[December 13, 1963]
[Wiesbaden, West Germany]
Soon after the screech of the aircraft's tires on the runway and the loud roaring of the props as they reversed, the young man began to take in his surroundings. He'd been reading a book, as usual, and the sounds of the aircraft as it prepared to land hadn't penetrated into his shell.
Looking expectantly out the window into a gloriously bright winter afternoon he caught his first glimpse of the American air base he knew as Rhine-Main. He'd been lucky enough to catch the space-available flight from New Jersey to Germany after waiting only one day.
The plane finally reached the terminal and squealed to a stop. After several loud bumps as the stairs were put up against the fuselage, the attendant opened the door. Row by row, the slightly numb passengers straggled forward and out the door. Soon, it was the young man's turn.
Physically, one might say he appeared ‘rugged looking’. He stood six feet two inches and weighed in the vicinity of a hundred and ninety pounds. His hair was dark and sometimes hung down over somewhat widely set grey eyes in a plain, square face. His name was Bill Stiles.
He'd spent his last summer as a firefighter stationed in Missoula, Montana - the same city that hosted his current school: Montana State University. He was just finishing his sophomore year. During his freshman year, he’d bulked up quite a bit while firefighting – lifting weights, hauling fire hoses around, and lugging equipment up and down mountains.
During the last fire season, there had been four fires. One of them was a really bad one that took nearly a week to put down. As a result of all this physical activity, he carried a lot of muscle. He was definitely not muscle-bound, but could lift over one hundred and forty pounds. When not fighting fires or attending college and living in a dormitory, he stayed mostly as a guest at his parent’s house on Malmstrom AFB in Great Falls.
It was because of him being a dependent that he was able to take advantage of this space-available flight. This extended privilege would end upon his graduation – or at age twenty five - whichever came first.
As he trudged across the pavement to the waiting doorway to customs, he reflected that he needed this upcoming vacation. He’d been studying intensely for his final exams during the previous month and, in between caffeine-fueled bouts of cramming, he found himself daydreaming about this vacation.
Now it had arrived; it was the thirteenth of December. His finals were over and time for a bit of relaxation. He was twenty-three years old and supremely happy that this current school year was finished.
His college year ended in December because he started late in the year for his freshman year at college. Immediately upon graduating from high school, he’d spent eight months as a firefighter trainee in the Missoula area of Montana. Since the fire season runs from early spring (for training) until late fall (when the cold and snow starts) his college year was out of kilter. As a result, here he was - free to go wandering around Germany in December without having to get back right away. May eleventh, the start of his next year, was a long way off.
Taking his place in line for processing, he reflected on comments made by his best friends. Passersby might say his face had ‘character’ but he'd been told lately by friends that he just looked tired. The previous week-long burst of mental activity had signaled the end of his second year at college. In between studying and taking exams, working a bit at his part-time job in the cafeteria, and managing a little sleep, the budding romance with a classmate had faded; then wilted. His innermost thoughts agreed that the hardest thing he'd had to do was let go of the young lady.
He figured it wasn’t the particular fault of either Beth or him, but a combination of the two of them and their relationship towards each other. She attended a girl’s school nearby and, when finals season hit, it hit both of them and they just couldn’t find time for each other.
Semi-harsh words were said and the affiliation deteriorated after that. He sighed; dating was out of the question now. This was, perhaps, a blessing in disguise because he was now able to save up enough for a European (mostly Germany) vacation. The very same one he found himself on at this moment.
Smiling ruefully to himself, he once again thought that perhaps he'd been foolhardy by not making at least an overnight hotel reservation here in Wiesbaden but he had absolutely no plans or prior reservations; other than the plane flight out of Malmstrom to New Jersey to Wiesbaden’s Rhine-Main Airport. He’d put his name on the waiting list almost six months ago. He knew that flying space-available would be easy going East because most kids were coming back to the States for the holidays. It was really off-season now in Germany, being mid-December, so hotels and trains would be hurting for the tourist money.
So, today is the day he landed in Germany and now he was being waved forward to the customs desk. He’d always traveled light so whatever he carried in his backpack was all he had. He figured he didn’t need anything more or, if he found something he needed he’d buy it. He was flush with almost four thousand dollars in a belt around my waist; having earned it fighting fires. At the thought of the money, he looked around but then leaned forward on the small desk and presented his passport.
