What if Cherry and Marcia stayed with the greasers?

This is a part of a "what if" series. If anyone has a suggestion, please share with me. I'll give you credit. Thanks, Rusty James, aka Tristan, for the idea!

We were walking the two Soc girls, Cherry and Marcia, home from the movies, when a blue mustang came up behind us. Apparently, the girls knew who they were. Then two boys came out.

"Cherry, Marcia, listen to us..." One of the Socs said.

I looked over at Johnny, and I noticed he was breathing funny.

"Just because we got a little drunk last time..." Cherry cut in.

"A little? You call reeling and passing out in the streets 'a little?' Bob, I told you, I'm never going out with you while you're drinking, and I mean it. Too many things could happen while you're drunk. It's me, or the booze."

Then the other Soc said to Marcia, "Baby, you know we don''t get drunk very often." Marcia gave him a cold stare. "And even if you are mad at us, that's no reason to go walking the streets with these bums."

Two-Bit said, "Who you callin' bums?"

"Listen, we got four more of us in the back seat. . ."

"Then pity the back seat." Two-Bit said, coolly.

"If you're looking for a fight..."

"You mean if I'm looking for a good jumping, you outnumber us, so you'll give it to us? Well..." He snatched up an empty bottle, busted off the end, and gave it to me, then he reached in his back pocket and flipped out his switchblade. "Try it, pal."

"No!" Cherry cried. "Stop it!" She looked at Bob. "They're not going to do anything to us. Just leave."

Bob looked at us with hatred in his eyes. "This isn't over."

Then he turned around and walked to his car. The one named Randy followed.

When they drove off, Cherry gave a sigh of relief. "Thank goodness. I hate fights."

We walked on, and I turned to Cherry, "I couldn't use that busted bottle. I could never cut anyone."

"I know. You're too sweet to cut anyone. I'm just glad Bob didn't try to cut you up."

Cherry and I made small talk, as Two-Bit and Marcia blabbered on. Johnny remained silent, and I noticed him shake every now and then.

"Hey, Johnny," I said, between talking to Cherry, "you cold?"

"Naw. Just a little razzled, is all."

When we made it to Two-Bit's house, I saw the lights on inside. I wondered if his sister was home alone, or if his mom was with her.

Two-Bit hopped in the car, and Marcia followed, sitting in the front seat next to him. Cherry got in first, with me in the middle, and Johnny on the other end.

The ride to their houses was quiet. When we first started out, we tried listening to the radio, but we couldn't agree on anything. So we turned it off. After that, it was pretty silent.

When we finally got to Marcia's house, Two-Bit walked her to the door; Johnny and I just said polite good-byes. Johnny moved up front, leaving Cherry and I in the back.

Two-Bit came inside, and we rode off. Cherry's house wasn't far from Marcia's, so it didn't take us long.

When we pulled into her driveway, I got out and helped her. I walked her towards her door, but stopped when I saw who I thought was her father in the door way.

He gave me such a look of disgust, that I backed up. Cherry looked at me. "Ponyboy, if I see you in school, and I don't say 'hi,' please don't take it personally."

And with that, she ran up the drive way and into her house. Her dad shot me one last look of hatred and disgust and then he closed the door.

I walked back down to the car, dazed and confused. I wasn't sure why that had to happen, why Cherry wouldn't say 'hi' to me.

When we drove off, I realized why she wouldn't speak to me. It would ruin her reputation. Socs like that, didn't speak to greasers like me, especially in school. Well, that's okay, I don't want to talk to her, any way, I told myself, but I knew it wasn't true.

We pulled into Two-Bit's drive way and we all piled out.

Two-Bit said, "What are you guys gonna do?"

"Go home, I guess." I said. I had nothing else to do.

"I'll come along. I could use another walk." Two-Bit said.

We were almost to the park, when the blue mustang came up behind us again. I got scared, because I didn't have any weapon. I saw Two-Bit and Johnny reach for theirs, but I had nothing.

"What do you guys want?" Two-Bit asked them when they came out of their car.

