More Fights and First Kisses
The next week went by fast. Things had started to fall into a sort of routine. Maggie and I would play at Medda's most of the day before picking the kids up from school and watching them the rest of the afternoon. I helped put them to bed, usually singing a lullaby or two. Racetrack came over almost every night that week and we would just sit and talk after the youngsters were in bed. Maggie would join us for a few minutes but made a point of leaving us alone most of the time. Neither of us was bothered by it, so we never complained. Mostly he would try and teach me English, but after our little lessons we would sit and argue about one thing or another. We argued about small things most times, and we would end up laughing about how silly we sounded. I enjoyed those times very much, although I never told anyone just how much. I didn't want them getting the idea that I had feelings for Race that were anything but friendly.
Spot visited me once or twice that week, and we finally set a day to go see the flickers. We had agreed on a Friday night about a week after we had met. When Spot arrived that night, I was still getting ready. I had decided to wear a dress that had belonged to Mama. She had worn it on her first outing with Papa and she had given it to me when I turned 14. Maggie insisted on doing something special with my hair, and it looked beautiful. Maggie had put curls in my hair and pinned them up, leaving part of it down in waves. Ariana was helping me to put a red flower in my hair, wanting me to look pretty for Spot. Caelyn was brushing Maggie's hair and trying to put a bow in it. Maggie had somehow gotten Castel to ask her to see a flicker as well. Castel had heard about my date with Spot from Maggie and decided I shouldn't be alone with Spot.
"How do I look?" I asked Maggie. She set Ariana on the ground and turned to me, the skirt on her green dress swishing around her long legs.
"Hermoso, as always."
I smiled gratefully at her. Hearing the sound of male voices coming from the kitchen, I drew a deep breath and walked out to meet my date.
Allegra walked into the kitchen, looking prettier than she usually did. I had always thought she was pretty, ever since I had met her. But seeing her dressed up took my breath away and I had to remind myself to breathe in. She smiled at me, waving a greeting. I waved back, feeling a silly grin spread across my face. Maggie followed her out, grinning cheekily at the pair of us. She leaned in and whispered something to Allegra, who blushed and swatted her friend. I saw a flash of a smile though, and wondered what she had been told.
After Maggie left Tajo with a few instructions, we left. Rooster joined us just as we left the building. Maggie gave us instructions to play a game where we had to name things in our own language and see how many words we could learn before grabbing Rooster's arm and walking ahead. I could here the two of them running their mouths and chuckled to myself. Allegra seemed content to just watch the two of them for a while. I held her hand, thinking how lucky I was to have met her.
I honestly couldn't tell you what the flicker we saw was about. I spent more time watching Ally's face as she watched it. I could tell you it was funny though, because she spent most of the time laughing and making whispered comments to Maggie and Rooster, who were sitting on her other side. Rooster wanted to stop and get a drink after, so he and Maggie went to Tibby's while I walked Allegra home. We played the game Maggie had suggested, which turned out to be a lot of fun. I was able to learn a lot of new words, but I couldn't help noticing how much Allegra struggled to learn even one. It made me wonder if something was wrong, but I had no way of asking. I put it out of my mind as we walked up the flight of stairs to where Maggie lived. The sitting room was empty when we arrived and it was quiet. I wondered where Tajo was, knowing he had come by after selling papes to watch his siblings. Allegra looked up at me and again I realized just how beautiful she was.
She tipped her head to one side, as if to ask me if I really thought she was pretty. She stood on her tiptoes and put her arms around me in a hug. I hugged her back, feeling happy about our date. When she pulled back, I couldn't resist giving her a kiss. Allegra responded at first, but when the kiss started getting more intense she quickly pulled away, pushing me away. I was confused. She hadn't seemed to mind being kissed at first, so I wondered what would make her pull away. Putting my arm on her shoulder, I tried to look at her face, wanting to see if she was upset. I was surprised when she looked up and let me kiss her again. This time I made sure it was gentle and was happy when she didn't pull away. We stayed like that until a low growl made us pull apart.
I spent my day at the track like I normally did. But that day I made a point to stay later than usual so I wouldn't have to see Ally with Spot. I still wasn't sure what to make of my feelings about Ally. I was happy she liked Spot, but jealous all the same and sometimes when I looked at her I had the strangest desire to kiss her as Spot had done. I told this to one of the jockeys at the races as we waited for the next race to start, hoping for some advice.
"Ah, young love," he said with a laugh, leaning on the railing with a far-away look in his eyes. "What does your heart tell you to do kid?"
"I dunno," I told him. "Dat's why I'm askin youse."
"Want my advice kid?" He put a hand on my shoulder, looking straight into my eyes with a serious expression on his face. "Tell her what you're feelin and see if she feels the same way. If she does, ask her to be your girl. But don't waste time hiding how you feel. Life ain't long enough for that."
