It has been a week since my meeting with Oliver and his family. The sun is out and bright in London, I am wearing a nice new blur petticoat, and we are all heading into town to get me formally adopted.
The past week has been nice, and I found out that Oliver's "grandmother" really isn't his grandmother after all. She is the housemaid of Mr. Brownlow, Oliver's grandfather, and Oliver just addressed her as his kin. Interesting boy.
Living with this family has been more than anything I could have imagined; three meals a day, clean dresses, a nice roof over my head. The past week has been the richest of my life so far.
Mrs. Bedwin is a bit of a nag, but I can deal with that. Oliver and I, mostly I, have issues with etiquette. I've had to endure lectures about table manners and the like.
Mr. Brownlow, Oliver's grandfather, insists that I am indeed Oliver's biological sister. We share many physical and personality traits and we have been, as stated, mistaken for one another quite often.
Oliver himself is a delightful character and I do enjoy his company. He has an appreciation of the world that no former orphan could, which amazes me. My "brother", I suppose, is the most loving person I have ever met.
It turns out that Oliver did in fact live with Fagin's gang for two days until he was discovered to have wealthy family members. He was then transported to them (I don't know how- he wouldn't tell me) the same night I had slept in the garden.
My brother told me stories of his short time in the pickpocket gang and how surprisingly friendly they were, especially Dodger. Even though Oliver had only spent a short time with them, we both had many good and some bad experiences there.
Mr. Brownlow , Oliver and I ride into town in a carriage, which is exciting for both me and Oliver. We're both so used to transportation on foot that this seems like royal treatment.
As soon as we reach downtown London, the carriage drops us off a few blocks from the registration office and Mr. Brownlow pays the driver. All three of us know these streets like the backs of our hands, so we will be home before we know it.
Oliver holds my hand as we stroll down the cobblestone streets. The mid-morning traffic is as thick as it gets, pedestrians hurrying to work, salespeople advertising their goods, beggars collecting spare change. I've begged before and it isn't as rewarding as it seems- Londoners can be extremely selfish.
Oliver's family isn't selfish, though, but they do have high status. I still haven't gotten used to sleeping in a bed, never mind a plushy one that is mine and mine alone. I don't know if I'll be able to fully adjust any time soon.
We're almost to the registration centre when Oliver turns around swiftly, turning his pockets inside out. "My wallet's been stolen!" he exclaims, only loud enough for me and grandfather to hear. Yes, Oliver has his own wallet. If you haven't been paying attention to the story, he comes from a rich family.
I look around frantically, trying to spot the thief that stole my brother's money. My heart skips a beat when
I realise that it is about the time that Dodger and the thieves make their rounds, but I tell myself that there are hundreds of pickpockets in London. Also, no one from Fagin's gang would steal from Oliver, right?
Nope. Wrong. A man in a patchy coat is running away from us in the direction of the gang's base. He even has Oliver's wallet in plain sight.
"Hold on," I tell my brother and run ahead, chasing after the thief. I've had lots of experience running from and chasing people in my years, so it doesn't take much effort to catch up to him. Just as he rounds a corner, I impulsively jump at the man and barrel him over. "Oof!" He grunts and hits the ground with a loud smack. I land on my feet, recognising his voice instantly. It's none other than James Dawkins himself, the Artful Dodger. Damn it.
"Hey! What the bloody hell are ye doin'?" Dodge yells. Before he can get up I snatch Oliver's wallet from his outstretched hand and shove it down the front of my dress. Hey, it's all I can do to prevent the money from being stolen again. I know from experience than Dodge will steal something back as many times as he needs to.
He stands up, coughing. "What in the- aw, hell." The Dodger notices that I'm no man. "Beaten by a-" his eyes widen and his classic crooked smile spreads across his face. "Edw- Ebony!" I raise an eyebrow at his slip up with my alias. "You're back! And... You actually look like a girl!" Pause. "A... A rich girl... Uh, you stole that dress, right?"
"No, in fact... I... I actually have a family now, Dodge. And I believe you have stolen my brother's wallet."
"Oh, uh... You can have that back, then..." Dodger trails off and blushes.
"I've already gotten it." I say. "But I just can't believe that you would steal from poor little Oliver and..."
"Wait a bloody second. Oliver? As in... Oliver Twist?" Dodge cuts me off. "Your... Brother?"
"Yes," I reply.
