Chapter Three: “Just call on me when you're lonely, I'll keep my love for you only”
- George Harrison
George and I returned home quite early the next morning, after partying hard all night. George was a little drunk, as he and his bandmates had started a drinking contest. John had won, of course. We took the late night bus home, with all the other late-night partiers and the men coming home from the pub. I, being the only female on the bus for most of the trip, was relieved that George was accompanying me.
We entered the home to the low, steady noise of George's father snoring. I looked at George and giggled, as I too was a tad squiffy, and it struck me as quite funny. George and I, laughing hysterically, collapsed on his mattress. “S-shh,” I whispered, unable to speak properly because of the fit of giggles that was overtaking me. After a time, George stopped laughing and looked at me quite seriously. I attempted to contain myself. George reached out and covered my mouth with his hand, immediately silencing me. I forgot all about Harold Harrison's snoring, and instead concentrated on the wave of emotion that was flooding over me. He removed his hand and lightly kissed my lips. Smiling, I returned his kiss and began to unbutton his shirt. His tongue, once innocent, slipped into my mouth, and his hand found its way up her shirt.
Suddenly, there was a noise, and I hurriedly pulled away from George's body. He scrambled about, trying to find his shirt as I switched the light on. In desperation, George grabbed a wrinkled shirt off the floor, damp with old sweat, and put it on just as there was a knock on the door. I leaned over to open it (his room really was small - I didn't even have to get off the mattress), and Peter was standing there.
“Uh, what're you doin' here, Peter?” George asked nervously, trying to hide me behind the door.
“I've already seen she's here, George,” Peter said dryly, in response to George's actions.
“Well, what're you doing here?”
“I came to visit for a few days. What is she doing here?” Peter retorted, grabbing me by the arm. “Please tell me you didn't bring her home just for a shag.”
“No, no, that's not it at all,” I quickly said in defense. “You see, I went to see George at the Cavern once with Pete's girl, and I got really sick. Anabelle put me in her car and I blacked out, so Louise took me in. I've been here for about a week.”
Peter looked at her suspiciously, but accepted my explanation. “Well, keep it down, then. Your giggling woke me up. Are you two drunk or something?”
“Uh, no,” George said, scratching his neck.
“What are you doing up so late, anyway?”
“We just came home from a party, and Mira saw the state of my room. Being a neat freak, she made me clean it up.”
“And what's the story behind the outfit?”
“Well, I saw all these ludicrously coloured shirts, so he was trying them on for a giggle.”
“Well, okay. But this is your first and final warning. Some of us have to work tomorrow, you know.”
“Hey! I've got to work too!” George retorted, taken aback. “You just wait. Someday I'll be ten times more successful than you.”
“Ha! When pigs fly! I've seen you try. If you continue at this rate, you'll be king before you're an electrician. Blowing stuff up isn't going to get you anywhere, Harrison.”
“Just you wait,” George said through clenched teeth. He glared at his older brother, looking ready for a fist fight.
“Oh, yeah. I'll be waiting all right.”
“Good riddance,” George spat as he closed the door in Peter's face. We listened quietly, and after a while, heard retreating footsteps. “Now, where were we?” George asked alluringly as he grabbed my waist and pulled my body to his.
“Now, George,” I cautioned. “Let's not try anything risqué.”
George looked put out. “What, so that's it? We were doing fine until Peter showed up!”
“Yeah, but that's `cause we were wrapped up in the moment. That moment is gone now. But don't worry. There's bound to be another moment soon, it just has to be in the appropriate place at the appropriate time.”
“Well, this seems a suitable place. And what's wrong with the time? Would you rather we did it in the greengrocer's at noon?”
“No, George, calm down. This shouldn't be a big deal.”
“Well, it is to me. I thought you liked me!”
“I do, George. I like you very much, but seeing as your parents and easily-awakened brother are on the other side of this wall and downstairs, this doesn't seem like an appropriate situation.”
George sank into his mattress. “I just don't understand. We were doing so well!”
