Happy Friday, Christmas fanatics! And Happy October 1st! Welcome to the thirty-sixth official installment of “Another Christmas Story”!
In this week’s episode, the Queen of Spooky Season Patreon Content – Ms. Kendall Farrae of “For Forks Sake” – will read to all of you Chapter Thirty-Five of our tale, entitled “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”! We hope you like it! If you do, make sure to share this episode and our website, upon which the text of this installment is posted, to get it in front of as many ears and eyes as possible!
Coming up on the show this upcoming Monday, October 4th, we will be kicking off Spooky Month with our first official Halloween episode of the year, in which we discuss the Disney Channel Original classic, “Halloweentown”! And later that same night, we will be recording our episode on the 1996, iconic ‘90s satirical horror film,
“Scream“, which will drop in your feeds on Monday, October 11th! Before that, however, on Thursday, September 7th, you’ll get to hear Chapter Thirty-Six of “Another Christmas Story” entitled “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)”, which everyone’s favorite Christmas Podcast Network heel, Mr. Thom Crowe, will read to y’all! So, keep your eyes on your podcast feeds because there’s lots of great stuff coming up!
Enjoy, y’all! 🎅🏻🎄🎁 🦌🦉⛄️🚂🔔 🤶🏻 🎀 ❄️
Chapter Thirty-Five: Baby It’s Cold Outside
December 24th – 9:45 p.m. EST
By the time that Joey and Mary got back into Manhattan and parked Ryan’s car in a public garage just down the street from the Plaza Hotel, it was close to ten p.m. The roads of the city were nearly completely empty at this point, though whether it was due to the near white-out conditions or the holiday, neither of them were sure.
As Joey and Mary ambled down the street toward the Plaza, their hands interlocked, the former kept stealing glances at the latter. She had barely said two words the entire drive back into the city, but – thankfully – she had stopped crying. He was worried about her, and not only because of what had occurred at his parents’ house earlier in the evening. It was absolutely freezing, and she looked so pale that he was sure that she needed some rest. As they came to a stop outside of the hotel, Joey noticed that the front doors were flanked by more security than usual – men in perfectly pressed suits, with firearms visible at their sides, and members of the N.Y.P.D. Judging from the cameras set up a little further down the street, and the reporters standing in front of them, talking into microphones, Joey had a sneaking suspicion that the president and her foreign guests might have been forced to book rooms at the hotel that evening due to the storm, but it was a testament to how worried he was about his childhood friend that any excitement over this fact registered with the man. “Are you sure you don’t want to go inside and get some sleep?” he asked Mary, trying to sound nonchalant as he jerked his head at the revolving door. “Santa might skip by you tonight if you’re not in bed soon!”
Mary let out a laugh despite herself. “Santa’s been skipping over me for years now. I’m not worried about it.”
Joey felt his smile falter, as he decided to get serious. “Mary, I really think you should get some rest. You—”
“I’m fine,” Mary insisted, squeezing his hand tightly, as though to prove her point. “Stop treating me like glass, Joey. I’m not going to break.”
“I’m not worried about you breaking, Mary,” Joey replied. “I’m worried about the baby inside of you.”
Mary placed her free hand on her stomach, as her baby kicked, on cue. “It’s not your job to worry about my baby.”
“I know,” Joey confirmed. He studied the woman’s face closely before continuing. “Look, about what our parents – I know it’s not my responsibility or anything, but if you need help, or—”
“Why don’t you worry about helping yourself first?” Mary snapped, annoyed, quickly releasing Joey’s hand. As he stared down at her, hurt, she immediately regretted her words. Sighing deeply, she said, “I’m sorry. I appreciate it. I do,” she insisted. “It’s just – hormones.” Joey smirked, understanding, as the woman’s stomach growled loudly. “Can we get something to eat? I’m starving.”
“I would love to.” A grateful laugh escaped Joey’s lips. “I barely touched any food at my parents’.”
“Me either,” Mary confirmed, gently grabbing Joey’s hand again, blushing as she did so. As she guided him down the street, she asked, “What’s open on Christmas Eve?”
“It’s New York, Mar’.” Joey laughed. “Most places will be open.”
“And empty,” Mary pointed out, as they walked away from the hotel and turned down Fifth Avenue.
