George rang me one day at the store, a few weeks after the "cheating" furor had died down. "When I started planning this trip, I knew I had to call you. I'm going to Benton, Illinois to see my sister Louise. If I get more tickets at the same time, we can get a better price...wanna tag along?"
"Wow, George, sure! My family has been begging for me to come home for a while now. So, when do we leave?" Great, I thought--I can get away from the craziness in England for a while. I really wasn't getting used to it exactly, but I was beginning to learn to take what any of those silly rags printed with a grain of salt. I knew most of it wasn't true, so I was satisfied with that at least.
George continued, "Well, we have a two-week vacation starting on September 16th, so I was planning on flying out then. I need to let Brian know how many tickets to purchase by the end of the week, so please let me know soon, Jill."
"Okay, um, where are you calling from? Is Paul there?"
"Sure, hold on."
Paul came to the phone. "Hey, Jill!"
"Paul, did George tell you about his trip?" I asked excitedly.
"Yep, are you gonna go?" he said with some sadness and hesitation in his voice.
"Um, yeah, and I was wondering if you'd like to come with me...I mean, I'll need to okay it with my parents first, but I'm sure--"
He interrupted, "I'd love to, Jill, thanks! After all, you've met my whole clan, it's about time I met yours!" We rung off and I told Auntie that I would need to call my parents that night, and not to let me forget. But how could I forget? I had missed home, plus Dad had been bugging me about Paul, teasing in one of his letters, "If he's breaking your arm, what else is he doing to my little girl?!"
That night I stayed up late to ring them, making sure it was past suppertime there. Dad answered the phone. "Dearborn's," he said in his usual droll tone.
"Hi, Daddy, it's me!"
His tone of voice perked up. "Jill, what a surprise! How are you, Sneaker? How's that arm?"
"Fine, Dad, fine, did I tell you I got a lower-arm cast now? It makes things so much easier, but it still itches, though. Hey, can you get Mom on the other phone? I have something I want to tell, well, actually ask you two."
"Jill, what's going on?" Dad asked suspiciously.
"It's something good, don't worry, just go get Mom!" I retorted impatiently.
Instead of putting the phone down and quietly getting her, he put his hand on the receiver and yelled, "Julia! Your daughter's on the phone! Pick up!" I thought, wonder where Chris picked that behavior up.
Mom picked up the phone and started talking immediately. "Jill, how's your arm? How's Margie & Rog? How's Paul?"
"Ma, one question at a time, please. We're all fine...actually, Paul's the reason I am calling, sort of. The band has a two-week vacation coming up the middle of September, and George called me, the one with the sister in Benton, he's going to Illinois and told me that we could get a really good deal on airline tickets if we bought several--"
Mom interrupted. "You're coming here? When? Can Paul come? Id love to meet him, honey!"
Dad piped up, "Yes, Jill, can you bring Paul?" I heard Chris in the background say, "Is that Jill? Tell her to ask Paul to bring over some babes, there's nothin' here!" Dad waved him off with his usual response of "Don't talk to me while I am on the phone, it's disrespectful!" All this was going on while I was trying to tune out Mom's babbling about some church bake sale she helped with last week.
I finally was able to get a word in edgewise. "Well, I was hoping to bring Paul but I wanted to ask you first to make sure it was alright. But judging from your responses there, I guess I don't need to ask!"
I told them the day we were planning on leaving and I told them I'd get back to them with the flight information. Mom started getting flighty, rattling on about how she had to contact all the family members for a get-together while we were there so that everyone could meet Paul, and what are his favorite foods so she could have them on hand. I answered all her questions, and rang off.
I couldn't sleep that night. I had been tired before, but I was growing more excited about not only going back to Illinois for a visit, but to bring Paul for my family to meet him. Not to mention we hadn't seen much of each other lately, and I'd be able to spend quite a bit of time with him on the trip. The next day I rang George to tell him to add two to his flight schedule, and he said he'd tell Brian that day. I arranged with Auntie for coverage in the store while I was gone, she said she'd tough it out. Rog wouldn't be able to help since school was in session already, but she reassured me she'd manage. "After all you've done here, you deserve a little vacation!"
