Read Part One First!
“Yer a fast worker, Ringo,” John commented, sipping his ale.
“You sly dog,” Paul laughed.
Pete looked bored, and George stared after the girl with a shocked look on his face, his mouth hanging open.
Ringo laughed. “She’s just a friend o’ mine, poor kid’s ‘ad some bad luck.”
He left it at that and the conversation continued, with George rousing from his stupor to defend a Carl Perkins record and Paul countering that a Chuck Berry record was so much better. Ringo was relieved that they’d dropped the subject, he knew if he’d protested too much or said too much, the teasing would be much worse. Although they weren’t close friends, he considered them mates; the Hamburg circuit turned people into either mates or enemies, and there wasn’t any in-between!
Ringo wanted badly to ask George about Deirdre’s background, her family, the “Tony” name that had made her blush so strongly, but he was afraid she’d return whilst he was pumping the younger lad for information. That probably wouldn’t be tolerated very well, he decided. Well, perhaps he could ask some questions another time. He turned his attention back to the conversation, knowing that the girl had returned only by the silence that came over his friends a few minutes later.
“So, Dee, are ya married?” George asked as she sat down. “Who’s th’ father? When’s th’ baby due?”
Ringo groaned. Oh, that showed typical eighteen-year-old stupidity, he thought. He was just glad he wasn’t George, Deirdre was going to light into him and leave him burnt to a crisp, he was sure. He studiously avoided looking their direction and tried to continue the conversation with Paul, but he and John were watching with interested grins. Ringo sighed and turned back to see the battle; it was sure to be bloody. He watched the girl bite her lip and give a determined smile that didn’t reach her eyes. He was stunned at her reserve, wondering why she was being so bloody restrained. He was certain if he’d asked any of those questions, she’d have ripped his head off and drop kicked it from a tall building. Why was she being so bloody nice to George?
“No, none of your business, and Christmas time, I think,” she replied smoothly, lifting her ale for a sip.
“What d’ya mean, ya think?” Ringo blurted, then paled, wishing he hadn’t stepped into the conversation. But since he had, he blundered on, “I mean, what’s th’ doctor gotta say ‘bout it?”
He thought she looked at him a little strangely, but she was showing an incredible amount of restraint, maybe it was because of George. Maybe she liked him, he wondered? They appeared to be old friends, it stood to reason she might, he thought with a sinking heart. She was certainly being far nicer to George than she’d ever been to him!
“I haven’t been to a doctor yet, but perhaps this isn’t a very good conversation to have right now, all right?”
Her eyes pleaded with him, and he acquiesced, but he tried to tell her with his eyes that the conversation definitely wasn’t over. That was bloody dangerous, he thought, and he needed to make sure she went to see a doctor right away. The conversation continued for a while, with George and Deirdre quietly talking with their heads close together, he noted suspiciously. The party eventually broke up as watches were checked and plans were made or remembered. They all stood up from the table.
“So . . . I guess I’ll be seein’ you blokes tomorrow, Rory set up a gig ta alternate’ sets between ‘ere an’ th’ Cavern. Eight-fifteen ‘ere fer a ‘alf ‘our set, then over to th’ Cavern, then back ‘ere ta finish out th’ night.”
“Yeah?” Paul asked. “We’re doin’ an early show at th’ Cavern, so maybe we’ll come over ‘ere ta catch ya afterwards. If ya get there early enough, maybe ya can sit in fer Pete ‘ere on a song or two. See ya, Ringo.”
Ringo noticed that George was standing very close to Dee, talking quietly to her, and he had a hard time avoiding looking at them as he told the rest of his mates goodbye. He morosely thought that they were a cute looking couple, with George so tall and lanky and the girl so short and petite. Well, petite except for her obvious pregnancy. But they both had very dark hair and luminous dark eyes with high cheekbones. And the girl was smiling up at George, she’d never smiled at him like that.
Ringo took a deep breath. They nearly looked as if they were a couple, standing so close together and with her looking up at him, placing her hand on his arm like that, him leaning down so that they could whisper sweet nothings to each other. . . . Ringo had to look away. What was wrong with him, he wondered? Had he fallen for a bird who was pregnant by one fellow and in love with another? Or . . . was maybe George the father? No, impossible, he’d asked about the father, as if he didn’t know who it was, either. And the girl had said it was none of his business. But . . . ? Oh, this was madness! He glanced back in time to see the girl kiss George on the cheek. Madness.
“Please tell your parents that I said hello, George, and I appreciate you not mentioning my pregnancy to them. Thank you for telling me how my folks are, I haven’t seen them in nearly five months. It was really nice to see you, and nice to catch up on the neighbourhood news. I miss my friends, and I’m happy that you’re still my friend.”
George leaned down close and whispered to her, “If I see that Tony, I’m gonna kick ‘is arse, Dee! Ya don’ have ta say who th’ father is, but I’m betting it’s Tony, an’ he needs a lesson taught to ‘im. He shoulda married ya, he’s a bastard fer leaving ya ta fend fer yerself like this.”
Deirdre was touched by his sentiment although she tried to hide her smile; the idea of this skinny lad beating up on big and broad Tony was rather funny. She whispered back, “Leave him alone, he’ll get his comeuppance some day, and I’d be afraid you’d hurt your hands. You need them for your career and he’s not worth your time of day, George.”
Deirdre kissed him on the cheek and hid another smile as he blushed. Eighteen-year-old boys were so much younger than eighteen-year-old girls, she thought with an inner laugh. But he was a sweet boy. Funny how she’d had such a crush on him when she was younger, and now she felt as if she were one hundred years older than he! But she remembered summers spent in his company, playing in a nearby park or at one house or the other, and she felt a bittersweet nostalgia for those carefree, innocent years. She’d forgotten how fond she was of George, and it had been wonderful seeing him again.
