Spot ran and ran and run, not paying any attention to where he was going till he finally reached water. And then he saw before him the enormous bridge, the famous Brooklyn bridge stood before him in all her glory. All his life he'd seen it from far away, but never this close. Brooklyn had never been a place he'd had reason to go, and when talking with Jack about others areas he had told him very little about it. Jack had told him to steer clear and not to venture over there, that the newsies there weren't as nice. That they were a much tougher lot. That had caught Spot's interest, but since Jack didn't want him to go over there he hadn't. But now, furious at Jack, this seemed like the perfect way to get back at him.
Crossing to the other side of the bridge, Spot stood staring around him and without warning he fell in love. He wandered the streets, watched the people and even saw an odd newsie or two going about their business. And to his surprise he was amazed at how right it felt, the streets here, the look of it, everything called to him. The streets sang of home to him, in a way Manhattan had never done. He'd long suspected that Jack was right about Manhattan being too full of bad memories, but since he'd always been there it had always just been an idea. But now he knew, he felt free and unburdened in a way that he'd never felt before.
And he wanted it, like he'd never wanted anything before. He knew suddenly what Jack had meant about him not stayin in Manhattan, and he knew Jack was right. This, Brooklyn, was where he wanted to be. He wanted to own it, to know every little bit of it. He wondered vaguely if this was the real reason why Jack hadn't wanted him to come over here, but finally dismissed the idea. Jack couldn't have known how he would feel about this place.
Spot desperately wanted to explore more and look over the place he knew he would call home, but he knew that he had to get back to the lodging house. He knew that if he wasn't back by midnight that Jack would have people out looking for him. Jack was a good leader; he'd never go to sleep with one of his boys unaccounted for. In the year that he'd been here with the Manhattan newsies he'd learned a lot about Jack's habits, his quirks, his likes and dislikes and his thoughts on the future. The plan had been for him to learn from Jack for a month and then find a spot on his own to sell by himself, but somehow it just never happened. Jack never brought it up and Spot never suggested it. He just couldn't bring himself to give up what they had going. He knew this dependence wasn't good, particularly in their world, but it was too late. He knew that Jack was his best friend, and now, knowing that he wanted to be here in Brooklyn, away from Jack and the other Manhattan boys he was friends with, now it didn't seem quite as wonderful. He still wanted Brooklyn, but he also wanted Jack. And he knew he couldn't have both. Jack loved Manhattan and even more, he loved his boys, he'd never desert them. He was their leader and they depended on him; and one of the things he knew about Jack was how loyal he was. He'd never willingly leave his boys.
Spot always wondered about his feelings on Jack; he'd never had a best friend. Hell, he'd never had a real friend, only boys to play with or fight with. But Jack, well it didn't feel the same as it did with Race, Mush, Blink or any of the other guys that he was now good friends with. Maybe that was just that whole "best" part of the whole friend's thing; he didn't know and sure didn't know any way to find out. But to him Jack was special, and the thought of not being with him hurt. But so did the thought of not being in Brooklyn. Spot sighed, Why did the two things most important to me have to be things I can't have at the same time? Why can't I have both? And since I can't… how do I choose?
Spot ambled up to the boarding house, and was surprised to see Jack there, sitting alone in the thinning light of dusk on the steps. Spot paused and didn't say anything, unsure of what he should say.
"Come with me" Jack said quietly, in a strange distant voice and he walked off leaving it up to Spot to follow or not. He followed.
Jack walked in silence, never looking over at Spot, just walking. And it unnerved Spot; he'd never seen Jack like this.
Jack finally stopped, so suddenly that Spot almost ran into him. Spot looked around and realized that they were standing in front of a cemetery. He was grateful there was still a little light out, as the pale flickering glow given off by lampposts nearby was very dim. He watched as Jack leaned over and picked a daisy that was growing along the fence line. And then he opened the heavy iron gate to the cemetery and walked in. Spot hesitated, unsure of whether he was meant to follow or not. He decided to follow and slowly walked behind Jack, he watched Jack pick his way though the gravestones like he knew where each one was already. He headed to the far corner, where a lone gravestone stood, under a old tree with a worn wooden bench under it. Jack went right to the grave and lay the flower down on it. And then sat down on the bench. And finally he looked up at Spot.
"I come here sometimes, to think, to work things out. Or just to talk" Jack said.
"To talk?" Spot asked quietly.
"I like to think she can hear me" Jack said.
Spot found himself wincing and didn't know why. He both wanted to know and found himself afraid to ask, who was this she? Spot wondered if she was a past love?
"She?" Spot asked hesitantly.
"My mother" Jack said.
Spot looked up in surprise and was shocked at the relief that he felt. Realizing that he was not focusing on the right things, he paused and then walked over to the gravestone. Spot read the name on it, tracing it with his finger, Christine Sullivan.
