"Ponyboy!" I heard Darry yell. "Get out here now!" Oh, no I silently moaned. I was in trouble for something.
"Yeah?" I asked coming out of the room I shared with Sodapop.
"What time did you get home last night?" he asked, his eyes blazing.
"Two." I said in a small voice. Looking down I commanded myself to talk louder and not act so scared of him even though I was. "Two-o-clock." I repeated again. Darry continued to stare at me until I dropped my gaze to the floor. I was painfully aware of the other guys in the room. Johnny, Soda, Steve, and Dally were playing poker and Two-bit was watching Mickey Mouse on mute. They had stopped their game to watch Darry yell at me, I thought. I knew, though, that it wasn't true; they were probably watching to make sure we didn't start a huge fight again.
"What time were you supposed to get home?" he asked sweetly. I made the mistake of looking up at him and answering.
"Tell me then," he roared, "Why were you two hours late?"
I dropped my gaze, embarassed. "I fell asleep in the lot with Johnny." I said, immediately sorry for bringing him into it.
"Is that true?" he asked facing Johnny. "Or is it another tall tale?"
"Yeah, it's the truth. We was talking and we fell asleep. Pony, he ain't mean to do nothing wrong." Johnny answered him. He beckoned for me to come over and I sat on the floor next to him.
Darry continued to yell at me about how irresponsible I was until he just said, "You're grounded for two weeks." Then he left the room. Everyone stayed quiet. Then Two-bit turned the sound back on and the guys started to play poker again. I was still red-hot and unbelivably upset. It seemed that all Darry ever did was yell at me. I couldn't do nothing right. Johnny must have figured out how I was feeling because he put his arm around me and pulled me down against his shoulder. Suddenly I felt hot tears running down my face. Johnny put his cards down and tried to soothe me but he couldn't.
"What's the matter, Ponyboy?" Two-bit asked me alarmed. Soda moved over to sit next to me. He ruffled my hair and tried to get me to look at him.
"Pony?" he asked gently.
"I-i-i-i can't stand it anymore." I stammered.
"Can't stand what?" asked Two-bit confused.
"I can't stand Darry always yelling at me for everything I do and everything I don't do. He hates me." I said. The guys exchanged looks and Johnny squeezed me tighter.
"You shouldn't have stayed out so late, Ponyboy." Steve said.
I pulled up fast and exclaimed, "I can't believe you're taking his side, man! That's not fair. I didn't mean to fall asleep!"
"It's true, man." Johnny defended me against Steve. "It was only 10:30 when we was talking and when we woke up it was 2:00." It felt horrible that no one believed me, even though Johnny and Soda and the other guys probably did. I knew that any minute I was gonna start bawling so I jumped up before I did. I started to run out of the room when Darry walked in. He stood in the doorway while I was trying to get out.
"Darry, let me by!" I exclaimed.
"No." he said and pushed me back into the room. "You can stay in here with everyone else." I tripped on the table and fell backwards, landing against Steve and Dally.
"You okay Pony?" Dally asked.They helped me up, but I pushed away.
"Leave me alone!" I screamed. I sat alone on the other side of the room for the rest of the night.
I went to bed early and that night I had one of my famous nightmares. I couldn't stop screaming. Soda put his hand over my mouth and he and Johnny (who had stayed over) wrestled me down to the bed. Sobbing, I turned to my side trying to get rid of the feeling of fear that made me shake all over. Soda pulled me close to him and wrapped his arms around me. "It's okay Pony, you're safe." he whispered. "You're safe." I buried my face in his shoulder. Johnny climbed onto the other side of the bed and together they calmed me down. It took an hour for me to relax. I finally fell exhausted back into a deep sleep.
By the time I woke up the next morning Soda and Darry had left for work. Johnny was sitting at my desk and Two-bit was laying on the floor across from him. They were talking quietly. When Two-bit saw me open my eyes, he smiled and said loudly,"Hey, hey, hey! Sleeping Beauty's awake!" I laughed weakly and went to get out of bed. Johnny put his hand on my chest and gently pushed me back down.
"What's up?" I asked confused.
"We want to tell you something." Two-bit said.
"What?" I asked impatiently.
"Darry's really really angry with you. They sent a progress report." Two-bit told me. I sighed and smiled grimly,
"That's nothing new."
"Well there's kinda something different this time. You know how you think Darry's always mad at you?." Johnny asked me.
"Yeah." I said.
"Well Soda's really upset and kinda mad at you too." Two-bit said.
"What?" I asked, unbelievingly. "Soda's never mad at me."
"I know, Pony, but he's real disappointed with your grades. Darry told him."" Johnny said.
