Those judging biddies

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Sofie secured her hat with one hand, lifted her skirt with the other and continued running toward Sunset Station. Her legs burned and her black-laced boots were too small, crimping her toes. There was no choice. She had to get to there before the train left.

Beatrice was making a terrible mistake and needed to be stopped. Gullible prostitutes like Beatrice think it possible to leave for love, that the man will be honest and sincere, wooing her to a better place. But no matter how many gifts he had given her, over time they would mean nothing. Beatrice would learn. He would leave her heart when the sex got old. He would stray and what kindness he had would leave just after the matrimonial words passed over stupid lips.

Turning right on West Commerce street, the women at Milam market stared as she ran past. Their eyes, the ones glaring at the whore running for her life, would not distract her. The young maidens and the old mares would stare anyway. Running, dancing, strolling or even walking made no difference. People talked. Even in this large city, gossip spread like influenza.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies, a historical novel by C. Dennis-Willingham

 

Glaring– daily word prompt

Wrong place at the right time?

If I weren’t so frightened, it would, or could be, comical. I felt plunked into the pages of a lecherous novel.

Greta and Lillie wore corsets that barely covered their nipples. Their legs shimmered inside shiny silk stockings attached with garters. Trying to be nonchalant, I squinted in the dim light and read Greta’s novelty garter atop her thick thigh. “Good things come high,” it read.

Sassy Sarah and Sadie both wore dresses pitched long in the back but rose above their knees in the front.

Another thought amused me. Except for Miss Fannie, I felt overdressed. A farm girl is rarely overdressed.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello by C. Dennis-Willingham

Shimmer– daily word prompt

A Poisoned Past

The door, closed, Sofie could hear Meta resuming the piano, another ragtime piece, people clapping. Pacing the room a few times, she downed a glass of whiskey, the whiskey she had taken from the shining closet when no one was looking. Her mind was foggy. Thoughts separated themselves into tiny bubbles on the murky, poisoned pond of what she assumed was her mind. Sofie lay on her bed and stared at the clock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock, the pendulum pacing like her mother had so long ago across their small family room.

Sofie, what are you doing! Her mother’s voice.

Sofie, what a stupid mistake you’ve made. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Do you think money is easy to come by? Do you, Sofie? Sometimes you have to make hard choices just to survive. I told you not to sing, and look, you’ve gone and made a fool of yourself! A fool!

Sofie looked down at the shattered clock on the floor before her. She vaguely remembered throwing it there.

Excerpt from Naked, She Lies, by C. Dennis-Willingham

Foggy– Daily word prompt

Defending Prostitution (or attempting to)

 

Aunt Amelia winked. “And Meta? Will you still be joining me for the meeting on Friday night?”

“Of course, Aunt Amelia. I’m looking forward to it.” How could I forget one of the main reasons I came to San Antonio?

“What meeting?” Giovanni asked.

I turned toward Giovanni. “Aunt Amelia is a member of the Women’s Club of San Antonio. There’s a public forum—”

Sadie clamped a hand over my wrist. “Wait. What? I thought …”

“I hear it’s going to be a humdinger,” Giovanni interrupted. “A few of those gals arrived by train last night.”

I patted Sadie’s hand to reassure her. “It’s okay. I’ve already asked for the day off. Miss Fannie gave me permission.”

“No, I mean,” Sadie’s breath hitched. “Her club invited the Women’s Temperance Union. They want to force any place that sells liquor to close down.”

Aunt Amelia leaned forward. “I sincerely doubt they have that power, my dear. Remember, Texas voted a majority against prohibition in ‘87.”

“But they also think alcohol adds to social problems like …” Sadie hesitated and dropped her chin, “prostitution.”

“My organization only wants women to have better opportunities, Sadie, including the right to vote.” Aunt Amelia’s voice remained calm, self-assured.

Sadie shifted her upper torso and shook her head. “But that’s not what the Temperance women want. Why did you invite them?”

“Board decision. Perhaps the Temperance Union can be instrumental in helping us get the right to vote.”

Sadie cleared her throat. “Excuse me, Amelia. But I seem to recall Miss Fannie telling us of a woman named Susan Anthony is pushing for our right to vote yet also attacks prostitution as a social evil.”

“I’m not saying I want to be a part of the Temperance Union,” Aunt Amelia continued, her head tipped back in confidence. “But I would like to hear what they have to say. I can’t minimize their efforts without first listening.”

My heart sank as the seams of new acquaintances unraveled.

“In my case, Amelia, I chose to work at Miss Fannie’s. I chose my profession.”

Mrs. Carver returned and brought in a tray of coffee and scurried back outside to Mr. Davis. I longed to join them for a breath of fresh air.

Aunt Amelia sipped her coffee then returned the cup gently to its saucer. “You were saying?”

“I told you I chose my profession.” Sadie’s tone came out biting and abrasive.

Aunt Amelia caught my eye then turned a Polished focus to Sadie. “Some benighted women don’t have a choice. Many young women are taken unwillingly and sold into white slavery. Their rights have been taken and, in my opinion, that is a horrific injustice.”

Sadie’s face flushed. She closed her eyes and puffed out her bosoms. “But you don’t mind Meta staying at the bordello? Sleeping in my bed?”

