Reunion in San Francisco
"I've never entered a theater through the stage door," Victoria said. "How thrilling."
Molly laughed as she held the door open. "I don't think I've gone in any other way. Now backstage is that way, but it sounds like they're rehearsing, which means Bill is probably in the audience. He likes to direct from there." Molly opened the door and allowed Victoria to precede her.
"That's better," the tall, curly haired man in the front row said, "but let's take it again from line sixty three." He turned when he heard the door open. "I'm sorry, ladies," he said, "we're not open yet, but if you'd care for tickets to tonight's performance, I'd be happy to oblige you."
"Speak that trippingly on the tongue, Bill," Molly said.
"Who is. . . ? Molly? Moll, my girl," he said, running two steps then hugging her so hard her feet left the floor. "What brings you here?" He set her down and held both her hands. "Aren't you quite the lady, I wouldn't have recognized you! Mick," he said over his shoulder, "would you take over the rehearsal?"
"You have an A.D?" Molly said. "My, you have come up in the world."
"As have you, Moll, to all appearances. Where have you been keeping yourself? We've all missed you."
"Do you know where everyone is? I'm getting married in Stockton in June and I want to invite the old company. Oh, forgive me, Victoria. May I present my old friend, Mr. William Davis? Mrs. Victoria Barkley, my future mother-in-law."
"I'm very pleased to meet you," Victoria said, smiling.
"Barkley?" Bill asked. "Molly, you're not marrying one of the Stockton Barkleys?"
"Indeed, I am," Molly grinned.
Bill shook his head, amazed. "Forgive my manners, Mrs. Barkley," he said, bowing over her hand, "but this all comes as quite a surprise."
"Think nothing of it," Victoria said. "Perhaps you'd allow me to wander around this lovely old theater while you and Molly bring yourselves up to date?"
"As you wish, Mrs. Barkley," Bill said. He sat Molly down in a theater seat, and sat beside her. "Now, Moll, which of the handsome Barkley brothers could you be about to marry?" He held up an admonishing finger as she opened her mouth to answer. "Let me read your mind." Molly chuckled. Bill looked into her eyes. "Let's see. Someone tall, dark. A crusader. A passion for justice. That would have to be Mr. Jarrod Barkley."
"Boy, you're good," Molly said. "You and Victoria could team up and take that show on the road."
"Ah, Moll, do you think that after all those late night suppers I don't know your heart? You'd have to have someone who wants to make the world better, wouldn't you? I don't have to ask if you love him - you're positively glowing - but does he love you?"
"No," Molly said, "he's marrying me for my money."
"I just want to be sure he'll be good to you, Moll."
"He is, Bill. He's tender, and sweet, and kind and compassionate. And brilliant, and witty, and. . . ."
"Stop, Moll. If you're going to enumerate all his virtues, I can see we'll be here all night."
Molly laughed. "So may I ask you a favor, Bill?"
"Anything, Moll, you know that."
"You know that my family was killed in the war, so I have no one to give me away. Would you do me that honor?"
Bill gasped. "Ah, Molly, you do me too much honor. What would your new grand relations think of that, an old Pantaloon like me?"
"They already know, and they think it's fine. They're not like you're imagining them, Bill, really. They just want Jarrod and me to be happy."
"Then I'd be honored, Molly." Bill pulled a bandana out of his pocket and wiped his eyes.
"Do you know where the rest of the troupe is?"
"Well, Stella is home nursing a cold, right now."
"You two haven't gotten married, finally?"
"Aye, about a year ago," Bill said.
Molly whooped and hugged him. "Oh, hurray! I want Stella for an attendant, so this is perfect."
"I believe she's kept in touch with everyone - let me have your address and I'll see that she writes you."
"Could both of you have dinner with us tonight?" Molly asked.
"Now, Moll, you know we never dine before a performance."
"Supper, then. After the show."
"Aye, I think Stella will be well enough for that. I don't think wild horses will keep her away when I tell her. I'll leave your name at the door for tonight's performance if you care to attend."
"We'd be delighted, Bill." Molly hugged him. "I'll let you get back to your rehearsal. We'll see you tonight."
Bill kissed her. "Every happiness, Moll. You deserve it."
"I really like your friends," Victoria said the next day on the train back to Stockton.
"I'm glad," Molly said. "They like you, too, once they got over the idea you were some kind of duchess."
"You know, Molly, just when I think you can't seem any happier, you surprise me."
"Well, not only does my future seem blindingly bright, but it seems all the pieces of my past are beginning to stitch themselves together."
"Good, Molly," Victoria said. "You should be whole."
"I'm becoming so, I think. I hope. I'd certainly like to give Jarrod a whole woman for a bride."
"Ah, Molly, marriage would be a big bore if both of you were perfect," Victoria said.
Molly laughed. "It's still months away, and I don't know how I'm ever going to be ready - the dress especially. I want to spend what free time I have with Jarrod, but I need to find time for sewing, too."
"There are dressmakers, Molly. You don't have to do everything yourself."
"Oh, but I want to. I'll just have to find time, somehow."
"Don't tire yourself. You want to have energy for that honeymoon, don't you?"
"Victoria! Really!" Molly blushed, then laughed. "Ah, yes, well, I do. Did Jarrod tell you he wants to take me to France?"
"No, he didn't, but what a lovely idea."
"I'm not so sure," Molly said.
"What's bothering you, Molly? Don't you want to go?"
Molly frowned. "I'm not marrying him for his money."
"No," Victoria said, "but he has money, nonetheless."
"And I need to accustom myself to that?"
"Sooner or later. Sooner would be better. You know, Jarrod is not at all extravagant. He dresses well, as befits his profession, but that's the only thing he really spends money on. You might consider if he has a practical reason."
"What practical reason could there be for going to France?" Molly asked.
"Well, he's not licensed to practice law there," Victoria observed.
"Ah," Molly said, "if I want my husband to myself, I'm going to have to get him out of the country?"
"You know Jarrod. What do you think?"
"I think - I think we're going to France for our honeymoon," Molly said.
Victoria looked out the window and smiled.