If dis baby dies, I t'ink I'll go mad, Ruby thought. Dat'd be awful. I wondah if Ma knows dat I'se missin' yet… But the second her thoughts drifted away from her baby, they went right back to the subject. In less than a month, that unborn child in her body had become her sole reason for living.

"I dunno what we're gonna do wit her!" someone shouted in the other room. Ruby slowly crept towards the door. "All dem newsies 're prob'ly lookin' fer her. Dey love 'er. An' she's married! D'ya know dat?"

"Yeah, I know dat, but it don't mattah. Yer mudda left wit da kids, you left, she left. I didn't care dat you left, an' I didn't care dat yer mudda left, but Annie - she was da only onna yous kids dat I evah liked! She coulda taken care a me, but no, when she left, I stahted drinkin', an' den I got t'rown in jail! It's awl her fault!"

"Yeah, she shoulda come wit me! I told 'er to! But she wouldn't listen ta me, would she? Dis is awl her fault."

"Yeah. We gotta get 'er ta stay. She can take care a da both a us. We're nevah gonna have ta get jobs."

"I'll drink ta dat," Tommy said, and Ruby heard the clink of one beer bottle toasting another.

Ruby leaned against the wall, trying to calm down. They were keeping her hostage, in a hot, stuffy room with no food and no fresh air. There was no escape…

Or so she thought. Several hours later, after the men must've gone through five bottles of beer each, the other room fell silent. Darkness had fallen upon the city, and with darkness came silence. Ruby opened the window and peered out. A clothesline stretched across the alley. Ruby looked around and slid the window opened, prepared to climb across the alley.

"Hey! What're ya doin'?" a voice bellowed.

Ruby turned and in her haste, the rope fell. Dere goes me escape, she thought sourly. "I… I…" she stuttered, frightened stiff of her father's fists.

"Tryin' ta escape, huh? Well, ya can't! Yer stayin' heah, no mattah how many a yer lousy liddle newsies try ta rescue ya!" The man lurched towards her, but Ruby was faster and dodged him. She flew through the empty room and into the main room. She tripped over something soft and realized it was her brother.

"Catch her!" her father shouted to Tommy.

Ruby kicked him in the face, hard, and tore to the door. She ran down the stairs and heard her skirt rip across the middle. She burst onto the street and realized she didn't have the slightest clue where she was. She looked left, then right, then left again. She heard the door onto the street open and turned left, racing down the street.

Snipeshooter had just about given up hope. The older newsies were all worried, and when he slipped outside to have a smoke, they said so.

"'Re awl yous guys shoah ya didn't see nuttin'?" asked Sling, for what had to be the millionth time.

Pip shifted nervously. Should he tell them? He was afraid of that man, but he was afraid for Ruby.

"Pip? Ya awright?" asked Slippery, looking at his friend curiously.

"Um…" Pip stared at the floor. "I saw da guys takin' Ruby," he whispered.

"What? Hey Spades! Spit, c'mere! So wheah'd dey take 'er, Pip?"

"I dunno! But dey said dey'd kill me!" cried Pip.

"What? What're ya scared a, Pip?" asked Sling.

"Dey're gonna kill me," he wailed.

"Calm down!" instructed Boots. "Wheah'd dey take 'er?"

"I dunno!"

"Well, wheah'd ya see 'em? Wheah were dey headed?"

"Ovah neah Central Pahk. I dunno which way dey was goin'. Towards da bridge, I t'ink."

Immediately, three of the older newsies were out the door and running towards Brooklyn. The rest returned to their seats to wait…

Cap turned to Jess, who had been crying for hours. He felt awful for her. He really liked the quiet twelve-year-old girl, but wasn't sure how she'd react. He decided that for the time being, he could live with just being her friend.

"Hey, uh, Jess, ya wanna loin how ta play pokah?" he asked timidly, pulling a deck of cards out of his pocket.

She sniffled and wiped at her eyes. "Um, okay, I guess."

Cap, Sling, and Boots began to patiently explain the rules of poker to her as the cards were dealt. Just as the game was starting, the door was flung open.

"Ruby!" cried Jess, throwing her cards down and running to the door to hug her sister. Within a matter of seconds, all the newsies were crowded around the frightened sixteen-year-old girl.

Snipeshooter pushed through the crowd and hugged Ruby tightly. "'Re ya awright?" he asked.

She slowly nodded. "Yeah, I'se jist scared…"

"C'mon, siddown. Can I have a glass a wata? T'anks," Snipeshooter called to the waiter.

Ruby gulped down the glass of water that the waiter brought her, gasping for breath. All the newsies crowded around her, babbling questions.