The next two weeks were a whirl of planning at the store and packing at home. Brian took charge of making all the arrangements, even offering for a limo from the airport to my parent's house. I politely refused, reminding him the airport was only about 45 minutes away and my family was all too ready to greet me there. He still made calls to my parents, introducing himself, telling them of flight plans and itineraries, making sure they knew everything about my upcoming trip. Even though I was keeping busy, I still missed Paul. They were very busy themselves; since they were going to have a break coming up, they were cramming personal appearances in whenever they could. I think I saw Paul once in that two-week period from when we first planned the trip to when we were leaving, but I figured the two weeks we had coming up together would more than make up for it.
The flight itself wasn't bad. Paul, George and I were having a blast exchanging inside jokes and being generally slaphappy. I really didn't enjoy flying all that much, but I knew it was the best and quickest way to get across the Atlantic, so I put up with it. We finally touched down in St. Louis very late that night on the 16th. We were supposed to arrive in the afternoon, but there was a four-hour delay in New York. We had to change planes and there was something mechanically wrong with the plane, so we had to switch planes, and then there was a problem with transferring all the luggage from one plane to another, and heaven knows what else happened, all I knew was that we were late and I was getting fed up. Luckily, Dad had the sense to call ahead to the airport before they left, or they would have been sitting there for four hours more than they needed to.
We got off the plane, still laughing from a joke I couldn't even remember by that time. We walked to the terminal and I immediately saw Chris running toward me with a big pink teddy bear. I hugged him and commented on the sight of a 6' tall almost-fully-grown young man carrying a pink bear. He explained, "I couldn't resist it, I won it at Six Flags this summer and I've been keeping it for you!" I thanked him and hugged Mom & Dad.
I noticed Paul & George had been lagging behind so I could greet my family. I waved them over, and made the introductions. Dad gave both of them a hearty handshake and a welcome to America. This was their first trip, and they both admitted they were quite excited to take in the sights. George took my parents' phone number down, saying that maybe we could get together in St. Louis and go sightseeing sometime. Since he had a limo waiting, he went quickly to the baggage claim area. The five of us walked a bit slower going to the same place, chatting the whole way. We got all the luggage (I was thankful that it was all there, considering the troubles we had had in New York!), and piled into the family car to head back to Granite City.
On the ride home, it was clear that everyone was very tired. Chris wanted to hear everything from both Paul and me, but soon enough everyone but Dad was asleep, leaving him with KMOX radio news to keep him company. Mom had her head leaning against the window (I couldn't fathom how comfortable that was), and Paul was kinda sitting up with my head on his shoulder, and Chris was trying to sleep leaning on me. He had school the next morning, and Mom & Dad still had to work, but they had arranged for a few days' vacation the next week so they could spend some time with us. I had tried to get Anne down to Granite City for a couple days, but her schedule wouldn't allow her to be gone for too long. Paul suggested flying up to Madison to see her, so that's what we planned on, if time allowed.
We had to play with sleeping arrangements a little. My Dad had jumped at the chance to turn my girly-pink bedroom into a guestroom for his summer project, and he had even bought a slightly-used double bed for it. I still slept in there, though. Chris gave up his bed for Paul and he slept on the sofa bed.
That next morning, I was up at the crack of dawn. Mom, being a morning person as well, was also up before the rest of the crowd. I joined her at the kitchen table for a cup of tea, and of course, the questions started flying. "How long have you officially been together? Is he treating you right? How serious is this? Should I call Burns Catering? How is his career going? How is your job? How do you two manage to see each other? And why doesn't he cut his hair? George, too, they both seem to be pretty shaggy on top. Do any of the other members have girlfriends?" She was leaning forward in her chair, and I could see her eyes sparkling with anticipation of my answers.
"Ma, can I just enjoy my tea for a minute and not get grilled here?" She nodded. I took another sip and continued. "Okay, now what do you want to know?"
"Well, I was just wondering how your relationship is and how serious this is getting...you know, I'd been married for four years by the time I was your age." This coming from the same woman who, just a few short months before, was crying over the "loss" of her only daughter, wondering how I was going to manage being the girlfriend of a rock star.
"I guess we're serious if you mean dating exclusively, we haven't been seeing anyone else since May when he came to visit me at school. He gave me this at his birthday party," I said, indicating the silver necklace with the rose quartz and diamond pendant.
Mom chuckled as she inspected the necklace. "Was this to apologize for breaking your arm?"
"No, he had it anyway, but ended up not giving it to me until after I got back from hospital. And it wasn't Paul who broke my arm, if anyone's to blame it's his younger brother Mike, he's the one who pulled me out of the tree."
"Pulled you out of the tree? All I knew is that you had fallen! What were you doing up there?" She got a cautious, motherly look on her face.
