This is the last chapter! So by golly, enjoy it! Sniff Please leave reviews. Thanks to EVERYONE for reading! You've all been awesome!
One boy head strong
Thinks that living here's just plain
He's pushed down so hard
You can hear him start to sink
And it's one last round of petty conversation
You hold on boy 'cuz
You won't go down like this
Just roll over
Lay down till it's more than you can take
Distantly, I was aware of a strange pounding on my chest. "Kid, if you are dead and I have to break this news to Soda, I swear to god…!" I heard Steve screaming hoarsely at someone.
Oh wait. That was me.
The thumping continued and I groaned weakly. My chest was burning, my lungs sputtering for air. My eyes fluttered open and Steve was leaning over me, one hand holding my wrist for a pulse. Suddenly, I jerked and then gave a loud gasp, which got caught in a cough. I began retching on the water erupting from my lungs. Quickly, Steve turned me onto my side, patting my back as watery gray liquid poured out from my mouth and onto the gravely bank of the river. I shut my eyes against the pain.
Then I was done. But I was so tired; all I could do was lay there limply, my mind whirling with the thought: I am alive. I am alive.
"Kid, kid, come on stay with me." Steve's voice broke in. He rolled me onto my back and gently slapped my cold face. "Wake up. Say something, damn it."
Slowly my eyes opened. "Steve, I knew you cared," I croaked, my throat on fire.
Steve, mouth agape, stared at me for a moment, before erupting furiously. "Ponyboy, are you trying to give me a heart attack or something?!" But his voice ended up cracking into a sob. "I mean, shit!"
In dazed amazement, I whispered to myself, "I really dreamed this." It looked like those constant reminders of my scars, those nightmarish links to the past, had just saved my ass. My head lolled around as I noticed a fisherman gesturing frantically from the pay phone at the dock.
Steve, following my gaze, exhaled. "Jesus, I'm glad I had those coins on me." He kept his right hand on my wrist, gripping it firmly.
"I don't need an ambulance," I moaned, trying to collect by bearings.
"Shoot, I should have had him call one. But the first number I rattled off was yours." He scowled at me. "I wasn't exactly thinking clearly ten minutes ago."
"You had him call my brothers?" I asked anxiously, struggling to get up.
Man, how was I going to explain this one?
"Whoa. Don't give me that look." Steve gently pushed me back down and covered me with my jacket. "What did you want me to do? Waltz back home without you and say 'Oh, by the way Darry, I left Ponyboy at Fulsom Lake. Oh, you didn't hear? He had a slight accident…and he drowned'."
"Steve, you do have a sense of humor," I laughed with exhaustion. "You've been taking lessons from Two-Bit again haven't you?"
"It wasn't funny!" he burst out, pounding the ground angrily. "You were under there so long. And man," he wiped his hair back, "I thought you were a goner." His eyes narrowed, scrutinizing me. "You're still blue." I shrank back, wondering if he'd slap me again, just to put some color back in my face.
"So, how tempting was it to let me drown?" I asked, trying to lighten the mood.
He gawked at me. "Glory, I don't hate you kid. In fact, I probably still owe you. You saved Soda's life by going over there for him and you saved mine. Because if he had been drafted, I'd be over there in a second." Steve cocked his head and raised an eyebrow. "Although, that's one hell of a way to collect on a favor." He pointed at the lake.
"Look Steve," I said suddenly anxious. "Don't tell them that I…" I broke off, unsure of how to phrase it.
"That you what? Tried to off yourself? Ponyboy, that was the craziest thing you've ever done." Steve said, his voice wobbly.
"Thanks," I said, pulling myself up on my knees.
"Don't get wise smart ass. It was pretty stupid." Steve's face became serious as he stared intently at me. "Pony, you weren't really going to…"
"If you're asking me if tried to drown, then yes. If you're asking me if I wanted to die, then no."
"That doesn't make sense," Steve exclaimed with frustration.
"Exactly…" I trailed off, staring back at the water with fascination. I didn't completely grasp it myself…but things felt different. I felt better.
And before either of us could say anymore, we heard the squeal of Darry's pickup and the slams of the doors as they all bounded out. Two-Bit nearly falling over Sodapop in the process, their hands red from the paint. Darry, scanning the lake quickly, broke into a run when his eyes rested on Steve and me crouched on the bank.
"Here come the cavalry," Steve quipped with amusement.
"Tell them I fell in," I prepared Steve.
"Right. They're gonna believe that as much as I believe in Santa Claus and my Fairy Godmother." But he shot me a fast grin and I knew he'd try.
Soda got there first, falling down next to me. His arms reached out uncertainly, grabbing my cold hands. Soda took in my wet clothes, ashen face and blue lips. "Oh honey, what did you do?" he asked gently.
I opened my mouth to respond but instead I coughed and the leftover water I had in my lungs sputtered out. My hands flew to my lips trying to stop the flow. As I hacked away, Darry and Soda began to look more alarmed with every cough.
"Glory, Ponyboy. Say it, don't spray it," Two-Bit laughed uneasily.
"Now, why do you have to make everything weird?" Steve sighed with exasperation.
As my coughs subsided, Darry kneeling down too, examined my face. "What happened Pony?" He had that fearful look on his face, the one he had worn to the hospital the night I came back from Windrixville.
"The undertow was really strong," I explained slowly. "I just couldn't make it back. And then-"
"-And then when I saw he had gone under, I pulled him out," Steve finished for me. "Close call, but he made it." He grinned at Sodapop, trying to reassure his stricken best friend. "You need to work on your swim lessons, kid." He told me knowingly.
I bit back a laugh. For once we were accomplices.
"Good thing you were there," Two-Bit said softly to Steve. He stood there chain-smoking.
"Damn straight," Soda echoed.
I nodded mutely, eyes downcast. Darry, very pale, smoothed my wet hair back. His hand brought my chin up. "Look at me. You're not hurt are you?"
Staring at my brothers, I was hit with a wave of contentment. I had saved myself for them; I had saved myself because of them. "Darry, I've never been more right in my life." I smiled broadly.
Darry scanned my face and slowly nodded in relief. "Then let's get you home." He put his arm under mine and lifted me up. Then turning to Steve he clapped him on the back heartily. "Thank you."
Before we could walk back to the truck, I spun around and squinted into the setting sun. The lake glistened in the light.
"What's wrong?" Soda asked quizzically.
"I remembered the poem," I told them happily.
And finally, I could remember who I had been.
Ok-the end! This long-ass story is finally complete! Wow! Final reviews much appreciated!
Thanks to everyone for reading…and I had so much fun writing it for all of you. Thanks for the great reviews…they spurred me on.
Also, I would like to write a fourth story…let me know if you have any ideas or what you'd want to see…I have a vague story forming…but we'll see.