A/N: Maybe I shouldn't be starting a new story, but I figure since "Out of the Blue" has only about a chapter left I'll start a new tale. I've worked really hard on this, and I'll admit, I'm really proud of it.

Disclaimer: I don't own anything mentioned, except my OCs.


"You going out with Donna tonight?"

I crack my eyes open against the blinding light in my room. When I look up, I see Sodapop, his hair not greased, DX cap balancing precariously on his head. He's leaning against the door frame of my room. He has a knowing look on his face.

I sit up. It takes my eyes a second to adjust to the sunlight. "Unfortunately," I say. I try to keep the disdain out of my voice.

Sodapop shakes his head, but there's a smile on his face. "I don't understand why you even go out with her."

I decide I won't be getting back to sleep any time soon, so I get up. I'll have to get up soon for work anyway. "Because I like her, Soda."

I met Donna three months ago at a rave party, where she sat herself, isolated from the rest of us, by the jukebox. Her mannerisms showed that she didn't want to be there.

Donna's two years older than me. She will soon be attending her first year at a small community college about twenty minutes outside Tulsa. She's a cute girl, with big blue eyes, and she was wearing a yellow sundress when I first saw her. I got a thing for girls who can pull off yellow.

She has her hair styled just like that model, Twiggy's, because looking like a British mod is in now.

She calls herself a "free spirit", but she is literally one of the most aggravating people I've ever met. But there's something about her. There's a good feeling I always get when I'm around her. She makes me happy, even if she is high-strung. I can look past that.

Not that the gang would understand my logic. They always wonder why I even put up with her. Steve reckons I just like the challenge. And maybe he's right.

"Do you need money for tonight?" asks Soda.

"Nah," I reply. "I got some money from puttin' in extra hours at the bookstore."

I got a job at Lansdowne Books about a month before I met Donna. It wasn't that hard a job to get. It's a perfect work place for me, really. It pays well, decent hours, and I get to be around what I love on a daily basis.

I only work weeks during the Summer, and when I start my senior year of high school I'll only be able to work weekends.

I make eggs for breakfast. While they're frying I rub my eyes and I can't help but wonder why I'm so tired. Oh yeah. I was up all night studying the numerous amounts of college paraphernalia Darry'd brought me.

I don't know why he's so worried about college. I haven't even started my senior year yet.

I get out some plates and set them on the table carefully. I shout, "Breakfast is ready, guys!"

Sodapop bounds in, toothbrush in mouth. He rubs his hands together eagerly and sits. "Smells delicious!"

"Do you need a ride to work today, Pony?" Darry comes in to my view from his bedroom down the hall.

"Yeah," I say, embarrassed. "Man, I really need to get my own car."

"Why?" I hear Two-Bit suddenly say. I didn't hear him come in, though apparently he's picked up on the tail-end of our conversation. "Ya got me and Darry to drive you 'round."

When Darry doesn't look I give him a glance to tell him to help me out. Two-Bit winks and mouths Okay. And does the A-Okay sign with his fingers. I almost snort.

"You don't need a car, Ponyboy," Darry grumbles, his shoulders broad.

Soda looks at him with a curious expression. It seems like he has something he wants to say.

I start to dig in to my own eggs as I see Darry staring at me. I try again with, "But I highly doubt Darry here'll be willing to drive me everywhere, and I can't keep borrowing the truck every time I wanna take Donna out on a date…"

"He has a point, Dar," interjects Sodapop. I nod my gratitude; he's always there to back me up.

"And 'sides," I say, "I got the money to pay for it. I been savin' from the money I get workin' extra hours at Lansdowne."

"You're supposed to save your job money for college funds," Darry grunts stiffly. He stabs his fork in to the egg.

Light bulb. "Speaking of college," I intone, "I'll need a car for when I'm on campus. Ya know … to get around to places. How am I supposed to get anywhere without a car?"

Darry looks aggravated, because I know he knows I'm right. And it's my money anyway. The money I earned myself. I have the right to buy a car if I want to. I sure do need it.

Two-Bit seems to ponder this thought and rubs his chin thoughtfully.

I keep trying. I really want a car. It doesn't even have to be a really tuff, nice one. Just one that gets me from Point A to Point B. "I'll probably get a scholarship for college anyway, Dar."

Soda says, "Yeah. He did bring straight A's home last semester."

I'm thankful for Sodapop's help because I know that in the end his word will help Darry's decision a lot.

"What brought this on anyway, Pony?" Darry says. "Since when do you need a car so bad?"

"I just need one. I don't wanna bother y'all with borrowin' the truck. I don't wanna keep takin' my girlfriend out in my brother's car."

Two-Bit's smile is smug. "What, did Donna bitch about it?"

"No," But I can feel my face getting red. They know her ways. I shake my head profusely. "No, she hasn't said anything about that."

