Short Fiction Contest-winning story #50 — “And so we left for Paris,” by Sophie Jonas-Hill

March 11th, 2019

.

.

 

 

 

New Short Fiction Award

Three times a year, we award a writer who submits, in our opinion, the best original, previously unpublished work.

Sophie Jonas-Hill of Old Hatfield, England is the winner of the 50th Jerry Jazz Musician New Short Fiction Award, announced and published for the first time on March 11, 2019.

.

.

_____

 

.

.

.

Sophie Jonas Hill

.

*

.

Sophie Jonas-Hill has been writing her entire life — inspired by her first writing award in school at the age of nine.  She is since the author of three novels, the most recent of which, Broken Ponies, was published in September by Urbane Books

 

 

.

.

___

.

.

 

 

 

 

 

.

And so we left for Paris

by

Sophie Jonas-Hill

.

 

 

___________

.

 

…..And so we left for Paris, you in the green jacket I’d made you with the picture collar and turned back cuffs, and I in my blue pinstripe, which made me look like a handsome young man.
…..“You look like a boy,” you said, laughing as we stumbled to our carriage on the train.
….. “I suppose it would be easier if I were.”
….. “Not at all, darling,” you said, and pulled the window shade down so you could kiss me. “Anyway, who wants it to be easy?”
…..Of course, you had more money than I did; your shoes cost what I earned in a week. You brought your jewelry box and some earrings of your mother’s and what did I have? Nimble fingers, you said, nimble fingers, worth their weight in gold.
…..“You shall become a seamstress in a fashion house,” you said on the boat, holding onto your hat against the force of the wind. “I shall dance and see my name in lights, you just see if I don’t!”
…..“So I shall be working, while you’re famous,” I said.
….. “Don’t frown, Evelyn,” you said, and because the wind buffeted and dragged on us, we were able to throw our arms round each other and stagger along the deck with impunity.
.

…..Your jewelry bought us summer, in rooms under the eaves of a white house in the rue Santos-Dumont. I called on Mme. Bernard, the silk blouse with the pleated bib you wore to Ascot in a brown paper bag, along with your letter of recommendation on your father’s notepaper. She engaged me just as you’d planned, and I went to work above her boutique. You wandered through the streets and found a café you liked.
…..“Are you still going to dance?” I asked.
….. “Of course I shall. I’ve spoken with a man and he says his cousin’s the doorman of a club in Pigalle. He”s going to get me an audition.”
….. “I see,” I said as I unpinned my hat and splashed water on my face. “And what have you done for him, that he should do that for you?”
…..   “Evi,” you sighed as you sprawled on our bed, counterpane drawn up round your bare shoulders. “You mustn’t be tiresome, you know you’re the only one I truly and utterly love.”
…..“Is there any bread?” I sat on the bed, my back to you. The mattress springs thrummed as you came up behind me, as your long, white arms encircled me and you kissed the back of my neck.
….. “We don’t need bread, my darling, not when we have love.” Your imperious hands found the buttons of my shirt; fingers greedily seeking the swell of my breast; such nimble fingers, worth their weight in gold.
.

…..July stretched in the geraniumscented heat; pavements cracked and the air filled with dust. You started dancing, at the very back of the stage. You got the job after the doorman walked you home. I was in bed and I heard you laugh because all the windows were open and the air thick and sticky, as if the day had burnt and charred into a black night. You must have known I would hear you, that I might look and see you with him.
…..“Don’t be tiresome,” you said again as I lay with my back to you. “What does it matter? I have the audition now and I shall never see him again. Please, I’m not nimble like you, what else can I do?”
…..“You said you would dance.”
…..“I am dancing now, you silly goose!” You rolled me onto my back and spread yourself over me until I relented and took your face in my hands and kissed you.
…..“I want you all to myself,” I warned. “I’m selfish.”
…..“You do have me all to yourself, the part of me that matters.”

.

…..So you danced in the back row with feathers in your hair. I sewed the bugles on your costume when they came off; I rubbed your feet when your shoes made them blister and bleed. I came and saw you, lit up like Christmas in July.

…..Mme. Bernard scolded us that we did not keep our hands clean in the heat.

