A/N: I don't own the characters from Newsies. I do own Connie, Ander and Veronica St. James, and Amanda St. James
An English Rose
"So what's da big news, Connie?" Connie looked up at Jack.
"Like always, you have to wait till Skitts gets here." She was sitting on Skittery's bunk. Everyone always knew when she had big news because she would sit on his bed and wait for him to get back in from selling his papes. She would only tell the news when he was there. It didn't matter if no one else was around. She usually couldn't wait to tell Skittery.
She had been a friend of the newsies for six years now. She had been eleven when she had run away from her family. She had said she couldn't live in their world and didn't belong. She said they had been visiting friends just outside of New York when she had snuck out while her parents and much older brother, by fifteen years, were at a party. Skittery found her a week later sleeping at the base of the statue of Horace Greeley. They had been inseparable ever since.
Jack sat beside her. He hated being kept in the dark, but he really hated it when Connie kept him in the dark. "Come on, Connie, tell me," he almost sounded desperate. She smiled.
"Fine, Cowboy, I'll tell you." Jack was ready for the news. "I'll tell you when Skitts gets back." He looked totally dejected. Connie couldn't help laughing. Jack looked so much like a lost puppy when he sulked.
Jack watched her as she laughed at him. "Ya know what I jus' noticed?" He sounded so serious.
"What," Connie asked as she tried to catch her breath. She was seriously interested. Jack's revelations were usually interesting, and most of the time amusing.
"Aftah six years, ya nevah lost your English accent." Connie gave a slight laugh.
"You know I never noticed, but you're right." They both laughed. They ended up talking about the new girl Jack was seeing. Connie actually liked this one. She was pretty, sweet, funny, and as big of a dreamer as Jack was. She also gave Jack his space, which was something Sarah never did.
"I think you should keep this one, Cowboy."
"I'm thinkin' dat too. Well, until I find a fault," he tried to laugh his way through that statement, but Connie saw right through it.
"Don't look for faults, Jack." She opened her mouth to say something else, but a group of newsies entered the bunk room. Skittery was among them. He noticed Connie sitting on his bunk as soon as he walked in. He smiled the second he saw her. His mood had been less than good that day, but it was quickly improving.
"Okay, Connie, what's da news?"
"Hello to you too, Skitts." He laughed.
"Sorry. Hey. Now, what's da news?"
"Well, tomorrow night I'm opening the show at Medda's." The last part came out as a squeal. She jumped up and hugged Skittery. She hit him so hard that they both went tumbling to the ground. Her hair fell in her face in a mass of red curls. Skittery brushed her hair out of her eyes. He squeezed her to him.
"Congrats, Connie! I can't wait ta see ya tomorrah." He released her as she stood up.
"Thanks. I know it's not till tomorrow, but I'm already nervous." She was ringing her hands.
"Connie, don't be nervous. Ya've been performin' for a year now. You'll do fine." Skittery placed his arm around her waist to comfort her. She looked up at him. Their faces were only inches apart. Everyone could fell the tension between them. They both looked away, and everyone groaned.
"What?" both asked. Everyone shook their heads, and went about their usual business
"Well, Skitts, I have to go rehearse. Medda's making me learn a new routine." She rolled her eyes. She hugged Skittery again, but this time she did it gently.
"See ya, Connie." She waved as she left the bunk room. Skittery turned to the guys. "She really is happy, ain't she?" He couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
"Yeah she is," Jack said. Connie stuck her head back around the corner. She had almost forgotten what she wanted to tell Jack.
"Oh, Cowboy, don't forget what I said." Everybody jumped. She couldn't help laughing. After Jack recovered from the shock, he responded.
"God, Connie, ya scared me! I won't forget. Besides, I's don't think ya'd let me." Connie winked at him before she disappeared around the corner. "Not on'y is she happy, but she sure has changed in da last six years," Jack said to Skittery.
"Yeah, Skittery, she ain't the spoiled hoity toity brat no more," Race added. Skittery nodded. They were right. When they first met Connie, she acted like she was royalty. Now you would never think she was once spoiled.
