Chapter Eight

The Paths of Future and Past

Jack and Mush returned to Manhattan the following day to relay the news of impending war to the rest of the Manhattan Newsies. Princess was sad to see them go, extracting a promise from Jack that they would return soon.

Days passed as the tension that now hung over Brooklyn thickened. The calm before the storm. Everyone seemed to know that something was about to take place. It put Princess on edge, making her jumpy and nervous.

It was yet another day; the sun was beating down, warming the cobblestone beneath her shoes. Princess called out headlines but her mind was far from her work. She had told Spot that she'd do whatever she could to help them in the coming war, since then he had avoided her, going out of his way to keep from bumping into her. He had even allowed her and Carmel to sell together.

"Thank you, all mighty God," Carmel sighed, swiping at the beading sweat on her forehead. "That was my last paper. What do you say we get out of this heat?" Princess masked her concerns and thoughts with a bright smile, nodding. "I would defiantly enjoy some shade at the moment. We could head down to Skip's; meet up with the boys there."

Carmel nodded her agreement, they chatted as the made their way through the crowded streets towards the small diner. Inside it was just as crowded, Newsies occupying most of the tables, yelling, insulting, eating, and drinking only how Newsies could.

Choruses of greetings were giving around mouthfuls of food as the girls walked down the tables, trying to spy a few empty seats. Spot's eyes met Princess' for a brief moment before he returned to the conversation he was having with Shooter.

Princess nibbled lightly on her bottom lip as she took a seat between Fish and Carmel. A straggly waiter took her order, his pointed, rat like nose, high in the air as he stalked off. Princess let out a small sigh, resting her chin on palm.

"What'se wrong, Princess?" Fish asked, bits of his pork sandwich falling from his mouth. Princess just shook her head, "Just tried is all." Fish seemed to except her half-hearted answer, turning to argue again with Frick and Frack headlines. Carmel seemed less excepting, watching Princess carefully but, thankfully, didn't say anything.

She ate sparingly, handing most of her meal over to Fish who never seemed to be able to get enough to eat. Princess remained quiet through most of lunch, smiling and laughing when appropriate. By the end of lunch her head was pillowed in her arms, her forehead pressed against the cool wood of the table. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears while the noise around her grew to a dull and constant roar.

Carmel stroked back the stray dark pieces of hair that had escaped Princess' thick braid. "Maybe you should go back to the lodging house and try to get some sleep, Princess," She suggested, pressing the back of her hand against her friend's forehead, trying to feel for a fever. "You're looking really pale again." Princess offered Carmel a soft smile, sitting up. "No, I'm fine. Please don't worry about me, Carmel."

Disapproval shone through Carmel's eyes but before she could state it a voice cut through the conversation, a voice Princess never thought she would hear again. "My God! Carina, is that you?"

Princess surged to her feet, nearly falling in her haste. "Lara," She breathed, instantly scanning the restaurant and the people visible through the window. "What are you doing here?"

"Me?" Tears welled in Lara's eyes as she took another step closer. Though the wide table was still between then, Princess took a step back. "I was told you were dead, Carina. Dead! I was told you were murdered and your body was never found."

Princess shook her head, backing away further, bumping into the table of Newsies behind her. The restaurant was silent as a tomb, all eyes trained on the two girls. "You shouldn't be here, Lara," Princess stated, her eyes sliding over to Spot, who was on his feet.

Tears were now spilling down Lara's cheeks unchecked, her trembling hands clutched tightly beneath her chin. "What are you talking about, Carina. Please, I-I thought you were died. Please, Carina. . ."

"What'se is you'se sayin', lady?" Spot asked, moving between Princess and Lara. "I'se don' know who'se you'se talkin' about but dis isn't Carina. You'se got the wrong girl." He took Princess' hand, pulling her beneath his shoulder, holding her against him. "Boys, I tink dat we'se bette' get back. We'se got plans ta make."

