“You can’t tell me what to do! You’re not even my real father!” shouted Julia. She turned and fled to her room, sobbing.
John stared after her, feeling as though he had just been kicked in his stomach. Julia’s bedroom door slammed, and John went down the hall and stood just outside her door, debating whether he should knock or just go in. He decided that neither course would be wise, and went slowly back to the living room to sit at the piano. He took the notes he’d scribbled the night before from the music stand and leafed through them absently, seeing nothing but his daughter’s face, filled as it had been with anger and apparent hate. He sighed heavily and laid the papers aside.
John wondered what had happened to the little girl who had all but worshipped him, the child who would cry at the very thought of hurting her father’s feelings. He was her father, no matter what she or anyone else might ever say. It had been he who had always been there for her, and he who had loved and protected her right from the day that he and Mary had brought her home thirteen years ago. He missed that little girl desperately, and he hoped that she was still there, somewhere inside of the surly, snarling teenaged beast his daughter had been transformed into practically overnight. He wanted his sweet baby back, but it did not look like that was going to happen anytime soon.
“Fuck,” he muttered. For the first time, John felt every one of his forty years. He seemed to have completely lost touch with Julia these last few weeks. According to Paul, it was normal and she would get better in time. John fervently hoped that his friend was right.
The buzzer sounded, signaling a car at the gate. John looked out the window.
“Thank God,” he said, going to the door and pressing the button to open the gate for his wife’s car. He closed the gate behind her and went outside to help her unload the groceries.
“Daddy!” cried four-year-old Emily, throwing her arms around his legs. John lifted her for a kiss and peered into the car.
“Where’s yer brother, baby?” he asked. He opened the car door for Mary to get out, noting the silver that shone among the chestnut waves that still fell to her waist, which was just a bit thicker lately. He thought she still looked beautiful.
“He’s vis’tin’ Peter,” Emily informed him. “Daddy, guess what?”
He put on his interested face, wondering how to explain to Mary about the trouble he’d had with their older daughter.
“Peter’s cat had babies, an’ his mummy says he can’t keep ‘em all--Mummy says I c’n have one if s’okay with you...can I Daddy? Can I please?”
He mentally shook himself and looked to Mary. Her face wore an amused smile. She knew when John’s mind was elsewhere and that he hadn’t heard a word that Emily had just said. Mary came to his rescue, nodding that he should say ‘yes’.”
“Sure, baby, if ye’d like,” he replied.
“Oh, Daddy, thank you! I love you!” cried Emily, hugging his neck hard. John smiled at Mary in a bemused fashion.
“Go on, baby,” he said, placing
Emily on her feet. She tore off towards the house, and John turned to his
“You just told her she could have one of Peter’s kittens,” Mary told him. “Where were you when she was asking you, John?”
“With Julia. She’s cryin’ again,” he replied.
“Oh dear. What’s it all about this time?”
“Oh, she wanted to have some friends over tonight, but th’ lads’re comin’, an’ ye know how that’d work out. They’d be fallin’ all over Paul, an’ he’d be encouragin’ ‘em.”
“Jealous?” asked Mary.
John snorted. “Yeright,” he replied. “I’ve got all th’ woman I need right here.”
He put the bags on the roof of the car and took Mary into his arms for a kiss.
“Moth-er!” cried Julia from her window in dismay. “The neighbors will see you!”
Mary saw John open his mouth to reply, and she shushed him quietly. “Don’t say anything back to her,” she advised. Let’s get the groceries into the house, then I’ll have a talk with her. I’m sure we can think of a way to work it out.”
John gave her a quick kiss, grabbed the bags, and headed into the house. Mary would fix it, he knew. She always did.
“You men have a good time,” Mary said, as she was leaving with Julia later that evening. It had been decided that she would take all of the girls out for pizza, then a movie, and finally ice cream before dropping them all back home. “I left sandwiches and crisps and things on the counter in the kitchen for you. We’ll be back in a few hours.”
“Ta, Mary,” said Paul, “Have fun.”
“Bye, love,” John said, kissing her. He held her close. “Thanks,” he whispered into her hair. “I’ll thank ye properly later.”
“I look forward to it,” she replied, kissing him one last time before disengaging herself.
“‘Bye, Puss,” said John tentatively to Julia. She ignored him except to say, “Do you always have to be pawing her, Daddy? You’re like the boys at school.”
John’s face darkened. “What boys?” he demanded. “Have boys been touchin’ ye, then, lass?”
“No. I don’t think I’d mind so much if they did, but I think they’re afraid of you.”
“They’re right t’ be,” he said, seeming satisfied. “I’d cripple any one of ‘em as laid a hand on ye.”
Mary took Julia by the arm and ushered her out the door before the situation began to escalate. “Come along, honey, your friends are waiting for us,” she said, closing the door behind them.
John turned to Paul once the door had closed behind his wife and daughter. “Whattayer s’pose she meant by sayin’ she wouldn’t mind so much if th’ lads were to be touchin’ her?” he asked.
“Ah, ignore it, John,” Paul replied. “She’s just tryin’ t’ get on your wick, like. Tryin’ t’ get a rise outta you, ya know?”
“Yeah, well, it worked. Now that’s all I can think of. Christ, Paul, are they all like this?”
“Pretty much, I reckon,” Paul said, shrugging out of his jacket and tossing it onto the couch. The buzzer sounded, and John pushed the intercom button.
“We’re here,” said Ringo’s voice. “I’ve brought George along with me.”
“C’mon in, Ritch,” John said, buzzing the gate open. He glanced out the window to make sure that Ringo’s car was inside the fence and Mary’s out, then he closed the gate again.
“Was Heather as bad as all that?” John persisted. He was still smarting from his daughters’ parting remark.
“Oh, aye, worse, even,” Paul replied. “She once told me that I was a fuckin’ bastard and that I had no right to tell her what to do, seeing as I wasn’t her ‘real father’.”
“That’s just about what Julia said,
just today,” John told him. “It’s hard for me t’ hear it, Macca. I
don’t think of her as bein’ adopted. I couldn’t love her more if she
was me own flesh an’ blood kid. I love her just as much as I do Julian,
Emily an’ George.”
“No, they get on all right.” The doorbell rang, and John opened the door to let his other friends in. “I dunno what I’ll do if that changes.”
“If what changes?” asked George, coming in. He looked well, better than he had in a while.
“Teenage mutiny,” John explained. “Wait’ll ye get a taste of it--Ritch, how is it with yer lads?”
“They don’t say much. No cryin’ an’ histrionics,” Ringo told him. “They just disappear a lot, spend a lot o’ time in th’ loo, an’ all. You know. We were all there at one time.”
“Ah, yes, gettin’ t’ know yerself,” John replied with a smile, “Makin’ a career outta keepin’ yer parents from findin’ out what a bleedin’ pervert ye’ve become. I remember it well.” He grinned and added, “I’d rather that than what ye hafta go through with gurrls...it’s like a fuckin’ soap opera around here, most o’ th’ time, but at least she’s still civil to her mum.”
“Be grateful for that,” advised Paul. “Heather wouldn’t speak to either of us unless she had something unpleasant to say.”
