Lee ran quickly from the kitchen to the door. “Hey, Daddy,” she said giving her father a hug and trying desperately to block his view into the living room for as long as possible, although what good that would do, she had no idea. Her father wasn’t one for demonstrative shows of affection. They gave each other a quick kiss on the cheek and pulled away.
“You’re here early,” he said happily. “I was hoping to get here first.” He eyed the many bags blocking his way. “That’s an awful lot of luggage. Moving back home, I hope?” he teased.
“No, not quite, Dad,” she said.
He stepped over a bag and into the room, and started unbuttoning his coat when he caught sight of John, who got up immediately with that trademark spring in his step, his suede boots clicking across dining area floor, extending his hand in greeting.
“Mr. Mauro, good to see you,” John said, shaking his hand firmly. They stood eye to eye, Lee’s father perhaps an inch taller than John, thin like George, slicked back black hair. Brylcreem. Lee never saw her father with his hair mussed.
“Well…” Lee’s father said, looking around and into the kitchen for the rest of “them.”
“It’s only him, Pop,” Robbie chimed in, a calculated grin on his face.
Annie came out of the kitchen and handed John his drink.
“You want a drink, Charlie?” she asked her husband.
“Please, join me,” John said.
“Scotch, neat,” Lee’s father said, eyeing him warily. “What d’ya got there? CocaCola?”
“Scotch and Coke,” John said, looking at it tentatively.
“Never heard of that,” Charles said dismissively.
“That’s what I said,” Annie laughed.
“They’re English, Daddy,” Lee said shaking her head, by way of explanation and trying to lighten the mood.
“Thanks!” John said.
“You’re on my turf now, Lennon, and that’s a god-awful drink,” Lee stated, as she pushed John back to the living room and down onto the sofa. It was not far to go, as it was living room/dining area combined, with a small kitchenette behind a wall that divided the two. There were three bedrooms and a bath off the foyer hallway.
Lee’s father followed her mother into the kitchen and she could hear him mumbling and whispering and then heard her mother answer softly, “I don’t know, they just got here.” Then, “I don’t know.” Then, through clenched teeth, “I don’t know.”
Lee knew her father well enough to fill in the questions he was asking: Why is he here? Where is he staying? What the hell’s going on?
Annie came out of the kitchen and handed her son a soda, then went back to the kitchen for her own glass. When she came out, she raised her glass and said, “Welcome to our home, John. Here’s to a nice visit,” looking pointedly at her husband. They all took a drink.
“Thank you. The apartment is lovely, Annie. I can see where Lee gets her talent for decorating. She did a fantastic job on our flat!” John said. Lee rolled her eyes to the heavens and then fixed him with a look. John picked it up and so did Annie.
“Whose flat?” Charles asked.
“Uh, ours…mine and the boys’. We stay there when we’re in town, we’re in and out. Paul stays at his girlfriend’s a lot. And Ringo got a house for ‘im and ‘is family now.
But he’s around often as well,” John said, trying to cover his faux-pas.
He’s nervous and he’s making it worse, Lee thought. “Uh, you remember last year, when they went off on the World Tour and Ringo got sick?” she reminded her parents. “I stayed behind in London and fixed up the place for them.”
“Oh yes, I remember,” Annie said. “You didn’t go on that trip.”
“I joined them later. I went with Mr. Epstein and Wendy, remember?”
“Oh yes, and Ringo.”
John’s face clouded over a bit, remembering a time when he wasn’t the only love in her life. Even though she assured him that she was in love with him then too, he was still just a bit jealous of how important Ring was to her and how she’d reacted when he had to get married. If he wasn’t such a nice guy and a good friend, I’d have to kill him, John thought.
“Speaking of whom…” Lee jumped up and retrieved her purse, pulling out some photos. “Look at this sweetie pie!” she said, showing them pictures of baby Zak, like a proud aunt.
“He is a beautiful baby,” Lee’s mom commented. “But what kind of name is Zak?”
“Cowboys,” Lee laughed. “Ritchie loves cowboys. He thought it sounded like something out of a Western.”
“Well he got that right,” Annie laughed, then looked at her husband. “Are you staying, Charles?”
“You still have your coat on.”
“Oh.” He smiled sheepishly, taking it off. Lee took it from him and hung it in the hall closet. John noticed how both mother and daughter catered to the men in the family and realized that that’s why Lee was so good and loving to them all. There’s nothing she wouldn’t do for them, and she did it with all her heart, like helping him with the book, planning their parties, keeping their appointments straight.
Brian really did want to put her on the payroll, but she wouldn’t have it. “I am not an employee, I never will be,” she’d said. She was in their lives because she believed they really wanted her there. If she ever felt that was no longer true, she’d be gone. Even though they took care of most of her needs, Brian really believed she gave them much more than she got. Her father even sent her a monthly allowance for personal things, which he thought was totally unnecessary. He kept telling her to take anything she needed from the petty cash box in their desk at the flat, but she very rarely did, except occasionally for cab fare or to pick up things she knew they needed at home. She kept such good track of every pound for them, they regularly called her an arse pain, to which she’d reply, “Kiss mine, Lennon, or McCartney, Harrison, Starkey.” Neil regularly replaced the money and she’d say, “Ah, the cash fairy was here!”