“I doubt it,” Joey replied. “You know what they say; New York becomes a beacon for weirdoes, outcasts, and loners on Christmas Eve.”
“It’s pretty sad that we fall into that category this year, huh?”
Joey shrugged. “I don’t think so. Being normal’s overrated.”
“That philosophy explains why you are the way that you are.” Mary laughed. “Hey, you know what we could do? We could go for a Jewish Christmas dinner!”
“You know I can never turn down Chinese food!” Joey replied enthusiastically. “Let’s do it!”
“After all these years, isn’t it impressive how well I still know you?” Mary winked, squeezing his hand tightly again.
“I would say it’s pretty sad I’ve changed so little that you still know me so well,” Joey countered, eliciting a laugh from Mary.
“What’s going on over there?” Mary jerked her head farther down the street, where a large crowd of people had gathered, blocking the entire sidewalk, as they stared across the road at the opposite side of the street.
“The Saks Fifth Avenue Light Show must be about to start!” Joey exclaimed excitedly, realizing where they were. “I completely forgot that they do this! Come on!” He pulled Mary along forcefully behind him. “If we don’t catch it now, we’ll have to wait fifteen-minutes before the next show starts!”
“Better to wait fifteen-minutes than fall and crack our heads on the ice!” Mary pointed out, slipping across the sidewalk. But Joey didn’t slow down his pace, and she valiantly kept up until they had reached the crowd of people, which proceeded to part for her pregnant stomach like the Red Sea, so that – much to their delight – the two found themselves directly at the front of the crowd staring directly across at the face of the famous department store. Even better, they had room to move freely on either side because people apparently didn’t want to crowd Mary. “Man, I’m going to have to get pregnant again soon,” she murmured under her breath to Joey. “I’m going to miss the perks!”
Joey laughed, chancing a glance at the beautiful girl whose hand he was still holding, before staring away, his face burning hot. What the hell was he doing? What the hell was she doing? Natalie was right when she had told them that one of them was going to get hurt, and worse, their fathers had been right too. Despite knowing this deep down in his gut, however, he couldn’t bring himself to relinquish his grip on Mary’s hand. After all, if the two were going to go their separate ways after the holidays, why not give in and enjoy the magic of Christmas together? Besides, Mary seemed in no hurry to let go of his hand either.
Joey was shaken from his thoughts when the Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s hit Christmas/Sarajevo 12/24 began to blare from the speakers positioned outside of Saks Department Store, one above each of their elaborately decorated Christmas windows, which depictured arctic, winter scenes, and were adorned with gold and diamonds. Against the stone building’s façade, neon lights began to be projected in the shape of an ice palace, flashing and changing color rapidly in tune with the music, as icicles of light began to grow and descend from the topmost ledges of the building. The light show was spectacular on any average day, but on Christmas Eve, in the dark, with a steady snow falling from above, it appeared absolutely magical.
Mesmerized, Mary took in the show with her mouth slightly open in awe. It didn’t matter how many times she had seen the show in the past, it was always incredible to witness. When it ended ten-minutes later, and she and Joey turned to walk the length of the Channel Gardens toward the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, glowing brightly in the darkness at the end of them, she couldn’t help but sigh wistfully at how much she missed New York. Newcastle was great, but there was no place on the planet like Manhattan. As they bore right upon reaching the tree, Mary noticed Joey looking at her out of the corner of her eye. “That was a nice show.”
“Their display is always nice.” Joey smiled.
Mary nodded. “Kind of makes me want to move home.”
Joey snorted in response, which made Mary raise an eyebrow. “I don’t know.” He shrugged. “I love the city around Christmastime, but the rest of the year?”
“It’s not that bad,” Mary pointed out before adding nonchalantly. “Besides, it could be nice to be around family and friends.” She allowed this statement to hang in the air for a moment before adding, “Of course, I’m pretty sure my family wants nothing to do with me at the moment.”
Taken aback by her willingness to discuss what had happened earlier, Joey replied gently. “They’re just upset right now. They’ll come around eventually. Have they tried calling you since we left?”
“I don’t know,” Mary admitted, a small smirk playing on her lips. “I turned off my phone the minute I stormed out of your parents’ house.”
