The next morning Rosie woke up early, thanks to Ireland pouncing on her bed the minute he decided he wanted her awake. Rosie got dressed quickly in a striped green muslin dress she’d laid out the night before. It had large, leg o’mutton sleeves which puffed up and out at her shoulders and then tapered down from her elbows. Her bright green belt fit nicely around her waist. After putting her hair up with a twist and some pins, Rosie searched through her hatbox to find the matching hat her mother had made for this dress. Made of straw, it was wide enough to cover her face from the sun, but so heavy from the beading and flowers decorating the top that the right side dipped slightly.
She ate a tiny breakfast and left a short note for her aunts, explaining that she would be home by lunchtime. Rosie knew Brigid wouldn’t worry, and as long as there was a note, she guessed Kate wouldn’t mind either. The night before, Kate and Brigid had fallen asleep early, and despite yesterday’s exciting adventure, Rosie hadn’t the chance to tell her aunts about her new friends.
Alphonso, Verne, and Ned were waiting on the backstage stairs, and jumped up as soon as Rosie appeared. Alphonso wore a red shirt with the same black jacket and hat. Ned was wearing a blue striped shirt with suspenders, and Verne was in a gray shirt with black, slightly oversized pants. They all looked as though they’d spent a great deal of time combing their hair and looking nice. It appeared Verne had even shaved for the occasion.
“Good morning, Miss Rosie,” said Ned with a tip of his hat. Verne held out his hand to escort Rosie down the stairs.
“Good morning,” said Rosie with a grin. Though early, Rosie felt wide-awake, excited for another day on the Lower East Side.
“Are you always this cheerful, Rosie?” asked Alphonso.
“Oh yes, especially when I’m in the company of three of New York City’s finest gentlemen.” She turned to each of them with her sternest look. “I hope.” Ned solemnly put his hand to his heart, like he was making a promise.
“Well, let us be on our way,” Alphonso urged. “We don’t want to be late for work.”
The boys worked at the newspaper distribution center near the market. A family friend owned the business, Alphonso explained, so the boys got to work in the office. As they neared their destination, Verne stopped at a food cart and pulled out a coin. He exchanged it with the vendor who handed him a bright red apple, which Verne then gave to Rosie.
“Thank you, Verne.” Rosie accepted the gift with a smile. The boys were so kind to her. She felt goose bumps on her arms anytime they did sweet things for her, or paid her even the simplest of compliments.
They walked into the distributor’s office that smelled of paper, ink, and coffee. The building was hot and all of the windows were open in hopes that a summer breeze would cool things down. Men were hard at work packaging up bundles of newspapers and stacking them in piles.
After signing in for the day, Alphonso led Rosie to a chair in a quiet corner of the office. “You can stay right here until we go on break. Enjoy your apple!” He winked at her.
Rosie sat down on the wooden chair and put her feet on a crate. From where she sat, she could see right into the fenced-in courtyard where the newsboys lined up to get their day’s papers. The circulation bell rang just as Rosie bit into the apple Verne had given her, and within moments, the newsboys were pouring into the courtyard. There were many of them, from little boys around nine or ten, to young men in their early twenties. From the open window, Rosie spotted the little newsboy from the day before. He was standing in line behind an athletic blond man who kept tossing a baseball into the air.
Rosie also saw the man who had threatened Verne, Ned, and Alphonso; she remembered that his name was Liam. He wore the same gray cap, but now it sat forward on his head instead of backwards. His blue striped dress shirt looked crisp and clean beneath his gray suit. He smiled and joked with the other newsboys and seemed to be quite popular, because they all appeared eager to talk to him. Rosie soon lost him in the sea of caps. Caps owned by very handsome young newsboys, she decided.
“Papers! Papers! Come on, we don’t have all day!” The athletic blonde now gently tossed his baseball against one of the large window frames. One of the distribution workers took the young man’s money and handed him a large stack of newspapers. The young man’s hair was cropped short and looked recently shorn, probably in anticipation of the summer heat. Suddenly, he looked in Rosie’s direction and caught her spying him. He raised his blonde eyebrows and tipped his head in acknowledgment, making Rosie blush and smile. She had gone to a school for only girls, and she rarely had the opportunity to interact with boys her own age. She felt bashful surrounded by all the dashing young men in the courtyard. Even still, the newsboys intrigued her, and so Rosie scooted her chair closer to the window.
