Tuesday. July 15th, 1958. Today was the day. Tonight was the night. Julia Lennon’s last moments on Earth.

The sun was setting, and I didn’t have much time. I found John in the box porch. He sat on the checkered floor and strummed on his guitar. I swung open the door nearly knocking into him.

“Have you seen your mom today?” I asked anxiously.

“No,” he said hesitantly. “But I’ll see her later tonight. I’m planning to spend the night at her house.”

“That’s right. You are.” I closed my eyes and all the blood from my face drained into the bottom of my stomach. 

“Something the matter?” he asked.

“John, hey, um…” I tried to conceal my shaking hands but couldn’t help rubbing my brow and touching my face. “Maybe you should stay here tonight instead.”

John cocked his head, with a hint of an amused smirk.

“You know just in case your mom wants to visit Mimi or something. And then you can walk her home or whatever. Make sure she gets home safe,” I said, spelling it out for him in black and white.

“That’s alright. I’ll be at Paul’s later anyway. I was just going to head round on the way back.”

I wanted to collapse into a panic attack. But he must not have picked up on it.

“We recorded an album last Saturday,” he said.

“That’s great for you guys. I’m glad.”

I could hear the passing off in my own voice. John’s chest compressed as he curled into his guitar. I was a complete and absolute wreck. And I knew what the iceberg was. Julia. 

 “Sorry, I have to go see someone,” I announced suddenly, stepping over John and opening the front door knocking him from the other side. As soon as I had slipped out, Lennon jumped to his feet.

“Hollywood!” he called after me before I had set foot on the drive.

There was this uncomfortable pause. John leaned against the porch with the guitar still strapped around him. At first, he kind of seemed like he was struggling with what he was going to say. His cheeks were flushed even more pink than I would expect from playing in the sun beaten porch.

“Talk to you later,” I said. I didn’t have time for another staring contest with this massive problem to solve. I started down the drive again.

“I was thinking about asking out that Cynthia girl from Hoylake,” he said, suddenly.

My heart dropped. I slowly turned around.

“Does that bother you?” he asked, his chin tilted.

“B-bother me?” I asked, trying not to show John how I was internally screaming. “No. No, no, no. I mean. That’s— She’s very pretty. You should. Yeah. I mean, well you know, she’s kind of the opposite of you and like you probably wouldn’t even get along or anything. So, I wouldn’t hold up that much hope for it.”

John’s lips curled inward but it didn’t hide his grin.

“But, yes, of course.” I shook my head. “I mean, no! No, it doesn’t bother me at all. Why would you think it would bother me?”

“I dunno,” he said, with a laugh. “Clearly, I was wrong to think so.”

I could feel my flustered worry burning through the sides of my face. “I have to go. Sorry,” I squeaked out before rushing off.

I ran to Thorne’s hotel with determination. He was just going to have to be okay with the change of plans. He was just going to have to deal with it.

I knocked on the door, the rapping echoed through the hall as my frantic knuckles beat mercilessly on the wood. I didn’t stop until Thorne opened, then I pushed past him inside.

“Okay, I need to change the plan,” I said as hurried as possible. “This is not going to work, so we need to adapt.”

“What’s not going to work?” he asked, his heavy eyelids blinking slowly as he shut the door behind himself.

I brushed my hair to the side and put my hands on my hips. “Julia,” I said. “We can’t let her die. We need to alter the timeline. We need to keep her from getting hit by that car.”

Thorne sat calmly in his armchair. “That’s not your proposal,” he said. “The mission that was approved by the Board of Time Travel includes the death of the mother as being a key instrument in getting close to Lennon.”

I knew he was going to put up a fight, but his determined cold heart still made my jaw drop.

“That proposal was wrong. I was wrong,” I said. “Yes, he got close to Cynthia after the death of his mother. But Julia’s death was his driving creative muse for the rest of his life! It was because of her death that he bonded with Paul. I can see that now. I can see that if we want to break up the Beatles we have to start with Julia Lennon! She’s the pinnacle.”

Thorne crossed his arms over his chest. “If this were true,” he said cocking his head. “Then why didn’t you incorporate it into your proposal in the first place? I don’t think her death is the cause of the Beatles. I think her life, her encouragement and support where the cause of John’s interest. That interest is only going to cultivate and grow with her presence.”

“It grows without her anyway, so what does it matter?” I asked, my voice raising.

“Because we need him in a vulnerable position, to fall for you.”

“My proposal was wrong,” I said. “They were just names on a projected screen. John. Paul. Julia. I didn’t know it was going to be like this. I didn’t understand the dynamic.”

“You’re too soft,” Thorne said. “You can’t be concerned with these people’s lives when you are expressly here to ruin them.”

I covered my face with my hands. Wall of glass. They didn’t feel like they were behind a wall of glass. This didn’t feel like an illusion. They were real. They were right there. I was messing up their timeline. Manipulating a young boy into making the wrong choice. And letting his mother get killed in the process.

