. I stopped myself after only a few steps and rubbed my nose with the edge of my sleeve. As soon as the boys thought that I was out of earshot they exploded into harsh whispers all directed at John.

“When are you going to claim your bird, ay?” One of them asked, I’m not sure which one.

“Steady, lads. Steady,” John responded with a mock sea captain’s voice.

“Clearly, she fancies you!” I think that one was Paul’s light voice. “What are you waiting for?”

“I know what I’m doing,” John said. “It’s all about the chase. The anticipation.” 

“That’s bollocks. I wouldn’t waste any time like that,” Colin said.

“You ain’t pleasured a woman in your life, poppin’ off before she’s ready.”

The others giggled at John’s wise crack. My chest expanded as if it were full of helium. So, he was interested in me all along! He was playing coy. Hard to get. But he wasn’t hard to get. I had got him. There he was admitting it to his friends.

I pumped my fist and whispered to myself. “Yes, yes, yes, yes!”

Pure energy was exploding out of me and I ran and skipped back into the room. The boys had formed a half-circle around John who whipped his head in my direction as I came bursting into the room. He pushed the other boys away from him. 

“Watch it with them drums,” John said, as he nudged Colin. “You’re always comin’ in too early.”

The other boys laughed helplessly.

“Smart arse,” Colin grumbled. 

I sat on the awkward pushed in couch next to Julia. As John put his fingers on the neck of his guitar, I crossed mine hard in my lap. Ain’t She Sweet, Ain’t She Sweet, Ain’t She Sweet, I begged him in my mind. They played a Buddy Holly song. I huffed. Alright. Not yet. But I was one step closer.


The painting class crawled along in silence as I sat under that matted deer hide. My mind was whirring and overanalyzing John’s reaction when I had called out for him to stay. Strange, but he didn’t seem as surprised as everyone else in the room. But what did it mean? And what did the little smile mean? How was I supposed to know whether or not he liked me? How was anyone supposed to know a thing like that? Were we all making educated guesses?

I mean, was I so utterly romantically clueless that I couldn’t tell whether he was interested in me? How do you sense the chemistry between yourself and another person? Could you smell it? I was always told that you could smell it or something. Like an unspoken pheromone. But then how would you even recognize it and know it was the real deal?

I was absolutely drowning in angst and doubt for the next hour. The log dug into the back of my thighs and I was anxious to get out and chase a man down.

When Barrell dismissed the class, I tore off the deer and rushed to the exit, but he got in my way.

“Miss Emmeline,” Barrell said. “Thank you for helping me with my class today.”

“Uh, yup. Sure. No problem,” I said, trying to push past him.

“You know, I couldn’t help but notice,” he said, stopping me before leaving. “You are a very attractive young lady.”

“I— um, what?” Ew. Yikes. Talk about reading the smells all wrong.

“You know, if you are still considering a position of nude modeling,” he said, taking a step closer. “I could make your dreams become a reality.”

My stomach churned and pitched but I still managed to squeak out a laugh. “Wow, okay, um no. Definitely, definitely no. Like the noest no possible. Icky. But thank you though.”

His face grew stern and his shoulders squared. “Is this because of Lennon?”

I practically swallowed my tongue. What kind of a teacher is this? Getting after me for liking another student, after I rejected his creepiness? Was this a common thing in this time period? I didn’t even know what to tell him.

“I mean—”

“You think he can take care of you? He will do you no favors in life,” he said sharply. “He will never amount to a single thing. His destiny is to become a beggar on the streets with not a thing to his name.”

“Well, Barrel. I really hope you’re right. Now, if you’ll excuse me,” I slipped past him and out the door, desperate to find John.

I scoured the halls, looking in every crevice and nook. Students chattered with each other. but I didn’t hear John. And I definitely would’ve heard his booming voice somewhere. He was as loud as his singing voice suggested.

I turned the corner to find another Lennonless hall. Oh my Galactica, he was gone forever. It had been at least half an hour; he could be anywhere. He had no reason to stay on campus. That was kind of not his thing.

I was power walking at this point, bumping shoulders into random art students that were pouring down the hall. C’mon Emmeline, think! Think! Use that history-filled noggin’ of yours! What about all those notes you read? You should know where he is.