"That's stupid. Soda wouldn't listen to Darry." I dismissed the idea with a shrug. Johnny was going to try to convince me but Two-bit stopped him. They let me get up and I went and got dressed. It was weird because all day I couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. It didn't help that Two-bit and Johnny were extra nice to me all day. When we got home after a movie, Soda and Darry were already home, along with Steve. Darry started to yell about my grades but I tuned him out and watched Soda's expression. When he didn't say anything in my defense, I got a little nervous.
"Soda?" I asked tentatively, interrupting Darry. My brother kept right on talking to Steve. "Soda!" I said louder.
"You shouldn't interrupt people Ponyboy." he finally said and he glared at me. Then he turned back to Steve. I staggered backwards, startled. Then I broke. I ran and attacked Darry. He grabbed my arm and twisted it and then pushed me across the room. Johnny and Steve hauled me to my feet but they wouldn't let go of me.
"No, Pony, don't." Johnny said from between clenched teeth. I wasn't going to listen to him and let Darry turn Soda against me. Cause if could do that , then he could turn everyone else against me too.
"Let go of me!" I yelled, frustrated. But no matter how hard I tried I couldn't get away. Steve and Johnny were both a lot older than me and I was too out of it to be able to do anything. I was ready to start crying.
"Go to your room, Ponyboy!" Darry yelled. Steve and Johnny let go of me and I started to run to my room. When I passed Soda I hissed,
"I hate you!" He looked after me but didn't say anything.
That night I had another nightmare. This one was different. Soda was mad at me and him and Darry were taking me to a jail so I wouldn't live with them anymore. Soda kept telling me how much he hated me and that he wished I was dead. When the cops were dragging me away, I was screaming and fighting to get back to my brothers. I kept screaming, "Soda please don't go away!" over and over again. I finally woke up because people were shaking me. I fought with the bedsheets that were covering me.
"Pony, it's okay!" I heard Steve yell, but I was still screaming for Soda. Then he was there, cradling me and rocking me.
"Soda." I sobbed into his shirt, "Soda, please don't leave me! Don't leave me alone. I couldn't take it without you."
"Baby, I'm not going to leave you. I promise I won't." he said soothingly.
"But you're mad at me." I whimpered, still frightened.
"Because I'm mad at you for your grades doesn't mean I'm just going to desert you." Soda comforted me. He climbed off the bed. Then he left the room. I started crying again but Johnny and Two-bit had me stand up and Steve wrapped a huge blanket around me. I didn't know what they were doing but then Soda walked back in wearing his robe. Soda put his arm around my shoulders and said,
"Come on, Pony." He brought me into the front room where there was a rocking chair. He sat on it and held me on his lap. I stayed there with him.
"Pony, I want you to promise me that you will try harder on your grades." he said sternly.
"I promise." I whispered.
"I believe you." he smiled. He rocked back-and-forth until I started to fall asleep. While he was rocking me I started thinking about how bad I felt when I thought he hated me.
"Soda?" I asked.
"I don't hate you like I said before."
"Well that's good to hear, cause I don't hate you neither." he laughed.
The week passed without trouble and Darry stayed off my back. I kept my promise to Soda and tried real hard on my work. Then that Saturday night I decided to go out for a little bit. I was walking around the park and all of a sudden I felt real dizzy. I went to sit down but I lost my balance and fell, hitting my head. That's how Steve, Dally and Johnny found me three hours later.
"Pony, what the hell happened to you?" Dallas asked me. They had helped me into a sitting position and I was leaning heavily against Steve.
"I was taking a walk and I don't know. I lost my balance and I think I hit my head." I said. Johnny looked at me strangely and he felt my forehead. His hand felt ice cold. I pulled away at his touch.
"Let's get you home." he said. The guys helped me walk home. Darry was sitting in his chair reading the paper. When I walked in he stood up and said,
"Pony where the hell have you been?" he asked. He glanced at Dally and Steve who were actually holding me up. If they were to let go, I would have fallen. Then he looked at Johnny and instead of yelling at me he said gently, "Pony, what happened?"
"I don't know." I said, suddenly confused.
"He said that he got dizzy, fell, and hit his head." Steve said for me.
Darry raised his hand in front of me and I pulled back. I thought he was going to hit me.
"He won't hurt you Pony." Johnny said. I was really scared though and Johnny had to stand behind me so I wouldn't pull back any farther. Darry lightly placed his hand on my forehead. His hand felt cold too. He walked out of the room and came back in with a thermometer. I opened my mouth without really feeling anything. While we waited, I closed my eyes. I had a horrible headache. I felt Darry slide the thermometer out of my mouth. My eyes opened.
