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Nov. 3rd, 2016 02:56 am
smackenzie: (faye)
[personal profile] smackenzie
One night Frances and Sadie and another shopgirl from Macy's named Emmy went up to Harlem, to the Cotton Club, to drink and dance and watch the performers. Rose wasn't feeling well and Ida stayed with her, and as Sadie sat in the taxi going uptown, sandwiched between Emmy and Frances in their dancing clothes, she found herself not missing her friends at all. Sometimes it was good to get away from the people who'd known you almost your whole life, and be with people you'd just met. She didn't want to completely reinvent herself, but she wanted to be able to cut loose without the possibility of disapproval from girls she genuinely liked.

The Cotton Club, much to Sadie's disappointment, didn't have dancing, at least not for the patrons. But it was decorated in what she assumed was an approximation of a Southern plantation, and the professional dancers, when they appeared, were beautiful and exotic. She was a little surprised that the only black people were the employees - she would have thought a club smack in the middle of Harlem would be full of people from the neighborhood, but maybe that just proved how little she knew about the city.

She and Frances and Emmy drank their cocktails and ordered some food and watched the show, the dancers and the orchestra and the singers and a comedian who had the audience roaring with laughter partly because he was funny and partly because everyone was halfway hammered. Sadie had had a couple of cocktails by then, so she laughed along with the rest of the crowd. And it was fun, enjoying the show with Frances and Emmy and their illicit cocktails, but she wanted to go dancing.

Frances was twenty-one, biding her time and sowing some last wild oats until her boyfriend finished law school and they could get married. Emmy was nineteen and she wanted to be an actress, and that last detail not only got Sadie to a club where they could dance, but indirectly introduced her to the girl who would change her life.

Not that she knew it at the time.

The Cotton Club dancers were taking a break in favor of a singer, a tall, willowy woman in a dark yellow dress, when Emmy came back from the ladies' room with another girl in tow. The new girl had straight dark hair cut in a shingle bob with a pink headband, and she was wearing a beaded white satin dress and a long rope of pink and silver beads.

"This is Gigi," Emmy said, gesturing first to the girl and then to Sadie and Frances. "And this is Frances and... no, I forgot your name!"

"Sadie," Sadie said helpfully. Emmy had had several cocktails and she and Sadie had just met earlier that night, so she could be forgiven a memory lapse.

"Sadie. Gigi was at my audition."

"She was adorable!" Gigi cried. "Not right for the part, but adorable!" She must have noticed Emmy's disappointed face, because she slung her arm around Emmy's neck, pulled her close, and kissed her cheek. "Don't mind me, I'm half-shot. Look, we're leaving - Carroll knows a place we can dance, where the liquor's good - you should come with us." She pointed to Sadie with the hand hanging over Emmy's shoulder. "Your dress is beautiful. Where did you get it?"

"I made it," Sadie told her. But a lot of women made their own clothes, at least where she was from, so she added "I designed it."

"You did! Yours too?" she asked Frances, who shook her head. Gigi unwound herself from Emmy's neck, said "We have to find Carroll, come on," and wove her way through the tables and around the stage to where three more people, two men and a woman, were sitting and drinking. Gigi made introductions, but the band had swung into a loud, fast tune by now and Sadie couldn't hear anyone's names. They all trooped out of the Cotton Club, leaving behind one of New York's most famous nightclubs, piled into two cabs, and went back downtown.

The new club was called Lucy's and the entrance was down an alley and through a nondescript wooden door with a peephole. Carroll knocked three times, paused, knocked twice, paused, and knocked four times, and then the door swung open. The cover charge was a dollar-fifty, and while Sadie didn't know nearly enough about alcohol to know if the bootleg liquor was as good as promised, the band was fine and the dance floor was full of people. Sadie danced with Gigi, with Carroll (who was tall and blond), and with Gigi's other male friend, whose name was Victor. He was taller than Sadie but shorter than Carroll, his black hair was slicked back, his suit was immaculate, and he was an excellent dancer. He was also drunk and gossipy, and Sadie liked him.

She and Frances and Emmy had to sneak back into the residential hotel, or rather they tried to, but there was a matron on duty for just this occasion, and she caught them. The girls apologized, with varying degrees of success, and the matron scolded them and said if it happened again she would have to write their parents. The girls went up to their rooms, suitably chastened, but Sadie at least was at not at all sorry. She'd need to figure out how to get back to her room without alerting the guard dog, because she'd had too good of a time to give it up just because she had a curfew.

She and Gigi had had a brief discussion about where they both lived - Sadie in the upper 50s in the residential hotel, and Gigi in an apartment in Greenwich Village.

"I have a roommate," Gigi had admitted, "but I want her to leave. She might leave. I don't know."

"I have my own room," Sadie said. "But I don't have my own kitchen, and I couldn't bring my sewing machine with me from home."

Gigi had been appalled that Sadie's residence had a curfew and wouldn't let men past the lobby, and in the morning Sadie thought (but wasn't sure) that Gigi had suggested Sadie move in with her, when the roommate finally moved out. Sadie didn't remember what she'd said - probably nothing - but the idea lodged itself in her brain. What if she moved out of the residential hotel? Her parents would be horrified she was living on her own, but she was a modern girl and it was starting to bother her that she had a curfew, couldn't cook for herself, and didn't have space in her room to spread out a paper pattern, cut fabric, and sew a dress together. She wanted a sewing machine, although how she'd get one she had no idea, but before she bought one she needed a place to put it.

And for that she apparently needed an actual apartment.

Was she ready to live on her own? She didn't know. But she also didn't think it was a particularly pertinent question, since Gigi hadn't asked her to move in and so far she didn't have to. She mentioned it casually to Ida and Rose, and both of them were scandalized that she'd even think it.

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