Joey laughed despite himself. He didn’t tell Mary, but after his phone kept buzzing nonstop as they drove away from his parents’, he had turned his off too. The woman, however, misinterpreted his laugh. “I know it’s immature,” she began defensively, going red in the face. “But I just don’t want to deal with their shit right now. Between what happened back at the house, and what happened last night—”
“—you just want to forget.” Joey nodded his understanding, as he thought about his own parents and Lilliana. “Trust me, I get it.”
“Of course you do,” Mary replied softly, her voice sympathetic. “I’m—”
“Don’t apologize,” Joey swiftly interrupted, as he squeezed her hand reassuringly. “Seriously, it’s Christmas! It’s our favorite holiday! Let’s enjoy it! Screw everyone else, we owe it to ourselves!”
Mary laughed before nodding. “Alright. Yes. You know what? You’re right. We do. We really do.”
“Come on.” Joey gently pulled her down the street. “You wanted Chinese food, so Chinese food we shall have.”
Fifteen-minutes later, Joey and Mary were removing their snow-covered coats and draping them over the back of their chairs at a corner table in the blissfully warm Wu Liang Ye restaurant on 48th Street. As Joey took his seat, staring around the dining room, he couldn’t help but smile to himself at the large amount of Orthodox Jews chatting animatedly around him. Catching his eye, Mary noted, “I was only joking when I referred to this as a ‘Jewish Christmas’, you know.”
“Sure you were.” Joey winked, as he picked up his menu and Mary laughed. As he scrolled through the long list of food, his stomach growled loudly. “I just realized we didn’t stop to eat something once earlier today!”
Mary shrugged, as she perused her own menu. “It’s fine. It just means we can eat a lot now without feeling guilty.”
“Good point,” Joey muttered, as their waiter approached the table, a notepad in hand. “Ready to order?” he asked in a thick Chinese accent.
“Let me ask you something,” Mary began without looking up from the menu. “Are these portions sharing sizes?”
“Excellent!” she exclaimed brightly. “In that case, I’ll have the platter of egg rolls, a side order of spare ribs – well done, please – the sweet and sour chicken with pork-fried rice, as well as a side of boiled rice, a bowl of Wonton soup, and the chicken and broccoli, please.” Handing her menu over to the surprised waiter, she stared expectantly across the table at Joey. “What are you having?”
Joey laughed before noticing Mary’s straight-faced expression. “Oh, you’re not joking.” Going red in the face, he cleared his throat before staring up at the waiter. “I’ll have the chicken and broccoli with a side of white rice, please. Thank you.”
“O-okay,” the waiter replied, uncertainly.
“Can we get some water too, please?” Mary asked. “Tap is fine.” The waiter nodded before walking away, still looking confused. Noticing the expression on his face, she called after him, “I’m pregnant, you know! I’m eating for two!”
Joey laughed as Mary turned back to him, rolling her eyes. “Everybody thinks I’m a whale!”
“You’re going to miss being pregnant,” Joey replied. “Who are you kidding? You said it yourself!”
“Well…” Mary shrugged her shoulders. “I definitely won’t miss the soreness.”
“Do you have names picked out?” Joey asked, staring at Mary’s stomach.
“Luke and I talked about a few, but…I probably won’t use any of them now.” Mary’s eyes flickered downward as she spoke, and Joey immediately regretted asking the question. Determined to keep her spirits up though, he jokingly suggested, “Well, if it’s a boy, Joseph is an amazing name.”
Mary snorted. “Joseph Holiday?”
“I think it has a nice ring to it.” Joey shrugged before teasing, “You could always go with Jesus…”
“Not funny,” Mary replied, glaring at Joey as he laughed. After the waiter hurried over to their table and placed two glasses of water in front of them before scurrying away again, Mary took a long sip and asked Joey, “So – how long do you think our parents’ are going to be mad at us?”
Joey raised an eyebrow. “Is this really what you want to talk about right now?”
“Not really,” Mary admitted. “But we’re going to have to face reality at some point, so…”
Joey smiled. “I’m sure they’ll be fine in a few hours.” Then, after a beat, he added, “At least I hope so. Otherwise, Christmas morning is going to be very awkward.”
“Well, considering it’s already shaping up to be the worst Christmas ever—”
“I don’t think it is,” Joey interrupted, taking the woman by surprise. “It’s far from the worst Christmas ever.”
Mary raised a skeptical eyebrow. “Seriously?”