“And we still are, because we still like each other. I love you, George, I really do.” I sat down next to him and in a crisscross position, and patted his leg.
“Then why won't you kiss me?”
“A kiss? All you want is a kiss?” I was surprised. I had expected him to want more from me.
“Well, I'd settle for one,” George said quickly with a smile.
“A kiss. Okay, I can do that.” With that, I leaned over and snogged him. “I'll see you in the morning,” I murmured. I closed the door behind me as I left his bedroom.
v v v
The next day, I went back to live with my aunt. I knew, because of the point in my relationship with George, that I shouldn't be staying with the Harrisons any longer. I definitely liked living with George, Louise, and Harold more than Auntie Jenn and her gambling friends, but I just couldn't desert my aunt. The woman still needed help growing up, and I was the only person who could help her gain that responsibility. After what had happened the night before, I didn't think I could resist the temptation to take it a little further the next time we got caught up in a moment.
George was very understanding, but disappointed to see me go. He helped me pack my things, which weren't many, and hitchhiked with me back to my house.
“Thanks, George,” I exclaimed as he took my suitcase out the Harrison's door.
“Sure, luv. I just wish you weren't leaving.”
“Well, I do too.”
“Then why are you going?”
I tried to think of a way to word my response without making George regret his actions the night before. “Well, I just thought that it would be too tempting if we were living together to get in too serious of a relationship. Not that I don't like being in a relationship with you, I just don't want it to go too far too fast.”
George looked dismayed. “…Oh, okay…”
“George, please don't be sad. I love you, I really do, but Auntie Jenn needs to learn how to live a normal life, and I don't want us to get too close in that way.”
“In what kind of way?”
“…Uh, that kind of way. You know, sexually.”
“Ah, I see,” he responded shortly, then turned his head away, embarrassed to be speaking to me about the possibility of that ever happening between us.
Fortunately for us, our conversation was cut short when a car responded to my outstretched thumb, pulling over to let us in.
“Howdy,” the driver said in an American accent. A friendly man with a sailor's cap perched jauntily on his head was sitting in the passenger's seat, so George and I climbed in the back. “Where're y'all off to today?”
“Uh, just the center of town,” George replied, brightening at the tips of his ears. I guessed he was embarrassed by his lower-class Scouse accent. Of course, the sailors probably didn't know the difference in Liverpudlian accents, so his blushing was unnecessary.
“Great,” the passenger exclaimed. “That's where we're headed too.”
“So,” I said, attempting to make conversation, “You two aren't from around here, are you?”
“Nope. Born and raised in the USA Texas, to be more precise.” The people of Liverpool were used to meeting people from all around the world, as their town was the leading seaport in all of England. “How `bout you two? You're from here, right?”
“Yessir,” George said. “Born Scousers. But me buddies and I have a band, so we're fixing to go all over the place, when we get famous.”
“A band, eh?” The driver asked, chuckling. He was clean-shaven and looked about thirty - old for a sailor.
“Oh, yes,” I said. “They're quite good; in fact, you should come and see them sometime. They play during the luncheon hour at the Cavern, on Matthew Street.”
“What d'ya say, Charlie?” the passenger asked his friend. “D'ya want to go today?”
“Sure, why not?” He laughed, and then said to George, “We'll be there.”
“Marvelous! They're called The Beatles. Lots of kids know about them, so if you have problems finding the Cavern, just ask anybody,” I exclaimed.
“Oh, forgot to introduce myself,” the passenger said apologetically. “I'm Jack, and this here's Charlie. We're going to be here for the next few weeks, then we go back to the States.”
“I'm George, and this is Mira.”
“Any relation? You two look alike,” Jack said.
“Uh, no, she's my girlfriend, though.”
“Ah, good choice, my man. She's a real pretty one.”
Now it was my turn to blush. “Thank you, Jack.”
“I did do good, didn't I?” George asked, mockingly giving me a once-over. “Nice hair, good teeth.” He pulled on my hair and I squealed.
“You did well, George, luv, not `good', and thank you.”
“Real polite and smart, too…” George teased, giggling.