Truth is, she does bitch about the fact that I didn't have my own car a lot of times. Almost every single time we go out to the movies or something she has something to say. Sometimes I think she forgets that her boyfriend is two years younger than she is. I'm only sixteen-going-on-seventeen. I don't think she can grasp the concept that I'm poor either, her having grown up wealthy.

I know what you may be thinking: I shouldn't be letting her boss me around. But she's not the only reason why I want a car for myself. I mean what I said earlier: I will need a car for college and other things I get up to this summer. It will help to be able to drive to my work in my own car.

They all laugh because they know I'm lying. As I grit my teeth I wonder if I've lost my ability to lie easily within the last few years.

After I dump the remnants of my eggs in the trash, I go to the bathroom to get ready for work. I get in the shower, actually dreading work today. There's an odd sense of foreboding as I get dressed.

I stand in front of the mirror and face my reflection. Do you think it would be all right to skip shaving? I really don't feel like it. It's weird - when I was fourteen all I wanted to do was shave. Now that puberty hit, shaving is one of the worst things ever.

I first hit puberty around the time I was going with Cathy Carlson. It made me taller - taller than Sodapop - and gave me a deep voice. And the thing I was most excited about: shaving.

Soda was right when he said I'd grow out of liking girls: I've dated three. Cathy Carlson was my first "real" girlfriend, my first kiss. She was a nice girl, outspoken. Darry liked her a lot for her maturity. Steve thought she had a stick up her ass. I liked her, but sometimes it felt like I was going out with a mother more than a girl my age.

It didn't end up working out. She still liked Bryon, whose brother, Mark Jennings got arrested for drug possession. Mark was a good buddy of mine - and I was sad when he got arrested. And according to rumors, it was Bryon who called the cops on him. I can't imagine turning Darry or Sodapop in to the cops. I just wonder how Mark could have done something so stupid.

My second girlfriend was just a brief stint after Cathy. I don't even like to think about it. I was mourning the breakup and I happened to just run in to her. It was a dark time in my life.

Don't judge me.

Angela Shepard.

I know.

I know.

This is one relationship my brothers don't know about. I can't even bring myself to tell Soda to this day, and it was almost a year ago I went out with her.

It was really unwise of me to even speak to her.

I mean, what if Tim or Curly found out? They would beat the shit out of me for sure. Especially because Curly is my buddy.

Luckily they didn't.

And the gang doesn't know. They'd ridicule me until the day I die. And anyway, I only went out with her for three weeks! That doesn't count as a relationship, does it? And I am not proud to admit this, but, all we ever did was make out. Hey, it's called adolescence. Hormones are uncontrollable.

I was the one who got her to go out with me, and she jumped at the chance. I regret even finding her. I guess I just wanted to find someone to hurt.

So I eventually broke up with her, because I was pretty much using her as a rebound. I didn't actually like her at all - she's not really my taste. And she did once get a guy to try and kill me for rejecting her the first time.

And she almost killed me again after I dumped her. I didn't want to dump her; I would much rather be the dumpee than the dumper, but it had to be done. And we couldn't keep sneaking around to hook up.

We never did anything more than make out. And I'll admit - as embarrassing and terrible as this sounds - it was fun to have a relationship that you didn't actually have to act like boyfriend/girlfriend in. No emotions. Just fun.

I hear the girls in the hallway that always say I'm such a chivalrous and sensitive gentleman, but God, maybe I'm not anymore. Maybe I'm just as bad as the guys in Brumly and Tim Shepard's gang that catcall and talk bad about women.

I respect women, sure. You can't blame me for going out with Angela, though, right? There's something infatuating about her. She's beautiful, the most beautiful girl I've ever seen. She could be a model. She's electric. But, as cliché as this may sound, she's not beautiful or electric on the inside. And to me that may be all that matters.

I'm beating myself up about this. I'm respectful to Donna, and she's all that's important now. I treat her right.

"Come on, Ponyboy!" I hear Darry yell from outside the bathroom door. "You're gonna be late if you don't hurry up!"

"I'm comin', I'm comin," I mutter as I rinse off my razor, even though I know he can't hear me.

I walk out of the bathroom and slide my shoes on. I brush my teeth very quickly and we go.

When I climb in to the passenger seat Darry sits rigidly, his knuckles turning white from gripping the steering wheel so tightly. This is how we sit throughout the duration of the ride until finally Darry seems to crack. He heaves a sigh. "You can buy a car, Ponyboy. If you buy it yourself I'll help pay some of the car insurance."

I'm absolutely ecstatic. But I manage to hide it and say calmly, "Aw, no, Darry. You ain't gotta do that. I got enough money saved up to pay for everything."

Darry doesn't say more. He just grunts a goodbye and tells me I'll have to walk home unless Two-Bit can pick me up as I climb out of the truck and in to my work.


"Have you read this book?" Ruby, one of my coworkers, asks.

