Every second the clock ticked forward toward 8 pm was one second closer to seeing Paul. At least if his note, written in his precise print on the bottom of the most recent page of John’s sketchbook, was accurate. And Paul was always accurate. In everything he did. From that perfect handwriting to his proper grammar and his punctuality to his performances.
And what performances they were. John could barely dance at all, hardly knowing the foot positions Paul tried to teach him, but Paul was a whole other thing altogether when it came to dancing. It was cliche to call a ballet dancer graceful, John supposed, but Paul truly was. He went about his life with grace. He had the lightest step John had ever seen, flitting from place to place with barely a footprint on the ground. He had a sense of grace about him, too. Always dignified and organized but so incredibly kind and warm.
He made everything look elegant, too, embodying the essence of ethereal, whether he was washing the dishes or cooking dinners on his nights off. It had been a while since Paul had had an early night, but after tomorrow they’d have a longer run of time together than they’d had in ages, practically ever. It meant slow mornings and lunches together on John’s midday break. It meant time to relax side by side, sinking into their sofa with nothing in hand but each other, after cooking in tandem at the stove.
At the thought of dinner, John hurried back to the stove, creamer retrieved from the fridge. He crossed his fingers, then guessed at the measurement amount before pouring it into the pan of simmering pasta. The white liquid diffused into the otherwise red sauce, slipping into the curves of the tagliatelle. It was much fancier than their usual fare, but with Paul’s diploma in the mail and his final starring performance at LBS tomorrow, John had seen fit to splurge.
Besides, Paul had done the same for him, twice. The first was when John graduated in the top 10 percent of his university class, and the second was when he earned the junior arts editor position in London’s LIFE offices. Not bad for two queer boys from Liverpool, John thought.
Not that it had been easy. John probably would have flunked out of secondary if not for Paul and Shotton. He’d only flourished once being allowed to pursue his interests at university: art and writing. Paul, on the other hand, while a more focused student, had only one future career in mind: a ballerina.
The proper title was “male ballet dancer”, as a then eight-year-old Paul had corrected John the first time they talked about it. John had found it so funny, even laughed out loud at the idea of a man in tights and, in his mind, a pink tutu, but then Paul had burst into tears. In a rush of poorly formed apologies, John had attempted to take back his ridicules. And, when he’d succeeded at calming Paul to a point of coherence, he’d listened as Paul described it.
The more John heard, the more he wanted to know. It sounded beautiful, the way Paul talked about the movements and the music and the costumes. When Mary prevailed over Jim in letting Paul take lessons, John continued his enthusiasm for his friend’s pashion.
At the end of Paul’s first year of lessons, John had sat in the front row of the local theatre to watch the performance, nervously holding a small bouquet of delphiniums (Uncle George had insisted that personal friends or relations of the performers must bring flowers) in one hand and Mimi’s own hand in his other.
His nerves vanished when the show began. Paul was radiant. Just standing, waiting for the music to start, he was the most confident, the most happy, that John had ever seen him. Paul floated through the movements in a way more exciting and breathtaking than his descriptions had led John to imagine. At the end of the show, when Mimi helped John find his way backstage to the boys dressing rooms, to deliver the flowers, Paul was overflowing with joy. He reached up on his toes and wrapped his arms around John’s shoulders with such determination that John’s head was tugged into the dark mop of hair below him.
Upon seeing his son’s natural talent, Jim had allowed Paul to continue dancing, and he did so through the rest of school. As he grew more into dance and John more into art, they grew more into each other, too. John still blushed to think of their first kiss, in the local theatre’s garden after Paul’s last performance in lower secondary. It had been dark by then, and there was hardly a moon to speak of, but John remembered every outline of Paul’s face, pale and breathless and so incredibly beautiful.
Paul had been accepted into LBS at the end of upper, and he moved to London, sharing a flat with John, who was midway through his English and Arts degree. Not too bad indeed.