“Don’t tell me,” said John, “It’s bad enough as it is. Let’s go sit in th’ kitchen, lads. Mary left food, an’ I think I have summat we cn’ drink--we hafta stay upstairs until th’ sitter gets here; th’ other kids are in bed. Once Liz gets here, we can go down t’ th’ dungeon an’ have a game or two.”
John was lining up a shot when the buzzer rang from the kitchen. He scratched on the eight ball and swore mildly.
“Yeah,” he said into the intercom, “What is it, Liz. Zarra problem?”
“The hospital called,” she replied. Her voice sounded a little shaky. “There’s been an accident. I think Mrs. Lennon and Julia are okay--”
John was on his way up the stairs, followed by all three of his friends, before the girl finished speaking.
The sight of all four of the former Beatles in the hospital corridor was causing quite a stir. There were patients peeking out of many of the rooms and the younger nurses were clustering around the four men, some of them seeking autographs. John was trying to listen to what the doctor was saying, but he wasn’t having much luck. He was patient for as long as he could be, but after several minutes of the cacophony, he lost his temper.
“Jesus fuckin’ Christ!” he shouted. “Are all of ye daft? I’m here cos me wife an’ daughter’ve been in a fuckin’ accident! Don’t ye have summat else t’ do? Go on about yer fuckin’ business an’ leave us alone, whydontcher! This is a fuckin’ hospital, not a concert hall!”
Paul led a group of nurses away, and George put his hand supportively on John’s shoulder.
“Calm down, John, it’s all right,” he said softly.
“Here comes a constable,” Ringo
said, cocking a thumb down the hall. “He’ll disperse ‘em.”
“What about me daughter?” asked John. His voice was unsteady, and his heart was pounding. “What about Julia?”
“She seems all right, but she’s got a broken arm and she’s had a blow to the head. She hit the windscreen pretty hard. We’re going to be keeping her, at least overnight, to observe her. She’s had a concussion, and her memory of the accident seems sketchy.”
“But she’s gonna be okay, right?” John asked desperately. “She’s not in any danger of--”
“No. No, don’t worry; she’s in no danger of dying. She’s just a little confused. You can see her in a few minutes, if you like, as soon as we get her settled in a room.”
“All right,” John replied, “But what about Mary? Where’s me wife?”
“Just follow me,” the doctor told him. “I’ll take you to her.” He turned to George and Ringo. “If you gentlemen would just go and sit in the lounge,” he added, “I would appreciate it.”
“All right, we’ll do that,” said Ringo. “See you in a while, John. C’mon, George.”
John followed the doctor down the hall and into an examination room. Mary was lying on the examination table with a sheet covering all but her head. Her eyes were closed and she appeared to be sleeping. John approached her quietly.
“Mary, love,” he whispered. “Are ye all right? Are ye awake?”
She stirred and turned her head to look at him.
“John,” she whispered, holding her arms out to him in the same way Emily did when she wanted him to pick her up. He lifted her carefully and stood beside the examination table cradling her in his arms, feeling as though he never wanted to let her go.
“Where’s Julia?” she asked him, her voice breaking. “John, is she really all right? They wouldn’t let me see her, but she hit her head--John, her head broke the windscreen--”
John winced, thinking of how hard Julia must have struck the glass, and laid Mary back on the table.
“The doctor said she seems okay,” he told her. “She broke her arm, but he says she doesn’t have any life-threatenin’ injuries.”
“Can we go to see her now?” asked Mary, trying to rise. “Ohh, I’m really sore,” she said, “I think I’m going to need some help.”
John was already there, helping her get to her feet.
“Are ye alright?” he asked anxiously.
“I’m fine, baby, just a little groggy because of that shot they gave me; it was Valium or something, I can’t remember...anyhow, I’m fine. Let’s go find Julia.”
“Th’ lads’re all out in th’ lounge waitin’ t’ see ye both,” John told her as he helped Mary down the corridor towards the nurse’s station. “Caused quite a stir, y’know, when all four of us came runnin’ inta th’ buildin’.”
“I can imagine,” Mary replied. “I heard a lot of noise, and I was wondering what it was all about, until I heard someone shouting above the din.”
“Yeah, well, sorry about that, love,” John said. “I was upset.”
There was no one at the nurse’s station except one young woman who seemed to be very busy indeed.
“Could you please tell us where we could find our daughter?” asked Mary.
“I’ll get to you in just a moment, Madam,” replied the harried nurse without looking up. “I’ve been deserted here--all of the other nurses are in the lounge flirting with the bloody Beatles, of all things, if you can believe it. My God, they are all about forty years old, and yet these young girls--” she paused, pushed away the papers she was riffling through, then added, “What is your daughter’s name?” She finally looked up, and when she saw John, whose eyes were dancing with amusement, her face reddened. “Oh, my God,” she said.
“Ye c’n just call me John,” he replied. “No need t’ be all formal, like.”
“It’s Julia,” Mary told the young woman. “Julia Lennon.”
“She’s in Room 217,” the nurse said softly. “I’m very sorry, sir, I didn’t mean anything. I’m just so frustrated.”
“I understand,” John told her. “Besides, yer right; we ARE forty--well, Ritchie an’ I are, anyroad, an’ th’ other two aren’t far behind us. Thanks for not desertin’ yer post, though.”
“You’re welcome, Mr.--John. I’m really sorry about saying what I did; I’m a fan, really, I just don’t think that something like that should interfere with my work.”
“Right ye are,” John agreed. “Now, Room 217? Which way?”
“Take that lift,” replied the nurse, pointing across the corridor, “Then take a left when you get to the second floor. That’s Pediatrics; your daughter is there.”
“Thank you so much,” Mary said, as John pulled her towards the elevator.
John and Mary found Julia’s room and went right in. Their daughter was lying in her bed, her arm in a cast and her head swathed in bandages. Mary uttered a soft cry of dismay and John swore softly. Julia opened her eyes, and when she saw her parents, her eyes filled with tears.
“Mummy.” she whispered, “Daddy. You’re here. Daddy, I’m so sorry-”
“Whist, Puss, don’t be silly; accordin’ t’ yer Uncle Paul, yer s’posed t’ act like that. I’ll just hafta get used to it is all.” He hugged her gingerly, avoiding her arm. He touched the cast. “Does it hurt much?” he asked.
“It hurts, but not too much now. They gave me a shot and it’s lots better. It’s a good thing you weren’t here when they were setting it, though, Daddy. That hurt terribly, and I was crying pretty badly. You probably would have wanted to beat the doctor up for hurting me so, knowing you.”
Julia turned her attention to her mother, who was stroking her cheek lovingly. “Mummy, what happened?” she asked. “They said we were in a car accident. Are you and Daddy okay? What about George and Emily?”
“We’re fine. Daddy wasn’t in the car and neither were your brother and sister. It was just you and me in the car. We had gone out to have pizza and see a film with a few of your schoolmates, and we had just dropped Francine off at home. We were going home, and a man driving on the other side of the street had a heart attack and lost control of his car.”
“Is the man all right?” asked Julia.