“I can’t traumatize John into loving me. I won’t.” I whipped around and ran for the door.

Suddenly, Thorne reached into his pocket and drew his gun on me. I stopped in my tracks and stared at it dumbfounded. The barrel pointed right at my chest.

“What are you doing?” I asked in a low angry tone.

Thorne didn’t flinch. “You are not going to save Julia.”

“You can’t hurt me, Thorne,” I said. “I got that body armor mod, same as you. You can’t shoot me.”

“No. You’re right,” he said, not moving the gun away. “I can’t shoot you. But I can shoot anyone else here.”

I could feel my chest rising and falling with each heaving breath.

“If you save Julia, I will consider this mission to be compromised and I will go ahead and terminate John. I would be more than happy to do that, since it’s a cleaner sample for me,” he said, pocketing his gun. “So, you can choose right here and now. Is it Julia? Or is it John?”

I kept my eye on him, but there was nothing in his dark cold stare to insinuate the slightest suggestion that he might be joking. He was making me choose between a seventeen-year-old boy full of life or a forty-four-year old woman equally full of life.

“I choose…” I swallowed. “John.”

Thorne nodded gravely. He pocketed his gun but didn’t move away from his spot by the door. “Stay here,” he said, his tone still the same.

“Stay here? Why?” I asked, my irritation rising. “I have things to do. And besides if someone sees me in your hotel room, that could look—”

“You can leave the room at nine thirty-one pm.” Thorne unhooked the watch on his wrist and threw it at me. I caught it sloppily. The time read 7:55.

 I pressed my lips together tight. He knew me too well. He knew where I was trying to go. My eyes burned. I felt this desperation inside of me like a cat trying to claw its way out of a plastic bag. I had to get out. I had to get to Julia somehow.

I spent the first hour, chewing my nails off trying to think of a way to get past Thorne who was diligently guarding the only door to the room. Every single solution I thought of, John would get shot. Knock Thorne out cold. Save Julia. Thorne wakes up and shoots John. Fake some elaborate emergency to convince him to let me go. Save Julia. Thorne finds out and shoots John. Trick Thorne into following me back through the portal. John becomes famous. David Mark Chapman shoots John.

“I feel sick,” I said, no emotion in my voice. “I’m going to go to the bathroom.”

Thorne gave me a long, low exhale through his nose. I took that as a yes and exited left into the attached bathroom.

As soon as I was out of sight of Thorne. I covered my face with my hands, slid down the wall and sat on the floor.

It was coming. 9:30 was coming. The car was coming. Julia would be crossing that street and that off duty policeman would run her over.

I felt so sick that I knelt at the toilet and put the lid up, fully expecting to empty my guts inside of it.

The watch face read 9:08 PM

We were about fourteen flights up and the window was too small to climb out of. Not only that but Thorne was watching everything I did. Live stream. Even if I turned my camera off. It would notify him in less than fifteen minutes. What could I do in less than fifteen minutes that would save Julia?

Under the sink I caught a glimpse of a large paper book. I kept the camera in my body pointed at the toilet and leaned over to kick the book into view with my shoe. It was a Liverpool telephone directory.

I stared at it for a while. Working through an idea in my mind. If I made a phone call on my IND, would it patch through to that landline in 1958? Or would it connect me to someone in the UK from 2109?

I started the water in the shower and undid my top button. “Camera override, off,” I commanded.

As soon as it powered off, I snatched the phone book and flipped the pages to Smith. There were hundreds and hundreds and thousands of Mary Smiths.

“C’mon. C’mon.” I groaned and ran my finger down the page. It was taking too long. I could feel each minute like a meat grinder, pulling me closer and closer to nine thirty. Page after page until finally I saw Mary Smith 251 Menlove Avenue. 

“There you are. Perfect.” I activated my IND and gave it the number. The screen before me went blue. Connecting. Connecting. Connecting. Connecting.

I rubbed my brow ferociously. What seemed like forever, the loading screen finally went blank. Unable to connect.

I groaned. Maybe the 1958 number wasn’t working after all. I tried again.

Connecting. Connecting. Connecting. Connecting. Unable to Connect. Party is not answering.

Of course. They couldn’t hear the phone ringing because Mimi was talking to Julia in the front yard. She would be leaving soon. My stomach wrenched but I tried again.

Connecting. Connecting. Connecting. Connecting.

“Yes, hello?”

I sat up straight. Mimi. Her voice was so faint. But it was there. I had connected with her rotary phone with my internal device. I could hardly believe it.

“Mimi,” I said as urgently and as quietly as possible. “You can’t let Julia walk home tonight. Don’t let her leave. Have her stay the night with you.”

“What’s that?” Her voice crackled.

My heart sank. Sure, a genius move with the shower. Thorne couldn’t hear me. And neither could Mimi.

