In the glow of the heart-shaped neon sign in the window of Sweetheart Liquors, the snow on the sidewalk looked red, like a crushed cherry popsicle. Lily carried a wicker basket on her arm filled with fresh Kaiser rolls, a round of cheese, sliced ham, and a tin of sweets. The only thing left on her grandmother's list was wine. It had snowed all day and the snow-covered cars parked along the street were shapeless, like sheet-covered furniture. The wind was icy and she pulled up the hood of her cape to keep her face warm.
Joe and Elvie Chamberlain had owned the corner liquor store for years. Joe always said it was named after Elvie, his sweetheart. Lily stepped inside and heard Elvie singing in the back room.
"Lily, you're a red rose, ready to bloom. What are you doing out in this weather?" Joe winked at her and gave her a sly smile. He was a good-looking man for his age, youthful blue eyes, dark hair, with tinges of gray. "With lips sweet as candy, I imagine." He looked over his shoulder to see where Elvie was. "What can I get for you?"
"A bottle of wine. I'm picking up a few things for Gram."
"How about this—it's a special vintage raspberry blush."
She slipped her hand under her cape and pulled out a wad of cash.
"Ten bucks "
She unfolded the crumpled bills and sighed, "I'll have to get it later. I've got only three bucks."
Joe edged around the counter and slid his arm around Lily's waist. His breath was sweet like peppermint and chocolate.
"I tell you what—one kiss on those ruby lips and I won't charge you a dime for the wine."
He laughed and looked at her. For a moment she was lost in his blue gaze. It warmed her a little inside. It made her feel things she shouldn't be feeling. "Well, okay. Deal."
Joe pulled Lily close and kissed her in a way no one ever had. Elvie walked toward the front, asking about cases of Blue Moon.
"My God Joe, will you stop giving our girl the wolf-eyes. You're embarrassing her. How are you dear?"
The three of them laughed. Lily imagined how beautiful Elvie must have been at twenty-one.
"You know Lily, I could use some help doing bookwork, isn't that right, Joe? Would you be interested?"
"I'm pretty busy already with school . Thanks anyway."
Lily felt uncomfortably warm, like she was burning up. She considered shedding her cape.
Instead, Lily took the wine from the wolf, nestled it in her basket, and escaped into the white snowy night to visit her grandmother.