Sorry. Sorry, sorry, sorry! I would be pissed as hell if I was reading this right now after that like…what…two and a half week wait. I honestly tried to write this sooner, but…I just couldn't. And even now, the words are so damn forced. I don't know why. Maybe it's because I've lost my love for this story. In that case, it's a good thing this is the last chapter. I just really want to thank you guys for reading, reviewing, and being so fucking supportive. This is actually the first story I have ever finished, and I owe it all to you people. So…thanks again. Just so you all know, this is the end. The finale. The cherry on top and the icing on the cake. Wait… Anyways, I'm not going to have an author's note at the bottom like I usually do, because I think it might ruin it. I want the last words to have SOME affect (I don't even know if that's the right affect/effect…who the hell cares, it's summer!) And now, here it is, the final chapter, something I've been waiting so long to say. Chapter twenty:
My head was resting in my palm, and my elbow supported everything. I was lying on my side, my bare feet twisting together anxiously, and flipping through a magazine. Every now and then I would glance at the small digital clock that rested on my bedside table, but the minutes seemed to be going twice as slow today.
I was staring at the numbers, completely entranced, when something startled me; human touch. His arm slithered around my waist, his golden brown palm resting over pale one. His body was pressed up against mine, his legs intertwining with mine, and his chin coming to rest on the top of my head.
For once crazy ass moment, I thought he was Ringo. And that was completely ridiculous, obviously, so I don't know where that came from. But even thinking That Name gave off a pang in my chest. So, I rolled over onto my back, staring up at the newcomer.
"Des," I said.
"A.J," he answered.
He laughed, leaning down and pressing his lips lightly to mine. His hand moved up slowly, finally resting on my rosy cheek and making the kiss that much sweeter.
You wanna know something? Something I'm so God damned ashamed of? For a second there, I imagined Ringo taking Des's place. Ringo kissing me so gently, Ringo's palm cupping my cheek, Ringo pulling back and just smiling at me. But it wasn't. And once again I reminded myself how that was my fault. There we go; another pang.
"You ready?" Des asked in that deep, melodic voice, his eyes flitting around my face and examining it.
I sighed, shaking my head and looking up at the ceiling. "I dunno…it's been so long."
Des chuckled. "I know. You used to blow me off every Sunday to go visit her, and then you just don't go for three months."
I nodded, unable to say anything. The truth was, I was scared to visit Maggie Mae. I didn't know if she would remember my trip to the past or not, as it was always so hard to tell what she truly remembered.
"It's your fucking grandma, why the hell would you be nervous to see her?" he wanted to know, frowning a little bit.
Des didn't know. I had been back for three months (well, technically I was never gone…but that's just technically) and I never told him once about what happened. I never even hinted at it. It wasn't like he didn't notice the change in me; before, I talked about the Beatles any chance I got, and now it hurt just to remember their names.
"I just…" Should I tell him? Would he think I was crazy? "…found out some stuff about her that I didn't know, I guess."
His nose crinkled. "Bad stuff?"
Was it bad? Was Gramma being with John really that bad? I mean…hell yes, it was fucking horrible. But I missed John. That couldn't be denied. And because I missed him…I did have a LITTLE bit of affection for him, buried somewhere deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep, deep inside.
"Nah, not bad necessarily. She just…well…"
For some reason, I didn't like how he jumped to that conclusion. I mean, it was probably because I didn't want to admit to myself that yes, Maggie Mae lied all those years when she said that Robert Ryan was her daughter's legitimate father. But…he raised her, didn't he? He took care of her, he loved her, he fed her, paid for her, and sheltered her. So John might have been my mother's father, but there was no way in hell he was her dad. No. Way.
"No. She just…didn't tell the truth."
Des narrowed his eyes slightly and opened his mouth to say something, but apparently he decided against it and snapped his mouth closed. "You need to talk to her," he informed me, rolling off my bed and standing up straight.
