I turned down his street and pulled up his driveway and knocked on his door. No answer. I knocked again, and this time rang the doorbell. Still, no answer. Just as I was about to leave the door opened a crack, and then flung open all the way. There was Bob, cigarette in hand with a goofy kind of smile on his face.
"Rach, babe, it's only you, come on in! I thought you were some pigs, or some fans maybe, I wasn't expecting you! Come on, get in here, sit with me, talk with me, relaaaaaax with me..." he trailed off, far away from his front door, which he left wide open with me standing in it and walked away. His voice trailed off as he entered another room, so not wanting to have to shout to him, I closed the door and followed him. He was giggling at something, but I couldn't tell what. I thought that maybe someone was in the other room with him, but when I walked in I saw no one except him, slouching on his couch, taking another hit off his ciggie. "Sit down! Have one!" he said, reaching underneath his couch. He pulled out a brown and black box and pulled out a thinly wrapped cigarette for me.
I didn't really smoke, but I didn't want to seem rude, as dumb as it sounded, so I took it from him, although I'd never seen cigarettes like these before. Then, it hit me, these weren't cigarettes, they were joints. I hadn't really had any experience with drugs, but from what I'd heard from people that did smoke marijuana it wasn't dangerous, or habit-forming, or anything like that, so I figured what the hell and lit up.
Bob and I lounged back and smoked his weed and did exactly what he said, relax. He asked what brought me to his doorstep, and I told him all about my day and how I just kept driving and wound up at his house. He smiled and listened to my story, giggling in between at nonsense, but when the effects of the joint wore off, he managed to give me some pretty thoughtful advice. I hadn't had a buzz of any sort at all, so finally getting serious was a relief. Bob's advice? Take a vacation and go home for the holidays and see my family. For whatever reason that sounded so nonsensical that I thought he was still tripping, but the more I thought about it, and the more he urged me to, the more exciting it sounded, and the more I yearned for home.
Spontaneous acts were not exactly what I was best at, but I figured what the hell, it was home. It would be better than staying home alone and thinking about Bob and the war, and it would be better than spending time with his parents at their place. The whole way home I thought about Dylan's advice, and about how much I had been aching to go home. As soon as I got home I packed my bags and left for the airport, hoping that they would have a flight to London and that I would make it. Half-way to the airport some sense hit me. The airport would probably be closed, except for flights just coming in. The sensible thing to do would to call the next day and book a flight, and to call someone back home and find a place to stay, so I turned around and headed back home feeling like a fool.
I cried myself to sleep that night, not believeing what anguish I had been feeling about something so dumb as going home, and it was then that it really hit me. I really missed Liverpool. I really missed my family. I really missed Paul. America was nice, and I had grown to love it, but it would never be home. America may have evolved from England, but it certainly wasn't. I found that I couldn't sleep, so I stayed up all night listening to old records that reminded me of home and of better times, and in the morning I called the airport...."
"Well, there's one departing at nine-thirty, would you like that?"
I glanced at my clock to make sure I'd have enough time to go through customs and all that garbage, "yes, that would be great."
"Okay miss, and could I have your name please?"
"Uh, Rachel, um," I couldn't decide which name to use, Layne or Smith.
"Layne," I blurted out, "Rachel Layne, sorry."
"That's quite all right. And how will you be paying for this flight?"
"Is a check all right?"
"Of course miss, I'll just need some I.D."
"Great, okay, um, what's the flight number?"
"Flight 214 from San Fransico to London, will you be travelling first class or coach?"
"Coach please." I hated all the mumbo jumbo that went along with booking flights, especailly this early in the morning. I hadn't gotten a wink of sleep and it was six-thirty in the morning. If the flight left at nine-thirty I wouldn't get to London until late afternoon, in which case Paul wouldn't be home yet. I was going to be staying with him at his new house on Cavendish Ave. which was right down the street from Abbey Road Studios, and we were going to drive up to Liverpool a week before Christmas and spend the holidays with our families. I hated flying, especially after all the horror stories I had heard from Paul about their flights all over the world. He said that everytime the plane swerved thoughts of Buddy Holly flashed through his mind. Just the sheer thought of flying got me jittery, but no problem, I was so tired that I would probably sleep the whole time.
