Home > An Ordinary Life(6)

An Ordinary Life(6)
Author: Amanda Prowse

Despite her reservations, Molly felt the first burble of excitement as she and Geer trotted up the steps of the Army and Navy Club, as the strains of Glenn Miller’s ‘I’ve Got a Girl in Kalamazoo’ drifted from behind the satinwood doors of the ballroom.

Geer shrugged her arms from her coat and threw it playfully at the cloakroom attendant with a grin, jiggling her shoulders, as if the dancing simply could not wait. Molly took her time, happy to be in the warm, as she pushed her scarf down into the empty sleeve of her coat for safekeeping, still unsure if coming along at all was a good idea or whether maybe she should make her apologies right now and run home to that slice of pickled brawn.

Suddenly the ballroom doors opened. Molly looked up and her eyes widened as her stomach flipped. She had never felt this strange surge of desire in all of its forms. It was like a magnet that drew her to him and him to her, so powerful it could only alter her course that evening and for the rest of her life.

She saw only one person and he was looking at her. He smiled and there was a sudden strange flutter of recognition in her chest, as though she already knew him.

As though she had always known him.

As though she’d been waiting for him.

‘Joe!’ Geer ran forward and threw her arms around her brother’s neck, pulling him close. Johan beamed and kissed his sister on the cheek, his fair hair flopping over his eyes, which never left Molly’s.

Everything she thought and everything she wanted became scrambled in her head, wrapped in an unfamiliar band of self-doubt. She stood still, suddenly not quite sure how to walk, where to place her feet, in which direction to cast her eyes or how to position her hands. Ridiculously, she wished she was wearing a clean blouse or even her tea dress, the teal one with the wide belt, and wished that she, too, had bothered to put on lipstick, like Geer. And curiously and selfishly, she also wished that Geer was not there at all.

‘You look skinny,’ Geer said, pinching his face. ‘Come and meet my friend! She’s absolutely marvellous! A whizz of a linguist, speaks three languages and beats me at cribbage every time.’ Geer grabbed Johan’s hand and pulled him towards Molly, whose heart raced.

‘Molly, this is Johan, my big brother, and Joe, this is Molly.’

‘Marvellous Molly, I believe.’ His smile was wide and easy.

He reached out to shake her hand and, as he did so, one of the brass buttons on the front of his tunic came loose and clattered to the floor, coming to rest by the toe of her shoe. Molly bent down and gathered up the small thing, which bore the stamp of a naval crest and a knot of rope on it. She held it out in her palm.

‘Your . . . your button.’ She cursed the wobble in her voice.

Johan reached out, but instead of taking the shiny button he closed his hand around hers, trapping it inside. ‘Keep it as a good-luck charm.’

The heat from his hands warmed a place deep inside her that she was quite unaware had been cold.

‘Thank you, I will.’

‘Now then,’ Geer said, clapping her hands, ‘you take Moll for a spin on the dance floor while I ask a nice young gentleman to help me with the beers.’ And with that she strode towards the bar, her fingers snapping in time to the tune as she went.

Johan was slow in removing his hand from hers. ‘A dance then, Marvellous Molly?’ He took a step closer and she breathed in the scent of him: a heady combination of cigarette smoke, hair oil and musky cologne.

‘I . . .’ What did she want to say? ‘I’m not the best dancer . . . I would love to dance . . . I feel nervous and excited all at once . . .’ Johan crooked his arm while her thoughts and mouth tried to catch up and she slipped hers through as they walked hip to hip towards the dance floor.

‘You know, Marvellous Molly, I should tell you now that if you don’t immediately say no to a dance, I will always assume it’s a yes.’

She smiled. Nerves and apprehension robbed her of the ability to speak clearly and openly the way she did each and every day. It was bonkers! She so wanted to present the best version of herself to this man, her smartest self. Molly coughed to clear her throat, as a new song began to play, ‘I’ll Be Seeing You’ – the deep, melodic tones of Billie Holiday masked the crackles and scratches of the record.

Johan pulled her close to him and she trembled from top to toe. He raised her hand and she rocked slowly against him in time to the music, with her head coming to rest beneath his chin, the button still held tightly inside her hand, inside his.

‘Do you prefer Johan or Joe?’ she asked, having heard Geer call him by the shortened nickname.

‘If it’s coming from your lips, Marvellous Molly, I really couldn’t care less,’ he said, squeezing her hand.

‘Please don’t call me that; I’m not in the least bit marvellous.’

‘Are you calling my sister a liar?’

She heard rather than saw the smile softening the question, and felt an answering one on her own lips. ‘No.’ The mournful lyrics and soft harmony spun them inside a web on the dance floor . . . The words were haunting, carrying a message of love and hope. It seemed as though they were the only two in the room. Molly felt a heady and unexpected surge of sexual attraction for this man, a low, grumbling desire in her gut. It was a powerful force that left her weak at the knees. Curling her fingers tightly against his, she instinctively wanted to reach up and touch his face, although it seemed inappropriate, given they had only just met.

‘In that case, I shall call you M – and everyone will think it’s short for Molly, but you and I will know differently. M for “marvellous”.’

‘Johan . . .’ she whispered, too quietly for him or anyone else to hear, but simply for the joy of hearing his name leave her mouth.

Across the room, Geer held up three bottles of beer in her hands by the necks and, with a cigarette between her teeth, smiled, jigging up and down on the spot, as if she might be just as delighted with this turn of events as Molly herself.

Johan pulled her closer. ‘Don’t look at her, M, don’t give her the satisfaction of knowing that for the first time in her life she’s done something I wholeheartedly approve of!’

‘Why, what’s she done?’ she asked, unashamedly fishing for the compliment.

‘Isn’t it obvious?’ he asked, pulling back just enough to hold her gaze. ‘She’s got us beer!’ And he laughed and she laughed too. This funny, handsome boy who had her all of a dither.

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