A/N: I OWN NOTHING!
"Chapter 11," Soda read.
I HAD TO STAY IN BED a whole week after that.
"Fun!" Two-Bit smiled.
That bugged me; I'm not the kind that can lie around looking at the ceiling all the time.
"It's a very white ceiling," Pony noted. "Darry, can we paint something on it so it's a little more interesting?"
"We'll see Pon."
I read most of the time, and drew pictures. One day I started flipping through one of Soda's old yearbooks and came across a picture that seemed vaguely familiar. Not even when I read the name Robert Sheldon did it hit me who it was. And then I finally realized it was Bob.
"That must have been the year before I dropped out," Soda muttered. "One of only three times I saved up the money for a yearbook."
I took a real good long look at it.
"Why?" Tim asked.
The picture didn't look a whole lot like the Bob I remembered, but nobody ever looks a whole lot like his picture in a yearbook anyway.
"Except for Soda," Pony noted.
He had been a sophomore that year
"Yep, year before I dropped out," Soda nodded.
—that would make him about eighteen when he died. Yeah, he was good-looking even then, with a grin that reminded me of Soda's, a kind of reckless grin.
Soda began to wonder if he was giving a good example for his little brother. Was he too reckless?
He had been a handsome black-haired boy with dark eyes- maybe brown, like Soda's, maybe dark-blue, like the Shepard boys'. Maybe he'd had black eyes. Like Johnny. I had never given Bob much thought—I hadn't had time to think. But that day I wondered about him. What was he like?
"Annoying as sin," Steve growled under his breath.
I knew he liked to pick fights, had the usual Soc belief that living on the West Side made you Mr. Super-Tuff, looked good in dark wine-colored sweaters, and was proud of his rings.
"That's all you need to know," Tim nodded.
But what about the Bob Sheldon that Cherry Valance knew? She was a smart girl; she didn't like him just because he was good-looking.
"Kid has a point," Two-Bit nodded.
Sweet and friendly, stands out from the crowd- that's what she had said. A real person, the best buddy a guy ever had, kept trying to make somebody stop him- Randy had told me that. Did he have a kid brother who idolized him?
"No, but he had an older brother," Darry said. "Played on the team with me and Paul."
Maybe a big brother who kept bugging him not to be so wild?
Darry nodded a bit.
His parents let him run wild- because they loved him too much or too little? Did they hate us now? I hoped they hated us, that they weren't full of that pity-the-victims-of-environment junk the social workers kept handing Curly Shepard every time he got sent off to reform school.
"The last woman actually tried to take Angel away too," Tim said. "I just gave her one look and she ran off."
I'd rather have any body's hate than their pity. But, then, maybe they understood, like Cherry Valance. I looked at Bob's picture and I could begin to see the person we had killed. A reckless, hot-tempered boy, cocky and scared stiff at the same time.
"You need to stop thinking Pony," Soda said, rubbing his head.
"Yeah?" I didn't look up. I thought it was the doctor. He'd been coming over to see me almost every day, although he didn't do much except talk to me.
"Annoying," Pony muttered.
"There's a guy here to see you. Says he knows you." Something in Darry's voice made me look up, and his eyes were hard. "His name's Randy."
Pony gave Darry a look but Darry just shook his head. He'd explain later, when Tim and the others weren't around.
"Yeah, I know him," I said.
"You want to see him?"
"Yeah." I shrugged. "Sure, why not?"
A few guys from school had dropped by to see me; I have quite a few friends at school even if I am younger than most of them and don't talk much.
"But I'm not bragging or anything," Soda said with a slight smirk.
"Shut it, Soda," Pony chuckled.
But that's what they are- school friends, not buddies. I had been glad to see them, but it bothered me because we live in kind of a lousy neighborhood and our house isn't real great. It's run-down looking and everything, and the inside's kind of poor-looking, too, even though for a bunch of boys we do a pretty good job of house-cleaning.
"Because the State would have you and Soda out of there in a second if they thought I didn't take care of the house along with you," Darry said.
Most of my friends at school come from good homes, not filthy rich like the Socs, but middle class, anyway. It was a funny thing- it bugged me about my friends seeing our house. But I couldn't have cared less about what Randy thought.
"Hi, Ponyboy." Randy looked uncomfortable standing in the doorway.
"Hi, Randy," I said. "Have a seat if you can find one." Books were lying all over everything. He pushed a couple off a chair and sat down.
"How'd that place become a pigsty if you were confined to your bed?" Steve asked.
"How you feeling? Cherry told me your name was on the school bulletin."
"I'm okay. You can't really miss my name on any kind of bulletin."
He still looked uncomfortable, although he tried to grin.
"Wanna smoke?" I offered him a weed, but he shook his head. "No, thanks. Uh, Ponyboy, one reason I came here was to see if you were okay, but you- we- got to go see the judge tomorrow."
Everyone stiffened, even thought they knew the results of the case.
"Yeah," I said, lighting a cigarette. "I know. Hey, holler if you see one of my brothers coming. I'll catch it for smoking in bed."
"Or in the house," Darry muttered.
"My dad says for me to tell the truth and nobody can get hurt. He's kind of upset about all this. I mean, my dad's a good guy and everything, better than most, and I kind of let him down, being mixed up in all this."
Tim looked at the essay in shock. A Soc actually cared for someone other than himself? Despite all the evidence, he still couldn't believe it.