“Don’t let Julia leave.”

“I can’t hear a blasted thing,” she grumbled.

“No, no, no, no! Don’t hang up!” I said probably too loud on my end. “Julia. Don’t let her leave! Don’t let Julia leave.”

“You want to speak to Julia?” Mimi asked. “She left for home ten minutes ago.”

Everything froze in the greyest and darkest composition. The water seemed to spurt from the shower head in slow motion. The pattering on the tile floor as violent as the unstoppable car careening down Menlove Avenue.

“Emmeline!” Thorne banged on the door. “You compromise this mission, I’ll kill him! I will!”

“Hello?” Mimi tried one last time before hanging up on me.

Suddenly, there was a clatter from Thorne’s room and a slow clear liquid flooded under the door and across the tile floor. I reached behind myself and shut the shower off, staring at the growing puddle. Then the strong smell of antiseptic hit me. Oh no.

Thorne’s body hit the floor with a loud thud. I covered my mouth, but it was too late. I slumped into the shower. The room spinning violently until finally everything went black.


I woke to a pounding headache. My eyes were blurred, and I couldn’t get my lids to extend to their fullest. I picked my head off the wet floor. It was a slow process, everything hurt.

It took all my effort to reach the few feet so I could see the face of Thorne’s watch. 11:54 pm. I didn’t get to her in time. She was gone.

I propped my elbows against the walls to pull myself up. My legs felt like jelly and I still had to walk across the puddle of PCMX that had knocked me out. I pulled my sweater over my mouth and nose and shuffled through the anesthetic fumes.

I opened the door right into Thorne’s unconscious body. The lid to the bottle of cleaner still in the palm of his hand. He had succeeded in keeping me from saving her. I could have thrashed him awake and screamed at him for what he had done, but I had to leave that hotel room.

The series of minutes walking to Mendips where some of the strangest and worse I’ve ever experienced. I felt empty and cold. And that was it. I wouldn’t let myself feel anything else. It seemed inappropriate either way because I had done this. I had drafted the proposal. I had killed Julia.

The blurry minutes melted into days, as the news of her death was confirmed. People were in and out. Policeman collecting statements. Neighbors giving condolences. And John himself had become a ghost. I would only catch glimpses of him here and there. Quietly turning up the stairs. Shutting the bathroom door behind himself.

A part of me begged for that explosive anger issue from him. I wanted him to tear apart his bedroom and wail and moan. Something. Anything. But he did none of that. He did nothing. Not even the sound of a sigh came from the other side of that bedroom wall. He was a completely different person. Like he had died right along with her.

The funeral services were that weekend. Mimi held a small luncheon at her house. Friends and family members gathered at Mendips in their black dresses, smartest suits, and pillbox hats. Mimi had this blotchy, stone face as she bustled around serving her eggs and chips and tea.

I mostly stayed out of the way, sitting in the farthest corner of the living room. Too empty to even have a sip of tea. As much as I tried to stay away from the mourners, I couldn’t get away from conversations about John.

“I heard that he refused to look at his mother in the hospital,” a nearby woman whispered.

“Not even to say goodbye?” Another asked.


A third gossiper joined in. “Did you see? When the services started, he spent the entire time laying in Mary’s lap. Like a little child. Can you imagine? He’s nearly eighteen years old.”

“Well, you know that’s still such an impressionable age. Who knows what kind of a thing that could do to a person.”

“And she’s already been having so much trouble with the boy, Poor Mary.”

“Mm, I can’t imagine.”

My heart twisted. I escaped the gossipers and went to the small table of food. I loaded a plate with everything available and took it upstairs. Every step I took was like another rock in my stomach. John’s door was open the slightest crack, but I knew he was in there. I had seen him escape the horrible small talk of the tragedy and hide in his room. 

I knocked. No response. 

“John?” My voice sounded as defeated as my soul but still I opened the door with the tips of my fingers.

There, he sat on the edge of his bed staring out of the window. His dark wiry hair neatly combed, and his suit coat on.

I stepped on that loud creaky spot of the floor, but John didn’t turn around. Finally, I sputtered out something. “I fixed you a plate,” I said weakly. “I figured you didn’t want to be down there with everyone, so I brought it up to you.”

He turned his head just slightly enough that I could see the silhouette of his hooked nose against the sunlit window. 

“Thanks,” he said, so weak and so soft, the exact antithesis of how I knew his voice to be.

I set the plate on the nightstand next to his bed, making some room amidst all his books and papers. He kept staring out the window.

My nose pricked and stung. A great nauseous bubble swelled inside of me and tears lined the bottoms of my lid. I wished it had been me that had gotten hit by that car. I should have been the one to stop it. I should have screamed at Thorne until he let me go. I should never have drafted that proposal. I should have—

Suddenly, I found myself collapsing next to him on the bed, desperately and uncontrollably sobbing. Wrapping my arms around him and holding him as tight as possible.

