Disclaimer: Any characters you recognize in this story are the property of Disney and their likenesses are only used for fan related purposes. Any original characters featured are the intellectual property of their creators.
Author's Note: This is my attempt at writing a multi-chaptered fic for the new Newsies Union. In case you're unfamiliar with the Union, it's a character-based writing circle/RP group where you apply to lodging houses and then write stories based on the characters in your lodging house. I applied to the Greenwich Village Lodging House and brought to life the character of Kit Harding. The story that follows is her story and... um... it's going to be interesting. I hope you enjoy it!
To the Waters and the Wild
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.
– "The Stolen Child", William Butler Yeats
January 28, 1900
The music from the Black Rabbit leaked out onto the streets at all hours of the day but at sunset, when night crept in like one of the Rabbit's backdoor patrons, it seemed even louder. More alive. And the laughter, oh the laughter...
Kit Harding cocked her head to the side and closed her eyes for just a moment to pretend she couldn't hear the laughter that seeped its way over to where she stood on the edge of Bleecker Street. She'd made the mistake of going inside the establishment once—just once—and the laughter was the least of what she had seen but the only thing she allowed herself to remember. Regardless of what her father thought, she was still a good girl and good girls didn't visit such places, even if they were past seventeen years of age and already so very world-weary.
The truth was that it made her twitchy, coming this close to the Black Rabbit, but she had promised her uncle she would tell him when she made up her mind about leaving and for all the girl's faults—and, she allowed, there were plenty—telling fibs wasn't one of them. Sure, it was fine and dandy to tell a wee one in order to make a sale but Kit wasn't about to go back on her word.
Even if it meant she had to spend an awkward evening standing outside the decadent club front, waiting for her uncle to emerge from within the darkness of the Rabbit...
The wind was picking up a little. An unseasonably warm day for winter in Greenwich Village had given way to a chilly evening and if Kit was the sort of girl to show her weaknesses, she would be shivering. Instead, jutting out her chin in defiance of the weather, she pulled her knitted shawl closer with one hand while reaching behind her with the other. Her fingers groped for the slim cardboard box she had tucked in the hem of her long brown skirt, slipped securely underneath her cream-colored shirtwaist, and she huffed a job well done when she finally closed in on it.
The box was slightly crushed for having been hidden; the image of a cherubic little angel was creased but she could still make out the words dashed blow that read: Our Little Beauties. Disregarding the cigarette card still inside the box, Kit pulled out one of the few cigarettes left still remaining and perched it lightly between her lips.
Back home, back in Village Leitrim, she only had been able to smoke hand-rolled's when she could convince one of the farmers' boys to give her one, and that was if she could convince them. Now, though, now she could buy a box of cigarettes whenever she wanted which she did and with far more regularity these last few weeks. Christmas had been rough, that damn anniversary in early January even worse, and it seemed like a lit cigarette was the only thing that could calm her these days.
And it wasn't like Uncle Charlie minded. He didn't. In fact, her uncle—barely a handful of years older than Kit herself—he always seemed ready to approve of the exact things that would've upset her father if he were there which was probably one of the reasons why Joseph McElroy thought of his younger brother as backwards.
Of course, having lived with Uncle Charlie these last six months, Kit knew it wasn't the only reason...
She had just finished tussling with the box of matches she kept stowed away in the slight gap between her stockinged feet and the inside of her heeled shoe, cursing under her breath in a strange mix of English, Gaelic and Italian as she was reminded just how difficult it was to strike a match while holding onto her shawl and trying to shield the flame from the wind at the same time when a shadow suddenly fell at her feet and she glanced up in barely masked surprise. Usually just being near the Black Rabbit meant that most people passing through this part of town ignored her, either because they weren't interested in a pretty young girl who haunted out the corner in front of 183 Bleecker Street or because they just weren't interested in a pretty young girl in general.
And then, sometimes, because Kit Harding was, to her ever loving shame and despite her attempts to remedy that, still petite and slender with chestnut-colored hair and eyes like the sea—blue and deep and absolutely dangerous—that were currently narrowed in open dislike, she would run into big, oafish fellows like the one standing in front of her who were too thick to string half a clue together.
He was tall which wasn't saying much since most everyone she met since arriving in America seemed a giant to her, and he was wide. Barrel-chested. Strong. She supposed he was handsome enough—he had all his own teeth and the hair sticking out from under his hat was fair and clean—but he was the worst kind of handsome: the sort who thought too highly of himself and expected a girl on her own to think so, too.
