There was a little boy and a little girl
Lived in an alley;
Says the little boy to the little girl,
“Shall I, oh, shall I?”
Says the little girl to the little boy,
“What shall we do?”
Says the little boy to the little girl,
“I will kiss you!”
Steven tiptoed down the stairs, gingerly placing each foot in the hollow crevice of each step, where he knew it would not squeak. He passed through the house in silence, sticking to the shadows with his ears perked towards Mrs. Norris’ room; he was careful not to wake the sleeping bear. He arrived at the steel door and placed his fingers on the deadbolts. The metal was cold against his skin. Steven turned the nob as slowly as he could manage, his heart pounding in his ears. Suddenly, there was a loud snore; Steven froze, waiting for the growling to subside. In the restored silence, he unlocked the final deadbolt: there were exactly six, a prime example of Mrs. Norris’ efforts to keep undesirables out, or so she always said.
At last, Steven cracked open the steel door and slid through, an easy task for a near-starving young man; there was never enough food on the table for all six boys. Steven was the oldest, a lad of eighteen, and was explicitly instructed to wait until the younger boys had made their plates. He had lived in Mrs. Norris’ “Heartfelt Home for Troubled Boys” for six years, and tonight was the night that he would escape, never daring to turn back. He stepped into the dark Chicago street, the cold winter wind stinging his eyes. He wore his tattered boots and his father’s sheepskin coat, the only possession he had left of his parents’.
The sun was beginning to rise. Steven walked for miles in the cold, determined to find The Grotto on the outskirts of Petrile. The Grotto was a slum, of sorts, but carried the promise of a new beginning and a life outside of Mrs. Norris’ prison. Finally, he began to leave the bistros and boutiques behind him, and the landscape became dotted with cardboard apartments and small shanties. After his long journey, he decided to take refuge in an alleyway between a make-shift shack of mud and brick and what appeared to be an apothecary’s shop. He sat down against the mud wall, his back cold against the earth, and gnawed on a molded piece of goat cheese, the only provisions he had managed to steal from Mrs. Norris’ tightly locked-up kitchen.
Quite suddenly, Steven heard a cough from down the alley in the shadows. He stopped chewing. The cough was followed by a meek sounding voice, with the likeness of a mouse’s squeak. He looked up to see a young girl with a dirty face. She could be no older than seventeen, but she weathered by circumstance, and her eyes glistened with pain and wisdom beyond her years.
“May I have a bite….please?” she squeaked. Her tear-stained cheeks were red from the cold. Steven slowly extended his hand towards her with uncertainty. The girl took the wedge of cheese and took a bite, chewing slowly and closing her eyes. Steven realized, as his stomach ached with hunger, that his last small meal had been only ten hours ago, but that this poor lass most likely could not remember hers. He was wrong, of course. She remembered; she always counted the painful hours that her gut wrenched in starvation between every meal. Her count had reached thirty.
“How may I thank you? You must let me give you something,” the girl spoke, her voice a tiny bit more powerful than it had been previously. “I have nothing,” she whispered, turning her eyes to the dirt. She looked up after a moment, a small grin beginning to twitch at the corners of her mouth.
“Well what shall you do?” Steven asked, curiously.
“I shall give you a kiss,” she said with conviction. Steven smiled at his newfound friend. The girl stepped across the dust and sat beside him. After a moment, she softly kissed him on the lips. The two sat in the cold in silence.
Author’s Note: The story above is based off of a nursery rhyme about a little boy and a little girl who live in an alley. In the nursery rhyme, the girl asks, “oh what shall we do?” and the boy gives her a kiss.
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