Disclaimer: I may not own anything else I write about, but Santa Fe Chavez is mine.

*~*~*

Santa Fe

*~*~*

So that's what they call a family,

Mother, daughter, father, son.

Guess that everythin' you heard about is true.

So you ain't got any family--

Well who said you needed one?

Ain't you glad nobody's waitin' up for you?.....

*~*~*

It was summer, 1898. That much he remembered. Jack had never had a good memory for that kind of thing-details in peoples' dress and appearance, the location and weather and date-and was astonished when other people, talking about events he had been a part of, could rattle off trivialities that he couldn't even recall seeing. But still, he could remember a few things about that day. He remembered the paleness of the sun and how it glinted off the water, he remembered how dusty and dry the streets were, he remembered how he had baked in the afternoon heat, wishing for a breeze. But most of all, he remembered Santa Fe.

When he first saw her, he thought she was a gypsy. His mother had told him stories about gypsies, when he was a little boy, and she was what he had always imagined they looked like. She had rings on her fingers, and dark hair free of braids and bonnets, almost as dark as her eyes-he saw her eyes before he really saw the rest of her, in fact, and it was those eyes that made him talk to her in the first place. Or run into her, to be more accurate. He was walking towards her, captivated by those dark eyes shining like the quiet depths of the East River at night, forgetting to look away, much less turn-it was a full-on collision. She was carrying a laundry basket balanced precariously against her hip and it fell to the ground, its contents spilling onto the sidewalk. For a few moments there was a mess of apologies, both of them bending over and tossing pristine white sheets and shifts now sullied by the grime that coated all of Brooklyn that summer back into her basket. It was only when their hands touched for an instant that she glanced up. And looked at him. And smiled. From that moment, he was finished.

"I'm sorry," he said, for the hundredth time.

"Don't worry," she said, pushing her hair up off of her forehead as she stood. Her expression was so serious that she had to be joking. "I need extra practice at doing laundry anyway."

He laughed and handed her the basket. "I'm Jack."

"Santa Fe."

"What?"

"That's my name," she said, smiling anew.

He tried, very hard, not to sound dumb. "That's a place, ain't it?"

"Yeah, in New Mexico. I was born there," she added, anticipating the question that he was about to ask. "My parents were vaudevillians; they named all their kids after where they were born. I've got a brother named Cleveland."

"Well whaddaya call him?"

She shrugged. "Cleve."

"That's just cruel, Santa Fe," he said. Jack had been known almost exclusively as "Franny" until he was eleven, and he felt genuinely sorry for her brother. But her name was something else.

Santa Fe. He just wanted to say it again, to feel it roll across his tongue. He lived boxed in among the barbed-wire names of the city- Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx. Santa Fe was a promise, the sound of something hopeful and foreign. It was blue skies and horses and beautiful dark-eyed girls. Santa Fe.

He was losing her now. She wasn't really walking away yet, but looking past from him, shifting her weight from one foot to the other as if it pained her to stay still. He panicked. He had to say something-

"Hey, you wanna grab a bite?" he asked quickly, before he could stop himself. "I know a place a few blocks away, they got great omelets."

"Sorry, I can't," she said, and to him she actually sounded genuinely apologetic. "I'd better be getting home. My aunt worries about me if I'm late."

"Oh," he said, disappointed. "Maybe I'll see you later, then."

"Yeah," she said. "Maybe." And with that, she disappeared. Black hair blown across her face, those dark eyes focused on him one last time were all that remained in his memory, a rough smudgy sketch fading fast. He made a promise to himself--he would see those eyes again.

Jack had never been one to break a promise.

*~*~*

...When I dream, on my own

I'm alone, but I ain't lonely.

For a dreamer, night's the only time of day.

When the city's finally sleepin'

All my thoughts begin to stray,

And I'm on the train that's bound for Santa Fe.....

