Chapter Five: Bad Day
Weeks passed and Jack and Deuce met every couple of days, in secret, and wordlessly acted out their passion. Even fewer words passed between them than had been spoken during the first day of their relationship, if one could even call it that. They would meet in an abandoned tenement or a deserted, isolated alley, rip off each other's clothes and make mad, frenzied love to each other, taking pleasure in the pain of sharp teeth, rough nails, and violent entry. Once they were finished, lying together in a mockery of tenderness, one would hurriedly stand, dress, and leave, only to return two days later to play the same game again.
This was how it happened one particular Thursday; Deuce lay spent on the ground, Jack's face buried in his chest, one hand absently stroking Jack's hair. He had been particularly rough today, but he wasn't sorry. He liked making Jack scream and whimper in pain, like feeling the control he had over his lover. Lover. He scowled at the word, but there was just no getting around it. Jack Kelly was his lover, and with their naked bodies lying entangled in an empty shed at the Brooklyn docks, there wasn't much he could say to refute such an allegation. And he didn't want anything to change. He felt he could lie there forever, just listening to the sound of Jack's gentle breathing as he slept peacefully, skin touching smooth skin.
Jack stirred, and Deuce tensed immediately. It always made him uncomfortable when Jack awoke, as though he were being intruded upon during a very private moment. He quickly pulled his hand away from Jack's head, as though he didn't want the other boy to noticed his tenderness. Jack rolled over onto his back, his eyes still closed, and felt around on the ground besides him for a cigarette. Once it was between his lips and lit, he finally opened his eyes and looked at Deuce, who by this time had begun putting on his pants. Jack stared up at him, admiring his lean, sculpted body that he had only an hour before covered with hot kisses. The face, that beautiful face that he loved to watched as it contorted in pleasure and pain, the face that now betrayed a very different emotion. Anger, disgust, even shame. Jack's insides knotted in pain as he regarded Deuce's cold expression, watched him hurriedly dress himself as though ashamed of being seen naked and of the memories that seeing Jack's naked body stirred in him. The Manhattan newsie turned his head, unable to watch anymore. Slowly, more than a little disappointed, he sat up, stubbed out his cigarette on the ground, and started dressing as Deuce grabbed his hat and stalked out of the shed.
Only a few boys were home when Jack stormed into the Lodge later that afternoon. A couple of the younger boys were playing marbles downstairs while Kloppman watched on in fond amusement. They all looked up at the Cowboy as the door opened and a few began to say hello, but stopped when they saw him head straight for the stairs without even giving a sign of having noticed them. Kloppman frowned as he watched his favorite, if sometimes most difficult, resident stomp up the stairs making as much noise as he possibly could. He had never known Jack to act sullen like this, not even over a girl. He wondered what the problem was, but he knew that it wasn't his place to pry. In a house full of teenage boys, one or another was sure to figure out what was bothering Jack. With a sigh, he returned to watching the game of marbles.
Jack let the door to the dormitory slam behind him, not even bothering to look to see if anyone was sleeping. As he made his way toward his bed, he heard a slightly annoyed, sleepy sounding voice mutter, "Thanks fo' wakin' me, ya bastard." Jack spun around in surprise, not expecting to see anyone. He had assumed everyone to be either still out selling papers, having fun at Tibby's, or partaking in the usual afternoon activities such as the races or sneaking into Medda's. He had definitely not expected to see a tall, lanky boy wearing a pink shirt and holding a pillow over his head lying on a top bunk near his own bed.
"Aw, sorry Skittery," muttered Jack, not actually that sorry but not wanting to get on the boy's bad side. Skit, while one of his good friends, was without a doubt the moodiest of all of the newsies. "I had a bad day."
Skittery carefully picked the pillow off his head and sat up to face Jack, who did a double take upon seeing Skittery's face. His left eye was puffy and a nice shiner was forming below it. Dried blood covered the side of his mouth and his nose didn't look like it was in good shape. He gave Jack a look that clearly said, "Oh yeah, really?"
"Damn Skit, what da hell happened?"
Skittery fell back on his pillow and scowled up at the ceiling. "Got in a fight. Not woith talkin' about." Jack knew better than to pursue the topic. Instead, he hoisted himself onto the bed next to Skittery's and sat with his legs dangling, facing the other boy, who lay on his back still glaring at the ceiling. For a long while, neither boy said anything. Jack studied Skittery's mangled face, trying to recognize the sullen-faced boy beneath the blood and bruises. Jack had only been with the newsies for a few months, but through his overwhelming charisma and self-confidence, he had risen to become their unofficial leader. All of the boys respected him and none of them, no matter how long they had been newsies, ever gave him any trouble. None but Skittery. Not that Skittery actually caused trouble. For some reason, however, Skit was the only boy who ever made Jack nervous, who ever made him think very carefully about his next words. Perhaps it was because despite Skittery's great contempt for the entire world, he was the only newsie whose confidence and self-respect seemed to rival Jack's own. Though he had a great capability for humor and was often seen laughing along with the other newsies, it was never the sweet, innocent laugh of Mush or the mirthful, fun-loving laugh of Race. It was a laugh that suggested a soul tortured by anger and bitterness, and it demonstrated Skittery's personality very well.
"Do you, uh," Jack fumbled over his words. "Do ya believe in love?"
Skittery cocked one eyebrow and turned on his side to face Jack. "Do I believe in love?"
Immediately it seemed like a stupid question. Jack didn't know anyone as cynical, contemptuous, and sarcastic as Skittery, except maybe Deuce. But thinking about Deuce only made Jack feel even worse. Why would he ask Skit about love?
"Sorry, it was a dumb question," Jack said quickly, looking away.
"Yes, I believe in love." Skittery said it so softly, Jack wasn't even sure that he had heard correctly.
"Yeah," Skittery shrugged. "Why shouldn't I? Just 'cuz I hate da woild doesn't mean I don't think it could get bettah."
"So you think it could?"
Another shrug. "Yeah. But I don't think it will." With that, he rolled back over on his back and returned his attention once again to the cracks on the ceiling.
"You evah been in love?" Jack ventured after a short pause. Skittery didn't answer at first, and Jack started to repeat the question.
"I hoid ya the foist time," he said crisply. Jack saw him think for a moment, and then make his careful answer. "Yeah, I reckon I have."
"Didn't woik out?"
Skittery snorted. "I wouldn't know. Nevah got the chance. It wouldn't've, though. Couldn't. Like I said, just cuz things could be bettah doesn't mean anythin'll change."
Jack stared at Skittery for several minutes, trying to understand what the other boy had just said. He finally decided that Skittery hadn't helped him with his situation with Deuce at all, and that though this conversation made very little sense at the present, he had a feeling that in the future it would come into great importance.
Without saying anything, Jack lowered himself onto the floor and without a word to Skittery, left the dormitory quietly and made his way downstairs to join his friends at Tibby's. Unaware, of course, that he had left a very tortured Skittery lying alone in his narrow bed, still staring upwards, but not at the ceiling. In fact, the entire time Jack had thought he was staring at the ceiling, Skittery hadn't even seen it at all.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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