Author's Note: This has to be one of my all-time favorite books ever.
Well, aside from Twilight, that is. But after just finishing it for the fourth time, I just had to write a story for one of my favorite couples-Johnny and Katie, when they were young and in love, before Johnny died. (Yes, I did cry at that part AGAIN!) So here it is, I got this inspiration as I was reading about their history and HOW exactly they fell in love, all about Hildy and dancing and the school and...well, everything.
By the way, Most of the dialogue in this is taken from the book, so I do not own it.
This is told in Katie's point of view. And to those of you who haven't read the book, it takes place in 1901, at the turn of the century.
OH MY GOD! You know what I just realized? Meanwhile, in Chicago, EDWARD CULLEN WAS BEING BORN!! Oh, yay!
Okay, anyways, on with the story!
"I'd really like you to meet Johnny, Katie. And soon."
I could hear the smile and excitement in her voice as Hildy told me about her latest man, flicking her golden locks into the air behind her, as if she was throwing all of her doubts and troubles away. Apparently I needed to see him-that this was the one for her, the one she was so madly in love with.
I barely looked up from my sewing, rolling my eyes at her absurdity. Yet another new beau? "And this Johnny is...?" I questioned blandly, arching an eyebrow.
"Why, Katie Rommely! I am appalled that you would ask such a question! I've only been talking about him for weeks now!"
"Funny-I've never heard you mention him."
She pouted, her lower lip jutting out as she furrowed her brows.
But I had. In fact, it was all I heard about this past month. Ooh, Johnny this, Johnny that, ooh he is the smoothest talker, the smoothest dancer, oh Katie dear you would ADORE him! Nonstop giggling and talking-why, she would get fired if she spent anymore time goggling rather than working.
I told her this, but she just shrugged it off, telling me that I was just jealous that she had the most fabulous beau and I didn't.
No, Hildy was smitten with this man, whoever he was, and she wouldn't lay off the subject if you hit her unconscious. Even then she would keep talking, with her mind asleep and her body near dead.
Apparently, though, her mouth never shut off.
But Hildy was my best friend, and I had to bear with the constant droning.
"We can all go out together, Katie! Oh, his friends are rather handsome too-not as much as my Johnny, of course, but still polished just the same! You wouldn't mind that, would you, if we all went dancing?" She looked at me eagerly, waiting for my reply like a lost puppy waiting to be told where its owner was.
I contemplated the idea for a few moments, then decided just to pacify her. After all, it's not like I would actually have to dance with the man she was thinking of. No, I could just politely turn him down, saying that I am too tired and achy to dance after a long day at the factory.
You see, unlike Hildy, I didn't go and chase men, forming beaus and boys just on the spur of the moment. I never really had a man, while she has had dozens. She has forever acted quick and unthinkingly, while I have always waited and thought before I acted-undecidedly being the responsible one. I helped her when she came home sick, and comforted her when she was heartbroken.
She, in turn, was fun to be around, and made my work here at the factory much more pleasant.
Hildy was eighteen-a year older than me, at seventeen, but still held the joy and ignorance of childhood. Neither of us were much educated, but I had still gotten farther than her in school before my father made my sisters-Sissy and Evy-and me get our working papers to help the family.
Hildy was almost like family to me, becoming my best friend when we met here, working next to each other. This thought was what made my decision.
I sighed. "It looks like you have won again, Hildy O'dare. The lord seems to have blessed you with the gift of persuasiveness."
She smiled. "Oh, thank you! You know, I love you like my own sister Katie, and you know I've never had one!"
Smiling back, I said, "And you know it, Hildy. Just remember that I'm doing this for you." Turning around, I was about to open the door before I narrowed my eyes, suddenly realizing something.
"You sneaky...! You already had this planned, no matter if I said yes or no, didn't you!" I looked accusingly at her now sheepish grin.
"Well," she said, stifling her giggles. "I thought it was about time you got out of that stuffy house of your mother's!"
