Nori primped herself in front of the mirror. Her brown hair fell down her back in waves and tickled the skin there. Her lips were plump and red, her lashes thick and eyes wide. The dress for tonight was shimmery purple number that hugged her curves and left her back and shoulders exposed. Tomorrow the soldiers would be sent out. They deserved Nori at her best.
"Band's awaiting," Bofur, her pianist, poked his head in. "The club's hot tonight."
"Who's the lead sax tonight?" Nori asked, moving away from her mirror.
"Your little brother," Bofur grinned. His eyes carried over Nori's figure appreciatively. "You look gorgeous."
"That's what they pay me for, darling," Nori pressed kiss to Bofur's cheek.
Nori stood just off backstage and watched as the band finished their last number. Bofur slunk around and sat back at his piano, his brother on the drums and cousin thrumming the bass. Her little brother, little Ori, was on his saxophone, playing his little heart out. Nori swelled with pride. It didn't matter that Dori didn't approve of their profession. Dori didn't understand the music. She was a perfect little house-wife with 'respectable' tastes. None of this jazz for her.
But jazz was Nori's heart and soul. The swinging beats and soft tap of the drum set. The bright brass and sliding trombones. The trilling notes on the piano. The beat of the bass. The sensual pitch of the saxophone that sounded like moonlit nights. Nori could stand on the stage of this club, the band and combo behind her, and she could sing. She heard wind that she was one of the best vocalist in all of New York. Nori didn't like to brag but... she was the best.
As expected, the audience was mostly soldiers, spending one last night on the town before heading off to war. They were getting younger. Well, Nori straightened up and smiled brightly. She would give them a last night to remember.
Dwalin hunched over in his seat. He didn't know what he was doing, letting Thorin talk him into this. He wanted to spend his last night slobbering drunk, not sitting in some ridiculous jazz club.
"Trust me," Thorin said. "They say the singer here is the best in the state."
"Don't care," Dwalin sighed miserably, downing a shot of whiskey.
"You will once you see her," Thorin grinned.
Dwalin wasn't sure about that as he eyed the stage. He didn't not like jazz. It just wasn't his style of music, to be honest. These kind of clubs weren't his place to be. He felt uncomfortable sitting here. Out of place. He could practically feel the stares. Thorin hit him and pointed to the stage.
Walking to the microphone was the most beautiful woman Dwalin had ever seen. Her hair cascaded down her back in soft brown waves. He could almost hear the slide of fabric on skin as she sauntered, the purple dress curving around her. Thorin might have been laughing beside him, but Dwalin could hardly hear him.
Then she sang.
Even Dwalin, as uneducated as he was with music, knew that she was the best. It was the way her voice, so deep and rich, seemed to curl around the words.
Have you ever heard two turtle doves
Bill and coo, when they love?
That's the kind of magic music we make with our lips
When we kiss
She swayed back and forth to the music and what Dwalin wouldn't give to kiss her. He wanted his hands in her soft hair and around her petite waist.
Lullaby of birdland whisper low
Kiss me sweet, and we'll go
Flying high in birdland, high in the sky up above
All because we're in love
Dwalin swore she winked at him at that last line. Then the song was over. He wanted to jump up to her, propose to her maybe, but she started singing again. Dwalin was utterly enraptured. The way her hips swung slightly to the beat, the way her fingers barely touched the microphone, her sultry smile into the crowd. He was ready and willing to forgive Thorin for dragging him here.
Thorin slapped him on the shoulder and, with a huge amount of regret, Dwalin saw her walk off stage.
"Wasn't so bad, was it?" Thorin grinned smugly.
"Shut up," Dwalin pushed Thorin's hand off.
"Her name is Nori."
Nori. Dwalin nodded to himself. When this war was over, when he was back from Europe (he didn't think if), then he was going to find Nori and take her out to dinner. Yes. Dwalin would come back from England, from the war, for her.
Nori sat at her dresser and stared at her reflection. The performance had gone without a hitch, naturally. She had sung her songs flawlessly, Ori performed his sax solo without any mistakes, but she was unsettled.
It was the man in the back, she decided. His broad shoulders that were perfect for her hands to grab. His wide chest that she wanted to drag her fingers across. He was a soldier, dressed to the nines with his head shaven clean. That was nothing. Nori had seen plenty of men like that in her day.
There was something in his eyes. The way he stared at her like she was an angel. During her entire performance, his gaze never once wavered from her. Not even when his friend was pushing a mug of beer into his hands.
She knew she wouldn't rest unless she'd at least learned his name. That decided, she grabbed her coat and hat, and rushed back into the club. Half the men were walking out, only coming to see her sing, and paid no attention to her as she flitted about. Nori had no idea what had come over her. Something about that man, though, something about him hit her in her heart and she had to see him before he left for Europe.
He was at the bar with his friend, the two of them sharing a drink. Nori pushed her way through and tapped him on the shoulder. He turned and his face went slack.
"I'm Nori," she said, sticking her hand out. "I saw you watching me."
"I- did you?" the man said, taking her hand in his.
"Well, yeah," Nori shrugged, not thinking about the soft calloused hand around hers. "I'm on stage and people... well... people watch."
"I can't blame them," the man said. "You're beautiful. I would spend every waking moment staring at you if I could."
Nori blushed, something she hadn't done in years.
"What's your name, soldier?" she asked.
"Well, Dwalin," Nori touched her fingertips to his broad chest, "come back from Europe and we might have a drink."
"Just a drink?" Dwalin asked.
"A celebratory one," Nori said, a little breathless. "When you win the war for us."
"Call it a date then," Dwalin lifted her hand to his lips.
"A date," Nori agreed.