Chapter 11: Watch your World Crash
I was standing outside a house – a nice 2 story house with a small front yard and a front porch. I could see someone standing in the far left window, and it took me a second to realize that it was me.
I would have puzzled over it longer if a car hadn't pulled into the yard. It wasn't a fancy car, but it didn't look like the cars that we drove around now. I nearly fell over when Dallas stepped out of the car and headed up to the house. I followed him up the front walk and up the porch. He opened the door and I slipped through behind him.
I froze in shock as I stepped into a small kitchen. A little boy, maybe 3 years old, sat at the table in the diner room connected to the kitchen. He smiled as Dallas walked in and dropped his crayon to run at him. Dallas grabbed him in a hug as he walked towards the dream me – who was clearly pregnant.
I shook my head, closing my eyes. This was a dream. They say that dreams are from your subconscious mind. My subconscious was clearly going crazy, because there was no way this dream was going to become reality.
When I opened my eyes again, I wanted to false life back. I was now starring at the scene of a crash, one where the car had gone into a deep ditch after slipping on the rain slick road. Tears filled my eyes as they pulled a body out of the drivers window that had been broken to remove the occupants. Dallas's head flopped to the side, and without it wasn't hard to tell that he was dead. There was a body already lying under a tarp off to the side, and I had a sinking feeling as I walked over to it. I pulled the tarp back enough to see the face of the young girl, her eyes closed and her blonde hair wild. Cuts and gashes covered her pale skin, and I was forced to drop the tarp before I got sick. The girl was me. I was dead.
"Don't think he was drinking – surprisingly." I turned to the cops that were standing by their car. They had their raincoats on and were watching the scene. I knew those cops, they were always around the station. "Speed definitely had a factor though. He took that corner too fast in the rain and sent them flying into the ditch. Sent her flying out the front window when they hit that tree." The other one nodded and looked over at my dead body.
"Such a shame, she was a pretty nice girl when she wasn't with him. Snappy and short tempered, but not the same way he was." The other one grunted, like he didn't believe it.
"Yea well, good riddance to the both of them. They were the cause of too much stress on this town." He seemed to be speaking more, but I couldn't hear him. Everything was fading away.
I jolted away, and desperately forced breath into my lungs.
It was a dream. I told myself desperately. Just a dream, get a hold of yourself. I pushed myself up and looked around the white hospital room, for a moment, I forgot why I was here. I started to stretch my arms over my head, but pain shot up through my shoulder and through the rest of my body.
"This is going to be fun." I muttered to myself as I shifted out of the bed. I looked back at Dallas as I sat there for a moment. He looked so gentle when he was asleep, so young, as if he had his whole life in front of him. I smiled sadly, knowing that even if he was given the chance to change, he wouldn't. That was just the way he was, full of trouble and running from demons. My dream didn't surprise me – the ending anyway. It wasn't hard to picture dying in a car crash. The no drinking didn't sound right, but speeding – even in the rain – was nothing new for me. We'd taken trips down heavily muddied roads while rain poured down on the car, and been going 90-100 on the straight parts. It was always after, when we were back at Buck's, that I'd realize how close we were to possibly dying. Yet I'd do it again and again. This dream probably wouldn't even stop me from going out with Dally some other time once he was out of here.
I sighed and stood up. I was at the door when I heard a groan and turned to see that Dally was still asleep, but his teeth were clamped together and a grimace of pain twisted across his face. I slipped out the door before he woke up, and happened to see a nurse walking past at that moment.
"Excuse me." I said and reached out for her arm. She turned and took one look at me before shifting out of my grip and plastered a fake look of attention on her face. I felt my neck getting warm with anger, but I didn't feel like making a scene right now. "The guy in here needs more pain medicine for the burn he got on his arm. Could you deal with that?" I made sure I didn't make it sound like a friendly request. She looked at me once again and nodded. I stepped out of the way for her to go through the door and headed down the hallway. I needed to find information on Johnny. I was hoping for a miracle, and that he was going to be OK. I didn't know what I was going to tell Dally if he wasn't.
I found the nurses station again and walked up to the young looking nurse standing in front of it. She looked up when she heard my footsteps and smiled.
"How can I help you?" She asked, and then she saw my shoulder and frowned. "That needs some new bandages. Here -" She put the clipboard on the other side of the desk where another nurse was sitting. "I'll be right back, Jane. I need to fix her bandages." The lady nodded and then I was lead to a small room just off to the right of the desk.