And I did just that. When the plane landed the flight attendant had to shake me to wake me up. Groggily I grabbed my carry-on and waited for my luggage. As soon as I saw my bag I nabbed it and rushed outside to wave down a cab to take me to Abbey Road. As soon as I opened the doors outside I felt that I was home. I smelled the London air, I felt that cool breeze, and oh, the people! The people talked like me! It was the first time that I had ever been home and noticed the accents. It seemed that in America they almost ostracized you if you spoke differently from them.
I flagged down a cab and asked him to take me to the studio. He gave me a funny look, but didn't ask any questions. Driving through the streets brought back so many memories that I had forgotten about. My grin must have reflected the way I felt inside because the driver laughed a little and asked if it was my first time in London.
"No, I used to live here," I said, keeping my eyes on the busy London streets.
"Really? You don't sound like you're from here."
"Oh, well I'm originally from Liverpool, I only lived in London for a few years."
"Really? Because you kind of sound American, in fact, I thought you were an American, you're really from England?" he asked, making a left onto Abbey Road.
"Yeah, I'm really from here. Do I really sound American?" I asked, astonished at the idea that I didn't sound British.
"Yes, you do dear, maybe, did you spend some time in America recently?" he asked.
"I'm living there right now, I'm home for the holidays," I said.
"Well, there you go. You're turing American. You're New York not London!"
I sat in silence. He must have been wrong, and even if he wasn't, I didn't care. It's only an accent. A week back home and my accent would be back to normal.
The driver pulled up to the front doors of Abbey Road studios and I paid him and dragged my bags inside, all two of them. There, in the lobby, who else did I see but John, with an addition to his features, a mustache. He was lightly in conversation with the receptionist, a humble-looking lady who must have been well into her forties, if not her fifties. He looked up casually to see who had walked in the room and looked back down to the receptionist and then jolted his head back up as it clicked in his mind who I was.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't miss America come home to visit her lowly British counterparts," he said slowly striding over towards me.
"And what's wrong with that mister Million dollar rock and roll star too good to rush into the arms of his long lost American counterpart?" John laughed and simply opened his arms,
"Come here you," he said taking me into his arms, engulfing me in a warm hug. "Welcome home Rach."
"Thanks Johnny, it feels so good to be back," I said into his shoulder.
He leaned down closer to me to whisper into my ear, "I heard about Bob, and I'm sorry. The whole bloody war seems pretty bonkers to me, and he's going to come home safe, you remember that, okay?"
"Okay John, I'll remember." I pulled away from him and smiled, "but you know, I've kept myself busy, so I'm not dwelling on it too much."
"Good for you!" he said turning me around, leading me down a hallway to the right. "That's the spirit, you can't walllow in what you can't fix, and you can't try to fix something that you can't, so the only thing to do is to fix the things you can..."
"Only if you have the wisdom to tell the two apart," I butted in.
"Yeah, like you can't fix the fact that Bob's where he is, and you can't help the war, but you can control what you do with yourself and how
"That's what Bob said."
"Did he really? He's a smart man, I've got to meet him sometime."
"Oh, not that Bob, Bob Dylan, sorry," I said laughing.
"That's right, you talk with Dylan don't you? Paul told me about that, he's a great guy, eh?"
I nodded in agreement, "he's great." John continued to lead me down the hallway, and notioned to me to the staircase to my right,
"Up there," he said pointing. We walked up the stairs in silence, and when we were half-way up John grabbed my arm and stopped. "Why did you come home? Really, none of this holidays shit that Paul's telling me about. There's something else, something underlying it all. Tell me, I want to know." He folded his arms and leaned back against the railing waiting for me to answer him. His questions, well, accusations more like it, caught me off gaurd.
"What're you talking about John? I'm home because I'm homesick and I don't want to spend Christmas alone, that's why. No other reason." I started up the stairs again, ignoring his sudden outburst. John began following me up the stairs after a moment and we walked the rest of the way to the studio in silence. There was a red light above the door that was flashing, indicating that someone was recording inside, so I haulted and stood back, waiting for the red light to go off so I could enter, giving whoever was recording some respect. John, on the other hand, simply walked past me and into the room, regardless of the warnings that someone was working inside. He held the door open behind him for me. Not wanting to be left alone outside the room I followed him. Immeadeatly the sound of a piano filled my ears and soon, the sweet sounds of Paul's voice. George was standing next to the door, his guitar slung across his shoulder, lighting a cigarette. He acknowledged John's presence, and when he saw me walk in behind him, smiled widely and silently hugged me.