Can I just say? Des is tall. Like…beastly tall. And skinny. So we make quite a pair, him and I; he towers above everyone and everyone towers above me.
Just thought I'd throw that out there.
He pulled me to my feet, tucking a stray curl behind my ear. That was the one thing that made me question my experience in the past; my hair. When I left, it was so damn short. So short every time I looked into the mirror I had to double take because I thought I was one of my brothers. But when I woke up, back home in 2010, it was just how it used to be; long and wild and curly and annoying.
"C'mon," he said, "we need to go."
The nursing home was eerily cold, smelled like old people, and made me incredibly sad. I just hated it here. But I used to go religiously with my mom to see Gramma, and after a while I always got used to the stink.
I knocked on Maggie Mae's door, Des standing beside me and holding my hand. I looked down and saw our intertwined fingers, and all of a sudden I had a flash of Ringo holding my hand as he pulled me onto his back and we ran away from Chuck. A lump rose in my throat, but I quickly swallowed it down.
"Come in," a voice called from inside. A voice I recognized immediately. I went in first, then Des. He was no stranger to Gramma, but sometimes people she didn't see often startled her.
She was sitting on a little chair near the window, her curly white wisps of hair lying flat on her head. She looked over at us upon entering, but there was no flicker of recognition in her now milky blue eyes.
"Hey, Gramma," I said hesitantly, taking a few steps toward her. "It's me, A.J."
She looked up at me, smiling absently. "A.J.?"
I couldn't tell if she remembered me from her past, and it was highly unlikely. She hardly remembered anything these days. "Yeah…er…your granddaughter?"
Her eyes slipped past me and looked at Des. She cocked her head in confusion, looking a little desperate.
"This is Des," I told her, catching on. "I think you might have met him before. My boyfriend?"
"Oh!" she exclaimed brightly, as though she knew. But I could tell it was an act. "Such a strapping young man!"
I snorted, but managed to cover it up as a sneeze. Des ducked his head, all embarrassed.
I took a deep breath, because I knew what came next. I spun around, facing Des. "Listen, could you like…wait in the hall or something?"
He nodded right away, then hurried into the hall. He was probably scared at what Gramma might say next. I turned to face her, and found her to be staring out the window again, a pleasant grin etched on her face. I pulled up a chair beside her.
"Gramma…could I ask you a question?" I looked down at the chipped nail polish the colored my nails. This was gonna be hard. If I was someone else, someone who was afraid to talk to people and put themselves out there, this task would nearly be impossible. But God knows I wasn't one of those people.
"Yes, of course, dear," she chirped, resting her eyes back on me.
"Why…" I took a deep breath. "Why didn't you ever tell Mom about John?"
Gramma looked at me, not comprehending. "John who?" she inquired, smoothing the pale yellow sweater she had on.
Something in her face changed. She looked at me for a few moments, as though she was struggling for words. "I had a friend named A.J. when I was younger, you know."
Her words echoed in my head. I had a friend named A.J… Tears pricked at my eyes. The last time I had talked to Maggie Mae, I had been desperate for her to stay, for the future to be changed. And she walked away, she left. And back then, I knew it would be the last time I ever spoke to her. Sure, I was speaking to her right now, but she had no idea who I was. No fucking idea. So I didn't count it.
To be honest, my going into the past didn't serve to do a damn thing except break two hearts. John? He was still dead. Such a hard headed, stubborn, self-depended idiot, that man was. He didn't listen to me. I doubt he even believed me. George? Now that one was unfair. He followed through with his promise; he never smoked another cigarette again. But, he inhaled a lot of second hand smoke. He died from lung cancer anyways.
I once again swallowed back my tears, now focusing on Maggie Mae once more. "Really?" I asked.
She smiled, glad that I was interested in her story. "Pretty name, don't you think?"
She had totally forgotten who I was. She didn't know my name anymore, let alone my relation to her. "I-I guess."
