The next morning, I awoke full of energy despite having only slept three or four hours total. Every time I woke up, I remembered John’s kiss and then had to relive it a couple of times before falling back asleep. Finally, my jittery stomach demanded breakfast. I skipped down the stairs and stopped before entering the dining room.
I took a deep breath, trying to get a hold of myself. Now, now, Emmeline. Mission first. I have to put John behind glass or else I’ll be toast!
I rubbed my brow and entered the room. Sure enough, there he was. Sitting at the table, with an empty plate full of crumbs at his place. Calmly sitting. Waiting.
When we saw each other, I felt a bolt of electricity in my toes. He was so attractive, but it wasn’t just physical. I still don’t know what it is. Something about him, his energy or his aura or something. It was pulling me in, away from the glass wall and convincing every part of me that he was as real as could be.
I sat across from him. Mimi had her eye on me too, but not with the same smile as John.
He bit the tip of his thumb. “Hello.”
A big heave of infatuation rolled over me. “Hi,” I said, grinning and blushing.
I heard Mimi sigh heavily through her nose. “The rent’s gone up,” she announced suddenly. “Now 105. Summer rate.”
I glanced back at John, who sensing Mimi’s harshness had now dropped his adoring eye into his lap. I forced a smile at her. “That’s fine. I’ll be glad to pay it,” I said.
“Oh.” I didn’t know if she sounded genuinely surprised or disappointed. “Well, wonderful. That’s alright then.”
I was aware of John watching me and I tried to do everything in slow motion and pretty. As I stirred my tea with my spoon, I did it slowly. Finally, my eyes met with his. He had his hand on his cheek as he watched me.
“Sugar?” he asked.
As he passed me the small bowl of sugar, our fingers touched. We both relished in the moment, holding a bowl of sugar in between us so we could touch fingers.
“When are you leaving to go back to the United States?” Mimi asked abruptly.
I cleared my throat and brought the sugar down on the table. “I’m not sure yet.”
“You’re not sure?” Mimi asked. “This work placement didn’t give you an ending date? That seems very funny to me.”
Again, I glanced at John who was now eyeing me anxiously.
“Well, I’m supposed to be finished by August 28th,” I said, setting a biscuit on my plate. “But due to some recent changes, I might be seeking an extension.”
“Really? You are?” John asked not even trying to conceal his excitement.
“We’ll see,” I said. “There’s some… business here that I’m hoping will keep me indefinitely.”
John’s grin extended all the way across his face. Aunt Mimi looked at the ceiling as if she were praying for strength.
The next hour was painfully awkward. Suspicious Mimi didn’t want to leave us in the same room together, so we all sat in the living room in perfectly awkward silence. Mimi ran around shaking curtains and dusting the same knickknacks several times refusing to leave us alone. One of the cats had curled on my lap and I stroked his soft smooth fur. John sat sideways in a chair, his knees pulled to his chest and his feet resting on the arm. He had a little hole in his sock and his pinky toe stuck out of it. The stupid trivial things you notice about someone you kissed the night before.
On the small black and white television set, King Leer drolled on from the BBC broadcast. Neither of us were really watching since we kept glancing at the other person. Finally, after about the fifth time of locking stares, John grabbed the bottom neck of his sweater and pulled it over his mouth, crossing his eyes all the way to the bridge of his nose. I couldn’t help my breathy snicker, which made Mimi turn around and narrow her eyes at us.
Suddenly the phone rang shrilly from the hall. We both turned to Aunt Mimi as she stared back at us, like a Mexican standoff. The shrill bell of the phone went off a second time.
“Telephone,” Lennon said in a perfectly innocent voice.
Mimi put her hands on the top of her hips. “Don’t move,” she warned him.
Her dainty little steps crossed behind us and pattered into the hall. The bell cut off mid-ring.
“Yes, hello,” Mimi answered less than cordial. “What? Now? … No, it’s just that I can’t leave now…”
John and I both curled devilish smiles at each other.
“Yes, yes… alright, keep your shirt on, I’ll be right there.”
The receiver slammed onto the hook, and the pattering double timed back into the living room. I quickly turned my attention to the cat and John slumped further into his chair with his head on his fist.
“I’m going out,” she said, her hands still in the disapproving position on her hips. “I hope I can count on you to have some common decency in this house.”
John fluttered his long eyelashes at her with a cheeky smirk. “Mimi, you know me,” he said.
“That’s why I’m worried.” She took a pillbox hat off the coat rack. “You won’t touch each other.”
“You won’t. Promise me.”
I could feel my face burning red as I kept to the cat on my lap.
“You have my honor madam,” he said putting his hand on his heart.
