Chauncey laughs. “Probably some Internet-famous, delusional jerkwad. City’s full of ‘em. Don’t let it ruin your day, Aidy.”
“Can we get pepperoni?” Enzo asks Chauncey.
“Would you like your very own Enzo-sized pepperoni pizza?” Chauncey asks.
My nephew nods, wagging his tongue like a dog.
“You girls want the usual?” Chauncey asks.
“Yes, sir,” I say, pointing to the drink menu. “And bring me an Irish Rose, pretty please with sugar on top?”
Chauncey leaves, flagging down a server to handle our orders, and then returns to the back, disappearing behind two swinging doors.
“He’s a hard worker, that guy.” I say to Wren.
She smiles, head tilted as she spins a red pepper shaker in front of her. “He’s a good guy. I think I’ll keep him. Enzo, should I keep Chauncey?”
Enzo nods enthusiastically.
“Hey, you never told me how your interview went with that reality star.” I reach across the table and tap the top of her hand.
She shrugs, lips flat. “It was okay. She was a bit of a snot. One of those who think they’re more famous than they are, you know?”
“Aren’t they all like that?”
“She had me take off her makeup and redo it,” Wren says. “It took a good fifteen minutes to get everything off. I mean, her face was spackled with caked-on makeup. When I took it off, honestly, I hardly recognized her. Most of the time, these women look so much better natural, you know? But it’s like she became a completely different person. She got quiet. Wouldn’t look at her reflection in the mirror until I’d at least covered up her acne scars, and then she sort of exhaled and joked that makeup artists are the poor man’s plastic surgeon.”
“That’s a compliment, right?”
Wren rolls her eyes. “Backhanded.”
“You think you’ll get the job?”
“Maybe? I don’t know. I didn’t leave there feeling like she was that impressed.”
“What kind of look did you give her?”
“Something natural and tasteful, but still camera-ready,” she says. “I contoured her nose and cheekbones, gave her a bright red lip, and went easy on the eyes. We did strip lashes, the toned-down ones. I thought she looked fresh and vibrant. She just sort of stared at herself in the mirror and asked her assistant to show me out.”
“She kicked you out?”
“No, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t bad. It was just . . . weird.”
“You don’t want to work with someone like that anyway.”
She huffs, glancing up at me from her side of the table. “I’m a single mom. I’ll work for anyone if they can afford my rates and pay me on time.”
Poor Wren. Lorenzo does a lot of freelance work in the entertainment industry, working mostly in TV show production, and often times his child support payments are late. When work is slow for Lorenzo, Wren feels the pinch and Enzo suffers. It’s partly why I moved in with her a few years back when the two of them split up. Manhattan’s cost of living is exorbitant, and she wanted to live in a nice neighborhood close to St. Anthony’s so Enzo wouldn’t be far from school. We found an updated three-bedroom apartment about four blocks away and pooled our money together for the deposit.
We’ve made it work since then, and we haven’t been without our lean months, but it’s been worth it.
“Mom! Mom!” Enzo tugs on his mom’s arm, pulling her out of our conversation.
“What is it, buddy?” she asks.
Enzo seems trapped in a rare instance of speechlessness, his eyes focused on something behind me, clear across the crowded restaurant.
“It’s . . . it’s . . .” Enzo’s jaw hangs and then the corners of his mouth inch up. His maple brown eyes are lit, glowing. “That’s . . . Alessio Amato, one of the greatest starting pitchers in the history of major league baseball.”
He speaks slowly, as if he’s entranced, and he hasn’t removed his gaze from that corner of the room for one second.
“Can I get his autograph, Mom?” His hands meet in prayer position and he bounces in his seat.
“Who is this again?” Wren speaks my mind. She and I have never cared much for sports, and the first time we’d ever been to a ball game was when she and Lorenzo first started dating. He was a huge Yankees fan and dragged her to every home game for an entire season one year. I tagged along once. To be nice. But Enzo definitely gets his baseball-loving genes from Lorenzo’s side of the family.
“Alessio Amato,” Enzo says, slight impatience in his tone. “Everybody calls him Ace.”
“Are you speaking English?” I tease.
“Sorry, buddy, I haven’t heard of him,” Wren says, amused twinkle in her eye. “What team is he on?”
“He used to play for the Baltimore Firebirds,” Enzo says, his little body fidgeting. “He retired last year.”
Wren leans closer to Enzo, peeking outside of our booth and trying to catch a good look at him.
“Definitely never seen him before,” she says. “Think I’d remember a face like that.”
In the seconds before I think about stealing a look myself, a waitress squeezes through some tables, a tray of drinks in her hand, and my attention is completely intercepted by the Irish cocktail with my name on it.
“Can I go get his autograph, Mom?” Enzo asks, eyes squinted and pleading. “Please, please, please?”