Now and Then

I stood off at the end of the truck listening to John basically wail into the microphone, the cheap peice of crap hardly did anything for him anyways. He was loud enough without it.

"How long they been up there?"

"Dunno." I didn't have to look up to see Julia standing next to me.

Didn't need to look up to see her holding out the cigarette for me already lit and smoldering at her finger tips.

"What do you know?" She asked.

I could see her face perfectly without looking up from my feet, boots to big for them, and pants dangling around my ankles.

"M'name." I sighed taking a drag of the cigarette and looking up.

"Thats a lot more than last time I asked!" She teased taking my face between her hands and placing a hard kiss to my forehead brushing my bangs out of the way in the process. "Show them pretty eyes girl."

I huffed and put the ciggie back to my lips pursing them tight around it and taking a long silent drag before exhaling through my nose.

I cleared my throat she knew what I was gonna ask anyways.

"My place at seven."

"There gonna be drinks?" I asked finally looking at her directly, not the tents behind her or the sky above her head.

"Drinks and ciggies, maybe more, and birds-"

"I'm so crazy for them birds." I said putting on a pathetic face.

"I meant for the guys." She said hitting my shoulder jokingly a soft smile playing at her lips and a laugh in her throat.

I continued to listen to John his voice getting rougher and throatier with every lyrical splurg and string of useless songs changed and played with my mind like a yoyo...

Up and down his voice reaching its wailing point the breaking poing where there was nothing coming out anymore. I kicked the wheel of the truck and walked away dropping the cig in the grass and heading for home.

Or Strawberry Feilds.

"Where ye goin'?" Julia called after me.

I shrugged, maybe home wasn't the best place. Maybe the house was. Maybe the back or out back the school or somewhere people would never find me as I picked apart my thoughts and feelings, emotions toying with my mind again as John's voice called out to me.

"Where ye going?" He shouted a loud bang on the truck bed.

I shrugged again not letting my weakness become true. I couldn't look back at him or let him see me on the brink of tears and a screaming fit. Not at my weakest for the first time in a long time. No one could see me.

"AC/DC boys! Keep playing!" I called back in a laughing matter.

"Don't go!" They all mussed.

"Prettiest bird can't walk out now." John said in a playful voice.

"Awh come off it." I said walking away.

The grass turned to pavement under my feet hard and cold like my heart.

No one knew why I'd become so cold after all this time. I'd never been like this before, depressed and alone. Even when I was surrounded by people. A thousand people, ten people, even John and me and I would be a mess. Julia thought she knew thought she could crack me wide open and shed some light on the subject but not even I could.

"Aggro." Julia said pulling me out into the street and dancing out infront of me, her red hair flowing infront of her in summer curls.

I shrugged.

"Alright." I paused knowing she knew me too well to believe that. "Habdabs..."

"What from?" Her eyes pulling me in and reeling me behind the church tearing John from ear shot and safety.

"Dunno just started in the middle o' the night. Somethin' 'bout dissapearin'. No one sees me but I'm there." I pulled out a cigarette and lit up.

"It's typical for someone to have a nightmare sweetie-"

"Please don't call me that."

"Why not?" She smiled knowing it got under my skin.

"Makes me sound airy-fairy." I smiled feeling my cheeks blush pink and eyes sparkle at the thought of a real fairy from the story books and fairy-tales.

"Well it's yer birthday ye can't be an air head all day. We bought ye somethin' anyways ye fairy." She teased poking my nose, pulling the cigarette from my lips and snuffing it out, pulling me back around so the boys were in my veiw again.

"They end any minute. I'm sure John'll tell ye then."

"I don't want a present." I stomped my foot like a kid and rolled my eyes.

"Fine then. Go get airlocked and have nowhere to crash. Don't come cryin' t'me-"

"Didn't mean it like that!" I begged getting to my knees and wrapping my arms around hers.

She smiled down at me and pulled me to my feet.

