One: Getting jumped and secrets.
Johnny bent over me, narrowing his dark eyes into slits. I could tell he was nervous, apprehensive, even. Or maybe was that a look of fear settling over his facial expression? I wondered if I was making him uncomfortable. I didn't see how that could even be possible, really. I was the one lying on my back in a pool of my own blood, dirt clinging to every part of my body. I coughed, spitting out the syrupy crimson liquid. I blinked, fighting back the tears that prickled my eyes and threatened to fall. I wasn't going to allow myself to cry in front of someone like Johnny.
Johnny fell to his knees beside me and lifted my head carefully, cradling it in his lap. His lips parted slightly like he was searching for something to say that would assure me everything would be okay but when the words wouldn't flow as easily as he would of liked, he settled on, "You're gonna be okay." And ran her fingers through my dirt and blood encrusted hair.
The entire time I was looking up at him, I wondered what he was thinking, how he was feeling, and what he wanted to do in that moment but to ask him seemed silly. I knew that Johnny was the type of guy would never leave a girl like me alone to die in the grass by my lonesome. I could see the panic he was trying to conceal for my sake and maybe his own.
"Do you think that you can hold yourself together while I go get Darry?" He asked, trying to remain calm. I knew he was trying his best to re frame from crying out of fear that I might cry, too. He never could deal with a sobbing female. It made him uncomfortable.
"I think so..." I whispered weakly, giving him a reassuring nod.
He shook his head and huffed, looking around in the darkness to find out if there was any alternative way he could do this. Then, one arm was wrapped around my shoulders and the other was tucked under my legs. He hoisted me off the ground and we started in the direction of the house we both knew served as a safety zone for all greasers and even some hoods.
Every now and then his worried filled eyes would veer to meet mine, making sure I held onto consciousness. I was having a hard time doing that because each bouncy step he took sent a shock wave of pain throw my body. My eyes fluttered shut and I let my head fall back. The stars in the sky above me danced and swirled into my own private show and then I can't recall much but the darkness enclosing on me and strong arms being wrapped around me.
* * * *
When I awoke from what seemed to me as an eternity, I was in a strange bed, but it wasn't that strange to me. I recognized the area, but I knew enough to know it wasn't my room.
In the distance I could hear a radio being played and an even louder television. Laughter echoed from the rooms around me. I knew the voices too. All males. I sighed, sitting up right and taking a closer look at the room around me. The shutters had been pulled shut to block the daylight. I could make out the silhouette of a desk at the far end of the room and a dressed on the opposite wall. Another bed was directly across from me, only separated by a single night stand.
Yes, now I knew where I was. I was at the Curtis home, no doubt asleep in Pony or Soda's bed. Lifting one arm, I stared at the bandages that wrapped around it, crimson liquid seeping through. What had happened? The last thing I remembered, I was laying in the park with Johnny bent over me fretting over how beat up I looked.
Blinking to adjust my eyes to the darkness, I leaned against the head bored and shifted to get a better look around. Yes, I was in Soda's bed. It was the more unused one. The mattress was lumpier than Pony's. I had spent many-a-night's curled up in Pony's head while he draped an arm around my shoulders and we held a conversation or we took turns reading out loud to one another.
Pony had been my best friend since I was a child. I confined everything in him because I trusted him. I trusted all of the Curtis's. Darry had always been my favorite but I was closer to Pony. Soda was a sweetheart to me, too. He even went as far as to get into a fight for me once. I still owed him for that, but it was me who set him up with Sandy. I guess in some way we were even.
I sighed and laid back down, shifting to my side to stare at the wall and maybe drift back to sleep, but the laughter from the next room was proving that to be impossible. I knew I wasn't going to get anymore sleep, I had probably slept 24 hours already so I settled for playing solitaire with a deck of cards I found in the night stand.
Pushing the shutters a side, I leaned myself out the window and let the warm sun heat my face. I wondered slightly what I looked like. Those soc's had gotten a couple good hits in on me. Not enough to knock me out for to long but enough to put me down for a little while and cut my arm up pretty good.