“Can I come see ya sometime, Dee?” he asked once the colour faded from his cheeks.
She nodded and gave him directions. It would be good to keep up to date with her family in an oblique way, she’d felt so isolated and alone. She was feeling happier tonight than she had in months. Perhaps life wasn’t quite as dreary as she’d thought!
“And just ring the buzzer to flat 3F, I’ll let you in directly,” she finished with a smile as Ritchie joined them. “Goodbye, now, see you soon.”
Deirdre was surprised when George gave her a kiss close to the lips, the cheeky lad, and she was laughing as she watched him stride away, the colour high on his cheeks at his audacity, she reckoned. She turned to Ritchie with the smile still lingering on her lips.
“Thank you so much, Ritchie, this was a wonderful evening. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed anything like this in far too long. I’m so surprised that you know George, it was so nice to see him.”
She thought Ritchie was very quiet on the drive home, but she was in such a good mood that she didn’t wonder about it, merely enjoyed the ride and invited him in for tea once they arrived at her flat. Deirdre thought that the evening had made her feel almost normal again, and she didn’t want the night to end, she didn’t want to return to her lifeless flat and her lifeless existence. She no longer had any fears of her companion, and while the suspicion was still lingering, just a bit, she wasn’t going to worry about it. He’d proven himself enough already, he was a very nice fellow, and she regretted the way she’d treated him initially.
For some reason, she thought Ritchie seemed very dejected. Perhaps he was tired. When he turned down offer of tea, she accepted his excuse gracefully and let herself into the building with a sigh of regret.
He was such a nice fellow, she reflected again, and she was grateful to him for showing her that there were still good people in the world. She felt as if she’d been hibernating for five months, that the betrayal of trust by her family and by Tony had turned her into a grouchy old bear in hibernation, and suddenly, it felt as if it were spring!
“Thank you for a lovely evening, Ritchie,” she called as the door closed, but he must not have heard her, because he didn’t turn back to respond to her thanks.
Ritchie opened his eyes with a groan. His first waking thoughts were of the bird, and he knew he couldn’t stay away from her, but this was simply madness. He still couldn’t get over how quickly she’d changed, how quickly all her prickly armor had dropped off her, it must have been because of George. He’d heard her give him directions and he thought she’d probably welcome George at her flat, whilst it had been as difficult as pulling teeth for him to even get into her flat to try to help her out a little bit.
Life wasn’t fair; it was just his luck to fall for a girl who liked someone else. He wished he’d never met her, and he devoutly wished he’d never taken her to the Jive last evening. It was probably his nose, he thought. Why would a bird even bother looking at him when there were good-looking guys with decent sized noses on every street corner? George had a nice nose.
He’d lain awake nearly all night, thinking about Deirdre, and he remembered now that she hadn’t been to see a doctor yet. He knew he had to at least take care of that, it was too dangerous for the bird, and like it or not (and he decidedly ~didn’t~ like it right now!), he felt somehow responsible for her and wanted to make sure she had the help she needed. Sighing, he dragged himself from bed and into the kitchen.
“’mornin’, Elsie,” he yawned as he fixed himself a cup of tea.
“Good afternoon, dear,” his mother replied with a laugh.
“Mmmm,” he grunted as he sipped and then sat down at the kitchen table. Perhaps his mother would know what to do about this. “Elsie, I got a friend, she needs ta see a doctor, can ya ‘elp me out with what ta do an’ where ta take ‘er?”
“Well, what kind of doctor?” she asked as she set a bowl of cornflakes in front of Ritchie and put the milk within easy reach.
“Oh, she’s preggers, an’ she ‘asn’t been ta doctor yet, she thinks she’s due ‘bout Christmas time.”
He didn’t notice the stillness behind him whilst reaching for the milk to pour on the cereal and then adding sugar. He crunched energetically, before turning to his mother. She was pale and shocked looking, and he looked around the kitchen, had she seen a mouse? He didn’t see anything, so he scooped up another bite and chewed whilst awaiting her reply.
“Oh my God, Ritchie, you’ve gotten a girlfriend in trouble, I’m going to be a grandmother!”
He hadn’t thought that half-chewed cornflakes and milk could be spit that far. Then the remaining milk in his mouth got sucked into the wrong pipe as he tried to draw a breath and explain, and that set off a coughing fit that wouldn’t stop. When he finally had enough breath to speak, he felt pale and hoarse from the coughing.
“No, no, Elsie, it’s not mine, an’ she’s not me girlfriend. I jus’ met ‘er a month ago, she’s just a young kid that got into some trouble, it’s not mine.”
“Richard Starkey, what am I going to do with you? As a child, you brought home every stray kitten within a kilometer radius. And birds with broken wings as well! As an adolescent, you brought home that young lady with the miserable home life. When is it going to stop? A pregnant girl now, what next?”
Ringo groaned, trust Elsie to bring up Brianna, he’d tried hard to forget the girl after they’d had to part because of her move to America. It hadn’t been easy forgetting her; although they’d only been teenagers, it had been young love but true love, and their enforced separation had hurt desperately. He wished he had something for a headache, it was going to be a bad one.
“Look, Elsie . . . .”
“Don’t you take that tone with me, young man! You know very well that everyone will think it’s your baby . . . .”
“I don’ care what everyone thinks, Elsie . . . .”
“Well, I do, and you know that Alan will have a fit when he finds out about it!”
Ringo wondered if his mother would ever remember to call Alan by his stage name, Rory. Probably not, she’d never gotten over her ire that he went by ‘Ringo Starr’ whilst on stage. Time for another tactical attempt.
