‘Go to sleep Toots,’ ‘I love you – but Mamma’s got to go to work now.’
‘Nita’s through in the lounge room and she’ll check on you.’
‘I love you baby’ – ‘You are Mamma’s world.’ ‘Sleep sweetly my angel.’
Gently she released the length of her satin dress from her daughter’s hot, sweaty grip and slowly stroked the warm wrinkles, that most definitely weren’t going anywhere.
The window was open wide and a warm musky draught swept into the room carrying the groans and the banter of the punters below. The heavy footfall readily cramming into Frank’s Gaff was unmistakable.
Lola shoved the window down to the last inch and pulled the drapes across to dull the noise.
One last stroke of her daughter’s beautiful face as she pulled up the faded coverlet and kissed her brow. This was no place for a child.
A last glance in the walkway mirror and she saw the creases of motherhood, but they wouldn’t notice. She pushed a tendril of her long locks hastily behind her ear and pursed her lips together to spread the rouge more evenly. Dread sat in the depth of her stomach. Damn Frank for changing her set. Too many memories, too much hurt and heartaches
She was so tired. Tired from running, tired from waiting, tired from wishing , from hoping and from regrets. The running had to stop.
At the bottom of the stairwell she pushed the heavy door ajar and the atmosphere hit her hard. The smoky warmth of the air, the musky stench of masculinity and the closeness of the evening all flooded her senses. Too much hard liquor was already greasing the bar. Testosterone was high tonight and the floor was sticky. She needed a little loosener herself.
‘I’ll take a double Jack please Lil’ she nodded to the harried blonde behind the counter, already rushed off her feet.
‘You’re on in 5.’ Frank bellowed from the corner of the bar where his peers leered in her general direction. She smiled through gritted teeth. It was a damn good job he was paying her.
She smoothed her hand once more down the creases on her thigh and adjusted the corsetry beneath her bust. Another deep breath. She hadn’t realised she’d been holding it in.
Lil slammed the drink down on the bar in front of her and she clutched at it gratefully, before necking it back in one fell slug. Barely tasting, barely breathing.
The picture at the back of the bar by the optics caught her eye hauntingly. A burning sensation hit her stomach from the Jack as she felt herself tied up in those chains. Trapped, destiny unknown.
Hell, she was pissed at Frank for changing the set list. She wanted to break those chains, to hear those beads ping and rattle all over that floor, she needed release. She loved the song but even years later that part of her life was still raw.
A deep breath and she was on the stool, ready for action, depressing the button on the mike and nodding at Jake on the piano for her cue. Another deep breath.
Her head hung, her brunette locks shielding her face from the men and their smoky outcrop, the unwanted attention and the force of nature.
Slipping from the stool with the mike cord wrapped loosely around her wrist, her heels met with the floor and she raised her eyes from beneath her heavy lids and long lashes to meet her audience.
The words came without forethought – committed to memory and they seemed to cling to the fog in the air. Momentarily everyone stopped. All eyes on Lola. Glasses down, bottles poised, as they lapped up her husky delivery and hung on her every word.
The back door banged. Men were still pouring in from outside, the heat getting closer, the floor getting stickier with damp. The storm was here.
Her eyes fixed on a gentleman at the back of a room, shifty and sodden. He’d squeezed in past the regulars, past the truckers and found a place at the bar. He looked younger, handsomely out of place. Water slid from his leather jacket, his dark hair dripping.
Unfaltering from her throaty vocal she watches as he beckons to Lil to bring him a Jack on the rocks and then she notices the cigarette, damp and crumpled – tucked behind his ear … just like he used to do.
Continuing her act Lola sashays across the floor – flirting and singing openly at the men at each table in turn as they eyed her intently, silently braying for her attention. Her eyes furtive, constantly returning to the gentleman clad in leather, who is now seated at a table at the back of the room, his feet in a puddle – his damp cigarette now smouldering in his lips.
*20 minute piece …. from a Music prompt (& picture) at The Bowery, Write Night with Alison Taft 1st July 2016*