I walked down the streets for a while, unaware of where exactly I was going. But before long, I realized that I was heading to the library. Of course. I’ll look up the author. I started to walk with more purpose than just a random “street rat” ambling down the sidewalk. Thankfully, the library was still open.
Of course, this didn’t surprise me too much. The librarian, Mr. Krohn, was very friendly and very aware of some of the situations the kids of Chicago are in. So as long as we behave the library is open to us a full twenty-four hours. He was always in the library the full twenty-four hours, but he had a room in the back where he could sleep.
I walked in and sat at the monitor Amanda had used earlier that day. I logged in and immediately opened up the browser. I pulled the book from my dirty jean jacket, glanced at the cover then typed Ponyboy Curtis Outsiders into the search tool. A million different things popped up, and it took me a while to find it, but eventually I found the location of the city the book took place in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I then, proceeded to look up freight train routes from chicago, passing Tulsa. The BN route… Triumph filled me from my head to my toes. I returned the book to it’s original spot before taking one last look at the my only safe place before meeting Amanda and walking out the doors.
I continued down the sidewalk, a new lightness in my steps. But after a while I started to get tired. My feet started to drag and it felt as if I were just walking in circles. Suddenly I heard a crash in the dark alley to my left. I nearly jumped out of my skin, but my hand instinctively moved towards my back jean pocket for the extra switch.
A group of buff, drunken wealths emerged from the shadows. There were ten of them, all tough looking, probably around nineteen, most likely football players in highschool or college. They all had evil grins on their faces. Well, all of them except for the guy in to the far left. He had a grim look on his face like he couldn’t quite live with what they were about to do. Of course I was a little nervous. This was the first fight I’d been in without Amanda for four years, now I was jumping back into things solo as a wiry seventeen year old against a football team, and then we can’t forget how I get bad anxiety attacks when there is any yelling or shouting involved.
But I’ll never know how things turned out between the guys and I because just then Amanda jumped in from out of nowhere, teeth bared, and her two lovely double edged daggers in each hand. They way she wielded her daggers was different from any other person I’ve seen. She held her longer dagger, blade up, in her right hand like everyone else, but then she held her shorter one, blade down, in her left hand. The way she fights with them makes even the “pros” look like rookies.
I figured her jet black hair, black leather jacket, dark jeans, and black combat boots was what gave her the ability to move easily in the shadows without being noticed.
The “football team” has obviously heard from their buddies what happens when you cross Amanda either armed only with switches or bottles or hand to hand because their glassy eyes widened in slight fear. The guy on the left decided it would be a good time to run because that’s exactly what he did. Without hesitation, he hightailed it outta there. Unfortunately, his buddies weren’t as smart, but Amanda gave them some encouraging by swinging her bigger blade around.
“You guys, might wanna beat it before things get rough.” She called out menacingly.
“I don’t think sso, girrl.” The front guy replied, his words badly slurred. His friends grunted in approval as he walked forward, his fists raised.
“Alright then.” Amanda replied smoothly. “Guess I could use the practice. Not that you guys are on my level.”
Now, a normal eighteen year old girl against a nineteen/twenty year old football player… Well, we all know how that would turn out, but Amanda easily dodged every blow he threw at her. And in the first five seconds the guy had earned himself a nice gash across his forearm. Amanda didn’t cut very deep, she never does. But she does like to cut deep enough, at least once, to give her opponent a scar. She calls it her “little parting gift”.
The guy bellowed in agony and held his arm. Typical wealth not able to take a little pain.
“Who’s next?” Amanda asked sweetly, turning her attention to the rest of the group. The guys only backed up nervously.
“C'mon, Brian.” a guy on the right called out. “Let’s get outta here. These street rats ain't worth our energy.”
Brian turned to Amanda one last time and snarled, but she didn’t even flinch. She just stared him down as they walked away. Finally after they had disappeared out of sight, and Amanda was satisfied that they were gone she turned her attention to me.
“What were you thinking!” she hissed. I could tell by her tense posture, she was trying very hard not to yell. “Is it a new thing now to walk out on the streets past dark and try to get ourselves killed?” Her words were thick with fury, but I could see the worry and exasperation in her eyes. I looked past her and fixed my gaze on the closed bakery behind her, deciding it would be best to keep my mouth shut and let her let her emotions out.
She paced for a while before she finally stopped and sighed. I looked back to her again to see the fury had dispersed, leaving only exasperation. “Honestly, Jason. What were you doing out here?”
“I..” I tried to think of a way to explain to her my plan without sounding ridiculous, but failed. So I just let the words flow. “Despite of what you think, I really want to meet these guys. It might sound ridiculous, but I want the chance of having some sort of a family again.”I growled, embarrassed of admitting the truth. I met her eyes. They were a little softer, but filled with even more determination so I kept going before she could interrupt. “And, you aren’t in charge of me. You can’t tell me what I can and cannot do! If I want to take a train to Tulsa, Oklahoma, then I will! You can’t tell me otherwise!” My heart was racing by the end of my “speech”, because like I’ve said, I can’t stand yelling.
Amanda stood there, studying me a while, swinging the blades around in her hands like she does when she’s thinking. After, about five awkward moments she sighed and her sheathed her daggers.
“I know, I can’t just give you orders and get mad whenever you disobey them because I’m not in charge of you. But…” she heaved painful sigh and studied the sidewalk. “I had a younger brother once..”
I stared at her in shock. This was the first time she’s ever mentioned anything to me about her past.
“I loved him. And when our parents died, I desperately tried to take care of him. One day, in the middle of winter, I had made the shortsighted decision that it would be best if we split up and searched the dumpsters behind restaurants for any food…” her voice cracked. I watched her, words unable to form in my mind. I’d never seen her so close to tears.
“He was only seven.” she whispered before taking a shaky breath and carrying on. “A group of socs cornered him on his way back to the rendezvous point. He never stood a chance…” A single tear slipped down her cheek. “I found him lying in the alley. A stab wound in his abdomen, so I knew the death wasn’t instant.”
We sat there in silence for a moment. “I lived on. Depressed. Cold. Bitter. Hateful. Until I ran into this group of greasers. They had just lost two very close friends, and I had just lost the rest of my family. They taught me how to defend myself, how to use smooth talking to my advantage, how to see past lies, and how to thieve without being caught. I had stolen these two daggers from the first store I had robbed, and for the first time, I felt like things would be alright. But they weren’t. The socs, even though they stayed mostly out of the greaser territory, still picked on, injured, and killed greasers and orphans.”
“So one night, I just decided to hightail it, without leaving a note. Just like you just did tonight. The only difference was that I actually got away, and you didn’t” She finished with light teasing.
All of this at once, was a lot for me to take in. Greasers, socs, losing two friends. Suddenly everything clicked. The book, the fury when I told her I wanted to find them. She knew the greaser gang from The Outsiders, she was a part of that gang once long ago, but not long enough ago to be a part of it. “So..” I started. Still barely grasping onto things. “You were a member of that gang?”
She huffed softly in amusement. “Yeah. They were so nice to me when they took me in. They didn’t have to. I know, firsthand, how difficult it is to have another mouth to feed and another friend to protect. They were great. And I just left them. Gone. Without a trace..”
“That’s why you don’t want to go back.” I concluded. The silence was all I needed to hear to know that I was spot on. I also realized, then, that I probably had met her right after she left them.
“But,” she started carefully, “I suppose it wouldn't be kind of me to just disappear and not tell the guys how I’ve been the past few years.
My hope rose a little bit when I realized what she was hinting at. “So we’re going to find them?”“Yeah, I guess so.” Amanda grinned.