Chapter 14: We Die Young
A square-shouldered Soc came at me, and I smirked as his punch went wide and missed me. He stumbled a step, and while his arms were up to catch from the fall, I kicked my foot into his side, sending him sprawling into the dirt.
It was than that I felt the first of the raindrops.
"I thought you were in the hospital," I heard Ponyboy yelled as another Soc came at me and managed to get a solid punch to my stomach before I could react. I coughed, gasping for air before I got back up and snapped my fist against his jaw. I felt the crack and gave his shoulder a hard kick back when he bent over with a howl of pain.
"I was." I heard Dally's voice from off to my left, and while I had no Socs attacking me, I snapped my head around looking for him. I found him standing beside Ponyboy, who was on the ground, while he had a hard time using his left arm since it was still wrapped up. "I ain't now."
"But you should be." I said as I came up behind the Soc he was fighting and jumped onto the guys back to limit his movements so Dally could get a couple good swings at him before he flopped over. I stood back up and glared at him for a moment. "I warned you, Dallas."
"Now isn't really – right!" I stepped to the right and just missed a Soc trying to get me from behind. He collided with Dally instead and got a well aimed punch to the nose. Blood gushed down the guys face and I turned away in time to see another guy coming at Dallas from behind. I tackled him to the ground, and we wrestled around in the turned up dirt. It was more like mud now because of the rain. I was drenched already, and the guy was sitting on my chest. I tried to get out from under him, but he punched me in the face and my vision narrowed almost to the point of going completely black.
"How?" I could hear Ponyboy's voice somewhere around me, but I felt like I was losing consciousness, and I was fighting hard against it.
"Talked the nurse into it with Two-Bit's switch. Don't you know a rumble ain't a rumble unless I'm in it?" Next thing I knew, the weight was gone and I was slowly getting my vision back. I felt a hand grab my arm and yank me up. Dally came into my vision and he was smirking.
"Still don't want me here?" He asked snidely. I shook my head and turned away as more Socs came at us from all angles. Darry had pulled Ponyboy up from the ground where he had ended when a Soc toppled him to the ground, and he was now back up on his feet and trying to help Dally. I would have gone to help them both out, but I had 2 other Socs trying to get a good hit at me, and I was having a hard time keeping my mind focused on the fight and not on passing out.
I cussed under my breath as they both took swings at me at the same time. I was only able to dodge one, and the other hit me in my bad shoulder. I screamed with pain and passing out seemed like a better idea than trying to stay awake. I gritted my teeth through the pain and flipped myself backwards. I managed to aim right, and caught them both below the jaw as my feet swung up over the rest of me and I landed back on the ground. But instead of getting back to my feet, I fell to the ground, my arms sinking into the the mud.
Get up! I snapped at myself. Get up and fight!
With a groan, I managed to push myself up, just as another Soc was coming at me. I heaved myself up the rest of the way and managed a good swing at his jaw to knock him back, but it wasn't hard enough to knock him to the ground. As he came back at me, I scrounged up the last of my energy and put all my effort into another swing. When he stumbled back, I kicked him in the side and sent him sprawling across the mud.
"They're running!" I heard a voice call out joyfully. "Look at the dirty fuckers run!" The Soc I had been fighting gave me one quick look before running off in the direction of the cars waiting for them.
Cheers went up all across the lot. The cheers of greasers who would finally be able to walk the streets without thinking that they'd be jumped. It was like a new found freedom, and to celebrate, I collapsed to the ground. My knuckles were bleeding, and I hurt all over. I was lying on the ground, looking around me at everyone. Steve was groaning doubled over a little ways away from me, Soda was kneeling beside him, trying to keep him calm. Tim's nose was broken again, and he was swearing like crazy. The leader of the Brumly boys was swearing a blue streak at one of his guys. I found out later that he had used a piece of pipe during the fight. Even the guys who were cheering, were nursing wounds.
I felt light-headed. I felt like I was going to be sick. I felt like I was going to pass out. I felt proud. This was what we had all been wanting for so long, and now we had it. All I wanted to do now was sleep. The celebration parties could wait for tomorrow.
I heard someone else speak – I think Darry – but I didn't catch what they were talking about. I was just starting to let the darkness pull me in, and let one of the boys carry me home when I heard a voice calling my name and someone pulling me up by my shirt.
"Move it, Mia!" Dally's voice drifted through my head, and though I knew he was yelling, it didn't sound like it. "We gotta go see Johnny. Help me with the kid." I groaned, but followed Dally over to where Ponyboy was lying on the ground.
"Come on!" He got one arm around Ponyboy while I got the other. "We're goin' to see Johnny." We seemed to all be holding each other up, because I knew that once I let go of Ponyboy, I was going down. When Ponyboy stumbled, Dally impatiently hauled him back to his feet. "Hurry! He was getting' worse when I left. He wants to see you." My throat tightened when Dally said he was getting worse. It was true. Johnny was dying, and there was nothing we could do about it besides stand there and watch.
