Disclaimer: All recognizable characters/places/plot lines belong to their rightful owners. No infringement is intended. No money is being made by this story.
"I saw the light, I saw the light.
No more darkness, no more night."
I Saw the Light – Hank Williams
August 15, 1917 – Richford, New York – Stark Residence
"Elizabeth, we can't keep her."
"And why not? She's our daughter! She's – "
"A girl," Howard Stark Sr finished bitterly, looking down at the small dark-haired bundle swaddled in his wife's arms. "She'll never amount to anything in my line of work. We'll be lucky to have her married off to a proper suitor when she's of age. Her dowry alone would be – "
Blue eyes looked up at the man, a small sniffle away from full-blown tears. It had been a nasty shock to find out the baby they had been expecting was a twin. A beautiful, porcelain baby girl. But the world needed strong men, not delicate flowers that were girls.
"You want to give her away," Elizabeth realized softly, dragging her index finger down the baby's plump cheek. Fascination overwhelmed her when her daughter blinked up at her with wide eyes.
Howard grunted in response, looking down at the bassinet that held his heir. Howard, named aptly for his father of course, was fast asleep and sucking on his fist as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. A girl would just complicate things. Stark Industries was just starting to get up and running and two children would be too much to look over.
Sighing, he sat on the edge of the bed. "Frankton will take her to the orphanage in the city."
"She already has her words," she said quietly. "Two sets of them. They say the same thing – "
"Her words aren't our concern."
August 16, 1917 – New York City, New York
He knew it was a bad idea to let her go with him. Mr. Stark had given strict orders that the babe be separated from her mother, but he couldn't deprive Miss Elizabeth of saying goodbye.
"This will do, Louis."
The Model T crept to a stop in front of the Hebrew Orphan Asylum and idled.
The short blonde exited the car, securing the bundled child to her chest, clutching her tightly. It was a whirlwind of pain knowing that her child was going to grow up without a family, but Howard simply wouldn't budge. A Stark, a Stark, was being cast aside in favor of the other and it made no sense to anyone but the one doing the casting.
"My sweet little girl," Elizabeth cooed, smiling at the slumbering infant. "You will do great things with your life. You may not be a Stark by name, but you are by blood. And Starks never give up, baby."
Before she thought better of it, she asked Frankton for a pen and notebook, which he fumbled for longer than either cared to admit. When she had it in hand, she ripped a page out of the binding and wrote something short on it before pinning it to the front of the infant's blanket.
"Good luck, Darcy Lewis."
September 13, 1922 – New York City, New York – The Hebrew Orphan Asylum
Small feet scurried across the floor and the small girl struggled to pull on her threadbare socks. The cold was starting to creep into the old concrete building and, not for the first time, she longed to have a blanket warm enough to sustain the chill. It was a weird life that she lived in the orphanage, but she made do.
A simple tug to her sleeves and they covered the words swirling around both wrists. Mrs. Edgewater had explained soul marks to her before, but she thought it was silly. How could someone find the one other person that matched their words? Ridiculous.
A look out the window told her that it was nearly time for supper and the thought of broth with a stick of celery was less than appealing seeing as that's what she'd eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner all week.
Forcing her too-small shoes on – the only ones that actually fit were her ballet shoes and they were getting so worn that it hurt to dance - she puttered about the room for a few moments before she yanked open the door and careened down the stairs.
"And where do you think you're going?"
"Aw, Mrs. Edgewater, please? The streetlights will go out soon if I don't play now. I finished all my chores and – "
"There are dishes in the sink, Darcy. Hop to it and we'll see about going out to play."
Darcy grumbled to herself as she trudged into the kitchen. The privileges weren't the same for her as they were for the boys. Dishes, cooking, laundry – that was what she and the other girls got to do instead of playing in the streets until the gaslights came on. The only way out if you were a girl was to get a job, but no one wanted to hire a mouthy five-year-old.
Her stepstool was already next to the sink and she groaned. From the window above the sink, she had the perfect view of the boys playing in the back alley in the fading sun. The dishes were already soaped up and she bit her tongue as she scrubbed each and every one of them until the light disappeared completely and the rickety orphanage was alive again with noise.
When supper rolled around it was a subdued affair, for her anyway. She refused to do anything but gnaw at her celery stick. The broth was handed off to one of the younger boys that she knew wasn't getting enough to eat and she disappeared into her shared room upstairs after merely a quarter of an hour.
