"Well dat's nice," Ruby said as she finished reading her letter. She was sitting on a bunk in the lodging house, reading her letter. It was late afternoon, and all the boys were off somewhere. Snipeshooter was sprawled across the bunk beside her, twirling one of her long curls around her finger. "Maybe I'll be bettah by da time dey get back."
"Ya still feel sick?" asked Snipeshooter. When she nodded, he added, "Dat's weird. Ya've nevah been sick in yer whole life."
"I know. Dis is awful. Me stomach hoits so much." She stood and fought to keep her balance as she stumbled into the bathroom. When she returned a few minutes later, she looked pale and sickly. "Musta been sumpin' I ate, I guess."
"Why doncha lemme walk ya home? Ya can rest fer a while," Snipeshooter offered.
"Awright, long as ya come back an' get me b'fore da pokah game starts."
Ruby ended up staying so late for the poker game that she spent the night at the lodging house. She woke up feeling very sick and felt the familiar feeling in her stomach. Pushing the newsies out of the way, she ran into one of the stalls and slammed the door.
Slippery and Snipeshooter glanced at each other nervously. They stayed behind after the other newsies left. When the lodging house was quiet, Snipeshooter knocked on the door. "Ruby? It's jist me an' Slippery. All da udda guys left. Ya awright?"
The door creaked open, and the two newsies found Ruby sitting on the floor, leaning against the wall. She weakly shook her head.
"Slip, go get a doctah," Snipeshooter ordered.
"No, I'm fine," Ruby protested, attempting to get up. She swayed on her feet, and Snipeshooter was quick to get up and steady her. "Well, maybe not," she admitted.
Slippery was off in a flash, leaving Snipeshooter and Ruby alone in the washroom. He helped her back to a bunk, where she climbed in and pulled the covers up to her chin. "It's cold," she murmured.
About half an hour later, Slippery returned with a doctor and a nurse before leaving again to sell his papes. Snipeshooter explained Ruby's symptoms to the doctor, who seemed very nice. He asked Ruby a lot of questions.
"If you gentlemen wouldn't mind stepping outside, I'd like to ask her a few questions," the nurse said.
"I ain't leavin'," Snipeshooter said defiantly.
The nurse simply nodded and lowered her voice as she asked Ruby several questions. The nurse turned to the doctor and whispered something. The doctor looked from Ruby to Snipeshooter.
"What?" asked Snipeshooter nervously.
"Well, Ruby, it seems as if you're going to have a baby."
"What?" both the newsies asked at once.
"But I… we… are ya serious?" asked Ruby.
"Congradulations," the doctor said. "Please, contact me if there are any further questions." He packed up his bags and left with the nurse, leaving two very confused newsies behind.
The doctor's words slowly sunk into Ruby's mind. She was going to have a baby! A smile spread onto her face as she squealed and jumped out of bed to hug Snipeshooter, despite the fact she could barely balance on her own two feet.
"We're gonna have a baby!" she cried.
Snipeshooter picked her up and spun her around. "Dis 's da best day a me life!"
Ruby nodded joyfully. Then a thought entered her mind, and the smile disappeared from her face. "Ma… she's gonna be furious!"
"We don't have ta tell 'er till after we gets married," Snipeshooter suggested.
"Well, I dunno when yer plannin' dis, but she might figure out b'fore den."
"I dunno, when are we plannin' dis ta be?"
"You tell me," she replied simply, sitting back down on the edge of her bed.
"Well, we gotta have a place ta live. It jist wouldn't feel right comin' back here an' bein' married. I don't wanna have all da guys spyin' on us, hopin' ta see sumpin'."
"Yeah, I guess yer right." She sighed. "I don't wanna have ta keep dis a secret from Ma fer long. I'se no good at keepin' secrets."
"Yer right 'bout dat," Snipeshooter agreed, but quickly closed his mouth when Ruby glared at him. "Well, if I made five bucks a week, den we could get a 'partment real soon. I mean, da ones by Central Pahk 're only five bucks a month."
"I ain't gotta dress yet, but Ma an' Jess could make one inna week," Ruby said.
"How 'bout in two weeks?" suggested Snipeshooter.
