Chapter 1 - The crying
Someone is crying.
I sit in the living room alone, looking down at the toys I am playing with- the little tower between my legs and the block in my hand, ready to take the place on the top of it. I can feel the shape, the sharp corners that digs into my small hand when my grip around it tightens, just before I place it upon the blue one. The tower sways - I hold my breath. A green block lies next to my foot, and I take it. This time the tower falls, and the pieces hits the carpet with low thuds. I blink.
Someone is still crying.
It's not Darry. My oldest brother almost never cries, and when he does, it's only angry sobs with no tears. He use to clench his fists and crumple his face in a way that looks bad, and he curses under his breath when he thinks no one can hear. It's not him.
It's not Soda either. When Soda cries, it's loud and wet, and he always tells why, what happened. He sniffles through his story with lots of details, how his knee or nose ended up bloody, and he lets Mom hug him during it, and then comforts me when I start to cry too. I always do when Soda cries. He always makes sure that everyone else also can feel his misery. It's not him.
I grab a new block, determined of building up my tower again, grab and place the blocks on top of each other, red, blue, red, green, yellow. It collapses. I whimper.
The crying continues. The sound comes from behind a closed door, and the someone tries to hide it. It's muffled, but the walls are too thin to hold it. I can hear the door creak, the cries gets louder for a second before it is shut again, and then there is a soothing voice. My Dad is the one who talks, and even though I'm little, I'm aware of who's left.
I crawl up to my feet, hold myself onto the coffee table to find my balance. The sun shines through the window, hitting my eyes, and I sqeeze them, takes a step and almost stumble over the blocks that lies cluttered over the floor, wooden colorful squares made by Dad, first given to Darry a long time ago. Now they're mine.
In my mind, the crying increases, fills the room like a hurricane. I let go of the table, place my fingers into my ears. I start to scream, but no one can hear me. Not even me.
I know we have to adjust. I know it lies on all of us to make it work, but instead of helping out, rise myself from my bed and get ready for school, I just hide further down underneath my blanket when Darry calls. I know it's only a matter of time before he will stand in my doorway, but I don't care. I have the right to stay home, in my opinion. I hear his steps down the hallway, how they stop, but I lie still, my only movement is my breathing.
"Ponyboy!" He knows I'm awake. How, I can't tell. I groan under my cover.
"Go away, Darry." I know he check his watch without looking up. He's predictable.
"I don't have time for this," he tells me, somewhat annoyed. "Get up."
I don't move. Only seconds later, the blanket are ripped off from my body, and I glare up at him. I had thought it would've taken a bit longer time, more nagging before action. Maybe it's later than I think it is. My brother's face tells me not to continue this behaviour, but I pretend not to see.
"I don't wanna go," I mutter, hugging my pillow. For a moment, his face is smooth, but then he puts on his harder expression again and leans over me, takes my pillow from my grip and drops it on the floor. I sigh.
"If you don't wanna end up in a boy's home, you'll get ready for school," he threatens. "Now!" Of course he would use his most effective weapon, but I knew I would lose this battle from the beginning anyway. So I stop arguing, sit up, swing my legs over the bedside. The floor is cold.
"Fine!" He doesn't move. "I said fine!" I repeat with emphasis, still glaring. He looks at me, seems like he wants to say something, but he doesn't. I rub my eyes when he leaves, remember how the mornings was only a week ago.
I really want them back.
By the time I walk into the kitchen, clean and dressed with greased hair, Soda place our breakfast on the table. I stare at the plates with a grimace, not even able to tell what it is. Darry hurries to gulp down coffee standing by the counter, his jacket already hanging over his arm. He puts down his cup, points at us.
"Make sure Steve picks you up in time."
Soda sits down, lifts up his fork. "Sure," he says.
"Drop Pony off first, and don't go until he enters-"
"Darry," I interrupt. "I'm not a little kid."
His gaze tells me that he thinks I am. "Just make sure he arrives safely," he tells Soda, who manages to grin. I don't know how he does it. "I'll see you both tonight. Go home straight after school." Suddenly he looks uncertain. "Pony, I don't know who's gonna pick you up," he says, searching in his pocket for his keys, but his eyes never leaves mine while he does it. "I have to work, and the other's still in class at the time." He frowns. "Maybe you can wait on the school yard, but it's cold outside and it will be for an hour."
"It's okay. I can walk home." I've done it before. Usually Mom picked me up, but now and then it happened she was occupied.
I don't want to think about Mom.
"You sure?" Darry almost pleads, and I nod. I like to walk, and the way is short.
"It only takes ten minutes," I tell him, propping food in my mouth.
He looks relieved, and his hand comes out of his pocket, keys in it. With a last good bye, he leaves, muttering all the way to the door about being late, and Soda and I eats our breakfast. It tastes different, looks different, and I hate it, even if Soda is the one who made it.
"How do ya feel?" Soda asks me, always sensitive about my mood.
I pick in my food, not sure if I want to eat more. "I'm okay," I say. It's not true, and he knows it. He's not okay either.
My middle school lies closer to home than Will Rogers High School, and it's not a foreign place for me. Yet the big, red brick building feels unfamiliar when the others drive away after dropping me off, and not for the first time I wish I was older, old enough for High School too, or at least that one of the others had been at my age. But the closest is Johnny, and he'll soon turn sixteen. I stand on the school yard, watching the backlight of Steve's car, when he suddenly makes a turn and comes back down the road. I have no idea why, until Soda leans out through the passenger window next to me.
