By six o'clock, Ruby had sold 76 papes, and had wanted to sell more, but Lucky and Jack both advised to save her money.

"But I'se made sevendy-six cents! An' I'se got two more dollahs back at da lodgin' 'owse! I kin git more! I kin sell more, honest, I can!" protested Ruby.

"Ruby, by now, most ah Noo Yawk Cidy has onna ahr papes," Lucky said.

Ruby pouted for a few minutes as the trio walked through the crowded streets. After a moment, she said, "'Ey, Lucky, wheah'd ya git yer cap?"

"Aww, it was me brudda Frankie's, an' 'e... 'E passed away, an' when I ran away, I took it."

"Oh," Ruby said. "How much do dey cost?"

"I t'ink ya got enough, Ruby. Wanna git one?"

"Yeah!" Ruby nodded vigorously.

Jack smiled. "Go in dat stoah an' git one. An' hurry up. We wanna meet all da guys fer dinnah, don't we?"

Ruby ran off and into the store.

"Ain't she cute, Jack?" said Lucky.

"Lucky, I t'ink youse gittin' a lil goylish, now dat youse fifteen," he said.

"I am not!" protested Lucky.

"Yeah you 's."

"I am not, ya scabbah!" she cried, punching Jack half-jokingly. He blocked her punches fairly easily, only getting hit every once in a while.

"Well, I know one thing that ya ain't."

"Oh yeah? Well, what's dat?" challenged Lucky, planting her hands on her hips and glaring at Jack, fighting a smile.

"Ya ain't gittin' any biggah." With that, Jack picked Lucky up and swung her over his shoulder.

"Jack, put me down!" she shouted. "Ya got bony shouldahs, an' dis hoits!"

Jack shifted her slightly. "Ya know I ain't gonna, an' ya know ya don't want me ta, eidder."

"Yeah, but I'se gots ta say somethin', don't I? I mean, I'se got a reputation an' all."

Jack laughed. "Ya sure do, Lucky."

Some people passing the couple stared, others smiled, and some just ignored them completely. For a few minutes, Lucky just stayed over Jack's shoulder.

Just as Lucky was beginning to get uncomfortable, Ruby came bounding out of the store, a huge grin on her face. Lucky wiggled out of Jack's grasp and stood beside him.

"Look at me cap! Look! Look, Lucky, ain't it be-u-tiful?" asked Ruby proudly.

"Sure 's, Ruby," agreed Jack and Lucky.

"C'mon, let's hurry up an' git ta Tibby's. I'se gonna bet all da odda guys 's already dere."

Jack and Lucky began walking faster, but Ruby, who was much shorter and a few steps behind, soon got lost in a crowd. She pushed through the people, but Jack and Lucky were nowhere to be seen. Ruby had no idea where she was going, and no idea where she was, either. She looked everywhere for someone she knew, but not a single face was familiar.

"'eya, Ruby! How'd yer first day go, huh?" asked a boy with dark hair. He noticed Ruby's confused look and laughed. "I'se Mush. Doncha remember seein' me last night?"

"Nope, sahry," Ruby said. "'ey, wheah's dat place that Jack was talkin' about... he said all da guys were gonna beat us dere..."

"Y'mean Tibby's? It's right up heah. I'se goin' theah, too. Dey got some delicious food. Real good."

"Good cause I'se stahvin'!" announced Ruby.

Mush laughed. "C'mon, Ruby. Heah we are." He pushed open the door and led the way in to a crowded, noisy room full of the Manhattan newsies. Dishes clattered and everyone who wasn't eating was talking and laughing.

As Ruby followed Mush in, the room fell silent and a chair scraped against the floor. A boy of average height, wearing a gray hat and red suspenders came up and stood in front of Ruby. He spun a black cane with a gold top in one hand and glared at Ruby.

"So, Jackie-boy..." he said. "So dis 's yer new newsie."

"Yeah, dat's me new newsie, Spot. Ya wanna make somethin' of it?" challenged Jack calmly, standing up. All the newsies watched Spot, Jack, and Ruby with interest.

"So what's yer name, kid?" asked Spot.

"Ruby," she answered nervously. The newsie was bigger than Ruby, though he wasn't big by any standards, and she felt quite intimidated by him.