"Um, I was up there with Paul, just to get away from everyone." Her eyes grew wide, I might as well have said we were up there naked. I had to clarify. "Mom, his whole family was there, all his friends, other local bands--it was just a big crowd, and we hadn't seen each other in six weeks, we just wanted some time alone...nothing shady was going on, if that's what you're worried about."
"Well, he seems nice enough, I guess. As long as he treats you right and you're happy, I suppose that's all that matters!" She patted my non-casted hand. Upstairs we heard someone thumping around. I figured it was Chris, he had gotten bigger (muscular-wise) since I had seen him last; he was playing tight end on the varsity football team, so he had really been working out during the summer. Mom continued, "I'd better go make sure your father is among the living, I know he has an important meeting this morning. Do you want me to peek in on Paul?"
I shook my head. "Nah, let him sleep, I know he needs it. We don't have anywhere in particular to go today, so I'll let him catch up."
Mom rinsed out her cup and went upstairs to get herself ready for work; she was the manager of the St. Elizabeth's Hospital gift shop. I finished my tea, and since Chris and Mom had commandeered both bathrooms, I plopped down on the living room couch and read the Post-Dispatch. I watched everyone come and go, and after reassuring Dad that we wouldn't be going anywhere far that day (and therefore wouldn't need a car) because we were still jetlagged, I had the whole house to myself...and Paul.
After everyone was well on his or her way, I crept back upstairs and slowly opened the door to Chris' room. Paul was sprawled out on the bed, the covers were half-off of him, his mouth was open, a small drool spot still visible on the pillow...I wanted to laugh because he looked so funny, but at the same time he looked so adorable. I sat down on the bed next to him. A couple minutes later he stirred and kicked me, and then realized that I was there. "Mmm, mornin', luv, how long you been there?" he asked.
"Just a couple minutes. Guess you really are a pretty deep sleeper!" I combed through his mussed-up hair with my right hand.
"Yeah, I am," he laughed. He looked at the clock; it was 8:45 a.m. "Mmm," he murmured as he rubbed his eyes, trying to wake himself up. He shook his head at me. "I can't believe how awake you are! I'm fighting just to open my eyes here."
"Sorry, hon, I'm just a morning person, even with the jet-lag!" I cheerfully said.
"Well, guess I'll just have to get used to it!" he replied as he pulled me down onto the bed with him. "Grr, gotcha!" he said as he held my arms tight against him.
"Stop it!" I yelled, threatening to wollop him with my cast if he tried anything shady. I calmed down soon enough, until he tried to kiss me with his morning breath, and I threatened to get up and leave. After he promised to not breathe on me, he settled for snuggling with me for a bit. We both fell asleep like that and didn't wake up until after noon.
Once we did wake up, I hopped into the shower as he said he was going to make some tea for himself. I came downstairs into the kitchen after I got dressed and I found Paul fumbling around the kitchen pulling open every cabinet door. "What are you doing?" I asked.
He emerged with a frying pan. "Just looking for something, luv. I saw you have lettuce and tomatoes, do you have bacon? I remembered those sandwiches you fixed like that at your Auntie's and I just had a taste for one, but I couldn't find the bacon, so I guess we need to get some. How close is the nearest grocer?"
He quickly showered and we walked down to the A&P grocery store, which was six blocks away. It was a nice sunny day, so I didn't really mind walking there. Paul hadn't realized that I lived on the same block as the library, so when we passed by it, he practically begged me to check it out. Since I knew we couldn't do it on the way back with spoiling bacon, I climbed up the stairs with him. I certainly didn't mind going into the library, I practically grew up in there. I spent most afternoons there when I was young, and throughout school most friends were quite jealous that I lived so close to the library when they had to drive or get a ride there to do research. My first kiss was even behind the tall bushes alongside the building, when I was in 8th grade! We spent about an hour in the library. I found Charlie Chaplin's newly released autobiography. I had wanted to buy it but it wasn't out in Britain yet. I thumbed through it and vowed to go to a bookstore and purchase it before I left the States.
The rest of that day, and most every other day after that, was a nice, relaxing vacation. It was weird to think of going back to the States as a "vacation"! We spent a day with George and his sister in St. Louis, and a day at my high school, visiting my former teachers and catching up on old times. George told us about the VFW that his sister Louise took him to in Eldorado. He played in the band one night, and they tried to recruit him on the spot! Paul and I spent a couple days just lounging around and doing nothing. It was nice, just being with Paul, and not wondering about when I would see him again.
