"Hurry up, ya'll be late!" Darry called, banging our door open. Soda groaned and rolled away, pulling his arm off of my chest.

"Hmmm," he murmured. "What time is it?"


"Damn it!" he shot out of bed. I stayed put; I wasn't feeling all that great. Kinda sick. I'd been sick too often lately; since Dally and Johnny died.

"Pony, come on, hurry up."

"I'm awake," I mumbled, struggling to a sitting position. My chest ached; it hurt to breathe. Soda bounded out of the room, but Darry was watching me closely. "You all right?"

I nodded, waiting the pain out. Leftovers of grief. Plus I hadn't been sleeping well; I'd been having the nightmares again, waking Soda in the middle of the night.

"Hurry up so you'll get to eat something," my oldest brother said, disappearing down the hall.

I dragged myself up, but the second my feet touched the floor I stumbled, struck by dizziness. My chest HURT. Bad. I grabbed at my bureau, steadying myself, forcing breaths in around the pain.

"Anyone home?" I heard Steve holler from the hall. "Y'all gonna be late if you don't hassle!"

"We're comin', we're comin'," Soda called. I heard him approaching our room and struggled to pull some clothes loose from the drawer. The tight pain in my lungs eased slowly off.

"Pon, you dressed?" my brother burst in clad in blue jeans and socks. "You see my shirt?"

I shook my head, hoping I looked normal enough that Soda wouldn't notice.

"Better hurry, kiddo."

"I'm hurryin'," I mumbled, but my voice sounded strange and wheezy. And that was all it took for Soda to notice.

"You okay?"

I nodded. "Just tired," I tried to reassure him.

"Hell, I know how that feels," he mumbled, throwing on his DX shirt. I felt a stab of guilt; a stab that hit me right in the lungs again. I'd woken Soda up every night for almost a week now, from my nightmares.



"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Getting' you up."

Soda grinned. "Don't worry 'bout it."

I nodded and got dressed. The pain backed off again.

I oughta quit smoking, I thought as I greased my hair back.

"Ponyboy! Hurry up!" Darry called from the hallway.

I splashed cold water on my face and took a deep breath, driving the pain off. I'm all right now, I assured myself, and went into the kitchen without a second thought.