am a man
STAR IN PATERNITY SCANDAL – WORLD EXCLUSIVE
star Jonathan Brown is the heir to music royalty, The Sun can reveal.
Norwich musician, who had a number one hit with ‘A Man, Imagined’, is a
love child of Beatle George Harrison, a close friend of Brown has told The
does know that his father is the author of ‘My Sweet Lord’, who had a
‘steamy’ affair with his mother, Mary Magdalene Brown, when she was a
secretary at EMI headquarters in London.
affair lasted for six months in 1972 and ended when Mary Magdalene – nee
Jones – got pregnant.
turned his back on her when he found out,’ the close friend said. ‘Mary
was at a complete loss. She really loved him and didn’t believe he would
do that to her.’
Magdalene married Norwich pub owner August Brown in September 1972. August
adopted Jonathan, who was born in January 1973, and ‘never looked back on
couple’s other son – West End actor Adrian Brown – was born in 1975.
friend says that Mary Magdalene – who died in 1990 – informed her son
about his father ‘when he was old enough to understand.’
all Jonathan knows and cares, his father is August Brown. He has never had
any contact with George whatsoever.’
Jonathan Brown’s face was red, streaks of tears still shining dully. In front of him were the two of the men he most trusted in the world – his brother Adrian, and Henry O’Shea, his manager. In front of them was the tabloid newspaper. They were at O’Shea’s office. It was a Wednesday morning, but from the quiet outside it seemed like the calmest Sunday.
“How dare they?” Adrian nearly screamed. “Who told them?”
“So, is it true?” O’Shea said, aghast, his Welsh accent cutting the words sharply.
Adrian breathed in, cursing his big mouth. “Right, I’d call more like a sick bending of the truth. Mum knew George Harrison – that is true. Polite friendship, Christmas cards, all the nuts and bolts. I kept the cards when she died. But, pardon my French, who the fuck does this reporter thinks he is, to say that she had a ‘steamy’ affair with him!? Doesn’t he respect the dead?”
Jonathan stood up and walked to the window. It was his favourite view of all the places he knew and had seen in his life – he could see part of the Hyde Park and the Royal Albert Hall from that window. When he was a starving studio musician living at the other side of town – Liverpool Street, upstairs from an Indian take-away – he dreamed of playing there.
“Jonathan? Are you listening to me?” O’Shea asked.
“No,” Jonathan replied, his deep voice still tear-strained. “Sorry, Henry mate, I’m not listening properly. Could you repeat what you said?”
“I asked if you could explain this story.” The manager pointed the newspaper.
Jonathan kept looking to the window. “Well, in a nutshell, my mother got pregnant by some bloke. I don’t know him, and August took me in when no-one else would. But to say I’m a Beatle child is an offence… To the Beatle, if not to my mother!”
“Jesus Christ in a polyester jumper, Jon! We don’t know that! We don’t know if August is not your father…”
“That’s what I’ve been hearing for ages.”
“Doesn’t make it any truer! Surely you believe our parents didn’t quite have sex before marriage? I beg to differ,” Adrian insisted.
Jonathan faced his brother. They had traces of common features – the high cheekbones, the round, slouching shoulders. But Adrian had a strange, deviant look, with thick, shaggy brownish hair, while Jonathan was quiet and serene, his hair deep brown and nearly shoulder long. Jonathan was taller than his brother and had a strange serenity to his demeanor.
“Look, we’ve painted ourselves into a corner here, Jon. Listen to me, I’m your brother, I know you cover to cover and right between the pages. I don’t know how to talk to the dead, so I can’t ask mum whether this freaking story is true or not. And you don’t want to make a blood test, because you know how that would break dad’s heart. But now the situation’s gone public!”
“And you know that it will get even more public, Jonathan,” O’Shea said. “I’m surprised that the other newspapers didn’t start calling us already, checking the information. The Sun is a dirty rag and we know it, but it just so happens to sell three million copies everyday. We’ll have to issue a press release dealing with it, sooner rather than later.”
O’Shea sighed as he stared at Jonathan and Adrian, the baggy eyes making him look even older than his sixty-three years. “Now listen, you kids. You understand that if we don’t do something – and if we don’t do it fast – your life will be a mess.” O’Shea turned to Jonathan. “You have three choices. Face it, lie low or run away. Some would suggest you to lie low and wait until it goes away. I say face it if you know where you stand. Now, do you know where you stand?”
“Yeah, don’t I! I’ll go to hell and back to get August out of this. I want these guys sued if that is what it takes, O’Shea.”
“Then we’ll figure out something. And for the moment being, let’s try and find out who on Earth said these things to the newspaper. It’s obviously a buy-up.”
“The newspaper paid to get this information,” Adrian said. “And by the looks of it, they paid an awful lot. After all, sorry bro, but it doesn’t get any hotter than this: an up-and-coming guitar god with a Beatle hairdo and some issues, and the bloody Hari Georgeson himself? Heck, I would turn you in if they paid me enough!”
