Title: November Rain
Author: Beth Pryor
Summary: A not so chance meeting between two characters many years after those two weeks in Tulsa.
Disclaimer: All characters, events and ideas contained within are based on those created and presented by S.E. Hinton. This author has merely borrowed her creations and expanded upon them for personal enjoyment. No compensation of any type is received.
A/N: This is my first attempt in this fandom. I was inspired by many of the outstanding authors' works I have read here and only hope that you will find my effort worthwhile. I'd like to thank Mr. Arnold, my 10th grade English teacher who kept The Outsiders on his approved book report list many years after we had all read it and Maggie, my ever-faithful beta who reads even more than I do.
I honestly hope you enjoy…
"Mrs. Rosen?" my secretary asked as she poked her head into the office, "I hate to interrupt you, but there's a gentleman here to see you. He doesn't have an appointment," she added.
I glanced at the file in front of me and the clock. I had a ton of work to finish before the end of the day, and it was already 4:15. A few seconds passed as I decided what my answer would be. "Did he give a name?" I finally thought to ask.
"It's a Mike Curtis from Chicago. He says he knows you from Tulsa, though," she shrugged.
Tulsa. That word took my breath. I had barely even visited there since graduating high school 15 years ago. My parents didn't even live there anymore. I had assumed Tulsa and everything about it was way behind me. Still, this mystery man had piqued my interest. I wanted to know who he was and what he wanted. "I'll see him," I said as I closed my file and straightened my suit and hair.
My secretary wasn't used to unannounced visitors, nor was she used to me agreeing to see anyone without an appointment. She raised her eyebrows at my request but said nothing as she went to show the man in. She was back in just a few seconds. The man behind her was of medium height and build. I searched his face for a sign of his identity. His head of wavy brown hair was held high and his light blue eyes sparkled slightly as he stuck out his hand.
"Thanks so much for seeing me without an appointment, ma'am," he began, "I know I should have called but I didn't know if you'd see me."
I approached him but didn't shake his hand right away. I stared intently into his eyes and he broke into a smile.
"You don't know who I am, do you?" he asked.
I wrinkled my brow and looked once more. I still had no clue. Finally, I shook my head. "I'm sorry," I answered. "I really don't."
"It's ok. I don't look the same as when you knew me. You do, though. Well, your hair's a little darker and styled differently, but you look the same as you did back then. Like that night at the drive-in."
"Ponyboy?" I asked, tentatively. "Is that really you?"
The man in front of me grinned and slowly nodded his head. "Ponyboy Michael Curtis. You can't call yourself Ponyboy in the Army. I eventually had to revert to my middle name. You can't even imagine the stuff guys come up with." His face reddened. "Anyway, I go by Mike now."
"It's really good to see you," I managed to say as I walked over and hugged him. "Have a seat," I offered as I pointed to one of the chairs in front of my desk. He sat and I took the other. "How have you been? How are your brothers? What are you doing these days?" I shot out at him when my brain finally signaled to my mouth.
He laughed. "I'm fine. Darry's really good, too. He's married and has three little girls. I, uh, joined the Army right out of high school to help pay for college. I did two tours in Vietnam and graduated four years ago from the University of Wisconsin with a degree in English and Journalism. I'm working for a small newspaper in Kenosha, halfway between Milwaukee and Chicago. Also, I wrote a book that's about to be published, and I'm on my way to New York to meet with my publisher on Monday. That's about all, I guess."
"That's great. I'm really glad to hear that you are doing so well. Darry, too. And your other brother, Soda?" I asked, instantly regretting the question when I saw his reaction.
His face clouded as his eyes dropped toward the floor. Quietly he answered me, "Soda didn't make it back from the war. He was killed in South Vietnam in 1969."
"Oh, Ponyboy, I'm so sorry. I had no idea." I touched his arm.
"How could you have? We haven't been in touch for how long, 10, 15 years? But that's actually why I came this way. The Memorial is being dedicated tomorrow. I'm going to be there for him, to see his name on that wall." He was still looking down.
"Oh, is that tomorrow? I'd like the kids to see the Memorial, but I didn't realize that they were ready for the dedication. Although yesterday was Veteran's Day," I mused out loud.
"I'm kind of dreading going, but I do want to see it all," he confided, finally meeting my gaze.
I nodded politely but wanted to continue interrogating him. "So, I know why you're in D.C., but why are you in my office. Why did I make your list of people to see?"
He sighed a little and looked away from me again as he began his answer. "I mentioned my book. It's a memoir."
"About the war?" I interrupted.
He shook his head. "That wouldn't have anything to do with you. It's about growing up in Tulsa with my brothers after our parents were killed. More specifically, it's about the two weeks that defined my life, and I think they impacted yours, too." He stood and walked toward the window where he peered out at the landscape. "I wanted you to hear from me before someone else told you."
I blinked a couple of times. "You're making money off of Bob's death? His murder?" I finally whispered.
