Alright, so this is a direct continuation of the Outsiders, where our little Ponyboy is finally getting a girl. This chapter holds no hint of his girl yet, just some foreshadowing at the very end.

And also mucho kudos to my beta/ninja, Kait, AKA: taekwondogrl006. Without her this story would be... Not very fun to read, honestly. :P

Oh, and PS, go check out her stories. They're way cooler than mine. :D

Disclaimer: SE Hinton owns these characters... I like to make them bend to my will. MWAHA -cough- HAHA.


I rubbed my eyes, glancing at the clock. Five a.m. I had stayed up all night writing the theme, finishing off half a pack of Kools and resisting every urge to get into the warm, inviting bed that was only a few feet behind me. I stretched, rolling my shoulders back a few times, and turned my attention back to the notebook on my desk.

I stared at the last page, trying to think of a way to finish it off, to make it complete. I yawned so hugely my head felt as if it'd crack open. I glanced behind me to see if it had woken Soda. He stirred, his wheat-colored hair falling over his forehead as he turned in his sleep. I held my breath for one everlasting second. He muttered faintly, and then his light snore picked back up. I let out a relieved sigh before looking back down at the half-filled page laying on the desk.

It had taken me two full notebooks, front to back, to sum up the last week. One week of my life had changed everything, had turned my whole life backwards and upside-down. I stared at the last words I had written down, taking a minute to massage my stiff fingers.

"Thanks," I said and hung up.

I had left off right at last night, after I had hung up the phone with Mr. Symes. I picked up the pen slowly and wrote down:

I sat down and picked up my pen and thought for a minute. I smiled at the slight coincidence.

Remembering. Remembering a handsome, dark boy with a reckless grin and a hot temper. A tough, tow-headed boy with a cigarette in his mouth and a bitter grin on his hard face. Remembering- and this time it didn't hurt- a quiet, defeated-looking sixteen-year-old whose hair needed cutting badly and who had black eyes with a frightened expression to them.

I thought about last night. I thought about Johnny, realizing that it didn't hurt to think about him anymore. I stared at my paper and finally finished it:

One week had taken all three of them. And I decided I could tell people, beginning with my English teacher. I wondered for a long time how to start that theme, how to start writing about something that was important to me. And I finally began like this: When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home...

I decided to end my paper there, before I went on repeating the whole story. Reliving it had helped me, I realized. I was thinking all of this in the back of my mind. What I was really thinking about was how tired I was.

I still have two hours before I have to get up and go to school, I thought. I can get two hours of sleep. I crawled into bed next to Soda, wriggling under his arm. He shifted unconsciously to make room for me, lifting his arm. I fell asleep the moment my head hit the pillow.

***

When I cracked my eyes open Darry was shaking me awake gently. In the back of my mind, this surprised me. Darry is never gentle, I thought. I tried to open my eyes all the way, but it was a wasted effort. My eyelids felt like sandpaper. I doubt I could have formed a coherent sentence.

"Wake up, Pony, get up." His voice was hushed, soothing. He shook me a little more roughly now, which was comforting in a sense of familiarity, but annoying because regardless, I was still half asleep.

"Where's Soda?" I managed, my voice a dull croak. I rubbed my eyes in an attempt to wake myself up. It seemed to have the opposite affect.

"He's already up and getting dressed, bud. C'mon, before you're late to school," he said, irritation leaking into his tone. He was trying to tug me upright, now. It was a vain attempt.

School, I realized then, his words finally sinking in. I didn't want to go to school. I wondered if Darry would let me skip it today, but it felt like there was something important I had to do. It was bugging me. I tried to remember what it was, but my brain was fried. I couldn't think straight.

"School..." I mumbled. I finally decided to help Darry out in his attempts, pushing myself up on my elbows. My head spun when I achieved a sitting position.

"Ugh," I groaned. Darry looked at me strangley.

"Are you okay, Pony? How late did you stay up?" His voice was full of concern, which also struck me as strange. I glanced at the clock sitting on my bed table; the shiny metal hands indicated that it was seven o'clock.

"I went to sleep two hours ago," I admitted with a yawn. Darry's mouth fell open, his eyes bugged out of his head. I would have laughed, had I not been so exhausted. He was utterly shocked.

"Why?" He asked. His voice was awed, but I heard the anger in it. This worried me in a tiny corner of my head. Hadn't we promised Soda no more fights? I could have sworn we did.

"I was writing the theme," I recalled in a voice that was heavy with sleep but innocent. Darry was still looking at me strangely.

"And it took you all night?"

"It's kind of long," I explained, a little too sharply. I was getting irritated with all the questions, and the bright light coming from an uncovered window wasn't helping to ease my temper. I really wanted to go back to sleep.