*~*~*

He wouldn't see her again for over a week, and in that stretch of time she never left his thoughts. Even as he went about the most mundane routines of daily life she was still there, hiding behind the task at hand, waiting to come out in every idle moment. When he closed his eyes at night, she was always there. In a dream she would pull him up against her body, as if she was about to kiss him, and her cool breath on his face was the breeze that never came, her eyes the color of the sky at night, but not the sky here. It never got dark in Brooklyn, never got quiet. In those dark eyes haunting him at every moment, whether he was asleep or awake, he saw the wide-open skies of New Mexico.

If you had looked at him, or talked to him, or spent time with him at all during that long hot week, you never would have known. Not to say that he was the most private person in the world or even all that discreet. He would share his stories along with everyone else during a poker game or over lunch. But somehow, this time, it felt wrong. She was a secret known only to him, an escape, a breath of fresh air. He didn't want to talk about her as if she was any other girl. The only person he told was Spot, and even then only because it felt that if someone didn't know she might cease to exist entirely, turn out to be nothing more than an apparition. They were at the restaurant he had told her about when he finally let it slip out, the restaurant with great omelets-except they were eating sandwiches instead. In fact, when he thought about it, he had never even had an omelet there. God, why had he mentioned that? Omelets. No wonder she hadn't wanted to come with him. How could he have been such an idiot?

"'Cause goils like that make ya crazy, Jacky-boy," Spot said though a mouthful of roast beef.

Jack just smiled. What he had just heard was nothing more than the standard response for a situation like this, but somewhere underneath it all he knew Spot understood what was going on. Still, he wondered why he had even bothered telling him--if they could barely even make small talk anymore, then what was the point in trying to talk about something like this? Things had been somewhat strained between the two of them more or less since spring. They knew Brooklyn wasn't big enough for both of them, that sooner or later someone would have to leave, before the sky fell down on both of them. But for today they could leave that alone, today they could still be friends, still act out a scene that had been staged since the beginning of time, all around the world, and would endure even longer than that: two boys, in a restaurant, talking about girls.

"I'm gonna find her."

"Sure ya are."

He shook his head. He knew perfectly well how stupid he must have sounded, like some lovestruck sucker, but shameless with longing he could not be discouraged. Something told him that no matter what he would see her again- that he had to see her again. And if she didn't come to him, then he would find her. He would find her, and he would never let her go.

As it turned out, he never did have to go looking for her. He saw her the very next day, going into the big Catholic church on Water Street with a woman of about sixty dressed all in black who he could only assume was her aunt. Even once he reached the door, long after Santa Fe had slipped into the church's cool, shadowy depths and out of reach of his sight, he could only feel grateful that by some trick of fate they had crossed paths yet again. It almost moved him to walk inside and sit down in the pew behind her in the hopes that she would notice him. Almost. Ever since his mother died when he was eleven he had felt that God forgot about him, and he in turn had done his best to forget about God. Even now, he refused to set foot in a church.

Instead he waited patiently outside, listening the words of the austere Latin mass as they floated out to him in half-heard snatches and trying to keep himself from remembering the Gaelic hymns he had been taught years ago, with words and melodies that lingered on in the deepest recesses of his memory even today. He imagined what went on inside as he leaned wearily against the wall, imagined them listening to the word of Christ, repenting for their sins, imagined Santa Fe kneeling at the altar to take communion, a snow-white mantilla covering her dark hair. Without warning, he found himself remembering his childhood in the church, the worn gilt lettering of the bible, forgiveness given out every Sunday. For an instant he forgot how he cringed whenever he caught sight of a nun's habit, remembered when he knew he was being watched over every day, remembered his mother's soft lilting voice that spoke of the old country as she sang him to sleep. Gabhaim molta bride, he though to himself as the words came back to him, a whisper half-sung as it emerged from the darkness. Ionmhain í le hÉirinn, iomnhaim le gach tír í, molaimis go léir í.....

Realizing what he was doing he quickly dispelled his idle thoughts, pulling himself back into the present. He leaned his head back against the cool stone, closed his eyes, and remembered who he was waiting for now.

It was hard for him to tell how long he was out there, but from how far the sun had traveled in its blazing arc across the summer sky, he guessed that he had been waiting for close to two hours when Santa Fe finally emerged.