I groaned. Leave it to her to ask me, and then tell me I was going to go even if I had told her no. I shook my head, about to say something about her stubborn, irresponsible self, but all I replied was something simple.
"Fine. See you at seven o'clock, by the baker's shop."
"Seven it is."
Later that night, I stood in my small bedroom looking into the long mirror at my reflection. It was almost surreal, staring at that dolled-up girl that I was definitely not used to seeing.
Tonight I was wearing my best dancing dress-one of the only ones I had. It was a coal black, the fringed neckline plunging a bit lower than anything else I have ever worn. It went down to my knees and hugged my body tightly, but then flared out at the hips, letting me move and turn just fine in the black, shiny church shoes that I so seldom used. I also wore my mother's only jewelry-a plain silver chain that dimly sparkled in the glow of our gas stove-tonight simultaneously being one of the few nights we actually light it, it being costly.
We didn't have a lot of room for costly things in our poor lives.
There-I had said it. We were poor, although living in one of the better bad neighborhoods in Brooklyn. We lived, with my sisters and me working, and my mother and father trying to make us get through the days.
But I was happy-happy as I'll ever get in this world. I had wonderful sisters and a loving mother, however a grouch of a father-but I'd get over that. He doesn't speak much English and my mother only taught us it growing up.
I had asked her about that, once, but all she replied was, "My child, I am protecting you. Just believe me. Now hush and finish your soup."
And thus I learned to live with my father.
It was getting dark-time for me to get out and meet Hildy. Knowing her, she was probably already there and waiting anxiously for me to come.
I put on a long trench coat, hiding the skin that I was revealing from my parents, for they would get into such a fit if I were to be seen going out like...this. So I sneaked across the living room, trying to make my footsteps quiet. Maybe they wouldn't hear-their half-deaf anyways, I thought, wincing as a loose board creaked.
"Katie? Is that you?"
Damn! I stood straight, tightening my grip on my coat. "Yes mother. I'm going...out. Hildy invited me over, and I think we're going to the river."
"On a cold night such as this? Why Katie, you'll freeze to death!"
"No I won't. I'll be fine."
"Oh, well, have a nice time and don't be out late. May the Lord protect you, child."
I nodded swiftly and practically ran out of the door, hoping she didn't notice the shoes. Quick, Katie, run! you're probably already late, and they must have left without you, and...
However, my doubtful thoughts were quickly abandoned when I caught a glimpse of Hildy's long, golden hair rippling down her back. She was talking with two men, their backs to me. One was tall and lean, and the other a bit shorter, but still tall, and muscular. "Hild!" I called, but she still didn't turn. "Hildy O'dare!"
Finally, she turned to look, and immediately a wide grin spread across her face. She ran to meet me halfway, the other men following her. "Why, if it isn't Katie Rommely! Come to join us, I see?"
I rolled my eyes, laughing. "As if I had a choice. Oh and by the way, I lied to my mother to come out here for you. That's like cursing the Virgin Mary herself!"
My mother was a very religious woman, and believed that lying was among the most deadly sins. She taught us Rommely sisters that we should never lie as long as we lived, and to be able to spot if anyone was lying or tricking us. If that ever should happen, she said, never be with them again, as long as you both shall live, for they have deceived you in the harshest way.
Now that I thought about it, I was feeling a bit guilty. But really, I was allowed to have fun for once, wasn't I?
Hildy made a shocked face, then grinned. "Well, I'd like you to meet these two fine men with me here tonight. Here's William, your date this evening." She raised her eyebrows on the word date, making me cringe.
I looked toward William. He had a young face, like it had just developed and lost his baby fat. He had mushy brown eyes and a crooked smile. He wore a brown blazer, and looked to be about eighteen. His arms were rather short, and were very muscular. Overall, he was a rather handsome lad, but not nearly a sight of the man I saw next.
This man was beautiful. Yes, that was the only word I could come up with-beautiful. He had golden brown hair and murky greenish-blue eyes, like pools of foggy ocean water. His body was long and lean, and he stood with one leg bent and placed behind the other. When I looked into those eyes, he smiled and winked, nearly making me faint from happiness.
