The Bootlegger's Daughter

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Serenade

As I walked back to the McKay’s house I realized that it had been a long time since I walked in the dark by myself. The time before I was slightly drunk on Halloween. I was just walking home from the speakeasy but it was around midnight and I was all alone. I had gotten drunk because David had mentioned it being Mother’s birthday and I didn’t want to think about that. Her birthday was coming up which I didn’t like. Halloween was always the worst.

It was warm in the morning but all of that went away once the sun set. I didn’t have a coat which upset me. I didn’t feel prepared like I should. I had a photograph, a piece of paper, a lighter, and a knife. But there was no coat and my curls were starting to peep out under Uncle Henry’s hat. I wasn’t prepared and I didn’t feel like a man. All I was was a girl hiding in a suit.

When I got to the McKay’s house I walked to the alleyway that Ruthie’s window overlooked. I held my knife in hand and was constantly looking over my shoulder. In my defense I was nervous because they did answer the door with a gun. Once I found Ruthie’s window I grabbed a pebble off of the ground and threw it at the window. No one responded so I threw another. That time Ruthie heard me and went and opened the window.

“Well hello there, Mr. Wood.” Ruthie said in a flirtatious voice.

“Hello Miss McKay.” I responded in a similar manner.

“You know I’ve never talked to a man out my window before. I feel so special.” She said with a smile. “My sister, Anna, loves Shakespeare. Her favorite is Romeo and Juliet. She always quotes it. She’s a very smart lady. But there’s this scene in the play where Romeo calls up to Juliet from a balcony. That’s what I feel like now.”

“If you don’t find me too bold, I would like to say that I think we might be like them. I might have fallen in love with you at first sight.”

“Oh James. No one’s ever said that they’ve loved me before!” She paused for a minute and looked sad. “Anna says that you should never fall for a man who says that he loves you right away.”

“Why?”

“Because she married a man who said that. They had a child and then he left and never came back.”

“Well I promise you that I would never abandon you. I have a sister back home; I haven’t talked to her in years but I still send her money to help pay for her education.” That of course was a lie. But there is a boy in my class named Elmer who does that. Whenever he’s not in school he works and sends money to his older sister.

“That’s very kind of you.” She said. There was a pause where we just smiled at each other. “Will you do me a favor?”

“What is it?”

“Will you sing to me? Whenever Anna talks about Romeo and Juliet I always picture singing.”

I sang April Showers to her. It was from the musical Bombo that came out back in 1921. I don’t really care much for the song but it was the first thing that came to my head. The good thing was that Ruthie enjoyed it. But I must have been too loud because right as I ended there was a knock on her door.

“I’m so sorry, James. You’ll have to leave now.” Ruthie said in a rush. I nodded and pretended to run away completely but reality I just ran out of sight and tried to listen to the conversation at Ruthie’s door.

“Who’s down there?” A woman asked. I heard Ruthie reply saying that no one was there and she was just opening the window to get some fresh air. “I just got a call from Sean. He’s coming back into town tomorrow. It seems like all that business with the Sweets is wrapped up with.” The woman said.

I gave up listening after that. I didn’t want to hear anymore because I was scared that the woman would talk about Grandfather’s death and I didn’t want to hear that. So I crept out of the alleyway and ran off the street into the black night.

I didn’t want to go back home. I didn’t want to talk to my father and tell him that everything was going well. I found myself walking back to Timothy’s house. I know it was wrong and frankly scandalous. A teenage girl wearing a suit and going to a bachelor’s house in the middle of the night. But I gave up caring what people would think of me that night.

I walked over to his apartment and knocked on the door when I got there. Timothy answered it but he looked tired and confused. Then again who can blame him.

“Is something wrong?” He asked me when he saw me in the doorway.

“No I just don’t want to go back home. Do you mind if I stay here?” I asked. I felt my face turn red. And now I laugh at myself for doing this because it was such a stupid thing to do. I should have just gone home.

Timothy let me into his apartment. “You can sleep in my bed. The door locks on the inside and there’s no key. I’ll be out here if you need me.” He said.

“Thank you, you’re one in a million.” I said with a smile. Timothy gave a weak one back. “Can you do me one last favor?” Timothy nodded. “Do you mind calling the house and saying that I’m alright and will be back in the morning?” Timothy nodded again and I walked into his room.

In there I locked the door and undressed a bit. I laid down in his bed and tried to listen to the soft phone conversation going on in the other room. Even laying there that night I knew that Father was going to kill me when I got back home. But I didn’t want to go back home where John is sick, Mary might be moving to California, David is being secretive, and where the rest of my family was in general. So I laid down, closed my eyes and tried to get some sleep.

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