The Newsies stood, tossing money on the table before filing out of the door. Spot pulled Princess around the table, always keeping his body between the girls. "Carina, please!" Lara pleaded, catching her friend's hand, pulling her to a stop.

Princess looked Lara straight in the eyes, "You have the wrong girl. Last I heard, Carina Von Trent was murdered and her body was thrown in the river. If you're looking for her I'd suggest that you start your search there."

Lara dropped her hand like she had been burned. "Forgive my mistake, miss." She said, her voice even and unemotional, just as they had always been taught. "You looked like a friend I once knew. But I see know that it was my mistake."

Princess nodded, turning away, her heart breaking. Once the restaurant was out of sight she took of, racing passed the masses of Newsies. She flew up the rickety steps of the fire escape, slowly finally when she reached the roof.

"I'm sorry," She gasped, wiping at the tears that were streaking down her cheeks. "Oh, Lara, I'm so sorry." She sat hard on the rough roof, drawing her knees to her chest. She cried, no longer trying to hold it in. She sobbed until the tears ran dry. Her head pounded, her eyes burning.

"Jacky-boy warne' me dat you'se had a ting for da roof." Spot sudden comment broke through the haze that encased her mind. He was sitting on the edge of the roof, one foot swing free, the usual cigarette between his lips.

Princess didn't say anything, pillowing her head in her arms. The silence between them wasn't uncomfortable yet both were aware of its presence. She heard Spot sigh, put out his cigarette on the warn cement stones before moving. "Who'se was she?"

"Lara," Princess sniffed, her words heavily muffled by her arms. "One of the few people I actually trusted. God! I'm so selfish. Did you see her eyes? She was devastated and it's my fault. I never thought once about how the stupid lie I made up would affect the people that cared about me. Jerald, Lara, Collette, Lenora; I just ran off, never once stopping to think about them, how much them would be hurt."

"Des peoples, dey were you'se friends?"

Princess looked up then, her eyes puffy and bloodshot. "They were my only haven. The only people I could actually count on."

"Dey cared abou' you'se though, right?" Spot pressed, glaring harshly at her. Princess sighed slightly, giving Spot a dark look of her own. "What are you trying to say, Spot?"

He stood slowly, stretching. Spot reached down, grabbing her wrist, and pulled her sharply to her feet. "If dey truly cared abou' you'se den dey would understan' you'se leavin'. Dere's times when ya need ta tink of you'se self first instea' of everyone else, Princess. You'se family was killin' you'se. If dese peoples cared abou' you'se as much as you'se claim dey did den dey would have wante' you'se ta leave and be'se happy."

Princess paused, she had never thought of it that way before. She hadn't informed anyone but Jerald of her plan because she had wanted to protect them from the wrath of her parents. She had thought of them, had wanted to protect them. Though it was a hard decision to make it was one she made out of concern and love for those who truly cared for. There was nothing selfish about that.

"Thank you, Spot," She said, smiling up at him. "I never would have thought of it that way."

Spot sighed with a light shrug of his shoulders. "Dats because you'se don' tink." He patted her head as if she was a dog then moved to leave. Princess' heart sank, her eyes bright with hurt. Whatever she must have done to Spot must have infuriated him for him to treat her with such coldness.

"I'm sorry," She blurted suddenly. Spot paused at the top of the ladder, staring at her like she had just sprouted horns. "Wha' ares you'se talkin' abou', Princess?"

"I'm sorry for whatever I've done to offend you." Princess continued, taking a small step forward. Spot still looked confused, "Offen' me? Princess, wha' ares you'se talkin' abou'? You'se haven' done anyting ta offen' me."

Princess blinked, taken back by his answer. "Then why have you been treating me like I have the plague? You've barely spoken to me in days. This afternoon was the first time you've actually touched me since the night on the bridge. You've been acting so cold towards me and I thought that I must have done something that offended you. But if I haven't then what is the problem? Am I no longer good enough for you or something? Because if that is the. . ."

