I heard that you're settled down,
That you found a girl,
And you're married now,
I heard that your dreams came true,
Guess she gave you things,
I couldn't give to you.
-Adele's Someone Like You
She stepped off the train.
She set off immediately. She knew exactly where to go. David had found his address for her. So Sarah set off purposefully.
It took a while to reach his ranch.
That was alright.
Sarah was happier than she had ever been in her life.
She had been seventeen when she had met Jack. She had been seventeen and a half when he left.
Now, five years later, she was a reporter for the New York Sun, and she had found her cowboy.
Santa Fe was beautiful, in a dry, orange way. Sarah knew now what had called Jack here, the open sky without a single stream of smoke from a factory, the great orange globe overhead, that you could see without having to climb to the rooftops. That sound, the sound of unsettled land, of freedom, that worldly half-silence.
The world was so different out here, far from New York.
Sarah knew now why Jack had wanted more than New York. Out here, he could be a Cowboy. In New York, he could only be a newsie.
When she reached his ranch, she stopped for a moment.
The ranch was beautiful. There was the house, and a barn or some such thing. Next to the house there was a garden, and the entire ranch was circled by a fence.
Smiling, Sarah went forward.
She could imagine what would happen.
She would knock on the door, and Jack would open it, expecting a neighbor or somebody, and find Sarah, and he's laugh and hug her and kiss her, and they'd both be talking at the same time, and they would be so happy.
Sarah would sit down with him, and she'd tell Jack all about what had happened since he'd left. Where every newsie was, what every newsie did, and she'd tell Jack about the beautiful baby David had, having married a few years ago. She'd talk about how Les was doing well in school, selling papes in the afternoon, and Sarah would tell Jack how Boots was the new leader of Manhattan.
Sarah was grinning at the door, just as she was about to knock.
But she stopped.
She looked through the window, and saw a room.
Jack—Cowboy—was relaxed, sitting down like he had in her daydreams. As though waiting for something.
But he wasn't alone, waiting for her.
There was a woman at his side, sitting next to him.
Two children played before them, a boy and a girl. They were toddlers, twins by the look of it, only two or three years old.
She saw Jack held a baby, and the woman smiled at them both. She said the baby's name, and Sarah read her lips.
Sarah half smiled through the tears.
She was forgotten, a faraway person from a faraway past.
Jack laughed. He was happy, and the woman smiled.
She was nothing like Sarah.
She was a redhead, with a fiery head of flames. Her eyes burned bright silver, laughing. She was beautiful, more beautiful than Sarah had ever been.
Sarah cowed. She had waited so long, five whole years. Three men had proposed to her already, but she put them off, waiting for her cowboy to come home like he promised.
She wanted to leave, to be anywhere but there.
Instead, she steeled herself.
You're not going to run and hide, Sarah, She told herself firmly. The trip here will be worth it, if only for the look on his face when he sees you and remembers you as the sister of his best friend, and as his old girlfriend.
She knew it was selfish, evil even, but she wanted him to suffer. Somewhere, not so deep down inside her, she wanted to see the horror in his eyes as she smiled brightly at him and said, "Miss me, Cowboy?"
So Sarah steeled herself, and thought of the news she bore, from Manhattan. She knew that even if it would hurt, she still had to deliver that news.
She knocked, and when no one moved in that room, she knocked again, harder.
But it wasn't Jack who got up.
It was the other woman.
She gave Jack a kiss on the cheek, and got up, disappearing from Sarah's view.
Taking a deep breath, Sarah waited for the door to open.
It did, creaking slightly.
"Good afternoon," The woman said brightly, as if she hadn't stolen Jack away from her.
"Good afternoon," Sarah said, because her parents had raised her to be polite, even when she was hurting. "I—I'm here to see Jack Kelly," Sarah's voice shook. She cleared her throat, and smiled at the woman. "I'm an old friend."
The woman smiled, and opened the door wider. "By all means, come in," Sarah stepped over the threshold.
The house fit Jack perfectly. It was a cowboy's house, the bare necessities, but with a woman's touch, no doubt the touch of the woman who had stolen him.
"Jack, honey, there's someone to see you," the woman called. Sarah's fist clenched around her purse.
"If it's Jones—" Jack began. Sarah's heart cracked. He sounded just like he had five years ago, all of a seventeen year old boy. But he was a man now, with three children.
"Jack, it's not Jones," the woman called.
