1956 Buick Special

The trouble Glen had with Molly was that he wasn’t sure where he stood with her.  Sometimes she seemed to be practically dragging him to the altar–or to the bedroom–and other times she was aloof, as if she’d given up on him completely.  On the plane, she had talked at length about being single versus being married, and about feeling that she’d married too young, and how happy she was to be single again.  Then she’d blushed, as if she’d said too much, and tried to shift the subject to his feelings about marital status, but Glen hadn’t been inclined to discuss it, or to think about it really.  Molly ended up doing a crossword, not quite fuming but clearly wanting to. 

When he thought about it (there was a lot of time to, on the flight) he supposed that if they were actually dating she would have fumed.  Since they weren’t “official,” she couldn’t get away with it.

At times like this, it was clear that Molly was operating on what was (to her) a strict code of engagement.  Trouble was, Glen didn’t have the slightest idea what it was, or what the rules were, and he felt at a perpetual disadvantage as a result.  Jewel had been the same way, he realized, sinking into a brief, unwelcome reminiscence.  Molly’s clamming up when she caught herself saying something that might suggest she wasn’t interested in him, combined with the pains she took not to seem too interested, was very much like Jewel.  Their rules of engagement construed too much interest as desperation, and desperation was Bad.

He needed to respond one way or the other.  What he did instead was to think of Jewel.

Molly was nothing like her.  She had been a creature on the edge of everything–a camera-toting waif who was always eager to try the next diet, the next herbal remedy, the next thrill, the next drug.  Jewel made a point of shifting faces and moods and religions and miens so frequently that he never quite reached the point where he could stop asking himself if he really knew her.  And in the end of course it turned out that he didn’t.

Molly, on the other hand, was grounded.  She came across as being stable and sure of her place in the world.  Even if she was “between careers,” as she put it, she had none of Jewel’s metaphysical flitting.  Molly didn’t search for meaning in the way a particular walnut had cracked.

And yet, somehow, the two women shared this knowledge of an agenda, of a way that courtship was supposed to be arranged, and naturally that scared the shit out of him.  He felt like he’d arrived at a track all ready to race, but no one would tell him which side of the cones to drive on.

All that aside, they arrived in Ile du Soleil safely.  There wasn’t much to talk about, and they were both logy from the flight anyway, so they rode to Dobie’s house mostly in silence.  The driver Dobie sent didn’t engage them in conversation.

“It looks like Utah,” was all Molly said on the half-hour ride from the airport to Dobie’s house.

When they arrived, her garrulous nature returned with a vengeance.  “Oh my God!” she gasped when the house came into view.  She said it twice more, more quietly, before the car stopped.  “It’s bigger than some hotels!” she said.  “This is a house?”

Roger Ellison and Harold Arlington were on the porch, grinning from ear to ear.  Dobie and Lexi were nowhere in sight.  Glen had a brief struggle with himself, uncertain about what to introduce Molly as, if anything, not sure what she’d want to be referred to–girlfriend?  Friend?  Lexi’s friend?–and in the end he just let her introduce herself, which seemed to go over just fine.  If she was annoyed she didn’t let it show.

“Been here long?” he asked Harold and Roger, both of whom shook their heads.

“Five minutes,” Roger said.  “Barely long enough to look around the foyer.  Us all getting here at the same time tells me that someone’s travel agent is very good.  Dick Sheehan’s going to be here soon too.”

A young woman who couldn’t have been anything other than a maid was standing in the front door, and greeted them as they entered. 

“Is Lexi here?” Molly asked her.

“I’m sorry, miss, she’s not.  I’m not sure where she went or when she’ll be back.”

“Fair enough.  What about Dobie?”  Molly wanted to shriek with amazement–this was a house?–and talking was a good compromise between silence and noise.  Even if she was asking dumb, annoying questions.  She didn’t like not knowing what was going to happen next.  There was a powerful urge to grab Glen’s hand, just to hold it, but he might run screaming if she did, the way he’d been acting.  A smoldering ember of uncertainty in him had flared bright as soon as they met Roger and Harold.  She guessed that he couldn’t figure out where she fit–he wasn’t comfortable enough to do flirtiness and one-of-the-guys at the same time, and he was probably hoping to avoid a repeat of the junkyard episode.  Molly wanted more than ever to sit him down and make him talk, but she pushed the desire down yet again.  She wasn’t accustomed to doing that, and it was beginning to make a headache that would cheerfully turn into a migraine.  But hey, she was turning over a new leaf, treating Glen differently than her failed relationships past, right?  Somewhere behind all the frustration it was a good thing, she was sure of it. 

The maid led them to an airy dining room that looked like half of a restaurant (the half with the greenhouse seating).  The decor belonged to another category entirely, with apparently original art and custom-made chairs that belonged in no restaurant Molly had ever been to.  There was no sign of a kitchen.  The maid asked if anyone wanted drinks, and said Mr. Cassarell would be with them in fifteen minutes. 

“I can’t believe this place,” Molly said.  Harold seemed to agree with her, but just smiled and leaned back in his chair.  He had the air of a man who wore a suit to work every day, but had started out working with his hands and never lost respect for labor as a result.  The house’s ostentatiousness both impressed and offended the blue-collar guy he remained under the surface.  Glen had assumed a neutral air, as though he was in houses like this all the time.  Molly couldn’t read Roger, who seemed to be distracted but putting up a bold and smiling front.  Then she remembered; he was the one who had been sick.  Had Glen said he had cancer?  That couldn’t be right, not if he’d traveled halfway around the world.  She couldn’t remember what the illness was.

“Where does Dobie’s money come from?” Roger asked.

“Born to it, mostly,” Harold replied.  “There are so many little family businesses I couldn’t keep track of them all if I wanted to.”

“You think he’ll let us see the garage?”

“I hope so.”

“Lexi said she got to drive an old Grand Prix car,” Molly interjected.  “I don’t remember the name of it.  Something from the twenties or thirties.”

Harold said, “I think Dobie’s got a couple.  Bugatti, Alfa, can’t recall which.”

“Ferrari?” Glen suggested.

“I don’t think so.”  He considered, then shook his head.  “Naw, not a Ferrari.  No Italians, in fact, so not an Alfa either.”

“Do you guys always keep track of one another’s collections?” Molly asked.

“Oh, with the bigger collectors, like Dobie, you hear things.  It’s easier keeping up with your friends, because you can actually meet the cars.”

“We only have one or two each,” Glen added.  Molly smiled at him, and that seemed to reassure him in general.  “Harold has the two old Fords I think I told you about before, and a Suburban for driving around every day, and Roger drives a BMW M5.”

“That’s all?”

Harold laughed good-naturedly.  “What were you expecting?”

“I guess I’m just used to automotive pack rats like Lex.”  The maid returned then with a rolling cart stocked with drinks and snacks.  Molly shook her head.  “This is just wrong.  People really live like this?”