From me to you, p.1
From Me to You,
From Me to You
About the Author
Also by Elizabeth Eulberg
I don’t want to be the Grinch, so please take note: This holiday-themed short story is one BIG SPOILER if you haven’t read The Lonely Hearts Club (you might want to also read the short story Two of Us). If you have read the book, may your days be merry and bright. If you haven’t, you better watch out and you better not cry because I’ve warned you!
I, Penny Lane Bloom, do hereby declare that next year will be amazing.
How could it not? Just look at the past four months.
I went from a heartbroken girl to the leader of The Lonely Hearts Club. From having a small handful of close friends to having nearly thirty girls in my corner. From dating a total jerk who cheated on me to being with a guy who’s deserving.
Okay, so Ryan Bauer and I have only been on one date, but I know things with him are going to be awesome.
And I so called it. Right before the first day of school, I had a feeling this year was going to be different. Tracy did, too. It’s true that we generally go into the new school year with a good attitude, but this time, we were right.
If so much can happen in four months, just imagine what the Club can do in the next twelve. What could happen with Ryan and me?
I can’t wait for the New Year to ring in and see what’s in store for us.
But first, I have to survive Christmas with my family.
THANK GOD FOR RINGO STARR.
If it wasn’t for Ringo’s Christmas album, I Wanna Be Santa Claus, the music at the Bloom household on Christmas morning would’ve consisted of a constant loop of the Beatles’ “Christmas Time (Is Here Again),” Sir Paul’s “Wonderful Christmastime,” John Lennon’s “Happy Xmas (War Is Over),” and snippets from the Beatles’ seven Christmas albums.
Now when I say the Beatles had seven Christmas albums, I don’t mean the Fab Four covered “O Holy Night” or “White Christmas.” If only. Nope. The albums consisted mostly of skits, the Beatles giving their fans messages of thanks, lots of rambling, and an occasional a cappella song like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” They were recorded for the Beatles fan club members in the 1960s, not as music albums. I didn’t even want to know how much my parents spent to get bootlegged copies.
Ringo was crooning “The Little Drummer Boy” while Dad handed out presents and Mom poured hot cocoa.
“Got another one for you, Lucy.” Dad handed my oldest sister another present to add to her ever-growing pile.
“Thanks, Dad,” Lucy said as Dad gave her a big hug.
This Christmas was a bit bittersweet for the Bloom family. Lucy would be married soon, and she and her new husband would start rotating Christmases. She’d be in Boston next year. So Mom and Dad had taken every opportunity this year to give her extra attention.
“I wonder if Pete’s family will know how you like your hot cocoa,” Mom said as she placed a steaming mug next to her.
Extra attention and guilt.
The five of us sat around and took turns opening presents. Every year there was a Beatles-themed gift our parents gave the three of us: ornaments, jewelry, T-shirts, figurines, etc. That year we each got a clock. Lucy and Rita both got clocks with the cover of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band since that’s the album with the songs that they’re named after (“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Lovely Rita”).
“Oh, um, thanks?” Rita did her best to smile as she studied her clock, which I knew for a fact wouldn’t be going back to her dorm room at Northwestern. Neither Lucy nor Rita were ever into the Beatles as much as I was. But I guess when you’ve had a band forced down your throat since birth, it was understandable that you’d want to rebel.
I carefully peeled back the black wrapping paper with the Beatles logo so I could save it. I assumed my clock would be the cover of Magical Mystery Tour since that’s the album with “Penny Lane.” But it wasn’t. It wasn’t even an album cover. It was the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band logo.
“We figured it was fitting for you and your Club,” Dad explained. “But if you really want a Magical Mystery Tour one …”
“No.” I held it up, admiring the logo that had inspired the Club. “It’s perfect!” And it was going to be hung in my room before I went to sleep that night.
“Now, girls” — Mom held Dad’s hand — “we’re proud of you for many different reasons. But, Penny Lane, we are so proud of your Beatles club.”
“It’s not a Beatles club,” I reminded them for the eighty-fifth time.
While the Fab Four have been with me through some pretty rough patches and, yes, they inspired the Club’s name, my Lonely Hearts Club was solely about female friendships. And never changing for a guy. Ever. Even if that guy was a Beatle.
“We know it’s not,” Mom said as Dad nudged her playfully. Oh, how they loved to torture their children. “But you’re only a junior, Penny Lane. Just imagine what’s next for you.”
My thoughts exactly.
The more I got to know Ryan Bauer, the more I realized that, contrary to popular belief, he wasn’t perfect.
First, he didn’t know much about the Beatles. I mean, who doesn’t know the Beatles? So I rectified that by making him a CD after our not-a-date-outing to a Beatles cover band.
Second, he couldn’t hold a tune. Seriously. He was many things: hot, sweet, hilarious, thoughtful, smart, and hot (I know I said hot twice, but it was something that could not be ignored). But the guy couldn’t sing. I first found that out when he was singing along to the cover band, then it was confirmed in front of most of the school when he sang “Penny Lane” to me at a karaoke fund-raiser. (I know, swoon!) However, that slight character flaw could be overlooked. Have I mentioned how incredibly good-looking he was?
