Disclaimer: I do not own Newsies.
A/N: NML Secret Santa is always fun, especially when you get someone that you really like. Repeat has been a pal to me for a few years now and I always enjoy getting an email from her. Repeat, I know this isn't following the actual prompts but since it features Specs, I think you might like it anyway. :D Merry Christmas!
I was born in a quiet neighborhood in upstate New York. Moving to the city was a big change for me, leaving nearly all my family and living with my dad, just him and me for a while. Then after a few weeks of just the two of us, my father disappeared. He never came back. After weeks of waiting, I finally realized that he would never come back. Arming myself with the few pennies I had left, I set out to go back home. Or so, I thought. The train cost a lot more than a few pennies. The first job that I thought of was the newsie idea and it worked out pretty well. The Duane Street Lodging House took me in and I started earning money. I kept to myself mostly since I was naturally a little shy and being without close friends my age for most of my life, I wasn't sure how to form those relationships in the first place. (My playmate growing up was my older sister, who was still in upstate New York at that time, though since then she's gotten married.) Fortunately for me, I didn't have to work as hard to find my best friend in life. We became friends because our common link called astigmatism. I'll never forget the day we really became friends.
The moment I woke up that morning, I knew something was wrong. It wasn't something tangible, just a bad feeling that I had in my gut. I rolled over on his stomach, grateful for the temporary silence, aside from a few snores, in the Duane Street Newsboy's Lodging House. I hadn't been at the lodging house for very long, nor on the streets for very long either, so the infrequent silences soothed me, especially from coming from a quiet home in the first place. (That's another story for another time though.) However, I soon heard heavy footsteps coming up the stairs and I inwardly groaned because that meant that the day had begun and Kloppman was coming to wake us all up.
"Skittery! Bumlets!" Kloppman began hollering names and shaking beds. In one way, I felt sorry for the old man, having to wake up and deal with forty or so cranky teenagers every day. But then again, I felt sorrier for myself sometimes, having to put up with Kloppman's yells.
Groaning aloud this time, I sat up, careful not to hit my head on Skittery's bunk. (There were disadvantages to sleeping on the bottom bunk.) Fumbling around in the early morning light, I searched his nightstand table for my glasses, so that I would have some semblance of sight once the sun really got in the air.
Slapping my hand on the table, I reached for his glasses.
Frowning and half-blind, I again ran my hand over the rough wood, covering the entire surface of the table.
Getting frustrated, I slid off of his bunk completely and reached my hand around the nightstand as well as under my bunk. But still, I couldn't find my glasses.
Coming up dusty, I scowled. The room was filled with dim fuzzy shapes; I was half blind. How could I sell papes if I could barely see the person in front of me?
"Morning Specs!" Dutchy's voice split the air cheerily. "Whatcha doing?"
Dutchy was a blond who slept in a bunk next to mine. He was new to the lodging house too. I didn't know him very well yet, but then again, I didn't know anyone very well yet. Bumlets had brought me to the LH a couple weeks prior and had more or less left me to my own devices.
"Looking for my glasses," I grunted. I squinted, looking up at them. "You didn't accidently grab them did you?" Not that I was accusing Dutchy of stealing but well, he and I did sleep near each other. It was possible that he grabbed mine accidently and his were still on his nightstand. (Considering that we both were almost blind every morning when we woke up, it was a pretty plausible idea.)
I heard Dutchy shuffle around but he came back to me quickly. "Nope!" he responded. "These are definitely mine. Did you check under your bed?"
"Yeah," I said, getting a feeling of stab of despair in my chest. "I'm trying to think of where they could be."
"I'll let everyone know to keep an eye on them for ya," Dutchy said, clapping my shoulder. "Hey you, Skittery!" he called.
Skitts is not a morning person (honestly, few of us are) and somewhat intimidating being one of the kids being in the LH the longest, so I tried not to talk to him in the morning. But that was Dutchy's matter, not mine. While Dutchy left to quiz Skittery, I shuffled over to the sink, feeling my way around and hoping that I didn't run into someone on accident. I could see blurry shapes but everyone is scooting around in a hurry in the morning so it's easy to get run over if you're just standing there. I was still learning all of the quirks and weird shapes of the LH. Luckily though, I made it to the sinks without a hitch.
"And then I said, well, 'so's your old lady!'" Swifty quipped. I heard Bumlets laugh in response.
" 'Scuse me Specs," I heard Snitch's quiet voice at my left elbow and he slid underneath my arm to get to the sink. His fellow shadow, Itey was at my other elbow. (Okay, I wasn't positive that it was Itey, but when Snitch is with ya, that's almost a guarantee that Itey is someone nearby. And vice-versa.)
"Where are your specs, Specs?" Mush asked, snaking his arm around me to reach for a towel. He laughed hysterically at his own joke. (Mush was one of the more welcoming guys at the LH but he could be a little spacey sometimes.)