* * * *
Mid way through my game, a subtle knock at the door sounded. I raised my head slightly, "Come on. I'm decent." A sigh of relief and then the door creaked open. There in the door way stood Johnny, hands tucked in the pockets of his jeans. His dark eyes shone with something new. I cocked my head curiously.
"Whats up, Johnnycakes?" I asked cheerfully, ushering him into the room with a hand gesture.
"I could ask you the same thing." He said quietly. Johnny never was a big mouth. He never spoke to loud and he never bothered to say to much. "Hows the arm?" He nodded toward it, pulling the chair out from under the desk, dragging it beside the bed and sitting down.
"It's an arm." I said sarcastically, my eyes never leaving the cards that were set in front of me.
"Oh..." He said quietly, lowering his head.
I couldn't help but smile. He was so sweet but sarcasm wasn't programed into him. I looked up, "Johnny, that was sarcasm."
"Oh..." He repeated. For a moment, I felt bad.
He was so... innocent isn't even the right word. He never ever lost his childhood innocence. I wished I could be more like Johnny, but I knew what the world was really like. Something told me Johnny did, too, but he refused to believe it. I only smiled at him. He was such a smart kid, how could his life treat him so bad and yet he looked at everything in such a positive manner. See, Johnny didn't have a great home life, his folks beat him senseless so he spent a lot of time at other peoples houses or in the lot by himself.
I was so lost in my own thoughts, I hardly realized that his hand cupped my face lightly, his thumb brushing a sore spot on my cheek. "We're twins." He joked absently, meaning we had the same scars on our cheeks in different spots. His eyes veered to mine and I saw something in them that I had never seen before. I couldn't exactly place the emotion in his eyes.
He parted his lips slightly to say something but a knock on the door frame made him pause and withdraw his hand quickly.
"I wasn't interrupting anything, was I?" The voice asked. My eyes veered from Johnny's to look at the male who stood in the door way. He had broad shoulders and creamy skin that was stained dark. An open shirt revealed his muscular chest. He leaned himself on the door frame and I saw a smile form, revealing his crooked teeth. Just another one of his charms. His blue eyes settled on me.
"Whats up, Steve?" I asked.
"How ya feelin', Mel?" He asked.
"I'm sore." I held up my bandaged arm.
"Look kid, no one is real happy with you. I know it's not safe to walk alone." He cut straight to the chase. "You better be thankful Johnny was heading to the lot. You could'a died out there, and y'damn well know that."
"Yeah, I know, and believe me, I am thankful."
"No, I don't think you do." Steve shook his head. Disappointment edged in his voice although he would never let it show on his face. That was like admitting that he cared for someone other than himself. "Look Mel.." his voice softened, "We're not going to let this go unjust. They're talking about a rumble because they attacked you. It was an unfair fight. There was one of you and telling by the marks on you, there was more than one of them and they had weapons." He paused and thought, "Were you carrying a blade?"
I shook my head in response.
He studied my face and then nodded, "So it was unfair. Alright. That was all I needed to know." He retreated from the door frame and I could envision him standing in the living room telling the other the information I had fed him. I could envision the faces of each of the men twisting into an angry scowl.
When I came to from my daydream, Johnny was staring at me, a cigarette rested behind his tightly pressed together, paper thin lips. I stared at the embers, wondering what it might feel like to be on one of them, feeling the smoldering heat against myself.
"I should probably let you sleep." he announced, standing up and tucking the chair back under the desk securely.
Before I had time to protest, he pulled the shutters closed again, pressed his lips to my temple, and left the room securing the door shut behind him. I was left in the dark, the deck of cards still sprawled out in front of me. I could hear faint bits of conversation from the other room. The topic of discussion: the blonde in the next room. That was all I ever was to these guys, wasn't it? The ditsy blond who always played the damsel in distress who always needed some kind of rescue. No amount of hair dye would change that, either. But, it wasn't like that at all.
I had sparred with everyone of them but Johnny and Pony, they all knew I could hold my own. I was just one of the guys, why was I treated so differently? I had the same rights, didn't I?
Laying back in the bed, I closed my eyes and focused on the music that was pouring out of the radio speaker. Elvis was singing about trying to find a girl he had lost. I closed my eyes and focused on his voice, letting it carry me into a dream world.