"So when ya gonna tells her ya love her," Mush piped in.
Skittery snapped his head around. "She knows I love `er. We're best friends."
"Dat ain't what I mean, an' ya know it," Mush shot back. Skittery shook his head and picked up the book Connie had given him. It was William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. He began reading it. Despite how funny they talked it was quite good. He was snapped out of the streets of Verona when Blink had to share what he was reading.
"Hey, fellas, listen ta dis." Everybody looked at Blink. "Da Grand Duke and Duchess of Wentwroth arrived yesterday and will be here for four days."
Race shrugged. "Yeah, so?"
Blink rolled his eyes. "Dat means we'll be gettin' good headlines while dere here. People like ta hear about da lives of royalty."
Jack nodded. "Dat's true." Blink continued reading his one left over paper. Skittery went back to reading Romeo and Juliet. Jack, Race, Mush, and Bumlets started a poker game. The others that were there went about their normal business.
"You've got to give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little. That's the story of - that's the glory of love." Connie was rehearsing the new song Medda was teaching her. She knew the song, but she was having problems with the slow dance routine. She kept getting her feet tangled around each other. She stumbled again for the tenth time. "Oh! Medda I can't do this. I can't learn these steps. Why can't I just stand still for the show?" Connie stomped to the edge of the stage and sat down. Medda walked over and sat beside her.
"Honey, you never have a problem learning new routines. What's the matter?"
Connie shrugged. "I think I'm just nervous."
Medda smiled. "Honey, I think that you can stand still if you like. The audience will love you no matter what you do." Connie smiled. She was feeling better. She stood up and rehearsed the song three more times. The next day passed quickly.
Before Connie realized it, it was only an hour before the show. She began getting ready. Her hands were shaking so bad she was having trouble buttoning her dress. After several minutes of fiddling with the buttons, she got them fastened and was ready to perform. She walked out of the dressing room with only a few minutes to spare. She noticed Skittery standing beside the stairs that led to the stage. His face lit up when he saw her.
"Ya look nice." He knew it was an understatement. She looked beautiful in her deep blue and green satin dress. It had a modest neckline, but was cut in a high V on the legs. It stopped just above the knees. Her red hair was pulled up in curls on the top of her head. She had tendrils framing her heart-shaped face. She had red lipstick on her full lips. Her green eyes sparkled at the compliment. Her eyes had changed so much in six years. When Skittery had found her, her eyes were dull. Now they always had a shine to them that reminded him of the clearest emerald.
"Why thank you, Skitts." She took a deep breath and slowly let it out. "I'm so nervous." She held out her hands. They were visibly shaking. Skittery took her hands in his, and he stepped closer to her.
"You'll do fine." She looked into his soft brown eyes. Their faces were only a few inches a part again. He leaned down and their lips were about to touch when Medda came backstage.
"Connie!" She saw Connie and Skittery about to kiss. She could have kicked herself for interrupting them. They had been in love with each other for the last year and neither would tell the other how they felt. At the intrusion they pulled apart, and Skittery let go of Connie's hands.
"Medda!" She had as much excitement in her voice as Medda did; she didn't know why, but she did. "Why are you so excited?"
"Guess who's in the audience?"
Medda was so excited. She was acting like there was royalty in the audience. Skittery couldn't resist the sarcastic question that popped into his head. "The Queen of England?"
"Close. The Grand Duke Andrew St. James and his wife Veronica." Medda was smiling broadly. "This is so exciting! I've never had royalty in my audience before." She was going on about her prestigious guests. "Connie, isn't this exciting?" She looked where Connie was standing, but she wasn't there. "Connie?" Medda and Skittery looked around. Skittery noticed her standing by the far wall. She had her back to them. She was shaking her head. He walked over to her and touched her shoulder. She jumped at the touch, and whirled around, fear in her eyes.
"Connie, what's wrong?" Medda asked the trembling girl.
"They've found me." Skittery looked at her confused.
"Who's found ya?"
