Ten Ladies Dancing
New York, 1946
“Peg,” Angie’s voice wailed from somewhere along the corridor. It really was quite remarkable how she could elongate a three letter word into five whole syllables.
“In here,” Peggy called back from the study of their shared home. Even after several months it was hard to believe Howard had just given them such a beautiful house, but all things considered, Peggy felt she’d earned it.
She sighed and pushed a few files around, trying to find the document she needed to reference as Angie’s footsteps marched closer. She appeared in the doorway and flopped dramatically down into the leather armchair across from Peggy’s desk, a huff on her lips as she yanked off the mint green hat of her diner uniform and dropped it on the floor. “Jeez I thought that shift would never end,” she complained in her brash East Coast lilt, rolling her head back and forth, making her neck click. “Don’t people have homes to go to?”
“Hmm,” said Peggy, only half listening, having found the file she needed and now hastily scribbling down several additional notes on her report.
She could see Angie sit up from the corner of her eye. “You almost done?” she asked, peering over at her work. Although Peggy had now come clean regarding her working for the SSR, she knew it was still risky to bring her investigation home. But the office had closed for the holidays and she still had several cases to catch up on.
“Probably not,” she said without looking up. “Why?”
Angie started tapping her foot, and as distracted as she was Peggy picked up on the fact she didn’t answer right away. “Just thought you might like to do something?”
Peggy finally put her pen down to smile tiredly at her housemate. “Um,” she exhaled, glancing down at her mountain of paperwork. “I’m so sorry, I just don’t think I’m going to get this completed any time soon. It’s been a nightmare day.”
Angie looked crestfallen. “Not even for a couple of hours?”
Peggy realised she must have been missing something, Angie never pestered her if she was busy, not now she knew it wasn’t the phone company that kept her up at all hours. “I take it there’s a special occasion?”
Angie’s eyes went wide, and then she burst out laughing. “Are you kidding English, have you forgotten what day it is?” Peggy’s blank stare gave her her answer. “It’s New Year’s Eve!”
Peggy blinked, and looked around her desk as if that might give her and answer. “Surely not,” she said, perplexed. “Christmas was only a few days ago-”
“Yeah,” said Angie good-naturedly, getting to her feet to lean her hands against the desk. “And then you get New Year’s Eve, happens every year.”
“Blimey.” She’d really had no idea. “Well, dash the report, I think after the year we’ve had we deserve a little celebrating.”
Angie’s face lit up, and she went from despondent to delighted in a flash. “Really?” she asked.
“Of course,” Peggy replied, standing as she closed all her folders up. “I can think of nothing better than a little dancing.”
Angie’s face fell though as she thought of something. “Oh,” she said as Peggy walked around the desk. “Ain’t it a little late to try and get into any parties? I should have booked sooner-”
But Peggy laughed and shook her head. “Oh,” she said assuredly. “I know just the party. And I can guarantee you we’ll already be on the guest list.”
It was just like Stark to hire out an entire hotel for his own amusement, but Peggy couldn’t say she was complaining. The band was lively, the champagne free flowing, and the view over Manhattan was quite spectacular. “Jiminy Cricket,” Angie said as she gaped up at the chandeliers. “This Mr Stark have parties like this often?”
Peggy scanned the crowd. “Why don’t we go ask him ourselves?” she suggested, pointing over to where Howard was propping up a glittering socialite on each arm, laughing and waving his champagne glass in conjunction with whatever anecdote he was telling.
“That’s him?” Angie breathed, then smoothed down her satin gown. “He’s shorter than I thought.”
Peggy snorted back a laugh that would have made her mother clip the back of her head. “Don’t tell him that,” she said, before scrunching up her nose. “Actually, do, it might be quite hilarious.”
Angie was giggling behind her hand now, when suddenly she sobered up. “Oh shoot, he’s coming over.”
And indeed he was, now minus the socialites, but Peggy wasn’t fazed. “Agent Carter,” Howard cried, flinging his arms out wide to embrace her. “You had me thinking you weren’t gonna come, you sly minx.”
