Robinson couldn’t sleep. It’s funny, it usually wasn’t hard for her. Most nights, she gulped down a couple bottles and slept just fine. The splitting headache that came after was a problem for future Robinson. Fuck her. But tonight was different. There was a sense of importance about tonight, as if it was the last night before all hell broke loose. Calm before the storm, and all that. Robinson couldn’t sleep. She felt the roar of the crowd pulsing in her head like a heartbeat. The sensation was eerily familiar. In a strange way, it reminded her of the thump of her steam shovel. It wasn’t entirely right, though. It was fuelled not by pure energy and industry, but by the hatred of the masses. She couldn’t get it out of her head. So she went out onto the streets, desperate for something to quiet her aching mind. Most things were closed in preparation for tomorrow. Everyone wanted to get a good night’s sleep. The local pub was open, but Robinson couldn’t bear the thought of going back, at least not tonight. So she headed to the only new attraction in town- the carnival. She’d always had a soft spot for things like that. She was bored constantly. All she needed, all she ever needed, was something to distract her. The carnival did well enough. It was weird, though. She should’ve felt some hate for it. After all, she’d screamed at them just hours ago. But somehow, she felt nothing. Maybe it was the stress that she’d carried around with her that she felt the need to release through screams. Or maybe she was just bored. She didn’t care enough to think about it. All that she knew was that she needed something to get her mind off of that dull, constant ache that thundered in the back of her mind.
She arrived at the railyard and spotted an open boxcar. She clambered inside, and saw the most beautiful sight. It was that girl from before, back from the parade. The dancer. Robinson couldn’t pretend she hadn’t been staring at that girls form from the second she saw her. It was just a casual interest, of course. Maybe a bit of jealousy. The nearly audible thumping in her heart, the way her throat closed up and her palms got all clammy, all that was just a coincidence. She hoped. The ballet girl didn’t notice Robinson at first. She was facing away, practicing a routine, seemingly. Not wanting to be rude, Robinson cleared her throat slightly. The ballet girl whirled around to face her, and it took Robinson a second to realize it wasn’t part of the routine.
“Sorry if I was interruptin’ anything, I was just… bored, I guess. Wanted to see what you carnies got up to at night.” The ballet girl smiled, and looked Robinson up and down.
“I don’t mind at all, doll. I always perform better with an audience,” she said with a wink. That did something funny to Robinson’s insides, made her stomach tie up in a knot. She blushed a little, but it was hard to see it past the dirt and grime that coated her cheeks.
“What’s your name, anyhow?” the ballet girl asked. “I think I saw you back at the parade. And back at the tent, too. You’re prettier when you’re not yelling, I think.” Robinson paused for a second to take in what she had just said.
“I’m pretty?” she asked, smiling a little. “Huh. That’s a first. Especially coming from someone as good-lookin’ as you. You could light up the stars with your smile, ballet girl.” The ballet girl smiled a little brighter at that.
“You can call me Margaret, if you want. Hate for you to know me only as a ballet girl. Never caught your name, by the way, stranger.” Margaret said, with an eyebrow quirked.
“Robinson Jean, atcher service, ma’am.” she said, extending a hand. Margaret took her hand lightly.
“Your hand’s awful rough, Robinson. Do a lot of heavy labour?” she asked, still holding Robinson’s hand. Robinson looked into Margaret’s eyes with a slight sense of pride.
“Yes, ma’am, I do. Work all day operatin’ my steam shovel. Anyone in Erwin need somethin’ dug, they come straight to me.” Margaret smiled softly.
“I’ll keep that in mind, Jean.” she said, with a glint of approval in her eyes.
They stood in a comfortable silence for a second, Margaret’s hand wrapped around Robinson’s. Robinson finally spoke up.
“It’s a shame about Mary.” she said, grimacing slightly. Margaret released Robinson’s hand.
“You were yelling just as loud as the rest of them.” she said, squinting. Robinson looked down at the ground, ashamed.
“I- I got caught up in the moment. You can’t blame a gal for followin’ a crowd, can ya?” she asked, remorseful.
Margaret turned away. “Says who?”
Robinson looked back up at her. “Aw, c’mon, Margaret, don’t be like that. I’m sorry, alright?”
Margaret turned back to Robinson angrily. “Sorry can't do much now, can it? Mary’s gonna die tomorrow, and it’s because of you and the rest of you… you… you monsters!” she sputtered out angrily. Robinson reached out, trying to take Margaret’s hand to comfort her, but Margaret recoiled from her touch. “Don’t touch me!” she yelled, with tears beginning to form in her eyes. “Do you have any idea how long I’ve known Mary? She was my friend! I loved her! And you… you took her away from me!” Robinson blushed, embarrassed, as she glanced down at the ground.
“I’m sorry…” she muttered softly. Margaret stared at Robinson, and she relaxed her stance.
“It’s… well, it’s not alright, but it’s not your fault either. I’m just… scared for Mary, Robinson.” Robinson opened her mouth, as if to say something, but decided against it. She didn’t really know what she would’ve said, anyway. She took Margaret’s hand, and this time, Margaret didn’t pull away. They both smiled slightly. Robinson admired Margaret’s soft curves and beautiful eyes, while Margaret admired Robinson’s surprisingly well-defined muscles and her cute little dimples.
“You’re the most gorgeous gal I’ve ever seen in my whole life.” Robinson said, almost at a whisper.
“You’re not the first person to tell me that. But you’re certainly the prettiest one.” Margaret murmured, her cheeks tinged a faint pink. Robinson didn’t know why she did what she did next. Maybe it was the alcohol. Or maybe she was just bored. But she leaned in, and kissed the ballet girl.
And the ballet girl kissed her back.