[January 7, 1964]
[Montreal International Airport, Montreal, Canada - Forenoon]
As it turned out, their combined baggage weight just squeaked by. Bill thought it was the brightness of both their rings that the agent saw when she looked down at the scales. The agent had started to say something but then dropped her gaze and got busy issuing their tickets – weight forgotten. Fortunately, Great Falls was an international entry point for the States, so they had a direct flight from Montreal with no stops. They would be on a turboprop but that was okay with both of them. They were in absolutely no hurry. The entire Garnet family went out to the gate with Bill and Molly and sat and talked in a desultory manner for a while. Bill went and got a couple of magazines and a bottle of water for Molly. She sounded dehydrated to him.
Bill got out their passports and handed Molly her new one she’d gotten at the American Embassy few days ago. She was so proud of it since it had her new name. She opened it and just stared at her new picture, name, and signature. She’d come so close to messing up and signing her maiden name but caught herself at the last instant and changed it to Stiles. She smiled up at Bill when she caught him watching her. She took his hand and squeezed it. ‘I love you’ she mouthed at him.
The gate attendant announced the flight. It was time for them to go. Suzette began sniffling and Denise was already in tears. They all said goodbye to Molly, hugging her close, and then turned to Bill. Suzette kissed him on the cheek and whispered in his ear. “Keep her safe, Bill. Have a great trip.” He whispered back that he would do just that. Denise kissed him on the lips with a loud smack and hugged him. Alain shook his hand and then pulled him into a one-armed embrace. He told Bill to take care of his little girl. He said he would. It was time for them to go.
Lifting their one carry-on bag, Bill took Molly by the hand and they went down the walkway. She turned back at the last minute and waved – a tentative wave – but a happy wave. “Bye!” She shouted. Everyone waved back. Once aboard, they worked their way down the aisle to their assigned seats. They were indeed near the rear of the plane. There was only one seat behind them and that was apparently reserved for one of the attendants for take-offs and landings. They wouldn’t be bothered at all.
After Bill stowed the bags in the overhead bin, he let Molly take the window seat. She settled down and pulled the seat belt tight in her lap. Then Bill sat down and did the same. He took her hand and squeezed it; she returned the gesture and turned to him. He kissed her on the forehead and then on the lips. “We’ll be back again.” He said with conviction. “Right now, this time belongs to us; the two of us, and only us."
She put her head on his shoulder and sniffed a couple of times. “I know, but I – I’m just…just so happy right now.” She reached down, lifted his left hand, and kissed his brand new ring. She looked up at him with shining eyes. “Just think. Not too long ago neither one of us knew the other person existed and now we’ve found each other.”
A shadow fell over us from the aisle. “I’ll bet you two are newlyweds. Am I right?” The attendant said, smiling down at them.
“Does it show that bad?” Molly asked, with a wan grin.
“Yes, I’m afraid it does, Honey. You’ve got yourself a fine young man here. Never let him go.” She said wistfully. “I did and I’m really sorry.”
Bill looked up at her and estimated she was probably nearing retirement age – for an attendant. She had tiny crow’s feet at the corner of each eye and just a hint of roughness about the backs of her hands. She was, by no means, really ‘old’ though. Her name tag read ‘Janice’.
“Thanks, Janice. I will do my part also.” Bill said up to her. “We got married four days ago.”
“Oh, goodie! I win! I bet the other girls you hadn’t been married more than a week. You get champagne – on us. As soon as we get up to cruising altitude I’ll bring it back.” She leaned in conspiratorially. “I might even be able to find a couple of seats up front.” She whispered.
“Oh, don’t bother. It’s a short flight,” Molly said, blushing a little.
“Our pleasure.” She said, rising and heading back up the aisle.
They watched others as they filed on board and took their seats. It didn’t appear to be a very full flight as perhaps half the seats were filled. Bill thought that they didn’t really need first class because there wasn’t anyone sitting within two rows of seats from them. Besides, it was nice and private back here.
“I almost hope she can’t get us into first class.” Said Molly. “It’s not as busy back here as farther forward.”
“I was just going to say that!”
