The Secret Party

Entry by: Corone

18th March 2016
The Secret Party

I’m nervous, but Adeline is so excited she’s skipping a little as we get out of the car. I can head the beads of her dress shimmy with her as she moves. I’m not too sure about leaving the car here. It’s a sketchy area, but these days, what part of Chicago isn’t? Gangsters and guns, booze runners and hookers. I’m about to check I’ve locked the car door again when Adeline slides an arm through mine.

“Come on Jack,” she smiles at me, “loosen up sweetie, it’s going to be a party.”

It’s a warm night, so I’ve left my coat at home but I’m still hot in my jacket and tie. Adeline only has a light shawl that has slipped away from her bare shoulders. I consider offering her my jacket but I suspect she’d only chastise me for being old fashioned. It’s just the way I was brought up I suppose, I’m not that used to flappers and jazz music. The war is still a recent memory for me, even though some want to blot it out with dancing and parties. Not that I don’t find Adeline’s excitement a little infectious.

Arm in arm we walk around to the back of the building, following another couple who look as inefficiently clandestine as we do. When we reach the imposing metal door, I’m not quite sure what to do. I’ve never been to one of these places before. But Adeline is looking at me expectantly and I don’t want to look a fool. I knock sharply on the door and a small grill opens so quickly I nearly jump.

“Password,” says a deep voice from inside. He is clearly a gangster, and probably has a gun. Adeline seems to think the same, but for her that’s just exciting. I know the password but my mind goes blank for a moment.

“You a cop?” the voice asks accusingly.

“No, I, erm, its ‘Tumbleweed’,” I stammer.

The man behind the door giggles to himself. “I’m just screwing with you man,” he says as he throws a heavy latch and opens the door for us. Adeline punches me on the arm playfully, but hugs me a little tighter. As we walk through, the doorman doesn’t seem so scary. He’s actually quite small, and smiles welcomingly as we pass by. I do note that he’s carrying a gun though.

“Quit worrying Jack,” Adeline says as we walk down a short corridor. I can hear the music even before the next door is opened. Low deep jazz, full of life and sound. When we open the door it hits us hard. At one end of the room is a ten piece band, with a woman singing passionately into the microphone. Couples fill the dance floor, twisting and turning like something has just let go inside them. Those who can’t find space to dance are by the bar, some have only come here for that anyway. Somehow, drinking alcohol just doesn’t feel like a crime, and everyone here appears to agree. However, I don’t think the police will be fooled by the barman serving it in tea cups.

I’m looking at the bar to see about getting us something to drink. But Adeline’s eyes are wide and she takes both my hands.

“Oh no Jack. You’re coming dancing!”

I shake my head but I’m smiling. Adeline lets her shawl fall off and she makes me take off my jacket and hat. I feel a little undressed, but plenty of the men here are not even wearing a tie.

The band kicks into another rhythm, and the foxtrot turns into a charleston, although a few are doing the lindy hop. Adeline is kicking her heels and as I take her hand we spin around each other. I’ve never quite seen what she sees in me. I’m an accountant, a little boring and old fashioned where she loves to be at the centre of the party. But there is one thing I can do, and that’s dance. In moments we are laughing together and losing ourselves in the music. It is almost as if we are alone here, among the noise, the laughter and the crowd.

Adeline looks like she could go on all night, but eventually I need a rest. After all, I’ve been the one swinging her around for most of the night. We both fall into two spare chairs nearby, and Adeline takes my hand, not wanting to break the physical connection.

“Do you want a drink?” I ask. She nods and mouths ‘water’. It’s my turn to grin at her. “If we’re coming to a place like this, you’re getting whiskey or gin!”

“Then make sure there is a lot of tonic in it,” she laughs.

I’m halfway to the bar when there is the sound of a gunshot. The music stops dead and everyone turns to see the cop at the door who has fired into the air.

“This is a raid,” he yells, and the room erupts. The police really want the people running the joint, but they’ll arrest anyone who takes their fancy. I look for Adeline and glimpse her for a moment as the crowd surges for the exits. I’m pulled along with the flow but fight my way to the wall and work my way around. After what seems an age, I see her again, pulled towards me in the human tide. We reach and grab each other’s hands then let the surge take us.

We burst out into the Chicago night, breathless but still running. We get two streets away before we stop, panting for breath against a wall, the excitement still buzzing through us both. I’m wondering about going back for my jacket and hoping my car hasn’t been towed. But when I catch Adeline’s eyes she laughs and swings her arms around my neck. She kisses me and I gently turn us around and slide my arms around her waist.

“That was quite an evening,” I say when we pause. “But your shawl and my jacket...”

Adeline takes my chin in her hand and looks me right in the eyes.

“Jack. You and I can go back to that cop infested speakeasy back there for a ten dollar jacket and a five dollar shawl. Or you could take me home and we could have ourselves a secret party of our own.”

I smile and kiss her again. It was a never my favourite jacket anyway.