If Kit had been foolish enough to stand beneath a gas lamp, lit or not, then he would have leaned against it in an attempt to come off as suave. Only she hadn't and he had to make due with resting back on his heels, his arms crossed over his chest as he smiled down on her. He must have thought he looked charming. Kit just wished he'd leave her to smoke her cigarette in peace.
"Why," he said, and his voice was deep and gravelly, "hello there."
Her first thought was a hope that he was trying to start up a conversation with someone else on the street but, since she was the only one standing there, she gave up on that. Her second thought was more of a seasoned observation: she noticed that he spoke without any noticeably foreign accent. A Native then, not Irish like Kit or Italian like most of the people who lived in the area. Almost unconsciously she made the choice to mimic his tone, drop her g's and add a duller edge to her d's—what she thought to herself as the New York accent—before she realized that, if she didn't say anything at all, maybe he would just go away.
It was another false hope.
He jerked his head at the cigarette she held in one hand while cupping her elbow in the other. "Nice night for a smoke," he added needlessly.
Kit made a noncommittal sound as she nodded, purposely taking a long drag off of her cigarette before blowing the stream of smoke out softly. She hoped he would get the hint and go.
Instead, leering appreciatively at her action, his lips curling as he angled his head downwards in order to get a better look at her, he moved a little closer so that there could be no denying he was trying to talk to her. "Name's Trev," he added.
So? Kit looked at a point past him and still didn't say anything at all. Her cigarette was halfway gone. It was disappearing too quickly for her liking.
"What 'bout you?" persisted Trev. "You got a name?"
"Kathleen," she offered shortly after a few tense seconds because, well, something told her that he wasn't leaving without hers and she knew when to pick her battles. Her nickname was sacred; she kept that to herself. Kathleen was worthless—he could have that and that was all he could have.
Trev certainly was a thick one, or perhaps he was clever enough to disregard Kit's less-than-pleased greeting. "'S a pretty name, Kathleen," he murmured and she was sure she heard the slur in his voice. Not even sunset yet and this one had already had been at the bottle. Wonderful. "Pretty name, right, for a pretty girl. Heh, heh."
She had to work hard to bite back another torrent of curses while keeping her expression carefully blank. He didn't deserve to call her Kit and Kathleen was her given name but, darn it, did he have to call it pretty? She tried her best to be anything but: wiping dust and dirt across her cheeks to hide how fair and pale they were; refusing to brush her hair until it was a tangle and a mess that knotted itself; smearing ash on her skirt and letting the ends of her sleeves get frayed. And that laugh, tacked on right at the end of his comment, almost like a slap... it made her jaw clench and her skin crawl.
Kit took another drag off her cigarette and exhaled roughly. "It's a name, that's all it is." She turned away, glancing over at the Black Rabbit's facade. Where in the world was her uncle? What was taking him so long?
She was going to have to go in there and get him, wasn't she?
Another puff, followed by a sigh of resignation.
Trev was still trying to get her attention. He took a step closer to her so that he was right at her back. This close she could smell the rank alcohol that clung to his shirt. Her stomach heaved and she took another drag, trying not to notice it—or the fact that he was hovering over her.
"So, Kathleen," he said, and she could feel his hot breath warming her up in a way that was entirely unpleasant, "tell me: what you doin' waitin' outside a place like that?" She turned to look over at him in time to notice him waving his hand aimlessly behind him in the direction of the Rabbit. His broad nose was wrinkled in distaste, there were furrows in his brow. Maybe his skin was crawling now, too.
Still, Kit was a touch impressed. Most folks in Greenwich Village knew about the Black Rabbit's reputation but for the sake of decency and their own pride, they pretended they didn't. And then the big oaf went on to add with a sneer—
"Pretty thing like you, don't tell me you're one of them? It would be such a waste. Heh, heh."
—and she decided that, so long as she kept her eyes down and found another of her uncle's friends first, it would be worth it to nip inside if only to get away from this Trev.
She took one last, long drag off her cigarette, sucking on the ends as if the tobacco would give her the strength to walk right inside the Black Rabbit and then, still ignoring her company, she threw the ends to the dirt and brushed some of the gravel over it to extinguish the dying embers. That accomplished, she started for the door.
"Where ya goin'? Kathleen?"
Kit began to remove her shawl, pretending she hadn't heard him call after her; it was easy, seeing as how she never answered to Kathleen anymore, not if she could help it. From her memory, she remembered that it was hot inside the Rabbit no matter how chilly it was outside. Balling her shawl up, she tucked it at her side and kept on walking.
She was just a few feet away from the front entrance when Trev came after her.
"Hey," he shouted hotly, grabbing her by her upper arm and whirling Kit around so that she was eye to eye with his chest, "I was talkin' to you!"