She was distracted, harried, stepping out of the church as if she had wanted to be inside of it about as much as he had. Faintly, he heard a voice call out to her from inside: "Wait for me while I'm in confession, Maria."

Santa Fe simply smiled and turned away, chewing on her lower lip and looking off into the distance with that restless look he would grow so accustomed to in the future, until out of the corner of her eye she saw Jack.

"It's you," she said, not sounding quite surprised enough to pull off modesty.

"It's me," he said, as he tried for casualness.

"Jack."

"Santa Fe."

She drew closer to him, for the briefest moment giving him an unflinching portrait of a dream come true, leaning next to him against the cool stone wall of the church. "I was hoping I'd see you again," she admitted. "But how did you end up here?"

"Well....." he let himself look her in the eyes, and held her gaze in sweet torture until he had finished talking. "I was just walkin' down the street when I saw this church up here, an' I thought, well, why not jus' stand out here for awhile, see if I can't catch a breeze? I do that a lot, you know," he added. "In the summertime."

"Stand outside of churches?" she asked, laughing.

"Yeah. And wasn't it lucky I picked this church today? Otherwise....." he trailed off.

She smiled. "It's good to see you again."

"Yeh?" he said, feeling himself warmed by the tenderness of her words, trying not to show that such a offhand remark had touched him so. "You too." And just standing out there with her, for a while, was enough, and he didn't need to make plans for seeing her again, or ask questions, or even talk. When the silence was finally broken, she was the first to speak.

"What's your whole name?" she asked him. And without hesitation he fed her the lie he had told so many times that it felt like the truth.

"Kelly. Jack Kelly."

"No," she said. "Your real name."

He glanced at her sidelong, startled and unable to think of what to say. He didn't tell anyone the whole truth, and this shouldn't be any different. His past wasn't real to him anymore; he had only a future. He was still trying hard to forget.

"Yeh, well what's your whole name?" he asked, sounding a lot more annoyed than he had intended to.

"Santa Fe Theresa Isabella Chavez," she recited. He whistled, and again she laughed her sweet laugh, seeing that all was forgiven. "But you can call me Fe."

"Or Maria."

She rolled her eyes. "Oh, that. That's all Aunt Rosa'll ever call me. She doesn't 'approve' of my real name."

"Why?" he asked, curious.

"I'll tell you that," she said teasingly, "when you tell me what you're really called."

And that was how her aunt found them when she came out of the church a few minutes later, chattering away, alternately boisterous and shy, obviously two niños in love. Rosa Santiago was a born matchmaker, and even after ten years as a widow she still had a sense of humor about these things, taking joy in bringing together couples that exceeded anything she had ever felt in her own relationships. She watched them with a look of bemusement on her face, and when her niece didn't notice her for a good minute or so, she sneaked up behind her and whispered in her ear: "he's cute for a gringo, no, Maria?"

Santa Fe blushed from head to toe. "Jack," she said, "this is my aunt Rosa. Aunt Rosa, this is.....Jack Kelly."

Smiling, Jack reached out to shake hands with the woman standing before him, an amused expression on her face. "Nice to meet you."

"Encantado." She turned to Santa Fe. "Maria, we'd better be going. I need to run a few errands, and we have to be up early tomorrow."

"Sí, Tía Rosa," she said quietly, and then, bending over, whispered something in her aunt's ear. The old woman smiled as if she had been expecting to hear it all along. "Of course you can, mi niña."

Santa Fe smiled and took Jack by the hand. "Come on," she said. "You're having dinner with us tonight."

What else could he do but follow?

*~*~*

...And I'm free, like the wind

Like I'm gonna life forever

It's a feelin' time can never take away

All I need's a few more dollars

Then I'm outta here to stay

Dreams come true, yes they do, in Santa Fe.....

*~*~*

"Tell me your whole life story," he said.

She laughed, a low, soft chortle that warmed his very heart. "It's an awfully long one. You sure you want to hear it?"

He nodded. "Everything."

