So come on kid, look at what you did
"So come on kid, look at what you did.
I don't know if you meant it, but you did yourself in and
I was even havin' a good day when I found out we lost you."
Hi all! Sorry for the long hiatus. I'm not dead, I promise you! ;) I owe you a long chapter...so please review! You readers are the best!
Disclaimer: Swearing in this chapter.
"Where did you go?" she asks, turning around in her seat to face me.
I frown and scratch the back of my head. "I'm not too sure."
"But you're here now." It's more of a fact than question.
"Off and on."
"That's a good thing. You were falling behind." My mother sighs and checks her watch. "He's late. Your father's always late."
"Just like Sodapop."
"Yes." Her eyes light up. "Just like your brother. How are they these days?"
I frown again. "I don't know…"
"Don't you remember, Ponyboy?"
"No, I remember…" I begin slowly. "I've just missed them…"
"Well, they'll find you. They always do." Her fist comes out to unfurl a set of car keys. "Will you drive?"
Shifting, I put a hand on the door handle. "I can't. I need to leave." I climb out of the back seat only to stand on the shoulder of the highway, a rickety guardrail behind me.
My mother stares at me and places a palm against the icy window. Despite the fact that the window is rolled up, I can still hear her clearly as she says: "Ponyboy, before you jump, make sure you're-"
"-You're alright," a voice says.
I must have dozed off because the next thing I know I'm opening my eyes and Darry's standing in front of me.
Forgetting where I am, I jerk up and away from him. I don't get very far because of my arm. My eyes go wide with the pain and a strong hand keeps me from floundering around any further.
"Pone, calm down. It's me."
The familiar voice settles me and blearily, I focus on my brother. The phone call must have caught Darry off-guard because his shirt is half-tucked into his jeans and he isn't wearing a watch – something he's never without.
Then, I notice two things and I don't know which one is worse: the way Darry's face looks right now, or the fact that Sodapop isn't here.
I choose to focus on the latter. "Where's Soda?"
Clearing his throat, he runs a hand through his messy hair. "I don't know Ponyboy. But I'm sure he's fine." His unsaid accusation hangs in the air: which is more than I can say for you.
Sighing, Darry pulls a chair up to my side of the bed and sits down. His hand comes out and cups my face, turning it from left to right. I force myself not to flinch or pull away; this is embarrassing enough.
His eyes move to my cast. "What'd you break?"
"Just my collarbone." My feeble attempt to reassure him that it's not anything serious falls on deaf ears. Darry shoots me a dark look and drops his hand from my face.
"Boy oh boy, kiddo, do you have a lot of explaining to do," he says tightly, crossing his arms against his chest.
"Yeah. I know," I mumble.
He stares at me a minute before asking, "Do you also know you could've gotten yourself killed?" The anger and concern warring in his voice is evident.
Something inside of me dies and I avert my gaze. I don't say anything. I don't think I can.
But silence doesn't sit well with Darry. Neither do half-assed explanations.
As if to prove his point, Darry springs out of his chair with such force, that it overturns itself. I bite my lip and watch him with wide eyes.
Shoot, I really should have said something.
Darry begins pacing the room, struggling for words – for composure. And then, giving up the fight, he finally booms: "What on earth were you thinking?"
I want to agree with him. I want to tell him that I had a plan that obviously didn't work out the way I had hoped it would go.
That I didn't think it out all the way…that I kept quiet for all the right reasons.
But all my thoughts – all my rehearsed explanations - will not make a difference. Because in the end, everything turned out wrong.
I was wrong.
"Ponyboy," he entreats. "Did you think you couldn't come to me and Soda? That we wouldn't believe you?"
I shake my head furiously, hating his assumption. "No, Darry that's not -"
He takes a look at me again and his face clouds. "Goddamn, I can't believe this," he swears bitterly, sounding more like Dallas Winston then my oldest brother.
"Just tell me-" Darry suddenly says very loudly and then catches his tone as I shrink away. He takes a breath, putting his palms together and touching them to his mouth. He tries again. Much more calmly. "Just tell me, Ponyboy…Why? Why didn't you say anything?"
"I wasn't – I didn't-" My mouth moves but nothing comes.
Then just when I think the room will close in on me and my words will choke me, I finally manage: "Darry, I-I wanted to. But Franny…" I shake my head, disgusted. "She was gonna ruin everything. Lie and tell the state that you and Soda were the ones hitting me."
Darry winces and I plow ahead before he can interrupt. "Darry, I couldn't let her say that. I just wanted to get the court date and come home."
Darry, who has changed about three different colors since entering the room, is now an ill-looking shade of green. "Ponyboy, I don't give a good goddamn what she said. That's not an excuse. You should have told me."
He turns away from me, rubbing his forehead. "I knew something was wrong – when the phone calls stopped…you were too quiet." Darry swallows thickly, his defenses down. "I was afraid of this: the accident, the secret with mom and dad, you getting taken away. God, I didn't want this to happen; I didn't want to lose you in the process.
