"Heya V," she said casually, exhaling smoke into the sky.
"Spacey. Whatcha doin' all alone up here?"
"Waitin' fer Stevie t'get here. He said he'd be here 'round sunset."
"Where you two goin'?"
Spacey shrugged. "Maybe Tibby's or Irving Hall. Maybe ova t'Storm's place, but dat's an awful far walk an' I ain't feelin' up t'it."
"Eh, I hurt my leg. I slipped last week an' it ain't stopped hurtin' eva since."
"Well, I hope it feels betta. Hey, ain't dat Stevie down dere?"
Spacey squinted at the street. "Yeah, it is. Well, I'se outta here. See ya lata. Don't wait up." With a grin, Spacey pounded down the fire escape to the street.
Morning dawned too early upon the Bronx. Mumbling and grumbling as Jeanie shouted at them, the girls sleepily dressed and stumbled towards the distribution center.
"Gee, Spacey, t'ink ya could move a little slowa?" asked Blue jokingly.
"Gladly," she replied with a grin. Then the girls noticed the slight limp Spacey was walking with.
"What happened?" asked Storm.
"Just me leg actin' up again. It'll be betta in no time, I bet."
"So where'd ya go wid Stevie last night?" asked Venus.
"Jest some restaurant, I forget what it's called. But I had a good time. What'd you goyls do?"
"Mornin', ladies," said a voice. They all turned to see Cap Golden approaching.
"Heya, Cap!" Spacey said cheerfully, slowing her pace to allow Cap to catch up to her.
"What's wid yer leg? Still hurtin'?"
"Yeah, uh, I fell down da steps at da house an' it hurts," she lied.
"Really? Cause jest yesterday, ya said ya slipped in da streets when you were runnin' home."
"Did not," she said, keeping her eyes to the ground.
"Space. I've known ya since ya were, what, twelve? Thirteen? I know when yer lyin', an' dis is onna dose times. It's dat Stevie guy, ain't it? I've seen da two a yous, an' he don't look like da nicest guy. Is he beatin' ya up?"
"No, Cap. I told you I slipped in da street cause fallin' down da steps is such a dumb thing t'do, an' I was embarassed," she lied again.
He sighed and gave up. "Fine, whateva' ya say. Why don't he eva' come 'round to da goyls' house?"
"Beats me, Cap. He likes goin' out betta, I guess."
"Only cause it's easier t'get somethin' t'drink," Cap muttered.
"Cap, can't ya jest be happy fer me?" Spacey asked, frustrated.
"Sorry, Space. I'm happy fer ya, I really am. I just don't want ya gettin' into any trouble, is all."
"Cap Golden. I ain't in no trouble, an' if I was, I could get myself outta it! Now don't worry 'bout me no more. Go sell yer papes, an' maybe I'll see ya at lunch," she said, taking her usual stack of fifty papers from the counter.
"All right, all right, I'se goin'. See ya, Space," he said with a grin.
"Aww, c'mon Stevie! Da goyls're dyin' t'meetcha! Can'tcha jest stop by fer a liddle bit?" Spacey pleaded, forcing her features to look as pathetic as they could.
Stevie was silent for a minute. "Fine, but jest for a liddle bit. An' then I'm goin' t'dat bar dat ya don't like. Alone."
"Oh, dat's alright, Stevie. I'se so happy dat ya finally decided t'come up ta da roof wid me!"
Rolling his eyes, he followed the eager sixteen-year-old towards the Bronx. She talked excitedly all the way to the Newsgirls' Lodging House in Mott Haven. They finally reached the building and climbed up the fire escape. Sitting on the roof was a collection of girls, ranging in age, and a few boys. Several discussions were taking place at once, and most everybody had a cigarette, a drink, or both.
Ahh, home sweet home, thought Spacey with a smile. "Heya goyls! Dis here's Stevie Dell." She grinned proudly as all the girls and boys offered some sort of introduction.
"Where're da drinks comin' from?" he asked eagerly.
"Eh, sorry, Stevie. Just closed up shop," Storm DeSario said, quickly sitting on top of the milk crate.
"I'm sorry too," he muttered, taking a seat near the edge of the roof.
Cap frowned. "I'll see you goyls lata'," he said, quickly excusing himself and making a hasty exit down the fire escape.
"Eh, forget about 'im, he'll be back," said Venus. "C'mon, Space, ya playin' poka wid us?"
She nodded, but Stevie declined and watched. He seemed to become bored very quickly, and, after what couldn't have been more than an hour, announced that he was leaving for a drink.
Lazy and Doze exchanged a silent look. "Well, much as I hate ta leave such beautiful company, I oughta be goin'," said Doze.
"Which way ya headed, Doze? Ya up fer a drink wid' me?"
"Shoa, Stevie," he replied quickly.
