A Flute Player's Story


"Wat do youse mean she has measles?" I yelled at Race.

"Wat do youse mean wat do Ise mean? I mean Ally's got da measles!" he yelled back. "Wat else is dere to explain?"

I turned to the nearest wall and hit it. Pain exploded through my hand and I hissed, cradling it in my other hand. "Is she all right?"

Race lifted his shoulders. "Ise don't rightly know. Rooster sent woird though da Queens newsies. All's he really said was dat Ally's got da measles but she's alive."

I looked around for something else to hit. I settled for kicking the nearest bunk. It made my foot hurt instead of helping and I sat down, putting my head in my hands with a groan. "How are youse so calm 'bout dis?"

He lifted an eyebrow and raised his right hand, which was wrapped in a white cloth. "Ise ain't calm. Ise just hoird it before youse did."

"Wat did youse hit?"

"A brick wall. Ise think it won." Race and I looked at each other and burst out laughing.

"Wat's so funny?" Tajo asked as he and Maggie entered the lodging house.

"Ise tried ta fight a brick wall," Race said with a grin. He turned serious, looking at the brother and sister. "Ally's got da measles."

Maggie looked upset. "Oh no! Is she all right?"

"Rooster didn't rightly say," I responded. "Race said he only sent woird through da Queens newsies dat it was measles but dat Ally was alive."

"Ise want ta see her," Race said suddenly. "Ise want ta see for myself dat she's okay."

"I'll go with you," Maggie said right away. "Ariana and Caelyn will want to see her. I know the twins miss her too. Where does she live?"

"She lives…lives in…near…" Race paused, clearly stumped. "Ise don't know. We's neva talked 'bout it before."

"Ise know a way ta find out," I said. Walking over to the door and sticking my head out, I gave a special whistle. Robin and Killian both came running up the stairs. I was slightly surprised at how fast they had become good friends. "Goirls, Ise need your help. Allegra is sick and we's need ta know where she lives. Can youse help wit dat?"

"Oh, she lives in Queens," Killian said quickly. "Her papa is a medical doctor who uses herbs to heal people and her mama stays at home to keep house. My papa sometimes goes to their house to buy herbs when he doesn't feel well."

Everyone stared at Killian. I was the first to recover. "Thank youse Killian!" Without thinking, I leaned in and gave her cheek a kiss before running out the door.

"Watta ya mean we's can't see her?" I yelled as the door was slammed in our faces. Killian had gotten the address from her father and we had gone over to see her. Spot and I had knocked on the door only to have Allegra's father tell us to leave. I pounded on the door demanding to see her until someone pulled me away.

"Race, there's no point." The soft voices of Killian and Maggie finally reached my ears and I allowed myself to be dragged away.

"Dat man…dat man is meaner den Snyder." I pointed in the direction we had just left, my chest heaving. "He don't know…he…Ise love her…" I kept muttering words under my breath. Spot, Tajo, Robin, and Killian had started walking ahead, leaving Maggie and I walking alone. Maggie didn't say anything until I had run out of words to say.

"What are you going to do?"

"Ise don't know."

"Racetrack!" I turned to see Rooster running after me. He ran up to Maggie and gave her a hug, kissing her on the mouth as he did. I averted my eyes and cleared my throat. They pulled apart, each blushing a bright shade of red. He thrust a letter in my hands. "Here. Read this. My papa doesn't want you coming by, but if you read that…"

"What is it?"

"A letter."

"I can see that. I mean what's in it?"

"Read it." I started to open the letter. "Not here. Not now. Read it back at the lodging house." With that, he kissed Maggie again and took off. Maggie looked at me and I shrugged. We walked silence the rest of the way back. I ripped open the letter as soon as I reached the lodging house. It was in Rooster's neat handwriting.

"Meet me tonight at midnight. Wait on our fire escape. I know a way you can visit mi hermana."

I felt a cool hand on my forehead and opened my eyes. It was so dark outside but the moon was shining and I could make out a shadow sitting on the fire escape. It leaned towards me and planted a kiss on my cheek. A voice whispered in my ear that he loved me. I reached up and grabbed the hand. My hand fit in it perfectly and in my head, I pretended it was Racetrack. Closing my eyes, I imagined his face. I knew it couldn't really be him, because I had heard Papa telling him to leave. I wasn't sure why. I hadn't heard anything said before that and right after I fell back asleep. Of course, lately my mind had been playing tricks on me. The last thing I remember was going ice fishing with Castel. Chepi was going to bring us dinner later and we were going to decide if we should write home or not.

"Ally, when you feel better I'm going to bring you to visit Medda. She'll want to know her favorite flute player is feeling better. And after that we'll go see Maggie and the girls. They've been asking me about you every day. You need to wake up so you can sing to them. I need you to wake up. I need you."

What was he talking about? Who was this person? I heard him whispering again. He was telling me good night and that he'd see me tomorrow. I felt a shiver of excitement run though me as I fell asleep again.

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