Disclaimer: S.E. Hinton owns all rights to The Outsiders and the characters contained in its pages.
A/N: This story contains coarse language, descriptions of violence and mild sexual situations.
Summary: Two-Bit's always liked to fight, and he has his hands full when he humiliates a Soc. With a new enemy bothering him, the fights and rivalry are jeopardizing his relationship with a girl at school, who'd rather he not fight at all.
Friday, April 15, 1966
School was just getting out for the weekend, and I was sittin' on the bumper of my car having a smoke when I saw her walk by.
The final bell had rung about five minutes ago – I'd skipped out of history since I hadn't done the homework and Miss Norris said next time I came to class without the assignment I was headed to detention. Miss Norris appreciates me and my wisecracks so much she sends me down to the principal on a regular basis. 'Course I usually take a detour out the side doors and avoid the lecture from Mr. Casing altogether. I can take a hacked off principal telling me to shut it and pay attention or else, but hearing him call me Keith over and over makes it feel like he ain't even talking to me, you know?
The girl was new, that much I'd guessed. She was looking around the school grounds like she had no idea how she'd ended up there. I'd never seen her before, and I make it my business to remember every good looking girl at school. I would've remembered her - she had the blondest hair I'd ever seen, and natural to boot from what I could tell. Now, I don't have a lot of weaknesses, but throw a good looking blonde in front of me and you got one.
I threw the cigarette butt away and looked around. The crowds were thinning out, everyone headed home or off to hunt some kind of action. I spotted Steve ambling toward the parking lot, Evie and Sandy in tow behind him. He spotted me and nodded.
"Where you headed?" I asked.
"Work," he grunted. "Soda wants me to pick up Pony on my way over."
Ordinarily Steve would pull a face at that, but we were all keeping an eye out since Johnny got jumped on Monday. He was in the worst shape I'd ever seen him in, and that was saying a lot. It takes a lot to rattle Johnny, seeing as he has it pretty bad at home, and if I ever found out who those Socs were that got him, there was gonna be hell to pay.
Steve took off with the girls and that left me to pay attention to the blonde. I figured I'd wait around, see where this cute young thing was going.
She was standing under the big sycamore tree that some senior Soc had driven into a few months back, leaving a gouge in the trunk a mile wide. She wasn't really our type, but she wasn't no Soc either. Easy to see that from the way those Soc girls were looking at her, like she boiled babies in her spare time or something. The Soc girls would pass her by, turn to each other and laugh in that way girls did where you knew they meant for you to know they were laughing at you. I could tell from the blonde's face they weren't saying anything nice, either.
It was probably her clothes. That was what had got my attention any how, even before that hair. She was wearing a skirt so short I couldn't believe any mother would let their daughter out of the house for school looking like that. She had long tanned legs I could look at for days. She had a nice blouse on though and her hair done up real nice and proper, which was probably the only reason the teachers hadn't sent her home.
She didn't wear a lot of make up, something that made me believe she was no greaser girl either. New girls in town were pretty much left to fend for themselves among the middle crowds – people no one would remember after graduation, except their own group of friends. Only those types of girls were passing her right by, too. I'll confess, it made me pretty curious. It's pretty hard not to find a group you fit into at Rogers, even if it's not the one you wanna be in.
It was a hot day, even for spring, the thermometer pushing eighty, and I figured she was at least cooler than everyone else, and maybe that would make the girls here pick up her fashion. I could only hope.
She had her books in her arms, looking around like she was waiting for someone. So I waited too, hoping that no muscle head boyfriend was on his way. After awhile she turned away from the school, her gaze rested on me a second before she looked down at the ground, turned and began to walk up the street like a sad puppy.
It only took me a second after running the comb through my hair to cross the lot and catch up with her.
"You waitin' on someone?" I asked.
She stopped and turned around, looking surprised that someone had talked to her.
"Oh, I was, but I guess they're not coming," she said quietly. "You don't know where Al's Discount Records is, do you?"
She was no Okie, I'll tell you that. Couldn't place the accent, but it wasn't local, that was for sure.
"Yeah, down on 11th, on the way downtown," I said. "It's a bit of a walk from here, and I wouldn't go it alone if I were you. Don't think you'd get jumped or nothing, being a girl and all, but I still wouldn't risk it."
"Oh," she answered, slightly disappointed. "Well, is there a bus?"
"Shoot, I got my car just over there, I'll give you a ride," I told her, flashing her a grin. She looked at me carefully – I can always tell when a girl is sizing me up like she was – then she smiled and nodded. We turned to walk back towards my Plymouth, and I'm not embarrassed to tell you I was praying real hard the old junker would start.
"Friends call me Two-Bit," I said, hoping to get her talking.
She raised an eyebrow, but she didn't say a word. Most of the time girls can't resist asking me what my real name is, and I hate telling them. But she didn't say a thing, and I kinda liked that.
"What's your handle?" I asked her.
