by angel godiva
John Lennon fakes his death after being shot,hides on an island he bought back in the 60s.
|"Thank God that's finally done." John said wearily.
He leaned back in his seat and watched the buildings slowly pass as the traffic crept along.
"I'm ready for a bite to eat and bed," he remarked. Putting his arm about his wife's shoulders, he drew her close and kissed her cheek gently. "How about you, woman?" he asked with a twinkle in his eyes. "Are you ready for bed?"
Yoko settled into the curve of her husband's shoulder and sighed softly. "I have a few papers to sign; they have to be out in the mail first thing in the morning," she replied, a wistful smile upon her face.
John looked closely at her and it struck him that, other than Ringo, he knew of no one else who could look so melancholy with a smile upon their lips. It was in the eyes, he decided. Right now, Yoko's eyes seemed...burdened, somehow, as though their owner held the weight of the world upon her deceptively frail, thin shoulders. He wondered briefly exactly how much his wife protected him, how many things were churning in her head that would upset him if he had to think about them. There were some, he knew that.
Every now and then, he would open a piece of mail or catch the tail end of a phone conversation about some complicated business affair and demand to know what it was all about. Sometimes Yoko would just smile and explain the matter to him, but at other times, her delicate face would take on a guarded look and she would tell him that she could explain, but it would take hours, and, in the end, he wouldn't really understand.
Sometimes he would sulk at that, but he didn't really care. John disliked business matters and was quite happy to leave them in Yoko's very capable hands. Just lately, however, there had seemed to be something more, something that he felt sure he really didn't want to know. Just lately, Yoko seemed not merely harried; she seemed worried. She seemed afraid.
"Listen," said John quietly into her hair, his lips close to her ear, "Is there summat wrong? Ya don't seem yerself as of late. Would ya tell me what's been botherin' ya, please, Mother?"
Turning to look up into his worried face, Yoko managed a trembling smile. "It's nothing, John, honestly," she replied, and he wanted to believe her, but the look in her dark, almond eyes chilled him so that he physically shivered. Her eyes seemed haunted, and he could tell that she was only trying to protect him as usual, but this time he had the feeling it wasn't mere annoyance she was attempting to spare him. She was really, truly frightened.
John opened his mouth to say more, but the car had come to a stop and the driver was coming around to open the door for them. They had arrived home.
"I wonder if Sean is still up," Yoko said in a light voice, changing the subject deftly. "He had a long nap this afternoon, so I wouldn't be surprised if he was."
She got out of the car and began to walk quickly to the gate. It was opened for her, and she looked around to see John getting out. She hoped that he would let the matter drop, that he would be distracted by their son and forget to worry further about the terror he had obviously recognized in her eyes.
The truth was that she didn't really know what was wrong. She had been feeling uneasy all day, and by the time they left the studio, her emotions had reached a fever pitch, leaving her simply terrified. It was irrational, she knew, but there it was. She just couldn't shake the fear. Add to the feeling of dread the fact that all her astrological numbers were so bad today, and it was all she could do not to scream. Thank Heaven this day is nearly over, she thought worriedly. And thank Heaven we've gotten home safely.
John was talking to the driver, and Yoko wished he would hurry up. Her eyes scanned the area in front of the building, and she saw someone standing in the shadows. He looked familiar.
It was the same nondescript guy for whom John had signed a copy of their latest album earlier that day, she realized. Odd that he should still be hanging around, but he was only a fan. He must have something else he wanted signed. She saw John turn and begin to walk towards her, and she started again for the entryway.
John thought he heard someone call his name above the sound of the car's engine. He began to turn towards the sound of the voice when something struck him in the neck and knocked him off balance. He heard a small explosion, and he was struck again--and again, accompanied by two more sharp cracks.
More astonished than anything else, he stumbled, but managed to stay upon his feet. He lurched for the light and safety of the entryway, sudden pain battering his neck and shoulder. He was struck again, and he fell to the floor just inside; inside, where he should have been safe. As if in a dream, he heard Yoko screaming, anguished howls of terror and grief that were terrible to hear, almost worse than the blinding pain.
"I've been shot," he said softly, an almost childlike wonder in his voice, as everything grayed and faded to black.