"Sullivan" Spot stated.
"Yep" Jack said.
"So your real name is Jack Sullivan?" Spot asked.
"Nope, it's Francis Sullivan" Jack told him.
"Mine's actually James" Spot said suddenly, and then looked confused as though he hadn't meant to say that.
"I thought Spot probably wasn't your real name" Jack said softly.
"How did she die?" Spot asked quietly sitting down on the bench next to Jack.
"She broke her neck" Jack said sadly.
"I'm sorry" Spot said.
"Yeah, she was special, she actually loved me. For the brief time she could. She tried to save me," Jack said.
"Save you?" Spot asked almost automatically and then winced, regretting asking immediately, knowing this story was not going to have a happy end.
"Yep, but it killed her in the end" Jack said coldly.
"How did she break her neck?" Spot asked while feeling afraid to hear the answer.
"He threw her into the wall" Jack said in a dead voice.
"He?" Spot asked while somehow already knowing the answer.
"My father" Jack said and hate was evident in his voice.
Spot nodded at the answer he'd expected on some level. "So where is he now?"
"Jail, and I hope he rots," Jack said hatefully.
"I'm sorry" Spot said.
"Yeah" Jack said sadly.
"Why didn't you tell me before? Your story is so much like mine, why didn't you say something when I told you? Why hold back about this all?" Spot couldn't help but ask.
Jack paused, thinking before he replied "Well I didn't say anything when you told me your story because I wanted to respect what you were saying, not turn it into some competition of pain or whatnot. It felt wrong to just take over then with my own story."
Spot nodded, "I get it, I wouldn't have minded then if you had, but I get it. But why the secrecy today? Why hide it and all that about the refuge?"
"Honestly I don't know, I guess the longer I waited the harder it got to say something. And talking about the refuge would just lead to talking about my past. And its stupid, I mean some of the other newsies know about that story, actually its surprising you haven't heard about it." Jack looked torn and confused as he told Spot this.
"Actually I think I did hear it, but I kinda assumed if was not real. It didn't sound like a real story, riding out in Teddy Roosevelt's carriage… I though the kids made it up" Spot told him.
Jack laughed, "Yeah that's the part they all focus on, me breaking out. Honestly no one ever really asks about how I got in, they probably are thinking up some story that's much cooler and more interesting than the truth."
"And the truth is?" Spot asked.
"Truth is, after my dad got hauled off to jail and I lost my home, well I had no where to go. I was only 11, and I had no idea what to do. I spent days shivering in alleys, sleeping in doorways and stealing bits of food. And I got caught, stealing some food and was thrown in the refuge. Stayed there a couple months, planning to escape, did it and then got picked up by Steel and became a newsie. That's the whole boring story." Jack told him in a self-depreciating tone.
"Somehow I always knew the story about your parents being off west looking for a home in Santa Fe was a lie, I don't know how I knew but I did." Spot said.
"That's it? Nothing else to say?" Jack sounded surprised.
"What do you mean?" Spot asked confused.
Jack ran his fingers through his hair seeming almost exasperated. "I don't know, you have nothing to say about me being a thief and all that. I expected you to be, I don't know, disappointed or something."
Spot gave him a reproachful look, "Nope, I don't care. Our stories aren't that different, and if you hadn't taken me in my story might have been exactly the same. You did what you needed to get by, why would I ever be disappointed. I'm glad you did it, otherwise you wouldn't be here with me now. Besides, bad as it sounds almost every newsie has picked pockets on occasion to make ends meet, we both know that."
Jack's face looked like a weight had been lifted from him. "Its odd how similar our stories are, I thought so back when you first told me. But I suppose you don't become a newsie without being touched by tragedy one way or another. "
"Oddly, you're one of the lucky ones" Spot said and Jack gave him a disbelieving look.
"Oh really, how?" Jack asked.
"She loved you, your mother, neither of mine did" Spot said.
"Oh, you didn't really say much about your ma when you told me your story, they alive?" Jack asked.
"As far as I know. My mom took off 'bout three years ago and my dad left about a week before I met you. I mean I assume he left, maybe he's dead, he just never came back," Spot said.
"I'm sorry" Jack told him.
"I'm not, I'm better off. It doesn't matter how many fight I get into as a newsie, it can't ever compare to the bruising I got from him. At least with the newsies I have a fighting chance. I hope he's dead, he should be, finally pay for what he did to Liza." Spot said coldly.
"Liza was your little sister I assume?" Jack asked hesitantly.
"Yep, Elizabeth Colons." Spot told his sadly.
"I'll never understand why fathers hit their kids" Jack said in a voice devoid of emotion.