"Andrew and Veronica. They had only been married six years when I ran away. The only thing I miss is my niece. She was five when I ran away."
"Honey, are you saying you're related to the Grand Duke?" Medda was wondering if she was hearing Connie right.
"You may have never had royalty in your audience before, but you've been living with a member of the royal family for six years now." At that statement, Skittery's and Medda's jaws dropped. "I'm Andrew's sister. He's fifteen years older than me."
"Let me get dis straight. You're a Grand Duchess," Skittery asked. He was really confused.
Connie nodded. "I'm the Grand Duchess of Cornwall, Constance St. James." Skittery was staring at her. "I ran away because I hated, and still hate, their lifestyle. You have no freedom to do as you please. I couldn't be me. I had to be what they wanted, which was a porcelain doll." She stopped explaining. She looked at Medda. "I can't go on, Medda. If they recognize me, they'll take me back." She looked from Medda to Skittery. Her eyes were dull.
"Connie, ya hafta go on. Ya've been waitin' for dis for a year now," Skittery was trying to reassure her. She was slowly reverting to the hollow person she was six years ago. He could tell by the spark in her eyes that was slowly starting to fade.
"Honey, Skittery is right. You have to go on. There is a good chance they will not recognize you. You have changed so much." Connie shook her head.
"I'm so scared."
Skittery, took her hands and forced her to look at him. "You'll do fine. I'll be in da balcony watching you." He kissed her forehead. Medda smiled. She wished they would do something about their feelings for each other.
"Okay, I'm ready." Skittery hugged her and rushed to take his seat with the others in the balcony. The music started and Connie took her place on stage.
"And now the lovely English rose, Connie James..." The spot light shown on Connie and she began to sing. Andrew St. James looked up and couldn't believe his eyes. After six years, there she was, his sister.
"Darling, isn't that . . . ," Veronica St. James began to ask.
Andrew nodded. "Constance? Yes."
"Oh, Andrew, she's alive and it looks like she's doing well. Are we going to bring her back?"
Andrew took his wife's hand. "Yes. She will be coming back with us."
Medda was standing backstage when the show ended. "Medda, I'm going to change. Tell the boys I want to go to Tibby's to celebrate." Connie didn't wait for an answer. She closed the door to the dressing room. She hadn't seen her brother and sister-in-law in the audience, but she knew they were there. She also knew that they recognized her. She had changed, but not so much in looks, more in personality. She also knew they would be coming backstage to see her. She quickly changed into her street clothes.
Medda was surprised to see Andrew and Veronica St. James approaching her. "Ms. Larkson, your show was spectacular," Veronica complimented as she shook Medda's hand.
"Yes, indeed. I especially enjoyed the young lady who opened tonight," Andrew commented.
"Thank you, Your Graces. She has been preparing for it for a while now." The three adults' attention turned to a bunch of noisy boys that were entering through the side door. The six boys approached Medda, each kissing her hand.
"Medda," Skittery said as he bent and kissed her hand.
"Skittery." He began walking to the dressing room.
"Medda." Jack did the same.
"Kelly." He too went to the dressing room. Race, Mush, Kid Blink and Spot all did the same. They didn't knock; they just entered. "Those are some of Connie's closest friends," Medda commented as the six boys entered the dressing room. She noticed how the Duke and Duchess wrinkled their noses. "They may not look like the most upstanding citizens, but they are the finest boys this side of Queens." She said this to reassure the Duke and Duchess that they were harmless.
"We would really like to see her," Veronica said.
"First let her see her friends." The Duke and Duchess nodded.
Connie looked up as the door opened. The panic in her face disappeared as she saw Skittery and the others enter. She quickly put on her brightest smile. Skittery bent down and hugged her. "Ya did great, Kiddo."
"Thanks." She then looked at the others; none of them were smiling. They actually looked angry. "Why the sour faces?" They all started yelling so loud that Medda and her royal guests turned toward the dressing room. Connie tried to understand what they were saying, but with five guys yelling at once, everything was jumbled. "Guys! Quiet!" Her voice was very high pitched, but it achieved her goal. They all stopped yelling. "What's going on?"