"From the looks of them, these should have been changed a while ago. What happened?"
"I was one of the people who was at the burning church yesterday." I said as I sat down on the cot she pointed to on the far wall. "I came to find out some information on another one of the boys who was there. Do you know anything about Johnny Cade? He was in critical condition the last time I talk to anyone. Has that changed?" The nurse bit her lip as she came to sit beside me on the cot and started to unwrap my arm. It looked disgusting – the skin was a very dark shade of red in some places, while in others it wasn't so bad. But the skin was uneven, and it hurt as she put some kind of cream on it. I held my breath until the pain passed.
"He's not doing any better than he was last night. He's still in critical condition." She wrapped my arm gently, but firmly and pinned it in place with a clasp. "There is very little chance that he will make it. Only a true miracle could heal those burns." I felt tears in my eyes, but I just nodded and stood up.
"Thanks. Where is his room?" She started to object, but I spoke over her. "Don't tell me I can't, cause I'll find my way to his room on my own. I'm not going to let him die on his own." The words were out, and I realized that I'd already given up on Johnny getting better. The thought made me sick.
"He's in room 121." She said in a sigh, as if she knew that it was pointless to stand there arguing with me. I nodded and started back down the hallway, thinking that I was going to go back to Dallas and see if he was awake. But I found myself following the halls to the room where Johnny was. I stood there for a long time, starring at the number on the door, when a doctor stepped out. He jumped a little in surprise when he saw me standing there, and cleared his throat.
"Can I help you with something?" He asked, and I nodded, swallowing the lump in my throat.
"I want to see him." I pointed at the door, indicating that I wanted to see the person inside.
"I'm sorry, young lady. But that isn't-" I grabbed the front of his shirt and pulled him closer.
"I don't care what's allowed and what isn't!" I snapped. "I want to see him, and I will see him." I glanced around the hall, and seeing no one, I pulled out my switchblade and popped it open. I let the doctor get a good, close look at it. "Are you going to let me in or not?" He gulped and nodded. I pushed him aside and walked through the door.
I thought I was going to be sick as I saw Johnny, lying face-down on a bed. There was a mirror under his head so he could see who was talking to him. I could see that his eyes were closed, and that he was breathing evenly.
But the burns took me by surprise. I had thought mine were bad, but they were nothing compared to the ones that ran over Johnny's skin. They gave me a real picture of third degree burns.
I tried not to make a sound as I crept over to a chair beside the bed and sat down. I rested my elbow on the arm and my head dropped to my hand. I couldn't help but stare at him, like I was waiting for him to take his last breath right in front of me.
I don't know how long I sat there before he shifted on the bed and opened his eyes, but I know that I was almost asleep again in the chair.
"Mia?" His voice jolted me up in my chair, and I looked at him with a soft smile.
"Hey, Johnnycake." I said as I moved the chair closer. "How ya feelin'?" I knew it was a dumb question, but I felt like if I sidestepped it, he'd know I thought he wasn't going to make it.
"I've felt better." He said softly. It was as if his voice was going, and I figured he'd probably inhaled the most smoke.
"Haven't we all?" I asked with a smile. "Dally got a nasty burn on his arm and they gave him some stuff to dull the pain. It's funny to see him doped up." Johnny managed a small smile, and I could tell he was looking me over for injuries. I shifted so he could get a good look at my newly wrapped shoulder. "Got hit when the window frame started to come down, I was heading in to get you." I felt my voice drop off. If the window frame hadn't fallen on me, I would have been into the church and grabbed him sooner. Maybe he wouldn't be so bad off. It was my fault.
"It's alright, Mia." He said it like he knew what I was thinking. "I'm just glad that you're OK." I gave him a smile, even as tears blurred my vision.
"You're gonna be OK too, Johnny." I said as I gentle ran my hand over his hair. He had always reminded me of a porcelain doll, so fragile you didn't want to touch it in fear of breaking it. Now I was scared to breath around him. "It's gonna be alright." He gave a slight nod. It seemed that even our short conversation was wearing him down, because he was having a hard time keeping his eyes open. "Get some rest. I need to go back to Dally before he runs over a doctor or something on a rampage to find me." I wanted him to laugh, to smile and call me out for being sarcastic when I know that Dally would never do that. But all he did was give me a weak nod and close his eyes.
