December 30, 1960.
I’m fifteen today. It should be a day to stay with family, to have a party, to rejoice and have a good time.
But when I opened my eyes this morning, all I could think of was how alone I am.
I put down my pen and looked at the clock for the firth time. It was nine PM.
I felt a smile pull at my lips. It was finally time!
Moving to the hotel room’s phone, I picked it up and dialed for an outside line. When I heard the familiar voice of the operator, I gave the number as calmly as I could.
“Sir, that’s an international number.”
“Yes, I know. Los Angeles, California, United States.” I gave her my home’s phone number. “Reverse the charges there.”
“Yes, sir -- may I have your name?”
“Yes, sir, I have it. Dialing your call now.”
I drummed my fingers on the nightstand as I waited. At last, I heard her voice. “Hello?”
The smile that touched my lips this time was completely real. I loved hearing that voice. “Hullo, Mrs. Dolenz!”
“Davy!” She cheered. “How are you, son?”
“Davy!” A triple-voiced chorus rang behind her.
I laughed, hearing it. My heart felt noticeably lighter. “I hear them. May I speak with them? I don’t have much time—“
“Certainly, dear,” she said. “This must be costing you a mint!” There was a mumble, then she returned. “Here you are, sugar.”
Then Micky’s merry voice rang in my ear. “Hey, Davy! Happy birthday! It --- is--- still your birthday there, right?”
I laughed, for the first time in days. “Yes, Micky, it’s nine in the evening here. It’s noon of the 30th there, right?”
“Right!” He whistled. “Man, you’re good at math!”
“I try.” I was laughing again. “Speaking of which—“
He groaned. “Oh, don’t get me started! Mister Johnson is a demon!”
“You can pass, Micky. I have absolute faith in you. Hey, let me talk to one of the others, huh?”
”Sure thing!” There was more mumbling, then a deeper voice.
”Davy? Oh, man, it’s good to hear your voice again! How’re your parents doing?”
Grief stabbed through me, and I had to remind myself that they hadn’t heard yet. “Peter,” I said, and cursed my quavering voice.
Sensitive Peter picked up on it right away. “Oh, Davy,” he whispered, his voice suddenly so sad my heart squeezed in my chest. “When?”
“Five days ago.” And the pain was just as keen as it was then.
I wasn’t ready to face the word yet. What I was now still stung too freshly.
“Davy, I…I’m sorry.”
He sounded so heartbroken…”I’ll be okay, Peter. Honest. Put Mike on, would you?”
Another buzz of voices, then that gruff Texan twang. “You okay?”
“I will be. Happy birthday, Mike – you’re eighteen at last?”
“Yeah, I’m finally legal. You, kid, got three years!”
“I’ll get there,” I chuckled. The banter felt good.
He chuckled too, then there was a slight pause and his voice was slightly chiding. “Where you at?”
My hand tightened on the receiver. “…what?”
“We know you ain’t in Manchester no more. We called t'wish you a happy birthday an' your grandpa said you didn't live there no more."
That did it. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I put my hand to my forehead, bowed my head, and the tears came. “I couldn’t stay there….not without Mum and Da….”
“I understand.” And I knew, with Mike, that wasn’t just talk. He did. That made me feel better. “But Davy – where are you?”
“I…” I sniffled. “I’m in London.”
“London? What are you doing in London?”
“Heathrow’s in London, Mike.”
There was silence, then Mike’s voice was soft….stunned. “Heathrow? The airport?”
“Yeah…” I sniffled. “I’m staying in a hotel near the airport.”
“Davy?” I heard the wonder in his voice. He knew.
And, through my tears, I smiled. “Yeah, Mike. Together. Fore-Forever.
“I’m coming home.”
December 31, 1960.
I put the last of my meager possessions into my knapsack and fastened it. Then I dialed Heathrow information.
“Yes, I need to know the schedule of your flights to LA.” I scribbled down the information. “And I can buy the tickets at the gate? … Yes, cash only… understood. Thank you.”
