One day in early April I was walking down the hall with Susan to her room after lunch. She had some notes for me, and we were going to study for our American Drama class test, when the phone rang right after we passed it. It's an unwritten rule that if you're closest to the phone when it rings, you answer it. Susan picked it up. "Pfeiffer Hall second floor."
"Yes, can you please find Jill Dearborn for me?"
Susan's jaw dropped. She covered the mouthpiece and said, "I think it's your man! Or at least someone with a British accent asking for you!"
I excitedly grabbed the phone from her hand. "Paul?"
"Sorry to disappoint, luv, it's John. Paul's lost his voice, so he can't talk! But he did tell me to call you about a visit--our Paulie would like a tour of your lovely pastures, and insisted that you be his tour guide; how does an arrival on May 1st sound?"
"John, I am still in school! I can't--"
"No, he's not asking you to come here. We have a 12-day vacation coming up then, and Paul wants to spend a few days with you at your school!"
Wow! Not only would this be Paul with me, this would be Paul at school to show off to all my friends! But there were still some concerns. I thought it out aloud. "Where would he come in? I think that's during the week and there's no way I can get to St. Louis or Chicago to pick him up then, and he won't be able to drive here. There's the bus or train. Okay, I think I'd recommend coming into Chicago, and then bussing down here."
"Alright, I can get it arranged with Brian; he's a whiz at all this stuff. Here, Paul wants to talk to you...or try at least!" John laughed.
John handed the phone to Paul, and he whispered very hoarsely, "Hello, luv. Sorry I can't talk to you but I want to say that I can't wait to see you! Please talk to me, I want to hear your voice. I miss you." I heard John in the background teasing in a little girl voice, "Paulie loves Jill! Paulie loves Jill!"
I couldn't help but giggle. "I miss you too, and I'm not laughing at you, it's at John! I'm sorry you're sick, just please get better so we can see each other soon! Have Brian call me, please, with the specifics, a little closer to time, okay?"
"Sure, luv. Gotta ring off now." He gave the phone back to John. "Okay, luv, we're gonna go now. Gotta get some tea in your Paulie here."
"Wait John--how's Cyn?"
"Frankly, that kid's about to pop out any minute!"
"Well, good luck to you both. Let me know how the baby is--I expect a birth announcement!"
I had to figure out where I would put a British rock star for about a week. Under other circumstances, I might have gotten away with him staying in my room, but it would be very uncomfortable with Anne there, not to mention the fact that I was an RA and you just didn't break the rules like that, especially a big one like visitation. I had a good male friend, Dan Jacobsen, who I thought might be able to accommodate a boarder for a few days. I knew he always got to University Choir early, so I planned to get there early, too, to ask him. I saw him seated in the choir room when I got there fifteen minutes early. I walked on over and plopped down in the chair in front of him and turned to face him. "Danny Boy! My friend, my pal! How is this lovely day finding you?" I smiled sweetly and twirled a curl around my finger.
He looked up from his music and asked, "Alright, Jilly, whaddya want?" He smiled at me. Oh, that smile...it was almost as nice as Paul's was.
Here goes nothing! I spoke quickly, like I always did when I was nervous. "Well, I have a huge favor to ask. My friend Paul from England is coming over here at the start of May for a few days, and since I can't keep him in my room and he doesn't want to stay in a hotel and he really can't or shouldn't be driving over here..."
"Oh, no problem! Doug's hardly there anyway, so he can sleep in his bed. It'd be nice to have some company once in a while. You're welcome to stay, too!" he said with a smirk as he put his hand on my knee.
I picked up his hand and removed it from my leg. "Um, thanks but no thanks," I replied.
Dan and I tried to date the previous year, but it didn't work out for whatever reason; I honestly couldn't remember why we broke up. Oh, yes I do, it was because I wouldn't sleep with him. I chuckled--a current flame staying with an ex of mine. Oh well. But Dan had agreed to it, and I guess that was all that mattered. Luckily, Paul's visit would be before finals--I knew that would be enough to break my concentration!
Paul said he was dying to get back into the classroom, so I was hoping I could convince my professors that he would be a worthy guest in my classes. Spring semester I had my voice lessons, Jazz Ensemble and choir, an intro to American Drama class, a psych course on conducting tests and surveys, jazz history, and a seminar course on early music. I'd also taken a ballroom dancing course with Dan just for fun.
As the day of Paul's arrival approached, I grew more and more excited. I was a bit worried, though. What if he had changed? Had I changed? Anne was dying to meet him. She was almost as excited as I was! She planned a very small "reception" in our room. His flight got in at Chicago on Wednesday at about 11 a.m., and his bus was scheduled to arrive in Normal at 3 p.m. Anne stayed at the dorm to get the room ready--she put balloons all over the place and made a big "Welcome Paul!" banner. She was the social/rush chair for our professional music sorority Delta Omicron--she always knew how to throw a party, even if sometimes she did go a bit overboard.