* * * *
In my dream, the large soc had me pinned to the ground, one of his buddies holding my arms over my head and the other pinned my feet to the ground, making it impossible to move. The one who sat with his knees in my chest made it impossible for me to breathe. The cold metal of the switchblade was pressed against my neck. Their smiles were all so sinister.
I was to stunned to even want to move out of fear that it could be my own mistake that my neck could be sliced. My eyes darted back and forth in search of someone, anyone who might come to my aid in that moment but much to my discontent, there was no one willing to lend a helping hand. I could have screamed for help it if wasn't for the hand clamped firmly over my mouth. I couldn't have bite it because he held it so tightly. I pinched my eyes shut and prepared for the worst. The cold blade moved from my neck and I sighed a breath of release but when I felt it sliding past my shirt to my bra, the panic settled inside me again.
Oh god.... I panicked in my head, Oh my god, they're going to rape me right here in the street! The voice screamed and I wanted so bad to scream with it but the hand pressed tighter, holding onto me firmer. I tried to shift under the massive body weight but the knees pressed harder into my chest, knocking the wind from my lungs. The panic in my head grew louder, blood rushing into my ears. All I could hear was panicked screams and the thumping of my own heartbeat. The guys laughed at the panic on my face, and I snarled, trying my best to flail. How cruel could anyone be?
When it became apparent there was no getting away, I tried my best to relax and let them do what they want. Maybe they would go easy on me but the one sitting on my chest drew back and gave me one good slug to the face, cold silver catching my skin and tearing and I blacked out.
Bolting upright, I inhaled deeply and gave the room a quick glance, taking in my surroundings. I was still in my boys room. What time was it now? How long had I slept? In the bed beside me, I could hear even breathing. Pony and Soda? Was it really that late? Tossing the covers off my body, I slid my feet off the bed and let them touch the icy hardwood. Someone had stripped me and dressed me in an old t-shirt and a pair of pajama pants and apparently changed my bandages, too. Where were my clothes? Had Darry taken them to be washed? Probably. I was probably wearing his clothes right now, considering the shirt fell to my knees and I had to hold the pants up with my good hand as I walked.
In the kitchen, Darry left his check book on the table with a stack of bills. Some days I wondered how he did it. He took care of all of us. Treated us all like we were his siblings, his responsibilities. I was always so amazed by him. He was truly a best friend to me and someone to lean on.
Moving into the living room, I found Steve passed out on the couch. Another fight with his old man, I guessed. Whatever. I took a cigarette from the pack on the coffee table with no disregard to who they belonged to and headed out to the porch with the match book. Lighting the cigarette, I seated myself on the steps of the house and turned my attention to the sky. The stars danced and twinkled brightly. Sometimes I thought that they were dancing just for me but I knew that was ridiculous.
After I finished my cigarette, I retreated back to the house in search of my clothing so I could head home. I didn't want to wake Darry and ask for it, but I had a hunch that he was hoarding them away so I couldn't leave. Things weren't always great at my home, not as bad as the way Johnny's folks treated him but still not great. Darry tried every chance he got to keep me at his place.
I rubbed the wound on my arm through the bandages, absentmindedly as I seated myself at the table. The clock on the wall above the stove read "4:06." The sun would be raising in about an hour and a half. I could try to go back to sleep, but there was no point. I didn't even know what day it was, and I didn't want to lose anymore. Besides, it might be a school day and I'm not much into missing school. Usually, I would catch a ride with Steve or Two-Bit in the mornings unless Pony and Johnny swung by to pick me up so we could walk.
I leaned back in my seat, still rubbing the bandages. The crimson liquid was starting to slow down but I could still feel it, sticky and squishy under the wraps. I wondered how bad they had gotten me after I got slugged, or if they had gotten away with anything else. If I really looked that bad, though, Darry wouldn't let me go to school. He would call me in. I wondered if anyone had called and informed my parents. Maybe they knew and didn't care. After all, they did have three other kids to worry about. I was the oldest, and they figured I could take care of myself. I guess part of me agreed. I could take care of myself.
Steve stirred on the couch and after a moment, let out a loud sigh sitting up right. He rubbed his eyes and leaned back into the couch, blinking to adjust to the settled darkness. Looking around the room, he offered me a smile, "Hey darlin'." He said when he saw me.