He nodded slowly. "I guess the kid's awright," he said, returning to his seat. "Even if she's a goyl, she's awright."

As Spot sat down, all the newsies began chattering again. The room was filled with a general roar of conversation and clattering of dishes. It was homelike, in an odd sort of way.

"Ruby! Ruby, over heah!" shouted someone. Ruby turned and saw Snipeshooter standing on a chair and waving his arms in an attempt to get Ruby's attention.

Ruby grinned and ran over. "'Eya, Snipes!"

"C'mon, I saved ya a seat. Dis 's Boots."

"'Eya," Ruby said cheerfully. She, Snipeshooter, and Boots were all very talkative and could barely stop talking long enough to eat their dinner.

"Ain't yous t'ree done yet?" asked Jack impatiently. "Cause we's leavin' wit yous er witout yous."

Ruby gulped down the last of her sarsaparilla, put the leftover pieces of roast beef in between two pieces of bread, tugged on her coat, and ran after Jack and Lucky. "C'mon, Snipes! Hurry up, will ya? Hurry up, Boots!"

"Awright, awright, I'se comin', I'se comin'!" shouted Snipeshooter. "Hold yer horses!" He finished the last of his dinner and came galloping after Ruby. Boots was close behind.

"C'mon, Ruby!" called Lucky. "You, too, Snipes!"

Ruby and Snipeshooter ran to catch up with Lucky. Lucky threw one of her arms around Ruby and the other around Snipeshooter.

"Whatcha say we play some pokah when we's git back ta da lodgin' 'owse, huh?" asked Lucky.

"I dunno how," Ruby said.

"Ya don't know how ta play pokah?" asked Race incredulously.

Ruby shook her head.

"Well, we'se gonna teach ya," offered Race.

"Really? Aww, t'anks yous guys!" said Ruby. "Yous guys 's so nice ta me, an' I ain't nevah done anything fer yous guys."

"Don't worry about it, Ruby," Lucky said.

Back at The Lodging House, Race, Snipeshooter, Jack, Lucky, and Ruby sat on two bunks (with Snipeshooter on the floor) playing poker. Race gave Ruby tips throughout the game and kept looking at her cards to make sure she was doing the right thing. Jack, Race, and Snipeshooter were all smoking cigars. Knight wandered around, looking at everyone's cards before he finally settled down in the middle of the circle and fell asleep. The Lodging House was always noisy and smoky, but that night it was especially so. Ruby was beginning to think of it as home. The Lodging House was already more of a home than her house had ever been.

"Ruuuuby?" called Jack, waving a hand in front of her eyes.

"What? Oh, sahry... I was jist... um... I'se awful tired... I t'ink I'se gonna go ta sleep now..." she trailed off. Setting down her cards, she shuffled across the room to her bunk. She quickly pulled off her shirt and pants, leaving only her undershirt and boys' shorts she had been wearing. She lay in her bed, pretending to be asleep. In all honesty, though, she was beginning to miss her family… just a little. She wasn't homesick- how could she be, when her former residence hadn't even been considered home?

Tommy was nice ta me... sometimes... when 'e felt like bein' nice... thought Ruby. When 'e wasn't inna bad mood, 'e would talk ta me. An' when we was li'l an' we was in school, 'e was real nice. An' Pa loved me lots. If 'e didn't always treat me like sucha goyl, I woulda liked 'im. An' Jessie an' Rose an' Gabriel was real nice- why'd I always ignore dem? Dey liked me lots, I know dey did. Dey was always sayin' "Ruby, play wit us!" an' "Ruby, will you brush me 'air?" an' "Ruby, I did real good in school today!" Dey loved me. I was so mean ta 'em! I wish I could take it all back now… And with that thought, Ruby began to cry quietly.

"Ruby? 're ya awright?"

Ruby sat up. She hadn't noticed, but while she was pretending to be asleep, all the boys had gone to sleep. The room was dark and filled with snoring. The only illumination was the light from the moon shining in one of the windows. Snipeshooter stood at the end of her bunk, peering over at her.

Ruby rubbed her eyes and sniffled. "Yeah, I'se awright. Ya wanna siddown?"

Snipeshooter slid onto Ruby's bed. "Why was ya cryin'?"

"Aww, I dunno. I didn't even like me mudda er me fadda er me sistahs er me bruddas very much but... I miss 'em a li'l. Ya know?"

