SHALL WE DANCE
Susan W. Hudson
Dolly awoke to sunlight streaming through her window. Although it was still cool, she had left the window partially open the night before. With the sweet gentle breeze, she watched the filmy drapes on her window bellow out and greet the haven that she loved. She stretched out her slender body and scratched Pierre’s ears. He licked her face. His rabies tag tickled her nose and made her sneeze.
She took a long look around her tiny New York City apartment. She loved the white linen drapes. She had decorated her apartment with a French-style chest of drawers, a dainty French mirror, and a single, white French provincial bed.
Dolly was born a bit of a wild child. She didn’t mean to be. Her daddy called her “feisty;” her mama shook her head. She just beamed them a big smile. So, when the 1920s “roared” in, she was all on board. A move to NYC was her destiny.
She leisurely took her long cigarette holder from her bedside table, inserted a new smoke, and flipped up the lid of her silver lighter. She took a long drag from her cigarette and used the smoke drifting up from the lighted end to draw a PP in the air. She had named him Pierre but called him PP.
She had found Pierre, a scruffy miniature French poodle, tied to the gate outside her apartment building in Brooklyn on a Sunday morning. The thin rope was frayed, but he was such a tiny thing; she thought it would hold. On her way home from her job at Woolworth’s, she bought some dog food and a water bowl.
When she arrived at her building, she found Pierre still there. She put out food and water for him. She surveyed the apartment building and found no owner for Pierre. He had clearly been abandoned.
Dolly took Pierre to the veterinarian. She was very intelligent and kept up with the news. She knew little about dogs, but she knew he needed shots and a little surgery.
Dolly’s neighbor, Tyler, was skeptical. “Are you sure you can care for a dog?” he questioned. Tyler knew she worked long hours in the “ladies fashion” department. She had fallen in love with “The Charleston” when she saw Arthur Gibbs and his Gang perform The Charleston Medley in the film, “Runnin’ Wild. ”
Dolly and Tyler had a “relationship.” He was a big-wig at a local bank. They met at the Savoy and had been “dance partners” ever since. He told her he owned a big home in one of the suburbs and rented the apartment so he would not have to tackle the commute every day. He forgot to tell her that he had a wife and two children out there in the burbs.
Dolly hopped out of her cozy bed, and fed and watered Pierre. She took him for a short walk while her morning coffee was brewing.
Dolly scarfed down breakfast and a large cup of coffee. She chose a lovely swishing spring dress, touched up her newly acquired bob-cut hair, grabbed a sweater, and ran out to catch the subway. As she ran down the stairs, she felt a wave of nausea. Too much, too quick she reasoned.
Dolly loved her job, and she loved her life with Tyler. They went out every night to a new movie or to dance the new Charleston dance. With her store discount, she bought flapper dresses and all the new styles. They waltzed into midnight, then loved each other passionately in her single bed.
After a week or two of feeling queasy every morning, Dolly faced the truth head-on. She was pregnant. There was no hope for her. She knew in her heart of hearts that Tyler would not marry her, nor even help her with her situation.
The Woolworth’s would fire her. She could not work there while pregnant. Though the times were loose and glamorous, she would not be allowed to work there in her “condition.”
She knew she would be dubbed a “good-time girl.” She wasn’t. She loved to dance. She indulged in neither illegal alcohol consumption nor prostitution. She was a natural dancer. She wore her flapper dresses and T-strap high heels beautifully. She always went home with Tyler. He was her first and only.
Her high times of dancing and movie watching were over. She did speak with Tyler. He told her about his family. He did, graciously, invite her to move into his apartment and give up her rent payment.
In the early hours of the morning, two weeks after she started feeling nauseated every day, Dolly got up to go to the bathroom. There, in the darkness of the night, with a little sliver of light shining in from a steely moon, nature took care of Dolly’s dilemma. Lovechild lost.
Dolly didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The miscarriage was swift and painless. She knew she had to clean up, but she gave herself the privilege of lying on the floor and indulging in her grief. Pierre cuddled beside her and whimpered. Poodles are smart. He knew something was bothering his savior.
She knew she would keep her beloved job. She had saved up almost enough money to buy her coveted Model T. But she had lost a part of herself that, under different circumstances, she would have loved. She knew she had lost Tyler. She had read Margaret Sanger’s writings, and they had taken precautions. And, it happened anyway.
As the sun overtook the sliver of moon, Dolly clumsily arose from the bathroom floor. Pierre was pacing. He needed his morning walk. She cleaned herself up, pulled on her plush pink robe and slippers. She put little Pierre’s leash on him, grabbed her keys, and took him outside.
“Yes, little man, I can take care of you. You are my forever friend.” Dolly said.
Dolly went back inside, She skipped breakfast, but had a big cup of coffee. She fed Pierre and gave him fresh water. Her stomach was unsettled. She chose a very conservative black dress and headed out for her workday.
After trudging through a long day at work, she returned home to find Tyler’s apartment empty. She knew she would have to rebuild her life without Tyler and his child. Pierre greeted her with love and licks. She took him out for a walk, fed him, and changed his water.
Although it was spring, Dolly felt a chill. She closed her window, donned flannel pajamas, and woolen socks. She picked Pierre up and they cuddled in her bed for a much-needed sleep. She dreamed about dancing the Lindy Hop, and Pierre dreamed about chasing birds and squirrels. They both slept long and hard. Dolly awoke knowing she would roar again, dance her way through the “Twenties,” and come home to the love of her life.
Pierre awoke happily. He dug his snout under Dolly’s chin for one more warm hug. He jumped down from the bed and went over to the shelf that housed his appropriately French-inspired collar. He looked at the leash, then back at Dolly.
“Okay little man,” Dolly assured him. “Let’s go. You can walk. As for me, I’m going to dance.”