The Christmas break was really complicated. Basically, my mom spent the entire time running around like a headless chicken. My dad was a bit more relaxed about it all. He calmly informed us that the newsies (and Sarah) were welcome to stay as long as they wanted. With a few major rules.
In addition to all the basic rules that belonged in every household, there were three major rules.
No one who didn't already know about the newsies' origins was allowed to be told. In other words, only the family and Cat knew, and we were keeping it that way.
The newsies were completely responsible for their own actions. Anything happened because of them; their own fault.
Jess, Mike, and I were in charge of educating them.
My dad made these three rules very clear. And then, on Christmas day, we had tacos for lunch.
This was more normal than you'd think. A stereotypical family dinner was out of the question. We were too weird for that.
Our dining room table was weird. If you did something, then undid something else, it extended to accommodate more chairs. That was the only reason there was enough room for all of us.
I don't know why, but for some reason the newsies had never heard of tacos, and neither had the Mary Sue.
"Basically," Jess was explaining when I came down for dinner. "It's meat, cheese, sour cream, lettuce, and a whole bunch of other stuff wrapped up in a tortilla."
"It sounds icky," Les said, earning a smack upside the head by his older brother.
"It tastes great," I added, walking over. "And we add rice to it. You guys'll love it."
"Sound weihd," Spot crossed his arms.
"You're weird," Jess told him. Then Sarah appeared. "Sarah! What are you doing?!" She'd changed back into her 1899 clothes.
"I didn't feel comfortable dressed like a—" she blushed.
"A what?" Jess crossed her arms and looked at her expectantly. "Go on, say it."
"Do," I smiled sweetly. "I'm sure the boys all know what you're talking about, but we don't." I fluttered my eyelashes. "We're innocent girls."
"Innocent, my ass," Spot muttered.
"I'll deal with you later, Conlon," I told him. "Do tell us, Sarah, what Jess dressed you up to look like."
Sarah looked embarrassed. She fiddled with her skirt. "Nothing."
"Oh, but you've brought it up," Jess said. "Now you have to tell us." I looked at her, and I saw she genuinely didn't know. I grinned.
"A slut," Sarah whispered. Annnnnnnndddd cue facepalm.
"What the—? Oh for Pete's sake!" Jess seized Sarah's wrist and began to tug her to my room.
"That was interesting," I said brightly. "Now, who wants tacos?"
Mike began to jump up in down. The boys were less eager, but they agreed that tacos were better than nothing. Except for Spot. He was content with starving if it meant he didn't have to do anything he didn't want to. I told him to stop throwing a tantrum, it was time to eat.
We all sat down at the table, and once we were all served, I was the one to kick off the conversation.
I asked the one question the Newsies fandom wanted to know the most, and probably still does.
"So, boys," I said, and they looked up. "How many girl newsies are there?"
There was silence for a moment.
"I was gonna ask that," Jess murmured.
"Hush up," I told her. "Well, boys?"
"I have no idea," David told me frankly.
"Dat's cuz you're a newbie," Racetrack told him. "No, doll. Hardly any goil newsies. Not in 'Hattan anyhows."
"Three in Brooklyn," Spot reported, examining his taco. "Two of 'em in disguise, as if that'd fool me."
"Theah's s'posedly six in da Bronx," Blink told me, "An' I know foahteen in Staten."
"Queens' got da most," Mush said. "Twenty-six."
"And is there any particular reason that there are so few girl newsies?" Jess prompted. We exchanged glances. No matter the answer, we were going to enjoy this.
Spot shrugged. "Goils is weak," He said bluntly. "Too weak to be newsies."
"Of course," Jess said sarcastically. "That makes sense."
"Don't it?" Spot smirked.
Normally my mom and dad would chime in somewhere around here, but this time they just smiled and waited. I guess they would intervene if it came to blows, but for now they were just enjoying the show.
"Goils can't keep up wid a newsies' life," Mush shrugged. "Too little food, too few comforts."
"Plenty of boys, though," Jess muttered, too low for anyone but me to hear. I choked on my Sprite.
"And it's far too dirty, being a newsie," Sarah added with a smile. "And everything is ten times more difficult."
"Goils is weak," Spot concluded. His eyes bore into mine, daring me to challenge him. "Boys is stronger."
"Oh really?" I heard my voice add sarcastically. "Soon as you give birth, get back to me on that," I smirked. "Boys are always complaining about how girls are fragile as glass. Well guess what, maybe boys are just too tough for their own good."
"But plenty of women die in childbirth," Sarah told me.
