I'll Always Be There
David ran shaky fingers through his curly dark-brown hair before fitting his cap over it. He stared out at the statue of Horace Greely in front of the New York World building. His blue eyes became intense as memories flooded his mind.
Newsies. He half-smiled. The strike had ended almost two years ago. It was the best time of Davey's life. The summer of 1899 had given him respect, laughs, excitement, fear, and, of course, a best friend. David shook his head. No, not a best friend, a brother. Jack. Or Francis, as some of the boys teased, adopting snobby, rich accents as they said it. Still, he stuck to the name Jack and sometimes Cowboy.
He'd never had a friend like Jack before. It was strange, too. The moment Dave saw Jack, he thought him to be just another trouble maker living on the street and always itching for a fight. Well, he was half right, anyway. Jack looked out for him, and in return David gave him unbound loyalty.
Suddenly, he snapped out of it and looked at the passer-bys who gave him weird glances. David
blushed and moved on. Was he really just standing on the sidewalk staring into space with a dopey grin?
Maybe I'm worse off than I thought. Dave sat on the statue to think more. The past two years were hectic,
When the strike ended, and Jack climbed on that carriage without so much as a good-bye, Dave thought he would die on the spot. He was heart-broken, to put it simply. Helplessly watching as his friend/brother/teacher disappeared around the block with kids running after him in a stampede. Looking around, he saw he wasn't the only one feeling this.
Les had tears staining his cheeks. David had momentarily forgotten that Jack was Les' hero. Had been since the moment he had laid eyes on him. Then there was Sarah. She had tears in her eyes as well. Her and Jack were very interested in each other since day one. Cowboy had a knack for first impressions, didn't he?, David had asked himself with a slight grin.
A moment flew by and before he knew it, he was up at the window to buy papes. Through the mixed feelings of sadness and anger, he felt happy that Jack's dream was coming true. Then another thought popped into Dave's head. He was the main leader of the Manhattan newsies now. Could he handle it? 'Course youse can handle it, Davey! I taughts ya everythin' you know!, he heard Jack's voice in his head. He bought a hundred papes and the others patted him on the back. That was when he heard it--the cheering of the crowd right outside the gates. As he and the gang turned to look, Mush grabbed his arms.
"It's Jack! He's back!" Mush exclaimed before he and the rest ran to greet Jack. David stayed where he was, holding his papes with a knowing smile.
"...Besides, I got family here," David overheard Jack say to Roosevelt and then look up at him. He slowly made his way through the crowd to Dave. "So, how's da headline today?"
David smiled wide, remembering the first thing he had to learn, "Headlines don't sell papes," he put his hat on,"Newsies sell papes."
Jack looked up at him proudly, "C'mere, David!" David walked out to meet Jack's outstretched
hand. He spit-shook Jack's hand for the first time. Their friendship forever locked in a single gesture.
Then Sarah, Jack, David and Les hugged. Together from now on. Always to be there for each other and
never to part. A family, now complete.
"David. Davey! Hey, Mouth!"
David turned to see Racetrack, "It was hard to tell which one of youse was da statue!"
Dave couldn't help but smile, "Sorry, just thinking about things."
"That musta been some thinkin'! I bet if I'd watched ya for an hour ya wouldn't blink once!"
"You really would bet on anything, wouldn't you?"
"Watch it, Mouth," Race mocked-glared and David held his hands up in surrender.
"All right, Racetrack, all right."
"Knew you'd see things my way." Suddenly, Race playfully whacked Davey upside the head, "C'mon! It's time!"
David stopped rubbing the side of his head and quickly yanked out his pocket watch. "What?! It was only 2:30 a minute ago!"
"Wow, and I thought I lost track of time at da races! I've been looking for ya for two hours. Now we only have half an hour to prepare--AAH! Hold up!"
Dave had taken off running like the Delanceys were about to plow him down. He had to hurry, though. It's not everyday you say good-bye to your best friend...
It hurt David to even think about it. How could he actually do it without faltering? Jack had decided a week ago that it was time to go to Santa Fe. "It's the poifect time," he had said. Well, Dave couldn't argue with that. Sarah and Jack drifted apart not long after the strike ended. Didn't know why exactly, though. Now they just thought of each other as brother and sister. The newsies were doing fine, as always, and sometimes better. Little by little, Jack had given more of the "leader" duties to David to see what he could handle. Finally, the tables turned and David did most of the talking and orders as Jack just stood beside him as back up. David still had his soft, reasonable side, but Jack had taught him to drop it when necessary.
One time Dave stood up to the Delanceys, but all it got him was a black eye. That's when Jack told him, "It's okay to stand up for youseself, but ya also gotta know when to jus' turn around and let things be." David had just nodded. "Besides, you don't want ta make your face even uglier, do ya?" Jack continued with one of his trademark smiles.
