Lilly (historically incorrect, damn the Northern Pacific) by Laurie Michaels Lee

Lilly (historically incorrect, damn the Northern Pacific) by Laurie Michaels Lee

Stepping off the train, Lilly scanned the platform looking for a face she’d never seen before but knew she’d instantly recognize. She surveyed her surroundings from her vantage point and liked what she saw.

Up until now her older sister Flora kept Lilly clothed, fed and out of harms way. She was the only female living at the brothel that was not a prostitute and Flora meant to keep it that way. She knew she would seize every opportunity and claim every inch of luck for Lilly to have the kind of life Flora would never see. Flora was just southeast of honest. She didn’t come right out and steal or swindle but got close enough to recognize it in the dark. She ran her north end brothel in Boston with gusto and business acumen that led the local people to believe that there was a silent owner. Rumor had it that the owner was a prominent figure and a man of public importance.

Not so far off as rumors go. The owner of the building kept the business so secret that when he died Flora just kept on as nothing had changed. That’s when Flora realized the importance of rumors and their benefits.

Flora had been hiding money for years knowing she would have to be ready when the opportunity presented itself for Lilly’s sake.

Flora had gotten word about a businessman coming to Boston looking for hundreds of young girls to transport west as brides-to-be. He would pay a family $100.00 a piece for their fine daughters. Asa Mercer had collected $300.00 from approximately 500 men two years earlier. The money was to bring brides from decent Boston families to Seattle so that men could marry and start families. The more women Asa could bring to Seattle, the more men were enticed to come to Seattle for work, and the more men meant more money for Asa’s timber business.

This was the type of opportunity that Flora had dreamed. This was Lilly’s pass to a new life, a proper life.

Flora set to work and started a rumor meant to reach the finer Bostonian stock. After all, when it came to her clientele, not much separated the middle from the upper class men except their tailors. Her rumor had been brought back full circle within 2 weeks time. Seattle was a vile, muddy town known for it’s wild Indians, filthy living conditions and the men were nicotine and beer-soaked, whisky-greased, red-eyed devils. The rumor had caught hold and spread like a plague and shelved the notion for any respectable family to send a young woman to a place as damnable as this.

Flora knew by now Asa Mercer would be desperate for women. For 3 months the brothel girls sewed, stitched and tatted clothing and hats, stockings, and gloves that would make as close to a trousseau for Lilly as she was ever going get. Over the years, Flora had paid to have Lilly tutored by spinster women who found themselves low on means. Lilly, now seventeen, could pass as a fine upstanding young lady.

She would be at the dock waiting to board the ship with the rest of the Mercer girls. Flora had given Lilly one last set of instructions. She was to study these women for the next 3 months and make their mannerisms hers once she disembarked. Lilly knew she could do that, she’d been pretending her whole life. She had learned so much at Flora’s.

Lilly never had a minute of worry about a gentleman’s intentions as long as he had money. Flora would kill her if she ever knew. Lilly was happy to be out of her sister’s watchful eyes and short leash. She was ready to live her own life and was lucky enough to have the opportunity of a lifetime.

Flora also instructed Lilly to stay clear of a man who smells of work and to mind the condition of his hands and cuticles.

Lilly knew Asa Mercer would be waiting. In one fast year her life had changed from living at Flora’s in the north end of Boston to standing on the Seattle waterfront waiting for a man who had essentially purchased her for another.

Lilly was in full possession of her fine and genteel self when she and her 7 traveling companions were introduced to Asa Mercer and just about a dozen other men that afternoon. She thought Asa to be a fine looking businessman, maybe a bit boring but that was no concern. His friend David Maynard, however, seemed very interesting and she detected a glint in his eye and the faint smell of liquor on his breath when introduced. He wore a well-tailored suit and spoke with authority. He looked like a prominent figure. Although Asa had introduced him as David, Lilly notice that people referred to him as Doc. Lilly believed this was a man of public importance and surely he would know a good business opportunity when it presented itself. She knew with her feather and his money they’d both be tickled rich. Lilly smiled and watched Doc as she thought, let the others find their homes to bake and birth in, I have other plans.


About bbcstudiowrites

This blog is me archiving the BBC Studio Writers Workshop.

Posted on April 10, 2012, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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