They were sitting on the fire escape of the apartment she lived in with her aunt. The skies had darkened, and the air against his face was cool and fresh. He had just finished what was to be the first of many meals at her place. Santa Fe could tell by now that her aunt was just as much in love with Jack as she was, treating him like the son she had never had, urging him to eat up, and she saw that dinners here were to become a common occurrence. But for now, her world was as exotic to him as his world was to her, everything from the chiles that hung from the ceiling to dry to the corn tortillas Fe had deftly shaped between her palms when they first got home as foreign and enticing to him as Santa Fe herself. The whole night he had moved slowly, languidly, as if-there was no other way she could think to put it-as if he was drunk on her. It would be a lie to say that she hadn't felt the same way. And now, as they sat on the fire escape, feeling the soft night breeze whisper against them, cooling the rosy flush of first love from their cheeks, Santa Fe shared with Jack yet another thing that he had never seen before-an orange.

She leaned back against the wrought-iron railings of their sanctuary, gently pulling the skin away with her teeth and dividing the fruit into segments as she slid further down until she was all but supine on the cold metal. Handing him the honey-sweet globe one piece at a time, her gaze never leaving him, she began to speak.

"You already know the most important parts. I was born in Santa Fe, 1882. Sixteen and a half years later I'm here." She stretched out, rested on her elbows and looked up at him. "The rest just doesn't matter all that much."

But still, he wanted to know. He hungered for knowledge of her just as he hungered for her touch, for a kiss, for the sight of her soft dark eyes looking into his. Unknowingly that night she had pulled away his guardedness as if unfurling a flower reluctant to bloom, gently, petal by petal, the warmth of her touch alone enough to make his defenses fall away. If she could tell him her life, and he could tell her his, then maybe this oppressive summer heat would leave them once and for all, maybe they would know for the first time how trust felt. Fe took a deep breath, and kept talking.

"I was the oldest of seven children, but only Cleveland and I made it past our first birthdays. No one knows why. I guess we always just assumed it was because of my mother, the family she had come from-her name was Estrella Montoya, and she came from one of the Spanish aristocrat families living in New Mexico. And people talk, y'know, about families like that, cousins marrying and everything. Says it makes for bad blood. Only Mama didn't exactly marry a cousin.

"Papa was a Mexican, from Oaxaca. The Mexicans and the Spaniards never really got along to begin with-Mama's family always looked down on them, along with everyone else, I guess-and when their daughter ran off with one it only gave them another reason to hate them. Papa was with a troupe of actors traveling all around Mexico, and Mama snuck out to see him one night and, well-do you believe in love at first sight, Jack? I never used to, but that's what my parents said happened with them, and I guess I had to believe them. Mama's family pretty much disowned her after that, and so they got married and stayed in Santa Fe until I was born. After that they traveled all around America, Mexico too, performing, and so did Cleveland and I when we were old enough. And it was wonderful. Moving where the wind took us." She sighed wistfully.

"What happened?" was all Jack could ask, still more or less in awe of what she had just told him. It was better than anything he could have ever have imagined about her.

"When I was about fourteen," she said, "there was a fire in one of the theaters my parents were performing in. Cleveland and I weren't there that night, and thank god-it was a huge tragedy, hundreds of people died of burns and suffocation and just getting trampled trying to escape. It was in Chicago, and if you go there, you'll still hear people talking about it." With these words she shivered, as if suddenly chilled by the cool night air, and moved in close to Jack, sitting next to him propped up against the wrought-iron railing. "Our parents were killed in it. I was fourteen; Cleveland was ten. My grandparents back in Santa Fe agreed to take care of him, but they wouldn't take me. I was the reason they lost their daughter, after all. So I've been drifting around since then, traveling through the country, just wandering, I guess. I came to stay with Aunt Rosa last spring; she's the only living relative I have on my father's side, and I needed to get off the road for a while. And here I am," she finished, the beginnings of a smile playing across her lips. "And now, Jack Kelly, I believe that you owe me an explanation."

