Chapter 20: She's Leaving Home

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"Do you want to go out with me, y/n?"

I couldn't keep my concentration on the one thing that everyone in the yard was staring at. My eyes were fleeting left and right, taking in the green of the plastic palm trees by the slide, the way the sun reflected off the silver chain links of the swings, the way our playground aide seemed to look at her watch every five minutes.

A buzz, a murmur. Like a horde of excited insects, sweeping through the crowd. I was vaguely aware of my sweaty palms. I looked down at my Dr. Martens, a present my mum had scraped together for Christmas. What would an eighth grader do with grape purple Dr. Martens? Her feet grow too much. It's a waste of money. And she had bought them.

I forced my gaze on Danny Newsport, sixth grade Danny Newsport who all the girls liked. His hair was cropped, shorter back then, like the guys in Oasis. He was tall for his age, lanky. He could sing like a member of a boy band. And he was asking me out.

I remembered my parents, fighting, that one night so many years ago, May 1996. I took a glance at Danny, my hands trembling. He looked apprehensive, vulnerable even. He liked me. I had no idea how I felt about him. I searched the crowd valiantly for June but she was nowhere to be found, not to encourage me or dissuade me from what I was going to do next.

"No thank you," went my sixth grade mouth, and I stood there and I heard Danny say, "That's all right," and a quiet buzz of the crowd turn into an angry murmur. Why didn't she say yes to Newsport? She's such a jerk. I felt panic rise up inside me, like I had done something wrong. And maybe I had done something wrong. Maybe I was supposed to say yes even though I didn't want to say yes.

"Cut it out!"

That voice didn't come from me. Danny. He spoke to the crowd, his fists in his jeans pockets, the sawdust from the playground rising slowly from the ground as he kicked at it. "She didn't have to say yes, okay? And what was with you all coming over here anyway? Is this any of your business?" He scowled, a look of powerful understanding lying deep beneath his face, beneath that sixth grade face but I could see it and I liked him, but I liked him only as a friend.

I backed away, giving him a startled glance which I meant to convey as appreciation.

***

Paul was kissing me.

I could feel his eager mouth on mine, a passion that I never, ever, sensed coming from him since the day we met. And then I did something unimaginable. I kissed him back, just one slow kiss, and he groaned a little. We were against the wall; his hand was on the small of my back; I was enjoying it for about two seconds and I never wanted to admit that. But then it came crashing down like the bucket of water Fascher had thrown over John and me that day. Paul?

I pushed him away blindly; he fell back against someone's bed. He sat there, his hair out of place, in a falling position on the bed whom I realized was John's. A surprised look came upon his face, and then a blush.

"What the hell was that, McCartney?" I yelled, my voice rising with every syllable; I could feel pink blotches come onto my face. My hands were balling into fists. I couldn't believe he had the nerve to kiss me. "Explain."

His mouth was open; he looked defiant. I waited a little. "Explain."

"I've always liked you, y/n," he said quietly, looking at the bedspread. He didn't fiddle about with the bedspread but kept his hands still on his lap. I just stared at him, unable to hear what just came out of his mouth. I could still feel the taste of his lips on mine as I ran a tongue lightly around the outer line of my mouth. I gave one incredulous laugh, and then was silent.

"I thought I hated you at first. I hated how you took John away from me and the band and the way you joked around with us was just so different." Paul scowled, his baby face turning a little darker than usual. "But then I guess I realized that the hatred was masking something different. I liked you," he choked out, still unable to look at me. I barely felt my fingers grazing the cheap plaster of the wall as he continued. "I liked how you could play music and knew the bass, and I love how you really take the time to appreciate the music we play."

My head was spinning. I sank into a sitting position against the wall and thought to myself. When we had our first argument, and those stains on his shirt. Beer stains. He had been drinking. Was it because of me? No, too far fetched. But was it? When he said he didn't know how to play the bass line to those three songs Koschmider had supposedly said everyone needed to know. All those times he wouldn't play cards with me, or poke fun at me, or ignore me, and those times when I thought I had gotten through to him but didn't at all. Was it all a mask? It was simply too far fetched.

"I did know how to play the bass lines," Paul muttered from his spot on the bed, like he was reading my mind. "I lied so that you would teach me. I was mean to you because I wanted to lose my feelings for you. I hated being in love with someone who was in love with my best friend. And now I—" he stopped, cut himself off. The situation lay openly blatant in front of the two of us. John and I were broken up. Paul was free. He slowly raised his eyes towards me. He was far too close; his lips were on mine again. I could feel the gentle motion of his kiss, but it was like water against a stone wall. I sat there, frozen, and pulled away.

He looked at me and I saw pain in his eyes. I looked at him and realized he really did like me. He had liked me all this time. I shook my head softly.

"Not today, Macca," I said, my voice breaking at the last word.

He got off the bed slowly and exited the room without looking at me.

***

The coffee didn't taste like coffee.

"I know," George said tiredly.

I fiddled around with the handle, rotating the ceramic cup around on its matching saucer. The cup was painted a nice rosy color, and the dark brown of the tea was still as I moved the cup round and round.

"This is all too much," I said. "I broke up with John. Paul admits he has a crush on me. I still can't get that through my bloody head."

"I know," George said again.

I sighed and rested my head on my hand. "I just... I think I need to get away. From all of this. From Paul, from Jo—him, from everything..."

George's brow furrowed. "Where would you go?"

I glanced at the door off to my left and the door to my right. The floor plan seemed very fitting to the situation—would I go left or right? Left was back into the hallway, towards the boys' room. The right door led to the exit, towards the stage. And I wanted to go to the stage.

"Out. I want to go find a job in Hamburg. I want to make a name for myself other than John's girlfriend. I want to be someone."

"That's harder than yer think, yer know," George told me. I slumped against the back of the wooden chair and sat straight back up. "You know, there's an American saying that goes, 'When there's a will, there's a way.'"

George gave a sly grin at me. "That's my girl. Go out and make something of yourself."

"I'm tired of this couch," I told him. "I'm going to leave."

The grin on his face was enormous. "You're incredible. Don't forget to call me when you're famous."

***

And so that was it. I gathered up my belongings and put them in a canvas bag that John and I had bought one night. I bade goodbye to the Kaiserkeller and stepped outside into the German morning. This was going to be a new day.

But I missed him yet.

Hi everyone!! So sorry for the short chapter but the next one is going to be longer! I've just started college and I've been super busy so updates might be a little slow, thanks for bearing with me!

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