"Eugene! Eugene!" Henry cried, flying down the hall, his bare feet slapping the ground.
Eugene looked up, gazing at Henry from under his fringe of brown hair, an amused expression on his face. Thomas and Sara sat up curiously.
"Look what I got! Look what I got! It's a birthday present, since you're twelve today!" Henry said giddily, handing Eugene an object wrapped in an old shirt.
Eugene took it with a smile. "Thank you!" he said, even though he figured it was probably just something Henry had found on the street that would be of no use to anyone.
He'd received presents from Henry before, see. An old shoe, a lizard, an arrow, a half-eaten cupcake…He'd kept them all (except for the lizard; he ran away) out of kindness for the younger boy.
He pulled the old shirt away and gasped. In his hands was a tattered, leather-bound book.
"The Tales of Flynnagan Rider. Thank you, Henry! This is great!" Eugene said sincerely.
"You can read?" Thomas asked incredulously.
"Of course he can!" Sara exclaimed, pushing her hair behind her ear. "He's a genius!"
Eugene laughed and shook his head in disbelief. "I can't believe this, Henry! I mean, how did you get it?"
Henry smiled. "I'm not tellin' you!"
Eugene laughed again and tousled the little boy's hair.
"How would you like me to read you bit, huh?"
"Yes!" all three kids shouted eagerly.
"Alright, but first we need to find James, Alison, and Erik."
In no time at all, all six orphans were gathered around Eugene, listening intently as he recounted tales of the heroic Flynnagan Rider, handsome, dashing, rich, swashbuckler, attracting adventure and women everywhere he went, mounted on his trusty steed. No foe could defeat him, nor could they crush his ever-free, soaring spirit!
It became part of every-day life at the orphanage. Every night, he would read to the children. Gradually, more and more kids came to the orphanage, and six grew to ten, and ten grew to fifteen, and so on.
Three years later
Eugene sat on the floor next to his cot, putting his carefully folded clothes in the cloth bag the patron had given him, reaching up every few minutes to wipe the tears from his eyes.
"Eugene?" came a soft voice from the doorway.
He looked up to see Sara standing in front of him, tears in her eyes.
"I just found out. You can't leave, Eugene. We need you here!" she said.
Eugene shook his head. "There are too many mouths to feed. I'm fifteen now, Sara. I'll be okay."
"I'm fifteen, too, and they aren't kicking me out!" she cried.
Eugene smiled mischievously. "It's because you're a girl."
"Eugene!" Sara cried, punching him in the arm.
"Ouch!" he yelped, rubbing his arm.
"You deserved it. I'm coming with you."
Eugene looked Sara in the eyes, his face serious. "No, you're not. You're going to stay here and take care of the little ones for me. You can even read to them every night. Here," he said, handing her the loved copy of The Adventures of Flynnagan Rider.
"No, I can't take that," Sara said softly.
"Sara," Eugene said firmly.
"Then I have something for you," she said, taking off the leather cord she kept around her neck. It held three buttons and a silver charm.
"No. You take it. It will be good luck. And it will keep you from forgetting me," Sara said, choking back a sob.
Eugene stood, slung the bag over his shoulder, and gently put the necklace inside. Sara wrapped her arms around him, tears slipping down her cheeks as Eugene returned the embrace.
"Good luck, Eugene," she whispered.
"Goodbye, Sara," he answered.
He walked out of the orphanage, his head held high, his shoulders back, just the way Flynnagan did in the stories. He didn't look back.
He hadn't gone very far before trouble found him, in the form of two broad-shouldered brothers.
"Hey, have you ever seen this guy before?" the smaller of the two said with a smirk.
The other one shook his head.
"Let's give him a good introduction shall we?"
Eugene backed away as the larger one advanced toward him.
"Look, guys, I don't want any trouble…"
One of the brothers grabbed his bag and held it above his head.
"Please, just give it back," Eugene said, struggling to keep panic from seeping into his voice. "There's nothing valuable in there…"
The kid raised an eyebrow. "Oh? Then why are you so worried?"
H opened the bag and took out the necklace from Sarah.
"Ooh, so you're a thief, too, huh? Who'd you steal this pretty thing from?"
"No one. My…mother gave it to me before she died," Eugene lied.
"Aw, how sweet. This charm looks like it's pure silver. Could be worth something…"
"No! Wait! Please, give it back! I-I can help you!"
This got the thief's attention. "Help us? How?"
"You're thieves, right Well, me too. I'm quick on my feet. I can help you steal things."
The thief looked at his brother, who shrugged.
"Alright, then, kid," he said, tossing the bag and necklace back to Eugene. "What's your name?"
"Flynn," Eugene said. He smiled. He liked the sound of that. "My name is Flynn Rider."