Led Zeppelin Preference #1: Cheering You Up
ROBERT PLANT • • •
Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
Whoever invented clocks was a total bastard. You reach for yet another spare blanket. Maybe if you stay in bed long enough, they’ll give you a medal.
Maybe if you close your eyelids tightly enough, you’ll stop existing.
A sudden knocking sounds at the door, obnoxious and unwarranted in the stillness of your apartment. Thankfully, you’ve mastered the art of avoiding human contact.
“I know you’re in there!” says a muffled voice. “Your car’s in the parking lot!”
“I’m coming in, okay?”
A key clicks in the lock. You bury your head under the pillow. Boot-laden footfalls echo through the hallway and into your room. Your mattress springs creak with the weight of the Golden God.
The warmth of his hand runs up and down your back. “You can’t sleep forever.”
“Try and stop me.”
The pillow is gently lifted from your face. A pair of familiar lips brushes your forehead. “Come now, don’t you want to meet Zoso?”
You groan audibly. “Don’t tell me Jimmy’s here, too.”
Begrudgingly, you pry open your eyes. Robert sits on the edge of your bed, beaming and cradling a tiny black bundle of fur. You blink.
“That’s a puppy.”
“Pagey found him.” Robert sets the dog down next to him. “Well, it followed him home. I think he’s mine now.” He scratches behind the puppy’s ears. “Who’s a good Zoso? You are, you’re such a good boy.”
You sit up, unbrushed hair sticking in all directions. “That’s great and all, Robert, but why is he here?”
His eyes sparkle as he strokes your cheek. “Because the cure for a bad day is puppies. Go on, pet him.”
“Please, do you really think–” Zoso interrupts you by climbing into your lap clumsily, tail wagging, tongue waggling. He nuzzles his snout into the palm of your hand. A smile tugs at the corners of your mouth as your run your fingers through his fur. Robert raises his eyebrows as he leans over to kiss your shoulder.
“You were saying?”
JIMMY PAGE • • •
The rain has just begun to fall when he picks up the phone.
“Jimmy, it’s me.” You cross your arms tightly across your chest as you stare at the busted lock. “Someone stole my bike.”
“Are you serious?”
“No, I’m joking.” You blow a strand of hair out of your face, sarcastic and irritated. “I just got off work and it’s definitely stolen.”
“Do you need me to pick you up?”
“No, no, it’s fine. I’ll call a cab.” The rain starts coming down harder. “I just probably won’t be able to make it to the theater in time for that movie. I’m sorry, Jimmy, I know we’ve had these plans all week.”
“Don’t even worry about it.” If he’s disappointed, his voice betrays nothing. “We can go out next week, okay? Get yourself home.”
“Thank you,” you say gratefully, taking refuge from the weather under a nearby awning. “I should call that cab now.”
“I’ll talk to you later, love.”
The cab takes no less than forty-five minutes to rescue you from the curb. After the driver demands every cent you’ve got to your name, you emerge outside your apartment complex, soaking wet and shivering. The stairs to the top floor are endless today. You fumble your key into the lock with numb fingers.
You’re greeted by a distinct burning smell. Alarmed, you run inside to find the doorway to your kitchen hazy with smoke.
“Shit!” Did you leave a burner on? Perfect, fucking perfect. You dash into the kitchen. A lean apron-donning figure hunches over the oven, retrieving a blackened baking pan from the billowing hatch door.
“Shit!” a male voice echoes yours.
You stop in your tracks. “Jimmy?”
He looks up, startled. “Oh, damn–”
“What the hell’s going on?”
He swipes a hand across his forehead. “See, I know you couldn’t make it to the movie but I really wanted to see you–and today’s been shitty, so I thought I’d try and cheer you up by making cookies…I know how you feel about snickerdoodles.” He shrugs in dismay. “They didn’t exactly, um… turn out.”
You gawk at the sorry tray in his oven-mitted grasp.
“I think they’re radioactive, actually,” he sighs, putting it down on a nearby cooling rack. “All right, just say it. I’m ridiculous. I’ve ruined your kitchen. You never want to–”
You throw your arms around his neck, cutting his words off with your kiss.
“Perfect, you dork. You’re perfect.”
A light blush rises in his cheeks as he smiles, surprised.
“But you did ruin my kitchen.”
“Right, sorry. I’ll clean that.”
“Please do,” you say, winking. “We’ve got far dirtier things to do.”
JOHN BONHAM • • •
“You didn’t what?”
“Get the job, John,” you mutter, burying your face in your hands. “I didn’t get the job.”
“At the record store?”
