What's down the road we can't say
And the road behind don't matter
But every mile along the way
Is just another mile together
Unconcerned about the twists and turns
We're takin' it nice and slow
Safe and sound, covering ground
"Well, what do we have here?" In a flash, Two-Bit's hand darted out and snatched the piece of paper I was reading.
Shit, I thought.
Hastily, I stood up from my spot at the kitchen table. "Two-Bit Mathews, give me that back!" Tauntingly, he held the paper up in front of me and danced a little jig.
I sighed with irritation, trying not to give in and laugh at his antics. "Don't you two have your own place now?" I glanced at Steve who sat on the couch watching us with amusement. "Why can't you annoy each other?" Steve and Two-Bit rented a small apartment together. But they still hung out at our place nearly every day.
Steve shrugged nonchalantly. "Because it's more fun to annoy you."
Soda, walking around the room looking for his shoes, chuckled. "Two-Bit just likes to drink our beer. Lazy bum." Soda eyed me curiously. Two-Bit and I were having a standoff in the kitchen. "What's going on with you?"
"Nothing," I snapped. Then I held out my hand exasperatedly. "Come on, Two-Bit."
"Perhaps this is a love letter?" he said, his gray eyes gleaming. "Hmm, let's see…" Lowering the paper, he quickly scanned it, mumbling the words.
Nervously, I glanced behind him as Darry arrived home. "How's Dana?" Soda shouted loudly, eliciting a sharp glare from our brother. Soda and I rolled our eyes at each other.
Darry had left the house late last night because of some 'problem' his girlfriend was having. He was just now arriving home.
"Exhausting," he said tiredly.
Dana was Darry's girlfriend of six months. She was three years older than him and at first they had seemed like a good match. Both responsible, both mature. However, the only problem was that they both liked to boss each other around.
Also, Dana could be snippy and Darry didn't do well with snippy.
She demanded all of his attention, which Darry wouldn't give. He was already committed to Soda and me. If it was between us or her needing his time he didn't give it a second thought. Soda and I had tried to tell him it was fine – he didn't need to focus so much on us anymore - but he refused to listen. "You're more important," he would say gruffly.
Darry's old habits were hard to break. It was a serious point of discussion for Sodapop and me. Darry was real good about letting us do what we wanted, but sometimes his 'parent' reflex kicked in and we all flashed back about four years.
Dana treated me as if I were five years old. One time she made the mistake of calling me by my middle name because she couldn't stand my first name. "It's Ponyboy," Darry had told her through gritted teeth.
What a catch.
They fought with each other all the time. No one knew why he or she stayed together; Steve said Darry probably liked the challenge.
Darry walked past me and opened the refrigerator. "Figures. We have no food," he grumbled, shutting it roughly.
"Two-Bit!" I said with frustration, holding out my hand. I wanted to get it back before he said anything.
Finished reading, his head slowly raised up, a glimmer of a smile on his face. "So you got in?" I nodded, uncomfortably. "You accepted? You're going to go?"
Darry, holding a Pepsi, leaned back against the counter watching us.
Two-Bit's guard was down so I grabbed the paper away. "Mind your own business." But I was smiling.
"Where are you going?" Darry asked suspiciously.
I bit my lip. I wasn't ready to tell anyone the news, afraid that Darry would be disappointed that I was planning to stay in Tulsa for college. These last few months he had been fastidiously pushing me into sending out applications. Night after night I had huddled at my desk filling in the monotonous questions. My social security number was now etched into my brain.
I had gotten into a few other schools, but instead had accepted my scholarship to the University of Tulsa. It was pretty much a full ride, except for living expenses.
Hopefully, Darry wasn't ready to kick me out of the house.
Clearing my throat I said, "College." At Darry's measured grin I continued quickly, "I'm going to go to the University of Tulsa. I got a scholarship."
Soda bounced off the couch, his brown eyes excited. "Why didn't you tell me?" He hugged me and grabbed the letter. "We should frame this."
Steve choked on a laugh and I joined him. "See what you did Two-Bit?" Embarrassed, I snagged a hand through my hair. I could feel myself turning red.
"You didn't want to go anywhere else?" Darry asked slowly. Soda's eyes narrowed; thinking Darry was trying to push me out of town.
But I got what Darry was saying. He wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. I nodded emphatically. "No. I want to stay here. I've had enough of…leaving my family," I said with feeling.
Darry, standing before me, cleared his throat roughly, his eyes wet. "Ok. I think I can handle that." Suddenly his strong arms were around me. "I am so proud of you Ponyboy."
Shocked at such open affection from my usually closed-off brother, I patted his back awkwardly. When we pulled apart I joked seriously, "You're not going to kick me out of the house are you? Otherwise I'll be living in a cardboard box in our alley."
Not getting the joke, Darry stared at me sternly. "Of course not. It would be silly to live in the dorms when you have a room right here."
"I don't know Darry," Steve interjected. "You might want to do it now or you'll never get him out of the house. Just look at Soda."
"Thanks man. Thanks," Soda scowled good-naturedly. He shot me a mischievous smile and turned to Darry. "No worries Darry. Just as soon as you're ready to marry Dana, let me know and I will be out of here."
Darry guffawed but looked horrified. "Not in a million years."
Pretending to be shocked, Soda frowned. "So, you're telling me you're not hearing wedding bells yet?"
"I'd stop there if I were you, little man," Darry warned Sodapop and sat down in one of the kitchen chairs. "Let me see your brochures." I could tell Darry was excited as he scanned the introductory application and booklets. He nodded his silent approval as he flipped through the pages.
My stomach sank, realizing he had never been able to go to college. "I'm sorry, Darry."
Startled, he looked up. "For what?"
"I know you wanted to go too."
Darry sighed. "Pony. I did what I wanted to do. You forget I did have a choice. And I wanted you and Soda more than anything. So cut it out and stop feeling sorry for me."
I cocked my head and just looked at him. Darry could be overbearing and strict but we got along better than we ever had. He still thought I was scatterbrained and I still thought he yelled too much but instead of fighting all the time we could just talk. I wasn't ready to give that up. I would miss it too much. Hell, I'd miss everyone too much if I went away. Even Steve and especially Soda.
Darry's rugged face was thoughtful as he continued to read the brochures, his blue eyes gleaming. His brown hair fell in his face and he hadn't shaved in a few days. Suddenly, I was hit by a memory. It came on strong, smacking me across the face.
I blinked and coughed. "What's wrong?" Darry asked, looking up with confusion.
"You look like dad," I told him bluntly.
He shifted uncomfortably and then leaned back in his chair. He twiddled a pencil in between his fingers. "You know the one thing I'm most excited about?"
"That soon the state will be off our back. They pretty much are anyways, but soon we won't even have to worry." He nodded, pleased with himself.
And why wouldn't he be? He had raised two teenagers, put up with our shit while getting his own together.
"Darry," I said intently, staring him in the face. "I'm proud of you too."
Ok-hope you all enjoy the next 'saga'.
Let me know what you think.
Special thanks to Alleycat80 for the great input.