After police come for their mother, sisters Allie and Natalie feel they have no choice but to steal money from strangers and plot an adventure to find their father in California. The problem is that Allie tries to steal from the wrong person, and both girls end up in an uncomfortable position...
Allie & Natalie Run Away
by Breanna Carter and Lenore
When the police pounded on the door of her apartment, 12 year old Natalie Morgan did what she'd been taught to do: she grabbed her barefoot little sister and shoved her out of the window onto the fire escape, climbing their way down to the street. Little Allie was crying the whole time until Natalie shushed her. "Hey, calm down, we're gonna be fine."
"I want Mommy!" Allie insisted tearfully as she followed her sister. "And my shoes! I want my shoes!" She was scared and didn't fully understand what was going on, just knew that the ground was hurting her feet and that the cops who had been banging on the door were super scary.
People on the street turned to look at the girls now, but Natalie knew how to deal with nosey neighbors. Putting on her best sad little girl face, she gave a dramatic sigh as she squatted down to her sister's level, tears in her eyes. "Don't worry. We won't let that bad man get away with stealing your shoes." Gasps could be heard amongst the crowd. Natalie hoisted her sister onto her side even though she was getting a bit big for it now. The 6 year old's legs were almost as long as Natalie's, so it looked really funny to be carrying her like that.
But it worked -- within 10 minutes, a nice gentleman bought them a fresh pair of shoes and 2 ice cream cones.
"Thank-you!" Allie told the man once the shoes were on her feet and the ice cream in her hands. She liked when people gave them things as it made her feel special. She also liked to put on her cute act and get attention for it.
But then the man went to call the police to report the crime, so Natalie grabbed Allie's hand and they ran off; she had a plan, and that involved no cops. The plan was to find their dad -- he'd disappeared when Allie was a baby, but Natalie could remember him clearly: the way he smiled at her when he was proud, and hugged her when she was scared, and the glare from his blue eyes when she was in trouble. She wanted to find him mostly for Allie. But also, she had a thing or two she wanted to let him know, including how pissed she was that he'd left, and how she was doing just fine without him. But maybe since their mom was going to jail now, they could live with their dad. Natalie had always wondered what it'd be like to live with her dad.
"Where are we going?" Allie demanded. "I want to go home!"
"We're goin' on an adventure to find Dad," Natalie said.
Allie liked adventures but not when they frightened her, and at the moment she felt kind of scared. She knew nothing about their father but loved her mother plenty, so preferred to stay with her. Allie didn’t understand that the cops had arrested their mom and that she and Natalie would be stuck in foster homes if they didn’t escape.
Natalie was used to Allie's questions, and also used to calling the shots. She knew a distraction would help: "C'mon, let's play 'find the wallet'." That was Natalie and Allie's favorite game -- Allie would stand someplace by herself and start crying, then as strangers approached her to help, Natalie would eventually turn up, and they would take turns snatching wallets. Natalie was quicker than her little sister, so usually ended up with more items. But Allie was much better at distracting their prey, and was also good at following Natalie's lead. They were great at teamwork.
"Okay!" Allie agreed eagerly. "I'm good at that!"
She excitedly found a crowd and started crying as if on cue. It was mostly because she was still a little freaked out about the cops who’d pounded on the door, but also because she knew how to cry on command. People started gathering around her to see what was wrong. She just cried and blubbered gibberish.
Natalie darted through the crowd, grabbing wallets and cash as she ran towards her sister. "Allie, thank goodness! I thought I’d lost you!" She embraced the little girl tightly, shedding a few tears herself for dramatic effect, though she had to admit that the tears were kind of genuine as she was scared, too... especially because the address she had for her dad was all the way in California. That meant that she and Allie would have to find enough money and figure out how to get all the way across the country!
The crowd started thinning, and Natalie shot a slight grin at her sister. "Thank you for your help, sir," she said to the nearest passerby, then took her sister's hand and walked in the opposite direction of their apartment.
A few blocks down, they hopped onto a crowded bus without paying, riding only a few blocks before playing the game again. They'd played about 4 times and collected over $200 when Natalie started feeling uneasy. She sensed that Allie wanted to play again -- this was the most animated she'd seen her all day.
She was right.
"Let's play some more!" Allie insisted excitedly. "I love this game!"
Yes, Allie was definitely feeling much happier and animated now... Nothing like their favorite game to cheer her up! She ran a few feet from her sister and waited til it was crowded, then started fake crying again and doing her thing.
And as predicted, people hurried over to offer help and consolation.