Jonathan managed to smile. “Thanks for the ‘guitar god’ part.”
The statement was
short and to the point: Regarding the
report published today in ‘The Sun,’ Jonathan Brown would like to say a
few words: “Sorry, folks, you’ve got it all wrong. It’s Norfolk, not
Merseyside; August, not George; Brown, not Harrison. That said, thanks for
the laugh, but please do not offend Mr. Harrison again by trying to put me
in his family tree. I don’t think he appreciated the joke!”
George read the short declaration – it was sharp like a carving knife. He tried to imagine the young man saying them, and failed. Jonathan Brown didn’t seem able, on a first glance, to spit such venom so gracefully.
He had seen his picture many times over the months, heard him on the telly, but right until that particular moment – when someone over the telephone said Jonathan Brown was the son of Mary Magdalene – he didn’t know what to think of him. The lad’s a good singer was all he could come up with. Vague, inane, just like the watercolour-like image he had of the young singer.
Until he heard that he was Mary Magdalene’s first born.
He had seen and had plenty of women. But hers was one face he could not forget. She never asked anything, demanded anything. She liked to listen. It didn’t matter if your song was on the airwaves, that you had a car with a driver, that you lived in a house that was so big one needed a map to get around it. She treated you like any other person on Earth. And the fact that she treated everyone nicely was enough for him.
He remembered when she found out she was pregnant. It was the last time they had seen each other. ‘I have to go back,’ she’d said. ‘But back to where?’ he remembered asking.
And – he remembered as if it had happened just moments ago – she threw her elbows back and said, ‘Back to the Anglia, where else? I have to see the father of the child, see what we’ll do about it.’
Olivia walked into the room – she didn’t need to ask permission, but this time he wished she had. “Are you okay?”
He shook his head. “No. I feel sorry for the lad. I knew his mother. She was a nice person.”
Olivia walked into the room. “He seems to be nice too.”
“He looks unready.”
“Like you were?” She tried to smile at the phrase.
He wanted to say that things had changed, that a man entering the music business in 1995 could not have any hopes or dreams, could not afford to look that unprepared – but the words never made it out of his throat. Olivia, as always, had nailed it: he was concerned about Jonathan Brown because he reminded him – reminded him of what he’d looked like himself, barely twenty and even more unready, out to conquer the world.
“Is there something you can do?” Olivia asked, tentative.
“There might be…but I don’t know if I should come forward. The lad might get the wrong idea.”
But he knew he would come forward, something was pushing him towards that. But how do you get to talk to a person you just don’t know? And about such a subject? To a lad of twenty-two who wore his heart on his sleeve and seemed at the same time sure of his steps and yet so unready to walk, just like his mother?
Henry O’Shea stared at Jonathan from the backstage. Two days after the Sun’s story, Jonathan was again playing on a stage, with his backing band, The Nation’s Appreciation Test (the weird name was courtesy of Adrian and the band’s drummer and leader, David Lee Keller). It was a sold-out concert at the Brixton Academy, people nearly dangling from balconies, girls screaming, people with posters, and the odd fellow putting his little sister or girlfriend upon his shoulders – the typical mess you would expect at a rock concert.
Henry’s stomach – so used to the helter-skelter of live gigs and rock stars in his nearly forty years as an impresario – jolted heavily when he saw one poster being held by a group of girls right in front of the stage. It screamed in red, glittery characters “LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON” under a caricature of George Harrison – or was it Jonathan? Henry couldn’t tell (after all, he was at a distance), but he could imagine Jonathan’s fury when he saw that.
When The Nation
started to play the introduction to the first song and Jonathan walked
onstage with his black Les Paul guitar, in his green corduroy jacket and old
jeans and his long hair decently brushed, Henry breathed in, and only
breathed out when he heard the first verse of the opening song – the clear
voice of his pupil unchanged, unfazed. He hadn’t seen the poster. Or so he
was led to believe.
Jonathan played the first song and half the set, apparently without problems. Then he stopped and said something to the other members of the five-piece band. David Lee Keller listened to what Jonathan said and laughed out loud. The rest of the group seemed to agree to something Henry hadn’t quite comprehended.
And then Brown turned to the microphone with a half-lipped smile. “Ladies and gents, I have some words on what’s in the paper…”
Henry mouthed “what the hell?” to David, who shook his head from the drum kit, trying not to laugh too loud.
Jonathan went on. “According to this newspaper, I’m heir apparent and man up front from one of the most beloved rock bands in this country, in my opinion. So, here’s my word about it. To the man at the Guardian who said that The Nation’s Appreciation Test is the noisiest band since The Kinks…Thank you! I’m chuffed!”
The audience broke down in hysterical laugher. Jonathan smile broadened – he had them in his hand. “And as for the Sun…Here’s what I have to say to them.”