“He didn’t make it,” her mother replied,
“Oh...well, I guess we were pretty lucky,” Julia replied. “But why can’t I remember the accident? I don’t even remember going anywhere.”
“Well, don’t worry about it, baby,” Mary told her. “The doctor told me that it will come back to you in time. You just had a bad bump on the head.”
“I have stitches under these bandages,” said Julia, “But the doctor says that my hair will cover the scar.” She touched the bandages covering her head. “Can we go home now?” she asked. “I’m tired.”
“The doctors want you to stay overnight so that they can keep an eye on you,” Mary replied. “You’ve had a concussion, baby.”
“Do I have to stay? Can’t I go home, and maybe come back tomorrow and they can look at me again?”
“I’m afraid not, darling. They’re insisting you stay, but Daddy and I will stay with you for a while.”
There was a knock at the door, and Paul, George, and Ringo came into the room.
“They said only two visitors at a time, but they made an exception, thanks to your Uncle Paul’s considerable influence with the nurses,” George told her. “How’re ya feeling, Julia? Nasty place, isn’t it...I’ve seen enough of these places to last me a lifetime!”
“Yeah, I practically grew up in hospital,” Ringo agreed. “Yer lucky ya only have t’ stay the night. I could’ve done that standin’ on me head.”
“I’m okay,” Julia told them. “I want to go home, is all.”
“You’ll get to go home tomorrow,” Paul reminded her, “And when you go back to school on Monday, all the other kids are gonna be green over that cast. Looks pretty cool, and correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t that your right arm? That means no writing for you, not for a while, at least. Homework break!”
“Hey, yeah, I hadn’t even thought of that! Neat! Thanks, Uncle Paul, you always know what to say.”
“How’re th’ crowds out there?” asked John. “Thinned out any?”
“A bit,” George replied, “But a few reporters showed up. Be prepared to be assaulted when ya leave here.”
“We’ll just nip out th’ back,” John said.
“Just like in the old days,” Ringo added with a smile. “Maybe we should borrow some surgical gowns.”
A doctor came in and looked surprised to find the room packed with Beatles.
“I’m sorry, but you gentlemen are going to have to leave,” he told them. “It’s late, and Miss Lennon needs her rest. Her parents may remain for a while.”
“Yeah, okay, we’ll leave,” Paul said, “But let us borrow this.” He snatched a felt-tip pen from the doctor’s pocket and signed Julia’s cast, then passed the pen to George, who followed suit. Ringo signed next, and he handed the pen to John, who scribbled something on the cast before handing the pen back to the doctor.
“See ya tomorrow, Julia,” Paul said. “We’ll all be over, a welcome home party, like.”
“Thanks,” Julia replied as Paul kissed her cheek. George and Ringo kissed her as well. “I love you all,” she added as they left.
After they had gone, the doctor peered into Julia’s eyes with a penlight. “Looking good,” he commented. “I think you’re going to be just fine, young lady. Quite a family you have,” he added. “It must have been strange growing up in the middle of the sort of madness that was going on down in the lobby.”
“No,” Julia said, “I think it’s pretty normal...they are just my uncles.”
“It’s just because people aren’t used to seeing all of them in the same place,” Mary explained. “When it’s just John and me with the children, or one of the others, there’s not anything like that. There’s always someone wanting an autograph, but that’s about the extent of it these days. It’s calmed down a lot, really.”
“Really. And what were the four of you doing all together tonight, Mr. Lennon?” asked the doctor.
John narrowed his eyes and scrutinized the doctor. “Where’s yer thingie?” he asked suddenly.
“Yer heart thingie--it goes around yer
neck--y’ know-- all th’ doctors have ‘em.”
“Oh, that, well, I--”
The door opened again, and Dr. Fenton appeared. He looked at the other doctor. “Who in hell are you?” he asked.
“I was just askin’ him th’ same thing,” John replied. “Askin’ a lot o’ questions, he was--I don’t think he’s a doctor at all, I think he’s a reporter.” He stepped closer to the man, who was reddening. “I think ye’d better get yer arse outta me daughter’s room,” he added in a menacing tone, “or yer gonna need a room here o’ yer own!” John took a step towards the “doctor” and the man fled.
“Damned reporters,” John said moodily. “Can’t have any peace at all. I should’ve known soon as I saw him; I’ll bet he’s chasin’ after th’ other lads now.”
“Oh, they’ve gone,” Dr. Fenton said, lifting Julia’s chin and holding a finger in front of her eyes. “Follow my finger with your eyes, dear,” he said. “They went out the back and I saw them drive off. There was a bunch of girls making a run for the car from the front entrance once they realized that they’d been eluded. They’d been waiting out front for them--now look here, Julia-- to come out. I imagine they’ve gone now. I had an orderly who was going off shift, and he went with them so the girls would think that all four of you had left. You should be able to leave--and here, sweetheart--unmolested.”
“Thank you, Dr. Fenton,” Mary said. “We appreciate that. Sometimes it does get to be a bit too much. It’s been an exhausting night. How does our girl seem?”
“She’ll do,” Dr. Fenton replied. “I’ll give her something to help her sleep, and we’ll have a nurse sit here with her through the night just to be sure. You may stay until she falls asleep if you’d like, and I’m sure she’ll be ready to be released in the morning.”
“Max?” John said into the phone, “I know it’s late, but could you come to the hospital and pick up Mary an’ me in th’ Bentley? No, we’re fine, everyone’s fine, but I came here in Ritchie’s car an’ he’s left. I only just realized that we don’t have a way home, an’ I know yer an early riser. Uh-huh. Thanks, Max. I’ll see ye in a bit.” He hung the phone up and turned to the nurse; she was the one who had refused to abandon her post in pursuit of an autograph. “Ta, love,” he said. The nurse blushed and he asked, “What’s yer name?”
“It’s Margaret, sir. Peggy, they call me.”
“Well, Peggy, ye’ve managed t’ impress me by not followin’ th’ rest o’ th’ herd. I’d like t’ reward ye for yer diligence,” he told her. “We’re havin’ a little celebration over t’ my house tomorrow, t’ celebrate Julia’s homecomin’ an’ th’ fact that she an’ Mary came outta this thing relatively unscathed. Th’ lads’ll all be there; wouldja like t’ come?”
“Could I really? I would love that!” she squealed. She was practically hopping up and down with excitement. “Could my boyfriend come, too? We were supposed to go somewhere else, but I’m sure he’d rather do this.”
“Sure, bring him; here’s the address,” John replied, writing it on the back of a card. Be there at two. G’night, now,” he added. He took Mary by the arm and they left the building to wait for Max.
There was a bench outside the hospital, and John and Mary sat on it to wait for their ride. The night was clear and there seemed to be a million stars.
“We won’t get much sleep tonight, love,” John told her, putting his arm around her shoulders and drawing her close. “It’s almost two in th’ mornin’. I’m gonna hafta pay Liz extra for this.”
“I wish we were home right now,” Mary told him. “I was so scared; when I saw that car coming at us, all I could think of was that I might never see you again. I thought about the first time we made love and I felt so sad that I might never get to touch you again.”
“Well, yer touchin’ me right now,” he replied, “An’ I plan on touchin’ ye a lot more once I get ye home. That’s if yer not too sore, o’ course,” he amended.
