“You can’t be serious.” I looked at my best friend Marcie as if she’d lost her mind.
“Do you want to meet Paul or not?” she demanded, hands resting on her hips.
I eyed the cloth-draped room service cart in dismay. “Of course I do, but…”
“Then get on the cart. It’s going straight up to his room, I heard the room service guy say so. Hurry up,” she urged, grabbing my arm, “before he comes back.”
And so I found myself climbing onto the cart destined for Paul McCartney’s hotel room with my heart thudding in my ears like a big bass drum.
“I can’t see anything!” I hissed as I scrunched myself up on the bottom shelf. “Just that ugly carpet, and your saddle shoes. Which need a good polishing, by the way. Tell me what’s going on.”
“Never mind that.” Marcie leaned closer to the cloth-draped rolling cart. “Someone might hear you. And if anyone sees me talking to a serving cart, they’ll think I’m crazy.”
“You are crazy. This whole idea is crazy.”
“Do you have a better one?” she retorted. “How else are you supposed to get into Paul’s room?”
I didn’t have an answer for that. Instead, I shifted my leg from its cramped position on the bottom shelf of the cart, nearly pulling the linen tablecloth, tea things and all, down on my head as my foot got caught. “What happened to the room service guy?”
“No idea. He went down the hall a minute ago, and-” She drew in a sharp breath. “Oh, shit! Here he comes. Good luck, Patty… and tell Paul I said hello.” She giggled. “Or should I say, cheerio.”
Marcie hurried away and abandoned me to my fate. With a jolt, the cart began to move forward.
And so my crazy, determined, never-say-die vow to meet Paul McCartney – the cute Beatle – was officially underway. Despite the thickly carpeted hallway, the ride was a little bumpy and seemed to go on for an eternity before we finally stopped.
I heard a discreet knock, and the boy pushing the cart called out, “Room service for Mr. Smith.”
My eyes widened. Mr. Smith? Who in blazes was Mr. Smith?
Panicked thoughts chased through my head. Had Marcie hidden me on the wrong cart? What if this Smith guy found me crouched under here? Would he think I was on the afternoon tea menu, along with the scones and clotted cream?
I gulped as the enormity of what we’d put in motion hit me. I’d be alone in a hotel room with a strange man… me, a teenaged girl with limited (correction, no) sexual experience. Unless making out with Tommy Sutton in the back seat of Jack Anderson’s car last summer counted?
Somehow, I doubted it.
I tried not to hyperventilate and reminded myself that Paul was a stranger, too. But that was different. He was… Paul. He’d find me under the cart, and be surprised, and lift his cute little eyebrows, and he’d help me climb out. Then we’d have a laugh, drink a cup or two of milky tea, talk a bit, and he’d give me his autograph and maybe, if I was very lucky, a signed photo.
Besides, didn’t famous people check into hotels with fake names all the time to keep the press at bay?
Before I could ponder the matter further the door opened, and the cart rolled forward with a little thump and a rattle of china into the hotel room. The carpet changed from a swirly pattern of dark red and maroon to a dull, shaggy brown. I smelled dust, acres of dust, and my nose twitched.
I bit back a groan. Please, don’t let me sneeze.
“Over here all right?” the room service boy asked.
Paul – or the mysterious Mr. Smith, I wasn’t sure which – must’ve nodded, because although he said nothing, I felt myself being wheeled forward.
“Hope you enjoy your stay,” room service said politely.
Oh my God. Oh my GOD. He had a British accent. Was it really him? Was I actually in the SAME ROOM with Paul McCartney, breathing the exact SAME AIR?
He sounded like Paul. Yet I couldn’t be one hundred percent sure. To be honest, all British accented males sounded kind of… similar. And all he’d said was ‘thanks, mate.’ Not exactly a lot to go on.
The door shut quietly as the room service boy left. I was alone in Paul’s hotel room… with Paul. My hands began to tremble. I thought I might faint, just like one of those silly girls at the concerts. Wait until I told Marcie…
I froze as he came closer to the cart and paused. I heard the rattle of a teacup and saucer, the clink of a spoon as he stirred in sugar. I hardly dared to breathe. I risked a glance down and studied his shoes.
Beatle boots. He wore BEATLE BOOTS.
Okay, I reminded myself, any guy could buy Beatle boots these days. Beatle boots proved nothing. Then he started to hum Love Me Do.
And he sounded just. Like. Paul.
Before I could decide what to do next, my nose began, once again, to tickle. Who would’ve imagined the carpet in the hotel room of a world famous Beatle would be so thick with dust? Not me.
Housekeeping had a lot to answer for.
I tried everything not to sneeze, truly I did. I held my breath. I covered my mouth with my hand. I put a finger under my nose and closed my eyes. I counted backwards from ten. But nothing worked. My allergy to dust got the better of me.