….“What are you, ladies, chimney sweeps or seamstresses? Look how your fingers mark the silk!” She made us scrub our nails every time we came through the door, and we worked stripped to our under garments to keep cool, drew lace curtains over the open windows and the electric fan whirred all day.  When the haberdasher’s boy came unannounced into the workroom, he was stopped in his tracks by the sight of us. In revenge, one of the girls tried to drag his shirt off as he ran. We gave chase, screaming and laughing, until Mme. Bernard threatened us with dismissal if we didn”t behave.
….“She won’t sack us,” one of them confided to me as we worked on past nine. “Not in wedding season.”

.

….Like us, the city became nocturnal under the sun’s curfew, the streets stripped to their essentials and bleached by the light. I came home one evening and our room was empty. I saw your note and found you at the café where the Americans went. The artists were there, arguing and not paying their tabs, their models and whores stretching languorous legs artlessly toward the gutter.
….“I’m dancing with ‘La Negresse’ at last,” you said, waving from the table under the street lamp. “I’m dancing with her, with ‘La Negresse!’” You ran to me and kissed me as if we were at home, as if we were alone. Though we were observed, only the man you were sitting with saw us.
….“This is Evi,” you told him. “Evi, you must come and see ‘La Negresse’ dance, she’s a goddess, really she is.” You clapped your hands and the man smiled at me as I sat down. He was American, his dark hair slicked back from his moon slice face. I saw how expensive his suit was even in the gloom. You saw someone else, someone you just had to tell about ‘La Negresse,’ so you left me alone with him.
….“I’m told you’re creative,” the American said, his vowels as long and languorous as the legs of the models and whores.
….“I’m a seamstress,” I said. He poured me a drink.
….“I work for the embassy,” he said, “but I’m like all Americans in Paris.”
….“What are all Americans like?” I asked.
….“Oh, they come seeking adventure, freedom, distracting themselves as they watch the storm clouds gather, waiting for the wind to change direction.”
….“You think there’s a storm coming?” I asked. “Like the papers say?”
….“Not like the papers say,” he smiled. “Gonna be even bigger than the last. How ’bout you, why are you English girls here, so far away from home?”
….“We came to be free too, I suppose,” I said as his hand found my knee under the table. “And she came to dance.”
….“She dances well,” he said. “What ’bout you, you dance also?”
….“I dance with her,” I said and moved my leg away.
….He smiled. “Mind if I cut in?”

.

….Our bed was only just big enough for the three of us. I didn’t want him there but I couldn’t seem to stop it, I couldn’t escape his embrace, his arms so much bigger and stronger and browner than yours. It was dangerous, but you and he thought it just another adventure. You let him in to our room under the eaves of the white house, you pulled back our counterpane for him, and you spread me across our sheets for him. You’d drunk too much and smoked too much to be careful but we slept at last, with a precious chill touching our skin.
….When the restless sun nagged at our window, I alone felt its disapproval. I slipped from the American’s embrace and went to the washstand. The day was already half spent and it was wedding season. I looked at you in the arms of the American and knew it was altogether too late.
….Mme. Bernard was livid, Mme. Bernard raged at me, and the guilt of what I’d done would not wash off, no matter how hard I scrubbed my nails in her workroom. The other girls snickered behind their hands, looking at the telltale bruise on my neck.
….“He wants to take us to dinner,” you said that evening. I told you about Mme. Bernard but you waved that away and you were right; she wouldn’t get rid of me, not with my nimble fingers. “The American,” you said, kneeling naked on our bed with your pout and pearls reflected in our mirror.  “He wants to take us to dinner, tonight.”
….“He wants to take you to dinner,” I said as I stood at the window.
….“No,” you held me, but your embrace was impatient. “He wants to take us both out. It amuses him to be seen with us both.”
….“And you?” I gripped your arms, my nimble fingers hard on your flesh.  “What amuses you?”
….“You do, you silly goose,” you said, though I saw the darkness and treachery in your eyes. You pulled away from me and walked too casually to the wardrobe. “Now, you wear your green dress and I shall wear my red silk, and he shall buy us oysters.”
….“They”re out of season,” I mumbled but you did not hear me.

