[December 30, 1963]
The past few days were hectic to say the least. True to her word, Suzette kept Molly on the go from daybreak to dusk. Denise kept pace with the both of them whenever she could. Alain and Bill found things to do while the women were out. Alain talked a friend into letting him borrow one of their cars and, after a secret check to see if he could get into the car, they announced that the two of them were going out and meet a few people.
Alain directed Bill's driving as they traveled all over town. For the most part, they stayed in the northern suburbs, but occasionally they dipped into town proper. Downtown Montreal did turn out to be the same as Paris; right down to the European traffic signs. Since Bill was no stranger to them, he could get along without too much prompting from Alain. One of the places they went was what he called his ‘headquarters’. There, Bill met his employees. Alain had a good eye for beautiful women Bill was soon to discover. His secretary, Josette, was a raven haired woman of about thirty-five that flirted with him playfully. In private, he explained that she was probably his most loyal employee - and happily married.
Bill also met one of Alain's buyers. Two of them were out on the road, but his Continental European buyer, Francois, was back in town. Francois started out in French-accented English but then, at a prompt from Alain in French, he changed into German. Bill took note of the change in language, and slipped into German to keep right up with the conversation, figuring that Alain was probably comparing the two of them. Francois’s diction was slow, perhaps because he was translating in his head. Francois was astounded that Bill was not a native German; adding that he thought Bill could pass as a native.
Alain joined the conversation so they switched back to English. “Bill here is marrying my middle daughter, Molly, on January third of next year. When they return from their honeymoon in the United States I am thinking of asking him to accept a position of a buyer for the continent." Bill watched Francois's eyes widen slightly and his brow furrow. But Alain continued. "You, Francois, would be moved upwards to manage the entire team. Would you accept this?”
Francois thought for perhaps thirty seconds and then gave a great smile. “Of course, Monsieur Garnet. I would be happy to accept should this come to pass.”
“Excellent!” Proclaimed Alain. Handshakes were given all around and they chatted some more about routes and cities that Francois usually went through. Bill asked him how he traveled and Francois told him what he wanted to hear.
“By train, naturellement. I always travel by train. Everything else takes too much time, or not enough. By train, one can relax, rest between visiting offices, and prepare for the next.”
Alain had Bill tell Francois how he happened to meet Molly. Francois thought it was quite extraordinary that such a thing had happened. He also added ruefully that nothing like that had ever happened to him.
The soft chiming of the clock in Francois’s office signaled that it was time for lunch. Bill and Alain left Francois's office and waved at everyone at their desks on his way out of the building. They both got back into the car and drove to a restaurant that was Alain's favorite. They had a wonderful beef soup with crispy bread and noodles. Fortified, they then took a tour of his three shops. They were open at the time and one of them had quite a few customers in it.
Bill looked around each store and thought that Alain, and his buyers, had a good eye for what the purchasing public would desire. His goods were specialty items, priced a bit higher than normal, but grouped as they were in one store he made money at it. Most of the items were foodstuffs, stored in either tins or vacuum packed in plastic. He tended more towards things that weren’t too spicy, sweet, or salty; however, there was a special area set aside for chocolates from around the world. This, he explained, was what everyone wanted secretly. He chose a small box for himself and indicated Bill should pick one also.
“What flavors does Molly like? I’d like to get her something nice.”
“She hides it well, but I think she likes dark chocolate.” Bill nodded and picked up a small, green, box labeled ‘chocolat marron’ which he knew meant dark chocolate. “Ah, good choice," observed Alain.
He showed the cashier what we had chosen and she wrapped up the items. Bill saw no cash change hands. It must be good to be the boss he concluded. Thusly armed with placating gifts in case Suzette got mad at Alain, they headed back home.
[December 30, 1963]
[Laval district, Montreal, Canada]
As predicted, Suzette was practically tapping her foot as they came through the front door. “I was very worried about you, Alain. You left us no note or anything telling us where you had gone. Luckily, Josette called to tell you that she’d returned from lunch and said you had been at the office. Shame on you!”
Alain looked crestfallen, but smiled sheepishly and tendered the packet of chocolate he’d taken from the shop. Suzette, somewhat mollified, relented and pecked his cheek. “Very well. Consider yourself scolded.” She said with a smile.
