CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

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.

“Please.”

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.”

“Mimi!”

 “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.

“Uh…”

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.

CHAPTER TWENTY

There were so many options. I could aggravate them little by little each practice. I could continuously give them horrible music advice. Or I could lie low and wait until the first audition and then make sure it was a spectacular bomb.

In the middle of my heavy scheming that night, John met me in the living room of Mendips, his guitar strapped around his shoulder.

“Em, can I talk to ya?”

“Yeah, of course,” I said.

He tucked his thumb into his guitar strap. “Em, I was wonderin’, um… what do you think of that beetles name?”

My eyes bulged. “What?”

“For the band?” he asked. “’The Quarrymen’ doesn’t particularly fit us anymore since you’re a part of the group and all…”

“It’s not that great of a name,” I said with a nervous laugh. “I’m sure we can think of something better later.”

“Oh.” His face flushed. “Yeah, it’s a bit of a weird name, right?”

“So weird!” I said, my voice all high and tense. “It probably wouldn’t ever catch on.”

John inched a step closer to me and I felt like my knees were going to give out.

“I was also wondering, um…”  He brought his hands in closer to his chest. “If you wouldn’t mind teachin’ me your song. Strawberry Field?”

Oh, crapola. Well, that’s about the last thing that I wanted to have happen. John learning one of his best songs before his career even takes off.

He misinterpreted my hesitation. “It’s just that I usually sing lead.”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” I said, spewing my words. “It’s not a very good song. I wrote it in like a day and I don’t think anyone would like it. It’s pretty bad.”

“I don’t care if anyone else in the whole world likes it or not,” he said. “I loved it, Em. Please, I really loved your song. I want to learn it.”

I struggled for the right response. Something discouraging but also attractive. Nothing. There was nothing. Finally, I sighed and closed my eyes.

“John, I want to be honest with you,” I said. “I didn’t write that song. I just used it because I wanted to win the argument.”

He jerked his head back. “Who wrote it?”

“Um, just some genius I know,” I said.

His eyebrows squished together. “How could some genius you know have written a song about the secluded orphanage down the road from my house?”

“Well, I might have changed the words a little. I think the real words were something like, Cadbury Feels. You know, like, ‘Cadbury Feels Forever’,” I sang.

“Does your friend have any other songs or records?” he asked.

I tucked my hands behind my elbows. “Sadly, no. Uh, he actually gave up his music career to propose to a girl he really liked.”

“That was a mistake.”

“Not for her!”

Another step closer to me. “Tell your friend if he writes like that, he ought to be making records and songs.”

“Mmm, mhm.”

I cupped my hand over my cheek. He was so close to me I could smell the Brylcreem in his hair and the Woodbine cigarettes on his shirt. John relaxed his posture, tilting his head to look at me with those dozy eyes.

“Do you want to step out with me?” he asked, his voice low.

I bit my lip. “Sure.”

I followed him out into the garden, far away from the house, so John could play his guitar and not bother the sharp-eared Mimi. He sat crossed legged in the grass and played.

Little dots covered the dark sky from top to bottom. I loved the ’58 stars. I had already been here for a couple of months, but I still couldn’t get over how many stars you could see from Earth at this point in time. I half wished Lennon weren’t around, so I could take some personal pictures for myself on my IND. But the other half of me ardently disagreed. The music that he was playing fit so perfectly with the night sky and I couldn’t ask for a better soundtrack.

John noticed me staring at the sky and stopped playing. “What is it?”

“The stars… I’ve never seen—” I stopped myself. “I’m still not used to them. They’re beautiful.”

He snorted. “They don’t have stars in America?”

“Not like this.”

Suddenly, John began to play and sing Little Star by The Elegants. I recognized the doowop and joined in which made him smile as he continued through the song. I knelt in the grass, close to John, but making sure we did not touch knees this time. Then after he had struck the last chord, we laughed politely at each other.

“Alright. You play something then.” He handed me his guitar.

I took it from him. What would I even play? If I picked another Beatle’s song, I might accidentally give him more great material. But I had one hundred- and fifty-years’ worth of songs to choose from and I couldn’t give him anything good.

I sighed to myself and sang for him the dumbest song that I knew how to play.

“There once was a piggy named Pete,

Who had no more use for his feet.