Jack sighed. How could he tell her anything that could measure up to that? He had bee half-wondering, all afternoon, what he would say when the topic of his own past rolled around. Now he realized that only the truth would do.

So now he told her. Everything. Although, to him, there wasn't that much to tell. How his father had worked on tramp steamers and the like, away most of the time and only coming home to New York a handful of times each year. How he had been raised by his mother in the Catholic church, until she died suddenly when he was eleven-he didn't say how, and Fe didn't ask- and his father had had to come back to care for him, resenting every minute of it. How work was hard to find, and his father had started planning with his friends, most of them ex-cons, a robbery. A sure thing. How with his father in prison Jack had had no place to go, how it didn't take long for him to land in the refuge. How when he broke out he realized he didn't have anything to go home to. How he had ended up in Brooklyn after meeting up again with Spot Conlon, an old friend from his childhood. How he had become a newsie, the only thing he could think of to support himself, and how it was his whole world now, with no escape in sight. How he was here now. Here with her.

"Francis Sullivan. Like the saint," Santa Fe said thoughtfully, reaching up and pushing some hair out of his eyes, the coolness of her touch lingering on his skin even after her hand was lifted. "You don't look like a Francis."

"Thanks."

She smiled. "Where'd you get Jack?"

"Well, Jack-there's this guy called Jack London, y'ever hear of him? He writes all these things about wilderness an' adventure, stuff like that, it was the kinda thing I always imagined doin'. An' Jack's a good name for that kind of person. I mean, you're named Francis, whaddaya gonna be, a priest? With a name like that, you got a chance of doin' something good."

"And Kelly?"

He laughed, remembering how he had come by that. "I came into Brooklyn needin' to be someone else, an' I decide the first name I see, that one's gonna be mine. So I look up and there it is, painted on an awning-'Kelly's Fine Apparel'."

"You need a new past, Jack Kelly," she said, sliding in a little closer to him. He let himself look into her eyes again, and saw that at the center of each one was a spark of pure heat. "You need something you don't want to forget. And a future, too," she said softly. And her eyes, her very lightest touch, everything about her at that moment was full of uncertainty, uncertainty that he didn't even see, for she was his cool breeze, his escape. Santa Fe saw this boy trying to be a man, with his look so helpless and brave, and she wanted nothing more than to become a part of his world. Both of them were nothing but frightened children. But this feeling, this brand-new thing she hesitated even to name, filled with some strange power that burned through every bit of caution she had, burned through everything until it reached her very heart. She felt, at that moment, that she could do anything.

"Future's the best one," said Jack. "Future's anythin', futures all possibility."

She shook her head. "No. Present's the best one of all."

He saw it now before him, the things this girl spoke of. Past. A vast landscape, bigger than both of them, stretching out and meeting and colliding, thunder to deep to hear, a thing that could only be sensed, nothing more. It was big enough to forget yourself in, to bury yourself beneath its comforting bulk and give up everything else. But then there was future with its glacial purity, formless, shapeless really, and unforgiving as ice-but somehow always letting you feel hope. Hope that what you made of it would be better than anything seen before. And at last he saw present. It was the present that he had never believed in, the one that now seemed so true, seen through Santa Fe's eyes. Present was a tinderbox, a flint, a spark. It was a flame that could grow into a bonfire, more beautiful than even he could imagine. He saw that beauty in her. And he could feel her, going through his thoughts, searching for something to keep by her side and read by the light of the moon. He could feel her as she found it. Silence pressed heavy on them now, he had to say one thing, and he said it, the only words that he could find:

"And why's that, Santa Fe?"

"Because the present's all we've got."

Now was the time. Now was the time to prove that the future really could be anything, to take a chance, take the plunge. Now was the time to act, before this passionate courage left him for good and he was stranded. Closing his eyes, he leaned in, and he kissed her.

In that kiss was everything that had ever been good about his life. In it was the first weeks of spring, when the thaw began. In it was rain, a dive off the Brooklyn docks and into the water when you've been sweating under your collar all day. In that kiss was Christmas. It was the thrill of winning a hand at poker, of feeling a child's admiration. It was the way that he had felt when he first saw Santa Fe. It was they way that he felt right now.

