The KNOCK KNOCK CLUB was running the same routine it always did. Co owner, Agnes, made sure the patrons were happily seated, the girls were safe and circulating and the stage was set for the evening’s entertainment. Things had been smooth for the most part. Aside from Bette, one of the dancers, having laddered her tights at the last minute. Agnes’ partner, TAWNY, was busy laughing, joking and making the customers feel at home. A performer at heart, she would take to the stage herself later that night.
“Better head back stage and get ready,” Tawny said to Agnes as she passed.
Agnes stopped and took the glass of gin and tonic from her hand and laid it on the bar which she was leaning against, watching the comings and goings of the club.
“You’re going to end up crawling onto that stage if you don’t slow down,” she warned.
Tawny chuckled and rolled her eyes. That was how they operated. Agnes was the den mother to the staff and Tawny got away with being the one they all liked. Agnes didn’t mind being the kill joy. Someone had to run the business side of the club. She loved Tawny but things would have fallen to ruin if she had been left to her own devices.
After another half hour passed Jack, the club compare, ushered off a young singer who had fallen a little flat on her performance.
“I am so pleased to introduce,” said Jack in his thick LUEN accent, “our very own Baroness.”
The crowd cheered. It was lucky it was time to move onto Tawny’s segment because the crowd that had come from the MACK AND SON’S brewery were starting to become rowdy.
Tawny took the center stage with a trombone over her shoulder and with a kiss of her hand Jack departed.
“Good evening folks!” she began. They rang back in their appreciation. “It’s always a pleasure to see you all here. The night is still young so let’s get something with a wee bit ‘a bounce going.”
“We love you Tawny!” one of the Mack’s called. Probably the patriarch Brendan who was inebriated by then.
Tawny swung the trombone back onto her shoulders. “Thanks honey. I love you too,” she replied. “But I’m kinda in the middle of something here,” she jested.
With a few more jokes to warm the audience the music broke in again using the in house band to accompany Tawny.
The barmaid, Gemma, approached.
“There’s a young girl at the door,” she told Agnes.
Agnes kept her view across the club. “How young?” she asked.
“Too young,” Gemma confirmed. “But she says she’s Tawn’s niece.”
Agnes finally looked to the barmaid. “Tabitha?”
Gemma nodded. “Yeah, a pretty little thing.”
Agnes pushed past her. “Don’t leave her standing outside in the alley for Christ’s sake.”
The doorman stepped aside and as Gemma had described there was a pretty young girl of pre-teen age. She had long flowing brunette hair and when she smiled she showed a gap between her front teeth that was girlish and charming.
“Tabs!?” Agnes cheered. “What are you doing here?”
“Is Aunt Tee on tonight?”
“Come in,” Agnes ushered her inside.
It had been the first time TABITHA had seen the inside of her aunt’s beloved club. She looked about herself in awe as she absorbed the atmosphere. She grinned when she saw her aunt on the stage in the middle of her routine. Agnes clutched her shoulder and led her back stage.
“Wait here,” Agnes instructed. “Stay out of trouble.”
The dancer girls had just come off stage and when they saw Tabitha they flocked around her.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” one cooed.
Bette agreed. “She has the most luscious hair.”
Agnes shooed them off. “Come on girls, let her breathe.”
Tabitha looked up to the stair way and saw Tawny come off stage.
“Aunt Tee!” she cried out and ran to her.
Tawny wrapped her arms around the girl and lifted her off her feet, planting kisses all over her face.
“Trouble!” Tawny cheered the nickname she had for her niece. “It’s good to see you. How did you get here?”
“Bus,” explained the girl.
“You should have called. I could have come and got you,” Tawny offered but Tabitha just shrugged it off.
“It’s good to see you again Tabs. Sorry I had to abandon you earlier,” Agnes greeted. She had met Tabitha a few times by then. Tawny was always talking about her niece. She was the only family that the Baroness counted. She had her brother and sister in law of course, Tabitha’s parents, but to her Tabitha was the most precious thing in the world.
Knowing this Agnes had been nervous to meet her the first time. She wanted to bond with Tabitha for Tawny’s sake and she did but she hadn’t expected the kind of girl Tabitha was.
“Your aunt and I are …” Agnes had tried to explain delicately.
Tabitha looked her dead in the eye and said, “you’re a couple of rug munchers. Yeah I know. So what?”
Tawny almost spat out her water with laughter. “Is that what the kids are calling it these days?”
Agnes learned quickly that Tabitha was no delicate little princess. She was unfiltered in her attitude and if she saw something differently she was not shy in expressing herself. She would always accept Agnes without question as long as she made her precious Aunt Tee happy. She seemed abrasive, rough and cruel sometimes but when you really knew her as Agnes and her aunt did it was easy to see a loving child underneath. When they were together, laughing and dancing, they felt like a real family. It was the reason Tabitha insisted on escaping what should have been a privileged life in Filton to find them. It was why the Knock Knock club was the only place she considered home and she would protect it with every fiber of her being.
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