“Oh, John!” I barely got out the words. “I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.”

I could feel my tears dampen the shoulder of his suit. But I didn’t let him go. John slowly brought his hand up and placed it over mine.

As soon as the warmth of his hand touched mine, I felt the distinct time-splitting tug inside of me. Like my ribcage pulling in two different directions. My crying slowed into misplaced breaths and we sat in quiet until the guests left the house.


Thorne had had enough of my bumbling attempts with John. Back to his cave of a hotel room I went, so he could properly chastise me in person.

“What were you thinking jumping the gun like that?” he asked me, while I sat all puny in the greasy armchair.

I shrugged my shoulders by my ears. “It seemed like the next step to take, I guess.”

“In what world or timeline would that ever be the next step to take?” A big vein was throbbing in the middle of his forehead. “You can’t just rush into things.”

My entire face was on fire. Okay, yes, I suck at dating. I didn’t need anyone reminding me how awkward and socially reproachable I was. The rejection was punishment enough.

“Let’s hope you didn’t push him away for good,” Thorne said, with the kind of sigh that to me meant, ‘I hope you pushed him away for good this time’.

I curled my lips over my teeth. “Let me talk to him again,” I said. “I can do it better. Really! I’ve rehearsed it on the bus ride over here like thirty times. Listen… Hey, John, you handsome flouncing tiger, yesterday didn’t go so hot—”

“No!” Thorne rubbed at his temples. “You will not say that.”

I retreated further in between my shoulders. “Is the flouncing tiger part too much? Because I can take that out.”

“You won’t say it at all. Period. You won’t apologize. You won’t bring it up. You won’t profess your love. You won’t do anything for the next couple of weeks.”

I put my finger to my lips. “What if he brings it up? Should I pretend I can’t understand his accent or something?”

Thorne gave me that same tone of sigh and paced to the far corner of the hotel room. “I don’t have the time to teach this child what’s socially acceptable,” he grumbled to himself. “How did she ever get approved to go through with this mission?”

“Hey, rude!” I called from the chair. “It’s not my fault that my mission got compressed into three itty bitty months. ‘Rushing into things’ is literally the only way to make this work.”

Thorne doubled back and walked toward me. “Emmeline,” he said. “Did you or did you not outline in your proposal that the point of momentum was the death of John Lennon’s mother?”

I curled away from him. “Yes, I did.”

“Then I will not allow you to alter the original mission,” he said. “You must wait for the mother to die, before you try to move the romantic relationship forward.”

I shifted my eyes. The words, they sounded so foreign all the sudden. So horrible and manipulative. How could this plan to save his life be so horrifying? Using his own feelings against himself like that? But that would still be better than killing him. I mean, wouldn’t it?

“Isn’t that what you said in your proposal?” Thorne sneered. “That after the death of his mother, John would be in a vulnerable position perfect for introducing a romantic relationship?”

“That…” I swallowed and crossed my arms. “That incident is only two weeks away, anyway.”

“Did you propose that death to be the point of momentum or not?”

“Yes,” I said, my eyes burning unable to meet his. “I did.”

“Then wait for the mother to die,” he said.

His voice was cold and piercing, hanging in the thick tension of air. I stood to my feet and pushed through that tension to the exit. I knew he was right. That was the mission I had crafted and that scared me. Scared me right out the door.

“Her name is Julia,” I told him before stepping out into the hall.

I was so aggravated that I stormed out and ran right into a dark-haired guy in a black jumper. I hobbled backward and caught my footing. When I saw who I ran into my lungs pitched a pained gasp. It was the beautiful Stuart Sutcliff with a blank canvas under his arm. 

Stu caught my eye, glancing between me and Dr. Thorne.

“Oh, hello,” I said my voice wavering. Thorne slammed the door on us. “… That was my… the guy I’m doing the internship for.”

“Right,” he said quietly.

My heart was pounding. Coming out of another man’s hotel room and running into John’s best friend. This looked bad. Especially for this era. Women slinking in and out of men’s hotel rooms. I knew this probably looked really bad.

“W-what are you doing here?” I asked, trying to keep it casual.

“A friend of mine has been staying here,” he said nodding a few doors down from Thorne. “She’s lending me some extra art supplies for the summer while she’s away on holiday.”

“Nice.” I shuffled my feet. “Well, see you around?”

I slipped past him; my face scrunched in dread. Hopefully, he forgot all about running into me and catching me with Thorne. One disaster at a time.  


Julia’s chipper voice echoed from downstairs as she talked and gossiped with Aunt Mimi. At first, I felt heavy. Right at the top of my chest. Listening to her voice right after Thorne reminded me of our rotten plan to utilize her death. I pressed a pillow into either side of my head to block out her cheery singing. That’s when the heaviness melted into this flaming irritancy. Irritated at the situation I had thrown myself into. Irritated at Thorne for being so cold and uncaring. And just a little irritated at Julia for going and getting herself killed.