He said, ‘These slops ain’t for me! I long for the sea!’

And he sauntered downtown for a fleet.

He sold one of his legs to the butcher.

And one to the widow next door.

He traded the third for an old pirate ship

And the last one he gave to the poor.

OH! He had four pegs! Four pegs! Four pegs for legs!

He clomped around on the deck and he made such a mess,

For he was just a pig after all.”

John was grinning wildly from ear to ear. I stopped mid-strum. “You’re laughing at me.”

“Not at all,” he said. “I loved it!”

My expression soured. “Shut up! Don’t you ever get tired of being sarcastic all the time?”

“I’m completely serious,” he said, nudging me with his elbow. “I really loved it. I loved it even more than Strawberry Field.” 

“No, you didn’t!” I said.

“No, I didn’t.” He laughed. “But it was still very good. I liked it. I really did.”

I rested my chin on the guitar and pouted. “Everyone I’ve ever played that song for has told me that it’s the stupidest song they’ve ever heard.”

“Did they now? Well, probably because everyone you’ve ever played it for has had no concept of wit or irony or anything like that. Pearls before legless swine, Em.” John pushed the tip of his nose up and oinked a couple of times.

I hugged his guitar close to my body. If there were one person on Earth to tell me they liked the song, and it turned out to be one of the best song writers in the entire world, I guess that was pretty good.

 “I had a boyfriend at the time,” I said, no idea why I was saying it though. “He said it was the absolute worst thing he’s ever heard. That he couldn’t be with someone who would write a song like that.”

“Ah. Don’t be too hard on him, Em,” he said. “He can’t help being a big ugly scab who’s too thick to have a sense of humor.”

I laughed and slipped out from under the guitar. “He was too. Ugh! I was so embarrassed, I never played anything ever again!”

He shook his head and tsk tsk tsk’ed me. “You can’t please everyone. If you did, you’d end up in the middle with nobody liking you.”

I cocked my head. “Who said that?”

“John Lennon,” he said. “In the garden, just now. Didn’t ya hear me say it?”

I put my finger to my lip and furled my brow. “You’re right. I think you did say it,” I muttered under my breath. 

“If you love something. Really love something. You don’t ever, ever let that thing go. Not for a single solitary soul in the world. Because when you love something. That’s it. That’s everything. It’s all you need.”

“Love is all you need, huh?” I smirked. “I’m pretty confident John Lennon said that one too.”

“Ah, did he?” He shrugged a shoulder. “Smart man. You should listen to him once and a while, you know.”

I smiled and handed him back his instrument. “Alright, your turn again.”

“Hmm, let’s see here,” he said. John pretended to blow on each of his fingers and wiggled them wildly in the air before placing them on the strings of the guitar. Then he hit the first three chords of Ain’t She Sweet.

My heart completely stopped beating and dropped into my shoes. This was the sign. The song I had read about. The song he played for his first wife. And he was playing it for me with no one else around. Looking directly at me, staring right into my soul. His voice was all raspy and strained and rock and roll.

He had fallen for me.

Everything in my chest felt warm. I expanded my breath, but it only made everything inside burn brighter than before. He had captivated me, overwhelmed me. I couldn’t take my eye off John.

He softly ended the song. I crawled through the grass toward him. I picked up the bottom of his guitar and slipped underneath. Squeezing myself in between him and the guitar as I sat in his lap.

He looked at my lips.

“It’s getting harder to pretend like I don’t like you,” he whispered.

 “So don’t.”

He moved his hands from his instrument to either side of my waist and kissed me. The absolute best kiss I had ever had. John was right about Traegar, he was a hideous scab who was too thick to understand me or know how to kiss at all.

There are three types of kisses. One that is too disinterested. A quick peck you would give your grandma or something you would do out of obligation like on a stage or under a mistletoe. One that is too interested. As in they are more interested on the action that’s to follow than they are on the kiss. (And by that definition therefore are also disinterested.) But my kiss with John was the third type. A Goldilocks kiss. A sincerely interested and invested kiss, with all the passion in the world behind it.

When we had finally parted, I giggled awkwardly. I don’t know, I couldn’t help it, the pheromones were choking me.

“I like you,” John said in his simple blunt way.