Her roommates had been adopted a few weeks ago and she was still trying to get used to the lack of noise. They had been twins and she envied how it must feel to always have someone with you when all she'd known had been loneliness.
Thoughts swirled around her head late into the night and she barely realized she was still dressed to go out. Sitting up from the cheap blankets that cushioned the hard floor that she slept on, she switched on her gaslight in the corner of the room and set to work on prying off the small shoes she'd jammed her feet in earlier. Sometimes, when the food was bad or the weather was too cold, she got angry at all the kids who had food to eat and a bed to sleep on. What it would be like to have clothes that fit and to be told by a doctor that she was healthy as a horse! Not a cause for worry.
Her head jerked up as her door opened and closed, a man suddenly on her side of it.
"Who the hell are you? What do you want?"
"I saw the light – "
"I'll scream. I'll scream so loud that Mrs. Edgewater will hear and she'll come a runnin' down here!"
"I saw the light," he repeated, shaking his head at her blank look. "'Neath the door? It's pretty late, ya know. Shouldn't ya be sleepin'?"
Her mind sputtered. She could practically feel the words burning against her wrist. Her words. That he'd said.
"What's your name, doll?"
"D-Darcy," she stuttered, standing up and cringing when her feet pinched horribly.
"Name's Sean, but near ery'one calls me Spot," he answered, holding out his hand. She stared at it for a moment before he pulled it back with a shrug. "You said Mrs. Edgewater? She still 'round? I needed to speak with her, but I guess it can wait."
"What ya need her for?"
He shrugged, taking a seat on the hard floor. "I work with th' papers in Brooklyn and they're lookin' for some newsies to hand 'em out. Got anyone in mind, doll? Need to be able to handle themselves down there."
"I can sell papers," she said eagerly.
"Never seen a doll sell papers," he shook his head as he chuckled. "'Sides, gotta get Mrs. Edgewater to agree with that. And ya'd need a pair of shoes that fit."
Her feet shuffled involuntarily. Her voice was small when she spoke again. "There's not a lot to choose from here."
"I was in an orphanage when I was younger," he said, his blue eyes staring into hers. "I know it ain't no picnic. I was snatched up when I was fifteen by a nice enough couple. You're, what, five? Six?"
"I'm five," she replied, "But I'm real smart. I can sell papers like no other, I'm bettin' and – "
"Hold your horses, gotta run it by Mrs. Edgewater, doll. She'll decide. Besides, ya'd have to get t' Brooklyn and that's a long walk for someone your size. I s'pose I could walk ya; gotta get up early to get the papers anyway." He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and she just noticed the stubble adorning his jaw.
He was a cute one. His eyebrows are arched perfectly and he had a dimple in his chin like the guys they drew for the advertisements. And he was tall, a lot taller than her and bigger. A checkered shirt was haphazardly done up and he had red suspenders holding up a pair of khaki pants, not that they matched, mind you.
"I'll see what I can do, doll," he finally said. "Looks like ya need a few extra bucks 'round here, anyway. Ya got a bed?" She pointed to her pile of thin blankets and he shook his head. "I'll make sure ya have something better to sleep on. And shoes that won't squish your feet."
"So, I can sell papers?"
"I'm workin' on it. By the first of the year, we'll see."
When he stood, she rushed him. Small arms wrapped around his waist and he chuckled before he hugged her back.
"Thank ya, Spot."
"Don't go thankin' me yet, doll. Nothin's for sure."
February 21, 1923 - Brooklyn, New York
Puffs of white air escaped her mouth as she breathed in excitement. Her hands were warm in the gloves that Spot had given her earlier. Not to mention the new shoes and jacket. Both were a few sizes too big, but he assured her that she'd grow into them. Her heart got fluttery when she thought about him spending money on her, but now she had a job! She could sell papers just as well as the next newsie, she was sure of it.
And once she had enough money, she could actually go to school to learn ballet instead of standing across the street and watching other girls take classes and then practicing what she'd seen back in her room.
"Now, doll, I'll meet ya by the market when you're all outta papers, okay? If you're not there when I get off a work, I'll come find ya over here."
She gave him a dazzling smile and nodded, looking over the two stacks of papers he'd given her.
"It's a penny a paper, doll. Ya got about three bucks worth of papers there."
He left her on the corner, being sure to tell the owner of the corner shop that she was there by herself, and rushed off to get to his own job.