“How could you possibly rank this as the worst Christmas ever?” Joey asked with a laugh of disbelief. “Honestly, we’re spending Christmas Eve together for the first time in years, and whether or not our families are still mad at us tomorrow, we have one another. Sounds like a pretty damn good Christmas to me!”
Mary blinked in surprise as a warm rush of emotions swept through her. Allowing herself a smile, she noted, “You’re so corny.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” Joey replied. “It’s true though.”
Mary bit her lower lip gently as she stared across the table at the man, Natalie’s warning echoing around in her head. Throwing caution to the wind, she reached across the table and grabbed both of Joey’s hands. Squeezing them gently, she replied, “Thank you.”
Joey nodded, his heart thumping rapidly. Unsure of what to say, he was glad when Mary withdrew her hands and spoke. “So, I have a question.”
“Yeah?” Joey asked, his voice almost catching in his throat.
“What are you going to do with yourself now that you and Lilliana have ended things?”
It wasn’t the question Joey had been expecting. Deflating a little bit, he replied, “Honestly, I haven’t given it much thought yet. I guess I’m going to have to move back east and in with my parents for a bit—”
“Besides that, I mean,” Mary interrupted, staring at him intently. “What do you want to do with your life?” When Joey continued to look confused, she rolled her eyes, exasperated. “Come on! You must have given it some thought! You have no fiancée tying you down now, no job – you can literally do whatever you want!”
“Except for the fact that I have no money to do anything I want at the moment,” Joey pointed out.
“Who cares?” Mary slapped the table in frustration, making the dinnerware rattle. “This is your opportunity to take a chance in life, Joey! Pursue the career that you actually want! Do what you want! Do you know how many people on this planet would kill for that opportunity?”
Joey stared down at the table in front of him, thinking. He had been so preoccupied with thinking about his failed engagement and his lack of a job as bad things that he never even considered the possibility that both of these things presented him with a new, positive opportunity. “Just something to think about.” Mary’s voice shook him from his reverie, and he looked up in time to see the woman across from him sipping at her water and staring at him intently. “So tell me more about this book idea of yours!”
Desperate to talk about anything but the uncertain path that lay in front of him, Joey did. He talked all throughout dinner, rarely stopping except to take a bite of his food or to allow Mary to ask him a follow-up question about something he had just said. And Mary, in turn, was grateful for it, for she too wanted a break from having to think about the road that lay in front of her, which was screaming – via her baby’s incessant kicking – to be acknowledged. “In all seriousness though, I don’t know what I’m going to do if the writing thing doesn’t work out,” Joey finally finished.
“You said you’re into politics, right?” Mary pointed out. “You could always go back to school and get a civics or law degree or something; use it as a stepping stone to run for office.”
Joey snorted. “That’ll be the day.”
Mary smiled. “I wouldn’t worry about it though. I have a feeling you’ll get published and be a world-famous author, one of these days.” She winked at him.
Joey snorted. “Not with this story, I won’t.”
“Have some confidence!” Mary reprimanded him. “I think it’s a great idea!”
“Maybe,” Joey replied uncertainly. “But I don’t think it’s the idea.” He shrugged. “We’ll see though.” Sighing deeply, he shook his head before smiling at the many empty plates that lay on the table in front of Mary. “Man, you can eat!” He laughed.
“The baby can eat, jackass.” Mary kicked him hard beneath the table, smiling nevertheless.
“If you say so.” Joey winked before asking, “So what are you going to do once it’s born?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, were you being serious when you said earlier that you might want to move home to be closer to family?”
“I’m not sure they want me to be closer to them,” Mary replied.
“They’re just angry, Mary,” Joey said softly. “Trust me. I’m sure they’re already over it.”
Mary pursed her lips. “Even if they are, I have a job in Newcastle. I can’t just leave it without having something else lined up. I have to support my kid somehow.”
“That’s true,” Joey admitted. “But you could look for a better job in New York; a job you actually want. You can do so much better than being some jackass’ executive assistant.”
Mary raised an eyebrow. “Do you just want me to move back to New York because you may be moving back?”
Joey felt himself go red instantly. “No!” Even in his own ears, his voice sounded overly defensive. “I would never ask you to do that!” Then, after a pause, he quietly admitted, “Though, honestly, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world were that to happen.”
Mary laughed. “What the hell would I do in New York?”
