Chapter 1: Me and My boys
Written while listening to: Carrying the Banner(:
"I love you so much Caroline, don't leave." My best friend embraced me in hug. He held me close like he wasn't going to let go I took in everything about him, his scent, his blonde hair but most of all his haunting blue eyes. At that very moment, however, he pulled away. His tears were replaced with a smirk. "Caroline, get up. You're dreamin', Time for youse to get ready for selling." I stood perfectly still in total shock. He began shaking me rapidly, "CAROLINE GETS UP!"
I blinked my eyes open to the sun streaming out of the window that was only a few feet from my head. It burned, defiantly not something I enjoy waking up too.
Even though I was awake, I quickly realized, the screaming and shaking continued. The only thing that was different was the voice was much scratchier and older. I rolled over to face Tom Kloppman, the Manhattans lodging house manager. Why did he always have to come and ruin my most wonderful dreams? I quickly decided to roll back over and pulled my hat down over my eyes and begged for the dream to come back.
"Oh come on Caroline, you dreamin' about selling papers?" he flipped me over onto my back. For an old man he was strong and very persistent...that was the only thing I hated about him. Out of nowhere, he began tickling me. I screamed and laughed, while he stole my hat off of my head, once again revealing my face to the bright sun.
"Okay, okay, you win again! I'm getting up," I managed to say through many laughs. He turned to leave the room with a triumphant smile on his face. I cleared my throat, "Can you give me my hat back please?" he chuckled, threw it at my face, and continued his way through the door.
I kept the smile on my face and sat up in my bed. I was in my bedroom at the lodging house which was just outside of the bunkroom. The lodging house has been my home since I was around seven years old, when I first became a newsie. Kloppman gave me the room for the reason being I have been the only girl in Manhattan at the moment. Plus the boys liked giving me space which I gladly accepted.
Since I moved in, I had tried to make it as homey as possible. I had my own mirror in here that I never used and on another wall, I had started a collection of newspaper clippings. They were pretty much random headlines. They were mostly about really important events or they came out on important dates…but that was about it in my room. I had no money for anything else.
I ran my hand through my chestnut hair and stood up. I walked over to my chest at the foot of my bed and took out my white button down, my black knickers and a pair of red suspenders. All of them were hand-me-downs from my younger brother. I got changed quickly and began to head out of my room, when almost instinctively turned around and grabbed my brown cabby of my bed.
The minute I stepped out of my room, I was greeted by good mornings and smiles from multiple boys. Most of them were in there long underwear and a lot of them didn't have shirts on. See, girls my age would be in heaven right…I saw this every day, and after a while, you became used to it. On my way to the washroom I was stopped by a very tan boy and a bright attitude, we all knew him as Mush.
"Heya Caroline, how did ya sleep?" he said with a smile on his face.
"On me back Mush." I said with a smug look. Suddenly he burst out laughing as if it was the funniest thing he had ever heard in his life. That's Mush for you, happy and peppy.
"Ha, did ya hear that fellas, I asked Caroline how she slept and she said on me back!" I smacked his arm hard causing him to walk away still laughing. I began walking once more to be pulled over by my other good friend, Crutchy.
"Good morning Caroline, I hope you slept well," smiling as he said this. That was the most amazing thing about Crutchy, he never stopped smiling. Even through all the pain he had gone through his life, losing his right leg at a very young age, along with his parents in a fire a few months later.
"Yes I did, thank you very much," I smiled back, finally opening the door to the washroom. I held it for Crutchy, who wobbled his way in, giving me a small nod in thanks.
The boys were all crowding around the mirrors and in the toilet areas. I made my way over to the mirror, finding a small area but the boys cleared out once they saw me. I mumbled thanks and smiled at them as I put my hair into a pair of loose braids and stuck my hat on my head. Then I grabbed a rag that was in the sink and washed my face.
"Ya know sis, youse look beautiful no matter what," I looked up as soon as I heard my brothers voice coming from behind me. He had on his signature black cabby hat I gave him for his tenth birthday. He wore it on racing days…which for him, was every day.
"Thanks Race," I gave him a small hug and moved to the side to share my mirror with him. We both got ready quickly and he ran off to get changed as I looked at myself one last time before I quickly followed them.
"Come on, time for work! Presses are rollin'," Kloppmans' voice boomed through the room. We all tumbled down the steps and made our way towards the printing station. Racetrack and I led the group as usually.
