Categories > Movies > Newsies

Loose Change

by studentnumber24601 1 Reviews

Elsie's first day in New York, and her first encounter with Blink. [A Bottle Alley LH fic.]

Category: Newsies - Rating: G - Genres: Humor, Romance - Characters: Kid Blink, Mush, Skittery - Published: 2007/03/04 - Updated: 2007/03/04 - 1260 words - Complete

Elsie was exhausted, close to broke, and her feet hurt. Not just a little, either. She'd had pain in her feet on and off for as long as she could remember-her dad said her mother had had the same problem-but this was pure hell.

It had been four nights since she'd had a proper bed and two since she'd had any sleep at all. She hadn't bathed in that whole time, either, or changed her clothes. Her skin was covered in mud and dirt from the snow and her coat and clothes had gone beyond dirty to near-rags. She was wet up to her knees from the snow, too. Despite daily attempts to braid her hair, it resembled a bird's nest more than a proper style, and was so tangled she was fairly sure she'd never get a comb through it again. And her /shoes/.

Oh, they'd looked lovely when she'd nicked them, and the girl she'd stolen them from could certainly afford another pair. But they weren't like her nice, worn, old ones. They were new and stiff. Her feet were covered in blisters and the arches ached. Her socks were not only dirty, they were bloody from all the rubbing from the damn things. And so, as fine as they looked-though they'd lost their shine after four days in the streets-she wished she'd never touched them. They definitely didn't keep out the cold and her toes had been numb almost since she'd gotten off the train.

She'd spent three days of wandering Boston, hiding in the most crowded streets to try and escape notice, and then one day in New York doing the only work she could get on short notice: selling papers. All on her feet. The upside was that by now, the afternoon of her first full day in New York, she had earned enough change that she could afford dinner and lodgings for the night. The downside was that she was tired, achy, cranky, and didn't actually have any idea where to find lodgings for the night.

By the time the evening edition was about to come out, she had, however, managed to find food-well, food was everywhere in the city, but she'd figured out where the other newsies ate. It was a diner, dingy enough to be affordable, but decent enough that the food was edible, and close enough to the distribution office that it was a natural fit for hungry kids. Of course, that meant it was also crowded. Very crowded.

There was nowhere to sit. Elsie heaved a sigh and shuffled up to the diner counter. The menu was scrawled on chalkboards around the place; she picked out what she hoped would be a quick meal to get, and began trying to flag down a waiter. But she had no luck; one of the two waiters was busy hopping around from booths to tables to the kitchen and back, barely noticing the counter at all. And the guy whose job it was to handle the counter requests was busy.

But that only because the guy who was trying to pay his tab was clearly a blithering idiot. He was blond haired and wearing some sort of ridiculous eyepatch, and trying to both count change and split the cost with two other boys (one tall and lithe, the other shorter and oatmeal-skinned). "Well, um, let's see," the blond one said, dropping a handful of coins onto the table. "It's...well, we owe seventy-seven cents, right, so between the three of us that's, um..."

"Mine was only a quarter," put in the darker skinned boy helpfully.

"So was mine," the other added.

"Okay, so that's, um..." He trailed off and consulted his number, but apparently whatever he was calculating-Elsie assumed that was seventy-seven minus fifty, unless of course he didn't know how much a quarter was worth, or what two quarters added up made-was too complicated for that. "Well, none of us has got a quarter, just some dimes and nickels, so that's...it's..."

The waiter made an impatient noise that was a lot more polite that Elsie would have been in his place. "I really should..." He trailed off and gestured around at the waiting customers, and Elsie realized that if these three would just get their tab paid and get up, she could sit down, and if she didn't sit down soon, she was going to keel over.

Or kill someone.

Probably someone who was preventing her from sitting and eating. She glared at the blond.

"Okay, wait, if we got six nickels than that's...twenty, twenty-five, thirty, okay, that's thirty cents. An' then two dimes and a bunch of pennies..."

"I really should check on someone else," the waiter said.

"Just a second! I almost got it...you made me lose count." The blond began counting again, as though he couldn't remember how much six nickels came to, and now even the guys he was sitting with were starting to look impatient. "Okay, so...Thirty, plus two dimes is...Uh..."

"Fifty," the taller one supplied.

"Right, so that leaves just what I owe, which is..." He stared dismally at a heaping pile of pennies. "It's...How much was the tab again?"

Elsie reached into her pocket, pulled out a quarter and two pennies, slapped them down on the counter in front of the waiter, and said, "Twenty-seven more cents, and I'll take a root beer as soon as you can." She glared at the blond.

"What?" he asked, sounding clueless.

She scowled, irritated. "Twenty-seven cents." She gestured at the silver coins. "That's fifty. You still owed twenty-seven. That's what I put down. So get up and let me sit and eat something while you stutter through counting out what you owe me."

Both of the boys he was with cracked smiles, and before he could argue, the waiter scooped up the seventy-seven cents and hurried off. The guy turned to glare at her, but the darker-skinned kid slipped off his stool and gestured. "Here, sit," he said. "You look like you need it."

"You smell like you need it," the blond muttered.

"That don't make sense, Kid," the one who'd stood answered. He smiled kindly. "You're new around here, huh?"

"Yes..." she said hesitantly, sitting on the now-unoccupied stool.

"I'm Mush. That's Skittery. And Kid Blink in the middle."

She managed not to say, /Ah, yes, the idiot/. Instead she said, "Elsie."

"Else 'e what?" Kid Blink asked.

"My name," she snapped, "is Elsie. And don't think about short changing me."

"I didn't ask for your help," he snapped back at her, and started counting coins again.

"I didn't feel like being here until next week waiting for you to subtract," she answered.

"Like you can do any better," he muttered.

She glowered and reached to his pile of pennies and hurried counted to twenty-seven by threes, then pocketed her change. Then she gave him a smug look, and the waiter came back with her root beer and took her order.

"Come on, Kid," Skittery said, standing. "Let's go get in line for our papes."

"Yeah, c'mon," Mush agreed.

Kid Blink only paused to glare at her for another second, then stood up and started away, but Mush paused and looked back. "If you need somewhere to stay, there's a girl's house on Bottle Alley," he said kindly. "My girl says they've got a couple of free bunks."

"And a bath," Kid Blink called, glancing back over his shoulder.

Elsie didn't answer, just seethed inwardly and sucked down her root beer.
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