Mimi’s mouth flattened so tight that her lips disappeared into a disapproving line. She plopped the pillbox hat on her head. “I’ll be back before you can unbuckle your trousers.”
I shrank into my seat, wanting to die of embarrassment. A weight lifted off my chest when she breezed out of the house and the kitchen door slammed behind her. We looked at each other again, this time we both couldn’t help but laugh.
John had a mischievous, wild glint in his eye as he stood. The cat on my lap seemed to get the hint and sprang off to leave us alone.
“You promised you wouldn’t touch me,” I teased.
“I won’t,” he said with a smile.
John brought his fingers so close to my hand, it was hovering about a half an inch over my skin. He slowly moved up my arm, I could feel all my little hairs raise in his path. He bent down, his lips the same half an inch away from mine. My heart was stomping in my chest.
There was a knock on the front door. I jerked away so hard, I smacked my head against the chair.
John shushed me. “Not a sound now.”
He leaned in to kiss me, but I pulled away again. “What if it’s Mimi?” I asked.
Suddenly, the front door opened, and a charming and recognizable voice called from the box porch. “John?”
“Nobody’s home!” John called back.
“The Nobodies? I must be in the wrong house.”
I sniggered at Lennon’s exaggerated annoyed face as Paul McCartney walked into the parlor room. His hands in his pockets. A leather shoulder bag draped over a shoulder.
“What do you want?” John asked. “Em and I were… in the middle of something.”
“Oh.” Paul furled his brow and looked between the two of us. “Oh!”
I had to press my finger to my lips to keep from laughing anymore.
“I was just coming round for—” Paul stopped mid-sentence when John’s frown tightened. “Right. Sorry. Never mind then. On my way.”
He swept toward the exit before John booted him out.
“Oh, uh, Em?”
When Paul turned back around to us, John grunted and stomped his foot.
“Sorry, it’s just that— I wanted to tell you, I really loved that song you wrote. Strawberry Fields? That’s a fantastic song!”
“Oh, it’s not really my—” I exchanged a knowing look with John. “Uh, yeah. Thanks.”
“I’m a bit of a songwriter too. I’m not quite as good. But, well, I was wonderin’ if I could get your opinion on some of these.” Paul reached into his saddlebag and retrieved a thick and wrinkled notebook. John cleared his throat and coughed an obvious ‘goodbye’. Paul hunkered down and handed me the notebook. “When you have time. I’ll leave this with you.”
John took Paul by the collar and walked him out. “Right, thanks for comin’. Cheerio. All the best. Adieu. Auf Wiedersehen, zeit zu gehe!”
I heard the two chatting under breath at the front door. I ran my fingers over the weathered notebook in my lap.
“Wow, this is kind of fat,” I said to myself.
I lifted the cover, the first song was, as I expected, I Lost My Little Girl. I chuckled to myself. Little Paulie. So cute. I flipped another page.
When I’m Sixty-Four
Hmm. My mouth twisted to the side. Okay, welp. Didn’t know that one existed just yet, but okay. I flipped another page.
A poem about a blackbird.
I took a sharp breath. Okay. Probably just a coincidence. Another page.
The Long and Winding Road
“What?!” I hissed to myself. I flipped each page rapidly. Key Beatles lyrics on every sheet of paper.
I saw her standing there. Can’t buy me love. Don’t be afraid, take a sad song and make it better.
Then I got to the last page. A hastily scribbled title Scrambled Eggs?? Underneath it, one single line, “All my troubles seemed so far away. Now it looks as though they’re here to stay.”
“Alone at last!” John entered the room, took a flower from Mimi’s vase, and presented it to me on one knee.
I slammed the notebook shut in my lap, but it was too late. My IND gave a distinct buzz inside of me.
“I’m so sorry. Something came up. I have to leave.”
“Something came up?” John doubled back. “Air raid sirens go off? C’mon. What could have come up?”
“It’s an emergency,” I said, tucking the notebook under my arm. “My work study… I’ll explain everything later.”
“Explain it to me now,” John said with a laugh. That darn IND buzzed again.
“No, I’m so sorry, I have to go. I have to—” I grabbed Lennon by the neck and gave him the hardest smooch of my life, then I quite literally ran out the front door.
I clutched Paul’s notebook to my stomach as I walked. My little kitten heels clicked rhythmically on the sidewalk. Pat pat pat pat! A chill spilled down my spine followed by another buzz in my chest.
“I’ll come to you,” I said to my camera.
I sped walked all the way to Thorne’s hotel, blew past the front desk, up the two narrow flights of stairs and right to his door. My knuckles had barely touched Thorne’s door before he opened. “You chose the wrong subject,” he said.