“Look, Elsie, I’m not bringin’ the bird ‘ome, an’ I’m not even askin’ ya ta meet ‘er. I jus’ wanna know where I should take ‘er, she ‘asn’t been ta doctor yet, an’ I’m worried that it’s dangerous fer th’ gurl. An’ fer th’ baby. If ya won’ ‘elp me, I’ll jus’ try ta figure it out meself an’ ‘ope I don’ make matters worse fer th’ gurl. Or fer th’ baby.” There, that should have the desired effect, he thought.
“Oh . . . well, yes, of course, she definitely needs to be seen, let me think . . . .”
With an inner smile, Ringo cleaned up the mess on the table and washed his bowl and spoon, then sat back down and sipped his tea whilst his mother thought. It was in the bag now, once Elsie set her mind to something, and once she got involved, well, he might be the one who’d brought home kittens and birds, but Elsie was the soft hearted one! He firmly told himself that he was thinking of the girl as if she were a little sister, that’s all, nothing more. She just needed a big brother, hadn’t she said something last evening about feeling as if he’d adopted her? Well, he could be her big brother, he really could. Maybe it would be enough.
Deirdre was tired and she stretched to get the kinks out of her back and neck. Thank heavens the noon-time rush was over. All that remained would be the afternoon snack buyers and clean up. She might as well start on the latter now and do what she could. She mopped and scrubbed and scraped and was finally done with most everything that could be done whilst the shop remained open. There, she’d only have to do the grill, the prep area and a quick once over on the floors, and it would be finished, she thought with satisfaction.
She couldn’t stop the smile when Ritchie walked into the shop at half past three.
“Ritchie, I didn’t expect to see you today! Errr, let me just take this lady’s order first, right? Can I help you, ma’am?”
“Errr, Dee, this is me mum, Elsie Graves, Elsie, this is Deirdre ‘ollis.”
“Oh, hello, how do you do, Mrs. Graves?” Deirdre said, keeping the smile on her face only with grim determination, she was so startled. She wiped her hand on her apron and reached across the counter to shake the older woman’s hand. Why on earth had Ritchie brought his mother here?
“Call me Elsie, dear. We’ve come to take you to doctor for a checkup, tell your employer that you’re leaving for the rest of the day.”
“Sorry? Errr, I can’t do that, I’ll lose my job,” Deirdre whispered frantically.
What was this woman on about? Then she remembered the conversation the previous evening and she turned to Ritchie to glare at him. She’d thought they’d talk about this, she hadn’t thought he’d simply try to take over her life. Ritchie gave her a little shrug and cocked his head towards his mother, apparently indicating that she was the one to blame. She turned back to speak with Elsie, only then realizing that the older woman had come around the counter and was walking determinedly into the kitchen.
“Oh, you can’t . . . you can’t go back there, please, Mrs. Graves . . . .”
She peered around the door and into the kitchen only to see Ritchie’s mother standing in front of her boss, hands on her hips and lecturing him. Lecturing him! And her boss was quietly listening to the lecture, nodding his agreement!
“. . . and it will be no good for you to have an employee who can’t do the work because she hasn’t had the proper care, it’s very important that she see the doctor and keep regular appointments . . . .”
Deirdre groaned, oh, no, she’d lose her job for sure now!
“. . . and if I hear of you firing the poor girl simply because of her doctor appointment, you’ll have your share of troubles, I know several people on the Board of Health and I can tell you . . . ”
A slow smile spread across Deirdre’s face as she continued to listen for a moment, then she tiptoed away from the kitchen door, returning to the counter so that she could pretend she hadn’t heard a thing.
“Ritchie, your mother is a formidable woman,” she whispered.
“You ‘ave no idear, once Elsie gets somethin’ inta ‘er ‘ead, she’s unstoppable,” he replied with a nod and the first smile she’d seen on his face since he’d walked into the shop.
She jumped at the bellow, and hurried into the kitchen just as Elsie exited the room. Her boss grumbled and complained a bit, but she was shortly, bemusedly, released from her afternoon chores so that she could go to the doctor visit that Elsie had arranged. She could hardly breathe, wedged as she was between Elsie and Ritchie during the drive, and while Elsie chatted about everyone they saw on the ride and every shop they passed, Ritchie didn’t say a word. Of course, she thought, his mother didn’t really pause for breath the entire way, and perhaps he was silent merely out of self-defense.
Ringo thought the girl looked a little pale when she walked back into the waiting room, and he remembered a bird once telling him some horror stories about the things girls had to go through when being examined by doctor. The poor child, he thought as he got up from his chair and went to meet her. He put an arm around her and hugged her briefly, unable to stop himself from giving her a little support that way. He waited until Elsie joined them.
“Ya all right then? At least that’s over, right? What’d ‘e ‘ave ta say, Dee? Is everythin’ goin’ along ok?”
“Yes,” she replied, and even her voice seemed subdued, he thought. “Yes, he said everything’s fine, the baby will probably be born in mid-December. It was just . . . I wasn’t really . . . I mean, I had no idea . . . . But . . . well, it’s over now, and he said the baby’s fine and I’m fine, although he thinks I need to eat better and he’s given me some vitamins to take. He gave me a card for the midwife, and I have all the adoption papers I need to fill out, the nurse gave them to me. I suppose I need to get that taken care of straight away.”
“Adoption?” Ringo and Elsie asked at the same time.
The girl looked startled. “Well, yes, I can’t very well raise a baby on my own like this, it’s really the only way . . . for the baby to . . . to have a chance at a good life.”
Ringo watched as she swallowed and looked away. He’d never given it a thought, but as all alone as she was, she was right, how could she support herself and take care of a baby at the same time? It just wasn’t done. Not without a supportive family. He mentally cursed the father of the baby again, a right bastard that one had been, to leave the girl all alone. He gave the girl another little hug, wishing he could tell her everything would be all right. But she was probably right, giving the baby up for adoption was really the only way.
