They came from as different backgrounds as possible. One, a rich and famous mother, an unknown father, the other, abusive, unmarried parents. One, raised to be glamorous and seductive, the other, to lie, cheat, and steal as long as it resulted in a bed to sleep in. One, a beautiful, flashy, sexy, sparkling diamond, the other, a pickpocket and a dirty street rogue. Both where tougher than they looked. Both knew tragedy and loss. Both knew love. This is their story.
The sun came up over New York City. It lit up the streets, the tall buildings, stuck to each other's sides. On Duane Street the long stream of buildings where reflecting the light. The light, early morning breeze swept up the dirt street. No one was on that road. Everything was quiet, except for the muffled sound of working machinery and young male voices. One building was labelled "The Boys Lodging House". Across the street from it was an almost identical building, brick, many tall windows, beat up front steps and a lamppost. The sign on this building read "The Girls Lodging House". If you walked through the faded, red front door, you would find a neat common room. A few odd pieces of furniture, burnt out candles, miscellaneous pieces of clothing here and there. There was a desk with an open book and ink pen lying on it. If you went up the worn stairs you would find a long hallway with several doors, most spare room that were used for various acts of pleasure. One door, a faded white one, was open. And if you went through this door you would find a large room with windows lining the right side, facing the street, allowing the light to pour in. The room was filled with old metal bunk beds, and each bunk contained at least one girl. They came as young as four and as old as seventeen. All of them had pretty much the same story: Orphans, runaways, coming from filthy slums with abusive parents. The lived as pickpockets for a little bit, the young ones anyways, until one of the other girls finds them on the street and brings them in. All of the girls were asleep, except for one. She was tall and broad shoulders, with long brown hair that she braided and wound up into a bun on the top of her head. Her eyes were hazel, and her cheeks rosy. She stood in the empty washroom in the bunk room, drying her hands on a towel that lay near by. She wore a light-weight pale blue skirt and a faded short sleeved cream coloured shirt, which she tucked into the skirt. She took a long, dark red scarf and tied it around her waist, trying to make it smaller. She didn't wear any make-up; it would come off anyways in the heat of the day if she did. She fastened her old worn black boots on her feet and stepped back to look at herself in the mirror. A poor girl, obviously, but not starving. She was healthy and happy, with a good amount of life in her. She nodded and her reflection and smiled a bit, turned around, took a deep breath, and hollered:
"Okay goils, up up NOW!!! C'mon, we've gots woik ta do!!" she walked out of the washroom and up and down the long aisles of bunks, slapping the faces of the drowsy girls, pulling pillows out from under their heads, whipping off their sheets. She continued to yell at them, ushering them out of bed and into the washroom, until almost ever girl was out of bed, and everyone was talking, bustling around, looking for missing shoes and fighting over hair ribbons. Every bunk was now left empty except for two in the far right hand side of the room in the back. Three of these four beds contained the oldest girls in the boarding house, all of which were still fast asleep. On the top of one bunk a girl with long curly hair slept, under her was an unmade bed that belonged to the girl who got up first. Across from her on the other top bunk there was a girl with long, dark, straight hair, snoozing with one arm hanging over the side of the bed, and an off white cream smeared over her face. Below her, on the bottom bunk another girl dozed, with long, smooth auburn hair swept back off her face. After the oldest girl had made sure that the other girls were well on their way out she walked over to the far corner, a sly smile on her face. She sauntered over to the windows, which had been sloppily covered with a sheet the night before, and pulled it off, letting the sunlight stream in on the three girls' faces. The auburn- haired girl twitched and the curly top rolled over. The tall girl walked over to the top bunk in which lay the girl with dark hair, grabbed her sheets, and violently pulled them off.
"A'right Asia, you're beauty rest is ovah, get up an wash dat crap off ya face"
"Goddammit Taylor, why don't you go--" the auburn-haired girl began, eyes still closed. Taylor cut in.
"Shut up Lefty, ya still in trouble for what I saw las night."