Suddenly, from the window I spotted him, walking away from the college with two other boys; his hands deep into his pockets. I ran to the door so fast that my shoes skidded loudly on the aluminum floor and my legs almost slid out from under me. The door flew open with a crack and I had to stop myself from calling out to him. I bit my knuckle as he crossed the street, the guitar on his back swinging along with his confident walk. 

I slipped out the door and hobbled down the stairs as inconspicuous as possible. I wasn’t much of a tracking dog, but I couldn’t lose sight of him again. He could be doing anything without my supervision. He could be getting better at composing music. He could be falling in love with his first wife, Cynthia Powell, for all I knew.

I followed John at what I thought was an unnoticeable distance, but it wasn’t too long before one of the other boys nudged him in the arm and nodded in my direction. The three of them looked over their shoulders at me. I froze mid-step, standing on one leg like a freaking flamingo. Then finally, John shrugged with his palms out and they veered into a small white pub.

I winced to myself. I didn’t want to have to follow him all around town like a little lost puppy, but what else could I do? I only had one measly summer to get our love train rolling out of the station. And if I didn’t… he would be shot and killed. So, into the pub, I went.

Inside was dark and packed elbow to elbow with students talking and gulping their beverages. The air was thick and hazy, a conspicuous grey cloud hung over the whole room. That weird, weird smell overpowered me, and I gagged. Smoke trailed from small white stubs resting in between the fingers of the pub-goers.

Cigarettes. That was the smell all along. I had never smelled them before in my life.

I gasped and pulled my sweater over my mouth and nose. I am going to die! This era is literally going to kill me! I squeezed through the crowd to get to an open window as soon as possible. But just as I had birthed my way through the wall of students, Lennon made direct eye contact with me from a table in the corner.

I yanked my sweater back down to my chin. Galactica! I probably seemed like the biggest freak. He shifted his eyes, visibly uncomfortable, and twisted away from me. Probably pretending I wasn’t there or something.

My back slumped against the wall, my stomach in knots. Why was this impossible? How the hell do you get someone to like you? It’s a real wonder how anyone even exists.  

My legs were doing everything in their power to keep me from walking all the way over there and actually flirting with him. But I knew, his life was on the line if I didn’t do it. I figured the alcohol couldn’t hurt, so I waited until he had half a round of boisterous drinking before I approached him.


“Why, if it isn’t my next-door neighbor, Ms. American phenomenon!” he said and turned toward me. “You’re a terrible spy to give away your position like this.”

“You’re welcome to join us,” a courteous voice piped up from John’s side.

I had to do a quick double-take because wow. This guy with John was a gorgeous man. Dark hair and perfect cheekbones. Really. I would kill for that kind of bone structure.

“I’m sorry—” John’s friend was at a polite loss of words at my gaping expression.

“Right, that’s me,” John said, taking the cigarette out of his mouth. “Hollywood, these are my schoolmates, Stuart Sutcliffe. Bill Harry. Bill, Stu this is Ms. Hollywood, the little ol’ auntie that lives in my cupboard.”

“Nice to meet you.” Stu, the classically handsome one, extended his hand.

“Likewise.” I took his hand eagerly. In fact, I held his hand so awkwardly for so long that he had to kind of tug it away.

John and his other friend, Bill, gave each other the side-eye.

“Your mouth’s come unhinged there,” Lennon said to me. “You’re dribblin’ drool all down your sweater.”

My jaw clenched shut and I shoved my hands at my side. Smooth. Subtle. Great. Thorne was going to love this. Compromising the mission just because Stuart Sutcliffe had to be so gosh darn attractive in real life.

“Go on,” John said, dragging on his cigarette. “He hasn’t had a girl in ages. You can take him back to your cupboard if you like. But be careful, he’s married to his artwork.”

Stu’s shoulders rounded up by his bright red ears. I had to save face.

“He’s not the one I’m interested in,” I said with a less than subtle nudge in my voice.

John raised his heavy brow at me. Bill hummed knowingly and gave him a rough pat on the shoulder. Every muscle in my stomach clenched. Was that too much? Was I about to scare him away? I hated this. Flirting was no fun at all.

“Pity,” John said, tapping off the ashes of his cigarette into a small tray. “He’s the smarter choice, isn’t he? The better choice.”

He took another drag, waiting for my response. I swallowed. Was he testing me? The way John’s voice hardened made me wonder, could he be jealous of Stu? Could he be jealous that I was attracted to Stu? Or just jealous of him in general. I couldn’t read him at all. My adrenaline was pounding in my head screaming at me to run away from this socially awkward grave.

