Chapter Twenty One How Do You Do It

Normally running away from life's problems isn't the best choice. It shows a weakness that you can hide, but can't escape from. That you'd rather leave them unsolved than put an effort in to fix it. You have to face your problems eventually. They won't just disappear. And I know this all to well. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying every last second of the freedom I feel as though I've rightfully earned by doing so. I know deep down that Ms. Kollins is still out there, waiting to do me in. But surrounded by my loving, somewhat dysfunctional band of boys, I can't help but feel at home. At last, at home. It doesn't matter where we are, because where ever they may be, that's where I hang my hat. Unfortunately because of this, my "home" at the moment is a club. Stupid boys.

"Sadie, my angel face!" my favorite voice calls out in delight. I spot John waiting for me by the door to the club, Paulie beside him with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I approach them quickly, smiling warmly at John. He stands by my side and asks, "What took ya so long?"

"Oh, don't even go there, Mr. I Know Just How To Get There. It was only a five minute walk but with the directions you gave me it took half an hour!" I complain in mostly pretend annoyance. He knows that I actually adore long walks, especially after it's just rained, like today. But I'm annoyed because he also knows I don't like being late to things.

He grins sheepishly, "Yea well..." His only other response is directed at Paul. "You gonna stand there all day or open the damn door?" I roll my eyes at his childishness but my heartbeat still becomes a bit erratic when he casually entwines his fingers with mine. My, my. What this boy does to me even just when he holds my hand.

The three of us enter the club, the heat from all the tightly packed bodies and the thumping bass greeting us like an all too familiar friend. Paul no sooner disappears into the crowd when George shows his skinny tags along with us in search of Stu. I still don't know how I feel about Stu. He's not mean to me, but it feels like when he talks to me it seems like he'd rather be doing anything else rather than being with me. I'm not sure what happened to the artistic camaraderie I thought we had developed right from the start. But just like that, it was gone.

Unfortunately for me, we find the quiet artist sitting alone at the bar, just about to order a drink. John grabs him by the shoulder without a word and pulls him in to a booth. I slid in before John, across from Georgie and Stu. All I get is a curt nod from Stu before he goes back to staring at the table. I can't tell if John's notice his best friend's change in behavior or his more often than not sullen mood. I, at least, am a little concerned.

"So why are we here again?" I question over the blaring live music. George shrugs, "It's that band Stu brought up awhile back. The one's who said they were fans of us."

Nodding in remembrance, I fiddle with the hem of my skirt, which unfortunately doesn't go unnoticed by John who then tries to assist me. He tries playing innocently with the hem like I had been but then takes it too far by sliding it farther up my thigh. Still in conversation with George, I stomp oh his foot without a break in my sentence.

"OW!" John shouts in shock. He tries to lift his foot up in panic to soothe the pain, only to somehow bang his knee against the underside of the table. George and Stu simply stare warily at us as I laugh out loud as John whines like a girl. The two of them shake their heads and get up to go check out the band. Meanwhile, I stick my tongue out at John when he blames me for his pain. "It ain't my fault you can't keep your hands to yourself." The dark eyed boy doesn't take my scolding as seriously as I had hoped. Instead there's a suspicious gleam in his eyes as he leans down to whisper in my ear, "Angel face, believe me, if you'd stop making it so God damned hard to, I would keep them to myself. However, you seem blissfully unaware of how every little thing you do makes me want you so much more."

Okay, cue the blushing, heart racing, and dizzying head pounding. It doesn't help any that he slides us farther into the booth, and farther out of sight, and places his lips on my neck. And just like that, he completely undoes all the sense in me. I sling my arms around his neck and catch his lips with my own. Smiling into the kiss, John pulls me up onto his lap, locking his arms around me tightly. And even though I know we are in a club full of people, as soon as he kisses me, it's as if no one else is there. Which is a horrible thing because then I actually forget that there are other people there. So when we are still practically making out, I hear a painfully familiar voice scoff, "Jesus, go get yourselves a freakin' room already. The rest of us don't really want a preview of what happens when you two are alone."

I rip myself away from a much irritated John to find Pru and Paul pretending to gag. "Oh shut it, wouldja."

