[December 19, 1963]
[Laval District, Montreal, Canada]
Bill looked first at some of the common phrases in the back of the dictionary, and then went in search of specific words. He busily scribbled, erased, altered, and read until he had a passable speech done. It probably sounded silly, but he was prepared to do anything to gather the respect of this family. They seemed wonderful to him.
* * *
In the kitchen, Molly wondered how Bill was doing with his proposal.
‘It would so impress my father for him to do as he says. I told the truth when I said what he thought about Americans. But Bill is so different. He’s been out in the world for a while. And his German! How well he speaks that. Surely he will impress my father.’
Molly busied herself with the details of dinner.
* * *
Twenty minutes later, Molly returned and began reading over Bill's shoulder. “Very nice. Very good. Perhaps a different word here, and this tense is wrong." She pointed and read some more. "My, you are a romantic aren’t you? Maybe that’s why I love you so much.” She kissed the top of his head and ruffled the hair of his beard on his chin. “Let me hear you speak this.”
Bill cleared his throat and spoke directly to her, looking deeply into her eyes. “Monsieur Garnet. Je sollicite votre permission d'épouser votre fille, Molly. Je l'aime beaucoup et continuera de le faire toute ma vie. Voulez-vous me donner cette autorisation?”
Molly was astonished. “How did you do that? Did you bring that from memory? You just wrote that down now?”
He nodded. “I told you, Molly. I can do languages pretty easily. I also did some acting on the stage and have a very good memory. Let me repeat it several times.” He did; and worked on his pronunciation until he had it cold. “Ready? Let’s go beard the lion.”
“What does that mean ‘beard the lion’?”
“It’s hard to explain. Just sort of a ‘let’s go do it before I lose my courage’ kind of thing. This is a big step … in both our lives.”
“I will give you all the courage you need, my love.” Molly bent down and pulled Bill's face towards hers. With moist lips, she kissed him soundly and thoroughly. When she was finished he was ready to wrestle wild boars. “Papa will be sitting with us tonight instead of eating in his room. I will sit you at the opposite end of the table from him. When the time is right, I will tap your knee. Will that be all right, or do you want to pick the right time?”
Bill considered her offer and then accepted it. “Nope. That will be just fine, Molly. You know him better than I do. Choose the time and I’ll be ready.”
They went down the hall, hand in hand, while he whispered the speech softly to himself, hoping fervently he wouldn’t forget his lines.
* * *
‘Oh, please do not let Bill forget that wonderful speech. Father cannot help but be impressed enough to give his permission. I will be wonderful to be married to such a romantic as he. And acting? Is there nothing he has not done?’
* * *
The two of them reached the kitchen and Bill saw her father for the first time. He was sitting at the head of the table in a dark-colored dressing gown. He had an almost full head of graying hair and a rounded face. His eyes were alert and darted immediately towards the two of them as they entered. He was sitting slumped slightly to his left, presumably because of the stroke. He held out his right hand, and Bill could see he wanted to stand, so he walked swiftly over to grasp his hand before he could rise. “I am very happy to meet you Monsieur Garnet. Molly has told me much about you. Please accept my condolences on your illness.”
Alain looked deeply into Bill's eyes and nodded, once, decisively. “You are welcome in my home. Please sit here next to me. It tires me to see another standing.” He added with a smile and a twinkle in his eye. Bill liked him immediately.
Molly looked at the both of them and then sat down herself opposite Bill. Chatter had stopped when they entered but began anew almost at once. Mixed English and French was batted around the table as dishes of vegetables and plates of meat were passed. Denise was keeping up a running commentary about something or other that had happened at school yesterday but Bill was more interested in her father. He and Alain conversed in low tones in between the passing of crockery.
Alain had asked Bill to please call him Alain, which he did, much to Molly’s evident relief. Her eyes shown brightly as she watched her dad and her soon-to-be fiancée interact. Suzette broke in with the question Bill was sure that all of them wanted to hear the answer to: “Tell me, just how did you two meet? I know it was on a train, but Francine didn’t tell us the details.”
