“An’ that one?”
“Still Orion,” she said with a grin.
“How d’ya know all this?” asked Patrick.
“My papa taught me some. And there are a few books about stars in the parlor. I take them all the time - no one ever notices.”
“Miss Blair never notices anything, ‘sides herself an’ the rich people that want ‘educated’ kids,” Patrick said miserably. It seemed that lately, all the kids except himself were getting adopted to loving families.
“I sure am glad I’m getting away. Cecelia’s finally twenty - old enough to get an apartment for us. No more braids or rules or breakfast mush!”
“Don’t remind me,” said Patrick, whose nickname “Mush” still stuck. “I wish I could get away.”
“You will! Someday,” she added.
“Not ‘til I’m twenty, prob’ly.”
“Better’n never!” she said cheerfully.
“If I’m not out by the time I’m twelve, I’ll run away.”
“New York City, of course. Where else?”
“Will you leave me notes? I put a hatbox under the bushes, just outside the gates.”
“Every chance I get.”
“Thanks. I’ll sure miss ya.”
“I’ll miss you too.”
“Oh, look, there’s the Little Dipper.”
“There, see?” So the two friends spent their final night stargazing on the fire escape.
Gosh, it’s hot, thought Stacey as she crawled under the bush to retrieve a note. She sat down to read it.
I’m leaving tonight for New York City. Meet me at the back gate at 10.
Stacey paused. Can I really leave Cecelia and Elizabeth, just like that? They’re all I got. Then again, Patrick is my best friend, she thought. Well, I’ll stop by the gate to say goodbye, and tell him that I can’t join him right now, but the second things get bad - if they do, and they probably won’t - then I’ll go to New York and find him. It’s only a day or two away, I’m sure I could find it on my own. She crawled out from under the bush and headed towards the apartment.
When she arrived there, Cecelia and Elizabeth were both giggling and talking to their beaus, Edward and Michael.
“Oh, there you are, Anastasia dear!” cooed Cecelia.
“Good afternoon, Edward. Michael,” she said, grabbing a large apple out of the basket on the table.
“Stacey, dear, we’re afraid we have some bad news,” Elizabeth said, looking solemn.
“What?” asked Stacey around a mouthful of apple.
“Well, we’ve both become engaged,” she continued.
“That’s wonderful!” squealed Stacey. “I’m so happy! Which one of you will I live with?”
“Well, neither of us, darling, that’s the thing.”
Stacey looked suspicious.
“You know of our dear Aunt Helen, in New York City?”
She nodded, not liking the sound of things a bit.
“Well, we’ve sent her a telegram, and you’re to go and live with her.”
“Stacey, you’ve got to. We’ll be starting families of our own, and we haven’t got room. Aunt Helen’s nice, surely. And she’ll be glad to have an energetic, happy young girl to keep her company.”
“What about my friends and school?” she cried, outraged.
“There are children and schools in New York City. Many more than there are here.”
“This isn’t fair, Cecelia! I don’t wanna go live with her!”
“You’ve got to, dear. Your train leaves tomorrow at eight o’clock. There’s a trunk for you in your room, so you’d better start packing.”
“Cecelia Anne Cliffton, you’re positively hateful!” screamed Stacey, running to her room. She slammed and locked the door. That’s it! I’ve had it with Cecelia! She tries to act like she’s my mother and she knows what’s best for me - well she doesn’t! And Elizabeth, trying to act sorry for me - she’s not. They’re both glad I’m leaving. They’re glad they’ll never see me again. Well I’m glad too! I will go with Patrick tonight. I can’t stay here and I won’t stay with Aunt Helen. I’ll live with Patrick. At least he cares about what happens to me!
Stacey leaned against the back gate. In a small black bag, she carried a few things -a winter coat, a pocket knife, her life savings (which only amounted to about five dollars), and a few other small things. She sighed. Isn’t it ten o’clock yet? She thought impatiently.
Suddenly, a small thump was heard as Patrick leapt over the gate. “C’mon,” he said impatiently, pulling her down the back road.
“We’re finally free!” Stacey whispered happily.
“Yep. Think Cecelia an’ Betsy’ll miss ya?”
“Nah. They’re both gettin’ married, an’ they were gonna send me t’live with my Aunt Helen in New York City anyway. I was gonna leave tomorrow, at eight. But I don’t wanna live with her - she’s prob’ly old an’ fussy anyway.”
“Nobody here’ll miss me a bit. Oh, hey, I found a extra shirt an’ pants for ya t’wear - they’re easier t’run in if we have to.”
“Great, thanks Patrick! Can I have them now? I never did like dresses much. They’re too fussy.”
“Sure.” Patrick reached in his own bag and tossed them at her. “Hurry up an’ change, so we can go.”
Patrick and Stacey walked until the sun was completely up, then slept in a field near a stream. When they woke up, they climbed the trees and found apples to eat.
“Hey Patrick, can I see your pocket knife?”
“I wanna cut my hair, so I’ll really look like a boy.”
“All right,” he said doubtfully, tossing her the knife.
She opened it, took a deep breath, stretched out one of her coffee-colored curls, and began sawing through it. When the knife finally broke through, she put too much pressure on it and the blade sprung forward, making a neat line of blood on her jawline.
“Are you okay?” asked Patrick, sounding very concerned.
“Yeah, I’m fine, really,” she said. She continued cutting her hair, purposely ignoring the pain. By the time she was done, there were several cuts on her back, neck, and cheeks, and her hair hung in short, ragged strands. Stacey washed her face quickly in the stream. “C’mon, let’s go!”
The next morning, the two children were more than halfway to their destination, and were feeling very pleased with themselves. They sat under a few trees, for shade and cover, and watched the sun rise.
“D’ya ever miss your family?”
“How’d they die?”
“I was five, Cecelia was… fifteen, I guess, an’ Betsy musta been eleven. So Eloise was eight. She was blind, but she was th’ sweetest girl ya ever met. We were best friends. Mama an’ Papa wanted t’put her into a special school for blind girls. They were always travelin’ ‘round, lookin’ at different schools, tryin’ t’find the best one. It was winter, an’ the roads were icy, an’ it was dark, an’ their carriage slipped an’ slid down a big hill, onto a buncha rocks. When th’ police came t’tell us, they told us t’pack up, cause they were sendin’ us to th’ orphanage.”
“Sorry… ya miss her?”
“Of course, all th’ time. Do you miss your parents?”
“Uh, yeah, a lot.” There was an awkward pause. “Well, I’m goin’ t’sleep. G’night!”
Stacey looked at him suspiciously. Something about the sudden drowsiness made her a bit suspicious. Then again, Patrick hadn’t been sleeping much lately, and they had walked a considerable distance… Stacey decided to ignore his odd behavior and get some sleep herself.
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