“Well, he’s not my choice,” I said, flipping my blonde hair like I had practiced at Mendips the day before.

Bill hummed double. Nudging John again. John’s mouth slowly formed into a smirk at the corners as he glanced away from me.

“You know,” he said. “I’ve never seen another girl like you before.”

My cheeks burned but my chest tightened into a celebratory squeeze. I knew he was bursting full of alcohol, but the words still filled me to the brim with explosive excitement.

“Oh! Thank you!” I practically yelled.

“I mean that in a porcelain dummy sort of way.” He tilted his chin to give me a once-over. “There’s not a single chip or dent anywhere on you. Why is that? You look like you’re straight off the factory belt. Brand new. Never before been used.”

His friends chuckled at each other. My smile dropped. I had no idea how to take that. Was that a compliment or…? I thought this guy was supposed to be famously blunt. Was he attracted to me or no? Did he like me or not? And if so, then why couldn’t he just say it?

“Uh…” I wrinkled my nose trying to come up with a reply. “Well, maybe it just seems that way because you haven’t gotten to know me yet.”

“Alright, show us your defects,” he said lowering his eye, suggestively.

The boys at the table laughed loudly over the already intolerable roar of the pub. I couldn’t help rolling my eyes. Lennon gently drew his fingers through a lock of my hair, he tugged it loose from my updo and tossed it messily right into the middle of my face.

“There. I like that much better,” he said with a chuckle. “Have a drink, Hollywood and stop being so perfect, eh? This is a pub. They don’t serve nuns here.”

On cue, John’s other friend Bill Harry, handed me a glass off the table. His grin was so wide it almost stretched to his ears.

“Cheers to John’s groupie!” he said, holding up his own glass. “The very first.”

“Ah! That’s right, that’s right!” John leaned over the table with his hand to his mouth. “Well, she must be on to us, lads.”

“On to what?” I asked taking a deep sip from my glass.

“Come now Virginia Hall, you should know,” John said. “You’re standing in front of three of the most famous men in history of the world!”

I spit my drink up my nose. The sharp burn of the alcohol in my nasal cavity made my eyes water and I couldn’t stop my hacking cough.

John put his arms on Bill and Stu’s shoulders. “We are ‘The Dissenters’,” he said proudly.

“I see,” I nodded slowly. “And what does that mean?”

“We’ve taken a vow, Hollywood. A most sacred one.” He put his hand on his heart and closed his eyes as the other two chuckled. “A vow that each of us is going to be famous and we’re going to make something of this bummy town! Stu with his painting of course, Bill with his writing, and I with my music.”

I cleared my throat. “So why don’t you do it with your painting?” I asked.

He nudged Stu in the side. “You heard the girl, son. You’re out. I’m the painter now.”

“Congratulations,” Stu laughed politely. “Here’s your prize. Best in show.”

“Thanks very much for this!” he said while pantomiming himself accepting a prestigious ribbon and pinning it on his chest.

John pushed off his chair and jumped up onto the surface of the table, drinks clinked as he stepped around them. He held his own glass to his mouth like a microphone. “Thank you. Thank you. Aha, aha. Thank you, very much, you’re too kind,” he said in a low mocking voice.

A couple of girls behind me giggled and swooned at his antics. And I understood that. Maybe not so much like Stu, but there was something there. Something unspoken and uncapturable in all his old black and white photos.

“There’s only one person I would like to thank for this award… and that’s Ms. Hollywood.” John extended his drink out to me. “Lovely, lovely, Ms. Hollywood… I want to thank you for what you’ve done. You have fully convinced me that I’ll never be up here with this ribbon, making this speech and that I should never hang up my guitar. Cheers!” He winked at me and downed his glass.

My gut wrenched.

My IND buzzed angrily in my chest. I slapped my hand over it. Thorne must have been watching my live feed and was now telling me that he had had enough and was on his way to yell at me in person.

A sharp stab of anxiety knocked the wind out of me. John sat on the edge of the table, watching me in complete amusement. I gave him a grimaced smile.

“Well, see you around sometime,” I tried to say in a sultry, sexy voice. But really it came out somewhere between disinterested and barely audible.

As I walked away, I knew they would be watching me, so I swung my hips as wide as I could. Popping with every step and clenching my cheeks together to make my backside look as good as possible.

 “What are you doing?” John called after me.

