When You're Gone

Based on the book, "The Outsiders" by S. E. Hinton. Ponyboy is late. He was supposed to be in by twelve. Where could he be?

These thoughts race through my mind as I pace the floors, trying to keep myself calm. It doesn't work. I know he could not be coming back, like Mom and Dad didn't that night so long ago. It seems like a distant memory. I remember the call. I answered the phone, and on the other line came a sorrowful voice saying, "I'm sorry to say this, but your parents both died in a car accident."

I couldn't remember the rest of the conversation. I remember looking into the eyes of my two little brothers and having to tell them that are parents were gone. I recall the look on their faces. Sodapop had a shocked look on his face. He has a hard time with reality. It doesn't hit him as soon as it should, but when it does, it hits him hard.

Ponyboy's twelve-year-old eyes looked lost and bewildered. I went up to him and put my arms around him and he began to cry. I didn't. I knew I had to be brave for them, though I was mourning just as much as they were.

I had to take over for them. Decisions I had to make came easily, though they were hard. I had been planning on going to college, I even had an athletic scholarship. I couldn't leave Sodapop and Ponyboy, though.

They needed me, so I couldn't desert them. I would have to become the adult, for them, though I was only eighteen.

The most heart-wrenching thing that happened in that time was when Ponyboy woke up the morning their death. He came out in the kitchen, Sodapop and I were already up and eating chocolate cake. Ponyboy just gave us a funny look and turned around and walked down the hall. Out of concern and curiosity, I followed behind him. He walked to our parents' room and started to say, "Hey, Mom-" He stopped and stared at the empty room.

Tears came to my eyes, but I held them in check. Pony walked in and sat down on there bed, hugging one of their pillows. I walked in the room and sat down beside him. He had been crying, but not very loudly. I think he didn't want to look like a baby, though we all knew he wasn't and that he had every right to be crying.

Sodapop came in, wondering what we were doing. When he saw Pony crying, he sat down on the other side of him. We all hugged and held each other, the tears filling our eyes. It was the first time I think we all let it hit us that we were never going to see our parents again.

The day of the funeral, I dressed in a suit that had been Dad's. We were about the same build, and we looked like brothers, instead of father and son. We were best friends, but he was gone now.

The three of us stood there. I stood with my fists jammed in my pockets, willing myself not to cry, to be strong for my brothers. Sodapop had broken down and cried. The sound of his cries cut at me like a knife. Ponyboy had cried, but silently, and I wished I could hold him.

When we got home, we were all silent. None of us knew what to say. When we went to bed, we got quite a scare.

I woke to the sound of Ponyboy screaming. I rushed out of bed, and ran down the hall. Sodapop was right behind me, clad only in a pair of shorts.

He was sitting up in bed, crying and shaking. We both sat on the bed, trying to figure out what had happened. Ponyboy threw himself in my arms, and hugged me tight. I held him, wondering what in the world could have happened.

When he was finally composed enough to talk, he told he had had a nightmare. The only thing was, he couldn't remember what it was about. When we thought he was able to get some sleep, Sodapop and I went back to bed.

The next night, the same thing happened. Ponyboy woke up in a cold sweat, and then he hollered my name, and Soda's, too. Then it happened again, and again, for weeks he'd have this same nightmare. Sodapop started sleeping with him, and it slowed down some, but he still had it.

I finally couldn't take seeing Ponyboy suffer like that, so I took him to see a doctor. The doctor couldn't place what it really was, but he figured it was his imagination. He told him to read more, play more football, and study harder. It seemed to work, but I still asked him about it every now and then, just to make sure he was okay.

I watched Sodapop, sleeping on our couch. His breathing was coming softly, but I knew he wasn't sleeping as sound as he'd want to.

I sat in the arm chair, and read the paper, without really understanding it.

The door opened up and Ponyboy cam inside. I leaped to my feet.

"Where the heck have you been? Do you know what time it is?" I surprised myself with how angry I was, but I wouldn't want to look like a coward and scared.

Pony just shook his head, too scared to speak.

"Well, it's two in the morning, kiddo. Another hour and I would have had the police out after you. Where were you, Ponyboy? Where in the almighty universe were you?"

"I. . . I went to sleep in the lot." What? Why would he do a stupid thing like that?

"You what!" I shouted.

Sodapop woke up, then, rubbing his eyes. He said, "Hey, Pony, where you been?" He didn't sound as concerned as he had been a few minutes ago. Ponyboy ignored him.

"I didn't mean to. I was talking to Johnny and we both dropped off..." Why must he use that phrase? "I didn't mean to."