“Anything you wanted,” Joey replied. “What happened to your dreams of making it on Broadway?”
“I’m too old for that now!”
“You’re not even thirty yet, Mary!”
“I’m too old to be a working actress,” Mary said defensively. “Plus, after breastfeeding my kid for a year, it will be even harder for me to get a leading role because my tits will be sagging!” Joey laughed as the woman shrugged. “It’s just the reality of the situation. Besides, I doubt I could perform anymore even if I really wanted to.”
“Oh, please!” Joey rolled his eyes.
“You were hamming it up earlier dancing on the giant keyboard at the toy store!” Joey exclaimed. “And then ice skating like pro at Rockefeller Center! You love performing!”
Mary smirked despite herself. “I only looked good in comparison to you,” she joked. “Besides, the dancing and skating would get me nowhere without the singing.”
“You can still sing.”
“How do you know?”
“I just do.”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about.” Mary waved her hand through the air, annoyed.
Joey stared defiantly across the table at Mary, trying not to look too smug with himself. “I don’t believe you.”
“Well, that’s your problem.” The woman shrugged.
“No.” Joey shook his head. “You’re going to prove it to me.” He stood up and began to rifle through his wallet for the right amount of money to leave on the table.
“Oh yeah?” Mary asked. “And how, exactly, do you propose I do that?”
“We’re going to find a karaoke bar, and you’re going to get up there and sing.”
“We are not doing that.”
“Why not?” Joey asked. “Too chicken?”
“Don’t you dare make those chicken noises again,” Mary warned with a smirk, as Joey began clucking anyway. Throwing her hands up in frustration, she said to no one in particular, “It’s like I’m hanging out with a five-year-old! Would you stop?”
“If we can go find a karaoke bar.”
Mary rolled her eyes. “If that’s what it’s going to take to get you to shut up, then fine. Let’s go.” She stood up and began struggling to put on her coat. “I don’t see why you’re forcing me to do this though.”
“To instill you with some confidence,” Joey said matter-of-factly. “Consider it your Christmas gift.” Mary snorted, as the man walked around the table to help her with her coat. “What’s the worst that can happen?”
“I could make an ass out of myself?”
“Mary, you kissed Macy’s Santa Claus this afternoon,” Joey began. “You already made an ass out of yourself.”
“Another thing I did at your urging,” Mary pointed out. “But fair point.”
Joey nodded, as he began to guide the woman toward the restaurant doors. “Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? If I’m wrong, you get to say ‘I told you so’. If I’m right—”
“—you won’t let me live it down.”
“True,” Joey admitted. “But hopefully you’ll believe in yourself a little more.”
Mary rolled her eyes with a laugh as they walked out of the restaurant into the snowy night beyond, grabbing Joey’s hand immediately and intertwining her fingers with his as they strolled down the street. “Do you even know of a good karaoke bar around here?”
“Well, Pulse is on 41st Street.”
“I never took you to be the type to go to karaoke bars, let alone know where they are off the top of your head,” Mary admitted.
Joey shrugged. “What can I say? I went through a phase in college; used to go karaoke-ing with Ryan and some of his friends when I was home from Georgetown over the summer.”
“You guys are so cool,” Mary noted, her voice dripping with sarcasm.
Pulse Karaoke Lounge and Suites was located just past the heart of Times Square. As they passed through the tourism center of the city, which was normally bustling with activity and often the busiest section of the island, Joey couldn’t help but marvel at how empty it was that night. It seemed that the combination of Winter Storm Elsa and it being Christmas Eve had driven most people indoors, but nevertheless, there were still a handful of people hanging around on the streets. Many of them seemed close to he and Mary in age, if not a bit younger – outcasts who had nothing better to do on the most holy night of the year than wander the city that never slept. Consoled by the fact that he and Mary weren’t alone in that regard, Joey smirked to himself as he dodged a snowball that went whizzing by his head and hit a stranger behind him, who was apparently locked in a snowball fight with his friends.
