Rosie stood waiting outside the distribution center as the bell rang and the first newsboy bought his papers for the day. She wore a very fashionable Gibson Girl ensemble, one of her favorite outfits that her mother and father made for her. It consisted of a yellow-green skirt and a white blouse with leg o’mutton puffed sleeves, the hidden rose embroidered at her left wrist. Her unruly curls were held back by a pink bow that matched the pink belt around her waist. Around the top of her straw skimmer hat, which resembled a man’s boater, she had tied another pink ribbon. But her favorite part of the outfit was her black and white button spat shoes. Clicking her teacup heels together, Rosie felt just like a Gibson Girl model from the newspaper advertisements; her appearance was perfectly crisp and smart.
She leaned on the iron gate, waiting for Liam to come out from the courtyard. Spencer saw her and waved, indicating she was to come in and join them. “Hey, Rosie!” Spencer was browsing through the World paper.
“Hello, Spencer,” said Rosie. “Anything exciting in the news today?”
“The news is always exciting when I sell it,” he suggested with a grin, as he drummed his fingertips on the side of a crate he was seated on. “Right, Tommy?”
“Yeah, Spencer.” As Tommy rolled his eyes with a laugh, Rosie noticed he had a black eye.
“Good heavens, Tommy! What happened to your eye?” Rosie bent down and pushed his hair back to see it clearly. The eye was a little swollen, like he’d taken a fist to the face.
Tommy shook his head, his hair falling back to cover the wound. “Oh, it’s nothing,” he said. “I fell out of bed last night, that’s all.” He was clearly not telling the truth.
Spencer snickered. “Oh come off it, Tommy! She’ll find out soon enough anyway.” Then he turned to Rosie with excited joy in his voice. “We caught up with the neighborhood bullies last night and gave them a little dose of their own medicine.” Spencer tossed his ball high in the air, catching it behind his back.
“You went after Alphonso and his gang? You’re not seriously injured, are you?” Rosie questioned with anxiety.
Tommy cracked a smile. “Of course not! My battle wound is nothing in comparison to what we gave them!” Tommy wasn’t injured, and he was in good spirits, which made Rosie feel relieved. Never had someone gone to bat for her like Tommy, Spencer, and Liam. She knew she’d found friends she could count on.
Scanning the crowd for Liam, Rosie saw him talking to some younger boys in the courtyard. Today he wore a forest green shirt with a brown vest, as well as his ever-present gray cap. Rosie found herself smiling; the very thought of spending the day with him made her happy. He laughed and joked with the younger boys, who seemed very excited to talk to him. A few boys scrambled to get up on Liam’s back or to hang upon one of his arms. Liam effortlessly used his muscled biceps to swing them around.
She also spotted Alphonso and his friends inside the distribution office. They weren’t doing their jobs, but rather just sitting and staring at Rosie. She could see that Verne had two black eyes, courtesy of Tommy. Alphonso and his gang were obviously angry; their menacing scowls and tense body language were clear indicators of that. Rosie simply looked away without acknowledging his presence.
“Hey, don’t worry about them,” said Tommy, noticing the quick exchange. “If they give you any more trouble, you tell us, and we’ll take care of it.”
“They’d be too scared to,” Spencer remarked. “Besides, I’m sure Liam can take on all three of them by himself.” He winked at Rosie. “He’s a strong man, huh, Rosie?” Spencer must have caught her staring at Liam a few moments before.
She could feel a blush creeping onto her face, and she couldn’t help but smile whenever Liam was brought up in conversation. “Yes, he is very strong and he could take them all on, but I’ll let you know if they give me more trouble.” Rosie assured them. It was so nice to have good friends looking out for her best interests.
“Good morning, Rosie!” said Johnnie, jogging past her with his arms full of papers. She turned and waved as he disappeared around the corner.
“Hey, we should all go to the docks today for some swimming. Looks like today will be a scorcher,” said Spencer, still reading the paper. Though still early morning, the sun was already beating hot in the courtyard.
“No dock swimming today,” said Tommy. “Liam’s got something special planned for Rosie.” Tommy grinned at her.
She gasped in excitement. “Something special? Really? What did he plan? Tommy, please tell me!” Tommy only chuckled and covered his mouth with his hand, as if he had already said too much.
“Liam, let’s get moving, we’ve got a lot of papers to sell!” Spencer yelled out to his friend as he folded his copy of the World. Liam was now walking towards them, reading the day’s front page.
