Goggles looked up thoughtfully from her perch on the rooftop, feet dangling off the roofs edge, paying little attention to the wind that blew her scarf so heroically in the wind. The strong city gusts ran their fingers through her thick, blonde curly hair, and blew each little curl in every which way and direction. But it never really got in her face; it was too short for that, just an ordinary reminder of the life she left behind and the life she lived now, and loved dearly.
Yeah, it was true that her life wasn't perfect, it never was, and maybe there were a few things that could be improved, but over all life seemed to be treating her well. Despite having to adapt to life as a newsie in the city, living amongst tons of rowdy boys eager for a little dough in their pockets, and having to actually dorm with the little buggers for, let's see… ten years? Life was good. Sure it was a struggle, but just like everyone else in the city you find some way of surviving. It truly was amazing, this world that they lived in. People just didn't give up, like little steam engines chugging up an endless uphill incline, only to just keep going because the hope that something better at the top of the hill was waiting for them, if only they just kept chugging on.
She readjusted her sitting position and swung her legs back onto the rooftop from the ledge, and pressed her body against the cool cement roof, lying on her stomach looking down at the bustling city from above. People are funny, she thought. Look at dem, hustlin' and bustlin' around like lil' ants. I bet dat God gets a kick o' lookin down like dis every day! Goggles let out a brassy, joyous laugh, her cheeks turning pink and her stomach convulsing happily with amusement. It was really a very simple and easy task to entertain and amuse her; life was full of funny quirks, you just needed to know where to find them.
Take her buddy, Tam, for example. In all her years as a newsie, Goggles noted, not a single girl, besides herself, had ever attempted to be a newsie. Sure, she was positive in other places girls had their place in the newsie business, and maybe there was even a female boarding house somewhere over the rainbow. But as far as she had known, there hadn't been, and so a female newsie was a sight to be seen; IF you found them.
Tam had taken the same route she had and pretended to be a butt-kicking, paper-selling, male newsie; pinning her long chocolate brown braid up inside the newsie hat she had received from her cousin. She had gone around dressed in baggy guy's clothes that were almost too big for her tiny frame in attempt to disguise herself, only to have her cover blown by her younger cousin, Les, who accidently pulled her cap off! But Goggles had to admit, despite her appearance Tam had her fooled for a while, that itself was the truth.
That was the reason why Goggles had originally chopped off her long curly tresses so long ago; it was just too risky to go around with goldilocks underneath that cap of hers if she was going to blend in. She had been lucky she had her father's height and had not gotten her mother's short genes, the height plus her strong athletic build had been more than enough to convince the guys she was one of them. The goggles her father had given her back when he was still alive had covered up her big blue eyes, for surely if anyone had seen them and her long, naturally-curled eyelashes her guise would have been blown instantly. Back then, she had felt great content to finally fit in somewhere, be able to do what she chose to and not have anyone worry that she was a weak girl only existing on Earth to serve men. But now it was different.
Once she had revealed herself, although it had been heart-wrenchingly painful to admit to her beloved friends, who took it rather badly in the beginning, it was wonderful now to accept her own self as the girl she really was. She could be herself, her wonderful, goofy, tall, lanky, muscley, rambunctious, female self, and not have to worry about anything or anyone changing that. Everyone loved her for herself, and she didn't have to change for nobody.
Goggles pulled her arms close to her, resting her chin on the soft, warm, and slightly peach-fuzzy comfort of her cushiony appendages. It was times like these she wished she hadn't left her favorite green coat at the boarding house. The once friendly wind seemed to now blow right through her, causing a sharp chill to run up her back as she wrapped her sky blue scarf around the rest of the visible skin on her arms. She shivered, and looked out over the vast cityscape towards the quickly setting sun that was painting the tops of the buildings and sky a salmon pink dabbed with orange.