"Awright," Ruby agreed. "Boy, I can't wait till Ma an' da kids get home!"
At the end of the week, Ruby got her wish. She walked up the stairs to her mother's apartment, fumbling in her pocket for the key. She went to stick the key in the door when she realized the door was unlocked and opened a bit. She nervously edged the door open with the toe of her boot and peered in.
She yelped at the sound of her name. Then she saw her family inside the apartment and sighed.
"Gosh, Gabe! Scare her half to death, why don't you?" Jess scolded good-naturedly.
"When did ya get back?" asked Ruby as she embraced the middle Dryden girl.
"We took da midnight train," Rose said. "Ma went ta da drugstoah. She t'ought ya'd be dere. She's stoppin' at da stoah on 'er way back. She's invitin' Snipes ta dinnah."
"Swell," said Ruby. "How's Gramma?" She was almost afraid to ask.
The three younger Drydens looked at each other.
"She…" Ruby gulped, unable to say the words.
Gabe nodded as the door opened.
"Ma," Ruby said, going over to hug her mother.
"Ruby, I've missed you," her mother said, giving Ruby a look that plainly said, "We'll talk later."
"Wheah should I put dese?" asked Snipeshooter, awkwardly shifting the bag of groceries.
"Oh, I'm sorry! Right on the table. Well, Ruby, it seems you've kept the apartment in one piece, though every crumb of food is gone."
Snipeshooter laughed. "Ya shoulda seen 'er boinin' ev'ryt'ing!"
"Aww, shaddup! I jist gotta loin how ta cook," Ruby said.
"Ma, 's dinnah gonna be ready soon? I'se stahvin'!" moaned Gabe.
"Let's just have some sandwiches and some of that delicious fruit we brought back from the country," suggested Mrs. Dryden.
Jessie quickly made up some sandwiches while Rose set the table. The Dryden family sat down to eat their dinner. The conversation revolved mostly around Aunt Christine and Aunt Laura, and what Snipeshooter and Ruby had been doing in New York City.
"Da usual. Sellin' papes, goin' ta Tibby's, playin' pokah…" Ruby said, lightly avoiding a certain something.
But Danielle Dryden knew her oldest daughter. "Why don't you three go take a walk? I'd like to talk to Ruby and Snipeshooter, please."
"Let's go to the lodging house," suggested Jessie, who secretly liked Cap Golden.
"Awright," agreed the younger two, and they were gone in a flash.
Danielle Dryden locked her gaze with Ruby's. "All right. What are you hiding?"
Knowing she couldn't lie, Ruby sighed and looked to Snipeshooter. "I… I'm gonna have a baby."
Mrs. Dryden gasped.
"Yer mad, ain'tcha?" Ruby asked, suddenly very interested in the tabletop.
After a brief pause that seemed like eternity to the newsies, Mrs. Dryden sighed. "I suppose I can't be. After all, I haven't been the best person in that department. I am disappointed. I'm not terribly mad, though. Are you planning to tell your sisters and brother?"
Both the newsies shook her head. "Not unless we want it printed on da front page a tamarrah's pape," Snipeshooter joked.
"We were plannin' on gettin' married at da end a next week," Ruby told. "An' we can tell all da guys, an' Jess an' Gabe an' Rose, aftah da weddin'."
Mrs. Dryden nodded. "I won't say a word."
"T'anks, Ma," Snipeshooter said. He called Mrs. Dryden "Ma" on occasion. "I bettah get goin'. Ya comin'?" he asked Ruby.
"Nah, I'se gonna stay heah tanight," she said softly. "See ya tamarrah at Tibby's fer lunch?"
Snipeshooter nodded. "Bye." He kissed her before heading out the door.
"Ma, 're ya awright? 'Bout Gramma, I mean," Ruby asked.
Mrs. Dryden sighed yet again. "I'm quite sad, if that's what you mean. But I'm glad I went. Laura thinks she was waiting for me. I'm very glad I went. Ma forgave me. She said I never should have married your father, if I was unhappy. She's not happy with the path I chose, but she's glad that I'm happy now. She understood. And I'm grateful."
Ruby nodded. "T'anks fer understandin', Ma."
