The big band swung. A singer in a pin striped suit jazzed his way through the number. The music filled the room and imaginations of the guests. They forgot about the bleak Depression outside. They drank hooch and ate deviled eggs, salmon loaf and Waldorf salad.
He noticed her. It looked like she noticed him too but he couldn’t be sure. He checked behind him, but no, her eyes were on him. Her sultry eyes. One of the most famous actresses in the whole goddamned town. Her blonde curls set tight, her green silk dress clinging to her curves, her mouth full and inviting.
He placed his fedora by the chocolate fondue fountain, took her hand and spun the leading lady around.
The boy, well over six foot and strapping, having already spent a term in Gallipoli, stood beside his father. He was fearful of a ploy as the leader approached, injured, beside a caped nurse.
‘Father, what if we’re being ambushed?’ he said in an almost whisper.
‘We’re not. He’s done. He seems to be a fellow with a deep conscience. Terrible qualities for a soldier. There’s too much blood on his hands. I would be rather confident that he is done.’
The Dublin air was still and quiet except for a far off fire consuming a building. The crackled breezy sound of burning.
‘Do I know you from somewhere?’ she shouted over the music.
He shrugged. ‘Possibly?’ His British accent was distinct and debonair.
‘You starred in some pictures?’ she asked.
‘Some European, some talkies. Waiting for my break.’
‘Ain’t we all.’
She smiled. He smiled. He couldn’t believe his luck.
‘I lay down my sword,’ the rebel leader said.
The boy kept his hand on his pistol, sweat glistened on his back.
‘Surrender accepted,’ his father said.
‘Shall I bring word around?’ the nurse asked.
The rebel nodded mournfully at her.
‘Don’t despair, Commandant. Don’t. This will come to something.’
‘It’s over, Elizabeth.’
‘Or maybe, Padraig, it’s only beginning.’
‘Silence,’ the boy’s father said. ‘We are arresting you on her majesty’s honour and under martial law shall imprison you. Do you understand?’
‘I do,’ the rebel said. His face was paler.
‘William, take his arm.’
The rebel gave it willingly. He was calm, morose. They walked in a near silence towards Kilmainham.
‘I’ve seen a couple of your flicks. I used to act in Germany too, Berlin. Tremendous fun but seems to be veering too far right. I’m no Communist. I do, however, know when a situation is boiling up.’
‘How’s that?’ she asked. Her eyebrows drawn in a surprise.
‘I’ve been in situations.’
The band played on. He could smell a faint sweet sweat from her, under the lavender. His fingers traced her back as they danced. She was soft except for a small bump of a mole, which he was drawn back to touch, to circle, the way it lifted off her skin.
‘You can’t say something like that without giving me an example?’ she asked.
‘Very well, but only because, madam, you requested.’
‘There are many casualties,’ the boy said.
The rebel grimaced. He muttered a prayer. Looked around at the destruction of the city. Buildings crumbling. Glass shattered on the roads. Bullet holes. Black smoke darkening the grey skies.
A misty rain began to spray.
‘It is like being cleansed,’ he said and turned his palms outwards.
The boy sighed and wished he had spent his leave in his mother’s place. A large house in the countryside. He could have hunted deer or played cricket and read some Shakespeare. Caught some new shows in London. Snuck some alcohol and opium with the troupes.
Instead, he was a skivvy to his father in this dirty town.
‘You were there for that?’ she asked. Her eyes wide. ‘In Ireland?’
‘And why did you come to Hollywood?’
‘When I was a boy, my father was my hero. The way I saw it, he used his strength and tact to protect people. But I wanted to help them in a different way. War changed everyone. It changed me. We need escape from the misery of life. The pain of it. The pictures help do that. Get one or two hours out of the world, out of our minds. You know?’
‘So you’re saying I’m a hero, Mr. Loder?’ she asked, a glint in her eyes.
‘Exactly,’ he replied. He looked around the room, felt the whole place watching them as he leaned in to kiss her.
The boy’s father was stopped by some officers. He explained the situation. Word from General Maxwell was that execution would be imminent for the rebel and indeed for all his aides.
‘Brutal, perhaps. But swift and the only way to show that treason to the Crown will not be tolerated.’
The rebel was calm. ‘So it will come to something.’
The boy thought he saw the rebel smile, the corners of his mouth raised a fraction. He kept his grip on him.
‘You are very young,’ the rebel said.
‘I have already served in the Great War and shall return to Europe in the Autumn,’ the boy said. He held his head up.
‘Is that your dream?’ the rebel asked.
‘Is this your dream?’ the boy replied, feeling insulted.
‘It is a version of it.’
‘This will only ever be a story to me.’
EM Reapy is from Mayo, has a BA in English Literature and History (NUI Galway) and an MA in Creative Writing (Queen’s University Belfast). She edits wordlegs.com. In 2013, she received an Arts Council Literature Bursary and is currently working on her debut novel Red Dirt.