“BONJOUR, hello,” says the border guard, dressed in a tight-fitting navy blue uniform. He stands next to the car where Ryan and Jackie Murphy sit, neither quite sure how to proceed. They’ve never been to Montreal before, crossing from the United States into Canada, so they’re a bit shocked at how unguarded the international border appears to be, with little more than a few guard booths and a mechanical metal arm blocking their car’s path. Jackie assumed the guards would be wearing bright red uniforms, like the Mounties she’s seen on TV and movies. She pokes Ryan in the ribs, prompting him to respond to the uniformed guard, who is peering at them both with a quiet intensity.
“Bonjour!” Ryan begins as he runs a hand nervously through his dark brown hair, his high school French rusty after years of neglect. “Qu’est-ce qui se passe?”
“Ce qui vous amène au Canada? Puis-je voir votre passeport? Quelle est votre destination finale au Canada?” the guard rattles off in rapid-fire French.
“Uh-oh, now you’ve done it,” Jackie remarks, her brown eyes widening with concern.
“I take it you’re American?” the guard asks, switching to English.
Jackie and Ryan exchange a worried glance.
“Yes, sorry. What did you say before?” Ryan asks.
“I asked you what’s the nature of your business in Canada, your final destination, and to see your passports.”
“That makes sense,” Jackie says, passing their documents to Ryan.
“Usually when someone says ‘Bonjour, hello,’ in Quebec, it’s actually a question. We’re trying to see if you speak French or English.”
“Oh, I get it,” Jackie says. “So, I guess we failed the test?”
The guard smiles. “It’s not a test. What brings you to Canada, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy?”
“We’re here for a vacation. Just a one-night getaway, really. More of a staycation,” Ryan says.
“We’re heading to Montreal,” Jackie adds.
The guard nods and flips through each of their passports, noting the vast expanse of blank space.
“And you’ll be returning when?”
“Tomorrow evening,” Ryan replies.
“Any alcohol, tobacco or firearms with you today?”
Ryan and Jackie again exchange a worried glance.
“Do you get a lot of gun-toting Americans up here?” Jackie asks.
“Standard operating procedure, madame. Just answer the question.” The guard suddenly sounded a lot less friendly.
“None of the above,” Ryan cuts in quickly. “Just a pack of cinnamon gum.” He takes it out of the car’s cup holder and shows it to the guard with a flourish.
The guard gives them a quick once-over with his steely eyes, then apparently decides they’re no threat to the Canadian populace and stamps each of their passports.
“Have a nice trip,” he says, handing back their documents. He raises the gate in front of them, and gestures for the car behind them to approach the booth.
They both sigh in relief as Ryan rolls up the window and presses down on the accelerator. The car moves forward, and they’re in Quebec. Jackie points out a sign indicating the speed limit.
“A hundred miles an hour! That’s generous of them.”
“That’s kilometers per hour. Canada uses the metric system,” Ryan corrects her. “I bet they catch a lot of Americans speeding that way.”
As if he’s predicted it, a BMW blasts past them on the left, and a police car pops out of the shrubbery in the median up ahead, lights blazing. The BMW driver looks perplexed as they pass him, a confused expression painted on his face as the officer approaches his door, ticket in hand.
“We’d better be careful,” Jackie says. “Does our speedometer even have markings for kilometers?”
“Yeah, but they’re a lot smaller. Maybe we should’ve taken the train and then rented a car.” Ryan grimaces at the thought of a speeding ticket on foreign soil.
“Don’t worry, babe. We’re gonna be spending most of our day in bed, right?” Jackie rests her head on Ryan’s shoulder, snuggling into his flannel shirt.
“We’ll see,” he replies, and kisses the top of her head. “Hey, why don’t you get out the guidebook? We’re only an hour away. Let’s figure out what we want to do after we check in to the hotel.”
“Good idea,” she says, poking around in the glove compartment for the book she’d seen Ryan stash there earlier in the day.