Pulse, like the rest of the city beyond its doors that night, was neither empty nor overly crowded. Indeed, the lounge, which was bathed in red and green that evening in honor of the holiday, had plenty of available tables and adequate floor space in which to easily navigate the room. The majority of its patrons, like out on the streets, seemed to be near the ages of Joey and Mary, and Joey couldn’t help but wonder what was keeping them out that night, away from their loved ones on the most magical night of the year. ‘Maybe they don’t celebrate. Or maybe they have no families, you jackass. Stop projecting!’ With a grimace, he pushed the irksome thought away and directed his attention at the raised platform near the back of the room, on which a woman was belting the lyrics to Faith Hill’s Where Are You Christmas? Smirking at the fact that she was drunkenly slurring her words, Joey leaned in close to Mary as they situated themselves at a bare standing table. “At least you know you’ll sound better than her!”
Mary laughed. “Hopefully.” She shrugged off her coat, staring around the space before finding the bar. “What do you want to drink? My treat.”
“You don’t have to—”
“I know I don’t have to,” Mary cut across Joey impatiently. “But I want to. You foot the bill for everything else today, so I want to buy you a drink.”
Joey flashed her a grateful smile before pointing at the woman’s stomach. “You’re not getting anything for yourself, are you?”
“A rum and coke,” Mary replied, deadpan. “What kind of mother do you think I am?”
“One who enjoys one cup of caffeine per day.” Joey winked at Mary, who hit him playfully in response. “But sure. I’ll take a Stoli-O and club, please.”
“You’ve got it.” And without another word, Mary hobbled away toward the bar. Joey stared after her, amazed by the fact that she didn’t look pregnant at all from behind, before a round of applause drew his attention back to the makeshift stage where the woman who had been singing took a bow before climbing down. A few seconds later, a man who looked slightly older than Joey took the stage and began to sing the opening lyrics of You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch, much to the delight of the small audience.
Joey was rejoined a minute later by Mary, who was cradling a tall glass of water for herself along with Joey’s requested drink, which she pushed toward him. “A double?” he asked, surprised. “Are you trying to get me drunk?”
“You’re about to hear me sing for the first time since high school,” Mary replied. “Trust me, the drunker you are, the better.” Joey laughed, as he raised the glass to his lips and took a sip.
Glancing at the bar, Mary let out an annoyed sigh of exasperation. “I told him the drink wasn’t for me! I guess he didn’t believe me.” Joey turned toward the bar to find a surly looking bartender craning his neck and glaring in their direction. With an exaggerated motion, Mary picked up her glass of water, raised it to the bartender, and took a long swig of it before slamming it down on the table and rolling her eyes. “Honestly!”
“He’s just looking out for you, Mary,” Joey gently pointed out. “Relax. You should be happy there are still some good people left in the world.”
“Oh, please.” Mary snorted. “He’s looking out for himself, not me. He doesn’t want me suing this place if I had a drink and something went wrong with the baby.”
“Well, that’s also probably true,” Joey conceded.
Mary smirked, vindicated, before catching sight of Joey’s still full glass. “Why are you drinking so slow? Drink up!”
“Why?” Joey furrowed his eyebrows.
“Maybe because I have sordid plans for you that I won’t be able to carry out if you’re still sober,” Mary teased, her voice seductive all of a sudden.
Joey blushed at the words, but took a big sip of his drink nonetheless, maintaining eye contact with Mary as he did so. He was glad he got to spend the day with Mary, whatever the next day might bring for the two of them, and in that moment, he decided to just go with the flow and let whatever happened, happen. There was no point in worrying about it, or letting reality conflict with whatever Christmas magic was occurring between them that evening. Worrying was for the day after Christmas, not the day before.
He was shaken from his thoughts when applause began to sound around him again, and the man who had been mimicking the low baritone of Thurl Ravenscroft took a bow before climbing off of the stage. Mary took a deep breath, steeling herself, before smiling wide at Joey. “That’s my cue,” she said, before bounding up onto the stage. Joey let out a loud “woo!” as the pregnant woman positioned herself at one of the four microphone stands up there and smiled out at the crowd.
“Hi, everyone! I’m Mary Holiday!” She smiled out at the crowd that had fallen quiet in order to hear her. “I know what you’re probably thinking – a woman named Mary Holiday who looks ready to push out a baby on Christmas? The irony is not lost on me. But I can assure you, unlike my namesake, I am not a virgin.” There were a few wolf whistles from the men in the room at the statement, as Mary continued. “And this…” She motioned at her bulging stomach. “Is not the work of immaculate conception.” Laughter echoed throughout the room, as Joey smiled up at his old neighbor while taking another giant sip of his drink. “I can also assure you that I am not drinking tonight, but my longtime friend Joey is!” She motioned toward where he sat in the crowd. “Yes, I am a pregnant woman named Mary hanging out with a man named Joseph on Christmas Eve.” The crowd laughed again, as she implored them, “Let’s give him a round of applause!”
