"Oh, good! You're awake now, Johnny. Are you feeling OK?"

I blink at the nurse staring down at me, startled. "Hmmm?" I mumble.

"Shall I take that as a no?" the nurse asks, smiling. I manage a nod.

"What happened?" I ask groggily. I am so confused. I'm not sure where I am or why I'm staring at the ground.

"Don't you remember? I told you that your mother was here to see you, and you said no. Then you passed out cold!" Are you feeling OK now?"

Then it hits me. Pony getting upset…going to the park…killing Bob…hitching a ride…staying at the church…seeing Dally…the burning church…little kids inside…had to save them…got stuck under caving roof…and now I'm in the hospital, with third-degree burns and a broken back. I let out a huge sigh. The nurse stayed there for a moment, and then awkwardly left the room.

"Wait a minute," I call. The nurse turns around. "The book…give it to Ponyboy if he ever stops by again." I nod my head towards Gone with the Wind.

The nurse nods her head. "OK, I will make sure he gets it."

I take a moment to figure out what had really happened in the past week. In just a short amount of time, I've both committed a crime—killing Bob, although it was in self-defense—and done a good deed—saved children's lives. I've spent the week hiding out with my best friend so the police wouldn't find us. It's a lot for one person to go through in one week.

I know that Ponyboy is feeling overwhelmed, too, though. I mean, he's been through everything I have. And to be honest, I kind of regret putting him through it. Putting him through all the danger, I mean. I feel like that put the gang through too much, with both me and Pony gone. I wasn't kidding when I told Dally it was unfair to keep Darry and Soda worried about Ponyboy. Me, Dally, Two-Bit, and Steve all know how much Soda and Pony mean to Darry. In fact, all three of the brothers have a special connection with each other.

If you ask me, I think those boys are awful lucky. Everyone knows that the fact that my parents don't want me is the most painful thing in the world for me. That's why everyone tries to be my big brother. To be honest, that does have its benefits—sometimes. After all, as Pony pointed out when we were in talkin' a week ago, bein' the gang's pet keeps me from things like having Dally slug me when I told him off at the drive-in. But it really isn't the same thing as having your own folks around. I mean, I know Pony is orphaned, and he and Darry don't get along too well, but even he has someone like Soda. If it weren't for the gang, I really would be all alone.

Trying to shift my thoughts to a lighter note, I glance at the clock on the wall and wonder what everyone's doin' right now. Darry, Soda, and Steve are probably at work.; I don't know where Two-Bit and Ponyboy are, though. All I know is that I must have passed out about an hour ago, and it's one in the afternoon now. So Pony and Two-Bit probably went to town or somethin'.

Then, of course, there's Dallas. Dally is in a room across the hall from me, probably causing the nurses a lot of trouble and whatnot. Part of me wonders what he thinks of me right now; I hate the idea of my hero being disappointed in me. Not only did he get annoyed at me when I admitted I wanted to turn ourselves in, but then right after, me and Pony went into that burning church to save the little kids, which I know Dallas thought was stupid.

I sure hope Dallas isn't mad at me. I really do idolize him. He can take anything, and he never ever complains. He's told me that I should be a lot less sensitive, because if you're hard and uncaring like him, you don't get hurt. Part of me doesn't believe that, but at the same time, I know it's something that the rest of the gang silently thinks, too. I sighed when he told me that, but I do kinda prefer his lectures to my old man's whipping. At least with Dallas, I know exactly what I've done wrong.

I sigh again. Maybe Dallas is right about saying that going into the church was a bad idea. All it's really done is landed me in the hospital, dying from a broken back and third-degree burns. To make matters worse, the doctor told me that even IF I lived, I'd be crippled for life. If I were crippled, then I really wouldn't be able to leave the neighborhood ever again, and that just makes me feel worse. Golly, I'm only sixteen years old. I haven't done enough in my life yet. I just don't think it's my time to go yet.

Luckily, he was also right about something else: hiding out in the church.

Just then, I hear a knock on the door. I give a grunt of acknowledgement, and a nurse comes in. "Johnny, you have a visitor."

"Who?" I ask, automatically suspicious. If it were one of my parents again, I would do a little more than just pass out this time.

"Relax," the nurse says, smiling. "I'm not quite sure who she is, but she claims you saved her daughter or something?"

I perk up a little. Another little kid's mom came in this morning. It was really nice to see all of them visit. I give her a nod, and the mother comes in.

She sits down and looks at me. "You were one of the kids who saved my daughter?" she asks. Her voice seems to be shaking a little.

"Yes," I say quietly. I don't wanna talk too much; I'm still real sore. "Me and my best friend went in to save those little kids." I pause for a moment. "We were the ones who set the church on fire," I say solemnly.

The mother looks sympathetic. "Now, I'm sure you didn't," she says, then pulls something out of her purse. "Anyway…my daughter made a nice little thank-you card for you." She holds it over my head so I can read it.

Dear Johnny and Pony Boy, Thank yoo for saving my liffe. I thot I was gonna die in that church but yoo guys came in just in time. Your gud peeple. Love, Susan

That is on one side of the card. On the other side is a picture of a…flower? It's a little too messy for me to tell, but it makes me smile anyway.