I hung up and looked over the information. Then I looked in my wallet and mentally did some calculations.
I had enough for the hotel bill. I had enough for the flight. I had enough for food. That was about it.
But it was good enough. I could do this.
With a new resolve, I hefted my knapsack and left the hotel room.
After settling my bill, I walked the distance to the airport, feeling lighter in heart than I had for some time.
Patiently, I stood in line until it was my turn. “I’d like a one-way ticket to Los Angeles, please.”
The woman’s eyebrow rose. “One-way? Are you certain?”
“Yes, I’m absolutely certain.” I smiled. “I’m going home.”
That made her other eyebrow raise. She nevertheless ran a ticket through for me. I handed her the money and she pointed me to the waiting area.
I sat down and grinned as I watched the planes take off and land. I grinned larger hearing the brusque counter lady get yelled at for forgetting to check passports.
In a few hours, I would be in LA. I would be calling so Mrs. Dolenz could pick me up.
I’d be with them again.
It seemed strange – I’d never been with them in the flesh for more than a handful of hours, yet I was totally unafraid of living in the colonies. Strange or not, sane or not, it truly felt as if I were going home.
I opened my eyes and blinked at the man in the pilot’s uniform. “Huh?”
He smiled at me. “Are you waiting for someone?”
I returned his smile. Yes, sir. I’m waiting for my flight!”
“May I see?” I handed him my ticket, and his eyes softened. “Oh.”
I blinked at him. “…oh?”
“Son – your flight left three hours ago.”
“What?” I shot to my feet and found the clock behind him.
My flight had left three hours ago! “Bloody hell, I fell asleep!” I ripped the ticket from his hand and bolted to the desk, to get it traded for another flight to Los Angeles.
The ticket counter was closed. And to get another ticket for another airline would take more money.
That I just didn’t have. I walked away from the desk, feeling crushed.
I couldn’t go back to the hotel. I didn’t have the money for another room.
I couldn’t get a ticket for another flight. I didn’t have the money.
Sinking down into the chair by the phones, I dropped my face in my hands and surrendered to despair.
I had been so close – so close!
Now what was I going to do?
My whirling brain could only think of one thing. I had to let them know.
So, I forced myself to pick up the phone and dial the operator. I gave her the number, went through the usual ‘sir, that’s an overseas number’ rigmarole. Then, my voice shaking, I told her to make it collect.
….they were going to hate me for this…..
….reject the call, reject me….
“Hello?” Oh no – Mrs. Dolenz….
“Collect call from England –“
“Yes! Yes, put it through! … Davy, hon, what’s happened?”
Before I could say anything, I heard the extension picked up and Mike’s: “Davy? Why ain’t you on the plane?”
“Mike, I fell asleep!” I blurted. “They won’t let me on a later flight without money, I can’t afford another night in the hotel –“
“Calm down, calm down.” I heard him take a deep breath. “Okay, what hotel were you stayin’ at?”
I frowned, taken aback by that question. “The Gantry – but Mike, it’s fifty pounds a night! I don’t have fifty pounds!”
“Davy, it’ll be okay. Do you trust me?”
“Do. You. Trust. Me.”
“Of course I trust you, what –“
“Then will you do exactly what I tell you?”
I gripped the receiver and took a deep breath. “Y…yes….”
“Okay. I want you to hang up the phone, get your things, and go back to the Gantry. Tell them you need a room for one more night, and you’ll settle the bill in the morning. Do you have money for food?”
I checked. “…no…”
“Can you get back to the Gantry?”
“Yes, I have enough for that. But Mike, I can’t—“
“Davy, go back and order room service. It’s all gonna be okay in the mornin’.”
“How? I’m not going to have more money in the—“
“Davy. Trust me. Do as I said, okay?”
What choice did I have? “All right.”
“Yes, Mike. I promise.”
“Good. Do that and I swear it’ll be okay in the mornin’.”
“All right, Mike. Whatever you say.”
“Davy. Together Forever.”
I smiled despite my worry. “Together Forever.”
“Go on, now. Call once you’re there. Collect.”
