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Rated: E · Other · Other · #2013552
A short story about two friends and their lives


“Knock, knock!”

“Oh, look at you, Princess! I am privileged, a royal visit!”

“What do you think?”

“Beautiful, Princess Charlotte herself.”

“Yeah, shame she’s dead, ruins my cover, I never get away with it. But well recognised.”

“She’s my mum’s fave, she always talks about her. Loved her, said it was the worst day of her life when she died. She went up to Buckingham Palace, it must have been amazing.”

“Why, cos a posh bird died? They die as well, you know, not just us lot. They just have it a little bit nicer while they’re alive.”

“But it was terrible what happened. Crowds queued for days to sign the book. Mum said the whole world was mourning.”

“Well, I passed on that one. Of course, I wasn’t born at the time, might have had something to do with it! Hello, darling, good to see you”, she steps closer into the room and gives her friend, Alice, a big hug.

“You and your revolution! I’ve missed you, grumpy old cow! Come in and sit down, take your mask off, there’s no camera’s in here. But keep your coat on, its not warm. I’d make you a cup of tea but we’ve run out of coal for the fire.”

Lizzie sits on the mattress on the floor and takes off her mask. “Don’t worry, I can’t stay, I was just passing by and its been so long since I’ve seen you I thought I’d pop in. It’s my fault, I’ve been up to my neck in things. So this is your new digs, eh? Nicer than the last place. Who’s the guy on the pavement I had to step over?”

“That’s George. He hasn’t got a place so he stays there, poor fella. He says he’s looking after us but…well, he’s harmless.”

“Why doesn’t he go to the workhouse?”

“They won’t have him. He got ill there once, the fever got everyone, he was so ill that he couldn’t do his work so now they won’t let him back. There’s other places he could go but he’s kind of given up.”

“He’s more like a pet, isn’t he? A poor stray that’s chosen you as his owner. Is he an alcy?”

“No, just a down and out. He used to be in the navy, he’s got lots of stories. He sleeps outside, but when its cold, he moves inside the doorway. He says its to block some of the wind coming in, but we don’t mind. I’m worried about next winter. I give him any spare bread I have. He does alright, most days one of the girls will give him a bit. What can you do?”

“Where’s everyone else, then?”

“They’re all out working. I’m happy with that, it gets a bit noisy here later on when they’re all back. Four girls, let’s say it’s popular. Everything else though is a lot better.”

“It must be costing you more, what made you move?”

“Well, Charles is paying for it,” she smiles.

“Oh, well done! How comes?”
“Well, for a start, he’s seriously loaded, he doesn’t even notice it. But it was the sewage in the last place, the smell got on the clothes. He didn’t like that. I’d try and spray it but it would always come through. He bought me this dress too, what do you think?” She does a twirl.

“Oh, its beautiful. Lovely. Where’d he get it?”

“I don’t know, some posh shop. He lives in Kensington.”

“Blimey, you’ve done well meeting this Charlie-boy”



“No, he’s a proper Charles.”

“He’s a proper Charlie.” She put her mask back on, “Ah, come on, look, I’m a proper Charlie too, a proper Princess Charlie! Oh, don’t look at me like that”

She pats the mattress to her side and Alice sits down next to her. They hug, “I’m sorry. I don’t think I’ve ever met a proper Charles, no one’s called Charles, not here in the Jago. You get Charlies and you get Proper Charlies”.

“He’s definitely proper. He speaks proper, he’s got a proper job, he’s got proper clothes. He’s got a silk waistcoat!”

“Real silk?”

“Yeah!” Alice giggles.

“Has he got his initials on his y-fronts?”

“Yeah, he gets them ironed too!”

Lizzie gives her another hug. “I’m so jealous of you, I always knew you’d do well, you’re better than all of this. You’ll have to speak a bit posher yourself, though. Get yourself electrocution lessons. Tart yourself up a bit, as well. Here, I brought you something.”

She takes a rose from the basket of flowers she was carrying and gives it to Alice.

“Oh, you’re such a darling, you shouldn’t have.”