Finding himself unable to move, open his eyes, or speak, John concentrated on what he could hear.
"Do you know who this is?" a man's voice was asking.
A siren was howling steadily; the sound seemed to be coming from all around him.
"I've seen this guy before," the voice continued. "This guy used to be a Beatle!"
"Whattaya mean, 'used to be?' The fuckin' guy is still alive," said another voice.
The second speaker sounded younger. John struggled to speak, but he could let out no more than a guttural moan.
"Oh," the first guy amended, "I didn't mean 'used to be' as in he's dead, I meant 'used to be' in that the band broke up."
The band--his band; they'd always been his band--sunny, earnest George, persnickety, spritely Paul, friendly, dependable Ritchie-- his friends, his mates, his more than brothers.
When was the last time he'd spoken to any of them? The last time he'd seen them? When was the last time the four of them had been together, all in one place, the last time they'd laughed together, the last time they'd played together?
Had it really been ten years since then? How had he--or any of them-- allowed that to happen? He recalled with pain (not in his body; he was beyond that sort of pain, in fact he seemed not to have a body anymore at all) the last time they had all been together, the mutinous looks, the nasty, cutting remarks, the angry, impotent tears which had stung his eyes and caused him to turn away and blink them back.
John managed another deep groan.
"He's still hangin' on," the older guy said, "But that's a hell of a lot of blood. I can't believe he's here, in my squad car."
Squad car? Police, then. That's where he was, in a police car.
He managed to open his eyes a slit and found the round face of a man who was near his own age, maybe a bit younger, peering at him.
"Do you know who you are?" asked the cop, sounding star struck and awed.
John struggled to speak but could not.
Fucking arsehole, he thought. What the fuck does it matter that I'm famous? I'm dying. I can feel it...
A tear oozed out and slipped down his cheek. His eyes closed again; it was far too difficult to keep them open. John felt the darkness begin to envelop him like a warm, fluffy blanket, and sank into it gratefully.
He didn't know how he'd gotten from the police car to the place he was now, but the scenery had certainly changed. There was a light glaring above him, and John winced and squeezed his eyes shut again, struggling to turn his head away in protest.
"Mr. Lennon, do you know where you are?" asked a female voice.
He managed to open one eye a crack, but all he could see was a soft blur; the woman was too far away to be made out, and he seemed to have lost his glasses.
"No," he croaked, "No...please, water..."
The woman, who seemed to be dressed completely in white, bent closer and held a straw to his lips, and he drank gratefully. She was pretty, he now saw, and dressed in a nurse's uniform.
"Hospital," John managed to say, then he began to choke. The nurse took the glass away and smoothed his hair back.
So, it's happened at last, John thought.
He had half expected it for years, had even recently planned with his doctor what they would do if this very situation ever arose. Now it had come; his life as he knew it was over, and he would leave everything behind and begin again...that is, if he survived
Just the week before, he'd had coffee with Dr. David Kently, and the two had discussed this very possibility. John had shared his idea with his friend; to simply disappear if an attempt were ever made on his life. The threats had been unnerving he for years-- since he'd been a Beatle, actually--but lately things had gotten worse.
John and David had been sitting in the corner booth at Café La Fortuna when the final plan was made.
"I'm supposed to be stayin' away from these thingies," John said, taking another bite of a butter cookie. "I can't seem to do it, though. They're just too bloody good."
"A few cookies aren't going to kill you, John," David replied, nodding at the waitress to refill his cup. "Your last checkup was just fine. If anything, you could stand to gain a few pounds."
"I like it that way," John replied. "Gives me a bit o' room to cheat."
He looked over the rim of his coffee cup at his friend, his face pensive.
"Funny how the meanin' of that word has changed for me," he went on. "'Cheat', I mean. At one time I would've used it to describe what I was doin' with another woman, an' now it's somethin' as innocuous as a fuckin' cookie. Not that I haven't been thinkin' about havin' a woman; I've been callin' May from time to time, and I've actually been givin' her quite a bit o' thought. A man has his needs, ye know. I hesitate, though, 'cos she seems to be nearly over me, and I don't wanna stir old feelin's all up an' maybe hurt her again."