"Ruby, darling!" Mrs. Dryden shoved the newsies aside and knelt in front of her daughter. "We were all so worried!"

"I'se sorry," Ruby hiccuped, wiping away tears.

"Shh, it's awright," Snipeshooter said, hugging her tightly.

"I was scared!" she wailed, unable to hide her fear any longer. "I t'ought dey was gonna hoit me! An' I t'ought da baby was gonna die…"

Questions and accusations flew at the newlyweds.

"Would all a yous jist shut up an' calm down?" Snipeshooter shouted after a minute.

"What baby?" demanded Spades.

"I'se gonna have a baby," Ruby said quietly.

Jessie immediately squealed and ran over to hug her sister and brother-in-law. "I'll be an aunt? Oh, really? This is wonderful!"

The whole restaurant erupted in cheering. With one exception…

It jist ain't possible, he thought as he walked a little faster up the stairs and into the lodging house. "Hey Snipes, come outside fer a smoke wit me?" he asked quietly, but seriously.

"Shoah, Spades," Snipeshooter said carelessly, turning away from his conversation with Cap. Spades led the way down onto the street, and the pair stood under a lamppost, smoking cigarettes.

"It ain't possible, Snipes," Spades said after a silent moment.

"What ain't possible?" asked Snipshooter, not completely focused on the conversation.

"Ruby havin' a baby."

"A course it's possible! What, ya t'ink she ain't old enough?"

"No, I t'ink dat she knew b'fore she told us."

"What, 'xactly, are ya suggestin'?"

"Dat she knew she was havin' a baby b'fore ya got married."

"I don't see how dat's any a yer business."

"It is! Ya know I'd soak any guy dat even t'ought about hoitin' her! An' if yer plannin' ta hoit her, or da kid-"

"I ain't!"

"So did she know b'fore she got married? Is dat why ya married her?"

"No!" shouted Snipeshooter. "Dat ain't da reason at awl! We was engaged b'fore we evah… did anyt'ing…"

"Shoah ya were."

"Shut up, Spades! I ain't goin' inta detail wit ya, cause it's rude, but I can tell ya dat I nevah woulda dreamed a doin' anyt'ing if we weren't engaged."

Spades eyed the older boy. "So she knew when ya got married…"

Snipeshooter sighed and nodded. "We didn't want it ta happen dat way. But it did, an' dere ain't no changin' dat. 'Sides, we'se married now. An' we'll be married when she has da baby. An' dat's what really mattahs."

"Yeah, I guess yer right… So yer gonna be a fadda, huh?"

"Hard ta believe, ain't it?" asked Snipeshooter, grinning.

"Poor kid," joked Spades.

"Hey! Watch it, er else I'll soak ya."

Spades snorted and tore off down the street.

"Hey! C'mere! Spades, git back heah! Spades, I'se gonna soak ya fer dat! Spades!"

Eight Months Later…
"Will somebody please tell me what's goin' on?" shouted Snipeshooter to no one in particular. "Wheah da heck is Ruby, an' why ain't I 'lowed in me own 'partment?"

"C'mon!" called Rose as she skipped down the stairs. "Snipes, Ruby said yer 'lowed in now!" She led the way across the apartment to the bedroom, where Mrs. Dryden and Jessie stood.

"Ya found bof a dem?" she asked quietly, sounding very tired.

"Ruby?" Snipeshooter pushed his way to the bedside. "Ya awright?"

"Yeah! Ya worry too much," Ruby laughed.

"What happened?"

"Ya can't figure it out yerself?"

A second passed, and Snipeshooter stood up, looking at his mother-in-law and sister-in-law. "Wheah's da kid?" he demanded.

Jessie giggled and picked up a small bundle. "Here she is. Isn't she beautiful?"

"It's a goyl?" asked Snipeshooter. "Lemme see!"

"Be careful," warned Jessie as she passed the baby to Snipeshooter.

"I will. Oh, gosh, Ruby, she's beautiful."

"Ain't she?" asked the very proud mother.

"We'd better get going, dear. Will you be all right?"

Ruby nodded. "G'night Ma. Bye Jess. T'anks fer ev'ryt'ing."

"You're welcome, dear." The door clicked shut and silence filled the apartment.

"What're ya namin' her?" asked Snipeshooter as he set the baby in the cradle.

After a moment, Ruby said decidedly, "Christine. Christine Grace Cliffton."

"Dat sounds nice."

Ruby yawned. "Dat was hardah dan anyt'ing I've evah done."

"Den go ta sleep."

"I t'ink I will."

"G'night. I love you."

"I love you too."

"Ferevah an' evah."

"Amen," Ruby said with a giggle.

Forever 'N' Ever Amen II
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© by Emily H., 2000