It was how she was raised, to place men on a pedestal. John couldn’t say that he disliked the treatment, having grown up in a family where the women ruled the roost and made no bones about it. If his Uncle George wanted a cup of tea, well, he had better have gotten up and made it himself. There were good things to be drawn from both sides of it, though. He had a fairly good idea that Lee and her mother just let the men think they were the bosses. Lee was strong enough not to take too much of his crap, and he loved that about her. She had just the right balance of ‘Let me do that for you, John’ and ‘Cut the bullshit, Lennon!” And she did manage, at sixteen, to wheedle her way out of this house and into his. No small feat for a girl raised the way she was.
“So John, are you in town on business or for a personal appearance? Are the rest of you boys at a hotel?” Charles asked.
John took a breath and opened his mouth to speak, but Lee cut in with “No Daddy, John didn’t want me traveling alone, and the rest of the guys are on separate vacations. They just finished a fantastic new album!”
“I’ll bet you didn’t even see my mouth move once,” John said, looking sideways at Lee, as both Robbie and Annie got hysterical.
“Well, excuse me,” Lee said, smiling and throwing a couch pillow at him, which he caught good-naturedly.
“Actually,” John said, giving Lee a nod of his head and a ‘may I continue?’ smile, “I’ve been to this city three times already and haven’t seen one damn bit of it. It’s all just skyscrapers from the air to me. So I talked Lee into giving me the grand tour. And I really didn’t want her to travel alone. I hope you don’t mind my barging in like this, but just a hint of a leak and the publicity would make it impossible for me. I hope you understand. Brian booked a hotel room for me under an assumed name. I’ll be free to come and go as I please, as long as I keep me head down and me hair hidden.”
“Hotel? No, no, you’ll stay right here with us,” Charles said emphatically. He was not letting John out of his sight for one minute, at least not to any hotel room. Charles wasn’t sure exactly what was passing between his daughter and this guy, but there were definitely sparks, and at least while he had John under this roof he was going to bring it home to him and make it quite clear to him that he would not just mess with his girl. He saw all those frenzied girls around the Beatles, knew just what John was probably getting out there, and he was not going to let him trifle with his kid. He didn’t trust Ringo, and he trusted this one even less.
Lee could almost see the wheels turning in her father’s head. The complete irony here was they’d been actually living together for a year and a half, both at the flat and in countless hotel suites throughout the world. Was he living in denial? He either trusted her to make the right decisions for herself or he didn’t. She had managed to stay a virgin for nine months of that time. She didn’t just fling herself into John’s bed as most girls in her place would have, especially since she believed at first that it would just be a one-summer situation.
She knew that if her father ever knew the truth, all trust would be lost, and that made her feel sad. She really didn’t believe she was doing anything wrong. She loved John with her very soul, and she trusted that he felt the same about her. Sometimes she had this ridiculous notion of wishing she could just crawl into his head and live there forever.
Annie saw it all quite clearly, though. Her daughter was in love. From the sparkle in her eyes to the amusement at everything he said. And from where she was sitting, it didn’t seem one-sided. She wondered for the first time if perhaps John was the reason it didn’t work out with Lee’s ‘Ritchie’. Oh, dear God, she thought, I hope he doesn’t hurt her.
“How old are you, John?” Annie asked, out of the blue.
“Twenty-five, last month,” John answered, looking at Annie curiously.
Hmm. Only seven years difference. Charlie’s ten years older than me, Annie thought.
John brought the conversation back to sleeping arrangements. “Oh no, sir,” John protested. “I wouldn’t think of imposing on you and your time with Lee. I thought I would just have her for a few hours each day while you were at work so she could show me a bit of New York. Of course, Annie, I’d expect you and Robbie to join us if you cared to. I’d love to take you two lovely ladies to lunch each day while we’re out. Brian made arrangements for me to have a car take us ’round.”
“The car is fine, but I really think he should stay here, Ann,” Charles said with finality, and looked at his wife with husband-wife understanding. She most definitely understood.
“What do you say, John?” Annie asked, “We’d really love having you.”
“That’s not such a good idea,” John said. “You don’t have enough room for me, I wouldn’t think of imposing…” He looked over at Lee for help, but she remained conspicuously silent.
It had never occurred to Lee that her dad would want John to actually sleep in their apartment. What was that about? “Daddy, where will we put him?” she asked.
Annie took over. “You will sleep in your brother’s room and give John your larger, non-disaster area room,” she said decisively.
“What about me?” Robbie protested.
“You can either stay with your friend Stevie down the hall, or bunk on the couch. Your choice,” Annie said.
“But…” he started, but Annie cut him off with “But nothing,” and gave him the ‘eyes.’ He shut up immediately.
These women knew how to get their way, John thought wryly. He tried once more. “Really, I wouldn’t think of disrupting everything here. I will stay in the hotel as planned. I already sent the driver uptown to check me in, all taken care of. Has me guitar and everything. Never travel without one.” John smiled.
“I really don’t think staying in a mid-town hotel in the heart of New York is going to do much to keep you unnoticed while you’re here. No one would think of looking for you way downtown here, even if you do happened to be spotted,” Charles said.
“He’s right, John, and it doesn’t look like he’s going to take no for an answer.” Lee said imploringly, her brain screaming ‘please don’t kill me for this.’
John stared back at her. I guess I asked for this, he thought, and she did warn me. “All right then,” he relented. “The driver will be back for me at eight, I’ll have him run me up and get some of me things.”
Lee let out a sigh of relief, loving gratitude in her eyes. Then she quickly changed the subject.
“Ahhhh!” she screamed. “Jane! She’ll shit herself!” Mother and father both gave her an annoyed look for her language. She excused herself and quickly got up and went to the one phone, which hung on a wall in the hallway, and dialed her best friend’s number.