"And plenty more live to do it all over again," Jess put in. "Besides, girls can be tough as nails if we want to."
"Really?" Spot drawled. "How?"
"Again," I told him. "Get back to us once you've given birth."
The rest of the meal was spent in heated argument, during which we covered a vast variety of subjects, including (but not limited to) women's rights, computers, the contents of Mike's junkyard of a room, and nuclear physics.
Nah, not nuclear physics. We're too weird for that.
Anyway, after dinner we decided to watch a movie. And it was Jess's turn.
Our living room had a long couch, two armchairs, and a warm rug. Our parents and the dog occupied most of the couch, but there was somehow room left over for Mike, Les, and Sarah to sit on the end. Spot and Jack claimed the armchairs, and the rest of us quickly settled on the rug after retrieving various sleeping bags, pillows, and blankets.
"Is it weird that the dog has priority over us?" Jess said, looking at Sam. He was panting noisily in triumph. He looked very comfortable on the couch.
"Absolutely," I said. "But that's okay."
So, Mike ejected the disk that had previously been in the DVD player (Thor), and put in the one Jess had picked. The worst movie of all.
The boys immediately protested when the menu appeared. The movie seemed to be some sort of romantic shiznit, so it was a natural reaction.
Jess told them to stuff it while I put on English subtitles and pressed play.
Immediately, everyone's eyes were glued to the screen, and we felt it necessary to add commentary every once in a while.
Until a certain moment where Kate pulled out a diamond necklace, and passed it to Jack.
"Jack, I want you to draw me like one of your French girls."
Half the room exploded into laughter as I paused it. Jess and I were immediately on our feet, yelling and shooing Mike and Les out of the room.
"Why do they need to leave?" Sarah demanded as we hauled the kids off the couch.
"Oh, believe me," Jess smirked. "You'll be glad they did."
Once the boys were safely out of the room, I pressed play.
The boys hooted when Kate Winslet came on the screen, naked. My parents laughed and Sarah leapt to her feet, screeching.
Nobody paid attention to her. As the scene played through and Jess was informing everyone that it was not Leonardo di Caprio who was drawing Rose, but the director, James Cameron, I noticed that Sarah left.
Good riddance, I thought.
Once the movie was over (and the boys gradually stopped talking about that one scene, our mom made popcorn and ice cream for everyone.
The rest of the Christmas break was spent with my mom still running around like a headless chicken. She arranged for the newsies' spots in school, and went shopping frantically.
Only once did she ever manage to draw us, the newsies, and Mary Sue along with her. I guess she figured that Mary Sue could watch the kids, and Jess and I would keep after the newsies.
She was wrong.
It was the Saturday before we went back to school. My mom decided that she didn't want us to stay in the house all day and Internet. (Internet is a verb now.)
So, my mom managed to get us all in the car. We have a minivan, and to me it's amazing we all fit. I took passenger seat, because I am awesome, and Jess, Sarah, and David took the middle. Les sat on Sarah's lap, and Mike sat on Jess's lap. Even though there was no room for four people in the back, we somehow squeezed Jack, Spot, Blink, and Mush into the back. Racetrack decided he'd go in the trunk.
My mom was very big on safety and stuff, but even she had to admit that as long as nobody died, it was a suitable, if uncomfortable, arrangement.
We went to Target, because Target has everything.
Since Jess and I have our own cell phones, we split up. Mom took Mike, Les, Blink, and Mush, because I guess she figured Mush could help with the kids. Blink was mostly along for the ride just because they were heading in the general direction of the video games.
Jess took charge of Sarah and her wardrobe, and David went with them to avoid utter disaster, which left me stuck with Jack, Racetrack, and Spot.
I checked the list my mom had given me. School supplies. Lots of them.
I shoved a red basket at each of the boys, and set off towards the school supplies.
There were maybe four other people in that general area, because most people don't bother to restock on school supplies. They just run out and borrow other people's stuff for the last few weeks of school.
"So," I said, stopping abruptly in an aisle filled with notebooks. "Let's vote. Shall we go to notebooks and folders first, or miscellaneous stuff?"
"What's miscellaneous mean?" Racetrack was rummaging through his jeans' pockets, trying to find a cigar. None.
"The definition is anything that doesn't fit into another of the available categories," I said promptly. "So, where do we go first?"
We decided to go get the smaller things. Pencils, pens, flash drives, and glue sticks.
It was a mistake.
We went through the pencils and stuff alright, until we hit the rack full of flash drives. They were all sorts of cool shapes and figures—from Einstein to R2-D2 to Angry Birds to cows.
The boys began to fight like children over who got which.