She giggled and pulled her book out of her large purse. Bill heard the second engine begin to whine and then the propellers spooling up to a sustained roar. This was a small turboprop. The door slammed and the plane was pushed back from the gate. After it pivoted around, it started to taxi towards the runway. Molly tried to read, but her attention kept wandering to the window. Bill gently took the book from her fingers and told her to go ahead and watch her town. She nodded and pressed her nose almost tight against the plastic of the window.
The plane did some turning, squealing when the brakes were applied, and then held at the threshold for a moment. The engines were adjusted through their range and then they pulled the plane onto the runway, and turned to face the distant end. With a final release of brakes and a surge of engine power it rolled with increasing speed down and lifted off.
[January 7, 1964]
[In flight between Montreal, Canada and Great Falls, Montana]
Molly was intent on the scene below them as the plane banked to and fro over the city. They followed the river for a bit, then turned more or less southwest and began to climb. A soft chime sounded as we went through ten thousand feet and the attendants unstrapped and began to move about the cabin. The one sitting behind Bill and Molly started up the aisle, stopped, and then turned to Bill.
“Would you like something to drink?”
“I’d like a soda of some kind.” Bill said and then turned to Molly. “What do you want, Honey?”
“The same please. Thank you.”
The attendant nodded and moved forward to tend to the next set of passengers. Bill watched her progress up the aisle. Molly's attention was still outside the window. Bill couldn’t see much, but it looked like they were going to go right over Niagara Falls. The river was definitely below them and they appeared to be staying at around the same altitude.
The intercom clicked on with a short buzz and a male voice spoke. “Folks, I’m going to bank a little to the right and give you a good look at the Canadian-American border at Niagara Falls. When I do, it will be right below you on the right side. I requested this little detour from traffic control in honor of our newlyweds back in twenty-seven A and B. Congratulations!” He clicked off.
Heads craned around and searched for Bill and Molly as the plane tilted to the right. Molly and Bill looked down and got a breathtaking view of the falls below them. There was a scattering of muted applause – it was hard to hear over the engine noise – to which Bill unhooked his belt and stood, smiling and waving. Molly tugged at the back of his shirt, blushing, until he sat back down. “You’re horrible!” She whispered to him.
“No, I’m not. I’m very proud to even be seen with you, Molly. I will always feel that way.” He leaned in and kissed her. The plane chose that moment to bounce and their teeth bumped together.
The attendant brought Bill and Molly their sodas – Cokes – and two ice-filled glasses. They pulled their tables down and set the glasses on them. Bill thanked the attendant and she went back up the aisle. They were alone now. Bill re-clipped his belt, but left it loose enough to reach out and put his arm across the back of Molly’s neck. He hugged her to him and she put her head on his shoulder. They sat like that for a while, sipping their sodas until nothing but ice remained.
Two new attendants passed down the aisle carrying a small bottle of champagne and two glasses. They stopped at row twenty-seven and made a production of popping the cork. One held the glasses and the other poured the bubbly. Bill handed the first over to Molly and took the second for himself. "Votre santé!" said the first, echoed by the second. Bill and Molly held up their glasses and clicked them together.
"Thank you very much," Bill said. "Molly and I appreciate it."
"Yes, thank you." Added Molly.
They sipped, and then the attendants moved back up the aisle, leaving the bottle on Bill's tray. Half an hour later, glasses refilled for the second time, they sipped even slower, conversing in low tones, leaning in towards each other.
Once the bottle was empty, and conversation had waned, Molly’s eyes drooped and she fell asleep. It was probably just as well, as the flight would take a while – nearly six hours. Eventually Bill dozed also.
“Would you like anything else before we tidy up for our approach? We should be on the ground in about forty-five minutes.” The attendant asked after waking them. Molly shot Bill a glance like ‘don’t even say what you’re thinking’ and told her that they were fine. The attendant moved forward and knelt next to the couple up from them; presumably asking the same question.
[January 7, 1964]
[Great Falls International Airport, Great Falls, Montana – afternoon]
The rest of their trip was uneventful. They landed in Great Falls and Bill waited for Molly as she cleared customs. They’d prepared themselves for this eventuality by going to the US Embassy in Montreal and getting her new temporary passport proving she was married to a US citizen. She had her old Canadian passport and the paperwork so she wasn’t detained very long. A sympathetic middle-aged lady at the desk just glanced at the documentation and asked Molly a question. She pointed to Bill and he waved. The lady smiled, nodded, and stamped. Molly was through!