The uneasy feeling in Natalie's stomach grew even stronger when she saw a familiar-looking man approach her sister. He was wearing a suit with a fancy hat, and squatted down to her level to see what was wrong. Natalie could just sense that something was going to happen, and she wanted to warn Allie to abort her plan -- don't try to steal from this man! But Allie wouldn't look in her direction.
"Hey, kid, what's wrong?" the man asked the little girl.
"I can't find my sister," Allie told him as she attempted to distract his attention while slyly eyeing the wallet in his pocket. "She told me to meet her here if we got separated." She reached towards his pocket and began to lift the wallet.
The man was expecting it, though. Just as Allie's finger's gripped the leather, the man took her wrist. "What's this?" he asked, holding her hand with the wallet in the air.
Natalie muttered bad words under her breath then ran out to her sister. "Hey! There you are Allie." And when she locked eyes with the man, she realized why he'd looked so familiar...
But Allie was panicking and trying to yank away, yelling, "let me go! Let me go!" She wasn't used to being caught so was going a little crazy. "I found my sister! Let me go!" She had no idea why this man was staring pointedly at her sister, and she didn't like that he wasn't letting go of her wrist. "Let me go before I bite you Mister!"
"Let her go," Natalie commanded, eyes narrowed at the man. He complied with the girls’ wishes, snatching his wallet and putting it back in his pocket, not taking his eyes from the two troublemakers. Natalie held her little sister close, petting her hair to calm her down, then when the guy broke eye contact, whispered to Allie: "that's our dad."
Allie leaned into her sister for protection, eyeing her father carefully as an older and taller man approached. "Is that why he wouldn't let me go?" she asked in a low voice. "And who is he and why's he look angry?" she asked nodding towards the tall man.
“Neal, what’s going on?” the tall man asked their dad, then looked down at the girls. "Where's your mother?"
Natalie squeezed her sister's hand -- their code for "get ready to run!"
"She's over there," Natalie said, pointing behind them. As soon as they turned their heads to look, Natalie darted away, dragging her sister along.
Allie stumbled a little at first but managed to keep up with her sister as best she could. Her legs were shorter though so sometimes it was hard.
It didn’t take long for Neal to notice they had taken off, and he shouted: “Peter! They’re running!” The two men gave chase, not wanting to lose the girls. Peter was with the FBI and knew these little criminals needed to be caught; Neal, on the other hand, just wanted to know what was going on with his daughters and why they were stealing from people.
"They're gaining on us Natty!" Allie exclaimed fearfully. "My legs aren't fast enough!"
"Quick! Over here!" Natalie said, making a sharp turn left into an alley, then grabbing her sister to hide behind the dumpster. They were both panting loudly, adrenaline at full force. Natalie tried to think of what to do as they heard the men running past the alley. "I think we got rid of 'em," she said.
"I hope so!" Allie replied softly as she tried to catch her breath.
"Let's ditch the wallets we took... just in case." Natalie dug through her backpack for the items they’d collected, putting all of the cash into a couple of different hiding spots. Then she gathered any evidence that could be used against them and tossed it into the dumpster.
But what were they going to do now? The plan had been for them to go find their dad... but apparently he wasn't in California... he was here, right here in New York City.
This gave Natalie an idea. "Hey Allie, what if we just go back to our dad?"
Allie chewed on her lower lip a little. "Do you think he would want us Natty? I don't know him like you do... But he didn't look scary and mad like the other guy..."
Natalie held onto her sister's hand tightly. She could feel the cold ice cream in her stomach, rumbling around as if telling her something bad would happen. But she couldn't help it... She'd run out of other ideas. There was nothing else they could do, right? They were both nervous about leaving their hiding spot, but Allie was right: at least their dad didn't look as frightening as the other guy.
When the girls finally mustered up the courage to emerge, neither was paying much attention to their surroundings and Natalie smacked right into the tall guy, stopping her dead in her tracks. She hadn't realized they'd already been found. "Ummm..." was all she could say.
"Just where do you two think you’re going?" Peter demanded.
Allie saw the confrontation and immediately turned to run the other way, only to see the Neal… her dad. She tried to dive between his legs as a last ditch effort to get away.
"Whoa, hold it there kid," Neal said, holding onto Allie’s shoulders so she couldn't escape. "No running away."
Natalie looked back at her sister. "Allie, it's okay," she said, defeated. There was no use in running.