John’s thoughts were pulled back to the stove as the sauce started to simmer. He switched off the burner, covered the pan in a lid, and double-checked that the table settings were in order. The only thing left was to wait for Paul and then fill the plates.
The flip of the obnoxiously loud alarm clock from their bedroom signalled 8, and hardly a moment later there was the sound of a key at the front door. Unable to suppress his excitement, John scittered around the corner of the kitchen and into the living space, making a dash for the door.
“Johnny, I’m ho—mpf!” Paul’s greeting was muffled as John tumbled into him, snuck his arms around him, and kissed him full on the lips.
The door to the hallway was still open, and Paul reached his left foot backward to pull it shut, still pressing into John with the warmth only found upon coming home. Soon they were embracing in the small foyer, just under a framed arrangement of pressed flowers — one from each bouquet John had given Paul for a performance. There was such an excitement and joy about everything that it wasn't until John began gasping for air that they parted.
“That’s a hell of a hello, love,” Paul teased, raising an eyebrow as he padded into the small living room.
“Couldn’t help myself, what with you having to leave early and come back late. I haven’t seen you since we fell asleep last night, you know!”
“Only one more day of it! And really, I get to see you a bit earlier tomorrow, too. You can pop into the dressing room if you come at quarter past 6. I’ll be having a bit of a break then.”
“What time do you get there?” John questioned, knowing it wasn’t the first time he’d asked.
“5, so it gives me two hours. Not everyone has to be there then, though,” Paul provided, dropping his school pack and ballet bag on the sofa.
“When’s the Shrew show up at the theatre?” John trailed him into the living room.
“The who?” Paul laughed, turning to find John wearing a scowl.
“You know, your evil understudy. The one who keeps trying to usurp you.”
“John love, Andrew isn’t evil ,” Paul tutted, taking John’s hands. “He’s just competitive and ambitious, much like myself.”
“Yeah, but you’re not an arse about it,” John muttered.
“Well you won’t have to worry about him after tomorrow,” Paul assured, knowing saying anything else was a lost cause. “He’s not the one with the guaranteed trials at the Royal Ballet in a few weeks.”
“So bloody impressed by you. Star performer in your final show, auditions at the best ballet company in England. Lord, you’re a wonder,” John grinned, delivering Paul another kiss, this one a bit harder, more wanting.
“Easy there, now. The last thing I need for tomorrow is a sore back.”
John chuckled at that. “At least let me give some love to those beautiful legs of yours, yeah?” John squeezed Paul’s thighs through his sweatpants.
“After dinner, they’re all yours.”
John was moderately impressed with himself. He’d left work at the right time, caught the proper train, and even bought the flowers at the market down the street from their flat. Now, as he attempted to tie his tie in the bathroom mirror, hair tousled but mostly dry, he stood a chance of arriving at the theatre at quarter past 6, just as Paul had said. Who said Paul was the only punctual one?
Suddenly, a shrill ringing interrupted John’s fingers, and the knot slipped.
“Damn,” he muttered. He was regretting not having Paul pre-tie it for him so he could just slip into it.
Letting the tie fall slack, John hurried into the kitchen, searching for the phone behind his stacks of sketchbooks.
“Ello?” John forced the receiver between his ear and his shoulder, stretching as far as the cord would take him. It stopped just shy of the hallway mirror.
“Hello, is this Mr. J. Lennon?” A woman’s voice, clear and professional.
“Speaking.” John tried to step toward the mirror at an angle, keeping the phone secure while dropping his hands back to his tie and only half listening. Hardly anyone called them except Jim, and those phone calls weren’t exactly important anyway.
“Could you please confirm your residence.”
“Uhh, yeah, wait, who’s calling?”
“This is the emergency room contact desk at St. Thomas’ Hospital.”
“S-sorry?” John fumbled the knot again, but it didn’t seem to matter so much anymore.
“Emergency room contact desk from St. Thomas’.”