Bill's brother was waiting at the exit from the Customs area. Molly saw him first and nudged Bill. “Oh, I bet that’s your brother. He’s very cute!” She pointed. Bill said that it was indeed, and waved. His brother waved back.
When they got through the doors and moved out of the main stream of passengers, Bill’s brother moved closer and tentatively hugged Molly. “Welcome to our family Molly. I’m Phillip.” She kissed him on the cheek. He turned to Bill. “Mom says your wife has a sister who’s a real knockout.” He turned to Molly. “Is that right?”
“She does, and she is." Bill answered for her. "She also hangs around with college kids up in Montreal so you’d have to be smart to meet her.” Since he’d already graduated from a two-year college at twenty-one he was smarter than the average bear.
“Bill, what a terrible thing to say!” Molly blurted, shocked.
“Ah, he’s used to it. Did I ever tell you he’s already got a college degree?”
Phillip grinned and dug a toe into the tile floor like an embarrassed small boy. “Aw, shucks," he chuckled. "We say that a lot here in Montana.”
“Now I know I’ll fit into this family well. You’re just as nutty as your brother.” She linked her arm into Bill's and the three of them went down the corridor to baggage claim.
The warning bell sounded and the turntable began moving. It wasn’t too long before their bags all showed up. Phillip and Bill took charge and dragged them over to one side until they could locate a porter. Phillip found one. The porter loaded up his cart and wheeled it out to the curb with everyone following. They waited while Phillip went to get the car. When he pulled up at the curb, they stashed the bags in the trunk and got in for the ride out to the base.
On the way, Bill explained that Malmstrom Air Force Base is a SAC, or Strategic Air Command, base. “It is fairly strict on who can, and who can’t, have access to the base. Fortunately, all the cars in my family have officer’s stickers on them and a tiny little spread eagle signifying a Colonel. No gate guard is going to seriously impede a Colonel’s family unless he wants to end up counting palm trees in Lakanookie, Alaska.”
[January 7, 1964]
[Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Montana]
The house was warm and alive with the sounds of music and merriment. They’d arrived during Bill's sister Paula’s birthday party. She was turning eighteen and all that this entailed. There were what appeared to be hundreds, but probably only ten, teenagers dancing away in the living room and about the same number hovering over the dining room table gobbling up food.
Paula saw Bill and squealed with delight. “Bill! You’re here!” She flung her arms around him and hugged tightly. She pushed back and then noticed Molly standing behind him. “Oops. Sorry. You have to be Molly because you're so beautiful. Welcome to our family.” She held out a hand, but Molly closed the gap and hugged her.
“Thanks, Paula. And congratulations on your birthday. Being eighteen is a big deal isn’t it?”
“You bet! Go get some food. We have tons of it.” She spun away from them and back out into the middle of the room, swaying to the sounds coming from the speakers of the Hi-Fi.
Molly spoke up over the music. “I love her already, Bill. She’s a ball of fire.”
“She may be now, but I bet she’ll be pooped by tonight. Let’s get something to eat.”
They were waylaid after filling a couple of plates by Bill's mother and father. They re-welcomed Molly to, as they put it, ‘our nut house’. Bill's mom took Molly upstairs to stow their luggage and freshen up. Bill and his dad went into the kitchen and located the bottle of bourbon. He fixed them a couple of drinks with ice and then they sat at the table.
Paul spoke. “The camper is out back if you want to see it. You mother and I fixed it up real nice I think. You have about a two-week supply of staple foods but you’ll have to get your own fresh stuff. I’ve added a big block of ice to the icebox already. If you stop at a dairy, you probably can get dry ice. It lasts longer than regular ice.”
“Thanks, Dad. Much appreciated. Right now, Molly and I just want to rest a bit. The flight was long.”
“Of course. Go on up. We can survive tonight on what's left after the thundering herd leaves.” He smiled. “That is, if there is anything left.” Bill slapped him on the back, knocked back his drink, and headed upstairs.