"You picked up our girls. We don't take to kindly to white trash like you trying to pick up on our women. Next time you want a gal, stick to your own kind-dirt."

That hit me hard. I've been cussed at before, but nothing had ever hit me as hard as that did.

"So, in other words, you're jealous because we were able to talk to your girls when they wouldn't talk to you?" Two-Bit asked.

When he stopped the sentence, the Socs lunged at us. I was left with only my fist to fight them off. I searched for something-anything-to fight them off with, but I found nothing.

Bob was the one who came at me. And another one I didn't know. Bob was bigger than me, and a whole lot stronger. He pinned me to the ground with one arm, and then hit me with the other, his ring hand. I felt my face getting cut open, slicing into my flesh. The other one kicked me in the ribs, and I lost my breath. I wondered what was happening to Two-Bit and Johnny.

It seemed I couldn't get any hits in, but I'm sure I did. Almost forever after Bob jumped on me, Johnny came from behind him, holding his switch blade against Bob's throat.

"Let him go." Johnny said in a low voice. Bob stopped hitting me, and he began to sweat. The rest of the Socs were getting into the mustang, but Bob wasn't going anywhere.

"Johnny," I said, "just let him go." Though I was crying, I wasn't scared of Bob any more. Johnny took care of that for me.

"No." Johnny said. "He did the same thing to me as he just did to you, only worse. He doesn't deserve let loose."

"Please, Johnny, let him go. You've gotten even. I mean, look at him." Bob was as white as a sheet, and drenched in sweat. He looked more scared than I had been. My face was hurting, my ribs were sore, but Bob looked like he was worse off than I was.

Johnny realized what he was doing, because he let him go. But not before leaving him with a "parting gift."

As we released Bob, he took his knife and cut into Bob's cheek, right where Johnny's scar was. Now Bob would have a scar, like Johnny's.

When the mustang drove away, I sat down on the ground, crying and shaking. I could feel blood run down my face and I thought I felt bruises along my back throb.

Two-Bit, who had a bloody nose, came over to me. "You okay, kid?"

"No." I said honestly.

"Come on. We'll take you home." He helped me up and walked me to my house.

I didn't know what the time was, but it seemed awfully late. I was cold in my sleeveless shirt. Two-Bit and Johnny left me in front of my house and I walked inside.

"Where the heck have you been?" Darry said, rising to his feet. "Do you have any idea what time it is?" He looked closer at me, recognizing the tears.

Soda, who had been asleep, looked up at me, too. "Ponyboy, what happened?"

Crying and scared, I sat down on our couch. Soda came to sit by me, and placed an arm across my shoulders.

Darry had gone to the bathroom, and came back with some alcohol and a wash cloth.

I gritted my teeth, as Darry dabbed the cuts on my face. It burned like heck, and I wished I could stop him.

Soda handed me his handkerchief, and waited for me to explain my story.

I told them everything, from when we were at the movies, to when I got home.

When I was done, Soda's eyes were blazing with anger, and when I looked at Darry, I did a double take.

His eyes were wet with unshed tears, and I wasn't sure why. Soda looked confused, too.

"Ponyboy. . ." He started. "I don't what I would have done if something had happened to you. I was so worried when you were later coming home. And here I yelled at you when you were hurt. I'm so sorry, Pony. Please forgive me. I was just so scared I'd lose you, too. . .like Mom and Dad."

That was why he yelled. He was scared. He didn't want to lose me, or Soda, too. He already lost Mom and Dad. It was his silent fear. He couldn't take losing another person he loved.

The unshed tears spilled over. He turned around and headed to his bedroom. Soda and I looked at each other, then at Darry. As he walked into his room, Sodapop and I got up and followed him.

Darry was laying on his bed, hugging a pillow close to him, trying to control and hide his emotions.

I sat down on one side, and Sodapop sat on the other. Darry sat up and looked at me and then Soda.

I grabbed him around the waist, hugging him tightly. Soda joined in, and we all sat there, hugging each other, knowing that we all loved each other and never wanted to lose one of us.

I was in pain, but the knowledge that I was loved made me feel better than I had in months. . .eight months, to be exact.