“I’m just catching up on the headlines!” exclaimed Liam. “A good salesman always knows what he’s selling.” He tucked his stack of papers under his arm and looked her directly in the eyes. “Hello, Rosie.” Upon hearing him say her name, Rosie was again reduced to butterflies.
“Hello, Liam,” she managed to say. He smiled back at her; a happy and playful smile. Did he know that he made her feel this way?
“Is Brigid feeling better?” he asked in a serious tone.
“Yes,” replied Rosie, “but she still doesn’t know if she’s ready to sing. I may have to fill in again.”
“Well, we certainly wouldn’t mind that,” Liam said nonchalantly, a twinkle in his eye.
“Hey, Liam, I’m going to head out with Spencer today.” Tommy elbowed Liam in the ribs, which was either a habit or a secret code.
“Sure, that’s fine with me. But we’re still meeting for lunch at Motto’s, right?” asked Liam to his usual selling partner. Tommy nodded enthusiastically in agreement.
“You bet!” chimed in Spencer. “Finest salami in all of New York City!”
“Well then,” said Liam. “Rosie and I had better get selling.” Liam hoisted his papers over his shoulder and held out his other arm for Rosie. “Miss Wild Irish Rosie?”
“Goodbye!” she called over her shoulder to the other boys, taking Liam’s arm at the same time. Within moments they were striding along in sync down the cobbled streets. “So, I’m going to learn to be a newsboy today?” Rosie asked, as the two headed for Seward Park.
“Sure, I’ll teach you the ropes,” Liam said with a smile. “But no grand ideas about you taking up this profession, I don’t need you stealing my business.” Liam’s friendly tease made her laugh heartily.
They walked for a moment in total silence, it was nice just to be in Liam’s presence. As they approached a vegetable vendor, Liam called out in a friendly tone. “Good morning, Mr. Boynton! How are those twins of yours?”
“Why, they’re just dandy, Liam! My wife and I would like to thank you for keeping an eye on them last week.” Mr. Boynton had a gray bushy beard and mustache.
“It was my pleasure, glad to have helped. Would you like to buy your paper for the day?” asked Liam, handing him one gallantly.
“As usual!” the man said, tossing him a penny.
“Thanks, Mr. Boynton, see you tomorrow!” said Liam, returning to Rosie’s side.
“Do you know him well?” asked Rosie.
“Only from seeing him every day out here on the streets. He’s always my first customer. And last week I watched his two little kids while he was out selling and his wife needed to run a few errands.” Liam pocketed the penny.
“Hey, Liam! Can I get a paper from you?” A boy, no older than little Johnnie or little Simon from the theater, ran up to Liam with a happy grin on his face.
“Sure, Michael.” Liam exchanged another paper for a penny. The little boy then ran off into a blacksmith’s shop. “And he’s always been my second customer of the morning,” Liam explained.
“Everyone here is so friendly,” Rosie observed as they entered Seward Park: a shade-filled grove filled with people. There were women pushing baby carriages, vendors setting up their stalls, and kids playing in the open grass.
“Speaking of friendly New Yorkers, want to hear a good story from a few years back?” asked Liam. Rosie nodded in reply as he tucked her arm closer into his torso. “So this one week I had a little extra money in my pocket, and I decided to go to the racetrack. I placed my bets, and then jockeyed my way through the crowded grandstand to find a seat, pardon the pun.”
“Of horse.” Rosie quickly replied, a joking lilt in her voice. She looked up at Liam sweetly.
He laughed loudly and shook his head in amazement at her play on words. “That was a pretty sorry pun, Rosaleen Sullivan McMurray. But you’re so adorable, I’ll forgive you this one.”
He winked at her and continued his story. “I found one empty spot in a private box, and the guy next to it seemed friendly, so I asked, ‘Is this seat taken?’ And he said it was his extra seat, and he would enjoy the company if I joined him. In fact, he bought me a beer and the two of us cheered on the horses together. We were having a great time telling stories and trading jokes. Finally, I said to him, ‘You seem like a real fun guy, how come none of your friends could join you today?’ Then the guy got really quiet. He told me that the seat I was sitting in was his dearly departed wife’s seat. They used to go to the races all the time, but she had recently passed away. I said, ‘I’m very sorry to hear that. But couldn’t you get someone to keep you company, rather than being here alone with an empty seat? A friend or relative perhaps?’ ‘Unfortunately not,’ he told me, ‘All my friends and relatives are at her funeral.’”
