Madame Fannie Porter’s “soiled doves” give Meta, the bordello’s piano player, a gift.
“Meta,” Lillie said, her voice soft, as usual. “We have something for you, too.” She nudged Sassy Sarah.
“Sorry it’s not wrapped.” Sassy pulled the item from her lap and presented Meta with a comb carved with ivory roses.
“Kinda my idea,” Greta said, and ignored Sassy’s frown.
My girls. Their thoughtfulness overwhelmed me. They remained dry-eyed. Maybe too leather-skinned from hard lives to soften now. Some day, perhaps.
Meta shook her head as she placed the hair ornament inside the box. “Thank you,” she whispered.
“Well, missy.” Reba shook her head. “You sure picked a fine time to come to the big city.”
Meta chuckled. “A doozy.”
“I seen doozies of trouble in my day. Most is harder to pull off than ticks. Best thing? Meeting Fannie Porter. Worst? All them days before.” Reba draped a handmade amulet necklace around Meta’s neck. “For good luck.”
Meta didn’t ask what concoction Reba had put inside the amulet. Instead, she curled her fingers around the necklace then stood to hug Reba.
Reba and I had been worried about Meta after the shooting. Unlike my girls, Meta came from a simple, pleasant life. When she came to San Antone, she had seen the hardscrabble side and had proven herself a survivor.
Meta sat quietly, skimming her fingertips across the tabletop.
“What you thinking, girlie?” Reba said.
Meta let loose a wide grin and glanced at each of us. “So many secrets engrained in this wood. If only it could talk.”
“H’yaw, now.” Greta thumped Meta on the wrist. “Cain’t tell everything.”
We all cackled like a bunch of old women at a quilting bee and that image made me shiver.
excerpt from The Last Bordello