The process took only moments and then his passport was stamped and he was waved through. He picked up his backpack and walked out into the concourse. Muted noise from passing groups of people, the rumbling, popping, and roar of piston engines as airplanes taxied past, and the occasional announcement over the public address system were just that: noises.
Once out into the bright sunlight he decided that taking a tram from the airport to the train station would be a fun way to make the trip. He checked the large placard listing trams and their destinations, and then queued up for the next streetcar headed that way. Among faces reddened from the cold, blowing wind, he sat back in a chilly plastic seat and watched the scenery go by. Eventually, they neared the train station and he hopped off carrying his backpack over one shoulder when the tram made its stop.
The station was a cavernous structure that echoed loudly with the sounds of hundreds of voices, announcements, and Christmas carols. Casting his eyes around, he finally located the ticketing office and when he arrived asked about a fare to Munich. Bill was very fluent in German because he'd lived in Germany when his father was stationed there in the late-fifties. In the intervening years, he'd kept in practice by joining various German-American clubs wherever he could find them. He was so confident now that he was even thinking in German.
The agent consulted his bookings and said he was in luck as he only had one remaining compartment on the train to Augsburg. Bill thought for a moment as a compartment would be a bit more expensive, and then decided that a compartment would be better than a coach seat so he paid and gathered up the ticket with a hearty “Dankeschön”. With his backpack hanging from one arm, he began to search out a nice place to have a quick drink.
Following the sounds of caroling, Bill soon located a makeshift bar manned, or more properly, womaned, with buxom maids serving warm Glühwein; a concoction of wine leftover from the seasonal pressing with spicy cinnamon added. It is very delicious and will warm a person right up. It is also sneaky and will cut your legs out from under you if you have too many of them. He sat at a small table and sipped; but stopped at two of the things and headed for his departure track.
= = =
Across town, in a small, out of the way hotel, a young woman was packing her small valise. She had laid out all her clothing on the bed and was making slow headway folding items just right. She cocked her head to one side, whispered a very unladylike phrase, and started yet again.
Finally, she managed to get it all in; but there was absolutely no room left at all. She decided to wear her sweater under her overcoat. She thought briefly of just leaving it for the maid, but it had been a gift from her sister last Christmas and that just didn’t seem right.
Her name was Molly and she was from Montreal, Canada. Her mother and father, Suzette and Alain Garnet, had given Molly this trip as a reward for graduating at the top of her class this year. As Molly was an excellent skier, their aim was to let her go to Garmish-Partenkirchen on a ski vacation.
She glanced at her watch and frowned. It was always difficult to translate her normal watch into the twenty-four hour clock they used here. It had always been that way – even though “European time” was used extensively in Montreal also. She was still on time for her train, but only if she left within ten minutes. She phoned downstairs to the desk and had them prepare her bill. She also asked them to call her a taxi for a trip to the train station.
Taking a last look around the room, Molly picked up her somewhat heavy suitcase and exited the room carrying her key. She took the elevator down and strode over to the desk. The clerk greeted her and she handed him the key. Molly answered him. “Bonjour. Mon nom est Garnet. Ma facture est-il prêt?” She asked. The clerk nodded and put her bill on the counter. Molly glanced down the charges, found them to be correct, and pulled the required amount of cash out of her purse which she handed to the clerk.
“Merci, Mademoiselle. Avez un agréable voyage.” The clerk said with a smile. Molly thanked her and turned for the door lugging her suitcase. A passing porter saw her and took it from her hand and pushed the door open. He waited with her until a cab pulled up. He leaned into the opening window and told the driver that Molly wanted to go to the main train station. All she caught of the conversation was “…Hauptbahnhof”.
The porter laid her bag in the trunk and stepped back, tipping his hat. Molly thanked him and got into the back seat. The taxi driver nodded at her. “I take to train terminal.” He said.
“Dankeschön!” Molly said with a smile. It was virtually the only word she knew in German. Coming, as she did, from Montreal, all they spoke there was French. She sat back and enjoyed the ride.
