A/N: My thank yous to Team Jazzward/Pianoward/Speakeasyward (I’m not sure what we’re calling him yet. lol) for your help with this chapter. xx
DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight, but if you’re here, you knew that already. 😉
“What’s this?” I wave toward the brightly colored poster, announcing new talent at the club.
“A gift from my uncle. Doesn’t it look great?”
My brows furrow in confusion. “I thought we had a deal.”
“We do, but you have to admit, Edward, you aren’t exactly filling the seats every night. I’m behind the eight ball, and it’s time to step up our game, attract a new crowd.” He points toward the tiny lettering. “You’re still on there.”
I shake my head, realizing I’ve been demoted to somewhere in the shadows. “Gee, thanks, Mike, but wasn’t there any room on the back?”
“Now, Edward, I don’t have any beef with you. This is a one-time thing. Isabella Swan will be here for one night only, then she’s off to New York. My uncle says she’s the next big star, and he has plans for her to headline his new club.”
“A singer?” I wonder, lighting up another smoke, hoping to soothe my nerves over this unexpected change.
“Yes, but not just any canary. My uncle says she’s a guarantee I’ll be rolling in the dough, and I’ve promised you’ll be her accompanist for the evening.”
“You know, if it’s a singer you want, I’ve been known to croon a few tunes in my day.”
“Edward, I like you, but I’ll be honest. Dames with cabbage are too few. It’s the men. They want the fantasy and they’re willing to pay for it. Trust me. You’ll see.”
My shoulders droop as the bitter reality of my new role takes a hit on my pride. “When will she be here?”
“Her train arrives on Monday, and I want you to pick her up at the station. Introduce yourself. You two need to get to know each other, and you can even use my car.”
“I have my own car.”
“Edward, we’re trying to impress her, and your jalopy won’t cut it.”
“There’s nothing wrong with mine,” I defend.
I’m proud of my two-door, Ford Model T. It isn’t flashy but dependable and comfortable. My car gets me where I need to go, whether it’s out to the family estate or Sunday dinners with the Cullens.
Father had many cars stored away under large pieces of soft material in the garage of our estate, which I have left there, but the one car I drive regularly is the Model T. He used it to teach me how to drive, and it always makes me nostalgic, remembering what little time we spent together.
“We’re doing this my way. Let’s not upset her before she steps one foot inside the club. Remember, this is a gift and neither of us wants to be on my uncle’s bad side. You’ll drive the Silver Ghost, and that’s final.”
I’ve never driven a Rolls-Royce and my stomach flutters at the thought of driving such an expensive car. I’ve heard murmurs about Mike’s uncle, Aro Volturi. He’s a man of considerable wealth, more than my family, and has ties to all the prominent men of Chicago on both sides of the law. But I’m not about to let anyone bully me out of a job—especially not some dame.
“Bless us, O Lord, and these, your gifts, which we are about to receive from your bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
“Amen,” we repeat, lifting our heads.
“Thank you, Carlisle.” Mrs. Cullen smiles, standing from her spot. “It’s wonderful you could join us for dinner, Edward.”
I’m sitting across from Mary Alice, noticing her shorter hair instantly, but glance around the table at their welcoming faces. “A Sunday dinner with the Cullens, I would be a fool to miss out on your home cooking, Mrs. Cullen. It’s always worth the drive.”
She holds a mouth-watering platter full of her delicious pot roast. “How is everything with your job, dear?”
At my nod, she adds a large portion to my plate. “Good.”
“That’s nice. It’s important to have a purpose and do what you love.” She moves around the table serving Dr. Cullen next.
“I’ve been thinking about adjusting my set list. I think I need to mix it up a little—maybe add songs with more swing and bluesy notes or even do a few vocals. There’s a new style of music popping up in clubs around town. I don’t want to be left behind.”
Mary Alice covers her plate with her hands. “I’m not eating meat, Mother,” she announces to everyone’s surprise.
“You need to eat something.” Mrs. Cullen tsks, exchanging the platter for a large bowl of mashed potatoes. “Edward, would you care for some potatoes?”
I look on as she artfully makes a well in the potatoes, pouring gravy in the center and over the pot roast. She exchanges bowls and adds whole green beans with sliced almonds to the only open spot.
“This smells wonderful.” I inhale deeply.
“You’re such a dear. I’m glad someone will appreciate my cooking this evening.” Her eyes flash to Mary Alice. “Go ahead, Edward, before it gets cold.”