“...But still, not a goody-two-shoe, because otherwise she wouldn't be accepting rides from two strange, American men,” Charlie observed mockingly.
“Hell, no, she's not a goody-two-shoe.” George laughed.
`Yeah, I've got an aunt who I live with, and she gambles for money, and I've been living with George for the past week. Good little girls don't have that kind of living situation.”
“You really lived with him, eh?” Jack was amused.
“Yeah.” George seemed very proud to seem so adult to these sailors, though they probably thought he was a little young to be doing that kind of thing, coming from America and all. Charlie and Jack have had an interesting first impression on Liverpudlian teenagers, I thought.
“So, how long have you been here?” I asked the sailors, attempting to change the subject.
“Uh, not too long, about a week. Just enough to begin to learn our way around.”
“Had you ever been to England before?”
“Well, I've been once before, but Jack is new at the business and so this is his first time. I came here years ago, when I first joined,” the driver explained. So Jack wasn't that old after all. I re-estimated his age to be about 19 or 20, judging by his look of semi-experience, though I never could tell with Americans. I had met quite a few of the American sailors that came into Liverpool over the years. Auntie Jenn once had a romance with one of them - Albert, I believe, was his name. I hadn't known him very well because Auntie Jenn had begun to date him when I was eleven, so I had still been mourning my mother's death.
I had a fairly normal life with my mother. Roseanne, my mother, had been a nurse at Walton Hospital and brought in a fairly good income. Her money was supplemented by a very large inheritance from her London-born father who had died when I was six. I could still remember the day my grandfather died. Mum had been baking a pie to celebrate that she had gotten her job at the hospital, and the phone rang just as she put the pie in the oven. I was happily bouncing about in the tiny kitchen without a care in the world because my mum was making an apple pie. Apples were my favourite and I didn't get them very often. Sometimes Mum and I would exchange sweaters that she had knit during the evenings of the past month for apples from Mrs. Stanley, Mum's good friend. Apples were always special to me, until that day.
“How can that be?” I remembered my mother saying almost hysterically into the mouthpiece. I couldn't think of what it could be. Maybe school was closed down and so I could play with all of my friends all day, whenever I wanted! “No!” My mother wailed between sobs. “No…”
“What is it, mummy?” I tugged on my mother's flowered apron. “Something bad?” But my mother was too choked with tears to respond. Her whole body trembling, the woman that was always strong, always with a solution on hand, always comforting, collapsed onto the sofa where she lay for the rest of the day, body heaving with sobs, refusing to eat or drink anything. I hadn't known what to do. I sat, criss-cross-applesauce, on the floor, waiting for my mother to suddenly stand up and tell me that she was just pretending to be upset, and did I want a slice of pie now?
But my mother never got up that day. The pie sat in the oven and burned to a crisp, but I was too scared to save my precious pie. I had never seen my mother who was normally a pillar of strength crumple like she just had.
I shuddered to think of that horrible event. My mother had never been the same since, and when she died it was as if she was being released from Earth to join her father. I feared that someday I too would die of grief like my mother had, and her father before. At least, that's how I thought that Pappy had died. Gram had died about three years before Pappy did, approximately the same time between Pappy and Mum's death. I had survived those three years, but I didn't feel out of harm's way. I lived in constant fear that if I ever ate an apple again, some great harm would come to me. Though I knew it was just a superstition, I couldn't stop my aversion towards my once-favourite fruit.
v v v
“Tarrah well, and ta,” George called as we stepped out of Jack and Charlie's car.
“Now, wait a minute. What's that supposed to mean?” Charlie asked. For the last part of the ride, George and I had tried to teach Jack and Charlie to speak like a true Brit.
“It means, `goodbye, and thank you,'” I explained, giggling. I always had so much fun when I was around George and the rest of his friends. I seemed to enjoy myself more when I was with the band and all other males. It was nice to have female friends, but I hadn't seen much of them ever since George and I had gotten together, so I had, of late, felt closer to George than Ruth or Beth. It seemed that George, John, Paul, and now Charlie and Jack were my best friends. The only true friends that I had who were girls were Ruth and Beth; Anabelle and Cyn being people that I felt I had to behave differently around.