Rosie inhaled sharply in surprise, and then she saw the broad grin on Liam’s face, proving that he had fibbed the whole story. That it was actually just a joke.
“You’re terrible, Liam, I believed you for a second!” exclaimed Rosie, laughing and shaking her head in disbelief. Liam was laughing too, as he kicked a pebble out of their path.
“Terrible? Or really great at telling a joke?” he asked, his grin growing broader. She playfully elbowed him in the ribs and gave him a pert smile. “I thought it would get you to laugh, and I like hearing you laugh.” Rosie smirked back at his compliment. Liam was more than handsome and daring. He could also be boyish and sweet, which made Rosie enjoy being in his company all the more.
A businessman walked by and Liam handed him a paper for a penny. When a woman ahead of them dropped her basket of groceries, Liam and Rosie stopped to help her.
“Thank you for your kindness,” said the woman with a strong German accent. She smiled and gave Liam a penny for a paper.
“You really are a gentleman, Liam,” said Rosie admiringly. He was never pushy with his customers, and he acted friendly toward everyone he encountered.
“I just do what comes natural. I treat others the way I would want to be treated: with kindness and respect. Hey, I’ve a great idea, would you like to visit the best spot in Seward Park?”
Rosie, who was now up for any adventure that New York City would bring, whole-heartedly agreed. “Oh yes, that would be lovely!”
“It’s just around the corner,” said Liam. Together they cut through some tall grass, squeezed through some hedges, and emerged in a clearing next to a small pond. Liam found a perfect shady place under a huge oak tree that had probably been there for hundreds of years. He took off his vest and laid it on the ground for Rosie to sit on. In the pond a few ducks were swimming, and on the opposite side, a cluster of pigeons sat perched on an empty park bench. It was a peaceful spot, and there weren’t many people around. When Rosie sat, she smoothed out her skirts and sat with her knees to the side. Liam leaned back on his elbows and threw pebbles into the water.
Rosie deeply inhaled the warm summer air that smelled of flowers. “It’s beautiful here, Liam. Thanks for sharing it with me.”
“I’m glad to share it with you,” said Liam pointedly. “By the way, I know I said it last night, but your performance was wonderful, Rosie. I do want your aunt to feel better, but I also wouldn’t mind hearing you sing again.”
“Thank you, Liam,” she said, a blush flushing her cheeks again. He gave her another one of his winning smiles, and they locked eyes for a moment. This was the first time she had met someone who engaged her interests, made her laugh, and gave her butterflies on a regular basis. Rosie had read plenty of stories about friends who had turned into sweethearts. Was that what she was experiencing with Liam?
He threw a larger pebble in the water and the waves rippled to the shore. “Oh! I just remembered that tonight, my landlord is holding a German Social Dance at the apartment building. Every year, a large part of the Lower East Side community shows up. They bring great food, play music, and dance all night long. Would you like to join me, Rosie?” Liam looked at her imploringly, hoping that she would say yes.
“A dance?” asked Rosie excitedly. “I would love to join you, Liam! I haven’t been to a dance in ages and I think we will have a lot of fun together.” She clapped her hands together gleefully.
“Good! I was really hoping that your answer would be yes.” Liam blushed. “I’ll come see you sing and then escort you to the dance. All of the guys will be there, and they’re bringing girls, so you won’t be the only one.”
“I would love to meet more people. I know no one else here in New York, except for you and your friends.” Rosie smiled, knowing she’d be happy even if she only shared the night with Liam.
“Did you have many friends in Chicago?”
“Not many. I went to a school where the teachers very strict and we hardly had time for fun. I did have a few friends from the neighborhood, but mostly I helped my parents in their shop.” A few moments passed while Rosie thought back to her childhood. She seemed like a different person now, more responsible, more like an adult. Especially now that her parents were gone.
“Hey! A great idea just came to me. Stand up!” said Liam, leaping to his feet.
“Why?” Rosie said quizzically, blocking out the sun with one hand.
“Come on,” said Liam, pulling her up by her hands. “If I’m ever not around, you’ll need to learn how to defend yourself. What if you meet up with Alphonso again?”
“I know how to defend myself,” Rosie protested. “Watch this!” She made a fist and punched the air, knowing full well such a punch could never successfully strike anything down.