“Oh, my dear, you mustn’t make these types of decisions rashly, let’s go on home and have some dinner, I left a roast in the oven, and perhaps we’ll talk about this more later, come along now, come along.”
“Errr, Elsie, I got a gig tonight, it’ll ‘ave ta be a quick dinner so I can get Dee back ‘ome, right?”
“Then we’re wasting time standing here talking, aren’t we? Come along now.”
Ringo followed bemusedly in his mother’s wake as she sailed out of the clinic, held the door open for his passengers and gave the girl an encouraging smile as she got in the little car. He wondered what kind of plan Elsie would come up with now. Sure as fish swam and birds flew the skies, Elsie was working on the problem even as she chattered during the entire drive home, he thought in amusement. He wondered what the girl was thinking about all this.
They’d been so shocked when she’d said she was going to give the baby up for adoption, Deirdre thought, but how could they think she’d do otherwise? It wasn’t as if she’d money to spare and could afford a nanny to care for the child. And it wasn’t as if she could stay home and care for it herself, she’d have to work to support the both of them. And she didn’t know of many jobs that allowed a mother to bring her baby to work with her! On top of everything else, she was unskilled, she hadn’t even taken her exams. Everything at home had been very unpleasant right about then, and exams had been the last thing on her mind. Once she’d been given the boot, she’d never had the chance to get back to them, and she supposed it was too late now. She probably wouldn’t have passed them anyway.
Elsie’s home in Admiral Grove was very cozy, smaller than the homes in Arnold Grove, but it was homey and clean and welcoming. Ritchie showed her around whilst Elsie went into the kitchen to put the finishing touches on dinner. Meeting Mr. Graves had been a pleasant surprise, a very clean old man, he reminded her of her grandfather in a way. And finding out that Ritchie still lived at home had been surprising as well; he’d blushed a little bit, but said he was away on gigs so often that it didn’t make sense to have his own flat. He’d been away for three months over the summer, working at a holiday camp in Lincolnshire, and before that had been in West Germany for several months.
Dinner was lovely, the roast mouthwateringly tasty, with fried potatoes and peppers covered with a rich pan gravy, a mixed grill of sorts, and even cake for dessert. And Elsie seemed to enjoy encouraging her to eat more. And more! Deirdre was very pleasantly full when dinner was over, she thought she’d probably eaten more in the past several nights than she had in the past several weeks! She wanted to wash the dishes as token payment for such a lovely meal, but Ritchie hurried her to the door as soon as dinner was over.
“Ritchie, please bring Deirdre by tomorrow, we still need to talk about the baby, and I realize there’s no time tonight. You’ll come to dinner, won’t you dear? Goodbye!”
Deirdre nodded bemusedly, and thanked her hostess and host for the invitation as Ritchie hustled her to the car. When she snuggled in her blankets that night, she thought about her extraordinary week; she was nearly in a state of disbelief. So much had happened, perhaps everything was looking up. After all, it was mid-September, in three more months, she’d have the baby and be done with that, then it would be time to get on with her life. She hoped the baby would be adopted into a happy family.
Ringo pulled up in front of the sandwich shop to fetch the girl. He wasn’t in a very good mood, he’d stayed out far too late after the gigs, doing a little pub crawling with Rory and John Lennon. Paul and George had been around for a bit of it, but they’d snuck off early, and Ringo wondered if George had gone to visit Deirdre. The thought hadn’t left his mind all evening, no matter how much he drank, and he’d imbibed a lot to try and get the girl out of his mind. It hadn’t worked, and he was left with a miserable hangover today.
“Hullo, Ritchie,” Deirdre greeted him, and he winced, did she have to be so loud? He grunted a reply and held the door open for her, shutting it carefully to avoid the excess noise. He groaned silently when she chattered during the drive (why had she picked today to turn into a chatterbox?), wishing he had the nerve to ask her to be quiet, dejectedly feeling as if he deserved the punishment.
He felt better after a dinner of bangers and mash, Elsie must have known he’d been feeling poorly and was trying to cheer him up. She always did the sausage well done, just the way he liked it, and her mashed potatoes were the best in the entire neighbourhood. Thank God his stomach wasn’t upset, he would have hated to miss his favourite meal!
The girl insisted on washing the dishes this time, and Ringo felt obliged to help her. He reflected that he hadn’t helped a pretty bird with the dinner dishes since Brianna had been living here, what, nearly four years prior? He sighed and shook his head mentally. Time surely passed quickly.
“Is there anything wrong?” the girl asked, and Ringo shook his head.
“Nah, jus’ stayed out too late, a bit hungover today. I’m feelin’ better now, though.”
“Oh, I’m sorry, I wish you’d told me.” She finished the last plate and handed it to him to dry.
“Why?” he asked.
“Because I would have been a lot louder,” she teased, “it would have served you right for drinking to excess!”
Ringo found himself laughing, wondering what had happened to the stiff, prickly little bird who’d originally caught his eye. Well, he liked this friendly bird better, more’s the pity.
“Ready?” he asked, hanging up the tea towel on the appropriate hook.
“I guess so, although I don’t see that there’s much to discuss,” she replied, sounding a bit nervous.
Ringo laughed and offered her his arm. “Then you don’ know Elsie, she’d be able ta discuss a beautiful sunrise with a deaf an’ blind man!”
He led her into the living room and made sure she was comfortable on the couch before settling on the floor near her feet.
“Who’s the father of your child, Deirdre?”
Ringo was surprised at his mother’s bluntness, and he worried that the girl would grow hot under the collar and storm out of the house. He stayed as quiet and still as he could, and he noted with some humour that Harry was doing the same thing from behind his omnipresent newspaper.
