In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt West End Girls.
Every city and town contains people of different classes: rich, poor, and somewhere in between. What’s it like where you live? If it’s difficult for you to discern and describe the different types of classes in your locale, describe what it was like where you grew up — was it swimming pools and movie stars, industrial and working class, somewhere in between or something completely different?
Eliza cast a dejected glance around her; this was not at all what she imagined. Still she could find the entire setting fascinating. People might ignore her but she wouldn’t miss the opportunity to observe them. In fact, observing humanity in all its ugliness and beauty was marvellous.
Everyone looked quite dashing tonight, to be sure in their best clothes; yet, anyone who looked more closely could see the clever alterations in some of the women’s dresses or the threadbare nature of some men’s costumes. Those were rare though, but it wouldn’t do to rebuke Sir Langley and refuse him entrance. Not that anyone was supposed to know who he was. It was after all a masquerade. She’d removed her mask a few moments before when it became clear that no man would invite her this night.
She’d thought it’d be different in the city. She’d thought she’d be free. Unlike at home, where she had to answer to her father and three brothers who wouldn’t hear of any stupid ideas of writing a book. She was expected to be a mother, marrying, but she had more to offer. So she chose to leave. And she needed to be here. She had less money to her name than Sir Langley but she had something that he didn’t. And she had no illusions; whereas he still pretended to live in a world where he was powerful. Unless he married money he was done. And he would add tonight’s expenses to his tab if he was allowed, which was not all a guarantee. Right now he was dancing with a partner who looked -despite being hidden by a mask – as if she’d rather be anywhere else.
Her dress was one of the most beautiful; few people would know but she’d sewn it herself. Eliza did. She also knew that Margaret’s jewellery was fake through and through. Not one of the girls had the money to purchase such beautiful gemstones. But she was truly beautiful and she might find a protector before the years was out. If Madam Rose permitted it.
Eliza’s gaze went to the owner; she looked regal in her dark green dress and peacock-feathered mask. She had no money issue but she wasn’t one people would seek to marry. Her reputation was what it was. Still people enjoyed her parties and the place was full most nights, particularly the bi-monthly masquerades.
She was a fair employer. In fact, she’d even warned Eliza that working in a brothel didn’t mean freedom. In fact, it was quite the opposite, but if she was willing to make some money before she found a more socially appropriate job – not in the city though – then being what they called a West End Girl would help her. Eliza had made her choice. After choosing to leave home, she’d decided to work for Madam Rose. Madam kept 70 per cent of the fees the clients paid but whatever else they gave – by way of money or trinkets and jewellery – them, the girls could keep. In fact, if one looked at Lucy, they’d see that she was the most richly adorned tonight. Patrons tended to bestow generously upon her, but she was the only one who agreed to do certain unsavoury things, things that the Lord would frown upon.
Yet, in fairness, Eliza knew that her family would kill her for what she was doing. The chances of either her brothers coming to get her were nil though.They’d rather deny she ever existed. She was fine with that. And the experience would make a perfect story when she could sell her manuscripts.