"Necking wid dat Italian from across da street, ya don't tink I saw-"
"Dats nun a your bizness Taylor, an I don't see you tryin ta keep ya hands off Kelly"
"Ah Lefty, you're jus upset cuz ya boyfriends da size of a-"
"Fuck off Asia, I ain't seein any action from you an Kid, an take dat shit off ya face, it ain't gonna solve your attitude problem"
"Shudup Lefty, ya jus jealous cuz I didn't give you any-"
"Oh, like I need-"
"All a ya should shut up ya know dat, ya givin me a headache, an it's too early." The curly haired girl had jumped down from her bunk, pushing apart Lefty and Asia, who where both out of bed, facing each other menacingly. Lefty rolled her eyes and pulled a towel off the top bunk, threw it over her shoulder, and disappeared into the washroom.
"Bitch" Asia muttered under her breath, "C'mon Ringlets, you need to wash your hair. It's frizzing" Ringlets clamped her hands to her head and squealed before she and Asia rushed off to the washroom. Taylor, being the only one left in the bunk room, rolled her eyes and reached into the chest of drawers between the two bunks, pulling out clothes for each of them, knowing that if she didn't they'd fight over the tight white that made their chests look bigger, and she had already hid it under her bed so she could wear it that night on her date with the Manhattan leader.
The sun was up high now, it was close to eleven o'clock, but now it was shining through a different window, in a completely different part of the city. This part did not have dirt streets and run down factories, but cobblestones and neat buildings painted in rich colours or lined evenly with bricks. This window was in one of those building, an unlabeled building, but a very popular one. This window had a small balcony in front of it, and it was decorated with delicate glass patterns. The window was very large, with two ivory handles that opened it. The room that the sun poured into through this window was as different to the bunkhouse as it could be. It was probably just as large, but only one person slept in it. The floor was carpeted with a soft dark blue colour, with specks of gold mixed in. The curtains that were draped on the tops and sides of the windows were the same dark blue, pulled back with gold tassels. There was a large wardrobe, one door open, a skimpy black dress hanging on it. If you looked a little further through the door you would see many similar garments hung up, most with lace-up backs and covered in glitter. Below them, in the lower part of the wardrobe were drawers full of lacy lingerie, on top of these drawers were at least twenty pairs of high-heeled shoes. In addition to the wardrobe there were multiple dressers and bureaus, all made of the same dark, mahogany wood. No drawers were open, but the tops of those pieces of furniture were covered with lace and fine lamps and small jewellery boxes. There was also an enormous vanity, above which was a large mirror, engraved with flowering design, and the chair in front of it was similarly decorated. The top of the vanity was organized by sections of beauty products; brushes for hair and make-up, blush, eyeshadows, eyeliners, lipsticks, lipliners, powers and foundation, perfumes and hair clips and ribbons of every colour and shape. There was a large jewellery box, open, near the perfumes. Many little drawers emerged from it, each displaying earrings, charms, pins, and rings. The top of the box flaunted necklaces of all sorts, from simple gold chains to mammoth pearls and opal pendants. On the other side of the room there was a bed. It was an immense, four poster bed, with heavy blue curtains drawn all around, delicately designed with gold. It was imported from Paris, as were many of the perfumes on the vanity. Inside the heavy curtains there were dark blue sheets and a silk comforter that was rolled up on the end of the bed because it was summertime. The sheets were dark and rich, and all wrapped up in them, sleeping, was a girl. She was quite short for her age, which was around fifteen. She had creamy, milk- white skin, which set her apart from the various shades of brown most of the people in the city had. She had long red hair, which trailed down her back. It was naturally wavy but had been curled into tight spirals and braided for the night. She slept peacefully with her head resting on one of the many pillows arraigned at the top of her bed. The sheets had been pulled up to her waist, and you could see the top of her nightdress. It was tight, designed like a corset with straps over the shoulders, and fringed with a light green lace. It was summer and hot, so her arms were bare, but then again, they were even in the winter. The curtains around her bed were drawn completely expect for the bit that was facing the large window. The sun streamed through that little opening and fell on the girl's face. Her eyes fluttered and she twitched a bit, feeling that bit of heat and waking up. Her eyes opened, revealing two bright green orbs that sparkled slightly. She groaned softly and rubbed her right eye with her palm. A clock chimed from somewhere in the hallway, and she sat up. She blinked a few times and gently pulled the lace ribbon that held her braid together. Her spirals popped out and she