"Not being taken care of at home, John?" asked David. "Is there some problem between you and Yoko?"
"Well, now ye see, Davie, I just don't know how to answer that," John replied.
He toyed with his spoon, looked into its bowl, and made a face at himself. "She seems...preoccupied as of late. Nothin' that I can put me finger on, y'understand. It's just a feelin' is all. There's somethin' goin' on inside that inscrutable little head o' hers, but she's not talkin'. I wonder sometimes if she might not be happier without me. I almost feel like I'm in the way at home, sometimes, the last couple months."
"Well, what about Sean? You know how much he'd miss you if you weren't in the home, John. Not to mention how much you'd miss him."
"Yer right, I would," he said, his eyes softening. "I get the feelin' that there's danger though, somewhere near. I try not to think about it, but I gotta admit, Davie, I'm dead scared sometimes. I feel like I'm bein' watched...like I'm livin' on borrowed time. If I were to discover I'm right and it's not just me paranoia--if I really am in danger--then Sean would be better off if I were just to disappear."
John leaned forward and gazed intently into his friends' eyes. David was surprised by the depth of emotion he saw there.
"Do you ever think of doing that, John?" he asked. "Just disappearing? For good, I mean?"
"I'm thinkin' about it right now, Dave," John told him. "I'm thinkin' about it real hard. As a matter of fact, I want you to make me a promise. Will ye do that, Dave? Make a promise to me?"
"If I can do it, I promise I will, if it means that much to you, John. Tell me what I can do."
"If someone tries to kill me, promise you'll help me get away from New York. I mean far away, somewhere I can start over."
"John," said David, putting a hand on his friend's arm, "No one's going to try to kill you. Why would they?"
"I don't know," he replied.
To Dave's horror, tears welled up in the musician's light brown eyes.
"I really have no idea, but it's a feelin' I just can't shake," John went on. "I can't explain it. I just have this...feelin' of dread, like there's summat lurkin' just behind a half- closed door, waitin' to jump out at me, all teeth an' claws. Somethin's wrong, Dave, somethin's very wrong, and if someone kills me that will be that, but if they try and I manage to survive, I'll be fucked if they'll get another chance at me. I'd rather just let everyone think I was dead and go on with me life elsewhere."
"But where? You have one of the most recognizable faces in the civilized world, John. Where could you possibly go?"
"I have a place," replied John, a smile touching his lips for the first time since the conversation had begun. "You just let me worry about that. Just promise me you'll do yer part. Not only to protect me, but to protect Yoko and Sean as well."
David had promised, and now it had happened.
John looked up at the nurse's pretty face, and the girl smiled gently.
"That's right, you're in the hospital," she replied. "Now, you relax, sir, and I'm going to get the doctor, so he can have a look at you. We weren't sure that you were going to make it at all-- Doctor Kently is with your wife right now."
Alone again, John tried to turn his head and look around the room. There were electrodes glued to his chest and some sort of clothespin-like thing fastened to his left index finger, the purpose of which he could not begin to fathom.
He heard a woman scream in another room, somewhere down the hall. He closed his eyes, miserable. Yoko. Her voice, rising hysterically in grief, carried easily to his ears.
"No, no, he can't be dead, he can't be," she wailed. "Where is he? I want to see him; I need to see him--don't you understand? He's my life!"
He closed eyes tight, and the tears squirted out from beneath the quivering lids; his throat felt thick. His chest heaved, and he began to weep.
Great, gulping, shuddering sobs wracked his aching body, and he had to hold his breath to keep his own desolate wail from joining Yoko's down the hall.
Her cries began to recede as someone led her away.
John continued to weep inconsolably, feeling more alone than he ever had since he had been a little boy. As his sobs subsided, his mind drifted back to something that had happened to him when he was still too young even for infant school.
He had been running for the sheer joy of feeling the wind in his face, arms outstretched, eyes closed, when suddenly the world seemed to drop away from beneath his feet! He tumbled, head over heels over rocks and gravel, finally landing in the bottom of a deep pit with the air completely knocked out of his small body.
As he remembered, he became that small boy on that overcast day all over again.