"It's no wonder he fancies ye." She rolled her eyes and looked back over to the boys finishing their last number.

"He's a bloomin' poof! 'Ave ye seen him with that Stu guy? They're all over each other!" I laughed as John made a face at me from across the lawn too bad I was the one that was all over Stu...

"And ye don't fancy him?" She asked pinching my cheek.

I batted her hand away and shrugged.

"Dunno. Never thought of it like that, you know? We're always gettin' in a barney or startin' trouble. I don't see how that appeals to anyone."

"It appeals to you two otherwise you wouldn't do it."

I shrugged watching John fall from the truck and drag Shotton to his knees, his blonde hair dissapearing under the crowd, but before I knew it they were racing towards me, tackling me, and sending us to the ground in a mess of limbs.

"John ye pansy! Yer all over Shotton here! Give 'im space to breathe before showin' him yer packet!" I laughed.

The both lifted me to my feet and pushed me against the wall.

"Listen here missy-" John started in a giggly mannor.

"Happy Birthday." Pete kissed my cheek.

"Someone's shy." I said clasping my hands over his and returning the favour. "Thank you."

He turned red in the face.

"Find a blonde bimbo did ye Shotton?" John asked pulling me away and inside.

"What're ye doin' for yer birthday Jenny?" Pete asked pulling me close by the waist.

"Not you." I laughed pushing him away.

"Awh no skirt for Shotton before he leaves us?" John mussed.

I only laughed and kissed Pete on the cheek.

"Maybe when yer back." But we all knew I didnt fancy him, just teased him and messed around with the others.

"Ready to get on then?" John asks.

But before I could reply, a knock on the door pulled me away from him and Pete. I wandered off to find food or a drink, beer a smoke, anything and let them talk to this guy that appeared out of nowhere with his guitar.

His name was Paul. I'd seen him around before, something about him made me think back to being a tot again, something strange like I'd met him before and really knew him. I knew I didn't.

"Hey Jen." He smiled at me.

"Maybe I did." I shrugged and joined the rest of the band, names slipping me except for Stu.

He waved me over and pulled me into his arms, kissing me all over and hugging me tight.

"Quit it!" I laughed, pushing him away.

"Awh come off it! He gets to say Happy Birthday but I get shoved away? Where's the respect in that?" He teased pulling me into another bear hug and letting go quickly.

"They've got another guitar guy over there." I said as soon as he let go.

He only nodded and slid his sunglasses over his eyes, tapping his foot impatiently. I knew what he wanted.

I kissed him on the lips quickly but didn't let anyone see. He was the only one that knew I liked him, not even Julia who knew everything.

Given this was John's life I was part in, made it harder to find people to call mine.

My friends. My family. My best mate.

But it was easier that way, never lingering.

Maybe that's what was getting to me after all this time, having nothing to call mine. Nothing in general.

"C'mon J!" John called to me.

"Coming to Julia's later? There's gonna be birds." I said smiling and winking at Stu quickly.

He cocked an eyebrow over the top of his glasses.

"When?"

"Seven. Me and John are goin t'London." I said rolling my eyes.

He nodded and kissed my forehead. "'Ave fun luv."

John dragged me out the door in a giggle fit.

"How much money d'ye got on ye Lennon?" I ask bursting out in a giggle of my own.

"None. How bout ye luv?"

"Same as ever." None.

The bus ride was silent, he would occasionally laugh or make a witty remark about someone in front of us.

When we got there he dragged me right to our hang out spot. The record shop.

"What are ye listening to these days J?"

"Depends on our budget." I said peering through a pile straight over from America.

I took a handful and pulled John closer to me, making sure he was covering the cashiers view as I tucked them in my coat pocket and did the same with a handful of other artists as well, tucking them in John's pockets and dragging him from the store before actually taking a look at what we snagged.

We sat on the edge of a railing around the corner, out of breath and laughing after running in fear of being caught.

"Alright." He took the records from our pockets and scanned through them.

