Peggy took off her red sunglasses, and set them down on Daniel Sousa’s desk rather forcefully.
“It’s been quite a day,” she said.
Before Daniel could actually form words, Rose Roberts had swept in after her.
“Pacific Coast Highway?” she asked. “Can’t figure out where to get a decent bagel? Howard Stark?” (Rose blushed slightly at the latter, remembering “Rinso”).
“All of the above,” said Peggy. “I hadn’t quite realized how much more I enjoyed Los Angeles when Mr. Jarvis was driving me around. But, alas, he has returned to his regular employment.”
“Flamingo-wrangling?” asked Daniel, innocently.
“Starlet-wrangling, more likely,” said Peggy. “Howard is still attempting to make that absurd cowboy film.”
“The one based on that comic book?” Daniel asked.
“Exactly,” Peggy nodded. “Can’t see that taking off.”
Rose nodded sympathetically. “What you need, Peg, is a girls’ night out.”
Peggy shot Daniel an inquiring glance. She wasn’t the type to get overly dependent on a man, but she and Daniel were still so new, and he’d said something about dinner this evening.
But Sousa gestured at the stacks of paperwork on his desk. “Sounds like a great idea! I need to stay late and play catch-up this evening, anyhow.”
“Auerbach Theatrical—“ Rose held the phone away from her ear. “Do you kiss your mother with that mouth? Right? Right. Very well.” She hung up the receiver.
Rose shook her head. “The number’s wrong in the directory, and they find it anyhow.”
“Almost as though there are spies working in the phone company – oh, wait.” Peggy smiled, and Rose returned it.
Rose grabbed her bag, and they were off. They agreed to take Peggy’s car – really, one of Howard Stark’s fleet. “I’m rather hoping—“ Peggy said, wistfully.
“—Absolutely not,” said Edmund Jarvis, looking sternly at the two women. “I will not drive you around for a night of carousing . . . Ana and I haven’t had an evening at home with Benny Goodman at all this week.”
But as he spoke, his wife came into the room, her eyes alight with mischief. “Carousing? Sounds delightful. Can we, please?”
And so, the three women found themselves at the Brown Derby, at a table with a very distant view of the back of Joan Crawford’s head. (Ana had thoughtfully supplied her husband with a flashlight, a thermos of tea, and the latest Agatha Christie to keep himself company, as he was to wait in the car. She’d also tucked in her cashmere throw, to keep him cozy, just in case the LA night turned cool.)
“Cheers!” said Ana, as they clinked glasses. She was drinking white wine, Rose one of those fruity drinks with an umbrella, and Peggy, a glass of scotch.
“Serious drinker?” winked Rose.
“I drank with the 107th regiment during the War,” Peggy explained.
“The Howling Commandos?” Rose said, impressed.
“I wish I liked Scotch,” said Ana, wistfully. “I always like the clink of the ice in those heavy tumblers. Unfortunately, what I do not like is the taste.”
“Ice?” Peggy shuddered. “Perish the thought!”
A few rounds later, Ana had shared the story of Jarvis’s rescue of her from Budapest in the early days of the war.
“Makes me feel kinda bad we left him in the car,” said Rose.
“Nonsense,” said Ana. “He’s got a thermos of tea, and Hercule Poirot. And Benny Goodman on the car radio, of course.”
Then it was Peggy’s turn to share some of her stories, which she kept centered on her exploits with the Howling Commandos, generally, and not at all focused on their leader in particular.
The waitress came by. “Another round, ladies?”
Ana declined, but Rose and Peggy each ordered another of the same.
“I’m afraid I spent most of the war knitting socks for soldiers,” said Rose. “I worked for the phone company for real, for the first few years, and by the time I’d signed up with the SSR, and went through the training, any chance of getting sent overseas was already pretty much over.”
“But you did your part,” Ana reassured her. “That’s admirable.”
“Not like Peg did, though. Bletchley Park and then the SOE, and the SSR.”
“And if we were back home, the Official Secrets act would keep me from talking about any of it. Some of the girls I knew at Bletchley literally cannot tell even their husbands what they actually did during the war.”
“What I want to know,” said Rose, getting confidential, “is about Captain America.”
“Oh, yes!” Ana agreed.
Peggy grew paler. “I’m afraid I don’t really like to talk about Steve. He was a brave man, and a real hero, and I cared very much for him.”
Her two friends grew quiet, and Ana gave her an impetuous hug.
The waitress returned. “The gentleman over there would like to know what you’re drinking.” She gestured over her shoulder, to the general area of Joan Crawford’s table, in the vicinity of which, Howard Stark (of course) sat with a bevy of starlets.
Rose and Ana both shook their heads no, this time, but Peggy shrugged.
“Why not? Single malt, best he’ll pay for.” She looked at her friends. “Well, I did drink with the Howling Commandos.”
The next morning, when Peggy made her way into Sousa’s office, she didn’t take her red sunglasses off, at all.
Daniel took one look at her, got up from his desk, and came back a few minutes later with a steaming mug of coffee.
Peggy looked at it dubiously. “I’ve already had about a gallon of Jarvis’s best tea, not to mention Ana’s patented hangover cure, which somehow includes both Tabasco sauce and honey.”
“Apparently it’s a Hungarian thing. I didn’t see Rose on my way in; did she call in sick?”
“Oh no.” Daniel smiled. “She went to Stark Industries to look into one of Stark’s new projects; it seems that last night he decided that she and only she could give him the feedback he was looking for on some new contraption that’s meant to revolutionize driving.”
“I think she went surfing first, though.”
Peggy looked blearily over the top of her sunglasses. She had a vague thought about the super-soldier serum, but she herself had seen the end of the last sample of Steve’s blood. “A remarkable person, our Rose.”
“We’re lucky to have her,” Daniel agreed. “Now drink that coffee.”