Joey raised a hand of acknowledgement to the applause before taking another long sip of his drink and sinking slightly in his seat, marveling at Mary’s showmanship. “He brought me here because he wanted me to sing,” the woman continued, as the applause died down. “So I decided to treat him to a double in the hopes that I could loosen him up enough to convince him to come up here and sing with me, because I can’t perform this song alone.” Joey felt his skin drain of all color at the words, as Mary’s twinkling eyes met his own across the room. “So let’s give him a big round of applause as he comes up here to join me!”
As Mary waved at him to come join her on the raised platform, and scattered applause and hoots of encouragement broke out around him, all Joey wanted to do was sink so low in his seat that he disappeared from view completely. Feeling that the room would turn on him in a heartbeat if he denied the request of a pregnant woman who many probably assumed was carrying his child, Joey decided to suck it up. Taking a deep breath, he forced a smile onto his face, grabbed his drink, and joined Mary up on the stage, blushing furiously. “I hate you,” he mumbled through gritted teeth, as Mary bumped his hips playfully with her own.
“Do you though?” Mary raised an eyebrow, as she pulled a microphone from its stand and shoved it into Joey’s hands.
“I’m not drunk enough for this,” he replied, as he watched Mary pull her own microphone from its stand.
“You’re drunker than me,” Mary pointed out. “Relax,” she urged him, as she grazed his fingers with her own. “You know this song. And if you don’t, that’s what the T.V.s are for.” She pointed to two televisions hanging from the ceiling, facing them.
“I’m not worried about that,” Joey said, as the opening notes of a Christmas classic that he knew extremely well began to blare around him. “I can’t sing!”
“I need you for you this,” Mary insisted before crooning into the mic, “I really can’t stay.”
“But baby it’s cold outside,” Joey softly sang into his own.
“I’ve got to go away.” Ever the showman, Mary turned her back on Joey, playing it up for the audience. Getting the hint that she wanted him to play along, Joey placed a hand on her shoulder and spun her around to face him again, singing, “But baby it’s cold outside.”
“This evening has been—”
“—been hoping that you’d drop in.”
“—so very nice.”
“I’ll hold your hands.” Joey grabbed Mary’s hands in his own. “They’re just like ice.” He shivered visibly at the words, causing Mary to smile as she pulled herself from his grip, turning her back on him once again.
“My mother will start to worry.”
“Beautiful what’s your hurry?”
“My father will be pacing the floor.”
“Listen to the fireplace roar.”
“So really I’d better scurry.”
“Beautiful please don’t hurry.”
“But maybe just half a drink more.” Mary turned back to face him.
“Put some records on while I pour.”
As Joey suspected, Mary was a natural singer. If anything had been made clear to him that day, it was that the woman had a true knack for performance, and she was wasting her natural talent working as somebody’s assistant back in England. He had no idea that, at that very moment, Mary was thinking that Joey was doing a lot better than she had anticipated he would be doing. Indeed, the confidence that seemed to be growing in him with each lyric, and the forcefulness of his performance, was giving her butterflies as she stared deep into his eyes. “The neighbors might think—”
“—baby it’s bad out there.”
Mary took a sip from the glass of water she was still cradling before furrowing her eyebrows. “Say, what’s in this drink?”
“No cabs to be had out there.”
“I wish I knew how—”
“—your eyes are like starlight now.” Staring deep into Mary’s bright green orbs, Joey felt his heart flutter as his breath nearly caught in his throat.
“—to break this spell.”
“I’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell.” Joey grazed Mary’s long dark hair, causing her heart to flutter and a shiver to travel down her spine at his touch, which caused goosebumps to sprout up along her arm.
“I ought to say no, no, no sir.”
“Mind if I move in closer?” Joey took a step closer to Mary, refusing to break eye contact.
“At least I’m going to say that I tried.” Mary took a step closer to Joey, taking him by surprise as she continued to stare up at him in a sultry manner, the sexual tension between the two of them becoming electric.
“What’s the sense in hurting my pride?”