“Positive. Go on.”
“….all right….” Slowly, I hung up, gathered my things, and headed back to the hotel.
I trusted him. I did.
But I just didn’t see how this mess could be fixed.
January 1, 1961
I finished dressing and frowned at the clock. Nine AM. It has just turned midnight in LA.
I missed them so badly. I had been so close….
I was trying hard not to think of the trouble I was in. Mike had said to trust him. I did trust him – but that didn’t change the fact that I was flat-broke and had to pay for my hotel bill and meals….
Suddenly the phone jangled. I frowned at it – was I being thrown out already? Shakily, I picked it up. “H-Hello?”
“Mornin’,” a surprisingly familiar drawl hit my ears. “You eaten yet?”
“Mike…” I felt as if I would melt with relief. “No, I haven’t—“
“Okay. Get packed.” And he hung up.
I sat there, blinking stupidly at the phone in my hand. What was going on?
Less than five minutes later, there was a knock on my door. “Yes?”
“Room service, Mister Jones!”
I sighed and opened the door – and froze.
Two men stood there -- the bellboy and one who was vaguely familiar. They both walked in and the one in the green hat tipped the bellboy, who left us alone.
I just stared at the tall man, until he turned to me and grinned.
“Figured you needed somethin’ to eat.”
I could feel my eyes grow huge. “Mike?!”
“In the flesh,” he laughed, spreading his arms.
“I didn’t recognise you!” I laughed as I gave him a quick hug.
“Yeah, well, it’s been eight years, at least.” He broke the hug and nodded to the food. “Eat up – we’ve got a plane to catch.”
I blinked at him. “We’ve go—huh?”
Mike laughed and drew two airline tickets from his jacket pocket. “Plane leaves at noon. We’re goin’ home.”
The enormity of it all hit me all at once and I sank down onto the bed, just staring at him. “You…you came and got me.”
“Yup.” He sat down beside me.
I shook my head. “All the way…from Los Angeles…”
“All that way…to get me.”
He smiled. “You’re our brother, man. Together Forever. You couldn’t come to us…” He squeezed my shoulder and I felt tears prick my eyes as he finished:
“So I came to you, Dave.”
We arrived back at the airport at ten-thirty. The woman behind the counter frowned at me. “You again?”
“Yeah, I overslept,” I confessed.
She sighed and shook her head. “So -- another ticket?”
“No,” Mike said, handing her two tickets. “We have our tickets.”
She took them and examined them. “Passports?”
I frowned. “Pa--?”
Mike pulled a folded pamphlet from his pocket. “Here you go.” He smiled at me. “We all gone one a few years ago – we were going to come see you.”
“But then there was my parents’ acc---“ I shuddered. Then something dawned on me. “Uhm….Mike?”
I leaned in and dropped my voice. “I don’t have a passport….” They’d never asked for it earlier. I honestly hadn’t thought I’d needed one….
Mike just smiled and drew a second, differently coloured one out of his pocket. “Your grandfather got it last year – and hid it.”
He did – what? I didn’t know I’d gasped it aloud till Mike nodded. “But – why?”
He handed it to the ticket lady before he explained, “He was afraid if you had it, you would fly to our sides right away.”
I opened my mouth to reply, then I closed it, shook my head and grinned. “He was probably right.”
“Anyhow, I called him. By the time I arrived here at Heathrow, it had been delivered by messenger.”
I found myself shaking my head again, turning the returned passport over and over in my hands. “I still can’t believe this….”
“Believe it,” he said, grinning at me as the boarding passes were handed to us. “We’re goin’ home.”
That word never sounded so sweet.
It was a few hours later that it hit me. I turned from watching the ocean sparkle in the sunlight to study Mike’s face.
He’d fallen asleep, worn out by the nine-hour flight and a day with no sleep. His body was relaxed but somehow alert – as if he only needed a slight nudge to wake up.
And it slammed into me with the force of a pile-driver. I barely knew this man – only seen him a handful of times in my life. But here I was – leaving what was left of my family, leaving my friends, leaving my country – to spend the rest of my life with this man and two others.