Neal had a smile on his face as he squatted to Allie’s level, studying her from head to toe. It was the first time he'd seen her since she was a baby. He had never expected to see her again. "Where's your mom?" Neal asked.
Allie stared up at him looking a little frightened. "I don't know.....scary people came banging at our door and Natty and me ran off...." She answered quietly as her eyes filled with tears. "I want my Mommy...."
Peter eyed the older girl warily. "Do you know who was at your door? Why are you on the run? What did you do with those wallets you two stole?" He wanted answers and he wanted them now.
Natalie looked up glaringly at the old man. "Who's this old fart anyway?" she asked her dad, backing away.
Neal glanced up. "Oh, that's Peter... and he works for the FBI," he said.
Peter narrowed his eyes. "I could arrest you two for stealing," he commented. "Unless you tell us what is going on."
Allie started to cry. "I don't wanna go to jail!" She latched onto Neal feeling he was her safest choice right then. “I want my Mommy!!!!"
Peter ignored the cries of the youngest as best he could. "I can't help you if you don't talk to me."
Natalie looked from Allie to Peter to Neal, then back to Peter again. "The wallets are in there," Natalie said, pointing to the dumpster. She was reluctant to tell them about their mom because she’d already seen an ankle monitor on her dad, which meant that he probably wouldn’t be able to take care of them either. The idea of having to live with strangers scared her even more than the FBI guy...
Peter grunted in annoyance about the wallets. "How thoughtful of you,” he said, cutting a glare at Neal. Then, looking back at Natalie, he said, “And what about your mother? Where is she exactly? So we can let her know just what you two were up to."
"She's gone... the cops came..." Natalie swallowed down the lump in her throat, begging herself not to cry. She couldn't show any vulnerability in front of these men.
Peter shook his head. "So the whole family are criminals. Lovely." He eyed Neal warily. "It seems they’re wards of the state now."
Allie clung tighter to Neal seeking attention and comfort.
Neal held onto his little girl and rubbed her back, trying to calm her down. "We can't just let them stay with anyone," he told Peter, mind racing. He wished he could keep them himself... he regretted so much that he’d put his criminal life ahead of his own kids.
"Then who do you suggest they stay with?" Peter demanded. "Your criminal buddies? Mozzie? Is that what you want for them, to continue the same path and end up in prison?"
Natalie piped up. "We weren’t going to stay with just anyone... we were looking for our dad... Neal…” She looked towards him now and scowled, “but you were here this whole time and didn't have the decency to even visit us.”
"Natty said we could stay with you!" Allie whimpered glancing up at Neal tearfully. "Don't you want us?"
Neal sighed. "It's not that easy. Look, let's just take them to get cleaned up then we can talk about this calmly..."
Peter interrupted him, "After you girls return the wallets."
Natalie folded her arms. "I'm NOT going in that dumpster. If you want the wallets, get 'em yourself."
"You will retrieve them even if I have to stick you in there myself," Peter stated.
Allie clung tightly to Neal once more. "I'm not going in there! It's scary and there's spiders and monsters!"
"Peter… it’s not really sanitary to make them do it either..." Neal said. He could tell, though, that Peter wasn't backing down, so it was up to him to jump in there himself. He was happy that it wasn’t too dirty and that everything was relatively easy to find.
He handed the wallets to Peter, then hopped to the ground.
Allie looked up at him in awe and wonderment. Anyone who jumped into a trash bin so she didn't have to had to be a superhero of some kind!
But Peter shook his head at the criminal. "They need discipline Neal. A good spanking for sure." Then he glanced at the girls. "Let's get those back to their rightful owners."
Allie eyed the tall angry man warily. She didn't like the way he was talking, even if she didn’t fully understand his words.
And Natalie didn't know what to think about this guy -- a spanking? Who actually did that anymore? Anyway, he would have to learn that she, Natalie, was the boss around here, NOT him.
Neal took Allie by the hand and they all walked out of the alley near where another agent had brought their car around. "Hey, let me talk to them for a minute," he told Peter. The whole situation gave Peter an uneasy feeling and he wasn't sure if he should allow this, but Neal had proven to be trustworthy, so he nodded and gave the family space.
Neal motioned for Natalie to join them, and she decided she would, despite still being a bit annoyed they'd gotten caught. "Listen, Peter is an FBI agent, so we kinda have to do what he says," he looked down at Allie. "I know it sucks, but he's a good guy. You'll get used to him." He then pointed to the wallets. "Peter didn't notice, but I know you took money from them. You're smart kids, but I can't let you get away with this... I don’t want you to go down the same road I did..."