Snipeshooter shook his head. "Me fadda died b'fore I was born, an' me mudda died right aftah. Me olda sistah watched out fer me till I was six, I t'ink. An' den she got married an' left."

"So how'd ya git ta be a newsie?" asked Ruby curiously.

"I was jist wanderin' 'round da streets, an' Bumlets an' Specs found me. Dey's like me bruddas, now. All da guys are. An' Lucky's like me sistah."

Ruby nodded slowly. "How long have you been a newsie?"

"Almost six years. Six years in da summah." He paused. "Wheah's yer fam'ly?"

"A couple a days ago, I was comin' home from bein' out in da woods- I was always out dere. I didn't like bein' at home. Me mudda an' me fadda was always fightin', cause me fadda was always drunk. An' me oldah brudda Tommy would yell at bof a 'em, an' me youngah sistahs Jessie an' Rose would cry, an' me youngah brudda Gabriel would pretend like 'e wasn't scared, but 'e was scared lots.

"Anyways, I was comin' home an' Ma was in da wagon wit 'er boyfriend Billy- dey was sneakin' around ever since I kin remembah, an' probly b'fore dat, too. Well, Ma an' Billy was in da wagon wit Jessie an' Rose an' Gabriel, an' dey wouldn't tell me wheah dey was goin'. Ma said it didn't mattah, cause dey ain't nevah comin' back. So den dey stahted goin' wheahevah dey was goin', an' I stahted runnin' back ta da 'owse, an' I ran inta Tommy. I told 'im dat Ma was gone, an' 'e said dat 'e knew, an' 'e was leavin', too. An' I begged 'im ta take me wit 'im, but 'e said no.

"So I went back ta da 'owse, an' it was empty. An' dere was all dese frilly lil dresses dat me fadda ordered- 'e won all dis money gamblin' in town, an' 'e said 'e was gonna send me ta goyls' school in England er France er somewheah. I told 'im I wasn't goin', an' dat I was leavin'. An' 'e got mad at me, but I got away an' I cut me 'air, an', well, heah I am."

"Jeez, I'se sahry," said Snipeshooter sympathetically.

"Aww, it's awright. I feel bettah now dat I told somebody. Dey was nevah very nice ta me, anyways. 'Specially Ma. She wanted me ta be 'a lady.' I told 'er an' told 'er I was a tomboy an' I'se always gonna be a tomboy, but she nevah listened."

"I'se awful glad I ain't a goyl," he said.

"I'se awful glad I don't gotta act like a goyl no more, evah." Ruby grinned. "I ain't tiahed, 're you?"


"I 'ate bein' stuck inside, dontcha?"

"We ain't stuck. C'mon." Grabbing Ruby's wrist, Snipeshooter pulled her over to the window, glanced around, and slid it open. He scrambled out onto the fire escape and up onto the roof.

"Wow! It's awful purdy up heah, ain't it?" asked Ruby.

"Sure 's." Snipeshooter leaned against the wall edging the roof and stared up at the sky.

Ruby quietly sat next to him, watching the stars in the crystal clear sky. She sat perfectly still, looking amazed at the wonders of the universe.

She's awful nice, ain't she?... thought Snipeshooter.

No, ya can't t'ink dat about Ruby! She's like onna da guys now! Oh, gosh, Snipes! Ya like 'er! Ya know ya do!

Well... so what if I do?... another part of his mind protested. She's jist 'bout two yeahs youngah dan ya... she's awful purdy an' awful nice... an' ya git ta see 'er every single day! So why not?

Well... I'se gonna ask Jack... er maybe Blink. Yeah, I'se gonna ask Blink. Jack would jist laugh at me. But Blink... 'E won't tell, if I ask 'im not to! Yeah, I'se gonna ask Blink in da mornin'… Snipeshooter looked over to Ruby and saw that she was asleep. Now that he thought about it, he was pretty tired himself...

"Snipes! Ruby! Yous guys! Wheah 's yous?" a voice urgently called.

"Snipes, gitcher rear out from wheahevah yer hidin'!" another voice shouted.

"'Ey, look! Da window's opened!"

"Ya don't t'ink dey left, do ya?" the first voice asked nervously.

"Don't git noivis! Dey probly jist... went ta see da sunrise er sumpin..." the second voice suggested.