“Mmmm, no, I think I’d like that,” she said, snuggling closer. “I have some pills from the doctor if I need them for pain, but I’m feeling pretty good just now, actually.”
“Good,” he replied. “Here’s Max; let’s go home.”
“Alone at last,” John said once the gate closed behind the babysitter’s car. “I’ll make sure everything’s locked up; go on t’ bed, whydontcher. I’ll be along in half a tic.”
John checked all the doors and windows before joining Mary in the bedroom. She was in bed already, apparently asleep.
Guess I took too long, thought John. Oh well, she must be worn out.
John sighed and stripped off his shirt; he unzipped his jeans and sat on the edge of the bed. Kicking off his boots, he leaned back and pushed his jeans down past his knees and off. He lay down beside Mary and gently put his arms around her.
“Hello, baby,” she said quietly. “I’ve been waiting for you; what took you so long?”
“Ah, yer awake,” he said happily. “I thought ye were sleepin’. C’mere, then, let’s have ye.”
Mary melted against him, loving the feel of his body pressing against hers, the sound of his breathing, the taste of his mouth, and the heat of his hands running insistently, possessively over her skin.
John, for his part, loved the way she was always ready for him and every bit as eager as he was. He took her mouth hungrily, and she answered him with equal fervor. When at last he broke the kiss, she climbed up on top of him, pushing his hands away when he reached for her. He could see her smiling in the moonlight and knew that she was playing a familiar game.
“No touching,” she whispered, “Let me.”
He was achingly hard, feeling as though he would go mad if he could not immediately take her. She slid down so that her opening was tantalizingly close; he was throbbing against her, and he could feel her heat and her wetness. She leaned forward so that her breasts were almost touching his face, and it was all that he could do to keep his hands at his sides. He closed his eyes and moaned softly. He was incredibly ready, and Mary could feel the heat radiating from him. She knew that if she were to look, he would be at full attention, bouncing slightly against his belly in time with the beating of his heart. She raised herself slightly and guided him into her body, lowering herself so that his full length slid into her. He caught his breath and opened his eyes; the pleasure was indescribable. He let out a sound that was halfway between a moan and a growl, resisting the urge to take her immediately. Mary rose slowly, then let herself down gently, fighting the instinct to move harder and faster.
“Oh, baby, that feels so good,” she whispered. “I need you so badly.”
That was all he could stand. Unable to wait any longer, he grabbed her hips and thrust upwards. Keeping her tight against him so that he remained inside of her, he rolled her onto her back and pulled her legs over his shoulders. He dragged his hips back several inches, then sank all the way into her again with a deep, satisfied groan. Mary cried out softly and rocked her hips, meeting him thrust for thrust. John was slamming into her now, holding nothing back.
Mary was at the point of no return. just on the verge of finishing. John was close too; she could feel it. His eyes were blazing, and he was ramming himself into her frantically. Just another few seconds and the pleasure that was mounting would reach its peak and spill over.
“Now, baby, I want you now!” Mary cried.
John began to shake. “Here it is,” he groaned, his breath coming in short, harsh sobs. “So fuckin’ good--” and he was with her, both of them caught away to the place towards which they had been racing, lost in one another.
At last, John collapsed upon her, breathing like a freight train.
“Jesus, that was so damn great,” he gasped.
“It was so far beyond great that I don’t even think there’s a word for it,” whispered Mary. “You’re wonderful.”
With a happy sigh, he rolled off her and got himself a cigarette.
“I was that scared when Liz buzzed me downstairs an’ told me th’ hospital called,” he said quietly. “I was up the stairs in a few seconds, an’ all th’ lads right behind me. I was afraid I’d never see ye again, Mary.”
“I’m here, love, and I’m all right; tomorrow we’ll get Julia and bring her home, and tomorrow night we’ll all be sleeping here together in our own house again,” she whispered. “Love you,” she added almost inaudibly, and her breathing told John that she had fallen asleep. He crushed out his cigarette and took her back into his arms. He kissed her soft hair gently and settled his cheek against it.
“I’ll love ye forever,” he told her quietly. It didn’t matter if she could no longer hear him; he knew she realized it well enough. He closed his eyes and let sleep take him as well.
“Where’s Julia?” asked Emily when she came into the kitchen the next morning. “I went to ask her ta brush my hair an’ she’s not in her room. She’s not inna loo, either, an’ her bed’s made up.”
“Quite th’ little detective, aintcha?” asked John, pulling her up into his lap. “Well, as soon as yer brother comes, I’ll tell ye both exactly where she’s at so I don’t hafta explain it twice.”
“Here I am, Daddy,” George cried, barreling into the room. “What’d you wanna tell us?”
“Just be quiet an’ let him ‘splain,” said Emily. She looked up at John.
“‘kay, Daddy. Where is she?” she added.
“She’s in hospital,” he said, adding quickly, “but she’s all right,” when he saw their alarmed expressions. “She’ll be comin’ home later this mornin’,” he went on, “Just as soon as Mummy’s ready to come see t’ th’ rest o’ ye savages, I’m goin’ t’ get her. She’s a bit banged about, an’ she’s got a cast on her arm--”
“What’s a cast?” Emily wanted to know.
“One o’ them white thingies, made o’ plaster, like,” supplied George. “Like Zak had on his leg that time, when he had t’ use th’ crutches, remember?”
“Ohhh, yeah,” said Emily. “Does Julia have crutches too?”
George laughed so hard that orange juice came out of his nose. “No, ‘course not,” he giggled. “Ya don’t walk on yer arms, do ya?”
“Daddy, tell him to stop laughing at me,” complained Emily. “Just cos he knows more. He’s older.”
“Yer sister’s right, she shouldn’t be expected t’ know all th’ things a lad o’ six does, an’ her only four,” John told his son.
“Yeah...sorry, Em,” George said good naturedly. “Want me t’ get ya some cereal?”
“Yes,” Emily replied. “Please. Daddy, how did Julia’s arm break?”
“She and Mummy had a little accident in th’ car last night. They’re okay, though, as I said. Mummy has a few bruises an’ a coupla cuts, an’ yer sister broke her arm an’ has some stitches in her head--”
“Stitches!” cried George, “That’s capital! Wish I had some!” He slid a bowl of cereal in front of his sister and handed her a spoon.
“Yeah, I wouldn’t’ve minded that at yer age either,” John agreed. “Now, if ye’ll finish up, I’ll go see how Mummy’s doin’.”
“‘Kay, Daddy,” said Emily, digging into her breakfast.
John found Mary standing in front of the dresser in their bedroom, brushing out her hair.
“Look at me,” she said. “I’m getting a lot of gray in my hair.”
“S’not gray, love, it’s silver,” he corrected her, “An’ it’s fair beautiful. Yer even prettier than ye were when I married ye.” He put his arms around her from behind and rested his chin on the top of her head, regarding their reflections in the big mirror. “Now meself, on th’ other hand...”
“You look just as handsome as you ever did,” she told him. “You’d still make any young girl go weak in the knees just seeing you.”
