Flash glanced around the market selecting her prey near the fruit tables. She looked casual, like a normal girl shopping at the market.
Stopping behind the man, she reached her hand into his pocket quickly withdrawing his wallet.
All of a sudden, the man whirled around grabbing her wrist so she couldn't get away.
"Let me go!" She struggled uselessly.
"Give me back my wallet." He growled back.
Annoyed, Flash handed him the wallet just as a lady walked up.
"What's going on?" She asked.
"This girl tried to steal my wallet." The man said to the woman who looked surprised.
"Did she give it back?" The woman asked looking over the girl.
"Yeah . . . . What's your name girl?" The man turned to face her.
"Flash," she muttered, upset with herself for getting caught. "What of it?"
The woman raised her eyebrows and replied, "well, the way I see it, you have two choices Flash." The man groaned as he realized what was about to happen. "You can either go to jail for pick-pocketing, or, you can come back with us and earn your keep, and go to school."
"School?" Flash looked disgusted. "I ain't goin' to no school."
"I'll go get the sheriff then." The woman turned and began walking down the road.
"Wait!" Flash called, "I'll work for my keep, for food, and to pay for my actions, but don't make me go to school."
The woman hesitated, then nodded. "Alright. Do you think two weeks is long enough for trying to steal?" Without waiting for a reply, the lady turned and, with the help of the man, got into the wagon.
Flash hesitated, the hoisted herself up over and into the wagon, and sat glaring. Two weeks of pure boredom who-knows-where in the country. Exactly what she wanted to be doing.
"By the way," the woman said as the man started the horses. "I'm Mrs. Jo, and this is Nick."
Nat sat throwing rocks into the creek. He was bored with his life. Not much excited him anymore.
Dan, who was sitting nearby was faced with the same problem. His mind continually wandered to what it would have been like to go west with Jasper.
Nan came running up the path surprising them both. "Dan! Nat! Mrs. Jo is back and she brought a girl with her!"
Both boys looked up, then followed Nan back to the house.
Once they made it back to the house, the boys found a group around somebody, but they couldn't see her face.
Suddenly Emil moved to the side and Nat gasped in surprise.
"Flash!" Dan called out seeing that Nat was tounge-tied.
The girl turned startled as did Jo and Nick.
"Dan? Nat? What are you doing here?" Flash surprising both boys came forward giving them a hug.
"We live here." Dan replied, "what are you doing here?"
"Well, for the next two weeks, I live here." Flash smirked, "too bad Mrs. Jo doesn't allow fighting. I would've loved beating you again."
Dan glared as Emil spoke. "You beat Dan? Nobody beats Dan!"
She laughed at Dan's anger, "I beat him more than once."
Bess and Nan stood glaring at her. Both for different reasons, but both because of people standing there.
Mrs. Jo finally interrupted, "Flash, could you please bring all of the packages into the house?"
Nat finally found his voice and said, "I'll help."
Nan and Bess, both annoyed, stormed off to their bedroom.
"Did you see the way she was looking at Nat?"
"And the way she was teasing Dan?"
"I know. It made me sick!"
Nan and Bess both sat in their room complaining about the arrival of the new girl.
A knock at the door startled them out of their thoughts and glares. In walked Mrs. Jo and Flash.
"Flash is going to stay here with you two for the two weeks that she'll be here." Mrs. Jo smiled unsuspectingly.
"Great," Bess smiled politely as did Nan and Flash.
As soon as Jo left the room all three of the smiles faded.
"Look, I don't want to be here any more than you want me to be here, so let's just forget that I'm here okay?" Flash turned and dumped her small bag on the empty bed.
"Since when do you get to make the rules?" Nan asked as she fell onto her bed.
Flash sighed annoyed then just decided to ignore her. ‘They are insignificant anyway. I bet neither could steal a wallet out of someone's pocket.' Flash smiled at the thought.
13 days later . . .
Flash sighed as she hid behind the barn. ‘Tomorrow I'm out of here and no one can stop me.'
Things had gotten worse after the first day. Bess and Nan both resented her, not that she could blame them, she sometimes resented herself.
Nat on the other hand, had stuck to her like glue. Showing her the property, helping with her chores, she hardly had to lift a finger.
Meanwhile, she had to admit she was attracted to Dan. His smile was to die for. -- Not that she got to see it much. -- She still hated her for beating him up the night they met. (Author's Note: That's Another Story. :-))
Mrs. Jo was trying to be polite, but Nick was ready to get the sheriff at the first hint of trouble. She knew that Emil thought she was pretty, but to everyone else, she was just there.
