Christmas Punch: part one

“Don’t walk so fast, Delphia. I’m going to slip!” Moira clutched to Delphia’s arm in a vicelike grip. “As it is I can barely feel my toes!”

“I suggested you wear the other shoes and you didn’t listen,” Delphia reminded her. Moira rolled her eyes.

“These are new and they go with the dress…Phew, why is it so cold this year?” Moira gave up her argument and pointed at a clump of brownstone row houses across the street. Light spilled out some of the windows like warm, inviting glow.

Delphia stopped abruptly on the corner and Moira struggled to keep her footing as she was jerked to a halt.

“What is it, Delphia?” she asked with an edge of frustration. Delphia shook her head.

“Are you going to leave me alone again?” she asked, to which Moira shrugged.

“You know how Arthur is and you know how I am with Arthur…I can only promise to do my best.”

Delphia’s eye brows rose.

“Is this about Martin? I told you he’s a good guy. Golly, if he and Arthur weren’t friends, I’d…Don’t give me that look! I’m trying to help you move on. You’re a single gal in an amazing city, about to walk into a great party where it won’t cost us a dime to eat and drink.”

Delphia sighed.

“I know you’re right, but sometimes it doesn’t feel right to me,” she mumbled.

“The only wrong way of doing it is to stay home and pine away. This will be good for you, trust me.” Moira squeezed Delphia’s hand. “I’ll stay right by you until you’re comfortable. Come on, it’ll be warm inside.” Delphia had to agree and she let Moira lead her across the street to one of the brownstones.

Micky drove into town with Vern sitting beside him. A truck that appeared to have a bed full of firewood followed them. It was the coldest winter they had seen on the coast in recent years. An errant snowflake blew across the windshield.

Micky tried to remember the last time he had been in town. When the vision of Marchesi wallowing in his lard on the davenport came to mind, he abruptly tried to push it out to avoid the events that followed. He didn’t suppress the memory soon enough. The argument with Delphia replayed fresh in his mind. His grip on the steering wheel tightened. The conversation had spun out of control very quickly. He really wanted to know who had told her about Lena, so he could rip out their fucking tongue. Delphia’s words rang in his mind. ‘You’re a son of a bitch! Leading me on! Making me fall in love with you! You fucking piece of shit!’

He flinched as Vern put a hand on his shoulder.

“Micky!” he exclaimed with a look of confusion on his face. The look that Micky gave him turned his blood cold and he could barely muster his voice to continue “You missed the turn back there.” He pointed feebly behind them.

“Oh yeah,” Micky let out a tight lipped chuckle, “My mistake.” He took the next turn and back tracked to an alleyway.

“Moira! Delphia! Come in, come in!” Arthur came bounding down the stairs as the women entered the foyer. “Let me take your coats.” Delphia was glad of the warmth that settled on her skin as she shed her wool coat. Arthur took their coats and tossed them in a room off the hall. He held out an arm for each of them to latch on to and led them deeper into the house. Delphia forced a smile as they passed other guests. Moira leaned into Arthur’s ear and whispered to him. Delphia swore she heard Moira say her name, but she couldn’t catch anything else. Arthur took them into a dining room where a table sat with trays of food.

Delphia lingered over her choices.

“I would avoid the meatballs,” a voice muttered in her ear. It startled her and she glanced up to see Martin smiling at her. He was friend of Arthur’s from Princeton that she had met when Moira dragged her on a double date. His teeth may have been a little long when he smiled wide, but he had thick dark hair that flopped carelessly over his brow. He was constantly combing it back with his fingers. Delphia forced another smile.

“What would you recommend?” she asked.

“Definitely the crab cakes,” he offered. Delphia nodded, she was hungry, but she didn’t want to seem greedy as she selectively filled her plate.

“How has the past week been treating you?” he asked.

“Oh it’s been alright. Things get a little busier at the supper club with the holidays, but it’s only a week or two until it’s quiet again.” Delphia tried to get a bite in before Martin peppered her with more questions. He rocked on his heels as he tried to keep the conversation going.

“What do you think of this weather?” he asked.

“It’s cold, but it’s not the coldest I’ve ever experienced. At least there isn’t any snow,” she replied.

“Have you seen snow a lot?” he asked. Delphia nodded as she tried to swallow.

“There’s always snow in winter in Iowa.”

“That’s right, I forgot you said you were from Iowa. It must be terribly dull being cooped up all winter.”

Delphia shrugged. She didn’t know how to respond. Sure, there was always a chance of cabin fever, but there were still chores to complete and things to be done.

“How about a drink?” Martin offered. “And let’s get you off your feet. You walked all the way here after all.” Delphia glanced around and realized that Moira and Arthur had disappeared. She nodded and let Martin guide her into a sitting room. There was a crackling fire and shiny tinsel draped around the room. Martin pointed to the bay window that had a built-in window seat.

Delphia sat down on the window seat and tried to finish her hors d’oeuvres while Martin was getting her a drink. She was a bit nervous. She still wasn’t used to these parties that Moira kept dragging her to. She didn’t know anyone and without fail Moira always disappeared with whoever she was dating that week.

“Here we are,” Martin announced as he offered Delphia a glass of punch. She took a sip. It was sweet, almost too sweet for her taste, but it was to mask the flavor of cheap alcohol. For a brief moment, Micky popped into her mind. He would have complained about the craftsmanship and broken down the ingredients used in a few minutes. A dozen people loitered in the room, moving in and out as they saw acquaintances. Their many conversations filled the room with chatter and laughter. Delphia realized Martin had been speaking and apologized. He leaned in closer. She could smell his aftershave as he said something about the music that was being played. She smiled and nodded, but wasn’t exactly sure what he said.

Micky watched as Vern and another guy unloaded the truck into a garage. The firewood was tacked together in clumps and it came apart easily to reveal cases of alcohol. It was a supply purchased for a councilman’s New Year’s eve party. The councilman had had to rent the garage to store the liquor. He was paranoid that such a large quantity would be noticed by jealous neighbors that would tip off the Prohibition agents. Micky didn’t care about the councilman’s problems, he’d only deliver a lump sum. It was up to the councilman to transport it piecemeal to his house if that’s what he wanted. Micky had only given this delivery white glove service at the request of Sicero, who was still keeping him on a short leash. He would much rather be inside on such a cold night. The wind blew over the men and bit at their bare skin. Micky flipped his collar up and stamped his feet.

To continue reading on to Christmas Punch: part two, click HERE.






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