“I like you too,” I said still giggling.

“I want you,” he whispered.

“I want you too,” I whispered back.

We kissed again. And yeah, alright, so that second kiss might have been a little too interested. At least on my part. But John didn’t let it go on long.

“I’m scared,” he said, with kind of a laugh in his voice. “I’m dead scared that it might not work out. With you not being from here and all.”

Ice rushed through my veins. “What?”

“From Britain, I mean.”

“Oh. Right.” Duh.

My eyes widened. This was it. I had him. He was right there in the palm of my hand and I could shove him deep inside my pocket and zip him inside.

“I could stay if I had a good reason,” I said. “For example, if I met someone and… if I had a big commitment to that someone… like they asked me to stay forever…”

His fingers curled tighter around my waist. “Em. I—”

Just then, the garden filled with light as the kitchen door opened. “John! Where are you?”

Aunt Mimi’s voice startled us both to kingdom come. I tried to jump backwards out of John’s arms but forgot the guitar had secured me to him. He must have forgot too, because somehow in the whole mess, the neck of the guitar smacked me in the head with a resounding thonk.

“Oh, sorry!” He tried to take the guitar off his shoulder, but the little tuning doodads snagged the back of my hair.

“Ow, ow, ow, wait stop!” I tripped and fell onto my hands and knees. He threw his head back and laughed.

“John, what is going on?” Mimi stepped out, wrapping a bath robe around her nightie. Her hair limp and loose around her face.

She got close enough to see me, on my knees, my snaggled hair wrapped around John’s guitar as he held it over me.

“What is all this about?” she asked with a stern and biting tone.

“I don’t know.” John lifted the belly of his guitar to examine the mess. “I just found my guitar like this all tangled up in a girl.”

I squinted my eye at him, my lips pursed and pinched. He had the biggest and happiest grin on his face.

“Do you suppose that’s how Elvis gets all his girls?” he asked. “Reels him in with his guitar when they cross through his garden?”

“I don’t want you out here reeling in girls until God knows what hour,” she snapped. “Get inside at once. And don’t give me any wit. I’m in no mood.”

We sheepishly retreated into the house, past a growling Mimi, who stopped at the bottom of the stairs to watch us and make sure there wouldn’t be any funny business.

We got to each of our bedroom doors respectively, John turned to me with a small smirk that made me want to jump him all over again.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked. My loopy grin matched his as he leaned against his door frame. “And the next day? And the day after that?”

“Whatever you’re doing.”

“Lights out,” Mimi warned from the bottom of the stairs, like scolding an un-trained puppy by rubbing its nose in its mess.

John and I exchanged grimaces before we shut the door on each other. I turned around to face the little old stuffy room and brought my hands to my face. What had just happened? Well, it had happened. I had him. And he had me to be honest.

I dropped to the floor and squealed as quietly as I could. This flood of energy had knocked me over and I didn’t know what to do with it. Every detail was burning in my mind. The grass of the garden on my ankles. The sparkling stars. And that voice! The music! I could still feel his arms around me and smell the cream in his hair. He was mine.

A peppy and rhythmic knock came from John’s side of the wall. I skipped over and imitated the same knock back, letting him know that I was still thinking of him. I wasn’t just thinking, I was drowning in thoughts of him. I knew it was late, but I felt as though I would never sleep again. I was John Lennon’s girl. Now if only he would give up his music.

CHAPTER NINETEEN

I have to break up The Beatles. I have to break up The Beatles today.

As soon as the floorboard squeaked from John’s room, I leapt from my bed and swung my door open, catching him as he was about to walk downstairs and slip out.

“John!?”

He jumped about a half a foot in the air and slipped down a couple of steps. He caught himself on the railing and I ran to him.

 “Hey. What are you doing?” I asked calmly.

He clutched his chest. “Cripes, Em! The way you shouted my name. I thought someone was launching a grenade at me or something.”

“Oh. Sorry,” I said, my toes curling into my shoes. The same old socially inept Emmeline back at it again.

John smoothed back the sides of his hair. I felt that spark in my chest again and quickly looked away to get rid of it.

“I’m going to George’s,” he said. “Another group practice. The boys are back from holiday.”

Perfect. That was exactly the kind of thing that I needed to happen.

“Can I come?” I asked.