Jesus Christ kid!" he said, "Can you guys bring him in the bedroom?" Johnny nodded and they brought me into my bedroom. Steve helped me take off my shirt and climb into bed. Dally covered me with a sheet. Then they left. I couldn't fall asleep and I heard when Two-bit and Soda came in. I didn't know what they were saying but a little while later they came in the room.
"102, huh?" Two-bit smiled. I didn't know what he was talking about and just stared at him blankly. Soda came over and sat on the edge of the bed.
"You're sick." It was a statement more than a question. I started to nod but it hurt to move. "Two-bit can you get Darry and tell him to call the doctor." Soda said quietly. Two-bit left the room and Darry walked in with Johnny."Hey, Johnnycakes." Soda smiled.
"Hey, Sodapop." Johnny smiled back, "What's up?" Darry came over to where Soda was and Soda gently touched my head. I almost jumped off the bed it hurt so bad. Johnny sprang up next to me and grasped my hand. "Pony, chill." he said. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed myself not to cry. Then the doorbell rang and I heard Steve let someone in. The doctor walked in my room.
"Hello, Mr. Curtis." he greeted Darry, "I'm assuming that Ponyboy is the one who is sick?" Darry nodded.
"He has a fever of 102 and a really bad headache. He was out walking and he got dizzy. Then he fell and hit his head." Darry informed the doctor. The doctor motioned for Soda to stand up but I grabbed onto the edge of his shirt and fought for him to stay.
"Soda!" I whispered in a panic.
"Chill, buddy." Soda said and he came around to the other side of the bed. The doctor took my temperature, listened to my heart and did all the things he usually does. Then he turned a little light on. He shined it in my eyes. I started to scream. Dally, Steve and Two-bit ran in the room to see if I was okay. They had to hold me down while the doctor shone the light in my eyes. Then the doctor went into the front room with Darry but the other guys stayed with me.
"Are you okay, Pony?" Steve asked. I shook my head no. Darry came back in the room with a bottle, a spoon and some wet cloths.
"Pony all you gotta do is take one teaspoon of the medicine and then you can sleep." he told me. I looked at Johnny, frightenedly. He poured a teaspoon for me and I swallowed it. Then he placed the cold cloths on my head. After about ten minutes, I started to fall asleep.
I can't really remember what happened during the next couple of days. I have glimpses of taking medicine and then of seeing Darry, Johnny or Soda. When I was better and talking to Two-bit he told me.
"Kid you were out of it. You would wake up and just start screaming for no reason. The only person that could calm you down when that happened was Soda. You wouldn't even listen to Johnny. Then when your temperature went up if anyone but Johnny or Soda came in the room you would scream and fight them. We never figured out what it was." Two-bit said.
"But I remember Darry being there once." I said bewildered.
"Yeah there was one time when your temperature was like 104 and we were trying to give you medicine. You wouldn't even let Johnny near you and if he came in the room you would thrash and pull away, so we got Soda but the same thing happened with him. No one could go in the room but finally Darry went in. You held onto him for hours." Two-bit explained.
"Oh." I said. That was actually one of the few times I remembered. All I knew was that I was really scared whenever Johnny or Soda or anyone else came in the room. I wanted someone there with me and it had to be Darry. When he came in and held me I felt safe and warm like no one could hurt me at all. "Where is Darry?" I asked Two-bit.
"In the other room." he told me. "Do you want me to go get him?" I nodded yes. When Darry came in I got a little nervous cause I didn't know what I was going to say to him.
"What's up, Pony?" he asked me standing at the foot of the bed.
"Nothing." I said suddenly shy. He came over and sat on the edge of my bed. Absently he stroked my hair. "Darry?" I asked timidly.
"Yeah." he answered me.
"Darry are you mad at me?" I asked real fast. "Cause I'm sorry for my grades and for staying out late." He covered my mouth.
"Why would I be mad at you?" he asked. I was so relieved that I reached up to hug him. Instead of pulling away like I thought he would, he held me tight. "Pony you know that even though I yell at you, I still love you very much."
"No, I didn't know that. I thought you hated me and didn't want me to live with you." I hurriedly brushed away the tears that crept down my face..
"Oh, baby no way! That's why I fought for you and Soda to live with me after mom and dad died." Darry exclaimed.
"I thought that you just wanted Soda to live with you but that he wouldn't come without me." I said, sounding muffled because I was pressed against his shoulder.
"Uh-uh. I love you little bro." he reassured me.
"I love you too Darry." I said.