He was terrified; no one was coming for him, not ever; everybody seemed to have gone away. He sat on the ground at the bottom of the washout and pulled his knees up under his chin. He crossed his arms over his knees and lay his head across them; he was becoming too tired to cry anymore. The tears drying on his cheeks, he heaved a shuddering sigh and closed his eyes. He wondered what would happen to him. Would he be here forever?
He slept briefly, then started awake; had he heard someone calling him? His little heart pounded in his chest and he jumped to his feet, screaming.
"Daddy! I'm here! I can't get out! Help me! DADDY!" he cried, and the tears began to come afresh.
His father's voice sounded very far away indeed; perhaps he would not be able to hear John at all. Panicking, the child clawed at the wall of sandy earth in front of him, but the dirt just gave way and dropped into the pit with him. He could not get a handhold! He was screaming incoherently now, every nerve in his small body alive and throbbing with sheer terror. He was at the point of losing consciousness when his father peeked over the edge of the washout.
"John? Are you all right?" he called, an edge of fear to his voice.
"Help me, I can't get OUT," cried the boy, "I'm hungry and I hurt my leg, it's bleeding!"
"Hang on, I'll have you out in no time," his father replied, sounding very relieved.
That night, little John dreamed about being in a deep, black hole again, and woke up terrified to find himself in the dark. Scrambling to the door, he switched the light on and got back into bed, pulling the blankets up under his chin.
Now, just as he had so many years ago (a lifetime ago), John managed to pull the thin, woven blanket that now covered his body up to his chin, and he peered up at the ceiling as he had on that long- ago night. There was no darkness in this bright, sterile room, but inside of him was another story. Inside of him, it was plenty dark.
The next day, John was moved by plane to a private facility in London, where he would be hidden from the world. Word went out from the hospital in New York to the police that the ex-Beatle's body had been stolen from the morgue, and a convincing 'morgue' photograph had been taken and released to the press.
The police investigation was kept quiet; the public would never learn that John's body had been 'stolen'. Preferring not to be the center of a media circus, Yoko arranged a private memorial service and claimed to have had her husband's remains cremated. She would never admit to anyone, that John had, in fact, seemed to disappear into thin air.
She wondered, though. No matter how many weeks, months, and years passed, she would wonder.
John looked out through the glass at the green island below the helicopter. Harmony Island.
He was still weak, but he felt much better. New York was half a world away, and he was about to start a new life somewhere safe, where no assassin's bullet could find him.
It was ironic, he thought, that he had worried so about being shot back in the sixties after his faux pas regarding the lofty status of his band compared to that of Our Lord and Savior, gradually allowing that fear to subside and finally disappear during his five- year hiatus from the music world, only to resurface like a circling shark these past few months.
He had donated a truckload of bulletproof vests to the NYPD, but stubbornly refused to wear one himself.
It wouldn't have saved me getting shot in any case, he thought. The vest wouldn't have covered the place where the most damage was done. The bullet that would have killed John Lennon had struck him in the neck. As it was, he had managed not to die, but his throat had sustained so much damage that he could barely speak, and it was doubtful whether he would ever be able to sing again.
"Are you all right, sir?" asked the pilot, an RAF man who looked to be all of eighteen and, who obviously, did not recognize his celebrated passenger. To be fair, though, not even the most ardent of fans would have been likely to do so.
His famous face had been altered.
He still looked like John Lennon, but no more than many other men did. His nose had been pared down slightly, his lips enhanced with collagen to thicken them a bit, and he wore contact lenses which made his eyes appear quite blue. Add in the accidental alteration to his voice and he could have been any guy who resembled the ex - Beatle. Every penny he'd had in his secret bank account was now either in the pockets of his friend and doctor, who had done a brilliant job of helping him disappear, or safely tucked into the duffel bag at his feet.
If he was careful, he would have enough to live on for the rest of his life. Most of his money had been left under Yoko's control; at least he knew that Sean would never want for anything; nor would Julian, to whom he had left a sizeable inheritance as well.
The thought of his wife and children brought tightness to his throat and a painful swelling to his heart. He had just been getting close to Julian at long last, and he had so been looking forward to watching Sean grow into manhood. He wondered if there was any chance that he would ever see any of them again.