"I'm not going to be loud to disrupt Paul," he whipered in my ear. I was about to agree with him, but instead he leaned back and said at a normal volume, "oh, what the hell! It's great to see you love!" I laughed, and the piano stopped abruptly and Paul immeadeatly spun around, ready to yell at whomever had just disrupted his song, only to find me smiling in the doorway. A wave of forgiveness and happiness rushed his face and he jumped up from the piano bench.
"Oh, Rachel," he said rushing towards me, "I'm so glad you're home." I met him halfway and we hugged each other comfortably, remembering the love and friendship we had both lived apart from for so long. "You should stay here," he whispered to me, "you never should have left." There was a bit of pain in his voice, even maybe anger at me for leaving him alone. I pulled out of his arms to look him in the eye, and saw him smiling back at me, a weak smile, but a happy smile. The kind of smile you give at the end of a long day of hard, mind-numbing work when you come home to your family and your kids say something funny. Paul was tired, I could tell right away.
"I'm home now though, so let's enjoy the time together, okay? Let's not get onto this topic now...all right Paul?" Ever since I had moved to California he had been yelling at me for leaving. Sometimes we would be on the phone and would break out into mini-arguments over the subject, and I didn't want to start one right away. Paul nodded and smiled some more and hugged me again.
"I've missed you love," he squeezed me tighter, tighter than I had even been held, and his desperate need to frightened me. I hugged him back, but not without worry. Why was he acting this way?
"Don't you two look cute?" George butted in teasingly.
"Yeah, they do," said John in a totally unsarcastic way, much unlike him. That in itself added to the strangeness of the moment. As subtle as it was, something was going on, and although I wanted to know, I didn't want to know it now and ruin the moment. Paul let go of me unwillingly and suggested we go back to his place and bum around for the rest of the day.
"Aren't you working in the studio today? Aren't you recording something?" I asked as he headed for his coat.
"Hmm? Oh, no, I'm just in here playing around with some tunes in my head, John's here for a meeting with Brian about something regarding his movie," Paul motioned to John with his thumb and John wiggled his eye brows at the metion of his name and his movie, "and George is here laying down some track for a friend, so since we're not doing anything I thought we'd just go home. Is that okay?" he asked, holding his coat, ready to drop it if I had said that I wanted to stay.
"Let's go home, I'm tired, you're tired, and I want to rest. I've been on a plane since, well," I glanced at my watch and realized that it was in San Fransico time and not London time, "a long time." Paul chuckled and pulled his coat on.
"Great, then let's go." I gave John and George a kiss good-bye and grabbed my suitcases. "No, no, no, you're not carrying those," Paul said, taking both of my bags from my hands.
"Paul, no, you're not carrying both of those! Here, I can carry them," I said reaching for my bags from his hands. He jerked back and refused to let me carry even one. Since his house was only down the street from the studio, we walked home in the cold, which felt wonderful to me because I hadn't been in the cold since I left for America. California doesn't get cold like this, and I missed it. I took a deep breath of the crisp air and exhaled, letting the scent of London fill my nostrils and tickle my senses.
"I've missed this!" I said twirling in circles on the sidewalk. Paul laughed a deep genuine laugh and shook his head at me. I bent down to the ground and made a snowball from the power on the ground. "I've missed the snow!" I said, throwing the ball up in the air and catching it again, half-tempted to throw it at Paul, and I would have if he weren't in such a bad mood.
When we got inside his house he placed my bags in the guest room and showed me the bathroom in case I wanted to wash-up. I took his offer and freshened up and followed my nose to the kitchen where he was brewing some tea. Tea. I hadn't had real English tea in ages and the thought of a hot, steaming cup got me excited.
"Pour me a cup," I said as I walked into the kitchen. Paul turned around and smiled,
"I planned on it. You still like it with a little bit of milk?" he asked, reaching for the milk in his fridge.
"Yes I do, I'm surprised you remembered!" I took a seat at his kitchen table and watched him pour my drink for me.