Then I found out another thing about Ryan that was almost inconceivable. Luckily, it was something that could easily be fixed.
It was really amazing he was able to function properly without me.
“Ho! Ho! Ho!” Ryan opened up the front door to his house with a Santa hat on.
“Um, did you just call me a ‘ho’?” I teased him as I walked inside.
He gave me a quick kiss on the lips. “I was trying to make sure you were still in the holiday spirit.”
“Christmas was only yesterday,” I reminded him as I settled on the couch in the living room next to their Christmas tree and looked around.
I hadn’t been in Ryan’s house since grade school. I used to go over there a lot after school when he first started dating Diane Monroe in eighth grade, since Diane and I were best friends. But then things changed: Diane started canceling on me and I spent less time with either of them. Being at Ryan’s house reminded me how far we’d all come and how fortunate I was to have them both back in my life.
“Speaking of Christmas.” Ryan raised his eyebrows, his blue eyes popping. He hit a button on a remote control, and the living room was flooded with the sounds of “Wonderful Christmastime.”
“Please,” I groaned. “I love me some Sir Paul, but I can’t anymore with this song.”
He switched to the radio instead, then sat next to me on the couch. “Sorry about that, but I figured you could tell your mom that I played it. You know, bonus points.”
While it really was that easy to get in my mom’s good graces, it was even easier to fall out of favor with her, so I appreciated him putting in the effort.
“First things first.” He handed me two presents. “Merry Christmas.”
“Thanks.” I reached in my bag and handed him his present.
“Open this one first.” He pointed to the smaller present.
I carefully unwrapped the Christmas-tree paper and opened up the box.
I couldn’t help but laugh: fleece-lined gloves.
Ryan had been horrified over how cold my hands were on our first date, and said he was going to get me gloves for Christmas. He was a man of his word.
I tried the gloves on. They were cozy and comfortable. “Thanks! These are so nice, not to mention thoughtful.” Although I much preferred it when he warmed up my hands. “So does this mean you’re retiring as Penny Lane Bloom’s Official Hand-Warmer?”
“Never.” He leaned forward and gave me another kiss that warmed me all over. “Okay, now this present I’m not so sure about. I can’t believe you didn’t already have this, so maybe there’s a reason why?”
I took the thin, rectangular present and was surprised by its weight. I quickly tore it open, not concerned about keeping the paper intact.
I laughed loudly when I saw the City of Liverpool street sign for the real Penny Lane.
“Is it okay?” Ryan asked, his voice hesitant.
“It’s awesome.” I held up the sign. Why didn’t I have one? “You’ll definitely get huge points from my mom. Unless she doesn’t like you showing her up.”
Ryan’s smile was huge. “I’m so glad you like it. Now my turn!” He bounced up and down as he took my present.
I could’ve added “acts like a toddler around presents” to the Ryan Bauer Is Not Perfect List, but it was pretty freakin’ adorable.
“Let me explain something first,” I began before he opened his gift. “I’m a little shocked about your lack of knowledge on this subject and felt like it was my duty to educate you.”
“The Beatles?” he asked with an arched eyebrow.
“Well, obviously yes, but something else, too.”
He quickly unwrapped his present, which contained two DVDs: Help! — and his deep, dark shame.
“Awesome! I haven’t seen either of these.” He began to read the cases.
“Okay, you get a pass on Help! But honestly, Ryan …” I shook my head in disbelief. “How on earth have you survived for seventeen years on this planet without watching A Christmas Story? It’s only playing all day every Christmas!!”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I hear it’s pretty good.”
“Pretty good?” I groaned. “Pretty good? Ryan, it’s hilarious. The family is almost as insane as mine. Almost. I just can’t …” I threw my hands up in defeat.
How could a guy be so smart and charming and hot, and be so clueless about one of the best Christmas movies of all time?
He removed the cellophane from the case. “I’m so sorry. How completely irresponsible of me. I guess we have no choice but to watch it right now. And Help! I hope these indiscretions on my part don’t mean you’re going to break up with me.”
“I — I …” I stammered.
I wasn’t used to a guy being so open with me. Generally it was all a game: waiting for a text, not knowing if we were dating or just hanging out, or God forbid wanting to know if you could call him your boyfriend.
I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.
But I knew better. I had known Ryan for years. He was a good guy. Yes, good guys do exist. Granted, they’re becoming an endangered species, but when you do find one, you don’t want to let go.
I finally found my voice. “Well, I guess I could look past this. But you’re on thin ice, Bauer.”
A mischievous grin began to spread on Ryan’s lips. “I guess I could try to think of something to make this up to you, besides a movie marathon. Let me think …” He leaned toward me, and my heart began to race, anticipating his lips on mine. He then pulled back abruptly. “We could go ice-skating!”
Oh, he was going to pay for that.
“Hey,” he said in reply to my annoyed glare, “you were the one who mentioned thin ice.”
“Yes,” I said calmly as I scooted away from him on the couch. “I do sense a cold front coming on, since you mentioned it.”