Lee faithfully wrote Jane a letter every week, even if they were on tour, sent her gifts from around the world, and had probably given her the most valuable Beatles’ memorabilia collection, photos and autographs, that any American girl owned. Jane was away on their yearly family vacation when they were in New York in August and she cried herself sick. She still hadn’t gotten to meet them, missed Shea Stadium, the lot. Jane’s father never missed an American Legion Convention.
“Jane, please,” Lee said when her brother picked up, glad that it was him, so she would not suspect anything not hearing the overseas operator. “Jane, phone!” he yelled. She took her time picking up, her nose probably pressed in some book, as usual. She’d be running off to Oxford given the chance, Paul or no Paul, Lee thought happily.
“You certainly took your time, friend,” Lee said.
“Hey!! This is unexpected. I was just working on college applications. How the hell are ya?
Where are ya?”
“Where would I be? London. They just finished up Rubber Soul last week. Oh, Jane, wait’ll you hear it! Listen, I can’t stay on, have to go out now, but I packed away a parcel for ya with some things I sent home to my mother. Would you please go upstairs and get it now? You won’t be sorry, I promise.”
“Wait, we didn’t get a chance to say anything, what’s going on with you and…”
“Listen, I can’t talk right now. Just go and get the package. It’s from Paul.” That ought to do it! Lee thought and hung up quickly. Paul was always kind enough to chat with her on the phone if he was around while she was talking to her and had given her many things saying “send this to Jane.” A lot of Janes in Paul’s life, Lee laughed to herself.
“Robbie,” Lee said, coming back into the living room, “help me get my bags in your room, so I can dig out Jane’s package and I’ll show John where he’ll be sleeping.” John got up and followed them, helping them with the bags.
He wandered into Lee’s room. He picked up the framed photo on the dresser of the four of them on the set of A Hard Day’s Night that he remembered Ringo making them pose for when he first started writing her. He got a kick out of seeing it again; it reminded him of writing each other letters and their late night phone calls. He now pictured her writing in this room and talking on that black wall phone out in the hall. He sat on the double bed and looked at the posters and fan magazine pictures of them taped to the walls – a lot of group shots, a few of George, a few of Paul, quite a few of Ritch, but he did a quick count. More of him there than any of the others. Hmmm. He’d never been in a girl’s room who’d actually been a fan, not since they made it big. Felt a bit odd.
He saw a small victrola on a metal stand with L.P.’s standing in slats underneath, first in the line, Meet the Beatles. Damn Capital Records, he thought bitterly. There was a box with a handle next to the L.P.’s. He picked it up and opened it to find her collection of 45’s. Aside from her small collection of their early stuff, he was pleasantly surprised to find a lot of Shirelles, Smokey Robinson, all his favorites. He smiled.
Meanwhile, Annie joined Lee in Robbie’s room, threw her son out and closed the door. “Why is Daddy acting so weird?” Lee asked. “I think John’s a little uncomfortable being made to stay here.”
“Daddy’s weird? Why didn’t you tell us you were bringing him?”
“Because I know how crazy you get, fussing, asking a million questions.”
“Did you seriously think there wouldn’t be any, you coming home alone with the best-looking one of the bunch?”
Lee laughed uncomfortably. “Oh Ma, everyone knows Paul’s the best looking one!”
“Paul’s a pretty boy. I’m a grown woman, and I know a great-looking man when I see one. And I see you do too! What’s going on?”
“Ya see? That’s why! Why does anything have to be going on? Why can’t it just be…”
“Because I see the way you two look at each other. You had better watch yourself around your father, I won’t be responsible if he loses his temper. You two had better walk around on eggshells around him. John’s a grown man, not some teenage boy you’re holding hands with.” Her tone softened. “You do love him, don’t you?”
“Ma…,” Lee started, but then she smiled and blushed.
“I thought so,” her mother said. “And him?”
“It’s too soon for any of that, Ma. John thinks I’m too young right now. Don’t worry.” Lee hoped her mother was buying her little deception, as she was quite sure she could not handle the actual truth and wouldn’t really want to know. And while there was a definite commitment of love between her and John, that’s about all it was, and that would definitely not be enough for her parents. They would assume the worst, and in her parents’ generation’s thinking, they would be right.
“You just better hang on to your self respect. With men it’s all in the chase. Why buy the cow when milk is so cheap?” Annie said.
“That’s great, Ma, being compared to a cow!”
“Men tire of things if they come too easily.”
“Okay, Mother, I get it!”
“See that you do.” Then she smiled at her daughter. “By the way, he was always my favorite and if it works out with him I’d be very happy for you.”
You and me both, Lee thought wistfully. But she did not agree with her mother about holding out the sex for marriage bit. That could only lead to dissatisfaction and resentment as far as she was concerned. If he still wanted her in a couple of years, after having been “getting it” all that time, now that would really be something. She would be absolutely sure that he really loved her. He would know what he was getting. Well, enough thinking about that right now, Lee decided.
“This room is a pigsty,” Lee said, changing the subject. She smiled when she saw the guitar George gave Robbie up on a shelf above the bed.
“I know, I can’t keep up with him,” Annie said. “I changed the sheets yesterday, but I’ll change them again. Go on, see that John gets settled. We’ll have dinner soon.”
“So, Mr. Lennon,” Lee whispered, tiptoeing in behind him, “I finally have you in my room!”
“It’s nice,” he said, turning towards her. “And considerably bigger than my room above the porch at Mendips. And an actual view of the river!”
“And no Brigitte Bardot on the wall!”
