The next day I woke up about noon. I wondered into the kitchen, where I knew my mom would be. She didn't sleep much. I poured myself a cup of coffee and sat down across from here at the table. My mom was pretty. She was 35 and she had a fabulous face. It was like she got prettier with age. She had thick brown curls that had gotten darker with time; I could remember when it was as light as mine. She had green eyes and something about her glowed. I looked like my mom but with lighter hair and brown eyes and not so pretty.

"Good morning, precious." She said.

She was always calling me something sweet.

"Mornin'" I mumbled back.

"Were you home all night?" She asked.

I stopped my coffee half way to my mouth. Had I gotten caught?

"Yea," I lied. "Why?"

She sighed and put down her paper to study me.

"Somebody got killed last night; they say some of those boys you run around with are responsible."

No way.

"Who?" I asked.

I could feel myself start to shake. People didn't get murdered around here, and if they did it wasn't by my friends. I adored my mom but we didn't always see eye to eye.

"That one that's got the brother named Pepsi or something."

Soda? No way.

"Darry?"

"No, the younger one." She said waving her hand around like she was trying to find the name in front of her.

Pony? Now I knew she was wrong. Ponyboy couldn't hurt anyone.

"Pony?" I asked dumbfounded.

"Yeah, that's it. And the dark one, what was it? J-"

I didn't let her finish.

"Johnny." I gasped for her.

"Yes."

I was already slamming down my coffee cup and running back to my room. No way. There had to be some explanation. Ponyboy and Johnny were the last two people on earth who would off somebody. No way. I had to get to the bottom of this. I put my clothes on from last night because they were the first I came to. I ran out the door without a word to my mom and she didn't try to stop me. I ran all the way to the Curtis house. If this awful thing was true, and I was sure it wasn't, Soda could tell me what really happened. I ran up their porch steps but Two-Bit kept me from knocking.

"Hey Lose, where's Ponyboy and Johnny? It's all over town they knifed a Soc." He said forgoing a greeting.

He sounded as worried as I felt.

"I don't know, man. That's why I'm here."

I knocked and Soda immediately opened the door. He looked awful, like he was worried and hadn't slept and had maybe been crying.

"Is it true Soda?" I asked at once.

Two-bit was now beside me and Soda looked at both of us?

"Is it true?" I asked again.

Like Two-Bit I skipped a greeting.

"Looks like it. Come in." He said opening the door wider and extending his arm for us to go in the house.

He closed the door behind us. He plopped down on the couch and stared at the TV vaguely leaving me and Two-Bit silent and sort of dazed. I'm sure Two-Bit had as many thoughts running through his mind as I did, and they were probably about the same. Oddly me and Two-Bit usually thought along the same lines. Where was Darry? Did Pony make it home last night? Did Soda know where Pony and Johnny were? Seeing that he wasn't going to volunteer any information, I pried into Soda.

"What the hell happened Sodapop?" I asked and plopped down next to him on the couch.

Two-Bit sat on the arm and looked at us, he still hadn't said anything.

Soda rubbed his red eyes and shook his head as he spoke. "I don't know exactly. Pony came home real late, him and Darry got into it, he ran out and we didn't see him again. 'Bout 4:30 the cops come looking for Ponyboy and Johnny, cops said Socs jumped them in the park. Johnny stabbed one of them. I think his name was Bob." He said the last part disbelievingly.

I really was stunned silent now but Two-Bit looked madder than I had ever saw him before.

Soda kept talking. "We went looking for them; Pony's sweatshirt was in Dally's room at Buck's. Dally swears he don't know where they went, but I know he's lying. He'd say anything to keep Johnnycake outta trouble."

We were all quite for a minute. Soda seemed to be the only one able to talk, and talk he did. I think it was helping to have someone to voice his thoughts to, even if we weren't talking back.

"Darry's scared to death. He thinks we're gonna get split up."

Just from the way he said it I could tell that was what he was worried about the most. This couldn't be right.

"This is all my fault."

I wasn't sure if I said it out loud or not, but I must have because Two-Bit answered me.

"How's that?" He asked.

Soda looked at me like he might be able to strangle me, depending on my answer.

"The three of us went to the lot last night. Ponyboy fell asleep, and me and Johnny started-" I stopped abruptly.

What was I going to say? Kissing? Making out? Having sex with clothes on?

"-Talking." I said. "I said we should let Pony sleep. Johnny wanted to wake him up but I said no. that's why it's my fault." I said remorsefully.

Soda's face relaxed. "Na, that don't make it your fault Lose." He said.

He patted my leg and forced a grin. I don't know how or why, but I grinned too. I don't know how long we sat there in silence until Two-Bit broke it.

"Lucy?" He said low and serious. "Is that Johnnycake's jacket?"

It was. I really hoped he was somewhere warm since he didn't have it.

