The ferry rocked its way toward Liverpool. This time instead of holding my hand, John wrapped his arms around my shoulder and held me close. It was wonderful. I felt protected from the rough wind of the River Mersey.
When we got off the boat and were walking on the prom, John suddenly grabbed me by the waist and pulled me into an alleyway, away from the prying eyes of the boardwalk. He kissed me so passionately, he left me breathless.
After that good long smooch, John whispered in my ear. “Stu’s gone on holiday,” he said. “And I have the key to his room.”
All my little hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. I wanted to melt right there in the middle of the alley way.
“Do you want to go?” he asked.
I nodded rapidly. “Yes. Yes, please. Big yes. Let’s go. Right now.”
He took me by the hand, and we ran off toward the shared house where Stu had his room. My heart was pounding so hard, I could have popped and passed out right there and then. After all that romantic time on the sand dunes and the fun fair. I was ready for this. More than ready.
We swept into the house and past Stu’s roommates so fast they probably thought there was a heard of escaped lions outside. We tore into the hallway and John opened the door to Stu’s room so hard that it hit the wall with a bang.
“Get over here!”
He swung me into the room, sweeping me literally off my feet. The door hadn’t even closed all the way before John was viciously necking me. Yes, finally, alone! No Mimi. No Thorne.
John undid my top button and started to kiss past my collar bone right on top of the little IND speck. I gasped and shoved him off.
“What? What’s wrong?” he asked.
I slapped my hand over my camera. “I need to use the restroom!” I squealed.
John blinked in confusion. “It’s outside, down the hall,” he said. “Are you alright? Are you sick?”
“No, it’s nothing like that. I just have to… take care of something.”
John laughed at me and sat on Stu’s mattress. “Everyone shits, Em. I’d really rather you do it sooner than later.”
“No, stop that! Don’t imagine that,” I said. “Keep thinking of me in a sexy way. Sexy thoughts, please.”
“You don’t have a thing to worry about with that, Em. I haven’t been able to think of anything else since I was fourteen years old.” He stuck one of his Woodbines in his mouth and lit it.
“Good! I’ll be right back.” I slipped out the door. “Sexy thoughts!” I added before I shut it all the way.
I found the bathroom and locked myself inside.
“Camera override. Off.” I whispered as quietly as possible. Sorry, Thorne. Paul McCartney was just going to have to wait. And I really didn’t need this recorded for all Historians for all time. If I wanted to make a sex tape with John Lennon, I probably would have just done one virtually.
After I was sure my IND had terminated the camera, I slipped back down the hall and into Stu’s bedroom where John was waiting for me on the bed.
“Everything come out all right?” He asked with a big mocking grin on his face.
“Shut up,” I said pushing him onto the mattress and starting things up again.
Kissing. Undressing. Fingertips. Contact. Passion. All the tension we had hoarded for this one moment together … And then I felt that distinct buzzing hiccup from my IND. No way.
“That wasn’t fifteen minutes,” I said out loud.
“What?” John asked all breathy and confused. My IND buzzed again. It wasn’t a fluke. Thorne was tracking me. He was coming.
I slipped from under John and groaned, rubbing my face with both my hands.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked, gently tugging on me. “Don’t go. Don’t be frightened. We can take things slower. I’m sorry—”
“It’s not you,” I said angrily throwing my legs off the bed. “It’s someone else.”
John sat up straight, staring at me as I put my clothes back on. “Someone else…” he repeated in a cold tone.
I pulled on one of my gritty sand-filled shoes. “No, not like that. It’s my work study thingy.”
“Work study again? What do you mean?” he asked. I grimaced. That excuse was wearing out, but I was too shaken and annoyed to think of anything else.
“I forgot that I have this problem. Well, not really forgot exactly, I just thought I could have one little ounce of grace for this kind of situation, but I guess not.” I picked up my other shoe and violently jammed it on my foot.
John watched me quietly. Probably more confused than disappointed. I wasn’t sure. It was hard to read him when he was quiet because he was hardly ever quiet.
“John, I’m sorry,” I said, slipping my arms into my sweater.
“That’s alright,” he said in that little quiet voice that was hard to read. “I can walk with you to the bus and we can go to the college together.”
“Uh…” He couldn’t come with me to the college. Because there was no work study at the college. “That’s alright. I’ll— I’ll say goodbye to you at the bus,” I said around the lump in my throat.
Frustrated. So frustrated that I could punch a hole in the drywall, reach through and strangle Thorne. What was he thinking buzzing me and tracking me like that? Hello! I was in the middle of something!
I imagined how I was going to yell at him, the next time I saw him. He thought I was the one compromising the mission? Ha! Every time I made a huge stride with Lennon in that department, he had a way to ruin it. He likes you? Tell him you like Paul. He loves you? Well too bad, I’ll force you to leave him.
I grumbled as I headed out of the house with a quiet John. Holding in my tears to spill on the bus ride to nowhere.
Then I saw Thorne, standing outside the building as if he were waiting for me. We caught eyes and as we passed, I gave him a dirty look. A super dirty look so he would know just how peeved I was at the situation. I couldn’t yell at him with John there, but I could yell at him with my eyes.
