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“HARD TIMES MAKE hard folks,” Mrs. Meyer’s weak voice whispered behind me as she leaned against the wall with her arms hugged around her chest.
“It certainly does, but there’s no sense in wallowing in suffrage now.” My words shot back at the woman with a harsh tone that I shouldn’t have used, even if she’d entered my hovel without my consent.
Her eyes followed me as I unfolded my dress and laid it upon the old mattress lying on the ground. The champagne color glimmered in the dim light. The only dress of Mama’s that I couldn’t bring myself to sell, one of her favorites.
“Are you finally going to sell it?” She nodded toward the soft layers of silk and delicate lace. “You might fetch a few dollars, enough to buy a few days’ worth of food.”
“No, I’m not going to sell it. I’m going to find a job.” I stepped in front of the broken mirror in the corner and grabbed a few bobby pins from a basket.
“Evelyn, you’d have better luck selling that dress. That is, if anyone can even afford to buy it in these times.” She coughed into her dirt stained hand and wiped her gaunt cheek. “A woman’s place is in the home. Frank should be the one looking for work, not you.”
“Frank isn’t my husband, Mrs. Meyers, he’s my brother. I doubt I should act as a wife to my own flesh and blood.”
My fingers brushed through my sun-kissed, blonde hair as I pinned up the shoulder-length tresses. In bad need of a trim and a wash, the natural wavy and soft curls rebelled against the style I forced onto them.
“Still you should be home.”
“Doing what? Cooking? We have no food in our cupboards. Washing? We have no clothes to clean. I need some money so I can eat tonight.”
“If you’re hungry, go to the soup kitchen.” Her voice rasped and she began another coughing fit. “Women are supposed to stay home while the men work, plain and simple. Frank should be out finding a job, not you.”
“He is out there.” My lie stung with guilt.
“He’s been gone for a week. Where’s he looking that would cause him not to come home for that many days? Does he not worry about you?”
I spun around, meeting her gaze. Her meddling gossip boiled through my veins as she threatened to cross a line she shouldn’t.
“Not that our business is your business, but my brother is looking for work, as we all are. Perhaps, he’s been gone for so long because he’s actually found a job. I have complete faith he’ll be home soon.”
“Most men who don’t come home are either off hitting the hooch or hauled up in the big house.”
“My brother is not a drunk.” I pointed a finger at her face. “And he’s not a lawbreaker.”
She shrugged her shoulders. “So where are you going to look for work?”
My teeth clenched. I dreaded knowing where I planned to head this afternoon enough without having to admit it to anyone, not that I’d consider telling her, of all people.
“I don’t have any place in particular, yet. Perhaps, I’ll go down to the unemployment office.”
“Yes, because you, out of thousands in this city, will have any luck there. You’re not going to find a job. You might as well just head down to the soup kitchen like I told you.”
I marched toward the battered front door and jerked it open. The old dented tin and broken boards lurched and swung on the rusted hinges with grinding clanks as I motioned her to leave.
“Please excuse me, Mrs. Meyers. I should change my clothes and be on my way.”
She gave an offended nod at my rude dismissal, but I didn’t care, and I slammed the door behind her as she left.
Within moments, I slid the dress up my legs and slipped my arms through the sleeves. The dropped waist fit snug around my hips as I fastened the last button and smoothed out the material before casting a glance toward Heaven above.
Please, Mama and Daddy, forgive me.
Desperation, certainly, had a way of preying on someone.
I’d never been inside a burlesque theater before, but unfortunately, today, I didn’t have a choice. I didn’t know the whereabouts of my older brother, Frank, I didn’t have a dime to my name, and my cupboards were bare.
Yes, hard times made for hard people and caused hard choices.
*AVAILABLE THIS FRIDAY, MARCH 25, 2016*
Black Tuesday, October 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed, and the day Evelyn Ford will never forget.
With the untimely death of her parents and the loss of their only income, Evelyn, and her brother, Frank flee to a make-shift hovel built in Central Park.
After Frank mysteriously goes missing, bare cupboards force Evelyn to seek employment anywhere she can find work, even if that means working at a burlesque theater.
Catching the attention of Don Vincent Giovanni, a Kingpin in the New York mafia, Evelyn discovers that Frank is serving time in prison for running hooch and he owes Vincent a lot of money. In order to pay off her brother’s debt, Evelyn is thrown into the world of mobsters and bootlegging.
Between running hooch all over the city of New York and trying to save her brother, Evelyn finds herself drawn to Max Catalano, Vincent’s Consigliere. Even with secrets of his own, he’s the only one she can trust when she entangles herself in the middle of the New York mafia crime wars.
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