His reverie was cut short as the helicopter began its sharp descent and set down in a wide, green field, scattering the sheep placidly grazing there in a mad panic, running in every direction.
He grabbed his luggage, threw it onto the grass, climbed out of the craft, recovered his bags, and retreated to a safe distance, then turned and gave a salute and a smile to the pilot, who returned them both before taking the helicopter back up.
It hovered for a moment, then proceeded back to the mainland.
Standing alone in the middle of the field, John watched it go until it was no more than a speck in the distance, before taking up his luggage and beginning to walk through the grass towards the stone wall running around its perimeter and the brown, muddy road beyond.
Picking his way between the puddles left by the previous nights' rain, John traveled the rutted road towards the tiny village he could just make out on the horizon. He stopped often to catch his breath and collect his thoughts, which were spinning about in his head like clothes in an automatic dryer. He would glimpse one image after another, each one quickly replaced by the next, which was quickly replaced by the next.
It was more than an hour before he finally reached the tiny hamlet with its old fashioned, thatched roof cottages and a small pub with rooms to let above. He sighed gratefully and entered the pub, setting his bags down just inside the door and seating himself at the bar. It was early in the day, and there were no other customers.
"Needin' a place to stay?" asked the girl behind the bar with a nod towards his suitcases. "I've not seen you before. How do you come to be on our island?"
"Yes, to th' first question, and by helicopter to the last," John replied, automatically giving the girl a long, appraising look.
She was sturdy and buxom, but not fat; russet waves of hair cascaded freely over her shoulders and fell to her waist. Her fresh, pale skin was accented by a smattering of freckles across her nose and cheeks, and large, wide set, gray-green eyes.
Very nice, he thought.
"Let me know if you see anything you haven't seen before, won't you?" she said wryly.
John chuckled; he hadn't been able to find a reason to laugh for a while now, and he was enjoying this exchange with the young barmaid.
Suddenly, he felt twenty years younger.
"That I will," he agreed. "Now, how about a pint for a weary traveler? I've walked miles."
"Yes, all of three," the girl retorted, taking up a glass. "Guinness do?"
"Is there anything better?" asked John, "It'll do just fine."
He couldn't remember the last time he'd had one, but he'd heard that stout was good for medicine, and he was sure a little extra medicine wouldn't hurt him a bit. He watched the girl as she pulled the pint and set it, frothy and dark, on the bar in front of him.
He took a good swallow and winced slightly at the bitter aftertaste, but it felt and tasted good inside of him.
"Now," he said with a grin, "How about that room? How much for a month with meals thrown in?"
The girl quoted a price which, to John, seemed outrageously low, accustomed as he was to the prices of things in New York City. He nodded agreement and paid her, and the young woman went off to write him a receipt and fetch the key.
Once the door to his new home had closed behind him, John set his bags down and took in his surroundings. He was surprised to see that there was no television until he realized there would likely be no reception. He would have to do something about that. He liked to keep the TV on at night, sometimes with the sound up, sometimes not, but if he woke in the night, the flickering light it gave comforted him.
There was one window, sparkling clean and dressed with sea green curtains which looked homemade, and an armchair beside it covered in a similar cloth. The single bed was of simple wooden design with two fat pillows and a patchwork quilt, also apparently handmade. A clothes dresser with a mirror stood opposite the window, and in front of it, between the dresser and the bed, there was a braided rug in black, red, and green covering a portion of the wooden floor, which through polishing and age had achieved a soft, golden patina. There was a small table beside the bed and another, with two high backed chairs, beside the dresser. On top of the bureau there was a water glass and a pitcher beside it. In the far corner, there was a curtain falling to the floor. John crossed the room and lifted the curtain to reveal a toilet and a small sink. He wondered briefly where he was to bathe, then decided that the basin would do for now. Two clean white towels were neatly folded on the back of the toilet, and a bar of apparently homemade soap sat in a small dish beside them.
"All the comforts of home, or nearly so," he said out loud, and the sound of his own voice gave him a start. Even though it had been several weeks since the attempt had been made on his life, he was just not used to the strange, new sound of it.