“I’m…” I turned around to see Bill stifling a laugh. “I’m walking.”

“Are ya?” John had the biggest grin. “Oh, alright then. Thought I was going to have to call a repairman for that.”

Bill couldn’t hold in his laughter. He let out one guffaw. And I retreated from the pub in humiliation.


I never got another chance to talk to John for the whole rest of the day. He took off after our bumbling encounter, only stopping by his book scattered room to gather his guitar and leave. Thankfully, he didn’t notice that someone had been in there, touching all his stuff.

I was muddy and humiliated and the last time I showered was one hundred and sixty-some years in the future. I slipped into the bathroom, imagining the hot water down my back and on my face. I needed it after my awkward chance first impression with Lennon. Time to reset.

When I stepped into the bathroom, my hands slapped onto my thighs dejectedly. A single tub sat against the tiled wall. Are you actually kidding? Not even a shower! What do you mean? Showers are invented by 1958, I wasn’t in the 1700s or anything!

I sighed heavily. Fine. At least it was something. It took me a good while to figure out how to twist the little nobs on the top and plug the hole with the stopper on the chain. Once I had the thing finally filling up, I took off my blouse.

Wow. How unattractive was this bra? Like two silky traffic cones. Why were they so pointy? Who would ever have breasts this shape? Absurd.

I could see the little freckle speck where the surgeons had inserted my IND. Was Thorne watching this? Because I’d rather not have this recorded for all time and history.

“System override. Camera off.” I said as quietly as possible.

Great. Now I only had fifteen minutes to wash up before my IND sent a location alert to Thorne. How relaxing. I slipped out of the rest of my stinky and unattractive undies then tumbled into the bath.

I rested my head against the porcelain lip of the tub. It wasn’t a shower. But it still felt nice to be clean. Any kind of clean. I welcomed the water by dipping down and letting it lap against my neck.

Day one and I already found myself floundering. And where to go from here? Man, the council had really screwed me up. If my original timeline had been accepted, I would have been able to enroll as a student. But now that they’ve plopped me here right before summer vacation, I had to keep up an internship lie.

I lifted my leg so I could hear the tinkling sound of the water being disturbed. Plus, I liked the feel and look of the little droplets dewing on my shin. I could get used to this if I had to, I guess.

Splunk. I dropped my foot in and brought my knees to my chest. How was I going to get on the campus and stalk around without suspicion? I could get a part-time job or a real apprenticeship. I wouldn’t want an actual commitment, though. Unless it had something to do with John.

Suddenly, there was a muffled whack from the other side of the bathroom door, loud enough that it jolted me upright.

“Get up.” Mimi’s voice bellowed.

“What?” I heard John’s voice whine. “I dropped somethin’!”

“I know what you were doing,” she said. “You were trying to get an eyeful through the crack of that door.”

John shushed her. “No, I wasn’t. Keep your voice down. You want to rattle the whole house awake?”

My mouth dropped open and I hunkered into the tub, watching the wooden bathroom door, and listening.

“I will not have you conducting such a shameful behavior in this house. I don’t know what kind of a thing you are picking up at your mother’s, or what you do when you’re out, but I will not tolerate it here in the least bit.”


“Go on with you.”

No return argument. Things grew quiet as John’s footsteps retreated down the hall.

 “Now you want to wear your specs.” I heard Mimi say from the other side of the door.

I had to cover my mouth, trying not to laugh. This was strangely… perfect? What else could that mean? He must be attracted to me. Even a little bit. And every little bit helps.

I rested my head back on the lid of the tub. Not only was that a confidence boost with the mission, but now he had given me a great idea for how to meet him at art school tomorrow. If he wanted to see me naked, then fine. I would make it happen.


I sat across the desk from Lennon’s painting professor, a grubby little man with a thin mustache.

“I’m afraid we’ve already done our human anatomy still life for the year,” Professor Barrell said.

I cleared my throat, anxious to get out of the weird smell of his office. That same smell. What was this chemical smell? I hated it. It lurked in every single corner of 1958 Liverpool and each new cloud was worse than the last.

“Isn’t there some way we can revisit the section?” I asked, with an awkward high voice. “I’m only allowed a work-study here for the summer and I desperately needed to add this to my modeling resume. I was wondering if you couldn’t oblige me in any sort of way?”