"I promised Darry to look when you walk in," he says, and I stare at the snow covered ground, feeling embarassed. Mom never did. She always just dropped me off and left. It feels like Darry doesn't trust me, even if I know he probably does this because he's not used to taking care of us.
"Kid," Steve says from behind the wheel when I haven't moved for the last minute. "Hurry up. We ain't got the whole day."
I give them all a last glare before I start crossing the yard. Just before I open the front door, I turn my head, sees that the car is still there. I curse for myself when I rip the door open and enter. I hear how Steve hits the gas pedal, how they speed up again. I suddenly feel alone, even if the hallway is crowded with kids.
I hate my classes, I really do. I hate the pity in my teachers eyes and the fact that my classmates doesn't seem to care at all. That their lives just continues, like nothing has happened. And for them, it hasn't. It's only me who is affected by the last week's incident.
I don't want to think about it.
I work in a daze. Before I came here today, I thought I shouldn't be able to do a thing, but I notice I don't have to put much effort in it. I do my math, my english assignments, I count and read and write automatically. And then, just before lunch, someone knocks at the door to our class room, and the school counselor sticks in her head. I don't pay attention until my teacher says my name.
I look up.
"Mrs. Ellis wants to have a word with you." My teacher smiles and the counselor does too, and I hesitate - I don't want to talk to her. I don't need it. But making a scene is never good, especially not now, so I slowly drop my pen and stand up. After a quick glance at the clock on the wall, I gather my things and take them with me. When I step out of the room, I feel how Mrs. Ellis puts her hand on my shoulder. I had shrugged it off if it had been a normal day, but it's not. My days will never be normal again. So I let it remain, even if I really don't like to be touched by her.
Her office, room as she calls it to make it less strict, is small. It contains a bookcase, a desk and two armchairs, and I have been in here twice before, after fights not started by me, but with me in the receiving end of another's fists. She tells me to sit down, and I do, uncomfortable. I'm very aware of what she will talk about, and I don't want to. I don't see the point. Talking won't bring them back. Nothing will.
"How are you, Ponyboy?" she asks me, after sitting down beside me in the other chair, not the one behind the desk. I shrug. It's a silly question, really. If I say fine or okay, she'll know it's a lie, but telling the truth is not an option. It would just make me cry, and I don't cry in front of strangers. When I think about it, not in front of family either. Maybe in front of Soda, if necessary.
And that's when I suddenly remember my dream.
I try to recall it - if it was just some sort of nightmare or if it could be a lost memory- but I can't tell. I frown, forgetting where I am. The blocks are real, I know, they were my favorite toys when I was about one or two and Dad gave them to me, a heritage from my brothers, but I can't remember Mom crying ever - only on her parents funerals when I was seven and nine. But I guess it doesn't mean anything, it was just a stupid dream anyway.
I realize that Mrs. Ellis has said my name three times already, and this time with a worried tone. I look at her, sheepishly.
"I know it's hard for you," she tells me. "I know how you feel right now." I wonder how she can know. Maybe she became an orphan too, at the age of thirteen, even if I doubt it. But I let her talk, because if she does, then I don't have to. I don't really listen to what she says, until she stops, then I make sure to look interested. But I keep my mouth shut, and she just looks at me for a moment.
"I'm here if you need me," she finally adds when I still say nothing, bobs with her head, making her red curls sway.
"I have my brothers," I inform her. I don't want her to think I'm in need, or lonely. I don't want her to think I can't cope with this - I'm real scared of being taken away, and even if Darry got the custody, I know it can happen anytime.
"That's good, Ponyboy." She smiles.
"Can I go now?" I accidently let slip, and I want to curse myself. I should play her game, make her go off my case, but I really don't know how I'm supposed to act to make that happen.
"Well," she starts. "I can't keep you here against your will, but I think it would do you good to have someone to talk to." She opens up a small calendar that lies in her lap. "What do you say about seeing me every Monday at eleven? You have an hour lunch break that day."
It feels like I don't have a choise. "Oh... okay." I stare down at the floor. It's dirty.
Mrs. Ellis puts on a big pair of glasses, and I can see how she scribble down my name in the little rectangle called Monday next week. She puts two ones behind it.
"Take care, Ponyboy," she says, and I take it as a sign that I'm allowed to go. Maybe she can't force me to see her, but there are other ways of being coersive. I wonder how many Mondays I can pretend to be sick without making suspicions when I walk to the cafeteria. Probably none.
I eat my lunch by myself. I have a friend named James I use to sit with, but he has avoided me all day. I can feel his eyes on me now and then, but when I occationally look up, he looks away. I think I know what the problem is, that he doesn't know what to say, but honestly, he doesn't have to say anything. I would be pleased with just a "hey", but I guess death sticks to you like a plague. Last year Carol's sister died, and everyone treatened her the same way, ignored her for days. I can see her now, sitting in a crowd, talking and laughing, and I know it will get better for me too. When everyone forgets, and they will soon enough. My parents accident will be the talk of the week, but next month, it will be old news. For them.
For me, it has only started.
I know I already have an ongoing story up, but this idea came to me a couple of days ago and I just had to write it down immediately. But I hope I will be able to update both stories once a week anyway. I have the ideas, and I think I'll have the time too.
I hope you'll like it. Love to hear what you think.
I don't own the Outsiders.