The band started to play their song, and the first bars of “Sue Me Sue You Blues” rang through the air. Henry nearly fainted. Adrian, sat in his balcony post (he did his best not to miss any of Jonathan’s shows in London), stood up to shout the lyrics. Those that recognised the song got the irony – especially because Jonathan’s voice sounded too much like that of the original singer of the song.
“Brown, are you bloody insane?!” Henry screamed when he finally got Jonathan alone in the cramped dressing room.
“Yeah, so? Maybe I was! I figured that if I laughed it off, they would forget it.”
“Bad move, lad. They might take it personally. They won’t lay down now. They’ll go until the end of the bloody Earth to prove what they said is true!”
Jonathan stared back at Henry, the implications of what the manager said finally reaching his brain. “Screw it, then,” was the only answer he found. “You asked if I knew where I stood. I know where I stand. If they want to play this way, well, let us sue them!”
Henry sat down, unwell as he felt and wanted to show. “Lad, you’re stubborn material.”
“Sure thing I am,” Jonathan quipped. “Family trait.”
And then, as if on cue, Adrian broke noisily into the room, waving his hands with delight. “Jonathan Roger Brown! Has anyone told you that you are a bloody genius as of lately? That was probably the best version of a song by a former beatle since Bryan Ferry sang ‘Jealous Guy!’ Tell me you are releasing that as a single!”
Jonathan stared at Henry and shrugged. “Yeah, I am. As part of a bypass operation appeal for Henry, the way things are going!”
“Oops. So, I did interrupt something?” Adrian looked vexed.
“Yeah, I was bashing your brother. Nothing unusual.” Henry sighed as he stood up. “Adrian, you talk with this thick-head of a singer, since he is not listening to me, at any rate. It was a very bad move, singing that song. That newspaper can take that as a declaration of war. Is that what you want, Jonathan? A declaration of war? Pictures of your mother and George Harrison on the center page? The whole country talking about it? They can afford to find that out.”
“They can’t afford to find what doesn’t exist, Henry!” Jonathan said, but he did not sound so confident.
“Sure they can, lad. They have at least six million people reading – believing, damn it! – whatever they dish. They can afford to be reckless; the audience will swallow the bait any way they dangle it!”
Henry left the dressing room in a huff, leaving the two brothers alone in the place.
“He should have waited to hear about what I saw, then,” Adrian said sadly.
“Pray tell, what?”
Adrian took a deep breath. “The man himself. In a private box, with the wife.”
“The man himself?” Jonathan sounded confused.
“Yep. Hari Georgeson, mate. With the missus, God help me, if I haven’t seen them may I lose my hair”. He stopped, as if to check if his hair was still in the same place, and then said, “There’s no way I could be mistaken.”
Jonathan sat down – nearly fell flat – on the ground. “Oh, gracious Lord, I screwed this up big time,” he whispered to himself.
“Jon, you didn’t screw up a thing.” Adrian lifted his brother up, the way he would a drunk in the streets. “C’mon, get yourself up. You know where you stand. Don’t look afraid. Don’t let Henry’s fears get to you. You are right; they cannot dig up what doesn’t exist.”
Jonathan nodded. “I just wonder if he liked the song.... Hope he didn’t get the wrong idea from it.”
“Get the fuck over it, Jon. It was lovely.” Adrian smiled. “And if you release it as a single, I am buying myself a hundred copies to start with. Just to help pay for Henry’s bypass operation, mind!”
As George was driven home – Olivia at his side – he couldn’t help thinking about Jonathan Brown. The lad sounded good live, better than the occasional performances he had seen on the telly. He looked bright on the stage, a fine man with long hair, a black Les Paul guitar and a messy back-up band.
But then the bright lad had sung his song. He sounded too real to be true. Too ferocious, too honest – a declaration of war of sorts. But to whom – to the newspaper? To him? Just how much did he know?
He had never seen Mary Magdalene after she returned to ‘the Anglia’ as she said. Norwich, where her on and off boyfriend used to live. For all he knew and believed, the father of the child was that faceless man that Mary always said she loved, but sometimes could not cope with. But Magdalene and he had a secret, didn’t they? Something they never mentioned to anyone.
“Penny for your thoughts?” Olivia asked. They were approaching the gates of Friar Park.
He said something inane, remarking on the noisy fans at the club, nothing in particular. But his mind was definitely elsewhere. It was not like he hadn’t heard that story before – many women came up over the years, claiming they had mothered his kids. Most of them wanted money; one or another case was true. (What was the use of denying? He had been young once, and rich, and a rock star, such was his life and its perils.) So why was that particular man was bothering his memory so much?
Jonathan looked at the picture in his wallet with a smile – familiar faces all over, on his 21st birthday. Adrian, Henry and his wife, the Nation’s Appreciation Test members and their loved ones. And there, on his right, was August Brown. The man he called father.
When did he learn about the doubts regarding his conception? Surely he had heard women talking behind his back – the power of gossip, always intense – for a long time. People saying he didn’t quite look like his brother. Small things, hurtful hissed things that, in the end, pierced his heart deeper than he wanted to admit. When he was eighteen, all packed up to leave for university, August talked to him frankly about it.
