"My lovey-dovey baby
I boo-hoo-hoo for you
I used to be your tootsie-wootsie
Then you said toodley-doo."
The sound of Medda's voice filled my ears as I walked in. I could hear Maggie playing the slow melody over Medda's singing. It was just after Christmas and there was snow everywhere, but still no Ally. I had stopped crying at night all the time, but I still missed her. I thought of her every time Medda sang this song. It was a crowd favorite though, and it fit how I felt these days.
"I miss the hanky-panky
Each nighty-night till three
Come back, my lovey-dovey baby
And coochie-coo with me."
I caught Maggie's eye and motioned to the back of the theatre. She barely nodded her head and turned her attention back to the song. I hid in the background and managed to sell a few papes to people in the crowd. When I had sold my last pape, I took a seat and waited for Maggie to come out front.
"My lovey-dovey baby
I boo-hoo-hoo for you
I used to be your tootsies-wootsie
Then you said toodley-doo."
The song finally ended and I sighed in relief. The twins came over and begged me to play with them until Maggie was ready.
"Please? We's want ta play poker but it ain't as much fun as when you play."
"Okay, but just one game. Ise don't want your sista ta get mad at me for teachin youse ta play poker."
"She just says not ta play wit real money."
We ended up playing five games before Maggie came out with the girls in tow. They gave me big hugs and started talking about the latest letter from Ally.
"…and she sent us ribbons too. Auntie Ally told us to tell you she loves you. Are you gonna marry her?"
"Uhhh…" I looked at Maggie for help, not sure how to answer that. "Well, uh…Ise…dat depends. Ain't youse too young ta be askin dat?"
"Girls, get your shawls on. It's time to go home."
"Thank you," I mouthed to Maggie as she handed the twins their coats and started herding them to the door. She smiled at me, giving a shake of her head.
"Speaking of weddings," Maggie said as we walked home, "did you get an invitation to Blink and Laura's?"
I nodded. "Blink asked me if Ise would be part of the wedding."
"That's wonderful! Now all we need is for Ally to come home so she can be part of the special day. I talked with Laura about music that day and she wants Ally and I to play as she comes down the aisle."
"Ise didn't know Laura knew Ally dat well."
"Well, Ally doesn't know her that well. They've only met a few times, but Laura knows how good Ally is at flute and she thought it would be fun to come down the aisle to the sound of flutes. Not that she can hear it. Oh, that wasn't a nice thing to say. But you know what I meant, right Race? Anyway, I let Laura and her friend live with me for a few weeks until they found their own place. She's as good as Ally with the children."
I half listened as Maggie kept chattering. It didn't surprise me much that Laura would want Allegra to play at her wedding. Ally was good at her music and she was as friendly as Laura, easily making people like her without much effort. I felt a small hand slip into mine and looked down at Ariana's face. She smiled sweetly at me and handed me a folded piece of paper, tied with a green ribbon.
"A letter from Auntie Ally. She asked me to give it to you. I think you should wait for me to be growed up so we can marry, but Mama Maggie says that you love Auntie Ally. I love Auntie Ally too, so I guess if you love her then it's okay if you marry her. Then you could really be our uncle."
I had to smile at the little girl. She looked a bit like an angel, with long dirty-blonde hair and blue eyes. No wonder Ally loved her. "Ise think you should have fun growing up before youse think 'bout gettin married."
"That's what Mama Maggie and Auntie Ally say. When I do get growed up enough, I want to marry someone like you." She started humming to herself and skipped ahead to walk with Caelyn. I watched her for a while before feeling a pair of eyes on me. I turned to see Maggie smirking at me.
"Wat? She's a cute kid. Ise like her."
"What does the letter say?"
"Dat's none of your business." I tucked it away, planning to read in private.
When we reached Maggie's, we saw Spot sitting on the steps waiting for us. Maggie quickly hurried the kids in as I faced Spot.
"Wat'd youse do dat for?" he asked as soon as we were alone.
"Do wat? Ise ain't done nothin. Least, nothin dat Ise know of."
"Robin says youse tried ta kiss her."
"Yeah? Well Robin lied. I ain't in da habit of kissin odder people's goirls." I pushed past him, heading inside.
"Youse kissed Allegra." I stopped short at the words. "Ise hear things from boirds. Dey all say youse kissed Allegra several times."
"Dat's wat people do when dey's in a relationship," I hissed. Where did Spot get off spying on me? "Dey kiss. Youse should know; youse have kissed how many goirls?"
"Dat's not your business!"
"Why is who Ise kiss your business? Youse come ova here and question me but youse can't even handle your own goirl!"
Spot glared at me. "Don't talk bout my goirl dat way!"
"Robin ain't your goirl, is she? If youse want my advice, youse should sit down wit Robin and fix dat relationship before youse spy on me. Besides, Ally ain't your goirl either. Youse were a bit too late for dat one."
Spot tried to punch me, but I dodged easily out of the way. "Ise would have fought youse for her, but Ise was too busy. Ise don't think youse is da right man for her."
"No, youse is just jealous dat Laura is gettin married ta Blink and upset dat Robin ain't your goirl dat youse decided Ally is da right goirl because she ain't a part of your past." I dared Spot with my eyes to challenge that. He managed to sputter out a few incoherent sentences before storming off, calling over his shoulder "Dat's ridiculous! Dat ain't true and dis ain't ova!"
"Dat's right it ain't!" I yelled back. "Dat was just da start!"
I hope this letter finds you well. Did you have a merry Christmas? Mama's people tried to make it special, but it wasn't the same. I have sent a present for you in the mail. It should arrive soon. I think you will very much enjoy it.
Te amo, Ally"
I read Ally's letter in bed that night before I fell asleep. After reading several of her letters, I was able to figure out what she was saying despite her terrible writing. She always ended her letters by saying she loved me. It made me feel slightly better that she still cared, even though she had taken off. I smiled sadly at the letter as I folded it and put it with the stack of letters from Ally I kept near my pillow. Blink stuck his head over the bunk and watched me.
"Youse think she'll come back before da wedding?" he asked.
"Ise hope so. Ise think she'd be happy to play for youse. Youse is a lucky man, youse know dat?"
"Yup." Blink grinned happily at me. "Ise da luckiest man in da world. Ise tell myself dat every mornin." He pulled his head back up and hummed to himself as he lay down. I kicked his mattress but smiled. It was hard to be sad around a happy Blink. I rolled over and closed my eyes, hoping one day I could be as happy as him.