With a sigh, he lifted one of the suitcases to the bed, opened it, and began to unpack and put his things away.
Once he was finished with that, he kicked off his boots and stretched out on the bed gratefully; he was asleep in moments.
He was awakened by a gentle knock on the door. He sat up and rubbed his eyes. The sun was nearly down, and a deep rose-tinted light was shining in through the window.
"Yeah, right there," he called, his voice rough and thick from sleep. "Who is it?"
"It's me, Mavis," called a female voice. "I've brought your supper."
Mavis, he thought.
The barmaid; her name was Mavis, then. It suited her.
John opened the door and stepped aside to allow her to enter. The girl was carrying a large tray covered by a clean, white, linen towel. She set the tray on the table by the dresser and turned to go. "Let me know if there's anything else I can get you, sir," she said at the doorway.
"Must you leave?" he asked.
Something in his voice made her pause.
"I cannot stay," she replied, "I have things to attend to, but if you'll come down to the pub in an hour or so, I'll be on a break of sorts-- I have to peel the potatoes for tomorrow's meals and I'll be sitting by the fire for the time it takes me to do it. You can sit by me, and we can have a talk then."
She hesitated, then added, "Although I shouldn't, especially seeing as how you haven't even seen fit to tell me your name."
"It's John," he said automatically. Damn, he thought. but it was already out.
"John Evans," he added. Maybe it would be okay to keep his first name. It was common enough and might not raise anyone's suspicion, and he was sure that his old friend Mal would not object to lending him his surname.
"Well, then, John Evans," said Mavis with a smile, "I'll see you downstairs in about an hour. Enjoy your supper."
As he began to eat, he realized how hungry he was. Mavis had brought roast lamb, mashed potatoes, fresh peas and crusty, fresh baked bread dripping with butter.
"I'm gonna get fat eatin' like this," he remarked to the room in general, but he didn't stop until every bite had been tucked away.
He thought that tomorrow he would go for a walk around the island. He hadn't been here in forever; after he had purchased the small island off the coast of Scotland in the late sixties, he had decided that it was too gray and chilly here and had given the land to a commune of hippies. The commune had since grown and thrived, developing into this small hamlet with its little shops and a modest tourist trade. The outlying area was taken up by small farms, and it was from these that the island's food supply came, for the most part.
Some of the island's women made sweaters and blankets from the wool taken from the many sheep kept here, as well as rugs and skeins of soft, colorful yarn which were sold to markets on the mainland. The residents all knew one another, and there was seldom trouble on the little island. There was no police force. The few small disputes that arose from time to time were handled by a board of peacekeepers, whose word was considered law.
Ready to finally lose all the weight?Act Now. Lose the Pounds!
After he finished eating, John carried the tray downstairs and put it at the end of the bar. Mavis was nowhere to be seen; he supposed she was in the kitchen. He sat in a big wingback chair by the fire and looked about the room. His eyes fell on a tall bookshelf, and he hauled himself to his feet and crossed the room to stand in front of it.
He perused the books eagerly, taking down one volume after another, replacing each one after flipping through it. There were enough books here to keep him busy for some time; perhaps he didn't need to worry about getting that television and VCR right away after all.
After fifteen minutes or so, John selected a book and carried it back with him to his chair. Mavis emerged from the kitchen carrying a large basin of potatoes and came to sit beside him. He slipped the book between his thigh and the side of the chair.
"That looks like an awful lot o' potatoes," he said, "You must be expectin' a lot o' customers."
"We always use a lot," she replied. "I fry them in the morning and at dinner, and roast, bake, or mash them for supper."
"Mind if I smoke?" asked John. "I've cut down a lot, but I still fancy one after a good meal...and a few other special times."
He slipped naturally into flirtation with her, and Mavis smiled warmly at him.
"No, go ahead, I don't mind," she told him. "In fact, I like it. I miss the smell of tobacco in the evening, since my dad passed away last winter. He used to sit here with me like this and have a smoke," she added.
John was unsure of what to say.
"I'm sorry," he finally managed. "How'd it happen?"
He selected a cigarette and lit it, inhaling deeply. It burned his throat at first, but after a few drags the discomfort would subside.
