[December 14, 1963]
[Hotel Alfa, Munich, W. Germany, afternoon]
“Do you believe what Hörst told us about his wife? I always thought that the German Army was tough and unforgiving. He seems like a very nice guy.” Molly asked Bill.
“True or not, it was a very touching story, wasn’t it? I actually think it was true. Hörst didn’t seem to be the hard-bitten storm troopers the movies always portray German soldiers as – even tank officers. I loved the bit about Bernadette throwing rocks at him. I bet that was true. As I remember, Patton and the German army mixed it up in December of forty-four. That would mean the Bernadette hid him from then to the end of the war in May of forty-five. Five months is a very long time when everyone you know might give you away. I think he’s on the level.
“You really know your history don’t you, Bill? I didn’t know much about it. I was born in nineteen forty four.”
‘Aha!’ He thought. ‘That made her two years younger than his twenty-two years.’ He was slowly learning more about Molly all the time. “Brrrrrr. I’m getting cold standing here outside. Let’s go into the hotel and maybe have a little warm-up drink?”
“Sounds good to me.” She answered, taking his arm. “Let’s go.”
They entered and before they were halfway across the lobby, Bill heard her being hailed in French by another female voice. “Molly! Molly! Yoo hoo! Je suis ici!” They turned and saw a hand waving above a potted plant. It was followed shortly by an attractive, slightly older woman in a shimmering blue dress.
* * *
Francine! Molly wondered why she was here – and in this hotel. She was supposed to be off in her little skiing lodge taking a vacation. At least that’s what she said in her letter. Well, she will certainly tell me.
* * *
She came up to Molly and unleashed a torrent of French. Bill hadn’t a chance of deciphering most of it. When the woman ran down, Molly put her hand on Bill's bicep and turned to him. “This,” she said “is the person I was supposed to meet tomorrow in Garmisch.” She turned back to the woman. “What are you doing here now, Francine?” She asked. “We would have been down there on the afternoon train.”
Francine switched effortlessly to English. “I know, I know, but my office called and asked if I could come to Munich to meet an important client.” She paused a moment. “Ah, what do you mean ‘we’?” She asked with her head cocked to one side. “Have you found a traveling companion?”
“Yes; and his name is Bill. As you may have gathered, Bill, this is Francine.”
“Enchanté.” Bill said. “Very nice to meet you, Francine. Molly and I met on the train down from the Frankfurt Airport.”
“Enchanté.” She said back to him as they shook hands European style – one single pump. “And, are you staying here at the hotel also, Bill?” She added with narrowed, but friendly, eyes.
“Francine!” Molly huffed with mock anger. “If you must know, we share a room. We’ve just come back from a delightful five-hour horse carriage ride about town and were about to have a drink in the bar. Would you like to join us?”
“Really! That must have been terribly expensive, no?”
“Not very,” Bill responded. “We bought the driver lunch.”
“Still, usual rates around here are something like forty marks an hour.”
This caused Molly’s eyes to widen at Bill with an implied question; which he quickly forestalled by wiggling his eyebrows at her. She giggled, and responded to Francine’s statement by saying, “Well, it was a very good lunch in a fine restaurant. You would have loved it. Let’s go; I want that drink.”
The three of them adjourned to the bar, which was overheated enough to force Molly and Bill to shed their heavy coats immediately. The seating appeared to be ‘find your own seat’ so they did. A waiter came over and took their orders. Bill stuck with a simple beer, Francine and Molly got a brandy each. When the drinks arrived and the waiter left, Francine said to Molly, “Tell all, Molly. How did you and this delicious man meet?”
Bill wasn’t sure he liked being called ‘delicious’ but didn’t respond and let Molly recount their adventures. She started right at the basin full of water smacking her in the face and completed with their tour of the city. In between sections of the story, the girls refilled their brandies twice; Bill nursed his beer.
“Well, that is all too marvelous for words, Molly. I wish I were in your shoes now.” Bill smiled self-consciously at her comment. “Oops, my dears, I have to be running off to my room to prepare myself for the conference. I have to meet my customer, an American, no less, at eight hundred. Why is it they prefer such early hours?”
“Business ethic, I expect.” Bill interjected. “Time is money and all that stuff.”
“Ugh. I’d rather meet at a more reasonable hour – like ten or so, over coffee.”
“I definitely agree, Francine. I would never have called a meeting at a very early hour either. But, then, I’ve never been a corporate guy. I am going to college and fight fires in Montana during the summer.”