Liam snickered and tried to smother a laugh. “Nice try, Slugger, but we should really work on your technique. It’s important to learn to protect yourself. First thing, bend your knees a bit and put your hands in front of your face. You’ve got to keep yourself on guard, like you’re one of the Three Musketeers and you’re about to fence. Except you have no sword, and so you have to use your hands.” Liam demonstrated and Rosie did her best to imitate him. His brow was furrowed in concentration; he certainly was handsome when he was explaining something seriously. “Now, make a fist and tuck your thumb underneath.” Rosie unconsciously bit her lip with her teeth, and made an awkward fist. “Shoot your arm out quickly, and then bring it back in. You’ve got to be sharp.” Liam stifled a laugh as Rosie tried to follow his example. Her punch was quite weak. “Well, you’re cute, but not much of a fighter. Try it again, and think more ‘wild’ than ‘rose.’”
Rosie tried again, unsuccessfully. She felt like she was dancing, not fighting. “I’m not doing that well, am I?” Rosie laughed and looked up at Liam. His muscular arms were posed exactly like she had tried to pose.
“Let me help.” Liam came up behind her and put his hands around her arms. She felt those butterflies in her stomach again. He helped her punch her arm out, and she imagined striking an invisible assailant in the face. After a few tries, in which she was getting increasingly better, he said with assurance, “You’ve got it now.” If she had the motions down, then why was she still in his tight embrace?
“Thanks, Liam. You’re a great teacher.” He didn’t respond back right away, their eyes were locked on each other.
Finally, he answered back slowly. “It’s all my pleasure, Rosie.”
Rosie bit her lip and smiled, their faces suddenly close. Liam blushed and then put his arms to his sides, obviously embarrassed. Rosie thought it was funny to see him blush so vividly. For once, it was Liam that was doing all the blushing, and not Rosie. He hurriedly scooped a few pebbles up and tossed them into the pond.
“Liam, I have something serious I need to talk to you about,” said Rosie, taking his arm. Liam stopped his pebble tossing. A lone duck quacked angrily from the pond as he paddled away from the shore.
“What’s wrong, Rosie?” he asked. She liked that he was already concerned.
“Nothing is wrong, Liam. It’s just that I don’t know a lot about you, and I’ve practically told you everything about me. I was hoping that you’d maybe share some stories about your life.”
“Oh,” he said with a forced laugh, “you had me worried there for a moment. Well, to tell you the truth, not many people know much about me. Tommy and Spencer are my closest friends.”
“You don’t have to tell me anything, if you don’t want to,” said Rosie, echoing what Liam told her the day before. She sat back down in the grass.
“No, I will. I don’t mind telling you about myself,” he answered and joined her on the ground. “Well, to start off, my full name is William Douglas Cooper, and I’ll be twenty-one years old in February. William Cooper was hard for me to say when I was little, so I called myself ‘Liam’ and the name stuck. My mother was from Wales, that’s the Brown side, and my dad emigrated here from England. Since I haven’t mentioned them, you might’ve guessed I don’t have parents anymore either.”
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Rosie, instantly feeling more connected to him.
He gave her a warm smile. “They’ve been gone for a long time, but I still miss them a lot. My mother died when I was very young, so my dad raised me and taught me everything I know.” Liam paused.
“I think your dad did a great job,” said Rosie, squeezing his strong arm reassuringly.
Liam laughed, perhaps revisiting an old memory. “I think so, too.” He smiled and his thoughts returned back to the present time. “My father died when I was fourteen. He always had a bad heart and I suppose it just caught up with him. I was sent to live in Williamsburg with my mother’s family, the Browns, where I became best friends with my cousin Tommy. We went to school a little bit, but we mostly worked to help support the family; Tommy has eight younger brothers and sisters.”
“Is that when you started selling papers?” Rosie asked.
“Yes. I didn’t have the education to do much else, so I figured I would sell papers until I found a real trade that I liked. Something like carpentry or blacksmithing, or maybe even a factory job. So, Tommy and I left Williamsburg for the big city. We still send money, when we can, and at least now his mother has two less mouths to feed. I always felt like a burden because they seemed to have enough trouble feeding eight kids.” He dropped his head reflectively. He then stood and began throwing more pebbles, with a little more agitation than before.
“I know how you feel, Liam. When my parents passed away, everyone assured me it wasn’t my fault. But I blamed myself because I was the first one who got sick, and they’d spent all their energy trying to get me well again.” Liam was quiet, silently listening to her speak. “But you know, everything happens for a reason, so we have to accept a situation for what it is and decide to move forward.” Surprisingly, there were no tears welling up in her eyes. For the first time in many months, Rosie was determined to accept her grief, and to learn how to cope with it.