“Oh, yes. Tell us all the details, please!” Denise asked with youthful enthusiasm.
Bill launched into the absolute truth about their meeting. Nobody said a thing while he related Molly’s distress at being slapped in the face by a basin full of cold water. This caused a ripple of laughter. He continued with the story, omitting some items he felt it best to remain private, until he stopped on their arrival in Munich.
Denise was beside herself with envy. “Oh, how wonderful! Just like a romance novel. I love it!” Her father looked unconvinced. Bill thought he’d better address that right away.
Carefully reaching out with his toe, Bill tapped Molly’s foot lightly. She tapped back, looked directly at him, and slowly lowered one eyelid in a wink. It was a ‘go’.
Bill cleared his throat, looked directly at her father, and began his rehearsed speech. When he was finished, no one moved at all. Alain looked as if he was carefully considering what Bill had just said. There was a sharp intake of breath from both Suzette and Denise and Bill held his.
He looked at Bill, raised his hand, and placed it on Molly’s shoulder; his other on Bill’s. He looked between the two and said “Vous avez ma permission”. He squeezed his fingers into her shoulder, turned to Bill, and nodded – once – decisively.
Pandemonium hit the dining room. Suzette, Denise, and Molly rushed together into a group hug. Bill glanced at Alain and saw tears in his eyes as he watched the ongoing happiness. The girls eventually moved between Alain and Bill and then included them in the mutual celebration. Bill even got a little teary himself at all the joyous squealing that filled the room.
Alain held up a hand for silence, and then spoke to Suzette who went out of the room and brought back an ornate, glass and gold-encrusted liquor decanter. Denise went to the sideboard and brought back five balloon glasses. Alain filled them solemnly and passed one to each person. Once they were all ready, he held up his glass and intoned “Pour votre bonne santé et de mariage à venir!” He tossed his back and everyone else followed suite. It was official. Molly and Bill were engaged. Bill felt like he could run around the world just now. He felt the need to call his parents as soon as he could.
After dinner and the telling of their complete journey through Europe from Munich to Zurich to Paris, Bill asked if he might use the telephone to call his parents. “But of course,” replied Suzette. “They do not know?”
“No, they don’t. They probably think I am still knocking about Germany. I need to let them know of this development.”
“But, will they approve?”
“They will. Is there a hotel nearby where they could stay if they come up here?”
Suzette thought a moment and then told him that there was a good motel just a few minutes away called the Motel Ideal. She added that their friends from Saskatchewan stay there when they visit. “But first, you must see if your parents approve, no?”
“Well, they had better because I am going to marry Molly even if they don’t approve.” Molly's mother's face brightened and she touched his cheek with her fingers.
“I think you will be very good for Molly. You are a fine young boy, um, man.” She led him to the phone and quietly closed the doors to the living room so he would have privacy. Bill dialed the phone.
“Hello?” It was his sister, Paula.
“Hi, sis. Is anyone home right now?”
"Bill!" She squealed. “Mom’s home, and so am I, but everyone else is out or at work. Where are you? This doesn’t sound overseas.”
“Montreal, Canada. Something’s come up.” Bill responded.
“Canada! What the heck are you doing there? You’re supposed to be in Germany.” She sounded confused. “What’s up? You sound somehow … different.”
“I am. I’ve met a girl. She’s wonderful. I asked her to marry me.” So much for breaking the news slowly.
“WHAT!” Paula slapped her hand over the mouthpiece, but he could still hear her shouting. “Mom! Get on the extension. It’s Bill!”
Bill waited until he heard the click of another phone joining the conversation. “Hi, Honey." Bill's mother, Beth, said. "What’s got into Paula? She is positively quivering to tell me something. I can see her dancing around the phone in the kitchen from here. Have you gotten back from Germany so soon?”
“Mom. I’ve met the most wonderful girl. Her name is Molly Garnet and she’s from Montreal. That’s where I am now." Bill paused and took a breath. He released it slowly and spoke. "Mom, I’ve asked her to marry me.”