"Cant' find 'em," I replied a little crankily.
"That's not so good!" Mush patted my back. "Hope you find them pal."
"Yeah, thanks," I mumbled, drying my hands and shuffling my way back to my bunk to find my shirt. On the way, I was met by Dutchy.
"Can't find them Specs," he said sounding disappointed. I couldn't see him very well but I could picture Dutchy's face pretty easily. Something I had noticed also about Dutchy was that when he was confused or upset, he'd furrow his brow which would make his glasses pinch into the bridge of his nose. (I notice weird things like that; probably because I appreciate little things about a person's face that someone with perfect vision wouldn't.)
I shrugged myself, trying to keep the worry from creeping into my voice. "I'm sure I'll find 'em soon enough," I said nonchalantly walking to my bunk again.
Dutchy followed. "What are you going to do if you don't find 'em?" he asked worriedly.
I took my time answering because honestly, I didn't know what I'd do. I couldn't sell papers when I was half blind. "Not sure," I replied nonchalantly. "But if I find them, then I won't have to worry about it."
"Okay," Dutchy said doubtfully, walking away while I resumed my search.
"Where are they?" I asked myself, my frustration growing as time ticked by and there were still no sign of my glasses. Had I been sleepwalking last night and placed them somewhere? Bumlets would sometimes sleepwalk and he would end up in the oddest places. Yet to my knowledge, I had never sleepwalked.
The lodging house was getting quieter as more and more of the boys began to leave. I ran my hands all over the place, from one end to the other, over nightstands, under beds. Nearly anywhere I could think of.
I heard footsteps next to me and squinted as I tried to distinguish the shape next to me. In the morning light, colors were still just showing up for me. "I looked downstairs," Dutchy's concerned voice said. "I can't find them."
"Perfect," I groaned, getting up and dusting off my knees. "This is going to be a spiffy day." I couldn't afford to give up half a day's wages searching for my glasses.
"You can sell with me," Dutchy offered.
I shrugged. "I can't read though and you can't read the entire headline to me," I said dejectedly.
Dutchy was quiet for a moment and then I felt him press something made of cold metal and glass into my hand. I felt the object. "My glasses?"I exclaimed, putting them on and mentally rejoicing as my blurry world became clear again.
Dutchy looked sheepish. "No, they're mine," he said rubbing his eyes. Now he was the one squinting. "Maybe we could trade off?" he suggested.
I was dumbfounded. "What?" I asked frowning. Dutchy's glasses itched the backs of my ears. It was amazing though how well I could see despite the difference in our lenses.
"We'll just swap throughout the day," Dutchy explained. "One of us will wear them to the distributing center and buy enough papes for the both of us. Then, we'll share the glasses and sell together. Whaddya say?"
"You wouldn't mind?" I asked, a little suspiciously. Was Dutchy looking for a favor or something? In my experience, guys just didn't hand over something as precious as glasses lickety-split. It was a bargaining chip that you didn't want to give up.
Dutchy opened his cloudy blue eyes really wide. "Well, I'd mind," he said awkwardly. "But I don't want you to be half-blind for the entire day either. Besides," the blond looked uncomfortable. "I'm still getting used to selling. It might help to work with someone else for a change."
I looked at Dutchy carefully. He meant it. He genuinely wanted to help. I was struck by his generosity. I hadn't had a lot of close friends before I came to the lodging house, nearly thirteen years, and now some guy I barely knew wanted to help me like that? I was touched by his sincerity. Looking back, I see that it was just Dutchy's personality and for some reason, he had just been born generous. But to a street kid, it was an astounding idea.
"Specs?" Dutchy asked uncertainly, touching my arm to make sure I was still there.
A big smile spread across my face. "Sure Dutchy, that'd be great," I said clasping his shoulder. "Thanks."
Dutchy grinned. "Sure thing."
I kept my hand on Dutchy's shoulder and tried to lead him as well as I could to the distribution center. At that time, we didn't have Jack as a leader, the Delancey's to deal with, or anything of the sort, which made getting papers a lot less of a hassle. Not that Weasel has ever been fun to deal with but I think he got worse once his nephews were with him every day. (And honestly, could you blame him? Seeing Oscar and Morris every morning was lousy enough; working with them would be a nightmare!) Once we got to the distribution center, we swapped the glasses again and I chipped in some money to split the cost of the papers. I waited for Dutchy outside and then we set off to his usual selling spot. (Even though neither of us had been at the lodging house for very long, Dutchy seemed to have a better knack for selling than I did so he figured out a good selling spot pretty quickly.)
It was so disorienting being without my classes. I kept my hand tightly on Dutchy's elbow feeling like an idiot but whenever I let go, I stumbled over something so I figured that it was better to look like a blind man rather than bruise up my feet and shins.
