Title: The Newsie and the Reporter
Summary: Riley is your average high-school graduate. That is, she's your average until she somehow ends up in 1899 Manhattan courtesy of "Cupid's Sis." Once in New York, Riley finds herself becoming one of the Newsies- and becoming attracted to David Jacobs.
She landed with a thump in a dark and dirty alley. For a few seconds, she didn’t move. It was something her riding instructor had told her when she had fallen off her horse for the first time. Don’t move right away. Breathe deeply, and figure out if you have any specific areas of pain. Then move slowly, one limb at a time, to make sure that there aren’t any breaks. Riley slowly pushed herself up from the cobblestones once she decided that she was okay.
Then she nearly had a heart attack. Cobblestones?! There weren’t any cobblestones in her town. Sure, it was a considered a cow town because of the numerous dirt roads and farms, but there weren’t any cobblestones. The only time she had ever seen them was when she went to the downtown section of the nearest city, which happened to be twenty-four miles away.
Riley looked around her, and she felt utterly lost. The alley was fairly shallow, and instead of dumpsters there were just piles of trash leaning up against the brick walls. She backed away from the alley walls, pressing her hand against her nose to block the stench.
Then another shock hit Riley. When she stepped, she tripped over a piece of fabric. Looking down, Riley discovered that she was wearing a dress. And not just any dress, but something that looked liked it belonged in the nineteenth or eighteenth century. It was tan, plain, and had three-quarter sleeves that bunched at her elbows. The front of the dress was white cotton with ironed ruffles. Not exactly something that Riley saw in any department store.
Just as Riley was about to pinch herself to see if she was dreaming, a door in the side of the one of the buildings opened and a little girl stepped out. Riley jumped because she hadn’t noticed the door before and the girl had startled her.
“Don’t be afraid,” the little girl said with a gentle smile. Riley tried to smile back, but it was very weak. There was something about the girl’s smile that unnerved her.
“Who are you? And where am I?” Riley called to the girl, who took a few steps towards her.
“It doesn’t matter who I am, just that you’ve met me. You see, I’m the one who brought you here and I’m the one who decides when you get to leave. The rest is up to you.”
Riley raised her eyebrows. “Okay,” she said slowly, disbelieving the little girl. But she decided to play along since the girl looked like she was about six. “How did you get your powers to bring me here?”
“My mother,” the girl answered. “Just like how you got everything about you from your parents. My mother is interested in creating romances, so that’s what I do too. I help her.”
“Oh, are you like Cupid’s little sister or something?” Riley joked.
The girl smiled again. “Something like that, Riley. But perhaps I should tell you where you are. This is Manhattan. The street’s right over there. I’m sure you’ll be able to find a place to stay.”
“How did you know my name, Cupid-Sis?” Riley asked quickly, her heart racing again. At first the girl had been cute, but now with the circumstance she was down-right creepy.
“Doesn’t matter. But here, take this necklace. That way I’ll be able to find you when I need to.” And then the little girl was standing right in front of Riley, reaching up to clasp a necklace around her neck. Riley took it in her hand to examine it. The necklace was on a gold chain, and had a pen and newspaper charm on it.
“It’s not exactly my taste, but thank you,” Riley said sweetly to the girl, but when she looked up she saw that she was all alone.
In Manhattan, from what Cupid-Sis said. And even though Riley didn’t want to trust anything the girl had said, she had to believe her. This didn’t look like her hometown or anywhere else familiar. Riley couldn’t even begin to imagine how she had gotten to New York, but she let it pass. She just had to find a way home.
Turning her back on the alley, Riley turned to face the street. When she stepped out from between the two buildings she was in for another surprise, though. Everything was old. Absolutely everything. Riley’s clothes fit right in with her surroundings. From the look of things, it was either the nineteenth or eighteenth century. That, of course, couldn’t be true. Time travel wasn’t possible.
But Riley had thought that teleporting wasn’t possible either, and here she was. In the past. She had traveled in time.
Walking up to a man she judged to be upper-class, Riley bobbed in a polite courtesy. The man turned to face her and doffed his hat. “Excuse me, sir, but do you mind telling me the date?” Riley asked.
