Soda's words echoed in my head. I hate you. The kid hadn't spoken for the better part of a decade.
His words sounded strange—loud, and somehow off-key. He'd run from the living room just after, slamming the bedroom door behind him. Dallas, Pony and I didn't move for a second or two.
"He's just drunk, Darry;" Pony offered, "he don't mean it."
I nodded, mostly for his benefit. He glanced at the door to the bedroom.
"I'm sure he could use some water." I knew he wanted to check on Soda, and I still wanted to have a word or two with Dally. Pony looked relieved and disappeared to the kitchen.
Behind me, I heard the screen door slap shut and turned around to see Dallas trying to make a discreet getaway. I flung the door open so hard that the top half fell straight off the hinges.
"Winston!" I yelled from the front porch.
He was already by the door of his car. The rain had mostly stopped. Dally didn't make a move to open the door, but he didn't look up at me either. He knew what I was about to say.
I'd never been too crazy about the idea of him hanging around Soda and Pony in the first place. We might have been greasers, and a few of us might even have been called a hood now and again, but none of us were anything like Dallas Winston.
Dally and I had already had one discussion. It was shortly after I'd been granted custody of the boys. I had spent that morning on the business end of a lecture about my new responsibilities from the social worker who had given it to me. She had assured me that she would just as quickly revoke my guardianship if any of the three of us stepped one toe out of line.
Soda and Pony had already been given a shorter version of her speech at the court hearing, and again a few times from me afterwards. I was largely convinced that the social worker would hold true to her promise to separate us for the slightest infraction—and the company we kept wasn't known to toe the line.
I'd lined Steve, Two-Bit and Dally up on the front porch that evening and laid everything out for them. I wasn't about to have what was left of my family split up on account of someone else's stupid mistakes. I told them that things had changed; that we didn't have the luxury of second chances. I had assured them their friendships would be over if they put Soda or Pony in any sort of compromising situation, and I had meant it.
"Don't bother coming around here anymore," I said finally.