We are approaching the end of the last week before the release of April's Roots. Are you psyched? Get psyched! I know I am!
Just to help you get psyched, here's another sneak peek into another of the short stories in the collection. And remember, April's Roots is coming out on Tuesday, November 19 in paperback and e-book formats. Stay tuned for links, promo codes, and even book giveaways. Thanks for reading!
Daphne’s (and Geri’s) Story ~ 1914
New York City, New York
(and Hollywood, California)
“Once again, ladies and gentlemen, the lovely and talented Campbell Sisters!” Alvin’s voice boomed over the pit orchestra on the other side of the curtain.
My sister and I grabbed each other’s hands and sashayed through the opening in the stage curtain. We were the final bow of the Midtown Merries vaudeville show. Beyond the bright footlights, applause echoed towards us. I curtseyed first, and then turned to her.
Daphne curtseyed deeper, and then turned back to me. The applause grew louder—the audience knew our routine.
I gathered my skirt and curtseyed still deeper, tilting my head to the side for effect. A wave of laughter rippled over the applause. Not two seconds after I rose, Daphne cinched her skirt in each hand and bent her knees, so far that she tipped to the side. I caught her as the audience roared with approval. We straightened up and bowed, hand-in-hand, and then waved to the crowd as we skipped off the stage together.
Backstage, a flurry of activity surrounded us. The prop girl scurried around the wings with her arms full of hats and things. A thin young stagehand darted from one set of pulleys to the next as he reset the curtains and stage dressings for the next day’s performance. Alvin, the emcee of our vaudeville troupe, coughed roughly and barked for his after-show tea with honey and lemon. And Daphne and I grinned at each other as we trotted to our dressing room.
“You sounded terrific, Geri,” Daphne said. She plopped onto her vanity chair.
“Thanks, Sis,” I said with a smile, kicking off my dance shoes. “Just trying to keep up with you.”
She slipped off her stylish curly wig and frowned at her limp hair. “Rats. How do you get your curls to stay? I can barely keep my wig looking as neat.”
I tossed my head. I had no need of a wig, even under the hot stage lights. “Who knows? I like your hair straight anyway.”
She shrugged, her frown breaking into a crooked grin. “Oh, well. Vaudeville’s supposed to be funny, right?”
I nodded. Daphne was only two years my senior, but she had what Father called “an old soul.” She was just so patient, so kind, and so good. She wouldn’t care if she went bald—looks had never been my older sister’s focus. We had the same sky-blue eyes and the same nut-brown hair, but other than that we couldn’t have looked more different.
People who knew us well often joked that “the lovely and talented Campbell Sisters” referred to each of us in turn: I was the lovely one, with perfect pin-curls and a face like Mary Pickford; and Daphne was the talented one, with an uncomely face but a singing voice that would bring down the Palace if our show ever made it to Broadway. The running joke had even made its way into some of our vaudeville sketches.
A light knock at our door was followed by the entrance of Dorothea, the theater’s prim little secretary.
“Pardon me, ladies. Miss Geraldine? There’s a gentleman to see you in the lobby.”
“An admirer, no doubt,” teased Daphne.
I rose from my seat. “Oh, pish-posh. I’ll be right back.”
With a glance in the mirror, I followed Dorothea out and through the stage door.
“Any idea who he is, Dot?” I asked.
She shook her head. “He’s wearing a very fine suit, I can tell you that.”
When we reached the lobby, a broad-shouldered man in a tailored suit rose from one of the plush benches. He approached us and bowed to Dorothea, who patted my shoulder and walked with mincing steps towards the box office.
“Miss Campbell, it’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said, kissing my hand. “Arthur Andrews. May I be bold and call you Geraldine?”
“Geri’s fine. And the pleasure’s mine,” I said. “How can I help you, Mr. Andrews?”
He smiled. “Arthur, please. Geri, have you ever considered a career on the screen?”
I froze. The screen? Dumbstruck, I shook my head.
Arthur’s smile widened, and I noticed a gold tooth glinting in his mouth. “I represent Pegasus Productions in Hollywood. I’ve been in New York this week looking for new talent for our studio, and I’d like to bring you out to California for a screen test. What do you say, doll face?”
I tried to process his words. I felt like I was on the Coney Island carousel, whirling ever faster as images of films, stages, and stars flashed past. With a blink, I blurted out the first thought that made sense:
“What about Daphne?”