Shaketown
  
Shaketown
The Madam's Daughter
Published:
9/18/2015
Format:
E-Book (available as PDF files) What's This
ISBN:
978-1-46300-725-6
Sex is never discussed in the polite drawing rooms of San Francisco society...though there's plenty to be had, from the dank cribs of Chinatown to the glittering sporting houses of the beau monde. Based on real characters from San Francisco's history, this is the story of outsiders who rise to command an underworld empire, forge a family of misfits, and discover true friendship, loyalty, love and self-respect. Shaketown chronicles the struggle for survival in the racist, elitist society of the 1890s, where going against the grain results in heartbreak and fabulous wealth, and choices, both good and bad, reveal genuine worth.
Cayley lifted a cut crystal bowl up into the cupboard as Michael’s dour face appeared around the corner of the butler’s pantry: “He’ll take you along, sister.” He didn’t wait for a reply. The girl inhaled sharply. She felt as edgy as a child about to be let out from school, knowing that the schoolyard would hold bullies as well as freedom. A small thrill rippled through her; she pushed it back down. It wouldn’t do to think on why the Mister favors me, she thought. It was more than an hour’s walk home from her duties at the Rolifer’s. And she hadn’t saved enough to take the Hyde Street car down the hill. Mr. Rolifer had offered to take her along with him before; an unusual kindness to a day girl. It wouldn’t do to refuse him, either. The first time she was invited to ride in his fancy carriage, she shook out her skirt in a merry mood, picked up her belongings, and smugly congratulated herself on her special treatment. But now she wasn’t so sure of herself. As she stepped out the service door, the chill she was already feeling doubled in the wet air, and she turned back to the pantry to borrow a shawl from Moira, the housekeeper. “It’s cold as iron in January out there, with the fog on the move,” Cayley said shyly, eyes on the floor. Her roughened hands held tightly to the bundle of cast-offs Mrs. Rolifer had given her. Moira made her lips thin and shook her head. “You know what the weather’s like here in summer. Tell that husband of yours to buy you a decent coat. Here, you can use my old blanket, but I’ll be needing it, so mind you, bring it back. Get going before ‘his lordship’ changes his mind.” Cayley went out the back and made her way through the narrow service alley to the portico in front of the house. Michael had brought up the Rolifer’s fine black carriage, led by the dappled mare, Stilly. The carriage’s brass fittings glowed bright from the lamps lit on either side. Rolifer himself emerged from the large oak front door, walking quickly while pulling on thin leather gloves; he adjusted the collar of his heavy wool coat around his thick neck. His sideburns extended all the way to his collar. He didn’t look at Cayley as Michael helped him mount the carriage and handed him the reins. Rolifer stared with disgust at Michael’s malformed hand, and the boy quickly jerked it down behind him. He usually wore special gloves that his mother made to cover the stubby fingers grown together like hooves. Embarrassed, Michael kept his eyes on the ground. “Are you along, girl?” he said gruffly. Cayley felt a stab of pity for him, but quickly turned her face away; she knew that pity was almost as bad as the laughter of the other children when they were small. He helped her up beside Rolifer; she wrapped the blanket close about her shoulders as they lurched forward. The fog was broken: thick and impenetrable in some parts, sheer as silk organza in others. Cayley liked how the streetlamps glowed in the dark night above her as the wheels of the carriage stuttered down the cobble street. You can smell the sea, she thought, and took a deep breath with her eyes closed. “What’s your name, girl,” said Rolifer, without much interest. He focused on the horse’s ears. “It’s Cayley, sir. As I told you before, sir.” He looked over at her, then swiveled his head forward and snorted. He pulled onto a level street and reined the horse to a stop. “Did you,” he said. “Yes, sir.” Cayley kept her chin level and looked directly at Mr. Rolifer. She could feel her armpits grow damp inside her tight sleeves. “You’d think I’d remember, pretty little thing like you,” he said. His teeth peeked out from under his thick upper lip in a fleeting smile. “Never mind,” he said. He shook Stilly into action, and the horse pulled forward again. “You work in the kitchen.” “And house, yes sir. I’m a housemaid, not just the kitchen, sir.” “Mmm” he said, looking ahead. His right hand dropped to her thigh. Cayley jumped, though it was more a reaction than a surprise. He had done this before. The last time, it frightened her. If she said anything, she surely would lose her job—Henry would be hard on her for that. Rolifer kneaded her thigh like soft dough. “Pretty little thing,” he said. She gulped for air, and tried to ignore the melting sensation between her legs. As they reached the main part of town and pulled on to O’Farrell Street, gas lamps illuminated the windows in nearly every building. It was as if they had reached a fairy city; the homes and buildings were glowing inside and out, and the street was filled with other fine carriages. Rolifer had awkwardly worked his hand up under Cayley’s blanket and wrapped it around her forearm, his fingers playing on the underside of her breast. He never took his eyes off the horse, and neither did she. Finally, he withdrew his hand. Cayley continued to look straight ahead, but swallowed hard. As they reached the upper end of Market, Rolifer pulled over and waited for Cayley to get down. He set off without a word. She stood in the middle of the muddy street, clutching her bundle of cast-offs with one hand. She felt soiled. Shaking off like a wet pup, she turned and began to walk up Market, all the while wondering how she had brought the Mister’s attentions on herself and what she should do about it—or could do about it. In minutes, she reached the alley where she was fated to rescue a man in a plaid suit.
Joanne Orion Miller's work has been published in print and e-formats since 1990; fiction titles include "How You See It" and "Penance" (short-listed for the Raymond Carver Award). She was among 20 international fiction writers chosen to attend the Spoleto (Italy) Writer's Conference. Her non-fiction work appears in Writer's Market, Fiction & Short Story Writer's Market (both Writer's Digest Books,) and many other publications. She wrote and photo-illustrated comprehensive guides to Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, and the Chesapeake Bay region (Avalon Press/Moon Travel) and authored guides to Marin County (Sasquatch Press) and Maui and Kaua'i (Peter Pauper Press). Her recent solo trip around the world--true stories of touching down in India, the Galapagos, Amsterdam, Spain and more--is documented in the blog 1Woman1World1Year.blogspot.com. Find out more at JoanneOrionMiller.com.
 
 


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