On the basis of a Promise we pledged as infants?
Suddenly I felt like five kinds of fool. How could I believe them? I was a baby – I’m only going on their word that this so-called Promise even exists.
He must have sensed my scrutiny, because his eyes fluttered and opened. He knuckled sleep from his eyes, then smiled at me – and it froze. “Davy? What’s wrong?”
“What the hell am I doing?” I asked in a shaking whisper. “Who the hell are you?” I waved my hand when his eyes widened and his mouth opened. “Not your name, I know that, Mike.”
He nodded slowly. “Then…then I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
I leaned back in the seat and closed my eyes, barely aware my hands were tightening into fists.
His hand rubbed my arm. “Just take your time, Davy. We’ve got forever.”
Forever. The second word of that Promise. “Who are you? Who are Peter and Micky? Why am I leaving everything I ever knew – throwing my life away – to go to LA and be with you three?”
I opened my eyes and looked at him. The confusion was fading, replaced by a look of awareness. “So that’s it. Davy, remember the Prom—“
“And that’s another thing! How do I know this so-called Promise is real?”
That took him aback. “Wh-wha--?”
“Only proof I have is your word. The word you told me that we made this promise as very young children. Well, guess what?” I leaned forward. “I don’t remember it. And your word isn’t good enough anymore. I barely know you!”
He just blinked at me, his face growing more and more expressionless. When I wound down, he just nodded slowly. “Ya finished?”
I leaned back and crossed my arms. “Yeah, I think so…for now.”
Mike nodded, running a hand along his mouth and jaw and then scratching his head just under the band of his hat. “All right—how does this sound?”
Another slight nod and he leaned forward. “We go on home – we call a family meeting after we’ve both slept, and we discuss this. All of us. Together.”
I considered it. Hard. Then I leaned back in my seat. “Sounds reasonable.” I turned to look out the window and saw we were just coming over land.
Maybe their home. I was no longer certain it was mine
I followed his pointing arm and saw a blond man and one with curly brown hair running toward us. Before I could say or do anything, Mike held up a hand. “Don’t, guys. He’s real tired and we’ve got a problem.”
“What problem?” the one with the curls asked nervously.
“He don’t remember the Promise and he don’t trust us.” He smiled gently at me and steered the four of us to the garage. “He’s agreed to wait until we sleep awhile, then we’ll have a family meetin’ and—“
“We don’t need a family meeting.” I recognised the voice instantly. The blond was Peter, the kind baritone voice I’d spoken to so often.
We all stopped, and the others looked at Peter with the same patronizing looks I’d seen my grandfather pull on me. I had a brief flash of a blond blur falling…and then I heard Mike begin, “Peter, this is –“
Peter shook his head. “No, Michael. All he needs is a hug.”
“A hug?” I burst out.
“A hug?” Micky echoed.
“A hug?” Mike finished. “Peter, you don’t understand. This is way complic—“
“No it isn’t,” Peter said gently. “He doesn’t remember the Promise. He’s lost his parents barely a week ago. He’s left his family to basically come live with three strangers half a world away.”
I stared at him. In his gentle, soft way he’d stated all my doubts in a nutshell – without attacking the others the way I had.
He shone a dazzling smile on their dropped jaws and approached me. “So – he needs a hug.” And he opened his arms.
I smiled and shook my head. Expecting the same gentle hugs I got from Mike in England, I embraced Peter.
I was shocked when his arms enfolded me with strength and warmth. I squeezed gently, and his arms tightened in reply.
Enfolded by this tight strength, I felt something shatter within. I was overwhelmed by loss… love… and an overpowering sense of belonging.
I felt my knees buckle and was aware that I was sinking. I was also aware he was sinking with me, buckling his own knees to match mine.
Not for an instant did that warm, tight hug let up. He shifted his grip and I found myself sitting on his lap in the middle of the garage. Great sobs were erupting around me, and my body was shuddering in time with them.