John came home and his voice easily penetrated the pillow.

To say that things between John and I had become awkward was an understatement. Awkward was an understatement. I don’t even know what kind of a relationship I now had with my future/past fiancé. All we had for each other was stiff small talk. Hi, how are you? Fine and you. Hmm. Hmm. Good and goodbye.

There was such a weirdness in the air now. I wouldn’t say that it was animosity, but a definite weirdness. One night during dinner I caught John staring unabashedly at me. Twice. But after he made it pretty darn clear that he was not interested in me like that, I couldn’t stop freaking out over it. Why would he be staring at me? Was it the stupid way I was eating my soup? Were the blonde strands of installed hair suddenly detaching from their roots? What? What was it?

I got so stressed out that I got up and left halfway through my bowl of lobscouse stew. And then he didn’t say anything to me the rest of the night. Whatever. Which one is it, John? Are we staring at each other or ignoring each other?

The worst one ever, had happened just that morning, I was pouring a glass of thick, gross milk to go with breakfast and he came down to make his own bowl of cornflakes. We were elbow to elbow in this awkward tiny teeny kitchen and he asked for the milk. As I handed him the heavy pitcher of milk his index finger brushed on top of mine.

We both froze and looked at each other like holding our breath or something. And I got so horrified, because I wasn’t supposed to be doing anything romantic with him yet. So, I actually dropped the pitcher of milk. Dropped. Just retracted my hand as far away from him as I could. John barely caught the pitcher by the top, but it splashed a big puddle on the floor.

And then he made some joke about a milk…man? I did not get it at all so all I said was,

 “Oh, okay.”

And John was like,

“Right. Okay.”

And then he just left. Walked right out the door, leaving the bowl of cornflakes, the puddle on the floor and the awkward blonde American withering of embarrassment.

I had no idea how to interpret his behavior, but he was being weird. And I was being weird. Every little particle of energy between us was just weird! And I didn’t know how to turn everything around and keep him from ending up in a coffin.

I trudged down the steps to meet everyone in the foyer. John, Julia, and Mimi stood chatting and getting in their last little words. Julia had her hat on and was ready to leave. When I emerged from the bottom of the stairs my eyes locked with John’s.

I didn’t know what to do with my hands, so I tucked them under my armpits. Then I realized that pushed my boobs up funny, so I stiffly dropped them by my skirt. John was watching me. This must have been one of those staring phases rather than an avoiding phase.

I tucked my hair behind my ear and joined the group of chatters.

“Emmeline!” Julia said happily with a giant smile. “So good to see you, dearie. Ah! Pity I’m just about to leave.”

“The real pity is that you’ll miss having dinner with us,” Mimi said.

“Oh no! Don’t tell me!” Julia cupped her painted fingers over her eyes. “Fine. Go on, then. Let me have it.”

“Roasted lamb.”

“Ah, get that!” Julia rattled John by the forearm. “See? I bet you’re happy you live here instead of with me.”

I had to keep from doubling over. John gave her this polite breath of a laugh and then his eyes fell to the floor. There was a sharp shift in the energy of the room.

“Well, I best be off.” Julia said patting the pockets of her jacket and turning for the door.

Mimi sent her off with a goodbye nod, about as warm as she could stand probably. Then she gave John a little pat on the chest. “Time to wash up now.”

“Yes, Mimi.”

As John passed, he stopped in front of me. “Hollywood.”

“Hi,” I said, not even looking at him. Or maybe I was. I didn’t even know.

“Erm, planning on joining us?”

I settled for this awkward halted nod, which he imitated, maybe unintentionally. Then walked away rubbing behind his ear.

As soon as he was out of sight, I exhaled and bolted out of the front door.

“Julia!” I called to the petite figure walking down the sidewalk.

She turned so quick on her heel that her skirt danced around in a giant pretty circle. “Emmeline?”

She had stopped, but I ran to her. There was this compelling force that I had to run. Right at her. Her thin eyebrows drew together.

“What’s all this about?” she asked when I had caught up to her.

“If you get a chance in the next couple of days,” I said, catching my breath. “You should tell John that you love him. And tell him soon.”

Her eyebrows had now drawn so tightly together on her forehead that a few extra lines appeared. She stared at me, hard. Even harder than John. Her eyes dancing between mine. Is the intense staring thing genetic or something?

“He knows that I love him very much,” she softly said.

“Sure, but—” I could feel myself cringing at how deranged this sounded. But I couldn’t let it slip by. Not with the knowledge that I had. “You should still tell him you do. I think it would mean a lot to him to hear it.”

Julia placed her hand lightly on my shoulder. “I did what I did, because it was best for John,” she said. ““Love is funny. Sometimes doing the worst things are the best for that person. Even if they don’t know it.”