"Why would Snipes an' Ruby wanna see da sunrise?" the first voice asked.

"It was jist a idea," said the second voice.

"Aww, will da two a yous jist shut up? An' one a yous go see if dey's up on da roof," the third voice ordered.

"Fine, I'se goin', I'se goin'," grumbled the second voice. Footsteps echoed on the metal fire escape. "Snipes! Ruby! 's yous two up heah?" Jack stepped onto the roof. Just as he was about to call their names again, he spotted them. They were leaning against the ledge, fast asleep. Ruby's head was against Snipeshooter's shoulder, and his head leaned against her head. They looked absolutely adorable.

"Lucky! Lucky, c'mere," hissed Jack urgently.

Lucky hurried up the fire escape, pulling her cap on. "What?" She peered over Jack's shoulder and fell silent. "Aww... ain't dat cute?"

Just then, Ruby muttered something and sat up. Her movement caused Snipeshooter to also wake up.

"It's too bright..." muttered Ruby. "'ey, wheah am I?"

"Yer on da roof," said Jack.

Ruby and Snipeshooter both turned and looked at him.

"Oh yeah... 'membah, we came up heah last night?" said Ruby.

Snipeshooter nodded. "Yeah. So, what time 's it, Jack?"

"Time ta git up. An' hurry up. We've been lookin' fer da two of yous fer... oh, about five minutes, at least!"

Ruby jumped to her feet and hurried into The Lodging House. Lucky followed, while Jack waited for Snipeshooter.

"She's nice, huh, Snipes?" asked Jack, deciding to pursue the subject of Ruby and Snipeshooter.

"Yeah, she sure 's," agreed Snipeshooter.

Jack slung an arm around Snipeshooter's shoulders. "How old 're ya, Snipes?"

"I'se gonna be thoiteen in March."

"Huh. So, ya staht likin' any goyls yet?"

Snipeshooter's eyes widened noticably, and Jack's suspicions were confirmed.

Does he know? He must know, why would he ask if he didn't know? But if he knew, why would he ask? He's gonna tell Lucky, an' Race, an' all da udda guys, an' dey's all gonna laugh at me! An' den 'e's gonna tell Ruby- oh no, whaddo I do?

Jack laughed and clapped Snipeshooter on the back. "We kin talk about it latah."

Snipeshooter nodded and hurried into the washroom.

By four o'clock, Snipeshooter and Ruby had sold a total of one hundred and thirteen papes between them. They were both in good moods and were glad to be going back to The Lodging House. For Ruby, it meant a chance to see Knight- sadly, Jack suggested that Knight stay at The Lodging House all day. There was enough trouble to get into on the streets for newsies, he said, without a loud dog being around. Besides, winter was in full swing, and at least one of the boys was always sick. The sick boys enjoyed Knight's company while the newsies were gone, from seven in the morning until five in the evening, usually later.

And Snipeshooter was looking forward to having a long, man-to-man talk with Jack. Jack was always done selling his papes for the day by four o'clock, and he usually returned to The Lodging House for a nap when Medda was out of town, as she was for the entire winter.

Ruby and Snipeshooter darted up the stairs. Knight heard Ruby's voice and came racing over to the stairs. By the time Ruby had reached the top, Knight was eagerly waiting.

"Aww, hiya, Knight!" Ruby sat on the top step to fuss over her pet for a few minutes while Snipeshooter went into the upper level of the building. That day, no one was sick. Skittery was feeling well again, apparently. The room appeared to be empty, but Snipeshooter sensed a presence.

Finally, he spotted Jack lying on his bunk, fast asleep. Snipeshooter went over to him and shook him. "Cowboy! Cowboy, wake up! Jack! Jack, wake up!"

Jack mumbled something and opened his eyes. "What da... oh, sahry, Snipes. Thought you were ol' Kloppy, an' it was time to git up. Yeah... jist wait one minute." Jack nodded towards Ruby.

Just then, Lucky came darting up the stairs with Blink. "'Eya, Ruby! 'Ey, Knight!" Lucky petted the dog. "'Ey Snipes, 'ey Jack. How ya doin'?"

"I'se awright. 'Ey, Lucky, why doncha show Ruby around er somethin'? An' we kin meetcha at Tibby's fer dinnah," Jack suggested. He and Lucky had planned this afternoon out earlier.