In due time, the taxi pulled up to the main entrance to the train station. It was bustling with people coming and going through the various doors. She paid the driver, got out, and walked back to the trunk. He popped it, and she retrieved her bag. With a wave, she headed inside.
A brief moment of panic ensued when she couldn’t remember where she’d put her ticket. Giving a sigh of relief, she pulled it out of the inner pocket of her sweater. Heading over to the big display board, she compared her train number to the proper column and saw which track she was on. Glancing at one of the many clocks, she hurried towards the gate.
The gate attendant took her ticket and pointed to the left. She thanked him and walked down the carriages until she reached the section indicated on her ticket. An attendant helped her aboard and led her down the passageway to her tiny compartment. Once inside, she sighed and sat down on the bench seat. Now, she reflected, she could relax.
= = =
The ticket checker at the gate gave a Bill friendly salute and assured him his train was ‘auf der linken Seite’ or, on the left side. Bill walked down the length of the glossy green coaches and found his car, climbed aboard, and located his little compartment. The porter appeared, they chatted briefly as he helped him settle into the room. On the dot, a shrill whistle sounded once, then again, and the train began to move.
With an occasional jolting, the train eased out of the station. Bill sat back in the seat in his compartment and opened the book he'd been reading on the plane but stuffed in a pocket of his pack on landing. He didn't have any real interest in the cityscape unfolding outside his window as during his teen years he’d lived here in Germany and was very familiar with typical German cityscapes. Due to this foreknowledge, he had an adequate supply of paperbacks to keep himself occupied. Lulled by the rhythmic clatter of steel wheels over rail joints and the swaying of the car, his eyelids slowly drooped.
= = =
The train gave a lurch and began to move. In the distance, Molly heard two blasts of the engine’s steam whistle. Now that she was underway, she decided to freshen up a little and change into something that wasn’t as warm. She found that the compartment was heated well enough to make her uncomfortable in a sweater.
She laid her bag on the tiny table next to where the sink would pull down and unsnapped the latches. She’d packed it so well that the lid popped up and bumped the wall. Molly searched through her clothes until she found a lighter-weight dress. Quickly she slipped off her sweater and skirt and replaced them with the dress.
Then, intending to wash her face and hands, she bent down and attempted to see how the little basin was opened. Two small handles on either side apparently were used to pull it down so she did just that. There was a double click as the latches caught. She pushed the tap buttons and ran a bit of water into the bowl.
There was a small clunk beneath the bowl and, just as she took her hands off the rim, it snapped upwards rapidly, crashing against the stops in the wall, which tossed the entire contents of the bowl into her face. She screamed. Grabbing at a nearby towel, she rubbed the water off her face as best as she could. Glancing around, she spotted a push button with a picture of a waiter on it. Stabbing at it rapidly, she continued to blot up the water on her dress.
The car attendant tapped on the door and she opened it and began speaking rapidly in French. It was clear by the expression on the man’s face that he didn’t understand much French. Exasperated, Molly tried English and finally tried her very limited German. Nothing helped and her temper began to rise.
= = =
Bill was jolted awake by movement and sound in the next compartment: a couple of scrapes against the connecting wall, two clicks which could have been suitcase latches, and the clunk of a lid hitting the wall. He grumped to himself at the disturbance and returned to his book.
He was in the middle of a chapter when there was a very loud crash, a thump and a short piercing scream from the next door compartment. It sounded pretty painful to him – judging by the scream – but maybe not something he should get involved in. He looked up, waited, and listened carefully, but it didn’t repeat.
Moments later, Bill heard a tapping on the compartment door next to him. A deep male voice asked a question and there was an answer from a higher pitched female voice. The door opened and they appeared to be either arguing or (more likely) they didn’t understand each other. He heard a faint edge of temper entering the conversation.
The female voice was now raised to a level that penetrated into Bill's compartment. She was definitely frustrated by the responses from whoever knocked on her door. He decided that maybe she could use some assistance.
Reaching for the knob of his door, he eased it open and poked his head out. Next door, the car attendant stood facing a blonde haired young woman with a towel around her shoulders. Her hair was dripping wet; and she was angry – not frustrated. She was trying to explain to the attendant, whose knowledge of English was definitely lacking, that the sink she was using snapped up and threw water all over her.
