The night of New Year’s Eve, 1896, was warmer than typical, as had been
the entire winter season. There was no snow and the air was crisp and dry as
Daisy got ready to ride her bicycle downtown to meet up with Julia. She
planned on staying the night at Julia’s place in the boarding house, which
was a short walk away from the Women’s Club.
She felt a slight flutter of nerves as she pedaled down Moss Avenue before
turning onto Saratoga Street and coasting downhill towards the downtown.
The sun was setting and the city shone brightly before her as she coasted
along. Streetlamps were lit up and lights emanated from many of the homes
along the way. The streetcars were filled with people and would run until 1
a.m. that morning. Not all the revelers, though, were going to parties and
dances; many of them were devoutly packing the churches with the various
congregations celebrating in their own unique way: one put on a spelling
bee, another tolled its church bells every hour on the hour, and yet another
spent 10 hours in prayer.
Daisy rolled up to the boardinghouse where Julia stayed just as Julia popped
her head out of the second-floor window.
“Hi Daisy! I’m just about ready,”
said Julia, excitedly.
“Bring your bicycle inside. The door’s open.”
Daisy wheeled her bicycle into the foyer of the building and walked upstairs
to Julia’s apartment. The door was slightly cracked and she went in. She had
never been there before and was surprised at how big and spacious it was. It
didn’t look like much from the outside, but inside there were hardwood
floors, vaulted ceilings with crown molding, built-in bookshelves (naturally,
filled to the brim with books) and series of large windows opening onto a
spacious courtyard. Julia was in her bedroom, at her dressing table putting
on her finishing touches while her cat, Charlie, relaxed on the window sill, tail
flipping casually back and forth.
“Well, look at you!” exclaimed Julia.
“I was going to say the same thing!”
“I just realized that we’ve never been dressed up together before.”
“I don’t really care for it usually,”
said Julia, trailing off as she looked at herself in her mirror turning her head slightly.
“but tonight feels different.”
“I know! Maybe it’s the warm weather,”
“Or maybe it’s that brooch!”
said Julia, her eyes widening.
“Oh, this old thing?”
said Daisy, with mock haughtiness.
“Don’t even try!”
“I know that’s one of your aunt’s pieces. And it’s perfect.
A flower for Daisy.”
With that the two of them left the boardinghouse and walked the short
distance to the Women’s Club. It was almost 8 p.m. and small crowds had
formed outside. The first act was scheduled to start at 8:30. Instead of going
through the crowds in front, the two went to the back of the building and
entered through the kitchen, which was alive with activity that evening as a
gaggle of women prepared hors d’oeuvres and a special whiskey-based
“Hello, girls! What’s cooking?”
said Julia as her and Daisy passed through.
“Everything’s cooking! Especially Lucy!”
“She’s got a hot date!”
“Don’t we all?”
A collective groan spread across the kitchen, and then a collective laugh.
A back staircase led from the kitchen to the music hall on the second floor,
along with a dumbwaiter for transferring food. Julia and Daisy took the
backstairs and entered the music hall, where the evening’s festivities were
just getting started. On stage, the musicians were warming up and tuning
their instruments. Around the large, slightly slanted dance floor’s perimeter
were a series of small tables in horseshoe fashion. Beyond them were
refreshment tables that were filling up with hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Aside
from those whose job it was to be there, only a handful of people were in the
music hall at that point and the two women quickly commandeered a table
of four for themselves.
“If anyone asks to sit here, we’re waiting for our dates,”
said Daisy warily.
“Well, I guess it depends who asks,”
replied Julia with a week.
“It’s time for some punch,”