Lonnie McSweeney told Alva he had no plans before Christmas, but that it was a bad time to be out looking for people. He’d rather wait until after the New Year. Alva was insistent. She sent Benny over to the Bronx to pick Lonnie up and carry him over, as she put it. When he arrived, Kitty was sitting in a booth alone, twisting a napkin around her fingers. It was Cal’s day to take his daughter to a Christmas recital.
“I feel terrible not being there,” he told Kitty. “Can’t we make it another day?”
But Kitty had told him not to worry, that she could handle it by herself. And after all, Alva would be there. And Alva was there. She met Lonnie at the door and ushered him directly to Kitty’s table. She slid in next to Kitty, although the booth was tight for her. She made a joke about her own cooking and being her best customer, then signaled to Raoul to bring them coffee. Raoul also brought over three plates of freshly baked muffins along with butter and jam, napkins, plates, knives and spoons. He gave Alva a stern look.
“We ain’t got no flounder in today. That fish truck is stuck in Queens and that driver is so dumb he don’t know how to get hisself a way to fix a flat. We gotta get a differn’ delivery for fish. I keep tellin’ you,” he told her. “You eat them muffins up, girl,” he said to Kitty. “You wastin’ away here.”
“Get on witchyou,” Alva waved at him. “Give the man some space. He’ll be here bye an’ bye. Them flounder’s’ll keep.”
Raoul headed back to the kitchen leaving Kitty stirring her coffee absently after emptying a packet of sugar into the cup. Lonnie sipped at his and reached for a muffin, which he tore in half, leaving part on his plate and the rest in his palm, from which he picked small pieces, placing these in his mouth. He watched Kitty carefully but said nothing. He had been through enough of these scenes to know that it was best to let the prospects open up in their own good time. A cheating husband almost always meant the wife was ready and willing to talk at length about all the hell he’d put her through. But a cheating wife, that was a different matter. Husbands never wanted to come right out and say they’d been played for a fool. The toughest were the missing children. The parents came to him because everything else had failed. They were desperate, angry, afraid, hopeless. What heartstrings Lonnie McSweeney had left got tugged under those circumstances. So he waited for Kitty to tell him her sordid or sorry tale. Thing was, she didn’t look like your normal ‘I want to get that bastard’ cheated-on wife. This one was tough to figure.
It was Alva who spoke first.
“This is Kitty Walker,” she said. “And she’s looking for her family that she hasn’t seen since she left them seventeen years ago now.”
Kitty looked at Alva and then down at her cup of coffee.
“That right?” asked Lonnie, taking a bite of muffin.
“Yes,” said Kitty.