[February 14, 1964]
[Offices of AGG Imports, Montreal, Canada – 8 AM]
It had been an exciting week for Bill. The first one spent in his new job. Alain had introduced him all around – especially to Stefan Grolsch. Stefan, or Herr Grolsch, as Bill preferred to address him during business hours, explained briefly what his job was to be and how he might go about it. It was extremely informative and Bill learned a lot from the very first day.
The two of them went around to every one of Alain’s shops and determined what goods it would be necessary to order during the next trip to the European continent. Stefan explained that he always traveled from Montreal to Paris initially. This was for two reasons: the first being that Air France was a delightful airline to travel on, and, second, his base of operations was a very nice hotel there. He did his traveling to and from that hotel into Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and even England.
Bill had established his credentials as a German speaker the very first day. Herr Grolsch began their initial conversation in that language. After an hour of general conversation – which contains a number of technical terms – Stefan reverted back to English, stating that he was satisfied Bill could handle himself well in the language. Bill, on the other hand, had developed a cold sweat during that hour from sheer nervousness.
“You will do just fine, Bill. You have a great command of the language. I am intrigued however, do you think in German?”
Bill smiled. “Yes, Herr Grolsch, I do. I find it is much easier to do it that way.”
“Good. Good,” he mused. “A buyer must be decisive and even the smallest lapse in conversations will be see as uncertainties. You will do well.” He repeated.
The rest of the week was spent driving around Montreal to the stores, chatting with purchasing agents in those stores, and generally learning the business. Bill had a feeling each evening that he was being overwhelmed by it all. Molly soothed his fears that he wouldn’t be good enough. She was very good at that.
[February 21, 1964]
[412 Place Sherwood #5, Montreal, Canada]
Today is the day that Bill and Molly took possession of their new apartment. They had been looking for a while, but fell in love immediately with this one. It was on the second floor, but the building had an elevator in good repair. One side of the ground floor was given over to a small leather goods shop and the superintendent of the building lived in the other side.
Their apartment consisted of a relatively roomy living room, a kitchen reached by a short hallway, and two smaller bedrooms off that same hallway. The only bathroom was between the bedrooms, but since there were only two of them that didn’t matter. When the baby was born, they could use the spare bedroom for it after an initial period in a crib in their own room.
Molly’s injuries had now faded to dull bruises and would, in a short while, disappear entirely. Molly objected, but not much, to Bill when he lifted her into his arms and carried her over the threshold the first time.
“Our very own place,” she said into his shoulder. “One from which we will carry on our lives. It is good that we found one close to the office, no?”
“Yup. I can walk all the way. It’s only about six blocks in all.” He wiggled his eyebrows. “I can even come home for a nooner.”
* * *
‘Nooner? What is this nooner? Oh. Wait. I bet I know. He will come home for lunch and we will…’ Molly thought. ‘Actually, that may help to soothe the savage beast in him from time to time. It certainly would help me, that’s for certain. I’ll play innocent and see what he says. It might be fun.’
* * *
“What is the ‘nooner’ of which you speak? I do not understand.”
“Well, it’s a … um … when I can get away from the office for lunch, I can, ah, come home, and we can … um … have some fun?”
“You’re terrible, Bill! What will the neighbors say?”
“I don’t know. Do we even know who they are?”
“I have no idea. We just got here today. Maybe we will see them tonight.”
“Maybe. We should probably unpack.”
Molly agreed and they both set about opening cardboard boxes and putting all the stuff they’d brought over the last few days away. As each box was emptied, Bill flattened it and put it on the pile next to the front door. Their apartment was beginning to look like a home.
By evening, they were exhausted. By Molly’s count, seven more boxes needed to be opened but they were just too tired to do this. Bill waved a bottle of sparkling water at her from the kitchen.
“How about a nice fruit juice fizz, Honey? You’ll feel lots better.”
“Sure,” she said, putting down a load of blankets and coming into the kitchen. “I quit – for now. We can finish this tomorrow can’t we?”
He put his arms around her. “Sure, Honey. You really shouldn’t have been working so hard anyway. All that bending and squatting isn’t good for you.”
“Oh, pooh. The doctor says I can exercise every day if I want. Besides, I’m barely showing even now.”
“I know, I know. But, just the same I want you to sit down and let me rub your shoulders. Come on. Right down here.” He dragged a chair out and eased her down into it. He started rubbing her shoulders and neck.
“Mmmm. That feels wonderful.”
* * *
‘It certainly does. Every time he touches me I tingle all over. I hope it never stops. I get all mushy inside even when he come into a room, but his touch just melts me like butter in a pan. Hey – that would be good for tonight. I’ll fix some Suzette crêpe. He has been working much harder than I; especially my old bed. What a monster that was to bring up into the apartment. It will be nice to sleep in it though. So very familiar to me. With plenty of room for when I get bigger. Ahhhh. My neck just popped!’
* * *
They did indeed have delectable French pancakes for dinner. Along with fresh rolls from a bakery that Molly discovered just half a block away. Washed down with more fruit juice fizz, it was a meal fit for the Gods.
The next day, Bill walked to work whistling and smiling. He greeted everyone he saw with a head nod, a hearty Bonjour, or both. As far as he was concerned, all was right with the world.