“A . . . a boy in the neighbourhood I’m from,” the girl replied quietly.
Ringo noted that she still hadn’t named the lad. He wondered again if it was possibly George. If it was, he’d punch the bastard in the nose! He remembered to sit quietly and simply listen to the conversation as it continued.
“And he refused to marry you? The cad!” Elsie said savagely.
“He . . . he said it wasn’t his, so he didn’t have to marry me.”
Well, that didn’t sound like the George that he knew. True, he didn’t really know the lad well, but he’d seemed a decent bloke when they’d been getting to know each other in Hamburg. And Ringo didn’t think the girl would have been as chummy with George the other night if . . . he suddenly remembered that George had asked about the father of the child, too, so that pretty well let him out of the picture. Maybe it was that Tony character he’d mentioned, the girl had reacted strongly to the name. So, it appeared that George probably wasn’t the father, but still, there was no denying that the girl liked him, he thought forlornly.
“Then he was worse than a cad, my dear, to deny such a thing,” Elsie stated emphatically.
“You believe me?”
“Well, of course, my dear! Why would I doubt what you say?” Elsie asked in surprise.
Ringo thought the girl sounded stunned, and he wished he’d sat opposite her so he could watch her expressions.
“My . . . my parents believed him. They didn’t believe me, they told me to leave, they didn’t want to be shamed by my . . . behaviour,” she whispered, and Ringo wished he could hug her, she sounded as if it was a difficult thing to remember.
“Well, I’m sure it was a shock to them, perhaps they’ve repented, I’m sure they didn’t mean it, dear. But that’s neither here nor there. I suppose the big question is, do you want to keep your baby?”
“Sorry? I . . . I’ve never really thought about it, I’ve always known I’d have to give it up for adoption, there’s no possible way I could raise it on my own.”
“Well, if you were living back with your parents . . . . No, I can see that’s not an option, your face is very expressive, my dear. I can tell you that keeping the baby would be very difficult, I’m sure you’ve already thought of that. Well, then, I suppose it comes down to this. Perhaps you’ll think about it for a period of time before you make any decisions. It’s merely a suggestion, and I don’t expect an answer very soon, there’s still several months to think about it, but I’d like to ask that you don’t fill out the adoption paperwork for several weeks, until you’ve thought this through.”
“Elsie, will ya quit beatin’ ‘round the bush?” Harry spoke up over the top of the newspaper he was perusing. “Just get to th’ point, yer scarin’ th’ gurl.”
Ringo grinned as his stepfather ducked back behind the paper, he had a feeling he knew what was coming, and he didn’t see any problem with it. Especially if he decided to take the job Tony Sheridan was offering and went back to Hamburg for the winter season. It would mean leaving Rory and the Hurricanes, but Rory was always accommodating with things like that, and Ringo was getting bored with the gigs around Liverpool and the summers at Butlins. Hamburg had been an eye opening experience, and he looked forward to having his eyes opened a bit more. Maybe it would make him forget Deirdre. He grinned again as his mother took a breath.
“Deirdre, you could stay here with us and I could care for the child whilst you work.”
Ringo thought you could hear a pin drop in the little parlour. Elsie must have knocked the girl speechless. It didn’t take her long to find her voice, though.
“Why would you do this for me?” she asked flatly. “I’m a stranger, I only met you yesterday. Why on earth would you want to do this for me?”
Ringo heard suspicion and mistrust, the prickliness might have temporarily disappeared, but it was still there. Poor child, he mused, she’d had a very rough time, with a family and a boyfriend who’d abandoned her when she needed them most, it was no wonder she didn’t want to trust anyone. Except, apparently, George, he thought with a grimace.
“Well, you’re a friend of Ritchie’s, Deirdre, and he’s a good judge of character. If he thinks of you as a friend, and I know he does, then that’s good enough for us, isn’t that right, Harry?”
Harry’s voice floated out from behind his newspaper. “Yeah, ‘e’s a good lad, ‘e’s got common sense. An’ that other gurl ‘e brought ‘ome was a lovely little thing, always ‘elpin’ ‘round th’ ‘ouse, never in th’ way . . . .”
Was this a conspiracy, Ringo wondered grumpily? They hadn’t said anything about Brianna in years. He supposed that it was simply the similarities to the current situation that had brought it to their minds. But he wasn’t too happy with the constant reminders, he thought with a grimace. He turned his thoughts back to Dee, she’d been suspiciously silent for far too long.
“Thank you so much for the offer, Mr. and Mrs. Graves, you’re extremely kind, and I’ll be sure to think about it,” Deirdre said stiffly. “Ritchie, do you mind taking me home? I . . . I have laundry I need to do this evening. Thank you so much for a lovely dinner, Mrs. Graves, it was wonderful, and I don’t know how to thank you. But I have to be leaving now.”
Deirdre thought if she didn’t leave, she’d begin crying, and that wouldn’t do. She stood up and offered her hand to her surprised hostess, then shook hands with Mr. Graves. Their offer was so totally astounding, the measure of trust so profound, that she was shaken to the core, and she needed to be alone. She was certain they were wondering at her actions, but she simply had to get away. She hurried out the front door with a rushed goodbye, and crawled into the passenger side of Ritchie’s car, waiting for him, hoping he’d hurry. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him step out the front door and come down the steps.
“Ya all right, Dee?” he asked as he started the car, concern evident in his voice.
She nodded tightly. She didn’t think she could talk right now, she just needed to get home, needed to be alone, needed to think. Strangers, absolute strangers to her, had listened to her and trusted her word when her own parents hadn’t even believed her. Incredible.
