Kid Gloves on Winter Mornings

March 14, 2009
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Allegra painted her fingernails slowly, methodically. Mother always pitched a fit when she wore something indiscreet, but she figured she could disguise the ruby red lacquer with the new pair pf kid gloves Grandmama had had made for her last birthday. She could hear the sound of something sizzling in the kitchen on the first floor of the apartment.

With a sigh, Allegra rose languidly from her vanity stool and ventured downstairs. She knew mother would be upset if she found her still at home by eleven. When Allegra arrived in the kitchen, Max put out his cigarette and descended from his perch on the countertop. Max sometimes cooked on Sundays, unless he slept in until afternoon.

He slapped Allegra on the back, mussed her hair, and rasped, 'Morning, little sis.' Allegra eyed her disheveled older brother with feigned annoyance. There was sleep in his eyes and the corners of his mouth were turned up a little, as always, giving the appearance of perpetual amusement. Something unrecognizable was playing faintly on Daddy's record player, undoubtedly one of the more obscure records in Max's extensive collection.

'Your eggs are burning.' Max coughed, switched off the stove, lit another cigarette, spat into the sink, took an emphatic drag, and slid the eggs onto a plate. He did all this with the utmost of ease, in what appeared to be one swift motion. Stuffing the eggs into his mouth, he whipped around to face his sister.

'When's Mother getting back?'

'Usual. Eleven. It's always the same on Sundays, Maxie.' Max grunted an affirmative and took another drag.

'I've decided something, Legs.'

'Mmm?' Allegra inquired.

'I'm going back to university. I'll tell Mother when she gets back. I've already reapplied.'

Allegra smiled. 'What's the motive this time?'

'It's those damn old coots in Washington, drafting anyone they can get their hands on.'

'You're crude.' Allegra retorted. Max ignored her.

'I have to shower.'

'Did anyone phone for me?' Allegra asked, examining her nails.

'Olivia did, I believe. Maybe two hours ago.'

'What'd you say?'

'I have to shower.'

'Maxie.' Allegra scolded.

'Said you didn't care to talk or something of that sort anyway.' He paused to rub one eye.

'That Hudson boy phoned as well. Bobby, was it?'

Allegra started. 'Maxie! You really ought to have told me. Did he have you take a message or anything?'

'Is there any hot water le-'

'Max!' Allegra squealed, folding her arms over her chest.

'All right, all right.' Max chuckled a little. 'Calm down. He didn't leave a number or anything, just said to give him a ring. Mentioned something about his parents' anniversary party, left his address.' At this, Allegra breathed a sigh of relief and gained her composure. She turned to go.

'By the way,' Max called, 'Remy's coming over.' Allegra felt only the very ghost of a chill pass through her. She considered Remy to be the biggest prick in all of New York City, maybe even the state. Max knew this, of course, and took all the more pleasure in inviting him over because of it.

'You two oughtn't stay long. You know how mother feels about Remy. Did you write down that address?'

'Second page on the telephone pad.' Allegra walked to the antique telephone table and tore the second page from the pad. In his sloppy scrawl, Max had written an almost indecipherable pattern of words and numbers. Allegra folded the paper neatly and placed it in the pocket of her crisp white tennis skirt. Olivia would be over any minute. Allegra plodded up the staircase and descended it a moment later, clutching her tennis bag and pocketbook. Remy was seated on the window bench, draped in fold of grimy woven cloth. He lit up one of Daddy's cigars as Allegra passed.

'Hey kid.' Allegra acknowledged this greeting with a trained glare, then turned away and stepped into the kitchen.

'Can see where you get that nickname of yours, Legs.' Remy called after her. He exaggerated the last word considerably. Allegra retrieved a bottle of water from the refrigerator and made the torturous journey past Remy again, averting her gaze and clenching her delicate hands into fists so as not to fidget. She vaguely wondered when he had showered last. Remy scared her more than she let on. He was always looking at her in that hungry way of his that made her cheeks go hot and her palms sweat.

Max's voice resonated from the foyer. 'Olivia's here.' Allegra hurried to the front hall. Her brother was standing near the door with that odd, amused look of his playing faintly at his features. Olivia seemed a little nervous, though that was nothing of a surprise. Olivia always seemed a little nervous.