I nodded, deciding tonight I would talk with Ally and tell her exactly how she made me feel.
I headed back to Manhattan that night after the races. I went straight Maggie's apartment to see if the girls were back yet. When I walked in, Tajo was alone in the kitchen, reading a book.
"Heya Race," he whispered, looking up at my soft knock on the wall. "Dey're not back yet. Want ta wait?"
I moved into the kitchen and sat in the chair across from Tajo. "Watchja readin?"
We lapsed into silence after that. I was glad for the silence, planning what to say to Ally in my head. I was so lost in thought I didn't notice how much time had past until Tajo thumped my head with his book.
"Wat's on yer mind?"
I lifted my shoulders, not sure I wanted to tell him. He lifted his eyebrow in response, motioning with his head to the fire escape. I followed him out, deciding it couldn't hurt to see what he said.
"Dere's dis goirl," I started, leaning against the rail.
"Allegra. Or Ally, as youse call her." Tajo didn't look surprised, which surprised me.
"It's written all over your face when youse look at her. Don't give me a load of bull poo and say it ain't her." He pointed a finger in my face. "Now wat about her? Do youse need help tellin her?"
I thought about denying it but decided against it, seeing as how Tajo had already picked up on that much. "Ise don't know how Ise feel 'bout her. She's da most stubborn goirl Ise eva met, but sometimes it makes me want ta kiss her."
"Don't dat say enough bout how ya feel?"
"But…but…" I struggled for words to say, anything to deny that I liked her. "Ise don't want ta ruin da friendship we got. We just met and Ise think she's da most interesting goirl Ise know and…and da prettiest…and she got da best smile…" I trailed off, thinking of her face and all of the other things I liked about her. Tajo just smiled, not saying anything else. I stayed out there after Tajo went to check on the kids, letting my mind wander. After a while, it started to get cold and I went inside. Checking my pocketwatch on the way in, I realized how late it was and decided to leave. On the way to the door, I saw Spot kissing Allegra and couldn't stop the growl that left my throat. They pulled apart quickly, Spot saying a hurried good-bye as he showed himself out the door. Ally put her hands on her hips and glared at me.
"What is your problem?" she hissed at me in Spanish.
"You kissing him," I blurted without thinking.
"Why is that a problem?"
"It bothers me!"
She looked confused. "Why would it bother you?"
"Because it just does!" All my carefully planned thoughts flew out of my head. I couldn't remember the words I wanted to tell her and I struggled to come up with something that would help me explain things to her. "It bothers me because…because it just does! There's no reason!"
"There has to be a reason! You can't just tell me it bothers you just because it does!"
Her voice grew louder and I raised mine to match hers. "Do you always need a reason for everything?"
"Do you always need to avoid answering questions?"
"Do you always have to win arguments?"
"Do you always have to start them?"
"Do you always have to frustrate me?"
"Do you always have to be so infuriating?"
"So this is my fault?"
"Are you blaming me for this?"
"Yes I am! You just go skipping around kissing boys and not thinking about how others feel!"
"OH!" She threw her hands up and glared at me. "OH! It's my fault for kissing boys that like me instead of waiting for bums like you to figure out how they feel and tell me?"
"That's what? The truth?"
"That's the farthest thing from the truth!"
"Well then if you care so much about my kissing Spot, why don't you kiss me already? Or are you waiting for something?"
"Wha…why…but…You're so frustrating!"
"You said that already!"
We stood there glaring at each other, hands on our hips. I noticed her shoulders shaking in anger and realized I had made her that mad. I suddenly felt bad, because I had waited for her to come and tell her how important she was to me and here we were fighting. I didn't want to give in first though, because I didn't want to lose another fight to her. Just as that thought entered my brain, the advice from the jockey entered. "Don't waste time hiding how you feel. Life ain't long enough for that."
"Well if you have nothing else to say." Ally's voice broke into my thoughts "Here you are and there's the door. Feel free to walk through it any time." She tried to brush past me but I grabbed her shoulders.
"Wait, Ally. Please don't be mad. I'm not very good at this. I had everything planned out but when I saw you with him, it flew out of my brain."
"What did?" She still looked angry, but she hadn't pulled away yet. I took that as a good sign and moved closer to her.
"I want to tell you how I feel, but the words never seem to be there. I don't even know what the feelings are exactly." I bumbled along for another minute before deciding to just shut up. The feeling of wanting to kiss her welled up again as I studied her face and this time, I didn't resist it. She melted into my arms right away, fitting in them perfectly. My heart soared as I pulled her closer. We pulled apart at the sound of the door opening, looking around wildly. Maggie and Rooster walked in, holding hands and laughing.
"What happened here?" Maggie asked, looking between the two of us and sounding amused.
I muttered something and quickly brushed past them. That night I dreamed of kissing Ally and the feeling of holding her in my arms.