The drive to the bus station was a blur. I was so nervous; My stomach was turning round and round. Probably the fact that all I had eaten that day was a banana and half a PB&J didn't help matters. I wore a new outfit that I had bought just for the occasion--a white blouse and pink & white herringbone skirt. Even my car looked nice that day; Susan and I had washed it the day before. Since it was the first of May, one would assume that it might be temperate. However, it was quite cold that day, so I had to dig my navy jacket out of the back of the closet. I hadn't told Paul about what Anne had planned, he didn't want to make a big fuss out of his arrival. I parked as close as I could to the bus station. There weren't too many people coming and going since it was the middle of the week, but on the weekends the place was usually packed. I asked at the desk about his bus, and they said that it should arrive within 20 minutes. I found a spot on one of the uncomfortable wooden benches and continued where I had left off in my latest play assignment--we were reading Our Town. I had read ahead the previous night--whenever I am nervous, it's very hard to get to sleep! But I read on anyway, just to have something to read. My other classes' work was too cumbersome to stick in my shoulder bag and whip out at the bus station as a time-passer. I hadn't read more than five pages when a voice over the public address announced: "Bus #824 from Chicago now arriving. Boarding for all southbound passengers will commence in five minutes."
I was so excited I almost forgot to mark my page! I put the script in my bag as I got up and headed for the doors. I scanned the crowd, and being a little on the short side, it's sometimes difficult. I finally saw Paul struggling with his bags. I was practically jumping out of my skin when I saw him. I yelled, "Paul! Over here!" and waved my arm up in the air. He spotted me, and waved as best he could through the crowd and with a week's worth of luggage in his arms. I ran over to him; he put down the bags and, seemingly in one movement, picked me up and hugged me tight, not saying a word. I hugged him back, my feet dangling, and like a crashing wave all the feelings I had had for him the previous summer came back, just in that short hug.
He put me back down. I really wanted to kiss him, but instead asked how his trip was. He replied, "Oh, it wasn't that bad, considering the distance I traveled. I'll tell you it was certainly worth it!" He smiled at me and our eyes locked, just for a moment. He broke the awkwardness by handing me a lightweight bag and saying, "Here luv, let's get these out to your auto." I took the bag from him and we walked out to my car. We chatted more about his trip, and what had happened in our lives the past couple weeks. He helped me put the bags in the trunk (one was very heavy), and as I was about to go around and unlock his door, he turned me around and kissed me. I could have melted right into the pavement. It was chilly, but I felt the warmest I had felt since...well, since the previous summer! I usually was one of those people who don't like public displays of affection, but at that point I didn't have a care in the world. We finally broke apart, and I looked at him with a bewildered look on my face. I guess I looked a little stunned, because he apologized, "Sorry about that, Jill...um, I just couldn't resist, I suppose."
I nodded. "It's alright, I didn't mind." I smiled and straightened my hair. "Um, we'd better get going."
We got in the car and I told him that Anne had planned a small reception celebrating his arrival. He pouted as he fiddled with the radio in the car. "Aw, she didn't have to do that--she hardly knows me! And you know I don't like a big fuss."
I came to her defense. "She's just got a kind heart, she likes to do things for people, it's her nature. I'd take it as a great compliment; I've never seen her go to these lengths for someone she hasn't met. Here, try 690--they usually play the popular music." I turned the dial to the station so he could listen to some American music.
The drive back seemed pretty quick. It was only about a ten-minute ride anyway, but today there seemed to be no traffic on the roads. It started to sprinkle a little, which didn't help the chilly temperatures. We pulled into the parking lot for Pfeiffer, and surprisingly I found a parking space! Usually you ended up parking on the streets or if it was late at night, in the Nierstheimer's Drug Store parking lot across the street and then moved your car in the morning. I was just going to keep his bags in my car and drive them over to Dan's dorm later on, but Paul insisted that we bring them in. We got the bags out of the trunk and went into my dorm. Paul was looking around at everything like a kid in a candy store. He had been asking me questions non-stop since we got in the car, and was fascinated at how an American university looked and operated as compared to British ones.