John felt his legs go weak. Something was wrong. Something was so incredibly wrong.
“Hello? Mr. Lennon?”
“Yes, yes, right, my residence.” John spoke it out slowly. His voice was so dry, so shaken.
“Thank you, Mr. Lennon. We’re calling in relation to an incident that occured a short while ago…”
The voice was the worst part. The caller had the voice Aunt Mimi spoke in after Uncle George’s stroke. The one Paul uttered when he said Julia was never coming back. The one Astrid had when she’d called and told him Stu… died.
John had felt helpless in all those moments. But standing in his flat, kitchen still smelling of basil and mozzarella, tie half tied and violets in a plastic vase on the counter, was the most horrible of all. The caller was saying words he’d only heard when deep in a warped and suffocating nightmare.
He hardly remembered getting a cab, hardly remembered the ride to hospital or even finding the “ERDC” or Paul’s recovery room. It all felt so very far away. So foggy and surreal and definitely not real. Because how could this be real? Had he kissed Paul goodbye this morning? Had he even been awake when Paul left? He couldn’t remember. The only thing in his mind were fragments of sentences, words strung together by sinews of gut-wrenching severity.
Outside the theatre… just before 5… a car and a bus… bike in the middle… 999 called immediately… one other injured… right hip and femur… physical therapy… tried to contact relatives… next-of-kin privileges… awake within the hour…
The doctor had explained the next steps — Paul’s recovery in hospital, moving him home, beginning physical therapy — and let John ask questions.
“Will he walk again?”
“With the right care to his leg, yes,” she explained.
“He’s a dancer,” John had added hurriedly. “What about dancing?”
The doctor’s eyes told John before her words did. She’d left shortly after that, leaving John with a slumbering Paul. John still had the vase and violets in hand. He couldn’t have left them at home to wilt. What else was he meant to do with them?
More importantly, what was he meant to tell Paul? That his entire life’s work was gone? It if was this hard for John to accept, there was no telling how poorly Paul would take it.
Shaking himself, John rose from the chair. He paced a bit, to the window and back, watching the cars roll past and hating every one of them. He thought about calling someone and at least informing them about what happened, but the caller said that messages had been left on the family’s answering services. Not surprising that Jim hadn’t picked up, John thought sourly.
In the end, the only person John rang was his senior editor, telling her he’d need some time off for a few days. He explained the situation in vague details, said he’d be needed at home for a while after that and could his work be dropped off. She seemed distracted over the phone, but she granted John’s requests with hardly any questions before ringing off. That was one less thing to worry about.
But the other worry was much more important. Infinitely so. John turned from the phone to once again see Paul lying in bed, leg encased in plaster and several bandages across his torso. They weren’t serious cuts, the doctor had told him, but they needed time to heal, as with the rest of him. The one untouched part of Paul’s body was his head, and John could have wept for joy at that. Paul was still in there, his brain was still whole. He would wake up and still be Paul, the Paul that John knew and loved and cared for.
Paul’s face was free of damage as well, save for one cut by his lip and a slightly chipped tooth. But he looked just as beautiful, just as graceful and elegant and warm and kind and strong. John walked over to the bed, taking Paul’s bruised hand in his and holding back tears. He didn’t care if someone walked past and saw. Perhaps he should have, knowing not to make it any worse, but there was nothing more important now than simply being close to Paul.
John raised his other hand and brought it up toward Paul’s face. He gently traced the framing details with his index finger, brows to cheek bones to chin. Fearing he’d hurt Paul with a real kiss, however soft, he pecked his own finger and then rested it on Paul’s cupid’s bow. He felt Paul’s exhales against his skin, and the warmth of it brought him closer to tears than he had been all evening.
John froze. “Paul?”
“Nnnh.” Paul’s eyelids fluttered just slightly and his brows twitched with a flick.
“Paul love, Paul, can you hear me?” John withdrew his finger and leaned closer.