Liam stopped scuffing at the ground with his boot. Finally, he again sat down beside her. “That’s a good point. I guess I never thought of it that way. My dad used to say, ‘Nothing that’s worth having in this world ever comes easy.’ Our situations might not be easy, but in the end, it will be worth it.” He looked deep into her eyes and twisted a curly lock of hair that had fallen from its pins. “Don’t worry, you didn’t hurt me by asking about my life. Actually, I think opening up to you has made me feel a bit better about all of this. I’m glad I have a new friend who understands my situation.” Liam sighed a happy sigh, and Rosie was relieved she hadn’t hurt his feelings. She tilted her head and rested it on Liam’s shoulder. She then wrapped a comforting arm around his waist, and he followed with an arm around her hips.
“What else can you tell me about Liam Cooper?” asked Rosie, brightening the mood with a cheerful smile.
He thought for a moment and then answered with a straight face. “I like cold beers, funny comics in the papers, and red-headed Irish lassies!” Rosie giggled and teasingly punched his arm. She pushed her weight into him and he pushed back playfully. His sense of humor was definitely a part of his charm.
“So have you found something that interests you, besides selling newspapers?” she asked, feeling closer to him by the minute.
“Well, I don’t plan on selling papers forever, maybe someday I’ll be the one making the news instead of selling it,” he laughed. “I have another idea I’ve been playing around with.” His smile was irresistible, like the cheery smile of a little boy.
“And what’s that, Mr. Cooper?” she asked sweetly.
“Well, I’ve been reading all about The Edison Company and this new invention called the Projectoscope. It takes a series of photographs and makes them look like they’re moving up on a big screen. I don’t know exactly how it works.”
“Really? That sounds fascinating!” Rosie’s eyes widened in excitement. She had never heard of moving photographs before.
“I saw the Projectoscope in action once. They showed images from a boxing match and it felt like I was actually watching it happen. I think new technology like this will change the world and I’d like to be a part of that. Maybe I’ll learn how to create my own moving photographs, and who knows, maybe someday I’ll put you on the Projectoscope! Rosie Sullivan McMurray: Wild Irish Rosie!” He pretended he was headlining her name in the sky.
Rosie, laughing again, clasped her hands together with enthusiasm. “I think that is a wonderful plan. It sounds like you have all the drive and passion needed to try something new. But in all honesty, I think you’d be great at whatever you chose to do.” Rosie could see him using this new invention and making it a very successful business endeavor.
Liam blushed a little and brushed some imaginary dirt off his pants in a humble manner. “Thank you, that’s nice of you to say. Most importantly, someday I’m going to have a family, and I’ll need a steady job to provide for them. But regardless, I know my direction will be clearer when I meet the girl of my dreams.” Rosie’s heart fluttered because he suddenly looked directly at her. This time it was Rosie who blushed and cast her eyes downwards. Liam must have seen her blush, so he changed the subject quickly. “So, what do you want to do when you’re older, Rosie?”
“When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of becoming a professional entertainer. My mother would tell me all sorts of exciting stories about her sisters, but I had no idea that she was also a performer. I guess the desire to be onstage runs in the family. How coincidental that I took to the stage last night!”
“Maybe last night was no coincidence, Rosie,” Liam said gently. Rosie thought about it for a long moment. She really did enjoy singing for an audience, and it all felt very natural to her. Almost like she was meant to be a vaudeville entertainer.
“But also, I wanted to be a dress designer, like my father. He taught me to draw and I’ve always enjoyed sketching the latest fashions.” Rosie thought fondly of her leather journal.
“Both of those choices sound like they make you happy,” said Liam. “Either way, you’d be following in the footsteps of your parents, and I think that would make them very proud of you.”
“I think so, too.” Rosie nodded her head in agreement. Sharing stories and ideas with Liam was so easy. It was hard to believe they had only just met.
“I’ve heard you sing, and you’re terrific. Maybe you can share some of your drawings with me? I’m sure that they are terrific, too.”
Rosie’s mind flashed to the journal in her dresser drawer; she still hadn’t the heart to draw anything. “I suppose I can, but I haven’t drawn anything in a long time,” she said, almost to warn him that her drawings weren’t anything to be excited about.
Liam smiled, as if he understood what she wasn’t saying. “I completely understand, Rosie. In all honesty,” he smiled, and she recognized her own words coming back to her, “I think you should follow your impulses to entertain and to draw. You’re charismatic and talented, and you can do anything you set your mind to.” He tapped her forehead with a finger for emphasis.