"Looks good to me." I said lighting a cigarette and puffing at it contently.

He looked at me and plucked it from my lips taking a drag and continuing to look through the records.

"That was mine." I said laying my head on his shoulder and giving him my world class puppy dog face.

"Yer point?" He asked winking at me.

"It is my birthday you meanie." I said hitting his shoulder and standing up, turning around to look over the railing we were so content on.

"C'mon. Yer gonna play that card all day ain't ye?" He said rolling his eyes and handing the records back to me.

"No. Its just mean to steal the birthday persons ciggy." I said giggling.

"I brought ye all the way out here and after that I think ye owe me more than a cig luv." He looked at me with pleading eyes.

I laughed. "We all know yer well hung John.-"

"Didn't mean it like that!" He said gaping.

"Whatever. If you didn't mean it like that then how did ye mean it ye wanker?" I said smirking.

"I was wonderin' if my mum told ye about the present we got ye."

I shook my head, his dark brown eyes kind of floating around from my eyes to the space behind me.

"I... I'll tell ye later." He paused and looked down at me, I'd folded my legs and was balancing on the railing. "We'll be late if we piss off here any longer."

The bus ride was awkward after that talk. I mean I grew up next door to John, knew him most of my life. Well sort of. It must be at least three years now... We're best mates and that's all that mattered. I knew him like the back of my hand, studied his expressions and emotions trying to understand exactly who he was hiding from the world. So far he was hiding his past, growing up without his mum and dad, living with his auntie and playing rock and roll. He was hiding anything that could make him look soft. So I didn't expect mush from him, the sappy stuff and romance. He was 'a man' after all.

Ever since Julia came back into his life the three of us have been as close knit as a family, the thing I never had. Grew up with a family friend, Scarlet, and she moved away not a month ago. That left me alone. No one to talk to or see, no one to come home to except a dark lonely house and a telephone call from John.

'The band... this.'

'The band... that.'

His band that introduced me to my current crush-not-quite-boyfriend-guy, Stu Sutcliffe. The bassist, the sweet, funny, quiet, shy, mysterious artist. The guy that crushed back.

When we finally got back to Liverpool we sat around out back of Julia's place strumming his guitar and bopping along with the mix of alcohol and cigarettes droning about our bodies. Not too much though, just enough to be sober.

People started showing up, everyone from the band and their friend(s), their girl, their best mate, and Paul. Paul McCartney, the newest addition to The Quarrymen. Another guitarist. Now what's the roster you ask? John on guitar, Paul likewise, Stu on bass, Pete (Shotton) on washboard (really, though, who needed a washboard player?), and (Pete) Best on drums.

Anyone who was anyone had seen The Quarrymen preform... well... in John's mind that was true.

"Hey, what're ye thinkin' 'bout luv?" Stu covered my eyes from behind.

"Nothin'. Yer early." I say smiling and trying to pull his hands away.

"Stop fightin' me and let me take you outside. Need t'give ye yer birthday presents."

"Presents? Why multiple?" I sighed in defeat.

"Because I say so." I felt the change in air temperature. "'Kay. Open yer eyes."

He stood in front of me, dressed up in his best, holding out a sparkling necklace. Around a thin gold chain hung a small silver heart. It was beautiful.

"Before you go 'Oh Stuart you shouldn't have!' like a little girl, nearly hug me to death and tell me you love me I need to ask you something as your other present." He almost knew me too well.

He was the only one that could make me melt into a little girl, the preppy pretty girl every boy wanted in their pants... or just wanted.

"I was wondering," He walked behind me, moving my hair out of the way and putting the necklace on for me. "If you'd be my girlfriend."

There was no question about it. It was yes or yes.

I blushed and turned around, throwing myself into him and kissing him over and over again.

But there was a sigh somewhere close, neither of us pried our attention from the other but continued to kiss and ignore the fact that someone had seen. Ignoring a major part of life couldn't be that bad, right?