“Awhn?” Paul’s mouth moved in what John could only describe as confusion. Then, eyelids still fluttering, Paul tried again. “J-john…”
“Oh, Paul.” A tear slipped from John’s eye. “I’m right here, love. Johnny’s right here.”
“Johnny.” Paul pronounced it perfectly this time. The sound made John’s eye water and he knew he really was going to cry. “Johnny.”
“Yeah, it’s me. I’m right here. You’ll be alright. You’re safe.”
“Mmmhm.” Paul closed his eyes, then blinked them open again. “You’re crying.” His voice was scratchy.
“Only a little. Just so relieved to see your eyes, love.”
“I’ve been asleep a while?”
“Not too long. A few hours. You,” John stopped himself. “How much do you remember?”
“Remember being on my bike. I saw a car turn. Something hurt, too.”
“Paul love, how awake are you?”
“A fair bit. Looks like I’m in a hospital.”
“Yeah, umm. Do you think you can handle a serious conversation?”
“About why I’m in hospital.”
Paul lowered his eyes and took a breath. Then, surprisingly, he almost laughed. “Well I imagine it’s related to this massive cast on me leg.” John opened his mouth in surprise, but Paul kept going. “It’s a good thing I’m done with university because I rather doubt I’d be able to get to classes like this. Or rehearsals—”
“I suppose I missed the show. I like the flowers, though. I’ll have to press them when I get back. I’m sorry you got all dressed for nothing. You do look lovely, though. Even your tie. It’s not the right knot but I think it looks dashing on you—”
“ Paul. ”
Paul stopped, raising his eyes to find John’s. “How bad is it?” He whispered.
John took his hands more firmly. “It’s mixed news, love,” he said slowly. “Doctors said you’ll be able to walk again, with the right therapy.”
They both cried then, full and choked and pained. John climbed into the bed to hold Paul as best he could, rocking him as they sobbed. They soaked each other in tears in a matter of minutes. The only time John had seen Paul cry harder was when Mary passed, and at the time John had wished desperately he’d never see Paul that sad again. This occasion, with only slightly quieter tears, was little comfort.
The only true blessing was that the crying wore Paul out to the point of sleeping again. His rest was fitful, but he didn’t wake up again until morning, just after John clambered off the bed to avoid the questions of the nurse.
They spent the morning quietly. Doctors came in and out to check on Paul, and John was handed several stacks of paper on the recovery process. When they were alone, neither of them spoke much, but John used the backs of the pamphlets to draw. He entertained Paul with doodles and caricatures and charmed the nurses into getting him a proper sketchbook from the floor’s art room.
The only excitement they had that day was a delivery of flowers from LBS — delivered by an all-too-gleeful Andrew, who John promptly told to fuck off — and a phone call from Jim, worried that his retirement security had disappeared along with the use of Paul’s leg. John told him to shove off as well, slamming the receiver into the wall and murmuring comforts into Paul’s ear. But Lord, it was only going to get harder from here.
When Paul was discharged the following week, albeit in a wheelchair, John was surprised at how capable he was at certain things. He easily moved about the flat in his wheelchair and was perfectly competent at getting in and out of bed. Paul could self-entertain fairly well, too. He took up crocheting and spent time organizing their bookshelves.
But in other ways, Paul floundered.
Reminders of anything related to dance were simply too painful for him to bear. Books about it disappeared from the shelves. Paul’s leotards were buried at the back of their closet. The flat was void of music now, too. Paul used to whirl around the kitchen or simply move his arms in melody. But whenever John tried to play something, even 1940s jazz, Paul would quietly ask that it be switched off. John acquiesced, but always with an air of worry.
What worried John most was Paul’s related behavior. It was like he withdrew from himself. He never spoke of dance, with the result that he hardly spoke at all. John tried to coax some conversation out of him, in hopes that it would lead him to express his feelings, but Paul declined, often without so much as a word. They were both hurting, and John was beginning to feel helpless. Not only was Paul sinking into a significant melancholy, he was refusing to acknowledge so much of who he had been, of who he still was.