“Hi! Aren’t you Rosaleen?” Rosie recognized the quiet voice of the little boy from the day before. He was standing outside the window below her, his head barely clearing the windowsill.
“Why, yes, but you can call me Rosie. What is your name?” Rosie sat up in her chair, so he could see her without standing on his toes.
“Johnnie,” he replied. He seemed shy of her, or maybe embarrassed about yesterday.
“How are you today, Johnnie?”
Remembering the encounter, the small boy winced. “I’m doing fine. Thanks again for the extra coins! That was a nice thing for you to do.” Johnnie smiled a grateful smile, which made him look like a gentle, freckle-faced angel. He was a sweet little boy. Rosie wondered why he worked selling newspapers and thought maybe someday she’d get the chance to ask him.
“Hey, Rosie!” Alphonso called sharply, peeking out from behind a giant stack of papers. “Don’t talk to the newsboys!”
“I’ll talk to whomever I want to, Alphonso,” Rosie muttered under her breath, waving to him in fake compliance. She then motioned for Johnnie to move down to a window where they couldn’t be seen. Pushing open the dirty window, she said to Johnnie, “Don’t mind him. I feel awful about what happened yesterday, and I wish I could have done something to stop it sooner.”
“You helped a lot, thank you, Rosie. It’s a good thing I’ve got friends like you and Liam.” Johnnie reached into the window to shake her hand. For being so young, he seemed mature, polite, and smart, too.
“As I told you yesterday, anytime you need help with anything, just come to Grand Theater and see me.”
“Do you work there? In the kitchens?” asked Johnnie with wide-eyed innocence.
“No. Actually, my aunts are The Sullivan Sisters. Do you know them?”
“Do I know them? Wait until I tell the boys that I know a Sullivan!” Rosie’s smile broadened at Johnnie’s reply. He suddenly didn’t seem so shy anymore. “Hey, guys! She knows The Sullivan Sisters!” Without a goodbye, Johnnie took off running, excited to share information about his brand new friend. Rosie laughed and waved as a group of tiny boys looked back to see who Johnnie was talking about.
Rosie watched her little friend leave through the gates, returning her attention back to her delicious apple. She then spotted Liam, buying his newspapers.
“A hundred papers, please.” Liam leaned on the bricks surrounding the barred windows, drumming his long fingers on the counter. Rosie studied him as his order was gathered. Rosie guessed he was probably nineteen or twenty years old. He had a sharp jaw and thick expressive eyebrows that matched the dark color of his hair. He was fair-skinned but had a few freckles on his face, probably due to his time out in the sun. He wore his hair at medium length, and the very front pieces loosely curled on his forehead. His full lips were pressed, making Rosie speculate if they concealed a handsome smile. His straight suit flattered his tall, skinny frame, but Rosie could tell he had a muscular build underneath.
A skinny newsboy stood next to Liam and was saying something that made him laugh loudly. Every once and awhile the friend would glance her way and elbow Liam in the ribs. Liam laughed harder but never looked in her direction, which Rosie found very curious. She tried to stop herself from staring at him by interesting herself with the apple, but it didn’t work. Liam was quite attractive, very strapping and, as she learned yesterday, very courageous. She looked again to sneak one more peek, but Liam caught her eye. He grinned. He did have a nice smile, she decided, as he acknowledged her by quickly nodding his head. Rosie blushed and returned her eyes to her apple.
“Rosaleen Sullivan McMurray, right?” Liam appeared unexpectedly, leaning against the brick wall next to the window beside her, one arm casually resting above the sill. She jumped in surprise. “I’m sorry, didn’t mean to frighten you. I just thought I’d say hello.” He seemed very at ease, and had the air of a distinguished gentleman.
“Oh. Yes, Rosie. Liam? Johnnie told me.” She was apparently having trouble forming full sentences and couldn’t stop staring at his smile, or at the way his messy brown hair peeked out from under his cap. He had the longest lashes she had perhaps ever seen and under the lashes, his eyes were a handsome blue-hazel color. Shyly, she cast her own green-hazel eyes downwards.