Only when Peter’s gentle fingers wiped away my cheeks and came away wet did I realise the sobs were mine.
Exhausted by the journey and the wild roller-coaster ride of emotion, I felt myself slide into sleep right then and there. On my new roommate’s lap, surrounded by their love.
My last remembrance before I slid into the warm dark was Peter’s voice, as if from far away.
“You see, fellas? All he needed was a hug….”
I awoke to a strange room. Not knowing where I was – or how long I’d slept – I let out a cry of shock and fear.
In reply, there was a flurry of running feet and my door blew open. Mike and Peter – I remembered their names! – ran in, faces contorted with worry. “You okay?” Mike drawled at me.
I pulled the covers up to my chest before it registered I was in a pair of green oversized pajamas with the sleeves rolled way up. I squinted in the dim light to see Mike was dressed identically to me, only his fit right. Peter’s were the same style in orange, trimmed with red.
Both of them looked rumpled and mussed, and Mike wasn’t wearing his hat. “What….what time?” I asked.
Peter stuck his head out into the hallway and pulled it back in. “Four-twenty AM,” he reported with a yawn. “One-twenty PM in England,” he finished with a grin.
Mike chuckled and squeezed Peter’s arm. “He’s here now, Peter, you don’t have to keep convertin’ the time.”
I blinked at that. “Peter’s been—“
“Converting the time,” Mike explained as they sat on either side of the bed. “When you called us that first time and said it was ten at night when it was one in the afternoon here –“
“That confused me,” Peter interrupted. “So Michael and Micky taught me about time zones and how to do a little math to convert.” His dimpled grin shone in the dim light. “And it’s fun!”
Mike chuckled and petted my knee. “I’ll go rustle up some breakfast – let Mrs. D. sleep. Ain’t no sleep in him – not after that nap.” He grinned and left me and Peter alone.
I frowned at Peter. “How long did I sleep?”
“It was twelve-thirty when you fell asleep on my lap. You didn’t wake up at all till now.” He frowned, then nodded and smiled. “Sixteen hours. Straight.” The frown returned. “Davy…haven’t you been sleeping well?”
“Not really,” I admitted, leaning back against the headboard. “Not since that hellish crash.”
And his hand closed over mine. “My dad died in a car crash too,” he informed me. “I was seven. Seven or fifteen, it doesn’t make a difference. He’s your dad. She’s y our mom. And it’s not fair at all.”
I felt the tears in my eyes again. “This was… my first birthday…without them. Without any f-family. I was… Gran’da means well, but he smothers. So I-I was alone.”
His hand tightened on mine. “Your last alone. We’re your brothers – you’ll not lack family ever again.”
I felt my eyes widen. “B-but…”
And again, he squeezed my hand. “You don’t remember us or the Promise. That’s what you told Michael, isn’t it?”
I nodded. “But still – I could reach out to you when I barely know you? I don’t understand that!”
Peter nodded and brushed my hair from my eyes. Shame washed over me – I’d never let my bangs grow this long before – Mum would have a fit if….
Peter smiled and squeezed my shoulder. “I can tell you why, Dave.”
“Please,” I whispered, not trusting my voice. “I don’t understand any of this….”
His voice deepened, and his eyes shone with absolute conviction, absolute sincerity. “Davy, I know you don’t remember the Promise – we were very young and you were the youngest. I know you have only our wor—“ His voice trailed off and his eyes widened.
“What?” I whispered.
He licked his lips and said, “Davy, we became soul-brothers that day. Remember it or not, you feel it. Right?”
I nodded, and whispered, “I just wish I had some proof….”
Peter broke into a huge grin. “C’mon.”
“Mine and Mike’s room.” The grin grew. “I’m gonna get you your proof.”
We walked into Mike and Peter’s room and I looked around. Peter walked to a dresser, his body blocking it so I couldn’t see what was there.
There were two beds in the room – both of them in disarray from being evacuated in seconds. I walked to one and lifted the teddy bear that lay on the pillows.
