They make bank, at first. They perform everywhere, from bars and costly theatres all full of stuffy fucks who don’t know a thing about life outside. It’s the novelty of their act that helps them get by, lets them stay relevant. Two beautiful girls who could have been hanged dancing together, and there’s speculation on how they met, what exactly they do after the show, why they live in such a tiny apartment when they could both have bought large houses and still have money to spare. One particular rumour sells the most papers, complete with a photo of Velma kissing Roxie’s cheek in gratitude. As coined by Miss Sunshine “ Lucky Ladies of the Cook County Jail Have A Beautiful Friendship...Or is it Something More?”
The reality is different, but reality doesn’t sell papers.
Roxie can count all the words Velma Kelly has ever said to her in the privacy of their own home on one hand. Whatever they have is less of a friendship and a mutual tolerance, but Roxie doesn’t mind.
But the money starts running out five years into their act. There have been far too many scandals in Chicago. So now, no one cares if two murderers do vaudeville, no matter how good they are.
Roxie doesn’t start really considering this fact until it’s too late. She denies it for as long as she can, until the day of their last show after a tour around the rest of America. She glances at their three legged kitchen table that’s stacked high with bills they have yet to pay.
She really shouldn’t be surprised. They’d known that this would happen, eventually - well, Velma knew it would because Velma’s been doing this shit since before she could spell her own name and knows more about money than Roxie could ever hope to - so she’s put some of their savings in some sketchy sounding trust fund account in a bank downtown that mostly caters to gangsters. “It’ll keep the money safe,” Velma had assured her, “and there’s enough to last us a couple months.”
But then what? Roxie doesn’t know. She’s got nothing left. No husband. No headlines. No act. Not even a baby.
They’re sitting in their living room, Roxie by the window, lying on her back. Velma reads a magazine because there’s nothing good on the radio. Every station has the same song by some young thing singing softly about white picket fences and true love and endless summer. They listen to it anyway, quieter than usual.
“We could up the ante,” Roxie suggests, lighting her fifth cigarette of the evening. She knows that they’d save even more if either of them quit smoking, but there’s no chance of that happening. Everyone needs a little bit of oblivion. Besides, Roxie’s mother was practically prescribed them by her doctor, even whilst she was pregnant and it seems that the apple really doesn’t fall too far from the tree, in some cases. “Then we could get a few more shows, at least...but how?”
“Your wedding ring’s gone,” Velma says, and it is not a question but rather a statement of fact. “Thought you’d kept it to get some sympathy or whatever.”
“Yeah, it is,” Roxie sighs, because it’s rare that Velma even tries to start a conversation, shocked that Velma even noticed. There are some things you can’t go through without building some kind of bond, and Roxie supposes that being two ex convicts is one of them. “It was his great grandmother’s but considerin’ Amos left me after I got proved innocent, I thought we may as well get some money out of it.”
“I like the way you think,” Velma replies and it’s one of the only compliments she’s ever given Roxie in private, without cameras or stage lights or heavy curtains reminding her it’s all an act. “Wish I’d done that, but I threw mine down a storm drain same night of the incident, not that I remember anything.”
Roxie moves closer to the open windows, letting the smoke out. “Say, I always wondered...Did you...did you ever love your husband?”
Velma doesn’t even have to think about it. “No. You?”
Roxie shrugs. She’s tried to forget as much of her life with Amos as she can. “I guess not. He was my ticket outta my parent’s farm so I took what I could get.”
“See,” Velma smirks. “I’ve finally found something we have in common aside from being convicted murderers.”
“And hating each other,” Roxie adds, even though that might not be as true as it was when she spat it at her. She glances down at the place her wedding ring once was, and shuts her eyes for a second, breathing in. “I just...I dunno what to do anymore, Velma. It’s terrifying. Even at the trial I knew what I was doin’ but now -”
“Don’t worry about it,” Velma says as if that will actually help. “No one really knows what they’re doing. That’s life.
“Fuck that,” Roxie says. “Fuck that and fuck Amos and fuck your husband.”
“I did,” Velma says, almost smiling. “Not that he was any good.” Velma has no qualms about disrespecting the dead. Velma has no qualms about a lot of things.
“Something else we have in common,” Roxie mutters.
“Fear not darlin’,” Velma says. “I got something real special planned for our final show. You just...promise me you’ll go along with it, alright?”
Roxie just nods and goes along with it. A small part of her still feels like the puppet Billy Flynn made her out to be.
The theatre is still packed, and by the end of the show Roxie’s exhausted and sweat soaked. But the curtain hasn’t fallen. Velma is staring at her, and she puts her gloves hand in the air to quiet the crowd. The spotlight shines in Roxie’s eyes. She blinks, bats her eyelashes.
“I wanna let you all in on a little secret…” Velma smiles, all teeth, wraps an arm around Roxie’s waist, tender as Roxie’s ever seen her. “Roxie here...well, she’s the love of my life. She’s been through so much with her husband leaving her for the crime of bein’ innocent and losing her poor baby to heaven and yet she was still there to help me with the show and anything and everything I asked. And I just...I just can’t keep it in anymore...” Velma gets down on one knee, her stocking riding up her thigh, showing off. The crowd is silent in anticipation. Someone in the back barks out something obscene. Roxie can’t breathe, but keeps a smile plastered on her face. Velma holds up a velvet box, takes out a ring that Roxie’s never seen before. “My baby girl, I love you more than anyone....marry me?”
Roxie grins up at her, sounds as if she’s about to cry. It’s good for the cameras. “Yes!”
They’ve never gotten louder cheering in their entire time on stage.
Velma is holding her hand. Velma has said more to her on this night than she has in months. A small part of Roxie doesn’t think it’s all lies.
They give a final bow, the curtain falls and Roxie gets the distinct feeling that nothing will ever be the same.
It’s probably for the best; Roxie’s always done better with plot twists.