“Yes, I’m Liam Cooper. Hey, I want to thank you for what you did for Johnnie. It takes a lot of guts to stand up to those troublemakers.” Liam leaned in closer. He smelled like soap and fresh air. His skinny friend, the athletic blonde with the ball, and a whole cluster of newsboys had turned around to stare at them. She blushed self-consciously and wished she wasn’t so fair-skinned. Every blush flushed her cheeks tellingly.
“I just can’t believe they’d do such a thing to Johnnie!” exclaimed Rosie. “They are normally such gentlemen!” Her voice was animated with disbelief. She hoped that if her friends were near, they wouldn’t hear her talking about them.
“I see. And how long have you known these… gentlemen?” Liam inquired, a strange skepticism in his voice.
“Yesterday, the first day I arrived,” said Rosie blankly.
“Well, then I’m sure you’ll eventually come to the conclusion that they’re not the type of men you think they are. If I were you, I’d stay clear of them. They’ve beaten up Johnnie before and many other newsboys. In all truth, they are not the gentlemen they appear to be and should not be trusted.” He looked very concerned.
Rosie’s eyes widened at his remarks, the insight he was providing was starting to make sense. “I’m thinking you might be right. They said they don’t even want me talking to newsboys like you and Johnnie.”
“That’s no surprise.” Liam laughed and peered into the office. “They have always pretended they are better than us, because they get to work inside while we slave away in heat, cold, and all kinds of weather. But in reality, our lives are much the same. Some of us just choose to take the high road and take what we’re given without a complaint. There’s a big difference between appearing to be a gentleman and actually being one.” His hand appeared beneath her on the window’s ledge. “Just be careful around them, promise?”
“I will be careful. Thank you, Liam.” Without thinking, Rosie reached out and placed her hand on his. His hand was bigger and rougher than hers and warm to the touch. A smile broke out across his face and she naturally smiled back. Immediately, she felt a sort of excitement that she had never experienced before; something she couldn’t describe.
She felt a sudden urge to break the silence, so she opened her mouth and said the first thing that came to her mind. “In case you’re wondering, Liam, I’m not Alphonso’s girl.” She added quickly, “Actually, I’m not anybody’s girl.” Rosie wished she had taken a second to think about what she wanted to say before she said it! What possessed her to reveal something like that to Liam?
“In case I’m wondering?” he asked with an amused laugh, moving his hand from under hers and placing it on the top. “Hmm, maybe I’ll have to wonder about it some more.” He smiled and Rosie felt butterflies in the pit of her stomach.
“I’ll be a lot more wary of those three in the future,” Rosie said sweetly. She desperately wanted to return to a normal conversation in order to brush over her impulsive outburst.
“If they ever bother you, please let me know. I can help you out if needed.” Liam’s hands subtly formed into fists, making his bicep muscles flex under his jacket. “So you live with The Sullivan Sisters? I couldn’t help but overhear Johnnie as he ran through the courtyard screaming the news.”
Liam’s question brought her focus back to the conversation, and away from staring at his arms. Composing herself, she answered. “Actually, Kate and Brigid are my aunts. If you and your friends, like that newsboy who was making you laugh, would like to see a performance, just let me know. I can reserve you a table at the theater.”
He looked a bit surprised that she had spied him earlier. “The guy with the black hair? That’s my cousin, Tommy.” Liam turned to look for him. Tommy stood amidst the others and waved, a boyish smile on his face. The blonde with the baseball tossed it high in the air, waving at Rosie before it came down. “And that’s my good friend Spencer. Of course you’re related to the Sullivans; you have the same color hair as Kate, and the same curls as Brigid!” Liam reached out and pulled at a ringlet that framed her face. “You have the prettiest and curliest red hair I’ve ever seen.” He leaned in closer and Rosie could again smell the freshness of his skin. Suddenly, a strong hand gripped her shoulder and briskly turned her around.
“Rosie! What did I tell you about the stupid newsboys? Don’t talk to them!” Alphonso gave Liam a dirty look, and grabbed Rosie’s tiny wrist. He then pulled her up off the chair, which clattered noisily to the floor.