One night while we were there, Mom was obviously trying to get me out of the house with Chris. "You've hardly spent any time with your brother, why don't you two go out for the evening, catch a movie or whatever?" She handed me a wad of bills from her purse. "Don't worry about staying out too late, either."
Puzzled, I asked, "So why can't I go with Paul?" I was still holding the money in my outstretched hand.
Just then, Dad walked by. "You can't take Paul because we are going to dinner at Ralph & Charlie's with him, he requested that your mother and I go out with him, a get-to-know-you dinner."
I was in shock. For starters, my father really hadn't taken too much interest in any of my past boyfriends, not to mention he really just wasn't a sociable kind of guy. I raised my eyebrows in surprise and said, "And you agreed to this?"
Dad nodded. "Sure, why not? A free meal's always nice...and I'm sure any man would jump at the chance for time away from the likes of you!" He winked at me and leaned in to tickle me.
I playfully slapped his arm. "Daddy,stop it, I'm too old for that."
He pouted, "Alright, but I know no little girl of mine is too old for a hug from her Daddy!" He gave me a big bear hug. He let go and slapped me on the butt to get me out the door. "You and Chris get going, have a good time!"
Chris and I went bowling. As always, I did terribly, bowling a 97, which incidentally, was my personal best game ever, even with my cast still on. Chris did slightly better, finishing up at 114. I will never know why I always loved going bowling, since I always did so terribly. No matter how many people tried to show me how to improve my game, I never broke 100.
When we got home that night around 11:00 p.m., I was surprised to see Dad and Paul sitting in the living room talking over drinks. Chris said with a smirk, "Dad, isn't it past your bedtime?"
Dad stood up and replied, "Chris, I don't think it's your place to dictate when I should be retiring to bed." He looked serious, and I think Chris thought he was in trouble. Dad could never keep a straight face for long; he laughed and asked, "So kids, how was your evening?"
"Terrible," I replied. "We went bowling, and well, I guess I wasn't expecting much, since I am so bad anyway."
Paul asked, "It couldn't have been that bad, what was your score?"
I chuckled. "Ninety-seven measly pins." I sat down on the couch and kicked off my Keds.
I guess Paul had never experienced bowling before, because he looked confused. Chris helped him out, or at least it was his version of helping. "Paul, that means that with my score of one fourteen, I won our game." He sat back on the couch with his hands behind his head and a very cocky look on his face.
Paul had more questions. "So, is one fourteen good?" he asked.
Dad laughed. "Not when you consider three hundred is the top score you can get, a perfect game. Most people even my age get one fifty at least."
I changed the subject. "So how was your evening, Dad?"
"Well, we went to Ralph and Charlie's, which was excellent as always. Had a great New York Strip Steak. Conversation was good, too."
I rolled my eyes, a little afraid to ask what kind of barrage of questions Dad put Paul through. "Really, what did you talk about?" I asked hesitantly.
Paul shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, we were keeping ourselves so busy with stories of all the times you've made a fool of yourself, we didn't have time to discuss anything else!"
I threw a couch pillow at him. "Ah, shut up, seriously...what did you say about me?"
He scooted over to me and put his arm around me. "All I could talk about was how beautiful you are and how important you are to me and how much you brighten each day that I see you!"
I pushed him away. "Can't you say anything seriously here?"
He shook his head. "Um...nope!"
I got up. "Alright, I'll leave you clowns down here. I'm tired, and we have that family thing tomorrow, and then day after that we're leaving, so I'm getting some rest! And Dad, watch him on the scotch and Cokes next time." I marched up the stairs, heading for my room.
Mom was waiting for me in the hallway. "I heard you two come in, how was tonight?"
I leaned against my doorframe. "Ah, I am just awful at bowling...but we had fun, though, and that's all that matters I guess. You?"
"Jill, it was lovely. That Paul is sure a charmer. I really like him a lot, almost as much...well, I like him." She smiled and patted my shoulder.
I glared at her and folded my arms. "You were going to say that you like him almost as much as you like Dan, weren't you?"
She looked down at the floor and then back up at me. "Alright, yes, I admit it. But Paul really is nice, Jill. I feel a little better about you being over there now that I've met him."
"Well, thanks Mom. I'm going to bed now, busy day tomorrow, with Paul meeting the rest of the family and all." I hugged her and went into my bedroom for a good night's sleep.
On to Chapter Seventeen
Back to Chapter Fifteen, Part Two
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