Mrs. Dryden hugged her oldest daughter. "I'll be glad to have a grandchild. And I'm sure Jessie will be thrilled to have a little baby to fuss over."
"I ain't lettin' Gabe near da kid! He'd prob'ly drop it!" laughed Ruby.
"We'll go pick out cloth for a dress tomorrow," promised Mrs. Dryden.
"Awright. Gosh, I'se excited!"
"You should be," said Mrs. Dryden. "You love Snipeshooter very much, and he loves you very much. Neither of you deserves anything less than the other. I'm sure you'll be very happy together, and we'll all be happy for you."
And so a week later, Ruby woke up in the best mood she'd ever been in. Her dress was pressed and waiting, everyone who'd been invited was attending, and Mrs. Dryden had prepared an incredible meal for after the brief ceremony.
"G'mornin'!" called Ruby as she scrambled out of bed.
"So you finally decided to get up, huh?" joked Jess. "Get in the bathtub. Ma's downstairs talking to Mrs. Hockney, and Gave and Rose went to Specs' store."
Ruby tugged off her nightgown and climbed into the bathtub. "Gosh, I'se excited!"
"I would be, too. Hurry and get washed. Breakfast is nearly done."
After scrubbing every inch of her body with sweet-scented soap and giving her hair a decent wash, Ruby put on her newsie clothes and rubbed her hair with a towel. "What's fer breakfast?"
"Leftover apple pie, bread and butter, and bacon," announced Jess as she opened the oven and pulled out two small plates of apple pie.
"Yum!" cried Ruby, eagerly digging into her pie. As she was finishing her meal, the apartment door opened and in came Mrs. Dryden.
"Jessie, hurry and put on your dress. Then help Ruby with her hair. Ruby, get dressed. We must leave in a few minutes. Where are Gabriel and Rose?"
"At Specs' store. Should I go get them?" asked Jess.
"Yes, please do," said Mrs. Dryden.
By the time the younger three Drydens returned, Ruby was dressed and waiting. Her dress was simple white cotton, trimmed in lace and blue ribbon. A blue sash circled her waist, her hair was pulled up into a knot, and on her feet were black boots borrowed from Mrs. Hockney's daughter.
"Gosh, Ruby, ya look beautiful!" noted Rose as she hurried into her best dress.
"Yep," agreed Gabe.
"T'anks," Ruby said shyly. "Ya ready ta go yet?"
The ceremony was short but sweet. Specs gave the bride away, the pair exchanged vows, and they kissed. The celebration afterwards, however, was what stuck out in everyone's mind. Specs gladly let Ruby and Snipeshooter have their party in the basement of his store. For hours, guests ate, talked, and danced. The party was still going strong as the sun set.
Ruby stood at the top of the stairs, looking up at the multicolored sky over New York. Suddenly, someone grabbed her wrist and pulled her into the alley next to the store. Ruby was too shocked to scream or fight back or even say a word.
"Now ya listen ta me, ya lousy liddle newsie! Ev'ryt'ing dat's wrong wit me an' me fadda, it's awl yer fault! Awl yer fault! Ya heah me? I outta jist kill ya right heah! Ya shoah desoive it!"
Ruby aimlessly kicked. "Get away from me!" she screeched.
The mysterious figure slapped her. "Ya wanna shut yer mouth?"
Ruby screamed and screamed. "Get away from me!" she kept repeating. Before long, Blink and Specs were at her assistance. Blink grabbed the guy by his collar and pulled him out into the street before punching him and knocking him out cold.
Taking a shaky breath, Ruby leaned against the wall. She wasn't too hurt. Not physically, at least. Mentally… well, she doubted she'd ever go near an alley again. She racked her brain to figure out who he was.
"Ruby, 're ya awright?" asked Specs, sliding an arm around her shoulders.
"Who was dat guy?" she timidly asked, too shocked to cry.
"He looked so familiar…" Blink said. He looked deep in thought. "Dat's it! Dat's dat guy, da one dat grabbed ya when ya foist came heah… an' I soaked him, remembah?"