Tomorrow couldn't come any sooner for her. She liked being free. Sure it wasn't the best profession in the world, but hey, she had to live her own life - Not have it lived for her.
"Flash! . . . Flash!"
Nick's voice startled her out of her thoughts. Coming out from behind the barn she came face to face with Nick."What?"
Looking over her shoulder suspiciously, his eyes narrowed. "What were you doing back there?"
"Thinking about how I get to leave tomorrow." She faked a smile then let it fade quickly.
"I need you to help me clean out the loft." He said annoyed by her attitude.
"Can't I just have the day off?" Flash sighed and leaned against the barn.
"Just help me get it done." Nick said losing and sense of pleasantness. He then led her to the barn.
"Where is Flash, Nick?"
Nick turned at the sound of Nat's voice. "She's down cooling her feet off in the creek."
"Thanks Nick." Nat took off for the water. "Hey," he said when he found her.
"Hi Nat. What are you doing?" Flash grinned up at her friend.
"Looking for you."
She smiled, "do you want to go on a hike through the woods with me?"
"Can I come too?" Dan smirked from behind them.
"Glad to have you along" She sarcastically replied, secretly glad he was coming with them.
So they started walking and talking, none of them realizing how late it was getting or where they were going.
Nat's stomach grumbled loudly and Flash grinned.
"I guess we should head back."
Dan looked around, "yeah. But which way is back?"
Part 2 by Sara -
Jo stared out the window at her desk and sighed. The sky darkening was by the second, and any second she knew a star would wink from the heavens. At least she was pretty sure, for she couldn't see much due to the heavy rain clouds.
Not normally a problem, but this time it was, because Nat, Dan, and Flash still hadn't returned from where ever it was they were.
She heard a sound at the door and turned to find Emil standing there. She watched him, confused, and asked, "What's wrong Emil?"
Emil stepped forward silently. He struggled over words, and finally found his tongue. "I uh, just wanted to see if you're all right. With Dan and Nat gone with that girl and all. You must be pretty worried."
Jo stood up to put a hand on Emil's shoulder. "Don't worry, Emil. They'll be back. I know it." She reassured him (and herself she realized later), and forced a smile.
Emil turned to leave the room, and said over his shoulder loud enough for Mrs. Jo to hear, "I hope so."
Mrs. Jo remained silent, and her mind exploded with confusion. As much as she was worrying inside, she had to be strong for the kids. She was their role model, and she had to remember that.
* * *
"Wait a minute Dan, doesn't this place look familiar?" Nat lied, trying to make the unfortunate scenario brighten. Flash, Dan and himself had been sitting in the middle of the woods (or the middle of a very buggy nowhere Nat had thought) for was probably hours now---without food, without shelter, and without any knowledge of where they were.
Dan looked around frowning. He was standing, leaning against an ash tree, his hands in his pockets, his soul erupting with anger and uncertainty. "Nat, if it did, we'd be back at the school, wouldn't we?" he growled, then went back to glaring at no one.
Nat looked at Flash hopefully, and luckily she saw the fake boldness in his eyes. "It's all right, Nat," she told him smoothly. "We're gonna find our way back." Flash, stood up and went to give Nat a reassuring pat on the back. "I know it."
Suddenly anger swept over Nat. How could she know that, Nat thought to himself, but he didn't dare tell her that. And besides, he almost thought that they'd be better out here anyway, or at least Flash would. He couldn't even think of what Nick and Jo would do to her when - if - they got back. Kick her out, no doubt, Nat thought. Hand her over to the sheriff-
"No," he said out loud. He wouldn't let that happen to her, not after all she had done for him. She had risked her very life for his many times over, and he'd grown exceptionally fond for her. He wouldn't let someone so dear to him slip away like that.
"No what?" Dan asked.
Nat looked up, surprised. "Uh, nothing." He told Dan, and tried once again to brighten the situation. "Just thinking about how we could find our way back. I'm sure we're not to far from home. I figure we camp here tonight, start a fire, then---"
"Don't, Nat." Dan said, looking upset. "We've been walking for hours, we must be miles from Plumfield. You know that. I know that. Flash knows that, and there's nothing we can do about it." Dan began to get angrier, and he stood up and started to walk towards Nat. "We can't find our way back. It's impossible. Three guys---two guys and a girl---can cover a lot of ground when they're talking." Out of the corner of his eye, Nat could see Flash smile. "And even if we do somehow find our way back, what do you think they'll do to Flash?" So Dan had been thinking the same thing, Nat thought. I guess Flash means as much to me as she means to Dan. "They're not just going believe what we tell her, and they definitely won't believe what she says. We're in a lot of trouble Nat. You can't fix it." Flash looked up, surprised. She felt a fight coming on, and she didn't want to be responsible for flying fists, too.
