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Edward brushed back his filthy locks as he found a place in the bread line. Ever since the big stock market crash in1929, the young blonde had lost his job, his mother, and any self-dignity he’d ever had. Ed could hardly look at himself anymore- he couldn’t remember the last time he had a shower or change of clothes for one thing, but having to stoop so low as to beg and search helplessly for food scraps and money? No matter how many people were in the same situation as he during this time of unemployment and low business activity, he couldn’t help but feel pitiful. Pathetic. Ashamed. He had turned 23 just two weeks ago- how could his youthful soul already want to leave this wretched world of depression and the loved ones within it?
After scarfing down his small meal, Ed made his way through New York’s rundown streets, searching for any dropped pennies as he went along. Suddenly, as he checked in-between his shoes, he felt tremendous force blow him sideways, off his feet, and onto the ground. “EDDIE!!!” Edward could recognize the hyperactive voice as George, who, even when he was living off the land and sleeping in the streets almost every day, had managed to stay playful and naïve, making him a sight for sore eyes. “Glad to see you’re still alive. Where in blazes have you been the past few days?” The blonde looked at his friend questioningly.
“Oh, nowhere important.”
“Okay, you talked me into it!”
George couldn’t keep a secret for over an hour, so all but a small prod was needed to get him to spill the beans. “I eavesdropped on some big conversations about the presidential election. Seems official- Frankie Roosevelt’s won presidency!” A grin spread across the brunette’s face as he purposely said the name incorrectly. “Thank God- ol’ Hoover didn’t do anything to help us out of this situation at all.” Ed sighed with relief as the two men continued down the street, chatting nonstop. “Yeah, it hasn’t been too congenial around here lately; police had to break up a big fight just the other day.” George shivered slightly at the last half of his sentence. Ed figured he’d probably got a little mixed in to the action himself by accident.
“You know, as dumb as you act on a daily basis, you sure know a lot.”
George got all huffy for a second or two at the blonde’s comment, but then they both burst with laughter, locking arms around shoulders in a friendly gesture, as they went on their merry way.
“Welcome back, Ed!”
“Hey Ed, find anything useful?”
“George, I haven’t seen you in a while; you stickin’ your nose into trouble again?”
“OH SURE, GIVE HIM A WARM WELCOME, NOT ME!!!”
George shook his fist in anger as Edward waved hi to his neighbors and friends. “Oi, Carrot Top, anything new while I was gone?” The blonde turned to Harry, who acted as the informer of what went on in their small hobo city, kind of like how George was an informer of the nationwide happenings. “Old man Max’s on the ‘TB’ List.” The red-head replied, not taking his eyes off the game he and his little sisters were playing in the dirt. “Not another one!” George exclaimed, his facial expression turning altruistic. That was typical, because George always cared deeply for others; the spreading tuberculosis just made his care deeper. Tuberculosis, or TB as they called it, was a contagious disease that was common during the depression. Normally, it’s not that life threatening if treated with a doctor and good nutrition, but with the current situation, that was almost impossible to get. Two people had already died from it, and almost half of Ed’s hobo city community was suffering from the disease, including George’s childhood friend and guardian, Thomas, and Edward’s beloved little brother, Spencer. “Welcome home, brother…” Speak of the devil; Spencer just happened to be peeking his head out of the boys’ makeshift home of scrap metal and wood, coughing and smiling weakly at Ed.
“S-Spence!” Edward sprinted for his brother, ushering the blondish-brunette back inside. “You KNOW not to come out of the house until you’re better! Not only are you wasting your strength, but you’re also taking the risk of spreading TB to the others!” The elder sibling continued to nag at him as Spence giggled lightly, squatted down, and crawled back into his bed of dirty blankets. As Edward spoke, something he’d said began to bother him. “Until you’re better”? Was he even sure that would happen? Was Spencer going to recover? His train of thought crashed at the sound of an ear-splitting scream ripping through the air.
“Brother! What was-!?”
Edward sounded harsher than he meant to, but the cry had put him in slight shock, and at least he got the message of danger across to Spence, who shrunk back into his bed as Ed ran off to see to the dilemma.
A good majority of the hobo residents were gathered around-oh, dear God- George’s house. “Let me through! What has happened… here…” Edward broke through the crowd to greet a nightmare. A certain brunette’s scrawny figure lied in a crumpled heap next to an old, worn bed, a waterfall protruding from his immense eyes. He had both hands wrapped securely around a large, pale one. This hand led to an arm. This arm led to a shoulder. This shoulder led up a neck and to a face. A face engulfed in black, angel thin hair, which was tainted crimson by a stream of blood leaking from its delicate mouth. However, the feature of this face that truly caught Edward’s attention had to be the eyes. Those once intense, loving, emerald eyes that were now a lifeless, sickly green. As the blonde before the scene stared unceasingly into those dead eyes, reality struck him cold with a realization. Thomas was dead. Thomas, the most loved among the community, the one who protected and cared for George since their parent’s death in 1922, the man who was at the prime of his youth, unstoppable and as strong as steel- was dead. A sudden pang of emotions hit his heart, emotions of hatred, fear, sorrow, and longing. He wanted to scream. He wanted to scream until his lungs tore themselves apart, but he knew he couldn’t. Not with everyone else there. It would cause dramatic chaos, and Ed needed to keep a cool head to prevent such a conundrum. Even so, he knew everyone had the same negative thought to some degree. ‘We’re all going die. I know it.’
“Here, Spence.” Ed took out a piece of bread he’d saved earlier, trying to shake off the strange feeling of those green eyes still upon him within the shadows. He didn’t know what to expect anymore. The two previous victims to the sickness were both elderly people who weren’t going to survive this depression either way. Thomas, on the other hand, was young and very much alive, and yet, the TB had managed to take him away as well. With this in mind, anyone could be blindsided by the hand of death at any given time, and that’s exactly what scared him. “What’s wrong, brother?” Spencer questioned, giving the elder man a look of concern. Suddenly, Spence felt himself being pulled into his sibling’s embrace.
“Don’t leave me.”
“Huh?” The blondish-brunette was now completely flustered.
“God, I hope you don’t leave me…” Edward began to break down into tears as he buried his face into Spence’s shoulder, trying not to imagine what would happen if he came home to his brother one day, his honey-colored eyes staring coldly into him as Thomas’s did. Spencer’s look of confusion turned into one of shock and realization, then one of melancholy. “Ed,” the younger man pulled back slightly from his brother’s arms, “Why would I ever leave you? Even if I did, it would never be intentionally. You’re my only living relative. You’re all I’ve got.” Coming back to his senses, Ed wiped away the remaining tears, thankful for Spence’s comforting words. “You’re right. As a matter of fact, you’re all I’ve got, too. Which is why,” the blonde released his sibling and stood to prepare himself for bed, “Starting tomorrow, I’m going to work as hard as I can to bring you back to full health, along with the rest of our friends,” Edward turned to Spence and smiled. “And I’ll make sure it stays that way.”