Ruby gasped and was suddenly incapable of standing on her own. "Tommy…"
She was shocked to wake up in a strange bed, especially after the events of the previous night. Ruby climbed out of bed and made a beeline for the door, knocking over whatever was in her way.
"Ruby! Ruby, stop! Wheah ya goin'?"
"Get off!" she yelled, trying to pull herself from the person's grip. She stumbled out the door and straight down the staircase. As she was pulling herself to her feet, someone grabbbed her arm so tightly that she couldn't have escaped if she wanted to.
"Ruby! Calm down! It's jist me! It's me, Snipes."
The tone of his voice and his touch calmed her somewhat. She tried to ignore the hot, silent tears streaming down her face and stared away from him.
"Ruby…" He turned her face. "C'mon. Ya need yer sleep."
Unable to speak, she nodded and allowed her husband to lead the way up the stairs and back into a bedroom. As she settled down on the bed, she was able to ask, "Wheah are we?"
"Specs' stoah. D'ya remembah what happened last night?"
"Dat guy grabbed me. Said ev'ryt'ing wrong wit him an' his fadda was my fault. He slapped me, an' I screamed, an' Specs an' Blink came. Blink soaked 'im, an' den Blink said he'd seen da guy b'fore. Den I realized who he was."
"Who?" asked Snipeshooter urgently.
"Me brudda. Tommy," she said, fighting tears. "Den… I don't remembah."
"Ya fainted, er sumpin'. Specs brought ya in, an' ya were sleepin'. He brought ya up heah an' said ya could spend da night." There was a pause. "So dat was yer brudda?"
"Snipes, I'se scared! What if he's waitin' for me outside da door?"
"Ya can stay heah fer now. I gotta 'partment, an' it ain't much, but we gotta bed an' a stove an' a table. Dat's awl we need fer now. Ya can stay dere, an' I'll get onna da newsies ta stay wit ya, if ya'd like."
"I guess I'll go. I'd feel bettah if ya was dere wit me, but I guess onna da guys is bettah dan nobody. Will ya see if Spit er Spades'll stay wit me? Dey's da toughest newsies in Manhattan, an' ev'rybody knows it."
Snipeshooter nodded. "Shoah. Ya stay heah fer now. I'll get Thomas ta bring ya up sumpin' fer breakfast. Ya hungry?"
"Awright. I'll be back soon. Bye." Snipeshooter kissed her quickly before leaving her alone in the bedroom.
When Snipeshooter and Spades returned, they heard two voices talking from upstairs. They entered the bedroom and found Ruby sitting up in bed, eating something and talking to Thomas.
"Hey, Ruby, how ya feelin'?" asked Spades.
She shrugged. "Okay, I guess. Jist scared, mostly."
"Dere ain't nuttin' ta be scared a! Spades won't let anybody in, will ya, Spades?" reassured Snipeshooter.
"A course not!" he said.
Snipeshooter extended a hand to Ruby. "Ya ready ta go?"
Ruby nodded. "G'bye, Thomas. I'll tawk ta ya soon."
"All right, Miss Ruby. Be careful."
Taking Snipeshooter's hand, Ruby set off down the stairs. Spades looked out for any men fitting the description of Ruby's brother, and glared at any people who attempted to come near the shaken young lady.
Once the trio arrived at the apartment, Snipeshooter promised to come back on his lunch break. Ruby fell asleep in the bed after saying goodbye, and Spades sat down at the table in the main room, prepared to spend the day staring at the door…
"Spades! I'se outta me mind! Ya gotta lemme out!"
"But Snipes said-"
"He ain't da boss a me! Look, it ain't like I'se goin' out ta sell papes er nuttin'! I'se just takin' a walk downstairs ta git some fresh air. I'll be fine!"
"At least lemme come wit ya," Spades said firmly.
"Ya stay right heah." With a bang, Ruby shut the door and locked it. Smiling, she headed down the stairs, humming to herself. Only ten more minutes, then Snipeshooter would be home for the day. All the newsies had promised to come visit her, along with both her sisters and her brother. As Ruby approached the door of the apartment building, someone grabbed her, wrapped something around her entire face, and swung her over his shoulder. She felt herself being carried out of the building and put into a wagon, or maybe a carriage.
"Let's go," one of the men said.
