A Flute Player's Story

By Rachel Halpin

Romance

Plans and Sickness

I watched as Ally finally opened her eyes. "Bentornato," I said, smiling. "Mi sei mancato." She blinked a few times before faintly smiling back. We just stood there grinning, until Ariana and Caelyn started asking Ally all kinds of questions about where she had been. Ally tried to keep up, but everyone gathered around her bed could clearly see it was an effort to even stay awake much longer. Maggie finally took the girls home, promising they could return in the morning to see Ally. When she fell back asleep, I turned to Rooster and asked him what happened.

"We went to our mama's people," he told me. "We stayed there until about February or so."

"Why did you come back?"

"We were found. I took Na-Na out ice fishing one day so we could talk but some men were there and started chasing us. We were running across the ice when Allegra slipped on it and hurt her foot. She told Chepi-our cousin-and I to keep running and she would catch up."

"How did she get hurt so bad?"

"She climbed a tree to wait for those men to leave, but the branch broke and she fell. Chepi and I found her a week later and we ran."

"All the way back to New York?"

"No. They found us hiding in a cave. We stopped to make camp and tend to Allegra, but…" Rooster trailed off and I finished the story myself.

"But they caught up and brought you back?"

"Si. Her arm…her arm is…"

"How bad is it?"

"Her leg will be okay in time, but her arm is very bad. I don't know if it will heal. She was so sick. I didn't know if she would wake up each morning and when she did…"

"She almost died?" I yelled in alarm. "She almost died and you didn't tell me? She…I…that…she…" I stopped, not really sure what I meant to say. I finally settled with "How could you not tell me she almost died?"

"What could you have done about it?" Rooster challenged me. "We were far from home with two bad men. We had one chance to send a letter and I didn't think there was any sense in telling you something that may not have ever happened."

I saw the sense in what Rooster said, but it didn't make me less angry. I paced the room until Ally murmured in her sleep. I walked over and put a hand on her cool forehead. Bending over, I gave it a gentle kiss. "Ise love youse," I whispered in English. "Ise love youse and Ise promise not to leave youse."


The rescue had gone well and we brought Allegra to the Manhattan Lodging House afterwards. I stayed for a while, but left before Ally woke up. As much as I wanted to see her, I figured there would be enough people that wanted to see her more than I did. Walking back to Brooklyn with Tajo, I thought about Ally. Tajo seemed content with the silence and left me alone with my thoughts for most of the journey. Just before we got back though, he stopped me.

"So…" He left the sentence unfinished.

"So what?" I asked. I had no idea what he was trying to imply.

"So Ally's back. Wat are youse gonna do 'bout it?"

"Wat do youse mean? I ain't gonna do anythin 'bout it."

He stared at me. "Youse mean youse ain't got a plan ta get Allegra ta be your goirl?"

"Ise neva really thought 'bout it." I was surprised at his words. I hadn't really thought about what I would do if Allegra came back. I had assumed that once she came back things would just go back to the way they had been before she left. "Ise guess Ise just thought she'd be Race's goirl. 'Sides, Robin and Ise got things woirked out now. Ise don't want ta ruin dat just yet."

"Just remember Allegra's hoirt real bad right now."

"Wat's dat got ta do wit anything?"

"Ise don't know," Tajo admitted. "But she's hoirt. She may not remember much 'bout dis time, so be careful 'bout wat youse do."


Ally spent most of the next week sleeping. She had been placed on my bunk when we had stormed into the LH that night, but Rooster had insisted that she have her own room to sleep, not wanting her to be disturbed by our noise in the morning. Kloppman had helped him set up a hospital room of sorts in the sitting room for her, and we moved her down there. When I wasn't selling papes at the races, I was by Ally's side, doing whatever Rooster told me to do. He stayed by her side so much I sometimes wondered if he ever left. Thankfully, Maggie managed to drag him out every so often and when he did, I took over his place and followed his instructions. A week after they had returned though, Ally took a turn for the worse. Rooster and I were sitting by the couch Ally rested on, just talking. He was telling me about his aunt and cousin they stayed with-his cousin Chepi and her mother-and I was tending to Ally.

"-as she enters, she tells me-"

"Rooster, come look at Ally," I interrupted. "I think she got worse."

"What do you mean?" He got up and took a closer look.

"She has a fever."

Rooster put a hand to her head. "She's burning up. This is bad. It could be serious."

"How serious?" Rooster glanced at me before looking back at his sister. He looked really worried.

"Possibly deadly. It might be measles. My mama's people had the measles spread through their tribe and it caused many to die. They had no way of fighting the disease off. If Allegra catches it…"

"What does that mean for her? If she catches it, she could die too?"

"I don't know. The only thing I know is that I need to bring her to Papa. He's the only one that can help her." He scooped Ally up in his arms and headed for the door.

"Wait! Isn't there anything else we can do for her?"

Rooster shook his head sadly. "She needs a real doctor."

I watched as Rooster hurried down the street, feeling helpless to do anything.

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