I felt childish when I was in the company of Jack, Charlie, Anabelle and Cyn because they all seemed decades older than I was, though it was only Charlie who was technically that much older.
George's voice interrupted my thoughts. “We've gotta hurry, luv. Our gig starts in half of an hour, and I've gotta arrive early so we can practice.”
“Oh, sorry,” I said, picking up the pace a little bit.
“You don't have to run, just stop shuffling about like someone's just died or something.” George had to run to catch up with me. “Are you okay? You seem preoccupied?”
“That's just it, George. My mind was elsewhere. Sorry.”
“Anything you want to tell me?”
“Well, I was just thinking that I've sort of become better friends with you and the band than any of my female friends. Not that that's bad, I guess I just socialize better with males.”
“Oh…” I think that he was hoping I would say I wanted to move back in with him. We walked in silence for a few more minutes and then approached my house. I tentatively called my aunt's name as we entered the musty-smelling parlor.
“In here,” Auntie Jenn called, surprisingly cheerfully, from the kitchen.
I looked at George uncertainly, and then he grabbed my hand and led me down the hall to where my aunt was. He had never held my hand before. It felt quite nice, actually. His hands were big and strong, and while mine weren't exactly hand-model quality, they were petite in comparison to his. George's fingers were callused, making his guitar playing obvious to me. As we entered the kitchen, spacious in comparison to the Harrisons', the aroma of apples filled my nose. “Why, hello.” Auntie Jenn sounded surprised to see George and me. I almost turned and ran, but the genuine pleasantness in her voice prompted me to stay a while longer.
“Hello, Ms. Swank,” George was polite, but seemed uncomfortable because of what had happened the last time he had tried to make conversation with my aunt. This time, however, Caroline wasn't accompanying her in her potential ridicules and she wasn't drunk, or at least I didn't think so.
“Hello, Auntie Jenn,” I said dutifully, holding back the tears that the pain of the memories of my mother brought.
“I was just trying my hand at baking. Do you like apple pie?” With that, I couldn't stand it any longer. I burst into tears and ran for my room, George trailing close behind.
“What is it, luv? Do you have some strange aversion to apples?” He laughed quietly at his witty, little joke.
“That's exactly it.”
“But why apples? Why not something truly revolting, such as Peter's home cooking?” He was on a roll now. “But of course, you haven't had Peter's cooking yet, have you? Be thankful, luv. Be thankful…”
“Mum was baking an apple pie when my grandfather died. She wasn't the same after that, and died three years later of grief. I have despised apples ever since then.”
George's smile melted into a look of sympathy. “I'm sorry, luv,” he said quietly. “I didn't mean to…”
“But think on the bright side. You have something in common with both Paul and John, though I advise not talking to them about it, just as I would advise them not to talk to you about it, and now I'm talking to you about it, and I really shouldn't be because that's really stupid, and how could I be so insensitive-” I put my hand over his mouth, which shut him up.
“George, calm down. I'm not mad at you, I'm just depressed. I know that Auntie Jenn was just trying to be nice, but she hit me where it really hurts,” I said, hitting my heart with a clenched fist.
“Well, let me ask you this: Do you still like the taste of apple pie?”
“I'm sure it's very good, I just don't have the courage to look at it, let alone eat it.”
“Well, tell you what. We're going to go into the kitchen and eat some of that apple pie that your doting aunt has made for you.”
“If you don't, I'll never speak to you again.”
“Oh, all right. If I must…”
“You must.” George took my hand again and led me into the kitchen, where Auntie Jenn stood, a puzzled look on her face.
“What happened, Mira?” she asked. “Are you okay?” Looking at me quickly, George leaned over and whispered in her ear, and her look turned from puzzlement to sympathy. “Oh, I'm so sorry, Mira, dear. I didn't mean it, really. I had no idea…” We stood there awkwardly for a moment, and then I reached forward and hugged her clumsily. I had never done this before, and having George watching the whole spectacle didn't make it any better.