“How exciting! Do you ride horses all the time in Montana?” She asked with a very serious visage.
Bill searched her face for a moment to see if he could detect a shade of humor in her question. She could bluff very well but when he put a bemused look on his face she began to crack. Finally she guffawed and the three of them broke up. Bill liked her humor. He allowed that he wouldn’t have wanted to play poker with her though – she was too good at keeping a straight face. Bill and Molly said goodbye as they stood up. Bill went to pay the tab and the three exited the bar. In front of the elevators, waiting for a car to arrive, Francine told the two of them in a stage whisper she was in three-oh-seven. Molly responded with like voice “five-twelve”. They sounded like the soundtrack from a “B” spy movie.
The three ascended, dropped Francine off at the third floor and continue upwards to their floor. Down the hall, hand in hand, they went until they reached their room. Bill unlocked it and motioned Molly in. She smiled and pivoted about him so she could kiss him on her way past. They dropped their coats, hats, and gloves on the bench and kicked off their shoes. Molly headed for the bathroom while Bill fiddled with the radiator controls. The heated bar had made their room seem a lot colder.
Molly came out of the bathroom and Bill used it next. Soon, after changing into something a little less dressy, they both sat on the long couch that faced the window. Bill was seated with his feet stretched out in front of him but Molly turned sideways, propped her feet on the arm, and lay back against his chest. She looked up at him and made a pucker with her lips. He kissed them gently.
* * *
‘I really don’t want anything now but a nap.’ Molly thought. ‘I wonder if Bill feels that way also, or if he has other ideas.’
Molly decided to see if they could just sit quietly on the settee and read. It had been so very long since she’d done that; by herself or with someone else.
She made up her mind and spoke.
* * *
“Now, we are just going to relax, Bill. I have my book and yours is … um … over here.” She said, lifting it from the coffee table and handing it to him. He adjusted the light and they read. A very pleasurable hour passed, then two. A knock on the door signaled the room service waiter with the light meal, coffee and brandy Bill had ordered in the bar earlier. He lifted Molly from his lap and went to the door. The waiter wheeled in a small cart, accepted his tip with a little salute and bow, and left.
Bill moved the cart over in front of them on the couch and poured coffee. Molly accepted it and held out her cup until he tipped a little brandy into it. She sipped and pronounced it ‘good’. Bill splashed a little into his coffee also and sat back down. They carefully arranged themselves as before and resumed reading. From time to time, they took a snack from the tray. The tiny little bread rolls stuffed with ham and chicken were delicious, but it was the cheese that made the meal.
[December 14, 1963]
[Hotel Alfa, Munich, W. Germany – evening]
The weak sunlight outside slowly waned until nothing could be seen but the lights from rooms in the building across the way. One of then appeared to be a hotel also which prompted Molly to wonder if anyone over there was as happy as they were here. Bill told her that he doubted that. When she asked why, he told her that nobody could be happier than he was at this moment. She kissed him and added “merci, kind sir”.
The next time she opened her mouth, she yawned until her jaw cracked. “Oh, mon dieu, I am sorry. I suddenly am very tired. Would you mind terribly if I crawled into the inviting comforter right now?”
“Not in the least, mon Cher, I was thinking of the same thing, but not just yet. I want to finish this chapter before I stop. Good night.”
Molly kissed Bill, and sat up to swing her legs off the couch. He helped her to stand and watched as she weaved across the rug, removing outer garments, and piled into bed. She landed dead center, burrowed into the thick feathered comforter, and wiggled a little to make herself comfortable. It seemed it was only moments later that Bill heard the soft buzz of her snore. He smiled to himself and dimmed the light to just one bulb. He continued to read; thinking ‘so, is this what it would be like if we were married?’ He fervently hoped so.
* * *
Surprised, but happy, at Bill’s placid response, Molly lay back under the comforter. The events of the day whirled around in her head. At first, it was difficult to bring order to them, but eventually they coalesced into the background of her primary thought.
* * *
Around twenty-three hundred Bill got tired also. The brandy was gone, and the coffee pot empty. Once he pushed the cart into the hallway, he went into the bathroom, brushed his teeth, and headed for bed. Molly was splayed out over the entire center of the bed so Bill gently levered her over to one side far enough so he could lie comfortably. She stirred, flung an arm across his chest, scooted close, and snuggled into the crook of his arm. She said something in French that he didn’t catch, and then resumed buzzing. Bill stroked her shoulder until he felt himself drifting and finally surrendered to the siren call of sleep.