SWEET GEORGIA BROWN.
Georgia Brown yawned. Sitting up she moved to the edge of the bed. Taking a cigarette from a crumpled Woodbine packet she lit it, then puffed deeply. She stared vacantly for a few minutes at the humdrum room and the yellowing wallpaper. Looking over her shoulder she tried to remember whom she had shared the bed with during the night. A thigh the colour of chocolate and shiny as a new coin lay still amongst the tangled sheet: Clara Smit, she recalled, yes of course, darling Clara, she of ample breasts and thighs. But what had happened to Bill Fish? she mused dimly, drawing on her cigarette and letting out a breath of grey smoke. - Come on, Clara, move yerself, or yer won't get yer breakfast from old Mrs Dickens, she stated, slapping the thigh with her hand. Clara merely groaned and dragged the off-white sheet over her naked shoulder. Georgia repeated her remark and Clara moaned again, but this time opened her large eyes and her dark pupils swallowed the morning light, unhappily. She didn't want to get up, she moaned pulling the sheet tighter over her nakedness, not out of modesty but the dull chill. Georgia coughed and spluttered and stubbed the Woodbine dog-end in an old glass ashtray, then told her Negroid friend that if her Aunt Bessie ever caught her oversleeping in bed when she was a young child, she would smack her backside with no delay. Clara said, good job too, and groaned about the light coming through the dreary grey curtains. Georgia laughed and coughed again. Clara told her to go and wash or drown herself and leave her in peace, but Georgia kissed the naked thigh and tickled the body beneath the sheet, until the body wriggled and wriggled as if a spider had got her, and she screamed and screamed into the early August Morning of 1959.
The street was busy and hot. Georgia and Clara made their way along the New Kent Road then boarded a bus to the West End. They had washed, dressed and late breakfasted, much to Mrs Dickens annoyance, which showed in her slightly whiskered face, and numerous chins. I'm not here for your benefit, she had said, crashing and banging from the kitchen as the girls waited at their table in the dreary dining room. The girls apologized loudly, but giggled secretly as they made gestures with their fingers at the kitchen.
- Whatever 'appened to Bill last night? Georgia asked peering out of the bus window, straining to remember, but failing. Clara told her he'd got fed up with waiting for her, Georgia, and went off with some dressed up woman old enough to their mother and that Georgia had finally slipped upstairs at Monty's with some man old enough to be her father, but wasn't as he was long dead. Georgia grinned and said she didn't remember, but remembered finding a wrapped up five pound note in her hand later. The girls laughed, but inwardly Clara wished she'd been as lucky, as the man she'd gone off with had done his business and then run off with her money. Bastard, she thought, white git, she murmured under her breath, scratching her thigh. She would say nothing to Georgia; she'd only go off the deep end; would have him when they saw him again. Wasn't worth the trouble, she mused darkly, turning and gazing at Georgia's dark frizzy hair and pale white skin, wanting to hug her and kiss her, and knowing she daren't in public, merely sighed.
Bill Fish sat behind his drum kit. He spied Georgia and Clara entering the club. He had known Georgia since she was a fifteen-year-old doing the business in alleyways and singing in public houses that thought her older.
- What 'appened to you last night, Bill said in his gruff voice.
- What 'appened to you ya mean, Georgia replied standing with Clara by the platform which acted as a stage where Bill and his band played and sometimes Georgia sang and occasionally, Clara too. Bill said he had waited long enough and had gone off with Enid in the end, which it nearly was, he remarked with a grin.
- What yer want 'ere, Bill asked tapping the cymbal with his brushes staring at the young girl who looked older than her twenty-two years.
I've already got a singer for tonight, he added before she could ask. Georgia asked who and Bill told her, and she said she could pass wind in better tune than that old girl could sing, but Bill just struggled his shoulders and continued tapping the cymbal and thumping the bass drum with his foot in a dull thud. After half-an-hour of backchat and moans, Georgia left the club with Clara and they thought it time to look for business, if Clara was up to it, and then perhaps lunch in the Red Parrot. Clara concurred and they separated each to their patch, and wishing to luck the Police didn't spot them or if they did, to run for it as if Satan himself was after them, down some dark alley.
