[Pax Romana]

/ By Mr-X [+Watch]

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[center [b 1921 America] ]

[center [i ""I pledge allegiance to my Flag and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for[u [b all."] ] ] ]

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I couldn’t help but take the loneliness as an opportunity to look around the establishment, sure to look around at the people as much as I looked around at the building. Everyone here seemed to be having such fun that they wold not have a single care in the world. Perhaps once I am completely settled here I might find such luxuries in the little things that this city has to offer.

All I have ever known is a small farm out in the country. I was supposed to settle down with a farmer, like the other women and keep a farm of my own, raising cattle and honouring my wifely duties to whomever might have become that man. I could almost laugh at the prospect of it now, knowing that might have been my life if I hadn’t been brave enough to turn away from what was offered to me.

It wasn’t until I turned my head and begun to look towards the door that I noticed that two men were beginning to walk towards my table. It was so clear that these two men were the men I had been beckoned to meet. The moment that I realised they were here for me, I rose to my feel so that I could greet them properly, although I am still not accustomed to how a lady should address a man around these parts.

I made sure that my smile was as charming as possible, and I greeted the hand that was offered to me with haste. [b “Well it is a pleasure to meet you both.”] I couldn’t help but notice that the gentleman who took my hand did not take the time to tell me his name, but he was quick to introduce his friend who stood beside him. My gaze finally went to him and I smiled once more before lowering myself back onto the chair that I had so quickly left when they arrived. Soon enough the two of us were left alone and I couldn’t help but let out a quiet laugh.

[b “Charles Jr. I do believe that your friend might have told a little lie about how much influence and knowledge you have around here.”] My tone was not unkind, in fact I found it rather comical and I couldn’t help but let out a laugh to let him know that it did not bother me. [b “Forgive me, you just don’t appear to me as someone who might know much about jazz other than the pleasure it might offer to you when you take the time to listen. Tell me Charles, what line of work do you find yourself in?”]

As I finished asking my question a waitress appeared at the table and asked if we would like something to drink. I have very little trust in alcohol, so I would not let any pass my lips this evening, besides I needed to be ready if anyone were to ask me to sing again so I asked for water, waiting to be left alone with the intriguing Charles Jr once again.
  Ruby Grant / d1gn17y / 10d 2h 21m 21s
The interesting thing about me and my Italian cohort was that by luck, we b9th had the same middle name. Charles Jr and Antonio Jr.. Whether it was by luck or not, we somehow met during the heated battle o the war to end all wars. Bogged down in the trenches, surrounded by the smell of death, or human fluids, it was an experience so terrible that some times I find myself waking up trying to escape the feeling of the dread that came from deep within. Somehow, he'd taken a shine to me and near the end of the war he had made me a promise that if, somehow, we got out of the war alive and all in one piece that he would stick with me through thick and thin. And he meant it.

Part of the reason why I moved back to America was because he'd sent me a letter explaining how the time had come for me to return home because he had a away of making us Both wealthy. While most people invest in the ever growing. Stock market and were able to make it big that way, he assured me that that was the easy way. And the thing about the easy was that it didn't make it the right way. Instead hard work and shrewd negotiation skills was the surest way to make a profit. "If you don't feel sweat dripping from your brow, than the money you earn to me isn't worth a Damn."
With a pay upon my shoulder, he gave me a wink which shook me from the past event and brought me towards the present.

The woman before us had an air about her that struck me as someone who'd went along with Jr's belief. A dimly lit fire was in her eyes and as we approached her, a hand was held out towards her by my friend before he nodded his head and swept his other hand towards me. "Miss Ruby Grant, might I introduce you to my friend Charles Jr? My uncle's owner of this little uh, Jazz club. And I figured since he and the junior over here had matters to attend to, and you might need an inside friend to help with your career, why not I introduce the twos of ya." With that he bowed his way out of the conversation and left me alone with the beauty.