Jonathan could remember the occasion. They were sitting in August’s favourite spot – his allotment, where he grew vegetables and roses. It was the end of the day. And it was the first anniversary of the death of Mary Magdalene. August explained that Mary and he had had lots of fights, lots of arguments, and that once she left him and went to work in London, that she had decided not to return. Three months later, however, she did come back – and she was pregnant.
“I won’t deny she might have met a man while she was in London – I never asked, she never said, but it didn’t need to be said. I just took her in. I loved her too damn much…If you think about it, I still do. My father did the same for my mother, and I was born to a man that did not have my blood but called me son and gave me his name and his love. Jon, if you want to, we can look for your blood father. If you feel you want to know about him. You are eighteen now, you have the right.”
And Jonathan had said he didn’t want to know. And he didn’t – for all he knew, for all he wanted to know, August was his father. He was the one that brought him up, the man that taught him how to talk and ride a bicycle – he owed him more than he could ever say.
That uncomfortable situation, brought by the newspaper, only seemed to highlight August’s unending bravery. Would he, Jonathan, do the same thing? Would he give his name to a child that was not his, out of love? To save a girl from shame? People say the times change, but a woman was still looked at and hissed about when she decided to have a child alone. Perhaps Adrian was right – perhaps he was August’s son after all – and still that would be an act of courage, for people would always state that the son wasn’t his, like indeed they’d done.
Someone knocked at the door. Jonathan hid the wallet on the pocket of the jacket. “Jonathan, may I come in?”
It was Henry, and the poor Welsh soul looked as if he would drop dead any moment. “O’Shea, what’s wrong?”
Henry sat down and, with a hand gesture, asked Jonathan to do the same. “Look, lad, I don’t know how you are going to react to this.”
“Whatever the newspaper has published this time, I’ll sue them over it”.
“No, no! Thank God, they were worried about the Prime Minister today; you went to page ten or something. But it is still about that, yes…”
“Henry, for God’s sake, just say it. What happened?”
Henry said it at once. “So, he wants to see you. George Harrison. He called me just about ten minutes ago. He wants to see you.”
Jonathan swallowed hard. “Oh, gracious Lord,” was all he could come up with. “Henry, I don’t think I can handle that.”
“Face it, lie low or run away, lad. You totally destroyed the second option, singing that song at the concert. Running away doesn’t quite help it, not at this stage of things. So you have to face it.”
Jonathan stared at Henry – the once-blond hair now almost all gone white, the puffed eyes, the crabby hands. He knew that Henry was the voice of experience, but at the same time that was the hardest bone to swallow – he wasn’t sure that he wanted to see the man he admired so much as a musician, the man that his mother mentioned always so respectfully, and that was now pinned as his own blood.
“Lad, just don’t forget that it’s his name on the line was well. For you it might sound like an awful joke, but get to see his side. It must not be funny to his wife to hear that an up-and-coming hairy singer has a claim…”
“If I do have a claim.” Jonathan sounded disgusted. “I wouldn’t be the first, so I think she is used to it, or at least she knows how to handle it. And heavens above, I would deny that until the end of the world. I would run away from it. As God is my witness, I would reject him, if only I could.”
“You’re hell-bent on it, ain’t you?”
“Henry, just tell me when he wants to see me. And I will see him. Out of courtesy to my mother, who liked him so much. But that is all it is. I don’t want to get this any more extended than it is. For both our sakes, do you agree?”
“You’re being wise, lad. I’ll have it arranged.”
Jonathan nodded, feeling the weight of the wallet in his pocket. “Henry?”
“Should I mention this meeting to my father?”
“Why bother the old man if you can help it?” Henry said wisely. “Don’t mention it to Adrian either, or he might come up with an autograph album and his entire Beatles collection, if you understand me.”
Jonathan smiled. “Wiser words are yet to be spoken.”
The meeting was arranged to take place at Henry’s office. Suggestions like a restaurant (too public) or a hotel (again, too public) were rejected by both parties and so the last of all options was picked. It was dangerous – what if there were paparazzi lurking? – but both parties agreed that they could cope with the risk.
And so, one week after the show at Brixton Academy, Jonathan Brown met George Harrison. Jonathan came up earlier, in his corduroy jacket and jeans, hands in his pockets, completely at loss for words. He was white as a lily, and Henry thought for one moment that it wasn’t such a good idea to have the two musicians meeting.
“Are you sure you are okay, lad?”
“I won’t get any worse than this, O’Shea, don’t worry.”
Henry left him alone. It was no use staying in the room - the situation wasn’t easy and his presence wouldn’t make it any better. Jonathan stared out the window, at the Royal Albert Hall shining in the autumn sun. His favourite vision. His dream of glory and fame.
The door opened, and then someone entered. Jonathan had his back to the door, and he feared looking back.
“I suppose you are Jonathan?” the adenoidal voice asked, with a tinge of Northern accent, soaring in the room. Jonathan could recognise that voice anywhere in the world.
