And I found myself attached,
To this railroad track,
But I'll come back,
-First Aid Kit's Ghost Town
They had come to say goodbye to him.
The boy with the wooden sword, the girl with the dark hair, the boy with the newspapers.
They stood surrounded by an army of newsboys, waving goodbye to him.
But all he saw were her dark eyes, crying.
Why was he leaving her? Why didn't he stay? Why was has being cruel?
She didn't understand it. He had been dreaming of this for his entire life, to get away from New York City, away from the bad memories.
He had to go west, to find air to breathe, wind to ride, land to run over barefoot in the sun, like he had always dreamed. His brothers understood.
There they stood, all of them. Racetrack, Mush, Kid Blink, Bumlets, Specs, Skittery, Swifty, Crutchy, Itey, Snitch, Snipeshooter, Tumbler, Boots, Blanket, Jake, Pie Eater, Snoddy, Spot, they understood.
They knew what it was like to want more. To think that maybe they deserved more in life than a dime a day and a few black eyes. They were sad, sure, but they knew that this was what he wanted, what he knew he needed.
He had faith that Race would be a good leader, and that David would be a good second in command. He knew he was leaving his brothers in good hands.
He was going where he wanted to go, west to Santa Fe, to freedom, to riding into the sunset on a white stallion like he did in his imagination.
So why wasn't he happy? Why did Sarah cry?
He knew why.
He loved her, and she loved him, but he needed to do this. He had to leave, and she had flat out refused to come with him.
So he knew what he had to do.
His bandana had been a gift from his mother, the only thing he had left of her.
But he knew Sarah needed it more than he did.
So he had given it to her, wrapped around something and tucked inside his cowboy hat. He had made her swear not to open it until after the train had left.
Their it was, that small bundle clutched in her hands, and his cowboy hat hanging from a cord around her neck, to rest on her back.
The little boy with the wooden sword cried harder. He loved that boy, but he knew that the boy would be fine without him, with an older brother and sister and a mother and father, four things he himself didn't have.
As for David himself, he knew that Davey understood. He knew that Davey got it. He had to be free, and he couldn't do that in New York, where everything he did, he did it to survive.
No, out west he'd do everything, and he would do it more than to just survive, he'd do it to live life to the fullest.
The boy with the wooden sword couldn't stand it anymore. He tried to run for the train, and the girl with the long hair did, too.
The cowboy let a tear run down one cheek.
But the walking mouth caught his younger brother, and held him.
The king of Brooklyn caught the girl with the long hair.
The cowboy and the king locked eyes.
They had grown up together, in the same building. They knew each other like blood family. He knew the king would take care of his girl. He'd take her home to her parents, and tuck her little brother in with her, and then he'd sit on the roof of his lodging house and cry in private, because no one was allowed to see the king cry.
He'd cry for his friend, and in Manhattan, the little ones would cry for their former leader. Mush would sit and try to distract them, but they wouldn't pay attention to him. Kid Blink would go out into the streets, to walk and think, and Skittery would insult the cowboy under his breath. The cowboy knew what Race would do, before getting drunk as hell and lose his life's savings in poker.
He knew that his former second and the now leader of Manhattan would sit down with the kids, and take the kid in orange onto his lap. Blanket would sit on the bunk that had belonged to the cowboy, and Boots would, too. Then Tumbler would sit on the bunk below, and Race would tell them everything about the cowboy, just like he had promised to do.
The train whistled, and the girl with the long hair sobbed once, and broke free of the king.
He caught her again, murmuring. "Come on doll, he's not gonna stay." The king led the girl with the long hair back to her family, and he and the walking mouth held them back, the sobbing girl and the sobbing little boy.
"Jack," The girl sobbed. But the train was gone, and the king let her go.
"Thanks, Spot," the curly haired boy said to the king, who nodded briskly.
"Sarah? Ain't you gonna open it?" That was the kid in orange, who had never spoken before.
Everyone looked at the boy, the girl with the broken heart nodded.
She untied the bandana to find an envelope opened in half and something wrapped in paper.
The girl with the broken heart opened the envelope first. She passed it to her brother, who opened his mouth and read,
I'm sorry, but I had to go. I hope you'll forgive me, but I can't be a kid anymore. I have to grow up, get my own life, and there are too many bad memories in New York.
I'm sorry, everyone, and I'll miss you all, but I had to do this, and I hope you'll forgive me,
-Francis Jack Sullivan
It was the only thing he had ever signed with his real name.
The girl with the broken heart put her face in her hands and sobbed. He was gone. The cowboy was gone.
"Sarah?" the kid in orange asked. "Will ya open the uddah t'ing at home?" The girl shook her head, and took it out of her hands.
Opening the bundle wrapped in paper, she found that the paper was the article they had printed for the strike. On the other side was a letter for Sarah.
The paper had been wrapped around something, and the girl with the long hair and the broken heart found that the something was a key.
The key is to my old apartment. It's empty, I made sure of that, but I haven't been there in a while because of the memories.
I want you to go in there, and look around. The apartment was the place I grew up, and I want you to have it. Move in or stay out, but keep the key, the apartment is yours. I grew up there, with my father and mother, and I once had a sister before she died of a sickness.
You are lucky. You have what I once had, a family and a home to call your own.
I love you, Sarah, and I will come back. I promise I will come back to you if it is the last thing I do.
I have to go this way, follow the railroad tracks, but I promise you I will come back someday, I will come back to you.
He promised he'd come back.
The girl promised herself she'd hold him to that promise.
Another sob escaped her.
He had promised.