He snorted. “Yeright,” he said. “I’m an old fart, I am. I’ve got wrinkles around me eyes, unlike you.”
“They make you look distinguished,” she replied. “I read an article somewhere that said, ‘John Lennon projects a sort of austere handsomeness which is utterly timeless’.”
“Makes me sound like a piece o’ antique furniture,” he said. “What’re ye doin’ readin’ such tripe, anyhow?”
“I keep up on my reading,” she replied. “One does when one is married to a rock and roll icon. That’s another thing the article called you.”
“Hmmm, well, I’ll give ‘em that one,” he said. “That sounds alright t’ me.”
“I could write quite an article about how sexy you are,” she told him. “Only it wouldn’t be fit for general audiences.”
“Hold that thought,” he said. “For now, get yerself out inta th’ kitchen an’ tend t’ yer kids, Mummy. I’m gonna go get Julia an’ bring her home.”
“Are we really having a party today?” asked Julia eagerly as she climbed into the car.
“We are,” John told her, “This afternoon. But first we have a little errand t’ run.” He closed the car door and went around to get into the drivers’ side. He climbed in and started the engine; Julia was practically bouncing in her seat.
“Tell me where we’re going, Daddy,” she begged. “What are you going to do?”
“We,” he said, “are gonna go an’ buy yer mum a new car. Her old one is a total loss.”
John chose a red Astin Martin for Mary and arranged to have it delivered later that afternoon. Once that was done, he stopped by their caterer’s and arranged for food to be delivered just before their guests would be arriving.
“You’re going to so much trouble, Daddy,” Julia said as they headed at last for home.
John turned to look at her. He pulled to the curb and said, “Baby, yer so precious t’ me. D’ye really know how much I love ye? When Liz told me that ye’d been in an accident, I was beside meself. All I could think of was that th’ last time I’d seen ye, we’d had words between us.” He reached over to take her hand in his. “I thought I might never see ye again, Puss, an’ it was killin’ me. Julia, listen t’ me...yer my daughter, no matter what, an’ I love ye every bit as much as I love Julian, George an’ Emily. Where ye came from means nothin’. Ye might not be th’ child o’ me body, but yer th’ child o’ me heart.”
Julia had tears running down her face, and he smiled at her gently. “There’s me sweet gurrl,” he said softly, brushing the tears away with the backs of his fingers. “I knew ye were still in there somewhere.”
“Oh, Daddy,” she sobbed, and he took her carefully into his arms. She was crying as though her heart would break. “I’m so sorry!” she cried, her voice muffled by his shoulder. “I know you love me. I love you too--so much! I don’t know what makes me act as I do sometimes.”
“Whist, gurrl,” he murmured, kissing her hair. “Think nothin’ of it. It’s just yer hormones, is all. I been studyin’ up on it, an’ I think I understand. We’ll get through it. I promise, it’ll be all right, love. Now, let’s dry yer tears, an’ get on home. We’ve got guests comin’, an’ ye’ll wanna be lookin’ yer most beautiful. Mummy’s home invitin’ some o’ yer friends over t’ th’ bash right now. There’s a good gurrl.”
He kissed her again and let her go. He handed her some tissues from the glove box, and she dabbed at her eyes. “I love you, Daddy,” she said again. “Please, forget what I said yesterday, if you can. You are my father, I know that. You always will be.”
“That’s what I’ve been tellin’ ye, love,” he said. “Just like I told ye th’ day ye found out that ye were adopted, yer Julia Marie Lennon, an’ always will be. Now, let’s get home t’ Mummy an’ yer brother an’ sister, shall we? They’re all waitin’ for us.”
The basement was crowded with guests by 2:30; Julia was having a fine time being the center of attention.
“How about some music?” asked Paul. “Are ya up to a bit of playin’, George?”
“Yeah, I’ve been feeling pretty well these days, actually,” George replied. “I think I’d enjoy that--by coincidence, I just happen to have a guitar in the boot o’ me car...get it for me when ya fetch yours, willya, Paul?”
“I’ll do that,” he agreed. “How about yourself, Ritch?”
“John’s drums’re fine by me,” Ringo said. “Let’s get this party rockin’!”
“Okay by you, John?” asked Paul. He was clearly itching to play.
“Oh, by all means,” John said happily. “Bring in yer gear an’ we’ll raise th’ fuckin’ roof.”
“I don’t know how to ask you this,” said Jeremy, who was nurse Peggy’s boyfriend, “but I play the saxophone, and I have it in my car... could I sit in and play along with you?”
“Th’ more th’ merrier,” John said happily, “Go an’ get it--d’ye know any of our music?”
“I know all of it,” replied Jeremy. “I’ve been a fan for years.”
Mary stood at the back of the room and watched the band tuning up. “Everybody ready?” asked John. There were nods all around and John counted them into the first number. They began playing as though they had never stopped at all. They looked twenty years younger, playing for the sheer joy of it. John sought Mary out with his eyes and gave her a wink, and she beamed at him.
Julia and her friends were dancing with Paul and Ringo’s kids, and the little ones did their best to join in. Jeremy was thrilled to be playing with the Beatles, and nurse Peggy was gazing up at him with her heart in her eyes. It was a wonderful party, and it went on well into the night.
By midnight, Emily, George, Lee, James and Dhani were sleeping on a pile of blankets behind the couch, resembling nothing more than a pile of exhausted kittens. Julia’s friends had long since left along with Jeremy and Peggy, and the four Beatles and their wives sat looking about at the happy mess they had all made.
“Can we help you clean up?” offered Olivia.
“No, don’t bother about it,” replied John. “I have a cleanup crew comin’ by tomorra t’ take care of it. “ He stretched and put his arm around Mary, pulling her close. “Thanks for comin’,” he added. “I thought we sounded pretty fuckin’ good today. I guess we’ve still got it.”
“I guess we’ll collect our kids an’ be off,” Paul said. “Where are the girls?”
“They’re upstairs with Julia in her room,” replied John, “An’ Ritch, yer boys are playin’ a game on the telly in th’ sittin’ room. Everythin’ was quiet last time I was up there, unless ye count all the gigglin’ th’ gurrls were doin’.”
“Thanks for everything, John,” said Paul, separating James from the tangle of little ones and lifting him to his shoulder. “I’ll give ya a call tomorrow. Glad you and Julia are okay, Mary.” He shifted his sleeping son in his arms. “Come ‘ead, love,” he added, and Linda got to her feet.
“It was a lot of fun,” she said to Mary. “Give me a call during the week; we’ll go out to lunch some afternoon. I need a new dress for an exhibit I’m having next week. You can help me pick it out.”
One by one, their friends departed until at last John and Mary were alone. John picked Emily up and handed her to Mary, then bent again to pick George up. He followed Mary up the stairs, thinking of how lucky he was that his wife and daughter were all right.
They put the little ones to bed and both of them went to Julia’s room. She had gone to bed on her own, and John sat on the edge of her bed and smoothed her hair back from her face. She stirred and opened her eyes.
“Hi, Daddy,” she whispered sleepily. “Is there anything wrong?”
“Nothin’ at all, love. I was just comin’ in t’ say g’night t’ ye.”