And then he turned to see the voice’s owner, just three steps into the room, the closed door behind him. Older, shorter hair, the face showing his age – and yet the same look, the same deep stare he had learned to respect over the years.
George stared back at the young man by the window. There he was – the unready, honest look that reminded him of Mary Magdalene. Or could it be that it made George remember who he used to be? Could that be the reason why he simply couldn’t forget that stupid claim, that devil’s radio started by the newspaper?
“That would be me, yes,” Jonathan replied. “I’m just so sorry for this situation. Honestly.”
“If you didn’t set it up, then you have nothing to be sorry for.”
“Point taken.” Jonathan smiled. “So, you knew my mother.”
“I did. She was a lovely lady.”
“People say she was.”
“She was indeed. A lovely woman, an honest soul.”
How to tell him? Should he tell him? The questions remained unanswered in George’s mind. Jonathan left his position by the window and walked just close enough for George to see him better. There was a lot of Mary Magdalene in him – the round shoulders, the high cheekbones. But there was something irritating in his mirrored stare, in the wise look the young man lashed at him.
“Look, this thing was insane. I don’t know who has sold this story to the newspaper, but Christ, if I can get my hands on them!”
“Lad, you are going to face worse things,” George said, sounding weary, even to his own surprise. “Don’t I know it! Things will not get any better. It tends to get rougher as you climb up the ladder.”
“Mister Harrison, I don’t mind if they get their digs at me. I don’t give a bleeding damn. But my family is not fair game! I don’t need a newspaper to tell me my father adopted me when no-one else would – that’s not news to me. But… oh, fuck!”
Jonathan slammed his hand on Henry’s table, causing some ornaments on the top to rattle. He stared at George with curiosity – fear, perhaps, of what he was going to ask. His cheeks were bright red; his whole thin body seemed to scream his embarrassment.
“Sorry for being rude, but I might as well get this out of the way – did you sleep with my mother, sir?”
George took a deep breath. They stared at each other again. “Yes, I did.”
The redness on Jonathan’s face faded quickly. It was not the answer he was expecting to hear. But then again, what did he expect to hear? He knew his mother loved that man. How much or for how long, it was anyone’s guess – and something he never really wanted to know.
“I remember she said – the last time we saw each other – that she was going to the Anglia. She was pregnant then. She said that she would talk to the father of the child and see what they would do about it. I take it that child was you.”
“The Anglia…That’s how she used to call Norwich.” Jonathan smiled at the memory for a brief moment, dropping his defences and looking down. “It was like the whole region was reduced to one city…”
“What we had was a mistake – we both agreed on it – she was a friend, she listened to me when no-one else would, and I ruined it and I know it, Jonathan. But she was honest to the bone, too. She wouldn’t fool your father. If you were my son…” and then the words glued at the back of his throat. If? He looks like me, how I am going to get out of this alive? “…If you were my son, she would have told me. She wouldn’t have lied.”
Jonathan chuckled. George had once wondered if he had the courage to spit venom gracefully– that throaty bitter laughter was the answer. “She was a junior secretary without a penny to her name, and you were one of the biggest names of the company if not the biggest of them all, worldly enough to have heard the same story hundreds of times before. Honestly, Mister Harrison, do you think she would have had the guts to tell you?! What on Earth do you think that the answer would have been?”
He turned his back on George, walking back to the window. “I don’t know who sold this story, but Christ, I could cripple him or her easily. I know more than I wished to, now. They don’t respect the dead anymore.” He heaved a deep sigh and went on. “The story goes on. My father – August Brown, you see – he was also someone else’s son. My grandfather took him in when no-one else would; my grandmother got herself in trouble because she slept with a man and could not face the consequences alone. History repeated itself with me. The irony of it all…”
Jonathan turned again to face George. “I am not angry at you. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I don’t feel as if I owe you something, Mister Harrison. You are…always were… one of my heroes. I’m being honest here. I have most deep respect for you. But even if you are blood of mine, I can’t see you in another kind of light. I just can’t. And I am sorry.”
“I would like to settle that, if it is all right with you.”
“You mean a paternity test?”
“If you would like that. Listen, you are right when you said that I’ve heard this story before. Plenty of times. But your mother, she was one face I could never forget. You just wouldn’t understand how much she meant to me. She would listen to me when no-one else would. Treated me like an ordinary man, when everyone around me went around as if I was made of gold.”
Jonathan noticed the look on George’s face. So that was the power Mary Magdalene had on people – it was the same look August had when he sat down at the allotment and talked about how much he had loved his wife, in spite of the fights they had due to his jealousy. She reached the three of them – the friend, the husband and now the son, grown wise beyond his twenty-two years, facing the past he didn’t want to see. It wasn’t August he was afraid to hurt, in the end – it was himself, all along.
“I knew what I had and I ruined it,” George said, sounding tired. “But she loved your father, and I was married then. A mistake that has cost me more than anyone could know.”
