Chapter 4

Ava sat with Pony outside the gas station until Soda and Steve re emerged. Steve had taken it upon himself to remove his shirt as he came outside, and Ava could only roll her eyes. It was obvious that he was only trying to impress her, and - as much as she was flattered - she certainly wasn't interested. She wouldn't have minded so much had it been Sodapop. She could certainly drum up several fantasies in her mind in which his shirt would just not be appropriate for the occasion, but she attempted to keep those to herself. Thinking on them caused her to smile though, and she saw Pony give her a strange look.

"You're not actually attracted to that big lump, are you?" He asked, when Steve was out of earshot.

Ava had to snap herself away from her thoughts, and it took her a moment to register what Pony had said.

"What? Oh…God no, I was just…thinking about something else." She replied, trying her best to sound both disgusted and nonchalant.

"Sure." Pony said, flashing her a slight grin, and then turning back to his brother.

They had started walking when Steve suddenly stopped.

"Oh shit, I forgot something back at the station. Soda, you wanna come back with me?" He said.

"Not particularly." Soda replied, shaking his head.

"I'll go." Pony spoke up. "I mean, if Ava doesn't mind walking with Soda for awhile. We'll catch up."

Ava smiled and shook her head. She knew perfectly well just how well Pony and Steve got along, and figured that Pony was just buying her some time with Sodapop alone. Not that she minded – she just hoped that his sudden burst of helpfulness wasn't too obvious to Soda, whom she figured probably knew his and Steve's relationship better than she did.

Soda didn't seem to sense anything suspicious however, and gladly walked with her the rest of the way home. Just before Pony walked back with Steve, he turned and shot a wink at Ava. Ava tried her best not to grin at him, but she just smiled slightly and gave him a look as if to say 'thanks, but shut up'.

Soon, she and Soda were alone, and walking down the road towards his house. At first, the conversation was awkward. Well…that was a lie, because at first there was no conversation. Soda broke the silence first.

"So, I'm under the impression that Pony's told you a lot about me." He said, flashing her a grin that melted her, but she managed to keep her cool.

"What would make you say that?"

"He does that." Soda replied, laughing. "But, I don't know anything about you – other than your name. I'm lucky I even got that."

Ava shrugged, but she could almost hear her heart beating out of her chest. She obviously had no difficulty opening up to Ponyboy about her life, but Soda was different. She was so nervous around him, that talking about her problems seemed contrived. Although she could plainly see he was gorgeous, she didn't know enough about his personality to know if he would understand all she'd been through, and actually be able to sympathize with her. Sure, everything Pony had told her about him – and it had been extensive – had made him out to be the perfect male specimen, but until she found that out for herself, she was careful about how much she revealed to him.

"There's not a whole lot to tell, I guess. My family's messed up, and I'm just trying to get away from it all. Don't ask how I ended up here, but I'm here now, and you're the only people I know at this point."

Soda nodded. "Well, if you were looking for a person without a messed up family, then you're walking with the wrong one."

"Yeah, Pony told me about your situation. Sorry." Ava replied.

"Thanks. But, I don't wanna talk about my family. I'd really like to hear about yours."

Ava paused for a few seconds before answering him. "I guess that depends on how much you really want to hear. I can give you the Reader's Digest version where everything turns out right and pretty, or you can hear the prolonged soap opera version that sucks like hell."

Soda smiled at this, which caught her off guard. "Don't worry, I think I can handle the soap opera version. Besides, it's a long walk to the house, so go for it."

Ava smiled and nodded, and then proceeded to recount the same story she had told Pony. Soda listened through every part of it quite intently. She looked into his eyes every so often, and was surprised to see such genuine concern when she talked about losing Andrew, or getting separated from her sisters.

To be honest, telling her story to Sodapop wasn't as hard as she thought it would be. But, then she got to a part to the story that she hadn't told Pony. To be honest, she hadn't really told anything this part, except for her closest friends. By that point, they would have probably been too drunk to care or remember it the next day, which is probably why she chose to tell them. Normally, she wouldn't have even dreamt of telling anyone this part of her life, especially someone she had just met, but for some reason, she really felt like she could tell him this, and he would understand.

"So, what happened after you lost Andrew? I mean, did you go into seclusion or something? I know that happens when you lose someone like that." Soda asked, as they continued walking.

This was a segue into the dark part of her life if she had ever heard one. At this point, she didn't see why she wouldn't tell him.

"You could say that. I mean, I was already a wreck anyway with the drinking and partying, but this was major for me. Basically the one person that I associated with and cared about other than my sisters was dead, and I was there to see it happen. I blamed myself for it. I kept saying 'What if I was sober? I could have saved him." I guess it was that attitude mixed with life in general that really caused the shit to hit the fan. I uh, I got a hold of some drugs, and started using pretty heavy. Nothing much as first – just some cocaine, and heroin, but then it turned into narcotics, speed, anything I could get my hands on. I would spend days at time being high as a kite and not leaving my room. I've been clean for awhile now, which is good I guess."

Soda was staring at her intently. "What made you stop?"

"Um…it was basically just one of those moments where you realize that your life has gone to hell, and you're tired of it. I was laying on my bed just getting off a buzz, and just starting bawling my eyes out. I couldn't understand how I had gotten so screwed up in such a short amount of time, and figured I'd be better off dead than alive." Ava said, knowing that the next part of the story was the hardest part to tell.

Soda was still looking at her, and she knew she had to keep going.

"I uh, I tried to kill myself that night. I found a blade and slit my wrists. One of my friends found me before I lost too much blood, but needless to say after that, I never touched the drugs again. I still have the scars from it." She said, holding out her wrists for Soda to see.

Soda stopped walking, and took her wrists gently in his hands. His touch sent shivers through her body, but she tried not to show it. The scars on her wrists were clearly visible, and she hated looking at them, but having Soda see them calmed her. Soda ran his fingers over the scars, and looked up at her with a soft smile.

"So, you're a fighter. That's a good thing to tell your sisters." He said, dropping her hands, and starting to walk again.

Ava nodded, and continued to walk. She could honestly say that she felt completely comfortable with Soda, now that she had spilled her deepest, darkest secret with him, and she was glad he had the type of personality that Pony had made him out to have. Perhaps, finally she had a true friend.