Sinks on most European trains were the drop-down type to give you more room to move about your compartment. If not locked down, they will indeed snap up and throw water all over. Bill remembered him and his brother doing that very thing to his sister several times.
Deciding to take an active part, Bill spoke. “Verzeihen Sie mir, Mein Herr, vielleicht könnte ich helfen ...?” He asked in formal German.
The attendant turned to Bill and smiled gratefully, asking if he would see what was troubling the young lady. Bill turned to her and asked her that very question in English.
“I am trying to explain to this man that the sink won’t stay down. I had an entire basin of water dumped all over my front.” She said to Bill as she moved further out into the passageway to show him her dress.
It was indeed drenched – and very thoroughly. The towel she held in front of her did it’s best to cover the wet dress, but not enough to hide her wonderful attributes. She sounded American, but Bill couldn’t be sure. He held up his hand to stop her and turned to the attendant. He explained what she had just related. A look of comprehension appeared on the attendant's face and he launched into a speech about how he had begun to repair the sink but needed another part and hadn’t finished before she arrived. He was devastated that she would come to grief, and would I please convey this to her.
Bill nodded; then turned to the girl. “The attendant is extremely sorry about your accident. He was in the process of fixing it and was going for a part when you arrived. He got busy and didn’t finish the job. Would you please forgive him?”
Her face took on a softer countenance. “Oh. Of course. It’s just water. But it surprised me and frightened me a little when the sink jumped up at me.”
The young lady turned to the conductor and told him she was sorry she got angry. She also asked if he would see what could be done while she was at dinner. Bill relayed this to the man - who assured her that he would have the job done by then. Using the assistance of Bill, they thanked each other and the attendant walked on down the aisle towards his cubbyhole at the end of the car.
She turned to Bill and smiled. It lit up the aisle. “Thank you very much for your help. I never could have explained it to him without dragging him inside and pointing. I’m Molly, Molly Garnet. From Montreal. I speak French of course, but German is beyond me. You speak it very well.”
When faced with a pretty girl, Bill tended to run off at the mouth. This was one of those times. He took her hand with his. “My name is Bill, and I’m from most anywhere. My family moved around a lot. My latest home has been Montana State University. I’m a junior there – or will be next year. I learned German as a teenager right here in Germany. I lived here for three years.” He explained. “Mon Français est terrible,” He added, in French, and she grimaced.
“You’re right, it is.” She said with a quick smile. “Living here in Germany sounds wonderful. And now you’re back. Just for a visit or will you stay a while?” She paused and looked around quickly, then followed his eyes downwards to her dress.
Suddenly she became aware that she was standing in the passageway, dripping wet, with a towel around her shoulders and her dress practically transparent. She blushed, deeply, and pulled Bill back into her compartment. On the way in he noticed, however, that the door remained firmly latched open. She crossed the room, dropped the towel, and grabbed another one to dab at her dress; which was now drying and becoming less translucent.
Due to his self-imposed celibacy, Bill allowed that she looked just fine to him. Her honey-blonde hair was done up very short and in big lazy waves that curled around her ears and hung to her jaw line like a golden helmet. Bright blue eyes peered out from above a rather Roman nose that, in turn, sat above very full and kissable lips. She wasn’t very tall, just about five feet seven or so, but built athletically. The breasts Bill glimpsed behind the towel were not large by any means, but filled out the top of her dress nicely. Her hips flared out over very well formed legs. When she turned to face the suitcase lying on the seat and bent over, he reflected that the nicely shaped rear view was memorable also.
While she was busy fluffing the towel over her hair, Bill turned to look at the sink. Bending over to pick up a knurled thumbscrew lying on the carpet, he found the matching threaded hole on the sink brace. What had happened was the locking lever had come loose and allowed the spring to snap the basin upwards to the stowed position; bringing a full load of water with it. He held the sink down, screwed the bolt in place, pressed down to lock the brace, and raised his hands. The sink remained down.
“How did you do that?” She asked. “Is that all it took?”