“I hope so,” said Rosie. Maybe it was his words or comforting smile, but suddenly, Rosie felt encouraged and inspired. She stood rapidly and put her hands on her hips. “Actually, I would very much look forward to showing you my drawings!” She was feeling very positive and optimistic about the new changes in her life, and the possibilities yet to come.
“I very much look forward to seeing your drawings!” Standing, Liam mimicked her pose with his hands on his waist, and had the same inflection in his voice that she had, which made them both start to laugh. What a good friend she had in Liam. He was encouraging, smart, handsome, strong, brave, and the never-ending list of his good qualities started to spin quickly through her thoughts. If this was only a day or two into their friendship, she could only imagine all the wonderful days ahead.
“Hey, it’s time for lunch!” exclaimed Liam, ending Rosie’s daydream. “We’d better get to Motto’s fast, before the guys eat up all the food.”
“Do you go there regularly?” asked Rosie.
“It’s our usual hangout. Wait until you try the fresh bread; you’ll want to go back everyday.” Liam licked his lips in anticipation.
The mention of fresh bread made Rosie’s mouth water. “It sounds delicious and I’m very hungry, Liam. I bet I can eat as much as you can.”
Liam looked at her in disbelief. “There is absolutely no way you could eat as much as I can!” He laughed heartily.
Rosie enjoyed hearing the pleasing sound of his laughter. “Just you wait and see, Mr. Cooper!” They continued their good-natured teasing the whole way to Motto’s. More than once, Liam’s hand brushed against hers, which sent tingling sensations up her arm. After a block or two, Liam stopped abruptly.
“What’s wrong?” Rosie asked.
“Something has been bugging me, but I just can’t put my finger on it.” Liam looked serious, scratching his head while he struggled to think of what was bothering him. His look then changed into a mischievous grin, as he held out his hand for Rosie.
“Oh, I get it. Maybe five extra fingers will help you figure it out.” Rosie offered her hand to Liam and he quickly took her small hand in his strong one. “Is that better?”
“Perfect,” said Liam. Their hands seemed to match like two pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. They walked the rest of the way hand in hand, as though they’d been friends all their lives.
Motto’s, a small deli and butcher’s shop, was already crowded with newsboys on their lunch break. Liam’s friends filled a booth in the corner. Tommy quickly saw the pair and motioned them over.
“Hi there, gentlemen…and lady!” Liam greeted the table with a punch to Tommy’s shoulder. At the table were Tommy, Spencer, and a girl Rosie hadn’t seen before.
Rosie slid into the booth next to Tommy. Liam sat on the end, his arm comfortably gripping the back of the booth around Rosie.
“Hey, Rosie,” said Spencer, “I’d like you to meet my…friend.” Spencer smiled mischievously and the girl stuck her tongue out at him. She had striking auburn hair and appeared to be around Rosie’s age.
“I’m Darra, Spencer’s girl,” she said, prodding Spencer’s side. “It’s nice to meet you.” The girl extended her hand.
Rosie shook it and said, “I’m Rosie McMurray. I’m the niece of The Sullivan Sisters, and I just moved here from Chicago.” Rosie felt she should have mentioned being Liam’s “friend,” but she decided that was probably obvious. Darra smiled back, as if she had already heard all about Rosie. She had a tiny button nose and light brown eyes to match her hair, which was gathered by a white ribbon at the nape of her neck. Darra’s beautiful porcelain skin reminded Rosie of the dolls she used to play with as a child. She had a sweet demeanor, and Rosie felt welcomed by her presence immediately.
“Welcome to the Lower East Side!” Darra exclaimed, raising up her arms with a joyful smile on her face.
“How’s your day been, Liam? Selling many papers?” asked Tommy, as he ate a piece of garlic bread. He gave Liam a knowing look.
“It’s been a very productive day so far,” Liam fibbed, and it appeared to Rosie that the others could tell. “Rosie must be my good luck charm; I’ve sold more in one morning than I ever have before!” Liam glanced at Rosie with a sly smile.
“Yeah, I bet you had a real productive day,” Tommy mocked with sarcasm, and then started laughing so hard he nearly choked on his bread.
Liam bent over and whispered in Rosie’s ear. “I might not have sold a lot of papers, but I feel like I had a very nice morning getting to know you.” Rosie felt similarly, so she shot him a happy smile.