"He was sick for a long time," answered Mavis. "Cancer, you know. By the time it was over, he was ready. I think he may have even been looking forward to it. You know, so he could be with Mummy again."
John continued to smoke, watching the fire. "What happened to yer mum?" he asked.
"She died when I was nine years old," replied Mavis. "From pneumonia. I've pictures, and I do favor her."
"Well, then," said John quietly, "She must have been lovely."
He met her eyes and she ducked her head, concentrating on the potato in her hand.
Something about the gesture reminded John of Julian; he had reacted in much the same way when his father had teased him about a girl he liked at school. He became painfully aware of how young the girl beside him looked.
"How old are ya, Mavis?" he asked suddenly.
"Seventeen," she said proudly.
The first line of an old song popped into his head, and he suppressed a rueful smile. That's that, then, he thought. This girl was more suited to his son than to him. In a few months, Julian would be the same age.
"You put me in mind of my dad," she remarked, as if on cue. "Do you have any children, John?"
"Yeah, two boys," he replied. "They're with their mothers. One of them," he admitted, "is about your age."
"No daughters, then?" Mavis picked up another potato and began peeling it deftly.
"No, just the boys. I don't know how I'd have gotten through raising a girl," he said with a grin. "Th' first time she went out on a date, I'd of been followin' right behind, ready to thump th' little bastard if he stepped outta line, so I suppose it's best I stuck to lads."
"You sound like my father," she said, laughing. "He was always so suspicious of the fellows I went out with. There's not much to do hereabouts, no cinema or anything like that, so we generally went out for a picnic or boating, and he was always certain that they were all after just the one thing."
"Yeah, well, he was right, though, wasn't he," replied John. "He knew that; he was a lad once, an' things never really change all that much."
The girl regarded him, potato and parer halted in mid-stroke. Her pretty face flushed and she smiled shyly.
"Yes, he was," she admitted. "They were."
"Well, there ye go, then," said John, crushing out his cigarette. "A father knows."
They sat in silence for a few moments, he, thinking of his children and Yoko, she of her father and the mother she'd lost long ago.
It was Mavis who finally broke the silence.
"You must miss them," she said. "Have you only just come from them, or have you not seen them for a while?"
John hesitated, considered his reply, and decided upon the truth.
"The older one I haven't seen for almost a year," he admitted, "But the younger I've just come away from. His mother and I have recently...parted ways."
"I'm sorry," said Mavis, "Was it bad?"
"Very bad," he replied. "But it's for the best, I think. "
"You still love her," Mavis said, knowingly. "You do; I can see it in your eyes. When you mention her they go all soft. Why did you leave, if you love her?"
Upon seeing his startled expression, she hurriedly added, "You don't have to answer."
"No, it's all right," he replied. "It's true. I do love her. I left because I thought I had to. I felt it would be safer for both of us, and for our son. Besides," he added, tears coming to his eyes and sparkling there in the firelight, "I'm not at all sure that things were workin' between us anymore. I kind of had th' feelin' she was considerin' splittin' from me, an' I didn't wanna be th' one who got left. I was afraid that if I stayed, I was gonna get hurt, so when I got sh--when I got sure, I took th' first opportunity I had to cut meself loose."
His mind raced. He'd have to be more careful. He'd almost said, 'when I got shot,' and he didn't want to let that much information out.
"I'm so sorry," she said softly, touching his arm. "You must be in a lot of pain. Why did you come here, though? Don't you have any other family?"
John sighed. "No," he replied. "No family. Not anymore."
He got up and smiled at her sadly. "I guess I'll be goin' on t' bed now," he said.
"Don't forget your book," Mavis reminded him.
He took the book from the chair and turned to go up to his room.
"Good night, Mr. Evans," she called, "Sweet dreams, you."
"Thanks, you too," he said before ascending the stairs.
Lying in his bed, he thought again of Yoko and Sean. He wondered what time it was where they were; he could never keep the time zones straight.
Tears stung his eyes and he realized he'd forgotten to remove his contact lenses. He got up and took them out, placing them carefully in their case. The lenses had come a long way since he'd worn his first pair back in the sixties. Those had been hard, rigid glass; these were some sort of flexible plastic. It was easy to forget that they were in his eyes sometimes. It was odd, but he found that he missed his glasses, sometimes unconsciously reaching to push them up when they were not even on his face.