Pru rolls here eyes but smiles knowingly at me. I really am glad that she turned out to be such a good friend. I'd gone to her house not that long after John brought me back with him. The look on her face was priceless when she saw it was me. She also made up a very efficient lie about why I was around if her parents ever found out. And much to my surprise, she actually had just gone and talked to her Aunt Rita about having me work at her art gallery. Which I agreed to immediately, of course. In fact, I am rather nervous about it because I start in two days. Who knows what it'll be like to work with an actual artist. I can't wait. Although, John isn't too thrilled about losing me for such long periods of time but I told him to stick a straw in it and suck it up. And yes, his reaction to that made me laugh so hard I was crying. Though I try not to think back on all of the dirty things he then said to me after that. *shudder*

We just sit and listen to the band for a little longer. They're actually not that bad. Not great, but not bad. They finished up their set with a crappy cover of an Elvis song. It is so horrendous that I actually think John might be sick. He sure does love his Elvis. Just not the people who ruin his songs. I just rub his back soothingly and laugh at his pained expression. "This is so shite!" he exclaims over and over. "'Cept for the drums," the guitarist mumbles at one point, "yea, 'cept for the drums."

Thankfully, they soon finish and another group replaces them. A few moments later, when we are all getting up to leave, Stu reappears with George and a shorter boy with longer, sandy brown hair and a rather large nose. His smile is so wide it's contagious and I suddenly find myself smiling a bit wider than before. "Hey mates," Stu calls out, "This 'ere is the drummer I was tellin' you about."

"H-hi. It's so gear to finally meet you. We, our band, think you guys are great. Least, I do. I don't really care fer them or what they think," the drummer babbles on. I instantly take a liking to him. I find him absolutely adorable. Beside me, from the corner of my eye I can see John size the poor kid up. Eventually he offers a gruff nod of acknowledgement. "So you're the drummer? Not bad, mate, not bad. Whadaya call yerselves anyway?"

"Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. And I'm Ringo. Ringo Starr," he rushes excitedly.

"John Lennon." After a moment, he says, "I wish ye well, mate. Keep playin'. Hope to hear a you soon, alright. See ya."

And with that, John grabs my hand and pulls me out of the club. "Hey wait a minute," I say, digging my heels into the sidewalk. John spins around in surprise. "You were so rude to him. He was so excited to meet you, couldn't you see? And then you barely say ten words to the guy!"

"So? Sadie, I said what anyone a us woulda said. I told him he was good. What more is there to say really?" To be fair, his question actually is valid, I just don't feel like admitting it, so I walk right past him. Sighing, he jogs to catch up with me. "So what shall we do me lovely lady?"

"I have no idea. I suppose we could go to the lighthouse again. We haven't been in awhile." I don't really have any other suggestions to offer at the moment.

"I know you hate talking about this, but we really have to at some point." John groans beside me, burrowing his face into the crook of my neck. I run my hand along the soft fabric of the blanket before rolling onto my side. I use his chest as a pillow and curl up against him.

"No, no we really don't."

"Johnny, I have to go back at some point. Annie's still there and so are the other girls. I need to know if they're alright. And I'll never have my real freedom if I don't wrap up all those loose ends, you know?" I sigh into his shirt. I breathe in deep, smelling a mixture of smoke and cinnamon. "Johnny?" I whisper, gazing up at him.

"But why?" he bursts out unable to ignore it any longer. "Other than Annie? I think you're just trying to punish yourself. I just know it's not safe for you to head back there, luv. You'll be 18 in just three months, then she can't do anything to you."

"But the-"

"I know, I know. But the girls," he mocks in annoyance. "Well fuck the girls, Sadie. Nobody worried about you for far too long. They can deal with being on their own for a bit. I will not let you risk everything to go check up on a group of ungrateful girls who didn't even help you with that psychotic woman. I know you feel like you're their mum, but yer not. And I know you feel responsible for them, but, yer not. I love you far too much to let you risk all you've earned for that. Everyone here loves you, Sadie. You've got us. You got me. Aren't we enough?" His voice grows quieter toward the end. I let his words sink in. I think that's the most I've heard him say all at once in, well, ever.

"Johnny?"

With a sigh, he breathes a, "Yes?"

"You know I love you more than anything in the world, right?" I murmur and grab a fistful of his shirt in my hand.

"Yea, I do. But it's good to hear every once in awhile," he chuckles lightly.

I reach up with one hand to trail my finger tips across his cheek bone. He places a kiss on top of my head. "So are you still gonna try ta go back?" he wonders.

I think about it for a moment. Am I really willing to risk losing everything I've done and made here for those girls? For Annie I would do. But not for any of the others any more. John's right about them. But little Annie...

His chest rises up as he heaves a large sigh. "For Annie, I'm guessin'?" Instead of answering, I simply continue to stare at his red shirt and trace little patterns on it with my finger. I knew he'd take my silence as a yes. He pulls me tighter to his side. "Well. I never thought that I'd have to compete with a six year old bird fer you, but I suppose I can try to fight fair," he chuckles softly.