By this time, Molly and Denise had appeared but before either one of them could open their mouths Bill offered the small green box to Molly. She pointed her finger between her breasts and said “for me?”
“Of course. I also know that you, Denise, don’t like chocolate very much, but I promise to find some cinnamon drops for you very soon. Okay?”
“Okay, but I’ll hold you to it then.” Denise said, sticking her lower lip out in a pout.
Everyone went into the living room and sat down. Alain and Suzette started a conversation at one side of the room. Molly, Denise, and Bill started another at the other end. Molly began: “It is supposed to be bad luck for the groom to see the bride’s wedding dress before the wedding, but I think that since all I’m wearing is a new suit that it would be all right. I have it laid out upstairs on the bed. Denise and I have been trying to decide what to use for accessories. Do you want to help?”
“Sure. What I know about fashions isn’t much, but I do know what looks good to me and seems to go together. Let’s go.”
The three of them went upstairs and into Molly’s room. She pointed to a dark blue woolen skirt and white sweater combination that Bill could tell immediately would enhance her golden hair and trim legs. The skirt was deeply pleated (his favorite kind) and had a wide black patent leather belt for the waist. The sweater was slightly fuzzy. That was about the extent of Bill's knowledge of women’s clothing. It appeared to be not quite white but, instead, a very pale yellow. Bill picked it up and held it against Molly’s chest, moving his head from side to side, and then pronounced it perfect.
“Now, we have ‘something blue’ and ‘something new’ so we now need ‘something old’ and ‘something borrowed’ for you.” Bill observed, almost to himself.
“What is this you are talking about? Old. New? What?” Queried Molly.
“It’s a saying we have below the border about weddings: ‘something old - something new - something borrowed - something blue’. It pertains to what the bride wears when she is married. You have the new top and blue skirt. Now you need to borrow something and wear something old.”
“I have it!” Denise pronounced with a finger raised into the air, and took off for her room. When she returned, she held out a silver pin the size of a fifty-cent piece. “You can borrow my pin. See how it fits right in with the blue skirt?”
There was a blue stone set in the center of the pin, surrounded by yellow stones and green leaves. It was perfect. Molly solemnly added it to the left side of the sweater, which was now lying back on the bed. “You are right. It’s perfect. Now, what about ‘old’? I’ll have to think about that for a while. Maybe Mother can suggest something.”
“I’m sure she can,” said Denise. “I’ll go check.” She left the room.
Molly turned to Bill and asked what he thought. “I am imagining you dressed in that, standing by my side in front of the Magistrate very soon. I will be dressed so handsomely, with my beard trimmed just so, that all women will faint when I pass by them. And you will be so beautiful that they all wish they were you.” She snickered, paused, and then laughed outright.
“Thank you. I needed that." Molly said, not the least bit put out at his levity. "Things have been such a rush lately that I am so very concerned that things won’t go like we planned.”
“Well, stop worrying, my love. Things will go as they will go – no more, no less. It's called Karma. Just stay away from loose washbasins and you will be all right. Look what happened the first time.”
She snickered again, and threw her arms around him. “That’s why I love you so much, my darling. You always know just what to say.” They kissed gently and then again a little more forcefully. Denise took that moment to re-enter the room and clear her throat.
“Whoops. Would you like some more time?” She said, not meaning a word of it but, instead, leering suggestively.
Molly jumped back a foot, smoothed her skirt down over her hips, where it had mysteriously been riding up a little, and said “no, Denise. You can come in. We were just discussing the future.”
“I bet. How about this?” She held up a tiny little golden watch that Bill judged had to be at least a hundred years old. It had a patina of age, but had been well cared for. It was even running and had the correct time.
“That’s perfect!” Cried Molly.” She turned to Bill. “This is what my mother wore when she got married to Papa. Her mother before her wore it also. Now, I get to wear it when I get married.” She began to tear up and suddenly drops fell from the corners of her eyes. “When I get married…” she repeated softly, and then sniffled. Denise looked slightly embarrassed as Bill took Molly in his arms again and held her tight.
* * *
‘When I am married? This cannot be happening to me, but it is. I so hope I can live up to what Bill expects of me. Oh, merde, now I am sniffling again.’
