[December 16, 1963]
[Gare du Nord, Paris, France – early evening]
Moving with the flow towards the exit, Bill and Molly emerged into a huge concourse. Announcements in French, German, and English were a constant background along with the hum of conversations around them.
Bill pulled Molly to the side of the foot traffic streaming by and took out his map. “We’re here,” he pointed. “And, we need to get here,” he pointed again. "I don’t know if I really want to tackle the Paris Metro right away so I guess we’d better take a taxi. But first, I need to change some money.”
“How about over there?” Molly pointed to a small window with ‘échange Currrency’ over it. “That means currency exchange.”
“Sounds good to me.” They walked up to the window and Bill pushed some German marks through the little slot. The attendant counted them out, did a calculation on paper, and began selecting Francs from another drawer. She counted out the value – twice – and pushed the bills back out to him. He smiled and pushed them into his inside jacket pocket. “Merci!” He offered and they walked away.
“Do you suppose there is a doorman or something like that who could tell us how much a taxi would cost to reach the hotel?” Bill asked.
“I haven’t a clue, but we do have the telephone number. I could call.” Molly advised.
* * *
‘About time I started to do a few things for us instead of relying on Bill to do it all.’ Molly held out her hand for the paper with the number.
* * *
“Ah, I didn’t think of that. Here, go call. My French is so bad I’d probably order a pizza.” Bill handed her a fistful of coins and she handed him her suitcase to take care of. He watched the sway of her long coat with fascination as she walked away. Molly entered a phone booth, consulted the piece of paper for the phone number, and dialed. She waited a moment, dropped coins into the slot, and began talking.
Molly returned with a smile on her face. “The desk clerk says to pay no more than what the tariff sheet on the back of the front seat says to pay for ‘zone three’. We are coming from zone five. She also says that it should only take about twenty minutes – given the state of traffic. Be sure to look for a small, red sign stuck on the dash. It’s their license. If they don’t have one, don’t get in because it is an unlicensed taxi.”
“Great, they have gypsy cabs here too. Let’s move out then.”
Bill and Molly picked up their baggage and headed towards the large exit doors. “Molly,” he said. “The last time I was here with my parents, a cab driver took us all over the place until our bill was huge. He kept ignoring our questions and would just shrug and pretend he didn’t understand. What he didn’t know was my mom spoke French. When we arrived, the driver launched into a long torrent of French trying to explain why the bill was so high. He tried all sorts of things to which we just looked blank at. Finally, when he ran out of excuses, my mom took over and raked him over the coals for trying to cheat us. He was one very surprised taxi driver. Don’t let him know you speak French and we’ll see what happens.”
“Okay, but if we get really involved I’ll have to say something.”
“Okay. Here we are.” Bill turned to the guy calling up taxis from the line down the street and asked for one. The man blew a whistle and the first taxi in line moved up to the curb. Bill glanced inside, saw the license, and checked the back seat for the tariff sheet. All in order. Bill stated slowly, clearly, and in English, that they wanted to go to the Hotel Muguet at eleven Rue Chevert. The driver nodded enthusiastically, grabbed their bags, and set them in the trunk. Bill helped Molly into the seat and then sat next to her. Before he even got the door closed they were off with a screech of tires.
“Yow!” Bill said. “Slow down, slow down!” He shouted. The driver turned towards him and grinned even wider. Apparently his command to slow was interpreted by the driver as ‘go faster’. His foot fell on the accelerator and they roared down the avenue.
Molly turned to Bill and mouthed ‘now?’ He barely shook his head ‘no’. The driver picked up the handset of his radio and rattled off a sentence or two which was answered with a laugh and a response. Molly’s eyes widened and she snorted – which she managed to change into a small cough.
Bill turned to her and she leaned toward him with a fake kiss. “The driver reported he had two stupid tourists and he was going to give us a ‘tour’. The other voice said to’ take it easy’. I hope he does.” I nodded.
The bump of direction Bill had always had was telling him they were going nearly the right way. The cab ripped around a corner and turned right onto Rue La Fayette. This road runs in the general direction of the Champs Elysées so when (or if) they passed that at least they were on the right track.
There were several more radio exchanges between the driver and his headquarters. Molly kept Bill advised as to what was being said. She changed her expression to one of venom at the latest exchange. “The dispatcher just called us ‘fish’ and told him to hurry up.” She said with rancor.
The instruction was apparently evidenced by an even faster passage through streets full of cars. They weaved in and out between them and at one point we even passed two cars by driving into opposing traffic. Bill was getting pissed. This jerk was trying to kill them. Molly noticed the clench of his jaw and put a restraining hand on his arm.
* * *
Molly was outraged. ‘This folle idiote is going to get us killed! And if he doesn’t do it, Bill will kill him anyway. I must calm Bill down.’