Peggy returned his hug eagerly, grinning at Howard’s audacious nature. “I have to keep you guessing somehow,” she chastised him, but it was all in good jest. “Howard, you remember my good friend Angie Martinelli don’t you? Angie this is Mr Stark.”
“Of course,” Howard said, lifting Angie’s hand to kiss her fingers lightly. “The actress.”
“Well,” Angie spluttered. “Not yet, I mean-”
Howard winked at her. “Just a matter of time babe – actually, I do believe we have ourselves some Hollywood types here tonight, what say we go meet them?”
Angie’s mouth dropped open, and stayed there. “Um,” said Peggy, realising Angie probably wasn’t going to be able to muster a sensible word herself for several minutes at least. “That would be delightful,” she insisted on behalf of her new friend to her old. “Lead the way.”
Howard, never one to shy away from a beautiful young lady on his arm, proudly escorted Angie across half the room like the veritable jewel from the crown. Peggy smirked most un-ladylike behind them as the crowds parted biblically like the red sea for their host and his flavour of the moment.
Although, Peggy suddenly remembered her fellow roommates at the Griffith and how easily they had succumbed to Howard’s charms, and she stepped a little closer to her friends to listen in on their conversation. She would be damned to hell and back before she let Stark break Angie’s heart like all his other girls.
Their conversation though was entirely innocent, with Howard ardently prepping Angie for the director she was about to be presented to, and Angie nodding determinedly at everything he was hissing in her ear. Peggy suddenly felt a rush of affection for both her friends.
The director soon materialised from the crowd. He was an elderly chap, all smiles with white hair and moustache, and thick, tinted aviator glasses. But Peggy had little chance to overhear Angie’s introduction, as a familiar face appeared at her side, touching her shoulder gently. “Edwin!” she cried in delight, and embraced Howard’s trusted butler like the dear friend he was. “What a pleasant surprise.”
“I can assure you the feeling is mutual,” her fellow Brit beamed as he pulled away. “May I introduce my wife, Ana Jarvis?”
Peggy spent the next hour or so being thoroughly entertained by the Jarvises, Ana in particular, who’s English was not only excellent but she also had a wicked sense of humour that did not always land in Howard Stark’s favour. The entrepreneur had long since drifted off by this point though, so was unable to defend himself. It was with some surprise when Peggy suddenly felt her elbow seized mid-anecdote and found that Angie was dragging her back into the party, an amused Jarvis and his wife in tow.
“Hell’s Bells, English!” Angie cried, breathless, almost in tears. “He’s got an audition for me, next week, next week! He says I’m perfect!” She gulped and grabbed her arm tighter. “Pegs, do you have any idea who that guy was!”
“Hmm,” Peggy replied ambiguously. “I can make a good guess.”
From somewhere within the building, a clock started to chime, and the band began rallying a countdown from ten.
“Good lord,” Peggy said as a knowing-looking waitress pushed glasses of champagne into her and Angie’s hands. “Is it midnight already?”
“Seems like!” Angie gushed, bouncing on her heels. “Well, if this ain’t been a doozy of a year, but here’s hoping 1947 is a real cracker!”
She chinked her glass against Peggy’s, and she found a most unusual flush of heat reaching her cheeks. Angie was just so adorable when she threw her cares to the wind. Peggy simply watched her as they counted down…
Confetti and glitter exploded from the ceiling as a rousing chorus of cheers and whistles boomed through the room. The band began a jubilant rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and the crowd all turned in messy fusion to hug and kiss one another.
Peggy was startled when she suddenly felt a warm pair of lips press against her cheek, and a moment after they were gone, she turned to see a bashful looking Angie blushing into her glass.
“Angela my dear,” Peggy said, unable to keep the amusement out of her voice or off of her face. “Did you just kiss me?”
“Shut up English,” Angie said, not looking back at Peggy but still apparently very pleased with herself. “You talk too much.”