"I reckon it never occurred to you that your brothers might be worrying their heads off and afraid to call the police because something like that could get you two thrown in a boy's home so fast it'd make your head spin. And you were asleep in the lot? Ponyboy, what on earth is the matter with you? Can't you use your head? You haven't even got a coat on."

Tears were filling his eyes, but the didn't spill over. "I said I didn't mean to. . ."

"I didn't mean to!" I hollered. "I didn't think! I forgot! That's all I hear out of you! Can't you think of anything?"

Sodapop tried to break in. "Darry. . ." he started, but I cut him off.

Turning to him, I hollered, "You keep your trap shut! I'm sick and tired of hearin' you stick up for him!"

Ponyboy shouted from behind me angrily, "You don't yell at him!"

I wheeled around and slapped him so hard that he was knocked against the door.

Instant silence. No one had ever hit Ponyboy before, and we all knew it. I looked down at my hand. It had turned bright red. Why did I hit him?

"Ponyboy. . ." I started, but he turned and ran out the door.

I yelled after him, "Pony! I didn't mean to!" And I had just yelled at him for saying the same thing.

I started to go after him, but Soda's held out a restraining hand. "Don't, Darry. You've done enough tonight." He was mad at me. I looked at him with ashamed eyes. "Look, Soda, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to holler at you, or Pony for that matter. I was just so scared. . ."

"I know." He gave me a slight grin. For once, his laughing eyes held a shadow over them.

"Should we go after him?" I asked.

"No. He'll come home when he's ready." But he never did.

I was awake the entire night. I sat in the arm chair, waiting for him to come home. When I went out to get the newspaper, the headline caught my attention.

"Teenage Boy Found Dead in The Park." I read on, frightened that it was Ponyboy. It wasn't.

It said that a boy by the name of Robert SHeldon had been found dead from some kind of stabbing.

Soda came out of his and Pony's room, looking just as worried as I was.

"Is Ponyboy back?" He asked, hopeful.

"No. Read this." For some reason, I had a feeling that that story had to do with Ponyboy, though I didn't think he could have killed anybody. He didn't even like fighting.

Soda's eyes looked scared and confused. We went out to look for Ponyboy, and saw that Johnny, too wasn't at his house.

The gang, the three guys(and Johnny) that we've grown up with, helped us out. Two-Bit looked really worried, but Steve just looked like he was out to the movies. Dallas didn't seem too worried, but he had a nervous look to him, like he knew something, but I didn't think anything of it at the time.

Three days passed without any sign of Ponyboy. Sodapop cried every night while he was gone. He'd been gone for about four days now. I couldn't understand where he went.

In one of the papers, we found out that Johnny had been the one to kill that boy. It didn't do much for my concerns. The police came over to our house and questioned Soda and I. We told them all we could. I couldn't get over Johnny killing someone, but it didn't distract me for long.

Ponyboy was my main concern. I've always loved him. I never stopped, but I think he thinks that after Mom and Dad died that I stopped loving him. I just yelled at him more since they died. I want him to become someone important, to do something good in this world. I don't want him to just become a man who roofs houses for a living. I don't think he understands why I yell at him a lot. It's out of love, not hate. Then, it doesn't really sound that way.

Two-Bit got jumped in an alley way. Dally and I had been looking for Ponyboy, and we saw him. It was him against three Socs. He was doing pretty well, considering he was outnumbered. Two-Bit's a pretty good fighter.

The next night, we got a call. Sodapop answered it. I sat there, expectant. When he hung up, he smiled at me.

"They've found Ponyboy. He's at the hospital. Apparently, we have a hero for a brother. He saved some kids in a burning church. Johnny and Dally did too. They said Pony is fine, except for a few cuts and burns. They say we ca come over."

I jumped up from my chair, and ran to the truck. We got in, and drove as fast as we could without breaking the law.

Sodapop went ahead of me. It was fine by me. I could see Ponyboy, all black from smoke, sitting in a chair in the waiting room. When Sodapop was getting close, he jumped up and ran to meet him.

I stood there, watching my two brothers as they hugged each other. I heard Soda's voice say, "Oh, Pony, you hair. Your tuff, tuff hair."

Then Pony looked at me. The only words I could get out were, "Ponyboy." I was too choked with emotions.

He stood there watching me. He didn't say anything to me, and the look he gave me was more piercing than a needle.

I understood it then. He didn't care about me. He was mad at me still. He had good reason to be. So I turned and started to walk away.

"Darry!" I heard him scream. When I turned, he was hugging me tightly around the waist. The tears were falling then, and the sobs racked me as I tried to stop crying.

"I'm sorry." He whispered into my t-shirt.

"Oh, Pony. I thought we lost you, like we did Mom and Dad." That there is my silent fear. To lose another person I love is my silent fear.