Grabbing the tie around my neck, I once again adjusted it before taking a seat at the table before the lady and looking at her once more. Setting me up to be an "insider" was a pretty stupid me on my friends behalf. I understood that the intent was to impress the lass and hold her attention for me, but at the end of the day deep down I was just a simple country boy from the south. Even if living in Abroad in France had and now living in New York for quite some time had made me use to city life, I still slipped up and address those as mister or misses or sir or ma'am. That, and my country accent always sometimes threw people off. There was something about the southern twang in my voice that sometimes attract people and other times made them snicker a little. I was hoping that this would be the former instead of the latter.
  Charles Jr. / Mr-X / 10d 4h 3m 8s
Smoke. Laughter. Music. There was something about the atmosphere of this place that could make anyone forget whatever troubles their day had burdened them with. This underground jazz club was one of the most prolific in New York and anyone who was anybody at all spent their Saturday nights drinking up the seduction that filled the air. Business men and ex-soldiers were the usual suspects to spend their evenings listening to the wonderful music and enjoying the expensive cigars that were often sold behind the bar.

Tonight was no different. In fact, the seats were more full than usual because tonight Ruby Grant was debuting on their stage and fresh meat was exactly what the customers thrived on. I could hear the excitement building as the band entertained them while they waited for the main act and as I sat in my dressing room I was powerless to stop the adrenaline flowing through my body. Some might have seen the healthy mix of nerves and excitement if they were to observe me but I was confident that all of the nerves I felt would melt into even more excitement the moment I set foot on the stage.

I can’t remember how long I had the dream of pursuing this singing business but for as long as I could remember I felt the need to get up on stage and perform. It wouldn’t be the first time I performed for anyone but this would be the first time I have done so in this kind of environment. It wasn’t exactly a normal job, singing in a jazz club was not something that my parents had planned for me. My mother was a traditional woman; one who was not happy with the wave of ‘The New American Woman’ that was sweeping across the nation and threatening the core values that were being challenged in this era. She never quite understood why any woman would want to vote for politicians or work when that had always been the role of the male and she always told me that I should know my place. Well, I know my place and it sure as hell wasn’t in some kitchen cooking for a family I never intended on having. So, when l told my parents that I wasn’t planning to settle down, get married and become a housewife, let’s just say that my mother was the first to hit the roof. This wasn’t exactly the life she had in mind for her daughter but I just wouldn’t let them convince me otherwise. I told them my dreams and what I wanted to pursue but they were farthest from being supportive. In fact, they completely cut me off and no longer associate with me but I have made some progress in the weeks since I had spoken to them. Here I am, sat backstage at a club that is ready and willing to hear me sing.

I took a deep breath while I applied the last bit of mascara to my lashes and when I was satisfied with the overall look I rose from my chair so that I could stand a little further back so I could see my reflection in the mirror placed on top of my dressing table. I don’t usually like the makeup and fancy clothes but tonight was different and I spent a minute taking in my appearance. It was certainly different seeing myself dressed up like this. My dress fell to my upper thigh and sparkled in the slightest bit of light. I didn’t look like the Ruby Grant I once was. My lips turned up into a smile before turning around and when I did, I bumped into the stylist who had dressed me.

[b “Sorry Helen, I did not see you there.”]

[i “Ruby, you look absolutely stunning. Are you ready for you debut?”] I nodded whilst Helen ran her hand over my dress, smoothing out any wrinkles and I couldn’t help but smile at the woman. She was someone who understood the importance of looking good when performing but she was also good at making someone feel good about themselves and she certainly did that for me. [i “You need a necklace with this. Hang on.”] She said as she made her way to the dressing table drawers to find out a piece of jewellery that complimented the dress. [i “That’s much better.”] Helen spun me around to look into the mirror and I couldn’t have agreed more about the necklace. It was exactly what the outfit was missing and now I felt complete.

[b “Seems I need to head out onto the stage.”] i heard my name being mentioned and I knew then that it was my cue to make my debut. With a deep breath, I made my way towards the stage and swallowed the remaining nerves before making my way onto the darkened stage. I bowed my head and waited for the spotlight to hit me and when it did, I slowly raised my head; it was showtime now and I had to do everything to make people believe that I could do this. I smiled, ensuring that it ran with seduction and when I started to sing, my voice was as smooth as velvet and I lost myself in a performance that I never thought I would be able to give. Tonight I was merely supposed to arouse the attention of the customers and stay upon the stage and sing along to the music and dance the routines I had been taught. As I did, I imagined what it would be like if my act became popular. I could make my way into the crowd and dance around the chairs and flirt with the men that so obviously came to see me on stage, rather than to hear me sing but that didn’t bother me too much. If they wanted to look, they could certainly do that. Singing was something l enjoyed and if I had to do it showing a little skin, I would happily do so.