Spot was the one to explain why they were so angry with one sentence. "When were ya gonna tell us, Your Grace?" His tone was so cold that it gave her chills.
"Well, Spot, I didn't think it would ever matter if I was royalty. I always thought the newsies accepted people no matter what their background." Connie was calm and even tempered as always.
Jack was very angry, but he was at least thinking rationally. "You're right, Connie. We do accept people, no matta what deir background is." He shot Spot a look. "So why'd ya nevah tell us?"
"Well, I wanted to, but shortly after I ran away there was a reward for my return. I didn't really know you yet, and I didn't know if I could trust you guys. As time went by, I figured it really didn't matter."
Spot still hadn't cooled down. "But it did matter!" He was practically yelling.
Connie glared at him. "I never thought Andrew would come looking for me." She looked at each of their faces. She stopped on Spot. "Spot, this will be easier if I have you, all of you backing me. I know they're going to want to take me back to England. I'm going to try my hardest to stay here. Please I need your support." She was basically begging for their help. This totally shocked them, even Skittery. Connie had always been a strong willed, independent girl. It seemed like all of that had never existed as they looked at her now. Panic was evident on her face and in her voice, and if they had been touching her, they would have felt her trembling.
"We'll help ya," Spot conceded. Connie smiled. She looked at Skittery. None of his fears were showing. He looked as strong and sure as he always did to her.
"Well, I guess I have to face them." She stood up and took a deep breath. Skittery took her hand. He looked at her when he felt her hand trembling. She didn't notice.
"We're behind ya, Kiddo." He squeezed her hand and then released it. She nodded and started out the door. She stopped abruptly when she saw Andrew and Veronica. Skittery nudged her forward. She reluctantly walked over to the trio. She slipped her arm around Medda.
Connie looked at Andrew and Veronica. The looked the same, except for the traces of gray in Andrew's hair. She nodded at them. "Andrew. Veronica."
Veronica smiled and pulled Connie into a hug. "Oh, Constance, we thought you were dead."
Andrew, however, showed no emotion. "You have turned out to be a lovely young lady."
Connie raised her chin. "Thank you, Andrew. I owe it all to Medda. She had been like a mother to me."
"It's good to know you have been taken care of," Andrew's tone was even, "because now that we know you are alive and well, you can come back home."
Connie took in a sharp breath. Skittery stepped up closer to her back and put a protective hand on her shoulder. The others stepped forward too. "Thank you, Andrew, but I am home. I have a room on the third floor of the building." She had a regal tone to her voice, one that she hadn't used in years.
"Constance, your home is at Wentwroth in England." He looked at Veronica. "We leave in two days. We will send word of when you should be ready." He took Veronica's arm and began to lead her out. Connie stopped them by her next words.
"No! If you make me go, I'll run away again. You can't make me do anything, Andrew. You never could." Andrew didn't respond. He just led Veronica out of the theater. As soon as they were out of view, Connie let her composure slip. She slumped back against Skittery's chest. He possessively placed his arms around her waist. She slowly moved her shaking hands to cover her face.
The others stood there. Jack broke the silence. "Ya okay, Connie?"
She shook her head, and slowly brought her hands down to rest on Skittery's. "No, I'm not fine. I will not go back to England. I would rather die than go back."
"Yeah but, Connie, deir your family. Do ya know how much the rest of us would love ta have a family," Kid Blink asked.
"You do have family. All of you do. You have each other, Kloppman, Medda, Denton, and me. Andrew and Veronica are just blood. You guys are my family. I refuse to live with strangers." She pulled away from Skittery. "I'm not going, and I don't want to discuss it anymore." She took a deep breath and set her jaw. The boys could tell by her expression that the conversation was over. "Now, I'm hungry. Let's go to Tibby's and celebrate." She headed toward the door. The guys all looked at each other. They didn't feel like celebrating. In two days they would be losing their friend. They put on happy faces and followed her out.