"...And this is Johnny."
I swore, I could almost hear my hummingbird-like heart thump dead in my chest, depression washing over me like a great wave I was too weak to stand against, I got overcome. I'm sure my face showed my disappointment-after all, my chances were now positively ruined by the fact that he was Hildy's, and I couldn't possibly do anything about it.
"How do you do." I mumbled, looking scornfully down at my feet.
"Fantastic, and you, Katie Rommely? I've heard so much about you from Hildy." His smooth voice melted my very core.
My eyes burned with jealousy as I heard the way he said her name. Hildy-so adored and loved and admired-I hated it. "Fine. Just dandy, Johnny...?"
"Nolan. Johnny Nolan, at your service."
My heart fluttered again from its dead lump inside me. Johnny Nolan. What a man.
Hildy's bright blue eyes were still ecstatic, her feet shifting excitedly from one foot to the other. It was something about her, the way she seemed so happy, that I absolutely loathed. Why did I deserve such unfortunate events while she was practically swimming in joy? Did she not notice, not care that her best friend was writhing in sorrow, in poverty?
I glared as she talked. "Well, everyone, let's go! If we want to be there before it closes, we'd better start now!" She giggled and started off, taking Johnny by the arm and pulling him forcibly along with her.
As we watched, William looked at me and grinned ruthfully. "Shall we?" He held his arm out, waiting for me to take it.
I looked at it, narrowing my eyes. No. I don't want you. My mind pouted, but I silently took his arm in mine, never saying a word.
It was like that the whole way there. No one spoke, and the only sound was the click-clacking of my church shoes and the soft, heavy thumping of his own. Well, that and the constant girly giggling that was exploding in bouts from Hildy.
But I didn't want to think about that.
When we finally got to the dance club, we found a small table in the corner of the room, sitting down, Johnny and Hildy on one side, and William and I on the other.
Hildy was starting to snuggle up to him, wrapping her arms around his neck and whispering seductively in his ear. They laughed and got up, seemingly ready to dance. I watched them move to the center and start to Charleston.
Johnny was a mighty fine dancer. His long legs moved swiftly with his quick feet, never missing a beat or a single step. His lead was perfect, making Hildy look amazing, like any good lead should.
I could feel my eyes starting to water. "I-I need to go to the restroom. Please excuse me, William."
I didn't wait for an answer, rushing away. Behind me, though, I could hear a faint noise over the music. "Sure thing, Kelly."
Katie. I corrected harshly in my head.
This was going to be a long night.
The ladie's room was empty, everyone out on the dance floor to enjoy the last few hours of dancing, before it got too late and they had to go home. The dance club ran all night, the musicians sleeping during the day, but many went home after midnight. I looked at myself in the mirror, trying to see what was wrong with me.
I was prettier than Hildy-I wouldn't deny it. I had soft, dark curls that wave down to my shoulders, contrasting with my clear, pale skin. My eyes were big and deep and chocolate, and invited any man in, as my mother would say. I had a slender body, almost like one of those ballerinas that were advertised to perform at our local theater.
But Hildy was a thousand times bolder than I. She was a great talker, and could persuade you easily to do something that you originally had no intention of doing. She could flirt with men, and reel them in on her unbreakable line. She could get them to buy her gifts, and take her dancing and go out to eat-Hildy was like a sorceress.
But why did I deserve all the bad luck? My mind went back to that original question that I had asked myself that night.
I had to get out now, to go back to William. I practically spat it out in my head as I went out the doors, back to the table.
"Shit, I thought you fell in there, Kathy."
This was where I almost exploded, but then calmed myself down, saying that it was unlady like and I would ruin Hildy's night.
The perfect princess deserves a little mud on her dress tonight, my other half argued.
No, no! I need to calm myself, or something terrible will happen, and I'm not about to take chances. "William," I said evenly, showing no emotion. "My name is Katie."