"Well tha' explains a LOT!" Dodge laughs but I don't. We both jump and turn around as we hear the yelling of men and Dodger spits curses under his breath. "Coppers!" He hisses. "C'mon!" He grabs me by the arm and we sprint away, looking over our shoulders. I see the police round the corner, pointing at us and running in our direction.
"Dodge, hurry." I hiss. "They see us. Where exactly are we going?"
"No idea." The Dodger says with a nervous laugh. We avoid the pedestrian traffic by staying in the back streets. "Hey, look!" He points to a line of trees to our right. "Let's try and lose 'em." We run as fast as our legs can take us into the woods, smashing through grasses and branches. My new dress snags and tears but I don't care at this point.
We stop for a few seconds and listen. The cops are still heading this way, and the noise we've been making hasn't helped.
"Keep going!" Dodge hisses and we press on deeper into the trees. My dress is a goner and I hope it doesn't leave blue trails of torn fabric in the brambles.
We come across a clearing with a muddy pond in the centre. There's almost no way to escape, and we both know what our only hope is.
Dodge and I dive into the pond, trying not to create too much noise. It's almost 7 feet deep, which I'm thankful for. We wait for a while then come up to the surface.
The cops are gone, sent off course by our sudden disappearance. Dodger and I are covered in mud and water and I know Mrs. Bedwin will be furious with me.
"That was fun," Dodge laughs. I surprisingly agree. I go back on shore and sit down, staring at my old friend disapprovingly.
"I still can't believe you stole Oliver's money," I huff.
"I didn't know it was him. He looked so... High class."
I snort. "Alright. At least I've got it." I check to make sure the wallet is still in my dress. Fortunately it is, but it's soaked. "Hell, I can't believe the coppers got here so fast, after only one robbery..." I trail off at Dodge's awkward expression.
"Yeah, about that..." He scratches the back of his neck and opens up his jacket. It's lined with wallets galore, at least fifteen of them.
"Christ, Dodge!" I exclaim. "Did you get all of those today?"
"Yes, actually." He replies. "Fagin dared me to steal from-"
"Wait-FAGIN dared you?" I ask.
"Yeah. I thought it was weird, too. He actually came with me and the boys this time and picked out victims for us."
I narrow my eyes. Fagin was targeting Oliver on purpose.
Dodge finally comes ashore, shaking the disgusting water from his shoes and putting his hat back on his head. "Well then, Ebony, I guess this is where I leave ya." He offers me his hand and I take it, standing up.
"Wait... Are you sure?" I ask.
"Uh... You said you've got yeself a home now, remember? You've gotta get back to them and give little Oliver his wallet back."
"We need to do something first."
Dodge and I hightail it to Fagin's to ask him about the whole Oliver fiasco. I was indeed correct; Fagin had spotted me and Oliver in the square and wanted to see how we would react to being pickpocketed, especially me. It turns out that Fagin believed that I was worth being affiliated with his pickpockets and wanted to test me. He says that my quick thinking and attack skills have proven me worthy and wants me to join them once again.
"But, Fagin, I'm supposed to be adopted today. I can't live with a foot in both worlds."
"That's true. But what matters here is what you really want out of life."
I know what I want out of life. Just like Oliver, I want to have someone or some people care about me and be my loving family. But, unlike my brother, I want to live adventurously and have fun. I know exactly what I must do.
I return to Oliver his soggy wallet, which isn't ruined but is damaged by the water. He's glad to see me again, but the moment won't last. I've met up with my grandfather and my brother in the square, and I tell them that I am declining to be a member of their family. They have been kind to me and given me nothing but joy, but I have decided to live with Fagin and the gang from now on. Oliver doesn't want me to leave him, but I tell him that life isn't all fancy gowns and feasts. I would rather die young and have fun than live a hundred years and be miserable.
I bid my biological family a final goodbye and set off to meet Dodger and return to our home. I do indeed believe that Oliver is my biological brother, for we both have the same honey-coloured hair, blue eyes, nose, and desire for real love. But even we have our differences. Oliver prefers to live a comfortable, risk-free life while I prefer some adventure.
I've changed back into some ragged clothes from my old orphanage; no petticoats for me. Mrs. Bedwin will be stunned at my departure, too. When I reach the street in front of the pickpockets' house, Dodge is there waiting for me. We head inside and are greeted by a sea of boys, young and old, welcoming us.I think I've finally found where I really belong.