Was that even how they talked in the 1950s? It sounded wrong. I was probably wrong. Barrell pinched his mouth with his fingers and stared at me for an uncomfortably long time, his eye muscles tense in concentration.

“Well, I do suppose there is a way you could help me today,” he finally responded, leaning forward. “Our subject this week is ‘woodland wildlife’ and I’ve just had a splendid idea. A former student of mine has brought me a piece that I think could really bring this idea to the canvas.”

I shrugged and smiled. “Great. Wonderful. I would be the happiest glad to help in any way you need.” Or whatever the Galactica you would say to that in the late fifties.
Barrell gave me a curt nod. “Follow me.”

I followed him to the art room, which was about twice as small as I had expected. And three times as colder. I grimaced, thinking about how long I would be standing there with everything hanging out in the freezing classroom.

But my fears were both silenced and changed as Barrell brought out what he had referred to as ‘the prop’. A full deerskin. Only its legs and head taxidermized, staring lifelessly at me with black marbled eyes.

“And… what do you want me to do with this exactly?” I asked, still trying to keep up my fake happy voice, but it was gone. Totally gone.

“You know,” Barrell said bringing the carcass around his shoulders, the deer head resting on his. “I thought you could wear this up top like this. And then maybe we can capture the sense of life better.”

“You want me to… wear a dead deer on my head? And that’s going to… capture the sense of life?” I had to repeat it because I wasn’t even sure what I was hearing myself.

“I think it should be very Avant-Garde,” he said his eyes doing that little squinty hard thing again. “And you can sit here on this log…” Barrell started rolling a full-on tree stump right to the center of the room.

“Oh goody, you have a random log in your classroom. Of course you do.” A thousand regrets raced through my mind and punched me in the face. “Do you want me to… Should I take off my clothes before the students get here? Or is it better to disrobe in front of them?” I realized how deranged of a question that was, but if a striptease was going to get Lennon to give up his band then a striptease it was going to be.

“Oh no, no, no. That’s quite alright,” he said. “You sit here. And you can keep that lovely little dress you have on. That’s fine. You look stunning.” Barrell grabbed me by the shoulders and sat me on the log.

“So just the deer carcass? No naked painting? Are you sure?” I asked, sort of wanting to run away as quickly as possible.

“Hmm. What an anxious little model you are,” Barrell said, with a weird lingering touch on my arm.

“Alright. Yeah. The dead deer. I can do that,” I said, shaking him off and grabbing the prop by it’s tough little hairs.

As Barrell walked away, I positioned the stuffed head over top my Bardot bun. Huh. Which was worse? Meeting John inside of a cupboard and scaring him half to death or having John stare at me for a couple of hours while wearing a dead animal on my head. What kind of imagery would he associate with me?

 I sat on the stump as the art students began to fill in. A few gave me and the deer a weird look, but no one said anything or questioned it. I was going to have to be sitting still on this uneven stump with this weird-smelling deer fur on my head, so I wiggled around a little to get my blood moving before I had to be all frozen.

The classroom was quiet, and no one had even started painting. Just a sniffle or a whispered friendly sentence here and there. Everyone filed in all crisp and clean, like children of the corn.

And then there was John.

“Twenty points for the buck awarded to Her Royal Highness!” his chipper voice boomed through the awkward obedient silence. When he caught my face under the deer’s head, his expression beamed in surprise.

“Auntie Hollywood! Is that you?”

I gave him a pained grin. I really didn’t want him to see me in anything less than sexy circumstances, but now I was realizing that those circumstances were few and far between.

“Love the hat. Where did you get it? Buck & Co. Hatters?”

A couple of girls giggled at his comment and Barrell cleared his throat loudly. “Lennon,” he said in a warning tone.

John gave me a small thumbs up and trotted to an easel in the back of the room. The energy of the whole room had ignited. Everyone had sulked in with somber faces but after John arrived, smiles and happy chatter peppered the room.

Barrell introduced me, his weird idea of a still life representing a deer and gave me the green light to hold as still as possible. As I took my position, I made absolutely sure to look over my shoulder and make eye contact with John. A position that I was determined to hold for the next couple of hours.

When John saw that I was looking right at him, he tilted his head and put on the cheesiest stretching grin I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, it made me snigger and that caught Barrell’s attention.

“Emmeline, if you could,” he said. “Try to face forward.”

“Mmmmmkay,” I said in an annoyed sing-songy breath. Come on, I couldn’t even look at him? What about our hours of staring into each other’s eyes? Well, at least I could hope that he was staring at me the whole time.

