(1939-03-08) Cinderella Will Have The Champagne
Details for Cinderella Will Have The Champagne
Summary: Fabia's night of dancing goes awry; and then is set right again by a chance meeting with the singer Oriana Marcone, resting between sets. They get on.
Date: March 8th, 1939
Location: The Natrix

The Natrix Dance Hall

Formerly a restaurant and bar alone since 1850, this building has been remodeled and updated to also include a large dance floor and bandstand and stage. The restaurant still lives in that the white linen draped round tables positioned around the dance floor are catered to the best Saltimbocca dishes in England. The other regular Italian food fare is also deliciously found on the menus in the center of the table that are crystal plaques engraved and frosted so the lettering sparkles in the dim light making the script easier to read. Silver is used liberal in the decoration, the table legs, the chair legs and backs besides the green tapestry cushions are all silver. The styling beyond that is all very modern art deco. Greens and silvers prevailing. The live orchestra always always has a finger on the pulse of the crowd, they pick up tempo or slow things down with amazing empathy.

Saturday night is one of the busiest in the Natrix. The top talent appear on stage, sometimes even the owner himself. Of late it has been his friend Oriana Marcone who has been singing. But her set has finished and the band is providing music while she sits at the bar drinking her prosecco and carrying on a rapid fire conversation in Italian with some muscle next to her. The man's deference to the attractive blonde is obvious in his mannerisms and his tone of voice, even if the language might be foreign to most. Obvious too, is Oriana's flirtatious nature by the placement of her hand on his arm. A hand which has him glancing to the door to the office. With an amused laugh and a dismissive wave of her hand as she pulls it back, Oriana sends him off. So much about her screams foreign, not just the Italian she was speaking but the way she carries herself and the way in which she speaks, even in English.

One of the most stylish couples on the dance floor consists of that henna-haired Muggle woman who comes in now and again, always with a different gentleman — and tonight's different gentleman. He's some years her junior and all that youthful energy has been put to good use, during the fast numbers more than the slow ones, which she prefers to sit out in a cosy corner with an endless succession of martinis and her friend's hand occasionally straying to her knee in a way which suggests some other possible use for said youthful energy, later in the evening.

She does go rather well with the striking green and silver Art Deco style of the Natrix — in her sleekly modern silver lame evening gown, below green eyes perpetually alight with pleasure. Her low-heeled dancing shoes likewise are green: she is currently presenting her feet to her kneeling escort, one at a time, for him to unbuckle the dainty straps about her ankles. Sore feet, so early in the evening? She usually dances the band into exhaustion… Ah. No. She wanted him to take her shoes off, and sat there smiling sweetly through the procedure, that she might throw them at him — she had a drink in her hand, but her expression as she rises onto her silk-stockinged feet and gives him several pieces of her mind suggests that she wouldn't waste good gin on the likes of him.

And without a backward glance for man or shoes, she threads her way across a corner of the dance floor and over to the bar, where, fortuitously, there's an empty stool just along from Oriana. She perches upon it, slides her now empty cocktail glass across the polished surface of the bar till it catches the bartender's eye, and calls out to him: "Another one of these, sweetie, and it's still on his bloody tab, thank you so much."

The bartender draws Oriana's attention to the little spat at the table. She watches, clearly amused and when Fabia takes up a place nearby she applauds. "Magnificent. I have not seen any English woman do that, not in six months of being in this cold miserable city." A gloved hand raises her glass of prosecco which she salutes Fabia with before drinking some of. "If it is his tab you should order something much more costly. Make him suffer. If he doesn't pay I will have Tony take him out back." Such talk of casual violence seems to roll easily off her tongue and through her red painted lips.

The expensive older woman (who moves, it would be difficult for anyone here tonight to have avoided noticing, like a much younger one) turns and her equally scarlet smile broadens, as though she found Oriana's presence as much as her suggestion marvelously diverting. "Do you know, that's a marvelous idea?" Her attention flicks back across the bar long enough to call, "How about a bottle of your most elderly champagne, sweetie — and a second glass for this terribly intelligent young lady on my left." She leans a little nearer and confides, "It isn't his being married I mind so much — why, I've been married myself, it could happen to anybody — it's that he's been lying to me about it for weeks! A man who'll lie about a wife and three children in Somerset might be lying about all the rest too, and then where am I? Oh, yes, sweetie, I still want the martini." Her last is for the bartender, with an innocent blink of big green eyes. He really ought to know her well enough by now to understand that there must always be another martini.