* * *
Bill ran his palm down the back of her head, smoothing her hair. “Molly. Molly. You’re handling things just fine. I’m the one who should be a nervous wreck. My parents are due tomorrow and I have to face them. I want them to love you as much as I do; and they will. Just hang in there, Honey.”
She looked up at him and he bent to kiss the tears away. She smiled a tentative smile and kissed him back. “I’ll try. Everything is happening so fast now. I feel like I’m not coping with it very well.”
“But you are!" Bill responded with force. "I’m the one who should feel badly. I’ve done hardly anything to help. Except maybe keep your father out of everyone’s hair.”
That did it. Both girls began smiling. Denise put her arm on Bill's shoulder and impulsively pulled him in for a kiss. “You’re the best brother I’ve ever had.” Then she realized what she’d said and all of them broke up. The tension was gone; although, Molly did look at her sister with a raised eyebrow. It was just a kiss, and not even on his lips, just his cheek. Bill encompassed them both and they just stood there for a moment. Denise broke away and left the room.
Molly spoke. “Denise has got to find someone soon. She’s convinced that she’s unlucky and that she’ll be an old maid. She’s only eighteen for goodness sake.”
“Yes, but at eighteen life stretches ahead of you seemingly forever. She’s bought into the idea that if you don’t find love young you will never find it. She’ll grow out of it.”
“I hope you’re right, Bill. She’s such a dreamer. If whoever finds her doesn’t treat her right I’ll have something to say about it.”
“And I also. I’ll be a part of the family very soon you know.”
“How could I forget, my love. But, I need you to crusade for me, not Denise.”
“Consider you crusaded for. I would walk willingly into a den of dragons for you. For Denise, it will have to be just one, very small, fireless dragon.”
She smiled up at him and kissed his cheek also. “You always know what to say and when to say it.” She repeated.
After dinner, everyone sat around the kitchen table and played cards for a while, then Suzette ran them all off and up to bed; stating that tomorrow was going to be very busy. “As if today wasn’t bad enough,” Molly added under her breath as she and Bill went up the stairs.
[January 1, 1964]
[Laval District, Montreal, Canada - New Years Day]
Today, as Bill had already anticipated, was going to be extremely busy. Even he was involved in the hubbub. The other day, as he was browsing through the mall he saw a great looking suit that wasn’t too expensive. It was off the rack, but fit him perfectly so he bought it for the ceremony.
Now it was time to go meet his parents at the airport. Since there would be the two of them and their luggage, just he and Molly went to get them. Molly was very nervous at the prospect of meeting Bill's parents. He tried to calm her, but he could tell she was worked up.
“Molly, don’t worry about a thing. My mom is a pussycat and my dad hasn’t bitten anyone in a couple of years - unless you count junior officers.”
She fixed her gaze on him and tried to stare him down. Since he was driving, he couldn’t look at her though so it didn’t work. “I can tell you’re looking at me, but I can’t look back. Just be yourself, Honey. You’ll be just fine. How can they not like you? After all, how do you think I felt at meeting your parents at first? Nervous? You bet!”
Molly reached over and patted the back of Bill's hand. “Okay. I’ll try to be calm. But it won’t be easy.”
Briefly, he glanced at her and smiled. “Atta girl.”
[January 1, 1964]
[Montreal International Airport, Montreal, Canada]
They parked in the short term lot, locked the car, and hurried into the terminal. At one of the flight kiosks they found a screen that indicated his parent's plane would be ten minutes late so they had time to go to the international waiting area and stand behind the Plexiglas window. When they arrived in the hall, there were two customs agents opening doors, turning on machines, and checking paperwork. With a thin, dry-sounding whistle, the small jet pulled up and parked. Molly and Bill stood and watched passengers enter the gate area. Out of his peripheral vision Bill saw Molly edging back behind him. He reached around her waist and pulled her up to his side. “Chin up, my love. It will all be over in minutes.” She gave him a wan smile and nodded.
Tired-looking people began straggling down the Jetway, pulling carry-ons and herding kids ahead of them. There was a lull, then another group. Bill saw his dad appear, leading his mother through the crowd. “There they are!” He exclaimed, pointing to them for Molly. She trembled just a little so he held her tighter. He could tell that she was really apprehensive about this meeting.
