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Nov. 11th, 2016 05:47 pm
smackenzie: (faye)
[personal profile] smackenzie
Later that week Sadie learned that Gigi paid someone once a week to come and clean the apartment, to sweep and dust and scrub the toilet and wipe down the stove and the icebox and polish the silver. Sadie thought that was a waste of money and said that she was more than happy to do it, but Gigi merely shrugged and said she could afford it and it freed up her and Sadie's time and helped someone else make a living, so why shouldn't she hire a cleaner? Sadie opted not to mention it to her parents when she wrote home.

She'd been writing regularly, to her parents and her sister and brother and both her grandmothers, and occasionally to her Aunt Molly and Uncle Samuel, her father's older brother and his wife, or to her cousins. She didn't necessarily expect her cousins to write her back every time - they were busy people with their own lives - nor did she expect to hear a lot back from her aunts and uncles or her grandmothers. (She loved her bubbes but her father's mother especially didn't write in English, and her handwriting was difficult to decipher and she couldn't always get someone to be her secretary.) But ever since telling her parents that she was moving out of the residential hotel and into an apartment with another girl - a stranger they didn't know, and a shiksa at that - she hadn't heard from them at all. She sent them Gigi's telephone number, they had her new address, and... nothing. She'd heard from her sister Edith, a short letter asking what it was like having her own apartment and running her own life, but other than that, no one had bothered.

Sadie decided that was her parents' way of showing their disapproval, not just by refusing to write to her but by getting everyone else to stop doing it too. It hurt, but at the same time Sadie knew she could count on Edith to keep her up to date, and she was sure that eventually she'd hear from her Aunt Molly, who married her father's older brother, but she was starting to miss her mom. They'd never had the closest relationship, but Sadie loved her mother and knew her mother loved her back, and this was just how her mother was - caring, but a little distant. She showed her affection by feeding people and badgering them to dress warmly in the winter and modestly in the summer, by making her children do their homework and by making her husband go to bed at a reasonable hour. She wasn't smiling in Jonathan's bar mitzvah photograph, although neither was Sadie's father, but both of them had been very pleased and proud after the service. They'd beamed with pride as people congratulated them on how well Jonathan read the Torah portion.

They'd been proud when Sadie graduated from high school, and proud when Henry did the same years earlier, although that pride was tempered with the sense that of course their children graduated, and of course they did well. That was the expectation, and meeting your parents' expectations wasn't necessarily something to be overly proud of. They'd supported her when she went to secretarial school, and they'd grudgingly supported her move to New York, but she'd thought at the time (and still did) that they hoped she'd meet a nice Jewish boy with a good job, who would make a good husband and father. They hoped she'd turn into Rose.

But she didn't. She never would. And now they were showing their disapproval.

There wasn't much she could do about it. She wasn't going to take a train home to plead with them to support her choices. She wasn't going to call them and do it over the phone. She was going to continue to write to them and tell them what she was doing and what her life was like, and she was going to continue to ask how they were and how the family was and what was going on at home (her mother might be highly attuned to things that would embarrass the family, but her mother also liked to gossip), and if they chose not to answer, well, she tried. When the High Holy Days rolled around she would call and wish them L'shana tovah. But she was otherwise going to continue to live her life the way she'd chosen. She was young. She had time to do what they wanted her to do. She just didn't want to do it now.

On Monday, only two days after moving to the Village, she wrote to the tailor she'd worked for during the summers when she was in high school. His name was Mr Roskoff and he was a short, stooped gentleman from somewhere in Russia. He'd taught her how to construct a suit and how to alter and how to hem and how to fix the lining of a suit jacket or a coat and how to repair a tear or a ripped seam and how to add a pocket to a skirt, and he'd always praised the work she'd done for him. Now she asked him if he would write her a letter of recommendation so she could try and find work with a tailor in New York, someone who would help her hone her skills and give her some insight into the business here. She made a list of the things she needed to know - clothes-making skills in addition to things like "how to start a business" and "where to locate the shop" and "where should I advertise" - and hopefully Mr Roskoff's assessment of her skills and her potential would help her get work that would teach her more things.

Besides, she'd come here to be a dressmaker. It was time to start dressmaking.

She'd brought her pattern books and notebook of designs from home, as well as a fairly basic sewing kit. But she'd need fabric and notions and needles and thread and she wanted to learn how to bead and she needed to talk to Victor.

Mr Roskoff came through with a letter and, even better, the name of his cousin, a woman who lived in Brooklyn and was a seamstress. He said he'd written to her as well, and if he'd known Sadie was moving to New York to be a dressmaker he would have mentioned her to this cousin before. The recommendation letter was written in Yiddish, which would only work with Jewish tailors, which meant she'd have to pound the pavement in the Lower East Side and the Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn. But Mr Roskoff's handwriting was legible, his punctuation was good, and it was pretty much exactly what she'd asked for.