“Now, how about some apple pie, luv?”
“But I thought she had an aversion towards the stuff…” We had really confused my aunt this time.
“Yes, but we're going to help her out of it. It's good to face your fears. You've got to if you're going to live in this day and age,” George diligently explained.
“Oh, all right, but don't go basing your opinions of apple pie on my pathetic attempt for one. This is the first one I've ever baked, mind you.”
“It's okay, Auntie Jenn.” My mind kept wandering to that day in October when I had last seen an apple pie. That had been over a decade ago, and I was ready to try it again. Or was I? My head was full of doubt, but George's `threat' (which he probably wouldn't have carried out with anyway) impelled me to ignore my head.
“It's going to be a while, you know. I've only just put it in the oven. Why don't you two take a walk or something? I'll putter about in the kitchen here.”
v v v
George and I left the house and went to walk along the Mersey. The summer breeze was warm against my face and lifted my spirits considerably. “We haven't actually gone out on a date yet, have we, luv?” The thought had struck me as we left the house.
“We haven't, have we?”
“Well, what say we go out on one? Tomorrow will you come and see us perform at the Cavern in the evening? We could go somewhere after that, just the two of us, if you like.”
“That would be lovely,” I smiled and looked up at George, resting my head upon his shoulder. We walked in peace for a while longer, then George broke the silence.
“Shall we venture on back for some apple pie, luv?"
“Ah, just in time,” Auntie Jenn exclaimed as we entered the kitchen to the smell of fresh-baked apple pie.
“It smells delicious, Ms. Swank,” George politely commented.
“Oh, please. Call me Jennifer.”
“Well then, Jennifer, it smells delicious.”
“Thank you, er, George, was it?”
“Yes. George Harrison.” We all stood there awkwardly for a moment, and just when I was going to start talking about the weather, the timer buzzed.
Auntie Jenn took the pie out of the oven and I turned my head away to hide the tears. “Aw, don't cry, luv. It'll be okay.” George wrapped his arm around me and escorted me into the parlor, where we sat on the sofa. I sat there, cradled in his arms, and thought about my mother and how much better life would be if she were still alive. But then I realized if she were still alive, she might not have let me go to the Cavern, and then I never would have met George. Even if I had met him, Mum might not have approved of him or the rest of the band. So, in a way, it was good that she had passed on. I guess it was meant to happen that way, I just wished it had been meant to happen later on.
I sat there with George for a long while with my head on his chest, feeling him breathe. “Want me to play you something?” He asked after we had been there for about ten minutes. He sure bored easily.
“That would be superb,” I said dreamily. “Auntie Jenn,” I called. “George's going to play something for us!”
She entered the room and sat on the chair across from us. A responsible guardian would never have let her daughter or niece be in a room alone with a Ted, let alone cuddle with one in the parlor of her own house. But this was Auntie Jenn, and she was different. “What're you going to play?” She asked enthusiastically.
“Well, I was thinking I'd do `How Do You Do It,' which is another one that John normally sings, but I believe I know all the lyrics.”
“Um, yes. Okay, here goes: How do you do what you do to me? I wish I knew. If I knew how you do it to me, I'd do it to you…” George sang the song wonderfully, only messing up once. After he was done, he leapt up. “Oh fuck! I've gotta fuckin' be at the Cavern now!”
I cleared my throat loudly. “I believe you meant to say `darn,' right, George luv?”
“Oh, um, yeah,” George said scratching his neck. “Sorry, Ms. Swank.”
“It's fine, George,” she said, laughing. “And please, call me Jennifer or Auntie Jenn - whatever you can to stop calling me Ms. Swank. To be frank, I despise the title.”
“Alright, Jennifer, but that doesn't change the fact that I'm late for my gig. I guess the apple pie will have to wait!” He grabbed his guitar and shoved it into its case.
“I'll join you later, luv!” I called as he rushed out the door. “Tell the boys it was my fault!”