"You'se knows bette' dan dat, Princess," Spot snapped.

She glared at him, crossing her arms. "Do I, Spot? Please, inform me what I'm missing than so I can either slap you and get on with my life or work this out so I don't feel like a leper every time I'm around you."

Spot didn't answer right away, leaning back against the rusted railings of the ladder, his gaze cast down towards his scuffed shoes. "I'se don' wants you'se ta leave, Princess. Dis is where'se you'se belong now."

"I'm a Manhattan Newsie, Spot." Princess reminded him, her anger beginning to fade. She didn't want to leave Brooklyn, despite her threat; it had truly become another home to her. Part of her did miss Manhattan but another part would miss Brooklyn just as fiercely, the river, the Newsies, its leader. Brooklyn had grown on her and she loved it as much as she did Manhattan.

Spot looked up then, his eyes burning hot with anger. He stormed towards her with such a vengeance that a gasp of fear escaped her as she stumbled back. Spot's arms shot around her, one pinning her arms against her, the other hand burying deep with in the dark lochs of her hair, tilting her head back so she had to look right at him. "You'se not goin' anywhere'se." He growled.

Princess' eyes hardened, "I am not your dog, Mr. Colon, do not treat me like it. I am yours neither to command nor control. I ran from that lifestyle once before, do not think that I am such a coward that I will not do so again. You have no right to keep me here."

"I'se have every righ', Princess. You'se ares mine, ya hear me? Mine! Ta keeps and protect. You'se got dat? You'se ain't goin' no where'se. I'se cares too God damn much abou' you'se ta sees you'se floatin' face downs in da riva. An' don' tink for one secon' dat da Bronx ain't plannin' ta use you'se agains' Jacky-boy and me cause dats da first ting deys is gonna tries an' do." Spot shot back, his grip tightening.

"So you've been treating me like one of the damned because you're afraid that the Bronx is going to try and kill me?" Princess scoffed, her voice rising.

"No, its cause I'se don' have a frickin' clue how ta keeps you'se safe or even why I'se cares so much abou' a goil I'se hardly knows." Spot nearly shouted his response. "Alls I knows is dat ever' time I'se tink abou' you'se leavin' ta goes back ta Manhattan or you'se not bein' aroun' heres no more, I'se don' like it. So if I'se don' likes it, you'se ain't going anywhere'se. Gots dat?"

"Why, Spot?" Princess asked, her own voice rising to match his, "Carmel is right, all you and I do is fight. You and I should hate each other, we shouldn't be able to stand being in the same room. So why is that I feel so safe when you're near me? Why does my heart nearly burst from my chest every time you touch me? Why is it that I can't seem to get you out of my head? Why can't I hate you that way I know I should?"

Her anger suddenly died when she realized it. She was falling in the love with Spot Colon. The crass, prideful, arrogant, cocky Spot Colon had somehow obliterated the walls she had placed around her heart. Here she was, now bare, stripped of all protection. And she loved him for it.

"Why?" Princess wasn't even aware that single word had passed her lips. Spot took no notice of the change the girl in his arms had just undergone. Anger and the need to keep her were the only things his mind was able to grasp at the moment. He wasn't ever going to let her go. Ever.

"Why?" He snapped, "I'se tells you'se why. Because you'se are de only ting in dis life dat I'se have ever wante' ta keep. Da only ting worth keepin', worth fightin' for. I'se barely knows you'se, at times I'se hates you'se, and you'se can piss me off more dan anyone. But none of dat matte's when I'se has you'se in me arms. I'se give every ting ta protect me boys, every ting. I'se becomes cold an' cruel, a murder, just so dey don' have ta. But I'se will not give you'se up. And I'se kills anyone dat tries ta make me. Jacky-boy, Mush, dis Lara, Carnage, eve' Victor Von Trent, none of dem will ever makes me let you'se goes. Dats why, Princess."