“Naked Montreal: A Guide to the Sexy Side of the City?” she says, reading the book’s title. “Wow, you really do have something special planned for this weekend.”
“I told you we needed a change of pace. Did you know they call Montreal the Sin City of the North?”
“Meaning what? Gambling and strippers?” Jackie wrinkles her nose at the thought. She’d never been a fan of Las Vegas.
“Strippers, yes. And all kinds of naughty distractions.” Ryan wiggles his eyebrows suggestively.
“Gross. I’m not going to any strip clubs with you. This was supposed to be a second honeymoon, not a second bachelor party.” Jackie swats him on the arm.
“Okay, okay! I’m just kidding. There’s plenty of other stuff to try. They’ve got sex shops…”
“Now you’re talking.” Jackie conjures visions of the bra and panty sets she’s been eyeing in the Victoria’s Secret catalogue. “Lots of lace?”
“More like lots of leather,latex and cut-out crotches,” Ryan says, holding one hand up and making a rude gesture with his tongue. His green eyes twinkle with mischief.
“Ugh, why do you always have to ruin it?”
“What? Can’t a guy dream? Besides, you’re my wife, Jackie. I’d love to see you dress up in something a little risqué now and then. Especially this weekend. I thought we agreed to have some fun?”
“Sure, but I think we have slightly different definitions of the word ‘fun,’” Jackie says. She pouts her lips and crosses her arms over her ample breasts.
“Isn’t making love fun?” Ryan teases.
“Of course it is. God, I can’t even remember the last time we did it. We’ve been so damn busy building the business that I’ve lost track of everything else.”
“I know, babe. That’s what this weekend is all about: forgetting about the business for a couple of days, relaxing in a beautiful suite, and checking out all of the hot spots in Montreal.”
“Sounds romantic. Can we go see Leonard Cohen’s house?” Jackie asks, popping in her favorite CD. Cohen’s gravelly bass begins to flood the car, and she sighs with pleasure.
“Only if you agree to wear some of that sexy French lingerie,” Ryan replies.
“Lace. Not leather,” Jackie says, offering a conciliatory handshake.
“Not even a little leather trim?”
“We’ll see. But no crotchless panties.”
“How about no panties at all?”
“Deal,” Jackie says, leaning back in her seat and watching the scenery go by.
Soon the flat, empty landscape gives way to scattered farm buildings, then housing developments, then more suburban areas. Jackie looks at all the confusing French road signs and wonders what they mean, hoping Ryan can decipher them all.
“Good thing we have the GPS,” he says, as if reading her mind. “These signs are, as they say in French, trés fou.”
“Exit right in 2 kilometers,” the GPS voice announces. “Approaching Jacques Cartier Bridge.”
“Ooh, we’re almost there,” Jackie squeals. “Is there a toll?”
“I don’t think so. The guidebook didn’t say anything about a toll, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they tried to spring payment on you like on the Tobin at home.”
No real need to include this.“Do Americans still have to pay Canadian parking fines?” Jackie wonders aloud.
“Beats me. Wow, this is huge.”
Both marvel at the enormity of the St. Lawrence River, rushing far below the bridge, and surrounding the city as far as the eye can see. The black water beneath them looks ominous, yet the lights of the city sparkle, beckoning the couple forward to untold pleasures.
“Here we are, the Queen Elizabeth Hotel,” Ryan finally says, pulling the car up to the front of an enormous hotel.
“Wow, this place looks expensive. Are you sure we can afford it?” Jackie asks, watching Ryan hand the car keys over to a valet.
“Relax, Jackie. I told you, one night in Montreal is just what we need. I’ve taken care of everything.”
“Madame et monsieur, bienvenue au Fairmont Le Reine Elizabeth,” says a porter, approaching from the cavernous entryway. “Welcome to the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth. May I help you with your bags?”
“Oh, thank you. I hope it’s not too heavy,” Jackie jokes, handing over her overnight bag.
“Not at all, madam,” the porter says, either ignoring or not getting the joke. He leads the way into the hotel and up to the main reception desk, where Ryan gives their name.