Dead silence from his mother, but the sounds of suppressed speech from his sister could be heard. “Um. Well, this is a surprise. Where did you meet her?”
“On the train down to Munich from Rhine-Main. It was completely by chance. She just appeared and I fell in love immediately and totally. Mom, she’s wonderful.”
“Yes, that’s what you said.” She answered dryly. "So, I’m confused now. How and why are you in Montreal? Other than wanting to be with this girl, that is. Why aren’t you still in Munich?”
“Long story. Her dad had a stroke while we were in Paris and…”
“Paris?" Beth interrupted. "Now I am really confused. Maybe you’d better start from the beginning. Let me go sit down.”
There was silence for a moment and then Beth said “I’m ready. From the top – as they say.”
Bill related the whole long tale from wash basin to Paris. Beth asked her son a couple of questions during the monologue, but basically kept quiet. Finally, after he ran out of steam, she said “Well, you’re certainly old enough to make your own decisions. The money you earned is all yours to do with what you want, but I, we, your father and I, had hoped you would use it for college. Oh, pooh! Now I’ve started on the guilt thing and I’m sorry. I’m very happy for you, Honey. When is the wedding?”
Bill was struck speechless. He hadn’t thought a thing about when it would take place. “Ah, well, Molly and I haven’t really given that much thought. I’ve just met her parents today and formally asked her dad at dinner this evening, so things are kind of up in the air. I guess I’m asking if you and Dad want to come up here and take part. Do you think he can get leave?”
“I don’t know. We didn’t go anywhere this fall so maybe he can. I’ll have to check. Any other … surprises I should know about?” Bill could tell by the way she said it, that she was thinking ‘pregnant’.
“Nope. Just what I’ve told you. Mom, I’m so happy. Molly’s a wonderful girl and I just know you’ll all love her as much as I do. We want to honeymoon in the States. We can come down by train, or fly, and then take my truck. Before I forget, here’s the number at her folk's house.” Bill read off the number to his mother from the sticker on the front of the phone. “Call me back after dad gets home. Bye Mom, Paula. I love you.” Bill hung up.
Then he sat back in the chair pensively, contemplating everything that had happened to him in such a short time. In barely two weeks he’d gone from a single, carefree college student taking exams to an almost married guy with responsibilities. Frankly, he was a bit scared. What if Molly and he couldn’t make a go of it? What would happen then? Doubts began assailing him from all sides. His college education? Where would they live? How would they live? Could he get a full time job instead of just summer work? All those and more were chasing themselves around in his head. He heard a tapping on the door.
“Bill? Are you still on the phone?” It was Molly.
“Come on in, Honey. I just hung up.” She slid into the chair sideways and sat across Bill's legs, leaned in and put her head on his shoulder. He turned to meet her lips. They kissed a very long time until they were both gasping for air. “My goodness!” She exclaimed. “Was it that bad?”
“No. On the contrary. I think my mother is thrilled. My dad was still at the office, but I expect they’ll call when he gets home in about…” Bill glanced at his watch and did time zone math. “…two hours.”
* * *
‘Mon dieu, I am so relieved. I knew my family would like Bill, but I was so worried his parents wouldn’t like me. After all, I am interrupting his college education now. Now that everyone knows, maybe we can have some time alone.’
* * *
“Then maybe we need to take some time out for ourselves. I could use a nap right now; can you?” She teased him with a tongue to his earlobe.
“’To sleep, perchance, to dream?’” Bill quoted.
“To dream, perchance, to sleep.” Molly misquoted. “Let’s go lie down.”
Bending forward, he swept her up into his arms and carried her to the door. “Your wish is my command.”
Running contrary to all his expectations they both did just that – nap. Molly let Bill settle down in the easy chair in her room and then carefully stretched across his lap from one arm of the chair to the other. This was her favorite position. So, with her arms holding him loosely around his waist, she laid her head on his shoulder. They held a whispered conversation for a while but suddenly Bill realized he was talking to himself. A soft snore which escaped from Molly was the last thing he heard until there was a tapping on the door.