My stomach rolls and drops as the icy feeling becomes too much to stand. I drop my head and fiddle with my sling. In a low voice I say, "It's not your fault. I know I should have told you. I was stupid." My eyes sting and I blink furiously.
This was harder than I thought.
A sick smile curls at Darry's lips. "But it is my fault, Ponyboy. You're my responsibility. You're stubborn, you're a smart kid, but I mean this when I say it; you really got to use your head. You're growing up, but kiddo, until then, you gotta do what I say and tell me when something's not right."
Bending down, Darry returns the chair to its rightful place and sits back down next to me. Reaching out to grip my one free hand, he says: "I'm just glad you're ok. That's the most important thing."
Mutely, I nod.
There's a tap on the door. Darry pats my shoulder and stands up. "We'll talk some more at home."
He cuts off, bristling as Patty Strickland pokes her blonde head in. "Ponyboy, I just wanted to see – oh my word," she exclaims catching a glimpse of me. Her hand flies up to her mouth, her eyes darting to Darry and then back to me.
"What are you doing here?" I ask, sick of all this.
For once, Darry doesn't chide me for my lack of manners. "What do you want?" he growls, protectively moving closer to me.
Patty coughs and ruffles through her briefcase, bringing out a set of papers. She ignores Darry completely. "Ponyboy, I was made aware of your condition. While extremely unfortunate I've come to take your statement so that we can-"
Next to me, my brother tenses. I can feel the heat radiating from his frame. "I think the statement's pretty clear on his face don't you?"
"Well, yes, Mr. Curtis, but as I was saying, I need to get the facts so that we can rectify the situation immediately by reassigning your brother to another foster family."
I blink and sit up straighter, discounting the pain shooting through my body. "No – no, I'm going home." I tug at Darry's arm. "Darry, she's making a mistake, they said-"
He rubs my back. "Shh, don't worry. You're not going anywhere."
Patty cocks her head sympathetically, as if I am the one who is confused. "This was an unfortunate incident, yes, but I assure you it will not happen again."
"You're right, it won't. This wouldn't have happened had he been in his home," Darry growls, his eyes blazing. "You can stick your 'reassignment' up your ass. I'm taking my brother home."
Patty smiles, saccharine. "Mr. Curtis…"
"What're you doing Patty?" Kenneth asks, surprising all of us. He shuts the door quietly behind him.
"I'm reassigning Pony-"
"There will be no reassignment Patty."
"Oh but-" she protests.
"We're not always in the right, young lady," Kenneth sighs, silencing Patty. "We act in the best interest of the child." He nods in my direction. "And it's in this child's best interest to be with his family."
"Darrel, on Monday, I'm making the recommendation to the court that you take back – and retain – custody of Ponyboy." Kenneth sticks a hand out. "I sincerely apologize for this inconvenience."
Everyone in the room knows the apology is meager. But anything more would be an insult, because how can you really apologize for something like this?
Acceptance is hard but Darry does it. Shaking Kenneth's hand he says, "I appreciate it."
The short walk from the hospital to the parking walk is long and painful. Darry keeps a firm hand on my shoulder, guiding me along. Briefly, I wonder if he is reassuring himself that I'm here; it's over.
"Feelin' ok?" he asks.
As we round the corner, Steve Randle is sitting on the tailgate of Darry's truck.
Surprised and slightly woozy from the pain medication the nurse has given me, I bleat again, "What're you doin' here?"
Upon seeing me, shock does a dance across Steve's face but is instantly replaced with a scowl. He slides off the truck's tailgate. "I'm cruisin' the place for chicks. What the hell do you think I'm doing?"
Then Steve's face clouds again as he steps closer, scrutinizing me. Steve shakes his head. "You stupid little shit."
"Steve!" Darry warns, glancing at me.
Steve discounts Darry. "Off all the fucking stupid things you could do…" he gripes, looking as if he wants to swat me on the back of the head. He doesn't – instead choosing to glare at me. "This ain't gonna be pretty; Sodapop is gonna kill you."
I take a step backwards, shocked at the anger in his tone.
"Enough!" Darry barks, frustration in his voice. "Steve, if you wanna help, shut the hell up."
An awkward silence settles around us. Then the moment passes.
"Have you heard from Soda" Darry asks, patting his pockets for the truck keys.
"I hate to tell you this Darry," Steve says trying to hide a jealous grin. "But your other brother's in the cooler."
Having finally found his keys, Darry drops them. "What the hell happened?"
I bend over to retrieve them, swaying slightly as I come back up. "Easy, kiddo," Darry whispers.
Steve shrugs. "Curly Shepard told me that he and Two-bit got picked up for stealing a car."
Steve pauses and then continues, "A cop car."
I grin drowsily. "So, Soda's in jail and you're already slumming with Curly Shepard?"
"Can it, kid. You ain't one to talk," Steve snaps. "I've seen-"
"Making a break for it already, Squirt?" a soft voice drifts in from out of the darkness. It's Jake, sidling up to us.
