Today, we skip ahead a few days. Emmy, Diana and Amy have been working hard getting the oil out of the well and shooing off suitors who want to marry them for their wealth. Amy (whose backstory you will hear about tomorrow) and Diana have been given the money they need to buy themselves out of prostitution from Emmy sharing the wealth from the oil. In this segment, Amy go to see Big Ben and French Kate in hopes of buying their freedom. Hope you enjoy!
Diana - Out of the Ashes
The story I read last night, the last one I read before I fell asleep, was about a bird. A bird that flies so fast it turns into bright burning flames, then, crumbles to ash. Unbelievably, from that scattering of ashes rises a new bird. “A phoenix” the book called it. Emmy loaned me her book, it’s the one I first started to read after the fire. She called it Metamorphosis. Said it was a collection of tales they used to tell long ago. The tales are magical, like the fairy tales my Momma used to read to me each night before I fell asleep. The book had been a gift from her father. He’d brought it from Germany. My favorite had always been the story of the miller’s daughter: the girl who weaves straw into gold but who’s almost tricked by that arrogant troll. She survives because she doesn’t give up and she listens.
Yesterday, after we’d sat with Emmy and made our plan, Jane and I left while Emmy did her paperwork and got her laundry accounts settled. We took a walk back to the Chase hotel. I hadn’t been back since the night it burned down. Since the night I walked into my own darkness and then back out. It still stood, black ember boards covered in grey ash. There wasn’t much left and by the looks of it (ashy foot prints everywhere) many have already picked over anything that was left unscathed. I thought I would feel sad looking back at this place, but instead it is a nothingness that fills me. Not the darkness that threatened to let me walk into the flames, but a nothingness of no regret of not feeling anything for this place.
Jane and I walk on past the ruins of the hotel. She is nervously biting her nails. I loop my arm in hers as we walk down the tight streets. She’s worried she’ll run into Big Ben. That he’ll see her and make her come back. But, I assure her that whatever the cost Emmy can buy her out now, that we safe. We gettin’ out. But, she still bites her nails and looks at the ground as we walk. All the joy that had been slowly washing back into her face has washed right back out.
When we walk past the hotel where Jane once worked, I can feel her arm start to shake in fear. “It’s okay,” I say. “ I got the paper. We gonna be okay.” But she still shakes.
Strange thing is when we walk up we find the door kicked in. Ben is in the parlor. But he don’t look so tough. He’s got a bloody lip and he’s pacing back and forth on the floor.
“What the hell do you whores want?” He say as we walk up.
“We are here to buy ourselves out.” I say trying to look tall as I can.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.” He says. “ Kate!” He yells. “We got another runner.”
By the look of Ben, by the sound of these words, I know that something bad has happened. Kate steps slowly down the wood staircase in her high heeled boots. She is (like always) dressed to the nines. Her body is held tight in a red velvet bodice. Her breasts spilling out of the top. Her hair is swept up and her face is painted like a china dolls.
When she gets to the bottom of the stairs she says. “Well, well, well, what we got here. Another transformed whore? We were wondering where you went off to Diana after the fire. And Jane you take care of your problem? Or, you need another visit from Big Ben’s fists?” With these words I can feel Jane shrink to half her size.
“No ma’am. We here to buy back ourselves.”
“You ain’t got that kind of cash.” Kate cuts back.
“Oh yes Ma’am we do. Just after the fire, Widow Ricketts struck oil. She’s offered to buy us out. I’ve got her letter here.”
“I don’t care you got a signature from President Lincoln himself. You two is my whores and we got some men who want your services so you get your pretty little selves cleaned up so we can make some money.”
“I don’t think you understand. We got the money. We want out.”
“I don’t think you understand. I got a business to run.”
Two days ago, before the fire, before I’d seen what would happen if I’d stay, I would have backed down. I would have dropped my eyes and said a quiet, yes, ma’am, sorry, ma’am. But not now, not today. Anger bloomed in me hot as the fire I’d escaped.
“We not here to negotiate.” I say, handing Kate the folded paper Emmy had written out.
“Ben, Ben you believe this one?” She say
But Ben don’t look himself. He still cursing under his breath and blood is streaming down his face. “I don’t give a fuck what them ladies want Kate. I need a fucking drink” And with these words he strolled right out the door.
“Well, I never!” Kate says under her breath, her face flushing. She opens the parchment and looks down. I see her reaction real quick before she can fix it. She looked surprised by the numbers Emmy has given her for us. But she a good business woman and she correct herself real quick.
“Well, we’ll have to see if this figure will work. You girls get out of here now before I change my mind. You’re lucky I have one hell of a headache this afternoon.” And with these words she folds the paper into a tiny, tight note and stuffs it into her huge bosom.
I grab Jane’s arm too tight and spin her out of that place fast. We walk as quickly as we can down the street back to the far edge of town where Emmy lives. As we walk I can feel the air around me grow lighter and lighter. As if a cool breeze had suddenly picked up and washed over us. We walked through that wind, arms linked, feeling lighter than air, the dust swirling in the air, the ash of the burnt hotel back to the shade of them hemlocks on Emmy’s property where she sitting and shouting out to us, “Well? How’d it go? You free yet? Cause we got us some work cut out for us today!”