Allie gave him a confused look. "I don't have any money. Natty holds the money 'cause I would prolly lose it and then we'd of played our game for nothing." She was a pro at lying, but sometimes she could be overly honest. And then she started thinking, what is a spanking anyway? So she asked: "What's a spanking? It sounds scary...."
Natalie reached for the wad of money she'd stashed away, leaving a few bucks behind in case of emergency. When she put the bills in Neal’s hands, he said nothing, just motioned for her to give up the rest.
"You were out of my life for 6 years and now you think you can come around playing dad, acting like you know me better than I know myself?" She looked down at Allie, finally answering her question. "Spanking is abuse and we're not going to let them touch us."
Allie looked worried again and inched closer to her sister. "I don't wanna be abused!"
"I have my reasons for not being around," Neal stated firmly. "And we will talk about that later. But right now I need you to hand over the rest of the money, Natalie." Then, looking toward Allie, he shook his head. "Spankings are not abuse. It's punishment for doing wrong." He really wished he’d been around these last few years for the girls. They had no idea what they were going to get themselves into if this stealing didn’t stop...
"I wanna go home," Allie insisted.
"C'mon Allie, we returned the money, now we should be allowed to go," Natalie said, trying to snatch her sister from her dad.
"Natalie..." Neal warned.
Peter noticed the commotion and walked towards the family. "What's going on?"
Neal held up the money, "Looks like there was more that we didn't know about. Natalie decided to turn the rest in," he said.
Peter shook his head, muttering to himself, "now we just have to figure out how much was in each wallet."
Now that that the attention was off her, Allie started to cry again. She was so confused and conflicted and scared. Tugging on her sister’s shirt she whined, “Nattyyyy... you said we'd have a daddy… I don't understand what’s going on..."
Allie’s crying finally softened Peter. "Let’s give this to Jones to figure out so we can focus on the girls," he said.
Neal agreed. "We can take them home, gather their things, and discuss potential next moves."
Natalie figured her father was using big words so she wouldn't understand, but she wasn't a 6 year old anymore like when he left. Now she could understand him. She grabbed Allie's hand again, bracing herself to leave. Neal noticed this and positioned himself so that the girls didn't have an escape route.
Allie was still crying, though, and backed away from Natalie, reaching instead for Neal. She was tired of running. And she was hungry. She really didn't care where they went as long as they got food.
Peter led the crew to his car, helping them all inside as he spoke with Jones about the wallets. Natalie didn’t want to go with him, but Neal was kind of pushing her along and she felt she couldn’t really get away.
They pulled up to the girls’ apartment complex. "Wow, it hasn't changed since I was here last," Neal said.
Natalie dug the keys out of her pocket and opened the front door.
Neal looked down at the two of them. "Pack your things… Don’t worry if you can’t get everything at once, we’ll come back for more another time. I’ll be in there in a few minutes. First, Peter and I need to have a talk."
Natalie walked to the back of the apartment with her sister, smirking -- she was imagining the look on her dad's face when they found the room empty, because she was definitely planning on escaping again. She just didn't know where to go now...
While Natalie pondered possibilities, Allie stuffed her favorite belongings into a backpack. There were a few stuffed animals and her fuzzy blanket, then a few small toys. She also tossed in some clothes, but ran out of space. She peeked at her big sister and was going to ask if she could put some stuff in her bag, but noticed that Natalie wasn’t packing. So she asked in a soft voice, "Natty? What's gonna happen to us?"
In the living room was a totally different conversation. "What is it Neal? What plan have you come up with now?" Peter asked.
Neal peeked into the girls' room, making sure they were busy and not listening to him. "Peter, I need your help, please. I know you and Elizabeth are certified to be foster parents... can't you just... will you take..." He cleared his throat and tried again: "Will you take care of the girls for me until the end of my sentence?"
Peter looked at him surprised. "Me? Do you think this is a wise choice?" They had been talking about fostering but no children had come their way… until now. "I sense the oldest one could be a problem."
Neal chuckled. "But it's nothing you can't handle, right?" He glanced at the girls again. "Yeah, she'll be a handful, but it's just because she hasn't had any stability. I'm sure once you get to know her you'll find some reason to feel compassion for her."
Peter looked thoughtful for a long moment. What would happen to these two little thieves otherwise? They would likely separate them and toss the oldest in juvie. "I'll do it. Mostly because I know what could happen if I don't."
Meanwhile, in the girls’ room, Natalie broke the news to her little sister. "Ready to escape again?" She glanced out of the door, noticing that her dad was staring straight at her, as if expecting her to bolt again.