"How could I forget?" he asked. I shrugged and took my cup from his hands. I held the cup in my hands just feeling the heat from the tea, and smelling the scent of my Earl Grey, just enjoying my tea from every aspect and savoring every drop of it. Paul sat down next to me and began to sip from his cup, not appreciating it as much as I was. I looked up at him and studied his face as he drank his tea. It was the first time I had really looked at him since he had visited me in the states back in August. His looks had changed so much in just the few months! There were dark circles under his eys, his skin seemed to have a dull drone to it, and it almost seemed to sag off of his face. His hair was a mess, un-combed, un-cut, and probably un-washed. His hands were dingy - not quite dirty, but not the same radiant glowing hands I remembered from before. He was worn out and tired. I put my cup down and reached out and laid my hands on top of his on his cup. He looked up from his drink and gave me a sad, tired, confused look.
"What's the matter Paul?" He sighed and lowered his cup to the table and took his hands out from under mine and placed them over mine.
"Nothing love, I'm just tired, that's all. I've been working a lot lately and there's been a lot of legal stuff floating around, and I swear to you, that's it. Nothing big. Truth is, I need this vacation as much as you do," he said smiling. He let go of my hands and rubbed his eyes. "I'm sorry if I didn't jump in your arms and throw a parade like I felt, but trust me, I'm happy to see you. I'm more than happy, I'm estatic, you just can't tell because I'm just so damn tired. I'm sorry love, I'll make it up to you when I get some rest." I completely understood where he was coming from and suggested that he just lie down and sleep. My jet lag was catching up to me as well, so we finished our cups of tea and laid down for an early night of much-needed sleep.
The next morning both of us were in better moods. I woke up first and started breakfast, a good English breakfast of tea and oatmeal. The kettle whistling for the tea woke Paul up and he groggily, but happily, waltzed into the kitchen in his pajamas. He was wearing the grey pants of some pajama outfit, but only the pants, no shirt, no sock, so slippers, just the pants. His hair was a mess, a different kind of mess from yesterday, a good bed-hed mess, and he desperately needed to shave. A laughed silently to myself at the sight of him. He didn't even mumble a good-morning, he just sat down at the table. Instictivly I grabbed a cup and poured him his morning tea and placed it in front of him.
"Morning sunshine," I joked. He rolled his eyes and carefully sipped his tea. I walked back to the stove with the kettle and placed it back on the burner, taking another look at Paul's attire. "Sexy," I laughed. He looked up and gave me a one over,
"Not as sexy as your's," he retorted, sipping his tea again. I was wearing what I had begun to call my "America Look" which was simply a pair of comfy grey shorts and a white sleeveless shirt and my yellow fuzzy slippers. He gingerly sipped some more tea and looked back up at me. "What the hell are you wearing?" he asked, wondering, no doubt, where the cotton nightgown was that I had grown up wearing to bed everynight.
"This is more comfortable than those stiff things," I said carrying two steaming bowls of oatmeal to the table. I placed the bowls down and walked back to the stove to pour myself a cup of tea and then sat down with Paul to eat my morning breakfast.
"Sleep well?" he asked.
"Uh-huh," I mumbled, half-way through eating my first bite of oatmeal.
"Good," he said. That was about it for our morning conversation. Both of us were tired and wanted to go back to sleep, so the rest of the day we slept, ate, and planned our trip up to Liverpool for the next day. We planned to leave for the pool around noon, so we would arrive at home around two, two-thirty at the latest, three if disaster stroke. Around four o' clock that evening I hopped in the shower and Paul began to fiddle around in his music room. I hadn't gotten any Christmas shopping done on such short notice, so when I was done in the shower I told Paul I was running out to do a little shopping. I asked if he wanted to come, but he shrugged it off.
"The stores are too crazy now and I'd get recognized too easily and you wouldn't get any shopping done. You go, we'll go out for dinner, okay?" he had said. I agreed and told him I would be home in time for dinner.
Of course, the stores were jam-packed and crazy as all sin, but as crowded as it was, it was perfect. So many English accents, so many British brand-names, so many memories. It overwhlemed me a bit, and shopping for Christmas seemed even harder than any other years previous. Somehow, I managed to get gifts for everyone except Paul and his brother Mike, which was fine because I could get them in Liverpool.