Flash stood up fast and got between Dan and Nat. "Look, guys. This is my fault, all right? I'll take the blame for it." She paused, but spoke again before either one of the boys could protest. "Besides," she said with a smile, "What anyone back at your school can do to me can't be half as bad as what I've experienced before. Trust me, I don't think that Mrs. Jo---or even Nick---are cruel enough to beat a child, am I right?"
Neither Dan nor Nat responded, and they didn't talk to each other. Flash continued. "Don't worry, guys. We've been through worse things together. And I've been lost enough times for all of us. I think Nat's right. We should stay here tonight, then take advantage of the day light." She added, then sat back down on the stump she had been sitting on before. "As for the fire-there's not much chance of that happening." She told them as the first of many raindrops began to fall.
The children were silent for a while, but they all were thinking the same thing.
This would be a long night.
* * *
The boys at Plumfield were getting ready for bed, only tonight it was with an eerie silence. It was different without Nat and Dan there, and they didn't know how long it would be for everything to get back to normal.
There was a tap at the door, and in walked Bess and Nan. They had been talking with each other about Flash all night, and decided to get more opinions.
Nan sat down on Nat's empty bed---Bess on Dan's. "I can't believe Flash actually convinced Nat and Dan to runaway with her." Nan said in a huff.
"She probably didn't convince them. I bet she held them at gun point and made them come with her---Dan would never do anything so cruel to Mrs. Jo." Bess added.
Emil sat down on his bed and spoke. "How do you know they ran away, Nan?" he asked.
Nan rolled her eyes. "Oh please, Emil. For one thing, you can't judge people on looks." Emil blushed. "And for another thing, what are the chances of them not running away? Isn't it obvious? She's just like Jasper, and Mrs. Jo should have never trusted her." Nan looked at Bess, who was sitting silently with a worried look on her face. "I can't believe Mrs. Jo actually let her stay. Do you know how she found her?" Nan asked everyone. "She was trying to steal Nick's wallet. That's why her nickname is Flash." She said. "For two weeks she bragged about how quick she was with pick pocketing."
"Hence---Flash." Bess informed.
Tommy looked interested. "Well then if Flash is her nickname, what's her real name?" he asked Nan.
"I dunno. Something really weird, like Christa Moon."
Outside the rain splattered against the window harder. "All I know is," Bess said standing up, "Is that Mrs. Jo never should have believed been convinced. And now Dan and Nat are gone all because of that stupid Flash!" she hollered, and stormed out of the room, Nan racing to console her.
"I can't believe Mrs. Jo took in a thief." Stated Tommy in disbelief. "Now she has to pay by losing Nat and Dan."
As all of the children went to sleep, no one noticed Jo sneak off to her room.
She had been standing by the open door the whole time.
* * *
Many Wrong turns and Three Days Later-
Flash opened her eyes to a fairly lit sky. It was too early for any birds, and it was freezing cold. Her clothes were soaked due to last night's down pour, and the ground was soggy. On top of that, her stomach growled with hunger. She was so hungry it was painful, and she was sure the others felt the same way.
Across the way Flash saw Dan sleeping. She smiled faintly. He sure had grown up since Boston. He used to be so scrawny, and now he had definitely bulked up. Basically, he looked much - handsomer.
I could still beat him, she thought to herself quickly, then searched for Nat.
Nat. Where was he?
Flash stood up fast. "Nat?" she called. Dan didn't stir.
"Nat?" she asked again, and saw something move in the bushes.
Cautiously, she walked over to where she had seen the movement and found Nat sitting on a log. His face was buried in his hands, and his back was to her.
Flash bent down and put her arm across his shoulders. "Nat? What's wrong?"
Nat looked up with red, puffy eyes. He had been crying. "Flash - they're gonna be so mad, and it wasn't your fault - but they won't believe you, and - and -" he hesitated.
"And what?" Flash asked.
Nat picked his words carefully. "And they're gonna make you leave, and I don't want you to leave, Flash. I missed you."
