This hadn't gone according to plan, thought Frank. Not according to plan at all. Why, instead of holding out a hand to accept his ring and then kissing him, Mary had given him a sad look.
"No, Frank, I can't," she'd said. "I'm sorry, I hoped it wouldn't come to this. You're a fine man but-that's not the way I feel about you and I've really had no plans to remarry." Indy, Marion thought wickedly, would die if he found out how many times she'd given that particular speech.
"But Mary, isn't it time for you to leave the past behind? I understand your respect for your late husband's memory, I'm sure he was a good man.."
"Her late husband-my friend Colin-" interrupted a voice from the doorway "was the thousandth man-the one who'd go with you to the gallows foot and after. He was a far better man than you'll ever be."
Frank wheeled and faced his rival. " I don't recall anyone inviting you into this private conversation, Jones."
'"That's Dr. Jones, to you, mac" Indy snapped. "And for your information, Marion's son came to get me because he saw you giving her trouble, Dr. Thompson." Indy's hand strayed to the spot on his belt where his bullwhip usually rested. "I'd think twice about that if I were you."
Frank frowned. "Marion?"
"Yeah. That's her name-and you don't even know it. Give it up, pal. She's out of your league."
"Out of yours, too."
"Maybe so. But then I realized that a long time ago." Indy bounced on his heels, slightly, and the hands at his sides curled into fists. He looked at Marion.
"I can throw this blowhard's ass out in the snow if you want me to, honey." he offered hopefully.
Frank took as step closer "Is that a threat?"
"No, it's a promise and I-",'
Marion put her hands on her hips and glared both both her suitors. "If I were still running the first Raven"-she exchanged a meaningful look with Indy- "I'd be telling you boys to take your beef outside. But since we're here I'm telling you right now to stop making idiots of yourselves in my house. We're just getting ready to serve Christmas dinner and"-she finished furiously-"if you don't have enough respect not to fight over me like two dogs with a bone, you both should have some respect for Ox!
She turned to Frank. "You're welcome to stay and eat, Frank. I'm sure Linda would like-"
"I think I'd prefer to leave, thank you, " he answered stiffly. Frank turned on his heel and brushed past Mutt and Jose Luis, who were standing in the door.
"Yeah and don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out" Henry Jones III muttered under his breath. He shot his father a triumphant grin, which he wiped off his face as his mother turned to Indy.
"And as for you, Henry Jones," she said, "please remember I'm not a young girl who needs your protection.I'm a grown woman who take care of herself, thank you very much."
"I know you can" Indy answered. The ghost of a smile curled his lips. "Except when there's a thunderstorm, of course..."
"Oooo...you...Jones!" Words failed Marion, so she turned to her assembled menfolk. "Now for God's sake all of you, stop standing around and start making yourselves useful while I go get Ox. He should be sitting in a chair to carve."
Before he picked up his platter, Jose Luis turned to Indy and slapped him on the back.
"Women!" he said, " I ask you, compadre, who can understand them?"
"Certainly not me, my friend" said Indy answered with a sigh. "Certainly not me."
The prime rib was meltingly tender, Ox carved with a master's hand and the buffet table groaned under the array of festive dishes laid out upon it. Marion, Indy noted, stayed determindly bright-faced and busy-and out of his reach. So he took his plate and beat a strategic retreat to the knot of archaeology students in the den. Indy was deep in a discussion of the Dead Sea Scrolls when he felt a tug on his arm.
"Wingman reporting in, Daddy-O " said Mutt in his ear. "The mission's running a little behind, but Mom's having dessert and coffee in the living room. There's a nice clear spot by the fireplace and yours truly has put up a sprig of mistletoe."
Indy stood, excused himself from the group, and patted his breast pocket.
"Let's go, son" he said. "You know, kid ," he added on the way, "The first time I propsed to Marion, it was 1926 and we were sitting in my tent on a dig outside Cairo. The second time I took her to Tavern on the Green in New York. The third time we were stranded in the jungle. So far I've racked up two 'yesses', one 'no' and no wedding yet."
"Let's see if we can change that, Pops", said Mutt.
When they arrived at the living room, Mutt motioned for his mother to come over.
"Mom," he said firmly, "Indy has something he's been trying to say to you. And I know you've been busy but it's Christmas and you've got to let him have five minutes.'
He looked at his father affectionately.
Indy put an arm around his beloved and led her over toward the fireplace.
"Marion you know I love you," he began softly. "And I've just got no words for what it means to me to be back in your life. I'll stick around as long as you'll have me, baby. But I don't want to just be your backdoor man. I want to be more than your lover. I want to be your husband, and spend the rest of my life with you. So I'm asking you again, in front of our son,-Marion Ravenwood, love of my life, will you marry me?"