John’s mouth curled into a hesitant frown.

“I’ll behave this time. I promise,” I said, mentally crossing my fingers behind my back.

“Erm…” John rested against the wall of the stairwell and rubbed his neck. “You really like the record we made?” he finally asked.

I didn’t know what I was expecting him to say, but it wasn’t that.

“Yes, I loved it,” I confirmed.

“Alright.” John shrugged. “You can come round. I’m sure the group wouldn’t mind hearing about you loving the record and all that.”

I tried not to do that thing that I do. That thing where I pump my fist into my chest and hiss, ‘Yes!’. I tried not to do the thing. But it was like an involuntary muscle memory or something, my elbow bent, and my fingers closed into a celebratory fist.

He laughed at me, but I think it eased some of the awkward tension between us. I swallowed more sparks.

John and I walked to George’s together. I had grown to enjoy walking. In 2109 we always had transports available no matter where you were going. Even if it were to recycle a candy wrapper or something. You could just be whooshed away to the nearest vacuum receptacle. But here in 1950s England, everything was a lot slower. People took their time to get places, look at their surroundings, think and talk with the person at your side.

And that was another thing. I had grown to enjoy talking to John. I felt like with him, anything goes. You could talk about magical realms, serious world issues, or even just plants. Really any subject you could think to throw at him, he would have some opinion one way or the other. As if he had already thought about climbing a chocolate mountain or waging a war on the surface of the moon. It was as if he had already thought about everything there were to think about.

We got to sweet George’s, where his father welcomed us in warmly. Of all the adults I had met in this corner of time, I liked Mr. Harrison the best. Such a personable and good-mannered guy, just like his son. We went into the living room where everything was set up for the boys, except for poor Colin Hanton who had even less room for his drum kit than at Julia’s. He sat awkwardly behind everyone else and tapped his drum sticks on his knee to the beat.

I, again, took a seat on the sofa and listened to them play. I loved listening to them. Even if I had to pretend they were no good. It reminded me of the kind of music my mom listened to growing up. This genre called “Rebel”. The world had spent several decades using computers to make everything sound perfect and a few bands decided that they would go back to using real instruments and focusing on being as imperfect as they wanted. Ah! I loved that kind of music! It was the kind of music that made me feel like I could really be a singer songwriter. And John’s singing was absolutely reminiscent of “Rebel Rock”.

When the boys had finished, they turned to me.

“Well?” John asked.

I couldn’t help but smirk. Boom! Ready. I had a real game plan this time. It took me all night to concoct it, but I had figured out exactly what I would say and what opinion I would have.

“John, you were absolutely perfect,” I said.

His smile was half relieved and half flattered.

“But everyone else,” I grimaced. “I have to admit. They weren’t as strong as you, John. I don’t think they have the same kind of musical flare.”

A chorus of disputation erupted.

“Now, hold on there!”

“That simply isn’t true!”

“I may not be Chuck Berry, but I do just fine on me own!”

“SHUDDUP!” John yelled over all of them. They immediately fell silent. “We asked Emmeline her piece and she said her opinion. We can’t ask for any more than that.”

I shrugged. “I think you’d do better on your own as a solo musician, John. I’m not sure if you really need a band.”

“That’s enough of that!” Colin Hanton stood from his drum kit and put his sticks into his bag.

“What do you think you’re doin’?” John asked.

“I’m out. I’ve had enough. First, it’s this rock n’ roll. All you want to play is rock n’ roll. No skiffle. No jazz. No nothin’. Two fellas promised to beat me with my own sticks if I kept playing rock n’ roll with you at the Cavern. And in front of all them jazz fans. They don’t want to hear it, John.”

“I don’t give a half a shit what anyone wants to hear,” John said. “I play what I want to play.”

“That’s the problem alright,” Colin said and gestured to me. “And now you want to crowd us out, just because some bird has you by the rocks.”

John grabbed him by his shirt and yanked him in so close their noses were touching. “You can either leave quietly or skidding out of here on your arse!”

“Let go! You’re a madman!” Colin tore from Lennon’s grip and stormed out of George’s house. The front door slammed so loud a coocoo clock sounded unintentionally from the wall.

John’s angry eyes flickered from the door to me. Both George and Paul also threw me a seething glare.