“Oh. Well, goodnight, Daddy, and thank you for everything,” she replied. “Especially for what you said this morning in the car. Oh, by the way, did Mummy like her present?”
“Dunno; didn’t give it to her yet. Tell the truth, I forgot about it--it’s still outside. Go on t’ sleep, Puss.”
“Ok...g’night, Daddy. G’night, Mummy. Hope you like it...”
“What present?” asked Mary. “What were you two talking about?”
“C’mon outside,” he told her. “I’ve gorra surprise for ye.”
“Oh, John, it’s beautiful!” she cried. “When did you get this, and how did Julia know?”
“She helped me pick it out, like,” replied John, opening the door for Mary to get inside. “Let’s sit in it for a minute.”
“I love it,” Mary said again, “But it’s not very practical. How will I put groceries and children in here, or Julia and her friends?”
John opened the glove box and took out a black box. He aimed it at the garage and pressed a button on it.
“Voila,” he said, and the door opened to reveal a brand new station wagon. “Behold,” he said. “The Mummymobile.” He indicated the car in which they were sitting. “This is the Mary Machine, sleek and sexy, fuckin’ gorgeous just like she is. That one,” he waved towards the wagon, “is for usefulness. This one is for you.”
“You’re too sweet,” she told him, leaning to wrap her arms around his neck and kiss him. “Wait till Linda sees this; I’ll take it when I pick her up for lunch next week. Thank you, baby.”
“Hey,” John said suddenly, “Let’s go sit in th’ wagon for a while. I got somethin’ else for ye.”
Mary followed him to the station wagon. He opened the back tailgate of the car and turned to Mary again.
“Hi there, gurrl,” he purred in a rich, silky voice. He took her into his arms and kissed her gently; long, slow, delicious kisses driving her to distraction until she wanted him so badly she was frantic.
“I need you,” she whispered. “I need to feel you inside me...now, please.”
“Oh, I have every intention of pleasin’ ye,” he assured her, running his long, graceful hands down her sides, taking hold of the hem of her sweater and pulling it up over her head. He lifted her skirt and pushed her back onto the tailgate of the car, then turned and closed the garage door. Turning back, he slid her panties down and pulled them away and off. He placed her legs over his shoulders and knelt in front of her, bending his head to taste her. He teased her expertly with his tongue and fingers until she cried out softly, arching against his mouth, her entire body awash in pleasure followed by the gentle spasms of her inner muscles rhythmically contracting.
Once he was sure that she had been satisfied, he stood and opened his jeans. He lowered himself to lie beside her, taking her gently into his arms. He was throbbing against her belly as he covered her mouth with his and kissed her deeply, tasting her tongue with his lazily. He lightly caressed her body with tender, knowing hands and she shivered with anticipation.
By the time he entered her, she was on fire for him. The pressure built slowly to become a symphony of warm, delicious sensations as he moved with sensuous, easy grace, drawing it out, keeping the fire building slowly for as long as he could wait.
At last, he was too close to be put off any longer. He began moving faster and with more purpose. Mary clung to him, her nails raking his back, and he was hammering into her, the only sound their breathing and the rhythmic slapping of flesh against flesh. He was close, his urgency mounting until the feeling rose and swelled in both of them. Together they cried out wordlessly as they reached the peak as one and began the dizzying leap and the gentler, pulsing ride back down to solid ground.
“Baby, hold me, don’t let me go,” whispered Mary. “You were incredible.”
“I’ll never let ye go, gurrl,” he whispered. “Now c’mon t’ th’ house, an’ we’ll continue this in th’ bedroom, how does that sound?” He pulled his jeans up and fastened them, then lifted her and carried her into the house through the kitchen door, down the hall, and to bed.
“John, we need to talk,” said Mary.
His blood froze in his veins...like all men, those were words he hated to hear. His mind raced; had he done anything wrong? He could not think of a single thing. He searched her face for any sign that she was angry with him, finding none, he asked, “What about?”
“It’s about Julia,” she replied. She took a plastic bag from the cupboard and dropped it onto the piano in front of him. “Does this look familiar?” she asked.
John looked at the bag of marijuana, his mind not making the connection. “It’s not mine,” he said. “Where’d ye find it?”
“I was doing a wash, and I found it in the pocket of her jeans,” Mary replied.
“Did ye ask her about it?” he asked, picking the bag up. He opened it and took a sniff. “Smells like good herb.”
“No, I wanted to talk to you first,” Mary told him. “What are your thoughts about our daughter smoking this stuff?”
“I don’t like it, but I don’t see how I can fault her for it, Mary, since it’s a well known fact that I’ve smoked it meself for years.”
“But you don’t do it any more,” Mary pointed out, “Do you?”
John hesitated. He and Ringo had been smoking it at the studio as recently as two days earlier. “Well,” he replied, “I don’t keep any here in th’ house.”
Mary frowned. “You mean you still do it?” she asked.
“Well, yeah. We all do, down at the studio--it helps us relax, gets our creative juices flowin’, yerknow?” John did not like the direction this conversation was taking at all. “Ye must’ve smelled it on me clothes, like.”
“ I just assumed it was because other people were doing it in the room with you,” she replied. “You never mentioned doing it to me... I guess I just figured that you’d stopped smoking pot when you gave up the other drugs. Is it very important to you, John?”
“No...I wouldn’t say it’s important, exactly.”
“Is it dangerous?”
“I don’t think it is,” he told her, “But that doesn’t mean I want me daughter doing it. She’s not even fourteen yet. I’m a forty year old man--there’s a huge fuckin’ difference there, don’tcha think?”
“Well, yes, of course, baby, but still--”
“D’ye want me t’ talk t’ her about it?” John wanted to know. “I’ll do it if ye really want me to, but I hafta say I’d feel like a fuckin’ hypocrite if I do. Besides, she’ll more than likely throw it in me face that I’ve done it meself for years.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Mary admitted with a sigh. “I’ll talk to her myself about it. I guess that makes more sense, since I’ve never smoked any.”
“When’re ye gonna talk t’ her about it?” John asked, making a mental note to be elsewhere when the conversation took place.
“As soon as she gets home from school,” Mary said. Seeing his alarmed expression when he looked at the mantel clock and realized that this was moments away, she added, “Don’t worry, baby, I’ll try to leave you out of it if I can.”
“Thanks, I appreciate that,” he told her.
Mary retrieved the bag and went into the kitchen. John picked his notes up again and looked at them, but he didn’t really see the words he’d written anymore. He wondered where Julia had gotten the pot. She was only thirteen. He didn’t like the idea at all--not only because of her age, but also because she was a girl, not to mention that she was his daughter. He thought about her saying that she wouldn’t mind it if the boys at school were to touch her...that frightened him. It had been nearly a year since Mary had confided in him that Julia had begun having periods. The thought of that frightened him as well. His little girl was becoming a woman before his very eyes, and there was nothing he could do about it.
