Last chapter in this story! Please review!
I will write a sequel. This just felt it must end here.
Thanks so much for reading!!!
And he looks at me in wonder
And he looks at me in fear
Wrestling with his anger
His pride and stony tears
To place me in his life
Will be hard and slow
Does he want it need it
I might never know
The boy feels strange
Oh the boy has changed
August 29, 1967
I try to veto the idea of taking Ponyboy to the hospital, earning the wrath of at least four people on the case.
It's unorthodox, but I have my reasons. It's important for me to get the boy near his family as soon as I can. Ponyboy has endured god knows what and slapping him in the care of foreign doctors and nurses would not help things.
Unfortunately, I don't think I'm going to get my way tonight, I muse as the paramedic checking over Ponyboy Curtis shoots me a nasty glare.
Benji exists the cabin and sidles up to me. "All's secured, Sir. Body bagged."
"Good," I nod and then look at the haunted face of the boy. "Don't bring it out until we're gone, you hear?"
"Yes, sir." Benji gives me a sympathetic look. "He say anything?"
The kid has stopped crying less than 20 minutes ago, and now sits clutching himself on the back of the ambulance. The paramedic, Lisa Paillard, speaks quietly to him. I watch as her face clouds and she looks up to meet my eyes.
Lisa mouths, "I'll be right back" to Ponyboy and walks over.
"Oh boy," I tell Benji, unwrapping a stick of gum.
"How's he doing?" I ask as Lisa reaches us.
"He needs a hospital," she snaps.
"Later," I say.
"Now." Lisa folds her arms across her chest and waits.
Already weary of her antics, I ask harshly, "C'mon Lisa. How's the kid?"
"Bruising on the throat, damaged vocal cords. He'll be hoarse for quite a while. Malnourished, dehydrated," Lisa rattles. "Obvious symptoms."
Lisa glances back at Pony and when she turns back to me, her dark brows are furrowed. "But the most worrying are the track marks."
"Track marks?" Benji starts.
"Yes. I don't know what those bastards shot him up with but his arm looks like a dartboard. And that detective Jessup is why he needs a hospital. I'm not arguing with you on this. I win."
Without another word, her nostrils flare and Lisa turns on her heel, walking briskly away from me, tension thick in the air.
Benji whistles. "Old girlfriend?"
"Worse. Sister-in-law." I pop the gum in my mouth. "Benji, call Darry Curtis willya?"
August 29, 1967
I shut my desk drawer and for the third time today stack the paperwork neatly into a pile. I'm the last one to leave but I just can't force myself to go. The house is too empty, Soda too quiet, the future unwelcoming.
The phone rings and I stare at it. I consider not answering but then worry that it's Sodapop and pick it up.
"Fieldman Construction. Darrel Curtis."
"Darry – it's Officer Benji Miller. We found your brother."
Caught off guard, I forget how to breathe. "God help me," I whisper. My free hand comes up to cover my eyes. "I - Is he…?"
"Alive," the officer sounds excited, eager to tell me. "He's alive and we've got him."
I drop the phone as my surroundings fade. It slides from my hand, knocking the linoleum with a dull thud. My breath struggles for control, my vision blurry. I suddenly realize I had expected something so much worse with this phone call.
After our parents and Johnny and Dallas, I hadn't expected any favors. But for once, Soda and I are lucky. He's alive.
Shock works its way out of my system and as sound rushes upon me I grab the phone.
" –hospital?" Benji is asking. "Darrell, did you hear me? Hello?"
"I did," I say quickly. "What hospital? I'll meet you there?" I want to ask How Bad? but I don't because at the moment it doesn't matter. Not yet.
Benji thinks. "Well, we're closest to St. Francis but you're closest to—"
"Benji," I interrupt. "I don't give a good goddamn how far that hospital is. You just get him there."
"Right," he replies business-like. "St. Fran's." And Benji hangs up.
When I hear the dial tone again, when my heart resumes beating, I reach over and call Sodapop.
August 29, 1967
There are all these people looking at me. Poking and prodding and every thing's so bright I just want to curl up in a ball like before.
"Honey? Do you want some water?" The paramedic asks, holding out a cup with a straw.
I shake my head mutely.
The detective who is riding with us asks in a low voice, "Can't you just give him some fluids?" He eyes me with concern.
Lisa sneers at him but speaks softly. "I think it's best we wait for any type of intravenous medication." She sets the cup down, a few drops of water spilling out as the ambulance takes a turn.
Even though I am half-doped the meaning's clear and I wince. I hug myself, shrouding my arms, thankful that I have changed out of my clothes and into the long-sleeved shirt of one of the firefighters.
Jessup is staring at me as if he can't believe it. "I'm sure glad we found you."
I open my mouth to agree with him but am silenced by Lisa. "Shh. Don't speak. You shouldn't until your throat heals."