shook her head back. She re-braided her hair and tied it back, before pulling the gold cord that opened the curtains around her bed. She pushed her sheets back and swung her legs over the side of the bed, sliding her small feet into two soft slippers and stood up. She stretched a bit, before walking over to her wardrobe. Hanging on one of the doors was a light green satin robe, which she pulled down and put on. It was lined with a dark green shade on the cuffs and around the neck, and had an oriental design on it. She tied it on and looked at the small table that was at the foot of her bed. On it was a tea tray, containing a small pot of tea and a cup and saucer, and also a few scones. A maid had brought it up earlier, before the girl had awoken. She took a scone and pocketed it, before opening her bedroom door and stepping outside into the hall. The hallway had many doors, all wooden like hers, brass numbers nailed to them. The floor was carpeted with a long oriental carpet, and a large clock hung on the wall opposite of her. She looked at the time. 11:23. She muttered a curse under her breath. She should have been up an hour ago. She shook her head back and headed down the hallway, towards the grand staircase. She lazily walked down the red carpeted steps, coming to the bottom floor of the building. To her left was the door that opened to the backstage area, across from her was a large room, full of empty tables and chairs, and a closed bar. The large windows in that room were closed, thick curtains drawn over them. The girl did not go into that room; instead she walked down a narrow hallway to her right, not carpeted and far less rich than the rest of the halls in the building. She walked down until she came to the end of the hall, where there was a single door at her left. She twisted the small brass knob, and walked into the room. It was a kitchen, not a very clean one, with a black stove and many wooden shelves full of jars and simple food. There was a worn wooden table in the middle of the room, around which sat three girls. They all turned their heads when they heard the door open.
"Well," one of them said, a piece of bread in her hand, "look who decided to grace us with her presence" she had dark skin and hair, wore a red dressing robe and a smirk on her face.
"Shut up Aly, it's not like you've never overslept before," The girl replied, yawning. One of the girls got up from the table. She had long, curly, dark brown hair that was twisted up in a bun, and wore a dark blue silk robe. She smiled sweetly and put a coffee cup in the girl's hand.
"I put something special in it to wake you up Anya" she told the girl, winking. Anya snickered under her breath.
"Thanks Desiree," she said, walking over to the rough table and lowering herself into a chair next to Aly. She took a sip of the hot drink and felt something strong tango its way down her throat. She swallowed and sighed, suddenly feeling much more alert. She tried to yawn again but found herself choking, and looked up to find smoke being blown into her eyes. She coughed and waved it away.
"Jesus Christ Julienne, cut the shit, I've gotta protect my vocal cords, what do you think your-" but her sentence was cut off by another gale of smoke clouding up her eyes and making her cough again. She swore and rubbed her eyes, blinking, and staring angrily across the table at the small girl who sat perched on her chair above her. She, unlike the three other girls, was not wearing a silk, imported bathrobe, or had her hair in curlers or tied up with lace. Instead, she looked like she had been awake for several hours, perhaps partaking in events that required smudging your face with soot and using shoelaces to tie back your hair. Anya rolled her eyes at Julienne, and took another sip of her drink, peering at her over the rip of the cup. Julienne was tough and street wise, her skin browned from being out on the streets of the city. She wore faded blue, patched pants, and a loose button-up shirt. A cabbie cap kept most of her hair up, and the pieces that hung down were matted with dirt. Her eyes were piercing and cold, or at least they had always been towards Anya and the other girls. Julienne frowned and stuck the cigarette back in her mouth, hopped down off the chair, and walked out the door. None of the girls made an attempt to follow her; Anya and Aly went back to their coffee and rolled their eyes, while Desiree looked slightly concerned, but saw that her the other two weren't, and took a sip of coffee. The three of them discussed various events that had happened the night before, who was going to be the lead singer in the evening's performance, and who was going to teach the new girl how to put on eyeliner. Their conversation had turned to when the new garders from Italy would arrive, when the door opened. Three heads turned to see a tall man standing in the doorway, grinning at them. He had a long face that was clean shaven, leering grey eyes, and a thin nose. His dark hair was greased back, and when he smiled he revealed a gold tooth. He wore rather tight, pinstriped pants and an expensive looking shirt of red, and had left most of the buttons undone. He wore tall leather boots and a large gold ring on one of his little fingers.
