Mere days after graduation, I was out of my nasty apartment in Mississippi. I'd always wanted to travel the world. See new sights, meet new people, the most cliché of the cliché. I gathered the last of my worn notebooks into a canvas bag decked out in band buttons and sharpie marks. My boyfriend, Adam, and both mine and his parents brought boxes out to the van, filling it to the point of danger. I took a deep breath. No more struggling for rent. No more redneck neighbors. No more meth heads or police officers knocking at my door. London would be so different! A bright star in my not-so-distant future. A warm hand wrapped itself around my waist as a man with shaggy, dark hair matted to his face from sweat looked around the room.
“It’s a fresh start, love.” He breathed in deeply, his nose twitching, “Literally fresh. This place reeks, let’s head out.”
The airport was bustling with businessmen and families and vacationers just living their lives. We took our boxes to the loading dock where an old man marked them with FRAGILE before throwing them carelessly onto the conveyor belt. Our boarding zone, surprisingly, was not busy at all. I rested my head on my mom’s shoulder and held my boyfriend’s mom’s hand. Adam kissed my forehead and handed me a coffee. “Now boarding: flight 94 to London Heathrow International.” I put my bag in the overhead compartment and took my seat next to Adam.
“Are you excited?” Our fingers locked together.
“Yeah, I really am. But, I’m super nervous too.” He looked at me, confused. “I still don’t know who hired me. No one told me.”
“That can’t be right? We’ll find out when we land I guess.” He chuckled. I shrugged, laying my head on his shoulder. We had a long flight ahead of us, and if I didn’t fall asleep now, my anxiety would keep me up the whole time. I shut my eyes, only to open them again in London.
At the bottom of the escalator, a man dressed in a black sports coat, dark blue jeans, and cowboy boots held a sign with my name on it. We walked over to him.
“Lucy Jones, I hope.” He had a thick British accent, which surprised me because of how he was dressed. I introduced myself, my parents, Adam, and his parents to this man, who later told me his name was Greg. He told us that our stuff was already on a truck headed to our new apartment. Greg escorted us to his car and the six of us piled in. My dad, of course, insisting to ride shotgun. We rode down the wet streets of a springtime London. I mapped out the distances between the grocery stores and the coffee shop near our new home. The car stopped outside a narrow, white townhouse. It was very new and had new furniture to match it. A few guys helped us bring boxes into the house and even offered to stay and help unload. We insisted they go back to work and Greg gave them a large tip.
“Okay, well, I guess we should go.” He said looking at his watch.
“Where are we going?”
“You have a meeting in 30 minutes,” I just stood looking at him, “with your new employers? I’ll explain in the car, but we’re gonna be late if we don’t leave now. C’mon then.” He grabbed my laptop bag from the chair and left the house. I followed him to the car, he opened my door for me, forcing the laptop into my hands. “So, how familiar with rock music are you?”
“Uh, very?” My confusion only grew.
“How about 60s rock music? You’re very young, Ms. Jones, I want to make sure you know who you’re working with.” He turned the CD player on and a familiar guitar riff played. My eyes grew wide as Pinball Wizard continued.
“Am I…am I working with the Who?” Greg smiled.
“So you are familiar with them!”
“Of course! They’re my favorite band. I’ve been listening to them since I was a really little kid. Pete is the reason I learned guitar! My boyfriend loves them too. He’s going to flip shit when he finds out!” Greg and I spent the next 20 minutes having a sing-a-long to all our favorite Who songs. The car stopped outside a huge building with nothing but giant windows. “Is this it?” We were greeted by a small woman in a pencil skirt. She ushered us to a large, glass elevator.
“Mr. Daltrey is waiting in his office, Pete’s running late.”
“Again?” Greg grinned, “Does he have any concept of time management?” They laughed with each other. I, however, tried to stop my profuse sweating. I rocked back and forth on my heels, the rubber soles of my converse slapping the marble tile of the elevator floor. I’m about to meet the Who. The fucking WHO. The door chimed when we reached the top floor. The small woman led Greg and I to an office at the end of the hall. She knocked.
“Come in, darling.” She nodded, letting us into the room. A man with blonde, curly hair sat in a leather chair. He peaked over his glasses as they sat on the edge of his nose. “Greg! How are you, my friend?” He stood and made his way to Greg to shake his hand. They chatted for a minute before Greg turned to me, “Rog, this is Lucy Jones. She’s your new documentarian. Or blogger. Whichever you prefer.” My face got hot and red, my sweating got worse. “Hello, dear. I’m Roger Daltrey.” He reached out for my hand and I threw my arms around his waist. I quickly pushed away from him, realizing how insane I must have looked.
“I'm so sorry, Mr. Daltrey. I know exactly who you are. You’re one of my icons.” He chuckled. Leaning against his desk, he listened as I explained growing up with his music and how his name was a household one. I explained how the band had influenced me and even how I had my first kiss while “Pictures of Lily” played on the radio. He listened intently, like he had known me for a long time. While I continued to talk in circles, the door swung open. All three of us faced the door to see a winded Pete Townshend leaning on the door handle attempting to catch his breath. My face went ghost white.
“Hello, all, I am so sorry for being late.” He straightened the t-shirt he was wearing and adjusted his sport coat. “Hello, Greg. Rog.” He turned and stared at me. “Who’s this then?”
“Lucy Jones. I’m your hired blogger.” He sat behind the desk. “I’m also a huge fan.” His smile faded a little.
“I’m sorry you had to find out this way.” Roger and Greg shot him angry glares. His eyes widened. “What? She knows why she’s here, yes?”
“No, Pete, we were waiting for you to arrive. Speaking of, do you own a fucking watch, mate?” Greg laughed. I remained quiet while the three grown children bickered. I cleared my throat.
“So, uh, what are you talking about?” They stopped dead in their conversation. Roger and Greg avoided my stare. Pete coughed a little.
“Well—uh, you’re writing about—uh…” Roger cut him off, placing a comforting hand on Pete’s shoulder.
“The band. Darling, the truth is we’re getting too old to tour much longer. We’ve seen so much, and lost too much in this life. We have watched our best friends ruin their lives and we have seen some great people go. It’s time to put that all behind us and remember them outside of stadiums and studios. This year’s tour is the last of the Who as a band. Once the tour is done, we’re retiring.” Pete held his head in his hands, whispering praise for Roger into the dead air. My entire life crashed before me.
“So…that’s it? You’re done?” They all avoided my eyes. I swallowed my emotions and straightened up. “Okay, I’ll do it. I do have one condition though.” I signed my contract and left the building.
Greg drove me home in almost complete silence. We were close to my flat when he turned to me, “I’m sorry about the nature of your job, I understand that it hurts. It hurt me too when they told me. You must understand, however, that this is what is best. Pete and Rog, they’ve been through a shitload together. Their hearing is declining and so is their vocal strength. This is a much-needed break. They can finally have a peacefully, non-hectic, family oriented life.” The car came to a slow stop. “Thank you, Ms. Jones. Have a nice night, dear.” I stepped out of the car and plopped onto the steps in front of my new home.