"Morning Steve." I tossed back, absently.
"What the hell time is it?" He asked.
My eyes moved the clock, "4:45."
He cursed under his breath and then grabbed the cigarette pack from the table and offered me one, "Wanna come outside for a smoke?" He asked.
"Sure." I stopped rubbing my wounded arm and followed Steve to the porch. He handed me a cigarette and sat down on the step. I sat down beside him. Above everything else, I considered Steve an older brother to me.
"What day is it?" I asked.
"Saturday." He glanced at me, while lighting his cigarette and then lit mine and put the match out, pushing it into his pocket. When I said nothing, he carried on: "You slept a good three days."
"I missed school, too." I sighed.
"Pony and Johnny got your homework and the notes you missed for you. It's in my car. I'll drop it off to you later." He reassured me.
Next came the question he was waiting for. "Why are you here?"
"Old man kicked me out again. This time, I don't think I'ma go back. I had enough of his shit. I pretty much pay to run that damn house anyway. Why not just get my own, y'know?" He winked at me.
"I been considerin' it." I told him honestly.
"The DX is lookin' for cashiers." He smiled and then added, "You could work with me and Soda." There was a twinge of excitement in his voice.
"Do you really think that would end well?" I asked, stifling a laugh and taking a long drag from my cigarette.
Steve flicked away the ashes and shook his head, considering it briefly, "Yeah, I think it might even be fun." He said finally.
"You think it might be fun?" I echoed, my voice edging with curiosity.
"Yeah, I do." He nodded, half smiling in my direction.
"Only you." I shook my head.
"Yeah, yeah..." He took one last drag from his cigarette and flicked the butt away. I mimiced him.
"Well, if you think it's a good idea and Soda is okay with it, I'll go apply." I told him with a shrug.
"Soda will love the idea. He loves having you around, kid." He told me, ruffling my carmel colored hair.
"We'll see." I swatted his hands away. Steve smirked and settled for wrapping his arm around my shoulders, pulling him closer to him. I relaxed and rested against him. When the sun started to come up, and Steve's stomach roared to life, he decided it was breakfast time for the two of us.
We retreated to the icebox and pulled out a freshly made chocolate cake. Steve cut each of us off a piece and we headed to the living room for some television. Mickey Mouse was on and we settled for it. We ate and laughed, occasionally stealing glances at one another. Steve dipped his forefinger into the icing of his cake and wiped it across my cheek.
"Jerk." I huffed, wiping it away. He merely smirked in my direction and fluttered his eyelids, sweetly. The truth is Steve is a jerk, but there is a charming side to him. I can see why Evie picked him among all the other boys she could have chosen from.
After breakfast, I gathered the bowls and did the left over dishes from the night before because I knew Soda wasn't going to and Darry can get testy when no one does their chores. Again, that was me saving Soda's ass. I seemed good at that.
Darry was next to wake up. He wandered out of his bedroom in an unbuttoned work shirt and a pair of underwear. When Steve looked up, he gave a low whistle, a "lookin' good" kinda whistle that he might give me or Evie.
"Good mornin', Steve." He rumbled, then his eyes moved to me, "Mornin' Melody." He bowed his head, making his way to the coffee pot and turning it on. He must have made up the pot last night so he only had to press the start button this morning. "How's your arm?" Was his next question.
"It's sore." I muttered, touching the bandages.
"I'd imagine. That's a dozy of a cut you got there. I had have the doctor make a house call to give you stitches." He informed me, pouring himself a mug of coffee and then going over to the table and sitting down. "You were so knocked out, though, you didn't feel it but he gave you a shot to be sure. Also, he thinks you might have a concussion. You had no idea where you were when you got here. I'm going to take you to the doctors today at his request." He said in his serious voice, not that Darry had any other kind of voice anymore.
I could hardly remember the last time I heard him being playful or sweet. Before his parents died, if I had to guess. I missed the old Darry, the one who surprised us at school by picking us up early to go to an amusement park or to go see a show. That was the Darry I knew best. Now, he was a hollow shell of his former self.
"Yeah, and it was gross." Steve added in, looking down at me.