“Yeah. Sometimes vibration knocks it loose. I had to make sure mine was tight also.” Bill looked around again. “I, um, seem to be in the way here. I’ll get back to my compartment. I’m right through there.” He indicated the connecting door by tapping on it with his knuckle. “It’s locked so don’t worry.”
“Why should I worry? You seem to be a really handy guy to have around. Are you traveling with anyone? Wife? Girlfriend?” Molly asked boldly, but began to redden.
* * *
“oh, my,’ Molly thought. ‘What made me ask that? Still, he is cute. I bet he already has a girlfriend.’
* * *
“No, nothing like that. My last girlfriend was months ago. I’ve been studying very hard for finals and we just didn’t have time for each other. She got bored, I guess.”
“I can’t imagine that. Perhaps we’ll see each other at dinner. Now, shoo. I have to change. Thanks very much for your help.”
Smiling at Bill, Molly pushed at his chest until he was out the door. Once that was accomplished it closed slowly until it latched shut. "Well, so much for my good deed of the day", Bill muttered under his breath. Turning towards his own door Bill smiled internally and thought that perhaps he could tinker with seating arrangements in the dining car so that she would have to sit with him. He’d have to think about that, he reflected then re-entered his compartment, shut the door, and scrubbed up for dinner.
An hour later Bill passed her door, paused, ready to knock, but then thought better of it and continued onwards towards the front of the train to the diner. The concierge met him and asked how many he was. Bill told him that it was just one, but he might have someone joining him and described her. Bill slipped him a five-mark note and he smiled, nodded knowingly, and led him to a table for two along the left side. The right side held tables for four. The greeter held out a chair for Bill, the one facing the door he'd entered by. He sat down. After the greeter placed a menu in front of Bill he turned and went to meet others.
= = =
Molly took a last look at herself in the polished steel mirror on the back of the door. Satisfied, she picked up her purse and left the compartment. As she exited, the car attendant made to enter. She stopped him with a word and then showed him that the sink was repaired. The attendant raised his eyebrows, said something, which she assumed was along the lines of ‘who did it’. Molly just pointed to Bill’s compartment next door.
The attendant chuckled and said, “Sehr Gut.” Molly assumed he was happy and they left her compartment.
She continued down the train until arriving at the vestibule outside the dining car. She waited until the greeter had seated a couple and then held up one finger. He turned, glanced down the car, and then turned back to her to lead her down the car. They stopped at Bill’s table.
He stood and greeted her.
= = =
Bill ordered coffee from the waiter and told him he would wait a moment to see if he was being joined. The waiter poured and Bill sat back in his chair. Since most Europeans don’t eat until eight or nine in the evening – and it was just now six – he was practically alone in the car. The waiter refilled Bill's cup only once before he looked up and saw Molly coming around the corner and into the end vestibule. The concierge turned to Bill briefly, who nodded.
The concierge brought Molly directly to Bill's table. With a kind of goofy smile he stood and bowed to her as she sat. Bill spoke. “I hope you don’t mind sitting here with me, Molly. Is it okay?”
= = =
“Good evening, Bill.” Molly smiled. “Sitting with a nice looking guy is fine with me.”
Now it was time for Bill to blush. When the waiter appeared at his elbow, he asked her if she wanted him to order for the two of them. She took a moment to glance at the menu - in German - and gave Bill her permission. He ordered the veal cutlet for two, with potatoes and greens and added a request for a nice half-bottle of red wine. The waiter scribbled furiously, thanked them both, and departed.
“God, you do that so well, Bill. I wish I spoke German as well as French. I try sometimes, but I always get flustered and give up.”
“Well, I bet you speak French much better than I.”
Molly launched into a few sentences of French; of which Bill caught only about one word in five, but he gathered that she was pleased with his help in the compartment and for the invitation to dinner. Her French was very throaty and he began wondering if this could develop into something even greater than its parts. She paused, searched his face for comprehension, chuckled, and translated what she had just said.
Bill wanted to know more about this fascinating woman. “Where are you headed, Molly? This train terminates in Munich. Are you going that far?”
“Yes. I have a reservation down in Garmish-Partenkirchen for some skiing. Do you ski?” She asked, looking at him slightly askance.