The sneeze, when it came, was explosive. Thunderous. It was the loudest, most unfeminine sneeze in the history of the world.
I froze, horrified. The room went very still.
Footsteps approached (those Beatle boots again, of course). A hand reached down and slowly lifted the tablecloth.
“Hello,” he said, his face inches from mine as he bent down with a quizzical expression, “what’s this?”
I stared at him. He had a British accent. He had brown eyes and a mop of brown hair. He was cute. And he was a bit older than me, nineteen perhaps. Twenty, tops. Still…
“You’re not Paul.” I couldn’t quite keep the disappointment from my voice…or my face.
“No.” He paused. “And you’re not room service.”
“I’m Mark. Not Paul. Sorry.”
I turned my lips up into a brave attempt at a smile. “It’s okay. You can’t help it if you’re not a Beatle.”
He grinned. “No, I can’t. Hope I’m not too much of a disappointment.” He reached out his hand. “Here, let me help you out of there.”
I hesitated, and took his hand. It was warm and strong and gentle, all at the same time. “Thank you,” I said once I’d emerged from my hiding place. I stood awkwardly before him and clasped my hands against my wrinkled skirt, and wished more than anything that I were anywhere else on earth but here.
What an idiot he must think me. What a silly, fan-struck little girl. I suddenly saw how foolish, how ridiculously childish our plan had been.
“My friend Marcie thought the cart was going to Paul’s room,” I stammered, and cleared my throat. “So she suggested… I get under the cart… and I…”
“And so you climbed under the tablecloth and hid in hopes of rolling into his room and meeting him, and possibly getting his autograph.”
“Yes.” I was miserable. “Yes, that’s exactly it.”
“I think I know where you and Marcie went wrong,” he mused, and eyed me thoughtfully.
“Yes. You didn’t end up in Paul’s room because of my last name.”
“Oh. Is your last name McCartney, too?”
He shook his head. “It’s Pauley-Smith. Mark Pauley-Smith. Your friend must’ve heard the ‘Pauley’ bit and mistook it for ‘Paul.’ Besides,” he added with a frown, “Paul’s registered under the name of Mr. Blankenship.”
I lifted my eyes to his. They were really nice eyes, I realized; a gorgeous, light brown sort of hazel-y color. “I’m sure you’re right,” I agreed, dazed. “Marcie always gets things wrong. I’m really sorry for bothering you. I’ll go now.”
“No. Don’t leave just yet.” He reached out as I turned away and caught my hand. “It’s all right if you stay for a bit, you know. I don’t mind.”
“I should go.” But I didn’t move. I couldn’t. Those eyes… I cleared my throat. “Tell me something. What you said earlier, about Paul being registered under the name of Mr. Blankenship…?”
“How could you possibly know that?”
He leaned forward. “Because my father’s an executive with Parlophone. The Beatles’ record label.”
My jaw dropped. “He is? Really?”
“Really. In fact-“ He drew back and reached into his pocket and withdrew two tickets. “I’ve an extra pair of tickets to tonight’s show, if you’d like to go with me. And two backstage passes as well.”
I nearly died. “I can’t believe it!” I snatched the tickets away from him and stared at them in awe. They were legitimate. Front-row seats, too. But as I handed them back, all the joy went out of me like air leaking out of a deflating tire. “It doesn’t matter, anyway. My parents won’t let me go. I know they won’t.”
“Why ever not?”
“Because I’m not allowed to go on a date without a chaperone.”
“Oh. Well, then,” he said cheerily, “it’s a good thing my dad’s going along with us too, isn’t it?”
After I made the call from the hotel phone and explained everything to mom and dad, and after they spoke to Mark, and to Mark’s father, who promised to send me safely home in a cab afterwards, they relented and gave me permission to go.
Mark and I had an early dinner in the hotel dining room with his father Geoffrey, who regaled us with amusing stories about John, Paul, George and Ringo until it was time to leave for the concert.
“Thank you, Mark, for giving me the most amazing day of my life,” I said shyly as his father went out front to hail a taxi. I tried but couldn’t quite keep the wistfulness from my voice. “I’ll never forget it. Or you.”
“There’s no reason you should.” He took my hand and squeezed it gently. “Why can’t we see each other again?”
“But – how? You live in England, and I live in Cleveland.” Sadness swooped over me and I thought for a moment I might cry. “It’ll never work.”
“We live in New York at the moment, dad and I. That’s not so very far away.”
“No,” I said, and hope buoyed me up. “A bus ride.”
“A plane ticket,” he agreed. “We can see each other at the weekends.”
“I never thought I’d say this,” I admitted, “but I’m really glad you’re not Paul.”
“Me, too.” He smiled and leaned closer. “Because even though Paul might be a Beatle, he doesn’t get to do this.”
He brushed his lips against mine. And as he kissed me, it occurred to me what a great ‘how-I-met-your-father’ story this would make for our kids, someday…