1963

The year is 1963. Billie Eastman, the daughter of Republican congressman whose world has been sharply shaken at the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, is a renowned siren - and a wailing one at that. Her father wants her to marry a man whom she despises, and yet she seems to have taken a shining to a man who just happens to be her father's enemy: Jack King, Democrat.
And now, amidst political parties at loggerheads; in a world that belongs to men, a conspiracy has emerged - who assassinated JFK? Jack King says one thing, her father another - but whose word will she take?

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2. Chapter One

The year was 1963 - pill-box hats, Beatlemania and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

It practically blew America apart - to the rest of the world it was a pothole if not simply an indentation, and yet to us it was an ink blot the size of the Mississippi Delta on a small silk handkerchief. My father being my father and the ridiculously republic Republican that he was, he did not seem to care for the whole affair all that much; whilst the entire country was in mourning, my  father pranced around in a provocative yellow silk suit. Heartless, really - although where else was I supposed to get it from?

He wore something similar that evening as I'd seen him screaming at a young coloured maid for a small smudge of something-or-other on the collar. If that wasn't republican then I don't know what was. Catching sight of myself in the mirror opposite, I bite down on my bottom lip; cock my head to one side. Something wasn't right. Lipstick.

They often wondered how something beautiful came from something so mundane - the mundanity being my father - although I often wondered whether they had factored my mother into the equation in producing my genetics. After all, she was a five-time Miss America. Was, being the operative word - she was trampled during a civil rights march back in 1953. My father always told me that she wasn't participating - of course, it would have left his career in tatters if she had been - and that she was simply passing by. Passing by in the centre of the crowd, perhaps? Unlikely. After all, it was only a matter of time before their marriage crumbled, particularly as it had no substance. There are varying forms of the same formula - beauty queen, rich man - and the statistics are not the slightest in their favour.

The familiar opening notes of Nat King Cole's Ramblin' Rose float through the crack in the bedroom door, and I sway to the music as I make my way across the room. Did my father catch sight of me doing such a thing he would no doubt have my head, for it was coloured music - God forbid they do anything but farm cotton. The hypocrisy that it played as his own party was laughable, and yet he seemed far too imbecilic to even realise. I didn't care much for civil rights or coloureds for that matter, but I confessed to enjoy a good coloured tune.

The rail is cool in my palm, the oak smooth and without ridges where I rest it lightly before ascending the staircase. Heads are swivelling - craning - to get a glimpse of the blonde bombshell before she disappears into the crowd gathered in the lobby, awaiting the ballroom doors to be opened. The gradual hush eventually forms to become pin-droppable silence, with only the gentle taps of my heels against the marble floor to be heard. I approach the bar.

'Martini,' I say, and the spotted young barman flushes and scuttles away. A whisper breaks the silence, and soon murmurings and whisperings and mutterings build the noise up once more - not to the same level, of course. I perch on a high stool and slip one leg over another, the deep slit falling to reveal the entirety of my right leg. The barman soon returns and flashes me a yellowed-teeth grin, the colour still flourishing on his cheeks.

I catch wives eyeing me with suspicion - that, and perhaps a little envy. The heat of several meaty fingers cinching my upper arm is abrupt. 'Did I not say no to the red dress?' my father mutters.

'I'm not sure,' I reply coolly. 'I'm not always inclined to listen to your blathering.'

'Everyone is looking...' he grumbles.

'Oh, let them look,' I say softly; smile. I sip on the drink in my hand.

He wrenches it away, the liquid sloshing from the rim and onto his silk cuff. His nose is practically an extension of my own. 'Young, respectable,' he spits that word, 'women do not drink.'

The veins bulge in his eyes, and I ease a smile onto my lips. 'Father,' I murmur, 'I fear you are making a scene.' He detracts his face from mine almost instantly, further liquid sloshing onto his suit, and possesses a look of utter dumbfounding. Someone bangs a gong somewhere and the doors to the ballroom are opened, and soon a minion of my father's is at his side. He glances back only once as the man pulls him away, and he raises his eyebrows in warning - not that that mattered awfully. If the previous exchange showed only one thing it was that the only person that had remote control over my father was me.

The barman makes me a replacement Martini, and I smile slightly before turning to face the open doors of the ballroom. Frigid-Frocks-Galore would perhaps be more fitting - wives wore innocent, flowery patterned dresses that flowed to the knee. That, or pastel-coloured pencil skirts that were a little ill-fitting accompanied by some form of blouse - those were the ones that lived by less means. The waist-clinching, bust-bulging, arse-rounding red dress that I wore was almost other worldly.

The song changes then - Chubby Checker's The Twist - and a cluster of guests emerge from the ballroom, supposedly deterred by the upbeat nature of it. I watch women eye me cautiously, their claws sunk deep into their husband's forearms; I flash them a small smile before swivelling in my chair and thrusting my glass at the barman. He takes it.

'Are you not a little too young to drink?' a voice murmurs, and I smile absent-mindedly but do not look up to match the voice with the face.

'And just how old do you think I am?' I ask.

'Seventeen?'

'No,' I say.

Eighteen?' the voice guesses.

'That's an adult,' I say, 'and you're wrong again.'

'Nineteen?' There is a smile in the voice now, and I glance up to find myself face-to-face with Jack King. Democrat - perhaps the biggest democrat of them all - and my father's arch-nemesis, the man's smile is attractive despite the slightly crooked yet gleaming nature of his teeth.

'Ding ding ding,' I say quietly. 'Now, are you going to buy me something?'

'Its a free bar,' he smiles.

'That's not quite as classy,' I say, my eyes fixed on him.

He laughs. 'Oh, so you want me to buy something that I could have for free?'

'If you're as classy as they say,' I say softly, 'then you would.'

'I would, would I?' He leans into the bar then, his hand drawing toward me. His eyes dance with amusement. 'Jack King.'

Without glancing down, I place my hand in his and smile. 'Billie Eastman.'

I watch as his eyebrows rise, although not as drastically as I had hoped. 'Eastman, huh?' he says slowly.

'Indeed,' I say.

He draws back so that he is standing upright but our fingers remain interlocked. 'A relation to Maurice, I suppose?'

'His daughter, actually,' I smirk.

There is a slight pause whilst he looks away, a smile etching its way onto his lips and he laughs - ever so slightly - before his eyes are on me once more. 'So you're the one that everybody's talking about.'

'As always,' I say, and this makes him smile further.

'With a slit the size of the Empire State in her dress?'

I bite back a laugh. 'I guess so.'

He leans in closer to me, conspiratorially. 'They don't like it, you know - the wives, I mean.' Loosening my fingers from his, I take the Martini that the barman holds out to me; take a sip.

'Jealousy, I suppose,' I say eventually.

He grins. 'My wife thinks it quite diabolical.'

'Oh but sir,' I say with a smirk, leaning forward, 'I think that your wife's dress is equally as diabolical, if not increasingly so.' My tone is grating, condescending, spiteful - and yet the laugh that rips from him takes me quite by surprise.

'My darling,' he laughs, 'I think even she knows that.' The barman holds out his drink to him now and, turning to go, he turns back once more and digs in his jacket pocket before producing a one-dollar bill. He hands it to me with a slight smile.

'And just what do I do with this?' I call after him.

'That's all I have,' he says, and has now stopped to face me. 'Perhaps I'll buy you another drink some other time.'

'You'll be as lucky.'

'Oh, I know,' he says, 'but you know what they say.'

'And what's that?' I laugh.

'Lightning always strikes twice.'

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