'Where are you going with Remy?' Allegra asked her brother, concerned. Remy had gotten her brother into trouble before, and she felt it was her responsibility to prevent it from happening again. She would not lose Max to Remy's world of hallucinogens, peace marches, and a lifetime of transience. Max only smiled and pushed Allegra towards the door.

'Have fun, kiddo.' He sang. 'Be back in time for supper.' With a sharp intake of breath Allegra tore her coat from the wall and pulled on her kid gloves. Spring rains were predicted for most of the week. Olivia followed Allegra out the door expectantly.

'So.' Allegra said as the girls made their way to the lobby. 'We'll go to the club as planned, and I'm afraid we've absolutely got to have our lunch there, as I haven't the cab fare to go anyplace else.' Olivia nodded complacently.

'Have Rob hail us a cab, would you?' Wordlessly, Olivia approached the doorman, while Allegra scrutinized her pale complexion in the gleaming front window of her building. Her mind drifted absently to the folded piece of monogrammed notepaper in her pocket. Olivia called for her, and Allegra strode to the cab gracefully, getting in.

'The Jonathan Country Club please.' Allegra ordered. 'Livy darling, there's a hole in your coat.'

Olivia looked down. 'I know. I'll sew it up tonight.'

'Don't be silly.' Allegra remarked. 'Tonight you simply must stay over. I'll have Cecile sew up the coat. Mother's got a banquet for Daddy's new project, and Max is out with Remy. I won't stand to be left all alone. Besides, you haven't anywhere to be.'

'Actually, I have to get up early tomorrow. Tom has his first little league game in the morning.'

Allegra spoke without a second thought. 'Don't worry, I can get you out of it.'


'You don't actually want to go, do you?' Allegra looked at Olivia accusingly.

'Um, no?'

'Of course you don't. Hurry up, we should play before it starts to rain.' The girls walked arm in arm from the cab to the tennis courts. Allegra took the side closest to the entrance, as usual. She shot a fast serve to Olivia and watched it whiz by her too-big racket. It was really her father's, as Olivia didn't have a racket of her own. The girls were a terrible match.

Big, swollen raindrops began to fall onto the court, so the girls retired for the afternoon and settled into a booth at the Club's restaurant. Before sitting down, however, Allegra hurried to the kitchen.
'Will!' She laughed. The old man hunched over the stove looked up and saw Allegra. He approached her with his arthritic gait and enveloped her in a bear hug. She threw herself up against his chest and breathed in deeply. He smelled of coffee grounds, like always.

'Haven't seen ya round much lately, kid.' Will's voice was so gruff it was impossible to make out the origins of his accent. Allegra beamed up at him.

'Mother took us on the longest ski trip. I suppose she decided we couldn't leave until the snow began to melt.' Will chuckled.

'Ya here with any of that family a yours, deary?'

Allegra's face became impassable. 'No.' She changed the subject. 'Oh Will, I missed you to death.'

Will patted her gently on the head. 'You take care now, kid. What'll you be havin'? I'll make it up special.'

Allegra hesitated. 'Salad and a Pepsi-Cola. My friend, at the table there,' She gestured vaguely to the vicinity beyond the kitchen, 'will have the same.'

'All right, g'on then.' With that, Allegra flashed Will a winning smile and returned to their table. Olivia was chewing on an unpainted fingernail.

'Stop that!' Allegra chided, smacking Olivia's hand from her face. 'You mustn't allow yourself such vulgar habits.'

'Sorry.' Olivia said softly, obviously resisting the urge to devour her nails further. Allegra surveyed Olivia's expression.

'What's the matter?' She asked.

'Nothing.' Olivia responded.

'Oh for God's sake, Liv, don't be that way. You should at least have the decency to be polite to someone who takes you out someplace.'

Olivia looked a little tired. 'I jus-'

'It doesn't matter, Olivia. Just stop it. Hey!' Allegra exclaimed, beckoning to a tall, blonde boy who had just entered the restaurant. The boy approached the table and stood before the two girls, smiling crookedly.

'Hey Bobby.' Allegra chimed. Allegra looked straight into his eyes. She commanded attention.

'Hey, how are you?' Bobby asked.

Allegra ran a hand through her hair unconsciously. 'I'm fine, you?'

