STARCHILD SERIAL: Part IV. Mrs. Lunt’s 14th Annual Dinner Formal (Final)
Angel City Starchild
IV. Mrs. Lunt’s Fourteenth Annual Dinner Formal
“My necklace?” Miss Winters asked, trying to crane her neck down far enough to see the worn silver locket dangling from her neck. “Yes. I got this… It’s… Well, it’s very important to me. Very dear to me.” Compulsively, she rubbed the tarnished metal between her thumb and forefinger, letting go of it only to sip from her empty martini, her hot breath fogging up the bottom of the glass. “Yes I’ve had it for, oh, well…” she said slowly, groping for the necklace as it swung back and forth on her exposed sternum. “Yes. It’s very important to me. It was given to… It’s very dear to me.”
Mr. Alberts smiled, color flooding his already rosy cheeks. “That’s lovely!” he exclaimed.
“Yes,” Miss Winters nodded, unsure but happy to have pleased him. “It is, isn’t it?”
Mrs. Lunt approached the two of them, carefully carrying a tray of hors d’oeuvres– little cuts of smoked sausage pinned to tiny slabs of cheddar cheese. For the life of her, she couldn’t remember if she’d bought the platter prearranged, or she’d spent the better part of the afternoon preparing it herself, cutting the cheese and meat up, then sticking toothpicks through each one individually.
“I simply adore your outfit,” Mrs. Lunt said, looking Miss Winter’s black V-cut dress up and down.
Miss Winters waited until Mrs. Lunt made eye contact with her, to be sure that she was the one being addressed. “Oh, why thank you. I got it… I’m glad you like it.”
“How are you two? Mr. Alberts?”
“Oh I’m fine. Miss Winters was just telling me the most wonderful story!”
Miss Winters smiled politely. “You’re too kind…”
“Did either of you go to the meeting on Tuesday?”
“Heavens no. I don’t-” Miss Winters trailed off again.
Mr. Alberts nodded, unsure at first. “Yes… Yes, I did. And I could have sworn I saw you there, Miss Winters. In fact, I could have sworn you were there as well, Mrs. Lunt.”
“Me? No, I don’t think I was.”
“Maybe that was the Sunday service.”
“That could be. Well, I have to ask you, Mr. Alberts, what exactly was the meeting all about? Everyone was buzzing about poor old Cornelius that I never got a chance to even hear what he said.”
“Oh it really was a rousing speech. In the vein of Churchill, it could be argued…” Mr. Alberts looked around the room, unsure, then back at the two aging women before him. “Are you sure neither of you were there? I know Henry was. He might remember better. It’s been, well, it’s just been such a week, what with the funeral and all.”
Mrs. Lunt nodded. “I know. I made Angela promise she’d come tonight, but she phoned just an hour ago to say she was feeling under the weather. Someone really should go over there, at least see if she needs anything.”
“I agree,” Mr. Alberts said. “I agree completely.”
“Yes,” Miss Winters said with a nod, though she was not really listening any longer. Again she strained her neck to try and get a look at her locket, but to no avail.
“Oh Henry, there you are,” Mrs. Lunts exclaimed as Henry Walker appeared at the side of Miss Winters. “I was just asking Mr. Alberts about the town meeting the other day.”
Mr. Walker’s congenial smile vanished and he tilted his head slightly. “Oh, I don’t think we need to worry ourselves about any of that.”
“I was just curious. Do you remember what Cornelius’s speech was about?”
Henry Walker nodded gravely, looking down at the glass of bourbon in his hand, swirling it around with the slightest movements of his wrist. “It was something about tax reform. It really was quite a bore. I promise that you didn’t miss much.”
“Tax reform?” Mr. Alberts asked.
“Why yes. You were there, Mr. Alberts. Don’t you recall?”
Mr. Alberts looked into Henry’s dark piercing eyes and cocked his head slightly. “Yes. Yes, I remember now.”
“Good,” Mr. Walker said with a smile. After a brief moment of silence, he turned to Mrs. Lunts. “What happened to that lovely girl- Tabitha?”
As Mrs. Lunt began speaking about her old servant Tabitha, who was now “very much with child,” Mr. Alberts gazed through the sea of tuxedos and evening gowns, his eyes looking for something that his mind wouldn’t quite register. Out the window, a figure walking alone down the deserted street. It paused, underneath the street lamp. The drooping face, the hunched back- the unmistakable outline of Lenny Spencer. Mr. Alberts smiled to himself for no particular reason, his eyes watching the lonely figure standing in the middle of the street, but his mind registering none of it.
Mr. Alberts turned back to Mrs. Lunts. Outside, amidst the humming of streetlights and the chirping of crickets, Lenny Spencer took a deep breath in. The air smelled of a spring storm. Hands in his pockets, he resumed hobbling down the street, silently praying that he’d be able to find his way home.