Disclaimer: I do not own Newsies.
Author's Note: So, I thought it would be fun to have David undergo some sort of moral dilemma, because he's such an interesting character and giving a moral struggle to David instead of one of the other boys puts a nice twist on things. Just as a warning, this story deals with prostitution and will most definitely mention some sexual situations, though there won't be anything explicit. I plan to keep it at a T rating. Enjoy!
Saint and Sinner
She was too clean to be a street girl.
Her white skin had obviously seen soap and water, her dark blonde hair was neatly pinned back, and her green dress looked nothing like the dresses David's mother and sister wore. It was made of fine material and looked expensive, like something a society lady would wear, and her small black boots looked like they were polished on a regular basis.
But if she was dressed so nicely, then why did she need to steal from the fruit market?
David had seen her with his own eyes as he stood near the market selling papers. He supposed she thought nobody would suspect her when she looked so clean and presentable, but when he glanced out of the corner of his eye he saw two apples quickly disappear into the green folds of her skirt. David had learned a thing or two since he started selling papers and he knew that people grew desperate during hard times, but his father had drilled it into his head that stealing was a great sin, no matter how bad times were.
Perhaps if the morning's headline was a little better, David might have tried to forget the thief and focus on selling his papers, but the sight of that fruit disappearing under everyone's noses bothered him, like an itch that refused to go away. Besides, he had never heard of a well-dressed girl stealing food before, and his curiosity was rapidly becoming even greater than his sense of moral duty. The moment the girl in the green dress began strolling away from the market, David tucked all of his papers carefully under one arm and followed her, waiting for an opportunity to catch her alone.
That opportunity came when the passerby grew sparser and she walked more slowly, no longer bent on escaping from the fruit market. One white hand reached into her skirt as she walked and a moment later, a shiny red apple emerged.
"I would put that back if I were you," said David.
The girl stopped walking and turned to face him with puzzled blue eyes. "Put what back?"
"I know you didn't pay for those apples."
The blue eyes narrowed in suspicion. "And how would ya know that? Been spyin' on me?"
David was surprised at the street accent that came from such a clean, finely dressed girl. "I wasn't spying. I'm just curious. You don't look like someone who would need to steal food."
"Well you don't know nothin' about me. My landlady wouldn't feed me this mornin' and she withheld all my earnings, and I bet you would steal too if you was as hungry as I am."
Nothing about this girl made sense in David's mind. She spoke like a street girl, but she looked like a society lady, and there had to be some deeper reason why she was hungry that morning, but David couldn't imagine what it was. What kind of a landlady refused to feed one of her tenants?
"If you put those apples back, I'll buy you breakfast," David decided.
She looked more suspicious than ever. "Why?"
"Because I don't want you to be a thief, that's why."
"What's your name anyway, Mr. High-and-Mighty?"
"I'm Jenny," she said, taking the second apple out of her skirt. "And ya got yourself a deal."
David didn't know what possessed him to meddle in business that clearly wasn't his, but he was overtaken by an uncontrollable urge to help Jenny. Perhaps it was because she appeared to be the same age as himself, more or less, and he didn't want her to end up in the Refuge. The girls in there would steal the dress right off her back and fight over it until it ripped to shreds.
Jenny remained silent as he walked her back to the fruit market, though she kept sneaking glances at him when she thought he wouldn't notice. David briefly wondered if she had stolen her fancy dress, but dismissed that idea when she reached past him to return the stolen apples and a whiff of perfume reached his nose. She was simply too clean, unless she was a servant girl who had cleverly raided her mistress' things before going out that morning, which didn't quite add up with her mention of a landlady.
"Whatcha thinkin' about?" Jenny's voice broke through his thoughts.
"How did you know I was thinking?" he asked.
A secretive smile crossed her lips. "I'm real good at readin' a man's face. You're thinkin' real hard about somethin', ain'tcha?"
"I'm wondering why you look rich but talk like you're poor."
"Well, Mr. David, that's my little secret, if ya don't mind. Now I believe you promised me breakfast, didn'tcha?"
David may not have known where this girl had come from or why her speech didn't match her appearance, but he did know something about hungry people, and hungry people were always willing to talk once they had a bite to eat. To his surprise, Jenny slipped her arm through the crook of his elbow, like they were a wealthy couple taking a leisurely stroll in Central Park, and David would have protested if she hadn't winked at him the moment he opened his mouth.
This girl was becoming more of a mystery by the second.
"What's with the papers?" Jenny asked. "You a newsboy or somethin'?"
David found that he liked the feel of her small hand latched onto his arm, and the realization made him nervous. "Yes," he said, refusing to look at her face as they walked. "I sell the World."
"Well then you are high-and-mighty if you're sellin' the whole world."
"It's the name of the paper."
"What difference does it make? News is news, right? You sell what ya gotta sell, no matter what the name, no matter what the headline."
Something about her worldly, rather cynical tone reminded David a bit of Jack Kelly. "Sounds like you know something about paper selling."
"Oh, no," she said with a laugh. "We can't all be fine enough to be hoity-toity paper sellers like yourself. But I do know a thing or two about sellin'."
"Maybe I'll show ya if I'm in the mood."
David wasn't sure if he should push the conversation further, so he kept his mouth shut and promised himself to work extra hard to make up for his lost selling time. One of his favorite cheap restaurants was less than a block away and David passed a few of his fellow newsies, who gawked in surprise at Jenny as if they'd never seen a girl before. "Davey, who's the skirt?" they would say, and David was forced to walk faster when Specs and Mush tried to sell her a paper.
"Friends of yours?" Jenny asked him as he hurried away.