* * *
She shook her head minutely and mouthed ‘I’ll take care of it'. The taxi slowed a little taking the curves around the Place de la Concorde but sped up as it roared across the River Seine. After a tight right turn, they ended up rising to cross a street and then falling to ground level again along the river. Bill sensed that they were still heading the right way. The driver braked hard, throwing them against the front seat, and bent around a sharp left turn into what appeared to be an alley. Molly and Bill exchanged looks. Bill reached forward and tapped the guy on the shoulder but he shrugged it off, chattering back at them in French. Molly gave Bill a barely perceptible nod.
Their taxi emerged into a wider street but Bill was unable to get a street name. They were very rapidly approaching some sort of square with a huge building in the middle. A sign proclaimed ‘École Militaire’ – Military Academy; they had gone too far. Suddenly, the taxi swept into a left turn across oncoming traffic. Molly slid into Bill fairly hard, and he heard their luggage slap against the side of the trunk. A short block later, they turned left again into an even smaller alley than before. This time Bill did see the sign. They had finally arrived at Rue Chevert. Up ahead was the marquee of their hotel. The driver locked his brakes and smoked to a stop in front of it. Molly was prepared. She had a very pissed look on her face. As Bill exited the taxi and slowly got out his wallet, Molly unloaded - with both barrels.
For perhaps two or three minutes Molly yelled, screamed, and waved her hands about as she spouted rapid French. The driver alternately looked mollified and enraged as she, presumably, told him off. The hotel bellman looked on bemusedly as she kept moving towards the driver and he kept stepping backwards. At one point, he practically tore his door off getting in to unlock the trunk. When it popped open the bellman unloaded it. Bill gave the doorman a shoulder shrug and then the two of them faced Molly.
She was winding down now and had the driver responding with very short sentences. Molly turned to Bill and, hiding her hands from the driver, she indicated a four and two zeros; four hundred Francs. Bill pulled them out of his wallet and handed them to her. She turned and practically threw them at the driver. There was fire in her eyes when she delivered the last line, fist shaking in front of her. “Et, monsieur, nous sommes Canadiens, les Américains ne!" And, sir, we are Canadians, not Americans! With that she flounced up the steps and into the hotel.
When Bill caught up to her, he whispered carefully to her. “Good lord, Molly, remind me to never piss you off. You were magnificent!”
She turned to him and smiled from ear to ear. “That was fun!” It was all an act! She was really good. That was one cab driver who will be a little more careful about saying things he thinks nobody can understand.
[December 16, 1963]
[Hotel Muguet, Pares, France – early evening]
Molly slowed and let Bill get ahead of her when they approached the desk. She held her eyes downcast and smiled shyly at the clerk. He welcomed them and Bill gave him his name. The desk clerk spoke excellent English and addressed the room first, passed Bill a key, and added that the dining room would be open at nineteen hundred. He tapped a bell and the same young guy that brought their two bags in carried them over to the elevator and pushed the button. They all got in and ascended to the fourth floor – apparently the top floor – because there were no more buttons above the one he pushed.
Bill and Molly's room was wonderful. It overlooked many rooftops and avenues running full now with the evening rush of automobiles. Molly came over to stand next to Bill and, as he did at first, gasped at the view. Sticking up, very tall across the way in the middle distance, was the Eiffel Tower, resplendent in dim lights which would brighten as darkness fell. “Oh, beautiful,” declared Molly. The little desk clerk in Zurich came through. I’ll have to drop him a card now to thank him. Hey. What’s this?”
Molly lifted an envelope from the middle of the bed and opened it. “Bill!” She cried out. “Come look at this!”
He went over and she handed him a buff card. It was in French, but he puzzled out a couple of things. They were to call room service, announce our room, and claim a small bottle of champagne. “But what’s this all about, Molly?" He asked, pointing to smaller print. "I can’t translate it very well.”
“It says we can order anything on the attached menu." She interpreted. She put her finger on the line that read ‘compliments de la maison’ to which had been added, in ink, 'pour un cadeau de mariage'. "That means ‘compliments of the house; as a wedding gift. Oh, how wonderful of them.” She turned to Bill with tears in her eyes. “Now I feel bad.”
“Well don’t. They want to give something to us so we shouldn't disappoint them. We can repay later with a really good tip can’t we?”
“I suppose so. But it will have to be a great tip then. Maybe I can find some small gifts for the maids.”
“That’s the spirit. Do you want your champagne now, or do you want to unwind first?” Bill asked, glancing down the menu. “The beef looks good, or how about some fish?”
Molly moved next to him and read over his shoulder. Her finger stabbed. “There! I want that. It is braised scallops with a wine sauce. You’d better get the beef, my love, because if I’m right, you’ll be very busy tonight.”
Bill conceded the point with a gentle kiss, which escalated to a much longer one. The menu fluttered to the floor, unnoticed, as they wound their arms around each other and held tight. With her eyes shining, Molly picked up the telephone and ordered their meal, in French, with a timid voice. “It will be perhaps a half hour. We have time to wash up if you wish. I’ll scrub your back if you’ll scrub mine.”