“Did you ever love her?”
“I don’t know. Many times I thought I did… Yes, I might have believed I loved her. But I wasn’t what she wanted, Jonathan. She loved one man, and that man was your father – that was August Brown. She said out loud that he was your father, to me, the last time we saw each other. So whatever the result, this is a claim no blood test on Earth can take away. You can be sure of that.”
Jonathan sighed, defences down again. “Why are you doing it?”
“Would you believe it’s for peace of mind?”
“I would, all right. Then we are set, Mister Harrison. How we are going to manage to keep this a secret is something I don’t know.”
“Cross that bridge when you get to it.”
“Wiser words are yet to be spoken, but think about the many bridges I have to cross. I’ll have to talk to August. I’ll have to talk to Henry, and to my brother…And Christ, what if it is true, then? What if you and I…”
“Jonathan, cross that bridge in time. It’s no use thinking about what might be.”
They stared at each other one more time. It was all in the eyes – that frightful mirror stare that accused George and tipped Jonathan off that something was wrong. That something was lurking behind them and would not be keen to let go without a fight.
“It’s no use” George repeated, more to himself than to Jonathan.
Jonathan walked past the empty seats at the Adelphi theatre, as the rehearsals for the play Adrian was in – he was Artie Green in Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s ‘Sunset Boulevard’ – were finishing. Adrian looked almost funny in his 1930s dress-up, not at all alike the ‘civilian’ younger Brown boy with the deviant look and the shaggy hair.
“Say, brother o’ mine, what news do you bring with such sour face?’ Adrian came offstage to meet his brother mid-aisle.
“Change out of that costume and let’s get the hell out of here. We need to talk.”
“Jesus Christ in a polyester jumper, Jon, you look as if you have seen a ghost!”
“A ghost? You could say I’ve seen a ghost, all right. Adrian, I’ve seen George Harrison today. He came to Henry’s office. He came to see me.”
“What?!” Adrian’s jaw dropped. “The man himself? The man himself? The nerve! The chutzpah! Say, what did he say? Of course he denied everything, he wouldn’t....”
Jonathan’s look warned Adrian otherwise, and cut the blabbing straight away.
“He wants a blood test,” Jonathan said in a low voice.
“Right,” Adrian chortled, sounding too much like his brother. “And that leads to what? Formal recognition? A part in the living will? A change of name? Dad will scream so loud you’d hear him in fucking Ibiza when he gets wind of this.”
“Adrian, can you just keep your big mouth shut for two minutes?” Jonathan sighed, impatient. “Listen to me – I am telling you this because you are my brother. I am doing it but I am not planning to tell Dad about it. And I hope you will do me the greatest favour and keep him uninformed. Think you can do that?”
“Sure I could, and I would, but it would be unfair as hell. After all, you have to play clean with your father. For bloody respect, mind,”
“I want to protect him.”
“Jon, now who the fuck do you think you are fooling? The whole country is discussing this – what you are trying to protect him from? August Brown’s got a thick skin, mate…just like you and me. Family trait, you reckon. He’ll survive, but if you hide it from him he’ll be annoyed, and with good reason!”
Adrian leaned on Jonathan’s shoulder – a gesture of union, a blessing, a proof of interest. “I’ll be with you, mind. Thick and thin, Beatle or not… But, Jon, we’re family, the three of us. So it’d help if you played it clean with the old man. Of course, as I said, he will scream so loud people in Copenhagen will ask, ‘now what the fuck is that?’, but if it has to be done, then it has to be done.”
Jonathan sighed. “You aren’t making it any easier, you know. Get dressed, let’s get out of here”.
“Right, but where are we going?”
“To the Anglia.”
George looked outside the window, night falling upon Friar Park. He was still unsure about how he would tell Olivia – what to tell – about the meeting. He was always honest with her, but honesty didn’t quite summon up what was on the table at that moment. It was something of his past, before he met her. But it was also something that still mattered to him. Mary Magdalene wasn’t a fleeting lover, wasn’t a one night stand, a willing kiss-and-tell woman. They made a mistake, took affection for passion, and all went sour.
“So, how did it go?”
Her voice was a bit tense. What to say?
“The lad’s got a thicker skin than I thought he’d have. He sounds reasonable. Very reasonable, I’d say.”
“So he doesn’t look that unready, then.”
George tried to smile at that, but failed. “Livy, he’s got a claim. I thought you would have to know, anyway.”
“You and his mother…”
“A bad mistake. It happened only once, but then again, it only takes so much.” He shrugged. “The lad’s keen on the man that raised him. Even if I am his blood father, nothing changes. Damn it, I didn’t think she would lie to me!”
“Did she tell you who the father was?”
“She did – she said it was the man she married in the end. You have to understand that that woman was as honest as they come. She never wanted anything from me. I don’t think she would ever lie to me. She never needed to. So if she said that the child wasn’t mine…then all I needed was to believe her. But if it is true, why, the looks of that lad scare me to death?!” He took a deep breath. “I never thought such a thing would scare me so much, Livy. I’ve been there before.”