“I’m on my way to make a delivery, that’s why I was passing by. They won’t miss one.” She takes it back and puts it in Alice’s hair. “There.”

“What do you think?”

“You look gorgeous, darling.”

“I might wear it tonight. I’m meeting him. Does it go with my mask?” She takes her mask from a pile of clothes at the bottom of the mattress and puts it on. “Do you know who it is?”

“It’s that actress, what’s she called?”

“Lillie Langtry.”

“That’s it. See, you could meet the Prince of Wales!”

“That’s exactly what he wears! It’s our little joke. He took me to a show the other night, you know, we got a charabanc to Piccadilly, it was dead posh! Ed’n’Lillie hitting the town!”

“Where are you meeting him tonight?”

“Same as always, the Artillery off Norton Folgate. It’s near his work.”

“What does he do?”


“Ooh, look at you! You’ve caught a nice one!”

“I told you! Silk waistcoat!”

“So when are you getting married?”

“I don’t know, we can’t rush. He hasn’t told anyone yet.”

“Really? Why not?”

“Well, we’d have to explain how we met and everything. You do know how we met, don’t you? His family and career and all of that, they wouldn’t like it. That’s why we wear the masks when we’re out. The last thing we want is for it to be splashed across the internet.”

“I know, Glassed.com, it’s a bugger. It’s got totally out of hand.”

“It’s outrageous. Have you ever checked yourself up on it?”

“Yeah, nothing too bad fortunately. What about you?”

“They bloody got me working. And someone tagged me as well. It’s totally embarrassing. It was a while back, I hadn’t even heard of it.”

“Darling, don’t worry about it. Everyone knew you worked, it wasn’t a secret. Think of it as advertising.”

“Yeah but it’s a problem if I’m trying to marry Charles.”

“I suppose. But he must know.”

“Yeah, of course, I told you, that’s how we met. But I mean his family and colleagues and shit.”

“You’ll have to change your name. Then nobody can make the connection.”

“That’s the plan. He’s sorting it out. Apparently, it’s quite a long process but when we’ve got that done, we can come out in the open and get married.”

“Are you sure you trust him? You know what men are like, they promise everything but when it comes to it...If he hasn’t told anyone…” Lizzie pauses. “Listen, make sure you don’t make any kind of mistake. Do you remember Nicky? I keep thinking of her. She went out with a customer, too. Then got up the duff and the man left her. Complications, couldn’t work for months, baby died cos she couldn’t feed it, and she couldn’t afford to bury it. She kept it in the bloody pantry for a fortnight. I mean bloody hell, this is Nicky. This is real. One of her room-mates told the priest who had a whip-round but can you imagine? And you don’t want to end up like those girls washed up on the riverside either. Or your beloved Princess Charlotte dying in childbirth.”

Alice kisses Lizzie. “You’re so sweet! None of that’s going to happen to me. I’m more worried about meeting his family. Think I’ll die when I meet them. He speaks really posh, they’re going to know I’m not one of them.”

“You’ll be alright, you can be a right little actress when you want to be, I’ve seen you. Lillie Langtry was a good choice! Don’t forget your friends when you become rich and move out of the Old Nichol.”

“Course not! Anyway, it could happen to you, too, I’m sure your customers fancy you. You’re a babe when you make an effort, you just don’t try.”

“Well, it hasn’t happened yet.”

“That’s because you play it too hard, you should lighten up.”

“I’m a bit scary, eh!”

“No, you’re not, you’re really sweet. You’re such a lovely person, Alice, but when it comes to men, I don’t know what it is, you harden up, you become a different person”

“It’s this place. You’ve got to be tough around here, you know how it is, all those creeps. Did you hear Sarah got raped again last week?”

“God, I hope she isn’t pregnant. But that’s because she’s with that crowd. Why does she hang around with them? She knows that’s going to happen. I loathe them.”

“Well, you either join them or you end up like me.”

“Don’t say that, you’re lovely. I know you so well. I remember you working on the stall when you were a kid, you were so cute and you used to work the customers brilliantly!”