Allie looked upset once more. "I thought we were going with our daddy? You said that was the plan..." She liked the man who was supposedly their daddy; he seemed nice and not scary.
"But we'll get in trouble for playing our game," Natalie said, shivering slightly. "And didn't you hear him? It's complicated. I saw that thing on his ankle. They're gonna end up putting us with strangers! And maybe separating us!"
Allie looked terrified. "I don't wanna go away from you! You're all I got!" She was torn as she wanted to stay with their daddy but she didn't want to be taken from her sister or end up in trouble. "I'm scared," she told her sister.
When Neal saw the girls talking instead of packing, he knew something was up so went to get them. "Ready?"
"No. I'm not going to live with strangers," Natalie shouted and turned for the window.
Neal caught her just in time. "Natalie... let me explain..."
"No! Leave. Me. Alone!" She broke free from him and this time ran in the opposite direction, towards the front door. She almost made it out, too, except she ran right into Peter... again!
He easily grabbed hold of the preteen. "Relax. You won't completely be with strangers and you’ll get to stay with your sister."
Allie looked panicked as she wasn't as fast as her sister. "Natty! Natty! You forgot me!"
Neal took hold of Allie before she could run and attempted to console her. "She's not going to leave you," he promised, knowing Peter would take care of Natalie. "C'mere." He sat down on what appeared to be Allie's bed -- it was messy and had her ratty, faded Barney blanket kicked to the end. A forgotten stuffed teddy lay face down next to her pillow -- it looked like the same one he’d given Natalie 6 years ago. "Your sister is going to be fine, she's just going to talk to Peter while I talk to you." Sensing that Allie was still feeling a little scared, he did the famous "quarter behind the ear" magic trick. Knowing that a quarter wasn't much, he even turned the quarter into a $5 bill, just for her.
It worked. Allie was easily distracted by the magic trick. "Again! Again!" She loved magic and tricks and pranks.
In the other room, Peter led Natalie to the living room sofa so they cold sit and talk. "Relax. I will be taking you and your sister to my place. My wife and I are foster parents. This way you can stay together and Neal can still check in. I have a feeling your sister is going to be quite taken with him."
Natalie eyed him suspiciously. "I don't see how. Neal is an asshole, he just left us, he didn't even care."
"I'm sure there’s more to the story," Peter replied. "But if you're staying with me there are going to be rules and consequences."
"I don't do well with rules," Natalie said, noticing that Neal had closed their room door. She guessed he was having a similar conversation with her little sister.
She was right. Neal had repeated different magic tricks for the little girl a few times before pushing the door shut and taking off the jacket of his suit. "Allie, we need to talk about what happened earlier."
Allie cocked her head to the side like a puppy. "What about earlier?"
"The game you were playing with Natalie. What was that about?"
Allie smiled, innocence in her eyes. "It was to see who could trick them people the best and get the most wallets! It's my favorite game! I'm good at tricking people! It's fun!"
Neal nodded. "Allie, do you understand that's illegal?"
Allie shook her head. "No. It's a game. It's like a big joke. I like jokes."
"Allie you took their money, you stole it," Neal said, pulling her closer towards him. "It's okay to play jokes on people.... sometimes," he said, hoping she didn't take what he said too literally. "But you can't take people's things, or hurt them." He showed the little girl his ankle bracelet. "Do you know what that is?"
Allie shook her head again. "No. Is it jewelry?" She was still young enough to be completely naive.
"No, it's from the government. It means I was caught doing bad things, so now the government watches everything I do. And I don't want that to happen to you."
Allie looked at him confused. "Are they like a baby sitter? Baby sitters can be fun...or mean." She had experienced both kinds of sitters.
"Something like that, but worse."
Allie frowned. "That doesn't sound fun."
"It's not. And Peter would think you need to be punished for this... so since we don't want you to go to jail, I think it's time you learned what a spanking is. It's what happens when you or Natalie break the rules."
Allie looked at him quite alarmed. "But Natty said that's abuse and I don't wanna be abused Mister! I don't want to know what a spanking is! It sounds scary and not fun! I don't like scary un-fun things!" Her eyes filled with crocodile tears.
"It will be over before ya know it," Neal said.
In the other room, Natalie waited for Peter’s response to her dislike of rules. "So I’ve noticed," Peter replied. "But if you want to stay with your sister you're going to have to give it a go."