“And I will keep Meta safe,” Sadie said.

Sadie’s overprotective and presumptuous emphasis set me on edge. The gathering no longer seemed a good idea.

 

The room settled into an irksome silence. The only thing audible came from Mr. Davis’ cursing in the backyard. “… And you ain’t no goddamn Florence Nightingale neither.”

I kissed Aunt Amelia goodbye and was first out the door.

Standing at the curb, I thought of Miss Reba. I reached into my purse and pulled out the cleanly scrubbed cloth, remembering to return it. Sadie grabbed it from my hands, blew her nose, and flung it onto the dusty street.

 

Daily Word Prompt: Polish

Miss Proper meets Crude

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At some point during the evening, Sadie had removed every stitch of her nightclothes. I turned away while she threw on a blue peignoir.

As we Descended the stairs together, I secretly wondered what it would be like to sway my hips down a staircase, to have men ogle at me with carnal designs. To have a body like Sadie’s. Only curiosity, of course. I often pictured myself in alternative scenarios—a famous writer, a composer, a student of nature and all living things. And, of recent, I pondered working as an advocate for women’s rights.

The kitchen abuzz with chatter, I took a seat next to Sadie.

“So you worked up an appetite did you, Sassy Sarah?” Miss Fannie grinned.

“Yep, sure did.”

Miss Reba refilled Sassy Sarah’s coffee cup. “Sounds like Lawrence P. came last night.”

Sassy flipped her red hair to the side. “He came alright. And came and came.”

While everyone laughed, I felt the heat of my cheeks and turned my head.

 

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

 

Daily Prompt: Descend

Firing Squad

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The officer turned to Sadie. “Miss, get up now. We need to ask you some questions. City Hall is only a short walk.”

Sadie gripped the edge of the table as if nailed there. “But I didn’t do anything wrong. I found this the night of the meeting. Meta?” Her eyes begged for help.

What could I do besides sit with my mouth open? I forced myself to stand and offered Sadie my hand. “It will be all right. I’m sure it won’t take long to answer their questions. You’ll be home before you know it.” With afterthought, I turned to the officer. “Sir, doesn’t Sheriff Tobin have jurisdiction over this county?” An elected official always had command over a hired police force.

Ignoring me, the officer grimaced at Sadie, his fingers resting atop his cudgel. “What’s your name, Miss?”

Sadie creaked out of her chair like a woman twice her age. “Miss Sadie Dubois,” she said, her voice low.

“And where do you live, Miss Dubois?”

Again, Sadie stared at me for support.

“Sir, we live at the corner of Durango and San Saba,” I said, not giving away the proprietor or Sadie’s profession.

He tilted his head upward as if picturing the city streets. A slight grin crept up one side of his mouth. “I’d say it’s time for us to take a walk.”

I followed behind a slumping Sadie. Outside, the fresh air did nothing to help my breathing. The officer held fast to Sadie’s elbow and pulled her toward the courthouse. The Temperance women, glued to Sadie’s heels, followed behind like a firing squad taking a prisoner to her Final destination.

Excerpt from The Last Bordello

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Meta pretends she’s a prostitute

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His lips mashed together into a thin line. “Hey, wait just a confounded minute. Did you say…? They didn’t hire you to, you know…”

Retaliation. “Yes! I got a job there, and I know I will love it. The clients can be quite challenging. Last night, when I had to explain that I wasn’t warmed up yet—”

“I don’t want to hear more. Hell, I might be street-smart, but I haven’t even turned fifteen yet. Porca miseria!

“Porca what?”

“Just practicing on not saying ‘shit’ all the time. Ma doesn’t like it, and my little sister thumps me between the eyes when I say it. It’s a little Italian cuss word that means pig misery. Like saying ‘damn.’ Where you off to, anyhow?”

“My Aunt Amelia’s. Would you care to accompany me, Mr. Scallywag? I found a job because of you, did I not?”

He tore the cap off his head and rubbed his greasy black curls of hair. “Stop saying that. I had nothing to do with you getting that job!” He pointed his finger eastward and accelerated his pace.

“Oh, but you did,” I said, hurrying to catch up. “If it hadn’t been for you, I wouldn’t be tingling with avidity for this evening to arrive. That’s why I’m going to visit Aunt Amelia, to tell her the good news.”

“What’s avidity mean? Wait, you’re going to tell your great-aunt about your new job? At Fannie Porter’s?”

“Of course. She’ll be thrilled for me. Besides, she knows I’m good at it. I’ve been doing it for years now.” I muzzled the smile aching to form.

His eyes widened into a dumbfounded glare.

“And avidity means eager, like being Avid about something.”

“I gotta go,” he said, turning away.

One more chance at deception. “Giovanni? You said you were fourteen?”

“Yeah. Why?”

“Well, you are too young to be entertained at Miss Fannie’s. However, I’ll ask her if you can watch me perform sometime.”

His jaw dropped, his dander standing taller than his five-foot-five stature. “You want me to…watch?”

“Ah, we’re here. Thanks for the company.” I trotted off with the last laugh.

From The Last Bordello, historical fiction set in 1901