The Street was busy. Georgia had been lucky if that was the word, though she doubted it was, but at least it paid the rent and fed her and clothed her for all the immorality of it all. Three in an hour and could barely remember their faces, which was just as well, although the stink of them often remained ages afterwards, she mused glancing at her watch which Bill had bought her some time back, and wondering how Clara had done.
She remembered when Clara had one client who wanted the works, and had bruised her, even if her dark skin barely showed it afterwards, and had even tried buggery with her until she screamed him off, poor darling that she is, Georgia thought, shaking her head, glancing at her watch again.
- Sweet Georgia Brown, a man said approaching her.
- Miss Brown to you, Georgia replied, coolly.
- Got the time ? he asked with a broad grin.
- If you've got the money, she replied. He nodded and said he remembered her from some months back and how they had a good time and he wanted it again now. Georgia frowned and said she didn't remember.
But deep down a dark image came and made her shudder.
Georgia sighed with relief. When the man spotted the policeman along the street he walked off towards Leicester Square leaving Georgia both relieved and peeved. The policeman wandered along towards her his eyebrows raised inquisitively.
- What was all that about then? the policeman asked. Georgia putting on her innocent face said the man had been pestering her, mistaking her for a woman of ill repute, which she wasn't of course, as he could see. The policeman raised his eyebrows even higher as if to say, I'm not so sure you ain't, but told her to move along, giving her the benefit of the doubt. He made off along the street towards Leicester Square and she towards Piccadilly Circus, wondering if Clara would be there by Eros waiting as they'd arranged. Jack Jupper, she mused darkly to herself that was him, didn't recognize in daylight. And the dark image of him came back to her. When she'd been with him some months back he'd left her black and blue and sore for weeks, and scared the hell out of her.
Jupper the bastard, she said to herself and thought how the hell she got into the business way back. She remembered her Aunt Bessie telling her how her mother had been killed in a car accident six months after she had been born and how she and her father, Darwin Brown, had brought her up together until her he was killed at Dunkirk in 1940. She didn't know either of her parents, she mused sadly now, only Aunt Bessie, big as a barge smelling of lavender and sweat.
Then she'd been rape and molested by some man at twelve on a bombsite
in Lambeth one evening, and after that she'd gone all wild, and Aunt Bessie, poor sod, couldn't control her any more for all her Bible-bashing and beatings. Yes, she remembered, then came that special home for miscreant girls run by nuns who made efforts to train me until I ran away and took to the streets at fifteen. Yes, she thought, that was the way the road went and that's where I met Clara who was nineteen then. Now here I am and nothing changed, she said in an undertone walking into Piccadilly Circus, looking for Clara, hearing her stomach rumble and feeling her mouth water and damp and dirty below.
Jack Jupper spied her and followed. He couldn't help the way he felt about her and would have her no matter what, he told himself, watching her walk towards Piccadilly Circus, imagining her form beneath her bright dress and admiring her shapely legs and dark frizzy hair. She looked back once or twice but she didn't see him he was sure else he'd have seen the fear in her eyes and he didn't want that yet, not just yet, he mused with a grin, pulling his trilby slowly over his eyebrows.
Clara lay in silence. Georgia would be waiting she knew, but this one was taking his time. The old bed creaked and the smell of him made her nauseous. Come along, she whispered in his ear, this ain't no marathon. The man older enough to be her father puffed and blew and apologizing made efforts, which made her close her eyes and think of Louis who had got her into the business when she was seventeen and innocent as a baby, and fresh from Africa. Damn Louis, she muttered, damn him, damn him.
Georgia sensed she was being watched. She spotted Clara making her way towards her and felt relieved. But the sensation of being spied on wouldn't leave her. - Where'd ya get to? Georgia asked. Clara said she'd had a client slower than a snail and just as slimy, at which Georgia sniffed a sharp laugh as if weary. She told Clara about her confrontation with Jack Jupper and Clara frowned to remember, then having remembered, gave out a sharp gasp.
- Where'd he go after? Clara asked feeling a cold chill go down her spine.
- Off towards Leicester Square, I suppose, Georgia replied. Yet she wasn't sure deep down if he had. Clara linked her arm through Georgia's and they made their way to the Red Parrot. The afternoon sun made them feel bothered, sticky, and unclean. The crowds hemmed them closer together; the noise of the traffic made conversation a hard task, so they kept to an acknowledged silence as if they were nuns in holy orders, but less orderly and holy.