"Sounds like we don't have much of a choice," she muttered, finally allowing a tear to slide down her cheeks. Truth was, she was pretty scared. She didn't know about living with this strange man or even her dad... she was used to just taking care of herself. But how bad could it be?
"You don't," Peter agreed. "Now about earlier... What in the world did you think you were doing?” He had been surprised to see the two little girls lifting wallets like nobody's business.
Natalie shrugged. "We needed money to get to California."
"What you were doing was wrong," Peter said firmly. "You are lucky we caught you and no one else. You could end up in juvie and separated from your sister for something like that." He paused, pacing back and forth. "That type of behavior needs consequences," he continued. "Which in this case, would be a spanking."
Natalie's eyes widened. "I dunno about that..."
"Look, I'm sure you're scared, but I promise you this is all in your best interest," Peter told her. "I would never do this unless I felt it absolutely necessary."
Natalie still wasn't convinced. "What's in it for me?" she asked. One thing is for sure, Natalie was a lot like Neal. Peter would have his hands full, but already she was beginning to open up a little to him.
"A safe place to stay, meals, and you get to stay with your sister," Peter replied. "Otherwise it's separation and likely juvie. I don't think either of you would be too thrilled with that option."
Natalie nodded. "Fine. But you have to remember that I'm an independent 12 year old, not a baby like my sister. I expect to be treated like an adult."
Peter suppressed the urge to roll his eyes. Why were kids always in such a hurry to grow up?
"You will be treated the age you are. Nothing more and nothing less."
"Fine," she groaned. "But I'm not gonna trust you all the way yet."
In the girls' room, Neal tried to keep Allie calm while beckoning her forth. "Would you feel more comfortable with Natty here?"
Allie kept crying her crocodile tears as she shook her head. She would feel better if he would just let her carry on with her day. "I don't know what I want...." She whimpered. After a couple seconds she threw herself at him and latched on tightly. She could be a little unpredictable sometimes.
Neal sighed and smothered her in a hug. Poor kid, he felt so sorry for her, and probably would end up considering her his favorite since he felt guilty for never having been a part of her life. "Everything's gonna be all right," he told Allie. He lifted her up onto his lap and let her nuzzle in as he showed her another magic trick. He may not be able to bring himself to actually spank her.
Allie was once more distracted by the magic trick. "I wanna learn how to do the tricks!" She insisted. "I wanna trick Natty." She felt safe sitting with him and didn't want to leave him anytime soon. She was hoping she had distracted him from any thoughts of spanking her. She really didn’t care to find out what one was, and hoped her sister wasn't finding out either.
Familiar sounds rang through the apartment and Neal looked down at Allie. "I'll teach you a magic trick after the spanking," he said. Not wanting to take the chance of her getting away, in a swift moment he placed her over his lap and planted a few light swats onto her backside.
Allie shrieked as she squirmed to try and get away. "NO MISTER!" She was not happy her plan had failed. "NO! NO! NO!"
Neal held onto her tightly. "No more stealing, Allie, okay? *smack smack smack* I'm going easy on you this time. Peter won't be so easy next time."
Allie kicked angrily. "Owwww!" She shrieked. "Don't make me bite you Mister!"
"Hey! No biting!" he scolded then gave her a final pop on the bottom and let her up. He hadn't been very strict with her because she was so young and he knew that she hadn't realized what she was doing was wrong. He expected that Natalie wasn't getting off so lightly.
Allie whimpered as she looked up at him with a pout on her face. "That was mean!" She swatted at him feeling a little angry.
Neal felt a little bad for the kid, but knew Peter would have gone much harder on her. So instead of letting her whine he started showing her the trick that he'd promised.
Natalie, on the other hand, was still being spanked. It'd started shortly after she told Peter she wouldn't trust him.
Peter kept spanking Natalie and hoped Neal was doing the same to her little sister. "I won't have you stealing and being dishonest. If it happens again your pants will be coming down and you'll get it on your bare bottom." He was spanking hard enough that she would feel it through her pants but not hard enough to cause damage. Seeing as it was her first spanking from him and he didn't want to completely embarrass her, he had let her keep her pants up.
Natalie kicked and squirmed but tried to keep her cries to a minimum to maintain some ounce of dignity. "Owww! That hurts!" she squealed, reaching her hand back to block. "Ok ok ok! I learned my lessonnn!"
Peter easily grabbed hold of her and said, "I will decide when you have learned your lesson." He increased the intensity of the spanks a bit. "You are old enough to know that stealing is wrong, and you shouldn’t be encouraging your sister to steal as well."