Mary Alice rolls her eyes, as Mrs. Cullen moves around the table to serve Dr. Cullen.
“We’re getting a new singer at the club.” I push the conversation in a new direction.
Dr. and Mrs. Cullen aren’t aware of exactly the type of club where I work. I’ve never come right out and said it, but they know I play music for the hotel and at a “social club.” I’m not about to dispel any of their assumptions, because I don’t want to create any problems for Mike or me. With the bar already struggling, even the most innocent of comments to the wrong people could be disastrous, if we aren’t careful.
Mary Alice perks up, adding her own scoop of green beans to her plate. “Oh? Anyone we would know?”
I wipe my mouth with the cloth napkin after setting down my fork. “No. She’s from the West Coast—San Francisco.”
“She?” Mrs. Cullen gasps, taking her seat and filling her own plate.
“Yes, ma’am, a woman. Mike’s trying to expand our audience, draw in a larger crowd.”
Dr. Cullen nods, digging into his pot roast. “Sounds like a smart businessman.”
“Sounds like I may be out of a job soon, if she’s a hit.”
Mrs. Cullen pauses, pushing her food around her plate, visibly upset. “I’ve heard from the ladies at church about some of the clubs in the city. They sell alcohol illegally, calling it juice and serving it in teacups. Can you imagine? They aren’t fooling anyone. They say the women who frequent those places have loose morals and don’t think twice about smoking or dancing with random men. I’m sure your club is different, Edward, but I would hate to hear of someone falling into the devil’s hands. Please promise me you’ll look out for her, Edward.”
When I nod my agreement, she lets out a sigh of relief and returns to her dinner. Little does she know her own daughter has not only been to The Twilight Club but is also a regular at most of the speakeasies around the city.
“What’s her name?” Mary Alice asks between bites.
“I’ve never heard of her,” Mary Alice concludes. But I can see the wheels churning in her head, knowing she’s already thinking up an excuse to get out of the house on Saturday.
“You’re not the only one. She’s supposed to be a rising star headed for New York. Her stopping in Chicago is a favor from Mike’s uncle.”
Mrs. Cullen smiles hesitantly. “I’m sure she is a lovely woman with plenty of talent. Michael was smart to hire you and his judgment is to be trusted.”
“We’ll see. I’m picking her up from the train station tomorrow.”
Mrs. Cullen’s eyes light up with excitement at an idea. “Maybe you would like to invite her along for next Sunday’s dinner?”
I search my mind, trying to come up with any excuse not to extend the offer. “I can, but she’s only scheduled to perform on Saturday night and will probably catch the train to New York the next day.” I don’t share my true feelings out loud, because I know, the sooner she leaves the better.
“It doesn’t hurt to ask.”
I release a heavy sigh, reluctant to allow a stranger to invade my time with the Cullens when she’s already intruding at my workplace. However, knowing the kindness they have freely shared with me over the years, I concede to Mrs. Cullen’s wishes. “No, it doesn’t. I’ll invite her.”
A/N: In 1919, the passing of the 18th Amendment of the United States Constitution prohibited the transport, sale, and production of “intoxicating liquors.” An interesting note is that there was nothing sited as illegal about “consumption.” The movement was an effort to curtail crime, but it did the opposite when it wasn’t successfully enforced. Illegal economies, like bootlegging, speakeasies, and distilleries, flourished under the careful guidance of criminal gangs who wielded considerable political power and influence, bribing local officials at every opportunity. This chapter offered a little insight into where the Cullens side with the issue too.
James P. Johnson was one of the kings of early jazz piano. While most readers are probably familiar with the Charleston as a popular dance from the 1920s, it was Johnson who created the song, Charleston, with lyrics by Cecil Mack. Together, the song and dance made their debut in the Broadway musical “Runnin’ Wild” in 1923. For me, it’s his music and influence, among others, that would be similar to what Edward performs at The Twilight Club nightly. I shared a recording of Johnson playing the song in a separate post here, if you’re interested in listening. As a musician and artist, I believe Edward’s original music would continuously evolve while visiting other clubs around the city. I envision him playing more classical music at the hotel, but at the club, it would be a blend of more upbeat swing music with ragtime slowly influencing his style of play.
Also, no matter how much he wants to deny his growing fascination with the impending arrival of Isabella Swan, the inevitability of their paths crossing is always bound to happen. #Twihard4ever 😉 lol More photos, including the cars mentioned, for this chapter can be found in the gallery for this story.