Hide Away retirement home was anything but the picturesque mansion they claimed to be. The dilapidated two story home sat on the corner of Demure Avenue and Hillside Street. It was a sad excuse of a building with crumpling stairs, a dead garden, and trash laden sidewalks. The young reporter double checked the address she’d been given and the rusted metal letters on the stone structure. They matched.
She swallowed the bile that rose from her stomach and marched up the stairs. She opened the door and nearly collided with an ancient looking woman on the other side.
“I’m so sorry,” she apologized. The old woman looked up at her with bright blue eyes that crinkled as she smiled. She wore a bright blue night gown and her white as snow hair was pulled up and held by chop sticks.
“Hello,” she said, in a voice that sounded as old as she looked. The reporter smiled the same smile she gave all elderly people. She looked around for a nurse or someone who was less ancient.
“Who are you looking for? Are you Herald’s granddaughter?” The woman asked. The reporter shook her head.
“No, my name is Abby Benson. I’m here to interview someone,” Abby told her. The woman’s smile grew wider.
“You can interview me, I’m the most sane out of all these people.” The woman laughed. Abby doubted that was true.
“I’m looking for someone who was alive in the twenties, preferably someone who could tell me about the speakeasies. I’m doing a report as an internship.” Abby explained, hoping this woman could show her someone who could give her the information.
“Well I can tell you all about the twenties! I was there you know?” The woman grabbed Abby’s arm and led her into a sitting room with only one couch and two rockers. She sat on the wooden rocker and pointed to the couch.
“You sit there and I’ll answer your questions,” The woman ordered. Abby sat obediently.
“Can you tell me about the speakeasies? Do you ever hear stories or witness a raid?” Abby asked, hoping beyond all hope she could count this woman as a verifiable source.
“Can I ever!” The woman shouted. “My husband owned and operated his very own speakeasy.”
Abby sat forward in anticipation. She hurriedly pulled her digital recorder from her bag and started it. “Can you tell me about your husband?” she asked. The woman sighed.
“Why would you want to know about Everett? He was a nasty man.” She said.
“Elaine, Elaine Whitley. But you can call me Lanie.” Elaine answered. “I suppose if you must know about Everett I’ll tell you about him. It’s not a happy story, mind you, but I’ll tell it just the same.”
“Please do,” Abby said. She watched as Elaine sighed and sat back in the rocker. Her blue eyes looked forward, out the dirt streaked window, and followed a group of teenage girls as they walked down the street.
“I used to be one of them, even though it seems so long ago, but I was. I was a pretty young thing too. I had the blondest blond hair you ever did see. It was an unruly mess though. I had these blues eyes that shined like you wouldn’t believe. I had no fire though. I let everyone tell me what to do and when to do it. Which in 1919 that was how a girl was supposed to act, but come the twenties that all changed. I was suddenly the odd one out. My sister, Faye, she was a force not to be messed with.” Elaine looked to Abby with a sad smile.
“Faye wanted to be wild and free. She hung around the speakeasies, kissed every boy that looked at her, wore my momma’s make-up, smoke, and drank. She drove my father absolutely crazy. He’d lock her in her room and she’d just find another way out. There was no stopping Faye.”
“I on the other hand stayed as far away from the speakeasies as possible. I went to school, came home, and did as my parents’ told me. It wasn’t until the summer of 1928 that things changed. I’d just graduated from high school. My parents told me that I was supposed to find myself a husband. So like any good daughter I went to work at finding myself a husband, but Faye wanted me to experience life before I thought about settling down.” Elaine looked at her hands. She twirled a cheap looking ring around her finger.
“Faye took me to a speakeasy on my seventeenth birthday. I was hopelessly lost. She put me in this horrid outfit that exposed more than it covered. I felt completely foolish in the make-up and I felt like every man there was looking down my dress. Faye looked right at home. She drank with at least seven men that night and kissed them all. Sometime that night she slipped away and left me alone. That’s when I met Everett.”
“You said you married him correct? Was it love at first sight?” Abby asked.
“I suppose it was. Everett was like no man I’d ever seen. He was surrounded by a large group of men who laughed at everything he said. He had a large cigar in his mouth and an expensive looking suit. He had muddy green eyes that locked on mine as I stared at him. He approached me and asked me to danced and that was that. I’d set my future in stone.” Elaine sat back in her chair and stayed silent for a few moments.
“What do you mean you set your future in stone?” Abby demanded.
“After that night I went back with Faye just to see Everett. After a few weeks I found out he was a business associate of my father’s and I causally planted the idea in my father’s head that he should have a business dinner. Of course he thought it was a great idea. So he did. I pretended to meet Everett for the first time and the next thing I knew my father was asking me if I wanted to marry him. We were engaged and then married by midsummer.” Elaine answered.
“Did you know he owned the speakeasy?” Abby questioned.
“Yes, I found that out before we were married, but I didn’t care. I thought I loved him, but it was obvious I was wrong. The morning after our wedding night I was covered in bruises from head to toe. I was naïve, but not that naïve. I knew that this wasn’t a normal occurrence, but I was afraid to tell anyone. Everett demanded that I go to the speakeasy with him and fit in. He bought me outfits like Faye loaned me and taught me how to act. When I was in the speakeasy I was the toughest girl around. When I was home I was a frightened seventeen year old with an abusive husband.” Elaine’s lips were drawn in a tight line as the words tumbled from them. Abby sat back on the couch and pulled her legs up beside her.
“Did you escape him?” Abby whispered. Elaine laughed and set her head back on the rocker.
“That’s a very long story dear, do you have time?” Abby nodded quickly. Elaine sighed and launched into her tale.