"We didn't have a chooooice," Natalie whined, kicking her legs more and beginning to feel the tears threatening to fall from her eyes.
"You always have a choice," Peter told her. "You will have a proper home now with food so there will be no more stealing, understood?"
He kept spanking.
"Y-yessss," she said, wiggling over his lap and kicking a little.
"You're a good kid and I intend to keep it that way," Peter added as he landed five hearty smacks to her backside. He stopped then and rubbed her back giving her a moment to catch her breath before easing her back up.
Just as Natalie pushed herself up and wiped her eyes, Neal and Allie came into the room. She went straight to Allie and tackled her in a hug.
Allie hugged her back tightly. "You forgot me!" She accused, then added, "I learned a magic trick!"
"Sorry, I was just scared and my legs just started running... I'll never leave you like that again, AllieCat," Natalie said, using the nickname she'd given her little sister. "Let's see that magic trick," she said, giggling and looking at her dad. "Do you live with Peter, too?"
"He doesn't," Peter answered. "But I'm sure you will see him plenty."
Allie showed her sister the quarter trick excitedly, "He knows lots of tricks Natty!"
"Cool! You'll have to show me how you do it," Natalie said, grabbing her little sister's hand and stooping down a little to her level. "Hey Allie, we're gonna stay with Peter for a bit until we can live with Dad again, okay?" She knew that her little sis was scared, so she gave her another hug. "He's okay, he's not as scary as he looks."
Allie eyed him warily as she hugged her sister. "But I wanna stay with daddy now. He's not scary." She pouted and clung to her sister a little tighter.
"Daddy can't now, but he will be able to, soon."
Neal looked down at the girls. "And Peter has a bigger house anyway... you'll get a big room, just for you! I think," he said, glancing at Peter.
Peter nodded. "You can each have your own room and my wife will be more than happy to help you decorate them."
Allie frowned a little. "But I don't like you. You're scary and not my daddy! I won't go with you!"
Peter was about to step in, but Natalie took over. "AllieCat, I promise it's gonna be fine. Let's just look at the place first and then later you can decide if you wanna stay or not." She glared at Peter so he wouldn't interject.
Allie frowned more as she popped her thumb into her mouth. She didn't normally but she was stressed out and scared. She nodded quietly as she let go of her sister and reached up for Neal. She had grown attached to him rather quickly.
Neal took Allie's bag and then placed her on his shoulders, letting her feel taller than everyone. Natalie looked on jealously, wishing her dad would show her a little more love instead of being so attached to Allie. But whatever. She just went to her room to pack a few things, then came out minutes later, negative attitude like a typical pre-teen. "Let's go," she said, leading the group out of the apartment.
Allie squealed happily as she looked down at everyone. "I'm tall!"
Peter followed her out as part of him was still a little worried about her taking off. "So what types of things do you like to do? Legal things...."
She shrugged, not wanting to tell him her hobby of making graffiti -- he probably wouldn't approve. She settled with: "I like art," speeding down the stairs next to Peter and avoiding Neal and Allie at all costs.
Peter nodded. "Art is a good hobby to have. " He didn’t have much practice in dealing with adolescents, so wasn’t really sure how to carry on a conversation with her.
Allie, on the other hand, chattered away as they followed Peter and her sister down the stairs. She could be pretty talkative at times.
When they reached the car, Neal lowered Allie into the backseat as Natalie plopped down in the front. Instead of saying anything, Neal just looked at her.
Peter got in the driver’s side and glanced at her. "Anyone under sixteen rides in the back," he stated. "It's not safe for you up here."
Allie buckled up after setting her knapsack on the floor. "Sit with me Natty!"
Natalie rolled her eyes at Peter but complied, much to Neal's amazement. When he sat down next to Peter he said, "wow, how'd you get through to that one?"
"I gave her attention and discipline,” Peter said, smirking slightly and feeling proud of himself for connecting with her already. “All she wants is for someone to listen."
The words made Neal felt a bit guilty for not giving Natalie a little more attention, so as Peter pulled off, he turned to look at her, asking questions about their lives. Of course, Natalie didn't answer much, but Allie seemed to have fun with the questions, chattering away happily. Allie used it as a way to distract herself from thinking about going to live in a new place.
After what felt like hours in traffic, Peter finally pulled into the driveway of his Brooklyn home. He was happy to arrive but suddenly felt a little uneasy... Hopefully his wife would approve of their new little house guests.