Brooklyn was busy, but not as busy as the city. People were running everywhere and it was loud and Darcy thought she would get swallowed up in the sea of people.
She could do this. She could sell papers.
Raising a shaking hand, she clutched the paper tightly as she began to wail.
"Papers! Get your papers! A penny a paper! What's President Harding going to do next?"
She was swarmed. People were handing her nickels – nickels – and only taking a single paper! They didn't ask for change, they didn't take more than one – she was turning a profit bigger than expected.
"Mister, this is a quarter – "
"Keep the change, doll. Get yourself a candy bar or somethin'."
The papers were flying out of her hands and the change purse that Spot had given her was getting heavier and heavier. Time was going by quicker than she thought, the sun reaching the middle of the sky when she finally ran out of papers. She wiped her hand over her face, a bit bewildered to feel that she was smiling. Mrs. Edgewater had said that being a newsie wasn't a job for a little girl, but she proved her wrong.
After Darcy tucked away the change purse, she followed the signs to the market she was supposed to meet Spot at. She hadn't told him that he's said her words and she had been wondering if she should. Soul mates and bonds were weird things and he was so much older than her. He might stop talking to her if she said anything so she decided to keep her trap shut.
"Who ya lookin' for?"
She looked up at the counter of the store, meeting the sharp gaze of a man that looked kind of young. His hair was dark and she could tell that if he hadn't combed it back that it would reach his shoulders easily.
"Spot, mister. He told me to meet him here."
The man appraised her for a moment before nodding jerkily. "Conlon!"
It was only a second before Spot came traipsing in from the back room, a line of dirt on his cheek and a scowl on his face. "Yeah, Mr. Barnes? Oh, hey, Darce. Ya need some help?" His face had softened when he saw her and she nearly melted into a puddle.
"Your shift's over, Conlon. Be back here at eight sharp in the morning."
"Thanks, Mr. Barnes." Spot folded up his apron and slung it behind the counter before he shrugged on his jacket and shuffled them both out of the market.
"I didn't get ya in trouble, did I?" She asked when they were about halfway down the block. The last thing she wanted was to cost him his job.
He shook his head, his dirty blond hair shaking out around him. "Nah. I can only work a few hours a day anyway. He's been payin' me under the table for the past few months and I don't want to overstay my welcome if it means I can keep gettin' a steady paycheck." He slung his arm over her shoulders and she burrowed into his warmth unconsciously. The winter air was nipping at her cheeks and he'd noticed. "Now, did ya need help carryin' the papers back? I know it's cold. Maybe we shoulda picked a different day for ya – "
"I sold all my papers, Spot! I did real good just like I said I would!"
He stopped short, nearly causing her to fall on her butt. He stared dumbly at her. "All of 'em? You didn't leave any with the fella tha' runs the corner store?"
"All of 'em," she said, nodding eagerly. The change purse felt like lead in her pocket and she pulled it out and handed it over to him. He unbuttoned it and peered inside, his jaw slack.
"That's a lot more than three bucks, doll."
"They told me to keep the change."
"From a quarter?"
"Told me to buy a candy bar!"
Spot whistled low and pocketed the purse, a smile on his face. "We'll get you more papers tomorrow, doll. You're pretty damned good at this."
April 10, 1928 – Brooklyn, New York
"Get your papers! A penny a paper! Henry Ford has somethin' to say about Prohibition? You wanna hear it? Buy a paper!"
"Henry Ford really in this paper, doll? Or are you just rattlin' the cage to up your sales?" A man asked, digging through his pocket for change.
"Have I ever lied?" She asked back, a grin tugging at her lips. She watched as he shook his head and produced a nickel for the paper, waiving off her attempt to give him change.
It had been five years since she started selling papers and she was doing just as good now as she was doing then. Spot had stuck another newsie on the same corner the day after she had done so well and the kid had barely managed to sell a dollar worth of papers. It all came down to the fact that she was a girl and men didn't like seeing girls out on the street. That's why they were so generous with buying her papers and she had decided to milk it for all it was worth.
Spot had worked out a deal with the guy that owned the corner store so that Darcy could keep extra papers in there and retrieve them when she was running out. She was making a profit of about ten dollars a day which she and Spot split at her insistence. It was crazy to think she'd been doing so well.