.
….When the heat of August was at its most cruel, when it hammered and beat at the streets, I thought of you as I looked around our room. The suitcase and half the clothes gone from the wardrobe, the bed neatly made and the floor swept, the jewelry box bare but for your mother’s pearl earrings.
….Standing in the half-empty room, I wondered if you’d ever thought of me? From the moment we met, when you looked down as I pinned up your hem, kneeling at your feet as though you were you a goddess; did you ever think of me as I thought of you? Did you realize that I waited for you in the park by the London shop for a month? That I followed you, like a dog at your heels until you noticed me, and that when you did, I thought the recognition in your face all the reward I could ever hope for? Until you took my hand in yours and my grey-gloved fingers laced with your red ones and we walked together in Kensington Gardens.
….Even when I woke the morning after you brought the American into our bed, I thought of you first. I thought of you as he opened his eyes and watched me wash myself. You let him in, you did, and you never thought of me, did you?
….“He wants to take us to dinner,” you said, admiring your curves in the mirror and his pearls at your neck.
….But as I looked at our world divided, I stopped thinking of you. I remembered him and how on that first morning, after you let him into our bed, he woke and watched me. I remembered how the American came to me at the washstand and his hands, stronger and browner and bigger than yours, shivered water over my skin. Had you opened your eyes, you would have seen us in silhouette, my body made dark as “La Negresse” against the bright, white light of the window.
….And so we left for New York, the American and I; me in the green jacket I made you, and he in his blue pinstripe suit.

.

.

___

.

.

Sophie Jonas-Hill comments on this story:

.

“And so we left for Paris” — which I am so delighted was chosen as the Jerry Jazz Musician Short Fiction Contest winner —  was inspired by a woman I met while running a small art gallery. We had an image of the dancer Josephine Baker on the wall, and an elderly lady in country attire saw it and told me how she used to dance in Paris just before the war, and had indeed danced with Baker, known as ‘La Negresse.’ Both Baker and the characters in my story snatched a brief but glorious moment of freedom in Jazz-age Paris before the German invasion in 1939, and this is what I was hoping to capture. “And so we left for Paris” has gone on to inspire an entire novel, which tells the intertwined story of the three protagonists, but it needs reworking again, as the middle section of Helena’s isn’t right yet. I hope one day that it will be, and I’ll get to publish the full novel, which currently has the title “The Night Orchid,” but that is indeed another story.

.

.

*

.

.

Short Fiction Contest Details

.

.

.

.

.

.

 

Share this:

3 comments on “Short Fiction Contest-winning story #50 — “And so we left for Paris,” by Sophie Jonas-Hill”

Comment on this article:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

In This Issue

"Nina" by Marsha Hammel
A Collection of Jazz Poetry — Winter, 2024 Edition...One-third of the Winter, 2024 collection of jazz poetry is made up of poets who have only come to my attention since the publication of the Summer, 2023 collection. What this says about jazz music and jazz poetry – and this community – is that the connection between the two art forms is inspirational and enduring, and that poets are finding a place for their voice within the pages of this website. (Featuring the art of Marsha Hammel)

The Sunday Poem

photo via RawPixel
“Crossing Over” by CJ Muchhala

Click here to read previous editions of The Sunday Poem

Poetry

Proceeding From Behind: A collection of poems grounded in the rhythmic, relating to the remarkable, by Terrance Underwood...A relaxed, familiar comfort emerges from the poet Terrance Underwood’s language of intellectual acuity, wit, and space – a feeling similar to one gets while listening to Monk, or Jamal, or Miles. I have long wanted to share his gifts as a poet on an expanded platform, and this 33-poem collection – woven among his audio readings, music he considers significant to his story, and brief personal comments – fulfills my desire to do so.

Interview

The Marvelettes/via Wikimedia Commons
Interview with Laura Flam and Emily Sieu Liebowitz, authors of But Will You Love Me Tomorrow?: An Oral History of the 60’s Girl Groups...Little is known of the lives and challenges many of the young Black women who made up the Girl Groups of the ‘60’s faced while performing during an era rife with racism, sexism, and music industry corruption. The authors discuss their book’s mission to provide the artists an opportunity to voice their experiences so crucial to the evolution of popular music.

Short Fiction

pickpik.com
Short Fiction Contest-winning story #65 — “Ballad” by Lúcia Leão...The author’s award-winning story is about the power of connections – between father and child, music and art, and the past, present and future.