“Oh, no!” Bill said, holding both his hands in front of his chest. “One thing will lead to another and we’ll be eating cold food and drinking warm champagne. We will use the bathroom separately. Capishe? Now, say ‘si signore’ and skedaddle.”
"What means this 'skedaddle' word?" Molly asked.
"It means, young lady, to exit the room rapidly. It's a cowboy term." Bill chuckled at her.
Molly responded with a curtsey and a ‘si signore’ and skedaddled into the bathroom. Bill soon heard her softly singing that same French tune as before. She sounded perfectly content to him. It was going to be a night to remember he was sure.
Bill prepared for his turn in the bathroom by taking his clothes off and wrapping one of the towels around himself. They were big, fuzzy towels and hung from his waist all the way down to his ankles. He lowered the light level in the room by turning off the overhead light and two of the three other lamps. The only one left was a floor lamp right next to the small table where they would be dining.
Molly popped out of the bathroom looking freshly scrubbed and pink all over; everything Bill could see that is. She had also found the towels but on her it ran from a knot above her breasts almost to her knees. Bill moved forward, but she stopped him with a hand to his chest. “Hold that thought, my love. We have to eat first. I’m starving … for food”
Pretending to pout, Bill stuck out his lower lip and stubbed his toe into the carpet. “Aw, shucks. You never let me have any fun, mom!”
That brought forth a guffaw of laughter from Molly. Shaking her head, she turned to the bed and withdrew a dress from her bag that Bill had never seen before. It was black, and had a very low neckline. “I was saving this in case I got lucky in Garmisch. I still got lucky, but in Paris instead.” She held it overhead and let it settle down over her shoulders. When the knot in her towel was loosened, the material dropped straight down affording Bill the fleeting glimpse of bare breasts and other delights. “Now, you go.” She pointed at the bathroom door.
Bill went. The bath was still waiting, as she hadn’t drained it. Bill noted that she had put something into it that smelled like roses but what the heck, he thought. He added some more hot water and settled down into it. He sang through two stanzas and a chorus of a very bawdy logging song; probably off-key. The acoustics in the bathroom were perfectly resonant with his lower tones. He hummed deeply. Molly tapped on the door and told him he was ‘rumbling’. “Sorry!”
Bill hopped out of the tub, dried off, and slipped into his only pair of silk pajamas. His brother had laughed himself silly when he first saw him in them, but relented when he bought him a pair. Now his brother loved them. With the belt to his robe cinched, he was ready to eat.
Bill emerged from the bathroom at almost the same instant that the door buzzed. “Un instant, s'il vous plait” Molly called, checking to see if they were presentable. They apparently were because Molly opened the door and let the server in. It turned out to be a girl dressed in an almost classic French maid’s uniform. She smiled at both of them, and then pushed the cart into the room.
Molly told her to set the meal out on the small table, which she did. The champagne stand was placed at Bill's side of the table and silverware added on top of nice linen napkins. The server asked Bill if there was anything else, which he understood, so he said no and gave her a small note. She thanks him, rolled the cart over to the wall, said “bon appétit”, and gently closed the door.
The food was superb and the wine very cold and bubbly. Molly got slightly tiddly and began playing footsie with Bill under the table. By the time the meal was finished, she’d worked his enthusiasm into an excited state. When she declared it warm in the room and flapped the top of her black dress he figured it was time to take action.
* * *
‘That meal,’ Molly thought, ‘was wonderful! I’d better watch the wine though. But I love feeling this way!’
She began slow-stepping to a silent waltz humming within her mind. She knew she shouldn’t have any more wine, but it tasted so good. ‘No more!’ She scolded herself as she danced.
Then she glanced out the window.
* * *
While Bill cleared the table and put everything on the cart, Molly danced about the room, swirling and dipping to music he couldn’t hear. She was positively glowing. When she neared the window, she froze. “Oh! That’s beautiful! Come look, Bill. The tower is lighted up with color!”
He came up behind her, wrapped his arms around her waist, and pulled her against him. She leaned back and to the side so she could nibble on his earlobe. Unbeknownst to her, the number one way to get his juices flowing was to nibble on his earlobe. He moved his hands upwards to cup each breast gently. “Mmmmm. This feels good.” He murmured to her.
“And so does this,” she added, pressing her back warmly against his chest. Their hips met. This finished the job she’d started at the table. He was really excited now.
Bill untied the top straps slowly and the little black dress slipped downwards off her shoulders. Bill carried her over to the bed and knelt beside it. As promised, he made every effort to do nothing but please her as much as he was able for the whole evening.
They made love at least four times that night. Neither one of them got much sleep, but they both woke almost rested in the false dawn of early morning. It was another day, and they were in love, and in a lover’s city. Bill woke Molly with a kiss. “I love you, Molly.”
“Je t'aime, Bill. I truly do.”
“And I you,” he replied.