Note: I'm writing this story for Shotrock's Mushy Romance contest. Let me know what you think!

Through Ups and Downs, Chapter 1 - The Girl

Mush Meyers had a special corner that he liked to sell on. Every once in a while he would move to a more crowded area, but mostly he stayed on his corner across from the Manhattan Clothes Factory. It was when he stood on this corner, during the slow part of the day, that he would study his surroundings and the people passing by. So the newsboy began to know, in a sense, those who worked in the factory. Every day he watched them, some were pretty, but he was looking for a special girl. One who would come into his life someday.

Then one day a new girl began to work in the factory. She caught Mush's eye right away, though there was nothing spectacular about her. She walked with a purpose in her step. Every day she walked by Mush on her way to and from the factory, wearing a simple brown dress and blue shawl, with her hair tied back in a handkerchief. A small smile graced her lips, and there were crinkles of laughter around her hazel eyes. Each day she walked by, and each day Mush watched her. One chilly December day, Mush lifted his papers with what felt like half-frozen fingers. He shouted the strange headline, no need to make one up, "Man Eating Rabbit! Extry, extry!" A few men who were hurrying home to their warm fire, stopped to buy a paper, but business was rather slow. Mush rubbed his hands together and blew on them as he heard a distant bell ring. The factory shifts were changing. Mush watched the exit intently; knowing the girl he had been watching would soon appear. After a few minutes she walked outside, a basket hanging on her arm. She took her usual path past Mush, when the newsboy felt the sudden urge to speak with her for the first time.

"Evenin' miss," he said politely, tipping his cabby hat. The girl's body gave a startled jerk, and her face turned white as a sheet. A worried expressing covered Mush's face, and he touched the girl's elbow. "It's okay, there's nothing' to be scared of," he offered sincerely. The girl turned slowly, and at sight of Mush, instant relief washed over her face.

"I'm sorry," she said quickly, and Mush thought immediately of how nice her voice sounded. "I thought you were someone else." Mush shook his head, smiling. The girl looked with interest at the pile of papers at Mush's feet. "Not a good selling day, huh?" she asked as if she knew all about being a newsie. Mush nodded. "I'll take a paper," the girl offered suddenly. Mush lifted one, mulling over possibilities and thoughts. He shook his head.

"No, dis one's free." The girl tried to refuse, but Mush continued to gently insist, so she finally, with great reluctance, took the newspaper. S he studied him silently, and then nodded.

"Thank you." She began to walk away. Mush stopped her once more. "Wait, if ya don't mind me askin', what's your name?" The girl looked at him, debating with herself if she should tell him. She finally shrugged.

"I'm Adah, Adah Newman," she said, giving a little curtsy for the fun of it. Mush grinned.

"I'se Samuel Meyers, call me Mush," he said, bowing in a simply awkward manner, as he had never been taught the proper way. Adah smiled anyway, not even asking, as most girls did, what his nickname meant. The girl glanced at the darkening sky, then back at Mush in an almost apologetic way.

"Well, I'd better be going," she said, knowing she wanted to be inside before it was fully dark. Mush nodded, a bit sadly, I'll admit.

"See ya tomorrow?" he asked. The girl studied him one more time, and then nodded.

"See you tomorrow." Mush watched her leave, then, whistling he made his way home to the lodging house. No, he hadn't sold many papes today, but still the other newsboys watched as he walked in with a skip in his step, a smile on his lips, and a gleam in his eye as he entered the lodging house.

No one really asked, but many had their opinions about their friend. Racetrack's theory was that he had one big at Sheepshead, which was quite obviously not true as he had hardly any money. Blink preferred to think rather that the boy had met the mayor's daughter, which was also not quite the answer. S till, the other boys tried to puzzle it out, though it was really none of their business. Of course, part of Blink's assumption was true, for Mush did meet a girl.

Mush lay there, staring at the ceiling, deep in thought. Adah seemed quite pleasant. She had a sweet countenance and was hard working considering the time she spent working in the factory. The boy laid his arm behind his head, imagining Adah coming home in time to eat dinner with her family, telling all the happenings of the day. Mush could just imagine her telling her parents about him, and they looking at each other with questioning looks. That is, if Adah even said anything about him.

Mush closed his eyes, sighing. Now a days he was looking for a job; he was getting too old to be a newsie. He was almost nineteen, and he knew what he wanted. A good paying job, and a loving wife who would stand beside him through ups and downs. One who believed as he did. Mush added something else to his list: a home. A true, honest to goodness home. A little brick house with a white picket fence with flowerbeds. Of course, he would probably have to leave New York to make the dream of his own house true, but if he saved up enough, he could probably find a home somewhere else.

Every night Mush prayed about his desire for a job, wife, and home. Someday he was certain that God would grant those things. Mush sighed again, and then heard a soft footfall beside his bed. His eyes popped open, suspecting foul play from one of the boys. They loved to play pranks. He was met by a grinning Kid Blink, his eye patch firmly in place.

"Whattaya want?" Mush asked, yawning into his arm. Blink just stood there, grinning like a maniac. Mush finally lost patience due to Blink's unnerving expression. "What?" he yelled, whacking his best friend with a pillow. Kid Blink put his arms up to deflect further blows. After a moment, when Mush did not continue his attack, he lowered his arms, peeking up at Mush tentatively, then grin once more on his face.

"Was she pretty?" he asked mischievously. Mush turned bright red, and again smacked his friend with the pillow. He sank back on the bed, but Blink didn't leave. Mush sighed again.

"Yes," he finally conceded in a soft tone. Who can tell if Blink knew it was another girl, or still continued thinking it was the mayor's daughter? In fact, we may never know.