I jerk up to look at him. He jumps, startled by my sudden movement. He gazes at me questioningly, looking a tad bit hurt honestly. "What'd I say?"

"Nothing, nothing. But, Johnny, how do you not know that you'd never have to compete with any one for me? I'm all yours, don't you remember?"

He says nothing but then rewards me with the most breathtakingly brilliant smile I've ever seen. Laughing, he rolls me onto my back and leans over me. With his hair falling down in front of his eyes, he smiles down at me. Then he lowers his lips until they're so close to just barely brushing against my own that I can't tell if they actually are or not. And just like that my heart is racing a mile a minute. I can detect the faintest smell of smoke on his cool breath, mingling with my own. "All mine? I like the sound of that." He's so close yet it feels like he's so achingly far away right then. Stupid boys. He's a damn tease, he is. And with a whisper, John asks, "So, can I kiss you then?"

He must have taken my nervous girly squeak as a yes because before I know it his lips are finally on mine. His kisses are hungry and his hands are roaming in areas I normally would smack them away from. And I admit, I am trying to not be so shy myself, to show him I don't always have to be a nervous goody two shoes, so I let my own hands wander a bit. I just want to be as close as possible to him in every way I can. And I want to show him that. I just don't know how.

Drawing up some courage, I slide my hands down his back, nails dragging against his shirt. My face heats up when a small groan escapes from his lips. Smiling into the kiss, now knowing that he's at least enjoying himself a little, I get a little bolder. Ever so slowly, I creep my hands up under his shirt, lightly dragging my fingers over his bare skin. This simply causes him to shiver and kiss me harder than he ever has before. Now thoroughly enjoying myself, I remove my hands from his back and place them on his shoulders. He must think I am about to push him away because he starts to pull away a little. Grabbing fistfuls of his shirt, I laugh into the kiss and push him over onto his back so that I'm on top instead.

Finally, I pull away from him, but only so his face is just mere inches from mine. His dark eyes are cloudy and to be honest he looks a bit dazed. The both of us are breathing hard. I stare at him without saying a word. And then, suddenly, he sighs. My heart drops to my stomach faster than it even gets through my head that my efforts to make him happy did absolutely nothing. Then he laughs almost nervously. "Damn, Sadie. You sure don't make it seem like ya want me ta keep me hands to meself. Jesus. Yer drivin' me mad woman. How do you do it? Is it yer plan to tease me into lettin' you go? Well, if so, I'm convinced, so you might wanna give it a rest. 'Cause yer makin' it bloody near impossible fer me to stop myself from taking you right here, right now, angel face," he admits breathlessly.

Oh. He sighed because he had to stop? So I am doing something right then. Just like that my heart returns to its normal spot but now it's beating in twice the normal speed. I take in this boy beneath me. He looks so alive, so happy. And crazy as it sounds he says that it's all because of me. And this boy also promised me the world. So how can I not repay him, or at least show him some gratitude? Show him that I love him just as much. Because I sure as hell do. So, I gaze into those brown eyes of his for another moment, searching in them for something important. And there it is. Bright and shiny as the North Star. Love. That's all I see staring back at me. And it absolutely melts my heart. Then I lean down and plant slow, deliberate kisses all down his jaw on down to his collarbone. Then I make it up to his ear. Taking a deep breath, I whisper softly in his ear, "Then don't."

I can feel his body instantly freeze under me. His breath hitches in his throat. I lean back to look at him, my flaming curls pooling down over my shoulder. John's eyes are wide in an uncharacteristic like shock. I bit my bottom lip anxiously waiting for a reaction from him, heart pounding a mile a minute. This boy that I love with all my heart then reaches up to cup my face in his hands and gently pulls my head down to his. "I love ye more than you'll ever know, Sadie," he whispers. And then his lips come crashing down on mine.


"Wait. You two did WHAT?!" Prudence shrieks, her voice on the last word going into such a high frequency I swear every dog on her block heard it. Heat rushes up to my cheeks, my face burning. A second later the tiny dark haired girl grabs hold of my arm and starts dragging me into her room. Upon entering a maddening shock of yellow I realize we've made it to her room. I don't even get a chance to look around before she starts wailing on me with a pillow. "What the f-?!" I start to shout before a pillow makes contact with my face. My head gets whipped back and my mouth drops to the floor at her behavior. "Pru, what the hell is your problem!"