"I like it," I say.

Susan's mother then takes out a handkerchief and wipes her eyes. "My daughter is one of the sweetest kids you will ever meet. She's just so bouncy, and free, and just always smiling. She's just so…innocent, you know what I'm saying? She…"

I block her out just then. Suddenly, something hits me. The poem! The poem Pony told me about when we were watching the sunrise. Nothing Gold Can Stay…or something like that. I figure out what it means just then. Susan's a little kid still, so she sees everything in a new light. As she gets older, the dawn she sees now will turn into day—it's not gonna be as special no more. Just like the sunrise. Just like the innocence that everyone else in the gang lost. It all makes sense to me now.

"Johnny? Johnny? Hey, are you all right?" I blink at Susan's mother.

"Sorry, I didn't realize you were still there," I say, not really paying attention.

"I can leave if you want," she says, and I nod my head in agreement.

After she leaves, I lean back and think for a moment. I regret telling Pony what I did earlier. Maybe dyin' isn't completely bad. How bad can it be if it means people like Susan are OK now and can share their innocence with other people? Her life is more valuable than mine. She has a nice family and a good home; I have neither. She's the one who's got plenty to live for, not me. I start thinking about all the times Dally talked about how awful the world is, and I slowly begin disagreeing with him. There really is lots of good in the world. Like how we can still see sunrises, sunsets, stars, and clouds. Like how there are still lots of people like Susan in the world. Like how the whole gang is really close with one another, and we're all more than friends. There are lots of reasons why the world is still a good place.

But fighting, I realize, is not a good thing. Fighting was the cause of this whole thing. A fight is what Cherry and Bob were having last week. A fight is was those drunk Socs were looking to pick when they came to the park. A fight was what caused Pony to run away in the first place. If there had been no fighting, none of this would have happened. I think Pony knows that; it's Dally who I think I should tell. I want him to know that fighting is no good, and that the world is still a great place.

And Pony…I think more than I need to tell Dally the world is still good, I gotta tell Pony not to change. Even though he's not innocent like Susan is, he's still gold. He likes sunsets, and reading, and he's smart. He fights a little to fit in, but he doesn't actually like it that much. I realize right then that I have to let Ponyboy know this. He's gonna get a lot of pressure from other people to change, but he can't just do that. He's the one I'm friends with, and he's the kind of person this world needs more of. Dally is brave, but he needs to change, not Pony.

But how am I gonna tell him? I wonder sadly. I probably won't ever see him again, anyway. Unless…unless I write him a letter. Yes, I decide, a letter is best. Even if I never get the chance to see Ponyboy again, I can still ask a nurse to give it to him. And besides, I don't know if I have the energy to talk anymore.

A knock on the door breaks into my thoughts, and I bring my attention to it. The doctor is standing there. "Can I come in?" I manage the smallest nod ever, and he steps inside the doorway. "Johnny…" he begins. "I don't know how to tell you this…but—"

"I know, you don't have to say," I croak. My throat hurts way too much to talk. "Do you have…pen and paper?" I gasp. The doctor looks at me funny, but he hands me one of his pens and a piece of notebook paper, then leaves the room so I can rest.

I know I only have one chance to write this, which makes me a little nervous. I have to tell him what he needs to know before I lose the chance. Finally, after thinking about it, I write:


I asked the nurse to give you this book so you could finish it. The doctor came in a while ago, but I knew anyway. I keep getting tireder and tireder. Listen, I don't mind dyin' now. It's worth it. It's worth saving those kids. There lives are worth more than mine. They have more to live for. Some of their parents came by to thank me, and I know it was worth it. Tell Dally it's worth it. I'm just gonna miss you guys. I've been thinking about it, and that poem? That guy that wrote it? He meant…you're gold when you're a kid. Like green. When you're a kid, everything's new, dawn. It's just when you get used to everything that it's day. Like the way you dig sunsets, Pony. That's gold. Keep that way. It's a good way to be. I want you to tell Dally to look at one. He'll probably think you're crazy, but ask for me. I don't think he's ever really seen a sunset. And don't be so bugged over being a greaser. You still have a lot of time to make yourself be what you want. There's still lots of good in the world. Tell Dally. I don't think he knows. Your buddy, Johnny.

I read it over a couple more times before deciding it's the best I can do. I fold it in half and put it inside Gone with the Wind. If the nurse I talked to earlier remembers what I told her, Pony should get the letter.

I relax for a while, and pretty soon I hear voices outside. Its sounds like Pony and Dallas arguing with the doctor. A tiny bit of hope runs through me as I realize I might be able to actually talk to them both, instead of only being able to write a letter to Pony with a message to pass through to Dallas. I silently pray that the doctor will let them come in so I can talk to them.

Luckily, Dallas quickly wins the argument and the two of them walk in. This is it. I only have one shot to tell both of my friends what I need to tell them, and all I can do is hope that one way or another, I'll be able to send both my friend the messages they need to hear. I'm slipping now, but I have to try. I know I have to…

A/N: I think I'm going to end it there. So what did you guys think? Also, if you guys have a problem with me putting the whole letter in there, like if you think it counts as plagiarism or something, tell me and I'll take it out. I was a little unsure about that part.