“I know. Only these scruffs. A definite come-down.”
“Speak for yourself. I happen to love these scruffs.”
“So I noticed. And how do you account for the fact that there are more pictures of me than even your little drummer boy? Wasn’t he the love of your life when you were sitting here writing and pining away?”
“You counted them?” Lee blushed profusely. “I don’t know, maybe I thought you were more photogenic.”
“Bollocks!” He took her hand and pulled her down on the bed next to him.
“Most of the pictures of you went up when you started writing me. Those phone calls used to drive me crazy. I was already falling for you, before we even met.” She looked down, not wanting to meet his gaze.
“I know what you mean. Which reminds me, Miss…” he said, lifting her hand and squeezing it a bit hard. “Why did you take off my ring?” She knew he was controlling himself because they were not alone and didn’t want to be heard, but his look was very intent.
“John, it looks like an engagement ring! Do you want them questioning us about that? Do you want my father asking you about your ‘intentions’ when you tell him we are not engaged?”
“Why can’t it just be a gift?”
“Because in this house a ring like that either means engaged or I’m your little side dish.”
“You don’t think that, do ya?”
She looked down. “No, of course not.”
“I love ya, girl. You know that.”
“I know. But they wouldn’t understand. Please be okay with my not wearing it while we’re here. Okay?”
“Kiss me,” he demanded.
“I said, kiss me.” He pulled her head to him and forced his tongue into her mouth. She was torn between pulling away and welcoming it, her heart pounding in her chest. Of course, she relented. Goddamn! Kissing John Lennon on her bed in her room in her parents’ house. And he still had this way of making her feel like it was the first kiss, the first time, always. She went weak. He had to mark his territory here as well. She could see it was going to be a subtle battle of wills between John and her father. He was not comfortable in this role of visiting boyfriend.
When she was finally able to pull away, she did a double take as she saw Robbie standing in the doorway watching. Lee quickly jumped up, grabbed her brother by the ear and pulled him into the room.
“Nothing better to do, little brother, than spy on me?”
“Actually, no, but things are definitely gettin’ interestin’. Why didn’t you bring George home instead? I relate to him better.”
“Yeah, I did this for you, don’t you know.”
John got up, pulled Robbie aside by the scruff of is neck like a wayward cat, then reached into his pocket, handing him a bill. “Enough, you little bugger?”
“Wow! Twenty bucks! Kiss ‘er again!” Just then there was a knock on the apartment door.
“That’s Jane. Go let her in, Robbie, but don’t tell her I’m here,” Lee said, shoving her brother out the bedroom door.
Robbie did as he was told and Lee could hear her best friend’s voice, which sounded very ‘posh’ for a Lower East Side girl. She and Jane were born a month apart. Jane was always a notch above the rest, top of her class and always angry as hell that she missed the cut-off date by nine days and was a full year behind Lee at school, as Catholic school didn’t “skip” anyone ahead, no matter how brilliant. And Jane certainly was that, reading on her own at the age of five, and not just the picture books – regular books. They’d been best friends for twelve years.
“Hey Robbie, I just heard from Lee. She said you had a package for me.”
“You can say that again,” Robbie said, locking the door.
“Hi, Mr. Mauro, how are you?”
“Good, Jane. We don’t see much of you now that Lee’s gone all the time.”
“Thanks for the dig, Dad!” Lee said, coming up behind her.
“Ahhhhh!” They both squealed and hugged, doing a mad dance.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” Jane asked, shaking her.
“That’s no fun.”
“And here I am expecting a package,” Jane said in mock disappointment.
“Oh, I have a couple of them. Come on, they’re in my room,” Lee said dragging her by the arm. She could not wait to see the expression on Jane’s face.
They walked in her room. John had his back to them, gazing out the window, taking a drag from his cigarette. He turned slowly and exhaled the smoke when he heard them, and the picture could not have been more perfect. He looked incredibly handsome and sexy in his brown suede jacket. Lee just stood there bursting with pride and watched Jane’s face flush and her jaw drop. John rounded the short distance around the bed, and approached her, lifting her chin to close her mouth.
“Don’t let the flies in,” he said, then took her hand and lifted it to his lips. “Lady Jane, a pleasure, and long overdue. I’m surprised Lee’s not hiding you from me, knowing how partial I am to beautiful blondes.”
“Isn’t he a bastard?” Lee said.
“Lee!” Jane said in surprise.
“One of her pet names for me,” John said dismissively.
“You’re going to have to forgive me,” Jane said. “But, MY GOD!” She threw both her arms around his neck and hugged him.
“All is forgiven, my child,” he said hugging back. He pulled away and kissed her cheek. “And a bonny blue-eyed lass, as well. Irish?”
“Half,” she said.
“Ah, aren’t we all,” he answered, using his brogue. “Which half, darlin’?”
“And yer bum?” he asked, giving her his exaggerated ‘I’m in on the secret’ wink.
She stifled her smile. “Hungarian,” she answered.
“Yes,” she laughed.
“My first gypsy woman!” he answered delightedly
They all shared a good laugh, then Jane asked him incredulously, “You’re staying here?”
“Ah, bonny Jane, it would appear so, even though we could be uptown in a lovely hotel suite having a mighty party well into the night.”
“Shhhh…” Lee turned to Jane and whispered, “My father!” Jane just nodded, understanding all too well.
Jane hemmed and hawed, then said, “Not that I’m not absolutely thrilled, but is anyone else about?”
“Alas, no,” John said, “Macca’s on holiday with a Jane of a different color.”