"Morning ladies," he said casually.
"All right Ray?" Aly responded easily, pouring gin into her coffee. He snickered and sauntered into the room.
"As right as I ever shall be" he said, looking down on his three favourite girls. He grabbed the bottle of gin from Aly and took a swig. Anya and Desiree went back to their discussion. Ray cleared his throat.
"I got sometin for ya" he said under his breath. The girl's didn't respond. Ray laughed shortly. Anya rolled her eyes again. The three of them played this game with Ray every morning. He wanted the cash the girls had made the night before, and they never gave it to him easily. It was a test of their wills, seeing how long he could bribe them before they gave in. It built character and gave them practice for dealing with other financial matters that came their way. Ray made them guess what he had for them, described in as much detail as possible without letting them know what it was. The girls would act disinterested, but eventually Desiree would give in and the other two would follow. Today was no different.
"A boy brought it to da back door earlier dis mornin, says he picked it up at da docks, said it came of a foreign boat, any idea where da boat was from?" he teased them. The girls shrugged and went on eating. Ray was impatient. He wanted to drink, he had bills to pay, things to buy, and he wanted to know how well the girls were doing. The girls knew that was what he wanted to know. The more money they gave him, the more proof that they were good whores, the best of all the girls in the business. The better they were the more Parisian dresses they got, room service, the top bedrooms in the building; a chance that Ray might mention one of their names to his friends down at the local pub, his friends with connections. That's what they wanted. That's what they dreamed of. Fame, fortune, the whole shebang. And it all came down to the money. After all, that's what makes the world go 'round, Ray had told them many years ago. Money, alcohol, and sex. After a few more minutes of playing Ray pulled out a box from behind his back. It was wrapped up in a silk ribbon and paper decorated with roses. It had an international stamp on it. "Florence to New York". Desiree's eyes grew wide. Ray set it on the table in front of her. She looked up at the other two girls, eyes pleading. Aly stood her ground, still sipping coffee, but Anya rolled her eyes. She reached into her robe and down the front of her nightdress, pulling out a whad of bills held together with a hair pin. She put it between two of her fingers and held it out for Ray. Desiree immediately pulled her earnings out of her hair, and Aly sighed and pulled hers out of the sash on her robe. Ray snatched the money out of the girls' hands and tucked it away inside his shirt.
"Pleasure doing business with you ladies" he said, giving a short, mock bow, and heading towards the doorway.
"Backstage at seven, Hart leads, no excuses" he called. The girls nodded, and Ray shut the door behind him. Desiree quickly pounced on the package, tearing open the paper and pulling out the lacy lingerie inside. She began to pick out high quality stockings and garders, chokers and thongs. Eventually Aly grabbed the box out of her hands and all three girls spent the remainder of the morning fighting over the accessories, before the middle of the afternoon came and a maid came in with a small amount of food for them, after which they went upstairs to their bedrooms and slept the rest of the day away, needing the rest to prepare them for the nights events.
It was probably one of the busiest restaurants in the whole city. It was open from five in the morning to midnight, seven days a week, year-round, even on Christmas. It was your standard restaurant; booths, tables and chairs, a bar, hard wood floor, fading wallpaper, bell on the door, serves coffee all day, if ya put in a little extra for us we'll put in a little extra for you kinda place. It attracted every restaurant's obvious customers: tourists, businessmen, maybe a family once in a while. But the restaurant really belonged to a group of people who came there for only a few reasons: it was nearby to where they lived, it was cheap, and it was theirs. The Manhattan newsies had territory from their side of the bridge to the Statue, and Tibby's was almost smack-dab in the middle of it. Every waiter that worked there knew each one of them by name, and gave them deals on food, drinks, and even lodging, if you were really in trouble. There wasn't a newsie in Manhattan that didn't make a stop into Tibby's at least once a day. The restaurant was theirs.
