I'm happy to introduce you to my heroine, Claire Flanagan, from my post WWII romance, Honey On White Bread. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, Claire?
Thank you, Brenda. I’m nearly eighteen years old, and I live with my father, Hamish Flanagan in the Mulberry Shade Cabin Court. We're considered poor, but life is good.
Do you consider yourself unconventional or do you abide by society's standards?
Most people would consider my upbringing unconventional, especially by 1945 standards. Our nosey old landlady, Mrs. Snyder, certainly thinks so. What she thinks about my father and me is just plain obscene. My mother died when I was an infant. My father mostly works crops, and we’ve traveled around the southwest and California wherever he could pick, sometimes hopping freight trains as our mode of travel. I’ve lived in orange orchards and hobo jungles with the occasional stay on my Aunt Grace’s farm. Daddy’s always taken real good care of me, but he’s a drinking man so I have to take care of him at times. I love the movies, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than a movie theater when I’m not with Daddy. Some day you’ll watch me on the silver screen.
If you've moved so many times, do you always to fit in?
I’ve gone to so many schools and lived in so many places, fitting in sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I have a very good voice and I always make choral. I’m mature, considering my upbringing, so fitting in doesn’t really concern me. We live in Phoenix now, and we’re staying put until I graduate and move on with my singing career. Daddy has been pushing to go work some crops for a few months in Hemet, but I’ve put my foot down. He’s got a good job here, and I’m not moving again before I graduate. For the first time in my life, I have some very good friends.
Do you have a role model or someone you look up to since you do not have a mother?
When it comes to my career, it would be Betty Grable. She’s grand. She was discovered sitting on a stool in a soda shop, you know, which is encouraging. I know someday I’ll marry and have children. Everyone does. My mother was like a beautiful Indian princess, full of grace and love but I’m imagining as much from my father’s stories. My best friend, Paulie’s mother, Mrs. Russell, seems like the perfect mother. She’s short and round and sings while she bakes.
If you could do anything without concern for consequences, what would it be?
I’d tell Benjamin Russell exactly how I feel about him. He’s twenty and a working man, the older brother of my best friend. I’m pretty bold with my flirting, but I’m sure he doesn’t see me for the woman I am. Yet. He’s been interested in my career plans, but he’s keeping company with a harlot named Susan. I’m biding my time. But if I were truly as bold as I think I am, I’d throw myself at him like Susan does.
Would you consider Benjamin as unconventional as you feel you are?
Benjamin is definitely not as unconventional as I am. His father abandoned him and his five siblings. Benjamin’s been working to support the family since he was fifteen. He will always do the right and admirable thing regardless of the consequences to himself. I really was not looking for Mr. Right when he came along. The silver screen pales in comparison to Benjamin.
Any other dark desires or juicy details you'd like to share?
Without giving away too much of my story, let me say Susan causes me a world of hurt. I don’t call her a harlot for nothing. Then there’s Arnold. He lavishes unwanted attention on me which gets all tangled up with problems for Paulie. Poor Paulie. And his carelessness lands me in a place I don’t belong. But when you say dark desires and juicy details, well, only Benjamin comes to mind.
Would you like to share some of your story?
I'd be happy to! Here goes:
“Hello, Benjamin.” I smiled, flipping the hair from my neck.
“Hey, Hollywood.” He nodded. I swore he said it seriously this time, not teasingly like a couple of days ago. My dinner churned in my stomach. His gaze was steady, creating a roadblock between my mind and mouth until Paulie tugged on my arm.
“Let’s get a cola.”
I ignored her directive, looking to Laura for a reason to stay in breathing distance of Benjamin. “Why, Laura, your dress looks quite stunning. I do think brown is your color.” I spoke to my friend, keeping my face slanted toward Benjamin, obsessively avoiding giving him a profile view.
“Uh, thanks. Your blue dress is…lovely.”
I tipped my chin in acknowledgement of her attempt to match my mature manner.
“It looks great with your hair.” She ended on a high note, pleased with her social banter.
Paulie elbowed me as she rolled her eyes. “`Scuse us, Ben.” She shook her head, giving Laura a nudge. “Let’s go get a cola, you guys.”
“You two go ahead.” I waved them off. “I’ll join you in a moment.”
“What do you mean you’ll join us in a moment?” Paulie set her hands to her hips.
I whirled around, facing her. “I have something to discuss with Benjamin. Go get colas and bring me back one.” I kept my voice low, dismissive.
Paulie clutched Laura’s elbow. “Oh, for Pete’s sake, let’s go. Claire wants to shoot the breeze with my brother.”
Clasping my hands behind me, I studied the toes of my oxfords for a moment before looking at Benjamin. When I did look into his face, he smiled as if he might say something.
“What?” I asked.
“I was thinking.” His glance skimmed me briefly from head to toe. “You do look nice in blue.”
I caught my breath, his assessment a visual caress. Shaking tresses of curls from my face and blinking to regain my composure, I managed a reply. “Why, thank you, Benjamin.” I dipped my chin, peering into his dark lashed blue eyes.
He nodded his head and took a drink from his beer. His other hand was casually tucked into his jean pocket, and he stood with one leg crossed over his ankle. I let my gaze wander along his arm, watching the muscle flex below the roll of his shirtsleeve as he brought the bottle to his lips. Struggling to breathe in a normal fashion, the rate of my heart was anything but normal. Could he hear my heart, see the heat flaring across my chest and neck?
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