“But on the other hand, there never was someone you really cared much about, was there?”
She had nailed it, and he acknowledged that with one look as he leaned closer to her, looking for some comfort for his weary head.
Adrian was just two steps from his brother as they entered their father’s living room. It was dark outside - the trip to Norwich took longer than they had expected.
August Brown had moved from the house he had lived in with Mary Magdalene and the boys in the city center to a smaller bungalow close to the University of East Anglia. He often commented that he could do with seeing younger faces passing by his window – “they make good neighbours, all the noise notwithstanding!”
August was as tall as Jonathan and Adrian, and in spite of his fifty-nine years still kept an excellent posture. The hair was gone nearly all white and it wasn’t as thick as it used to be. The only thing that didn’t seem to have changed was the deep, sometimes stern look on his face. Those eyes were ageless.
“Jon, you don’t need to tell me a thing. The neighbours have been pouring the gossip over the last week or two. They don’t respect the dead, let alone the living!”
“Dad, I don’t know where I can begin to say this…” Jonathan kept his hands in his trouser pockets, gnawing his teeth out of nervousness.
“You can start by sitting down. That would help.” August pointed to the chintz-covered sofa, Mary Magdalene’s doing – she had loved flowery things.
Jonathan sat down dutifully, Adrian still close but strangely quiet for once. August took his chair and sat in front of his children – he looked too tense, not bothering to hide it, which only made Jonathan feel worse.
“Well, bonny lad. Spit it out. It has to do with what people are saying in the papers, isn’t it? That you are George Harrison’s kid?”
“Yes, it does.”
“So what is there to it?”
“He came to see me.”
“Father,” Jonathan sighed. “He thinks that what the people are saying in the papers is true.”
August sighed, looking at something on the wall past Jonathan and Adrian – some pictures: portraits of his wedding to Mary Magdalene, the christening of the children, the life they shared. There was silence for a couple of minutes, and then August raised his voice again. “And what do you think, lad?”
“Even if it is true, it doesn’t change anything”.
“Of course it does. It changes everything. For the world, you see, you will cease to be this wonderful, talented singer that you are and you know you are, and simply become his…his son.” The words seemed to come wrapped in barbed wire. “You’ll be compared to him in what you do and what you fail to do. Ever thought of that?”
“I didn’t…I didn’t think of that” Jonathan confessed.
“And that would be the beginning of it. He’s rich, you know. You’d have a claim on his will – not that I wish him dead, even if he made Mary unhappy for one fraction of a second…”
“Father, now you listen!” Jonathan stood up. “Christ, I’m more than fed up with this. I don’t give a damn for him or his money! You are my father for all I know and care. That is one thing that won’t change. Remember, you took me in when no-one else would. What changes, then? He wants a blood test. I conceded. But what changes? You’re still my father, the chatterbox here,” he pointed at Adrian “is still my brother. That is rock solid.”
August stood up, the pale face illuminated with distraught, eye to eye with his son. “He wanted a blood test? As if you wanted something from him!”
“It’s his name on the papers, too. It’s his life as well. He’s got the right. He’s got as much right as I do to ask.”
“And you accepted.”
“Even though I knew it would break your heart”.
“Oh, Jon,” August sighed. “There’s no way you can break my heart more than it has been broken before. I just wish it wasn’t him. Your mother always loved him – even though she married me in the end.”
Jonathan looked at August, trying to understand his reasons – there was the man that took a catch colt when no-one else would. And the humiliations that man had heard in the past seemed to come back to him, to his clouded dark eyes, right there in front of his children. That was his father, the man he aspired to be. How could that ever change?
It took three people for the blood test – Jonathan, George and August. Three weeks had passed since then – conversations strained or non existent, tension rising in the cold air of autumn. The newspapers still explored the story, but one by one they silenced when the news turned old and there wasn’t proof or declaration from either side. Henry O’Shea’s health was grateful for that small interruption on the declared war.
But it had to come to an end. And it was on a Friday morning, one month and a week after it had begun.
Jonathan met Adrian and August at the doctor’s office – a too-white, not-soothing-at-all place in central London. Henry decided he didn’t want to be around and therefore had left his protégé in the hands of his own family. Jonathan would be in good hands, Henry figured, as long as Adrian kept his mouth shut.
George had arrived by the back door, trying to avoid possible journalists. Jonathan hadn’t seen him since that meeting in Henry’s office. And the situation couldn’t be more awkward, when George looked down the corridor to find August standing there.
The two men stared at one another – respect and distraught oozing through the silence between them. Jonathan just swallowed hard, whispering to Adrian “Please tell me this will end fast.”
“Well, mate, sure it will end fast – the problem is how it does....” Adrian whispered back, staring at George Harrison with naked admiration.
“You ain’t helping.”
“Since when was I supposed to help?” Adrian tried to smile.
