Midnight Mass

The jostling of the mattress woke Micky. He rolled over and saw Delphia’s silhouette as she moved about the room redressing.

“Doll, come back to bed,” he mumbled. She flinched at the sound of his voice.

“I can’t,” she replied. Micky sat up.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“It’s almost 11:30 on Christmas Eve. I’m heading to Mass,” she replied. The tone of her voice was matter of fact as if he would know exactly where she was headed already. Micky wasn’t sure how to respond. It had been years since he had stopped going.

“How often do you go to Mass?” he asked. She picked up the perplexed tone in his voice.

“Only a couple times since mother died, but we always went to Midnight Mass before she became ill.” He grumbled something behind her as she stood at the bureau and tossed the quilt back.

Delphia didn’t want to begin explaining exactly why she occasionally found herself at Mass. Some days she would get home late from her Saturday night shift and still find herself waking early before the first service. She wasn’t sure if God actually listened or exactly what all the stories meant. She liked the Nativity though and the story of baby Jesus. She knew what it was like to have nothing and guiltily wished that a wiseman would appear out of the darkness and proclaim she was special in some way. Micky came up from behind and wrapped his arms around her.

“You can stay in bed if you want and get some sleep,” she offered. He kissed her shoulder.

“No, I’ll come with you,” he said. “Who knows when I’ll be able to see you again. I don’t want to miss a minute of it.” Delphia smiled to herself in the dark and slid a drawer open.

“Here, I bought you some shirts and things…Hopefully the sizing is right. I had to guess. I’ll go and make some coffee.” She pulled out of his gentle grasp and walked to the door. She glanced back at him before turning on the light.

Micky was surprised to see the drawer of clothes even though she had said what it was. The suspicions he had had about Martin melted away. She was the same girl she had always been, he was sure of that. He would have to try harder in the thoughtfulness department to make up for being an absentee beau.

Micky and Delphia made their way up the cathedral steps. The tones of the organ emanated from inside and Micky hesitated on the threshold. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to go through with this. Delphia squeezed his arm.

“It’ll be okay,” she whispered as she guided him forward, “We shouldn’t block the door.” He glanced behind him and saw a cluster of people anxious to come in from the cold. They stood to the side of the foyer as the people filed in past them. Delphia wished many of them ‘Merry Christmas’ as they passed.

“You don’t have to come in if you don’t want to,” Delphia whispered.

“No, I said I would. I just didn’t think it would…” Micky shrugged and gave a half-hearted laugh. He was baffled by his own reluctance. It was Mass. It wasn’t a big deal. “Why does it feel difficult?”

“Perhaps it’s your conscience,” Delphia suggested. She put her hand in his, “Come on, it’s easy. There are so many people, no one will even notice us.” She was right, most of the pews were full and they were left with a seat near the back. The remaining seats filled up around them.

During Communion, the congregation sang several hymns while people shuffled from their seats to the front and back to their places. Frank Sicero was taking slow steps behind an elderly couple when something caught his eyes. There were too many people taking their seats to let him get a good look though. Sicero had arrived late and squeezed into the first opening he saw. Now he thought he recognized someone. Something about the guy kept drawing Frank’s eyes to him. It bothered him and he kept staring thinking it would eventually come to him who it was. He just couldn’t tell be the back of his head.

Micky couldn’t shake the itch on his neck and he glanced behind him. His eyes landed on the black stare of Frank Sicero. Micky cringed and faced the front again, but he could still feel Sicero’s eyes boring into him.

Frank was just as surprised to realize it was Micky. He wasn’t even certain it was the bootlegger until Micky had finally glanced over his shoulder. Frank was absolutely baffled. Midnight Mass was the last place he had expected the runaway crook to turn up. He was still trying to register if he was even angry with Micky for disappearing in the first place. Could you even be upset when they turn up in the house of God? Was that allowed?

The congregation seated themselves and Micky leaned over to Delphia’s ear.

“Sicero is here.” Delphia flinched and looked up at Micky with wide doe eyes.

“I suppose you’ll be in trouble again?” she whispered. Micky frowned, he didn’t have an answer for her. “Maybe it’s not him. Where is he?”

“Across the aisle, two rows back.” Micky fiddled with the pages of the hymnal as Delphia glanced behind him. She immediately identified Sicero. His gaze was dark, but as he recognized her he gave a little nod. She turned around quickly.

“We can sneak out a side entrance,” she suggested. Micky shook his head.

“No, I should probably stop at the confessional before we leave. That way, if he slits my throat maybe I’ll get to see you again at the pearly gates, Dollface,” Micky replied glumly. Delphia patted his knee. They sat through the choir’s rendition of Ave Maria, sang another hymn as a congregation and knelt for the closing prayer. When the people began to file out, Delphia took Micky’s hand firmly.

“We’re going to go over there. We’ll walk right up to him and wish him a Merry Christmas as if we’re completely normal people. It’s perfectly normal that we would be out for Midnight Mass like we do every year. It’s a public place, he won’t want to make a scene.” She didn’t give him an option as she steered him out of the pew towards Sicero. They didn’t reach him, they were swept along with the crowd and deposited outside. They stepped away from the stream of people that were waiting to talk to the pastor.

“It was a good plan, Doll,” Micky soothed as she kept searching the crowd. They started down the steps and headed around the corner back to the apartment. The cathedral cast them in a shadow.

“Micky O!” a voice called. The bootlegger’s blood went cold as they stopped in their tracks. He slowly turned as a silhouette stepped out of the dark. He didn’t need to see the face to know who it was.

“Oh, hello, Mr. Sicero, fancy running into you here,” he laughed nervously. With one hand, he nudged Delphia behind him. Sicero lit a cigarette. The momentary flick of the lighter, lit his face, but still gave no impression of his mood.

“Yes, I still drop by Mass now and again,” Frank murmured as he slowly started to walk forward. “Didn’t think you did.”

“I don’t, but you know how it is…Christmas,” Micky was still trying to feel out Sicero’s intentions. Frank tilted his head and took a look at Delphia as he exhaled a plume of smoke.

“Aren’t you going to introduce us?” he said. Micky froze momentarily, but Delphia stepped forward and nudged him. Micky cleared his throat.

“Mr. Sicero, this is my girl, Delphia Fitzgerald. She works at Libellule.” Sicero held out his hand and Delphia obediently shook it. His handshake was firm, but gentle.

“I thought you looked familiar,” Frank grinned. “And you got him to escort you to church?”

“Yes, sir,” she replied timidly.

“Maybe you’ll rub off on him.” Frank turned to Micky O. “You’re bringing her to the New Year’s Eve party at Libellule, aren’t you?” Delphia could tell by Micky’s befuddled expression that he didn’t know about any party.

“No, Mr. Sicero, I’m afraid I have to work that night,” she said.

“No, you don’t,” Frank replied glibly, “Make sure he gets there on time. Merry Christmas.” Sicero started to stroll away.

“Merry Christmas!” Delphia called even as Micky took her hand and hurried her in the opposite direction. She couldn’t believe their luck, but that didn’t stop Micky from wanting to get home as quick as possible.

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