“Delphia, I need your help upstairs something quick!” Mort stopped the waitress as she rushed through the kitchen. She stopped and looked the manager full in the face to see if he was serious. He had a look of desperation as he mopped his brow.
“But…I’m a downstairs girl. I don’t go upstairs,” she argued. Mort nodded.
“I know, I know, that’s what I said, but we’re short handed upstairs and Mr. Sicero made a comment that…” Mort struggled to admit what the boss had said and was searching for different words. “Service is not up to par.” Delphia nodded.
“But what do you want me to do? I have tables,” Delphia was trying to keep her head from spinning in the kitchen chaos.
“They’re in the lounge, take a tray, ask if anyone needs refreshment, anything…anything they want. Try to pick up the empty glasses and replace the ashtrays without drawing attention to doing it,” Mort handed her a tray, “And damn it, don’t ask any questions or try to strike up conversation. In and Out. Now I’ll find someone to cover your tables.” Mort gave her a little push towards the staircase and hurried off in the opposite direction.
Delphia felt very unsure of herself. She didn’t want to go upstairs and screw up, but she couldn’t disobey Mort either. Still conflicted and in fear of losing her job, she hurried up the stairs. She appeared behind a bar manned by Seymour.
“Girl, you not supposed to be up here,” he said, warning her off.
“Mort sent me,” she squeaked. Seymour nodded.
“Then you better put your smile on and get along then.” He waved her towards the balcony lounge. She stopped just outside the door and looked back at him. He shooed her again, more encouragingly.
The room was filled with men. Their suits were well tailored and their shoes had a fresh shine on them. Mr. Sicero stood surveying the room, while his guests lounged on the furniture. They didn’t notice her. Another harried waitress nodded politely to one of the men as he ordered whiskey neat. She walked over to Delphia and whispered under her breath.
“I have the drinks, just clean up and keep your mouth shut!” she hissed. The upstairs girl headed out to Seymour. Delphia looked around the room and started to fill her tray with two empty glasses and discarded napkins. She kept her eyes on the floor. One of the men mentioned something about the race track. Mr. Sicero grumbled a response. Delphia went to another side table and reached for the ash tray. In one swift movement, there was a hand around her waist and she was pulled into someone’s lap. She yelped as her tray flew up and the upset glasses smashed on the floor. Every muscle in her body tensed up as everyone in the room stared at her. She tried to get up, but the man kept ahold of her.
The other waitress came in carrying drinks and stopped in her tracks at the sight of Delphia. Her eyes bulged and her lips were pulled tight as steam nearly poured out her ears. She was furious, but unable to say anything in front of the guests. Delphia finally turned to meet the gaze of her captor. He was smiling as he pulled a cigarette from his lips.
‘Blue eyes,’ Delphia’s brain thought stupidly.
“You gonna run off with my ashtray?” He followed it with a weird chuckle as he stubbed out his cigarette.
“Just…just to empty it, sir,” her voice was barely audible. Now he had both hands around her.
“Nah, how about you stay and have a drink instead,” he bounced her on his lap. Delphia clutched her tray to her chest mortified. “Hey, Red, bring another for her too.” He waved at the other waitress. She was frozen in place as she stared at him in disbelief.
“Micky!” Frank Sicero barked, “Not now!”
“Come on, I’m only playin’,” Micky pleaded lightheartedly. The smile never left his face.
“Let her go, she isn’t a showgirl,” Frank’s voice was steady, but forceful. More quietly, he added, “This isn’t the Cabaret.” The room remained silent. The distant music from the stage down below drifted through the air. Delphia watched as the smile slowly fell off of Micky’s face. He released her and held his hands open.
Very slowly she stood up, all eyes still on her. She bolted from the room and ran downstairs. All the way down to the underbelly of the supper club, where there were dressing rooms and storage rooms. She ducked into a room full of stage props and sunk to the floor. She tried to compose herself and hold back her tears, but she was mortified. Was she going to lose her job over this? She remembered the look on the other waitress’s face. Delphia was sure, that woman didn’t have anything nice to say.
After she had calmed down, Delphia poked her head out and made her way back upstairs. If she was going to be fired, she might as well get it over with and go home. She didn’t see Mort on her way to the dining room. She decided to busy herself folding napkins by the bar. He ended up finding her.
“What the hell happened up there?” Mort kept his voice low even as the color rose in his face.
“It wasn’t my fault. That man grabbed me before I even knew it. The glasses fell off my tray,” Delphia kept her jaw set.
“You’re lucky you’re not out on your ass, but Mr. Sicero said not to fire you.” Mort shook a finger at her, “But I’m docking your pay for the glassware!” Delphia gasped, she needed every cent of her pay. She couldn’t imagine how much the fancy tumblers from the lounge must cost.
“Hey-ah, how much those glasses run?” a voice chimed in behind Mort. The manager turned and was speechless at the sight of Micky. He couldn’t form words as the man pulled out a wad of cash and started counting it. Micky eyed him and gauged his reaction as he pulled out several bills. He flicked them at Mort’s chest and the old man clutched at them.
“Thank you, Mr. O’Kinney,” Mort stuttered. Micky jerked his head and the manager made himself scarce. Micky replaced him at the bar.
“We haven’t properly been introduced, I’m Micky O’Kinney,” he held out a hand, but she ignored him and continued folding.
“Look, see, I want to apologize for earlier. It was just a gag…” he fumbled as his words seemed to fall on deaf ears, “but I did mean it when I said I’d like to buy you a drink.”
“We’re not allowed to drink while we’re working,” she said flatly.
“Then afterwards, when your shift is over,” he offered. She paused mid-fold. The idea rolled around in her mind. She studied him out of the corner of her eye and looked him up and down. His suit was touch on the flashy side, but Delphia got the feeling it might be his only one or perhaps one of two. It wasn’t the eveningwear that many of the well to do patrons favored. More likely it was what he always wore. Sort of like Delphia’s fancy work dress. They were both trying to blend in. Micky fiddled with his watch chain as he pulled the time piece from his vest pocket. The chain was new, the timepiece was not, Delphia noticed.
It had been a long time since she had the opportunity for frivolity. The prospect of having a drink with a gentleman like a normal adult gave her butterflies in her stomach, then reality struck.
“No, I can’t. I have to go straight home and tend to my mother. She’s ill,” Delphia replied. She saw his face fall a little bit. “I mean it. She’s bedridden. I’m sorry.”
Micky O. quickly recovered. He straightened up and chuckled, “No problem, I understand.” He made a small motion to leave.
“I…I have Mondays off,” she added nervously. He stopped and looked at her again.
“I’ll be leaving town tomorrow, but I’ll be back eventually. Maybe a rain-check then?”
Delphia nodded. Micky O. slipped away into the crowd. She went back to folding napkins. Her mood was a little lighter.