Hey guys! Welcome to my new story. Some of you may have read my stuff before but it's been a long time since I've published anything. Honestly, I found this story that I wrote a long time ago and decided to publish it. I've been working on editing it and I hope you'll enjoy it. The whole story is already written so I am committing to finishing the whole thing. I started by uploading two chapters, but hopefully will add one a week. Read and enjoy!
Crossing Bridges: Chapter 1
Elizabeth and Kat
A journey of a thousand miles,
Must begin with a single step. ~Loa Tzu
A slightly crazed sixteen-year-old girl jumped up and down on her bed enjoying the feeling of her skirts swishing about her feet. Her blond hair was curled to perfection and the bounced merrily with each upward motion.
"Elizabeth Hearst, I just made that bed! If I see you've messed the sheets with your filthy feet you'll get it." Elizabeth's Nana called as she climbed the steps to Elizabeth's room.
Elizabeth smiled and jumped down from the bed landing with an unladylike plop on the wooden floors. She hastily smoothed the covers back in place and sat down innocently.
"Behave!" Nana stuck her head in the door and glared. She disappeared again and Elizabeth walked over to the window. Placing her hands on the sill of the window, Elizabeth strained to see the plaza below. Across the street, the distribution center for "The Journal" was bursting with newsboys and girls who were happily playing different games. She marveled at their freedom and worry-free lives.
"It is hot in hear, Nana." Elizabeth whined letting out a deep sigh, "I want to go outside."
Nana walked into her room and picked up a hairbrush on the bureau in the corner. "Nonsense, it's hotter outside. Come, child, we must get ready for your father's meeting tonight. He's having important men over. He expects your brightest smile and best behavior." Nana sat on the bed and motioned for Elizabeth to come join her.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes and suppressed another sigh. She'd much rather sit at the window and watch all the things going on outside. Her father owned one of the largest newspapers in New York. He always had important meetings. She, however, loved to sit and dream of her life if she had been a Newsie for her father instead of his daughter. Surely it would have been ripe with adventure and daring acts. Nothing like the life she led now.
"Elizabeth Hearst! Are you even listening child?" Nana's voice cut into her daydream. Elizabeth spun and frowned at her Nana. She was sitting and waiting, her face turned down in a frown.
"I was listening." Elizabeth insisted walking over to the bed and allowing her Nana to begin brushing her hair. After she finished, her expert fingers wove Elizabeth's hair into a lose braid and then twisted it loosely against her head in a bun. Elizabeth went to the mirror and studied the style carefully. As usual, Nana had done a perfect job.
"Those poor children," Nana said her voice breaking with emotion. "You should be thankful you've been saved from such difficulties yourself, Elizabeth."
Elizabeth furrowed her eyebrows and sighed, "I think it would be wonderful to have the freedom they have! How much better it would be to run around all day then to have to attend dinner parties."
Nana turned and in a strict voice said, "Elizabeth Hearst, you take that back. Now I'd be the last woman to say you have it easy, but you keep taking advantage of what you have, and you'll soon find you know longer have it. Go downstairs for dinner."
Elizabeth obediently slipped down the stairs. On the outside, she looked like a happy little girl, but deep inside she could still hear the laugher of the newsies ringing in her head.
Kat raced down the streets of New York one hand holding newspapers and the other hand trying to keep her hat on. Her green skirt swished around her ankles and nearly tripped her as she weaved in and out of the people filling the street. Her blond hair slipped out of her hat and fell down her back. Oh well. She thought bitterly.
Her blue eyes scanned the street looking for obstacles or people who might slow down her pace. Seeing none, she sprinted the last few feet to the Manhattan lodging house for Newsboys and Newsgirls. Throwing open the door she barely avoided a tall boy who had been leaving the lodging house. With a slight squeal she caught herself on the table.
"In a rush much?" The boy asked. Kat looked apologetically at her fearless leader Jack Kelly aka Cowboy. Kat shrugged her shoulders and adjusted her hat. She avoided the blue eyes of Jack and looked instead at the others who were filing into the lodging house. No one sat on the chairs or benches but stood around waiting for Jack to head out.
"How's the paper sellin'?" Racetrack asked. He winked one of his big, brown eyes and nudged her. "I got a hit down at the tracks."
"That's great." Kat replied. "I just finished selling for the day."
"Already?" Jack asked.
"I had something to do, so I went fast." Kat explained. She turned and started up the stairs.
"What if you couldn't pay him back?" Jack's voice stopped her. Blast it. How had he found out?
"I got the money." Kat said in a hushed tone. She stopped walking but refused to turn around.
"Listen, Spot's a friend but I don't want none of my Newsies owin' money to no one. It's a risky business that's rarely leads any place good. No one likes a debtor."
Kat sighed deeply. If this was what it was like to have a father, she wanted nothing to do with it. "I am not a debtor. Plus, I got the money."
Jack put his arm on Kat and spun her around gently, "Next time you need something you ask me first. Got it? If your father comes looking for you, we've got your back. We'll give him a soakin' he'll never forget." A few people in the back muttered their agreement.
"Alright, Jack. I swear I'll ask you first next time." Kat tried to look apologetic and Jack let her run upstairs. She shut the door to the washroom with a sign. If only it were that easy.
Elizabeth sat at the dinner table trying to appear interested in the meeting. Because it was inappropriate to discuss business at the table, everyone had resorted to talking about the weather. She held back a chuckle when one of the men asked if her father was enjoying the weather. It is the beginning of summer; no one is enjoying the heat.