I take it from her. A Clockwork Orange. "I haven't," I mutter. I always like finding books I haven't read yet.

Her long, seemingly unkempt blonde hair falls down to her waste. She has hippie written all over her, from her lengthy hair to her flower head bands to her peace sign necklaces. She's probably around Donna's age - maybe slightly older. She's kind and always looks on the bright side. She's very optimistic - she's got a brother who's fighting the good fight in 'Nam. He was drafted a couple months ago, and that's all I know. I know that is some of the reason why she became a hippie.

"It's great!" she gushes. "I just finished it. You have to read it, Ponyboy! You'll love it!"

I put the book in my bag.

My manager Robert is a nice man. He's fair; gives us raises if we deserve them and gives us time off. I'm incredibly grateful for my job. And another perk about it is Robert lets us take books from the shop sometimes. He's very lenient about that kind of thing.

I have a few other coworkers: Eric, Mary, Joey, and Jim. They're all nice people, but I don't know Joey too well. He's older - around forty - and a Vietnam veteran who pretty much keeps his distance from all of us. But he's a great worker and I have a whole lot of respect for him.


I get off at five. I stick around for a few minutes to see if Two-Bit will show up.

Ruby sees me waiting. She calls from the parking lot, "Hey, you need a ride?"

She drives a Volkswagen Van. It's a bright yellow, and it even has flowers painted on the side. "Oh, no thanks!" I reply with a smile. "I'm waitin' on a friend."

Actually I don't really think Two-Bit's going to make it, but it's nice outside and maybe I'll stop at the park.

"Okay, well I'll see you tomorrow, Ponyboy!"

"Bye, Ruby."


As I walk down the sidewalk of the park I stare at the book in my hand. It looks interesting - scary almost. There's a distorted face on the front, and it gives me the creeps.

I look up and see that up ahead there are two people sitting on a blanket that reads "Grateful Dead". They both have long hair and bracelets and one of them is playing some strange instrument I've never seen before.

They have a jar that says "Thank you & peace" written on the front of it. I fish for a quarter in my pocket and drop it in.

The one playing looks up to me and smiles. "Thank you, friend."

I smile nervously. Flower people make me nervous. Besides Ruby.

"Wait," the hippie says as I start to walk away.

I turn to face him. He says, "Ponyboy Curtis?" He sets the instrument in to a case that is laying next to him. "Oh, wow, it is you!"

"Uh…" I say.

The stranger gives me a gut-crushing hug. "How have you been? God, I haven't seen you in years!"

"I'm sorry, but, who are you?"

"You don't recognize me? I'm Randy. Randy Adderson."

!

Holy shit! Christ Almighty, he looks different. I totally forgot about his existence. People were rumoring that he dropped out of school but I had no idea it was to become a flower child.

I also didn't know we were good enough friends to be hugging each other, but I allow it.

I try not to gawk at him. "Randy!" I exclaim, trying to sound cheerful. "How's it been?"

"I've been great! Life has been quite an experience, wouldn't you say?"

The other guy says, "The times … they are a-changing …"

I don't know what he means by this. He sits back on the blanket. Next to them there's a record that has a banana on it. It says "Andy Warhol" which confuses me because Andy Warhol is an artist, not a singer.

"Just like Dylan says," I can't help but mutter.

"He's a cool cat," Randy's hippie friend says and points to me. He starts to smoke something that looks like a cigarette but I doubt it's a cigarette. "What's your name, cat?"

Randy introduces us. "This is Ponyboy Curtis. Pony, this is Ocean Storm."

Somehow I doubt his actual name is Ocean Storm but I go along with it to be nice. Because my name isn't exactly normal either but at least it's authentic; it's really mine.

It's trippy - pun intended, by the way - to see Randy like this. He's unrecognizable. What happened to the clean-cut super-Soc?

"I think I have to go," I say as an attempt to leave. Seeing Randy like this was starting to scare me. "I was supposed to be home a while ago."

I feel bad for lying but I just have to leave. "We'll have to do lunch sometime, Ponyboy."

I nod and force a grin. When I turn around I hear them start to sing war protest songs.

I wonder if Cherry Valance has seen or talked Randy Adderson since after Bob died. I haven't talked to her since after the trial when Johnny and Dal died.

Lunch. Okay. I can do that.

Bob Dylan is right: the times really are changing.


You may want to read this.

A/N: I have a huge love for A Clockwork Orange so Ponyboy is going share that love with me.

So, in case you were wondering, Twiggy was a model in the 60s who had short hair.

The Velvet Underground is the name of the band which Randy has on vinyl. Andy Warhol is on the record because he produced it. The name of the album is "The Velvet Underground and Nico".

In That Was Then, This is Now, there is a hippie mentioned named Randy. I'm sure I'm not the only one who assumed that it was the same Randy.

Okay, I think that's all that requires an explanation.