Flash smiled. Her beautiful, sweet smile, Nat thought. The same smile he had always remembered. "Don't worry, Nat. I'm sure they'll understand after a while. And besides, my place isn't at Plumfield. It's somewhere else, but not here. I'll come back, anyway."
Nat felt something lift off his chest. "You promise?" he asked hopefully.
Flash grinned, and reached out to wipe a tear away. "I promise," and then stood up to wake Dan for more traveling.
* * *
"I heard the children talking last night," Jo told Nick . They were riding their horses in and around the woods close by searching for something, anything. They had been doing this for the past three days, and with each dawn and dusk that past, everyone knew that hopes were fading. She laughed briefly with pain. "As much as I hate to admit it, they were right. You too," she told him. "I should have never trusted her. I mean, she was trying to pick pocket you when I met her."
Nick glanced at her and told her with a firm face, "Don't worry Jo, this isn't your fault. And anyway, when we find them," if we find them, Nick thought to himself, "Dan and Nat will be fine, and you can be sure that Flash will have to deal with me."
Jo surprisingly felt glad, and focused on the road.
* * *
Hours later in the day---hours of trudging through the woods---Dan, Flash, and Nat found themselves headed towards a clearing. "What do you think that is?" Nat thought hopefully. Nobody else spoke. They were extremely tired, they were extremely hungry, they were cold, and they were lost. They had been using all the energy they could for the past three days without food, and it was making them exhausted. All everyone wanted was to get back to Plumfield, even if it meant a lot of explaining.
Suddenly there was a noise behind them, and all three children whirled around. Bushes moved, and suddenly, they saw the thing that had made a noise.
It was a wolf.
"Nobody move." Flash ordered, and they all stood dead still.
The wolf looked at them with black eyes. Nothing stirred in the woods, until . . .
The wolf moved forward, stealthily, silently. Dan and Nat itched to run away, but Flash stood tall and brave. She held her hand up as a gesture to stay put, and then slowly backed away, still facing the wolf. The others did the same.
So it went like that - the wolf moving forward, the children moving backwards until-
"Run!" Flash screamed, and all three of the kids turned and ran as fast as they could, which wasn't very fast for the lack of sleep, food, and shelter.
They ran for what seemed like forever - through the clearing (which revealed itself as a field) and straight to the gates of the Plumfield school. Not one of them said anything until the gate had been closed behind them, but the wolf was no where to be seen.
They kneeled in exhaustion. It took all the energy they had left to run, and they could barely walk. "What are the chances of that?" Dan said, surprisingly enthusiastic. "A wolf leading us to the school. That's a coincidence, isn't it?" he asked, and the others nodded in agreement.
Flash struggled to stand up, bracing herself against the gate, but it was too much. They could barely walk in the first place, let alone run, and their muscles ached with pain. All three of the children lay down and rested behind the safety of the gates.
Up at the main grounds, the children were just coming out of school, solemnly and silently. It had been a long time without Dan and Nat, and they were growing restless for something, anything.
Suddenly they saw her. Actually, Tommy was the first, and he paused to see Flash half walking half crawling up the road. He couldn't believe what he saw, but he knew it was real when he heard Emil screaming, "Mrs. Jo! Nick! It's Flash! She's back!"
The children raced towards Flash, but no body helped her up, so she struggled to stand up straight. Nan was furious. "I can't believe you did this to us." She stated.
Flash tried to protest, but she was too tired.
Soon Mrs. Jo and Nick had reached her---Nick was not happy.
"Where are they?" Jo asked angrily.
Flash tried to speak again, but it was useless, so she pointed a shaky finger to the end of the road. Immediately, everyone ran, except for Nick, who held Flash's arm firmly in his grasp. "You're coming with me, missy." He said through gritted teeth.
When the rest of the children had reached the gate, Dan and Nat were trying to stand up. Franz ran for Nat, and Jo ran for Dan, beating the kids to them. "Dan! What happened?" Mrs. Jo asked nervously. "Are you all right?"
Dan looked at her and said, "I'm - we're all right." He paused to take a few breaths. Their faces were flushed. "We just - are really tired - and hungry -"
Jo stood Dan up, as Franz did Nat. she put his arm over her shoulder, and said, "C'mon, then, let's get you to the house." And slowly, but surely, they walked up the road to the main grounds.
Back in the kitchen Nat and Dan were sat in front of a hot meal. Nat looked up quickly, suddenly remembering something. "Where's Flash?" he asked her.
The children exchanged glances among each other.
Jo sighed and walked over to the two kids at the table. "You don't have to worry about her, anymore. I'm sorry that I ever trusted her."