I got home around seven from shopping with all of the classic shopping symptoms. Aching feet, arms weary from carrying bags, stomach screaming for nourishment, and an emmense desire to lie down and sleep. I fell through the doorway with my bags and dropped them by the door. I'd make Paul carry them later. Where was that boy anyways? The only reason he wouldn't greet me at the door would be if he were in his music room, and you would be able to hear him if he was in there. "Hey, Paul?" I yelled out to the empty house. No answer. I began to slowly peel off my coat and scarf, and headed into the kitchen. Some sort of erie flashback happened as I realized that this was exactly how I had found Bob when he was drafted. I paniced for no reason, fearing something bad had happened to Paul, and I quickened my pace and ran into the kitchen, were Paul was standing, in full dinner-tux attire by a candle-light dinner just waiting for me. He took my breath away. The sheer suprise of it all stunned me. He made me dinner. Bob had never done that.
"Madame, may I take zee cot?" he said in full fake French accent. I was speechless, so he gently took it off my shoulders, laid it down and escorted me to my seat.
"What's all this about?" I asked as soon as I was able to reason what was going on. Paul reached for a bottle of chilling wine and poured me a glass,
"Well," he began, dropping the accent, "I figured you'd be surprised by it, and you were, weren't you?" he grinned.
"Yes, of course!"
"Well, zen ma mizon iz complete," he said, going back to the Frenchman in him. He laid my napkin in my lap and took a step back to reach for the main dish. "Now, madame, I am but a lone muzicon, and no great chef, so I prezent to you, zoup Mickartnay style."
I laughed at his terrible, thick accent, "well, thank you chef McCartney, I'm sure it will be quite the delectable soup." He lifted the make-shift lid which was nothing more than the lid to one of his pots hanging from the wall off of my bowl to reveal chicken noodle soup. He stepped aside and motioned for me to try the steamy dish, wriggling his eyebrows to get a laugh out of me. I shook my head and brought a spoonful to my lips. No big surprise - it was from a can and he had forgotten to add water to dilute it. He looked so proud, so I didn't say anything about it, I grinned and rubbed my stomach. A wide smile warmed upon his face and he sat down in the seat next to me.
"You like?" he asked, lifting the lid off of his sitting bowl.
"How could I not?" I laughed after I swallowed. "A candle-lit dinner? I'll bet the thought of something like this never even crossed Bob's mind once. It's perfect Paul, absolutely perfect." He smiled and dug into his dinner. And it was perfect. It brought me back down to earth, brought me back to home. Paul looked fantastic, and the soup, as potent as it was, was fantastic. The sheer idea was perfect, and I couldn't have been happier.
"You know," Paul began, "the last time we sat down for a quiet dinner together - a real dinner - was before you left for college and before the Beatles ever thought that things could get this...big."
"Yeah," I sighed. "That seems so long ago, you know? That was before anyone knew who either of us were, back when we didn't even think either of us would ever in think of going to America! And now what? I've lived there and you've conquered it!"
"I know! Did you know that up until I went to the States I thought that Heinz ketchup was British?" Paul laughed.
"So did I!" From there we broke into fits of laughter and began reminisicing about olden times like we always ended up doing. Time crawled silently into the night and by two o' clock the candles had melted away, the soup had grown cold, and we were topping off a bottle of wine.
"Hey," Paul said, gowing excited, "let's surprise everyone and leave tonight!"
I nearly choked on my drink at the crazy idea. "Tonight? As in, now?"
"Yeah, it'll be great!" he said taking my hands in his, "we can sneak into the house and go to sleep in our beds and the next morning when everyone is waking up, we can come down to breakfast with everyone else in our pajamas! It'll blow them all away, it'll be great!"
"Paul," I said, preparing to protest the crazy idea. It was the middle of the night. We were both tipsy and neither of us were prepared to leave. My bags had already been torn open and bits of clothing were sprawled out all over Paul's guest room. But, something stopped me from saying 'that's out of the question' or 'you're nuts' and instead I smiled and said "let's go!"
We both darted upstairs, packed whatever we thought we would need, blew out the remaining candles, grabbed Martha and were off for home within the hour. Home. It had been years since I'd been home, and nothing seemed so great as crawling into my bed from childhood and falling to sleep thinking I'd see Paul and John and Ivan and other childhood mates the next day at school again, just like when I was sixteen.
Home. I was going home.
Coming Soon, Chapter Nine!