"Yea." I mumbled. "He gave it to me last night."

Two-Bit chuckled big.

"So little Johnny finally got a girl huh?" He said

I was blushing and could feel it. I don't know why though, I wasn't ashamed of it.

"Yea he did." I said timidly.

I couldn't look at Two-Bit so I just looked down at the couch. Two-Bit laughed but, Soda looked at me weird. I didn't like it. It was like a mix of concern and sorrow. He didn't have a say in the matter, and at the moment we had bigger problems than a jacket. We sat there for a few more minutes without talking. I knew we were all doing the same thing; worrying.

Two-Bit was looking angry again. It kinda made me nervous, he didn't get angry often and he was unpredictable when he did. What was he mad at exactly? At the Socs? At Dally for not telling Soda where they were? At Darry for fighting with Ponyboy? At himself for not staying with us? At Pony and Johnny for fighting back? He stood up suddenly and announced he was going to talk to Dally. Soda and I stood up at the same time to go with him. We didn't have to wait long to see Dally though.

We had no more than stood up when Dallas Winston himself opened the door in our faces.

"Ah. What a night, huh?" He said pushing past us and making himself at home on the couch where Sodapop had been sitting. "I think the fuzz has got meaner." He said holding up his right arm to show us a red mark he was rubbing, presumably it had been made by hand cuffs.

"What did ya get picked up for Dal?" Soda asked the question for me.

"Eh, guess I got a bad reputation or somethin'. They think I do everything 'round here." He said and started watching TV like it was an everyday thing that two of his friends killed someone and he got picked up for it.

Me and Soda sat down and watched Dally.

"Where are they at Dal?" Two-Bit asked as he walked to stand in front of Dally, he was still mad and I was a little afraid he might yank Dally up and bust his face.

Dally must have saw it too, because he sighed and shook his head like he didn't want to answer.

He started off with a huff, "I think they said something about Texas." He snapped.

"Texas?" Two-Bit and Soda asked at the same time.

"Dally!" I shouted.

I was losing my temper, and I knew I shouldn't with Dallas Winston. I just couldn't help it though. 'That was so dumb.' I thought. 'Why did he let them go to Texas?'

"Texas? Why Texas? They don't know anyone in Texas! What are they going to do there? What were you thinking?"

I was going off and couldn't stop. Not until he scared me silent by jumping up and gaping down into my face.

"Hold up, Lucy," He shouted. "I didn't ask to be the one to hid them, and I didn't tell them to knife that Soc. Don't blow up at me just because your little boyfriend over reacted. At least I didn't take the only coat he had off his back."

I had never been spoken to like that before. It was venom. His eyes, they were still ranting at me after his voice had died off.

Soda and Two-Bit were staring open-mouthed and shocked at us.

I think it hurt my pride most of all. I felt about an inch tall having him yell at me like that in front of my friends. I knew I asked for it, I started it. I was mad enough to slap his face even thought I was trying not to be. I was logical enough not to slap Dally of all people anyway. My anger was rising and I could feel my face turning red. I was famous for having a hot temper.

Thank God for Sodapop.

"Calm down Dally. She didn't mean it." Soda said gingerly walking over and laying a hand on Dally's shoulder.

I glared at him when he said this. How dare he say I didn't mean it? But I knew he was saving me from more yelling at the least, so I kept my mouth shut and just sat there and shook and got redder.

"We are all worried and a little on edge I guess." Soda said to both of us.

The thought that Dally was just as worried as I was, hadn't crossed my mind.

"Let's have a smoke and everybody just calm down." He said sitting down beside me and holding out his hand for a cigarette.

Soda didn't smoke much, but I figured now was as good of a time as any to start.

I didn't want to stay in that house anymore. Everyone was tense and mopy. I was cooling down from the cigarette. I could worry just as well at my house.

"I'll see you guys later." I said as I stood up looking around the room.

My eyes stopped on Dally.

"Sorry, Dal." I said and we quickly and carelessly clasped hands for a moment.

A sign of truce.

"Sodapop's right, I didn't mean it."

That was the first time me and Dally had ever shook hands, it was the first time we ever had a reason to. We had disagreements, but never anything big enough to actually get mad over.

"Hold up Lose, I'll walk you home." Soda said stamping out his cigarette.

Dally and Two-Bit looked at him kind of weird. None of the gang was really what one would call 'Gentlemen'. Soda knew by our expressions that the three of us were waiting for and explanation.

"You know this means all-out war. I figure everyone will have to pick a side now." He explained.

I think he just wanted an excuse to get out of the house for a bit.

On the way to my house we didn't talk much. We smoked more cigarettes and let our minds think the worst, unchecked. I put my arm around him as we walked.

"Everything's gonna be alright, you'll see. They'll prolly show up tomorrow, and eat ya'll outta house and home. This thing will blow over and everything will go back to normal. You'll see." I said and smiled half-heartedly.