"Sometimes," said David, half-jokingly.
The restaurant wasn't very crowded during the late morning hour and David extricated himself from Jenny's grasp so he could hold the door open for her. Even when consorting with strangers, his parents' endless lessons of etiquette remained unforgotten and Jenny gave him a grateful smile as she glided past him, making David feel a bit lightheaded. He had to admit, she was pretty, even if she was an attempted thief.
Luckily for David, nobody he knew was currently in the restaurant and he settled across from Jenny at a small corner table. He hadn't gotten a chance to study her before, but now that she was right in front of him he noticed that her lips were painted a deep pink, bright against her white face, and her eyelashes were long and black, probably enhanced with cosmetics as well. The effect made her appear both older and younger at the same time, and David really didn't want to stare, but he couldn't help noticing that the neckline of her dress was lower than what he was used to seeing.
"You're thinkin' again," said Jenny. "I can see it in your face."
"What do you want for breakfast?" David asked, avoiding the question.
Her blue eyes probed into his, making that strange, lightheaded feeling return. "I'll have whatever you're havin'. I'm sure it's good, 'specially when it's free."
"Free for you," David retorted.
"I never told ya to buy me breakfast, ya know. You can still change your mind, but I guarantee I'll go right back to stealin' fruit."
A waiter came to take their orders, making it impossible for David to change his mind even if he wanted to, and he ordered the same breakfast for them both. As they sat and waited for the food he was aware of Jenny's eyes on him, studying him relentlessly, unlike any girl he had met before. "Tell me about yourself, David," she said. "We're gonna be eatin' together, so I wanna get to know ya better."
David wasn't quite sure where to begin, so he told her about his family, the tenement he lived in, and the strike over the summer, while Jenny listened raptly to every word. When the food arrived she ate with enthusiasm, and David wondered how often she went hungry but couldn't bring himself to ask.
When the meal was over and the plates were cleared away, the two of them were left staring at each other rather awkwardly. "Where are you going to go after this?" David asked.
She flashed that secretive smile at him. "Don't worry about me. You got papers to sell, don'tcha?"
"Yes. Just promise you won't steal anything, will you?"
"I promise I won't steal nothin', at least for today. Ya know, if you do wanna see me again, you can always come visit me. Lemme give you the directions." She borrowed a pencil from David and wrote her address in the margin of one of his newspapers, which was rather bold in David's opinion, but he supposed she was simply a bold girl in general. "Name of the landlady is Mrs. Johnson. Just tell her you'd like to see Jenny and she'll show you right up."
David had to admit that he would like to see her again, if only so he could unravel the mysteries that surrounded her. He thanked her for the directions, then walked her out of the restaurant and nearly groaned aloud when he saw Jack and Racetrack headed in his direction. Of all the people to see him with Jenny, these two were the most likely to tease him about it, and David had no choice but to smile and wave when Jack called out a greeting.
"Hiya, Davey," said Jack. "Ain't like you to take a break on the job."
"He ain't takin' a break," said Race. "Have ya seen who he's with? Our Davey's finally hopped outta the nest and tried his wings a bit."
"Are these friends of yours too?" Jenny asked David.
"Sometimes," David replied again. "Fellas, this is Jenny. I met her at the fruit market and decided to buy her breakfast."
Jenny dipped an exaggerated curtsy. "How do ya do, boys?"
"Just fine, miss," said Jack. His eyes followed her every movement, to David's slight irritation. "It's a mighty hard job carryin' the banner, but somebody's gotta do it."
"Backbreakin' work," Race agreed. "But I'm sure you know a little somethin' about that, don'tcha, Miss Jenny?"
"Perhaps," she said, smiling at him. "I imagine there are plenty of papers to be sold, so I'll leave ya to the sellin', David. Don't forget to come and see me if ya get lonely."
And with that parting statement she strolled down the street, her green dress illuminated by the morning sun, and David half-regretted letting her leave so soon. On one hand, he did have to sell off his papers and earn money for his family, but on the other hand, he had never met a girl like Jenny before and wished he could spend another few hours in her company. She never told him a single thing about herself, except for where she lived, and that only made her even more mysterious and achingly elusive.
"Never knew you had it in ya, Davey," Jack said once Jenny had disappeared. "Of all the fellas to pick up a girl like that, you was the last one I ever expected, but I s'pose it's always the ones ya don't expect, eh Race?"
"How much does a girl like her charge, anyways?" Race asked David. "What'd ya do, give her a free paper in exchange for a bargain?"
"What do you mean?" asked David. "I found her trying to steal some fruit, so I offered to buy her breakfast."
"Aw, come on," said Jack. "Don't tell us you don't know."
"I dunno, Jack, Dave's lived a pretty sheltered life with that family of his and all," said Race. "Maybe they never taught him to recognize a hooker."
David felt rather sick when that last word reached his ears. Of course he knew what it meant; you couldn't be a poor kid in New York and not know what it meant, but the thought of Jenny belonging to such a disreputable class was unthinkable. "You've got it wrong," he said. "Jenny isn't that kind of girl."
"Yeah, well ya just met her," said Jack. " 'Course ya think she's a nice girl, but I've been on these streets seventeen years, and I knows a whore when I see one."
"Open your eyes, Dave," said Race. "Why else would she be all dolled up like that? Ya see that neckline of hers? And besides, no fancy lookin' girl talks like a street rat unless she's a whore."
David wanted to deny their accusations and pretend that Jenny was simply a girl of unusual circumstances, but the evidence made far too much sense to brush aside. A deep sense of shame overtook him at the realization that he had bought breakfast for a prostitute, but even more shameful was his second realization:
He still wanted to see her again.