"That's awright," Dutchy said. "Ya look nice."
"Oh, thank you," said Calista. "Where is the show tonight?"
"Uh, it's at Irving Hall. It ain't far from heah. Don't worry, we won't be late."
"How much will it cost?"
"Don't worry 'bout it, we get in fer free."
"All right," she said, pulling the door shut. "You lead the way."
The pair walked across town to a hall where many newsies were entering. Dutchy led the way to the door.
"Hello, Tom! Dis is Calista, she's new 'round heah."
"Why, hello, Calista, I'm Thomas."
"Hello," she said quietly. "It is a pleasure to meet you."
"Same here," he replied with a grin. "Enjoy the show."
"I always do," said Dutchy. "Ya like da theatah, 'Lista?"
"Yes, very much, thank you, do you?"
"What was it that you just called me?"
"Uh, I dunno, I t'ink I said 'Lista. Why?" he asked, afraid he'd upset her.
She grinned. "I like it."
The pair walked into the theater and climbed a flight of stairs to the upper level. Checking to make sure no one was around, Dutchy opened a door to reveal a ladder. At the top of the ladder was a sort of catwalk, a maze of boards and wires supporting scenery.
"I know it ain't much, but dese 're da best seats in da house," promised Dutchy. "Ya can see ev'ryt'ing! I sweah!"
"I believe you," giggled Calista as she leaned against the wall.
Throughout the evening, men came up into the catwalk to adjust the lighting, but they didn't bother Dutchy and Calista. They were used to the newsies coming to see plays and bringing their girl of the moment along. Medda told the crew to let the newsies in for free, any time they liked, and to let them have the seats of their choice. Usually the boys chose seats in the front row, but Dutchy wanted some privacy with Calista. She wasn't like any of the typical girls the newsies met on the streets of New York, but she was every bit as nice. She seemed to like Dutchy, too. He didn't expect much in the long run, but he just wanted someone to talk to and do things with for a week or two. Dutchy knew not to expect much. Being a newsie for so long had pretty much ruined all his former dreams.
"That was the best play I've ever seen in my entire life!" said Calista joyfully, spinning around in the street and giggling. "All the actors and actresses were wonderful, and the story was wonderful, and it was all just perfect!" For the entire walk home, Calista was bubbling over with energy, gushing about the play.
"Yur in a good mood," laughed Dutchy.
"I am! I do believe I could fly!"
"I wouldn't try it if I was ya," suggested Dutchy.
"Oh, I won't, don't worry. Well, here we are, good night, Dutchy, I'll see you tomorrow!" Then the most shocking thing came. Calista kissed him quickly on the cheek and darted into the building, humming and dancing up the stairs.
Her apartment was empty and cold, but a fire was quickly lit. She rummaged in her worn blue bag and pulled the contents out, setting them on her bed. Her blue pleated skirt and blouse, a second pair of stockings, her nightgown, and finally, what she was looking for. A stack of pieces of paper, some written on and some blank, tied with a scarlet ribbon. A pencil was tucked into the knot. The bundle was untied, and Calista glanced over the pages. It was her pride and joy - a play, half-finished, with the lead role written especially for herself. It had been started three years ago, when she was fifteen, and had been rewritten, read over, and restarted several times. But this is going to be the last time, thought Calista as she eagerly began writing. This will be the final version.
Over the next month, Calista began spending much time at the theater. During the day, when she wasn't working on her play, she went to the theater. She saw every play practice, and became very good friends with the doorman, Thomas. Calista also met Medda, who gave a small job as a maid to the young foreign girl. With a regular income, Calista could afford to buy a lamp to light her apartment, as well as some food to keep at home for those days when she couldn't leave her writing long enough to go to Tibby's.
Calista was also a regular with the newsies. After a full day of writing, she loved to see the light-hearted group of young boys. There was more than a few times when she ended up staying the night after a late night game of poker or a performance at the theater. She was a good friend to all the boys, and she was always there when they needed a place to hide for the night or a few cents for a meal.
One day, she was sitting on a park bench with Dutchy and Blink when her eyes grew wide and she gasped. She quickly turned and hid her face, and after a moment, she turned back and let out a sigh.
"What was dat 'bout?" asked Dutchy suspiciously.
"What? Nothing, oh, nothing at all. You were saying?" she asked, avoiding his gaze quite nicely.
A few more such incidents occurred, and Dutchy became more suspicious and curious each time. Finally, when they were alone in the park after the fifth or sixth incident, he had to ask.
"Why d'ya keep hidin' and den actin' like ya don't know what I'se tawkin' 'bout? Yer a good actress, but I cin see t'roo it. What's dis 'bout, Lis?"
She bit her lip nervously, then decided to spill everything. "Well, you see, I ran away from my home in Greece. My father is a very important man there. He is the English ambassador to Greece. My family was very wealthy and we had nearly everything we wanted. Fancy clothes and jewelry, regular parties, maids and tutors of all sorts, and the finest schooling. But he expects the only thing that I'll ever do is get married and become a wife and mother. I want to be more than that. You know that I want to act on stage, and maybe sing, and my father knows it as well. Often, during the days when my father was not at home, I would sneak to theaters and watch them practice. They let me perform a few times, and oh, Dutchy, I loved it!"
"Well, I began courting one of the actors. He was a very nice Greek boy named Demetrius. I wanted Father to meet him desperately, so I brought Demetrius over to meet my family. Father was furious, and told me I was never to go to a theater again. I told him I would run away with Demetrius, and I did. We got to the Greek coast, then I discovered he only wanted to marry into my father's good family because his own family had disowned him. I told him I never wanted to see him again and climbed on a boat by myself. I came here, and you know the rest."
"Until las' week… when ya started gettin' all weird on me."
"Yes, that. I've been seeing my father's guards. Two of them. They're following me, I'm certain of it. I'm not surprised that my father sent guards out after me, and it's only a matter of time until they see me and take me back there. And when they do, I'll most likely never come back. Father will marry me off to some eligible young man, and I'll just become another housewife."
"No… you can't just leave like dat. What 'bout all da newsies? What 'bout yer play and yer dreams? What 'bout…" He swallowed. "What 'bout me?"
Calista sighed. "I don't want to leave. New York is such a wonderful city, and I've met so many wonderful people. I can't bear to leave you behind. You don't know how much I'll miss you."
"I'll miss ya more. I mean… Lis, ya don't know… I'se spent me whole life alone. Even wid all da newsies, I was alone… y'know? An' now yer heah, an' I feel like yer da one person I can tawk to, an'… an' ya'll be gone, an' I'll be alone again."
"Oh, Dutchy…" She reached up to touch his cheek. "I've been just as alone as you have. I want to stay here with you, forever."
He looked down at her and couldn't resist the urge to kiss her. The moment was sweet and memorable for both of them.
"For as long as I'm still here, you're not going to be alone," Calista promised.
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