I just looked at him. That was the dumbest remark I ever heard anyone make. He thought he was mixed up in this? He didn't kill anyone, he didn't get his head busted in a rumble, it wasn't his buddy that was shot down under a street light. Besides, what did he have to lose? His old man was rich, he could pay whatever fine there was for being drunk and picking a fight.
"Actually it would be attempted murder," Darry said in a soft voice. He remembered reading about it in his Government class. "At least it should."
"I wouldn't mind getting fined," Randy said, "but I feel lousy about the old man. And it's the first time I've felt anything in a long time."
"Randy really cared for Bob, huh?" Soda said in surprise.
The only thing I'd felt in a long time was being scared. Scared stiff. I'd put off thinking about the judge and the hearing for as long as I could. Soda and Darry didn't like to talk about it either, so we were all silently counting off the days while I was sick, counting the days that we had left together. But with Randy sticking solidly to the subject it was impossible to think about anything else.
"Darry and I would talk about when you were asleep," Soda said. "We'd be up till the early hours."
My cigarette started trembling.
"I guess your folks feel kind of awful about it, too."
All the Curtis brothers winced a little. They still couldn't believe they lost their parents so early in life.
"My parents are dead. I live here with just Darry and Soda, my brothers." I took a long drag on my cigarette. "That's what's worrying me. If the judge decides Darry isn't a good guardian or something, I'm liable to get stuck in a home somewhere. That's the rotten part of this deal. Darry is a good guardian; he makes me study and knows where I am and who I'm with all the time. I mean, we don't get along so great sometimes, but he keeps me out of trouble, or did. My father didn't yell at me as much as he does."
Darry winced inwardly but he kept a stoic look on his face.
"I didn't know that" Randy looked worried, he really did. A Soc, even, worried because some kid greaser was on his way to a foster home or something. That was really funny. I don't mean funny. You know what I mean.
"Yeah," all the Greasers nodded.
"Listen to me, Pony. You didn't do anything. It was your friend Johnny that had the knife..."
Pony winced again. It was still hard thinking about Johnny.
"I had it" I stopped him. He was looking at me strangely. "I had the knife. I killed Bob."
Randy shook his head. "I saw it. You were almost drowned. It was the black-headed guy that had the switchblade. Bob scared him into doing it. I saw it."
"You can still remember that night?" Steve growled. "Then you weren't drunk enough."
He'd had nights where he forgot what he did when drunk. If Randy could remember who did what, then he wasn't drunk enough to hide behind booze.
I was bewildered. "I killed him. I had a switchblade and I was scared they were going to beat me up."
"Johnny had the switch," Two-Bit said softly.
"No, kid, it was your friend, the one who died in the hospital..."
Pony winced yet again. Even after two years, it still stung to hear Johnny mentioned like that.
"Johnny is not dead." My voice was shaking. "Johnny is not dead."
"Hey, Randy" Darry stuck his head in the door. "I think you'd better go now."
"Thanks Dar." Pony gave a little half smile.
"Sure," Randy said. He was still looking at me kind of funny. "See you around, Pony."
"He's decent, for a Soc," Steve noted.
"You've seen it's possible." Pony muttered.
"Don't ever say anything to him about Johnny," I heard Darry say in a low voice as they went out. "He's still pretty racked up mentally and emotionally. The doc said he'd get over it if we gave him time."
Darry sighed. Sure it helped Pony, but where was the help for Soda? His brother had more nightmares after that than you could count. It didn't help that it had happened the week Pony was sick.
I swallowed hard and blinked. He was just like all the rest of the Socs. Cold-blooded mean. Johnny didn't have anything to do with Bob's getting killed.
Pony looked down. He'd been lying to himself during that time, and it hurt even more to read it again.
"Ponyboy Curtis, put out that cigarette!"
"It's like you have cigarette powers," Pony pouted.
"Okay, okay." I put it out. "I ain't going to go to sleep smoking, Darry. If you make me stay in bed there ain't anywhere else I can smoke."
"Kid's got a point," Tin nodded.
"You're not going to die if you don't get a smoke. But if that bed catches on fire you will. You couldn't make it to the door through that mess."
"Well, golly, I can't pick it up and Soda doesn't, so I guess that leaves you."
"I can't believe you just said that!" Soda chuckled.
He was giving me one of those looks. "All right, all right," I said, "that don't leave you. Maybe Soda'll straighten it up a little."
"If Soda was in charge of cleaning that room, it'd be messier than how it looked previously."
"Nice one , Darry!"
"Maybe you can be a little neater, huh, little buddy?"
"Is this….sibling banter I hear?" Steve gasped, shocked.
He'd never called me that before. Soda was the only one he ever called "little buddy."
"Not true!" Soda said with a smile. "When you were born up until you were three, that's all he would call you."
"Why'd he stop?" Pony asked.
"Soda got jealous," Darry smirked and Soda flung a pillow at him.
"Sure," I said, "I'll be more careful."
"That's it," Soda said. "Two-Bit, you're up."
"Last chapter," Two-Bit said with a small smile. "Let's get this over with."
A/N: Sorry, I know this has been a long time in the making. But, I've had real life stuff to worry about (HS Graduation, getting into college, etc.) But I'm still alive, and I've only one more chapter to go. Maybe two, if I decide to do a chapter where they all talk about what the gang found out.