The doctor – a dark woman with braided hair and the easiest-going smile in a mile, used, perhaps, to awkward situations like this one – walked into the place, and the four men entered the room silently after her. August placed a hand on Jonathan’s shoulder as they walked, and George noticed. It wasn’t a demarcation of territory, as it could have looked. It was a father walking a son to his fate, lending a helping hand, a fearful physical prayer.
That was when it became patently clear to George that he might have had something to do with that young man’s conception, but he had no power whatsoever on his life. Just like he had no power whatsoever with Mary Magdalene – she wasn’t impressed with the things he had, but with the man behind the image, with what lurched underneath the skin. He wished he could call the thing off, walk away, just pretend that nothing had ever happened. Why destroy that strong bond between that man and his son – because of a lurching curiosity that wouldn’t change a thing? Jonathan would probably respect him if it was proved he was his blood father – but the young man would never love him like he loved August.
“Well, Mister Brown”, she said, addressing Jonathan with calm eyes. “It seems we have come across a strange result.”
“Ma’am, with all due respect, how much weirder can this get?” Adrian said, to the steely stare of Jonathan and August.
“Well, you are Mr. August Brown’s son…”
The grip of August’s hand loosened, as if the old man would faint. Adrian laughed out loud – a gasping sound more likely - but for once Jonathan didn’t complain, for he felt like laughing too. With a simple phrase, twenty-two years of pain and gossip and humiliations waned away.
“…but still you do have some kind of genetic relationship with Mr. Harrison. Perhaps your father and Mr. Harrison share a common ancestor, perhaps a distant one. It’s not that rare, you see. As a matter of fact, it does happen more often than people would suppose.”
“Now, wait a minute!...” Jonathan stared at August for one moment, and then George. It was all there – how obvious could it be? It was all in the eyes, in the mirror stare, the deep silence of those brown orbs. In the stern look of August, in the deep gaze of George. The answer was there, plain as daylight.
“Because people say it’s indecent to take a catch colt as yours,” Jonathan whispered, and then turned to the doctor. “Ma’am, is it possible to do another blood test?”
“On whom, Mr. Brown?”
“On them.” Jonathan pointed at George and August. “Distant common ancestor, my foot! This is closer deal than we thought.”
“Jonathan, what are you thinking?” George spoke up. He didn’t know what to feel, exactly – happy to see that Mary Magdalene hadn’t lied, relieved and at the same time sad to see that the strong man wasn’t his own. And confused by the doctor’s declaration: how could a distant common ancestor could determine those eyes?
Jonathan smiled at George broadly. “I said to you, do you remember? That the history repeated itself? So maybe you didn’t win a son…”
And Jonathan stared at his father, who was still trembling in his chair, wondering what was wrong. “Just maybe…Just maybe…”
“Jonathan Roger Brown, this is insane. Insane! Wait until the newspapers hear what happened!”
“Which I hope they never will…But then again, they got hold of that first story, didn’t they?”
Adrian sighed. It was a lovely day, a decent quiet Sunday, clear skies and cold air, and the two brothers walked side by side along the University Drive in Norwich, heading to their father’s house.
“How they did it is still a mystery. But hey, come to think of it, Jon, if it wasn’t for this man or woman that sold you out for that rag, we’d never know that George Harrison is our… now, how do we call that? Step-uncle?”
“Of sorts” Adrian chuckled in agreement. “How’s that for a story, then? Guitar god linked to Shy Beatle through a pre-war love story gone wrong. Woman ashamed and pregnant flees home town of Liverpool, gets to another coast, ends up in the Anglia, meets a man named Brown and bears a son…”
“Born in August, hence his name...”
“And little did both knew that the other man got married, had other children, and that one of them liked his guitars too much, joined a band and then the rest is history”. Adrian laughed harder. “If I hadn’t witnessed it, I wouldn’t believe it myself.”
“Same for me.”
The quiet air stirred Jonathan’s mind. Mary Magdalene’s son was at peace for the first time in a while. His past behind him – his father’s past behind him – and a most uncertain future ahead. Would he ever play at the Royal Albert Hall? Would that suddenly new-found family tree be of any help, would he and Adrian be able to call them a family? Or would George Harrison – now more than a legend, more than a picture on a wall or a sound on a record – disappear in the morning, just like he had appeared?
“Hey, dad’s got visitors.” Adrian pointed to the car parked outside August’s house.
“Well, might as well see who’s in.”
“Bring your lawyer, and I’ll bring mine…” Jonathan hummed with a smile.
“Told you already, you should release that song as a single…”
And the two brothers walked home, quietly, side by side.
may not know where you came from
keep travelling around the bend
Anna Carolina Fagundes was born in São Paulo, Brazil in January 1981, and has been writing Beatles-related fiction since 1997. Nowadays, she is a journalist and is currently living in Norwich, England, reading for a Masters' Degree in International Relations at University of East Anglia. She is also a songwriter, and is part of a rock duo called The Liverpool Affair with her fiance Luis.
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