“They’re ‘adequately staffed at this time.’” You meet his incredulous gaze. “The guy totally hated me. No idea why.”
“Did you tell him about your…extensive…knowledge of rock?” He gives you a look, spreading his arms out.
“He didn’t believe me for one second.” You massage your temples, exhausted. “Shit, I really needed that job. I don’t know how I’m gonna keep paying rent just waiting tables.”
John thinks a moment, then stands, kisses the top of your head, and determinedly sets his jaw as he makes for the door.
“Bonzo, where are you–” You get up and follow him, closing the door behind you. You catch up to him in the parking lot as he straddles his motorcycle.
“Where are you going?”
He revs the engine. “Get on.”
You jump on back, wrapping your arms around him before he takes off. The streets fly by with frightening speed, the passing cars a complete blur. Before you know it, you’re downtown. The record store is just ahead on the right, door propped open. You give him a suspicious look.
“What do you think you’re–”
“Hang on tight.”
Without a word, he slams the brakes, swerving off the road and over the curb with a thunk. He takes a sharp right directly into the record store. You tuck in your legs, clinging to him as he barges his way through the shelves. Startled customers leap out of the way as he comes to a screeching halt at the sales counter where the manager stands, highly alarmed. John gets off the motorbike, jerking a thumb in his direction.
You half-stand up, half-fall off the seat, dumbfounded. “Yeah.” John takes your hand and strides over to the cash register, fixing him with a glare.
“Hello sir, my name’s John Henry Bonham. I play drums in a band–I don’t know if you’re at all familiar with Led Zeppelin?” The manager’s jaw drops. John slips a strong arm around your waist. “This here’s my girl. She had an interview with you earlier today, and I can assure you she’s more than qualified to work in this fine little establishment. Consider her employed. She’ll be here first thing Monday morning.” He pulls you closer, placing an intimidating hand on the counter. “Do we have an understanding?”
The manager, a deer in the headlights, nods frantically.
“Jolly good.” He knocks twice on the counter, getting back on his motorcycle. You wordlessly join him. “Oh, and you need to restock. Not enough Buddy Rich.” With a roar of the engine, the two of you are out the door.
The bike sputters to a stop outside your apartment. You stumble off, falling into John’s arms.
“You’re crazy. You’re insane. You’re a fucking lunatic.”
His laugh bounces heartily in his chest as he holds you tight. “Love you too, sweetheart.”
JOHN PAUL JONES • • •
The digital clock on the bedside table reads 3:10 am. You roll over for maybe the hundredth time, brain racing at a mile a minute. There’s no hope of getting any shuteye tonight.
He stirs next to you, sliding a comforting arm around your waist.
“Do you ever sleep?”
You exhale loudly. “I don’t even know anymore.”
“Something on your mind?”
You prop your chin up on one arm. “I feel like I’m under a lot of stress lately, I guess. I can’t turn my thoughts off. I just worry and worry, John. It doesn’t stop.”
He gently kisses the back of your neck, slipping his fingers slightly under your nightshirt. “What are you worrying about, sweet?”
“Anything. Everything.” You sigh, dropping your head to the pillow and curling up tighter. “Crazy family, shitty job, paying rent, getting by. Life. Love.” You hesitate. “You.”
He presses closer against your back. “Me.”
“I don’t know, John, it’s just… you’ve got the band, and the new album, and sold-out tours… you’ve got everything. Anything you want, you can get. You’re talented, you’re brilliant. I’m so worried that someday you’re going to wake up and realize…”
You pull away. “It’s nothing.”
You sit up, facing him. “Someday you’re going to realize that you can do so much better. That I’m just wasting your time.”
He joins you. “Love–”
“It’s true, you know.” Tears prick at the corners of your eyes. “I mean, look at your groupies. You could have a different one each night of the month. You could have anybody you wanted.”
He pulls you into his lap, taking your face in his hands. “Look at me. Do you know how often I fear you’ll leave me?”
You scoff. “What?”
“I’m serious. I worry that someday you’ll come to your senses and see that I’m just an uninteresting person in an interesting band. That my novelty will wear off. I get so anxious when I see you talking to Jimmy, you know that?”
“Really?” You can’t help but laugh. “John, it’s just Jimmy. I don’t want him.”
“And I don’t want any groupies,” he says, resting his forehead against yours, “or anybody else. Nobody but you, sweet. You’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever known. I’m beyond lucky to call you mine. I’d never leave you. Never. I never want you to worry about that, okay?”
His voice is so heartbreakingly soft. You bury your fingers in his hair, pressing your lips tenderly to his.