The pink sort of reminded her of Mush, in a strange way that amused Goggles enough to let out a small chuckle, her cheeks pinkening the same shade as the sky. His face was always turning pink or red nowadays, much to her delight and utter blindness. He was so much fun to tease, yet….. Tam was constantly blabbing on and on about how he supposedly liked Goggles, but no matter how much she rolled it around in her mind it didn't make sense.
"Who in der right mind would like ME?" She spoke her thoughts aloud to the pigeons and open air, maybe God or someone smart would answer the question, although that was highly doubtful, seeing she was almost completely alone on the rooftops of Manhattan. Just like she always was, and it was, for the most part, how she liked it. A place of her own, she had the rooftops almost all to herself, and she commanded them like the moon did the night and the sun the day. True, she loved hanging out with the gang and cared for them like family, but spending endless time in your childhood by yourself tends to make you partial to your own alone time, but only at your own choice, of course. No one loves to be alone when you are truly by yourself in the world, so when you have friends you tend to savor any alone time that is given to you for yourself as a gift.
"So, mistah pigeon, what do ya say tah answering mah question?" Goggles asked the pigeon who was slowly making its way closer to her on the edge of the flat, table-like rooftop, searching for something to peck at and eat to fill its belly. It let out a loud COO! and flutter-hopped farther away, shocked to find the big blonde non-moving thing was not a statue to poop on, but a living being much bigger than it. "Ya know, I's ain't gonna eat ya. Pigeons just ain't to my likings." The pigeon stared, cocking its head to the side, cooing and kicking at the concrete, ignoring her. "Ya know mistah pigeon, you seem like ah pretty smart guy, and so you tell me; why should I believe anything that Tam says about Mush? I mean, ah know she's mah best girl friend, an' probably has more experience in dat genre, but I's known me buddy Mush for years. He's been mah best friend for foreva, and to think dat he…." She turned a dark shade of crimson and flopped over onto her back, intending to focus on the fading clouds in an attempt to steady the rush of emotions she felt at that moment.
Needless to say, it wasn't working, because when Goggles had looked up at the baby pink sky touched with fluffy white cotton candy clouds, she thought she saw Mush's face appearing in the cloud. Why? Why were these feelings filling up her body with warmth from head to toe, all previous cold from the wind gone? She wasn't no mushy romantic! She squeezed her eyes shut and lay still upon the rooftop. It was all so confusing yet….. When she thought of him…. It felt like her heart would burst in happiness… and in sadness. Because he could never like her; it couldn't possibly be true. All her life he's known her as a guy, and all of a sudden now that she's a girl he has feelings for her? That just sounded… weird. And wrong.
"I mean I's practically a guy. Most of da guys accept me as a girl and still treat me da same as before, aside from ah few who lost respect, so…." She racked her mind in frustration, clutching her head between her palms as so her wave of despair could leave through her arms like a lightning rod. This thought conversation with herself always ended this way; she'd start out happy, end up thinking about Mush, get happier, then become immensely sad because it could not possibly be true and she should stop while she's at it, and then become neutral again in acceptance. But lately, Goggles found it was harder and harder to get back to her neutral state, harder to convince herself to lose hope and just give up.
Goggles sniffed, surprised to see a trail of tears easing off the sides of her face as gravity did its part, the little water droplets falling off her cheeks into little puddles on the cement rooftop and dampening her scarf. And even more shocking was that she found she couldn't contain it. It seemed completely out of her character, completely and utterly wrong, yet felt so right and relieving. Goggles sat up on edge of the roof, clutching her knees close to her soften the effects of her sobs, the pent up tears now twin rivers flowing down the mountains of her soft pink cheeks. Never would she do this in public, no one would ever see this, ever. She was seen as a strong person, she could handle things. This kind of crying, this kind of emotional breakdown, would ruin her reputation.
"Goggles? … Are you ok?"
Oh no. No no no no no no not that voice. He couldn't see me here like dis. Not him. Not here.