I couldn't lie worth a flip. He smiled at me just as poorly as I had.

"I'm sure your right, Lose." He said.

We were both lying, but it was the best hope we had at the moment.

"So you and Johnny, huh?" He asked.

I figured he just wanted to think about something happier for a change.

"Yea." I said kicking a stone into the street.

Soda looked off in the distance ahead and I did the same. A black street with gray sidewalks on both sides, littered with trash, and the edges of the side walk merged into unkempt lawns with shabby houses and ugly fences. I wondered if everyone saw the something when they looked at it like that. Soda brought me out of it.

"Are you and Johnny- ya know? Are ya 'll-?" He said looking green.

Really? The talk? From Soda? Ew! I didn't know what to say so I just looked at him like I didn't know what he was getting at, and I hoped I was wrong with what I was thinking.

"I mean it's none of my business, just I'd hate to see something bad happen. Ya know what I mean, kid?"

Unfortunately I did.

"It's ok Sodapop. We know, you haven't got anything to worry about."

No thanks to me.

I didn't know why he cared. Soda was damn good looking, he knew it too, and he knew all the girls knew it. He usually bragged about that kind of thing.

"You won't be uncle Soda for a long time."

He laughed.

"Uncle Soda, huh? On your side or Johnny's?"

"Well my side of course. Johnny can clam Dal if he wants."

Soda let out a humorous sigh, "Gezz, that'll be a messed up kid." He said laughing.

"Soda!" I said embarrassedly. "It's out of the question so let's not even talk about it."

That was pretty much the end of our chattering.

"See ya later Sodapop. Thanks for bringing me home." I said once we were at my house.

"Anytime Lose. See ya." He said before he turned to leave

I knew my mom would have a ton of questions for me. I was right. I hadn't noticed she had been sitting on the porch when me and Soda walked up.

"Who was that, honey?" She asked looking from the crossword in the paper.

I looked back at Sodapop leaving. So it began.

"That's Soda Curtis, mom. You remember his mom don't you?"

I remembered they worked at the hospital at the same time.

"Yes. I didn't know her well though. We only worked together for a month. I only meet her boys once. Was that one you bo?" She asked watching Soda leave.

Ew mom.

"No. Sodapop's my friend mom. That's all."

She nodded knowingly

"Was he involved in the killing?"

I had seen it coming so I sat down in the swing and lit a cigarette. I told her the whole story, starting when I met the boys at the double last night, and ending with what Soda told us this morning. She didn't even say anything about me being all night. She was just quite for a long time and looked at me and kept nodding.

"You and Johnny, huh?" She asked.

It felt like the thousandth time that day. And I thought it was funny that she asked it the same way Soda had. But the way she asked, it wasn't really a question directed at me, it was more like something she was just thinking through.

"Do you think he did it?"

That was a question for me. It was probably the only thing she was really worried about. I wish she knew them like I did. I had known the Curtis boys about three years, and Johnny probably that long. But I had known Two-Bit as long as I could remember. They were all pretty good guys at heart. Steve had a bad attitude. Dally had a temper. Two-Bit had sticky fingers. Soda was a Romeo. Johnny was paranoid. Ponyboy was absent-minded. Darry was prideful. But hey, everyone had flaws and I could name as much good as bad stuff about them.

I didn't want to say 'yes', but I knew. I lit another cigarette and took a few puffs. My mom didn't say anything about my smoking. As long as I didn't smoke in the house, and she didn't have to pay for them, she said I was old enough to make my own mistakes. My mom usually trusted my judgment and she said if smoking was the worst thing I did, she could live with it.

"I know he wouldn't have done it without a good reason. It's just not like him or Ponyboy. I don't think anybody can believe it."

She was quite for another long time. By the time she spoke again I had finished my smoke and was putting the butt in a pop bottle I kept on the porch for that reason.

"Lucy, are you sure these are the friends you want to have?" She asked and let out a worried breath.

Do or die time.

"Mom, they are the best friend anyone could have. I care about them. Mom this is one of those times you are going to have to trust me. Don't worry I'll be fine."

She studied me hard.

"Ok Lucy, you win. But I want to meet some of these boys, and I don't want you staying out all night anymore."

Sigh of relief.

"Sure mom. Thanks."

"And by the way," She added. "Your dad is coming into town for your birthday. Act surprised."

I had one of those freakish families, where even though my dad left us and got a new wife, we all still got along. I mean all of us. My mom and dad got along, even my mom and step-mom. I think that is because my mom is secretly an angel.

"Maybe that would be a good time to invite your friends over, so we can all meet them." She suggested.

Oh joy.

I immediately decided to ask Soda and Two-Bit, and leave my dad and step-mom out of the equation. Soda was charming and good with parents, and I figured Two-Bit could lighten the mood.

"That sounds good mom."