“I really can’t stay—” Mary glanced down at her feet, unsure.
“—oh baby, don’t hold out,” Joey sung, a hint of frustration in his voice now before both of them sung together, “But baby it’s cold outside.”
Mary, having fun teasing her former best friend now, turned her back on him once again as she crooned into her microphone. “I simply must go.”
“But baby it’s cold outside.”
“The answer is no.”
“But baby it’s cold outside.”
“Your welcome has been—”
Joey spun Mary around to face him once again. “—how lucky that you dropped in.”
“—so nice and warm,” Mary sung, her eyes twinkling mischievously as she stared up at Joey, refusing to fight it anymore.
“Look out the window at the storm.” Joey motioned toward the doors of Pulse, through which the blizzard ravaging New York City was visible.
“My sister will be suspicious.”
“Gosh your lips look delicious.” Mary shivered in delight as Joey brushed a thumb against her lips, and was barely able to contain a lustful moan from escaping her mouth as he pulled his hand away.
“My brother will be there at the door.”
“Waves upon the tropical shore.”
“My maiden aunt’s name is vicious,” Mary sang again, refusing to break eye contact with Joey.
“Gosh your lips are delicious.”
“But maybe just a cigarette more.”
“Never such a blizzard before.”
“I’ve gotta get home.” Mary turned away from Joey again, as the warnings of Natalie, Ryan, her parents, and Joey’s parents echoed in her mind.
“But baby you’d freeze out there,” Joey sang, imploringly.
“Say, lend me a coat.” Mary turned back to Joey, defying her own concerns as she stared up at him once again.
“It’s up to your knees out there.”
“You’ve really been grand.” Mary took one of Joey’s hands in her own, their fingers interlocking as the corners of her full lips curled upward into a smile.
Joey shivered at her touch, as alarm bells began ringing loudly in his mind, urging him to proceed with caution. “I thrill when you touch my hand.”
“But don’t you see?”
Joey pulled Mary closer, until they were mere inches apart. “How can you do this thing to me?”
“There’s bound to be talk tomorrow—”
“—think of my lifelong sorrow—”
“—at least there will be plenty implied—”
“—if you got pneumonia and died.”
“I really can’t stay.”
“Get over your hold out.”
“Baby it’s cold,” Joey and Mary cooed together, staring deeply into one another’s eyes before finishing in tandem. “Baby it’s cold outside.”
Joey smiled down at Mary when, without warning, the woman stood on her tiptoes and kissed him gingerly on the lips. His eyes widened in surprise for the briefest of moments before he closed them tight and he fell into the kiss, his mind racing with questions. The kiss, however, was more playful than romantic, and it only lasted for mere seconds before Mary broke away, smirking up at him playfully as the crowd of people in the lounge burst into thunderous applause in response to how great their performance was. Blushing, Joey was taken aback when Mary threw her arms around him and hugged him close, standing on her toes to kiss him on the cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered into his ear before breaking away from him. Grabbing his hand, the two took an exaggerated bow for the crowd before climbing off the stage.
“I knew you could sing,” Joey ribbed Mary, as they wandered back to the table where their coats were.
“Who knew that you could though?” Mary winked, as she pulled her coat on. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
Joey nodded, as he pulled his own coat on as a young woman took the stage and began to sing Jingle Bell Rock. His mind was still racing, and his heart was still beating insanely fast from their sexually charged performance, and when he and Mary pushed their way outside into the snowstorm, he turned to stare down at her. “What do you want to—”
Before he could finish his sentence, however, Mary threw her arms around his neck and kissed him full on the lips. This time, Joey fell into it much more quickly, and pulled the woman close as his stomach performed somersaults and the fireworks going off in his head eclipsed the alarm bells ringing loudly in his brain. When they finally broke away, almost a minute later, he stared down at his former best friend, breathless. “I – wow.”
“Wow,” Mary repeated, grabbing both of his hands with her own and smiling to herself at how red-faced Joey looked.
“I – what—”
“Sh.” Mary placed one of her fingers gently on his lips, silencing him almost immediately. “Come on.” She jerked her head up the street. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Where do you want to—”
“Back to the hotel,” Mary interrupted, gently tugging at Joey’s arm. Joey blinked in surprise before smiling wide and allowing the woman to guide him up the snowy street without another word.