Does she even know his real name? Sarah wondered.
"It's a woman, Jack," His wife called.
There was a pause, and Sarah could imagine him getting up, and stepping over his toddler children.
He appeared in Sarah's vision a second later.
He looked just like himself; he still had that telltale hat hanging from a string round his neck, same as it had five years ago.
Sarah's heart trembled, cracking like an egg.
But he froze when he saw Sarah. His wife noticed it, and tactfully took the baby from him, disappearing to mind her other children.
Sarah smiled sweetly, sadness plain on her face. "Hello, Francis,"
"Sarah?" Jack was shocked. "Sarah, what—?"
"I don't suppose you missed me, Jack," Sarah said. She hid her feelings behind a mask.
"Sarah, I—I—" Jack stammered. He swallowed, and ushered Sarah into the living room.
Ms. Kelly/Sullivan was holding her baby, and standing protectively over her older children.
"Jack?" She asked, worried. "Is something wrong?"
Jack bit his lip. "Sarah, this is my," he hesitated. "This is my wife, Anne. Anne, this is. . . . This is Sarah Jacobs,"
Sarah extended a hand. Anne shook it.
"Nice to meet you, Sarah," she said, smiling. She turned to her husband. "But if she's an old friend, why did you walk in here looking like the dead crawled on your spine?"
"Oh, I'm not an old friend," Sarah said.
Anne shot a glance at her husband. "Do tell,"
So they sat down, and Jack's daughter came over to bang on her father's knee for attention. "Papa, who'd that?" She demanded, pointing at Sarah.
Jack looked uncomfortable. "That's Sarah,"
The girl scrunched up her face in a frown. "No she's not! I'm Sarah!"
Sarah glared at Jack. "You did not!"
"Jack?" Anne asked.
"You named your daughter Sarah?" Sarah demanded. "How could you?"
"Sarah, I—" Jack began, but the two women didn't let him speak.
"Jack, what did you do?" Anne demanded.
"After everything, Francis!" Sarah cried. "After everything, you ran west to leave me behind and name your daughter Sarah?"
"Francis?" Anne demanded.
The toddler boy began to cry. Little Sarah had toddled over to hit him.
The boy ran to his father, who looked as miserable as if the dead were walking on his spine.
Sarah softened. The boy looked too much like his father.
He snuggled against his father's chest, burying his face where the bandana should have sat.
"What's his name?" Sarah asked, and her quiet voice drowned out everything else.
"David," Jack said, holding his son close. "David Jacob Kelly,"
Sarah laughed, a cold humorless sound. "I will be sure to tell Davey you named your son after the brother of the girl you left."
"I didn't leave!" Jack insisted. "I just—"
"Sure as hell you didn't, Sullivan," Sarah said, her eyes narrowed. "You caught a train, and gave me your bandana. You told me, Sarah, I love you, and I swear to God, I will come back for you someday,"
Anne put Les down. "That is it!" She turned to glare at her husband. "I want to know right now what is going on!"
"Anne," Jack began, putting David back on the ground. He sat, sniffling at his father's feet, while his sister played with a doll. "Sarah is my friend's older sister."
He told the story of the strike, adding more background information as they went along, including his real name. Never once did Anne say anything, but Sarah jumped in several times, to add information where she thought it necessary.
When they were done, Anne said icily, "Four years we've been married, Jack, and you never even told me your name,"
"My name's never mattered to me, and I never liked it," He said. "It's why I changed it,"
No, Sarah thought. You changed it to escape Snyder.
"But all those people?" Anne demanded. "All your friends, close enough to be family, and you just left them?"
"My point exactly," Sarah said. "Would you believe what he left me with? He left me sobbing in a railway station with the king of Brooklyn hanging onto my waist to keep me from running after him. I was surrounded by newsies. The little ones were sobbing, and the older ones were holding back tears to sob in private, and you know what he left us with?"
She inhaled, and she continued. "Jack left us with one note, saying he was sorry. He left me with the key to his old apartment, where he'd grown up, and with a note saying he loved me and that he promised he'd come back," She muttered under her breath, "Didn't even bother to break up with me before he left,"
"I assumed I'd come back," Jack said.
"Do you have any idea how many men proposed to me, Cowboy?" Sarah demanded. "Three!"
"And you turned them down waiting for him?" Anne asked horrified. She put her head in her hands, sighing. "Sarah, could you wait in the next room, please, for a minute?"
