The taxi turned left onto Avenue Road. Arielle and Molly settled back into their seats.
"We're on our way," Molly stated.
Arielle smiled and nodded in reply.
"I'll say once more," Molly patted Arielle's hand. "It is wonderfully good of you to come with me. I did so want to make this trip. Gardens and gardeners are so special to me but the single supplement would have been prohibitive and at my age there are not many well enough to make this kind of a trip. Your mother didn't really pressure you, I know."
"Of course she did," laughed Arielle, "although it might be considered salesmanship. She can be very good."
Arielle could see Molly nodding her head in agreement.
"Mum's big points were," Arielle started to tick them off on her fingers, "I needed a big change to get out of myself, was the way she put it; you needed someone to go with you; while this might be a garden tour, my interest in cooking is vegetable oriented and surely there have to be vegetable and herb gardens; after England, I would appreciate the restaurants and cooking in France and Italy; I play, and am involved in, an awful lot of English and European music, and it's been a long time since I was there, and, I'll meet some new and interesting people.
"I could go on because she kept listing truths, like, she isn't well enough to go but would like an illustrated blow by blow account of the trip. She's already read more about the places than I have. I'm glad to be coming. Enough said."
The taxi wove its way onto Highway 401 west, heading toward Pearson International Airport Terminal 1.
Terminal 1 was still a zoo at 6 pm when they arrived at the departure desk. A charter company, adequate and suitable for their flight. The rest of the trip was first class.
Efficient Molly had a slightly larger than average suitcase with wheels which she could handle herself, and a many compartmented hand-bag.
Arielle lowered her big canvas tote-bag from her shoulder and swung the thin hand-bag inside it into her hands.
"Are we really supposed to put these name tags on?" Arielle asked Molly.
"I'm guessing the tour people want them for general identification purposes; for a head count more than specifically our names. But then again I suppose people have looked over the list and are curious as to how others stack up by their names." Molly made a few observations. "See the couple in his-and-hers track suits. They've got their name tags on. And those two women over there. One with the designer jockey-style hat over perfect hair with dressed-by-Tilley. And that man over there."
"The one who looks like Aaron Copland music," stated Arielle.
"That's interesting. Like?"
"Certain calm, clear ruggedness, about him. Still waters often run deep," said Arielle.
"You're attracted?" asked Molly.
"No. I'm past men," said Arielle with no trace of rancour. "About the travellers' list, did you look it over?" Arielle asked.
"Briefly," responded Molly.
"I was annoyed they put me as Ms A. Edwards. I usually arrange to be just A. Edwards. A for Anonymous. Avoids all kinds of bother."
"Avoid the inevitable gender count," said Molly. "Definitely more women. Ah, what does it matter? All of us over fifty, I bet."
"I'm beginning to believe that it takes age and wisdom for most people to become gardeners," commented Arielle.
"And by that time your knees and back won't take it," Molly added. "Check out Mr. and Mrs. His-and-hers Track Suits. Can you see them in a garden?"
"Cross-filing with my stereotypes, not really," said Arielle. "Our turn here. Can I lift your bag onto the scales?" Arielle set it up before Molly replied.
Boarding passes safely tucked into passports and into handbags, Molly and Arielle drifted toward the notice card held aloft that read: A Garden Tour of Europe. Mr. and Mrs. Martin and Isobel Bennett, Tour Directors.
"Now let me see," said the stylish jockey-hatted matron consulting her group list. She glanced at Molly, and then looked Arielle up and down very precisely. "You must be ..." she looked at Molly again, "Mrs.... Mrs.... Mrs...."
"Molly Barr," said Molly.
"Oh yes, I can tick you off."
You've already ticked me off, thought Arielle to herself.
"And your name?" Molly inquired.
"Grace," the woman stated, impatiently consulting her list.
"And you," said Grace with a hostile tone, "must be the Ms. My how I hate that. Never caught a man, and been to bed with too many is my interpretation of Ms." She looked knowingly around to see with whom she had scored.
Arielle stepped away from Grace and turned to look at the others in the group. Her eyes fastened on the tall lean sandy-grey-haired man, talking to two younger men. Enough resemblance to make them his sons, she thought. They don't look like Aaron Copland music though!
Grace walked around in front of Arielle. "Ms A. Edwards. What does the A stand for? Alice? Alva? Audrey? Annie? ..."
Molly could see Arielle bristling. She moved beside Grace and quietly said, "Her name is Arielle," and tried to steer Grace away.
"Arielle? Arielle? What kind of a name is that?" Grace's voice was louder than necessary.
Ever the conciliator, Molly said, "Perhaps, Grace, you could introduce me to some of the other ladies you have identified, I mean met."
Arielle could see Molly put a little pressure on Grace's elbow and steer her aside.
"Hello, everybody!" A cheery voice called out.
Arielle turned to see the large placard waving at the end of the stick.
"Welcome everybody, to A Garden Tour of Europe ... I'd ask you to make yourself known to me or my wife here. We'd like to start to get to know you all since we're going to be travelling together for the next two weeks ...."
A smiling wife poked the Tour Director and whispered something to him.
"Oh yes, my name is Martin Bennett and this is my wife Isobel. Call us Martin and Isobel. Now the most important thing to tell you at this point is that immediately clearing immigration and customs at Gatwick, we'll watch for a sign similar to this. That'll be our guide who'll take us to our coach, which will be our transportation for the next two weeks."
No one was particularly paying attention now, but Martin called out once again, "Make yourselves known to us ..."
"Or me," a voice called out. It was Grace. She looked at Martin. "I've already got fifteen of us identified. Hold up your hands, the ones I talked to."
"There they are: my friend Jean, Ross and Barbara, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips, and the Bobbsey Twins in their track suits." She consulted her list and rattled off women's names: "Lorraine. Marilyn, Helen, Peggy, Patti, Kath, Molly and Ar... Ara... Arielle," she smiled stiffly in Arielle's direction. "By the way, I'm Grace," and she beamed a big smile at the group.
"Thanks for the help, that will get the introductions underway. Please approach us, Grace, too, to make yourself known. Otherwise, see you all in London!"
Mr. Track Suit was standing beside Arielle and Molly. "The wife says there is always one bossy woman on every trip. Guess we know who it is on this one." Then addressing Arielle, he said, "What's a good-looking girl like you travelling with her mother?"
Arielle stepped back and turned her body sideways toward Molly, hopefully ignoring the question and putting enough space between herself and the man to avoid answering.
Right in her direct line of vision was Aaron Copland and his two sons. Grace was with them, flooding a smile at all three. "And there you are!" Arielle heard Grace say to the father.
Arielle notice one young man nudge the other and wink. The other gave a thumbs up toward the older man, who gave a serious negative shake of his head.
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