A Flute Player's Story

By Rachel Halpin

Romance

Reunions, Surprises, and Flute Playing

The day after bring Castel to Manhatten, I decided to see how the 'Hattan newsies were dealing with him. Tajo came along, wanting to visit his sister Maggie. We talked on the way there about different things, mostly trivial things such as the headlines or weather. Finally Tajo turned to me and asked, "Who is she?"

"Who is who?" I asked back, knowing who he meant but not wanting to share just yet.

"Da goirl. Youse was lookin for one yesterday."

"Ise told ya-"

"Youse told me a pile of bull poo. Ise know youse wasn't lookin for anybody's sista."

"Yes Ise was."

"Spot Conlon, don't youse lie ta me! I'm your second and Ise knows ya better den youse know yourself. Talk ta me before Ise pull it outta ya!"

I ran a hand through my hair, deciding how much I wanted to share. Tajo waited patiently for me to start talking. Opening my mouth, I told him the whole story of the girl I had saved from the Delanceys. He listened the whole time, looking at me intently.

"And now youse fancy yourself in love wit her?" he asked when I finally finished my tale.

"Wat? No! Ise just was wonderin how she was doin."

"Bull poo."

"Ise neva got a good look at her face."

"Who said youse needed ta see her face?"

I was stumped at that. I kept walking, hoping Tajo would drop it.

"Well?"

No such luck. "Alright already. Ise don't need ta see her face."

"So youse do fancy yourself in love wit her?" He looked at me again as we kept walking.

"No. She was a pretty goirl dat was alone-"

"If youse didn't get a good look at her face, how do youse know if she was pretty?"

I kicked myself for not thinking before I spoke. "She was under a streetlight. Ise could see her face briefly before she ran away."

"So da great Spot Conlon is finally in love. Ise thought it would neva happen." Tajo smirked at me as we walked into the Manhattan Lodging house to see several newsies on the floor and Castel sitting up on his bunk, a sheepish look on his face. He was saying something in Spanish over and over again until Racetrack picked himself off the floor and threw a pillow at him, muttering something in Italian. I assumed he had told Rooster to shut up, seeing as how he stopped talking and climbed out of bed. Seeing Tajo and I, he came over and started talking in Spanish to Tajo. Tajo groaned softly to himself but politely listened. I walked away and found Jack.

"Heya Spot," he said, rubbing a spot on his arm. "Ise see wat ya meant 'bout the wake-up. Ise don't think even Kloppman wakes up dis early."

I laughed and changed the subject. "So did he find his sista?"

"Racetrack told me dey tried yesterday, but found nothin. Ise think dey're goin back ta Medda's today. I hoird she plays flute real good."

Thanking Jack, I returned to Tajo and Rooster, hoping we could go to Medda's.


Rooster's early morning cry woke everybody up earlier than should be legal. I rolled out of bed and smacked my head on the floor. Lying there, I heard several other bodies thumping as they also fell out of bed and landed on the floor. From above me, I could hear the boy saying sorry over and over again.

"Lo siento. Lo siento. No quería! Lo siento!"

I picked myself off the floor and threw my pillow at him. "Zitto!" I muttered, not wanting to hear how sorry he was. After washing up and getting ready for the day, I decided to go with a group over to Medda's. Included in our group was Tajo, Spot, Rooster, several of the newsies, and myself. Rooster kept up a steady stream of chatter the whole time and after getting tired of listening to him, the rest of the group started laughing and joking with each other. I mostly walked in silence, thinking about the girl I had met yesterday. I turned her name over in my mind. Allegra. I quietly started humming the song she had played to myself. If anyone noticed, they didn't say anything. I kept humming till we arrived at Medda's, which was a mess of sounds.

"Tajo!" Tajo's sister Maggie ran up to the group and gave him a hug. She pulled a small girl over and introduced her. "I want you to meet my new friend Allegra. She's the newest flute player in the group and she's very good. She also has a wooden flute from her mother. Allegra's part Native American you know."

I tuned Maggie out, studying Allegra. Her hair was shorter than yesterday, as if she had cut it. I gave her a small wave and she smiled back, making a face. I laughed softly to myself. She had a lot of spirit. Giving me one last smile, she turned back to the group and gasped.

"Castel!" Allegra jumped at Rooster and hugged him so tight I was surprised he could still breathe. He hugged her back just as tightly, the pair both speaking rapidly to each other. It sounded like a mix of Spanish and some other language. Everyone was looking at them in surprise. Spot looked like someone had hit him over the head with something very hard.

"He…he…dat…youse…brudder?" I sputtered out in Italian.

Rooster turned to me. "This is my sister that I was talking about yesterday."

"B-b-but…youse…loud…her…quiet…related…" I continued to sputter incoherently, only hoping I made enough sense to be understood. The brother and sister seemed to understand what I was saying and nodded.

"It's hard to believe, isn't it?"Allegra looked happy, dancing around her brother and hugging him every few seconds. Twirling around, she nearly bumped into Spot and stopped short. He looked at her, studying her face and looking almost like he wanted to kiss her. Without understanding why, a flicker of jealousy made its way through my heart.


I was so happy to have finally found Castel. As soon as we had hugged, he pulled back and looked at my hair.

"Na-Na, you cut your hair!" he said.

I nodded. I had cut it short that morning. Mama would never let me cut my hair and Papa didn't care, so it had always been long. I hoped that cutting it would disguise me if Mama or Papa ever came looking. Castel nodded his head at my explanation.

"He…he…dat…youse…brudder?" I heard Racetrack sputtering in the background. Castel turned to him and started talking. I started dancing around and hugging Castel. Twirling, I came face to face with the boy that had come to my rescue a few nights ago. He had an odd expression on his face. I stopped and started at him, not sure what to say. We just looked at each other, until a Spanish boy standing next to him shoved the boy closer to me.

"This is Spot," the Spanish boy said. "Cuál es tu nombre?"

"Allegra."

"I'm Tajo."

I nodded, still staring at Spot. He was studying my face so intently, I felt nervous. He swallowed and reached for my face. Tajo backed away and turned to Maggie. I felt awkward being alone with Spot, so I shuffled my feet and played with the flute I held in my hand. He motioned to it, wondering if I would play it. I nodded and put it to my lips, playing the lullaby I had sung last night at Maggie's. The group fell silent, listening to me. I ignored everything, happy to finally be living my dream.

Lo siento.-I'm sorry.

No quería!-I didn't mean to!

Zitto!-Shut up! (That's Italian, not Spanish.)

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