"I'd better go," was all he could say when they broke away, and she smiled, holding his hand in hers. He slipped away, began to go down the stairs. "I'll see you again?" he called up.

"Sure," she said, giving up completely on trying for coyness and almost laughing with joy. "What about those omelets?"

"Tomorrow?"

"Tomorrow."

And with that Jack-Francis Sullivan, it didn't matter what-disappeared, blotted out by the darkness. And Santa Fe went back into the apartment, closed the window behind her, and got into bed, all the while imagining where he was going now, how he walked, what tune he whistled. What would his friends say when he got back to the place where he spent his nights? Would they ask him questions? Would he tell? And would he think of her tonight, when the lights went out and other things were gone from his head?

Lying on his sagging mattress on the bottom bunk, Jack was consumed with the very same thoughts. Both trying to fall asleep, over a mile apart, anyone would have been able to tell, looking down at them from above, that they belonged together-two glowing, pulsing throbs of light, connected in a city of darkness.

*~*~*

Where does it say you've gotta live and die here?

Where does it say a guy can't catch a break?

Why should you only take what you're given?

Why should you spend you're whole life livin'

Trapped where there ain't no future, even at seventeen

Breakin' your back for someone else's sake?

If the life don't seem to suit you, how 'bout a change of scene

Far from the lousy headlines and the deadlines in between?

*~*~*

So they saw each other the next day. And the next day. And the next. Soon enough even the need to make plans was obsolete, as it was common knowledge not just to Jack but to everyone else in the Brooklyn lodging house that every Tuesday and Thursday night was dinner at Aunt Rosa's house (more often than not he came back home at night with his pockets stuffed full of leftover tamales and buñuelos for the boys) and Sundays he would meet with her after mass to spend the afternoon together, and on all the other days she would come to him after he was done working for the day, and the rest of the evening was theirs.

July, August, September passed by, the last of the hot-weather months spent in October's Indian summer. Often he came to her wearing cuts and bruises, the odd black eye, exhausted by the mere pursuit of survival, and she would wrap his tired face in her hair and somehow give him the strength to go on for another day. She was the only thing that was right in his life- sometimes he thought she was the only thing that ever had been right. She was his escape, and she knew it. It terrified her, and thrilled her, too- to know that she was everything to someone, the point where every path and line and minute fissure converged and was made right once again. He was her first love, and she gave him everything that she had to give. But something told her that even that would never be enough.

Jack didn't believe in perfect love. He never had. He was a realist, a pragmatist, a survivor-a lifestyle such as his didn't leave an awful lot of room for fairy tales. But he believed that if he and Santa Fe stayed together then he would have at least a fighting chance at happiness, a chance that had never been given to him before. It didn't take him long to realize that he was in danger of losing that chance for good, of losing it and never getting another. He came to know that faraway look in Santa Fe's eyes, the catch in her voice as she spoke of her days on the vaudeville stage, of what it felt like to head for the horizon and never look back. She hated Brooklyn. That was no secret-she sometimes said that she wouldn't even be in this damn city now if he hadn't come along. But he had come along, he thought. They had each other, wasn't that enough? He never asked her, for fear of what the answer would be. And when, early that December, she finally spoke of leaving the city, it didn't even come as a surprise to him-he had been anticipating it, dreading the sound of those words already for months.

"Jack, let's get out of this city."

"What do you mean?"

She raised her head up and looked at him dead in the eye. "Just that." She had been sprawled in front of the fire in the lodging house, the hour well past midnight, the shadowy light of the fire playing across her face as she raveled and unraveled a worn-out red bandanna through her fingers. It was the only thing she had left of her old life, an prop from one of the shows she once did, used to bind her hands behind her back in a production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. He had heard stories about it from her, about how her father had played the evil stepmother and they had once substituted an onion painted red when an apple couldn't be found, and now she wound the ragged piece of cloth through her fingers, unable to keep her hands unoccupied by something. It was difficult to seem dignified in such a situation, but she managed it.