Princess stood speechless, her eyes brimming with tears. Though spoken through a haze of anger, Spot's words were the sweetest she had ever heard. She stepped forward, her arms sliding around his shoulders as her lips brushed innocently against his; her tears rolling down her cheeks. "I don't want to be anywhere but with you, Spot." She whispered as she drew away slightly, her eyes shimmering.

Spot's heart thundered at her simple statement. He drew her close, his arms holding her tightly against his form as he kissed her; showing her all the feelings that he would never be able to express with words. "Mine," His mind chanted over and over again as he deepened the all ready passionate kiss.

"Spot?" Shooter's disgruntled voice caused Princess to instantly still in Spot's arms. He drew back slowly, his blue eyes vibrant and glittering with lust. Scant inches between them his warm breath caressed her flushed cheeks even as Shooter's clanking footsteps neared.

Spot's lips brushed against her face, trailing to her ear. He took the soft lobe into his mouth, ignoring her whimper of protest, biting softly before sucking away the sting. "I'se plans on finishin' dis discussion," He whispered tracing her outer ear with the tip of his tongue. "I'se suggests dat you'se be readies for it, Princess."

He stepped away from her as Shooter came onto the roof. Spot's hand slid over her hip, brushing against her upper thigh before dropping. Princess turned away, trying desperately to control her racing heart. "What'se da matte', Shooter?" She heard Spot ask, his voice not without a tinge of male pride.

"Dere's someone in da lobby askin' fors Princess," Shooter informed his leader, his cold eyes glowing with anger. "Its da same goil from Skip's." Princess' eyes grew wide. A moment, maybe two, was all her shock was able to hold her before she dashed towards the ladder.

--------------------

Lara stood in the lobby, wringing her hands. Many of the surrounding boys stared at her with cold, menacing eyes. They had no desire for her to be there. Even the single female seated near the large fireplace regarded her with an uncaring gaze.

They were nothing like the Newsies she had met in Manhattan those months ago. Then she was treated with a kind of hesitant warmth; here, however, she received neither kind smile nor caring word; hate filled glares and overwhelming animosity her only welcome in this place. Had Carina really made this seemingly heartless environment her home?

Seconds ticked by nearly audibly as she continued to wait. Carina appeared moments later, nearly falling down the rickety steps in her haste. The boy from before followed closely behind her, catching Carina, saving her from a nasty tumble. The look in her eyes as she smiled up at him took Lara's breath away. Never before had she seen Carina wear such an uncensored look of admiration.

"Lara," Princess said as she came to a halt before her. "What are you doing here?" Lara didn't answer right away, her gaze still upon the boy as he stood at the base of the steps. His eyes were soulless, swirling vortexes of hate and mistrust. He glared at her and no words were needed. If she valued her life, she would leave and never return.

"I-uh," She stumbled over her words, tearing her eyes from his threatening gaze. "I still wanted to speak to you, Carina. I…"

"Princess," The seated girl called out suddenly, interrupting her. "Excuse me?" Lara asked as she turned her attention towards the beautiful blonde. "Her name," The girl stated, "It's Princess."

"Perhaps here it is, but I will not call her by some ridicules pen name." Lara said firmly, "Changing one's name does not change who they are. It does not make them a new person. It does not rid them of their past and passed transgressions. She is Carina, now and forever. Changing her name will not change that fact."

"That's enough, Lara," Princess interjected, "I have no desire to become what I once was. Can you truly blame me for wanting to leave that life behind me?" Lara studied Carina through heated eyes as she gained control of her temper. "No, I suppose I can not." She finally conceded, turning fully towards her friend, blatantly ignoring the rest of the room. "But can you blame me for being ill-tempered? This day has been full of shock for me. I can only deal with one turn of events at a time, if you please."

Princess' face softened, a warm smile tugging at her lips. "Of course, Lara, and I'm so sorry that I caused you so much pain. I was only trying to protect you from my parents. I am truly delighted to see you again."

