May 10, 2018 by kitmoss
Photo credit: The Art of Wrapping Gifts
Un cadeau pour mon ange
by Christopher Hawthorne Moss
Johnny Stanley walked toward the open bedroom door in the suite he shared with Frankie Deramus at the St. Charles Hotel. Noticing Frankie standing in front of the wardrobe with the doors open and one drawer pulled out, he stopped to see what he was doing. Frankie appeared to be picking up one item of jewelry to look it over before replacing it in its tiny velvet-lined compartment. He watched Frankie remove each item in turn and examine it. He finally leaned back against the doorjamb, crossed his arms, and cleared his throat.
Frankie stepped back from the drawer and looked around at Johnny, his eyes comically wide. He pushed in the drawer, then stepped back to close the wardrobe doors. He took on an almost guilty facial expression, tilted his head, and asked, “Oui?”
“What were you looking for?”
Frankie looked puzzled. “Looking for?” He glanced about and shrugged.
“In my jewelry drawer?”
“Your jewelry drawer?” Frankie looked so mystified that Johnny almost laughed. He went to the wardrobe, opened its doors, and pointed to the drawer in question. He glanced at Johnny, who nodded. Frankie pulled open the drawer, then turned back to Johnny and gestured to the full drawer. “Oh! These!”
“You kept picking up each piece and looking at it. What did you want?” Johnny asked.
Frankie sighed and smiled. “They are beautiful, no?” Turning back to see Johnny’s nonplussed expression, he said, “I was remembering every time I gave you one of these.” He gave Johnny a very warm smile. In a sweet and affectionate voice, he elaborated, “I was remembering how you thanked me.” He came forward and put his hands on Johnny’s arms. He rose on his toes to give him a kiss. He patted Johnny’s cheek, then let go and stepped back. “Beautiful!” He turned and walked out the door.
Sometime later, Frankie gestured to his servant Charles William and whispered, “Johnny has gone out?”
Charles William nodded. “Yes, sir. He mentioned he had to meet with his banker.”
“Eh bien. I must ask you for a favor. It is Johnny’s birthday soon, and I want to buy him something. Would you be so kind as to help me?”
“Mais oui. What can I do?”
Frankie explained, “I want to have you come with me as I look for something precious.”
A smile spreading across the servant’s face, he effused, “I should enjoy that greatly, sir. When would you like to go?”
Momentarily, both Frankie and Charles William had put on their warm outer coats and headed out onto St. Charles Avenue. Charles William didn’t know where Frankie wanted to shop, but he knew that it would be a fine place and not far away, being that they were in the exclusive part of New Orleans. Frankie would not let Charles William trail him but insisted he walk alongside. This was a common sight to the people of New Orleans who knew Frankie Deramus and accepted the two men’s friendship. Charles William opened the door he had stopped in front of and held it for Frankie to enter the shop.
“Merci.” Frankie smiled as he stepped across the threshold, his eyes already sparkling at the visible selection of jewelry. “Bonjour, M. St. Martin.” The shopkeeper beamed when he greeted one of the richest men in New Orleans.
It was a small but very elegant shop with ebony counters lined up with neat velvet chairs for the customers, and a chandelier at the beginning and the back of the show area. As St. Martin approached Frankie, he met him with a handshake. Charles William in the meantime stood modestly by the door.
Frankie leaned forward, smiling excitedly. He would not need to be discreet about his relationship with Johnny since the relationship was well-known. “It is my business partner, Mr. Stanley, who has a birthday coming. I want to see some of your finest pieces.”
“Mais oui, monsieur. But you must know that I could have come to you,” St. Martin said unctuously.
Frankie made an impatient gesture, communicating that he wanted to move forward. St. Martin encouraged him to approach one of the tables and sit down in the customer’s chair.
St. Martin excused himself to enter a back room. He quizzed Frankie as he went. “Perhaps you have some item of jewelry in mind?”
“What might you suggest?”
Frankie felt Charles William at his shoulder. Charles leaned in and whispered in his ear, “Perhaps a watch, monsieur.”
Frankie’s look of utter delight beamed on Charles William. “Oui, oui, magnifique.” He turned back to St. Martin and told him, “I would like to look at pocket watches.”
The shop owner quickly assembled nearly a dozen such items both in silver and gold. He came back to the table and laid them in front of Frankie. Frankie’s eyes immediately zeroed in on a silver watch with an exquisite design of an angel on the face. His eyes grew round, and his smile was as wide as his face.
Frankie reached out with his long and elegant fingers toward the watch in question. The watch was attached to a black velvet board. St. Martin quickly reached to loosen the wires with which it was attached.
“Permit me,” St. Martin said. He lifted the watch and placed it in the hand Frankie extended gingerly. “Voilà.”
With a brilliant smile, Frankie took the exquisite item in the palm of his hand. He carefully examined the etched angel, then slowly turned the watch over to look at its back. He reached his with his other hand to the watch, then peered at St. Martin inquiringly. The shop owner pointed to a button on the side of the watch, and Frankie pressed it, causing the lid of the watch to spring open. Inside he saw the watch face was festooned with Roman numerals.
“May I have this engraved?”
St. Martin nodded vigorously. “Yes, of course. What do you want written?”
Frankie pointed to the open space in the middle of the lid. “Please write ‘Mon ange’ here.”
Neither man was looking at Charles William, so they did not see his affectionate smile.
St. Martin pulled open a drawer and drew out a piece of paper and a pen and wrote several things down about the watch. Then he showed Frankie how to wind and set the watch.
Stepping into the street several minutes later, Frankie fairly danced his joy. “Do you think he will like it?” he nervously implored his companion.
A few days later, Johnny approached the hotel desk and asked the attendant if he had any mail. “Yes,” the man said with the barest hint of a polite smile.
Johnny waited with his hand out but was surprised when the desk clerk hesitated to hand him a small but ornate package.
“Is that for me?” Johnny asked.
The man replied, “It doesn’t really say. The card just gives your room number. But you can take it I suppose. It came via messenger.”
The man set the elegantly wrapped box on his palm. Johnny exchanged a puzzled look with the clerk. He turned and headed for the stairs.
When he got to his and Frankie’s rooms, he put down the mail on the hall desk but retained the package. He examined it and thought about opening it. Then he thought better of it, wondering if he should wait for Frankie.
He met Frankie in the hotel restaurant for dinner. “We got an elegant package today. “
Frankie looked blank for a moment, then startled. “Did you open it?”
Johnny spread the napkin over his lap and reached for his glass of water. “No, I thought I should wait and see if you were expecting a gift.”
Frankie managed to just hide his excitement.
Charles William noted when the two returned to their rooms. He saw Frankie pick up the gift from the hall table and take Johnny’s elbow to propel them to the bedroom. He noted that in his anticipation Frankie did not shut the bedroom door. He saw his master look up into Johnny’s face somewhat nervously. Johnny seemed puzzled when he was handed the gift.
Charles William stood out of sight smiling warmly.
Johnny was a little surprised that his lover knew his birthday was just a day away. He had a slight smile as he let Frankie hand him the gift. “For me?” he said with a hint of delight.
Frankie hung on every motion and syllable as Johnny infuriatingly removed the ribbons and paper very closely and painstakingly.
Charles William stepped back from the door to let the lovers have their moment.
If he had remained, he would have seen Frankie’s satisfaction as Johnny drew the watch and gazed at it, then carefully and expertly snapped open the cover and gazed at the inscription. He beamed into his lover’s eyes. Frankie took him in his arms and breathed, “Pour mon ange,” then kissed him on the lips with great sweetness that heated into ardor.