“Of course, ma’am, we ski the mountains of Montana a lot – that is when we aren’t busting cows or punching broncos.” Bill said in an exaggerated Western drawl.
Molly laughed out loud. He noted she had a great, ear-to-ear smile. “Oh, I guess I asked for that one." She said. "I love to ski. I’ve been doing it for a long time. Almost since I was a little girl. We ski a lot up in Montreal too. Where are you headed?”
Now, Bill could both lie and tell her he was headed to Munich also or he could tell her he had no real destination. The latter was the truth. He’d boarded the train with a ticket to Augsburg where he had friends but that could be changed with the addition of a little more money to the conductor.
“I’m actually kind of bumming around." He finally said. "I have a ticket to Augsburg which is a stop before Munich…” He paused as Molly's face lost its brilliance. “But, I can change that easily enough.” She brightened up considerably. “Would you like some company on your trip?” He asked hopefully. ‘Please say yes,’ he internalized.
* * *
‘I would like nothing better than to have you travel with me. But, I can’t seem too eager. After all, how much do I know about him so far?’
* * *
Molly looked pensive, and if considering a lot of variables, and then broke into another beaming smile. “Sure! I’d love that. You can help me with translations and, um, other things.”
Bill's face lit up in return. He couldn’t imagine what ‘other things’ she had in mind, but if her mind traveled in the same vein as his it would be interesting to find out what they were.
Their dinner arrived, steaming, on large plates with the side dishes arrayed around them. Bill thanked the waiter and they dug in. She looked up after tasting a bite of cutlet and said that it was delicious. She thanked him for making the choice. He told her you couldn’t go wrong with Weiner schnitzel; as long as she remembers those words, and finds them on the menu, she will eat well as this dish was served almost universally. They continued eating without much more conversation.
During dinner, Bill glanced up at Molly a couple of times to find her looking back at him. She colored once again and her eyes dropped back to her plate. She was certainly a good looking young lady and Bill knew he was yearning for a little time with the fair sex. With a start, he realized that he hadn’t even kissed any girl for over four months. No wonder he was so ‘tense’. Their eye contact increased until they were practically staring at each other. There was no doubt that she felt the same way as him.
= = =
Molly’s internal conversation was a mixed bag of conflicting emotions. After all, she told herself, how much did she actually know about this self-proclaimed wanderer? He definitely had impeccable old-world manners, spoke well – in both German and English, and, best of all, seemed a genuinely nice guy.
She listened to him as he spoke of living and working in Montana. Then, when it became her turn, she related life in Montreal with her family. They traded off and eventually learned quite a bit of each other. She liked the way his eyes flashed as he described the mountains he clearly loved. She thought idly that perhaps she would visit Montana at some time.
He refilled her wine glass the second time and they sipped while finishing an excellent meal. She asked Bill if he would write out the dish they had just enjoyed. He did on a paper napkin and she folded it for her pocket. When she’d reached for it, their fingers touched. It felt as if electricity had jolted them. She looked up and directly into his eyes and realized that they were hazel, with flecks of something a little darker. The sides were crinkled a little as if looking into bright sunlight.
When he asked if she wanted another refill of wine, she declined. Already, she’d taken note that her respiration as well as her heartbeat had increased significantly during dinner. Finally, she relented to just a splash from the last of the bottle.
= = =
Conversation between Bill and Molly slowed once again over the last of their bottle of wine. Content to just look at each other, Bill finally realized that the car was beginning to fill up and called for the check. He found that the waiter had thoughtfully broken it up into two separate payments, an action Bill approved of heartily. But, when he tried to pay her portion, she was too fast for him and insisted on her share. The touch of her hand on his arm seemed to electrify him. It was just a reflex action on Molly's part as he reached for the check, but he felt it all down his body.
Molly left her hand on his forearm for what seemed like minutes and then pulled it back to get her money. As they left, Bill added some extra money over and above the tip already calculated into the bill. The waiter smiled and waved them through the vestibule into the next car.
Passing between cars, the train went though some turnouts and the car ahead of them shifted enough for Molly to lose her balance. Corny as it seems, she fell back directly into Bill's arms. He braced himself against the partition and held her tightly. Her hair brushed his nose and he smelled the scent of strawberries. He always had liked strawberries. She turned her head to face him and smiled. “I think you can let go now, Bill. We aren’t shaking any more.”