"I can understand your reasoning, Carina," Lara admitted, grasping her friend's now rough hands tightly in her gloved ones. "I have missed you more than you are aware. I never truly believed that you died; you are far too smart to be harmed by a simple mugger. Unfortunately, your parents also believe this. They are still searching for you."

Princess' smile fell, her teeth worrying her bottom lip, "Do they have any idea where I am?" Lara shook her head, "No, they believe that you have left the city and have been centering their search else where. It was sheer genius to remain here. But never mind that at the moment. I have a solution that will forever put you beyond their reach, Carina."

"Oh?"

"My parents are sending me to a finishing school in Georgia if you were to accompany me you would remain out of their reach and if they were to ever find you you'd be old enough by then to remain out of their custody. Don't you see, Carina? It is the prefect solution. You can remain in the class you were born to and still retain your freedom."

Princess was taken back by her offer. Her hesitation was obviously not the reaction Lara had been expecting. "Carina, what is the matter? Can you not see the opportunity I am giving you? You can't possible wish to remain here, working day after day as a newsboy. This is not living, Carina, it is simply surviving. You were meant for a life greater than this. It is your destiny."

"I was meant for nothing more than to be a dutiful daughter and one day an obedient and silent wife." Princess questioned, withdrawing her hands from Lara's. "If I was meant for nothing more than this greater lifestyle, as you claim, than perhaps I should have thrown myself to the river. I don't want to return to a life of being nothing more than a doll, good only for parties, operas, balls, and dinners with no mind or free willing of my own. That is no way to live. A glided cage is still nothing more than cage, Lara. That life holds nothing, no beauty, no laughter, no love, no feeling, no hope, no joy. Nothing, it is an empty way to live."

Princess' gaze took in the lobby and the people within it. As ragged and shabby as it was, it surged with life, with feelings, with hope and dreams, desires and the will that could over come all obstacles. "It is true; my life here is hard and perhaps I am only surviving but I would rather survive and grow stronger."

"You have changed, Carina," Lara said, taking a small step back from her friend. Carina's face glowed, uncensored feeling shining through her eyes. "I suppose we don't have any more to say to one another than." She turned towards the door.

Lara had expected feelings of sadness maybe even anger but nothing but a kind of understanding surfaced. "I'm sorry, Lara," Princess said causing her to pause, glancing over her shoulder. Lara spun on her heel, flinging her arms around Princess' shoulders.

"No, Carina, I am the one that should be apologizing." She stated against the rough fabric of Princess' blouse. "I wanted things to return to the way they once were so badly that I did not even take a moment to consider your feelings. All I have ever wanted is for you to be happy. If you are happy here than I have no right to question it. Never before have I ever seen such a look in your eyes, you practically glow when you speak. I am truly delighted that you have finally found a home that makes you so content. It is all I have ever wished for you."

She released Princess, dabbing at the corners of her eyes. "I really must be off. My parents will begin to worry." Lara moved again towards the door, "You were a sister to me, Carina, and the only person that I had ever trusted enough to show the inner me that lies in hiding. I am so proud that you have the courage to break free of the glided cage that binds us. With such courage and your heart, not even the moon is beyond your reach. Goodbye, Princess."

With that Lara walked out the door and into the sunlight that waited beyond. Princess knew they would never see each other again, she wasn't sad though. They were both determined to walk the paths that had been set before them and they both understood this. There was no reason to be sad, Lara would always hold a place in her heart and the memories of her would warm Princess when ever she called them forth.

With a final unspoken goodbye, Princess turned away from the door. Before her stood her future, behind her the past began to fade away. She smiled then, ready to embrace the path she had chosen.

--------------------

Hey faithful!

Here's yet another chapter.

I don't know when the next will be out,

So I hope this holds you till then.

Thanks for the reviews.

You rock!

Pixie