So, at around noon-time on that hot, summer day, as usual, the place was packed. Hardly a seat was empty, and everyone was eating and talking, sharing the morning's news, discussing the evening's event. There was one large table in the left side of the restaurant, a very large table with many chairs drawn up to it, even though part of it was a booth. Every chair was full; this was the most popular table, and for good reason: this was where Jack Kelly, the Manhattan newsies leader, ate everyday. To sit at this famed table you had to be one of his friends, a girlfriend of one of his friends, or be paying for everyone's meal. And that day was no different from the others. Jack Kelly sat in the middle of a large group of his friends, discussing a variety of different topics. To his right sat a blonde boy with an eye-patch, Kid-Blink Parker, talking to him about the Bronx leaders. Next to Blink Asia sat, dressed in her usual trademark, low-cut red dress, hands all over her newest victim, a boy from Midtown. Blink did not seem to be enjoying this at all. To Jack's left was a sweet-looking boy with curly brown hair, Mush Meyers, talking to and holding hands with Ringlets. Next to her was Lefty, talking to a small, younger boy called Snipeshooter. And next to Snipes was a young black boy named Boots, and next to him was at least ten of Manhattan's best newsies and a few more girls, all chatting away, kissing each other every once in a while, ordering more food and making plans, enjoying themselves. Taylor sat at another table with some of the younger newsgirls, making sure they didn't kill each other and ate enough, giving them selling tips and such but every once in a while, from across the room Jack would catch her eye, and she'd smile and blush. By the end of the lunch hour she'd be sitting next to him, flirting and making plans of her own. Half-way through lunch the door opened and three boys walked in. The two in back were tall and muscular, boy-friends of some newsgirls in the back of the restaurant, who they marched off to greet. The boy in front however, was quite different. He was short, perhaps the shortest of the older Manhattan newsies. He was very thin, and his clothes hung on him loosely, not stretched across his chest like the two that had been behind him. His skin was lightly browned from the sun, and his greased brown hair and deep brown eyes indicated that he was some part Italian. He wore a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, blue suspenders and blue plaid pants. His dark blue cabby hat was jauntily placed at an angle on his head, and he grinned, revealing a row of rather crooked teeth behind his thin lips.
"Heya Race!" came a shout from a table to his left. Jack Kelly was waving him over, and Race, short for Racetrack, Racetrack Higgins, sauntered over. At the sound of his name Lefty, in mid-sentence with Snipes, stopped talking abruptly and turned her head towards him, smiling. Race walked over, spit-shaking with Blink, Mush and Jack, before turning his attention on Snipes.
"Beat it kid" he commanded, smirking. Lefty made no objection as the young boy groaned and got up, walking off. Race cleared his throat and put out his hand. Snipes stopped and turned around, groaning again. Race raised his eyebrows expectedly. Snipes rolled his eyes and reached into his vest, pulling out three cigars and putting them in Race's outstretched hand. Race nodded and Snipes went to another table. Race tucked the cigars safely into his vest, before sitting down next to Lefty.
"Heya doll" he said before kissing her gently.
"How ya doin Race?" she asked after she pulled away.
"Alright kid, and yaself?" he returned, putting an arm around her shoulders lazily.
"Good enough" she replied, kissing his cheek.
"Ya look pretty today" he told her, playing with her hair. Lefty smiled and shook her head, but his usual complement was true. Lefty was beautiful. She had been ever since she was six years old and had been discovered sleeping under a park bench one winter morning. She was a lovely little girl, and had grown to become a beautiful young woman. She was rather short, quite short in fact, only slightly gracing five feet at the very most, a good three inches shorter than Race. She was thin, even though she ate a substantial amount, Taylor made sure she did, she had always been the slimmest of the older newsgirls. Her skin was tan from being out in the sun so often, and like all the other newsies, her hands were stained with black ink that would never come off, no matter how hard she tried. Her hair was long, as were all the girls' hair, flowing smoothly down her back in a rich auburn colour. Her face was smooth, free of blemishes, even though she didn't plaster her face with cream like Asia did before she when to bed. A few light freckles dotted her nose and cheeks, and her lips were always a natural, sweet colour; she never wore make-up. But it was her eyes that made her beautiful, that made everyone want her but nobody daring enough to try to win her over. Her eyes were like ice; a clear, piercing blue that sparkled when she was happy and turned deadly and cold when she wasn't. Her eyes didn't miss anything, and if she made eye-contact with you from across the room you'd feel a shiver creep down your spine. Lefty beautiful and rare, natural and sweet, and a source of envy for the other girls; especially Asia.
