I was supposed to meet Bob at a local low-kay cafe on a dock nearby. Coincidently, we both ate there reguarly. For me, it gave me another setting to write, someplace fresh and alive, because sometimes you get sick of writing in the same exact spot all the time. My house was starting to seem pretty stale to me, so I would walk or drive down to this little cafe by the water. Bob went there because it was somewhat hidden away, and he could get away with sitting down and eating a peaceful meal without being swarmed by autograph-seeking fans, or nosey reporters trying to expose something about him. By the time I got there, he was already seated, sipping a cup of coffee, or tea, I couldn't tell, and watching the sea gulls fly over the water, or waddle on the pavement in front of him. I felt horrible for making him wait, so I rushed over to him, startling him and causing him to spill his drink all over his crisp white shirt.
"Oh, Bob, I'm so sorry!" I weakly apologized. "Here, let me get that for you," I said, grabbing some spare napkins, trying to clean up his shirt a bit so it wouldn't stain.
"Don't worry about it, it's only a shirt, I can get another one. Besides," he said looking down at it, "the spill made a kind of trippy design, it's not so bad. Maybe now I'll be starting the fashion trends, and not those boys of yours!"
I laughed and nervously sat down in my chair with a handful of dripping napkins in my hand. Not knowing what else to do with them, I put them on the table, wiped my hands off on the only clean napkin left, and leaned forward anxiously. "So, did you get word?" I asked. Bob laughed and leaned back in his chair.
"Boy, you don't waste any time do you? You get straight to the kill. You're blunt, I like that." I smiled timidly, clasping my hands together so tight that my knuckles turned white.
"Well, did you?"
He smiled, leaned forward and lay his hands over mine. "Honey, they loved you, they're going to publish it."
I had promised myself prior to this meeting that I would keep my reaction, good or bad, private and not show it to the world, but that promise was out the window by now. I pulled my hands out from under his and clutched his instead and let out a ripping "yes!" "I can't believe it! They really took it? They liked it?"
"Well, yeah! I showed them your other novel and a few of your articles from London, and well, you're a star in your own right in England, so why wouldn't they publish your work here in America? Did you really think that they wouldn't?" he asked.
"Well, I always have my doubts, but you know, this is America, and what sells in England doesn't always sell here," I said, which was all too true.
"Hey," Bob said nudging me, "those friends of yours proved that wrong, eh? They're relatively popular here....." he trailed off.
"The understatement of the decade," I laughed.
The waiter came and took our orders, and refilled Bob's drink, and we spent the rest of our time eating and merrily talking of all the new things and trends and music popping up around us. Everything from mini-skirts to the Byrds to the whole stirring on Haight and Ashbury, and all the while I was bubbling from the good news. Bob had called me a few weeks ago to talk, and while we chatted, my book came up. He asked me how I was going on it, and I had told him that I was all but done, and I was just putting the finishing touches on it. Going through and making sure I had described this or that scene the way I wanted, and that I hadn't left anything out of it, just some clean-up work. He had mentioned that he knew some good people at Mourghton Publishers, a new and powerful publishing company that was interested in new ideas and new literature. He told me that if I sent him a copy, finished or whatever, that he would have his friend, Kent Muroch, look at it. So, I sent him a copy, and just yesterday he phoned me, telling me to meet him here today for the news, bringing me to this cafe and causing me to be so estatic.
We finished up our meal, said our good-byes, made plans to meet again, and went our seperate ways. I was so happy that I found that I couldn't go back home. Home had become more of a dungon to me than a home. I felt trapped there, like I was stuck in the past, or stuck in that one day not too long ago when my Bob had told me that he was leaving for war. That day had been like polar ends. It had started out so beautifuly, seeing Paul and the others for the first time in so long. I was happier then than I was in long time, a very long time. And then I went home and heard the dreadful news..... It was too much for me to handle, which is why this book was so important to me. It wasn't a story about the main character (who I had named Jenny Thompson) it was my mirror, my reflection of my life. I was Jenny. I should have just named the character Rachel, or something similar at least, like Rebecca, or Robin. I kicked a stone in the parking lot as I headed to my car out of frustration. But, wait, I could still change the name! The book wasn't quite out yet, or even it the printing stages! I dashed the rest of the way to my car, and then dug deep into my purse to find the buisness card that Dylan had given me with Mr. Muroch's number and address at Mourghton. Once I found it I sped over and entered the building.
There was a receptionist on the phone, arguing with somebody over whether or not some shipment was due on the twenty-first or the twenty-third. Not wanting to disturb her terribly, I sipmly showed her the card, hoping she would know who I was looking for. She leaned over the counter, held the card in her face and covered the reciever.
"Take the elevator to the third floor, second door on the right," she said, handing me the card back. I smiled a 'thank-you' and headed up to his office. While in the elevator, I realized how absurd this was. He didn't know I was coming, he'd never met me before, and as far as I knew, he never read the book! Bob could have simply told him to publish it as a personal favor and nothing more! My stomach churned and suddenly I felt very sick at the notion. I was having second thoughts about being there as the elevator dinged and the doors opened. Out of pure habit, I stepped out and watched as the doors closed behind me. What was I doing there? I thought about turning around when I realized that it didn't matter if he read it or not, the book was being published, so I might as well get it right. I knocked on his door, and from inside, someone yelled "COME IN!" quite loudly. Timidly (as usual) I opened the door, half-expecting him to be furious for some reason, but instead, he was half-way out his window, trying to prop it open to get a breeze going through the otherwise stifiling room. He ducked his head inside the window so he wouldn't have to shout at me.