She nodded slowly, her eyes becoming distant once more. I had to tell her, and I had to do it now. I took another deep, quivering breath. "John told me to tell you that he loved you. And that he was so…" I chose to omit one of the words he told me to used, "…sorry about everything that happened."
She looked back at me slowly. And for a moment she just stared at me, and I couldn't tell if she knew what-or who-I was talking about. Then, after a few moments, her eyes began to glisten with tears.
Oh, God. I could take a lot of shit, but I didn't know if I could take this. I stood up swiftly, almost knocking my chair over. "Listen, Des is waiting for me, so I gotta go."
Without waiting for a response, I began to barrel towards the door, blinking fast and trying with all my might not to cry. I was almost at the door when she said something.
She thought that I was my mother. That was just fucking dandy, huh? I turned around slowly, facing her once more. "Yes?" I answered, though I knew I should have corrected her. It was just easier this way.
"I just want you to know, that I loved your father very much. And that I still do." One single, fat tear rolled down her withered cheek. She smiled at me again. "Have a nice week."
I felt like I couldn't breathe. I had to get out of there. I tried to choke out a goodbye to her, but I wasn't sure if anything came out. The next thing I knew I was sprinting down the hallway and out to the car, practically hyperventilating. But I wouldn't cry. That I was determined about.
I stopped when I got to the car, taking deep, even breaths and fanning my face. When I heard footsteps, I looked up, expecting to see Des. Instead, I saw someone ELSE that I hadn't seen in a while.
"A.J., my dear," Papa Ryan drawled in his thickly accented voice. "What's wrong?"
He was probably visiting Gramma. But that was all I could work out about his sudden appearance. I struggled to think straight, scared that if I started speaking something I didn't want to say would slip out. "Uh…y-yeah I'm fine."
He shuffled a little bit closer to me, his frown deep. "You're sure? When I didn't hear from you…"
And then I realized that we weren't talking about the same thing. I stared blatantly, forgetting all about what had just happened. "I'm…doing better, I guess."
That was an understatement. When I first got home, I cried for two days straight. My mother was at a loss, completely freaked out at what seemed like such a sudden change. But after that, I got better. After a week I started to take calls from my friends and Des again. However, I didn't get back together with him until about a week ago. And to tell you the truth, I am still hung up as hell on Ringo.
Papa nodded, then held his arms up. "You look like you could use a hug, little girl."
I laughed, then moved closer to him, resting my head on his chest. Once again, that familiar smell rushed towards me. A thousand memories came crashing down on my head.
"A.J.?" a voice boomed from across the parking lot. "You okay?"
I lifted my head from Papa's embrace, taking a step back. "Yeah, I'm fine," I said once he was in ear shot.
He gazed down at me, looking all concerned. "Are you sure? Because-"
"I said I'm fine," I snapped. He looked rather taken aback for a second.
"Uh…well, okay. Meet me in the car, okay?"
I nodded following him with my eyes til he was safely where he said he would be. Then I looked back at Papa Ryan. He was looking at me, a toothy grin plastered on his face, his eyes bright and shimmering.
"That's my girl," he chuckled, reaching a hand out and ruffling my hair. He pointed inside at the door. "So I take it you've already seen her?"
The memory flashed before my eyes for a moment. I cringed. "Er…yeah."
He nodded, as though he understood perfectly. "I see. Well, I've got to go. Give me a call later, okay?"
"I will," I vowed. But I don't know if he heard me, as he was already making his way towards the doors. As always, that grin was still etched on his face.
It was later that night that I realized that I should do my laundry. It was the first time that I had worn these jeans since I got back from Liverpool, as they were filled with too many memories. But I had run out of clothes, and they were my last option, so I figured what the hell.