"Yours too?" Spot asked.
"Yep" Jack said.
"I used to wonder why" Spot said.
"Ever find an answer?" Jack asked.
"No" Spot said.
"Me either, and boy did I look. After she died I so wanted a reason, but no one would give me one that made sense" Jack said.
"So why did you change your name?" Spot asked.
"I changed it so that Snyder would have more trouble finding me," Jack told him.
"And that would be why you avoid police too. You regret it, stealing I mean?" Spot asked.
"Not really, well getting caught yes. But I found I couldn't make it on my own, there aren't many options when you are 11. I was sleeping on the streets, freezing and starving. It was one of the worst periods of my life. Things with my father hitting me and stuff, it was bad, but my mother was there and I always had the possibility of running off. But once I was on my own, and was failing, I had no other options. I didn't see a purpose to keeping going. And I didn't know how to even if I wanted to keep going. I was dying little by little, always starving and near frozen. So I stole some food, I can't really regret it, it was honestly the best option I had at that point." Jack said.
"Yeah, makes sense." Spot asked.
"And now this place is the only link I have to the past, although why I want a link I don't know" Jack said.
"Because she loved you, and you don't want to loose that love" Spot said.
"Probably" Jack replied.
"So why the story about Santa Fe?" Spot asked.
"I dunno, several reasons I guess. When I first met the newsies I was young, only twelve, I wanted to hold on to a dream, I think I needed it to keep me going. Sometimes I wanted it so much that I really believed in it, for a few moments. I needed that escape. I guess also I wanted an excuse for why I would leave. I really do want Santa Fe, I want to go there and I will. Once I have the money and can tie up things here. But the story of going to be with my parents makes it not hurt or upset my friends when I go" Jack said.
"It's still a lie," Spot said.
"Yep, but its one I started so long ago, when I was young, and now I can't tell them otherwise, so I just deal with it" Jack said.
"I want Brooklyn" Spot said out of the blue.
"What?" Jack said.
"I went there today, and it felt right. I felt it the second I stepped off the bridge. I need to be there," Spot said.
"Oh" Jack said dejectedly "I guess somewhere in the back of my mind I knew you'd leave. I mean I predicted it right after you got here, but I guess I was starting to think I was wrong, starting to hope" Jack said.
Spot smiled slightly; glad he wasn't the only one upset at the idea of parting.
"So what will you do?" Jack asked.
"I don't know. I think you were right on several accounts, I need to leave, but I also need to lead. I felt it as soon as I was there, that I had to control this area, that it needed me and that I needed it" Spot said.
"Yeah, I understand, I feel the same about here, and also about Santa Fe, sometimes it just feels right and you just know" Jack said.
"I don't know what I'll do though. I mean I know what I want, but not how I go about getting it" Spot said.
"I don't know either, I mean you're ready to go, you have been for awhile. There ain't nothin more I can teach you" Jack said.
"True, but I'm not ready to go yet," Spot said.
"I'm glad" Jack said.
"Strangely, so am I. As much as I want to go I also want to stay." Spot said quietly.
"Well I, I mean we all, the newsies I mean, will be sad to see you go" Jack said.
"You won't be sad to see me go?" Spot asked hurt.
"No, of course I will" Jack replied awkwardly.
"They why did you change it from I to we?" Spot asked.
"I just wanted you to know that more than just me would miss you" Jack said.
Spot gave him an odd look and finally said "oh."
"Umm yeah" Jack said awkwardly and looked away.
"Jack, do you think of me as your best friend?" Spot asked.
"Well yeah I guess, I haven't given it much thought, but of all my friends, yeah" Jack said.
"What does that mean?" Spot asked.
"What do you mean what does that mean?" Jack asked confusion in his voice.
"Well I mean, how does that make you feel about me, what makes being best friends different than being friends?" Spot asked finally hoping for an answer to all he was feeling.
"How's it different?" Jack said.
"Yes" Spot said.
"Well I dunno, not too different I guess. I mean I guess I trust you more and know you more. And you know me more. I spend more time with you than the others" Jack said sounding confused.
Spot ground his teeth in frustration, this wasn't giving him an answer as to if what he was feeling was normal. Spot sighed and said "That's not feelings."
"Oh, well I really don't know what you are looking for me to say" Jack told him, confused by the sudden turn in this conversation.
Spot suddenly realized that Jack was giving him a weird look and realized how completely out of character he was acting. But then again that happened a lot around Jack.
"Never mind" Spot muttered and felt a sting of pain, inside him, as he saw the look of relief on Jack's face.
"Okay, we should head back. We'll need to get some sleep if we're gonna be up selling papers at the unholy hour we get up at" Jack said jokingly.
Spot gave a halfhearted smile and said "Yeah, of course, you're right."