Title: Not Your Year
Genre: Epic time travel returns with 20x less epic?
Characters: Our boys, some listies, and an OC or two.
Summary: Time travel to 1899, so unoriginal yet I'm doing it anyway (again). Jo finds out what life is like without an iPod.
Jo counted the sound of her steps as she trudged home from the factory, dusk falling heavily over the autumn day. She had a song stuck in her head: the kind you didn’t know the words to, just the beat. So without her iPod to turn to she just hummed and tapped along, because what else could she do? If she stopped to think she’d never hear the stupid song again, she might burst into tears. The soles of her boots slapped against the pavement and she let the tune fill her head, then opened her mouth and found sung words tumble out, nearly under her breath, “I'm just looking for, just looking for a way around, it disappears this near…” she stopped short, a bit shocked. She knew some of the song; it survived in her head. It wouldn’t save the world, but it was a small victory. She picked up her pace again, a bit more spring in her step.
“Heya, Jo!” a voice called from behind her. Turning around, she felt a rare smile pull at the corners of her mouth.
“Heya Cowboy.” She liked Jack Kelly. He found Jo amusing rather than absurd and she liked his laugh. She also thought him a good match for Elisabeth, who she had grown rather fond of, and so he was certainly in good graces with the time traveler.
“Fancy a pape?” he asked, holding out a copy of the evening edition with an easy grin.
“Money’s a bit tight,” Jo replied with an apologetic smile. Jack nodded in understanding and tucked the paper back under his arm. It was a lie and Jo felt a twinge of guilt, but she knew if she kept cutting her expenses, kept amassing coins and bills under her bed then maybe, well actually, she didn’t know what maybe would bring. She just told herself that being ready to leave at the slightest notice was important.
“I hear the boarding house over on Park Row is givin’ handouts ta’ kids lodging nearby, you’se heading there for dinnah?” he asked casually.
“Yeah, Elisabeth passed the word along to me. Grace is refusing to take charity and
“Nah, I’se got business in
“The infamous and pretentious Spot Conlon?” she’d never met him, but both the name and consequent descriptions of the scrawny but arrogant boy made her giggle.
“Pretentious, huh? Good word, I’m gonna have ta’ remember that one. Nah, just some kid, ehm, Tom Barry? Ya know ‘im?” he asked. Jo was attempting to keep her face as neutral as possible but the sound of the familiar name made her stomach jolt.
“Just another newsie, huh?” Jo asked passively but she knew her eyes were betraying her as they peered at Jack imploringly.
“Somethin’ like that,” he replied but was now shooting her a suspicious look. Feeling confused beyond reason and needing suddenly to be alone, she looked for escape.
“I should stop by the lodging house on my way to Park Row, have to tell Mim something, y’know? I’ll see you later, Cowboy,” she said, already walking away from him.
“But that’s the opposite direction!” she heard him call after her, but paid it no heed. She was reeling with the realization that she may not be alone.
Tom Barry. Tommy. Scruffy, shaggy auburn hair, eyes that shone. Thick Irish brogue. He used to call her “Sunshine” back home, teasing her mercilessly, tweaking her hair and calling her “my Yank.” Back home he had been one of the many lodgers in March House, university lodging for mostly postgraduate and international students.
It was a common name, Tom Barry. In the aftermath of the Great Famine, An Drochshaol as Mim called it, so many had come. And they hadn’t been the first: the Irish had been pouring in since the mid-18th century, a good number settling down in
But there were more pressing issues at the moment. Issues like not starving. Like making sure she got to Park Row in time to nick some food for
While ending up in 1899 had robbed her of countless things, it had given her something she’d never achieved before: a purpose. And even if it was only surviving and ensuring the health, safety and happiness of the other girls, she would take it. So, she did what she had begun to do since arriving at the
"Will you read to me, Jo?"
"What do you want me to read?" Jo asked pleasantly, pulling her woolen shawl closer around her shoulders, her nightgown was becoming too thin for the coming cold.
"Something where everyone lives happy,"
"Little Women again? We've read it a dozen times!" she laughed while picking up the novel. Secretly, she enjoyed the familiar words, having read it endlessly back home. They brought comfort as the days grew shorter, reminded her that some things did not change. She picked up the tattered story, opened to a page at random and began to read:
"'That I'm not!' acquiesced Laurie, with an expression of humility quite new to him, as he dropped his eyes and absently wound Jo's apron tassel round his finger. 'Mercy on us, this will never do,' thought Jo, adding aloud, 'Go and sing to me. I'm dying for some music, and always like yours.' 'I'd rather stay here, thank you.' 'Well, you can't; there isn't room. Go and make yourself useful, since you are too big to be ornamental. I thought you hated to be tied to a woman's apron string?' retorted Jo, quoting certain rebellious words of his own. 'Ah, that depends on who wears the apron!' and Laurie gave an audacious tweak at the tassel." The real Jo paused here, giving an audible sigh.