"Awright. C'mon, Ruby, let's go! 'Ey, maybe we kin meet Davey an' Les! Dey's real nice! Bye, yous guys! See ya at Tibby's!"

"Bye!" echoed the ever-energetic Ruby as she waved exuberantly and clattered down the stairs.

Jack waited a few moments to make sure the girls were really gone. After a few minutes, Jack began talking.

"So, Snipes... so ya like Ruby..." Jack said.

"Ya do?" asked Blink.

"Shh!" hissed Snipeshooter.

"Nobody's heah," Jack assured.

"Yeah, I like 'er. So what?" asked Snipeshooter, putting on an unconcerned air.

"So why do ya like 'er?" questioned Blink.

Snipeshooter paused. "Cause she's real nice ta me, even though I wasn't real nice on da foist day. I pushed 'er inta a mud puddle an' all, but she didn't mind. An' she's real purdy. An'... an'... an' I jist like 'er! Why do I gottta have a reason?"

"Calm down, Snipes! Yer allowed ta like 'er fer no reason," said Jack. "We was jist wonderin'."

"So what 're you gonna do about it?" asked Blink quietly.

Meanwhile, two young girls were having almost the same conversation while walking the streets of Manhattan.

"So how old 're ya, Ruby?"

"I'se gonna be 'leven in January. How old's you?"

"I was fifteen in February. Gonna be sixteen this wintah." Lucky paused. "You evah liked a guy b'fore?"

Ruby paused. "Not really. All da guys at me ol' school was mean. Dey putted snakes in me desk, an' pulled me 'air, an' always teased me. I'se glad I don't go ta school no more."

"What about any of ahr boys? Ya like any of 'em?"

"Yeah, dey's all real nice."

"No, not like dat," Lucky said in frustration. She was ready to pull her hair out. Ruby was being very difficult! She was a smart kid, even though she was only ten. She had to know what Lucky meant! She was just avoiding the question by acting dumb. "Ah ya sweet on any a ahr boys?"

Ruby paused, glancing around the city at the buildings, people, carriages, anywhere but at Lucky. Why did she want to know, anyway? "It ain't nonna yer business," Ruby finally said defiantly.

"Aww, don't be like dat, Ruby. I was jist wonderin'... y'know, I can't talk 'bout dis wit any a da guys. Dey makes funna me. Say I'se too goylish, an' I know I ain't. All goyls like a guy at some point, right? I'se awful glad youse heah, so I kin talk 'bout da guys witcha."

Ruby silently pouted for a block or so. Finally, she looked at Lucky, fear obvious in her eyes, and said, "D'ya promise ya won't tell no one, evah?"

"Cross me 'art," agreed Lucky, drawing a quick X over her heart.

Ruby nodded. "Yeah... yeah, I like onna 'ahr boys.'"

"Who?" asked Lucky curiously.

"Y'know who."

"No, I don't. Honest. I wouldn't ask if I knew, would I?" Lucky grinned.

After another pause, Ruby whispered to Lucky, "Snipes."

Lucky nodded. "So why d'ya like 'im?"

"Oh, I dunno. 'E's jist real nice... an' 'e's good-lookin', too. An' 'e's only two yeahs oldah dan me."

"Ya gonna tell 'im?" asked Lucky.

"I can't! Cause 'e'll laugh at me an' tell all da oddah guys, an' den dey'll laugh at me! An' den dey'll all 'ate me, an' I'll be livin' out on da streets again, an' I'll 'ave nowheah ta go! Who 're ya kiddin', Lucky? I can't tell 'im."

"But what if 'e wouldn't laugh atcha, an' what if 'e wouldn't tell da oddah guys?"

"Well, if I knew he wouldn't tell 'em... den I'd tell 'im..." Ruby admitted.

"Ruby, Snipes wouldn't hurt a fly. 'E really wouldn't. If ya told 'im, 'e wouldn't laugh atcha... even if 'e didn't like ya like dat. 'E'd take it ta da grave. Honest. Snipes 's onna me best friends, an' I know 'im real well. 'E's real good at keepin' secrets."

"So ya t'ink I should tell 'im?"

Lucky nodded.


"Whenevah youse ready ta tell 'im."

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