“Okay, okay!” Ryan threw his hands up in surrender. “I’ve clearly met my match.”
“Yes, you have,” I said indifferently, but I was forced to turn my face away from him. I was in a losing fight with a smile that was creeping on my face. “You should be careful since I’m very fra-gee-lay.”
“Huh?” Ryan remarked as he pulled me in closer.
“I’m fra-gee-lay.” I exaggerated the pronunciation just like the dad in A Christmas Story.
“Um, are you trying to say that you’re fragile? Because you are many things, Bloom, but fragile is not one of them.”
I swatted at his hand. “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
“What are you even talking about?”
I couldn’t contain my laughter any longer. “See, this is exactly why you need me: to educate you on the finer things in life, like Christmas Story quotes.”
Ryan leaned in again, but this time there was no pulling away. He tucked a stray hair behind my ear. “I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot from you.”
Ryan knew way more than me in a lot of subjects, but I liked him thinking he could learn from me, too. Between the Beatles and movies, he did have many important life skills to learn. I guess we both did.
And the best way to learn was with practice.
I lifted my chin so our lips met.
Lots and lots of practice.
He placed a hand on my cheek as we kissed. I ran my hand through his soft, wavy hair, then pulled myself in even closer to him.
We both jumped nervously as a phone rang in the kitchen.
“Ah.” Ryan cleared his throat. “I should probably get that.”
While he answered the phone, I smoothed down my hair and tried to steady my breathing. I could feel that my face was practically on fire. I grabbed the Help! DVD and began studying it as if I didn’t already know everything about the movie.
“Yeah.” Ryan came back in the room. “Um, sorry about that. Why do telemarketers always pick the worst time to call? So, I ah, guess we should start the movie?” He scratched his head, and his hair was standing up in different directions.
It seemed that I wasn’t the only one who was a little flustered.
Ryan got everything ready. “Do you need a blanket?”
“No, I’m good.” There was no way I would ever be cold if I was next to him.
“Okay, then.” Ryan sat down and put his arm around me, and I sank into him. It felt natural, easy. “And, Penny? Thanks for the movies.”
“You’re welcome.” I placed my head on his shoulder. “And Ryan, thanks.”
My thanks weren’t just for the gloves and the Penny Lane sign. It was for many things, but mostly for Ryan just being Ryan. That was the best gift of all.
Normally, Christmas break consisted of Tracy and me doing a whole lot of nothing. Not this year. When I wasn’t with the Club or Ryan, I was busy helping my family get ready for Lucy’s wedding.
Sure, it wasn’t for two more months, but there were dresses to be fitted, hairstyles to be tested, and cake to be tasted. Guess which one I didn’t mind?
And, of course, there were also family fights to be had.
“How many times are you going to bring this up?” Lucy dragged her suitcase to the front door.
Mom followed closely behind. “I think it would be something different. Years from now, don’t you want people to talk about how fun and unique your wedding was?”
“Ugh!” Lucy folded her arms and glared at Mom. “You use the word unique, but others would classify your Beatles obsess
Lucy wasn’t only my oldest sister, she was also the wisest.
“What’s going on?” Rita sat down next to me on the couch and handed me a piece of leftover pecan pie.
“I’m not sure, but I think it has to do with that.” I pointed to a cake topper with Beatles figurines circa their Ed Sullivan Show debut.
Rita and I ate our pie and watched the battle like it was dinner theater.
Mom continued to play her favorite role: The Often Put-Upon Mother. “Now, Lucy, you know that without the Fab Four, your father and I would’ve never met and you would’ve never been born. I think it would be nice for them to be in your wedding somehow.”
“Fine,” Lucy began to concede as she put on her wool coat. “I’d be more than happy to have Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr as guests. Please see to it that they each get an invitation.”
“Don’t think I haven’t tried,” Mom replied.
Of course she had. OF COURSE.
“DAD!” Lucy screamed up the stairs. “I’m going to miss my flight if we don’t get moving.”
While I knew how stressed out Lucy was about the wedding, I didn’t want her to leave angry. “Mom” — I approached her cautiously, leaving the safety of the couch — “I think the cake topper is great.”
“I knew you’d understand, Penny Lane.” Mom wrapped her arm around me like we were taking a stance together against Lucy, and I only wanted to smirk at her for a fleeting second.
“Well, you do have your thirtieth wedding anniversary coming up this summer … so don’t you think it would be great if you and Dad had a party? And we could use the topper for your cake?”
Mom looked thoughtful. “You know, that would be a great idea. And then we can use those invitations I saw, and the plates and napkins …” She walked into the kitchen, talking to herself, most likely already making a list of all the new Beatles stuff she’d be able to buy for this party.
“Thanks.” Lucy embraced me. “I owe you.”
Dad came running down the stairs. “I know traffic to O’Hare can be bad, but we’ve got plenty of time, Lucy.”
“Dave!” Mom called out from the kitchen. “We’re going to have a party for our anniversary and use all the Beatles stuff we got for Lucy’s wedding that she doesn’t want!”