The next morning, Jack agreed to take Snipeshooter and Ruby to the hospital. Gabriel went with Itey, and Lucky decided to look out for the two younger girls.

The nurse at the hospital looked sixteen, if not younger, and apparently Jack's charms had some affect on her. "Hiya, I'se Jack, an' dis is me brudda an' me sistah, and our mudda's in dere, and we'd like ta see 'er, please."

"Of course," the nurse replied, smiling and batting her eyelashes. "What's your mother's name?"

"Danielle Dryden," piped Ruby.

"Right this way," said the nurse, smiling at Jack. Snipeshooter tried to keep himself from laughing, as did Ruby. Even Jack couldn't help but smile. The nurse showed them into a small room.

"T'anks," said Jack as the nurse smiled and closed the door.

"Ma," said Ruby softly. Then she realized what she had said. "Mrs. Dryden, 're ya awright?" she quickly asked.

"What?" Danielle Dryden was still groggy, and the medicines the doctors were giving her weren't helping too much.

"Mrs. Dryden, 're ya okay?" asked Snipeshooter.

"I... I don't remember anything... Where are my children?" she asked, sitting up straight and starting to get out of the bed.

"Don't worry, dey're okay. Gabriel went wit Itey, an' Rose an' Jessie went wit Lucky. Dey's fine. Itey an' Lucky'll look out fer dem," reassured Jack.

"Who are you?" asked Mrs. Dryden.

"Aww, dis is Jack Kelly. He's da leadah a da Manhattan newsies. Jack, dis is Mrs. Dryden," said Ruby.

"Nice ta meetcha," said Jack.

"Why am I here?"

"Gabriel said dat da folks 'cross da hall from yous took ya heah. I guess dat Billy was beatin' ya up again. Geemaneez, ya got bruises an' cuts ev'rywheah!"

"What about the children? Did he hurt the children?"

"Not much. Dey's fine. Uh, Rose had a buncha cuts, an' Jessie had a bruise an' a cut, an' Gabriel had a real nasty cut an' scrape an' bruise, but dey's fine now."

"Ruby took real good care a dem," Snipeshooter announced proudly, throwing an arm around Ruby's shoulders. "She outta be a noise, er sumpin."

"Yeah, I could be like dat noise dat was flirtin' witcha, Jacky-Boy," joked Ruby, earning a fake punch from Jack. "Anyway, dey can stay wit us till yer all bettah."

"Are you sure?" asked Mrs. Dryden uncertainly.

"Yeah, we'll take real good care a dem, an' stuff."

"An' I'll pay fer deir bunks. Cause I gots lotsa extra money," bragged Jack.

"I'll pay you back for it, Mr. Kelly, as soon as I can."

"Nah, don't worry 'bout it."

Mrs. Dryden insisted, though, and finally Jack gave in.

"Well, dere's papes ta be sold. G'bye, Mrs. Dryden. Hope ya get bettah soon."

"Yeah, hope ya feel bettah," added Ruby and Snipeshooter. "Bye!"

At noon, when all the newsies met at Tibby's, Itey was already there with Gabriel.

"'Ey, Ruby! 'Ey, Snipes! Guess what? Itey heah let me sell onna his papes, an' a whole buncha people come up an' dey all wanted ta buy a pape from me!"

"'E's a born newsie," said Itey with a trademark grin. "I t'ink I'll let him hawk da headlines fer da aftahnoon, an' I'se jist gonna sit back an' relax."

"Oh no ya don't!" warned Ruby, getting up in the larger and older newsie's face. "Ya gotta look out fer 'im, er I'll soak ya!"

"Ya really t'ink ya can soak me?" snickered Itey.

"Prob'ly. Ya ain't dat big, and yer pretty scrawny..." Ruby glanced at him. "I could prob'ly soak ya."

"Shoah," laughed Jack. The four newsies and Gabriel ordered their lunches.

Then the door opened, and in came Lucky, pushing the two younger newsies in front of her.

"Dat mean scabbah! I'll soak 'im!" cried Rose.

All the newsies in the vicinity laughed.

"What happened, Rose?" asked Ruby as she retied the younger girl's hair ribbons.