Oriana tilts her head back and downs the rest of her prosecco, there wasn't much left to be fair. The glass is set down so she can unbutton her gloves at the wrist and then tug them off her forearms. "All men lie, it is to be expected, but there should be compensation for such lies. Respect for the roles played; your's, his, that of the wife. If he has no respect for that he is not the sort to compensate properly either." She grins slyly. "I could have him roughed up a little anyway if you like? Or his pockets picked." Turning on the barstool she offers her bare, well-manicured hand to Fabia, fingers down in a continental manner not one of those American-style handshakes. "Oriana Marcone." The bartender is given a glance when he brings forth a bottle. "That is an insult! From behind the bar no less. Go downstairs and bring up a proper bottle from the special collection. We will ensure he pays for it before leaving."

"Fabia Fairfax, how do you do?" is the immediate answer, as a small, diamond-bedecked, French-manicured paw reaches out to clasp Oriana's fingertips for an instant. "Well, of course, I know how you do," Fabia goes on, "you're terribly sweet." Though whether she was confirmed in this supposition by her new friend's (with Fabia, everyone's considered a friend after about ten seconds) insistence on better champagne, or the offer of violence to be inflicted upon that lying swine… "You're the singer, aren't you?" she says brightly. "Do you have perfect pitch or does it only seem that way? I was wondering during your set tonight. Marvelous, really rather marvelous, especially your low notes. I sat down just so I could listen. You're awfully kind, but I think leaving him with a nice big bill as a parting gift is all that remains to be done. He's already having his real punishment." And she, for her part, seems quite cheerful about the entire business.

"Fabia," of course when she repeats the name Oriana says it by emphasising the letters differently. "You are most kind. I have always been able to sing, but years of training make one better of course." She lifts a gold cigarette case from the bar and flips it open, offering one to Fabia first. "You have been in before, I have seen you. Your hair makes you stand out." As of course does Fabia's larger than life nature. "If you are in next Saturday I shall be doing a duet with Wolfgang." She picks up the box of matches.

"Oh, bless you, sweetie, I'm trying to cut down." But after an instant's hesitation Fabia surrenders, as ever, and accepts a cigarette. The rectangular green satin evening bag on the bar in front of her has a twelve-inch ebony cigarette holder wedged into it on a diagonal: she fetches it out and fits the cigarette into it; and then offers Oriana a light, not from a match but her own silver lighter, a tiny modern thing engraved with clean, crisp lines. "You know, the first time I came in here Wolfgang called out to me from the stage and promised me a dance — and he still owes it to me." She widens her eyes theatrically at Oriana. "I think I have an appointment next Saturday, I'd have to ask Frid to be certain, but Christ knows I'll be in again sooner or later and perhaps I'll be lucky enough to hear you both then. Six months you said you'd been in London? What a horror for you, when you must be so used to being warm…"

After setting down the matches Oriana grins. "How lovely," she says of the cigarette holder. She leans into the flame and draws a breath through the cigarette. "I have one in ivory, but it is upstairs. I don't tend to carry it with me when I perform. Nowhere to keep it." She laughs at that and leans back again, exhaling away from Fabia. "Frid?" She looks thoughtful as if the name might be triggering a memory but when the connection is unmade Ori shrugs it off with a roll of her bare shoulder. "I shall remind Wolfgang to dance with you. He likes to dance with all the most beautiful women. It is the way of men, these little strokes to their ego." The bartender returns and shows the cool and somewhat dusty bottle to Oriana and then to Fabia in silent question. "Perfecto. This is excellent champagne, though I do like prosecco more." She grins, "But then I would, wouldn't I?"

"Well, quite, in a frock like that," Fabia giggles, tucking her lighter back into her bag and then unfurling her hand in a gesture of appreciation for Oriana's attire. "Oh, heaven," she says to the champagne and its bearer. "I only like to drink prosecco when the sun is shining so of course I've hardly touched the stuff since I came back to live in England — but I always have Italian vermouth in my martinis, it's the only way. There are some who swear by Noilly Prat but it simply isn't my taste." As the champagne cork pops discreetly on the other side of the bar Fabia gives a contented little sigh. "Do you know, I'm rather pleased Robert showed his true colours tonight — he's a decent dancer but really no conversationalist, and nowhere near as lovely to look at as you are, and I do like having lovely people around to look at — so much more restful for the eyes." One of the hands of her white kid mousquetaire gloves is slipping down out of the arm — she tucks it away again impatiently, and reaches for the glass of champagne the bartender has just set at her elbow, to raise it to Oriana.

