Radio Girls - Sarah-Jane Stratford Page 0,1

we’ll have moved somewhere a bit more smart by then, I’d think. Don’t you?”

Maisie did, though only because Mrs. Crewe wasn’t likely to buy a radio anytime before doomsday.

Lola and the other boarders all had friends willing to host “listening in” parties, where everyone gathered to enjoy something or other from the BBC, usually the plays or music, but of late the Talks. Maisie was not so lucky, which was part of why she was so interested to know more. She secretly agreed with Mrs. Crewe that there was something terrifying about a disembodied voice, and it was bizarre that it could originate from another part of London and yet sound as clear as someone sitting across the table. A lot of people were afraid of the wireless, certain that all this new technology was a harbinger of evil spirits, or a means of bridging the gap to the spirit world. Maisie wasn’t sure what she believed.

What she knew for an incontrovertible fact, however, was that her funds had dwindled to one pound, thirteen shillings, and ninepence. Despite her nonpareil expertise with frugality, this little pile of coins represented a week of food and shelter. Her family, such as it was, lived in New York and Toronto, and none of them would respond favorably—or politely—to a request for assistance. There was nothing else for it. She had to get this job.

“Let me put some makeup on you. All those BBC girls wear makeup, I’m sure,” Lola insisted. Maisie demurred. She couldn’t risk the unknown Miss Shields thinking she was fast.

Or stupid enough to think makeup would improve me. Maisie sighed, focusing on the nose people called “Roman” when they were being kind and wishing her gaunt face boasted at least one other notable feature. I suppose I should be grateful I haven’t got a boil.

She saved her gratitude for the popularity of the bob. It was a great gift to women like herself, cursed with fine, lank hair, and she wholeheartedly embraced it. Her hair might be dull and dirty-dishwater brown, but was less offensive for being short and unmoving on her head, with a severe fringe laboring hard to give her face something approximating a shape. She wished she had a decent cloche, something with a rhinestone flourish near the ear, or perhaps a little feather. Her tired black wool hat was so plain and obviously cheap. But it was clean, and careful brushing masked the worst of the patchiness.

The forcible English tones of her Toronto-born and -raised grandmother echoed as Maisie rolled her stockings up her thighs and clamped them in place: “Well? Aren’t you going to thank me?” And Maisie was grateful that the woman’s passion for thrift and sharp things had given her the skill to mend her black wool stockings so well. Modern women wore beige or pastel stockings—some of them silk!—but black was still acceptable and these weren’t too awful, so long as no one looked closely.

Lots of luck there. She frowned at her skinny, shapeless legs, wishing she’d appreciated longer skirts more when they were still in style.

As for her shoes, she would just have to keep her feet flat on the floor to hide the holes. The cheap Oxfords had tarried valiantly for five years, but even if they could be repaired again, she couldn’t bear it. Every time she put them on, she wanted to cry.

As she tied the laces, she remembered one of the few pieces of advice her mother, Georgina, occasionally offered: “It is always best to have less if one must, so long as everything you wear is