The applause echoed in the room after I finished my first song and I couldn’t stop myself from beaming with the excitement. I raised a heeled foot and lent over to whisper into the ear of the musician who agreed to start playing my request and before I knew it my second song was in full swing and I found myself giving a much more confident performance with a few winks and kisses blown to those who couldn’t take their eyes off me.

There was nothing more thrilling than the excitement of performing on stage and as I made my way through the set I could feel the positivity coming from the audience and that in itself only enhanced my act as I continued to grow in confidence and became the performer that I always knew was a part of me. Before I knew it, my set was over and the applause echoed, even in the back where I placed myself in front of the dressing table once more, looking at my appearance, hardly recognising myself. The band continued to play and different acts would take to the stage now to continue through the evening, probably until the early hours of the morning. I was still a little unsure as to whether my debut would now turn into a permanent position singing for this club but l hoped by the reaction of the crowd that it might.

After a minute or two of looking at my reflection I noticed some movement and saw the reflection of one of the waitresses. I smiled and turned to face her as she offered me a much needed glass of water. [b “You have no idea how much I need this. Thank you.”] I said taking a sip from the glass. As I did I allowed my eyes to close and enjoy the sensation of the liquid running down my throat. Singing had dried my throat completely and I was glad that someone was thoughtful enough to bring me a drink. After I put my glass down in front of me, I took my headband off and checked my hair to ensure that the curls were still intact before the waitress cleared her throat to gain my attention.

[I “I did not just come here with a glass of water for you Ruby. Your presence has been requested at one of the booths. The guests haven’t arrived yet but the gentleman has asked that you wait for them.] She said as she looked down at me. I was still high on the ecstasy of my performance and couldn’t resist plastering a smile of my face. The waitress smiled and shook her head at me, [i “I wouldn’t keep men like that waiting if I were you Ruby. I would, however, change out of your show gear and into a more suitable gown if you are going to join them for some drinks. They will arrive in a little over ten minutes so I would get a move on if I were you.”] She said before turning and walking out of the dressing room, leaving me alone with my thoughts.

Without so much as a second thought, I went to my wardrobe and pulled out a longer dress, one that didn’t show as much skin and one that was not covered in fake jewels. I removed the necklace and placed it on the dressing table while I slipped out of my dress. While the dress looked pretty when I was up there on stage, I can tell you that the material is not a comfortable one and I was more than relieved to see it fall to my feet. I gave myself a minute of freedom before I finally changed into the dress I had chosen and without another moment of hesitation I started to make my way towards the table that the waitress had pointed out. Luckily for me, no one had arrived yet so I simply lowered myself to the seat and waited patiently.
  Ruby Grant / d1gn17y / 14d 13h 21s
[i "Charles, get up boy. It's time you went with the men today..."]

[i "where we going Pa?"]

[i There are some things you tried can't forget no matter how many drinks you take or how loud the blaring of the horns grow. Like the contorted and twisted faces of the dead or black bodies swinging after being rocked gently by the southern breeze. Or the white faces looking on content with the sight of the lynching. I remember being carried on my father's shoulders close to when the sun was setting and watching him look up at me. Explaining the events which led up to the former display of violence. It wasn't often that such an event happen, but whenever it was lynching time, it was another time to dress up and enjoy a family picnic before watching the events of the hangings.]

[i [b " You remember that nigger boy who was working on Mark's farm as another hand. Turns out his father was a no good Nigger. So their gonna hang the father. I say they should hang the son and good it over with. Niggers can't be trusted."] ]

[i There was such hatred and malice in my papas words that I doubt that he would've change his mind if he had known that later on he was innocent. A neighbor had framed him but at the time there was nothing more exciting than a lynching besides church on a Sunday. Standing up, I looked into his eyes and shrugged my shoulders. A lynching seemed to happen only once a year or every other year. I remember the last lynching before this one was three years ago. So there was a part of me interested to see how this one would turn out, the same as before I guessed, but I was wrong.]

[i This was the first time I remember meeting the Klu Klux Klan. The white hoods simmering brightly against the torches that were lit as me and Pa arrived in the forest. The first thing to greet are ears was the sound of a whip cracking and screaming. One of the hood figures was at working flogging the soon to be hung man and this time there was no women or children. Only men which stood around and watch the whipping as each lash brought a howl from the poor man. A feeling of sickness filled up my stomach as I watch the show continue before the whip was dropped and the poor man bellowed out.]