Click here to read more short fiction published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Interview

photo of Louis Jordan by William Gottlieb/Library of Congress
Interview with Tad Richards, author of Jazz With a Beat: Small Group Swing, 1940 – 1960...Richards makes the case that small group swing players like Illinois Jacquet, Louis Jordan (pictured) and Big Jay McNeely played a legitimate jazz that was a more pleasing listening experience to the Black community than the bebop of Parker, Dizzy, and Monk. It is a fascinating era, filled with major figures and events, and centered on a rigorous debate that continues to this day – is small group swing “real jazz?”

Playlist

Sonny Rollins' 1957 pianoless trio recording "Way Out West"
“The Pianoless Tradition in Modern Jazz” – a playlist by Bob Hecht...an extensive playlist built around examples of prominent pianoless modern jazz.

Poetry

The 1987 Mosaic Records collection of The Complete Blue Note Recordings of Herbie Nichols
“Thinking of Herbie” – a poem by Daniel W. Brown

Click here to read more poetry published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Feature

Excerpts from David Rife’s Jazz Fiction: Take Two – (Vol. 1)...A substantial number of novels and stories with jazz music as a component of the story have been published over the years, and the scholar David J. Rife has written short essay/reviews of them.  In this initial edition featuring his story essays/reviews, Rife writes about three novels that explore challenges of the mother/daughter relationship.

Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

The cover of Wayne Shorter's 2018 Blue Note album "Emanon"
Trading Fours, with Douglas Cole, No. 20: “Notes on Genius...This edition of the writer’s poetic interpretations of jazz recordings and film is written in response to the music of Wayne Shorter.

Click here to read previous editions of Trading Fours with Douglas Cole

Review

Jason Innocent, on “3”, Abdullah Ibrahim’s latest album... Album reviews are rarely published on Jerry Jazz Musician, but Jason Innocent’s experience with the pianist Abdullah Ibrahim’s new recording captures the essence of this artist’s creative brilliance.

Book Excerpt

Book excerpt from Jazz with a Beat: Small Group Swing 1940 – 1960, by Tad Richards

Click here to read more book excerpts published on Jerry Jazz Musician

Poetry

painting by Vaino Kunnas
Jazz…in eight poems...A myriad of styles and experiences displayed in eight thoughtful, provocative poems…

Jazz History Quiz #171

Dick Cavett/via Wikimedia Commons
In addition to being one of the greatest musicians of his generation, this Ohio native was an activist, leading “Jazz and People’s Movement,” a group formed in the late 1960’s who “adopted the tactic of interrupting tapings and broadcasts of television and radio programs (i.e. the shows of Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett [pictured] and Merv Griffin) in protest of the small number of Black musicians employed by networks and recording studios.” Who was he?

Click here to visit the Jazz History Quiz archive

Community

photo via Picryl.com
.“Community Bookshelf, #2"...a twice-yearly space where writers who have been published on Jerry Jazz Musician can share news about their recently authored books. This edition includes information about books published within the last six months or so…

Contributing Writers

Click the image to view the writers, poets and artists whose work has been published on Jerry Jazz Musician, and find links to their work

Coming Soon

A new collection of jazz poetry; a collection of jazz haiku; a new Jazz History Quiz; short fiction; poetry; photography; interviews; playlists; and lots more in the works...

Interview Archive

Eubie Blake
Click to view the complete 22 year archive of Jerry Jazz Musician interviews, including those recently published with Richard Carlin and Ken Bloom on Eubie Blake (pictured); Richard Brent Turner on jazz and Islam; Alyn Shipton on the art of jazz; Shawn Levy on the original queens of standup comedy; Travis Atria on the expatriate trumpeter Arthur Briggs; Kitt Shapiro on her life with her mother, Eartha Kitt; Will Friedwald on Nat King Cole; Wayne Enstice on the drummer Dottie Dodgion; the drummer Joe La Barbera on Bill Evans; Philip Clark on Dave Brubeck; Nicholas Buccola on James Baldwin and William F. Buckley; Ricky Riccardi on Louis Armstrong; Dan Morgenstern and Christian Sands on Erroll Garner; Maria Golia on Ornette Coleman.

Site Archive