I was right about things going back to how they usually were at my house. When I went home later that evening, I got hollered at and my old man hit me upside the head with a bottle. It was hard to tell which hurt worse, the words, or the cuts from the broken glass. I managed to grab some paper towels to hold against my head before I left the house. I knew better than to stay at home when my folks were like that.
I walked to the end of my block before I realized that I had no idea where I was going. Usually, I just went to the lot, but it was raining and I didn't want to sleep on the muddy ground. I knew I could go back to the Curtis's. They were always willing to let me stay over. I knew the same was true for Two-Bit's house. I even thought about walking over to Buck's to see if Dally was there.
"What are you doing, standing outside in the rain?"
I jumped and then realized that Steve was sitting at the corner in his car, waiting for me to get inside.
"And what on earth happened to your head?" He asked as I closed the store.
"Beer bottle," I replied. Steve could figure out the rest.
"So, I take it you're not sleeping at your place tonight tonight?" Steve glanced at me as he turned the corner.
"I guess not," I said.
"Glory Johnny, where were you going to stay? The lot? It's raining like cats and dogs out there," Steve informed me. "Keep sleeping there and you'll end up dying of pneumonia before your folks have a chance to kill you."
I didn't say anything. I knew Steve was partly joking when he said that, but he had a point. There had been a few times when I had come down with a cold after sleeping in the lot when the weather wasn't that great.
"You're coming to my place tonight," Steve said and I looked at him. "Hey, I'm not going to let you sleep outside in the rain. Even my old man isn't that heartless."
"Your folks won't mind?" I asked.
"You are too polite for your own good, do you know that? No, they won't mind," Steve replied. "You act like I live at your house or something."
"Your father doesn't exactly treat you like Mr. Curtis treats Ponyboy and Soda," I commented.
Steve smirked. "Well, we can't all live in perfect homes, can we?"
He was being sarcastic. Both of us knew that the Curtis family wasn't perfect. Although compared to our families, it was. They struggled to keep the bills paid and Soda and Ponyboy rarely got new clothes. Darry's clothes were always passed down to Soda and then Ponyboy. The few new clothes they did get were either from second hand stores or stuff that Mrs. Curtis managed to find on sale.
We arrived at Steve's house and we both got out of the car. Steve watched me carefully as we walked to the front door.
"Are you sure I can stay?" I asked.
"I'm not giving you any other options," he replied as he pushed the door open.
I followed Steve inside only to find his mother sitting in a rocking chair with a book and his father working on a crossword puzzle in the news paper. Neither one looked up from what they were doing.
"Johnny's spending the night," Steve announced as he closed the door.
"Isn't it a school night?" Mrs. Randle asked. She glanced up from her book.
"Do you want me to bring him back to his place?" Steve asked. "His folks are drunk. He can't stay there."
"I didn't say that he couldn't stay," Mrs. Randle replied. She gave me a friendly smile. "You just don't usually have friends over on school nights."
"That's because Soda would keep him up all night," Mr. Randle joked and I grinned. I didn't know that Mr. Randle could have a sense of humor. Steve rarely mentioned the good things about his father. Then again, I rarely mentioned the good stuff about my father either. Not that there was much to tell.
"Come on Johnny," Steve said as he led me to his room. "I think I have some clean clothes that you can wear to school tomorrow and an extra pair of pajamas. My grandmother made me a pair of red pajamas for my birthday and I don't wear them."
"She made them?" I asked.
Steve opened a dresser drawer and pulled them out along with the ones I knew he usually wore because he sometimes wore them at the Curtis home when he slept there. "She knit them. I know, they're not the greatest, but it's better than nothing. And they're warm. My room gets cold at night."
"I'm used to it. Remember, I usually end up sleeping in the lot?"
"Which is probably where you would be now if I hadn't stopped to pick you up," he commented with a knowing grin.
"At least the lot is quiet," I replied.
"I guess your house does get pretty noisy with all the fighting, doesn't it?" Steve asked. "Soda told me once that they can hear your folks at their place."
"I know," I mumbled, feeling embarrassed.
"Johnny, you know you can come to any of our houses," Steve reminded me. "Shoot, even Tim would let you stay with them if you asked. You don't have to go to that vacant lot or the park all the time."
"I don't want to be a burden on anyone," I told him.
"None of us are going to think that you're a burden. Just because your folks can't get it through their heads that you deserve to be treated better doesn't mean that your friends and their families don't realize that."
I just nodded and sat on the bed, pushing a car magazine to the side. I knew Steve and my other friends had a point. All of them insisted that I could stay with them instead of in the lot when I couldn't sleep at my own place. Still, I couldn't help feeling guilty at the thought of just showing up on one of their door steps, asking if I could spend the night. Their lives were enough without me intruding on them.