[b "I ain't done nothing.... I ain't don't nothin wrong.. pwease... let me go..] [i This only brought laughter towards the crowd and the Klansman took the opportunity to lift his hands upwards and speak. "Tonight is a good night. Tonight is the Lord has deliver a theif into our hands. Right now as we stand here, this beautiful, pure, white country is under attack.. from niggers, from those Damn immigrants, and from Catholics." A murmur rung throughout the crowd as the man spoke up again. "Its time we took a stand! The Klan will not stand for our country to be overrun by niggers and theives, and spics, and immigrants that don't respect this country."]

[i As he spoke they were preparing the man for a hanging, only this time they were pouring gasoline over his whipped body. As he whimpered, I had only now notice that a darkness was sweeping over the land. The smell of gasoline was poured over the male's body before he was hoisted upwards into the sky. At the end of the speech and after his feet stopped kicking a torch was used to lit him on fire and that was when I smelt something I'll never forget.. black flesh burning. And that was when I decided to leave the south and all the hatred that lived within it.. unaware that hatred was everywhere."]

"Ey, Charles, whatcha doin? Fix ya suite while don't cha? You can't go anywhere near the big boss with ya tie all messed up."

Swatting the helping hand away, I shifted the tie making adjustments. It's was night time and yet the city still seemed lively. Three years ago, the war ended and that was my way out of the south. I spent almost two years in France before deciding to come back to America and settle down in re booming city known as New York. I wasn't expecting things to change but they did.

One of the changes was the outlaw of alcoholic drink. Apparently the 18th amendment prohibited the sale of alcohol however it didn't mean the wealthy would stop drinking it. There where ways around the law and as my former war buddy and now Italian friend was on his way to take me to one of the many underground clubs that hoisted drinks. Slapping me on the back, he grinned as he looked me in the eye and spoke up "Look Junior, the war is over. And everyone here in America is feeling fucking great. Soon, you'll be in cahoots with the big boss and if it all goes where you'll be the only white boy who gets in on working with us, mobsters.. Like I told ya back in those shitty trenches we brothers now, and brothers stick together. Plus, I got a pretty gal I want you to meet."

Blinking my eyes, I ran fingers through my hair and let out and sigh. Now I had agreed to enter into this club, but no one had told me about meeting some pretty girl. As he lit a cigarette, he waved his hands to and fro and spoke. "This new laws bullshit anyhow. Just you watch in five, ten years, we'll all be drinking again. This, whole, alcohol destroys families and it's just feminist bulloski. Balony. A man needs a hard strong drink to keep him calm, just like a wife needs to bake a cake to keep her collect you know? Drinking to men is like baking to women, it keeps us all positive and happy."
Now it wasn't normally that Junior said something funny, but that was funny. Letting out a laugh, it was all I could do keep myself from falling to the ground. Instead I got slapped him on his shoulders and wiped a tear from my eye. He was honestly and truly something else that words couldn't even begin to describe. He was absolutely a jokester.

As we into a nearby jazz club, it was than that my eyes turned towards the stage. Growing up my only experiences with negros where either watching them hang, or working watching them work on the farm my uncle owned. Sometimes I would listen to them sing spirituals, and hear the soulful words and try to understand the depths of the words that bleed from their lips. So, it would take some time to seeing a whole stage filled with them. However the one thing that didn't change was the entertainment they provided by for the white faces which sat enjoying the jazz music. One was specifically entertaining as tonight he was one stage blowing his trumpet rather loudly and once more I was captivated by the sound of that bluesy trumpet which filled the air. Wanting to know and understand it more.

Heading further towards the back of the club, my friend patted me on the back and smiled as he revealed steps. "This way to all ya drinking pleasures my friend."
Nodding my head I followed down the wooden steps unto we stopped at the wooden door. As he knocked his hands, a slit was slide back and a gruff voice spoke "Password."

"EY! ITS ME JR, I DONT NEED NO STINKIN PASSWORD." Leaning forward he quickly whispered something I just barely caught was Italian and the door slide open.
Blinking my eyes, I was once more hit with the sweet smell of alcohol and tobacco smoke. It seems rather warm in here. Barrels of the brown liquor were rounded up behind a wooden counter and tables were set up everywhere and ladies and men mingle all together before the male smiled and pointed towards the table where a beautiful lass was waiting for us.

"What I tell ya eh, Charles. I told ya she was a beaut, let me introduce you to her."
  Charles Jr. / Mr-X / 14d 18h 23m 44s
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