Finally, after Paul asked for the music to be turned off on the day of his second week home, John put up a small barrier to the request.
“Is there something else you would like to listen to?” He asked kindly, turning from his desk to find Paul with his crochet in his lap, hardly moving.
Paul shrugged. “No. I like the quiet.”
“Paul,” John said gently, “it’s okay to feel sad. Really, it is. But you can’t ignore the feeling altogether.”
“I’m not ignoring it. I just don’t see the need to listen to music all the time.”
“You used to—”
“Well I don’t anymore, alright?” Paul snapped.
John blinked. He couldn’t recall the last time Paul was cross with him. They hardly ever had fights anymore. They disagreed, sure, but they were so used to each other by now that they knew which ways to compromise for the best solution. Paul’s remark was so out of the ordinary that John hardly knew what to say.
“I’m sorry,” Paul mumbled, ducking his head and removing the burden of response from John’s mouth. “I didn’t mean to be short.”
“I-it’s alright. You’re, well you’re not feeling well. You’ve been through a lot. It’s bound to be hard. You can talk to me more, you know that, yeah?”
Paul nodded. He looked so dejected that John could have cried.
“Maybe this is something we can talk about?” John ventured.
Paul paused, not meeting John’s eyes. “Maybe,” he finally said. “Later, though.”
Later turned into days, which turned into a week that was slowly but surely inching toward a fortnight, nearly a month out of hospital. When John brought it up again, rather firmly after Paul had refused to listen to an Elvis record, they’d actually argued.
“It’s my situation! I’m the one stuck here! If you hate being in silence with me so much then you can bloody well go back to the office!”
“Please Paul, I don’t hate the silence, and I certainly don’t hate being here with you,” John tried, keeping his tone as level as possible. “I’m just trying to help you—”
“And how is music going to help me? Heal my hip? Not very likely!”
“It’s not meant to heal your hip, Paul, it’s meant to help you get over this fear you have about dance!”
“What fear? That if I try to do it again I’ll break my other hip? You know as well as I do I’ll never be allowed back on a stage! Doctor’s orders or whatever the hell they said.”
“Not about dancing again!” John was desperate now. “About facing that part of your life that you can’t have back!”
Paul glowered at him from his wheelchair, but his eyes were stained red. When he spoke, his voice wavered. “Thanks for the reminder.”
John had nothing to say in response. He had meant what he said, but not in a cruel way. And he certainly shouldn’t have used those words. He apologized that night as he gave Paul his twice-weekly sponge bath, washing his hair with as much care as you would polish oxidized silver, but Paul hardly seemed willing to forgive. He mumbled something in response, and John thought it best not to ask for clarification.
Maybe it would be better if he went back to the office. He technically had an allowance to work from home for another week, but at the rate his interactions with Paul were going, staying at the flat would make them more upset than anything. He loved Paul, and certainly held nothing against him for feeling somewhat glum, but the spiteful attitude was getting to him. Even though he knew it was Paul’s pain talking, not his heart, it wasn’t any more pleasant to hear.
He drifted off to the sound of Paul’s gentle breathing, finally somewhat calm. It provided a symphony to his thoughts of pointe shoes dancing across page layouts, leaving violet stains wherever they landed. When he awoke sometime later, it was again to sounds made by Paul.
“Paul? Is that you?” John rolled over, reaching out across the bed. It was empty. “Paul?”
No response, but someone was definitely making noise. It sounded a hell of a lot like crying. And it sounded a hell of a lot like Paul.
“Paul? Are you alright, has something happened? Did you fall?” John’s mind was already going a mile a minute.
“Johnny?” A muffled voice came from through the bedroom door.
“Paul!” John stumbled out of bed. “Are you hurt! Tell me, are you hurt!”
“Don’t yell at me Johnny, please,” Paul whimpered, voice muffled.
