Title: Going Back to Before
Genre: Not sure / Nostalgia?
Pairings/Characters: Unnamed OC/Unnamed Newsies
Synopsis: A lifetime before, she walked away everything she had as a newsie, all her friends, the love of her life. She's lived a lifetime, in the meantime, and now finds herself on the same old familiar streets, looking for something that is no longer there.
Comments: A one-shot, better called a ficlet then a proper fic. This came about a few years ago when I realized all the folks I used to write fic with when I was a teenager were long gone, and I would probably never find most of them again. I transferred that sense of...loneliness to my staple newsgirl, although she remains unnamed in the fic. It's set in the 1940's, although that's not really all that important.
Like most of the people passing, her eyes never left the street, never looked up, never saw the sky. Unlike them, however, the street was what she was looking for, what had brought her here. Half-melted, black old snow, packed into corners, against walls, had created what seemed like a never-ending tiny river, flowing down whatever cracks it could get through, running to the grating a little bit away, and rushing downwards toward the sewers.
The water was filthy. So were the streets. Littered with scraps of old newspaper, dead mice, broken pottery, bits of trash. All of it covered with every fall of snow, left to slowly expose itself as the snow melted, only to have it happen all over again until there was nothing left of it at all.
She knew all of that. She remembered. But back then, it wasn't trash to her. Back then the scraps of food, bits of cloth, the possibility of shiny coins dropped in someone's hurry to get out of the cold...back then, these streets were different.
No, she realized. Back then -she- had been different.
"You lost, lady?" A young boy's voice brought her attention back to her present, a voice that for one aching moment was his. But it wasn't him. He was long gone, as lost to her as the memories of who she had been.
She shook her head, unable to clear her throat right away. "I-" She winced. Her voice was old, battered through the long years of singing in smoky halls, years of yelling for children to come in to dinner, screaming denials as a first, then a second telegram brought death halfway across the world to her doorstep, death carrying the names of her sons.
She coughed wetly, could hear the sickness in her lungs, but shook her head and coughed again. "The building...that was here. It was here."
The boy, barely eight or so, although she would almost bet he would tell her he was six, stared at her in confusion. "Huh?"
"The Newboys Lodging House." Her heart twisted. Could she have gotten it wrong? Could she have forgotten the way to the only home she'd been welcomed into as a child? No. She was sure, this was it. She could half-hear the boys coming down the street, pushing each other around, joking, comparing stories of scams and soft sells. If she closed her eyes...she could see them.
"Oh that? Burned down years ago." The boy shrugged, and turned to walk away.
"Yeah. The old nutter who ran the place fell asleep with a candle lit or something. No one made it out. My dad used to scare my sister and me tellin' stories about all the kids screaming, I think so we'd never leave candles burning. Or somethin'."
"I dunno. Like, forty years ago? Look, I gotta go. My mom's gonna yell at me, I'm late."
"I'm sorry. Thank...thank you."
"No problem, lady."
She crossed her arms over her chest and watched the boy run off into the lengthening shadows. She'd been so hurt, when he hadn't replied to her letters. She thought he'd forgotten about her, was mad at her for leaving, going west. Even years later, every single day she expected to turn around, and there he'd be, his hat pushed back, framing his trademark smirk. She'd gotten older, she'd gotten tired, but she never lost that pain in her heart, the constant reminder that although she'd married Joe, had a nice house with lace curtains in the parlor, raised two boys of her own, only to lose them...despite having lived her life, her heart had always belonged to him, part of her was always waiting for him.
And now she knew. He wasn't around the corner, waiting to scare her, or pounce with a kiss for her cheek. He had been gone all those years. She'd been alone all those years, as alone as she was now. And the knowing was infinitely more painful then the hope.
She couldn't stay. Shrugging her coat higher, she turned and walked into the cold, down the street, which was, at once, the same, and heart-breakingly different. For the second time in her life, she walked away, and just as before, she couldn't bear say good bye.