Winnie did not even touch gin that evening. She ran from the backstage area to the bedroom that she shared with her youngest three siblings. Her mother was nowhere to be seen. This was to be expected. The baby was out like a light. One of the twins stirred. She hushed them and told them it was okay and to go back to sleep.
What exactly does a body need to become a whore? Oh hell. More lying and stealing.
This went through Winnie's head in circles as she packed a few of her costumes and underclothes. She figured they may come of some use. The costumes had attracted male attention before. Not that it had been wanted. Not that she had any choice. She thought about the whole thing with an air of resignation.
She had no choice. This was the only thing she could do. She looked at the baby sleeping on sheets scattered across the hard floor.
I have no other choice.
Winnie could sing and dance until feet bled, while starving and she would still not make enough money to support herself. Maybe if she rid her Ma of the burden of another daughter, she would be doing them a service. She knew the babies would not want for care. With younger sisters to take her place, she wouldn't be missed. This was the only thing to do.
Desperate times call for running off and becoming a whore in New Orleans.
Winnie was not an educated girl woman she corrected herself. She tried hard at writing a note to her mother though. She didn't want anyone to worry.
I am leeving too nite. I am going to the sity too bee cared for by a vary nice man. Doo not worry. I will send mony for the close I stole as soon as I can.
Winnie consoled herself. The web of lies she had recently created was only to protect them. She knew that she was not going to be anything but a burden from here on. It was not as if someone was going to come and save her. She had to look out for herself.
Winnie didn't look back. She climbed through the window and down a tree branch. first letting the sack she packed with clothing fall to the ground. She jumped from about 6 feet to the ground. She tore her stockings on the way down. "Dammit to hell!" Winnie said to no one.
The post office did not seem like a very far walk to Winnie. If she had allowed herself to feel nervous she would have been on her way to becoming a raving lunatic at this point. Winnie was not allowed to feel anything. No feeling. Only cold hard "is".
Now would be a really good time for gin.
She did not wait there very long. A car stopped in front of her. She hopped in quickly, hopeful that no one was aware of any of this. It was not exactly common for a car to be out picking up never-to-be-seen-again young women in the middle of the night.
I am never going to be seen again.
If it wasn't so frightening, and she wasn't leaving to go live in a whorehouse with God-only-knows-who, it might have been freeing. This town had lots of ugly memories. The men with the shot guns had come for Pa when Ma was beaten to next Christmas, but nothing of Winnie. She must have dissevered that and everything else.
She said nothing to the driver other than "Thank you sir" when he let her out of the car. Two and a half hours alone with your thoughts were no good for someone who tried as she could to never think.
Winnie was dropped off in front of a big building amongst many other big buildings. They were vastly different in color, more so than buildings should be. They were beautiful in a strange sort of way.
This sort of neighborhood doesn't exist back home
Winnie quickly brought herself back to reality. The Emerald Colored building surrounded by lights and a world that she didn't know existed was Winnie's new reality.
She was confused. She really did not know what she was doing so she just walked in.
She walked down a hallway and opened another door which made a loud creaking noise when Winnie opened it. This was all very shady.
You are in a whorehouse.
She couldn't even frame her mind around this whole situation, knowing that she had just walked into a different room, and a whole different life, a bright and colorful world that was drunk around the edges. This was nothing compared to Ma's.
Winnie collected herself and held her head high, trying her best to look as if she belonged there, marching over to the bar and then lounging on it, mimicking the posture of the other women there. Whores?
"I need a drink". She demanded to the bar tender.
It occurred to her that she had never actually ordered a drink. She wouldn't know what to order.
"She'll have what I'm having" a woman from the bar stool next to hers leaned over and said.
She seemed to know the predicament Winnie was in. She didn't look a whole lot older than Winnie.
"Thank ya ma'am" Winnie said with a smile. She could smile her way through anything at this point.
"Welcome. You're new. Ripe for the picking I suppose. Did they send old Grey for you?"
"Yep. Frightening old woman. Gave me the heebie jeebies"
They shared a look that would have been a laugh if Winnie was not still so shaken and still so sober.
"Is she here?" Winnie asked.
"Heavens no. She stays out of town mostly. She lost big when the city closed Storyville back years ago. She mostly ‘procures' and oversees here and there."
"Well thank the lord for small favors!" sighed a more relaxed Winnie.
"I am Dotty by the way." The girl or woman or whore seemed gentle and understanding.
"Did Grey tell you about what was coming next?"
"She told me very little to be honest. I haven't the foggiest what exactly is coming next."
"We are going to have to have a serious talk"