[April 4, 1964]
[Hotel de Maubeuge Gare du Nord, Paris, France – morning]
Bill and Herr Grolsch had checked in to the hotel about an hour earlier and, after a short snack in the small grill, began mapping out their travel strategy. This trip, they had to visit Nürnberg, Stuttgart, Koblenz, and Düsseldorf. Bill was most interested in Düsseldorf because they were to see about a purchase of various mustards. He loved hot foods.
“So, Bill. What are you thoughts on our movements? In which order shall we visit these cities?”
Their friendship had progressed to the point that Stefan considered Bill to be merely a colleague instead of a trainee. This arrangement made conversations much simpler.
“Well, Stefan, I think that perhaps going due east and stopping at Stuttgart, followed by Nuremburg. Then back northwest to hit Koblenz and leave Düsseldorf to the last. On the way back from there, we can make a stop, if you wish, in Brussels to see about those chocolates that store two has on their purchase list.”
Stefan thought a moment, looking down at his travel map. “Yes. I can see that would be best. You have a good eye for efficiency, Bill. I like that.”
“Thank you. Probably my military upbringing.”
“That’s right! I forgot that. Good planning makes for successful campaigns. We will do it that way. If you will excuse me, I will go down to the desk and make our arrangements. I was pleased, you know, to find out you liked to travel by train also.” He smiled. He knew Bill and Molly’s history.” He stood and went to the door. “I will be back shortly.”
Their trip took a total of nine days and it was accomplished in the same order Bill outlined. Stephan admitted to Bill later that he had purposely left off the stop in the Belgian capitol just to see if he would pick it off the proposed purchase list. Bill had, and for that he felt very good. He was beginning to think like a purchasing agent – and loved it.
Once the contracts had been let, and they enjoyed the hospitality of their hosts, Bill and Stephan moved on to the next city. Bill knew he was going to have to do some strenuous exercise to keep weight from building on his frame. The food was too good, and in great quantities; much more than when he and Molly were traveling in Europe. He could afford more now.
They arrived back in Montreal in the evening of April 13. Molly met them both and drove Stefan to his house and then headed home to their snug apartment. They had found a garage in the next block with slots for rent that weren’t too expensive. The bus, when it got here, would have to be backed in, however, because their assigned spot was against a concrete wall in an end stall and the sliding door opened in that direction. Their borrowed car, at the moment, was sufficient for the few times they needed it.
Bill had his pictures developed and they spent a whole afternoon the following Saturday putting them into an album. Molly was determined to have something to show their child when he, or she, grew up. A permanent record of the travels of his, or her, father.
[May 10, 1964]
[412 Place Sherwood #5, Montreal, Canada]
“I have something for you, my love.” Bill said as he came through the front door.
Molly came in from the kitchen brushing flour from her apron. “What?”
“Tahh dahh!” He proclaimed, bringing a huge bundle of fresh flowers from behind his back. “For you, Molly. Happy Mother’s Day!”
* * *
‘Oh, how wonderful! And they smell so fragrant. I love them. They will go nicely in that big bowl on the coffee table in the living room. But…’
* * *
“What is this Mother’s Day?” She chuckled. “I am not yet a mother.”
“You are too! Just because she hasn’t been born yet is no excuse.” He closed to Molly and put his hands on her growing belly. “This – this makes you a mother with all the privileges that entails; which, by the way, includes a nice dinner at Albert’s.”
“Albert’s! My goodness. That’s a bit expensive isn’t it?”
“Could be, but you are now looking at the Head Buyer for AGG Imports.”
Molly squealed and threw her arms around Bill’s neck. She rained kisses on his face, neck, and lips – mostly the lips. “Oh, I am so proud of you. But what of Stephan?”
“Stephan signed the paperwork today to take control of Store Three. He basically owns the store now but is dependent on AGG Imports for most of his stock. He already gave us a big order this afternoon. It means a quick trip to Seville, Spain for me though. Just five days if I am lucky. Stephan wants to carry Spanish-grade cutlery and you can’t get any better than what you find in Seville.”
“Then you must go and do your very best for Stephan. When will you leave?”
“Next week probably. I have to set up the itinerary first. From here to Madrid and then a small puddle-jumper to Seville.”
“Puddle jumper? What is this?”
“A small airplane. What we call a commuter airplane. Small, usually twin engine turboprop. It can go into smaller airports than big jets can. But, no matter. That is in the future. What are you building in the kitchen?”
“Ah. I am trying my hand at baking bread. I’ve been talking to the Boulanger and he gave me a recipe for the most delectable bread. Wait until you taste it. I hope it comes out all right.”
Molly turned and went into the kitchen to rattle around in a cupboard until she found a large bowl. Next, she snipped the stems of the flowers and arranged them in the bowl. Satisfied, she picked the bowl up and carried it to the living room and set it on the coffee table.
“There. My, they really are pretty. You can smell them already.”
Bill came up behind her, put his arms around her middle, and patted her tummy. “I’m happy you like them.”
Molly twisted around in his grasp and kissed him. “They’re wonderful.”
Dinner that night was excellent, filling, and a little expensive, but they could now afford it. What followed afterwards was sheer poetry.