“I know, Aunty Jean taught me that. I had to do it, otherwise she wouldn’t have taken me in, but I was good! She used to dress me up so cute and we’d laugh as she was doing it! But then she died and everything changed”

“So what happened? We never really talked about it. I lost you as a friend. I’m sorry, I should have made more of an effort, I know you went through a lot of shit.”

“Yeah, I just shut down, I couldn’t really cope. With mum gone and now her, it was too much, I was just a kid. Well, I felt like a kid but people didn’t see me as one and they all started trying it on and Aunty Jean wasn’t there to protect me anymore. She must have done so much that I never saw. Let’s say I learnt a few things that a kid shouldn’t learn. And from people who should have known better. I wont mention any names, there’s no point. But before she died she told me to toughen up, she knew what was going to happen. But do you know what? It’s interesting, thinking about it now, she said other things as well but I only really heard the ‘toughen up’ bit. I remember, she said I was a good kid and that I mustn’t lose that but I need to work out who’s who and be tough when I need to but be myself when I meet someone good.”

“Fuck, Lizzie, you’re such a good kid. You should be like that more, like you used to. You don’t have to worry about people trying things on, you can look after yourself now. Do you know what you should do? You should start dressing yourself up all cutesie like you used to and they’re going to love you! You’ll meet some guy from shipping as well!”

“Well, its not going to happen in Brick Lane, is it? I’ll have to move back to Bishopsgate. There is one guy. Well, he’s not really a looker, but he’s interesting. Do you know what he told me yesterday? He said Google have invented horse-less carriages, that’s just bonkers.”

Alice looked blankly back.

“Apparently, we’re all going to have one, its going to revolutionise everything.”

“Well, I walk everywhere, I walk to work, I walk to see Charles, I walk to see my family, I walk to church, what do I want with a horse-less carriage? Sorry, I don’t want to appear negative but I don’t think it’s going to revolutionise my life.”

“Apparently, we’ll be able to travel all over the country and they’ll be much faster than any horse and they’ll carry the whole family and we’re all going to have one, I think its really exciting, I’d love to have one.”

Alice still looks fairly blank. “Anyway, what will all the horses do?”

“I don’t know, I’ll look after them, I’ll set up a horse-home!”

“Where’d you keep them all?”

“Here. I’d move in with you and keep them all here. It would be a squeeze but the important thing is they’d have a home!”

“You’re taking the piss.”

“Well, that’s what this guy told me, that’s all, and I think it’s quite interesting. Anyway, let’s not fall out over it.”

“So why don’t you go back to Bishopsgate?”

“Well, when I stopped being so cutesie, the money stopped being so cutesie too, so they moved me and got someone else in. I’d have to have a word with John.”

“Dress up, take him for a drink, and tell him what you’ve just told me.”

“Well, he knows it all anyway. He’s told me the spot is mine whenever I want it, I’ve just got to make a bit of an effort.”

“Yeah, Lizzie, make a bit of a bloody effort! You’ll be brilliant and you’ll make lots of money again and you’ll meet some gorgeous rich man! And when me and Charles come out…”


Alice punched her in the ribs, “Charles! I’ll introduce you to his friends, they’ll love you!”

“Yeah, yeah, dream on.”

“And we’ll take the charabanc to Piccadilly every week and go and see shows and eat tiffin and scones and caviar and things. We’ll drink champagne every day while the maids iron our knickers!”

“Ha, I love you, Alice. Listen, I’ve got to go, I was only popping in to say a quick hello cos its been so long. I’m late already. Thanks for the chat, though. You gave me a thought. I might have a word with John.”

“Lizzie, give me another hug. I love your hugs.”

They hug for a long time. “Alice, I really love you. I missed you. We won’t leave it so long next time. Best of luck with Charles, him and his waistcoat. What does it feel like, by the way?”



“It’s nice, slippery. It feels like nylon, only nicer.”

“Alice, nylon hasn’t been invented yet.”

They kiss and Lizzie leaves, stepping over George. Outside, its dark but for some gaslight and candles in a few windows. The noise of the horses hooves can be deafening and the evening’s excitement is slowly starting. Dogs and children and chickens and thieves are about, doing their thing. She looks again at her pregnancy test results and thinks about the future.

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