I was emptying my pockets, because I ALWAYS forget to do that and ending up losing tons of money. In one of the back pockets, there was a candy wrapper and a few coins from earlier today. In the right front pocket, I found a phone number. I didn't think that it had been there earlier, but I couldn't be sure. I rested it on top of the washing machine. In the left front pocket, I found a small, folded piece of yellow paper. I frowned, unfolding it so that it was open and flat in front of my face.
It read: JOHN'S FUCKING PUDDING! WHAT DON'T YOU PEOPLE GET ABOUT THAT?
My hand began to quiver, my other hand coming up slowly to touch my lips. Fuck. I glanced over at the scrap of paper with the number that was currently resting on top of the washing machine. It all suddenly made sense. Papa must have slipped it to when he was hugging me earlier…
I clasped my hand around the yellow paper, squeezing hard, and picked both the phone number and my cell phone up. I stared at them both, my heart beating extraordinarily fast. It was impossible…wasn't it? There was no way…
I spun around, leaning my back against the wall in the laundry room and sinking down so that my knees were pulled up to my chest. I slowly punched the digits that were on the paper into my cell phone. My palm was sweating so much I could hardly hold the device.
Once the numbers were in, I sat there, staring at them. Should I…call? I didn't know. What if I was wrong? What if it was just some random number that I had never bothered to take out of my pocket? That disappointment…it would be crushing.
Hell with it. Since when had I ever been one to overthink things? Never. Just do it, I told myself. So, with unneeded force, I pressed send.
The phone slowly made its way up to my ear. I waited with baited breath for it to start ringing. And then-
Oh, God. What if they all hated me now? What if Ringo told them all what a nasty bitch I was and that he hated me and now THEY all did?
My heart was leaping out of my chest. If it rang ONE MORE FUCKING TIME I swear to God I was gonna have a heart attack and die.
Nope, still alive. They were probably just going to ignore the call. They probably weren't even home. This probably wasn't even their damn number. That's alright. Who said I even WANTED to talk to them anyways? I mean, that would just open old wounds, wouldn't it?
Who the hell was I kidding? I wanted to hear their voices again SO FUCKING BAD! I wanted to have to strain to hear George as he mumbled, I wanted to have to hang up on Paul when he just went on and on about something I didn't care about, I wanted to yell at John for being an asswipe and not listening to me. Most of all, I wanted to tell Ringo that I was sorry, but I left for him. And that no matter what, I would always love him.
WHY WOULDN'T THEY FUCKING PICK UP THE DAMN PHONE?
I sucked in a deep breath quickly, that familiar voice bringing back all kinds of memories. There was so many things I wanted to say to him. So many God damned things. But I couldn't make myself speak. Those tears I had been holding back all day? Yeah, now the floodgates were released. Salt water poured from my eyes, and I gasped and struggled for breath.
"'Ello?" he repeated. "Er…are you all right?"
These words made me cry harder, heavy sobs that wracked my body, and made my hands quiver. I thought he would hang up. I honestly thought he would. But he didn't. I could hear his voice on the other line, breathing steady, being there for me even though he didn't know who I was.
I gathered myself enough to force out words. "She said…she…still loves you…" I gasped, desperately trying to get ahold of myself.
There was complete silence on the other line. Nothing at all was said. But that's okay; I could tell that he knew. That was all that mattered to me. And now, I knew the reason that Papa had brought me into the past. It wasn't to fall in love, and it wasn't to save John Lennon or George Harrison. It didn't really have anything to do with Maggie Mae or him, either. Those were just things that I learned and picked up along the way.
No, the true reason was on the other line, breathing heavily and not saying a word. It was knowing that I'd always have someone, any of the four of them, just a phone call away. It was having the knowledge that even when I didn't believe I was anything special, I had four of THE MOST special people that ever lived to tell me I was wrong. It was having friends so far away, yet close enough that I would never be lonely again. And if one day, they didn't answer? That was okay. I'd still have them through their music, and the memories that we shared. One way or another they'd always be there for me…
Any time at all.