Jessup exhales a long breath and smiles awkwardly, his teeth perfectly white and straight. "I know a few other people who'll be even happier than I am."
The thought of seeing Darry and Soda overwhelms me. Lisa must see this because she reaches out and touches my hand. "Don't worry."
I just look at her. Easy for you to say, I think before closing my eyes.
August 29, 1967
After making my way through the mess of cops and reporters, I finally reach the sixth floor of St. Fran's, chest tight from running up the stairs. A few cops are hanging out in the hallway but I pass them by, searching for my brother.
Finally, I see him. He's sitting in the waiting room, puffing his way through a pack of smokes. I sigh and rub my brow, catching my breath. I cross the room.
"How many speeding tickets you get?" I ask, stopping in front of Soda. Despite being even further away from the hospital than me, he's beaten me there.
He doesn't look up. "One," he mutters, staring at his hands. "How'd you know?"
I don't answer, instead choosing to sit down beside him. "Where're the guys?"
"I didn't call them," Soda says, rubbing his hair. "Too much, you know?" This time he looks at me, cocking his head.
"Yeah," I agree, sinking back into the chair. Soda bows his head once again.
I watch the nurses scurry back and forth. I think it's about time I start screaming for a doctor but can't rally the energy.
"Have you spoken with anyone yet?"
"No. Jessup went to get coffee. The nurse says they'll be back in five." Frustration blackens Soda's features, "Goddamn cops always—"
I cut Soda off as I rise, seeing Jessup approach me. "What's the news?" I ask shaking his hand.
Jessup smiles grimly. "I'll let the doc give you all the medical BS. But on our end, he's alive and he's safe now."
It shouldn't matter – but it does. It eats at me; what I imagine can't be worse than what Jessup has to say. At least I hope so. "Where'd you find him?" I ask, my throat gravel.
"Out on Route Five. Whitebridge Road – some random cabin out in the middle of nowhere." Jessup shifts the coffee cup in his hand. Soda stays seated, placing his palms into his eyes.
"The suspect was found dead," Jessup continues. "I hope you realize that we'll have to question Ponyboy soon."
"Sure," I reply numbly, not liking what I hear but understanding it nonetheless.
"Drink this. You'll need it." Jessup hands me the coffee. "I'm sorry to do it this way. But Ponyboy hasn't said much and I need the facts as fresh as they can be."
"I just need a doctor," I tell Jessup. "I need my brother and then you can do what you want."
August 29, 1967
The doctor tells Soda and I that Ponyboy is severely malnourished and dehydrated. The most worrying though, he says, are the bruised vocal chords and the track marks on his arms.
"Track marks?" Soda repeats for the second time. He hugs his arms to his chest and keeps shaking his head, trying to defy the words.
Jessup hangs back in the corner, chewing his gum and talking to Benji quietly.
"Yes," the doctor replies. "Unfortunately, it appears your brother was shot up with Diazepam to keep him sedated during the ordeal. Now this will require that he go through withdrawal since his tolerance has probably been built up over—"
"God damn," I whisper, tuning the doctor out. My teeth scrape together in rage as I think: Whoever did this is going to rot in hell.
Then the doctor is telling us that we can see Ponyboy now, as Soda pushes me forward. He gives me a panicked look as I touch the doorknob and step inside.
August 29, 1967
Darrel cracks the door to room 603 and enters quietly, Soda behind him.
Benji stops speaking to me as I turn away from him. "Jessup…" he trails off.
From my position near the door I see Ponyboy lying in the bed, dwarfed by his surroundings, seeming so vulnerable. The boy winces at the noise and then wide-eyed stares at his brothers. He blinks at them as if they are strangers.
"Pony…" Soda takes a step forward and then halts as Ponyboy shrinks away.
Then, before the boy says it, I see it.
"Oh no," Ponyboy whispers, long arms coming up to shield his face. The long-sleeved t-shirt envelops him, but I know what he is thinking: he's thankful it doesn't show how skinny he is or those awful marks on his arms.
I should have expected this. I try to avert my eyes, will the Nurse to shut the door but she doesn't and I keep watching the scene before me.
"It's okay Pone," Darry says, moving closer. "It's okay. We're here."
"No it isn't," the boy struggles not to cry. "It's not. Everything's wrong."
Sodapop's face matches the white wall as he shoots Darry an ill expression. Darry does his best to keep a blank face as he watches his youngest brother struggle. He takes another step forward.
"Can you just go away?" Ponyboy is saying. "Please Darry."
"Ponyboy," Darrel says, approaching his brother. He takes his hand. "I'm not going anywhere. You're safe. And you're home." The kid scrunches his face up, trying to pull his hand away.
Then, Darry is telling the boy that he loves him and the kid breaks down in his brother's arms.
And yes, this is the last chapter in the story. But I will write a continuation where this leaves off. I just felt it should end here.
Thanks so much for reading – review please! : )