"C'mon, Doze, it's on me!" shouted Stevie as he pounded down the fire escape.
"Right," Doze said. Lazy gave him a look and he nodded slightly before turning and following Stevie down the fire escape.
Ten minutes later, the two boys were sitting on stools in front of a long bar at Stuart's, a particularly bad bar on the border between the Bronx and Harlem.
"So whaddya think of da goyls?" asked Doze carefully, sipping his drink.
"Dey're all real good lookin'. Think I'll come ova here next time I need some company, if ya know what I mean," Stevie chuckled, pleased with his comment.
Doze set down his glass. "Look, Stevie, whatcha do wid Spacey ain't none a' my business, but it is my business t'make sure dat you ain't treatin' any a' da Bronx's goyls wrong. So why doncha jest stay away an' leave 'em all, 'cludin' Spacey, alone?"
"Why doncha jest shaddup an' keep 'way from my goyl, huh?" Stevie spat, slamming his glass down onto the table. He stormed out of the building, leaving Doze to roll his eyes and begin to worry.
Doze was waiting outside the lodging house the next morning, hoping to catch a word with Lazy before she left. As he was waiting, Spacey approached him. He noted her limp that hadn't faded for at least a week, but pretended to be carefree.
"Heya Doze! How'd yer drink wid Stevie go?" asked Spacey cheerfully.
"Ah, good, Spacey, real good. How are ya? Takin' care a yerself, I hope?"
She nodded. "Well, dere's Cap. I betta' get goin'. I'll see ya 'round, Doze!" she said, limping off to the distribution center as Lazy came up to Doze.
"Did you talk to him?" she asked worriedly.
"Yeah, but it didn't do no good. Told me t'stay 'way from Spacey an' stormed outta da place, real mad. He's trouble, Lazy, but I dunno what t'do 'bout it."
"He's trouble, alright, an' I wish she had da sense t'stay 'way from him. Thing is, she thinks he's da best guy in da city."
"Why?" demanded Doze. "It's pretty clear, 'least t'me, dat he's beatin' her up. Da way she's limpin' all the time an' bein' real careful when she walks an' sits down."
"She's been wearin' long sleeves all da time, too, like she's tryin' t'hide somethin'. Bruises, prob'ly," said Lazy thoughtfully. "Well, I'll talk t'her. An' if ya see him…"
Doze nodded. "I will. See ya, Lazy."
"Space, ya in here?" called Storm. She, Venus, and Lazy entered the bunkroom, prepared for a good long talk.
"Mmm-hmm!" she called around a mouthful of cookie crumbs. "Heya, goyls, howzit rollin'? Did Jeanie give ya a cookie when yous came in? Dey's delicious!"
"Yeah, Space, we gotta talk," said Lazy, sitting down on her bunk and motioning for her to do the same.
"Why, what's goin' on?" she said nervously. "What's dis 'bout?"
"It's 'bout Stevie, dat's what," said Storm firmly.
"What, doncha like 'im?" she asked.
"No, Space, we don't," said Venus.
"We don't think he's bein' nice t'ya. He's beatin' ya up, ain't he?" asked Lazy.
"No!" she cried, shooting to her feet. It was too much for her injured leg, though, and she tumbled to the floor.
"Spacey…" Lazy sighed and shook her head. "Look, it ain't dat we don't trust you. It's dat we don't trust him. An' we sure's anything ain't gonna sit by an' let dis guy beat ya t'death."
"He ain't trouble, Lazy, I swear!"
"Den why're ya bein' so sneaky? Why do ya always wear long sleeves? Why d'ya limp? Huh?" asked Storm.
"Look, Space, we ain't tryin' t'be mean, but we - me, Lazy, Storm, an' all da goyls an' boys too - think dat ya'd jest be betta off if ya dumped him. I mean, da boy don't love ya - ya've had a busted leg for near three weeks now. Ya got bruises everywhere an' prob'ly got scars too. An' ya could do so much betta'," Venus said softly.
Spacey pulled herself back onto her bunk. "Maybe yer right," she said, so quietly it could barely be heard. "I mean, da only reason I'm still wid 'im is cause I'm scared t'get away."
"Spacey Cliffton, yer strong enough an' smart enough t'know dat he ain't good for ya. Now just be da fighter dat ya are an' go right ova dere an' tell 'im dat he betta' stay away if he likes bein' alive," said Storm.
"Oh, t'anks fer remindin' me! I was supposed t'go ova dere t'night. Shoulda been dere five minutes ago, actually. Guess t'night's as good a time as any t'end it, huh?" Spacey asked.
The three girls nodded. "See ya, Spacey," they said as she exited the bunkroom.
"I jest hope dat she goes through wid it," Lazy said with a sigh as she watched her figure retreat.
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