He thought about how when he had smoked pot with Cyn, his first wife, her inhibitions had been loosened, and that memory made him panic briefly. No, John decided, he did not like the idea of his teenaged daughter smoking pot a single bit. Just the week before, Julia had been changing in her bedroom for school in the morning, and he had gotten an accidental glimpse of her in her bra and panties through the partially open door. It had shocked him; she looked more like a woman than a child, seemingly overnight. The buzzer sounded and John got up and looked out the window. Max was there, bringing Julia and George home. He spoke into the intercom. “Right, Max, c’mon in,” and buzzed the gate open.
“Mary,” he called, “Th’ kids’re home. D’ye want me t’ take Emily an’ George out inta th’ garden so ye c’n talk to Julia?”
“Good idea,” she called back. “They don’t need to hear. Emily’s in her room; I’ll get her, and you can take them outside as soon as George comes in.”
John had been in the back garden with the children for about twenty minutes before Julia burst out of the back door and came running to him.
“Daddy,” she said angrily, “Mummy found some of my personal property and she’s giving me trouble about it. Could you talk to her, please, and tell her that she’s wrong?” She looked at her brother and sister, who were listening curiously. “Could I please speak to Daddy alone?” she asked.
“Okay, but we were here first,” said George. He took Emily by the hand. “Come ‘ead, Em,” he added, “Let’s go back inside an’ ask Mummy if we c’n have some sweets.”
John’s heart was hammering as he watched them go. “Mummy found a bag of pot I had,” explained Julia, “And I told her I hadn’t even tried it yet, that someone at school gave it to me and I didn’t buy it, but I don’t think she believes me. She’s not being reasonable, Daddy. Could you talk to her? You smoke it, right? You know it’s not dangerous like she thinks it is. Please, Daddy, talk to her.”
“Well, now, not so fast,” John said, shifting uncomfortably. “Why dontcher tell me just what yer Mum said before I do that.”
“Oh, no,” Julia replied with a heavy, dramatic sigh. “She’s already talked to you. You’re both against me, aren’t you...and I suppose it doesn’t matter at all that I haven’t actually smoked any of it yet.”
“Yer wrong about that,” John told her. “That does matter. That matters a lot.”
“Well,” Julia admitted, “I was gonna try it this weekend.”
“C’mere, Puss,” John said, pulling her down into his lap. “Yer not too big t’ sit on yer old dad’s lap, are ye?”
She shook her head. “No, of course not,” she said, settling her head against his shoulder.
“Good. Now, let’s talk about this whole thing. I was kinda hidin’ out here while yer mum talked to ye about this,” he confessed.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought when you got that panicky look as soon as you saw me coming,” said Julia. “I figured you didn’t want to say anything ‘cos you knew I knew you’d done it yourself. You probably still do.”
“What makes ye say that? Ye’ve never seen--”
“Daddy, I’m nearly fourteen. You’re a musician, for heaven’s sake. I’ve been to the recording studio with you before. The whole place smells like pot, especially the loos.”
“Clever, aintcha,” John said, resting his chin on her head. She put her arms around his neck. “I guess I’ve gotta start treatin’ ye more like an adult, haven’t I.”
“That would be wonderful, Daddy,” Julia replied. “It’s really all I’m asking.”
“Just promise me one thing in return, Puss,” John said. “Yer not too old for me t’ call ye ‘Puss’ are ye?”
“Never,” she told him. “What’s the promise?”
“That ye’ll put off th’ pot for a couple more years. Please, Julia, for me.”
She didn’t answer right away, and he drew his head back and lifted her chin with his fingertips. “Please, baby,” he said.
“Okay, Daddy. For you, I promise I’ll wait till I’m sixteen.”
“That’s me gurrl,” he said, giving her a smile and a kiss. “Thank ye, love.”
John thought that Julia’s sixteenth birthday was going to come all too soon.
Mary wiped her hands and answered the phone in the kitchen.
“Hello, who is it?” she asked.
“It’s George here,” replied the caller. “Mary, has John seen the papers yet this mornin’?”
“No, I haven’t brought it in yet, and he’s still sleeping,” she told him. “Why? is something wrong?”
“You might say that,” George answered. “I’m lookin’ at th’ Mirror right now, and he’s made th’ front page.”
“What does it say?” she asked, not at all sure that she really wanted to know.
“Well, it says that he’s a heroin addict.”
“Mother of God,” whispered Mary. “How in the world did they find that out?”
“Y’mean it’s true?”
“No, of course not--they must have been talking about that episode he had five years ago. Do they make it sound like he’s still doing it?”
“Yeah...it says JOHN LENNON --ALL YOU NEED IS JUNK. Not the most flattering picture, either. Looks like it was taken in the hospital; he’s sleepin’ in a chair in the corridor.”
“Oh my God, this is going to be really bad for the children when they find out,” Mary said quietly. “Thank you for letting me know about it, George. How are you feeling?”
“Not too bad, I’m doin’ a lot better,” he replied.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Mary told him. “Make sure to say hello to Olivia for me, and give Dhani a kiss, won’t you?”
“Sure thing, Mary...g’bye.”
Mary hung the phone back up and went to the gate to get the papers. Two women across the street stared at her then started whispering; one of them pointed in Mary’s direction. The woman who had pointed saw Mary looking at them and both of the women scurried away.
Mary unfolded the Mirror and looked at the cover. She recognized the picture; it had been taken while Emily had been in the hospital. They had been there all night, and John looked much the worse for wear. She refolded the newspaper and looked at the others; none of them said anything, at least not on the front page. She turned and carried the newspapers back into the house.
Julia was in the kitchen pouring milk onto cornflakes for her brother and sister.
“Hi, Mummy,” she said brightly. “Is Daddy up yet?”
“I’m just going to wake him now,”
Mary replied. “Keep an eye on the kids, will you, Julia? I have to talk to
Daddy about something.”
Mary went into the bedroom quietly; John was still asleep, snoring gently. She sat on the edge of the bed and ran her fingers through his sleep-tousled hair. There was just a bit of gray showing near his sideburns, and his hairline was beginning to recede just a bit; this was something, however, that was never discussed. He stirred at her touch and looked up at her sleepily.
“Mornin’, Mary, me love,” he said with a yawn. “Yer lookin’ good today.” He felt for his glasses on the table beside him, found them, and slipped them on. “Ah,” he added, “Even better.” He got up on one elbow, got himself a cigarette and lit it. He took a deep drag and plopped back into his pillow with a satisfied sigh. “So,” he said, “What’s up? Ye’ve got th’ look of a woman with summat on her mind.”
Mary sighed. “You’re going to see this sooner or later,” she said. “It might as well be now.” She handed him the folded paper.
He gave her a puzzled look and opened it. His face darkened.
“Fuck this shit!” he cried, “What th’ fuckin’ hell is this all about?”
He looked at Mary in dismay. “Mary,” he said, “Julia’s gonna see this! Even if she doesn’t, she’s gonna hear about it...this is bad, love. What’m I gonna do?”
“I think you ought to call Thomas, sweetheart.”
“The story came from a nurse who was working at the hospital back when Emily had her bone marrow transplant,” Thomas told John. “A miss Rebecca Johnson.”
“Becka,” said John. “I remember her. There was an incident, I guess ye’d call it. She came inta me room on th’ night after th’ transplant an’ I was kinda drugged out on painkillers. She leaned over me in th’ dark an’ I--” he stopped and looked guiltily at Mary.
