Delia Sherman is a fantasy writer who embeds magic in unusual milieus. For her Mythopoeic Award-winning The Porcelain Dove, it was the French Revolution. In her recent novel, The Freedom Maze, it is a sugar plantation in antebellum Louisiana. Here it is the cultural friction of late 1960s New York.
Celia stepped out of the bright lobby into the cold night air. Her breath ghosted back to her as she cuddled her coat up to her chin.
Valentine folded her hand in his and drew her down the steps of the Plaza Hotel towards the fountain, heading across town.
“Let’s walk,” he said. “The fresh air will revive you.”
“There is no fresh air in New York,” Celia complained, but it was only reflex. She was feeling indecently cheerful, considering that she’d just broken up with Guy—if you could even break up with someone who was nearly too stoned to speak. When Valentine brought her back to the box after the waltz, Guy had let her know that he didn’t like her dancing with foreign fags, and she had let him know that she never wanted to see him again. He’d tried to kiss her. Stoned as he was, it was easy to push him away. Valentine had caught him, and a moment later, Guy was in a chair in the corner of the box with his head on the pink linen tablecloth, snoring peacefully.
“Damn,” Celia said, disgusted. “Now there’s going to be the most incredible scene.” Her cigarettes and silver lighter were lying by Guy’s hand. She picked up the pack and pulled one out. Valentine took it from her hand and tucked back it into her purse.
“Let’s not make a big deal out of this,” he said. “Someone might notice that I don’t actually have an invitation to this affair. Perhaps one of his friends would be willing to perform a discreet rescue? I’ll see you home, if you like.”
Celia was momentarily side-tracked from the problem of what to do with Guy. “You crashed the ball? Why?”
Valentine’s smile broadened just a little. “To find you,” he said.