Mr. Pulitzer, who sat across from Elizabeth, looked almost as bored as Elizabeth felt. He was playing with the last of his food, chasing it around with his fork. Everyone in this room were competitors, so things got tense pretty quickly. Elizabeth looked at her father, his strong jaw set squarely and his dark brown eyes intensely listening to the speaker across the table. Since her mother was ill, it was Elizabeth's job to sit near her father. He was a strong and scary man. She felt small and vulnerable next to him. As though he sensed Elizabeth's gaze he turned and looked at her.
"Perhaps you should retire to the Parlor while the men and I discuss other things, Darling. We will join you momentarily."
Elizabeth jumped at the opportunity to leave. She swept out of the room and into the parlor. Knowing that their discussion could go on for a significant amount of time, she didn't bother sitting down. Instead, she wandered aimlessly until she got to the piano. She plucked a few keys and then moved on to a picture of her mother. Her mother was a delicate woman with fine cheekbones and wavy dark hair. Elizabeth looked nothing like her. It was a miracle that no one ever guessed the Hearst's family secret. Elizabeth was adopted. The first Elizabeth had died and they chose the second Elizabeth to take her place. What would my life have been like if I had never come here?
Elizabeth's daydreaming was interrupted when someone entered the room. "Are you getting lonely in here?" Johnathan Pulitzer was standing in the doorway. His hair was slicked back and his clothes sharply pressed. Everything about him was measured and precise.
"Not at all." Elizabeth replied, "I was enjoying myself." The silence that followed was nothing short of awkward.
"Elizabeth," Jonathan started stepping forward. He must have given up on her to begin the conversation. "I know this may be a shock but I've been watching you since we were children."
Elizabeth tried to hide her confusion. Times spent with Jonathan as a child were not her fondest memories. "I seem to recall you were somewhat of a bully." She responded lightly.
"We were children, Liz." Jonathan continued. "We have become friends. I am hoping we could become more."
Elizabeth breathed quickly and tried to imagine what he was asking. Could he truly be proposing? It didn't seem possible. "I don't know what you want me to say."
"I'm proposing an engagement, or at least a commitment to an engagement. Our families are such good friends and I believe it would be mutually beneficial if we were to be wed. Not now, but eventually. Perhaps? Would you consider it?"
"I don't know what you want me to say." Elizabeth repeated dumbly. Jonathan laughed.
"You've said that already, so just say yes! Your father will be very happy to hear the news. This whole arrangement was his idea."
Her father appeared in the doorway followed by his friends. Elizabeth made up an excuse about not feeling well and bid the men goodnight.
Kat began getting ready for her trip to Brooklyn. She hurried as much as she could. Wouldn't want to keep Spot waiting. It slightly irritated her that she had to make a whole trip down there. Her original plan was to pay Spot up front but she just couldn't wait any longer. Kat always moved around a lot. It wasn't like her to hold still for very long. She started feeling edgy, like someone was watching her. When you've spent your whole like running, it was hard to slow down the pace.
Being with the newsies was different. They offered security and safety. Kat was committed to slowing down and settling down. However, the itching feeling in the back of her neck wouldn't go away. That where Spot came in. He had the tightest woven spy network. He had gotten information on her father and listened around to see what he was up to. As far as anyone could tell her father had either moved on or was looking in the wrong places. She wished she felt better.
Kat washed her hair and then braided it down her back. She scrubbed her face and then put on her best clothes, a burnt red shirt with an off-white button up shirt. She was trying to look her most professional. Anything that would help Spot take her seriously. She frowned slightly at her boney appearance. It was hard to feel confident when every bone in her body stuck out and her skirt was almost falling off her waist. She was short and still looked too much like a child. Her newsie hat was too short and constantly fell over her face. It only added to her infuriatingly pathetic look.
Outside was hot and muggy. It was the time of year that was an awkward transition between late spring and early summer. It brought rain and heat together. Cursing the sun, Kat began walking down the street.
"Buy me last pape, miss?" Kat spun to see Crutchy leaning heavily on his crutch and smiley his wide toothed smile.
"Hiya Crutchy. How is it going?"
Crutchy chuckled at his own joke. "Well it ain't too bad, ya know?"
"I do, Crutch." Kat responded. She started walking waiting for Crutchy to fall in line.
"I hear you're going down to Brooklyn."
"Yup, I have to pay Spot back. He found my father."
Crutchy frowned, "You're brave, Kat. That guy gives me the creeps."
Kat laughed and shrugged. She was afraid too though if she was being honest. Just give him the money and move on.
"You goin' alone?" Crutchy asked.
"Yup." Kat replied. She offered no explanation.
"Okay but if you ain't back by tomorrow, I'm goin' down there to find you."
Kat smiled to herself happily, "Thanks, Crutchy."
Crutchy nodded his hand and slipped away shouting the headline at the top of his lungs.
Elizabeth fought back tears as she stuffed clothes, a hair brush, and some money into the sack she'd stolen from the kitchen. As she worked, she replayed her father's conversation in her head.
"Father. I do not even know him!" She had protested. She stood in his office while he finished up his paperwork.
"You will marry him, daughter. Accept it and move on." Mr. Hearst didn't even look up from his desk.
"Father, I'm sixteen!" Elizabeth slammed her foot against the wooden floor hoping the noise would make him look up.
"Exactly, you cannot spend your whole life locked in your room with your Nanny to care for you. It is time to grow up."
"I won't marry him."
"I don't know him."
"I do. That should be enough."
It wasn't. Elizabeth fled her father's office and ran upstairs. She was going to grow up alright. Grow up and prove that she didn't need her father. Slipping off her shoes, Elizabeth snuck downstairs and out the door. It was her intention to never come back.
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