Sarah nodded, and took something out of her purse. Getting up, she dropped an envelope in Jack's lap.
"David's baby," She said simply. "He always thought you'd come back for me,"
And Sarah left the room.
In hushed voices, husband and wife argued.
Sarah waited patiently.
She was not proud of that outburst, but she thought of Les, who hadn't left his room for a week after Jack left, and the kid in orange who disappeared for half a month. She thought of the ruined remains of the Manhattan newsies after their leader had left. She thought of how she had visited one night to find Blanket sobbing into his pillow, Boots doing the same. Racetrack had been out in front of the Lodging House with Kid Blink, drinking themselves drunk. Mush had fallen asleep with Tumbler on his lap, and the little boy was still sobbing.
That was what he'd left behind. He'd left behind a family, though he hadn't seen it.
Another time, she'd visited Brooklyn, to find the king on the roof of the lodging house.
Sarah had sat down next to him, and they'd watched the sun rise together. They barely knew each other, but the fact that they both knew Jack was enough. They had traded precious memories of Jack, and in the time that passed, they'd become good friends, and he'd beaten up more than enough scabs that had come looking for her.
"Sarah?" Jack's daughter, named for his old girlfriend, had come looking for her namesake. "Are you really a Sarah? Just like me?"
"It depends," Sarah said. "Do you love your father very much?"
The little girl nodded gravely.
"Then yes," Sarah said. "I am a Sarah, just like you,"
Sitting down, she took the girl into her lap, and began to weave a tale of a teenage boy who was both king and cowboy, and who loved his cowgirl queen with all his heart.
At the end of the tale, little Sarah asked, "Is that about my papa?"
Sarah, biting her lip, nodded.
"And my mama?"
Sarah sighed. "No, sweetie. The story's not about your mother,"
"But, then who's it about?"
Sarah lifted the toddler, to set the girl down before her. "It's about your father and me,"
The girl stared. "My papa loved you?"
Sarah gave a nostalgic smile. "He did, Sarah. But he left me. And do you know what you must always do if someone who loves you leaves?"
She didn't notice the silence in the next room as the little girl shook her head.
"When someone you love leaves, you must never wait for him. You must go after him, and chase him down until you catch him, or you will never have him again,"
The little girl looked at her namesake. "Why?"
"Because or else he will run away," Sarah said, getting to her feet. She picked up the child. "He will run west, and find someone else, and marry and have three beautiful babies."
"Will the babies be like me?" Little Sarah asked.
Cradling the girl, Sarah said, "They will, Sarah, but they won't be yours,"
Going into the next room with the toddler on her hip, Sarah found husband and wife talking quietly. As Sarah entered, Jack got up to take the girl from Sarah.
"Sarah, please," Anne said, getting up. "Stay here tonight,"
"Oh, I couldn't," Sarah said. "I couldn't, not on such short notice,"
Anne smiled, and took Sarah's hand like an old friend. "I'm not taking no for an answer. Come on, I'll show you to your room,"
As Sarah placed her small suitcase on the bed, Anne leaned in the doorway and asked, "What was he like? Five years ago?"
Sarah stared into space, lost in memories. "He was very much a cowboy. They called him Cowboy, because of that hat and bandana he always wore. Jack, he was always very unsure of what he wanted. He wanted to go west; he knew that for certain, until he met me and my brothers."
"You must have loved him very much," Anne said wistfully.
Sarah looked at her. "I did. You're very lucky." She sat on the bed. "You managed to keep him."
Anne shook her head. "You know more about him than I ever did."
There was silence for a moment, then Sarah said. "All this time. Five whole years gone by, and he didn't even write. His family and mine was worried about him, and he didn't bother to let anyone know he was still alive. But still, he names his kids after me and my brothers,"
"He missed you," Anne said. "My guess is he didn't want to own up to having gotten married and saddled with three kids with his girlfriend waiting across the country for him."
Later, at night, Sarah crept into the twins' room.
She looked through the darkness at the crib where the little boy, David, slept.
"I was almost your mother, you know." She whispered. "You almost had an uncle with your name, and another uncle with your brother's name." Sarah leaned on the crib's edge. David was such a beautiful child, so much like his father. "You're lucky, to have those two wonderful people for your parents. Especially him." David twitched in his sleep.