There was a certain grief in her eyes that I didn’t want to explore. It made me want to swaddle her like a little baby and comfort her to sleep.

“Well, listen, maybe you shouldn’t walk home from Mimi’s anymore!” I blurted out. “You never know. Something terrible might happen. I mean, walking home all alone at night.”

“Don’t worry about me, I can handle me self!” she said with a laugh, “And don’t worry about John. He’s a hard one to pin down, but you’ll do just fine.”

She gave me a strong wink and walked off to cross the street. The same street that would take her life.


The rest of the week I recovered from my common cold. Friday morning, I made my breakfast and surmised how next to interact with John, when the time travel gods smiled upon me. Because finally there he was by himself. Out in the garden. Hunched over and painting a canvas laid out on the grass. I quickly set down my glass of thick milk and left to meet him.

“Hi!” I said cheerfully.

He kept furiously painting. One brush in hand, another in his mouth, and a smaller brush tucked between his ear and his thick-framed glasses. I awkwardly tucked my hands into each other and peered over his shoulder at the painting. I almost gasped. A gorgeous city street with tall looming buildings and a cobblestone road. I was in shock. I had never once seen this piece in any book or any John Lennon collection. And it was unlike any of his other work.  

Mimi must have seen him working as well, because in minutes she was flying out her back door.

“John! How extraordinary!” She squatted to get closer to his painting. “And in color. My! I’ve never seen you use a single splotch of color before.”

He ‘hmm’ed with his brush in his mouth as he signed his name at the bottom, then stood next to us to admire it. This was it! He was turning! He was giving up music for a painting career. My knees shook, I was so ecstatic.

“What do you think, Hollywood?” he asked, putting his hands on his hips. “Do you think that Barrell will have to admit that I can do the assignment? He can’t say that I couldn’t, right?”

I nodded vigorously. “Of course! This is incredible! You’re a natural! I knew you should become a professional painter.”

“Thanks,” he said with half a smirk. “So, you think this proves that I can do it?”

“Of course, you can do it, you senseless boy!” Mimi proudly chirped in. “Now see what a little effort in your studies can get you?”

John nodded and pouted his bottom lip. Suddenly, he kicked out his foot and scraped his shoe down the middle of the painting, leaving a dirty streak of smeared paint. Then he chunked his foot right through the middle of the canvas. I jumped back in shock. Mimi screeched.

“What did you do!?” she cried.

He picked up the sad demolished painting, tucked it under his arm and power-walked toward the drive. The tear where his foot had gone through fluttered sadly in the wind.

“No you don’t!” Mimi marched after him. “Don’t you dare hand that assignment in!”

She tried to wretch the ruined painting from his arm, but he tugged it back and kept storming off.

“You, you!” she stammered. “You’ll be thrown out of the college!”

“Fine!” John yelled back at her as he left.

I stood there helplessly in the garden. The birds sang unaware and cheerful. I took a deep breath and closed my eyes. Not holding out much hope for a long and successful painting career for Lennon. 


That evening, Aunt Mimi knocked heavily on my door. “I have dinner dear if you’re hungry.”

I tore off my covers and hopped out of bed. The rich smell of meat had been lingering in my room and I was craving it for hours.

I skipped eagerly down the wooden steps and into the dining room. Roast beef with cranberry sauce, potatoes and gravy all laid across a crisp tablecloth. I gladly took my seat at the end of the table. Mimi sat on the other side facing me but not making any eye contact. We sat in moderate, uncomfortable silence until the kitchen door squeaked open.

John entered the room and the already cold atmosphere worsened as Mimi eyed him down. He kept his gaze at the floor and calmly sat at the table.

“I suppose you think you’ve gotten away with the painting,” she said as he tucked his chair in.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said, spreading a napkin over his lap. “Barrell would have given me a zero no matter what I did with it. The man has it in for me, he told me himself.”

“And why on Earth would he be so against you?” she asked.

 “Because I seem to be in possession of something he thinks is his…” John made it a point to flash his eyes toward me. I froze. Horrified. What had I done?

“Don’t be senseless,” Mimi snapped. “If you get a zero it will be because you’re missing lectures and disrupting class. Just the same as the zeros you got in grammar school.”

He didn’t counterargue. He rested his cheek on his fist and bounced his heel wildly.

“You are a gifted boy, John. You’re one of the brightest students in your year. But if you keep getting into trouble, they can’t keep you on talent alone. Most of the teachers refuse to have you in their classes now. What are you going to do once every single one of them has had their fill of you?”

John gave a small shrug and a smirk that was more guilty than anything else. “Then I’ll have more time for my guitar. She’s been gettin’ a bit dusty lately. Lonely. Suspicious of all the paintbrushes. You know how jealous she can be.”

Mimi closed her eyes and gave him a long sigh through her nose, a disapproving one. “No more. No more messing about with that guitar when you could be spending valuable time with your University training.”

