When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only one thing on my mind: Paul Newman.
"I wish I looked like Paul Newman, he's tough as ball bearings." I said to my best friend Tomboy, who was on my heels.
"Sure thing, Pony" Tomboy replied, adjusting the baseball cap on his head. We started walking in the direction of home, squinting in the Friday afternoon sun.
Tomboy was the only one of our greaser gang that would go to the movies with me, the rest didn't understand it... That feeling of living the movies with the actors like you were up there yourself. They had other things on their minds.
Tomboy was the same age as me and the same height, but he had red hair and big eyes that gave him a sensitive look. He lived at the house with Me, Darry and Sodapop since his folks ran out on him when he was younger.
We found Tomboy on the street, trying to keep warm in the park by our house. When we figured out he was a greaser, we took him in like one of our own. He was a good kid, and didn't cause trouble. The kid was so quiet, he made my other best friend Johnny look like a mute.
Even though it was the middle of the day, Tomboy and I had to stay on guard. The Socs could still jump us, and getting jumped was nothing fun.
We walked in silence for a bit, then began to chat about the movie. We were about halfway home when I noticed the red Corvair trailing us.
"Heads up." I said to Tomboy, and he looked over his shoulder. When the car saw us looking, they pulled to the curb and a gang of Socs hopped out. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tomboy's hand drift to his front left pocket where he kept his switchblade.
"Run for it." I said when I could count the Socs trailing us. There were six. Tomboy didn't wait around, he took off sprinting like the track jock he was. I followed close on his heels, and the Socs were close on mine.
As hard as we tried, the bigger Socs caught up to us, tackling the both of us and bringing our faces into the pavement. Then they flipped us over, and I felt a heavy weight on my chest as one of them held me down with my knees.
"Need haircuts, Greasers?" One of them jeered. I managed to look dazedly at Tomboy, who looked terrified. He was also pinned underneath a huge Soc.
"Leave him alone, you cut my hair if you want." I said, sounding a lot braver than I felt.
"Pony..." Tomboy said, eyes wide. I saw the knife being pulled out, and that's when my adrenaline kicked in. I started screaming at the top of my lungs, squirming as much as I could.
Suddenly, there was a pounding of feet and the weight on my chest was lifted. At first I wondered what had happened, then I felt myself being hoisted up by the armpits.
"Pony!" I felt someone shaking me roughly. The motion caused my head to spin. It must be Darry, he was always accidentally rough with me.
"Leggo, Darry, I'm fine. You're hurting me" I groaned. Darry stopped with a muttered apology. I opened my eyes all the way to see Tomboy held up by Two-Bit and Sodapop, who were brushing him off.
"You kids know how dangerous that was?" Darry exploded. I kept my eyes on Tomboy, who took off the baseball cap, letting red hair cascade down.
"Dammit! Ten ever-lovin' Graces, What if they'd figured it out?" He continued. I shook off Steve, who was still holding me up, and frowned.
"I'm sorry Darry." Tomboy said quietly, his voice losing it's deep edge and reverting back to it's normal feminine tone. Ten Graces, aliased as Tomboy, was the last member of our gang. She dressed like a boy so that she wouldn't get hurt. If any of the Socs found out she lived with us, then her life could even be in danger.
Ten pulled her long red hair up and coiled it neatly on her head, jamming the baseball cap over it. That was her trick for becoming a guy like us. She blended right in.
"You're bleeding." Ten and I said to each other at the same time. Two-bit snickered. I pulled out my handkerchief from my pocket and threw it to her so she could press it against the cut on her lip. Sodapop handed me his to take care of the cut on my head.
It was then that I realized I was crying, and hot tears were dripping on the pavement.
"Whoa-whoa. Easy, Ponyboy... They're not going to hurt you anymore." Soda said, wrapping an arm around my shoulder just like a good big brother. I wiped my face hurriedly. Guess the almost-jumping had shaken me up more than I had thought.
I heard a sniffle and saw that I wasn't the only one crying. Darry had his arm around Ten, who was crying quietly. She was so delicate, it hurt us all to see her upset. Ten was the only one Darry ever showed affection to, except on the rare occasion he decided to be nice to me.
"Come on, then." Soda said. "Let's go home."
Later that night, after all the fuss had died down, I knocked on the open door of Ten's room. She looked up from the book she was reading, and a small smile slipped onto her face.
"Hey Pony, come on in."
I flopped down on her bed beside her and peered over her shoulder at the book she was reading.
"Romeo and Juliet?"
"I found it in a box of free stuff." She replied, turning the page. "It's lit-er-ate, I suppose. Looks like a bunch of words to me."
"That's what reading is." I said, yawning. It wasn't even nine yet, and I was already tired. Slowly, my eyes drifted shut as I listened to the sounds of the tv in the living room, Ten's soft breathing and the rustle of Romeo and Juliet's pages.
"Ten?" I asked, breaking the silence.
"Whatcha thinking about?"
She was quiet for a minute, then I heard a soft thump as Romeo and Juliet hit the floor.
"I guess I'm thinking about this afternoon... are you?"
I felt Ten shift in closer, then her head came to rest on my shoulder. I opened my eyes when I felt a damp patch on my shirt.
"You cryin'?" Ten sniffed in reply. I wrapped my arms around her skinny shoulders.
"I-I-I was so scared, Pony... I thought they were gonna find out."
I opened my mouth to reply, but was interrupted by Sodapop's voice in the doorway.
"Pony? Ten? What's goin' on?"
Ten wiped her nose hurriedly, leaning over to pick her book back up.
"Nothing." She said to Sodapop, trying to fake a smile and failing. Soda sighed, coming to flop on the end of the bed.
"Look, kids. It's a rough world out there, no denying it. I thought you were mighty brave today, ya hear?" Soda said. Ten scrubbed at her eyes, and I gently patted her knee. Soda grinned and grabbed one of Ten's bare feet, holding tight to her ankle as he tickled her toes.
Ten shrieked, nearly socking me in the face as she flailed around. I dodged her limbs and went in to tickle her stomach, causing her to scream louder.
"What's happening in here?" Darry yelled, running in from the living room. He took one look at Soda and I torturing Ten and began to laugh. Ten made a pitiful sound in the back of her throat. Darry finally came to her rescue, pulling first me then Sodapop off her and holding us in headlocks.
"Well, Miss Ten Graces... What should we do with these hoodlums?" He asked, smirking in amusement.
"Run their heads under the faucet!" She said, trying to fix her mussed up hair.
"All right." Darry said. He dragged me and Soda into the bathroom.
Moments later, we ran back in. Sodapop shook his hair all over Ten, causing her to shriek again. I followed Soda's suit with a wicked grin.
"Okay, hoodlums. Enough ruckus for today." Darry said as he passed by the doorway, wringing out his shirt. Soda ruffled my hair, leaving the room to go watch TV with Darry for another hour.
"Night, Ten." I said, smiling at my 'sister' before leaving the room.
"Goodnight, Pony." Ten replied, smiling in return.