"Right, right! Hey, you wanna beer?"
I rolled my eyes, propping my head on my hand boredly. "Sure." Why not let him buy me a beer? I need it right now.
My whole night was basically one beer and listening to William's stories of his old man taking him to different parts of Brooklyn. Everytime he laughed-which was quite often and always unbearably loudly-a little saliva would come out, landing on my dress. After the first few times I requested a napkin, making sure that it covered my whole lap.
Finally, it was getting late and I hadn't danced one dance the entire evening. I got up, through with it. Turning to leave, I felt a hand gently tap my shoulder. I turned back sharply. "Listen William, I have to go. Good-" However, I didn't get to finish my sentence.
Because Johnny Nolan was standing there, smiling perfectly.
"Would you like to dance, Miss Katie?"
I couldn't believe this was happening. I mean, I knew that you always gave a courtesy dance to another's partner, but I hadn't expected it tonight, from the looks of how much fun those two were having. "W-what about Hildy?" I stuttered.
He shook his head, laughing. "She's just about danced out tonight."
"I...have to go."
"Aw, come on! You know you want to!" He raised his eyebrows, making me giggle.
"Fine, fine." I said, grinning, letting him lead me out to the floor.
It was a slower song-and for that I thanked the gods. The way it felt to be in his arms-it was like electricity that was slowly but steadily moving throughout my body. I was in complete and utter content, a small smile on my lips the entire time.
I was in love with Johnny Nolan, and I would get him, no matter what it took.
My campaign, you can say, started the next Monday. I hadn't been talking to Hildy the whole day, saying vaguely that I needed to do something in the other room, or that I needed to go to the bathroom, or taking my lunch break at a different time. I couldn't handle it; everytime I looked at her I saw the way she looked at Johnny. With her blue eyes going wide and her constant, annoying giggling-ugh!
So, when the bell rung, dismissing the women from the braiding factory, I sprinted to the spot where Johnny usually met Hildy, at the street corner.
I grinned when I saw him. "Hello Johnny Nolan!"
"Why, hello Katie dear!"
And, after that day, I managed to talk or get some words in with Johnny alone, before she showed up.
And, every day, I found myself going deeper and deeper.
One day I had a plan-one that would definitely work. About fifteen minutes before we were to get out, I used the easiest and most efficient excuse from working-one that every woman used at least once in a while, and was always respected.
"Miss Brendon, it's...that time of the month. May I be excused? It hurts so much!"
She let me go that minute, telling me to get plenty of rest.
I raced outside, to that street corner for Mapleleaf and Salsburrow. Johnny was there, as always, and seemed to be staring off to where I was coming from. As soon as he spotted me, his face brightened. "Katie!"
"Good afternoon, Johnny."
"Lovely weather today, isn't it?"
"Why, yes. Yes it is a wonderful day." I meant it in more ways than one.
I smiled, looking into those beautiful green-blue eyes. They seemed to smile back, and for a moment we just stood there, looking at each other.
Finally, he spoke, his voice full of pain. "Katie! I can't stand it anymore!"
"What? What do you mean?"
"Katie, I want you. I love you. And I just can't not tell you, delay it, any longer."
I was taken aback in shock, and yet my heartbeats seemed to escalate. It was the only thing I wanted to hear from him, ever since the day I first met him. But I couldn't speak-my throat was closed up, preventing me from even uttering a sound.
Slowly, in my silence, his face fell. "I-I'm sorry. That was...unnacceptable. I'd better go, Katie. Have a nice-"
But I didn't let him finish. I ran up to him and embraced him, right there in the middle of the side walk. His arms around me were tight and strong, as if he would never let me go. I wished he would never let me go. My lips soon found their own way to his, tracing an invisible line across his throat...his jaw...his cheeks. They were warm and soft, and met every line of mine.
I don't know how long we stood there, but I didn't care. It could have been seconds, or minutes, or even hours, but I was lost. Lost in Johnny.