John seemed to curl into his seat as he stuck his fork into his roast beef. “I could be successful with it, you know,” he said quietly.

I ping-ponged back to Aunt Mimi who still looked as stern as ever. “Yes, you could be successful,” she all but admitted. “But honestly John, that doesn’t matter. Because the way things are with music… they don’t last. These things don’t last. You could be a great musician and just as well, it will come and go. People will be clamoring for you one week and then the next week you’ll disappear, and no one will have ever heard of you.”

 I kept my eyes to my roast beef, thinking of how to interject my own feelings. What she was saying was true if it had been anyone other than John of course. He would never fade away. That even in the year 2109 historians like me knew of The Beatles lasting effect on music and humankind.

Mimi continued to scold from her side of the table. “You must focus on the training, because you need the security.”

“Security in money, sure,” he said spooning another mouthful in. “But no security in love or anythin’ else like that. Now what kind of a life is it if it’s just about the money, then? If I’m good at the guitar and I like it and I get on with it. Then what does it matter?”

“It matters a great deal,” Mimi said. “What am I to do John? If you pursue music and it ends when it does? And then I have a boy of twenty-one or twenty-two thrust on my hands who is qualified for nothing.”

The air was thick with disapproval and grief.

“I really think you can be a successful painter,” I said, working my way in. “You just have to push yourself a little harder and go to class.”

John gave me a pained smile. I knew what that meant. Helpless. And I knew that the Barrell part was in some ways my fault.

“Or you know, it doesn’t have to be painting,” I tried. “You’re very good at writing. Maybe you could work for a newspaper or something like that.”

“I don’t want to give my life away for some odd job,” he said pushing into his seat. “What’s wrong with doing the thing that makes me the happiest? Why do I have to sweep my passions under a rug for a check here and there?”

I couldn’t believe it. My jaw dropped. This conversation was all too familiar. Like a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Past forcing me to hear myself arguing with my mom over Plate Tec.

Mimi sat with her usual pinched expression. “Because a check here and there keeps you from starving in the streets. Now, eat your sprouts.” 

John kept his eyes on his potatoes, but I could see the muscle in his jaw clenched and his knuckles white on his fork.

“I’m going to have to have a real discussion with Julia about this,” Mimi said to herself as she plucked away at the food on her plate. “No doubt she’s the one whose been putting your head in the clouds.”

“Well at least someone’s lifting me up rather than knocking me down all the time!” John’s voice raised.

“Because she doesn’t know what’s best for you, I do!” Mimi shouted back. “You’re going to salvage your education. You’re going to finish your training. And you won’t entertain your mother’s wildly misplaced ambitions for you.”

“They’re not hers—”

“You won’t.”

John scooted his chair so roughly that the wood on the floor croaked. Then he stormed out of the room, his footsteps stomped down the hall and thumped up the stairs. The chandelier above us rattled. Whump! Whump! Whump! Whump! Creak! His floorboard screamed. Wham! Went the bedroom door.

Mimi braced both her wrists on the table and sighed deeply through her nose. “Emmeline. Take the dishes into the kitchen and wash up.”

“Wha— m-me?”

It was clear by her expression that she wasn’t kidding around.

I took the heavy plates to the miniature sink and threw them in. I had never once washed a dish in my entire life. The water from the tap tinkled into the sink. I held a dish under the flow and let it carry the gravy off into the drain. The gravy came off pretty quick and the plate looked the same before we ate on it, so I slid the wet thing into the cupboard.

Whew. I wiped my brow. This was hard.

As I continued to hold dishes under the water the panic started to set in. John was never going to give up his music. And I only had two months left. He said it, he said it to my face that he wasn’t going to give it up. So now what? Where do I go from here? How would I convince this stubborn, stubborn guy to abandon his lifelong dream, passion, and talent?

C’mon John, love me dammit. Your life depends on it.

Thorne was absolutely going to make me kill him. Because he wouldn’t give up the music and he wouldn’t propose to me. I could feel the anxiety beating down inside of myself. But I couldn’t be sure! Sometimes he seemed like he liked me. He did the twist and lean and took care of me when I was sick. I couldn’t deny what he said in private to Harrison and McCartney. He must like me! Well, no more chase, no more anticipation, Lennon. It was going to take me to move things along.

My insides were completely jittering. I had to push the relationship along for the sake of his life. Time to make a move, as they say. I was going to go right upstairs and kiss him dead on the mouth. That’s it. That’s what I was going to do.

I rushed up the stairs to John’s room and knocked on the door. He didn’t come to the door right away and I put my hand on my stomach. It had been so long since I had kissed anyone.

Traegar Baskins, that rat. He kissed me, the first night we ever met. I mean talk about brazen, but then I still kind of liked it to be honest. He was gorgeous. All the right mods in all the right places if you know what I mean. Everything was dreamy. That is until he broke up with me forever because I had written a stupid song about a pirate pig with no legs. He was the last one I kissed. And I honestly felt like it was going to be my last kiss forever and all eternity.