The other three of the oldest newsgirls, compared to Lefty, were no-where near as instantly captivating, but they were all very pretty girls, and had complements and catcalls thrown at them at a daily. Asia was the wild one, usually donning in racy red dresses that were one button away belonging to a hooker. Taylor disapproved of her clothing; she liked her girls to be modest, but everyone knew Asia could watch out for herself, and she was the first to jump out of a relationship that seemed to be going too far. She was very tall, only a small amount shorter than Taylor, and very shapely. Her hair fell to her shoulders, short compared to all the other girls' locks, but very flattering to her face. Her hair was a dark brown shade, and since she usually slept with curlers in her hair it was wavy. Her skin was dark, in fact her entire presence seemed to be dark and mysterious, hence her nickname. Her eyes were a very dark brown shade, that usual glittered with seduction and mischief. Asia always wore a great deal of make-up, which provoked a whore-like image, but made her look very tempting and striking. She had an attitude; there was no doubt that Asia was the newsgirl you didn't want to cross. She was a flirt, a guy magnet, and could have had any guy from Manhattan to Queens if it pleased her. And it did.
Ringlets, on the other hand, was as different in looks and personality from Asia as possible, and still managed to be her best friend. Ringlets was always so sweet and gentle that it was almost hard to believe she was a newsgirl. While Lefty lied and Asia flirted to sell a headline, Ringlets took a different approach. In the morning, she could nearly always be found standing in some rich neighbourhood, one of her nicest dresses fitted modestly about her, asking very politely, with no hint of an accent in her voice, "Would you like to buy the morning paper miss?" her method was different, honest, mostly, but she was usually the only one who sold out all her papers every morning. Ringlets was very pretty, slightly shorter than Asia, but much taller than Lefty. Her figure was slightly curvy, but modest, and her face was round and usually smiling. Her eyes were a dark blue colour, always sparkling slightly, but her trademark was her hair. When she let it down it almost reached her knees; for Taylor never cut it. It cascaded down her back in bouncing curls, delicately spiralling around her face. Her hair was a rich, dark brown shade, which Taylor braided every night to keep it from frizzing. Ringlets was the kindest out of her friends, she was genuine and loyal, happy and nearly always smiling. Lefty was always slightly annoyed by her constant cheerfulness; it contrasted with her clever sarcasm, but Asia loved her like a sister, because in some way she gave her confidence.
Taylor was the last and the oldest of all the newsgirls and she ran the Lodging House. She was tall, broad and strong, strict about her girl's and there behaviour, especially when it came to the opposite sex, but warm and understanding and always willing to talk to anyone of them, no matter when. Everyone in the city knew and respected Taylor, not only because she was the on-and-off girlfriend of one of the area's most famous and loved newsie leader, but because she was charming and sweet, brave and intelligent. Taylor had brought in so many girls from the streets and raised them as if they were her own daughters, even though she was only seventeen. Everyone, even Asia, who had stopped listening to Taylor's reprimanding and demands along time ago, looked onto her as a sister, and new she would always be there for them.
An hour later into lunch, the restaurant was beginning to empty as the newsies left to take part in their separate afternoon activities; mainly to sell the afternoon edition of the World. After ushering a large group of the younger girls out the door, Taylor smoothed her hair and walked over to the table where Jack, Blink, Mush, Race, Asia, Lefty, and Ringlets still sat, talking.
"Sorry ta break up da party, but da goils gotta go sell, an I believe so do you guys" she announced, taking a cigarette out of Asia's mouth and giving her a look. Asia rolled her eyes and lazily pulled herself up, making sure her dress was as low-cut as possible before she stalked out of the room.
"See ya tonight doll," Race said to Lefty, smirking, and leaning in for one more kiss. Taylor cleared her throat and pulled Lefty up by her arm before he got too far, saying, "C'mon Lefty, Race has gotta go down to da tracks an loose everyting he made dis morning" Race glared at her and lit up his cigar as Lefty pulled on Ringlets's hair a bit, and the two of them walked out the door. Now deprived of their girls, Mush and Race stood up and tipped their hats to Taylor, and left, followed by a glum-looking Blink. Now only the two leaders remained, and anyone who might have been looking through the window would have seen Taylor slide into the seat next to Jack, and discover that neither of them would be selling that afternoon.