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Joy Nelson came into the room that she was sharing with two other girls, at half-past four in the morning. She was tired. She had been dancing steadily all night; her new silver slippers were killing her; and she was not accustomed to being up late. She could hardly wait to take her slippers off and get ready to sleep for a few hours.
Her room-mates, however, looked as if repose were the last thought they would allow to enter their jazz-surrounded heads. They were sitting on the bed, smoking. She had pretended not to see them, until she realized that they were not in the least bit embarrassed. They had even offered her a cigarette!
“My word, you look shot,” said Jerry. Jerry was a fascinating girl, Joy had decided. She was not pretty—she was more than that. She had what the erudite youth of the day would describe vividly as “something about her.” Her dark hair was bobbed, and she had green eyes and a red mouth. Her nose turned up, her scintillant face was splashed with freckles; decidedly, she was not pretty; but she was fascinating. One never could tell what she was going to do next. Joy had seen her openly chewing gum in the Kappa Beta living-room. One of the chaperones had lifted her eyebrows. Jerry never missed a demonstration. In less time than it took to lift the eyebrow of censure, she had surrounded herself with a mob of laughing, delighted boys, and exacted a penny from each of them for the privilege of a chew at her gum. There was never a dull moment, with Jerry around.
Sarah was another sort. She had burst upon Joy in a flash of colour that rioted away analytical estimation. Such eyes, lips, cheeks—and wonderfully marcelled hair. Later, when Sarah’s tools were set out on the one bureau, revelation had forced analysis. Yes, Sarah was undoubtedly a Woman of the World. She oozed sophistication at every pore. As crowning touch, she even had a gold cigarette case!
“Well, I feel shot,” Joy said now in answer to Jerry’s comment. “This is my first Prom, you know.”
“So you have remarked, several times,” drawled Sarah. “Let me give you a tip, my dear—I wouldn’t admit anything like that so freely. Numbers,” continued the highly-coloured one, “are dangerous. Now, as for me—I wouldn’t admit that this was my first or my thirty-first.”
“The last number is more your speed, old girl,” said Jerry.
“But what is one to say?” Joy asked, stepping out of her dress. “Everyone is just lovely to me when I tell ’em it’s my first.”
The two on the bed exchanged glances. Jerry blew out a cloud of smoke. “That’s one way of starting a conversation,” she said generously.
Joy sat down on the floor and pulled off her silver slippers. Once freed, her feet hurt more than ever.
“Wait till you get callouses all over your feet,” said Jerry. “Enough steady all-night dancing does it. After that, you don’t mind anything.”
Sarah considered the tip of her cigarette. “I wonder if those wrecks have dusted themselves off and gone home yet,” she murmured. “We’ve roosted here long enough.”
“I’ll go out and potter around.” Jerry put out her cigarette, threw it in the wastebasket, and was gone from the room in one fell swoop.
“The men have almost all gone home,” Joy volunteered. “I was late coming up, because I looked for the chaperones to say good-night, but I couldn’t find any of them.”
Sarah smiled. “I guess you couldn’t. They pull in at midnight. This life would be too much for them if they didn’t.”
“They pull in at midnight! Well, what are they for?”
“My dear, I’ve often wondered.” She flicked her ash daintily on to Joy’s cot. Jerry came bounding back into the room.
“They’ve gone, Sally! We can get away all right!” and she proceeded to pull on her evening coat.
“Why?” Joy stammered her amazement.
“We’re going riding,” Jerry explained. “We had to wait until our men had gone, because we’re going with some others.”
“There’s just one thing!” Sarah had not stirred from her perch on the bed. “Are they too stewed for us to go with them, or are they only edged? I’d like to know before we start. I haven’t any desire to drive over a hundred miles with a couple of boiled owls. Remember that time at Yale, Jerry——”
“I know—my back teeth are loose yet. Some smash. But this time they’re taking a Freshman along who’s been kept sober for the occasion, so you’re safe.”
“Oh, in that case,” Sarah descended from the bed and allowed Jerry to press her into her evening wrap. “Good-bye, my dear—we’ll see you in the morning.”
As she watched them depart, Joy almost forgot how tired she was. Half-past four in the morning—and they were going riding. She limped over to the bureau and looked down at Sarah’s tools. She had never seen girls like these. They did not seem to care what they did. And the way they talked—you could not pick out any one thing, but it did not sound nice, somehow.
But Jerry was fascinating—and one was never bored. Perhaps that was why they were all right. She turned off the light and felt her way back to her cot over a succession of wardrobe trunks and hat boxes.