“Well, he's nice, isn't he?” Auntie Jenn asked as we stood in the doorway, watching him run clumsily down the lane. I smiled and nodded. My aunt was becoming more of a parental figure. I was amazed at how suddenly it had happened.
“Um, Auntie Jenn, may I ask why you're being so parental all of the sudden?”
“I've decided to turn over a new leaf, as it is. No more drinking and the only gambling I'll do will be strictly business-related. I'm going to establish a new reputation for the Swanks.”
“Isn't that going to be a little hard? I mean, you've lived here all your life, and so your reputation has sort of already been established.”
“I'm going to go back to school and then I'll get me a good job that pays a lot and gets me good respect.”
“Okay, well, if you want to be more respected, you're going to have to start out by speaking like someone from the City. So, that would be, `I'm going to return to school and then acquire a job that pays well with respect and money.' That way you sound dignified, like you've been to manners school and the like.”
“Okay, I'm going to return to school and then acquire a job that pays well with respect and money.”
“Very good.” By that time we had ventured into the living room and I sat in the chair facing my aunt. Refining lessons had just begun. This was going to be tedious, but fun. “Okay, you try this one. A Scouser would say: “I got me a pint at the pub just down the lane there, and came home a bit squiffy.” Someone from the City would say:”
“I bought myself a pint at the pub and returned home a little bit squiffy.”
“No, no. You see, a lady from the City wouldn't go down to the pub. The proper way to say it would be not at all. You would never catch a woman from the City uttering those words.” This was going to take longer than I thought.
“Well, how do you know all this stuff?”
“I've read books about it and the like. That way I can be either a Scouser or a refined lady from the City who speaks the Queen's English. It's quite handy, really.”
“You'll have to lend me some of those books so I can read `em and get as good as you are at speaking the Queen's English, but right now, you've got some apple pie to eat.”
v v v
As I approached the Cavern, I could hear the strains of `Searchin'.' I paid my fee, descended the stairs and began to make my way through the crowd. The song ended and the boys quickly came on with `Sheik of Araby,' George singing lead. His voice always sounded so wonderful when he sang that song.
“Mira!” Someone yelled. After lots of pushing and shoving, I discovered that it was Ruth calling my name. “How are you? I haven't seen you since the party!”
“Um, that was yesterday, Ruth.”
“Yes, but so much has happened since then.” She paused.
“Go on,” I prodded her.
“Daddy's moving us to London.”
I stared at her in disbelief and forced a smile. “That's a good one,” I said chuckling and desperately hoping she was kidding.
“It's true. He got tired of Liddypool and its `vulgar dirtiness' so he's moving us out.”
“In two weeks.”
“You'll come and visit, won't you?”
“Of course. Whenever Daddy will let me…. You can come and visit me too.”
“Oh my God… But we've known each other all our lives. He can't do this to us!”
“He can. He's done it, hasn't he?”
“Does Pete know yet?”
“Yes, we've decided it's going to be too hard to keep up a long-distance relationship. We're going to give it two more weeks and then call it quits. We weren't that much in love anyway.”
“You weren't? But what about the party…”
“You don't have to be in love to make love, Mira. Sometimes that even takes away from the experience.”
“Oh, and you would know?” I said a little teasingly, but also a little annoyed that she was being superior to me. It was in her nature - she couldn't help herself - but it still bugged me.
“Well, that's what I've heard.” We didn't talk to each other until the gig was over, by which time, we had both forgotten about our argument and were all teary-eyed because she was leaving. Pete looked at her longingly and she tried to smile back at him.
“How was the pie, Mira?” George asked and the others looked at him like he was a freak for asking.
“Quite delicious, actually. Auntie Jenn is a fairly good cook. I never knew she had it in her.” The others, now disinterested, became engaged in a conversation about the group's future. “What really surprised me is that she has decided to go back to school and, I quote, `establish a new reputation for the Swanks.'”
“Wow. That'll take a lot of doing,” George joked.
“Oh, shut up, you. I'm giving her lessons.”
“Well, it'll take even longer, then.”