The petite girl pauses her assault for a moment, pillow clutched so tightly in her delicate hands her knuckles turn white. Her chocolate eyes are wide as they scan over me. I hold my hands out to her as if she's some kind of wild animal I'm trying to convince not to eat me. "Seriously? What's wrong with you?" I demand in a wary voice.

Pru narrows her eyes at me and slowly answers, "I'm beatin' all the John cooties off you." She scrunches her nose in distaste and then shudders. I stare at her for a second wondering if she's only joking, that is until I see the serious glint in her eyes. Between her intense appearance and her childish answer I can't help it. I lose it.

"AHAHAHAHA! You think-Hahaa-you're face-cooties-crack me up!" Unable to manage laughing at her and talking, I finally settle on laughing my ass of at her. Tears form in my eyes I'm laughing. I mean, I know it's funny to see her and her answer and all, but even I know that it's not as funny as I'm making it seem. But I can't stop laughing for another reason. I am happy. Me, happy, shocking I know. But it's true. For the first time since being in this country, I am completely, entirely, absolutely, unbelievably happy. So therefore, I have no reason not to laugh.

Only, Pru doesn't exactly know this yet. She started beating me with her pillow before I could tell her. But at the moment she still thinks I'm making fun of her. So naturally she resumes her attack. I flop onto her bed and curl up into a ball even as she whacks at me with her fluffy weapon. Hmm, is that a goose down pillow? Soft. "Ew, ew, ew! Yer gettin' John cooties on my bloody bed!"

The next time she swings her pillow down at me, I rip it from her hands and throw it behind me. "Pru, stop this," I command. Her brown eyes flick from me to her pillow repeatedly. Heaving a great sigh, she flops on the bed beside me. "That's so gross, Sadie. I can't believe you and him-ugh."

"Who are you to call it gross, missy?" I blurt out. She turns her head to raise an eyebrow at me. "You're the one who has told everyone in school you slept with Mike Heggley and Peter Lodder and his brother during the summer. At least I love John and he loves me. And I'll be 18 in a month and a half. You're only fifteen." I can't help but sound rude because I feel a bit offended. Here's the girl who bragged about her conquests and she's telling me that I'm gross?

"Oh, yea," she mutters. I feel the bed rise up after she stands up. I follow her movements as she crosses the room. Pru sits on the pink stool in front of her desk, shoulders hunched forward, and runs and hand through her silky hair.

"About that…"

"What?"

"All that was a lie." Her voice has lost all of its usual perkiness. She spins her stool around terribly slow to face me.

"Pru," I sigh in frustration, "I didn't mean it in that way. You don't have to lie about it. It's just that I'm really happy right now and you are totally killing it by being all hypocritical when in actuality you did soooo much worse than what I did and-"

"I'veneverevenbeenkissed!" she screams in a jumble, cutting off my frantic run on sentence. Unfortunately, even with all those lovely brain cells of mine, all I can think to respond with is, "Huh?"

"Sadie, no one's ever even kissed me! All that stuff about summer was just rumors people started. When I saw how it helped make people believe I was older and that I was cool, I just sorta never corrected anyone on it. And obviously none of those boys had a problem with me not denying it. But really, no boys actually want me." The upset girl threw the book on her desk forcefully onto the ground. It makes a small thud on the carpeted floor but goes silent after she glares at it harshly. "And I can see that you're happy. And that's why I'm upset. I just want to be there, you know. I want to be with someone the way you are with John. Even though I do hate him. A lot, by the way…in fact, how do you do it, I mean he's so-"

My glare silences her babbling. I had no idea that's what happened or how she felt. "No wonder you were so nervous about Georgie. You'd never had any experience with boys," I gasp finally understanding a whole lot more about my friend. She shoots me a dirty look, "Yea, well neither did you before John."

"I know. But he was my friend first, so I just-well, yea, you're right."

She huffs and folds her arms defensively across her chest. Softly, I offer some words of advice to my crestfallen friend, "Pru, you gotta realize that even though you're often grouped with the older kids, you're not really one of them. Hey no, don't give me that look. You know what I mean. You don't have to be where they are. Don't worry about boys yet. You shouldn't have to worry about all their nonsense right away anyhow. Just act like the young girl I know you are. And Pru, someone some day's gonna love you for it."

Pru sniffs and mumbles something. When I ask her to repeat it she mumbles it again, "You're such a good friend, Sadie. You deserve to be happier than any one else I know." Her words startle me. And warm my heart. "I am happy. And you should be too. Because we've got each other." I wrap my arms around her tiny self and after awhile she hugs me back.

"Pru?"

"Yea?"

"You know I've still got John cooties, right?"