The service is excellent, not because Oriana is there but because it is always excellent here. The Natrix prides itself on being enticing and charming. Repeat customers are always sought after. As Ori's empty glass is whisked away with one hand it is replaced with a filled glass by another. "I refuse to give up my little habits. If I did I think my soul might whither and I should turn into another cold-faced woman. There are too many around here." She raises her glass and lightly touches it to Fabia's. "You are delightfully amusing, bella. It is a shame you lost your lovely shoes. Shall I have someone fetch them for you?" After taking a sip she looks pointedly at the table where Fabia had been before.

Fabia nibbles the end of her cigarette-holder with a not-so-very guilty air. "Oh, heavens, I do make a mess, don't I?" she confesses, looking across at where her shoes lie forlornly upon their sides, and then down at her silk-stockinged feet snuggled together on the crosspiece of her barstool. "Yes, I'd probably better have them back, though I don't know whether I'll ever get them on again — my feet are quite wrecked and I was awful to them tonight and they're protesting — which is why it occurred to me to shoe Robert instead of handbagging him. The moment seemed to call for something of the kind. Something besides a drink, I mean." Or two drinks, the martini she ordered originally having appeared next to the champagne. Fabia eyes it calculatingly, has another sip of champagne for good measure, and then lifts it to her lips, closes her eyes, and slowly and steadily drinks it down. The glass, empty but for the olives, lands on the bar just as she breathes out a sigh and her eyes pop open again.

"Leave it to me." Oriana rises to her full height, in her heels it is above six-foot, and sets her cigarette in the ashtray. Her hands smooth her dress down over her hips before she saunters towards this Robert and Fabia's shoes. Her walk, like her other mannerisms too sets her apart from most women for she strides with confidence and in that hipslung way Continental women have. That she draws attention goes seemingly unnoticed by the blonde. From a distance she can be seen to smile sweetly at the confused man at the next table before she leans in and murmurs something to her. He kindly gets down and fetches the discarded shoes then hands them to Oriana. Her head is thrown back in laughter before she pats his cheek in a rather patronising manner before returning the heels to their owner, or rather setting them at the foot of Fabia's stool. "There, bella. You must not be the cinder girl and leave your slippers behind. Especially not such handsomely made ones."

"Exquisitely done. Mille grazie," sighs Fabia, whose eyes have been following Oriana with a fascination like and yet also quite unlike that of the Natrix's gentlemen patrons. As she's forever explaining, usually in situations in which it strains credibility, she's not queer — but her eyes are perpetually seeking beauty, and perpetually finding it. "You really do belong on a stage, sweetie. Or is it that wherever you are — you make it your stage?" She considers. And, while she considers, she lifts the champagne bottle in rather practiced hands and pours a little more into each of their glasses. "Have a drop more champagne, won't you? I think it would be far and away the most sensible thing to do."

"Drinking champagne is always sensible." Oriana nods her thanks to Fabia before taking a long sip from her champagne glass. "I was raised to be put on show, it has become second nature after all this time." She speaks as if she is older than she appears. "You too I think, wish to be noticed. Perhaps for different reasons." She takes in the sight of Fabia once more, truly looking her over this time. "Yes, for different reasons. For me, it is a deflection. A…mirage to draw the eye from another or from business."

Being looked at is one of the chief pleasures of Fabia's life. However did the girl guess? "I was brought up to be on show, too — but rather a different show, I think," she confides, returning Oriana's scrutiny in equal measure, noticing still more of those small signs that the woman before her sings for love rather than for her supper. "I like to be noticed, I do. I like to have people around me — to dance with, and drink champagne with — and drawing the eye is the first step, isn't it? You must be rather good at it yourself, sweetie, and not only because you've had the practice." A thought strikes her. "Why London, though, if you find the faces so cold? Are you in love with someone here? That's why I came back — love, or something like it… A family… Am I being too inquisitive? Just change the subject if I am, I'm a little drunk so I probably shan't notice."

The bartender looks rather interested but the look he receives from Oriana sends him away from the pair of them. "You are beautiful. Like a dancer. It is how you move. I love to watch dancers, especially the true artists." She sips her champagne and smiles. "Ah, London. It is an interesting story. Piero, Wolfgang's father, he made an agreement with mine. I came here to be his wife." She speaks of it so casually. "We are…adjusting, but I think we shall marry. He is mi cucciolo." She laughs and lifts her cigarette from the ashtray. "He would not like that." Her brows lift in amusement, eyes glittering with humour. "Like all men he prefers to be a tigrotto, a tiger, or a lion."