He leapt up onto the ledge of the roof from somewhere behind Goggles, she didn't know from which way; she had many entrances up onto the roofs, and he had managed to find the one roof she was on. Mush made his wave over to her, silently sitting down next to her, pretzel style with the top sole of his boots touching her closest leg.
Goggles wrapped her arms tightly around her knees like a little kid, her head resting on the two scarred, beat up hills, no longer sobbing but allowing the occasional tear to trickle down her face. It wasn't any use to hide it; he had seen it, and she was embarrassed, but nothing could be done. Somehow, she knew he wouldn't say anything about it, in fact now his presence was welcome. Mush being there for her slowly stopped the stream of lonely, seemingly endless, tears, and lead her to the realization that he was her BEST FRIEND. If there was anyone in this world she could rely on, it'd be him.
It seemed like a century passed before either of them spoke a word, the silence like you could cut with a knife yet also weirdly calming. Finally, Mush broke the absence of sound. "When you were late coming back to the boarding house, I went out to look for you… But…"
Mush peered at her with his sad, worried, chestnut brown eyes in all real sincerity, "But I found you crying. Why?" Oh, that look. That classic look of his that had girls crumbling to their knees or leaving the strong ones with weak knees, similar to a puppy that wants to sleep on your bed with you but you lock him out of your room, so he cries and cries and cries all night at your door until you let him in. It was the same when she first met him. She hadn't needed anybody; she was a loner, forever alone. Yet he found her, and bugged her and bugged her till she came back to the lodging house with him. Following him home that night had been the best decision of her entire existence. Goggles had found a loyal friend for life, and it eventually led her to become a newsie. He changed her life. She couldn't lose her best friend over the fact she was stupidly falling in love with him, if that's what this was. What could she say to him?
"I don't know…" in all truth, she really didn't. What exactly was she so upset about? Did a problem even exist? But there must be, there had to be a problem, because she felt the pain in her chest delve deeper as the words slipped out of her mouth. There couldn't be pain without something to feel pain about. So what was she dying on the inside out from?
Mush sighed, knowing her like the back of his hand and recognizing stubbornness when he saw it, turned to the blonde. "Goggles, "he held his welcoming arms open to her, "Come're."
She felt herself unpeel herself from around her legs, and lean her head against Mush's shoulder, only to have him shrug her off and pull her into his lap, wrapping his strong muscular arms around her warmly. Despite her mind's protests, Goggles accepted gratefully and cuddled closer to him, finally remembering how cold she had gotten since the warmth of the sun had set, sending the wind's minions to chill any part of her body not covered. Mush in return rested his chin on her mass of curls, holding her firmly but gently in his arms. She couldn't explain it, as hard as she tried, there was nothing to explain the reason why she felt so safe like this, so warm and cozy. She felt like a little kid again, back before she had been alone, Goggles briefly remembered sitting on her father's lap in front of a fireplace and falling asleep there. Although this felt similar to back then, it was still so much different. Was it really so long ago that she stopped relying on others? Her breathing slowed to a calm soothing pace, and her eyes threatened to close within the safety of his arms with every passing minute.
"Goggles, I…." Mush's voice dropped to a tender volume, almost a whisper but not quite so, and rested his blushing cheek on the bed of curls a top her head, pulling her close. "I love you."
Goggles looked up at him sleepily, snuggling closer, "Do you really?"
"I do." He looked down at the stubborn girl in his arms, knowing her response even before she said it and wondering how long it had been since she's been truly not alone.
She stared into his kind, chestnut eyes and smiled before leaning her head in the crook of his neck, "I'm glad."
He stroked her softly, feeling her warm breathe against his neck, his heart soaring higher than even he could on his own two feet with joy.
"Hey… Mush?" Goggles murmured into the collar of his shirt.
"What is it?" he asked.
"I love you too." Her face flushed 20 different shades of fuchsia and crimson, her heart running faster than even she could on her own two feet with elation and embarrassment.
Mush leaned in and gently pressed his lips against her forehead, "I know." He smiled lovingly, "You won't ever be alone again, I promise. I've got you now."