“Molly? Bill? A telephone call is for you, Bill.” It was Suzette.
Bill acknowledged Suzette’s information, blinked the sleep out of his eyes, and lifted Molly up to lay her gently back into the chair. “I’ll be right out.” He called.
Bill verified his clothes weren’t too badly rumpled, brushed back his hair, and opened the door quietly. Suzette had already gone back downstairs so he followed her. The living room phone was off the hook so he sat down and picked it up. “Hello?”
It was Bill's father, Paul. “Your mother tells me you’re in Montreal. Some sort of story about meeting a girl and bringing her back with you. I think she’s a bit confused. So, what the story?”
Briefly, Bill filled him in on his adventures vis-à-vis Molly and their ultimate plans. Bill's dad listened calmly, interjecting an agreement every once in a while, until Bill ran out of steam. “So. Do you want us to come up there for your wedding, or wait until you start traveling down here into the States on your honeymoon? We, your mother and I, can do either.”
“Well, I’d sure like to have the both of you here, but can you get leave?”
“Unh.” He grunted to himself. “I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe I can. I can check tomorrow and give you a call back. Is there a hotel or motel nearby where we can get a reservation?” Bill told him about the Motel Ideal and what the desk had said about having quite a few rooms available. “Okay then. If I can get leave, we’ll get up there somehow. Once our plans are finalized, we’ll call back with schedules and you can book us a room. Have you thought about all the legalities for marrying a foreign national?”
Bill mentally slapped his forehead; he'd forgotten that. “Dad, you make it sound so … so, clinical. She’s a wonderful girl who just happens to be Canadian. Things will work out just fine. Do you think we might need another official wedding down there? I don’t know if a Canadian wedding is enough to get her a passport.”
“I can check on that at the legal office tomorrow. Anything else?”
“Not that I can think of. Dad. I’m so very happy. Her family is just great. I know you guys will fit right in. Oh, by the way, it’s not going to be a really big wedding. Molly and I decided a while back that none of us can really afford a huge wedding. It’ll just be a quiet ceremony at the City Manager’s office. Just as official and binding as a big church wedding. Molly tells me her folks aren’t especially religious so that’s a big relief for me.” Bill lowered his voice. “I was hoping they weren’t Catholic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” he quickly added.
“Nah. Doesn’t bother us at all either way. I'm really happy for you, son. Here’s your mother.”
Bill's mother returned. “Hi, Honey. I was listening on the extension. With no fancy wedding I won’t have to bring really good clothes. I think I can fit it all into one bag that way. Your brother and sister are crushed that they can’t go, but school will be starting. They’re moping around the house so be sure to bring them something when you get here.” She chuckled. “I mean besides a new sister.”
“Molly has a sister too. Her name is Denise and she’s seventeen and real cute. Maybe we can get Tim interested. I’ll take some pictures and bring them down with us. Wouldn’t that be something?”
“We’ll see. Tim is dating a girl right now, but they seem to be cooling it recently. Maybe he would. But, that’s neither here nor there. What is important at the moment is you and Molly. We’ll call again after your father checks on getting leave and talks with the base legal office. Gotta go.”
“Okay, mom. Hugs to all. See you.” Bill hung up.
* * *
‘That sounded friendly enough. So Bill’s brother is available, eh. I wonder what would happen if we could get he and Denise together.’
* * *
Molly, who had been standing in front of him shamelessly eavesdropping, asked him how old his brother was. He told her that he was twenty. She looked thoughtful and smiled.
“Yes, that would be something wouldn’t it? Two members of the same family marrying two members of another family. Very cool!”
“Cool indeed. You heard? They’ll call back tomorrow. Probably in the late afternoon. They’re two hours behind us.”
“I heard. I just can’t believe this is all happening. So wonderful!” Molly threw her arms around Bill as he stood up. They kissed deeply and hugged tightly to one another. “I love you.” She said with passion.
“I love you too, Molly Garnet soon-to-be Stiles.” Bill said with equal passion.