Thankfully, Ritchie didn’t appear to need an explanation of her actions. She sat stiff and silent on the drive home, trying to keep a grip on her emotions, she just needed to be alone. As the car came ‘round the corner to her block, she saw a tall, lanky figure sitting dejectedly on the kerb outside the door to her building. George? Oh, just what she didn’t need right now! He had horrid timing, but how could she turn him away after he’d made the trip to see her? She’d have to keep herself together for a while longer.
“Would you like some tea?” she asked Ritchie as they pulled up in front of the building.
“No, ta, looks like ya got company waitin’, didn’t mean ta keep ya, ya shoulda said ya ‘ad plans, I’d ‘ave gotten ya ‘ome earlier,” he mumbled.
“I had no idea George was coming over,” she said sharply, then paused to try to control her voice. She sighed. “Please thank your parents for dinner, Ritchie, I . . . I’m so surprised by their offer, I just can’t believe it. I’ve got to have some time to think about it, but please tell them I really appreciate their kindness.”
Deirdre got out of the car and greeted her unwanted visitor, turning in surprise when Ritchie drove off without a hello to his mate or a goodbye to her.
“’ullo, Dee, ‘ow are ya? Was that Ringo? He must ‘ave a gig tonight, surprised ‘e didn’t say ‘ullo or anthing. I was wonderin’ where ya were, love. I got some news fer ya. Can we go inside? It’s getting a bit chilly, an’ I’ve been waiting fer hours.”
She led the way upstairs and made tea as she chatted with George. His idea of ‘news’ left a lot to be desired, she realized, but it was still good to hear the neighbourhood gossip. She sympathized with the loss of his cat, and was happy that Mr. and Mrs. Johnson had a new grandson, and she listened as he talked about the Wilson’s summer vacation to Scotland. He hadn’t seen Tony, but he was still going to kick his arse, he said, and Deirdre fought to keep her mouth from twitching into a grin at the very idea of this skinny lad challenging Tony. She told him again that she wouldn’t want him to hurt his hands, and George laughed.
When he’d finally finished telling her everything, they sat quietly side by side on the couch, sipping their tea, and she was surprised when he put his arm around her. Oh, this was comical, she thought as she tried to keep from spilling her tea. She was getting close to being big-as-a-house, did George find her attractive like this? She decided she’d best nip this in the bud right now!
“What are you doing, George?” she asked, turning to face him. He was quite adorable when he blushed like that, she thought in amusement. He seemed so very young, she must have grown up a lot over the past half year.
“Errr . . . uhhhh . . . jus’ . . . sitting on th’ couch with a pretty gurl,” he stammered.
“A pregnant girl,” she reminded him gently.
“Well, yeah, I know that, Dee. But I thought ya kinda liked me, I ‘member ya coming ‘round back at the dances, an’ ‘round th’ neighbourhood sometimes, thought maybe we’d take up an’ see what might ‘appen, ya know?”
“I do like you, George. And I hope you’ll come see me again, but I certainly don’t want a boyfriend or a lover,” she replied.
She nearly lost the firm grip on her amusement when he blushed fiercely when she’d said ‘lover’. He must be a late starter, she thought as she fought the grin that kept threatening to surface. She thought she remembered birthday parties at the Harrison’s in Februarys past, so he’d be probably be having his eighteenth birthday after the new year, same as her. It wasn’t impossible that he might still be virgin, but it was more likely he was just inexperienced, and that was the reason for his blushes.
“I hope I haven’t mislead you, George, but you can see where having a boyfriend has gotten me. I’m simply not interested. But I promise, if I change my mind, you’ll be the first to know. It doesn’t mean that we can’t be friends, though. I . . . I’ve missed my friends, and it’s so nice to know that I can count on you.”
She hoped that would be sufficient to salve his pride, she didn’t want to lose touch with him, he was very sweet, but he seemed like a little boy to her, perhaps a younger brother! She paused to think that she was adopting or being adopted into an interesting family, with Ritchie as older brother, George as younger, and Ritchie’s parents acting almost as if they were adoptive parents to her. She had to smile at the thought, perhaps her baby would have as sweet and wonderful a family as her newly ‘adopted’ family was becoming.
“Well, what about Ringo?” he asked.
She was startled. “Ritchie? He’s . . . he’s a friend, too, he’s been wonderful, almost as if he were an older brother. But there’s nothing going on between us, if that’s what you’re asking.”
George looked relieved, although it appeared he was trying to hide it. “Oh, I didn’t think so, I jus’ wondered.”
“So are we going to stay friends, George?” she asked, nearly holding her breath until he nodded.
“Oh, yeah, I wasn’t really trying anything, I was just kinda . . . I dunno, just kinda . . . .”
“Testing the waters?” she teased. “Checking out the merchandise in case it struck your fancy? Looking to see if there was any reaction before you committed yourself?” She smiled broadly when he turned a darker shade of red with each suggestion she offered. “So what did you think, lad, that you were going to have a quick tumble with the pregnant girl, you needn’t worry about her falling preggers, she’s already done it at least once, so why not have a bash?” She slapped him on the arm and started laughing when he blushed even more, he was utterly transparent, the callous youth! “You bastard! That’s what you thought, wasn’t it? Oh, as if you’d even be able to reach what you wanted around this big belly of mine!”
His blush deepened, but his eyes were utterly guileless. “Oh, we wouldn’t be able ta do it ~that~ way, but thur’d be no trouble reaching, Dee,” he replied solemnly. “Yer not so big, love, an’ . . . well, I don’ wanna brag, but . . . .”
Deirdre put her hands over her ears, shaking her head as she laughed.
“No, no, no, no, don’t tell me, I don’t want to know, George! Stop it, just stop it, I can’t catch my breath!”