"Hey! You! Hey, kid, git outta me way b'fore I run ya ovah!" the other man shouted.
"Terribly sorry, mistah," Pip said as he moved out of the way. "Buy a pape, mistah?" He looked up at the wagon. There was the older, overweight man driving the wagon, and a younger man, maybe twenty-five, with reddish-brown hair. But a third person sat next to the young man, his or her face covered by a cloth of some sort. A few unruly curls of bright red hair escaped from under the cloth.
"Ruby?" asked Pip.
"Pip?" The person turned towards where the young boy stood and began to struggle.
"Ruby!" Pip was climbing up the wagon wheel in a flash.
The young man pushed the struggling girl aside, rendering her unconsious, and grabbed Pip by the front of his shirt. "Now ya listen ta me, ya lousy liddle newsie! Doncha tell anyone ya saw dis goyl, ya heah? Don't tell anyone, er else ya'll be real sorry. Heah me?"
Pip gulped and nodded. He was afraid of everything in the city, especially scary men like the one threatening him.
"Good. Now git outta me sight."
The second his feet touched the ground, Pip ran as fast as he could…
Spades was beginning to get nervous. Ruby had said she'd only be a few minutes, but at least fifteen minutes had passed. He fiddled with the doorknob, attempting to open the door.
As he was ready to give up, the door suddenly opened, knocking him over.
"Spades? Wheah's Ruby?" demanded Snipeshooter, ready to kill.
"She went ta git some fresh air. I told 'er ta wait, but she wouldn't, an' she locked me in heah - I t'ink da lock's busted - an' she's been gone too long, I t'ink."
Snipeshooter tore down the stairs and onto the street. There were no signs of his fiery-haired wife. Spades followed at his heels.
"Spades, go find ev'ry single Manhattan newsie, an' tell dem dat Ruby's missin'. Tell dem ta staht lookin'. An' den go find Blink, Specs, Jack, Bumlets, whoevah else ya can find. An' if ya can, go get Jess an' Ruby's mudda."
Spades nodded seriously. "An' if I see da guys who took 'er… I'll take care a dem…"
Ruby came back to her senses and found herself in a hot, stuffy room. Sweat trickled from every inch of her body. She looked around and didn't recognize the room at all. There was a small closet to her right, a door to her left, and two windows in front of her. Glancing around, she went and looked out the windows. She was at least five stories above a dark alley. I'se trapped, she thought despondently.
The door opened, and Ruby turned. Tommy walked in, looking angry and half-drunk.
"Git ovah heah!" he shouted, grabbing her arm and throwing her into the wall farthest from the windows.
Ruby collided with the wall like a limp doll. She felt a sudden pain in her stomach and remembered the baby growing in her body. Oh, dis 's jist swell, she thought sarcastically. I'se gonna die heah, an' dis baby's nevah gonna have a chance. Oh Snipes, Spades, Spit, Blink, somebody help me!
At the same moment, halfway across town, Snipeshooter was sitting with his head in his hands at Tibby's. Sling had offered to keep him company, since the young man was obviously exceedingly upset about Ruby.
"She'll be awright, Snipes. I sweah. Ruby's strong, an' half da city's lookin' fer her. Spades an' Spit went ovah ta Brooklyn ta look. An' Cap went ta Queens 'bout an hour ago. She'll toin up by tanight, I bet."
The door opened, and in came the Dryden family. Jess looked as if she'd been crying, and Mrs. Dryden was fighting not to. Rose and Gabe just looked concerned and scared.
"Ya find 'er yet?" Gabe asked timidly.
Sling shook his head as Cap came in the door. He didn't need to ask if Ruby had been found yet. "Well, da guys in Queens said dey'd staht lookin'…." He trailed off when he saw Jessie's tears. "Hey, Jess… ya awright?" When she didn't reply, he suggested they go for a walk. Jess agreed, and the pair headed out the door.
"I just pray that she isn't hurt," Mrs. Dryden said. "In her condition."
"What condition?" asked Rose innocently.
Snipeshooter snapped his head up and looked at Danielle Dryden, realization hitting him like a bolt of lightning. If Ruby was hurt, then the baby would be lost…
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