“Damn!” Jane said. She was fond of referring to Miss Asher as the “Titian-haired witch.” Nothing personal, mind you, just adoring fan rivalry.
“But he did send you a gift I know you will adore. And he did pick it out himself. I was there,” Lee said. What she didn’t add was that while they were in the rare bookstore when Lee was picking out some books for John’s birthday, Lee said, “Jane would just love these,” and Paul said, “Give them to me” and paid for them, inscribing the inside first pages for her.
She handed her friend a beautifully wrapped and beribboned package. Jane sat down on the bed, unwrapping it carefully. Inside were two leather bound first editions – Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskervilles, one of her favorites, and her absolute favorite book of all time, Jane Eyre. Her hand covered her mouth as she gingerly opened the covers and read the inscriptions, and when she lifted her eyes, she had tears in them.
“You told him, didn’t you? You picked these out.”
“No, no. He was with me, yes, but he wanted to. In fact, I think you might have mentioned to him about Jane Eyre, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, maybe,” Jane answered, giving Lee a hug. “Thank you so much, friend,”
“I’m really sorry he’s not here.”
“Jeez, women!” John said. “I think it’s time we sent you a ticket for a visit, miss. I think our Paulie would really fancy you.”
“You think so? Ugh, my parents would never…”
“Why the hell not? Yer getting’ ready to go off the school, aren’t ya? Christ, you Americans are wound too tight!”
Lee’s mother stuck her head in the room at that moment. “Jane, would you like to stay for dinner?”
“Absolutely! I’ll call my mother.”
“Just please ask her not to mention this to your brother yet,” Lee begged. “This could spread in the neighborhood and the school like the plague.”
After dinner, during which Annie filled John’s plate three times, and you could actually see a ‘pooch’ when he got up from the table, Lee looked out the window and saw John’s car waiting for him in front of the building. “Car’s here, John,” she said.
“Great! Why don’t you girls take a ride uptown with me, show me the night lights?”
“Great idea! Jane, get your coat, your parents shouldn’t mind your being out a bit tonight, tomorrow’s a holiday. In fact, I’ll bet your mother spotted that car already,” Lee said. Jane’s mother watched all the comings and goings all day long from her kitchen window – the building’s Irish yenta.
Jane quickly returned with her coat and they made sure the elevator was empty before pulling John in with them, giggling all the way down. When they got down to the car, the girls turned to Jane’s kitchen window, and sure enough, there was her mother, watching and waiting.
Lee said, “Wave to Sarah, John.” He looked upward and waved and blew her a kiss, and she waved back, and the girls got hysterical and pulled John into the car with them. He told the driver, whose name they found out was Jack, to go to the hotel first.
“Bit of a party to start the evening, don’t you think? Is the champagne in the room, Jack?”
“Two bottles cooling in the bucket, sir,” Jack said, and handed the room key to John.
“Who were you planning to drink this champagne with, Lennon?” Lee demanded.
“You, of course.” He turned to Jane. “Our girl likes champagne.”
“You didn’t know if you’d be able to get me out of there tonight,” Lee pointed out.
“But then the sweet Lady Jane arrived and provided inspiration as well as a chaperone.”
“Oh, but I’m interrupting something,” Jane said uneasily.
“Nonesense,” John answered. “Anyway, I think I’ve been delegated to monkish existence for this week,” he said, putting his arm around Lee and pulling her close.
Jane locked eyes with Lee. She hadn’t told her everything, apparently.
They headed north on the F.D.R. Drive and as they rounded a curve, John caught sight of the newly lit-up upper portion of the Empire State Building. “Wow, lookie there,” he said, pointing. “Beautiful!”
John donned his silly hat and glasses before entering the hotel lobby and the girls couldn’t stifle their giggles. They headed quickly for the elevator. In the room, they flung their coats onto a chair. John went straight for the first bottle and popped the cork, pouring them all a drink.
“Must toast,” Lee said.
“I’m so happy to finally meet you John, and I’ve missed you, friend,” Jane said. “To old and new friends.”
“Old and new friends,” they repeated, and drank.
“To a good holiday visit with no hassles,” Lee said.
“No hassles,” they repeated, and drank.
“Up yer kilt!” John said, draining his glass.
-- and without hesitation, both girls said, “Up yours!” and they fell about in hysterics. They were ready for a re-fill, which Lee promptly provided.
“This is great,” Jane said.
“This is even better,” John said, producing a joint from his pocket and lighting it. “Do you indulge, sweet Lady Jane?”
“Well, I haven’t, but I’m game.”
“Really? My best friend, the one who used to scare me that she would become a nun?” Lee was truly surprised. And doubly surprised that John would offer it to Jane when he never would to her.
“What do I do?” she asked.
He handed it over. “Try to inhale deeply and hold it a few secs,” he said. She did, and in her attempt to hold it, coughed it out.
“Don’t worry, it happens. Try again,” John said patiently. She did, and this time was able to hold it a bit before exhaling.
“Good. How do you feel?” he asked.
She smiled. “Silly!”
“Good, then you did it right,” John said, retrieving it and taking a hit. “Now have some champagne.” She did. John handed back the joint to her and it went on until they finished it.
By that time they were both laughing uncontrollably.
“Lee, don’t you want any?” Jane asked between giggles.
“Unlike you, dear friend, I never have. He won’t give me any.” Funny, she had never really wanted to before when he shared it with the guys. That was their thing and she was sort of glad he was protecting her from it. But now that he was sharing his good time with ‘another woman’, well…
“Really?” Jane said, sounding surprised.