“Sorry,” I said through the awkward silence.

“Is that it for us, then?” George asked sadly. “Are we disbanded?”

John resituated his guitar strap. “Of course not. We’ll just have to get better altogether, won’t we? Practice twice as hard.”

I slumped into the couch and huffed. What a backfire.

“And how are we going to do that, John?” Paul asked. “Our piano player and drummer are gone.”

“Yeah, we can’t have a band with three guitarists and nothing else,” George said.

“Why not?” John asked. “It’s called rhythm guitar isn’t it? It can keep rhythm fine without drums.”

George and Paul exchanged uneasy glances.

“We don’t need Colin!” John said loudly. “Or any of the others.”

“How many is that to quit, then?” Paul asked George aside.

“I think Colin makes fifty-eight now,” George joked.

John scrunched his face. “Right. That’s fine! I don’t care about the quitters. We’re going to the topper most of the popper most and no one is going to stop us!”

I felt that one. Like a strong punch to the gut, wishing that I hadn’t picked the most stubborn man in history to try and change.

“Well we ain’t going to the topper most of much anything with three guitars and nothin’ else,” Paul said, taking the guitar of his shoulder and leaning it against the wall.

Then it dinged on me. A brilliant Plan B.

“If you need someone else to join the band, I’d be more than happy to help,” I said, straightening in my seat. “I can play almost everything. Even drums if you need.”

A wave of complete shock blew through the room, like I had suggested that a chorus of chimpanzees dance behind them during their shows.

You could always count on John for a quick and blunt answer.

“No.”

My smile dropped. “What? Why not?”

“Because we get on just fine as it is.”

“Clearly.” I scoffed. “You need another musician and you have one sitting right in front of you. So, what’s the problem?”

Paul stumbled around, trying to think of the politest way to put it. “Well, yeah, I’m sure you’re very good, but it’s just that— and nothin’ against you, personally—”

“Girls don’t play rock n’ roll.” Again, John with the bluntness.

 My mouth hardened. “Okay, seriously? How can you say that John? I know how much you love The Shirelles.”

The other boys giggled, which made John at least crack a smile and shrug. “Yeah. So? That’s a different kind of group, isn’t it? They have their own group. And we have our group. And there’s no reason for a girl to be in ours. That’s all.”

My eyes narrowed at him. His smug little chin in the air, squinting back at me from his bat blind heavy eyes. I crossed my arms tight. “You think you’re so great, just because you’re a man? That men are so much better than women at everything.”

“I didn’t say that men are better at women than everything,” he said returning the crossed arm stance. “I said they’re better at rock n’ roll.”

Ooh. The nerve. “Oh, excuse me, Mr. Better-Than-You Lennon. You think you’re so great? I could write any song better than any of you and it wouldn’t even take me half as long to think up.”

“Oh, could you?” Lennon asked with a cheeky amused grin.

“Give me that guitar,” I said holding out my hand. “Give it to me!”

Lennon’s grin only widened. Like a cat playing with its food before it devours it. Or more like a whiny child playing with its food, spitting it out and throwing it on the floor.

I took his guitar and slung it around my shoulder. The backside was still warm from resting against his torso. As soon as I put my fingers on the strings, I realized how much of an idiot, I truly was.

What had I just set out to prove? That I was a better songwriter than Lennon-McCartney? I wasn’t better than most children. It was a stupid moment, but I had dug too deep to climb, so I rolled with it.

“Fine, you’re never going hear this one anyway,” I grumbled under my breath.

I took the guitar and cleared my throat a few times. I hadn’t performed in quite some time, but the weeks of rehearsing this song after my body armor surgery were going to pay off.  

“Won’t you take me down, ‘cause I’m going to,” I looked John in the eye. “Strawberry Fields.”

His face when he heard the reference to ‘Strawberry Field’, his brows almost shot off his hairline into space. I played the rest of the song as complete silence filled the living room. After I had hit the last “Strawberry Fields Forever”, the three stood staring at me not even gaping and gasping for words.

. I slowly slipped the guitar strap over my head. John came and took the instrument from me, his knees barely touching mine.

“So, am I in the band?” I asked. “What can I say, Em?” he asked, looking at Paul and George who nodded. “You’re in.”