“Uh? Oh, sure, Molly. Sorry.” He released her, memorizing the feel of her against him.
They continued down the corridor and into the next car, which was theirs. They reached Molly's door first, which she then opened, but paused. Bill was unprepared for her as she reached out and pulled him to her. Without a word, she stood on her tiptoes and kissed him fully on the lips. It was not a short smack, but a lingering kiss that shook him to his toes and made his knees tremble. “I think that maybe you should go to your compartment now, Bill, and unlock your door, non?” She said breathlessly when she released him.
Slowly, Molly turned back into her room while Bill moved over to his door and unlocked it. He was still feeling the imprint of her lips on his and when he passed the small mirror over the sink, he smiled at his reflection ruefully; wondering just how far this would go. After several moments, he heard an insistent tapping. At first, he thought it was just vibrations from the rails. But then, Bill realized it was coming from the door separating his compartment from Molly's. Her muffled voice sounded from behind the door asking him if he'd unlocked his door yet.
Bill mentally slapped his forehead. ‘So that’s the door she meant – the connecting door. What an idiot.’
He sprang over to it and flipped up the latch. Molly was pushing against it and practically fell through; falling, instead, into his arms - again. She looked up at him, hesitated a bit, and then pressed her lips to his once more. It was a long, lingering kiss and when they parted; the two of them were out of breath. Bill could feel her breasts alternately pushing and retreating from his chest.
“Mmmm, that feels so nice to be kissed again by someone who means it.” Molly murmured into his ear. She pulled back and looked up into his surprised face. “That’s a very long story, so just let me say that my last romance didn’t work out so well and leave it at that. Do you have anything to drink?”
“I have a small bottle of brandy in my bag. Want some?”
“Brandy would be nice. I’ll get my glass.” Molly said as she stepped back into her room to get her glass from the wire holder in the shelf over the washbasin.
Bill snapped up his little glass and uncapped the bottle – noting, sadly, that it was almost gone. He knew he would have to renew it, and soon. Molly returned and they settled down on the bench seat. They each took a sip, licked their lips, and took another. Molly kicked off her shoes, stretched her shapely, nylon-clad legs out in front of her, and pointed her toes outward.
“Ahhhh. This is the way to travel. Not all cramped up in coach, but with plenty of room." She turned to Bill. "This tastes really good. I shouldn’t be drinking any more after that wine, but this is really good brandy. What kind is it?”
“Asbach-Uralt. A very good German brandy.” Bill held up the bottle so she could read the label. “I bought this bottle as I was leaving the airport.” He chuckled. "I've been kind of nipping on it all afternoon."
“Well, it certainly goes on my list of liquor that I like. More, please?” She held out her glass and with her fingers indicated just a little bit more. He poured her just that amount.
Molly leaned back, closed her eyes, and spoke. “What time do we arrive in Munich? I don’t remember.”
Bill pulled out his timetable and ran his finger down the listing for their train. “Ummm, we stop for an hour in Wurtzberg and ninety minutes in Nürnberg. Our arrival time in Munich is at … twenty-three thirty seven. If I’m not mistaken we should be hitting Wurtzberg right about now. I felt the train slow a bit ago and saw the fields changing to a more urban setting outside the window. It is eighteen forty-five now.”
“What time is that really? I can never get used to that sort of time.” Molly grimaced. “I always have to stop and do the math.”
“It’s what they call military time, but the European community uses the same time notation. Eighteen hundred is six PM, so eighteen forty-five is six forty-five PM. Just subtract twelve hours from any time over twelve hundred. Twenty-three thirty-seven is eleven thirty-seven.”
Bill had a strange feeling she really did know military time, but chose not to acknowledge that fact for some reason. He was sure that Canada used that time format also. Now was definitely not the ‘time’ to mention it though as they were beginning to be more comfortable with each other. Bill knew that the brandy helped but he was also determined to not screw up and frighten her by doing something incredibly stupid.