“First off,” John said, “yer too young, and I don’t wanna corrupt ya, and yer my girl. My sweet, young jailbait girl,” he said, coming over and taking her in his arms and covering her mouth with his.
She kissed him back, but didn’t want to put on a show for her friend and gently pushed him away. “She’s younger than I am, John.”
“Are ya, Lady Jane?”
“One month,” she said, and got hysterical.
“Okay, baby, yer eighteen this week. Ready to try?” John asked Lee.
“I don’t know,” Lee answered apprehensively.
“You won’t grow another head, I promise,” he said, producing another joint and lighting it. He handed it to her.
She looked at it gingerly and inhaled. She didn’t feel any different than if she had taken a sip of champagne. He opened the other bottle and filled her glass, handing it to her. She took a sip, and then he handed her the joint again after having a hit himself. She got caught up in the ritual, staring into his eyes, and after the third hit, she felt overwhelmingly relaxed, then extremely giddy.
“Oh, John,” she said, throwing her arms around his neck and hugging him tight.
“All right, luv?” he whispered in her ear.
“Very all right,” she said, this time kissing him. He came up for air and waved Jane over, handing her what was left of the joint, and went back to kissing his girl.
A bit later, John walked over and turned on the TV, turning the channels while they polished off the last of the champagne. “I can’t get over how many channels you have,” John said in astonishment.
“There are only seven,” Jane said, holding up eight fingers. They were rolling.
“We only have three in London, and they sign off at what, Lee? Midnight?” John asked.
“Something like that,” Lee answered. John kept turning channels and Lee screamed, “Wait! Go back! No, back. Again.” And sure enough, there he was. George. They all screamed. He was on the news.
A few bulbs flashed in his face, and he looked more than a little annoyed. Looked like a seedy airport terminal. The reporter asked, “Mr. Harrison, are you here in Barbados on holiday?”
“I think that’s about the only thing you can do here,” George snapped back, trying to hide the blond he was with out of the camera shot. Talk about if looks could kill!
John, Lee and Jane were pissing themselves.
“Where are you staying, George?” another reporter asked.
“Yeah, like I’m going to just tell you,” he said walking off. “Do a little work, you’ll find me. Or better still, go look for John. He’s in New York.”
“That fuckin’ wanker!!” John said, laughing hysterically.
Jane covered her mouth and gasped, then laughed, not used to her larger-than-life idol’s language. She didn’t know it by half!
“Oh, my God, how could he?” Lee asked in amazement. “I will have to kill him. And no tacky Statue of Liberty statue for him!” They were dying. “Ya know, George left two days ago. Maybe it is a good idea you’re staying with us, John. The better to hide you, my dear.”
John shut off the TV. “C’mon,” he said. “Let’s hit the sights while the buzz is good.”
“Bathroom,” Jane said, running in and closing the door behind her.
John took Lee in his arms again. “I like her, she’s great.”
“Don’t like her too much,” Lee warned.
“Oh, and is Daddy’s girl jealous?” he demanded, caressing her behind and pulling her against him.
“Maybe just a bit. It’s the blonde thing. I’ve been thinking of going blonde myself.”
“In the past, I would have insisted. Such a right bastard, I was. But don’t you dare. I love it just this way,” he said, running a hand through her long dark tresses.
She reached down and stroked him. He was hard. “It that for me, then?” Lee said, feeling mighty high and quite brazen.
“Who else?” he said. He took her hand away and placed it around his waist. “You will stop that right now or I’ll make you finish, friend or no friend.”
When Jane came out, they each took a turn and John packed a few things in his small case, befoe they left the suite, each of the girls hanging on to one of John’s arms to steady each other, giggling away.
Lee took over giving Jack directions, having him stop at Rockefeller Center first. They walked around the Plaza, Lee buying three bags of chestnuts from a street vendor and a large salty pretzel, which they shared.
“Why am I so hungry? My mom stuffed us to capacity tonight,” she said.
“Pot gives you the munchies,” John said matter-of-factly.
“Is that why there’s always so much junk food around the flat?” she asked. He smiled at her sheepishly.
“Good God, pot is fattening,” she said, buying another pretzel. “I think I’ll stick to champagne.”
“It’s very expensive to keep her,” John said to Jane. “We have to stock it by the case.” Jane laughed.
“You’re too funny, Lennon!” They stopped and leaned over the wall to watch the skaters for a while.
“You girls skate here?” John asked.
“I have,” Jane answered.
“This place is amazin’,” he said, looking around.
“Too bad the tree’s not here and lit up yet. That’s something to see.” Lee told him.
They headed back to the car and Lee told Jack to wind around the streets in the theatre district so John could see all the marquees. When it opened to Times Square, Lee told Jack to wait in the side street and made them get out. John didn’t know where to look first. He stood on the corner, turning round and round, taking it all in. “Fantastic! It’s like Piccadilly, only bigger, better. Everything here is bigger and better. I remember how knocked out we all were, comin’ down to London together the first time. We were so green.”
“Not so green,” Lee said. “I’ve seen this quite a few times and it’s still awesome. Very exciting. And London’s beautiful too,” Lee said to Jane. “Very like New York, only civilized.”
They walked a bit and came to a souvenir shop, stopping to look in the window. They all screamed simultaneously when they saw all the Statues of Liberty, all sizes, some metal, some green plastic. “Must have some,” John said, pushing them through the door. They picked out three metal ones. “Only the best for our boys,” John said. “I wonder how I can rig George’s to be giving him the finger!” They cracked up.