“Why are you so angry, Alphonso?” Rosie was upset that he had called the newsboys stupid. “I am talking to a friend.” Alphonso’s grip was starting to hurt her, and he prevented her from turning back to look at Liam.
“Keep that trap shut, Alphonso,” Liam snapped. “Maybe the lady just needed a conversation with an intelligent person, after listening to your jabbering all morning.”
“Come on Rosie, we’re on break now,” said Alphonso, that threatening tone in his voice again. “I’ll teach you a harsh lesson later, dumb newsboy!” He then pulled her away from the window and hastily led her out of the office. Rosie managed to turn her head to mouth a silent “I’m sorry” to Liam. With a worried look on his face, he stood immobile, contained behind the office window.
“What is the matter with you, Alphonso?” The two now stood on the street and Rosie pulled her wrist free from his grasp. “I’ve only been in New York City for one day, and I’m meeting people! Can’t I make a new friend? Or do I have to ask your permission first?” Rosie was sarcastic, but starting to get very angry with him. Alphonso snatched her elbow and jerked her away from the distribution center. Verne and Ned appeared behind them, and the group began walking in a fast pace set by Alphonso.
“Liam Cooper is a low-life who sells newspapers,” said Alphonso with contempt. “And we don’t get along with people like that.” He then gave Rosie a stern look, “So if you’re going to be my girl, you don’t get to talk to them. Understand?”
“What?” Rosie was flabbergasted. “Of course I don’t understand! Whoever said anything about being your girl?” Rosie laughed openly at his absurdity, rubbing her reddened wrist. Rosie had never been called anybody’s girl before, and the first boy to do so would certainly not be Alphonso!
“Well, I didn’t mention it before, but I know that you’re mine, and that’s just how it’s going to be.” Alphonso laughed in the back of his throat. Verne began giggling uncontrollably.
Rosie raised her eyebrows in a bemused expression. “I am sorry you got the impression I was your girl. I assumed that we were merely friends.”
“No, you’re my girl and there’s no doubt about it. Right, boys?” asked Alphonso, turning to his friends behind him.
Verne smiled and spat on the sidewalk. “Yeah, she’s all yours.” Ned nodded in agreement.
“I do not want to be your girl. In fact, I don’t even want to be acquaintances with you three bullies. After what you did to Johnnie, I think you are the most childish and ignorant boys I’ve ever met. I regret even giving you a second chance to prove yourselves gentlemen.” Rosie was so irritated by Alphonso and his friends. She felt her face flushing with passionate anger.
“I saw you first, so you’re mine. That’s how things work in the city.” Alphonso grabbed her waist and pressed his weight into her, about to steal a kiss.
“Get your hands off of me!” said Rosie sharply, slapping Alphonso across the face. She had never slapped someone before. But then again, she had never been in a position to need to. She pushed him away and turned on her heels, heading back to the gates of the distribution center.
“Rosie! That was a stupid thing to do!” Alphonso’s arm shot out and grabbed her elbow. Rosie struggled as Alphonso pulled her closer and growled, “No girl of mine hits me and gets away with it!”
“I’m not your girl, Alphonso! Now leave me alone!” Rosie struggled to remove his arms now wrapped tightly around her. His fingers dug into her skin and his hands were too strong for her to remove them.
“You think that you’re Liam’s girl now?” Alphonso asked with a mean laugh. “He’s just a crummy newsboy!” Ned and Verne laughed uproariously.
“I’m not anybody’s girl!” Rosie declared, struggling against his grasp.
“Good. So you’re available to be mine.” Alphonso then shoved her against a wall of a grocer’s store and raised his hand. He was seconds away from striking her in the face!
“Stop it, Alphonso!” she yelled as loudly as she could. As he advanced, she ducked under his arms and ran quickly down a brick alleyway. For all the stalls she thought were usually busy at this time of day, she saw no one who could help her. She knew her best chance was to keep running, hoping she could lose them without getting lost herself.