“I just need to know if you’re hurt!” John apologized, rushing to the door. “Do I need to call an ambulance?”
“No.” It sounded so painful that John nearly didn’t believe him.
John burst into the kitchen. “Paul! Where are you?”
A cough and what sounded like a small bout of choking on tears and then Paul’s voice came again, smaller this time. “Sitting room.”
John skidded into the sitting room, eyes searching wildly. He’d forgotten his glasses. Damn. But there was Paul, sitting in his wheelchair in front of the book case, just to the right of the window. The waxing moon, partially obscured by clouds, filtered through the window and fell onto an object in Paul’s hands.
“Paul!” John sprinted to Paul’s side. “You’re not hurt? You promise you’re not hurt?”
“What happened, then? Please Paul, talk to me!”
“There was music.”
“Did you turn some on?”
“No, I heard it through the walls. I wanted it to go away so badly but I couldn’t stop it.”
“It hurt so much to hear it, Johnny. I couldn’t move to it, y’know. It kept going and going and I couldn’t get up. Couldn’t stand up. I just had to listen to it, taunting me.”
“I wish I could take that pain away from you,” John clasped Paul’s hands. “I promise I would, if I could.”
“I know, Johnny,” Paul whispered. “You’re so kind to me. I’ve been so cross at you and I’m so sorry. I’m sorry I woke you, too.”
“No love, it’s alright. I promise.”
“I’m broken, John,” Paul whispered suddenly. “I’m, I’m a cripple.” The words sounded hollow in Paul’s throat.
“Paul, no! You’re not crippled!” John squeezed Paul’s hands as hard as he dared. “You can get through this! You’ll walk again. The doctors even said you’re recovering faster than they thought. You won’t be like this forever.”
“But I can’t be all myself again. You know how I move around, and just, never again, Johnny.” Paul swallowed. “And then I saw on the calendar that today was supposed to be my audition and I couldn’t face it. So I came out here. Thought it might help.”
John looked closer at what Paul held in his lap. It was a stout black book with thick paper and a strong binding. Instead of words on its pages, though, it was adorned with pictures, news clippings, and small handwritten notes.
“It’s the scrapbook,” John murmured.
“Yeah,” Paul affirmed. “Upper secondary graduation present from you. It’s the best gift I’ve ever gotten.” Paul blushed a little, and the colour on his cheeks made John smile again.
“What pictures have you been looking at?” John asked, studying the open spread more closely.
“I’ve gone through most of them, really. But this one’s my favorite.” Paul turned the pages back a few layers, coming to rest at two black and white photographs that took up nearly the whole page.
They had been taken when John was just about to finish upper secondary and Paul was in his second year. John had convinced Mimi to let him help with the sets for the local dance school, the one in which Paul was enrolled. Paul was in the show, of course, and when the early rehearsals began, they saw each other often at the theatre.
They were sitting on the stage in the photos, both still in their school uniforms, scaffolding and ladders in the background. In the first one, they were both looking right and away from the camera, and it looked as if John was telling a joke. In the next one, they were looking at each other, laughing fully. They looked so happy in those images, caught in two moments of undying cheer and underlying love. Like nothing on earth mattered more than that instance, like that defined them and what they shared with each other.
Paul couldn’t recall who had taken the photos, only that they had been in the yearbook under the “extra curriculars section”. John had snipped the pictures out of his own book that year, saved them, and then pasted them into the scrapbook he gave to Paul two years later.
“I love that one,” John beamed.“You look so happy in it.”
“You do, too.”
“Yeah, it’s nice.” John paused. “Did the book help, love? Looking at it?”
Paul considered this for a moment. He had been a bit afraid it would be painful, another reminder of what he couldn’t do, just as the music was. But while it had been a bit melancholy, there was joy in it, too. A celebration of what he had done, of how far he’d come. He’d earned the opportunity to audition for the Royal Ballet. That was no easy feat, even if he couldn’t follow through on it.