Everyone was talking to one another and having a good time as we did every morning. Racetrack and I caught up on his plan for after selling. We also talked about nice fillies he was thinking about betting on and I told him to be careful not to waste our money.
That was the way our relationship worked. I was the more mature one; I accepted that responsibility a long time ago. I wanted him to live his life and not to worry about money and everything, to let him be a kid and have fun when I couldn't. I promised my mom that it would be that way.
As we approached the distribution center, we quickly learned the gate was closed. As usual, Weasel was late…I still can't understand why that man still has this job. He is late every single day and treats us like dirt. Then a foul stench distracted me from my thoughts.
"Dear me, what is that unpleasant aroma?" Race took off his hat and began fanning himself as the Delancy brothers inched closer to the front line of newsies, particularly closer to me. Oscars was smirking at me, looking me up and down, while Meyers looked clueless… as usual. "Smells like the sewers backed up in the night."
"Nah, to rotten to be the sewers." Mush said smiling, also stepping in front of me protectively. Mush had become like another brother over the years. He always would try to protect me, fight by my side and even pay for my lunch, even though I told him no countless times. He always made sure I was okay.
"Yeah, it must be the Delancy brothers!" the newsies all laughed at the joke Crutchy made. Oscars face went red with anger, and looked at Tumbler, our youngest newsie. He grabbed him behind the back of his neck and threw him to the ground.
"Get to the back of the line, you rotten little shrimp." he yelled at Tumbler, who looked like he was about to cry. I emerged from behind Mush, and helped my young boy up. I dusted him off and handed him to Racetrack, who took him in his arms and I stood only but a few inches from Oscars face.
"You really shouldn't have done that," I put on my protective face. No one touched my boys. "Besides who are you calling a rotten little shrimp? Well that is if you are referring to the family resemblance in your brother here." Meyers noticed the insult and his face changed to hurt. Oscars face got redder. "Yeah, that was an insult…and so is this!" I smirked stole Meyers's hat and started running as fast as I could. I heard all the boys cheer from behind me and taunting the Delancys that were now chasing after me.
Ever since I became a newsie, the Delancys had something against me. And every day they had picked a fight with me. But they had never once beaten me, whether it was in a fist fight or them chasing me. Never not once, had they walked away victorious and I intended upon keeping it that way.
I looked back to see if they were still following me, when I ran into something. "What do you think your doin'?" the thing asked me. The deep voice sounded mad with a slight hint of amusement.
I bit my lip and heard the grunts of the Delancys fighting to make their way past the wall the boys had made. I looked up to see the face of the boy for the first time. He had deep blue eyes and brown curly hair hidden under a hat. He looked like a newsie, but if he was, well I didn't know him. "Umm, sorry bought that but right now," The two boys broke through the wall and bolted straight towards me, right as I dropped Meyers hat, I yelled back to the boy. "I'm runnin'!"
I ran towards Tibbys diner and climbed up to the top of the awning, folding my legs up. Just as the Delancys jumped up on the carriage in front of the diner, I kicked them both square in the jaw. They were finished, passed out on the cold road below. Racetrack came over to help me down from the awning. Then he and Mush carried me over to the gate on their shoulders. Everyone was cheering and whistling. I blew kisses and said thank you to everyone as if I was some royal or something.
They put me down as we entered the gate and the boys made space for me to get in the front of the line.
"Weasel, oh Weasel? Are ya there?" I rang the bell right above his office window. The window "Hey there Weasel, whatcha got for me this fine mornin'?" I grabbed the paper off of his desk and began skimming it. The headline was Trolley Strike Drags on for Third Week. I rolled my eyes and wiped the sweat off of my forehead.
"Um, I have told you a thousand times, Higgins, is Mr. Wiesel. " he said with a scowl. I simply him an innocent smile and put the paper down. "Whatcha want?"
"Give me the usual,"Oscar and Meyers returned to their posts next to Weasel, staring at me with hatred in their eyes. "Have a nice nap fellas?" their scowls matched their uncles. I did nothing but smirk as I had a hundred papes smacked down in front of me. I grabbed them and sat down on the corner waiting for Racetrack to get done. Seconds later Mush sat down beside me and he began reading the front page
"Hey look Caroline, a baby born with two heads! Must be from Brooklyn." He said with a smile on his face. He was laughing when he turned to face me but quickly stopped after he saw my face.
"Watch it Mush, I'm from Brooklyn." I said flat out with a serious face. No one talked bad about Brooklyn, end of story.