“Whenever Darra comes out with me,” said Spencer, “I get nothing done at all. She only wants me to take her shopping.” Spencer leaned back in the booth with a teasing grin. Darra grabbed him by the collar, giving him a playful kiss on the cheek. “And she’s always trying to kiss me! I can’t stand it!” The guys laughed and made a few jokes about how distracting females could be. Of course, all in good fun.
Occasionally, Rosie would sneak glances at Darra and Spencer. When they thought no one was looking, he’d hold her hand or playfully pull on the ribbon holding her hair back. Darra would put her arm around Spencer and her fingertips would rest lightly on his neck. They were very sweet together. Rosie looked at Liam and imagined them doing the same things.
Tommy interrupted her thought. “Liam, did you invite Rosie to the social?”
“I sure did!” said Liam.
Darra clapped her hands excitedly. “Good! It’s a formal event, so make sure you put on your best dress tonight. The social is probably the only opportunity to dress up all year long. Oh, and you’ll get to meet Fern, too.”
“Who’s Fern?” asked Rosie, excited to meet another friend in Liam’s circle.
“Fern is Tommy’s girl,” Liam answered. “He’s crazy about her. Isn’t that right, Tommy-boy?” Tommy blushed and grinned from ear to ear. He then threw a napkin at Spencer, who was mocking him with his face puckered for a kiss.
“Fine, fine, enough already! Yes, she’s my girl, and yes, I’m stuck on her. Now leave it alone!” Tommy brushed off their jokes, but Rosie could tell he was absolutely serious about his affections for Fern. Rosie wondered if the boys had teased Liam about her.
“See? You’re already making some good friends in this big, bad city.” Liam’s whisper tickled her ear.
She grinned widely, excited to whisper back to him. “Emphasis on the word, ‘good’, Liam! I am so glad to have met them. Everyone is so friendly, and I feel comfortable around them already.”
“Maybe I paid them all to be nice to you today.” Liam gave Rosie a teasing look, so she gave him one back and playfully batted at him with her hand. His strong hand gripped hers softly and lowered it beside them under the table. They exchanged concealed smiles, like they were keeping a happy secret from the rest of the group. Rosie felt those butterflies in her stomach again. A waiter came by, noticing there were two new customers. Liam still gently held her hand underneath the table.
“And what will you have today, Liam, the usual?” asked the waiter in a strong Italian accent.
“Yes please, Giuseppe. What would you like, Rosie?”
Giuseppe was a round man with a black mustache and dark hair. He removed a pencil from behind his ear to take their order.
“Could I please have a salami and provolone sandwich, and a glass of water?” Rosie knew that Kate would have food prepared for her at home, so she didn’t want to eat too much.
“Sure thing, miss,” said Giuseppe.
“I told Rosie the racetrack story,” said Liam, eyebrows raised in amusement.
“How many times have we heard that one?” asked Tommy with an exasperated sigh. “Don’t you have any new material?”
“Lay off it, Tommy,” Spencer interjected. “You’re just jealous you can’t tell good stories like Liam can.” Spencer stretched his long arms casually, then struck the back of Tommy’s head teasingly.
“I’m tired, leave me alone,” snapped Tommy. “Liam kept me up all night, humming in his sleep. It was the same tune over and over!” Tommy closed his eyes and pretended to be Liam humming in his sleep. Rosie’s eyes widened when she recognized the melody of “Wild Irish Rose.” Was Tommy telling the truth, or just teasing Liam? Now it was Liam’s turn to slap the back of Tommy’s head.
“Poor Tommy, you must have had a pretty sleepless night!” said Spencer, pouting and raising his voice to sound like a little girl. He laughed slyly. “Or was it the love letters you were penning for Fern that kept you up so late?”
Tommy reached out to grab Spencer, raising his fist in mock anger. “Why I ought to-”
“Hey, isn’t that Johnnie?” Darra interrupted their fun, pointing out the window. The whole table turned to look out at the street. There was Johnnie, backing up slowly toward the door. His suspenders were now hanging slack around his waist, a style he had taken to wearing since his run-in with Verne, Ned, and the fencing. He looked scared and kept glancing back over his shoulder, as if looking for someone to help him. And sure enough, Alphonso, Verne, and Ned were the ones that Johnnie was trying to escape from.
“Here we go again,” said Spencer, a touch of annoyance in his voice. “Won’t they ever learn their lesson? Excuse me, Darra. I’ve got to take care of this.”
“Please, Spencer, don’t fight them today!” Darra put a hand on his chest to hold him back.