She didn't bother to tell Ida and Rose what she was planning, because she knew they'd talk her out of it. All Rose wanted to talk about was Mr Rockland, anyway. She'd succeeded in finding someone for Ida, somehow - Sadie suspected Frances' boyfriend had actually done the finding - and the four of them were going on a double date over the weekend, to a movie and dinner. It consumed her conversation at lunch. Sadie listened and said the right encouraging things and added, in all sincerity, that she hoped this new boy was a good person and that he and Ida liked each other. Whatever the twins might think of Sadie's new life and plans, they were still her friends and she still loved them and wanted them to be happy.

"We can find someone for you too," Rose said, giddy with the accomplishment of having set up her sister. "Frances' boyfriend knows law students. Wouldn't you like a lawyer? They make good money."

"I have too much to do," Sadie said. "I don't have time for a boyfriend."

"What about those men at your party? The short one, Victor, he's a landsman."

"I'm not his type." The twins didn't need to know what exactly that meant, but when Ida asked, Sadie just repeated what Gigi had told her - "I'm not unattainable enough. I'm not patrician enough."

"What does that mean?" Rose asked.

"I'm Jewish and working-class."

Rose and Ida both snorted, clearly unimpressed with Victor's taste in women. Sadie didn't feel the need to add that he preferred men, and not just that, he apparently preferred men who looked like her tallish, skinny, blond, playwright neighbor. Even if she had been male, she wouldn't have been his type.

Which was a pity, because Victor was in all other respects a nice Jewish boy, probably even the kind of boy her parents would approve of, and she really liked him.

Ida thoughtfully chewed her pastrami sandwich. Rose got more coffee. Sadie changed the subject by asking if they'd heard from home, and how were their families doing.

Friday night was the premiere of the play Gigi was in, the one Alistair wrote, and Sadie was invited to the cast party afterwards. She sat with Victor in the theater, and he whispered gossip in her ear about the playwrights who wrote the other two plays, about the actors and the director (all three had been directed by the same person), about the wealthy woman who owned the theater - "One of Layla's rich ladies with bohemian pretensions," he added, although not maliciously - even about the man who had designed the scenery and the costumes. Sadie didn't know what to think about the plays, as avant-garde as they were, but she decided Gigi and Roman were both very good.

When Alistair asked her afterwards what she thought, she told him in all honesty that she didn't know, and that the performance was more modern than she was used to.

"It grows on you," Victor said. "Modernity."

"I hope so," Sadie said, mostly to Alistair. "I want to be able to understand your work."

The cast party was held at the house of the woman who owned the theater, and who introduced herself to Sadie as Julia Godwin Chase, as if the name should mean something. It didn't. Victor had told her that the Godwins were an absurdly wealthy, absurdly large family, and that Julia liked to throw money at her bohemian friends, but before tonight Sadie had never heard of them.

Julia was very friendly and hospitable, but she was also hosting an increasingly large and unruly party, and Sadie didn't get a chance to talk to her for more than ten minutes. She did however get a chance to meet Julia's brother Con, who had come from Chicago for the occasion.

"I've been told to keep my hands to myself," Con told her cheerfully, "otherwise my sister will kill me."

Sadie wasn't sure, but she thought Victor looked disappointed.

"That's his type," Gigi whispered in her ear. "Patrician and completely unavailable."

Unlike his sister, Con stayed to chat with Sadie and Gigi and Victor, and then Alistair appeared at his elbow and wanted to know what he thought of the plays, and then Gigi bowed out, and then more people joined the conversation, and then it split apart, and all the time everyone was talking about art and performance and sometimes politics and after a while Sadie couldn't follow anything.

She knew about illustration, but what she knew was practical and commercial. She didn't know anything about modern art or modern theater. It didn't help that someone kept filling her glass, or that she kept drinking, or that she knew very few people here. And as the night wore on, she felt less and less comfortable and less and less like she belonged. These weren't her people. These were intellectual city bohemians, and she was a grocer's daughter from upstate. She didn't even feel like she was dressed appropriately, and Victor had helped her put her outfit together.

At some point she found herself - tired, a little sad, much more sozzled than she wanted to be - talking to Con Godwin again, Victor's object of desire and wealthy patrician, a good-looking man, a fun conversationalist, and most importantly a mostly sober person. She realized harder than ever that there wasn't a place for her here. She wanted to go home.

"Will you take me home?" she asked him, for no other reason than he was there and she didn't trust herself to get back to the apartment on her own. Julia lived in the Village, but Sadie hadn't been paying attention to how they got there, and she knew she'd never be able to walk home. She didn't even know what she expected Con to say, but he looked surprised, then amused, and then he said yes.

