Home > Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(6)

Blue Christmas (Weezie and Bebe Mysteries #3)(6)
Mary Kay Andrews

“One minute,” I promised.

Upstairs, I dabbed on some eyeliner, mascara, and lipstick, and slipped into a pair of black velvet high-heeled pumps. I grabbed my black velvet shawl, wrapped it around my shoulders, and fastened the blue Christmas tree pin to it.

“Ready,” I said, still breathless on the bottom stair.

Daniel picked up my house keys and handed them to me. He looked at me and frowned.

“What?” I asked, tugging the neckline of the dress. “Are my boobs falling out again?”

“No,” he said slowly. He reached out and touched my shawl.

“This pin. Where did you get it?”

“At Trader Bob’s auction today,” I said, surprised. Even though he’s a chef, and more arty than most, Daniel is all man. He rarely notices things like jewelry or shoes. “Why? Don’t you like it?”

“Yeah. It’s fine,” he said, still staring at the pin.

“What? You’re still staring.”

“My mother had a pin just like that,” he said, looking away. “My brothers and I pooled our lawn-mowing money and bought it for her the year my dad left. She used to wear it, every Christmas. She said it was appropriate. You know, because my dad left, we were all having a blue Christmas that year. Like the Elvis Presley song.”

“Oh,” I said softly. Daniel never talked about his mother. Or his father, for that matter. I knew that his dad abandoned his mom and their three sons when Daniel was just a kid. I also knew that Daniel’s mom, Paula, had wound up in a scandal involving her married boss at the sugar refinery here in Savannah, where she worked. When the dust settled, the executive had been sent to a federal prison in Florida, but not before he divorced his wife and married Paula. Not long after that, Paula Stipanek Gambrell had followed her new husband to Florida. Daniel and his two older brothers had been raised by his aunt Lucy. It was not a happy story.

I tucked my arm into his. “If you guys bought a pin like this, it just proves you had great taste. These pins were quite the craze from the forties through the sixties, although not so much in the war years, because metal was hard to get for jewelry. I’ve seen hundreds of variations of Christmas tree pins. Every costume jewelry company made them. Coro, Carolee, Trifari, you name it. And some of the more expensive ones that were sold in jewelry or department stores, signed pieces made by Weiss or Eisenberg or Miriam Haskell, sell for hundreds of dollars now.”

Daniel gave a short, humorless laugh. “Yeah, well, I can guarantee you that one ain’t worth hundreds. We bought my mom’s pin at the Kress five-and-dime on Broughton Street. Between us, we scraped up maybe five bucks to pay for it.”

As we walked to Daniel’s truck, I heard Jethro give a plaintive howl from inside the house.

“Poor guy. He hates staying home alone.”

Daniel tugged at his tie, a rare concession on his part. “Yeah, well, I’d gladly trade places with him tonight.”

“Thanks!” I said sharply.

“Sorry,” he said, giving me a conciliatory peck on the cheek. “I just really don’t get into Christmas parties. Never have. But what I should have said was, I wish you and I were staying home tonight. Just the two of us. I’d love to help you get out of that new dress of yours.”

“Hmmph,” I said, unconvinced.

Chapter 5

Shortly after celebrating his silver jubilee in the priesthood, my uncle James hung up his clerical collar and came home to Savannah to practice law and live a quiet life in the modest house he inherited from his mother. Not long after that, he timidly snuck out of the closet, and not long after that, met his current partner, Jonathan McDowell.

My conservative uncle had waited three long years before finally giving in to Jonathan’s request that they live together openly. In September, Jonathan, a charming, forty-five-year-old assistant district attorney, and his adorable mother, Miss Sudie, had moved in to James’s house on Washington Avenue.

Tonight would be their first party. For weeks, James had been as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs. “What if nobody comes?” he’d fretted as we’d gone over the menu for the open house “drop-in.”

“People will come,” I’d promised. “You and Jonathan have lots of friends. And everybody loves Miss Sudie. And besides,” I’d said, “people are dying to see what Jonathan has done with your house.”

James shook his head and ran his fingers through his thinning hair. “He’s painted the living room brown, you know. Brown! My mother would be rolling in her grave if she knew. She always kept the downstairs rooms pink.”

I shuddered. “Pepto-Bismol pink. Old lady colors. Anyway, it’s not really brown now. It’s a dark mocha. And it’s wonderful. Jonathan has divine taste. And I’m so glad he talked you into getting rid of that horrible old stuff of grandmother’s.”

“I thought you liked antiques,” James said.

“Not all antiques were created equal,” I informed him. “That horrid pink velvet sofa was butt ugly, and you know it. And those baby-blue tufted armchairs…yeecchh.”

“The new sofa is really comfortable,” James admitted. “And Jonathan’s leather armchairs are great for reading. And he did let me keep the stuff in my bedroom.”

So tonight was my uncle’s coming-out party. In more ways than one. As we approached his house, I happily noted that the old house was aglow with Chistmas lights, with a big evergreen wreath on the front door and half a dozen people standing on the front porch sipping wine and chatting. And both sides of the street were lined with cars.

“James was afraid nobody would show up,” I told Daniel, directing him to pull into the driveway behind my father’s dark gray Buick. “Mama and Daddy never stay out past eight,” I reminded him.

Daniel glanced over at me. “So your mother’s okay with them living together? She wasn’t shocked?”

“I wouldn’t say she actually approved,” I said. “But you know what a snob Mama is. The McDowells are old Savannah money. She’s thrilled that James is seeing somebody of quality. And she adores Miss Sudie.”

James met us at the front door, resplendent in a snappy hunter-green plaid sport coat and a rust-colored turtleneck sweater.

“Wow!” I said, kissing him. “You’re right out of a Ralph Lauren magazine ad.”

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