Then the bell rang.
The hundred or so women workers rushed out of the wooden doors, surprising us. I could see Hildy now in her muddy brown suit with the black braid from the factory, her eyes brightening when she saw Johnny at the street curb.
But then she saw me.
It seemed I had released a dragon, hidden all that time in her. She exploded, pulling her hairpins out and glaring fiercly. "What on this earth do you think you're doing, Katie?"
"I...er..." I couldn't speak.
"He's my feller Katie Rommely! And you can't steal him away!" She screamed.
At this point her pointed index finger was at my noice, jabbing accusingly as she inched toward me, venom stinging in her tone. Her eyes were fierce and possessive.
"Hildy, Hildy." Johnny said softly, trying to calm her down.
I growled. She was overreacting-how could she not be even the slightest bit happy that I had found my true love? Even if it was her beau, he told me that he loved me! "I guess this is a free country!" I said, tossing my head.
Now she was absolutely fuming, and still slowly edging towards me. "Not free for robbers!"
And then she lunged at me wildly, her hatpin pointing out as if she wanted to stab me.
I wouldn't be surprised.
Johnny was quicker though. He swiftly stepped in the middle, getting a fairly deep gash down his cheek. Hildy's eyes went wider when she saw the scarlet liquid drip down onto the grey cement of the pavement, leaving a splattered red circle that was sure to stay for a while. In fact, it was the tiniest bit green-something that oddly satisfied me.
By now, a group of the girls who had been loitering near the factory had gathered around us, enjoying the action that we so seldom got.
Johnny took us each by the arm and pulled us around the corner, crowding us into the doorway of the old doctor's building.
"Hildy," He began, trying to make this easier. "I'm not much good. I shouldn't have led you on because I see now that I can't marry you."
I could feel my eyes get wide in shock. Marry?! She was going to marry him?! I humphed, narrowing my eyes toward her, in which she returned the glare. As I looked at that wild gold hair and freckled face, I got madder. Over my dead body.
She started to weep. "It's all her fault!"
"Mine," Johnny said. "I never knew what true love was until I met Katie,"
My heart softened. I smiled warmly, looking at him lovingly. He smiled back for a brief moment, before Hildy spoke again.
"But she's my best friend!" She said it as thought it were a crime of some sort.
"She's my best girl now and there's nothing more to say about it."
After that, Hildy kept crying and arguing with him, sayign things like, "She lied to me," and "How could you do this?" Her face was red and puffy right now from weeping so, and all I could do was stand there dumbly and take it all in.
Finally, after her tantrum, Johnny calmly said, "Hildy, you don't understand. With me and Katie, we love each other, and you need to realize that after knowing this, I could never go back to you. Don't you worry-I know you'll find a man someday who you'll love and he loves you, like us. We won't ever have to meet again, if you like it. You'll go your way and I'll go my way." He smiled, as though he like that line. "Yes. So you'll go your way and I'll go mine."
She looked at me sourly. "You mean, I go my way and you go her way!"
Finally, though, she left, stalking off down the street, her shoulders sagging down depressedly. Johnny seemed to think for a moment, before running after her to kiss her once more.
I have to say, even after knowing that he loved me, the jealous monster inside me bit at the edges of its cage. It didn't like to see Johnny's lips touch anyone's but my own.
I could hear them still, talking. "I wish it could have been different with us."
"You wish no such thing!" she snapped, glaring daggers. "If you did," she started to sob again, a new flow of water pouring down her already soaked face. "you'd just give her the gate and start going with me again!"
This was where I started to weep. Was she not my best friend? Had she not spent all of those days at the factory with me, cheering me up and making work so much better? Had I not devoted much of my time helping her heal and get over lost lovers?
I ran up to her and kissed her on the cheek, as if asking for forgiveness I knew I would not get. She, in turn, turned away with hatred in her eyes. I knew one thing: I would not be able to heal this lost lover's wound.
And so my life took a new beginning with Johnny Nolan.