Now Dan looked up in surprise. "Where is she, Mrs. Jo?"
Mrs. Jo looked at him with a sideways glance. "Nick took her to the sheriff in town, don't worry, you won't have to---"
Nat stood up fast. "Why did you do that, Mrs. Jo?" he said, angrily. "She didn't do anything wrong! This is just all a big misunderstanding."
Dan stood up next to Nat, and put his hand on his arm. "Calm, down, Nat. We'll get everything fixed. Don't worry." He said, looking at Mrs. Jo. "We'll get her out of jail."
Now Jo looked angry. "Dan, Nat," she said, looking at them, "You don't have to make excuses for her. She was trouble from the start, and she's where she needs to be."
"But she saved our lives, Mrs. Jo!" Nat protested, getting more upset. "If it wasn't for her we'd be dead right now." Mrs. Jo and the children looked skeptical.
"What Nat's trying to say," Dan explained. "Is that earlier today we met up with this wolf. Nat and I would have run the second we saw it," he admitted, "but Flash knew that would be a bad idea, so she made us wait. If she hadn't of told us when to run, we'd be feeding that wolf."
Jo looked a little more believing, as did the children, but she still found their alibi hard to believe. "Trust me, Mrs. Jo." Nat said. "We're telling the truth. If she had tried to hurt us you think we'd be defending her right now?"
It was then that Mrs. Jo began to believe them, and she ran out to catch Nick before they reached the sheriff.
She met up with them right before the bridge, and Dan, Nan, Bess, and Nat were close behind. "Nick! Stop! She didn't run away. They were taking a walk and they got lost. She's not in trouble."
Nick looked upset. Flash was sitting on another horse; her hands tied to the saddle. "After what she put you through, Jo? You're just going to let her walk away? She jeopardized Dan and Nat's life!"
"But she saved us, Nick!" Dan screamed.
Jo looked from Dan to Nat to Nick again. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Flash staring at the ground, still tired, and still hungry. "It's true, Nick. Let her go."
Nick was fuming, but he got off his horse and untied her.
Back on the ground, Flash looked at Jo, her face as red as a tomato. "Thanks, ma'am. I owe ya one." Then she turned to Nick, and smiled wide. "Well, sir, I suppose it's your lucky day. I'm not even supposed to be here, I'm two days late for leaving. I'll be heading off now, just gotta get my things." She started to walk back to the house with the children following her, but she said over her shoulder loud enough for them to hear, "By the way- don't ever get lost in April."
* * *
Early Next Morning-
"Thanks for everything, ma'am." Flash said with a grin. Right then, she had never felt better after a good night's sleep and food in her stomach. Most everyone was outside for Flash's leaving. The sun was just up, and dew still covered the ground.
Mrs. Jo returned Flash's warm smile and patted her on the shoulder. "I want you to know that you're welcome back any time." And gave Flash a nice hug.
Nick stepped up to Flash. "I'm sorry for doubting you, Flash." He admitted sheepishly.
Flash smiled again. "That's all right. I knew Jasper, and he wasn't a good guy," she said, looking at Dan and Nat. "You had reasons to doubt me, I understand."
Next it was Bess and Nan's turn. "We're sorry for being so mean to you these past two weeks." Nan apologized.
"And - and we're sorry for not believing you." Bess added.
Flash looked even happier then before. "Well, I have to admit, I was a pest." Bess and Nan's smiles grew. "But I also have to say that admitting your wrong takes a lot of gut, so I commend you for that." She told them.
She turned to go with Nat and Dan to the end of the gate, but before she did, she turned around and whispered only loud enough for Bess and Nan to hear, "As for the guys - they're all yours." And with that, she joined Nat and Dan to the gate, with Nan and Bess staring in disbelief.
"I'm sorry you have to leave, Flash." Dan said.
"Yeah, come back soon, all right?" Nat told her, hoping she would.
Flash hugged them each and said, "Don't worry, I'll be back." And she headed out. "In the meantime," she said over her shoulder as she walked away, "You guys have some girls to get to know."
Dan and Nat tried to look confused. "What does she mean by that?" Nat said in a fake tone.
They turned around to walk back to the grounds. Dan shook his head in the same fake way. "I dunno." He said. But they both knew very well, and once they caught each other's glance, they broke into a smile.
Further down the road Flash, as Flash was walking away from Plumfield, she thought of them together back in Boston. We made quite a trio, she thought. "And now my boys are growing up," she said out loud, and laughed into the dawn.