She ran past the back doors of tenements and shops, all the while hearing the boys’ boots hitting the stones as they ran behind her. Quickly she grabbed a wooden crate from the side of the alley and flung it back at Alphonso. He ducked and the crate smacked Verne in his face. Verne groaned and grabbed his nose in pain. Rosie threw another crate behind her, tripping Alphonso. She kept running but looked back to see Ned helping Alphonso to his feet. She got to the end of the alley to find it was a dead end! Her only escape was a drainpipe that might help her over a twelve-foot wall. Without hesitating, she grabbed onto the metal pole and began pulling herself up.
“Not so fast there, Rosie.” Alphonso grabbed at her boots, trying to pull her down as she clung to the drainpipe. She kicked at him until her right heel connected with his jaw. He shouted out an expletive and dropped his hold to clutch his chin. In the brief moment she had, she hurried farther up the drainpipe. “Stupid girl!” Alphonso moved a garbage can next to the pipe. Climbing atop it, he managed to take hold of Rosie’s boot. The small strength of her hands gripping the slick pipe was no match for his strength.
Easily, Alphonso pulled her back down to the street and slapped her across the face. His slap stung her cheeks, but the tight grip on her arm hurt even more. Rosie started to scream, in hopes that someone would hear her. Alphonso smiled an evil smile and gripped her jaw, bringing her face close to his for a kiss. She tried to claw at his face, but he managed to wrestle her arms behind her back. Just before his lips met hers, Alphonso was startled by a loud crash behind him. Distracted, he released his tight hold. Ned and another figure were both scrambling up from the ground; it was Liam!
“What did I tell you, Rosie? Stupid newsboys are nothing but trouble!” Alphonso flung Rosie aside, and she luckily caught herself before falling to the ground. Liam landed a punch on Ned’s jaw, but Verne, blood streaming from a broken nose, kicked Liam from behind. As Liam fell forward, Ned grabbed hold of his arms, pinning them back forcibly. Alphonso rolled up his sleeves, ready to hit his unshielded opponent square in the face.
“Get out of here, Rosie! I can take care of this situation!” Liam shouted, his brow furrowed and tense. As helpless as he was with both hands behind his back, his determined expression suggested he was a tenacious warrior.
Rosie was frightened and wanted to run, but she couldn’t leave Liam to deal with the three alone. His bravery inspired Rosie to quickly grab the metal lid off the garbage can. Without hesitation, she slammed the heavy lid into the back of Alphonso’s head, making a resounding crash. Alphonso spun to the ground, groaning in agony. As Ned and Verne hesitated over what to do next, Liam twisted free and elbowed Ned in the ribs, pushing him backwards over some empty apple crates. Liam picked up Verne by the collar, effortlessly throwing him on top of Ned. Liam quickly grabbed Rosie’s trembling hand, and the two ran fast from the alley.
“This fight isn’t over!” Alphonso yelled after them. The fury in his voice sent shivers up her spine.
Liam gripped her hand tighter as they turned a street corner, passing multicolored stalls and storefronts. By the time they got to another alley, Rosie’s vision was blurred by frightened tears. Liam ushered her inside an iron gate and locked it behind them. He then gently guided her to a crate where she could rest. Sitting down, Rosie pulled a lace handkerchief from her sleeve to wipe at her face and took deep breaths to calm her nerves. Gathering her wits, she observed her current surroundings; a tiny courtyard adjacent to a brick building. On one side of the courtyard was a little garden of vegetables, marked with cardboard markers, and on the other side, wild flowers were in bloom.
“Are you hurt, Rosie?” asked Liam. He crouched down in front of her, staring at her with worry in his eyes.
“Thank you… so much,” was all Rosie could say. She was absolutely embarrassed by the situation she had gotten herself into. Trying to avoid his gaze, she tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear, and turned her face away from him.
“I wish I could have found you sooner after Alphonso took off with you,” Liam said angrily.
“I am so grateful you appeared at exactly that moment. If you hadn’t come, I don’t know what would have happened to me!” Strengthened by her honesty, Rosie resolved herself to look him straight in the eye. She knew that all the emotions she was feeling, shame and fear being the prominent ones, he could sense and feel. But he wasn’t judging her for the situation she was in; Liam showed genuine care for her well-being. For a few seconds, neither one of them moved or looked away from each other. Eventually, Liam stood and strode back and forth in the little courtyard, his shoulders tense with fury. “Thank you, Liam,” she said and reached out to grab his hand. He stopped pacing and she saw him relax a little.