She nodded off in the taxi and was never sure if she unlocked the apartment door herself or if he had to do it for her, and she was never sure if she took herself to bed or if he had to put her in it. She only knew that she woke up the next day in her shift and bare feet, with a terrible hangover and, oddly enough, the smell of something frying in her nose.

She slowly climbed out of bed and put on her robe and shuffled into the kitchen, where Gigi was sitting at the table reading the paper in her dressing gown, with her hair sticking out at all angles, and Victor stood at the stove, his sleeves rolled up, frying eggs.

"Good morning," Gigi chirped, looking and sounding much too chipper for a girl who no doubt stayed out until almost sunrise, drinking and talking and dancing and drinking some more. "A little birdie told me Con Godwin brought you home." She winked. "I didn't see him when I got back."

"He didn't stay," Sadie said. She sat in a chair and put her head on the table. "I feel terrible."

"There, there." Gigi patted her shoulder. "Victor? Another hangover cure, if you please?"

Sadie heard rummaging around and then the sound of a glass being plunked on the table in front of her. She lifted her head. It looked like it was full of tomato juice. She took a sip and choked. Tomato juice, yes, but a dash of something hot and spicy and under it the unmistakable taste of bathtub gin.

"Fried potatoes?" Gigi went on, presumably talking to Victor. He sighed and out of the corner of her eye Sadie could see him apply a potato to a box grater. The thought of a fried egg made her feel worse, but she might be able to eat some fried potatoes.

Her stomach suggested that maybe she shouldn't try.

"Did you have a good time at the party?" Gigi asked. "Aside from getting to meet Julia's famous brother. She has another brother in Chicago as well, and the gossip is that he does business with gangsters." She sounded more exited than scandalized. Rose and Ida would have been shocked. Sadie was too tired, too hungover, and too disappointed in herself to form an opinion. What did she care if the woman who owned Gigi's theater had a gangster brother? "Don't say a word." That must have been directed at Victor.

"I wasn't going to," Victor said, sounding almost as if he might be pouting.

"I told you, Victor, he has someone. And anyway, he doesn't live here. You can do so much better."

Victor hmphed but said nothing else. Sadie sat up and tried to drink more of the hangover cure.

"I know what you need," Victor said to her. He'd apparently grated enough potato because he'd slid the eggs out of the frying pan and was now adding more butter. It sizzled. Sadie's stomach mounted a weak protest.

"I can't eat anything," she said into her glass. "You can have that."

"But I ate."

"Bring it up to Alistair," Gigi said. "He's always hungry. Well?" she asked Sadie. "Did you have a good time."

"No," Sadie said honestly.


"I didn't - I knew three people - four - " She'd forgotten Roman. " - and everyone was talking about things I don't understand. I didn't understand any of the plays. I thought you and Roman were very good, but I didn't know what the point was. One of them - The Star - was an allegory of Communism, wasn't it?" Gigi nodded. "I didn't realize that until halfway through the next one." She sighed. "I drank too much and I felt very much out of place. I'm sorry."

Gigi took both her hands. "Don't apologize, my darling. Cast parties are hard if you're not in the production. I love my people but we can be very...."

"Cliquish," Victor finished. "Tribal."

"Yes. I'm so sorry you didn't enjoy yourself. I'd hoped you'd meet people and dance and talk and find friends and collaborators - "

"And a cute boy," Victor interrupted.

"Hush," Gigi said to him, without even turning her head. "There will always be boys."

"Lyman Peralta."

"He played the Red Man in The Star," Gigi explained to Sadie, because Sadie must have looked confused. "Julia has several guest rooms and is very accommodating."

"Was he good?"

"Victor, will you be quiet?" Her hands tightened around Sadie's. "I have another performance tonight, of course, and two tomorrow. Do you want to come to the matinee? A second showing might give you some more insight."

"No, thank you," Sadie said, feeling ungrateful - she was learning that acting was very important to Gigi, even more than putting people together - but not wanting to spend her Sunday afternoon sitting in a theater watching obscure modern art. "I need to start making plans. Victor, will you talk to me about your wholesalers? I'm going to need fabric and thread and notions and everything, and I need to know what it will cost me and what I can get."

"Of course," he said, pushing the shredded potato around in the frying pan without having to look at it. "I'll come by at noon and we'll have lunch somewhere. I'll tell you everything you need to know."

"Thank you. I like your friends," she said to Gigi. "My friends now, I guess. Last night was just hard. I'm sorry."

"I said you shouldn't be," Gigi repeated. Another squeeze and she let go of Sadie's hands. "Now go back to bed. We'll be quiet."

"Noon Sunday," Victor said again, as Sadie got up and headed to the bathroom, having suddenly realized she needed to pee. She could just hear Gigi complain "If you buttonhole Lyman about me I will kill you" as she shut her door, shucked off her robe, and got back in bed.

words: 3126
total words: 20,330


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