Jack Jupper watched. The girls had gone off together down a back street and he followed at a distance. The sway of Georgia's hips as she walked held his interest and stirred his passion. The black girl held no interest for him, only a vague repugnance at the colour of her flesh and her plumpness. The girls entered a public house. He cursed them under his breath. He wanted Georgia badly; wanted her in his hands, her flesh in his hands. He entered the saloon and saw them in a mirror behind the counter in the public bar. They were sitting in a corner talking and sniggering together. Like two young witches, Jupper said to himself, as he stood by the counter ordering his drink from the stout landlord.
Georgia watched Clara go. They had agreed meet later by the underground station in Leicester Square. Once Clara was out of sight, Georgia made her way back to her patch where she would await any client, as she termed the men or occasionally women, who approached her with a mixture of loathing and mild trepidation. The room she rented by the day left a lot to be desired but at least it was warm and dry and gave solitude. Fanny Couper who rented her the room asked no questions as long as she got her money at the end of the day. And no smoking in the room, she'd told Georgia with a cigarette dangling from her bottom lip like an appendage, and no funny business, I don't want the Law buzzing round 'ere. Georgia smiled at the thought of Fanny Couper ever being without her cigarette, and the mere thought of her and her husband in bed together with the cigarette dangling there, made her let slip a brief chuckle to herself.
- Sweet Georgia Brown, a voice sang in a dark baritone. It was Jupper. She saw him out of the corner of her eye as she turned.
A cold hand seemed to go down her back and drew her nerves tightly.
Clara was tired. The last client had been an awkward sod and had left her slightly bruised about the groin. She waited a few minutes to recover and lit a cigarette. The room she rented was dingy and smelt of sour disinfectant and unwashed bodies. Gilbert Fuldish who let out the room to her was a short balding man with a thin moustache. He didn't want to know what she wanted the room for, although he guessed, only that she keep it tidy and clean. I wants me money regular and be discreet, he told Clara firmly, eyeing her up and down like she was some horse. She puffed heavy on the cigarette and then blew out smoke rings, which floated on the dank air until they disappeared into the semi-dark corner opposite like ill-looking ghosts.
The room was silent. Georgia lay lifeless across the bed. Her eyes stared unseeing up at the off-white ceiling as if something held their interest there. One hand hung over the side of the bed half-clenched as if sculptured, the other lay across her naked breast, blood stained. Redness spread across the once greyish-white sheet and the unclad body. The strength of the hands that held her throat had surprised her. Now limp and lifeless the body was passive as if keeping a dark secret. The black frizzy hair lay sprayed across the pillow matted with blood. The mouth, half-open, seemed about to speak, but the lips had lost the power of speech. Words hung in the air of the silent room. Georgia's final ones and Jupper's taunts seemed to be mixed about the low ceiling, waiting to descend and repeat themselves repeatedly into Georgia's defunct brain.
Clara waited in Leicester Square. She had waited for over half an hour. She was tired and hungry and wanted to get back to their lodgings and Mrs Dickens's dinner. She sensed something was wrong. Georgia was seldom late. The feeling of unease spread through her body as she watched the crowds milling near her. Then an image came to her mind. She froze. A dark image entered her and she began to run like one possessed, through the swarming crowds as they buzzed with conversations as she passed; across roads heavy with traffic and noise and hooting horns; through streets which seemed endless and colourless; until finally, out of breath, she stood outside the building where Georgia had rented her room. She gasped for breath and tried to ignore the pain in her body. Ascending the stairs she listened out for sounds, but none came. She waited outside the room and listened at the door. Nothing. She called Georgia's name, no response. Putting her hand cautiously on the doorknob she waited, momentarily unsure, then gingerly she turned it and pushed.
Jack Jupper smiled. He heard the screams from the street below. The black girl won't forget that in a hurry, he told himself moving down the street. He'd had her and now it was over. The bitch was defunct, he sniggered as he turned the street looking back one last time.
- Sweet Georgia Brown, he whispered in half-song. The image of her last moments came before his eyes. But her eyes wouldn't leave him. They stared and stared in their lifeless way, yet seemed to eat into him and bore themselves deeper and deeper until every moment he seemed watched by her, judged by her and condemned by her, piteously.