Barrell set himself in the corner of the room with a newspaper. I tried to hold my position for as long as I could, but it was impossible knowing my subject was right there one glance away. And he was good at making it impossible. Not even ten minutes in, there was a distinct rhythmic tapping from his easel.

An irritated classmate groaned. He was one of the only ones who hadn’t cheered up at John’s presence.  He was almost twice his size, at least his jutting Adam’s apple was the size of John’s fist.

“Mate. Can you not?” His voice was unbelievably deep and intimidating, it made me tense up.

“What?” John responded with more tone of a statement than a question.

“Tap your foot on the side of your easel like that,” he said.

“Much obliged,” John said, imitating his deep voice perfectly and provoking more chuckles from the other students.

I slightly turned my profile so I could see him. He caught my eye again and pulled a face, sticking his bottom lip out with his tongue and crossing his eyes. That time I snorted.

“Lennon, stop,” Barrell said setting his newspaper on his lap.

“Stop what?”

“Whatever you’re doing to our model,” Barrell looked over the reading glasses on his nose.

“I was just painting her, sir.” Lennon shrugged with his palms by his chin, smiling innocently.

Barrell gave him a hard frown and returned to his paper.

I turned my head forward, this time with a weird scrunchy grin on my face that I couldn’t help. Again, the uncomfortable silence. The shushing of several paintbrushes on canvas. The rattling of a newspaper page and then John’s voice yawning forcefully.

He had no problem telling everyone what he thought about Barrell’s class. For a minute, I fantasized about him attending one of Thorne’s classes. I think I would have really liked that. Thorne would have finally met his match. John would be sure to give him a piece of his mind about the meaningless violence involved in time travel.

There was a loud ticking sound from the clock above the door. I only knew that was the sound of a clock because my grandmother had one as a novelty. She kept it in her front room and taught me what each of the little dashes and hands meant.

Suddenly, the silence was broken again with a short bursting giggle from John. I tried to get the quickest and easiest glance, but all I saw was him with his arms crossed at his easel. Another giggle. This time louder. Upgrading from a short “hee hee” to a little longer of a “ha ha ha”.

Then this uncontrollable loud blasting laugh. Everyone flinched. Adam’s Apple guy jumped so high his brush flipped up his canvas. He growled and slammed the brush into his little glass of water. 

The hysterical laughter kept rolling this time. A couple of other students caught their own laughs as John continued to bust his gut. And I was right there along with them. I didn’t even know why I was laughing, but suddenly he had me laughing wearing a grotesque floppy deer on my head.

“Stop it! Stop that!” Barrell pushed his arm through the air as if he were deflecting the laughter away from him. Then he stood and marched his way to John’s easel. “Lennon!”

“I’m sorry, I can’t help it.” John said, cutting off mid-screaming laugh. “I think it’s Miss Hollywood in that deer shawl. It makes me feel all giddy and nervous inside. Hoo hoo!”

I beamed and blushed a little, although at this point, I knew John was being full of it.

“Alright,” Barrell said, with his hands on his hips. “Let’s see what you’ve done.”

The professor picked up the loose canvas and turned it around to scrutinize it. I saw it over his shoulder. It was a quick black and white sketch of a busty deer wearing a fur coat and winking. He slammed the canvas back on the easel.

“Pen. This isn’t the right medium,” Barrell said, sounding both annoyed and unsurprised. “You should have consulted me.”

“But sir, I have insulted you every day this term.”

Barrell who was clearly not a fan of wordplay jabbed his finger toward the door. “Right. Get your things and leave.”

Without another snark remark, John slung his guitar over his shoulder and headed for the door. Inside myself I felt the bubbling panic of my plan flushing down the toilet. He was leaving and I was still stuck on a log.

“John!” I called out.

He stopped in his tracks and twisted to look at me. So did all the other students.

“Don’t leave,” I said.

Everyone in class exchanged glances of concern. It was bad enough for one student to be talking back to a teacher, but now this model in front of the class challenging his discipline? I think I had just blown the whole decade’s mind.

John gave me a curious smile. “That’s alright, Miss Hollywood. I’ll gladly leave.”

I squinted an eye. “You were trying to get kicked out, weren’t you?”

“Ta!” he said with a wide grin. He pushed on the door and scurried out. Leaving me stuck under a dead deer.