“What happened, John?” asked Thomas. “I need to know. If I don’t know the whole story, I won’t be able to help you.”
John heaved a sigh. “I kissed her,” he admitted, “An’ then I think I was tryin’ to take her dress off. I thought she was Mary, Thomas. It was just a mistake. I dint mean anythin’ by it. As soon as I realized who she was, I stopped an’ apologized t’ th’ lass, but she was pretty hurt. She kept sayin’, ‘ye don’t want me’. I told her it was th’ medication had me cabbaged, like, an’ that I loved me wife an’ couldn’t-- well, she dint come back inta me room again after that; in th’ mornin’ I had another nurse, an’ I guess I just put it outta me mind...there was so much goin’ on with th’ baby bein’ so ill an’ all, y’know.”
“Well, apparently Miss Johnson didn’t put it out of hers,” Thomas said, “She says that she heard you tell your doctor that you were using heroin to the tune of twelve bags a day, three bags at a time.”
“But, Thomas,” Mary protested, “this all happened five years ago! Why is she saying this now?”
“She found out that scandalous stories involving celebrities bring big money and she needed some, I would imagine,” he replied. “I guess John’s rejection stayed with her, and she didn’t mind throwing him to the wolves for a little easy money.”
“What can we do about it?” John wanted to know.
“Not much, I’m afraid,” Thomas told him. “She didn’t actually lie, for one thing. I think that all you can really do is to try to get the paper to print that this is all five years in the past. That should be fairly easy to do, but they will, of course, bury it in the middle of the paper somewhere instead of putting it on the front page like this.” Thomas indicated the headline.
“Well, then, I guess I hafta have a talk with me kids...dammit, Thomas, won’t it ever end?”
“Probably not, John. Just try to keep a low profile for a while; this will all blow over.”
Back in the car, John avoided Mary’s eyes as he started the engine.
He pulled out of the parking lot and turned in the direction of home. “John,” Mary said.
His heart sank. “Yeah, love, what is it?” he asked...as if he didn’t know.
“Why didn’t you tell me about what happened in the hospital that night?”
“I was afraid it might hurt yer feelin’s, for one thing,” he replied. “Then there was all th’ problems Emily was goin’ through, an’ besides, it wasn’t nobbut a mistake. I honestly thought it was you I was kissin’. I wasn’t in me right mind.”
“If I ask you something, would you promise to tell me the truth, no matter what the answer is?”
“Okay,” he said. He didn’t know what else he could possibly say, but he had a feeling that her next question was going to be one that he certainly did not want to answer.
“Has there ever been anyone else that you haven’t told me about?”
There. It was out. John thought back over the years. There had been many times that he had been tempted, but he had never succumbed to any of them.
“No,” he replied. “I haven’t shagged anyone else since Julia was four. That was the only time, Mary, ever, I swear.”
“Did you ever...kiss anyone else?” she asked. “Besides Becka, I mean.” She hesitated. “You never mentioned that incident to me. Have there ever been any others?”
John’s mind flashed on the American girl in the nightclub. He had come so close that time. “There was one time,” he admitted, “That summat almost happened, but I stopped meself, Mary. I was that close, but at the last minute I left and came home t’ ye. It was on th’ night ye found out about th’ heroin. There was this slag at a club I’d gone to for a drink, an’ we had a dance. She was all over me, an’ I...I kissed her, too. I hafta admit t’ wantin’ her, but it was just because she’d got me worked up by rubbin’ all against me on th’ dance floor. I left her there an’ went inta th’ loo t’ get a fix, an’ she followed me.”
“She followed you into the loo?” asked Mary.
“Yeah. Well, as I said, she was just a slag. Anyhow, she started...touchin’ me, an’ she said that she wanted to do it right there. I was stoned, an’ I was all worked up, as I said-- anyroad, I kissed her again, an’ then I grabbed her an’ put her up on th’ counter by th’ sink. I was just about to...well, you know-- but I looked up an’ saw meself in th’ mirror. I told her I couldn’t an’ I came home,” said John.
He pulled the car over to the curb and looked at Mary. There were tears on her cheeks and her soft, brown eyes were filled with hurt. “Th’ point is,” John told her, “That I stopped meself. That the fact that I loved ye so much made me stop. I’ve never been like that with anyone else. Yer th’ only one who ever was enough for me, th’ only one I ever stopped meself for.”
“We made love that night,” Mary reminded him. “Were you thinking about her?”
“Only for half a tic,” he told her. “It ran through me head, but then all that I thought about was us. Ye gotta know how much I love ye, Mary. I never thought I would ever be capable of bein’ faithful t’ one woman, but there it is. Yer th’ only one I want, love.” He reached for her and she went into his arms. “I would never risk ye for anythin’,” he added. “I wouldn’t hurt ye for th’ world. That’s why I never told ye those things.”
“I know you love me,” Mary told him, “And I feel the same way about you. Thank you for being honest with me, baby.”
“Yer welcome, darlin’,” he replied. “Now, how about gettin’ home, like. It’s been a hideous day, an’ I think I need t’ hold ye a lot closer than this fuckin’ gearshift will allow.”
“Oh, that,” Julia said when John showed her the newspaper. “I know about that. That was a long time ago; why’d they put it in the paper now?”
“Whattayer mean ye know about it?” demanded John. “How the f-- ah, how’d ye find out?”
“Zak told me one day a couple years ago when I was over at his house,” she replied calmly. “We were talking about drugs and it came up that we shouldn’t ever consider trying heroin because of what you had gone through. He knew about it because he was passing Uncle Ritchie and Auntie Mo’s door on his way to the loo one night and he heard them talking about it.” She went to the refrigerator and got herself a Coke. “Want one?” she asked. John shook his head.
“No, love, thanks,” he said. He was having a hard time wrapping his mind around how grown up his daughter had become, not to mention that she was in the habit of discussing drugs with her friends and had, apparently, done so since she was twelve.
Julia came back to the table and sat down beside him, opened the can, and took a drink.
“I don’t care what other people say about you, Daddy,” she assured him. “I know that you make mistakes, but everybody does. I know that adults aren’t always comfortable telling the truth to their kids, too.”
“Haven’t I always told you the truth?” he asked.
Julia smiled indulgently. “Daddy,” she chided him, “Baby seeds? Does that ring a bell?”
“Oh, well, that was just--”
“You don’t have to explain,” she replied. “I know you, Daddy. When you don’t want to talk about something you either make it into a joke or get angry about something you don’t really care about one way or another, just to change the subject.”
John regarded his daughter with a mixture of amusement and awe.
“Yer pretty smart, aren’tcha?” he asked.
She stood up and sat in his lap, putting her arms around his neck and her cheek against his.“Just like my Daddy,” she said softly.
Angel Godiva was actually was given that nickname by John Lennon, whom she met in L.A. in 1974 on her 21st birthday. She had yards of hair back then. She lives in Northern Connecticut with her second husband, and has been a Beatles fan since 1964, when she was 11. The high point of her life was meeting and getting to know John (though she never saw him again after he returned to NYC). She also writes poetry, and is currently working with an editor friend on her first novel.
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