John opened the door. “Miss Hollywood. Fancy seeing you here. Were you in the neighborhood?”

I smiled and tucked my hair behind my ear, trying to conceal how horribly nervous I was. “May I talk to you for a minute, John?” I asked.

“Well, sure.” He flopped onto his bed with his book. “But if Aunt Mimi finds out you’ve been knocking on boy’s doors under her roof it’ll be the dickens to pay.”

“Gotchya, I won’t be long,” I said stepping right into his room. John raised his eyebrows at that.

Hmm. This wasn’t exactly how I had imagined. I was kind of hoping his lips would be a little more, well, accessible. But there he was laying on his stomach on the bed, blocking me with a novel. The orange cat stretching a step over the small of his back.

I tried to flip my hair all cool and confident. “Listen John, let me cut to the chase,” I said. “I like you.”

The way his eyes widened, I didn’t know if it was shocked or more confused.

Why are we wasting time with this? I know you feel the same way so we should just be together already.”

 “Erm…” Whatever shock or confusion his eyes drew up blinked away and he was back to his old cynical brow self.

Was I coming on a little too strong? Probably. Was I already in the middle of a train wreck with no way to stop it? Absolutely.

“That’s a bit big-headed of you,” he said.

Both my jaw and my heart fell into my shoes. Oh, wow. Oh, wow, oh, wow. I messed up. Royally. This was bad. Oh my Galactica, this was bad.

“Don’t you like me, though?” I asked feeling stupid as hell. “But I thought… I mean… Okay, but after what you said to your friends? What about that time you sneaked a peek on me in the tub?”

“I was picking up a mouth organ that slipped from me trousers,” he said.

“Yech!” I scrunched my face. “I don’t need to know about that.”

John pulled a harmonica out of his back pocket and tossed it on the edge of the bed in front of me.

“Oh. You call that a ‘mouth organ’. I see,” I said more to myself than to him.

John narrowed one eye at me. “Why do you like me?” he asked.


“Why do you like me?” he repeated in the same cadence.

My mouth opened and my throat made this weird low gurgling as I tried to respond. Finally, when I couldn’t John responded for me. “Okay, because I’ve been trying to figure it out, you know. And I can’t at all. There’s no reason for you to be liking me like you do. I don’t have any money, or prospects, I mean you don’t even like the music that I play in me band so it can’t be that. I’m just a trouble makin’ Ted from all the wrong places, so what? What is it, then? There has to be some kind of a catch. And you’ll have to tell me because I can’t figure you out.”

“What makes you think there’s some underlying motive?” I asked with a nervous laugh.

“Because there is.”

I stared at him for a moment, then I crossed my arms. “Well, first off, you didn’t answer my question.”

“What question is that then,” John asked unamused.

“You didn’t say whether you liked me or not. You just skirted around the question, but you never gave me an answer.”

John’s book thudded on my bed he dropped his hand so fast. “You answer my question first. Why do you like me?”

“Nuh, uh, uh. I asked you first.”

John shook his head. “You didn’t ask me, you just decided that I fancied you and then sort of notified me about it just now.”

I kept my arms crossed and raised my brow. “Okay, well, do you?”


I pursed my lips tight. The way he had knocked me over with his blunt answer. Galactica. Two out of three, Lennon?

“Well, why not?” I asked, still trying to keep my shattering confidence in the room. “Is it because you’re interested in Cynthia Powell?”

John let out a big snorting laugh. “What? Miss Prim from Hoylake?” he asked his voice raising pitch. “And what about Stu, then, huh? What about him?”

I could feel my face drop. “What about him?”

John waggled his eyebrows up and down.

“Oh, stop,” I said waving him away. “I’m not interested in Stuart Sutcliffe. He’s not my type. I mean, basically not. He’s always got that scarf and the glasses. Nerdy glasses. Definitely not interested. No, no, no. Not even at all attracted… not even at all.”

“Alright,” He said with this sweeping shrug of one shoulder. “I feel the exact same way about Cynthia Powell that you feel about Stu.”

I put my hands on my hips. “Alright.”


“So, that’s it, I guess.”

“Nice talking to ya,” John said and reopened the book in his hand. He reminded me so much of his AI that I almost considered ending the program out loud.

Instead, I awkwardly shut the door and stumbled into my room next door. Well, that was probably even worse than a thousand ex-boyfriends breaking up with me on Talent Search. Okay. Not to mention how Lennon rejecting me just got live-streamed to my least favorite person ever, who probably watched the whole thing with a big grin and a bowl of popcorn.

I crawled right into bed and pulled the covers over my head. I activated my IND and watched the video of Que and me at the lake. I didn’t even bother to cover the crack of the door in my bedroom to conceal escaping light.