Well, it was definitely her turn to blush, she’d obviously been wrong about the inexperience, but he was still somewhat unsure of himself, thank God! She found herself on the receiving end of a serious game of tickling, and the physical contact with him felt a little too nice, so she cut it short by escaping to the kitchen with the teapot. George was adorable, in a very puppy-dog sort of way, and she really wanted to avoid finding out just what it was that he “didn’t want to brag” about. But it was rather pleasant to know that her childhood playmate thought she was attractive enough to want to tumble, even as far gone as she was. Of course, that could simply be eighteen-year-old lust, and he’d probably have felt the same way about any available female between the ages of fourteen and . . . forty!
“George, you’d best be going, the buses will stop shortly and you’ll be stuck. Or was that the plan?” she guessed shrewdly, and shook her head in amusement when he ducked his head and refused to look her in the eye. “You louse, thought you had it all worked out, didn’t you? Get your arse out of my flat, boy, this instant!” She had to laugh again, but then became serious. “I do hope you’ll stop by again, George, I’ve really enjoyed your visit. But don’t come with the same expectations next time, you’ll be disappointed again.”
“Oh, this hasn’t been a disappointment, Dee, I enjoyed th’ evening, too. Yer a nice gurl in spite o’ . . . .”
He stopped with a blush over what he’d begun to say, and Deirdre swallowed as her laughter fled, leaving her feeling empty and tired. She turned on the taps at the sink and scrubbed the cups and saucers during the ensuing silence. When she’d finished, she had enough control over her voice to finish his statement.
“In spite of what everyone says, right?” she asked, turning back to face him. “Is it all over the neighbourhood, then? Does everyone know? Did Tony convince everyone that I slept with the entire student body at Innie, or the entire Royal Guard at the Palace? Does everyone think I’m just a slut? Were you simply testing me to find out the truth for yourself, George?”
He looked horrified. “No! No, Dee, I swear! That’s not what I was gonna say, honestly. I was gonna say yer a nice gurl in spite o’ th’ fact that ya won’t . . . well, ya won’t put out fer me! That’s all. C’mere, love, sit down, I’m so sorry that’s what ya thought, I didn’t mean ta hurt yer feelings.”
She didn’t think he was lying, his face would have given him away. She’d jumped to conclusions, but she still felt washed out and tired as she responded to his suggestion and returned to the couch. She started to sit down when George caught her and pulled her onto his lap.
“George! I said . . . .”
“Shhhh, it’s ok, I’m not gonna do anything, jus’ relax, gurl, here, jus’ sit with me fer a minute.”
He suddenly seemed years older than he had appeared to be only five minutes earlier, and she tried to relax with his arms around her, listening as he hummed a little tune and simply held her. It felt . . . good . . . to be held like this. Comforting, somehow, to just be held and touched by another human being. She didn’t remember the last time anyone had simply held her and she closed her eyes with a sigh. The entire day, the strange week with its’ helter skelter ups and downs, the long months of being alone caught up with her at once and she put her arms around the neck of her childhood playmate, lay her head against his shoulder and let the tears come.
“Shhh, shhhh, yer ok, gurl, it’s all right, I’m so sorry I hurt ya, Dee, easy, gurl, yer ok.”
When she was finally able to stop her crying, she apologized for making the neck of his shirt all soggy, but he simply laughed.
“Yer a regular leaky faucet, aren’t ya? Don’ worry, it’ll dry, ya ok now? I’m so sorry, gurl.”
Deirdre shook her head as she tried to smile at his teasing. “It wasn’t just that. I’ve just had a rather overwhelming couple of days.”
“Yeah? Wanna tell me about it? C’mon, Dee, tell Georgie what’s going on. Jus’ pretend we’re back in th’ playhouse in yer back yard, or diggin’ in th’ sandbox, bet ya thought I’d forgotten ‘bout how we used ta play together all th’ summers long, didn’t ya?”
She smiled, those were good memories. She decided she’d tell him about the week at least, she thought she needed to talk to someone, but he couldn’t possibly be interested in her months of struggling, bare existence.
“Oh, my flat was burgled this week, then Ritchie and his mother showed up at my work yesterday and very nearly kidnapped me and took me to the doctor. That was an experience you should be glad men don’t have to go through, it was awful! Then, tonight, Ritchie picked me up and took me home for another meal, and his parents offered to let me stay with them after the baby’s born, Elsie said she could take care of the baby whilst I worked.”
“George, my own parents threw me out of the house because they believed Tony! These people are absolute strangers, and yet they believed me and offered me more trust than my own family gave me!”
“Don’ get upset, gurl, I see what yer saying, relax. Sounds like they’re nice people. Ya gonna take ‘em up on th’ offer?” he asked.
Deirdre paused for a moment, then shook her head in indecision. “I just don’t know, I’ll really have to think about this.” They sat quietly for several minutes.
“Is that what happened?” he asked quietly.
“What? My parents? And Tony? Yes, it is. I told them it was his, he said it wasn’t, and then he told them I’d been sleeping ‘round with lots of boys, and it could have been anyone’s. My parents took his word over mine, and . . . there I was, out on the street with a suitcase,” she finished quickly, it wasn’t a very happy memory and she didn’t have a very good grip on her emotions right now.
“I really am gonna kick that bastard’s arse now,” George commented casually, and she giggled. “Oh, ya think that’s funny, do ya? Jus’ ‘cause I’m skinny doesn’t mean I can’t beat th’ shit outta ‘im, he ‘ad no right ta treat ya like that, Dee!” They sat quietly for several more minutes before Deirdre sighed and raised her head from his shoulder.
“George, I’ll bet you’ve missed the last bus.”
“Well, guess I’ll jus’ ‘ave ta stay here fer the night, then,” he remarked cheerfully.
“You’d better not try anything!” she said with a scowl.