Mrs. Edgewater tutored her on the weekends so she wasn't missing out on school, but Darcy sometimes felt like there was more to the world than selling papers. Spot had gotten into college about a year before and he still worked part-time at the market, but he didn't really need to when he and Darcy were splitting the profits from the paper. She thought that it gave him something to do so he wouldn't do anything stupid instead.
When she was all out of papers, she pocketed her change purse and made her way towards the market, eager to get home.
April 11, 1928 – Brooklyn, New York
Darcy was running late. On Wednesdays, Spot had to work an early shift at the market and that meant she had to walk to Brooklyn by herself. But Mrs. Edgewater had overslept and that meant that she was late to sell papers. When she finally got to the corner store and hauled out the papers Spot had left behind, she noticed that someone else was on her corner, yelling about papers.
Growling to herself, she turned on her heel and started back to the corner store. A squeal of surprise tore from her as she was yanked backwards, falling on her bottom in the process.
"What in th' world." She cursed as she stood up, brushing the dust off of her trousers and trying to find her hat that had somehow fallen off.
"I saw the light – "
"What's th' matter with you?" She asked the boy that stood directly behind her, her hat in his hand. "Am I not allowed to cross the street?"
"I saw the light change. Didn't want ya to get run over."
Darcy looked up at the stoplight and noticed it was green. Sighing, she shook out her curls and thanked him. "Guess I wasn't paying attention. What're ya gawkin' at?"
She looked him over, noticing that his hair was just a bit lighter than hers but he was just as pale. His eyes were a lighter blue, too, and she simply cocked her head at him.
"Name's James," he said, his voice cracking before he coughed violently.
She gave him a gap-toothed grin and responded in kind. "Lewis. Good to meet ya, James. Shouldn't ya be in school?"
He shrugged, picking up the bundle of papers she'd dropped. "My dad needs some help at the store. I might go in later if I have the time."
"Well, good luck to ya. I've gotta get these papers sold."
He shuffled. "Yeah. Nice meetin' ya, Lewis."
Standing on a different corner brought different people. She managed to do well – not as good as she hoped – but it was a promise to herself that she'd never be late again. No matter what she made, she was always sure to give Spot five dollars. That way, he had consistent money and was able to save up. She'd been saving money since about a month after she started selling papers. She had bought herself a bed and some new clothes before deciding to save it up. At the rate she was going, she'd have enough money to go to the fancy ballet school in Russia. She might stand a chance of being a ballerina if she made it that far.
Mindful not to skip, she scurried down to the market in search of her partner in crime. Mr. Barnes smiled down at her when he saw her come in and yelled for Spot.
"Afternoon, darlin'. Sean'll be along shortly, I'm sure." A familiar head of dark hair caught her eye and the older man chuckled. "Darcy, this is my son – "
"James," she said, a wry smile on her lips. "He saved me from gettin' run over today."
The boy ducked his head in embarrassment as his father's chest puffed out in pride. Spot appeared from the back room and grinned at her.
She nodded, taking Spot's hand as she threw over her shoulder, "Nice to see ya again, James!"
December 18, 1928 – New York City, New York – The Hebrew Orphan Asylum
"What d'ya mean you're leaving?" Darcy's eyes were as big as saucers and she was staring at Spot as if he'd grown two heads.
He looked down and shuffled his feet. "I signed up for th' army. Y'know they're always recruitin'. I gotta make a name for myself and since I finished school, no one's really hirin' – "
"Sean Conlon ya are not joining the army!"
"Ya don't really have a say, doll."
In a matter of moments it was as if her entire world was careening downwards. She'd spent nearly six years with Spot and now he was leaving her. Leaving her. He was her soul mate! He wasn't supposed to leave her!
"You have my words." It was quiet, but full of meaning and Spot stood stock-still.
He looked conflicted. "Darce – "
"You. Have. My. Words."
Spot sighed and lifted up his the sleeve of his shirt. "I don't have words, doll. They disappeared a few years ago." His fingers traced absently over the white tinted words that ran down his forearm and she gasped in horror. She was about to bolt, he could tell. Kneeling on the hard floor in her room, he took her face in his hands and brushed the tears away with his thumbs. "I might have said your words, Darcy, but your words aren't mine. Just a coincidence. But the fella that matches ya is out there somewhere. I'm bettin' that he's waiting on ya to find him."
Her lower lip trembled and she threw her arms around his neck, crying in earnest. "Please don't go. I don't know what I'll do without ya."
