The Masked Ball.

January 2 1927


1927 is going to be my year. I am going to go from being a shop girl to being a proper courtesan. I’m going to go from living in a subterranean bedsit to a proper flat with big windows looking over a park. I’m am going to progress from rough sailors and working men to politicians, bankers and princes.

Christmas at Dinky’s parents’ place was bitter sweet. His mum is quite kind in her own crazy little way, but his father is a huge surly monster. All he does is talk about the war and how pointless it was since the younger generation had turned to lewd decadence and the country would become just like Sodom and Gomorrah in a matter of months. Every time he looked at Dinks he would narrow his eyes and sneer. At one point Dinky and his mum were in the kitchen fussing over the Turkey when his father leaned over to me and said, “You’re a very pretty girl.”
He said it like it was an accusation rather than a compliment. Then he asked outright, “What is a girl like you doing with a nancy boy like my son?”

Well I told him that Dinks is the kindest sweetest man I’ve ever met and that he is handsome and fun and that anyone would be blind not to see that. He just leered and sneered and poured himself another glass of brandy. I felt like I’d scored a point for Dinky. Thankfully he fell asleep by the fire while Dinks and his sister, his mum and I played cribbage and had a tolerably nice time. Are all fathers bastards? Maybe men just aren’t meant for family life. Maybe they should just pay for sex and live together in big barns where they can be mean and have punch ups and leave the rest of us alone. My father, Dinky’s father, they are so miserable and so determined to make everyone else miserable too.

On the train back to London I told Dinky about my father. How he once threw me into a chair so hard it tipped back and I cracked my head. All because I’d worn lipstick and rouge to church. As we drew closer and closer to London we started to feel just how lucky we are to be rid of them. To be making our own way in the capital. To be young and free and destined for greatness.

On new years eve we really went to town. Dinky had heard of this marvelous masked ball in Soho, but the tickets were outrageously expensive. I said I’d buy them and this led him to ask me why I always have so much money when I only work in a shop. Well I hesitated, of course, but finally I told him that I go with men for money. He was shocked, but he didn’t deride me for it. He said his friend Frances goes with old men for money too. That he would like to do it, but that he just can’t stomach wrinkly flabby old men. I said it’s not his stomach they would be interested in and we screamed with laughter. It feels brilliant having a friend that knows what I am.

So we saw in 1927 at a big bang up party. Dinky met a boy and I met lots of boys. I even met a lady of about 50 who said she had been a courtesan in Paris. She was with a tall old man who spoke no English and wore a full face mask. She said the key to being a courtesan is discretion. That is what ‘clients’ (that’s what she called them) value more than anything. They need to know you won’t go blabbing to their wives or to the newspaper men. And she had everyone eating out of her hand. They all knew what she was and they all treated her with admiration. She wore the most fabulous jewels in the room. I glimpsed my future and it was sparkly.

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