It was apparent that they didn’t see the two of them however because they went down towards the customs area. Molly and Bill followed at a more leisurely pace because they would be held up for a bit. Molly was still nervous so he tightened his grip around her shoulders and nuzzled her neck. She jumped, but turned and smiled up at him. They watched as his parents passed through customs, got their passports stamped, and then looked around for their son and almost daughter-in-law.
Bill's mom spotted him first and tugged on his dad’s coat sleeve. They headed over and stopped in front of Bill and Molly. “Goodness, Molly. You’re beautiful!” She said, throwing her arms around the two of them and hugging hard. “My son has very good taste. This is my husband, Paul and I’m Beth. We are very happy to be here for the wedding.”
“I – I am very happy to meet you, um, Beth. And you too, Monsieur Stiles.” Molly said in a nervous stammer. “Bill has told me much about you.”
“Please, Molly, call me Paul. I have to echo what Beth just said, you’re a knockout.”
Molly blushed. Bill kissed his mother and shook his father's hand. “Nice trip?” Bill asked.
“A bit bumpy, but nice enough. We only checked one big bag so where do we go to pick that up?” Paul said, looking down the long hallway.
“Over this way. We’ll take you there.” Bill linked his arm firmly into Molly’s on his right, and his mom on the left. “Allons-y!”
“Vous parlez très bien Français. Probablement un bon professeur.” Bill's mother said, looking significantly at Molly. Molly leaned forward, looked across him to her, and grinned.
“I am amazed at how fast he picks up languages. You should have heard him in Germany. Oh, but you probably already know that. How silly of me.”
They all had a laugh over that one. “You’ll have to tell us the whole story of how you met. Bill just gave us the short version. I want to know how it all came about. Sounds like something I’d like to write about or maybe do a spot on my radio show.”
Molly looked at her with eyes wide. “You have a radio show? How wonderful! What kind is it?”
“Sort of an editorial thing. I call it ‘Idle Musings’. They give me fifteen minutes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday just to talk about anything I really want. Last week, I described my weekend in a snow cave last winter.”
“A snow cave! Fantastique! Oh, tell me about it too!” Molly begged. By the time they had reached the baggage carousel, she and Bill's mother had bonded very tightly. They rattled back and forth in French and English with abandon, letting Bill and his dad search for the bag. When it came around, Bill fished it off the belt and dragged it over towards the women.
By the time he got there, his mom was just finishing up a sentence. “…and that’s why I just knew I’d like you very much. Oh, here’s the bag. Ready to go?”
“What’s just why?” Bill asked.
“I was telling Molly that there was only one girl you brought home that I approved of and that was Virginia.” Bill goggled at her and sputtered a bit but she let him off the hook. “I asked Molly if you’d mentioned her before. I wouldn’t do that to you, Kiddo. In a way, Molly reminds me very much of her. Don’t you think?”
Bill thought that over and replied that he didn’t see the resemblance at all. Molly grinned at his discomfiture. She did, indeed, know all about Virginia and how she and Bill had lost their virginity - to each other - on the train to Paris. She was enjoying his squirming. “But, that’s all past history,” Bill said quickly. “Now, I have only one person to care for with all my heart. Just a few more days…” He said with feeling, taking Molly by the hand and squeezing it. “Are we ready to go?”
“I am.” Paul said. "I’ve been sitting for a few hours and ready to stretch my legs. How far out are you parked?”
“Not too far. We only have about a twenty minute drive to Molly’s house for something to eat and then I’ll run you over to the motel. We’ve made a reservation for you and put a hold on a car if you want one.”
“That’s a good idea, Bill. Makes it easier to get around. Can we go to the motel first? I’d like to drop these bags off so we won’t look like hoboes at Molly’s parent’s house.”
Molly spoke up. “Oh, that’s no problem, um, Paul. We can do just that.”
Everyone arrived at the car and Bill and his dad loaded the bags into the rear. Molly and Bill's mom were engaged in a conversation so they slid into the back seat. His dad got into the passenger seat. Once all the doors were closed, Bill started out. Molly kept up a running dialogue on what they were passing and where they were within the city. Paul said he’d been to Montreal once before, but it was before the war and he didn’t remember much at all.
Beth looked out the window and took in all the French named streets and storefronts. “It looks just like Paris doesn’t it?” It was the same exact comment Bill had made a few days ago.