Marion took a deep breath and licked her lips. Indy saw the tiniest shake of her head begin and his heart sank. Love's a crapshoot, Jones. Looks like you rolled snake eyes this time. He reached out a finger, to gently touch her cheek. It's OK if you don't want to, he meant to say. I understand. But what came out instead was "Won't you come to your Indy, Freckle Face? He needs you so."
Marion's eyes filled up, and she made a little sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a sob. She took a step forward or maybe he did, and her arms went around his neck and his arms locked around her. And then her mouth opened sweetly under his, and he was kissing her, kissing her for all he was worth, not caring that they had started to draw an audience.
When they finally came up for air, he kept her snugged tight into his side and tipped up her chin. "So, Bright Eyes, was that a kiss-off or a yes?"
"Indy, you big dope, that was a 'yes'."
"I'm holding you to it, and"-he smiled down at her-"I have something for you. Two somethings, in fact." Indy reached into his pocket and pulled out a small twist of cloth.
"Some years ago "he said softly "a young man, as young men do, fell in love with a girl.
One day, he went into the nearest big town, which in his case was Cairo, and bought her a ring. But when he came back to give it to her, she was gone, and… he didn't see her again for a very long time." He pressed his lips together briefly. "But he kept the ring, and her picture, to remember her by. He thought he could never love anyone again as much as he'd loved her, you see."
Indy untwisted the silk and shook out a gold circlet inlaid with chips of lapis lazuli as blue as the Egyptian sky-or Marion's eyes.
He put it into Marion's hand, and she smiled "I don't think it will fit, Indy."
He could tell her later that he'd had it sized. "Give me your right hand, and we'll try."
He slid it over the knuckle and down her finger then he raised her hand to his lips.
"Young men," he continued, "are sometimes foolish. I didn't think I could love you more. I was wrong." Indy took the blue box from Tiffany's out of his breast pocket. "Will you wear this for me, too?"
Marion recognized Anna Jones' sapphire from her first engagement ring and her eyes suddenly stung with tears.
Indy saw them and hugged her close. "Yes, it's my mother's stone", he said into her ear, "because she'd want you to have it. But I had it put in a new setting, for a new beginning. Is that all right, honey? If it's not I can go to Cartier's and get you another ring…."
Instead of answering, Marion stood up on her tiptoes and the kissing resumed.
Mutt looked at his oblivious parents and the whispering guests, and decided there was only one thing to do. He cleared his throat.
"Well, everyone," he said "could I have your attention, please? Since, um, you're all here and they're, ah, busy- I guess I have an announcement to make. My mother has just accepted Dr. Jones' proposal of marriage. So how about a hand for Mom and her new fiancé?"
Then he turned to the loving couple and muttered, "Geeze, would you break it up, you two? You're embarrassing me in front of my friends."
Marion and Indy broke it up and turned, flushed and smiling, to receive the guests' applause.
Later that evening, Indy stood in the foyer, with one arm around Marion's waist, as the last few stragglers said good-night. He kept up a mask of pleasant urbanity, but his eyes shone as he shook hands and accepted congratulations and well-wishes. When the door finally shut, he couldn't resist leaning down for a kiss. Thirty years, one kid, and a shitload of mileage, but she's still my sweet baby… He smiled, and let his mind drift to that big soft bed upstairs, and the blue satin negligee that Marion hadn't worn for him yet….
Marion tucked her head onto his shoulder and smiled back tenderly. Then she took his hand, and led him toward the…kitchen?
What the hell?
"Party's over" she said cheerfully, "so I guess it's time for KP."
Marion pushed the swinging door, and Indy discovered a knot of teenagers –well, young adults-congregating near the sink and table.
"Hey!" called Mutt, "come to join in for dish duty?"
Before Indy could speak, a pretty brunette in a plaid skirt and a cashmere sweater put her hands on her hips and planted herself in front of his son.
Her ponytail bounced as she stamped a foot and said "Henry Williams, what is the matter with you?"
Mutt looked baffled. "Whaaaa…? What did I do?"
"Look AROUND, you doofus" said the girl. "You've been living in this house since before we all went to eighth grade at St Anthony's! Does it LOOK like a barn?"
"What are you talking about, Frankie, of course it doesn't!"
"Then stop acting like you were raised in one! Your mom and Dr. Jones just got engaged, for Pete's sake, and you want her to do dishes?"
The miniature dynamo-who reminded Indy very much of some else he knew- turned her back on Mutt, smiled sunnily, and held out a hand.
I'm forgetting my manners," she said. "How do you do, Dr. Jones, and congratulations. I don't think we've been properly introduced. I'm Francesca Giuliani. Most people call me Frankie Lee."