Climbing back into bed, he wondered who it was that Yoko had been seeing. He felt sure there had been someone, but he didn't have any proof, so he never had confronted her. He wondered whether she was with anyone right now.
Things had been tense between the two of them during the last few months they'd been together. He'd been working again, and she with him, so it had been all right while that was happening, but after the day's work was done, she had been going to one room and he to another, neither of them saying a word to the other.
Sometimes he would catch her looking at him, her enigmatic eyes clouded with something like pity. He wasn't sure what that was about at first, but finally concluded that she had begun making plans to leave him. He didn't know what to do, so he'd pretended that everything was fine, hoping that if he pretended hard enough and for long enough, it would become so.
When the generic, pudgy little man hanging around in front of the Dakota had shot him and he had survived, John decided to take the opportunity both to protect his family from harm and to leave the situation without any final confrontation, and now here he was, in a little room above a little pub in the middle of a little island, alone in this very big, very lonely world.
He rubbed his eyes to clear the tears away and turned onto his side to sleep.
The next day at breakfast, John mentioned to Mavis that he meant to take a tour of the island.
"If you'll wait until after anyone wantin' breakfast has come and gone," she offered, "I would be glad to take you on a short tour myself. I'll have an hour or two, and there's not an awful lot to see."
He brightened. "I'd appreciate that," he said. "I really need to do some walkin'. Th' way yer feedin' me, I'm gonna get too big t' fit through th' fuckin' door if I don't keep meself active."
"Nonsense, you're thin as a stick," she scolded. "You could do with a few more pounds, you."
He grinned and went back to work on his breakfast.
The island was a small but thriving community. There was a medical building, made of stone with a thatched roof like most of the houses and shops, a general store selling everything from tinned soup to sewing notions, a small school which did double duty as a town meeting hall, and a repair shop where one could take any broken item from a toaster to a tractor to be fixed.
In the square there was also a tiny post office with a bake shop under the same roof and a little shop selling fresh fish with the family who owned the business living above. These people also mended fishing nets and sold or traded fishing equipment and bait for those who preferred to catch their own fish. There was a rocky beach close by and a small marina which boasted the island's only petrol pump as well as another for kerosene.
Behind the school there was a tiny playground in which a few young mothers sat watching their children play, and a soccer field with a set of wooden bleachers.
Beyond the village there were farms scattered about, and the green, rocky fields were dotted with placid white sheep and a few herds of goats as well as the occasional horse or cow. Flocks of chickens scratched busily here and there, clucking excitedly whenever one of them scared up and chased down a fat bug.
Most of the stoops in front of the little buildings had a couple of cats or a sleeping dog curled up or stretched languidly in the sun upon them.
It was a lovely place, and John found himself feeling very proud of it. When he had bought the island, it had been nothing more than a pile of rocks and a spit of grass or sand here and there, interspersed with the occasional stand of scraggly trees or bushes.
Under the care of the small band of hippies he had given the island to, it had become a lovely little community surrounded by well - tended farmland and small, well - kept wooded areas.
Electricity was produced by solar panels and several windmills, but few electrical appliances were used. Heat was provided by imported peat, coal, and those trees which chanced to die. The ground in the treed areas was kept free of fallen branches and debris, which was also burned. Much of the cooking was done over open fires, although some places, including Mavis' kitchen in the pub, boasted propane powered stoves. Water for most houses came from wells in their back gardens, and there was a public well on the town common from which underground pipes were run to the school and the various businesses.
Not a lot of money changed hands; much of the local trade was done by means of the barter system; exchanging, for example, eggs from your chickens for flour and sugar from the general store.
Most of the actual cash came from the occasional tourist and the sale of fish and woolen items made by the island's women. This was used to pay for the heating materials and those staples not produced on the island, as well as things like lumber, nails, liquor, tobacco, pans, and crockery.
All in all, John was quite impressed; the ragtag band of hippies with dreams of creating their own society had done all right for themselves.
He thought that, in signing ownership of the island over to them, he had done quite a good thing.