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From Part 2 of OIL IN THEIR BLOOD, The American Decades: The ladies' dance...

The nightclub was nearly empty, the room shadowy in dim lighting, the candles at the many customerless tables unlit. The small pop orchestra on the bandstand huddled together over their instruments, muttering indistinctly about their next number. Behind the bar, the tender rattled a few bottles as he inventoried the ample stocks, nobody on the stools to interrupt him.  

 

Victoria sat alone in a booth along the far wall of the club, a choice table on a busier night during a happier day. She smoked a cigarette and watched the doorway at the far end of the bar. She was waiting for someone to come through it.

 

From a different direction, a svelte woman of middle years and still lovely walked into the room from kitchen doors behind the bar. Her golden hair was stylish and glistening, her blue eyes were bright and alert, her face was as pretty as Victoria?s, if more petite and vivacious against Victoria's auburn-haired, green-eyed sultry undeniability. As the petite blond rounded the bandstand end of the bar, she glanced at the conferring players and then across the room. Seeing only three men, heads down, whispering over a whiskey bottle in a corner and two couples laughing over a pitcher of beer in a far booth, she walked to Victoria, who held up her freshly lit cigarette in a gesture of familiarity. The blond woman unhesitatingly took the cigarette, inhaled deeply and did not return it. The two women's eyes met. Neither smiled.

 

Victoria shrugged. "Still waiting."

 

The blond woman's obviously sympathetic expression was her only reply. A man on the bandstand with a coronet turned away from the other players to the room, stepped to the singer's mic and looked out at the blond woman. "You ready, Katie Marie?"

 

The blond woman glanced at him, then at Victoria's strained face, finally back at him and called, "Play us a foxtrot, Benny. Something upbeat." He nodded, turned to the players and said a song title. While the man with the coronet counted the players in, Katie Marie looked at Victoria. "Get up, girl. All the good dancers are shipping out. You need to practice leading or you'll spend the whole war crying in your whiskey."

 

Victoria's head dropped but her face turned, she looked up at Katie Marie, her expression softened and she smiled sadly. "Brandy," she corrected, standing up.

 

"When I'm in town, you don't cry into brandy or whiskey or a lace hanky," Katie Marie snapped back, taking Victoria's arm and pulling her onto the small dance floor. She put the taller woman's hand around her back, lifted her left arm, stepped into dance frame and pulled Victoria into the dance. As Victoria picked up the tempo, Katie Marie followed her, eyes darting around the club.

 

"You used to turn this into one of the most crowded dance floors in D.C.," Victoria said as they danced.

 

"That was before..." Katie Marie began, "before..." The words caught in her throat.

 

"Pearl Harbor," Victoria finished the sentence, grimness once again freezing her face.

 

"Yeah." Katie Marie took in Victoria"s hard face...

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