AN: Okay, this is going to be a very serious piece, but not a romance. It's gonna have a whole lot of deep issues in it, so reader beware if you hate trying to wrap your mind around controversial and/or confusing stuff!
Summary: Medda's niece, a newsie from Chicago, comes backs to NYC- and she's dying. But from the words of a person who has nothing else to give, can Skittery gain hope for his own life?
"Thanks for helping me clean up the place, Skittery. It's always so messy after a show."
I set another empty box aside, and then picked up another one. "No problem. Where do ya want dis one?"
She opened the lid and studied the contents, and then shrugged. "Take it down the hall. Second door on your right."
I turned and adjusted the heavy box in my arms, and then headed down the hallway, lost in my own thoughts. And by the time I got to the second door, I couldn't remember whether she had said 'right' or 'left'.
You're always daydreamin', ya bum, I thought as I gently pushed open the door to the left.
I froze as I noticed that there was a bed in here- but the room was so dark, I couldn't see much else. I could see a silhouette of a person who I assumed was sleeping, but then they began coughing, and I shut the door as quickly and quietly as possible.
Well…at least I know that she said 'right'.
I turned around and pushed the right door open, dropping the box in what turned out to be a large storage closet. But my mind, again, had begun to wander, and I closed the closet and stood staring at the other door.
Why was Medda keeping someone here, backstage? Were they sick? And who were they?
"You went in the wrong door, didn't you?"
I jumped about a foot in the air as Medda just seemed to appear out of thin air beside me. "Well, I…um…yeah. I did…Who is dat?"
Medda sighed deeply. She didn't seem to want to talk about it. "She's my niece from Chicago."
"Is she sick?"
"She's dying. I didn't tell you guys about her because I didn't want you to meet her only to have her die days later. You have enough death around as it is."
Medda raised an eyebrow and I lost the guts to ask, lowering my head and walking past her to go sort more boxes.
"You can go in and see her, if you like. I'm sure she wouldn't mind the company."
I stopped and turned around, and Medda motioned to the door, forcing a smile. I headed back and took a deep breath before walking in and shutting the door behind me.
The room was very dark. The only light came through the yellowed blinds on the window, highlighting the burgundy shades of the curtains and carpet. There had to be at least a dozen books lying on the nightstand beside the bed, all of them about the size of a dictionary.
I wasn't quite sure if I'd actually heard someone speak- the voice was so quiet and fragile, almost like dragging a feather across glass.
"No…I's a friend of Medda's." I said, sitting down in a wooden chair beside the bed. It smelled musky in here, and I realized that it had probably been a storage room that was converted into a bedroom when this girl came.
"Oh…you're a newsie?"
"How'd ya know?"
She laughed, which only made her cough again. "You've got ink all over your hands."
She was right. Talk about observant.
I looked at her closer. She was very pale, probably from being sick. Her dark brown hair was pulled into a ponytail, and her green eyes glittered when the light caught them. She was probably beautiful before she got sick, I thought as I watched her shift uncomfortably under my gaze. I realized I was staring and quickly looked away, pretending to be studying the titles of the books.
"I was a newsie. Back in Chicago."
"Yeah. In between shows, at least. I was-" she coughed a few more times, and I cringed. "A singer. I sang in vaudeville."
"So…why'd ya come ta New York?"
The smile disappeared from her face. "I found out I was dying. I wanted to be close to relatives, so they wouldn't…just bury me nameless."
Silence fell for a moment. A stale, uncomfortable silence. "Shouldn't we be exchangin' names?" I asked, and she smiled.
"Are names really that important?"
"I'd rather not know your name. It won't ever do you justice. Mine never did."
Okay, no names. I can deal with that…I think. This was one weird girl.
"You don't seem happy." She noted, her gaze bearing down on me like moonlight- always there, but never noticed. Unappreciated.
"I ain't nevah happy. That's jest da way I am." I muttered, finding something interesting to look at on the floor.
"Do you have friends?"
"Do you have change in your pockets?"
I had to think for a second on that one. "Yeah."
"Do you have a place to call home?"
The lodging house, definitely. "Yeah."
"Do you have people who love you?"
Oh, God. The other guys were my friends, but did they love me?
I knew the answer to that one. "Yeah."
"Then why the hell aren't you happy?" she hissed.
I was taken aback by the tone of her voice. She had gone from childlike to sounding like my father in about two seconds, and it scared me.
"I…I don't know."
She fell silent, and I felt horrible. I don't know why, but I just felt guilty about walking in here and ending up having a dying person tell me how messed up I am. I opened my mouth to say something, and then decided against it.
"I'm sorry." I whispered, not really sure what else to say.
"Sorry for what?"
"I don't know, jest…"
"There's a lot of stuff you don't know, isn't there?"
I let that one drop. That remark made me mad, and I didn't want to snap at a person who was lying on their deathbed.
She coughed, and then looked up at me again. "You're very handsome, you know that?"
Well, that left me speechless. I wasn't quite sure what she wanted me to say to that.
Suddenly the door opened, and Medda popped her head in. "The other boys are waiting on you. They're headed out to Tibby's."
I nodded. "I'll be out in a second."
I stood up and adjusted my hat, and the girl looked up at me with an expression I couldn't read.
"Will you come back tomorrow?"
I calculated the money in my head, and eventually decided that I'd have enough extra to take off the evening edition tomorrow. "Sure."
"Do you promise?"
I could tell she didn't believe me. She looked toward the window, avoiding looking at me as I turned toward the door.
I can't leave her like this, I thought. I turned around and pulled out my pocket watch, a watch that the other newsies had all pitched in and got me as a Christmas present. I pressed it into her hand, and she looked at it in confusion.
"This watch is very important to me…it was a gift from my friends. I want you to keep it, until…well, I'll have to come back for it. I promise."
She understood that. She clenched it in her fist and nodded, and I left to go join my fellow newsies.
AN: So, what do you think? Review, people!