Liam stood up and winked at Rosie. “I’ll take care of it, Darra. Spencer, sit down. I don’t want you to risk screwing up your throwing arm. How will you ever play ball in the National League with a bum shoulder? Be back in a jiffy, and don’t eat my sandwich.”
Liam started to roll up his sleeves but Rosie caught his arm. “No, wait, Liam, let me handle this. I’ve got a few things to say to them anyway. Excuse me, everybody, this will only take a moment.”
“Are you sure about this, Rosie? What if they harass you like before?” asked Tommy. His mouth was agape, a piece of garlic bread stuck in mid-bite.
“I’m not worried about her at all,” said a proud Liam. “Rosie and I spent some time at Seward Park this morning, and I taught her how to defend herself in case of emergency. Even still, you’re not going out there alone.” He put a supportive hand on the small of Rosie’s back.
“Gee, Liam. I don’t know how you had time for all this leisure at Seward Park, what with your real productive selling day!” laughed Spencer, pointing out Liam’s earlier fib. Liam shook his fist at Spencer in mock anger as Tommy had done before. He then grabbed Rosie’s hand, and the two sauntered out of Motto’s.
Rosie was nervous. Her lips were trembling as they approached the three boys she once thought were her friends. Johnnie backed up right into Rosie.
“Sorry, miss,” he said as he quickly whirled around. Johnnie’s eyes were wide as saucers, and he looked as pale as if he’d seen a ghost. In his haste to escape, he didn’t even recognize Rosie.
“Don’t worry, Johnnie, I’ll take care of this,” she whispered. He nodded absently and ran behind Liam, who stood a few feet back. “Good afternoon, boys.” Rosie wore a false smile as she greeted them.
“We thought you’d be here, Rosie,” said Alphonso, grinning.
The very sight of Alphonso turned Rosie’s stomach. “Did you come to meet me? Or are you just here to give Johnnie a hard time?” Rosie gave Alphonso an icy stare. She stood in a wide stance, hands on her hips, her weight shifted to one side.
Verne laughed in a high-pitched squeal. “Well, I guess you could say that was an added bonus.” Rosie had an incredible urge to smack the grin off his face, but she kept her cool.
“We actually came to rearrange pretty-boy’s face over there,” said Alphonso, gesturing towards Liam, “for what he and his friends did last night.” Liam just laughed at the threat. “And since you’re here, how about coming on a date with me, little lady?” Alphonso grabbed her hand and tried to pull her closer to him.
“I’m warning you, Alphonso,” threatened Rosie. “Don’t you dare lay a hand on me.”
“I’d do as she says,” said Liam, his warning given with a smile. “Rosie looks like she means business.”
Alphonso only snickered, then forcibly reached around Rosie’s waist. “Nobody refuses a date with Alphonso. Let’s go, Rosie.”
As he started to pull her away, Rosie knew what she had to do. “I’m sorry, Alphonso, but I warned you!” Before he could react, Rosie shook herself from his vice-like grip, pulled her fist back like Liam had taught her, and punched the unsuspecting Alphonso square in the jaw. Alphonso fell back into Ned’s arms. He was absolutely shocked; his mouth open wide in terror and confusion. “Don’t bother me or any of my friends, Alphonso. And the same goes for you, Verne and Ned. This is the last warning you’ll ever get!” With that, she whirled on her heels and returned to Liam and Johnnie.
The two newsboys were doubled over in laughter to watch the biggest bully on the block get bested by a girl. Liam was able to catch his breath and say, “You might want to put some ice on that, Alphonso, that looked like it hurt!” Liam laughed as he held open the door to Motto’s for Rosie and Johnnie. The amazed Johnnie ran straight toward some friends at a nearby table, chattering excitedly. Liam’s comforting arm led her to the booth where everyone was giving her a standing ovation.
“Beautiful job! Well done, Rosie!” Tommy applauded with the piece of garlic bread still hanging halfway out of his mouth.
“Better than I could have done!” Spencer cheered, and Darra smiled approvingly. She gave Rosie a cold compress to hold to her knuckles, which were red from the impact to Alphonso’s face. Rosie looked out the window, where Alphonso was giving her threatening looks, but she wasn’t scared of him. She absolutely knew, that was the last time his gang would ever bother her. She gave the bullies a wave, and then happily sat down to enjoy a sandwich with her new friends.
A New Chapter
The Streets of New York
A Night at Grand Theater
Newsboy for a Day
A Smart and Stylish Girl
A Day at The Breakers
An Empty Heart
Life Imitating Art
All Questions, No Answers
An Evening to Remember