"Dibs on the penguin," Jack declared, pouncing on a purple and white penguin flash drive.
"Dibs, my ass," Spot Conlon said, snatching another from the same rack.
"Found a monkey!" Racetrack said from the other side of the rack. "Check it out, dere's a toitle, too!"
Jack and Spot raced around to the other side, and proceeded to fight over who got which flash drive.
I calmly picked out an Albert Einstein one, and then went to calm the children.
"Simple," I said, plucking the flash drives out of their hands. "Jack gets the penguin, Spot gets the turtle, and Race gets the monkey. Done." I handed each boy their own flash drive, and they began to yell at me.
"Aw, shut up," I said, smacking Jack upside the head. I had to reach up about three feet to do it, but it was worth the expression on his face. "Move it, we're going for notebooks now."
Supposedly, my mom had arranged for them to have the same classes as me, at least until the exact extent of their knowledge could be determined. So that meant I was going to have Spot Conlon in a Child Development class, trying to look after a bunch of four-year-olds. The poor kids.
Anyway, that meant that I needed to get them calculators, too, for math. I told them to each pick out five notebooks, and each of their notebooks had to be a different color, and that I'd be right back.
I got the calculators and returned, to find them fighting again.
"What is with you guys?" I demanded. "Seriously!"
"Simple," a little voice in my mind murmured. Spot and Jack, two leaders of different boroughs. Power conflict. Race was just unharmonious and loudmouthed.
"Okay, here's what's gonna happen," I told them swiftly, smacking them each with a spiral notebook. "If you three don't pull yourselves together, I will hang you all from the ceiling by your toenails. Got it?"
The boys, all together, looked at the ceiling. It was very high above them.
Once we had gone through the school supplies, I managed to steer them towards clothes. I got out several screen-printed T-shirts, and pairs of jeans. Shoving clothes into their red baskets, I pushed them into the changing rooms, and waited for them to emerge. Next to the boys' changing rooms were the girls' changing rooms, and I heard a very familiar voice.
". . . hold still, damn it!" I sighed. Jess was being weird again. I went to see what was going on.
Her voice was coming behind a closed door, a changing stall, and I saw two pairs of feet. One was barefoot, and the other pair was clad in sneakers.
"Seriously, Sarah, it's not that hard. One leg, the other, wiggle, wiggle, jump, zip, button. Not that hard."
And cue facepalm.
Jess heard me face palm. "Kat, is that you?"
"What are you doing to the poor girl?" I demanded, rapping on the door.
"Trying to get her into jeans!" Jess yelled. "Not working! She's also refusing to buy shorts! She says they're unacceptable!"
"They are!" Sarah's voice insisted. "I don't know how life is here, but at home we were raised to dress like women, not men!"
"As a general rule," Jess told her, "Guys don't wear bras."
I sighed. She was being contrary again. It could take her hours to descend from the lofty attitude she put on when she was pissed.
"Just tell me where David is," I said, "And I'll leave you two to your squabbling."
"I resent that!" Jess yelled over the door. "He's getting more clothes for Sarah. He'll be back in a minute."
I sighed, and returned to wait near the entrance to the boys' changing room.
They emerged, finally, dressed in more modern stuff. I'd gotten them shirts with cool things on them.
Jack's said IF WE GET CAUGHT IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT.
Racetrack's said NON-FLAMMABLE? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED.
Spot's was my favorite, because I'm a big Doctor Who fan. It said not that kind of doctor.
I grinned broadly. "I love them."
Then Sarah appeared, dressed in skinny jeans, a flowy blue shirt, a big brown belt, and 1 ½ heels.
It was official. Jess had gone full-blown popular style on Sarah.
"Holy . . ." David appeared, nearly dropping a huge pile of clothes.
"Oh, you're back," Jess said cheerfully as the boys gaped at Sarah. I rolled my eyes. Jess went overboard. The jeans didn't need to be so tight. "Good, what did you get?"
David handed the huge pile over to Jess, who promptly dumped it into a nearby shopping cart and proceeded to go through each piece.
"David, what the hell? What is this? This dress is absolutely—ugh! David, did you get a corset? Are you insane?" She let out an exaggerated sigh.
"I'll watch them," I promised. "You go clean this up."
Jess nodded, disappearing into the clothes.
"What?" David looked at me. "What did I do?"
Well, the shopping trip ended with Jack falling through a wall, Sarah fainting, Spot trying to steal a pair of suspenders, and Les getting lost. Then, adding to all that, my mom had to pay for at least seven things they'd broken.
A very successful trip, all in all.