Sarah stood there for a while, before saying, "I suppose that's why he picked her," She thought about Anne. "She's nice, not like anyone back home," She thought of how eager she had been to see his hurt face and said to the sleeping boy, "Not like me, even." She sighed. "Anne is beautiful," Sarah told the toddler, "You're very lucky to have such a beautiful mother, you know."
"His father's lucky to have a wife so much like his old girlfriend," A voice said from the doorway.
"Do you remember that day, Jack?" Sarah asked, watching his son sleep, "That morning where I looked out onto the fire escape, and you were there, and you had slept there the whole night."
"Like it was yesterday," Jack said, coming to stand next to her. "And you asked me if I had slept out there the whole night."
"And you said it was like the Waldorf out there," Sarah said wistfully. "A great view, and cool air,"
"And you told me to go up onto the roof," Jack laughed softly, "Without so much as a please,"
"Five years, Jack," Sarah said. "We were so young. Just seventeen,"
"Seems like we was older," Jack said.
Sarah looked at him. "You changed."
"I could have told you that," Jack said.
"You lost your accent," Sarah told him. "And you grew up. Grown up enough to leave your family behind."
"I never had a family, Sarah,"
"Yes you did, Cowboy," Sarah used his old nickname. "You know you did. You had the newsies, they were your family." She looked at his son. "But I suppose now you have a blood family, two sons and a daughter,"
"She looks like you, a bit," Jack said. "Sarah. Something in the eyes,"
"They're your eyes,"
"That's not what I meant,"
"I know what you meant,"
Sarah looked at Jack. "I'm so tired, Jack. Of all of it."
"All of what, Sarah?"
"Waiting. I waited five years for you, Jack. You promised, you swore you'd be back someday. My life was flying by, and I waited for you. I became a reporter, and the newsies all kept in touch, and in every conversation we had, they always asked if I had word of you,"
"I'm sorry, Sarah," Jack said. "I should've written or something. But—"
"I know," Sarah said.
"I saw the pictures," Jack changed the subject. "The Walkin' Mouth's got a son,"
"What did he name him?" Jack asked.
Sarah laughed. The irony hit her in a great burst, and she had to clamp a hand over her mouth to avoid waking up the kids. "He named him" She laughed again. "He named his kid Jack Francis,"
They both laughed.
"Jack?" Sarah managed to ask, when they had laughed themselves dry. "What would you say if I went back to New York, and I said yes to the man who had most recently proposed to me?"
Jack smiled. "I'd say I deserved it, and I'd make sure to go to the wedding,"
"Even if it was Spot?"
Jack gaped, then laughed. "'Course, Sarah. What do you take me for?"
"My old boyfriend, who managed to break my heart and follow his dreams at the same time," Sarah said.
Jack smiled, a bit sadly. "G'night, Sarah Jacobs." He said.
Sarah gave him a hug. "Good night, Francis Sullivan." And she went back to bed.
The next day, she was gone before dawn, and the only thing Jack could find was a note that read,
I still love you, but not the way I did five years ago.
I miss you already, and by the time you read this, I'll be on the train home already.
I want you to promise me something.
You promised to come home someday. I know it's not home anymore, but I want you to come back to Manhattan, just once, and bright Anne and the kids.
You can meet Jack Francis, and see Les again, he's fourteen now, and meet Boots, the new head of Manhattan.
Jack, look after Sarah. And David and Les of course, but like you said, there's something of me in her eyes. I'll be looking after you always.
Anne, I'm envious. You've got what I spent five years waiting for, but I don't hate you for it. Take care of the kids, and take care of my Cowboy.
Jack, Anne, tell Sarah to remember to always go after someone who leaves her. I learned that the hard way.
I love you, Cowboy, and I envy you, Anne,
Underneath the note, was that bandana Jack had worn five years ago, leading the strike. The one he'd worn through high times and hard times, and had given to his girl, Sarah Jacobs, when he left to find his fortune in the west.
When he finished reading the note, he passed it to Anne, and Sarah ran to her father.
"Papa, Papa," She begged for attention. "What's that?" she pointed to the bandana he held.
Jack smiled at his daughter, and tied the bandana around her small neck, like his mother had done to him the day he'd first gotten it.
Sarah beamed, and ran to show her brother.
Jack smiled, and watched his beautiful daughter shake her brother for his attention. In those dark eyes was the same telltale glint he'd first seen in Sarah's eyes, and that now lingered in Anne's eyes.
A glint of stubbornness, independence, and a bit of proud Mary Sue-ness.