"I'm Franny. Well, really Francine, but only my mother calls me that," she said with a smile. We reached my car, and I did the gallant thing and opened the door for her. I saw how well that paid off for Sodapop once when we picked up a couple girls on the way to a football game and hell if I wasn't gonna try it myself.
I cranked the key, and the car turned over right away. I gave a silent thank you to whoever's up there, and we sailed out of the parking lot and towards downtown.
"You're not from around here, are you?" I asked her.
"No, we just moved here over Easter break from California," she said.
"No kiddin'?" I said. "What's a genuine California girl doin' all the way out here anyway?"
I saw her look down at her shoes before she answered with a sigh. "My parents, they're getting a divorce. My mother grew up in Tulsa, so she moved us back here to be close to my grandmother. I don't quite know what to make of it yet."
"Well, I guess it ain't no California," I said easily. She was probably embarrassed about the divorce thing, and I kinda knew how she felt. It's not great telling people your old man ain't around. "Well, there's no surfing around here, and I'll bet you good money the Beach Boys won't ever sing a song about the girls in Tulsa."
She gave a small laugh. I think I'm doing pretty good if I can get people to laugh, and she looked like she needed it.
"Who were you waiting on, back at school?"
"Oh," she said. "A girl I started talking to in my English class. She told me all about the record store and said she'd take me there today, but she never showed up."
She was quiet for a minute as we drove on. I was taking the long way there on purpose, figurin' she wouldn't know that.
"I wish I knew what I'd done," she said quietly. "I changed schools once before when I moved, and people were strange at first, but they came around fast. I've been in school a week now and no one talks to me. Well, no one but you."
She looked over at me then and flashed me a quick smile.
I didn't know whether to say anything, but maybe she could use some advice.
"Probably your clothes," I said, glancing over at her again. Damn, she had nice legs. "Girls around here, well, only a certain kind might wear skirts that short. Most girls wouldn't, especially not to school."
I don't know what kind of idiot I am trying to talk her into wearing something different, but there you have it. My shining moment of stupidity.
"I'd noticed," she said with a sigh. "They're almost all I've got though. Plenty of respectable girls wear mini skirts, they're all the rage back in California. Every girl wears them."
She looked over at me when she said this, almost like she was trying to drive home that she was respectable. It was kind of cute. I pulled into a parking space right in front of the record store.
"Do they now?" I said, cocking an eyebrow at her. "Well, I guess I'll have to take a trip out to California then."
She smiled again, I got out of the car and she started to follow, and I just about wanted to sink through the ground when she couldn't get the door open. I came around to her side from the outside and tried the handle, but it's a tricky thing, so I had to go back inside the car to try and get it open.
"Sorry," I mumbled. "Thing sticks when it gets hot out."
I leaned across her to try the handle myself and damn if she didn't smell good. Not like cheap perfume and cigarettes like Kathy did, but just sweet. Sweet and soft, almost like baby powder. I lost my head for a second, sprawled across her lap, and it's a wonder she didn't box my ears.
The door handle suddenly gave a pop, and I pushed the door open, leaning back from her slowly. She looked over at me and smiled shyly, a blush in her cheeks. She got out of the car and shut the door.
I watched her walk to the record store and admired the rear view. Talking her out of wearing that. I don't know what the hell I was thinking.
"If you've got something to do, you don't have to stay," she said, pushing open the door to the record store. The little bell tinkled at the top, and I knew Mr. Creighton was gonna curse himself to see me. I walk out with his merchandise on a regular basis. He knows it, I know it, but he hadn't caught me at it yet. It was a good game, but I don't think he liked playing.
"Shoot, I got nothing but time," I said.
"I'm sure I could find my way back," she answered. "You've been nice enough giving me a ride."
"I may as well stick around and see what kinds of records they got here. I'm still looking for a mint condition Elvis 'Johnny and Frankie' album."
"You like Elvis? So does my older brother," she said. "He's just crazy about him, even grew his hair like his, but they shaved it all off when he joined the Marine Corps. I think that sent him into shell shock more than going to boot camp did."
"How many brothers you got?" I asked. It's never good when they have one, but more than one pretty much kills everything. Look at Angela Shepard – not that I would. Number one the girl is too young, number two she's crazy. But number three she's got Tim and Curly Shepard as brothers, and I don't know how Angela will ever manage to get a date with a resume like that.
"Just the one. He's in Vietnam," she said, pulling at the edge of her skirt like she was self conscious about it now. "It's just me and my little sister and mom now."
I could tell she was kind of sad, her voice got all quiet. So I did what I usually do, try to break the tension. I grabbed a couple records out of the sale bin and held them up on top of my head like ears.
"'Now it's time to say goodbye to all our company. M-I-C –'"
"'See you real soon!'" she finished with a smile.
"'Why? Because we like you!'" she said, having trouble getting the words out on account of the laughing she was doing.
"Mathews, put those down!"
I looked over at the cash register, and Mr. Creighton was glaring at me like he wanted to jump over the counter and strangle me. I knew he wouldn't – three hundred pounds on a guy who's five and a half feet tall means he won't be jumping over anything anytime soon. But I put them down sheepishly anyway.