"Dis guy was swingin' dis cane 'round like a sword, an' 'e almost hit me! So I told 'im dat he bettah watch wheah 'e's swingin' dat t'ing, an' 'e stahts laughin' at me! An' 'e says, 'Whatcha gonna do 'bout it, lil goyl?' an' I says, 'I'll soak ya!' an' 'e laughed so hahd, 'e falls ovah in da middle a da street, an' 'e almost got run ovah by a trolley! So I was laughin' at 'im, an' 'e pushed me in da street!" sniffled Rose.

"Look at 'er, she spends da mornin' witcha, an' she's already tawkin' like a newsie!" joked Mush. "Geemaneez, is dis a fam'ly a newsies er what?"

Ruby glared at him. He almost blew her cover!

"I'm not a newsie, and I don't want to be," sniffed Jessie. "I don't want to be like that stupid boy with the cane."

"So ya ran inta Spot, huh? How's 'e doin'?" asked Jack.

"Aww, same as always. I wish I knew what 'e's got 'gainst me!" said Lucky in frustration.

"Don't worry 'bout it. 'E's Spot, an' 'e don't always got a reason fer doin' what 'e does," assured Jack, who had known the enigmatic leader of the Brooklyn newsies longer than anyone.

"So Lucky, ya want me ta take care a dese two fer da aftahnoon?" asked Ruby, speaking around a mouthful of food.

"Nah, dey's real good goyls, most a da time. I'll watch 'em. 'Less ya don't want me to."

"Dat's awright if ya want to."

"I wanna stay wit Itey! So I can sell s'more a dose papes," said Gabriel.

"Awright, awright! Jist stay outta trouble, ya heah me?"

Gabriel nodded with a grin. "Awright," he agreed.

That evening, the newsies were returning to the lodging house. Some of the newsies were standing outside in the street, still talking. Boots and Les were throwing snowballs at each other, and as Ruby approached, she saw the snowball fight and ran into the middle of the fight eagerly. Before they knew it, most of the newsies in the nearby area had joined in, and they all ran around, dodging snowballs and laughing.

Ruby ducked and was packing a handful of snow into a tight snowball when someone grabbed her shoulder. She stopped, terrifyed, and turned her head slowly.

A certain tall, red-headed young man was squeezing her shoulder. "Ya know ya look jist like me sistah Ann," he slurred.

"Uh, dat's nice, Mistah. Why doncha go visit 'er?"

The man slapped her. "Don't talk back ta me! I'm da president a dis heah country..."

"'Ey, whatta ya t'ink yer doin'?" asked Blink, coming over and pushing the man away from Ruby.

"Dat's me sistah," the drunk replied.

"Dat ain't yer sistah. I know dat goyl's fam'ly. Her fam'ly ain't a buncha drunks. So why doncha jist go home ta wheahevah it 's dat yer from, an' leave 'er alone, huh?"

"An' what 'xactly are ya gonna do 'bout it, Cyclops?" taunted the drunk.

Blink's temper lit up, and he attacked the man easily. From a combination of the alcohol and Blink's hard, direct punches, the man passed out in record time and lay in a pile of dirty slush.

"T'anks, Blink," said Ruby.

He grinned. "Anyt'ing fer onna ahr goyls," he said nonchalantly. Then he picked Ruby up and put her on his shoulders.

"Blink! Put me down!" she shouted.

"Geemaneez, goyl, yer light! Yer jist like Cassie!"

"Ya ready ta go ta Tibby's?" asked Boots, coming over with Slider, Les, Snipeshooter, and Tumbler.

"Yeah," replied Blink as he started walking.

"Bli-iiiiiink! Put me do-oooooown!" protested Ruby.

"I ain't puttin' ya down! What, ya wanna walk an' have yer feet freeze off?" he asked.

Ruby paused. "Fine, den. I'll stay up heah an' hit me head on da lampposts!"

Blink laughed. "It's a lose-lose situation, ain't it?"

"Yeah, but I guess I'll stay up heah. Better'n havin' me feet freeze off, I guess," she said cheerfully.

So the six newsies walked along (well, five walked, and one was carried) to Tibby's. It was quickly filling with newsies, who ate their supper while talking, laughing, and joking. All in all, it was a pretty pleasant atmosphere, and Ruby was glad to be in it. She couldn't think of anywhere she would rather be.

"So how'd ya like hangin' out wit Lucky, Rose?" asked Ruby, finishing her sarsaparilla.

"It was fun! I wanna be a goyl newsie jist like 'er an' you!" said Rose exuberantly, taking a big bite of her sandwich.

"I'm going to tell Mama that you two want to be newsies," said Jessie.