Champagne and compliments and gossip about attractive gentlemen — this is all wildly interesting. Robert who? Fabia has long since moved on from him, and she probably doesn't even remember that it's his champagne she's drinking. "Oh, you're… oh," she breathes, as several puzzle pieces fit together all at once and she places Oriana in a way she couldn't quite before. She bites harder at her cigarette holder, in order to keep her lips closed upon a torrent of impertinent advice regarding families and their tendency to promote matches and how this tendency should be thwarted at every turn. "Oh, Christ, sweetie," she says at last, "well, he does rather have spaniel eyes, doesn't he? Really too sweet for a Slytherin boy." Of all the remarks to hear, from a woman who seems pure Muggle to her silky, manicured fingertips— "Oh, I shouldn't say that in public, should I?" Suddenly she appears concerned. So concerned that she has immediate recourse to her champagne. "But if you're marrying him you must know all about that."

She swings her peep toed velvet heel from her toes idly as she smokes and shares the champagne as well as gossip with Fabia. "He does have the eyes of a puppy, but he doesn't like it. Still it amuses me." Oriana laughs and waves off the comment. "Why? It only means something to those who know and there are plenty such here. He is not hardbitten, no, but there is potential. There is potential for many things." She stabs out the end of her cigarette and lets her elbow come to rest on the bar. "We suit one another well, but I find myself wanting to do things. Go out more. I have settled now. My flat is lovely. I had artists before. I collected them like little flowers to help bloom."

"Potential… Yes, at your age, you've no lack of it, you might do anything yet. But you ought to have a whole garden to bloom in yourself, rather than a window-box." And Fabia's smile is suddenly less dazzling — but genuinely, unmistakably sympathetic. "Even the loveliest flat has the same four walls each day… One can't look at them always, no matter how many little Picabia drawings might hang there. I lived rather quietly for a while, but it didn't suit me, I've quite given it up. I had much rather go dancing. Well, I was a dancer — in the ballet, for many years… How I wrecked my feet," she explains, "so that I always finish the night wanting to throw away my shoes!"

Oriana laughs and shakes her head, "No, no. I have my own flat. My own money. I can do as I wish. I just do not know many in the city." She seems to think Fabia has the wrong end of the stick. Oriana isn't the least bit put out by her arranged marriage, but neither does she seem to be blushing and professing grand love either. "A ballet dancer? Yes, the lines." She gestures to Fabia's frame. "It is there. Dancers walk always the same. Is the ballet here good? I have not been. To the theatre, yes. To the cinema. To other nightclubs too. I love jazz." Which is why she sings a good deal of it.

"Oh, well, there's Markova," Fabia says at once, and off she goes on her tangent, sipping champagne between sentences, "or there was — she was the first real British prima ballerina, the best one could hope to see on these shores or anywhere else in the world — but Massine and Blum lured her away a few months ago to what they call the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo." Very slight roll of her eyes. "My favourite at the moment is that rather good young girl they have now at the Vic-Wells, dancing gorgeous pieces by Freddy Ashton — I think her real name's Peggy something, but she goes by Margot Fonteyn. Beautiful shoulders, tremendously musical arms… Her feet a little too buttery, but perhaps that'll improve? Everything else is certainly improving, more each year — London can't offer dancing to compare with Paris or St Petersburg, but it's really much better than it was. I mean, when I came back from Europe in 1913 there was nothing, absolutely nothing. You ought to go, sweetie, one night. Make Wolfgang take you. Lots of lovely girls for him to look at — the point I always make when trying to persuade a gentleman to take me to the ballet."

Oriana listens attentively, while she might not be a dancer she understands art and creativity come in many forms. "He would not need persuading, simply for me to tell him I wish to go. We go to see the opera when in Venezia. To galleries in Roma and Milano." She sips her champagne. "I have been invited to a gallery in Soho. All very bohemian. It is not to his taste but he would come if I wished it." Perhaps there is attachment between them, even if Oriana is not gushing in her praise or blushing in her coquettishness. "The artist is one I knew from before. He is showing here before venturing to New York for a much bigger show. Perhaps you might like to attend? There will not be dancing, but there will be good food, good wine. Handsome Italian men."