"Ruined the best part of the song, too," I said.
"I used to watch Mickey Mouse Club after school every day when I was a kid," she said.
"No kiddin', so did I. Still would if it was on, that Cheryl was a real looker," I said. She smirked at me a little and we walked past all the bins of records. "What is it you're lookin' for?"
"The Beach Boys, 'Shut Down Volume Two,'" she answered. "It's the only one I don't have."
"Beach Boys, huh?"
"Oh, they're the ultimate!" she said, her face getting all animated. "Everyone back home listens to them." Her face got all sad again and I guessed she was thinking about home. I know I would if it had girls like her.
"Well, Tulsa's got a lot to offer too," I said.
"Well, for one, a Shut Down album," I said, picking the record out of the bin and handing it to her. I'll be damned if it wasn't just sitting there, like a present from heaven.
"Two-Bit, you're good luck, I can feel it," she said with a smile.
We paid at the register – Mr. Creighton giving me the eye like I was gonna pull something right in front of him – and when we headed outside I could see it was still hot as Hades, the heat waves rising off the pavement.
"Could get a lightning storm," I said, looking at the sky.
"My mother told me storms out here are something else," she said, crossing her arms over the record in front her, protective-like. A blast of thunder echoed around, getting louder as it rumbled. It was weird, there wasn't a cloud in the sky to the north, but a thunderhead had rolled up south of us, and it was dark in the distance.
I was about to reply when I noticed some of Tulsa's favoured sons hanging outside the burger joint on the corner, leaning on a sweet GTO. I recognized them from school – hard not to since it was earlier in the week that I'd sort of assisted one of them in falling flat on his face in the school cafeteria while he was carrying a full tray of food. I couldn't help the fact his giant clown feet couldn't avoid my leg when it just stuck right out of its own accord. He probably would've tried to retaliate right there, but being covered in chili kind of cancelled that idea.
That and the assistant principal tossed me outside a second later and told me not to enter the cafeteria again 'til next week. Joke's on him though, I was only passing through. Greasers never eat in the cafeteria. Too many Socs.
Of course Mr. Chili spotted me and started walking over, trying to look menacing, which is hard to do in flood pants.
"I've got a score to settle with you, Mathews," he said, the heat already making sweat bead above his lip. He crossed in front of my car and stood on the sidewalk.
"Do you now?" I said, leaning back against my car, and putting my palms down on the hood. Pain from the hot metal seared through my hands, and I tried to remove them from the hood as best I could without looking like a pansy who burnt his hands on his own car.
Franny sidled up next to me, holding the paper bag with her record in it up to her chest and looking like a scared jack rabbit. She didn't look like the kind of girl that was used to seeing fights, so I had a choice to make. I decided to play it cool.
"No one humiliates me like that and gets away with it," he said. If I remembered right, his name was David Brubaker.
"I'm sorry your face is a humiliation, but you gotta learn to live with what God gave you, I guess," I said. "Don't be too hard on yourself."
Brubaker closed in on me, but Franny stepped between us. I kind of admired her guts.
"I really need to get home," she said to me.
"Stay out of this, honey," Brubaker told her, putting a hand on her shoulder and moving her back. He closed the gap between us and I moved away from the car so it wouldn't hamper me taking a swing. We moved into the middle of the sidewalk. Brubaker clenched a fist and looked ready to swing.
"Hey, stop that," she said, grabbing onto Brubaker's arm. "Leave us alone!"
"I said stay out of it!" He grabbed the record out of her arms and threw it down on the ground, then grabbed her by the upper arm to move her out of the way. That's when I stepped in - I felt like a shit I hadn't done it sooner, but he swiped the record from her too fast.
I grabbed his arm, squeezing down with all the power I had in my fingers.
"You get your hands off her or you'll be hurtin' in a minute," I said. He let loose the grip he had on Franny's arm, and she backed up quickly, her gaze darting from him to me.
I moved real quick and twisted Brubaker's arm behind him and pushed him into his friend. His friend promptly fell over into a trash next to the bus stop. He looked at me, then made a dash for the driver's side of the GTO across the street. Brubaker looked disgusted his friend bailed, but he got up and came charging at me, pushing me back against my own car. I heard Franny scream.
He took a swing at me and I ducked it easy, then his second punch glanced off my temple. I belted him in the stomach and once in the face before he had a chance to recover, then hammered a couple more hits to his midsection. He took off for the car a second later. A guy like that always runs when he doesn't have back up, and I've always been a decent fighter.
"This isn't over Mathews!" he had the nerve to yell as they started the GTO. I looked around - Creighton had probably called the cops.
"Come on," I said to Franny, taking her hand and pulling her toward the car.
"I mean it, Mathews!" Brubaker said as the car pulled a three-point turn on the busy street. "It's not over for you or your tramp girlfriend."
I felt pretty bad then, because I'd just cemented her fate as a greaser girl, and she didn't even know it.
A/N: This story was originally posted back in 2006.