He called to me. “Emmeline.”
John pivoted on his heel and saw him. Thorne crossed his arms tightly over his chest.
“It’s time to go, Emmeline,” he said.
My jaw dropped. What in the world was he thinking? Ripping me away right in front of John’s face? Why would he do this?
John looked from me to Thorne and then back again. “Em, who is this?”
“It’s nobody,” I said through clenched teeth. “Just someone from my work study. He doesn’t matter. Let’s go.”
But Thorne hadn’t had enough of harassing me and ruining things yet. “You’re not leaving with him. You’re leaving with me. Right now.”
John’s eyes flashed and narrowed. “Piss off, you old man! Who do you think you are talking to Em like that? This isn’t just any girl, this is my girl. And she came with me.”
“Fine.” Thorne said, hardly giving Lennon his ice-cold gaze. “But she’s leaving with me.”
John turned me around by my arm. “Em? Who is this scabby looking troll, ay?”
I was shaking inside. I was so angry that he would show up and talk to John. Especially after all the constant berating about obeying the rules exactly. He was a walking example of a hypocrite and I hated him. I actually hated him.
“Emmeline, come with me now, or I’ll consider the mission compromised,” he said.
I could not believe the words I was hearing. Not only was he talking face to face with John, but now he was talking about the mission?
“You know what will happen if you don’t come with me, don’t you?” he asked, with a stern face.
“Whose fault is that?” I snapped back. “You shouldn’t even be here.”
“Em, what’s going on?” John pleaded with me.
I looked him in the eye, every inch of me wanting to drown into a big batch of tears. Everything had been so perfect until this moment. And now, how would I ever explain this to him? How could you explain something like this? You couldn’t.
Thorne had had enough. “If you don’t come with me now. I’ll end it right here.”
Painful reality was sinking in. I had accepted a mission, with a partner who was hell bent on ruining it no matter how well I did. And I had fallen for a boy that I was going to have to murder.
“I’m so sorry,” I said to John, my voice tight and wavery. I left him and walked to Thorne. John stood on the pavement shocked, his hands clenching the opening of his jacket. His shoulders shrank underneath, like a lost little boy.
“Em,” he said quietly and confused.
A tear ran from the corner of my eye and slipped down the side of my nose. I got into the car.
“She doesn’t like you,” Thorne suddenly announced to John. “She’s having an affair with your bandmate, Paul McCartney.”
The color drained from John’s face. “What?” he asked with a small, hoarse voice.
“It’s important that you know that,” Thorne said swinging the driver’s door open wide.
John looked at me and wow, that look. That weak and trembling look will always be a haunting nightmare. Thorne got in the driver’s side and slammed the door shut.
As we drove away, I saw Lennon standing outside the building still clenching the front of his jacket and staring at our car. More tears ran down my cheeks.
“Why did you do that?” I blew up. “Why would you do that? Introducing yourself as a subject? How dare you do something of that magnitude after yelling at me for everything that I did? And for what? What am I going to tell John now, hmm? How am I possibly going to salvage this?”
“You left me no choice,” Thorne said, his voice equally as angry. “I gave you specific instructions and you deliberately ignored me. You’re only encouraging Lennon and I can’t have you compromising the mission in that way.”
“ME compromise the mission?” I asked jabbing at my chest. “When I wanted to save Julia’s life, you said no. And now you’re the one changing things around and doing whatever you feel like and whatever is going to mess things up between John and I.”
Thorne pursed his lips together as he kept his eyes to the road.
“Admit it, Thorne,” I said. “Just admit it. You didn’t give a single rat’s ass what happened with John. Because you were planning to kill him at the end of the hundred days.”
“That’s not the case,” he said, now yelling. “I am trying to help you have a successful mission despite every little twist and turn and way that you manage to screw things up. So excuse me for doing my job. And keeping this mission on track.”
“Oh, you’ve derailed the mission, bud,” I said with a little guttural laugh. “It is way derailed now. Taking me away from John in the middle of the street? What’s he going to be thinking now?”
“I wouldn’t have had to have done that, if you had told him about McCartney.”
“Alright, you know what? You don’t care about breaking up Lennon and McCartney,” I said leaning forward in my seat. “I think you were pushing for it because you wanted to see John be miserable. Just like you wanted his mom to die. And just like you can’t wait for the chance to shoot him. This isn’t about the mission. This is you and your little personal vendetta with the counterculture or rebellion or something. You hate John Lennon.”
Thorne slammed on his breaks so hard that I fell forward and bumped my shoulder into the dashboard. He whipped around to face me, his arm pulling himself forward on the steering wheel.
“Let’s get one thing straight right now,” he barked at me. “I don’t hate John Lennon. In fact, I couldn’t care about John Lennon even if I wanted to. Do you want to know what I hate? Being assigned to a demeaning little mission like this one. And I would do anything just to get on with it and get it over with. So I don’t have to spend every damn waking second sitting in my hotel room, watching a stupid little girl turning off her camera to endanger herself with a violent, unstable pop star. If you’re too attached, then that’s your problem. Grow up and execute this mission.”
And with that, he kept driving. I watched the downtown Liverpool disappear from the window and let the tears drip from my chin.