George laughed. “Nah, I figure if Ringo’s yer big brother, that’s what I’ll have ta be, too. An’ anyway, yer heavier than I thought, I think me legs have gone ta sleep an’ I may not be able ta walk. Don’ think I wanna tumble ya after all, ya might hurt me,” he said with a crooked grin.
She was outraged. “You’re the one that started this, you rat, and there’s no chance you can be my big brother except in height, you’re younger than me!”
“How d’ya figure that?”
“Your birthday’s in February, mine’s in January! So there!” she replied, sticking her tongue out at him.
“What year were ya born?”
“Ha! Am so older than you, I was born in ’43!” he exclaimed triumphantly. “So there!”
She sighed as she gave up. “All right, you’re older. But I’d better not find you trying to crawl into my bed tonight, or I will hurt you, George.”
He laughed as he gave her a push to help her to her feet, then stood and stretched with a groan. “Don’ worry, ya got me word on it, trust me. Jus’ gimme a pillow an’ a blanket an’ I’ll pull up a spare piece o’ carpet.”
She found him a pillow and scrounged a blanket from her own bed, let him borrow her toothbrush with only a slight shiver at the thought and then settled down for the night. She lay quietly for a moment, then called out into the darkness.
“S’all right, Deedee gurl, g’night,” he replied with a yawn.
She smiled, she’d forgotten he used to call her that, all those years ago in their mutual childhood. It seemed so distant now.
“George, wake up! Wake up, come on, I can’t be late to work, get up, right now!”
She shook him harder, groaning when he simply rolled over and continued to sleep. The bastard, who knew how hard he’d be to wake? He slept like the dead!
“I’ll sit on you and hurt you if you don’t wake up!” she finally shouted in desperation.
George groaned and opened his eyes. “Huh? Wha . . . ?”
“Get up, get up, get up, I can’t be late for work, if you make me late for work and I get fired because of it, I’ll really hurt you!”
She tugged him until he scrambled to his feet, standing in shirtless, squinting befuddlement, and Deirdre nearly laughed in spite of the drama. “Come on, get your shirt on, let’s go!”
The downstairs buzzer sounded, and she threw her hands in the air. Someone must be punching random buzzers again! She punched the ringer with unnecessary violence and snarled into the speaker. “What d’ya want?”
“Dee?” the tiny speaker responded.
“Yes?” she asked suspiciously.
“Dee, it’s Ritchie, thought ya might need a ride ta work.”
“Oh, Ritchie, you’re a lifesaver, I was afraid I’d be late. We’ll be down in a flash, thank you, thank you!” She turned to George. “Come on, lazybones, our arses have been saved, maybe Ritchie can give you a ride home, I’ll bet your parents are beside themselves.”
“Nah,” he replied with a grin, buttoning his shirt and then sitting to pull on his shoes. “They know I stayed over at a friend’s, they jus’ don’ know I stayed over at a gurl friend’s!”
She stuck her tongue out at him, for some reason he brought out the child in her! Perhaps it was because he was such a big kid himself. She bullied him out the door and down the stairs. Little brother, definitely, she thought with a sniff; except for being such a comforting presence last night, he was definite younger brother material.
“We’ll be down in a flash, thank you, thank you!”
Ringo thought the temperature dropped ten degrees with that statement. We? Who the bloody hell was “we?” He sighed, why had he even come over this morning? Probably for just this reason, to confirm his suspicions. Well, they’d been confirmed all right, he thought morosely, it was George, he’d bet his last shilling.
Even though he knew it was coming, it was still startling to see that lanky figure rush out of the building with Dee. They were obviously in high spirits, laughing and teasing each other, and he wondered again why he’d come over. He held the door for his passengers and slammed it with unnecessary violence when they’d piled into the car.
“Thanks so much, Ritchie, it was nearly impossible to wake George this morning!”
Ringo gritted his teeth and drove. She was shameless! Why had he ever gotten involved with her to begin with? She was probably just a . . . no, no, he couldn’t think of her like that. She was just a kid who’d gotten in trouble, he’d seen her at her worst and she probably deserved some happiness. If it took George to bring it to her, well, he’d have to be happy for her. But he wouldn’t like it, not one bit! And he thought George had better be good to the bird, or he’d have Ringo to face. Ringo thought he probably knew a lot more about dirty fighting than the young lad, and he was certain he’d be the victor in a fight. He contented himself on the drive by imagining himself beating the crap out of the lad if he happened to hurt the girl.
Once the girl was dropped off at the shop, he found himself taking George home, and he could barely bring himself to be civil on the drive. He declined an invitation to come into the house on Arnold Grove, but finally had to agree to a cup of tea when George wouldn’t let him leave without coming inside. He met the boy’s mother and a visiting brother, Pete, and he forced himself to be nice, especially after Mrs. Harrison insisted on cooking him breakfast. He felt obliged to stay a little longer after that, and nearly an hour passed before he was allowed to escape and think about the morning.George just seemed far too young for Dee, Ringo thought as he drove home. The lad was like an adolescent dog, all happy grin and wagging tail. Well, he didn’t exactly have a tail to wag, but when excited, he simply couldn’t sit still, his exuberance seeming too great to contain in that gangly body. And it seemed as if he was always excited about something, so he was rarely still. It was simply impossible to dislike him, Ringo thought sadly. But he wasn’t going to be friends with him, that was for certain! He caught sight of himself in the rear view mirror as he parked in front of his house, and he sighed. It was probably his nose, he thought irritably; birds didn’t much like big noses. He tried resolutely to turn his thoughts from the girl, or at least to think of her as more ‘friend’ than ‘girl’.
C.A.Jones is a long-time fan of The Beatles, but was never lucky enough to see them together in concert. An avid reader since childhood, C.A. only recently tried her hand at writing and now has another hobby with which she consumes her all-too-little spare time. She lives in the Western United States with husband and pets and computers.
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