She froze immediately, tensing underneath his iron grip, and then, without a word, a cry or a scream, Kit purposefully lowered her gaze to Trev's feet.
Or, to be more precise, his shoes.
They were cheap. Thin. Flimsy. They weren't boots, or even the sort of shoes that had thick leather on the top to protect the toes and worn out soles that barely lasted. No, they were silly things, barely leather at all, cracked along the edge with laces that could barely pass for twine.
Kit bit the inside of her cheek to keep from smiling. At least there was one thing about that night that was going in her favor.
Because, you see, she knew she would never have a chance against his upper body, his arms, his hands, his brute strength. Trev was a big man, built like an ox, and now that he grabbed her, she wouldn't get away without help. But she had one thing on her side: the element of surprise. He wouldn't expect her to fight back, not a short, waifish girl like Kit, and she had to admit that being short had its advantages sometimes. She was quick. She was a smaller target. And, most importantly, she knew the significance—the weakness—of feet. She was close enough to the ground to remember them.
She didn't have to look down at her own. She knew exactly what sort of shoes she was wearing—they were good country shoes, thick leather tops, buttons on the sides for a bit of design, and, oh yes, heels.
It wasn't that pointed of a heel at the end of each of her shoes. In fact, she would have to admit it was more of a thick, sensible square that lent her a little bit of height when she needed it, except Kit had spent the first night after she bought them with a sharp kitchen knife, filing down the back end for when it wasn't just height she was after but a bit of weight instead.
One quick step. That was all it took. One quick step and the point of Kit's heel wasn't against the dirt anymore but right on the top of his foot where the bones were brittle and easily broken and his flimsy shoes provided no protection.
He was surprised. She could see it in his mud-brown eyes, could hear it in the way he gasped and winced and tightened his grip on her arm. Kit would have a bruise there come morning but if that was all, she'd be grateful. She pressed down with just a little more force, hoping he thought that was all she was capable of, and said softly in a voice that mimicked Trev's, "That's my heel you feel in your foot. I may not weigh much but I know very well the kind of damage I could do with one wrong step. So let me ask you, Trev: are you gonna let me go or am I going to have to do something about this?"
His laugh rang out on the street but seeing as how it was Bleecker Street, no one paid either of them any notice. "You think you're hurtin' me? C'mon, Kathleen, this is just a little bit of fun. You want me to take a turn? Now you... you I could really hurt."
"I'm sure you could," conceded Kit, "but not here. Not now. So you go on—let go of me. You get your big, dirty mitts off me right this second and I'll try not to dig my heel any more than I already have. No? Alright then."
And she pushed. She pushed as hard as she could.
He grunted, more of a groan really as Kit—who he could probably snap in half if she gave him the chance but she wouldn't and, up until then, he'd been humoring her—pressed down with just enough in just the right spot to cause the most amount of pain possible. There was an audible snap, Trev's face turned bright red as he hollered out what could have been a curse or maybe even a cry for the Lord, and he shoved Kit away from him.
She stumbled, not quite prepared for his push. Her heel had still been digging into the front of his shoe and it wasn't ready to find purchase against the uneven cobblestones just yet. But Kit didn't fall, though it did look like she might for a moment, and though she stumbled, she was back on her feet in a few seconds.
A few seconds was all it took for Trev—blind with sudden rage and fury—to step forward and get ready to retaliate. He reared his arm back, his hand already folding itself up tight as he got ready to strike, to push her as hard as he could again, to knock her to the ground, anything, and—
—something caught his fist. And squeezed. Drops of blood dripped down onto the cobbles immediately, staining them crimson where they fell.
This time Trev did more than just groan: the big man whimpered. There was pain when the girl stepped on his foot and maybe he shouldn't have tried to take a swing at her but he was paying for it now. It was like his hand was caught in a trap, the slice, the heat and the sticky wetness that suddenly coated his knuckles, dripping into the webs of his fingers, dropping to the ground. His hand was in agony and he didn't know why.
And then he heard, in a voice thick with an Irish brogue and a touch more feminine than he would expect for a grip like that—
"What's this, eh? Not tryin' to to raise your hand to a girl, are you?"
Trev whipped his head around and for one, horrible second, just stared.
End Note: This is the first half of the opening chapter before I delve back into the past and explore more of Kit's journey about who she is, why she is where she is and what happened to her. I made a point of putting in references to her past, names and occasions, but it will all be explained as the story unfolds :) Right now I have it planned out at 11 chapters so... yes. The next chapter should be up fairly soon because, well, I can't wait to introduce you to her savior, heh.
Thank you for starting Kit's story! It's going to be quite a wild ride.
- stress, 02.07.12