I added a little to the end of the last chapter ("I swear.") so you may want to re-read the last bit of it so you will understand the rest of the story. As of 12-18-2013.

Today is our high school graduation. And I'm excited for the rest of our lives. Of course my dad, Betty, and my little brother are in town to watch me. This morning my dad sat down with me on the porch swing while I was smoking before school.

"Baby girl, can I talk to you for a minute?" He asked.

"Sure daddy, what's up?" I said with a smile.

He smiled too and slipped his arm around me.

"I just want to talk to you. You know I'm proud of you, and I know you're a good kid, smart too."

"Daddy, what are you getting at?" I asked.

I didn't usually didn't interrupt, but he didn't usually beat around the bush, and I still had to go to school.

"Well baby, I just don't want anything to jeopardize your future. I know what it's like being young. Your mom and I were once; you're a product of that."

His smile faded a little and he looked like he was fighting to find words.

"I figured that out a few years ago dad. My birthday, your anniversary, there not that far apart. It wasn't hard to put together."

He looked quizzical and bemused, but grinned. My dad's grins are the best, better than Sodapop's even.

"I knew you were a smart kid. Johnny's a smart kid too. I like him, he as a good heart and head, that's rare. I'm glad you found one like him Lucy. You both have my blessing when the time comes. I just want you to remember your future." He said.

I didn't know how to answer him. I loved my dad, that's all I could think of. I kissed his check and went off to school.

My very last day of high school. I was going to a university near my dad in the fall. I couldn't really tell much deference in it and the other school days, except Two-Bit teased me, Pony, and Johnny a lot more. He'd miss us.

After school I went home and got ready for my big walk. My mom had me in my room putting make-up on my face, and trying to manage my curly hair. Betty had taken me shopping, and bought me an expensive lavender dress. I wish they wouldn't make such a big deal about it, I was already nervous, and they were making it worse. My nerves were getting the better of me and, so I begged my mom into letting me go to the Curtis's so we could all ride together. Thank God I wasn't valedictorian, Pony was. I couldn't have stood in front of all those people and made a speech. I was glad we could graduate together though.

They guys were looking spiffy when I got there. They all had on suits and ties. Darry looked so proud; he kept smiling and patting Pony on the shoulder. It was almost like old times. I was sitting on the floor with my head against Johnny's legs, Two-Bit was slouched on the couch drinking a beer, Pony was trying to read a book, but Darry kept trying to smooth his hair or adjust his tie.

"Gez Darry, would you stop? I'm jumpy enough without you touchin' me all the time." Pony said after Darry tried to brush 'lint' off his shoulder.

Darry took the hit and started pacing, that didn't last long, and he started trying to groom Johnny. If those big rough hands touched my hair, I was going to punch him in the face.

"Calm down man." Johnny said pushing his hand away.

"I'm sorry guys, I guess I'm nervous. Pony do you have your speech ready?" Darry asked alarmed.

"God Darry, I don't want to think about that speech another minute." Pony said and roughly closed the book.

I guess he gave up trying to read. Right then Dally opened the front door and walked in with Cherry behind him with her hand in his.

"Well don't I feel under dressed." He remarked looking at all of us.

"I told you." Cherry said frustrated.

She was dressed up too.

"Is Sodapop coming?" Pony asked Darry.

It wasn't the same sitting there without Steve and Soda; it was a lot quieter now. It was only going to get quieter from here, Two-Bit would be gone next year, me and Pony were leaving in a few weeks, Cherry would be going back to school then too. That would leave Darry, Dally and Johnny. I didn't want to picture the three of them sitting around the living room without us, but the picture popped into my head anyway. I realized things were coming to an end.

"Him and Sandy are gonna to meet us there." Darry said.

Graduation was supposed to start at 6:30, and the students were supposed to be there early for line up. So after fifteen minutes of me saying this, we all piled into my car. I guess after two years in that chair Johnny was pretty agile. He scooted in and Darry put the thing in the trunk, then we all crowded around him.