"I can't stay here any longer," she said. "It's so tight, so packed-in. I want to leave. I want to take you with me."

"Where?" was all he could say.

"I was thinking about going back to Santa Fe."

He sighed, sinking deeper into his chair, a broken spring digging painfully into his shoulder. "Why would you wanna go anywhere? We're fine here."

"But I'm not," she said forcefully. "I can't live here. This isn't a life. Oh, Jack," she said, softening, "you wouldn't feel this way if you'd ever been to Santa Fe. Everything's different there. The sky, and the sun- -there's space there, you can move around-"

"It's the same sun as here."

She got up and moved over to sit closer to him, resting her head on his lap. "I know that," she said softly. "It just looks different, that's all." She sighed. "Maybe you just always end up going back to the beginning. I don't know. But every once in a while I end up back there, and it's time for me to go again. I could find work, and-"

"What would I do?"

She slid up onto the arm of the chair, a puckish smile on her face. "You'd be a cowboy. What else?"

"A cowboy? Sure."

"No, really." She grinned, tying the bandanna in a deft square knot around his neck. "Cowboy Kelly. See? It suits you."

But he didn't laugh. "You know I can't leave just like that."

"Why not? You don't have anything keeping you here. Why bother hanging around?"

Because this is my home, he wanted to say. Because this is where I was born and raised, and it's all I've ever known. Because what little I have is here, and if I leave it all behind then I don't know what I'll do.

But he didn't say that. He would never really know what had kept him from it-pride, anger, what?--but whatever it was, he couldn't see around it, couldn't think past it, and so all he did was rub his eyes and look at her and say that he was tired. That he didn't know why, and could she please give him some time alone? And it was after she had slam-banged her way out of the lodging house in suppressed rage that he realized alone was the last thing he wanted to be.

*~*~*

Santa Fe, are you there?

Do you swear you won't forget me?

If I found you, would you let me come and stay?

I ain't gettin' any younger, and before my dyin' day

I want space, not just air, let 'em laugh in my face, I don't care

Save a place, I'll be there...

*~*~*

After his final refusal to leave, Santa Fe didn't disappear all at once, but little by little, until nothing was left of her at all. She came to see him less and less often, and when she did she was vacant, her dark eyes glassy and her voice leaden. She was sitting right across from him, but in her mind she was somewhere else altogether. First her mind, and then her body. When she left once and for all, on a train bound for New Mexico, he felt as if she had already been gone for weeks.

After she left him he was walking wounded. She had left. Gone. All that was left of her was some ratty scrap of red fabric, all he had to remember her by, to convince himself that she had been there at all. She had been his one chance, and he had lost her. The worst part was that it was not through any accident or trick of fate. He had made a decision, one that he was sure he would regret for the rest of his life.

Through that long winter he was listless, absent, the one that boys new to the lodging house were told to avoid. But then, after countless weeks, something happened-he woke up. His dreams of a better future became focused on one thing and one thing only: Santa Fe. He was going to save his money, and when he had enough he was going to get out of this city, find her once again, and never look back.

Jack left the lodging house for good soon after that, headed for new territory, a new story to fill the past, a new hope for the future-the two things that Santa Fe had promised to him on that fire escape so long ago. They were the things he had been searching for relentlessly his whole life, searching for what was to come and what had already happened, so consumed by this pursuit that he had neglected the most important thing of all: the present. He had looked away, for just an instant, from the miracle that was occurring before his very eyes, and in that moment he had lost it.

In his short life, Jack seemed to have lost everything. Family, friends, and now Fe. But he was a survivor. He had lived through worse than this, and he would live through worse still. There was no doubt in his mind that he would not succeed in the end. He began again from the beginning. He came to Manhattan a new person, Cowboy Kelly, and he saved his pennies, made new friends, and began, in earnest, to dream.

*~*~*

So that's what they call a family-

Ain't you glad you ain't that way?

Ain't you glad you got a dream called

Santa Fe.

*~*~*