'Good, yeah, good.' He responded. 'Did you get my message? I spoke to Max.'

'I think he might have mentioned it. Your parents' anniversary dinner, was it?'
Bobby's smile widened. 'Yeah. It's next Saturday. Your family will receive a formal invitation, of course, but I wanted to make sure I could be expecting you.' He cast a fleeting glance at Olivia. 'You can come as well.' He hesitated. 'Olivia?' She nodded.
The girls' food was being served. 'Call me later, all right?' Allegra looked up at Bobby through the thick veil of her eyelashes.

'Yeah, sure. So I'll be seeing you both on Saturday, then?'

Allegra nodded. 'Most likely.' Bobby walked away, glancing back only once. He let his eyes linger on Allegra for a moment, then continued on his way. Allegra turned to Olivia.

'You really ought to have said something. Its rude to ignore people, you know. I suppose I was under the impression that you wanted to befriend him, seeing as you're always asking after him, but I take it I was wrong.'

'I-I didn't mean to. I mean, I wan-'

Allegra stopped her with a rasied hand. 'Nevermind.' The girls ate in silence for a moment, until Olivia spoke up feebly.

'When did you order the food?'

'Will asked me what we wanted, so I ordered. Don't tell me you're angry about this.'

'I'm not angry, just curious.' A long interval passed with nothing but the sound of chewing. Then, Olivia spoke again.

'He phoned you?'

Allegra nodded. 'We talk all the time. Just as friends, mind you.'

'You think he likes you?' Olivia asked.

'God, you're always thinking about yourself, arent you? It isn't my fault if he likes me!'

'That's not what I'm saying.' Olivia replied.

'If you want him so badly, call him up yourself. I know the number.'

'I thought it was impolite to call the boy first.'

Allegra sighed deeply. 'Youre afraid, arent you? Youre afraid of calling him.'

'That isn't it!' Olivia croaked, a lump rising in her throat.

'This is pointless.' Allegra took a bite of her salad, and the meal was finished in silence.

The week passed by quickly, both girls eagerly awaiting the weekend. On Saturday evening, Allegra, Max, and Liv were driven by Ralph, Daddy's driver, to Bobby's townhouse. Mother would be attending, but was caught up at another dinner engagement. Allegra greeted Olivia excitedly when she entered the car.

'Hey! You look so nice, Liv. I look absolutely wretched compared to you.' Olivia smiled dully, nervous about her second-rate attire.

'Relax.' Allegra soothed, 'You've been to plenty of society things with me before, this one is no different.' Olivia looked doubtful, but smiled nonetheless.

The girls arrived a little late, but not unfashionably so. Bobby's mother greeted them at the door, and they made the appropriate small talk with her until she directed them to Bobby.

Olivia clung to Allegra's side, whispering, 'I feel awfully out of place, Legs. I mean, don't you find all of this just a bit,' She lowered her voice further, 'stifling?'

Allegra spun to face Olivia. 'How could you insult me like that, insult Bobby, insult everything we are? You're an absolute disgrace, Olivia. I'm humiliated simply to be seen with you.' All of this was said in a biting whisper. Suddenly, Allegra made eye contact with Bobby and glided over to him, taking his hand.

'What would you say to getting some fresh air? I feel most terribly out of place among these people. I'm afraid I find them absolutely stifling.' Olivia heard Allegra say this. She left Bobby's house without looking back, feeling a little ill. Bobby was fascinated by Allegra that evening, and Allegra should have been happy. She had gotten just what she wanted.

Allegra walked all the way home from Bobby's house long after the others had gone home, she could taste his compliments on her tongue, bitter and sickening, poisonous. Her eyes ached. Her mother had never arrived at the dinner party. Allegra knew she would not be home until tomorrow. She spoke to the doorman on her way in, like always. Once in the apartment, she treaded noiselessly into Max's room and awoke him. He had always been a light sleeper.
Max could see Allegra's face, even in the darkness of his bedroom. Without a word, he slung an arm over her shoulders. Brother and sister strode to the kitchen together on their long legs. Max flipped on the light, lit up a cigarette, and plopped two eggs on a pan. A bell rang from somewhere far away, signaling the hour. Max sometimes cooked on Sundays, unless he slept in until afternoon.


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