“That’s mine,” Peter said, walking over to me, a photo album in his hands. “Mike gave it to me after we moved out here.” He sat down on the bed and petted it beside himself.
I sat down and cradled the teddy bear. “So what’ve you got there?”
“Proof,” Peter said. “We went to Niagara Falls ten years ago. All four of us. It was the last time we were all together.” He opened the album and flipped through school portraits and the like, finally landing on a black and white one of four young boys.
I lay the teddy bear down and moved the album to my lap. My fingers traced the features of each smiling child. “When --?”
“A woman took it while we were playing on the playground. Thirty minutes later, I went over the side of a cliff.”
I tensed. The blond blur – falling – was real? “That… was you?”
He nodded. “And one thing led to another and another… and here we are.”
“Here we are,” I echoed as my fingers traced the children’s features again.
They stood side-by-side, arms around each other’s shoulders. Two were of equal height, both on the left. One was grinning at the camera, his dark hair all but lost under the homemade knit cap.
“That’s not the one he wears now,” Peter told me. “That one, he grew out of.”
My fingers moved to the next one in line. The smile would have given it away even if the light hair hadn’t. “That’s you.”
“That’s me,” he echoed. “I’d barely turned nine, and Micky had barely turned six.”
Micky. My fingers traced the square-ish jaw of the curly-haired little boy. “Boy, he didn’t change much,” I chuckled, and Peter did as well.
Then my fingers slid to the one at the end of the line, and my breath caught.
“Recognise him?” Peter asked in a soft voice.
Recognise him? The kid looked like he was just barely too young for schooling. He wore jeans and a too-large shirt. His arm was around Micky, and he was grinning at the camera. His hair was cut short and his huge eyes held laughter.
“Yes….” I whispered. Yes, of course I recognised him. How could I not?
He was me!
I had my Proof. The Promise was real!
The phone rang about noon. Mrs. Dolenz picked it up. “Dolenz household…yes, he’s here…”
All four of us turned from our meal. Those of us with food in our mouths swallowed as we looked at each other. Who--?
“Davy.” She held out the phone to me. “It’s your grandfather.”
I nodded and started to stand up, only to have a hand catch each of my wrists. Mike held one, Micky the other, and all three were looking at me with undisguised worry.
“Relax, fellas,” I said with a shaky smile. “I’ll be fine.” Micky released me. Mike studied my face for a second before his hand, too, released its hold.
I moved to the phone, acutely aware of the four anxious gazes that followed me as I took it and raised it to my ear. “Hullo?”
“Hullo, Gran’da. How are you?”
“In disbelief. Still. First, I lose my firstborn and his wife—“
I sighed. It was hard to remember at times my grandfather’s lost a son and daughter-in-law when I’d lost my parents.
I blinked, forcing myself back to the present and away from the memory of watching them slowly slide away from me in the hospital beds. I realised Gran’da had said something else and I’d completely missed it. “I’m sorry, Gran’da, what did you say?”
“I said, first I lost them, and then my grandson abandons me.”
I heaved a sigh and rubbed my forehead. “Gran’da, I did not abandon you.”
“Oh, lovely,” I heard Mike groan.
“Then why did you go to America?” Gran’da asked, his tone wounded.
“To be with my friends, Gran’da. I told you that.”
“Davy-lad,” he said with a cajoling whine in his voice. “You should be with your family—“
“But Gran’da,” I cut him off, turning and smiling at the others. “I am with my family. We’re brothers as surely as if we’d been born that way.”
Three smiles were my answer – well, actually, two smiles and one of Peter’s beaming grins – and I knew I’d made the right choice.
“What am I hearing, Davy?” Gran’da asked. “Am I hearing you’ll not be coming home?”
“I did come home, Gran’da.”
There was silence on the other end, and I worried if our connection hadn’t been cut. Then he said, very softly, “I love you, lad.”
“I love you too, Gran’da.”
“So…” Another long pause. “You’ll…be staying, then?”
“Yes, sir.” I smiled at my brothers and confirmed it. “I’m staying.”
As of today.
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