"Well, no--HEY! C'mere and I'll soak you!" David chased Jack around the Lodging House, ducking through the cheering newsies and leaping over the beds. Jack tripped on the floor with a thud. David pinned him down.
"You want to talk ugly, let's talk about your hair!"
"What's wrong wit my hair?!"
"Please! When was the last time you washed it?"
"Hey, I can't help it if I have oily hair! I do a lotta runnin' around."
"Why don't we talk 'bout your hair, huh?"
"My hair is just fine!"
"Yeah, but if ya grew it out you'd make a pretty girl...Curly Sue!"
The boys with curly hair in the room ran a hand through their curls and wore and uncertain expression. Jack looked over at them, "No offense, guys." David followed Jack's gaze to look at them and did his short, amused laugh. That's when Jack caught him off guard and bucked him off. Before Dave could react, Jack had their positions flipped. "Ha!"
"Oh, yeah?" David flipped him, then Jack flipped David and so on until they rolled all over the floor. Race took bets.
"Ten to one, Cowboy wins! Any takers?"
"Thanks--AUGH--a lot, Race," David called sarcastically.
Finally, Jack stood up triumphantly...after hog-tying David. Hoots and hollers came from all of them. Most of them laughed at the site. Blink was laughing so hard he had to lean on Mush to keep from falling down. Even David was laughing hysterically. "Stop! *snort* I can't *gasp* I can't breathe! *cough* Untie me! Ha! Jack!"
Mush almost died laughing after he heard the snort. He dropped to the floor, and Blink, who still couldn't stand straight, fell with him. "OW! HahahahaHAHA!"
Kloppman came up to see what all the noise was about. He did a double-take at the scene before him. Most were laughing like hyenas, Blink and Mush were convulsing, Race was collecting ten cents from the few people who thought Dave could win, and David was tied on the floor with Jack standing over him. He turned and went back down stairs, "I need a holiday."
Jack giggled, "Well, aftah dat reaction, I guess I'se better untie ya!"
Some of the guys looked at the scene with new eyes and some more "Hoots" and "Woo-hoos"
were yelled out. The young ones who didn't get it just stared clueless. Jack freed David and helped him
up. They didn't live it down for a week.
David made it to the door of the Lodging House and waited for Race, who was only a few feet behind.
"Don't do dat! I almost chocked on my cigar!"
"At least that would stop your habit."
Racetrack looked at him expressionless, "Jus' go in before I hit ya."
David yanked open the door and ran in. He waved to Kloppman behind the desk as he climbed the stairs. Les spotted him and Race come in and ran into his brother's arms, "They're here!" All the newsies looked up, each calling out their own greeting.
Spot approached David and they spit-shook. "Glad to see you made it, Spot," David smiled.
"Course I did! You didn't think I wouldn't come say goodbye ta ol' Jack-boy, did ya?"
"You kiddin'? He owes you a quarter."
"He's comin'!" Boots called from the window, "He's comin'!"
Everyone took their places. The room was decorated with toilet paper and painted signs like "Go get 'em Cowboy". On Jack's bunk were a variety of presents like a new cowboy hat and the book Buffalo Bill. There was complete silence filling the room. Then the sounds of footsteps up the stairs. Jack opened the door and...
"Surprise!" all the newsies jumped up as one. Jack took a startled step back and placed a hand over his racing heart. He smiled brightly at all his friends, then looked down at Les.
"C'mon, Cowboy! We got ya presents!" The little boy, now near twelve, dragged him over to his bunk. Over the next few hours, Jack sorted through all the gifts and thanks each one of the guys. They reminisced about old times, played games, danced and sang. Towards the end, David informed Jack that the Jacobs wanted him over for a farewell dinner. So, Jack told the gang he'd see them later tonight and headed off with his "brothers".
When they arrived, warm hugs were exchanged before sitting down to a light supper. Afterwards, Esther unveiled a cake. Jack looked at it with glossy eyes then to his family, warm, wide smiles placed upon him. His main reason to keep going, keep breathing, to never give up. And they would all disappear tomorrow. But what could he do? His dream was eating him up inside like a cancer. If he didn't follow it soon he may burst.
Then the time came for Jack to leave. Les was in tears. He grabbed onto Jack and refused to let go, "Don't go, Cowboy! Please, don't leave," the boy choked out. Jack kept himself from crying too, though just barely. He pulled Les into the biggest hug he could muster.
"Hey, shh. It's okay, you'll see me again. I'll save a place for ya out west. I'll even gets ya a horse an' ev'rythin'," Jack whispered. He kinda improved the truth a little too. He'd probably get Les a toy horse or something.
Jack took his old cowboy hat and placed it on the boy's head, "I promise." Les hugged him again and ran to his mother. Next, Sarah walked up.
"Good-bye, Jack." One tear ran down her face and Jack brushed it away.
