Chapter One: Confused

It was a Saturday afternoon on December 21st. It was the coldest month ever in Tulsa. Even colder than January and February. It was always like that around where I lived. It had been raining a lot lately and everyone thought it would snow soon. I didn't, though. It never snowed. It had only snowed once in Tulsa and that was when I was five. It only sleeted. In fact, that was exactly what it was doing now; while I was taking a walk.

The cold weather didn't bother me too much, even when it was 23 degrees outside. I could handle being outside in that weather. Especially since I still had Dally's coat that he'd given me before Johnny and I had left for Windrixville. It kept me real warm, even though it still had a few burn marks from the fire. Hmm, I got to think about a warm, cozy fire in a church while I walked outside in the cold. That sure was comforting.

I was the only one in my family who would walk out of the house by choice in this weather. Darry would when he had to go to work. And Soda? Well, he wouldn't even walk out onto the porch. He was very cold-natured and hated it when it was cold outside. It was funny to me that all the girls said he was hot, but he was really cold. Okay, okay, I know that was a lame joke. Anyway, it had been a couple months since the fire in the old church in Windrixville and everything was almost back to normal again.

Dallas was out of jail now and his bullet wounds were healing. Last time I asked him how it was doing he told me that it felt a heck of a lot better. I was glad. The bullets had hurt him real bad at the time and the gang and I had thought that Dally was dead. But we took him to the hospital and the doctors took care of him.

Johnny was doing better, too. Well, better than he was. We thought we'd lost him also. But again, God gave those doctors wisdom to help him. For about a week after he got out of the hospital, he had to use a wheelchair. The next week, he had to try to learn to walk all over again. The rest of the gang and I helped with that. Except for Dally - he was in jail that week. It took us a long time, but Johnny finally got his legs to cooperate with him. Then, he started to use crutches. He was still on them lately and the doctor said that he would have to go like that until he felt like he could walk again.

So we were all doing better. The gang was happier now that we all had Johnny and Dally back. While Johnny was healing, Darry made him stay at our house. When Johnny found out that he'd be staying with us for a while, Soda said to him, "I'm glad you're gonna stay here, Johnny-cake. I mean, the last thing you need while you're healing is somethin' else hurting ya." Johnny had nodded in agreement. He knew what Soda'd said was true.

Anyways, I was walking to sort out my thoughts on this particular day. At home, there was never enough peace and quiet to think. But when I was alone, outside, I always could get everything straight. There were 9 things on my mind. Those things were:

1. Cherry

2. Johnny getting better

3. Dally acting strange lately

4. Darry working even though it was freezing outside

5. Sodapop sounding sick for a day and a half

6. Cherry

7. Steve being nicer to me (I know... strange)

8. Two-Bit not being around as much as he used to be

9. And once again Cherry...

Everything seemed okay, but at the same time... it wasn't.

Cherry, she was the coolest girl I'd ever met. Not like the greasy girls that Dallas Winston liked and not even close to the worse ones that Tim Shepard went out with. But also unlike those stuck-up Socy girls that Cherry and Marcia hung out with. Cherry was different. She was special. She dug sunsets like I did. She understood me, unlike anyone else had before. Sure, Sodapop and Johnny understood me, but it was different to find a girl who could actually sympathize me. She knew what I meant and didn't make a funny face whenever I'd say something. I could comprehend her, too. Well, for the most part I could.

I still hadn't figured out why she thought guys who were from the wrong side of the tracks were attractive. She seemed to like boys who were dangerously wild. She liked guys with evil looks in their eyes. And obviously ones with bad attitudes. What was so great about them? What was it that she found appealing about guys such as Bob Sheldon and Dallas Winston? Not to sound rude or anything, but I didn't find Dally all that great of a person to be around. I mean, sure, he was an awesome buddy, but what about his attitude was so attractive? That's the thing I didn't understand about Cherry. The only thing I didn't get.

And then there was Johnny. My best friend in the whole world. Him getting better meant more than anything to me. But everything was always so up and then down with his health, it wasn't even funny. One day, he'd be really bad off, the next, he'd be all right. Then the next thing you know, something's wrong again. The doctor said that that might happen, but I didn't think it was something that happened to just everyone.

Plus, Dally had been acting weird ever since he'd gotten out of jail. I had no idea why. He'd been having more of an older, over-protective brother attitude than he was an older, mischievous friend with an attitude. I didn't know why, though. Every time I'd even step out the door, Dally would go crazy and lecture me about being safe whenever I went out. I didn't know why he was getting so worked up; and it bothered me that he was. He acted the same way to Johnny and it really confused me. What was wrong with just taking a short walk?

The next person who I'd been worried about was Darry. He hadn't been taking a break from working lately. Even though it was always twenty-something degrees outside. It was too cold to be roofing houses. But for some strange reason, Darry hadn't taken even a small break. Well, there was one, but that day it was because his boss had wanted to take a day off, so, he let everyone else take a day off, too.

Darry had been too busy to realize that Sodapop had been acting different, too. And I knew that it wasn't just because Sandy had broke up with him. He had sounded kind of weak lately and I had no idea why. He sounded kind of like he had a cold or something. He even spent most of his time sitting down or in bed. And that's something that Soda rarely did. I'd asked him if he was okay the day before and he told me yes. That was a lie.

And then there was Cherry again. I was all confused about her, too. She had been ignoring me in school whenever she saw me-which, she'd promised she would - but she had also been ignoring me whenever it was just me and her. Take one weekend, for instance, I went to the park and she was there. She and I were the only ones there, so, I walked over to her and said hi. She ignored me until she saw that I was getting angry with her for it and she told me to go away. I did, but I was really sad and mad about it. I didn't know why she'd said that; especially since it was just me and her there.

And as if my life could've gotten anymore strange in the past couple of days, to top it all off, Steve was being nice to me! Him being nice to me?! That was crazy! He was never nice to me! But for some reason, ever since Johnny and Dally had gotten out of the hospital, he'd been nicer. Ugh. It was just too weird! But I was enjoying it while I could. It was a once in a lifetime chance, y'know.

Two-Bit had been acting different, too, though. He hadn't been coming over as much as he used to and when we did see him, he was more distant. Well, that's how is looked from my perspective, at least. He'd still try to be himself, but we could all tell that something was a little off.

And Cherry. Ugh! Cherry! Why did she have to be so confusing? I just don't understand why she acts like she has a crush on me one day, and then the next she's telling me to go away. I really wished she'd be a little bit more straight-forward when it came to whether or not she has a crush on me. I guess some mysteries were just yet to be solved. I guess I'd have to wait to find out what had been going on with everyone. But I was determined to figure out what was up.