"From all the shouting, it's safe to assume you got the gig."
Despite his objection to her talking back to her elders, Randy smiled at the young lady. She stood at the entrance of the dining room, shoving the last bite of a slice of cake into her mouth. The lines previously marring her brow had disappeared.
"Not officially. Luther wants to hear how I sound with the band." He grabbed his case and hat and stepped off the stage as she sashayed toward the table where she had been sitting earlier. "I guess I should say thanks," he said, extending his hand to her.
"Standin' up for me like you did, though I don't condone you talkin' back to your elders."
"You're the best player to audition," she said, placing her hand in his. Though her tone was calmer, her accent was still thick. "If it meant I didn't have to listen to anyone else murder music, I'd have spoken up for you if you were purple and had walked in here on four legs."
Randy laughed as he released her hand. "Auditions couldn't have been that bad."
She made an unladylike snort and dropped into a chair. "I've heard sick geese that sounded better than some of the cats coming in here claiming they could play."
He would have argued with her had the other sax player not produced sounds Randy had not heard since leaving the farm. "By the way, I'm Randy."
"You mentioned that already."
He placed the case on the table and dropped his hat next to it. "Sassy, aren't you?"
"No, but you're close."
Her devilish grin told him he'd pegged her correctly and any boy who got with her would have a hell of a time. However, her ability to appreciate music, despite the color of the person playing, made her a keeper.
"Cassie Ann Porter," she said. "Cass for short."
He reached into the pocket of his jacket and pulled out a pack of cigarettes. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Cassie Ann Porter." He held out the pack to her. "Do you mind if I ask you a question?"
She shook her head, declining his offer. "You can ask, but it don't mean I'll answer."
"Are you always so sassy.Cassie?"
Cass rolled her eyes at the rhyme even he had to admit was lame. Randy lit a cigarette and took a drag. A cloud of smoke encircled his head when he exhaled.
"Aren't you kinda young to be hangin' out in clubs?" he asked.
"I don't hang out in clubs."
He propped a foot on the chair next to her and leaned forward with his folded arms on his knee. The cigarette dangled from between his fingers.
"What do you call this?"
"Doin' what? Runnin' errands after school?"
"No, a couple of kids hang around outside after school. They run errands for us to make a bit of money, and we keep an eye on them to make sure they stay out of trouble."
He smiled at her use of the word "kids" since she could not be far from one herself. Deciding to humor her, he asked, "If you don't run errands, then what do you do?"
"What's this? An inquisition? What'll you want to know next? My birthdate? My parents' names? The color of the mole on my Aunt Rupert's shoulder?"
He cocked on eyebrow. "Aunt Rupert?"
"Grandma swore she was going to have a boy. She couldn't be bothered to think of another name when the baby turned out to be a girl."
Randy shook his head. He couldn't tell whether she was serious or not. "I just want to know more about the kids who hang around the club."
Cass rolled her eyes as she slid a sheet of paper across the table. He glanced down at the sketch of an older woman standing next to a piano. She wore an evening gown, and her hair was pulled back in a bun, with a feather ornament holding the style in place.
"The Big House is proud to feature Cass, with music by The Big House Band," Randy read. He glanced from the paper to her, then back at the paper.
He recognized the similarities in the facial features, but it couldn't be possible. "You can't be the same Cass."
"No other Cass here."
"Your momma lets you work here?" Randy asked as he handed back the flyer.
He knew some parents did not care what their children did as long as they were out of the way. However, allowing a young girl to work in a club was beyond neglectful.
"My momma doesn't have much say in the matter, seeing as how she's down south," Cass said, placing the paper on the table.
"That's where she lives."
"What about your relatives?"
"They're down there, too."
Randy lowered his foot to the floor and straddled the chair. He needed to sit down. There was no way she was up there by herself.
"Don't you have someone lookin' after you?"
"I've been looking after myself for six years."
"Six years? Girl, you jokin'? You can't be no older than.what.sixteen? seventeen?"
Twenty-two? It explained why she got away with arguing with Junior, but, still. Randy slowly glanced from the ankle socks and canvas shoes on her feet to her two braids. She looked as if she should be playing with dolls or jumping rope, not singing in a club.
Praise for SWEET JAZZ
"SWEET JAZZ hits the right notes as historical fiction with romantic elements." ~Ann Fitzgerald, InD'Scribe
"SWEET JAZZ...is a sweet romantic story that like jazz has propulsive rhythms played out in harmonic freedom." ~Ginger, Long and Short Reviews
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