"Den I'll soak ya!" threatened Gabriel.

"Awright, awright, break it up," said Jack. "'Re yous goyls done yet?"

"I ain't a goyl!" protested Gabriel.

"Awright, 're yous goyls an' Gabriel done yet?"

"Yeah," they all replied. They got up, pulling on their coats. Rose ran to Lucky, Gabriel ran to find Les, Boots, and the other younger newsies, and Jessie and Ruby caught up with Snipeshooter. Itey picked Gabriel up and spun him around, as he often did to Slider.

"'Ey, Itey, do dat ta me!" cried Rose, running up to him.

"Me too!" begged Jessie.

"All right, all right," sighed Itey, swinging both of the little girls around. "Geez, yous goyls 's light!"

"Runs in da fam'ly, I guess," said Mush.

Luckily, no one else was really paying attention, so Mush lived to walk back to the lodging house.

When the newsies returned to the lodging house, Mrs. Dryden was sitting inside on a chair. She stood up when they all walked in.

"Ruby, can I talk to you? Alone," she said, and Ruby recognized the no-nonsense tone in her voice.

"Yeah, shoah. Snipes, wouldja watch dese t'ree fer a couple minutes?" asked Ruby.

Snipeshooter nodded. "C'mon, how 'bout yous t'ree go play wit Ruby's dog fer a liddle bit?" He ushered the three kids upstairs, and Ruby sat down in the other chair beside Mrs. Dryden.

"I went back to my apartment today... I was released early this morning, and I immediately went home to clean up the apartment- I could only imagine what Billy had done, and I wanted to clean up a bit before I came here to get the children and take them home. I returned to my apartment, and Billy was unconscious on the floor with a knife in his hand, and..." Mrs. Dryden paused.

"An' what, Mrs. Dryden?" asked Ruby quietly.

"The woman from across the hallway... she was there, too... only she had huge cuts everywhere, and she was lying in a pool of blood. She was dead."

Ruby gasped. She had never pictured Billy capable to do anything of that sort.

"I went to the police, of course, and they arrested Billy, and now he's in jail, and I've got to find a new apartment building."

"'Re yous gonna move 'way from heah?"

"No, because we've got nowhere to go. There's also something else..."

"What?" asked Ruby.

"I was looking in the registration book... and I noticed that you sign in under the name Ruby Dryden."

Ruby's stomach fell. She didn't know what to say.

"Look, I... um... it's me, Ma. It's Ann," Ruby said simply.

"What? But you... you... your... all this time?"

"It ain't been dat long, Ma! Only 'bout two weeks! Not even dat long!"

"You lied."

"I did not!"

"Yes you did!"

"I nevah said I wasn't Ann! I jist... gotta nickname. Dat's awl."

Mrs. Dryden paused. "Why didn't you say anything?"

"Cause I didn't wanna move back in wit yous guys! Not wit Billy beatin' ya up ev'ry udda day! 'E nevah liked me much. 'E said dat ta me, on C'rismus. 'E said I looked like Ann. An' I t'ought the was gonna kill me."

"Ann... what on earth did you do to your hair?"

Ruby laughed. "I cut it! So I'd look more like a boy! I know it don't woik er nuttin', but it might help in a crowd er sumpin'. I'se sure it'll come in handy some day!"

Mrs. Dryden smiled. "You've got to come back and live with us. It's either that, or go to the boarding school."

"Why? I like it heah! I could make all da money ya need fer a new 'partment. Jist big enough fer yous four."

"You couldn't make that much alone."

"Then let Gabriel an' Rose help! Dey both wanna be newsies! An' Gabriel's real good at it! 'E sold a buncha papes awready!"

Mrs. Dryden paused. "So you'd live here, but you and Gabriel- I won't have Rose being a newsie, at least, not yet- would provide for the family?"

Ruby nodded. "'E can live wit ya. An' if it'd really bothah ya dat much, I'd come an' live wit yous, but I'd ratha stay heah. Awl me friends is heah. An' Snipes is heah. An'-"

"All right. You live hear, Gabriel lives with me, you both sell papes and provide for the family," said Mrs. Dryden carefully. Ruby nodded, a hopeful grin on her face. "All right."

Ruby squealed and hugged her mother. "T'anks, Ma! Ya won't regret it! I promise!" Then she ran upstairs to tell her little brother and sisters the wonderful news.

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