Quinn Bornstein, a sophomore at St. Johnsbury Academy, says she is inspired to write by "seemingly stray ideas" that pop into her head. These could be "an image of a character, or a single line that I could build a story around. Before I forget, I jot down the thought on a sticky note or the margin of my notebook, and then expand on the idea when I have time to write. For this particular story, the Young Writers Project weekly prompt was to use the line 'close your eyes.' This led me to write a story based on the Beatles song 'All My Loving,' which begins with that phrase.
"Close your eyes, and I'll kiss you. Tomorrow I'll miss you. Remember I'll always be true..." the old woman sang, her voice low and throaty. "And then while I'm away, I'll write home every day. And I'll send all my loving to you...." She trailed off and opened her eyes. The woman looked down to see the little girl sitting on the park bench next to her. The child looked up, surveying her with wide blue eyes, taking in the old woman's wrinkled skin, her lips lined with magenta lipstick, and her faint wisps of straw colored hair peeking out from under a brown paisley shawl.
"That's my favorite song," the woman began. And even through the warbled tone of her aged voice, the girl could detect a slight accent hidden there. "Yes, that's my favorite song," the woman repeated. "Ever since I was seventeen and saw them perform. Do you know who played that song?" she asked the child.
The girl shook her head.
"The Beatles," the woman answered. "Do you know who they are?" she asked.
This time the girl nodded. She had heard of the band, they were a favorite of her father. But she had never heard this particular song.
"Yes, the Beatles," mused the old woman. "Do you want to hear a story?"
The little girl looked up at the unknown woman sitting next to her and nodded. The woman leaned her curved back against the bench, closed her eyes, and began.
* * *
"I was seventeen when I fell in love, and it was 1963. I lived in London at the time, and had lived there all my life. My best friend, Mary Chatnam and I had this big plan for our lives. We were both going to graduate from high school, go to university and fall in love with tall, handsome lawyers or bankers or whoever, and get married right after we graduated from university. Then we would buy a townhouse together in London, one of us on each floor, and then each of us would have a cottage in the country to vacation at during the holiday.
"This was our grand plan and we were so excited about living it. Then, one afternoon at school, Mary ran up to me in the corridor and she was just beaming. She had an envelope clutched in her hand. I asked her what it was.
"Funny you should ask," she said. "See, Liz, when I went home for Easter holiday, my parents were so pleased with my report card that they thought I should get something special."
I had nodded then, knowing how much Mary's parents doted on their only daughter.
"So Dad asked me what I would really like and I said I would really like to see my favorite band perform. And he asked me who that was and I said The Beatles. And so he bought us two tickets to see The Beatles play Saturday after next," she finished this last sentence in one breath, beaming.
"She was a big fan of The Beatles. I'd heard her talk about them before, but I'd never heard the band perform. But I was as excited as she to go to a concert and we giggled and screamed like two happy schoolgirls and neither of us could wait for next Saturday.
"It finally rolled around and we took a taxi to the theater. We were ushered to our seat with about a thousand other girls who were just as excited as we were to see the band. So we sat down and when The Beatles stepped on stage everyone began to scream. I remember Mary and I looked at each other in confusion and then we started to scream too.
"I didn't have glasses then, so I could see each player on the stage, singing, playing the guitar and drums. They were all so very handsome. And as they sang, it seemed as though their words were speaking directly to me. You know that song I sang before. It's called All My Loving. They played it then, and I thought nothing ever sounded so sweet. The words and their voices just filled me with this happiness and it just made me want to sing and dance and sing some more. It still does, too. That's why it's my favorite, my very favorite.
"Now, I told you before that this was the year I fell in love. Well, after the concert, Mary and I just couldn't stop talking about it. And lots of other girls in our class had been to that concert, or a similar Beatles concert too, and so we could all talk about it together. And mostly we talked about how handsome they were, The Beatles. Mary and the others all doted on Paul; they said his eyes were just so soulful. But it was George for me. George Harrison. The way he played the guitar made me want to play it too, even though I didn't know the first thing about reading music. I always knew, deep down, that I would marry George Harrison.
"And after a few years, when we had all grown up and gone to university, people stopped talking about The Beatles the way they had before. They had gone to America, you see, and captured the hearts of every American girl there. So my friends began to lose interest. But I didn't. I always loved George Harrison. Of course I dated other men, at university, and after I graduated. But I never married. I just carried George around in my mind, and in my heart too of course. And I just knew that no other man would ever live up to him. His picture is still on my dresser though, George's is."
The woman opened her eyes and turned to the small girl next to her.
"He's dead though, now. Been dead for quite a while. I didn't believe it when I read it in the paper, but it's true. Cancer, they said, just killed him, my George," the woman's voice broke on the last word. Then she cleared her throat fastidiously.
"Well, look at you dear. You don't want to hear about this. I'm just a silly old lady, that's all." The woman stood up from the bench and walked away a few steps. Then she turned back and looked at the child, still sitting on the cold seat.
"I used to be blonde then, too. Real blonde, like you," she addressed the girl. Then the woman pulled her shawl lower on her forehead, covering up the yellow dyed hair, and walked away, leaving the girl on the bench.