John said, “What tacky surprise can I buy for you, Lady Jane?” She saw a green plastic Statue of Liberty with, of all things, a hula skirt on it. “That one!” she pointed.
“Done! Fine choice,” he laughed. “I even love the American money. So easy, dollars and cents, decimal system. I never carry money at home. Thought I should finally be a man for my girl here.”
Jane pulled Lee aside as John made the purchases, and said, “Oh, you and I have some talking to do, friend!” Lee sighed.
They traipsed back to the car and made their last stop Greenwich Village for that first night.
“I wonder if Dylan’s in town,” John said as they came down Fifth Avenue and saw Washington Square Arch looming in front of them.
“Do you have a number to call?” Lee asked.
“Nah, I didn’t think of it before we left, but I’ll give Brian a call. He can reach anyone.”
“Jack, take us around Bleecker, MacDougal, then over west to Christopher Street,” Lee said.
“Sure thing,” Jack said.
When we reached Christopher Street, we got out again, John walking with his hands in his coat pockets, his head down, the girls each taking an arm. If he’d be noticed anywhere late at night, this would be the place. John was fascinated by how out in the open the men with men situation seemed to be here. They openly held hands, kissed and fondled each other in doorways.
“No wonder Brian seems to make so many ‘business deals’ here,” John said. “When I think of all the beatings he took in the ‘Pool…New York certainly has everything. It’s great. Everyone free to be themselves.” He turned to Lee. “What’re you doing in London?”
Lee reached up and tucked some escaped hairs from his hat. “New York doesn’t have you, my love. And it’s not so free everywhere. A short walking distance from here is Little Italy, and two guys seen holding hands there are likely to get their heads bashed in. It’s no different than anywhere else. New York has the best of everything and the worst of everything -- the best museums, cultural events, the financial center of the world, all the rich uptown. And all in between, neighborhoods with people on the dole, welfare we call it here. It’s no different than anywhere else, just on a grander scale.”
They came to a dimly lit coffee house with candles on the tables that was visible down some steps.
“What do ya think? Can we go in there, or is it a queer place?” John asked.
The girls peered in. “Looks like a mixed crowd,” Jane said.
They went in and took a table near the back and ordered espressos. There was a small square one step ‘stage’ and a young guy in a black turtleneck and slacks was playing an acoustic guitar, singing a song by that new duo, Simon and Garfunkel. He was pretty good. They stayed for a few more numbers, ordering coffee, definitely needing to sober up before heading home. As they left, John threw a twenty in the guy’s hat, and as they walked away, he said “Thank you sir!”
In the car, Lee produced some gum for them all to chew on to cover up any tell-tale odors, but they were still pretty giddy. “No giggling in the house or the game will be over,” John warned. “Don’t need either of your fathers comin’ after me.”
“Tomorrow’s turkey day, John, I don’t think we’ll be needing the car.” Lee told him as the car pulled up near the building. “My mother said we’re having dinner at my grandpa’s this year and I’m sure my father will drive.”
“Jack, we’ll see you Friday at noon, okay?” John told the driver.
“Whatever you say, Mr. Lennon.”
“Have a good holiday, Jack,” Lee said when they got out.
“Thank you. You too. Enjoy,” he said, closing the door.
The girls looked up and, sure enough, there was Jane’s mother at the kitchen window. The laughter was side-splitting. In the elevator, Jane pressed her floor, five, and when the door opened, John held her cheeks and kissed her full on the mouth. “Great fun, Lady Jane, we’ll do it again before we leave.”
“Whew,” she said, fanning her face. “Oh Lee, I left my books in your room.”
“I’ll bring them down to you tomorrow after breakfast, okay?”
“Good enough. Goodnight.” She waved her hula Lady Liberty at John and he waved back, giving her his prince charming smile.
This was all getting a little too surreal for Lee, and she was feeling just like she did on the initial flight to London a year and a half before, the unreality of it all sinking in. Once she was with them, all seemed well, but having John here in her old building, saying goodnight to her friend, going now into her apartment, sleeping in her bed? Too much!
The next morning Lee’s mother was up early preparing a lasagna to bring to Thanksgiving dinner. “What about the turkey?” Lee asked, coming into the kitchen with a yawn.
“Your Aunt Lucy was going to grandpa’s early to put it in the oven,” Annie said.
“Oh Jeez, how many are we this year?” Lee asked.
“Let’s see, with us five, only seventeen”
“Good God, we don’t all fit in that little kitchen,” Lee complained.
“We’re setting up another table in the living room.”
“But Ma, it’s a railroad flat and there’s a bedroom between the kitchen and the living room.”
“We’ll just have to manage, like we always do. Grandpa wanted everyone over. He’s missed you. We had no idea you’d be bringing any celebrities! Now, what would John like for breakfast?”
“I’ll tell you what he would really like. To be left alone until about noon.”
“He sleeps until noon?” Annie was incredulous.
“Sometimes later,” Lee said, and grimaced. “They don’t have nine-to-five jobs, Ma. They even like recording in the evening. Musicians are night owls.” Lee downed a piece of toast and a cup of coffee. “I’m going down to see Jane, bring her her books. I won’t be long. If he gets up, it’s nothing fancy, he eats eggs, toast, whatever.”
When Jane’s mother came to the door, Lee had a big hug for her. “Sarah, I missed my coffee klatch gossip buddy! Is she up yet?”
“I missed you too, dear. Who knows with her, you know she’s always up till all hours reading.” Sarah called down the hallway. “Jane! Your friend’s here. So sit down, tell me everything.”
