Pretty Melbourne was born on New Year’s day 1900 with a cleft lip. Her parents, Andersen and Susan hoped her name would compensate; they were wrong. Pretty hid and her folks despaired. Anderson, tired before his time from years in the fields found solace in whiskey and his fiddle. Pretty followed watching from the shadows.
‘Sing for us, girlie.’ Ezekiel took his chance, catching Pretty.
Anderson knew better than to interrupt. He winked and set the fiddle to his chin, slowly playing an old lullaby.
Pretty understood he wanted her to sing, knew it was important though not why; she swallowed the grit hardening in her throat. With eyes shut one tune followed another.
‘Now how’s she do that, being as she is?’ Ezekiel stared at the startled Pretty.
When Andersen died followed shortly by Susan, Pretty’s only hope was her voice; she knew she’d never marry. Ezekiel offered help: ‘New Orleans ain’t no place for womenfolk save you’s no choice. I’ll take you.’
A terrified Pretty gradually found her feet, singing in a Jazz club. Soon her voice and strange smile drew people in; recordings were made, scoured into wax discs bringing more fame and attention.
Ezekiel visited regularly; she’d eat with him, listening to stories of the town. After yet another fan stopped to talk, he said, “Girl, you have the world at your feet.’
The faces stared up as she prepared to sing, a world at her feet; yet inside a little of her died. Without her father’s wink and her mother’s smile what was the point of this adulation? It’s wonderful to find your voice, she thought, but only if the people hearing it matter to you.
This is part of the Microcosms prompt here