I sat there for a moment longer before removing myself from the chair, and moved out of the room. I stood with my back to the door for a long moment, taking in deep breaths to calm myself down before I went back to Dally's room.
I arrived, just as Tim Shepard was coming around the corner. We both stopped and starred at each other, and I narrowed my eyes at him when he smirked and came closer.
"What do you want, Shepard?" I asked as we met outside Dally's room.
"I have the right to see my buddy in the hospital, Mia." He said with a smirk. "I just came to talk to him." I rolled my eyes.
"Your talks normally end in a fight." I said, but I didn't have any reason to keep him out. So I sighed and ran a hand through my hair, wishing for more sleep. "OK, just don't get him going. I don't know what kind of mood he's in." Tim chuckled as I went to open the door.
"When is he ever in a good mood?" He asked as we stepped inside. Dallas was sitting on the bed, inspecting the wrappings around his arm. He looked up, and his eyes narrowed at the person following me through the doorway.
"What are you doing here, Shepard?" He asked as I sat down on the edge of the bed and Tim took the chair.
"I see where your girl gets her trust issues. You question things a lot, Dally." He said as he stretched his long legs out in front of him and folded his arms behind his head.
"I get that from being around people like you." I said as I tried to pull knots out of my hair with my fingers. "Play nice boys, I need to fix my hair." I stood up and walked to the bathroom and closed the door as I used a comb that was sitting on the counter in a plastic wrapper to pull the knots from my hair. I heard muffled voices outside the room, and after a while, I could pick up Dally's voice getting higher. I rolled my eyes and stepped out.
"OK, Tim." I said. "I think you've worn out your welcome. Get out of here." He smirked and started for the door with me following him. I stepped out of the room and kept my back to it as I crossed my arms.
"What room is the kid in? I think I'll go pay him a quick visit too." I rolled my eyes.
"He's in room 121. He may be asleep, so if he is, don't bother to wake him up. He's not in good shape." Tim nodded and started down the hallway. I watched him go for a moment before I went back into the room to find Dally starring at the front of the newspaper.
"What's so interesting that it has all of your attention?" I asked as I walked over and sat down beside him. He looked at me and pointed at the front cover. It had Ponyboy, Darry and Soda on the front cover. The same photo that was taken last night. My eyes widened as I read through the paper. It covered the past couple of days that lead to us ending up here in the hospital. They had interview Cherry and one of the kids friends, Randy, and talked about them being drunk and looking for a fight.
I skipped past all that, but the word manslaughter caught my eye, and I read through the paragraph lightning fast.
"That a load of bull." I said as I finished reading the part about Johnny possibly getting sent to jail for manslaughter. "Even that guy said it was self-defense." I avoid mentioning the part about Johnny possibly not recovering. It didn't give a lot of detail to his condition, but it was more than Dally knew. I should have told him sooner, or told Tim not to mention the fact that he wasn't in good shape. But how was I to know that it had talked about him in the paper?
"How's Johnny doing, Mia?" Dally asked as he starred down at the front of the paper. I didn't speak, trying to find a way to answer him without getting him angry. But it was too late. "Blast it, Mia! Answer my damn question!" He took the paper and ripped it in half. I scrambled off the bed and over to the wall. No matter how many times he yell, I never got over the feeling that he was going to hit me. He reminded me of my old man when he got like this. "Answer me, Mia!" I flinched and gritted my teeth, trying to pull something other than fear and sadness out of me so that I could yell back at him. I finally managed to get angry enough to yell at him as he cussed and had a fit on the bed.
"He's not good, alright?" I snapped. I was angry because he wasn't alright. That he might not live, and that life was never going to be the same, even if he did. "They won't tell me anything and I've only seen him once. He's got third degree burns all over him and he's been paralyzed. Is that what you want to hear?!" He didn't say anything, and all I wanted to do was cry. So I left the room and took off down the hall.
There was a small eating area on the first floor of the hospital, and I made my way own the stairs to it. I hadn't noticed last night that we'd been put on the second floor. I hadn't taken the time to look out a window and see.
I sat down at a table off to the side and drank my coffee, thinking about how I would give anything to have things go back to the way they had been before all this had happened. Sure, nothing had been perfect, but it had been far better than everything was now.
There was no one in my general area at that moment, so I dropped my head onto my arms on the able and quietly sobbed. There was no way I could lose Dally or Johnny – I'd go crazy. But at the rate things were going, that was what was going to happen. And it would probably happen sooner rather than later.