A few days after the big whore wedding everyone was acting terrified. The girls were dolling up before noon. Stockings were flying in every direction and powder filled the air. Winnie didn't know what was going on.
This is not normal.
Winnie headed straight for Dotty's vanity mirror.
"What the hell is going on with everyone?" Winnie asked.
"Grey" Dotty answered without even putting down her powder puff.
When Madame Grey arrived the women stood in a line of sorts. She looked them over as if she was a military officer that out-ranked all of them by far.
She looked much the same, even though her wig was a different color. She held herself with great authority even if she was a woman in a business that was illegal as the day (or in this case night) was long.
The first person Grey took individually was Nan, the madam she left in charge in her absence. Grey lead Nan off to a private room and closed the door behind them.
Winnie was very curious as to what might be going on in that room, but she wasn't going to get anywhere near that door. Even from across the room everyone could hear Madame Grey shouting with great authority in her voice. No one could hear exactly what she said, but it was clear it wasn't pleasant.
The two madams came back into the parlor where everyone else waited. Madame Nan seemed to have shrunk three feet since yesterday.
Had Nan come into this as a young whore, procured by Madame Grey?
Really it was just a wild guess but it made Winnie feel better to think so.
Madame Grey made her rounds. She had authority over every person in that whorehouse, from Winnie up to Madame Nan. She made every single one of them shake in their high heeled shoes.
By the looks of things, it was nearing Dotty's turn in the private room with Grey. She was biting her fingernails and looking so unlike herself.
She must be horribly nervous.
"She'll be gone soon, then we can have some drinks and you can show me how to curl my hair" Winnie said to her friend in hopes of lightening the mood.
"I really can't talk now." Dotty spouted.
Winnie nodded in agreement, even though Dotty's behavior seemed peculiar.
I'll just sit and wait.
Dotty's turn in the room came soon. The yelling noises were just awful, more so than they had been with Madame Nan or any of the other women.
Winnie could not imagine what sweet Dotty could have done to deserve such harsh treatment.
When Dotty was allowed to leave the room, she ran upstairs sobbing.
I never cry.
Winnie was not jumping out of her uncomfortable stockings to go talk to this woman and it seemed that the feelings were mutual. Most of the women had been through there "overseeing" for today, yet Winnie had not.
Maybe she will forget that I exist.
No such luck fell upon Winnie this day. Madame Grey came out of the room looking like fear personified and called out Winnie's name.
They both proceeded to the small room and sat down. Nan was already sitting down.
"I trust the first evening went as planned?" Madame Grey said in an even cool tone.
"The other ladies, did they instruct you in manners? Did they let you know what to do?"
"You have recovered enough to work again?"
"Good, because you'll be working much harder from now on."
Madame Grey took her heavily jeweled old person hand and raised Winnie's chin to inspect her face.
"This one could be prettier but we will work with what we've got" Grey said to Madame Nan who seemed to be taking instructions.
"You may go" Grey told Winnie.
Winnie didn't have a lot of time to think about why Madame Grey was complaining about her looks when she had been the one to procure her. She didn't feel insulted instead relief was the only thing that Winnie could feel. Madame Grey was done for the day.
That was terrible. This whole day was terrible.
Winnie marched up the stairs and into Dotty's room. Dotty was on the floor drinking straight from a bottle of something and still crying. This was completely unlike Winnie's usually optimistic friend.
"What have you got there?" Winnie asked, just to talk about anything other than old Grey.
"White lightning" Dotty slurred.
"Well drink up" Winnie smiled.
Dotty smiled. The smile fooled no one. Dotty was usually a vision with her dark brown curls hanging just the way they are supposed to. Her make up generally looked perfect. She usually looked like a pretty porcelain doll with to much make up on. Today was no normal day. Dotty's hair was a disheveled mess and her mascara left tracks of black going down her lovely face.
"You are going need to drink too" Dotty whimpered
"I hear you are going to be working like the rest of us now. I won't be able to work for the next few weeks."
News travels fast in these parts.
Winnie grabbed the bottle of white lightning from the floor and took a big drink . She could not imagine why Madame Grey would have Dotty go away. Whatever it was it was really upsetting Dotty. Now was not the time to be upset about taking on all of Dotty's johns, the johns who liked their whores young. It was time to be strong.
" You'll be working much harder from now on"
The words echoed in Winnie's head. She didn't even want to think about it. Now she would be strong for Dotty and later for own good.
Winnie gave her friend a warm smile, so much like the one Dotty had given her on that first night.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Winnie asked her new friend.
"Nope. I've just got to go deal with this. I'll be gone a few days, then back here to this room." Dotty said, staring blankly at her bed.
Winnie wondered where Dotty was going, what she was dealing with and why she wouldn't be able to work for a few weeks, but it was clear as crystal that Dotty didn't feel like talking about it.
"I'll be here when you get back" Winnie reminded her usually optimistic friend.
"Until then, white lightning is your best friend" She raised the bottle of clear liquor, then drank a big gulp of it.
"Go to sleep Dotty." Winnie said, remembering the not-so-long-ago days when she lulled the baby and the twins to sleep.
When Dotty was asleep, or passed out drunk, Winnie took another drink from the bottle.
White lightning. I have to remember that one.