Fingers trailed up her back and she tried not to cry more. "The folks that took me in are gonna come get ya soon. They agreed to adopt ya, Darce. And one of th' newsies is gonna bring papers to th' corner store on Fridays so ya can keep sellin' 'em. It's gonna be okay, doll. You got James to look after ya, too. You'll go to that ballet school that ya been savin' for. You'll be safe."
January 14, 1929 – Brooklyn, New York – Dorsett Residence
Darcy abhorred school. The itchy clothes and heavy books and all the stuck up kids. She missed her trousers and knit hats, but Mrs. Dorsett said that it wasn't ladylike to wear trousers. She had to wear shoes with little buckles on them instead of ones that laced up and she hated it.
Her studies weren't a problem. Mrs. Edgewater had tutored her well enough that she had integrated just fine in public school. Grades came easy to her and she worked hard on everything she turned in.
"Darcy, don't tell me that you were sent home again."
She groaned, smacking her head against the wood of the kitchen table. Being sent home was becoming a normal occurrence all because she couldn't keep her mouth shut, mostly.
"I didn't mean to hit him," she whined, looking up through the curtain that her hair had caused when her head landed on the table. "Johnny Doyle thought it'd be funny to pull my hair again. I told him to stop! He didn't wanna listen to me."
Mrs. Dorsett sighed and sat down at the kitchen table across from her new adopted daughter. "You can't hit everyone that's mean to you, Darcy. The world doesn't work like that. Have you considered that Johnny likes you? That that's why he teases you?"
"He doesn't have my words," she mumbled, thumping her head once more against the cool wood.
"You can't wait your whole life for someone to say your words, Darcy. You'll forget how to live if you do." The bite in the woman's voice caused her to sit up.
Mr. and Mrs. Dorsett were nice enough people. They'd taken Spot in, after all. Darcy didn't see much of Mr. Dorsett – he ran a printing company in the city – but she spent a lot of time with Mrs. Dorsett. The older woman was nice in her own way, but she was very opinionated when it came to Darcy. She wanted her to have all the advantages she could in life and that meant no slacking off ever. Spot had been able to leave for the army only when he could convince his adoptive mother that there was someone to fill his place, after all.
"I just…can't I have a tutor instead? Can't you tutor me?"
"That isn't an option," Mrs. Dorsett bristled, her red hair seeming to spark a little. "You need to learn proper socialization skills that will only come from interacting with other people."
"I interact with other people when I sell papers," she muttered.
"But selling papers isn't a job for a young lady. Being a…a newsie is a boy's job. I'm letting you sell papers on Friday, isn't that enough?"
"Yes, Mrs. Dorsett," she intoned, wanting this conversation to be over.
The woman nodded to herself. "Good. Now about this weekend…"
January 21, 1929 – Brooklyn, New York
Darcy wasn't sure what she was thinking as she made her way to the market that Spot used to work at. Part of her was hoping that Mr. Barnes needed help and the other part was hoping she and James could come to an arrangement about papers. She'd kept her nose to the ground for a week after punching Johnny Doyle, but it hadn't done any good. Everything that the teacher was teaching was stuff she'd learned over a year ago. It was utterly ridiculous. School standards needed to be readdressed, obviously.
The bell above the door tinkled as she walked in, making her cringe at the sound. Apparently stealth was not an option.
"Hi, Mr. Barnes," she greeted the man with a puzzled look on his face. "I was actually wonderin' if ya needed any help 'round the store or anythin'."
Surprise flooded his face and he stumbled a bit over his words. "Well, Bucky's been sellin' papers in the mornin' and I haven't had anyone to stock the shelves since Conlon enlisted. Bucky's good at it, but – "
"I can always take his place sellin' papers. I'm good at it. Me and Spot used to split the profits and I can have one o'the boys bring th' papers every day." At first she was puzzled by who Bucky was, but she'd figured out that he meant James. Weird.
Mr. Barnes fixed her with a stern look. "And what about school? Your parents okay with you skippin'?"
"Are you okay with Bucky skippin'?" She countered, her hands on her hips.
Chuckling, his face turned into a smile. "We'll see if we can work somethin' out."
I'm very excited to see what you all think about this. This has been close to my heart since January. As of now, this story is the backstory to the latter parts of this series. I've written the first part in its entirety and I'm beta-ing it and it will be posted as soon as each chapter is finished. I hope you all enjoy.