"I'm hungry!" Allie announced as she got out of the car. "Ice cream doesn't fill my tummy up."
Peter's wife, Elizabeth, met them outside. "Hi Hon, hey Neal," she said with a smile on her face. "And who do we have here?"
"Elizabeth, I'd like you to meet my daughters, Allie and Natalie," Neal said.
She bent down to shake Allie's hand, and then to shake Natalie's. "Neal, I didn't know you had kids?"
"Neither did I," Peter told her. "He's just full of surprises."
Allie tugged on Neal’s hand. "Are we gonna eat and do more magic?"
Elizabeth smiled. "You're in luck... I just made dinner. Come on in." She held open the front door for the guests then took Peter aside. "What's going on?"
"I told Neal we would take the girls in," Peter told her. "Their mother was arrested this morning and they obviously can't stay with Neal. If we don't take them in they could be split up and end up like someone else we know.” Elizabeth gave a look as if questioning how they were similar to their father, so Peter whispered, “we caught them pick pocketing today."
"Pick pocketing?!" Elizabeth nearly shrieked when Peter was interrupted by his cell phone. It was Jones.
"We're short some of the money... you sure neither of the girls stole any?"
Peter groaned. "I'll check and get back to you.” He hung up and shook his head. "And apparently they didn’t return all of the stolen money." He sighed heavily. "The youngest seems to thinks it's a game and the oldest swears it was to survive."
"Is everything okay?" Neal asked, now walking towards them and distracting the two from their conversation.
"Jones called to say some money was missing from the wallets,” Peter said, looking at the two girls. “Seems it wasn’t all returned."
Neal muttered something under his breath and shot a disapproving glare at Natalie. Then he looked back at Peter said, "I have a feeling I know who has it." He called out, “Natalie, come here.”
Elizabeth took this as her cue to take Allie to the kitchen. "C'mon Allie, you must be starving!"
Allie hurried after her. "Boy am I ever, lady!" Elizabeth pushed the door open, and Allie was finally introduced to the family dog, Sachmo, who greeted them happily, tail wagging. "Doggy!" Allie exclaimed, practically tackling him in a hug, then they all disappeared.
Natalie was left alone with her dad and Peter, and inched closer, scared to be in trouble again. Peter was annoyed but understood Natalie’s reluctance to come forward. "Natalie, I want you to be honest. Jones called to say some money was missing. Did you fail to return everything you stole?"
Natalie blushed profusely. "Oh, sorry, I forgot about it..." she half-lied, digging into her sock and taking out the last of what she’d stashed away. So much for keeping some in case of emergency. "Here ya go," she said, putting the bundle of cash in his hand and running off to join her sister and Elizabeth. She had to leave quick to avoid the possibility of getting spanked again.
But Peter was actually relieved at her honesty and happy she’d handed the money over.
When Natalie entered the kitchen, Elizabeth was putting down the plates while Allie attempted to set the silverware. "Do you girls like pot roast?"
"Sure, we'll try anything at least once," Natalie said.
Peter popped inside the kitchen. "Hon, I have to run to the office for a bit but I'll be back later."
"Come sit and eat with us first..." Elizabeth begged. "We already set your place."
Peter weighed his options. It was important that he return the money and sort out the girls’ legal status, but he couldn’t do it on an empty stomach. So he smiled and said, "okay, but I can't stay long.”
Allie nodded. "Yeahh!! Let's eat!"
After dinner, Peter left Neal showing Allie more magic tricks, and Natalie surprisingly helping Elizabeth do the dishes. Finally, Elizabeth said, "do you girls want to see your rooms?" Neither was used to having her own room before, since they shared a room in their old apartment.
"I do! I do!" Allie agreed easily. She was very excited about having her own room. Maybe she could finally get My Little Pony bedding like she wanted instead of having to use her ratty old Barney one.
Elizabeth motioned for them to follow her upstairs and they eagerly did. Neal followed close behind, stopping Natalie before she went in with Allie. "What do you want?" She snapped.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry for leaving... your mom and I couldn't live together anymore and..."
"It doesn't matter, okay? It's over." She walked into Allie's room and smiled. "It's bigger than our old room!"
Allie was twirling about in excitement trying to take it all in. "It will be pink and blue and sparkly and full of ponies!" She loved My Little Pony and was super excited to be able to decorate a room the way she wanted.
Elizabeth then showed Natalie to her room, which was equally big, and Natalie felt as excited as Allie. "Thanks for this," she told Elizabeth and gave her a hug. She was almost looking forward to having this new family. Almost.