"Hi, can I help you m'am?" Normally, I would have chuckled at the sight, but my nerves, for whatever reason, were shot, so I simply stood silent, trying to think of how to introduce myself. He began climbing back in the window, only to have it slam shut behind him. He rolled his eyes and groaned, "it's been doing this all day, it's driving me ape because without it open, it's only a few degrees above hell in here." Now that he was inside, I got a better view of him, only to find that he was very, very young, probably only a year or two older than me. He had short brown hair, dashing green eyes and was actually very attractive. "So, I didn't catch why you're here," he said, throwing the ball back in my court. I relaxed a little to know that he wasn't some old matcho guy that had been in the business for years and was stuck thinking that good books were all along the lines of nothing less than Shakespere, and new, radical ideas were only a flash in the pan.
"I'm Rachel Layne, I wrote "War at 24 West Street" the one that Bob Dylan reccomended to you," I said, not really sure what to say to him. He frowned a little, rustling through a pile of papers on his desk.
"Right, I got that story from Bob, but, uh, it's not by a Rachel Layne, it's by a Mrs. Rachel Smith," he said, eyeing me unsure as to what was going on. I blushed, right, I was married, my name wasn't Layne anymore. Smith, it was Smith, but that didn't feel right, kind of like a pair of shoes that had it written all over them that they were your size, but when you try them on, they're too tight or whatever. Rachel Smith didn't have the same ring to it as Rachel Layne, but I had to deal with it.
"Oh," I said turning several shades of pink and red, "I'm Rachel Smith, it's my married name, I just got married a while ago and I'm adjusting to the name change still. Layne's my maiden name, sorry," I said apologizing. He relaxed a little and a smile crept upon his face,
"Oh, that's not a problem. But, for legal purposes we need your legal name of Smith to pay you and hire you and all that jazz, and when we ran the name Rachel Smith, we found no records of you, but now I see. We'll check Layne, but which one is your legal name? Bob told us Smith..."
"What a confusing mess," I muttered. I proceeded to tell him the story of how Bob and I got married, and how we didn't really have a marrige licence or anything like that, and that all legal whatevers had to be under Layne. When we finally got around to the purpose of my spontaneous visit, he was more than willing to make the changes, and informed me that as soon as the final proof-reading was done, they were hitting the printing papers and that I would have the book released on January 4, 1967, only three months away. I signed some papers and gave him the OK to get moving. I thanked him and was on my way, considering it was getting late.
On my drive home, I began to ponder what I was going to do now. All of the book details were out of my hands now, and I was free to do whatever, and it scared me to death. For the first time since Bob left for war, I felt helpless and lost. What now? The book was done, and was going to hit the shelves in three months. I marvelled at how fast I had written the novel. Bob only left in September, and I had begun the first work on it only days after he left, and now, here I was, the end of November and it's all done.
When I got home, I checked any messages on the answering machine, five total. One was from Bob's parents, inviting me to their home in Sacramento for Thanksgiving, another from Dylan inviting me to some party he was throwing that weekend, another from Kent at the office congratulating me on getting things rolling, one from a wrong number talking to some Kathy about getting together for lunch the next day, and the last one from Paul. He was fiddling around on the guitar, some melody with no words and no title, asking me to call him back and let him know what I thought of it. I smiled to myself and rewound it several times, listening to the gentle melody tickle my ears. Juding by the time it was in California, it was too late to call him in London, but I made sure that it would be the first thing I would do in the morning.
I went to delete the messages, when I realized that I should probably call Bob's parents and tell them that I couldn't make it for dinner. In reality, I had nothing planned for the day, and it would really be my first Thanksgiving American style, but something inside of me told me that I couldn't do it. Physically, I would be jittery the whole time, and emoitionly I just didn't feel I could handle it. I picked up the reciever to call them, but I couldn't seem to dial the numbers. I'll call them tomorrow. I deleted all of the messages, except Paul's. I listened to it a few more times and I began to feel homesick. I dug out my old photo albums and flipped through the pages with a smile plastered to my glowing face. Pictures of my parents, of my first birthday party, of me at the beach in Blackpool, of Paul, Mike, and me playing at the park, and of all the wonderfuly warm family related events from back home. And then, there were the pictures that I had taken with my friends while we were out romping as kids, and even more from high school and college. Pictures of Paul and me goofing around on an old bomb shelter, exploring in the woods, at parties, at bars, at home with Anne and Rose, and of graduations. I really missed everyone. I missed my mother something awful. I hadn't spoken to her in months, nor had I talked with my dad, or my second dad, Mr. McCartney, or Mike. I felt a part of me aching inside for the old times. For afternoons in the city eating fish and chips and listening to Elvis on the jukebox, scrounging up enough money to buy the latest records brought over from the States, and spending the evenings drinking cheap English beer and laughing at the bands on the stage at the pub who couldn't play. I missed it all. I sighed, wiped away a few tears and decided to sleep off the pain from the memories.
I changed and laid down to sleep, and as I drifted off to sleep, the thought of going home haunted me.
Back to Chapter Six