We got up to my room, and I slowly opened the door, not knowing what to expect. Anne, Dan, Susan, and a few others were in the room. Anne had put her trademark streamers up, and the "Welcome Paul!" banner she had been working on for a while. She never missed a detail, the Please Please Me album was playing on the record player. We shoved Paul's bags under the vanity for the time being; he said they needed to be accessible. We made introductions to everyone. Anne, being straightforward, just gave him a big hug when they met. Some other people from my floor wandered over; I don't know if it was the free food (just veggies, dip, cheese, sausage, & crackers and some soft drinks) or the fact that they all happened to like the Beatles' album and wanted to get their chance to meet a real rock star. We all chatted for quite a while. We finally found out what had been in the bag--Paul had brought enough London and Liverpool souvenirs for everyone! I had been able to get meal tickets for Paul so he could eat in the dining commons--not that it's a really nice commons, but hey, it's free food. We were able to purchase these meal tickets for a small fee; it was still probably cheaper than running to a restaurant! There was the Steak & Shake down the street and a couple delicatessens and bakeries, but other than that, there wasn't too much around. About 8 of us went to the commons together for dinner--that night they were serving the wonderful delicacy of an open-faced turkey sandwich (Anne called it "shit on a shingle"!), with mashed potatoes. Not a fancy meal, but again, it was "free"!
Friday night, I had a performance, a combination University Orchestra/Jazz Ensemble concert. I was glad that Paul was here, so he could hear me sing. That night's concert was a tribute to George Gershwin. I sang "Someone to Watch Over Me" and "I Got Rhythm". Paul went with Anne (she joked with me and was bragging about her "date"), and she said he really enjoyed the concert, finally getting to see me perform instead of the other way around!
After the concert, Paul & I went out for a drink. We had had the chance to talk some before, but both of us were reluctant to discuss our futures. Paul swirled his scotch & Coke around in the glass for a bit (I knew this meant he was thinking, trying to organize his thoughts), and finally spoke. "So, I'm sure everyone's asked you this, but I'll ask you, too. What are you doing with yourself after graduation?"
I already knew. Anne knew. Auntie & Rog knew. My parents & Chris knew. Whoever Mom told at the beauty shop knew. That's all that knew my plans. I was terrified to tell Paul. I wasn't sure if he would be happy or annoyed or what he would feel. I knew that he still cared about me, but what kind of care was it? I took a drink of my Bass and began. "Well, I was planning on telling you sooner, but in person it seems better, I guess. After graduation, I'm--"
"Jill? Is that you?" A voice came from behind me.
"Christine? Oh my goodness--how long has it been?" I got out of my chair and we hugged.
Christine Swain was my pledge mother in Delta Omicron. She graduated two years ahead of me, and I didn't think we had seen each other in person since homecoming in the fall of 1960. We were pretty good friends, she had invited me to her wedding last summer, but I happened to be in England at that time. She was in town on business and was leaving the next morning. She joined us for a few minutes and we caught up on old times. She gave me her new address and asked me what I was doing after graduation. I looked at Paul, who perked up at that question, since I hadn't had the chance to finish it. I hesitated, wondering if I should tell Christine and Paul at the same time. I just told her that I was going to take some time off to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, maybe travel a bit. Thankfully, she was satisfied with that answer, and left.
Paul had been looking at me with a questioning look. "Traveling, eh? Where to, might I ask?"
"Well, like I was trying to say before, after graduation, I'm..." Here goes! "I'm moving to England. Auntie & Rog are going to let me live with them until I find a place of my own. Auntie offered me the job of assistant manager of the store. I might try some theatre, too, or get in with a choir or group. I really like it over there. I'm young--when else will I be able to travel? Who knows, I might come back to the States. Or I might stay over there. I just don't know." There, I had said it, at about the rate of 1,000 words per minute. I had no idea how much of it he actually caught. All I had to do now was wait for his response.
He sat there wide-eyed. I thought that I'd done something really stupid. I'd been warned about changing your total future for a guy, and how it almost never works out for the best. He swished his drink again, took my hand, and said, "Jill, that's the best news I've heard in a long time. I don't think I've been this happy since we got our first number one song!" Whew! Yeah, that was easy, I thought to myself...he leaned over and gave me a quick kiss. "Now can I really call you my girl? That is, if you'll still have me." He gave me some puppy dog eyes and nuzzled my nose.
I smiled, trying to be somewhat calm on the outside, but inside my heart was doing major flip-flops from my toes through to the top of my head and back! "Of course I will...if you can handle me, that is!" I smiled and wrinkled my nose playfully.
He whispered to me, "C'mon luv, let's get outta here and celebrate. I know Dan's gone 'til at least midnight."
My eyes widened. I was somewhat shocked, but the idea sure sounded great to me. We quickly paid the check and left. Paul couldn't keep his hands off of me while I was driving--I'm surprised we didn't get pulled over on the way back. I led him down the hall to Dan's room. Paul quickly opened the door and we got inside and locked it back. Things happened so quickly. We were fumbling with buttons, zippers...somehow we made it to the bed. I'd always thought that sex was supposed to be slow and romantic. This was a far cry from my ideal, but still satisfying!
On to Chapter Eleven
Back to Chapter Nine
Copyright © Winona Patterson, 1999-2006.