Indy remembered the very few, very carefully casual things Mutt had let fall about Frankie. And he suddenly realised the significance of all the things his son hadn't said. That girl from the church is the one he flirts with, but this is the girl who matters, oh, no doubt about it…
"So," Frankie continued, "why don't you two go relax in the den? There's not all that many dishes and" she shot the assembled group a significant look, "we can police them no problem."
Marion wasn't quite convinced. "Frankie, honey there's dishes all over hell's half acre. I can't leave you kids to clean up by yourselves."
"Of course you can, Mrs. Williams, well I guess I should be saying Mrs. Jones" Frankie answered.
One of the boys put in "That's right ma'am. You know how many of have worked in restaurants; some of us have even worked for you. We'll handle the cleanup just fine."
Frankie favored him with a dazzling smile, and turned briskly to her friends.
"Connie and 'Retta, why don't you start on the glasses, they should get washed first and we all know the boys will drop them. A couple of you guys can scrape the plates and take the scraps out, right? DeeDee, can you and Steve go through the downstairs and look for stray cups and stuff?"
"Why are you sending them, sugar?" Mutt put in "They'll just find a corner and start-
"Shut UP, Williams", snapped another boy, presumably Steve.
Frankie gazed at Mutt with innocent brown eyes. "I thought you could stay and help me, Mutt," she replied sweetly.
Mutt ran a comb through his hair. .
Indy bit his lip to keep the grin from showing. If young fellas go for women like their mothers, we may be seeing a lot of this one. She's got that kid wrapped around her little finger, and he hasn't got a clue. Or maybe just he likes it, same as his old man…
The young woman in question was still directing traffic. "Sharon," she said, "there should be some wine left on the bar, why don't you go get a bottle and two glasses? Tommy, you head for the den and put some music on the hi-fi, alright?"
"What kind of music do you want?" Tom wanted to know.
Frankie sighed. "Oh for cryin' out loud, do I have to do all the thinking for you? It's not for me, it's for them. So get parent music- you know, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra…"
"One-way ticket to Squaresville, comin' up." Tom sketched a wave and ducked out.
Indy smiled. "I can't find any fault with your plan, Miss Francesca. So if you'll all excuse us?"
He offered Marion his arm but she didn't take it. "I'll just get them started, Indy…"
Indy's patience was at an end. This could go on all evening, he'd waited long enough, and it was his goddamn turn. He judged his moment, shifted his weight, than lunged at Marion and swung her over his shoulder.
The teenagers laughed and whistled. "Way to GO, Daddy-O!" said one of the boys.
"My Dad couldn't do that in a million years" added another.
Mutt rolled his eyes.
Marion addressed the love of her life in firm, yet reasonable tones.
"Henry Jones. Put me down. NOW."
Indy's grin was all mischief. "Make me…"
There was a muffled sound of protest by his ear, but Indy had expected that.
Calmly, he covered his beloved's clenched fist with one big hand. "Tell you what, beautiful," he said. "I'm a reasonable man so I'll give you a choice. You can walk to the den under your own power, or I can carry you. But you're not doing dishes tonight."
Marion inhaled a long-suffering breath, and said "I'll walk."
Indy set her down as though she were a priceless artifact, put an arm around her waist and led her away.
When the den door closed behind them she gave Indy a dangerous look.
"I'll get you for this, Jones," she said.
"Sweetheart, if I'm lucky you will, sometime before tomorrow morning. And I'll love every minute. But" his face softened "this has been a long time coming- can't we just enjoy it now?"
She tipped her head up to look at him. "You really mean that, don't you?"
"I do. Which"-he added-"I mean to be saying to you very soon."
"Oh, Indy..." Marion sighed, and subsided onto the sofa. Indy poked the fire, turned down the lights and poured then both a glass of wine.
As he sat down beside her, the hi-fi clicked and a record dropped down the spindle to the turntable. The tone arm landed, and the cozy room filled with the mellow swing of Count Basie and the smoky silk of Miss Ella Fitzgerald.
Anyone can wish for all the trinkets in the window
Some can even buy the things they see
But the presents that I want
You'll never find in any window
Bring me love and bring it just for me...
Solemnly, they touched their glasses and drank a silent toast. Indy looked down into those eyes. There were so many things he wanted to tell her, that couldn't make it past the lump in his throat. But this, thank God, was Marion. He was pretty sure she understood them anyway.
"Do you remember" he said at last, "Abe's Christmas party when you wore that green dress? And you looked so beautiful and grown-up that I didn't recognize you?"
"Of course I do." She put her head on his shoulder. "You were just back from Paris, and so handsome in your suit and tie. All the girls were looking at you, but I was hoping you'd notice me."
"Notice you? God, did I ever-I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. Do you remember what you said to me?
Marion put down her wine and took her Indy's face in her hands.
"Yes" she said softly, "and I'll even say it again."
"Merry Christmas, Indy. Welcome home."