“I guess it did, in a way. I mean, it hurts so badly, knowing what I can’t do anymore. I can’t even describe it, really. But I don’t want it to keep hurting forever. You were right, when you said I had to face it.”
John nodded. “I just want the best for you. I don’t want you to have this fear of remembering everything you’ve done.”
“Like the joy is stronger than the pain,” Paul mused.
“Yeah, exactly like that, really,” John sounded relieved. “I don’t have to tell you it will hurt for a while, but it’ll get easier. I thought music was a good way to help with that. Show you there still is joy in something, even if in a different way.”
“I’m sorry I’ve been so rotten. You’ve only been trying to help.”
“Well, if my hands stopped working I wouldn’t love being taken to an art museum.”
Paul chuckled. “No, you wouldn’t. You’re a very poor patient, you know that?”
“You’ve told me, multiple times, if I’m correct.”
“Well, you’ve been a poor patient multiple times,” Paul defended. “Only you would reject chicken soup for being too ‘pitying’.”
John laughed at the memory. “About you and music, though,” he said when he wiped away a laughter tear. “Would you be willing to listen to more of it? A little at a time?”
Paul furrowed his brows, thinking. Beyond the tide of sadness and even anguish the music had brought, there was a longing to listen. His choreography classes — taken in the first two years at LBS — had challenged him to listen to the music before dancing. To think about his movements before executing. It was daunting, but the more he had just listened to the music, the more he could see the movements in his mind. He could plan it all out, sometimes even vaguely sketch it, before he began to actually dance it. It would be nice to have that part of dance again. Nice to have a part of dance at all.
“Yeah,” Paul finally said. “I’m willing. I want to try something.”
John held the stage door open for Paul, who hobbled in on his crutches, newly freed from the wheelchair. Then, giving him a quick peck on the cheek, John slipped back out to join the small audience in the dance theatre. It had been five months since the accident, and the past four had been just as challenging as the first, but in new, and John thought, better ways.
Paul had pushed himself through his exercises, determined to be out of the wheelchair sooner than anticipated. But he was the most determined about overcoming his fear of dance. He listened to music in earnest, and while he cried sometimes, it did get easier, especially with John’s help. They would sit and listen together, just feeling the music in the way Paul used to you.
And then Paul had begun sketching the movements again, with John helping him finalize them. John even did some of the movements himself, giving both of them a good laugh.
Through the hilarity and hardwork, Paul had made something he was shockingly proud of. It wasn’t the same as pulling off a performance, but it was similar. When John had mailed a thick envelope of sketches and music sheets for him at the end of August, he felt the same exhilaration.
Now, in October, the feeling was back. Only this time, there wasn’t a show minutes away from beginning, and Paul wouldn’t have been in it if there was. Instead, Paul was here on his crutches, a practiced proposal in his head. It was bittersweet, of course. Paul felt a longing to be twirling across the stage instead of tottering, but he was on the stage nonetheless. He was just putting his skill on display in a new way.
His talk had been carefully planned and was perfectly executed, just like everything he did. When he moved to the side, letting a dancer from LBS perform his own original routine, Paul looked calm and assured. The audience clapped at the dance’s resolution, and Paul thanked the judges before making his exit.
He joined John in the seats and watched the remaining proposals and performances. At the end of the exhibition, the central figures of the audience adjourned briefly. They returned a few moments later, walking to the microphone. Paul reached for John’s hand.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” a man in a dark suit took the mic, “thank you for your participation in this year’s exhibition and trial for the Royal Ballet’s original spring show. Your initial applications of sketches, music, and other ideas impressed us, as did your recent performances and proposals.”
“However, as you all know, only two choreographers will be chosen to orchestrate the show,” a woman said, taking over. “We are very pleased to announce that the assistant choreographer will be Miss June Greenstreet.” Polite applause filled the theatre. John squeezed Paul’s hand. “And the head choreographer will be Mr. J. Paul McCartney.”