Liam scuffed his foot on the stones, “You’re welcome, Rosie. Alphonso didn’t hurt you, did he?” She shook her head in response. Kneeling down again, Liam intently studied her face, looking for bruises or cuts. When he wiped a stray tear from her cheek and touched her with his hand, she felt a strange sensation, as if hundreds of butterflies were flittering about in her stomach. Liam stood and began to pace again, but more slowly this time.
After a few moments, she felt more composed. Even if she wasn’t feeling particularly brave, or smart for that matter, she would pretend to be. “Where are we?” she asked, looking around the small courtyard.
Liam looked proudly at the tiny piece of land. “This is Gustaf’s property. He’s my landlord, and this is his private garden, the ‘Little Central Park,’ as we like to call it.”
“It reminds me of my home in Chicago. We used to have a garden like this,” Rosie mentioned wistfully. She recalled planting flowers each spring, and tending to the wild roses, her favorite flowers.
Liam cocked his head in interest. “You’re from Chicago?” It felt a little odd to be exchanging small talk after the terrible experience she just had, but it also felt calming and natural to converse with Liam about something so normal.
“Yes, I lived there all my life until just recently.” Rosie sounded sad, something she couldn’t seem to help whenever she thought of her parents.
“Why did you come to New York City? Unless it’s something you’d rather not talk about?” He seemed to notice the change in her demeanor. Liam pulled up a crate next to Rosie’s and sat beside her.
“We… ” she started, wringing her handkerchief.
“You don’t have to tell me anything, if you don’t want to.” Liam looked searchingly into her eyes. He was so kind, and thoughtful, and Rosie followed an instinct that compelled her to trust him.
She took a deep breath and explained the situation with a heavy tone in her voice. “My parents,” she paused, “they’re gone.” The emotions Rosie had been bottling up since she left home now hit her like a ton of bricks. She didn’t want to burden Liam with her problems, yet apart from her aunts, she really had no one to talk to.
“I’m sorry,” Liam said quietly, softness and tenderness in his voice.
“A few months ago, I got sick with pneumonia. I must have caught it from someone at school. Then my father came down with it, and my mother after that. Her illness was the worst, and it was horrible seeing her grow thinner every day… ” Rosie remembered the difficulty of those weeks and she paused despondently. She rubbed her eyes, hoping her tears would stop flowing. “I got better, but a few weeks later, they passed away. Their last wish was to make sure I was taken care of by family.” For a few moments, they both were quiet. She appreciated him listening to her and letting her take her time in saying what she needed to say. “I made the decision to move here and live with my aunts, Kate and Brigid. ” She finished her story with a relieving exhale.
Liam looked at her intently, obviously thinking about what she had just said and how he could respond to her. “I’m so sorry, Rosie. You’ve had a very difficult few months and I can only imagine what you are experiencing right now.” Liam’s eyes shone with empathy and understanding for what she was going through.
“I guess I’m still getting used to the fact they’re no longer with me. I love them so much, and there are so many great memories.” Suddenly, Rosie’s sadness turned to anger. “Now I’m alone in a new city, and I’m already trusting the wrong people. I’m just a stupid girl in a scary town!” Out of frustration, she hid her face in her hands.
Liam put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “No, you’re not stupid, but yes, it can be a scary town. I promise I will look out for you, and that you can trust me, Rosie.” Liam paused for a moment. “‘You take care to make promises come true because you only make promises for those you truly care about.’ My father taught me that when I was just a boy. I know I can keep this promise.” Rosie raised her head and met his gaze. He was completely sincere. Again, Rosie felt butterflies in her stomach.
“Thank you, Liam. That’s very nice of you.” Rosie was amazed to meet an individual that was as true as his word. He smiled a charming smile, and she noticed how his dark eyebrows framed his eyes in a strong and grounded way.
“I may not be good at saying the right thing at the right time, but if you ever need someone to talk to, I’ll talk with you.” Liam placed a hand on hers and gave it a squeeze.
