It was only a few days after the grocery market mess when Madame Nan went to the train station to retrieve Dotty.
Thankfully Grey stayed where ever she was, because the word was she only came once a month to "oversee" her entirely illegal business.
Winnie was waiting in the parlor to greet her friend as she arrived. The girl she saw come through the door didn't resemble the smiling girl on the bar stool that first night. She looked broken.
How can you break a whore more than she already is?
Somehow, something had managed to do just that. Dotty was white as a sheet. Madame Nan told Winnie that Dotty needed rest now. By the looks of it, she was right.
Maybe it'll be good if she sleeps it off...
Winnie was about to head up to her bed room to practice putting on makeup, when Madame Nan stopped her.
"Not so fast. You have a date this afternoon."
"In the afternoon?" Winnie asked.
"Yes. It is not for you to question a gentleman's preferences in time of day." Madame Nan said with authority.
"This man has offered to pay a lot to see you today. He asked for the youngest prettiest girl we had. Dotty is indisposed, so you will have to do."
Winnie could think of no response so she just nodded obidently.
"You will be on your best behavior." Madame Nan said sternly.
"Yes ma'am" Winnie said as she proceeded up the stairs to prepare for her afternoon "date".
She picked out a blue dress, and then tried to fix her face accordingly. Winnie always felt stupid in the overdone makeup of a whore, but she just hoped that no one would notice or care.
Maybe makeup makes a lovely woman even more lovely and a plain girl just plain stupid?
Whatever she looked like she was going down stair to the parlor to meet this "gentleman" and get this whole thing over with.
What happened to that bottle of white lightning? That stuff would be useful in times like these.
When Winnie arrived in the parlor Madame Nan and an older man were waiting on her. There was some owlish quality about this man. He had a graying beard and thinning hair. He wore very round glasses with silver rims.
Madame Nan and the owl man both stood.
"This is the young girl I have arranged for you to see. She will lead you upstairs." Madame Nan said to the owl man.
"Madame, if it isn't a problem, I would like to take your young mademoiselle out for the day. I will have her back in a few hours and I will pay extra if you like"
Where is he going to take me? What's happening?
"Surely that can be arranged, have her back by 8 o' clock in the evening" Madame Nan replied. Winnie could see the look on her face that read: paying extra is never a problem.
"Winnie, put on your coat" Nan commanded.
Winnie obeyed as she always did, taking the time to compose herself. She was expecting that her afternoon john would take her upstairs and then go on his way. This was quite different.
I can't look shocked. I can't look out of place. I have to be whatever this man wants.
Winnie arrived back in the parlor and smiled at Madame Nan, then at the owl man, as a sign that she was ready to leave.
"We'll be on our way. I assure you I'll have your girl back by 8. Thank you kindly, Madame" The owl man said as he lead Winnie out of the door.
They were, in an instant, walking down the side walk with all of the colors plain in the daylight. Winnie tried not to get distracted this time. This time she had a job to do.
"Hello handsome. You know, I always have adored men with beards just like yours." Winnie said in her best impression of Agatha. Agatha would have known what to do. She could handle anything.
"You don't have to do that" the owl man said as he looked down at Winnie with something that looked like sympathy.
"What would you like me to do?"
"I just want you to be your lovely self and enjoy a nice walk with me for now. I'm not going to hurt you. We aren't going anywhere private. I paid the madam for your company. That is all."
"Oh" was all Winnie could muster as a reply.
Winnie was so confused that she might faint any minute. She was hoping that wouldn't happen.
"What's your name child?" asked the owl man.
"I'm Professor George C. Brown"
I thought they were all called John. Why is this man telling me his name?
"It's a pleasure to meet you sir." Winnie said unsure of what to do or say.
"How old are you Winnie?"
"I'll be 14 in two weeks"
"And you look every inch of 14 years old" said the Professor with a smile.
"Is that bad? How should I look?"
"You look lovely. We are headed to a little café and I just want to sit down and enjoy your company. That's all"
They proceeded to walk into the bright colorful French quarter arm in arm. It occurred to Winnie how silly they must have looked together. This Professor and just some whore. She tried hard to believe that this man was telling the truth, but why would anyone want to spend time with a whore at a café?
Seemingly all of the sudden they were at the café, sitting down at a little table.
How much stranger can my life get?
"May I call you professor?" Winnie asked shyly.
"Surely you may"
Don't think just ask, you'll feel better when you know.
"Professor, why did you bring me here?" Winnie blurted out.
"Well there are many people around town who gossip and it's good to be seen around town with a lovely young woman like yourself"
Why can't he find a real date or a wife?
"Those women over at that table" the professor pointed "are very chatty neighbors of mine and I don't want word to get around about my actual private business. It might ruin my reputation."
"But I wouldn't?"
"No Winnie, you are a young girl. You are what everyone expects. The truth is my tastes lie elsewhere"
Winnie was not exactly sure what this meant but she let out a huge exhale that this man was not a lair and he had no intention of going to bed with her.
"It's ok child. Just enjoy sitting here. Have something to eat. You can relax."
I don't know how without liquor.
"Thank you sir-I mean Professor."
Winnie just sat back and tried to smile while the Professor ordered something from the waitress. It was all buzzing noise in Winnie's head. She had so many questions but was not trusting or stupid enough to ask them.
"Winnie, do you read?" The professor asked.
"Oh" Winnie was shocked back into reality. "To tell you the truth I don't really know how. I went to the school for a while, but I was not so far along in the reading stuff when Pa..."
"What did you father do?"
"He was a violent, drunken, son-of-a-bitch."
The professor chuckled.
"I meant as a profession. Why did he take you out of school?"
"Well, Pa talked a lot about being some kind of soldier, but mostly he was a violent, drunken, son-of a bitch."
Winnie paused to take a drink from the nice smelling hot chocolate in front of her.
"A bunch of men ran Pa out of town. They didn't like how he was treating Ma. I quit going to school to help out Ma with the rest of the kids and such"
"I'm sorry for that child. I am sad that it isn't all that rare. I have known a few girls very much like you."
This man seemed to read Winnie far to well. She hadn't told him anything about how she'd come into the life of a whore, yet somehow he seemed to know at least a hint of it.
"You know others?" Winnie asked, as she saw the opportunity.
"I have in the past. I always have a steady date to social functions and to be seen around with. If you like you can be my date." The professor offered.
"I would like that very much"
"Also, if you like, I could teach you to read."
"That would be wonderful" Winnie said with a genuine smile.