"Where'd you go Jake?" I ask, making a move towards him. Darry sticks an arm out, quickly putting an end to my exit. I glower at my oldest brother.
"Told you I'd find a bar." Jake holds out a flask.
I smile a lop-sided smile, courtesy of whatever drugs the nurses have put me on. Although, I feel slightly on edge, as if I could jump out of my own skin. This night has happened much to fast for me to catch up with it.
Darry is shaking his head. And as I take a look at his face, I can tell that this train is going to start coming off the tracks pretty damn quick.
My brother instantly makes the connection. "You knew about this." Darry fires at Jake without missing a beat. "How irresponsible, idiotic, insane do you have to be to let this happen – to leave my brother there with those people?"
With each verbal slap I cringe. But I keep quiet, knowing there is nothing I can say to silence my brother or Jake. They'll have their say. Yet, only I know that each of them have truly done their best; only I can see the others' side.
"I was there," Jake replies. "Squirt knew what he was doing."
"You don't leave it up to him," Steve interjects hotly. "Christ, he's a kid."
"Either way, I'd say it worked out fine for you in the end, didn't it?" Jake points at me. "He's going home. Done deal."
Horrified, Darry stares at Jake. "Yeah, it's that simple."
"Darry," I hiss. "Leave it."
But he doesn't. I have never seen my brother this angry. This violent. He looks like he could kill most any man.
"You're lucky this is all that happened." Darry gestures at my sling while I stare at the ground shamefaced. "Or you'd be bleedin' all over this parking lot right now."
Impassive, Jake shrugs. "Can't say I'd do anything different in your situation."
Choosing his next words carefully, my brother says to Jake: "Stay away from him."
I hold out my one good arm in appeasement. "No, Darry, that's not-"
"It's ok, Squirt," Jake speaks easily. "I've gotta be on my way."
"Ponyboy, we're going home," Darry says in a low voice. "Get in the truck."
Behind me, I hear Steve open the passenger side door. "C'mon kid."
Now sick to my stomach for more reasons than I can count, I no longer have the energy to argue with Darry. He deserves to win the fight tonight.
Then, as I turn and am about to climb in the truck something hits me hard: He's going. I spin around. "Jake!" I yell. "You don't leave, you hear?"
He smiles and says: "Squirt, I'm surprised you noticed."
Soda has kept our room oddly clean since I've been away. As my eyes swipe across it, I realize I have left all of my personal belongings back at Jake's.
Most importantly, Johnny's copy of Gone with the Wind.
And there's no way in hell Darry's going to let me go back there.
With wobbly legs, I sink onto the bed. I know too many things right now. Too many things that I would gladly erase from memory. I bury my head in my hands and sigh.
The front door slams and I jump, looking up. Steve and Darry's muffled conversation comes to a halt.
Soda's tense voice floats throughout the house. "Where is he?"
"He's in the bedroom" Darry answers tiredly. "And I know where you've been, little buddy."
"No, Soda. I don't want to hear anything right now. I don't want to know why you lifted a cop car, how you know about what happened to Ponyboy, or why your face looks like that. I'll deal with you later. Just go talk to him."
Soda's a whirlwind as he whips our bedroom door open.
"So, how was jail?" I ask point-blank.
Soda stares at me a moment; both of us blinking at the others face. Soda has a busted lip and a bruise across his cheekbone. My own face mirrors his own, although his is not as worse as mine.
Soda recovers and slams the door shut. "Don't get smart. Besides that's the least of my worries right now." As he says this, I can see his face trying not to crack. In one quick stride, he crosses the room. "Oh, Pone. Why…Jesus, why didn't you tell me? Anyone?" Careful of my sling, he throws his arms around me, hugging me to his chest.
I don't speak for a few minutes. But Soda is patient - he can wait for my truth. Kissing the top of my head, he releases me. Finally I admit, "I thought I could handle it."
"Oh honey…" he exhales. "You can't take risks like this." He scoots closer and smoothes my hair back.
"I'm sorry, Soda." I take a shuddery breath and speak without thinking – my favorite pastime. "The only good thing that happened is the smack on the head that Mike gave me. I don't forget anymore."
At least in that sense, I am back to normal.
Soda pales, an ill smile overcoming his wan face. "That's not funny," he says, bowing his head. Soda emits a coarse, guttural laugh and covers his eyes. His shoulders shake. He laughs again.
After a few moments pass, I ask softly, "How come you're laughing if it ain't funny?"
"I ain't laughing Pone," Soda says, taking a shuddery breath. He swipes at his eyes and clears his throat. "I know what you were trying to do kiddo. But you were wrong. So wrong."
He scrutinizes me closely and then sighs. "What are we going to do with you, kiddo?"
"Trade me in for a newer model?" I joke lightly – but honestly consider the idea myself. I'm not exactly making life easier on my brothers.
Soda smiles sadly. "Not a chance."
One chapter left! Everything will be wrapped up. Thanks for reading…I hope I did this chapter justice. Sigh
Pardon any typos.