“Ah, Mr. and Mrs. Murphy! We’re so glad to meet you,” says the woman at the front desk, whose nametag indicates her name is Amélie. “The John Lennon and Yoko Ono Suite is almost ready for you. Would you prefer breakfast in bed or the breakfast buffet?”
“Ooh, breakfast in bed sounds perfect,” Jackie says, snuggling up to Ryan.
“The lady has spoken,” Ryan tells Amélie. “Breakfast in bed it is.”
“Very good, sir. Let me just get you the key, and everything else should be waiting for you upstairs.”
“Thank you,” Ryan says, accepting the keys.
“This way,” the porter says, steering them toward a large gilded elevator. Ryan and Jackie follow as he effortlessly carries their luggage and holds the doors open for them. A few moments later they step out onto the 17th floor of the hotel and enter room 1742.
“Wow, is this the place?” Jackie asks, once the porter has left them alone in the suite.
“Yep. The site of John and Yoko’s infamous Bed-In.”
“Look, there they are!” Jackie points to a framed photo of the couple on the wall.
“And here’s the gold record for ‘Give Peace a Chance,’” Ryan says, admiring its glow against the hotel’s wallpaper.
“Is this the same bed?” Jackie asks.
“I hope not! 1969 was a long time ago, you know,” Ryan chuckles.
“Good point. Do you think a lot of people drag the mattress off and sleep on the floor?”
“Maybe. Or bring their guitars and jam out all night long.”
“Yikes. I hope no one thinks we’re swingers, staying in this room,” Jackie says, pondering the photos full of bead-bedecked hangers-on and bearded hippies surrounding the famous couple.
“Don’t worry. I’ll put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign,” Ryan says.
“Sounds good to me. I want you all to myself, and I’d rather give sheets a chance,” Jackie says, suggestively rubbing against Ryan and nibbling on his ear.
“Me too, babe. But first let’s grab some lunch. I’m starving, aren’t you?”
“Now that you mention it, yes. Where should we go?”
“How about this place?” Ryan asks, pointing to a page in the guidebook.
Jackie peers at the photo and sees a naked Asian woman decorated with elaborately made sushi. “Nyotaimori – the art of eating sushi off a naked woman? Um, I know I said I wanted to try new things this weekend, but that just sounds unhygienic.”
Ryan laughs. “Okay, maybe so. Besides, I’m not sure the two of us could eat all that sushi. I think you need a party of ten for something like that. What sounds good to you?”
Jackie flips through the book’s assorted options, brushing past the suggestion of “sexy breakfast” – featuring pictures of topless waitresses serving stacks of pancakes – and heading towards the less threatening lunch options.
“Ooh, what about fondue?” she asks, pointing out a picture of a creamy looking pot of cheese and a succulent piece of beef on a metal skewer just waiting to be dipped.
“If it’s fondue my lady wants, it’s fondue my lady shall have,” Ryan announces.
“Let’s not be too cheesy,” Jackie jokes.
“It’s nothing but curds and whey from now on,” Ryan returns, pointing to a picture of poutine.
“The national dish of Quebec? What is it, anyway?” Jackie asks.
“French fries, gravy and cheese curds, it says. Talk about a heart attack on a plate.”
“It’s probably great after a night of drinking,” Jackie muses. “Speaking of which, are we going to sample any of the local spirits?”
“But of course!” Ryan says, pointing out several bookmarks. “I’ve already got a few in mind. There’s even a maple syrup cocktail.”
“Hmm. I think I prefer my maple syrup on pancakes. Or cock.” Jackie flashes Ryan a mischievous grin.
“Don’t even say stuff like that or we’ll never leave this room,” he growls. “You’ve already got me hard with all that French lingerie talk.”
“Come on, sexy, let’s lick some fondue and then we can suck on something else for dessert.” She gives him a flirtatious wink, flips her long brown hair over one shoulder, and sashays towards the door.
“Bien sûr, mon cher!”