“Wait up there, Dollface, where’s the fire?” Micky stopped Delphia from passing him at the bar of Libellule. He snatched her notepad out of her hand and held it out of reach.
“Micky, I need that!” she tried to reach for it and failed. “I work for tips, you know.”
“I just want a little of your time. You’ve been ignoring me all night,” Micky said.
“It has been very busy; this is peak season. It’s to be expected.” She had tried very hard to be attentive to her tables and resist the urge to loiter at the bar.
“I’m a little lonely over here though,” replied Micky.
“I’m sorry, but I have to get back to my tables,” Delphia made another grab for the notepad.
“First, tell me what time your shift is over,” Micky said.
“Around midnight,” Delphia bit her lip. She knew what was going to be asked next and she hoped she would be able to keep to the script Moira prepared for her.
“How about a drink afterwards?” Micky asked.
“No…I mean, I can’t…I got a second job. I need to go home and sleep for a few hours.”
“A second job, huh? Where at?” Micky scratched his chin.
“At the Cabaret mending costumes during the day,” Delphia said, “My mother…left behind a few debts. Once they’re paid off, I’ll have more free time. I promise.” She laid a hand lightly on his arm, a gesture of sincerity. He studied her gaze, then finally nodded. He plucked the pencil from behind her ear and scribbled on the pad before handing it back to her.
“My room number…if you don’t feel like walking all the way home.” He handed her things back to her. “I’m out of here tomorrow afternoon.” He turned and went to passage that led upstairs. Delphia was left standing alone with the crowd bustling around her. She tore off the note and stuck it with her tips.
Less than eight hours later, Delphia sat in the wardrobe room of the Cabaret. She yawned and tried to focus on the feathers she was sewing onto a waist band. She had thought Moira’s plan was a good one, but hadn’t fully thought through Moira’s suggestion that she actually work at the Cabaret. It was turning out to be harder than she anticipated.
It didn’t help that she had stayed at Libellule until one. She had decided to try and sleep in the dressing room, but that was also a lost cause. Performers went in and out even after closing time. They had their own after party well into the night. She eventually took the passageway over to the Cabaret and ducked into the wardrobe room. The other seamstress shook her awake at 6am and administered a few disapproving words.
She blinked and squinted as she pushed the costume away. Her eyes and her fingertips hurt. Straining in the dim light and accidentally stabbing her fingers was taking its toll. She grabbed a hanger and tried to get the costume to drape neatly. There just wasn’t much to hang it by. She reattached a paper tag that said the dancer’s name to the hanger and hung it with the other ones. Ethel, the other seamstress came in, her arms laden with freshly ironed capes.
“Help me with these, will you?” she grunted. Delphia started grabbing the hangers and putting them on the rack.
“Is there anything else that needs to be done today?” she asked. Ethel sighed as her arms were freed from the weight.
“I need you to find new seashells to replace the ones that fell off Bea’s Poseidon bodice, but you can do that in the morning after the tide goes out. The shoobies will have picked up anything decent by now.” Ethel picked up the bodice from the work table and pointed at the missing shells. “Memorize that color. I want them to match.”
Delphia took the delicate bodice and spent several minutes trying to catalogue each missing shell in her mind, but she was so tired. She finally gave up when she realized she had been entranced by the swirl on a particular shell for several minutes. She pushed the bodice away.
“Alright, I’ll go straight to the shore in the morning and then I’ll be in,” Delphia said. Ethel barely looked up from her inventory list as she flipped through the costumes.
“That’s the spirit, Miss Fitzgerald.”
Delphia emerged onto the sunny boardwalk from the shade of the alleyway. She stood there for a moment and watched the passing tourists. She thought about the long walk home and how tired she was. She dug in her pocket and pulled out a crumpled order ticket. Moira’s voice echoed in her head about being ‘unavailable’ and setting up dates on her own time, not a man’s schedule. Delphia bit her lip. Perhaps I could at least get a ride, she thought. She joined the bustle of people moving on the boardwalk and made her way to the Cormorant.
The concierge at the front desk barely noticed her as she crossed the lobby to the elevator. Of course, her dress was much nicer this time and she blended with the clientele thanks to Moira. The lift attendant took her to the appropriate floor with an earnest, ‘Yes, Miss!’ She stepped off and waited for the doors to close before walking down the hallway, observing room numbers. She stopped and stared down at the scribble on her paper.
What if he’s not alone, she thought. Her stomach flopped. Delphia took a step back. He might not even be here. He could have checked out already. It is noon after all. What was it she really wanted to happen? She walked down the hall, then walked back to the door. If he wasn’t alone, then at least that would be the end of it. Her jaw was set even as her stomach quivered and her knuckles knocked very quietly. A few moments passed, during which she didn’t breathe. She forced herself to knock again louder, but almost immediately turned to go back to the elevator. Behind her the door latch clicked and she froze.
Delphia glanced over her shoulder to see Micky O. standing halfway out in the hall. He was trying to fasten the cuff of his shirt. She tentatively nodded and walked over to him. She took the cufflink from him and fastened the heavily starched cuff.
“I expected you a bit earlier…” he murmured. Micky was surprised by her sudden appearance.
“I had to stay late at Libellule and then I went to the Cabaret. Honestly, I’ve hardly slept and have spent the whole morning sewing,” Delphia explained. “You said you were leaving this afternoon. I was almost certain that I would fail to catch you.”
“Almost, let’s say we get some lunch before I head out,” Micky suggested. “I just gotta get my things together.” He held the door open and Delphia took a few tentative steps inside. It was similar to the last room she had been, but the bed was still mussed from being slept in. She caught her reflection in a mirror and flinched. She had dark circles under her eyes. She rubbed at them, but they didn’t budge.
In the background of the reflection, she began to watch Micky. He knotted his tie and pulled on a vest. He glanced over and caught Delphia staring. She quickly looked away and her gaze landed on a lint brush. She picked it up and busied herself with brushing the lint off his suit coat that hung on a chair. Behind her, she could hear him toss a few things into a satchel. She picked up the coat and held it out for him.
“I’m not used to this kind of treatment, Doll.” A note of concern came through his voice as he shrugged on the jacket. Dozens of faceless dancers, showgirls and prostitutes streamed through his mind as they lounged lazily when he dressed and left. Then he remembered the scornful look from Lena, when he came in the door with his shirt sleeves rolled up, smelling of formaldehyde. Why wasn’t this girl the same?
I’m confusing him, Delphia thought. Her throat tightened.
You want them a bit confused from time to time, Moira’s voice echoed, It makes them try harder.
Delphia tried to remain calm as Micky picked up his satchel and held the door open for her. She walked into the hall.
“To lunch then?” he asked as he locked the door.
“Yes,” Delphia said firmly, she put her hand in the offered crook of Micky’s arm.