How pleasant it must be to have a lovely tall spaniel-eyed man at one's command in that manner, Fabia thinks to herself — conveniently forgetting her effective ownership of one Frid Lee, valet, who is further under her French-manicured thumb than you'd think a man could be and live to tell of it. "Oh, I'd adore to go, sweetie," she breathes out, patently enchanted by the prospect; "the more Bohemian the better." This, she declares whilst sitting there in kidskin gloves and a Lelong frock with diamonds dripping from her in every direction. Her necklace in particular is so startling a piece that one might suspect it of being paste, if paste had ever sparkled quite like that. "Do let me give you my telephone number and you can ring me up tomorrow when I'm quite sober and tell me all about it. Especially the handsome Italian men — I shouldn't mind hearing about them." She winks conspiratorially.

Turning towards the bartender, Oriana draws his attention with a gesture. He brings over pen and paper which she slides towards Fabia. "If you wish, you may stay over when we go. My maid will make the arrangements." She smiles, "Have you someone she should speak to about such things?" Women of the world, true women, do not handle such mundane matters themselves. Oriana tops up both of their glasses. "Marco is an exquisite artist. Lovely hands. You can tell a lot about a man by his hands."

Soon 'Fabia Fairfax' is scrawled across half the sheet of paper, with a Bloomsbury telephone number beneath in scarcely smaller letters. And, because Fabia is drunk enough to be whimsical but not too drunk to hold the pen straight, she busies herself setting the edges of the page abloom with flowers, of different sizes and kinds, drawn with quick, confident, economical lines. "Sweetie, I'd adore to stay," she says easily, as though it were perfectly natural to be the houseguest of a gangster's moll one didn't know from a hole in the wall till half an hour ago. "I'll bring the prosecco and we'll pretend it's really spring. Your maid and my valet can sort it all out between them, I'm sure. I never know where I'm meant to be or when, I just go where he drives me. It's much easier than trying to remember something that's different every day." She concludes a gillyflower and embarks upon a tremendously expansive dahlia, which strikes her as just the thing to anchor the lower left-hand corner. "Robert had nice hands," she remarks absently, "so it's not quite an infallible system."

"You are quite good with your hands too, bella." Oriana watches, amused by Fabia's artistry. Given that she has had less to drink she is not quite so squiffy as her companion. "When we go, we shall have to look and see if we can come up with a new system." Her eyes light up at the prospect of driving. "Yes, we shall have the car. Your's I think. Then there is no need for Tony. He will only feel awkward anyway. Guards so rarely blend as proper servants do. Their training is wrong for it." She drinks a touch more champagne. Her eyes adjust to the number and she laughs. "I live near there." A tapping finger goes to the paper, near the scrawled phone number. "How small the city is."

"Oh, yes, rather good with my hands," Fabia giggles, with a glint in her eye which suggests that, just for a moment, she's not thinking about drawing. While she's distracted her dahlia becomes too big on one side and has to have supplementary petals added to the other. "I was wondering about Tony," she confides, nodding to the fellow in question, who has been lingering nearby, within eyesight but not earshot of this budding friendship. "He's rather present, isn't he? Of course a guard would be no use if people couldn't see he was guarding. I'm pleased to say my valet is the most discreet man alive; he can be standing right next to me and I hardly know it till he puts a glass in my hand… You'll meet him, of course, or perhaps you won't — perhaps you won't know he's there and the car will just seem to be driving itself. I'm hardly ever allowed to drive it myself," she explains, "because of what happened to the Bugatti… The new one, well, it's hardly new anymore, and it had had another owner first, the new one is a Bentley Meteor. Gorgeous machine. You'll like it."

Tony gets a brief glance from Oriana. "He is discrete in other ways. I need something done, he does it. No questions. But no, he is not subtle. We have others for that." She rolls her eyes. "Tony comes with me because Wolfgang is over protective. Mainly he sits in the car while I walk the dog." And meet handsome men in the park. "Your valet sounds highly skilled. Undoubtedly he and Anna can discuss stains and silks and pressing linens." The drollness translates well, even with her Italian mannerisms going along with it. "I should be going. I have one more set to do." She rises to her feet and taking Fabia's shoulders in hand kisses her cheeks. "Ciao bella. I shall ring tomorrow sometime after midday, I am rarely up before then."

One more petal for the dahlia; and Fabia puts down the borrowed pen next to her cigarette-holder and leans delightedly into that brief, fragrant almost-embrace. She's unconcerned about getting lipstick on herself, but she's careful to kiss only the air over Oriana's cheeks for she's going back on stage, isn't she? Singing jazz is a reasonably informal pursuit, but even so. It's a professional appearance. "Better after two, sweetie, I might be alive again by then," she giggles. "I'll stay and listen to you till my coach turns back into a pumpkin; and I promise I'll be careful not to lose my slippers again! A tout a l'heure, cherie."

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