Dutchy led me to his usual spot and I leaned against a wall near our stack of papers as he began to holler headlines. I pretended to leaf through one of the papers, squinting even though there was no chance that I'd be able to read anything. I tried to pay attention to what Dutchy was saying though and by the way he was selling it, the headline was good today.
Dutchy was selling pretty briskly but he would occasionally say something to me. I tried to pay attention but I was starting to get a headache from the blurriness of my vision so I just shut my eyes after a while. My mind began to wander but suddenly, Dutchy shoved me a little, snapping me out of my reverie. He laughed and then handed me the glasses again. I grasped the cool metal and quickly put on the glasses.
Sweet relief! Suddenly, all those blurry shapes that I had been staring at for the past hour or so became clear and sharp. I looked at the paper down in my hand, skimming the top headline (I was right, the headline was good), trying to decide what to improve upon. (I didn't want to copy Dutchy too much.)
I decided on something and began to 'hawk the headline'. I never considered myself to be self-conscious but I actually got a little nervous with Dutchy standing next to me. Every time I looked at him, he was just smiling, with his eyes shut.
That unnerved me. Granted, I understood that some people just had their moods; Skittery was typically irritated, Mush was a spacey romantic, and so on. However, Dutchy didn't seem to just have a 'happy streak'; he was just happy all the time. That was so unlike me that it was almost bothersome.
"Specs, you could be louder," Dutchy finally advised after I got brushed off by potential customers several times in a row. "You sound too timid."
I scowled. "Am not," I argued, unable to think of a good comeback.
"Don't get so offended," Dutchy replied opening his eyes to squint at me. "I'm just saying; I've heard you really yell before and you're being a lot quieter now."
I frowned. "When did I 'really yell'?" I asked, trying to think of when Dutchy would have heard me.
Dutchy grinned impishly. "That time that you got in that street fight, right after you came to the LH," he smirked.
"Oh, that," I rolled my eyes. "That wasn't that loud."
"Well, you were yelling louder then than you were just now," Dutchy observed, a little sarcastically. That's funny; I had never heard him be sarcastic.
I huffed but not wanting him to get the better of me, I raised my voice and sold a few more papers without a comment from the peanut gallery. However, as the day wore on, Dutchy slipped in a few more helpful tips about selling papers. And after I followed his advice, I was rewarded by more papers sold and a proud smile from Dutchy. We ended up selling over our normal quota of papers that day and celebrated by splitting a sarsaparilla at Tibby's. It was great.
Sitting across from Dutchy in Tibby's, a cheesy feeling welled up inside of me. (Luckily I had the glasses again at this point so he couldn't see the stupid look on my face.) I had never had a close friend like this before and it was a warm feeling. It felt…good.
So, at the end of the day, I really had to thank Dutchy. I chose to do it outside though, so that the other guys wouldn't hear my pathetic sounding 'thanks Dutch'. (I sounded like a freakin' girl!)
Dutchy just smiled at me. (Or at least, I think he did. He had the glasses on at that point.) "It's no problem Specsie," he snickered as he messed with my name. "We make a good team."
"Yeah, we do," I said smiling, feeling the railing with my hand as I climbed up the stairs. My smile faded. "But we can't exactly share your glasses every day."
I think Dutchy shrugged beside me because it looked like his blurry shape moved. "We'll figure something out," he said nonchalantly. "Maybe we'll find yours."
"Hope so," I said stumbling into the bedroom. I heard and saw blurry shapes in the room and I automatically assumed that a poker game or two was going on. Not inclined to join them, I began feeling my way to my bunk. My feet hurt and as successful as the day was, my body was exhausted. Mostly though, it was my mind that was tired. (Probably because of the stress of being half-blind.)
Anyway, I fell onto my bed and heard my mattress squeak as it slid around on the bedframe. Suddenly, I heard a scraping noise near my head and I cocked my head. What was that?
I jammed my hand down between the headboard and my mattress, feeling around. I got a splinter in my thumb but ignoring the pain, I continued to sweep my hand around. I had a hunch that – aha!
My hand closed around something metal and smooth and I quickly recognized that undeniable shape. I placed my glasses on my head, rejoicing in the comfort of a perfect fit as well as perfect vision.
"Dutchy!" I called, rolling off my bed. "I found 'em!"
"You did?" Dutchy crossed the room and scrutinized my face. "Well, that worked out," he said grinning. "Where were they?"
I showed him the spot. He shook his head. "Who would've thought?" he said laughing a little.
"Go figure right?" I said grinning. "But that works out nice."
"For sure," Dutchy agreed. "Still," he said, sounding a little timid and awkward. "Do you want to keep selling together Specs?" he asked in a rush, as if a little embarrassed. "We make pretty good selling partners you know."
I grinned and slung an arm around his neck. "Sure thing," I said, pleased that he had asked me.
And we've sold together ever since.