Finally it was show time. Pony gave his speech, to tell the truth it made me cry. Looking back now I can say it was stereotypical, but at the time it was the truth. I think that's why he said things the way he did, not to be dramatic or anything, but because that's how we felt. He said the things I was feeling only more poetic. He talked about how some of us wouldn't see each other again, and how even if we didn't remember the names, we would always remember that one girl who loaned us a pencil once, or that one guy who pushed us in the hall. He said we should want to live the rest of our lives trying to be remembered for good.

I wondered if the gang would always remember each other's names. I couldn't even image not being able to hang out with them whenever I wanted. That reality was only a few weeks away though. What was I going to do when I couldn't run to Johnny's arms, or Soda's smile, or Darry's advice? I made up my mind to just not think about it.

We were all lined up on the football field in folding chairs; except Johnny. The principle stood up and started calling names after Pony's speech. All three of us were in the 'C' category, but Johnny was first. I was proud of him. His parents didn't come. Their own son's graduation and they couldn't be bothered. Johnny wouldn't let on to anybody that he was disappointed, but he didn't have to. I had never met them, but I hated them.

He was nervous and kept looking around in the crowd like he was looking for somebody, but finally he stopped fidgeting and listened for his name.

"Jonathan Cade." Said the principle's deep voice.

Johnny pushed his chair to the end of the row and stopped to look back at me. I smiled encouragingly at him and he smiled back. Then he scanned the crowed again. He took a minute then shakily he put his hands on the arms of his chair and pushed himself up a little bit.

I started to stand, but my English teacher put his hand on my knee and shook his head. I remembered where I was then I sit back down and watched him.

He struggled a bit and got both feet on the ground. He stood up. He was unsteady at best, but he was standing on his own. He took a step. I started to cry and smile at the same time. I hadn't noticed how deathly quiet it was until I heard big hands clap slow and loud. I jerked my head around to see who it was, I about fell over when I saw that the only person standing was Tim Shepherd. He was clapping determinedly. Johnny was smiling big and looking right at Tim, I think Tim was smiling too. Then Dally stood beside him and clapped. Darry stood, then Soda, then my dad. Then everyone stood and cheered, even the staff and students.

It took Johnny five times longer to walk to the podium than anyone else, but he did it all on his own. He was handed his diploma and walked back to his chair. I could have watched Johnny walk slowly for hours.

"Way to go Johnny! I knew you could do it!"

I looked back, it was Darry who said it, he was rubbing his eyes and Soda was grinning and patting him on the back. The look on Johnny's face was priceless, he was so self-satisfied. I loved seeing him like that; he was beautiful from the inside out.

The principle called more names after that including mine and Pony's but nothing could compare with Johnny's display. He stole the show.

After graduation, my dad took us all out to eat to celebrate. I felt sorry for the waitress, we were a rowdy crowed. Late that night I was laying on Johnny's arm in the vacant lot. We were both lying on our backs looking at the stars. I don't really know how to explain it, but it just felt like one of those times when you needed to be alone with the person you love. Like there is a magnet in your heart pulling you near to that person.

"So when were you going to tell me?" I asked.

He was laying there smoking; he still had that grin on his face. I wondered if that was the first time he had ever been proud of himself.

"Exactly when I did. Me and Darry have been practicing for weeks. I'm glad Tim was there though; it was his idea ya know"? He said.

Tim's idea? I hadn't realized I had given Johnny so much free time.

"No, I had no idea. Johnny you surprised everybody.

He chuckled.

"Good, I was supposed to. Only Darry and Tim knew. Dally didn't even know. I think he's happy."

Well of course Dally was happy. Johnny was still his pet, he was still everybody's pet and the close call he had only made everyone love him more. I think I was the only one who would have said it though.

After the big surprise Johnny started to walk more that use his chair.