Thank you so much for reading! I will not stop writing; in fact I have many chapters written all ready. It just takes me time to upload them.
I want you to know I write for myself, and I will never ask you guys to review or favorite or alert. I believe my writing should stand on its own. Constructive criticism is always appreciated, but never enforced. I'm very happy with this story and I hope you are too!
Peter tripped on the first step and fell down the remaining twenty. His left foot stretched and an excruciating angle and to slap the back of his head and let the breath escape from his lungs. The old, bluing bruises on his back moaned in agony at hitting the tough wood. Peter did not feel the pain though; all he felt was the anxiety and a rush of elated nerves run down his spine. He didn't even bed down to pick up his hat.
A thick, calloused hand reached out and steadied him hastily, quickly brushing the dirt off his shoulders and replacing the hat on his head violently.
Jimmy stepped away from a disheveled Peter and nervously glanced at the couch behind him.
"Behold" Jimmy muttered in a sharp tongue, " The ever-so-graceful, Peter!"
The boy felt his cheeks go red and his hands curl into fists, just to be immediately relaxed. He looked around the room embarrassed for a quick second before he caught the sight of her.
Two warm brown eyes stared into Peter's hazel green. Immediately a pleasant, burning, warmth ran down his spine. His palms went hot and moist and Peter was positive it wasn't from the run.
he stared in shock, for she was sitting up straight all on her own. Peter noticed just how long her hair was. Just a couple inches short from the crease of her elbow.
"Hello" Peter croaked out. He was suddenly grateful for Jimmy straitening him before he met her.
"Peter is the one that found you" Jimmy muttered softly.
Jimmy never spoke softly.
"None of us here will hurt you, we just want you to be safe after all that has happened".
Peter would have said something, anything even, if he could just release the tight muscles in his jaw.
Her voice was raspy with disuse. It sounded like the way a child speaks before crying, but she said it with a content yet wary expression.
"I could hear you", she explained.
Her face went red, like she had stumbled into some privet affair she was not supposed to see. In retrospect she had the right to feel that way, Peter supposed. Those self realizations those boys had holding her hands were intimate in a way she couldn't understand.
"There are other boys living here too. We have all been helping you" Jimmy said
As if on cue the basement door burst open and down came the crew, all red-faced and sweaty. Peter prayed that he didn't look that pathetic on his arrival. Curly's hair was swept vertical by the wind, making his hair look like it had been pressed by an iron.
The girl suppressed a snicker at the look of Tootles face. Perhaps he had never been this close to a girl before, or at least not a pretty one.
"Hello" she said politely to the crowd, not in the least bit embarrassed by her state. If she wasn't in only her undergarments she would have outstretched her hand, but she was afraid the blanket resting on her torso would slip.
"Hi" Brady said with a wide smile on his young face.
She smiled back, her face so warm and full of life it could have fogged up the windows. Underneath her healthy pink cheeks was a cold darkness that reflected in her eyes and parted mouth. Her eyes did not smile along with her lips. All the boys wanted was to step closer and hug her, but it was under very odd circumstances that they were now only meeting for the first time. It seemed wrong to introduce yourself first.
Fox rolled his eyes at the silence of the room. He was always labeled the friendliest one of the group, and therefore always ended up being the first to break the ice.
"I'm Fox" he said kindly.
Her face flashed with recognition, "I think I knew that, your voice is familiar"
Peter could feel his eyes widen suddenly. The horror. She had heard Peter talk of family and love, not just moments before she woke up.
Jimmy must have noticed his horrified expression. "Pete?", he asked
Peter snapped back into focus, "Yes?"
"Can you go upstairs in the attic to find something for... um... her to wear?"
Peter nodded his head robotically and turned to leave on the balls on his feet.
He was not yet out of earshot before he heard the girl announce her name.
"So lass, what's ye' name?" Tootles asked
"Locks...My name is Locks"
A silent smile graced his lips. It was an unusual name, but it suited her. A pretty name for a pretty girl.
The attic was almost as cold as the basement, and twice as rickety and old. The top of the building was just a mess of a wooden structure limbs with piles of junk scattered around. Jimmy had an old wardrobe in the back where Peter used to hide every time the gang played hide and seek. Of course, he always won sitting in that ominous cameo flogged box. He remembered a couple of old dresses hanging in there that were soft to the touch and held rotting candy in the pockets.
Peter brought down a light pink dress that had little fabric roses on the long sleeves. It was a peasants dress, not meant to have a wire skirt or corset underneath, and had a collar up to the chin, marking it as out of style, but somehow he knew she wouldn't mind.
She marveled at the softness and appeal of the fabric for hours, and Peter watched her from the corner of his eye, just as long.
She had looked so beautiful and soft and fragile in that dress that she could have been painted on the crystal vases in the antique shop across the street. Peter wouldn't mind breaking in to steal that.
Yet, the lightness from her waking was short lived, for Fox decided to do an investigation on her attacker.
"Do you remember what he looked like?" he asked, gripping a pen and pad of paper like a journalist
"No. He came from b-behind me" she said quietly. Her voice broke and Brady grabbed her shaking hand and Connor grasped the skirt of her dress.
"Why we're you out so late?" Fox asked, this time a little softer, his cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
"I think I was walking home I think. I don't remember the night entirely because I was crying as I walked. Maybe he h-heard me and followed m-me"
"What were you crying about?"
Her face went grave and still, "My friend is sick. I went to say goodbye"
"Oh", it was a stupid question to ask. Fox's cheeks went scarlet.
"Do you have anywhere else to stay?" Jimmy asked.
"No. My family has been dead for years. I've been living in a church basement"
It was so perfect Peter couldn't help the burst of words from escaping his mouth.
"You can stay with us! We are better than a Church basement!"
Even though that wasn't entirely true, for a basement is still a basement, but every one's eyes lit up. The boy's woes of approval escaped their tight lips as well: "Yes! We didn't have anywhere to go either!";
"You could help Tootles talk to girls"; "Oh! And teach Fox how to walk in heeled shoes!"
Locks giggled and the sound even softened Fox's intense face.
"There is another cot hidden around here somewhere" Jimmy grumbled.
Locks smiled, it made Peter's stomach knot with warmth.
"That sounds wonderful" she exhaled, "I've never had brothers before"
Locks found her place in the boy's home quite quickly. She set up her cot on the other side of the room only moments after being offered the space. She folded her borrowed dresses with rags stacked between so they wouldn't gather dust or moths. She placed a lumpy washcloth under her pillow with a coy smile. No one questioned the odd tradition in fear of offending the young lady. She had no shoes, but her dresses were too big for her so it touched the ground. She didn't remember if she had been wearing shoes that day when she was crying, so no one looked for them, and Peter fished out a pair of black women's shoes from the wardrobe. When it was time to sleep Locks removed her dress under her covers and stayed still in her sleep to keep herself covered. In case anyone was tempted to look, Jimmy insisted her space be set up on the other side of the room, too far to peep at.
Peter's sleep lacked his usual nightmares and visions. The old fantasies of rich queens ceased and were replaced with visions of a blurry, youthful, depiction of his mother; swirling around in a pink, peasant dress. On her arm was a man of grace, with quick footwork like Jimmy's and a coy smile, the same smile Peter wore when we woke every morning.