Somehow we managed to get back to Ponyboy's house where Dally had parked the car, and we all piled in before Dally jammed the thing into gear and we took off faster than we'd ever gone before. I would have told him to slow down if it wasn't for the fact that I'd be driving just as fast if I was in his place.
The roads were slick, and when we took the corner onto Tenth, with the sudden sound of sirens behind us, I thought we'd skid right off the road. Dally cussed a mean streak as he pulled off to the side.
"Look sick," He snapped at us. "I'll say I'm takin' you to the hospital, which'll be truthful enough." I figured that it was the closest thing to the truth that he'd ever told a cop before, so I went along with it. Not that it was hard to place sick, all I had to do was sit there. I was ready to throw up anyway, and if I had to sit here for long, I might just do that.
The cop came up to the car, and Dally rolled down his window. The cop didn't look too impressed.
"All right, buddy, where's the fire?"
The kids," He motioned to the two of us, and wanted to glare at him for calling me a kid. "they fell over on his motorcycle and I'm takin'em to the hospital." I figured we must look pretty roughed up, cause the cop's tone changed.
"Are they real bad? You need an escort?" At that moment, my stomach jerked, and I barely had time to open the door before I got sick. I coughed and sputtered for a second, clutching my stomach as I took a deep breath of cold air and pulled the door closed, leaning my head against the cold window.
"How would I know if they're bad or not? I ain't no doc." He went on like I hadn't just throw up on the side of the road. "Yeah, we could use an escort." The cop nodded and walked back to his car, and Dally laughed as he said, "Sucker!"
The cop pulled out in front of us, his lights flashing and the sirens going loudly. Dally pulled out behind him and we kept going for the hospital.
"I don't think you needed to go that far, Mia." Dally said as we kept going. I glared at him as I sat up and started to go through the glove compartment.
"That wasn't an act, Dally. Where's that gum I always keep in here?" I found it and pulled out a piece to get rid of the horrible taste in my mouth.
"I was crazy, you know that, kid?" Dally started to rant at Ponyboy, and I could see the crazed look in his eyes. He was losing it, I could tell. He ranted when he started to lose it – though normally it was before he started to get really angry. But this was different. "Crazy for wantin' Johnny to stay outta trouble, for not wantin' him to get hard. If he'd been like me he'd never have been in this mess. If he'd been smart like me he'd never have run into that church. That's what you get for helpin' people. Editorials in the paper and a lot of trouble... You'd better wise up, Pony... you get tough like me and you don't get hurt. You look out for yourself and nothin' can touch you..." His voice faded in and out of my mind. He said some more stuff, but I didn't catch any of it.
We arrived at the hospital a moment later, and Dally came around to the car to help both me and Ponyboy out. We half carried Ponyboy towards the door, but the moment Dally looked back to see that the cop was gone, he dropped him and I nearly went down to the ground with the sudden weight.
"Hurry!" He snapped as the three of us ran down the hall towards the elevator. People weren't too impressed as we ran past them. The elevator was almost at its full capacity, but we shoved ourselves into it, much to the dislike of the other occupants. A couple yelled at us, but I couldn't hear over the ringing in my ears, Ponyboy was barely standing let alone focused on the people around him, and all Dally was thinking about was Johnny. Johnny... I was about to see him either dead or dying. I felt silent tears trail down my face, because somewhere in my mind, I knew. I knew the moment Johnny was gone... so was Dally. I didn't know who I knew it, but I did, and it was a scary thought.
I reached over and gripped Dally's hand. For a moment I thought it was just me, that my mind was going crazy, but I felt him squeeze back. He leaned closer and I felt his lips meet mine, but only for a second. To this day, I wonder if it was all in my head anyway. But even if it was, it's one of the most important moments in my life. One that I still hold close to my heart when I feel like breaking down.
It seemed to take forever for the elevator to reach the floor Johnny was on, and when the doors opened, the three of us burst through before anyone else could take a step. We were out before the doors were even fully opened.
We ran down the hall and skidded to a stop in our wet sneakers and boots just before Johnny's room. The few steps it took to get to the doorway of that room were the heaviest steps of my whole life.
"Johnny?" I asked with wide eyes as we stood in the doorway. My throat closed up, and my vision blurred with tears. "Johnny?" I choked out. Something in me snapped, and I let out a scream as I punched the wall. "Johnny?!" I whipped around to be back out in the hall. A nurse was walking and I grabbed her by the front of her shirt. She looked startled, and I could only imagine that I looked like I belonged in a mental hospital.
"Where is he?" I hissed at her, and she looked at me in confusion. "Where is Johnny Cade?"