Ponyboy turned toward me. "First of all, it wasn't murder. Bob would have killed me if Johnny hadn't done something. He didn't have a choice," he began. "And second, I'm not making any money off of it."
I glared at him skeptically. "You're not making any money off of it?"
"Is there an echo in here? That's what I said."
"They aren't paying you anything for writing this book?"
"They are, but I'm not keeping the money. The first payment is going into a college fund for my son, and any additional money, royalties and all, will go to an organization that helps kids with juvenile records and bad home lives get through high school and even go on to college. When I heard about their work, I thought about the Greasers. I thought I was past all that until I listened to some of the kids they've supported tell their stories. They could have been Soda or Johnny or me. Soda could have finished high school and gone to college. He and Johnny might still be alive if we'd had something like that. I wouldn't have had to go over there. So that's why I wrote the book, to help kids like us." His voice wavered a little at the end of his oration.
I felt like a self-righteous bitch. Mike Curtis was the man that I'd always hoped Ponyboy would have the chance to become, and now he wanted to help other kids with similar beginnings have the same opportunity.
"You have a son?" I managed, weakly.
He smiled a little and walked back over to sit in his chair. "Yeah, his name is John Patrick. He's five. His mom and I didn't work out. They live in Milwaukee, so that's why I left Chicago, to be closer to him. He's such a great kid, though, Cherry. Smart and inquisitive. Most days,I can't believe he's mine."
I smiled back. "My son Thomas will be 15 next month. That seems unreal. My husband Olek was my History professor my first semester of college. I got pregnant and dropped out of school so that we could get married before anyone knew and so he wouldn't be fired. Katia came along two years later. Then, I went back to school while Olek wrote his textbook and set up the recent history program at GW. It was hectic with a 3-year-old and an infant, but we made it through. I started working here my first summer in law school, and they offered me a job when I was done."
"You've done well," he conceded.
"So have you," I affirmed as I attempted to summon up the courage to voice my next thought. "Ponyboy, I want to apologize for that night at the drive-in. Marcia and I didn't mean to cause problems for you and your friends. Maybe everything would have gone down similarly, anyway, but I've always felt some measure of guilt for Bob jumping you guys that night. I know I didn't go see Johnny in the hospital because technically he killed Bob, but I wish I would have. It wasn't his fault. It's such a sad story, people being products of their environment, but we all were. I'm not sorry we met, but I wish the consequences would have been less severe."
He snorted a little sarcastic laugh and shook his head sadly, "What were we supposed to do? Everything we knew was contained in a few city blocks. In some ways we were so limited and in some ways we experienced everything there. In Vietnam I saw terrible things, but after seeing Bob's body there in the park, Johnny in that hospital contraption and Dally shot down by the police, losing guys didn't affect me the way it did some of the other men I served with. I grew up in a war, Cherry. I learned at the age of 11 that people die, people I love. And no matter how much Darry tried to protect us after Mom and Dad were gone, he couldn't. He couldn't keep Johnny and me from getting jumped that night. He couldn't save Johnny or Dally or Soda. I knew that dying was a possibility, a probability, because that was my family's legacy. There wasn't anything then or now that you could possibly do about that, and I never blamed you or Marcia for what happened. I was just glad to know that there was someone else in the world who thought and felt at least a little bit like me."
I glanced at the clock quickly, not wanting him to leave but knowing that I had to finish my work for the day. He saw me and rose. "Cherry, I've taken up too much of your day. I'm sure that you have work to do on this Friday afternoon. I should be on my way."
"Ponyboy, no. Please forgive my bad manners! I do have work to finish, but I'm enjoying spending time with you."
"Hey, I want you to make it home at a decent hour. I'm on my way, ok? I just wanted to stop in and say hello. I'm glad I did."
"I'm glad you did, too. Why don't you come over to my house for dinner? It's pizza night, so adding one more wouldn't be a bother at all," I pleaded. "I'd love to introduce you to everyone and catch up some more."
"I couldn't impose on your family like that, Cherry," he answered politely.
"It's no imposition at all. I absolutely insist. Here's my address," I scribbled on a piece of paper and handed to him, "And we eat about 6:30. What's your favorite topping?"
He smiled as he accepted the note. "I'll eat anything."
"Great! See you tonight." I hugged him warmly before he turned to go.
"Thanks, Cherry. I'll see you."
He walked out of the office and I watched him cross the lobby and exit through the glass doors. Who would have known that this articulate, handsome and worldly man would be what a Greaser grew up to be? I certainly hadn't expected it and enjoyed being pleasantly surprised. Maybe there was hope for the state of the world after all if men like Mike Curtis were actively working to make it a better place. I was proud of my friend. After a few minutes of basking in the glow of this idea, I picked up the phone and called my husband.
"Hi, honey," I started, "Yes, everything is fine. I should be home around 5:30, so go ahead and get the order ready. And add an extra pizza, ok? An old friend of mine is in town, and he's stopping by for dinner."