"What I wouldn't give to have someone that interested," she said uncharacteristically.
"Are you going to get married, Jo?"
"Maybe one day, but you'll come with me. I'll make sure of it," Jo said, playing with
"Who will you marry?" the young girl asked.
"A newsboy? Spot Conlon perhaps?" Jo suggested and the two fell into giggles. "We should get to sleep, I have work tomorrow and you have recovering to be doing," she said, pushing the mess of books into piles on floor. Blowing out
The week had dragged on with the coming cold as November began to lean more on the side of December. Burdened with two rather thick volumes and one slim, Jo navigated the muddy streets leading away from the New York Public Library in the dusky light. Arc lights shone their bright white glow over the streets and for one moment Jo felt a slight pang that she was ten years too late to see gaslamps lit in
Jo had been so wrapped up in her thoughts that she'd neglected watching her way and found herself knocked straight into a rather solid, warm object.
“Oomf!” exclaimed the object which was actually a human being, and papers went flying, as did Jo's library books.
“Oh no!” she moaned diving for them, but too late, for one had already been claimed by a large puddle. "Oh, they'll murder me, I'll be on life-long ban!" she fished the book out, only to find herself being pulled to her feet by rather strong arms.
“You alright?” a boy's voice asked abruptly.
“Sure I am, but the book's ruined and it’s the library's and I barely convinced them to give me a lending membership as it is...” she trailed off. Now looking at the boy levelly, she found it was actually Skittery who she had bumped into. Remembering the last time she and Mim had discussed the disgruntled newsboy, she blushed crimson. If he hadn't been staring the last time they'd encountered each other, he certainly was now.
“Now, I'm sure Rose House has a roarin' fire and stack of books ta' dry and flatten the pages a' that. You got off better than me anyhow, that's twenty papes I lost there!” he said, looking sadly at the soggy papers on the ground.
“Oh,” Jo followed his gaze and felt even more wretched for the loss in income her absent-mindedness had just caused, “Well, I'm sure I've ten cents, I know that's just the distribution fee but—” Skittery cut her off here, looking at her as if she were insane.
“Woah, ten cents? You can't afford that, especially if they're going ta' charge you for that library book! Nah, s'alright. Race owes me anyway. When does Race not owe me,” the grimace which took over Skittery's face at that last comment caused Jo to giggle and she wondered if he was always such a pessimist. “What?” he demanded. The harder she laughed, the deeper his frown became.
“Nothing, sorry,” she said finally, composing herself, “So I take it you’re a glass half-empty kind of guy?” she grinned.
“Huh?” Skittery looked at her blankly, “You say some odd stuff.”
“Tell me about it,” she sighed.
“Well, there goes my work day,” Skittery frowned, and then seemed to remember himself and offered his arm to Jo, “Let's get you back to the lodging house then, Miss. Jo.”
“Oh, so you do know my name then?” here she straightened considerably, “Mr. Skittery,” Jo added, putting on false airs as she took his arm.
“Every one of us boys knows your name. You're the peculiar girl who lives at
“Peculiar, huh?” she replied a bit glumly, “I thought you didn't pay attention to the girls,” Jo wasn't quite as amused as usual with the summary of her character.
“Who said that?!” Skittery said, stopping dead in his tracks.
“Specs did,” she shrugged. Skittery just shook his head and grumbled, “The bum.”
“Well, it's true you know. You're certainly never around Rose House, or the factory when we get off work, or at the park on Sundays, like the rest of the boys. Dedicated newsie, eh?” she grinned.
“Jus' tryin' not ta' starve,” he said, picking up his pace again.
“Well, that makes two of us then,” Jo smiled as they resumed their walk, “So, ‘peculiar’ ’s a pretty big uncommon word for a newsie to throw around.”
“Well, I read the papers, y’know. Never manage to sell my last one, so I figure, why not?” he shrugged.
“You like reading then?” she asked hopefully.
“Passes the time,” the reply came with an air of nonchalance.
“Yeah, guess it does,” Jo thought of how many books would fill 109 years.
Without realizing it, she found they were back at the lodging house and Skittery was holding the door open to her. “Thanks for seeing me home, Mr. Skittery,” she said, giving an over-emphasized curtsy, wobbling slightly on her cold and numb feet.
“Night Miss. Jo,” he said, giving her a half-smile before taking off down the street. Jo smirked a bit to herself thinking she'd gotten through that conversation fairly problem-free. She was learning how to play this part better every day.