I woke up early the next morning, before even Rooster was awake. I didn't bother trying to fall back asleep, knowing I would keep seeing Allegra and Spot kissing every time my eyes closed. I lay in bed a few minutes before quietly getting up and heading out for the day. It was too early to buy any papes, so I went to my favorite thinking spot in Central Park. Reaching a secluded part of the park that had a stand of trees growing in a cluster, I climbed one near the center and stopped about halfway up. I watched the sun come up through the branches before climbing back down and heading off to the distribution center. It was still early when I arrived, which meant the center was still empty. That was fine by me, as I could grab my papes and get out before any of my friends came. I walked to Sheepshead Bay, hoping to watch a few races as I sold my papes.
"Racetrack!" Spot's voice broke into my thoughts and stopped me in my tracks. I glared at him as he ran up. "Can Ise ask youse a question?"
"Wat?" I asked sharply, not in the mood to talk with him at the moment. If he noticed, he didn't say anything.
"Can youse help me wit Allegra? Ise think Ise upset her last night but Ise don't know wat Ise did wrong."
"No," I told him bluntly before pushing past and continuing on my way. I didn't bother turning around or answering Spot when he called for me to come back.
"Antonio Alessandro Higgins!" The use of my full name stopped me. Nobody called me that except my grandmother and some of the newsies when they were mad and wanted to make me mad. Spot was the only Brooklyn who knew my name and how mad it made me. It would have made me furious if I wasn't already mad at him for kissing Ally last night. Throwing my papers on the ground, I turned around and threw myself at Spot, hitting every part of him I could. He was so taken by surprise he didn't fight back at first. I took advantage of that, hitting as hard and as fast as I could. Someone's hands grabbed my arms and tried to pull me off. It was the sound of a female voice that finally allowed me to be pulled off of Spot. I stood up, still glaring at him. A soft, cold hand slipping into mine drew my attention away from Spot. Ally stood there, looking scared but worried at the same time. She held my papers in her other hand, offering them to me. Tajo and Maggie were helping Spot up, looking at us curiously. I wiped a trickle of blood off my cheek, wincing slightly.
"What happened?" Tajo asked.
"Ise don't know," Spot told him. "Ise just asked if he could help me. When he started walking away Ise called him back and he started soakin me."
"Bull poo!" I yelled.
"Dat's da truth and youse know it!" Spot yelled back."Is not!"
"Stop it, both of you!" Maggie yelled at both of us. We were both so shocked we shut up right away, sulking and avoiding her eyes. "What really happened?"
Spot said nothing, wiping away the blood coming out of his nose. Ally went over and started helping him clean up. I glared at them, not sure why I was so angry at the thought of them as a couple. Maggie looked at me for an answer. I squirmed because it almost felt like she was looking into my soul or something. I shrugged, hoping that would get me off. Ally turned her eyes on me, pleading with me to tell what happened.
"Ise don't know," I finally muttered. "He asked me ta help him wit Ally and…Ise just snapped. Den he called me Antonio and Ise lost it."
"Antonio?" I felt my mouth turn up slightly at the corner as Ally let out a little giggle.
"Mama's idea," I told her. She nodded, still looking amused.
"I still don't quite understand. Spot was asking you for help?" We both nodded. "But you said no and walked away?" We nodded again. "Is that when we came in?"
"Well, Ise did call him Alessandro ta make him mad," Spot admitted. "But Ise still don't know why he started soakin me."
"Ise saw youse last night." I challenged Spot with my eyes. He just looked confused. "Kissin." Understanding dawned in Spot's eyes.
"Ahh." Maggie looked like she had figured out a difficult riddle. "So you both like her."
Spot nodded his agreement, but I denied anything of the sort. I wasn't sure what feelings I had about Allegra, but it wasn't anything more than friendship. Maggie just nodded her head, not seeming to believe me.
"You'll figure it out in your own time, I suppose. No sense in makin ya admit it any sooner." She turned to Allegra and explained something to her in Spanish. Tajo drew Spot and I aside.
