Joey sat at Mrs. Delfeno’s kitchen table as he dunked his warm chocolate chip cookie in the cold milk. He reached in with his fingers to gather the pieces that fell apart during the dunk.
“Then the princess had to choose which knight was worthy to win her hand. She decided she would hold a joust to help her decide.”
“What’s a doust, Mrs. D?” Joey interrupted.
Mrs. Delfeno looked up from her book, smiled at his pronunciation and answered, “It’s when two knights on horses, with very long spears in their hands, ride their horses toward each other. Whoever gets knocked off their horse loses.”
With eyes wide, Joey said, “Wow! Does he die?”
“No, Sweetie. The long spears have an end on it that doesn’t hurt. It just knocks down the other knight. The knights wear suits of armor that protect them.”
Mrs. Delfeno smiled. “It’s made of iron and it covers the knight’s entire body like a suit.”
Al walked into the kitchen and sat down next to his wife. He grabbed a cookie from the plate. “I couldn’t help overhearing your story from the other room Marie. I can’t wait to hear what happens next. What about you Joey?”
“Please, please read some more Mrs. D.”
“Okay, you two. So then . . .” the doorbell interrupted her. “Al, go see who that is.”
Al grinned and said, “Ah, man do I have to?”
“Now Al Delfeno, you behave.”
“Okay, but you’ll need to read me the rest of the story later?” he said with a wink.
“Only if you’re a good boy,” she replied.
Even after all these years together, he loved her flirtatious ways. Al heard Marie’s voice in the background as she read to Joey. He loved how that little boy brought joy to his wife whenever he visited. He peeked through the peephole and didn’t recognize the man he saw behind the door. He put the chain on as a precaution. He yelled without opening the door, “What do you want?”
“Could you open up sir? I just want to talk to you for a minute.”
“Say your peace through the door.” Al wasn’t a fool. He wouldn’t open up for a stranger.
“Okay then. I just thought you might want to know that I heard screaming coming from an apartment on the third floor. You might want to check it out. I think it’s the apartment right above yours.” The man said.
Al opened the door slightly with the chain still on as a safeguard. He watched the man as he left the building.
Marie entered the room with a scowl on her face. “Al, what’s wrong?”
“It’s okay honey. Go back and read to Joey. I’m going to check on Vickie.” Al grabbed his master key chain from the hook by the door and headed for Vickie’s apartment.
Al rang the doorbell. When there was no answer, he knocked. Still no response. What if she’s hurt? Al opened the door slowly. “Mrs. Martinelli! Vickie! It’s me, Mr. Delfeno.” He looked around and saw feet sticking out of the doorframe of the kitchen. “Vickie!” He rushed over to her. He knelt down on the floor beside her. “Please wake up.” She lay sprawled out on the floor in the kitchen, drool emanating from her mouth.
* * * * * *
Sal found his front door opened. Panicked, he ran inside. “Vickie! Joey!” The sight of Mr. Delfeno kneeling next to Vickie’s unconscious body caused his heart to miss a beat. “Mr. Delfeno! What’s going on?”
“I don’t know. Someone came to my door and said he heard a scream coming from your apartment. I rang the doorbell but when I didn’t get an answer, I knocked. There was still no answer, so I came in.” Mr. Delfeno made room for Sal. “I’ll call for an ambulance.”
“Don’t worry, son. He’s been downstairs with Marie. He doesn’t know what happened.”
Sal sighed. Relief washed over him. “Thank you. I’ll take care of her. She’ll be fine. I’ll come down for Joey in a little bit.” The scenario that lay before him was all too familiar. Embarrassed he continued, “Don’t worry Mr. Delfeno. She’s going to be okay.” It was as if on cue, Vickie moaned. “I’ll get her to bed. You can see yourself out, if you don’t mind.”
“Mr. Delfeno.” He stopped and turned around. “There’s no need to bother Mrs. Delfeno with any of this. You know how she tends to worry.”
“Just between you and me.”
“What’s going on?” Vickie muttered as she started to come around.
“You were passed out on the floor,” Sal answered as he helped her to feet. She held on to him but her knees buckled. He helped her to the bedroom, laid her on her side, propped pillows to make sure she stayed that way, and lovingly covered her with the sheets. Dear God, not again.
“I’m sorry Sally. Don’t be mad,” she cried out.
“Shhhh. Go to sleep. We’ll talk about this later.”
He stood next to the bed as a tear slowly rolled down his cheek. Her breathing seemed to regulate itself again. He turned, walked out of the room and closed the door. He leaned against the bedroom door and sighed. He stood there in disbelief that Vickie would risk everything and start using drugs again. He knew who gave them to her and wondered what else was exchanged between them. I better get Joey.
© Nadine Zawacki 2015