Madame Grey left the next day with Dotty. Winnie was scared for her new friend and also less than pleased to be taking on her work load.
All in a life. All in a day.
She really didn't know what was going on nor did she have anyone who she felt comfortable asking. Dotty was her source of comfort at her new home and she was the one off god-knows-where with old Grey.
Winnie didn't ask questions. She spent most of this time obeying orders and learning the art of being a good whore.
"You have to be what they want you to be. You have to do what they want you to do. Act the part." Agatha, one of the more experienced ladies, told Winnie.
I'm always acting the part.
Agatha was not looking at Winnie while she was giving today's lesson. Agatha was sitting at her vanity looking in the mirror and arranging her hair on top of her head in different ways. She would sometimes stop to admire herself and her pearl comb that she used to keep her hair up. Winnie stood behind her to watch, listen and be taught.
Agatha carried herself with sophistication and grace while wearing enough makeup to sink a ship. It didn't make a whole lot of sense in Winnies mind, but Agatha pulled it off. She had beautiful caramel colored skin and amber eyes. Apparently mixed-race women called "octoroons" were popular at Storyville. Agatha must have been one of them.
Maybe she is acting the part too. She's a lot better at it.
Agatha was everything that Winnie wasn't. She was gorgeous and didn't look out of place in these outfits and makeup. Winnie looked at herself in the mirror. She looked so plain behind Agatha. Winnie's ashy hair was nothing like Agatha's dark, nor her plain brown eyes like Agatha's striking ones, Winnie's skin was washed out pale and Agatha's was a pretty with just a little brown.
"Start with something very general, give the gentleman a complement. They like that. You'll get a feel for what they want you to do as they go along. Be whoever or whatever the gentleman wants. "
"I can be whatever is needed." Winnie nodded.
I've always been whatever was needed, even if it was a dumb looking whore.
"Well today I need you to go buy groceries for supper tonight." Agatha said, handing Winnie a list and giving her a gesture of dismissal.
Winnie was relieved that she wouldn't be getting anymore advice from Agatha today, but she did get the feeling that Agatha was annoyed by her presence.
This is not the time to think, this is the time to do what you are told.
Winnie had only been out of the brothel a handful of times since starting her new life there weeks ago. Before her whore's wedding, Dotty tried to calm Winnie's nerves during the daylight hours by brings her on walks.
I wish Dotty was here now.
Winnie went to the market with the list in hand, just as she was told. She followed the directions precisely and managed to get to the market, which she had passes before on those strolls with Dotty.
Once she was there she collected the groceries just as she was told. She picked out very regular food, fresh fruit, meat and vegetables in cans. Winnie had all the fixings for a very regular supper. Apparently even in when you live in a whorehouse there is some normalcy that never leaves.
It was refreshing to be outside the walls of the brothel, but this city was still so new. Being alone Winnie had the chance to notice some of her surroundings. She was amazed by how big everything seemed. The market was only five blocks away from her new home but she saw things she thought it might have taken three lifetimes to see back in small town Mississippi.
Everyone dressed differently than the folks back in Mississippi. The people New Orleans didn't necessarily all dress the same, but none of them dressed in clothes that were made by hand and stitched with patches.
Winnie saw lots of stylish women and men, some of them bordering on odd. She would love to have nice dresses like these women. They looked so beautiful, but not in the way Agatha was beautiful. These women looked normal. They weren't whores.
Trying not to get distracted by the dress shops was a difficult task for Winnie. The shops were full of dresses that normal New Orleans ladies wore. She wanted so bad to go in and just smell the fine clothes, but of course she didn't because she had to obey Agatha and come back to the brothel with the heavy bags of groceries.
People were different. These people were as colorful as the buildings that surrounded them. They came in all different shades and seemed comfortable around each other and the different colored buildings.
Winnie would have never guessed that a house could be painted a different color on each side. That house took the cake. The emerald green building she lived in looked down right dreary compared to the red-blue-yellow-green house.
There was actually a man walking two ponies on leashes as if they were dogs. The pony walker was smiling and waving to people, as if it was completely mundane to walk two ponies on leashes.
Don't stare. Just go about your business and pretend you belong here.
It was at that moment when Winnie, so focused on pretending to belong, walked right into a person. The bump managed to shock Winnie and now the groceries were scattered on the side walk.
Winnie was preparing herself for a slap in the face or worse, but it didn't come. When she opened her eyes she saw a man.
The man Winnie bumped into was wearing one of, if not the strangest hat she had ever seen. It was made of some kind of fur.
Stop staring. Pick up the groceries.
"I'm sorry sir. Excuse me sir, I'll have to watch where I'm going. I'm so sorry." Winnie babbled as she knelt down to pick up the different items.
Calm down. He can't know you're a whore, can he? Just pick up the food and leave as fast as you can.
The man didn't seem extremely bothered. He knelt down to help. This was above and beyond any of Winnie's expectations.
"There is no problem. I only hope for you to be ok and to get your foods back together"
As if this mans hat was not enough strangeness, he also had a foreign accent that Winnie wasn't even going to think about placing. Winnie really had not met many foreign people. This man was different in dress, speech and manner than probably anyone in the whole state of Mississippi.
You are in a new world now, a world with men who wear fur hats.
The groceries were together once more and Winnie was ready to go.
"Thank you sir" Winnie said while looking down in embarrassment.
"You are very welcome." The man said with his coarse accent that really didn't match his smile.