Molly moved to curl up on one side of the bench seat and turned to face Bill with her legs drawn up under her. She was swaying slightly to the movement of the train with her eyes half-closed, staring out the window at lights as they whizzed by. The room was getting dark now as the light outside began to fade; the tiny little blue emergency and night light began casting a delicate halo on her golden hair. 'Damn!' Bill thought. 'She really looks good to me – especially in my weakened state.' He hadn’t been near a woman socially in a very long time.
* * *
Molly felt contentment. She realized now that she was completely comfortable with Bill and that she had nothing to fear from him. He appeared to be very interested in her; almost to the point of romantic interest. She realized that he’d not said much about his love life back in Montana, only that he’d had a failed romance. She got the impression that this had occurred a long time ago. ‘Yes’, she told herself. ‘I could fall in love with this man’.
She felt her eyes closing in the warmth of the compartment. Their conversation, while not ever very rapid, began to slow even more, with longer pauses between sentences. Her chin drooped, her eyelids getting very heavy.
* * *
Rap! Rap! “Zugfuhrer!” The conductor called out. “Tickets, Bitte.”
Molly was startled into wakefulness. Bill hopped up and, after glancing at Molly, who just shrugged her shoulders and smiled, opened the door. There was no surprise in the conductor's eyes as Bill handed him his ticket. He looked over Bill's shoulder at Molly and raised his eyebrows in a friendly fashion. Molly asked Bill to get her purse from her compartment on the bench seat. He stepped between the two compartments, retrieved the purse, and handed it to Molly. She pulled the tickets out and they were duly punched by the conductor also.
“Gut. Sehr gut. Danke.” And he backed out of their room and closed the door with a smile and a wink at Bill; who smiled crookedly back at him.
When Bill turned back to Molly, she was now stretched out full length on the seat. “Too bad, Sir. You got up.” She taunted. “I’ve jumped your claim.”
“I’ve got to get you back into your room, Molly.” Bill said desperately. He knew he was on the verge of a giant leap forward which might very well frighten her. “Do you want to walk, or shall I carry you?”
“Oh, I doubt you could lift me, Bill. I’m pretty heavy.” Bill took that as a challenge because she looked at him and smiled again.
“I’ll give it a try.” He said, kneeling down at the edge of the bench and sliding his hands under her knees and behind her back. “Just relax now.”
As he said it, Molly's eyes closed, her head fell back, and a soft buzz came from her throat. She’d fallen asleep! He gently lifted her and when he did, she came partially awake and realized that he had actually lifted her. She threw her arms around his neck and snuggled her head into his chest.
“Je t’aime, mon amour.” She whispered into his chest. Bill's kitchen French told him what that meant. He thought that perhaps it was the wine and brandy that had spoken. Maybe it had, but hope sprung awake deep down inside him that she meant it.
Bill carefully maneuvered her through the small interconnecting door to her compartment and looked for a place to put her. He finally pushed her suitcase far enough down the bench with his knee to allow him to lay her out. As he did, she clutched him even tighter and murmured more French into his neck. It was so low and soft he didn’t catch it. “What?” He asked.
She replied dreamily, “I just said that it seems I’ve fallen in love yet again.”
Bill was kneeling at her side now, with her arms still around his shoulders. He brushed his hand across her forehead to move a lock of hair that had fallen into her eyes.
“I was thinking the same thing, Molly." Bill said, and then murmured almost to himself. “Je t’aime and I’d better get the hell out of here before I do something stupid.”
“What? Like make love to me? That wouldn’t be stupid, only a crime if you didn’t.” She murmured softly.
“There is nothing I would rather be doing right now than just that, but both of us have had quite a bit to drink today and this might only be the alcohol talking. You rest now, and I’ll go over to my room and splash cold water in my face for an hour.”
“So...kay, ummm, soooo sleeeepy…” and she faded out again. Bill cast his eyes around and spotted a thin coverlet. Quietly, he flapped it open and spread it out over her sleeping form.
Bill couldn’t resist. He bent and placed a final kiss on her lips, which brought a smile to her face, but not wakefulness; then tiptoed out of her compartment and back to his. Reluctantly, he closed the connecting door after watching for a moment to make sure she wouldn’t fall out of the seat.
© Copyright 2017 Tom Oldman. All rights reserved.
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