“Of course, madam. It’s the fourth of April, 1899,” the man replied. “Good day.”
Riley felt like her stomach was dropping out her foot. She took a single step backward, her mouth slightly open from the shock. “1899,” she whispered to herself. “Long way from 2009.”
Suddenly Riley felt someone tug on her skirt. She turned around, about to berate whoever the unfortunate idiot was, only to be looking down at a young boy who couldn’t be older than ten. He wore the clothes of a member of the middle-class, but he had the hat of the lower. His face was incredibly dirty, and so were his hands. Riley noticed with a jolt that he was holding a stack of newspapers. This was a poor newsboy, she concluded.
“Buy me pape, miss?” the little boy asked.
Riley felt her heartstrings tug when he coughed raggedly. “How much are they?” she asked him while digging into a pocket on the side of her dress to see if she had any money. She was happy to see that she had sixteen dollars and a few quarters, the same amount she had in her wallet the day before.
“A penny a pape, miss,” the boy replied.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have a penny,” Riley told the boy. She smiled inwardly when she saw his face fall. “But maybe this would work?” Riley opened her palm, showing the boy the quarter. His eyes lit up and he eagerly took the quarter, handing Riley a crumpled paper.
“Thank you very much, miss!” he said energetically.
“You’re very welcome,” Riley said to the boy, but he was already running away from her and towards his next customer. Riley watched him with a smile on her face before turning to look at the storefronts. There had to be someplace she could go to ask for directions to a hotel or inn.
Behind her, someone coughed. Riley spun around and came face-to-face with a boy about her own age with the bluest eyes she had ever seen and curly brown hair. He was wearing a blue striped shirt and a gray vest. Riley looked to his side and saw the boy she had bought the newspaper from.
“Excuse me, miss,” the boy said to her, “but you do realize that a pape is only a penny, right?”
Riley smiled and nodded. “I’m aware of that. But I don’t have any pennies, and I really needed a paper.”
“My brother Les should have come back to me to make change, so I apologize. Would you like your twenty-four cents?” the boy asked.
Riley shook her head immediately. “I don’t need the money, and if you and your brother are working as newsboys then you certainly do. It’s not a bother.”
The boy raised his eyebrows with surprise but took off his newsboy’s cap, bobbing his head politely. “Sorry, miss, didn’t know you went to boarding school,” he said.
Riley’s eyes widened. “I don’t go to boarding school,” she said.
“No, I go to public.”
The boy laughed. “You go to public school. That’s one I haven’t heard yet,” he said when his chuckles had subsided.
“What?” Riley demanded, her eyes narrowing.
The boy shook his head. “No girls are allowed in public school. A few rich ones go to boarding school, but the rest just go to work in the textile factories.” The way he said it sounded as if he thought it was common knowledge.
“I meant that I go to boarding school on a scholarship,” Riley thought quickly. “I’m an orphan, so I managed to go for free. But I’ve just lost my scholarship to another younger girl, so now I’m out on the streets.”
“You shouldn’t be throwing your money around, then,” the boy advised her wisely. “You don’t have anywhere to stay?”
Riley shook her head. “No, I don’t. And I don’t have a job, either. I used to, but it was tied to the boarding school.”
The boy whistled. “Why don’t you come back home with Les and I? I’m sure my parents will let you sleep in my sister’s room until you can find somewhere else,” he offered, placing one hand on Les’s shoulders as he did so. Les, the obedient little brother, nodded excitedly.
“If I wouldn’t be putting you out, I’d love to,” Riley said gracefully. “You’re totally my hero right now.”
The boy chuckled at her words. “Thanks,” he said with all the manners of a gentleman. “I’m David Jacobs, by the way. You already know Les and my sister’s name is Sarah. I’m sure you’ll get along.”
Riley smiled. “I’m sure we will, too. And I’m Riley Jennings,” she introduced herself.
“I just need to finish selling these papes and then we can head home,” David said while holding up his remaining three newspapers. Les energetically grabbed one and ran off into the crowd, looking for a customer. Riley wanted to help David with the last two, but she didn’t really know what to do so she was content to watch. It took about fifteen minutes, but all three newspapers were sold and the two Jacobs brothers led Riley through the streets of Manhattan to their home.