“Not nearly enough time to tell you everything in one session.”
Jane appeared in the kitchen in her robe, taking a cup of coffee, buttering a roll and giving Lee the ‘let’s go’ signal with her eyes. She knew once her mother started talking she’d never be able to get Lee away.
“Well, you certainly stopped my heart yesterday!” Jane said, taking the books from Lee as they escaped into her bedroom.
“Isn’t he beautiful?” Lee said, clutching her heart.
“So much more so in person,” Jane sighed. “And kind, and funny and…WILD!
“Oh, you don’t know!!!”
“Start talking. All those letters you wrote are sorely lacking. He was all over you. What is going on, friend?”
“What? I told you that we make out. He can be very romantic sometimes. Even you got a kiss. It’s nothing serious. You know they have plenty of women. I told you that.”
“Come on, Lee. This is me. If you’re not going to tell me, then don’t. But don’t lie to me. That line about his being a monk this week sort of says it all.”
Lee hesitated for a very long time, debating whether she could possibly cross the line and tell Jane everything. She was torn between wanting to trust her best friend and betraying this secret she’d hidden very successfully from the world, both about her and Ritchie and now her and John. It was truly unbelievable that the press hadn’t picked up on her yet.
“Jane, you know how I told you to tell all the kids in the neighborhood and at school that I was studying in England? And you kept my secret about ‘them’ and I really appreciate it. If I tell you any more, you will have to swear on your life that this stays between us. At least until John is ready for anyone else to know. You promise?”
“Absolutely. You know you can trust me,” Jane said, raising her hand.
“All right. Almost from the beginning, Ritchie told me he loved me. I believed him, and I loved him too, I always will, but there was a major complication. John came on to me the very first day I got there. He threw me into a tailspin. I fell for him so hard I walked around in a constant state of confusion and guilt.”
“You poor thing! Balancing two Beatles. I should be so miserable!”
“It’s not funny and it’s not pleasant, believe me. And even though we never discussed it, I know Ritchie knew and was probably hurt by it, so John and I were always careful, trying to not make it too obvious. It was hard, living arrangements being what they were.”
“I guess it goes without saying you’re not a virgin anymore,” Jane interrupted.
“Well…no,” Lee admitted.
“Well, don’t keep me in suspense. Which one was it?”
“Isn’t it obvious? John, of course.”
Jane sighed. “My God!” No, it isn’t obvious, it could’ve been Ringo first.”
“See, you don’t know me at all. If I had allowed it to be Ritchie, I would have been absolutely faithful to him. That’s why I always kept him at bay. I really wanted it to be John.”
“So did Ringo find out and get married on the rebound?”
“No, John was very good, he didn’t want to hurt Ritchie any more than I did. We didn’t do it until after he got married, though we were lucky it happened when it did, because we didn’t know how much longer we’d be able to hold out. In fact, I was ready to give it up much sooner than John was willing to take it.”
Jane just sat there staring at her friend, shaking her head. “Wow. I have to ask. How was it?”
“Incredible. He’s incredible. I love him so much.”
“And what about him? Does he feel the same?”
“Yes, of course. He gave me a beautiful sapphire and diamond ring while they were filming Help! I took it off because I don’t want my parents to see it and ask questions. John’s not ready for a public commitment. He thinks I’m too young.”
“Do the other guys know?”
“Of course they do. We live together. Brian’s constantly warning us about bad publicity. I was underage when I got there. Thank God I’m almost eighteen. Maybe he’ll finally lighten up a bit.”
Jane stared at her friend wistfully. “I think I’ll take John up on that offer of a ticket to London,” she sighed.
“Oh, I’m quite sure Paul would be more than willing to show you a good time of that very same nature, but as far as commitment, I wouldn’t count on it.”
“Really?” she asked, disappointment in her voice.
“That’s our Paulie. You’d be better off trying for George. Listen, I’d better go. I left him sleeping and don’t want him alone too long with the enemy. I’ll call you, if not tomorrow, the next day. Okay?” They hugged. “See ya.”
Lee came back upstairs to find John at the table, dressed, hair damp, having his breakfast with Robbie. They were discussing guitar chords.
“He knows as much as George was teaching me,” Robbie said.
“What do you think you have here?” Lee answered, “Chopped liver? You’re looking at the greatest songwriter that ever lived! Good morning,” she said, kissing John’s forehead.
“Did you girls draw and quarter me for breakfast?” John asked with a grin.
“Absolutely. It’s what we live for.”
“Lee could you come in here, please?” her mother called from the bedroom.
“Yes, Mater! Be right there.” She turned to John. “Must go, call of the wild.” He laughed.
“Yes ma’am,” Lee said cheerily, entering the bedroom. Her mother closed the door behind them.
“I was straightening out the room, and noticed your suit jacket had a stain on the sleeve, so I thought I’d send the suit to the cleaners.”
“Yeah, and?”“And is there anything you’d like to tell me, daughter?” Annie asked, holding up John’s ring between her fingers.
Lena King a New York State Supreme Court
Clerk, and she loves her job. In a prior incarnation she worked as a
secretary and married quite young (twenty) to a Beatle person (twenty-one),
a match made in Beatle heaven, or so she thought. Would you believe
his birthday was July 7th? Typically, he had is mid-life crisis at
thirty. He got his new trollop and she got their beautiful daughter,
who ironically, is now twenty years old. She knows almost as much
about the Fabs as her mother does, whether she likes it or not. (She
does.) "How did they get outside the train mommy?" she
giggled at four. She's been spoon fed the stuff ever since.
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