"Ise don't know wat got inta youse, but youse better solve da problem quick-like or Allegra ain't gonna stick around." Tajo glared at both of us as we nodded. He walked off, still watching us.I turned to Spot. "If youse wat Ally ta be your goirl, fine. Just don't do dat kissin stuff in front of me. Ise don't wat ta hear bout da two of youse neither. And if youse hoirt her…" I left Spot with that threat, hoping I wouldn't have to follow through with it.
Last night I had cried in my sleep. I had tried my hardest not to cry myself to sleep, but Maggie had asked if I was feeling all right that morning, so I must have failed. I was surprised when that afternoon she told me the boys had been fighting over me, having thought that after the events of last night neither boy would want to talk to me. I wasn't sure if I was supposed to be flattered or upset. I settled for the latter, catching Racetrack before he walked away and blasting him in Spanish. He didn't interrupt or anything, just stood there looking contrite.
"Mi dispiace davvero. Ti prego perdonami," he told me as he walked me home from Medda's that night. He looked so apologetic, holding flowers in one hand and wiping smeared chocolate off his face with the other that I had to forgive him. In truth, I had forgiven him on the spot. I just didn't want him getting off so easy.
"Te perdono." We walked along in silence, enjoying each other's company. He stopped me at the corner of Maggie's street, looking at my face. I studied his face, taking in every detail.
"Last night. Did…did you…you know…with Spot?"
"Did I what with Spot last night?" I had no idea what he was trying to ask.
"I saw you two kissing," he blurted out.
"He kissed me first."
"Did you like it?"
"Yes, I suppose so. I've never been kissed before."
"You only suppose you enjoyed it?"
"What does that mean?" I was starting to get angry. What was Race hinting at?
"You looked like you enjoyed it very much."
"Why do you care so much?"
"I don't care! I was only asking."
"For someone who was only wondering, you seem to care an awful lot!" By that point we had started yelling and were attracting attention from passers-by. Neither of us really cared, as we were yelling in our first languages and everyone around didn't seem to understand a word.
"I thought we were friends. That gives me a right to care!"
"Since when?" I asked, challenging him. "I have a brother to do that for me."
He rose to the challenge. "Since I helped you get a job!"
"What does that have to do with anything?"
"Well…" He looked slightly stumped, scratching his head and searching for an answer. "Well it means you owe me."
"Owe you? For what, getting me a job I could have gotten on my own?"
Racetrack looked so outraged that I had to laugh in his face. "You never would have gotten that job without me to translate for you!"
"I could have waited for Maggie to come back! If I had, she would have helped me get the job."
"I…no way…you…possible…Maggie…OH!" He threw his hands in the air in frustration. "You frustrate me!"
"You infuriate me!" We stood there glaring at each other, daring the other to make the first move. Papa said I had a stubborn streak wider than the ocean and this time it paid off. Race blinked first and sighed.
"I saw you…after you kissed him. Why were you crying?"
"You." I whispered the word, forcing him to lean closer to hear it.
"You. I saw you last night. You looked so sad, like your heart was breaking. It made me sad that you would feel like that."
He leaned against the wall, arms folded across his chest and a half-smile on his face. I folded my arms across my chest, which didn't work so well with my flute case in my hand. A smirk crossed his face.
"What is it, Antonio?" I wasn't sure if this would make him angry, but to my delight, he just shook his head and laughed.
"My full name is Antonio Alessandro Higgins, but only my grandmother calls me that. The other newsies only call me that to make me mad. Or when I make them mad."
"Antonio, as in Antonio Vivaldi?"
I shook my head. "Never mind. I had best be going in before Maggie comes looking." I hugged Race quickly and gave him a peck on the cheek before thrusting a piece of paper in his hand and running inside. That night, I dreamed of dancing on a stage to the sound of a flute, the only people in the audience my family and my new friends.
Mi dispiace davvero-I really am sorry. (Italian)
Ti prego perdonami-Please forgive me. (Italian)
Te perdono-You're forgiven. (Spanish)