"Good-bye, Sarah." He kissed her on the cheek and hugged her tight. She stepped back into a corner silently. Jack kissed Esther on the cheek also, then shook Mayer's hand firmly. "Thank you. Both of youse. You're the closest thing to a muddah an' fuddah I'll ever have." They nodded with a grin.
Now comes the part Jack almost wished he could skip. He turned to Davey, who had watched the whole thing from the window. A twinge of pain ran through his heart. David smiled slightly, "What will you ever do without me?"
Jack laughed, "I'm gonna be lost without ya, Dave."
"I'm gonna be lost too, Jack." David met Jack's gaze. It was true, together they could conquer anything. They were one, complete, they fit perfectly. It's hard for each of them to think of their lives before the other. What will they do with hundreds of miles between them?
They nodded and spit-shook. When it ended, Jack pulled David into a hug. The best friends closed their eyes tight. Each praying that time would stop or at least let them remember this moment and all others forever. Give them strength to let go and move on. They pulled apart. It was over too soon. Jack's eyes locked with David's. He had to leave now or he might have second thoughts.
"I'll, uh, see ya at da train yards tomorrow, right?"
David blinked several times to clear his eyesight. The tears he was trying so hard to hold back were making his vision blurry. "Bright and early."
Jack nodded with a half-smile and walked out as fast as he could. As soon as he shut the door,
he ran down the stairs until his boots hit the cobblestones outside. He turned to look at the building, the
building he knew so well by now. His gaze drifted up to the sky for a moment as a sigh escaped his lips.
He walked the rest of the way to the Lodging House with his head down in thought.
The next morning was filled with good-byes and good lucks, along with some tears from the younger newsies. The older ones tried to lighten the mood by commenting on how Santa Fe will never be the same once Cowboy hits town. After packing what few belongings he had into a bag, Jack went to the train yards by various wagons and trolleys. When he walked into the station he saw David sitting on a bench, watching the doors like a hawk. On time...as always.
Jack smiled and walked to him as he stood up, "Hey, Dave, think fast!" Jack called out as he tossed his bag at his friend. David caught it, but the look on his face was priceless--like the bag was going to explode at any moment. "Hold it whiles I gets the ticket."
David followed him up to the ticket window silently and stood by him like that until he walked to a bench to wait. Jack became uncomfortable when Dave still didn't speak for a minute or two afterwards. He shifted in his seat, "Uh, Dave..."
"I'm coming with you."
"...I will--WHAT did you just say?"
"I'm going with you to Santa Fe."
Jack laughed then looked up at his friend's face, "You're actually serious, aren't you?" David glared defiantly.
"I've thought about this for a long time, Jack. I'm coming and you can't stop--"
"Hell yes, I can stop you! Ya obviously haven't thought 'bout dis long enough! What about yer family?"
"What about them? Dad is back to work, Les is almost twelve now and Sarah is still a laundry maid. I think they can somehow manage!"
"So they even know about dis?"
"Well, not yet..."
"What?!" Jack looked around at the people watching them and lowered his voice, "Are ya crazy? They'll go nuts. I know for sure your muddah will have a heart attack."
"They're all out of the house right now, I left them a note."
Jack suddenly looked at him like David was the stupidest person alive. "Okay, Dave, let's...move past da family communication problem for now. What about the gang? How do you think they'd take it if we'se both left?"
"They'll get by," was his only reply. Jack sighed.
"David, please don't do dis. I don't think I'se can handle the guilt. Plus, there's nuttin' for you out dere. Here you've got an education, a chance. You've got a future!"
"Not without you." David had lost his intimidating glare. Now his eyes pleaded, his voice filled with desperateness. Jack could swear someone had just stabbed his heart and the pain ricocheted to all the nerves in his body. He swallowed hard.
"Go home now, David," his tone was flat and icy, his eyes narrowed.
"All passengers going to Santa Fe, New Mexico, the train is now boarding!"
David and Jack didn't move. "You can't make me, Jack," David replied lowly.
"Dave, I'll do whateva it takes to get youse ta leave. Trust me."
All eyes were on them at once. David was on the floor staring with wide eyes at Jack over him. He slid his tongue to his lip. Blood. Jack had punched him, actually punched him! "Get out of here NOW!"
David got to his feet and stormed out of there. Jack exhaled deeply then glanced at the on-lookers. "What are youse all lookin' at?!" They turned away and hurried by.
"Last call for Santa Fe, New Mexico!"
Jack picked up his bag and walked like a madman onto the train. He quickly took a seat and squeezed his eyes shut, feeling his temples pounding and his hand throbbing. Both were beaten by that pain in his heart, though. Damn, will that ever go away?! That was NOT the goodbye he had hoped for. Punching Davey had hurt more than anything. Partly because he had such a hard head.
His thoughts were cut short by the loud train whistle and the churning or the wheels on the tracks. Jack took one last look out the window at his home before pulling the shade down. Here's to dreams. The train disappeared over the horizon, its steam marking its trail to the west.