She laughed halfheartedly, weary from the day’s events. “You seem to be saying the right things now, Liam. I feel better already.” What she said was true; she wasn’t nervous, embarrassed, or frightened in the least. Rosie had an irresistible urge to hug him, and so following her impulse, she reached her arms around his neck. Liam, somewhat shocked, held her tightly as she breathed deeply into his shirt. He smelled like soap and the outdoors, a smell she would never forget. It was a smell that comforted her, just like she was comforted by his words. Realizing she was being quite forward, Rosie pulled away from him quickly. Liam cleared his throat, but didn’t move away from her.
Rosie now noticed the wonderful smell of Gustaf’s “Little Central Park.” There were roses, wild flowers, and herbs. “What a very beautiful garden!” she exclaimed, changing the subject and hoping a blush wasn’t showing on her cheeks. “It really does remind me of my garden back home. My pride and joy were the wild roses I took care of.”
“Are you one?” Liam asked, his face unassuming. If he was embarrassed by her hug, he wasn’t showing it.
“Am I what?”
“Well, your first name is a derivative of ‘Rose’ and the last name is definitely an Irish surname. Plus, you’ve got those fiery red-orange curls and a multitude of freckles on your face. I’d say that makes you a ‘Wild Irish Rose,’ just like the song.”
Rosie’s mouth dropped in complete shock. “Liam, ‘Wild Irish Rose’ is my favorite song! My mother and father first taught it to me when I was a little girl, and I’ve loved it ever since. In fact, they named me Rosaleen because they enjoyed the song so much!”
“How serendipitous!” Liam grinned like a happy little boy. “Maybe I’m part gypsy; I can read your past and tell the future!” With a silly face, he took a rock from the garden and pretended it was his crystal ball. Rosie laughed, which made her feel even better than before. In an even sillier voice he said, “And I predict seeing much more of you in the time to come!”
Rosie decided, then and there, to see his prediction come true. “Remember when I asked you to come see The Sullivan Sisters? Well, how about tonight? I’m sure I could save a table for you and a few guests.” The invitation, she felt, was the least she could do in repaying him. She stood up and smoothed out the wrinkles from her dress.
“That would be wonderful, Rosie!” said Liam, springing to his feet. “I know that Tommy and Spencer would really like to come, too.”
She re-pinned her falling hat to her curls. “It’s decided, then. Come find me around seven o’clock at the theater.” Thinking of Grand Theater made her suddenly think of her aunts and how little they knew about her morning. “Oh, Liam, I’ve been gone too long, and I better get home to my aunts. I’m sure Brigid has had to stop Kate from calling on every police station in town!”
“I’ll walk you back,” said Liam, offering her his arm. “Maybe along the way we can find my papers I tossed aside for a very good reason.” He smiled a warm smile that made Rosie feel at home even in this strange new city. Together they left the garden, and found his papers in front of the alley where he’d thrown them down in haste. Being next to him made Rosie feel very safe, and she soon forgot about her recent ordeal with Alphonso.
Walking beside him made Rosie realize how tall he actually was; the top of her head only reached to the top of his shoulders. Because they were so close, she had to tip her head almost all the way back in order to see him. Oftentimes, the bright sun would temporarily blind her vision, and Liam used his hand to provide a shadow on her face, which was a very considerate gesture.
When they reached the theater, Rosie pulled a penny from her purse. “Excuse me, newsboy? May I have a paper please?” she asked, playing with him as if they were meeting for the first time.
“Certainly, miss.” Liam removed his cap, bowed graciously, and took her money in exchange for his first newspaper of the day. Then he took her free hand and put her coin back into her palm, a smile on his face. “Before you go, is ‘Wild Irish Rose’ really your favorite song?”
Rosie nodded enthusiastically, thinking of all the wonderful memories she had of singing with her parents. “Yes, indeed!”
Liam paused for a moment, a thought coming to his mind. “I haven’t heard it in a long time, but I seem to recall some lyrics about a sweet girl. Now that I think of it, the song does remind me of you, and I think the name Wild Irish Rose suits you well.” A happy grin spread across his face. “Actually, I think Wild Irish Rosie may fit you even better.”