Darry shook his head and muttered something I didn't catch. "Well, hurry up and get dressed, I guess." He walked out of the room still muttering under his breath.

I frowned and tried to remember what was so important that I had to do at school today. After a second of thinking, I realized I had to turn in the theme today so that I could get a C in English. It bothered me that the highest I could get at this point was a C. Why, I thought. Why did it bother me now? It hadn't bothered me yesterday that I was doing lousy in all my classes. Why now?

I realized that if I stayed here standing around thinking about it, I'd never get to school on time. I trudged over to my closet and changed into a clean pair of jeans and a fresh t-shirt. I then went to the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face. Man, that woke me up. The water was freezing, and my skin tingled even after I had dried my face. I pulled on my tennis shoes as fast as I could and ran to the kitchen to eat something and help Sodapop with the dishes.

Soda was sitting at the table, fully dressed and shoveling eggs, grape jelly and chocolate cake into his mouth. Steve was lounging out on the sofa, a piece of cake in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Two-Bit was sitting on the floor, his back against a chair watching TV. I reached for a piece of cake without sitting down, stuffing it into my mouth and grabbing another one before I had swallowed. Gosh, I hadn't known how hungry I was. I hadn't really gotten enough to eat last night.

I haven't gotten enough to eat in a while, I thought. I looked at the cake in my hand and realized that it tasted like cake. Not baloney. That was odd... and nice. It felt good to eat without gagging.

"Hey, Ponyboy," Two-Bit said, his gaze shifting from the TV to my face.

"Morning, Two-Bit," I replied, turning to the cabinet to get a glass. I yanked open the cooler, retrieved the gallon of chocolate milk, and filled the glass to the brim. I gulped the entire thing down without taking a breath. I slapped the cup down on the table, panting slightly and wiping my upper lip with the back of my arm. Soda finally had enough food swallowed so that he could form a sentence.

"How's it goin', Pony?" He began immediately. "Gosh, but you stayed up all night writing that theme, didn't you? You have some dark bags under your eyes, kid."

"I had to do a good job," I muttered, absentmindedly touched the soft skin under my eyes. It did feel a little swollen. I yawned and brought my arms up behind me to stretch.

"I'll read it over for you, if you want," Darry offered, coming into the kitchen and leaning against the counter, a mug of coffee in one hand. I barked a laugh.

"Sure," I chuckled, "If you want to go to work a couple hours late."

Soda looked at me strangely, standing up with his now empty plate. "Why, how long is the paper?"

I considered. "Well, it took up almost two notebooks, so pretty long, I'd guess." Everyone was looking at me now. The light banter that had been coming from Two-Bit and Steve stopped abruptly.

"Two notebooks?" Two-Bit asked in awe. His following low cuss was barely audible, but I could hear a faint note of jealousy. With it came a strange sense of pride on my part.

Steve's eyebrows were raised in disbelief, though he didn't say anything. Soda let out a low whistle. Darry had the best composure; though there was surprise in his icy eyes, the rest of his face was smooth, expressionless.

"Well," he finally broke the silence. "I would think it would be that long, being as you didn't get a wink of sleep 'till about 5 AM."

His voice was casual, with a hint of forced sternness, but I could hear the underlying pride. Darry's proud of me, I thought wildly. Darry's satisfied.

Of course he wouldn't say so; he was Darry, after all. But just knowing it made my chest swell.

The rest of them slowly slid out of their stupor, though Steve kept a wary eye on me. Their frozen positions gradually relaxed; Two-Bit turning back to the TV, Soda beginning to collect the rest of the plates off the table, Steve getting up to comb his hair into his usual array of complicated twists.

I quickly shoved a spoonful of eggs into my mouth to keep from grinning; I didn't want to seem too smug. I took my glass and plate to the sink , and Soda and I started the dishes; him washing, me drying and putting away. The room lapsed into a comfortable silence besides the clink of dishes and the low buzz of the TV. I smiled in spite of myself, it was a rare and beautiful thing when our house was this quiet. I could tell the others didn't like it so much, but it was calming to me. Nice.

I finally put the last dish away in a cabinet. Sodapop shrugged into his jacket, and I went to grab my book bag from the bedroom before I ran outside and joined Two-Bit and Steve in Two-Bit's car. I waved goodbye to Darry and Soda as both cars pulled away in opposite directions.

Today's finally going to be normal, I thought, gazing out the window into the bright light of the beginning of a new day in Tulsa. Normal. Ordinary. Uneventful. Those words were sounding very good right now.

But little did I know that 'uneventful,' wouldn't exist on this day. Not in the slightest.


Oo, there's the foreshadowing I was talking about earlier. Review?