“I think that is a lovely nickname, Liam, and I like it very much.” Rosie was feeling positively radiant from Liam’s compliment. “Goodbye until later, Liam, and thank you for everything.” Her tone was serious and she smiled in true gratitude. As Rosie turned to open the theater door, Liam caught her trailing hand and kissed it lightly. Giving her another handsome smile, he released her hand, and strode away from the theater door. Rosie could hear him whistling the melody to “Wild Irish Rose” all the way down the alley, and she could swear he had a skip in his step that he didn’t have a few minutes ago.
Rosie’s heart beat rapidly and it now felt as though a million butterflies were happily fluttering in her chest! She hurried into the theater and shut the door behind her, leaning back against it with a sigh. What was coming over her? Why was she suddenly getting butterflies when Liam looked at her? She sighed happily and then retired to the Sullivan quarters.
Entering the main room, Kate swept her into an embrace, squeezing her tightly. “Dearest niece!” she said earnestly, “I should never have let you go out by yourself yesterday! I read in your note that you met Alphonso and his friends!”
Rosie, whose face was pressed against Kate’s sharp shoulder, managed to speak some muffled words. “Oh yes, Kate, what a horrible mistake I made befriending those three villains!”
Kate released her firm grip and held Rosie’s hand. “I wish I had known. I’d have stopped you from seeing them again. Those hoodlums are known city-wide for their thievery, tomfoolery, and overall uncouth behavior.”
“Don’t worry,” Rosie reassured her aunt. “I won’t be seeing them ever again.”
“They didn’t steal from you, did they? Or say rude and ungentlemanly things? Did they hurt you?” Kate was getting riled up, her cheeks now as red as her hair.
Rosie patted her aunt’s hand and walked her to the plush velvet loveseat so they could talk. “Now, I don’t mean to frighten you,” Rosie began, “but yes, I almost did get into trouble with them.”
Kate stood up sharply. “That’s all I need to hear, Rosie. If Brigid wasn’t so sick I’d send her to tar and feather them, but I guess the police will have to do.”
Rosie pulled her aunt back to the sofa. “Please, Kate, it isn’t necessary. Although I would enjoy seeing Brigid ‘tar and feather’ them, I haven’t been hurt. All thanks to another friend that I made today.”
“Another friend?” Kate asked skeptically.
“Yes, and I know this is one I can trust. He is brave and very protective. Alphonso and his friends won’t dare approach me again.” Rosie smiled at the thought of Liam’s courage and sweet nature. He was a true knight that had rescued the princess from dastardly scoundrels! “His name is Liam-”
“Liam Cooper? He’s a perfect angel, Rosie! That young man is very respectable.”
Rosie was excited her aunt looked so pleased. “You know him, Kate?”
“Of course I know him! He and his friends are frequent audience members here at Grand Theater. Both Brigid and I can attest that Liam, Spencer, and Tommy are all upstanding boys. Why, they’ve done us all kinds of favors; picked up our groceries, run letters to the post office, and taken our orders to the dressmaker. And Liam is a very attractive young man. Don’t you agree, niece?” Kate playfully shoved her shoulder against Rosie’s.
Rosie blushed deeply. “Yes, Kate, he most certainly is!” They both giggled like schoolgirls.
After a moment, Kate sighed and said, “Well, I trust Liam completely, and I’ll be glad if he becomes a companion of yours. I know he will keep a careful eye on you. Now that everything is righted, I think I’m ready to go back to bed. All my worrying this morning has nearly made me sick!”
“Speaking of sick,” Rosie said, heading to her room, “How is Brigid?”
“She’s still sleeping. I think it’s best not to wake her just yet. Hopefully she’ll be better when she gets up.” Kate put a finger to her lips to indicate they should be silent as they went to their respective rooms. With a wave to her aunt, Rosie tiptoed back to her room and shut her door quietly.
Rosie collapsed onto her bed, her mind reeling from the morning’s events. Although meeting Alphonso and his friends was a terrible thing, she would never have been acquainted with Liam if she hadn’t. And knowing that a friendship with Liam met her aunts’ approval meant a great deal to Rosie. With a smile on her face, she soon drifted off to sleep.
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