"Thanks Steve." I rolled my eyes and turned my attention back to the television. Darry turned his attention to the morning paper.
The next one to wander out of the bedroom was Sodapop. He grunted, a greeting to us and walked, slumped over into the bathroom. It was odd to see the boys with tussled bedhead and no grease but in a way, I was used to it.
When Soda returned he looked more like Soda. He was smiling, and his hair was greased back. "Hey guys." He gave a proper greeting. "Morning." He walked over to the counter and cut himself off a piece of cake and came back to the couch, sitting on the other side of me. Steve slid his arms around my shoulders and pulled me closer to him.
"Darry?" I ventured, looking around Soda.
"Yeah?" He looked up from the paper, his brow furrowing.
"Where's my clothing?"
"Hang on, I'll get it for you." He raised from the kitchen chair and headed toward his bedroom. When he returned, he held my outfit, clean of any stains and ironed. "I decided they needed to be washed. If you wanna take a shower, you're more than welcome." He pointed a thumb over his shoulder and smirked, knowing I couldn't turn the offer down. I had spent three days sleeping and there was still dried blood in my hair. Taking my clothes from him, I offered the bathroom to anyone who had to go and when I had no takers, I wandered into the bathroom and locked the door.
Looking myself over in the mirror, I was startled by the sight of myself. My face was bruised and cut up, I had a shiner on my left eye and a broken nose. There was a new scar of my left cheek directly below my eye. Must've been where the biggest soc's ring caught my face.
Cowards! My inner voice screamed. Nothing but cowards, beating up a defenseless girl in the street.
Shut up, I scolded myself as I went to picking twigs and leaves from my hair. It was apparent that no one bothered with my hair, but they were right, my arm was more important. I could hardly believe how calm Darry had seemed over having to give me stitches. He was always calm, though. I guess that was part of the reason I admired him. Shifting, I leaned against the sink to get a better look at the ripped skin on my face. The tear was fairly nasty. I ran my fingers over it and sighed, that would be a tuff looking scar for a guy maybe, but for a sixteen year old female? Not so much. I sighed and started to strip down after I started the shower. I was careful about not hitting my arm against anything. I was afraid of the jolt of pain that I might receive.
These scars would serve as a reminder not to walk alone again. The guys were right, I should be more careful and maybe start carrying a small blade. Just in case, because they were right, it was dangerous out there and I couldn't always have one of them with me.
While I washed up, I thought things over. Everything that had been said to me since this happened swirled around in my mind. I could hear all the voices, all of them had an annoyed edge to them.
After a quick shower, I changed into my clothes feeling fresh and clean and strutted out into the kitchen. The radio was blasting, two boys were wrestling on the floor and Darry was fully dressed now. The rest of the gang had arrived. I tossed a quick wave and stepped over the boys who were tussling on the floor.
"Darry, what're we gonna do today?" Pony called across the room, over the sounds, "Everyone has work off." I seated myself beside Pony.
"They fair is in town. We could go, like the old days." I suggested.
The two boys who were tussling on the floor looked up, "We'll chip in!" They said in unison.
Now I saw who it was. It was Two-Bit and Steve. They were always wrestling or sparring with each other. No one ever bothered to stop them unless it got to serious. No one ever saw any reason too.
Darry thought for a moment, his eyes falling on me, "You think it's a good idea?" He asked me, seriously. Everyone's eyes fell on me and I smiled widely, nodding excitedly. He shook his head, "Alright, we'll leave as soon as Mel and I get back from the doctors office." The boys broke out into a unison of cheers. All aside from Dallas anyway, he rolled his eyes. "I'll pass." He rumbled.
"You have a stick up your butt." I turned to him.
"Lay off broad." I knew he didn't mean anything by it, so I let it roll off.
"There could be soc girls there to harass." Bit reminded him.
"I gotta go see Sylvia tonight."
"Bring her along." I suggested.
"Yeah, I might take Evie." Steve smirked.
"I'll go get Sandy, too." Soda nodded.
"I'll go get..." Two-Bit thought for the name of one of his many blonds but could only think of one: "Kathy."
"That makes us the extra's." Darry grunted.
"Find a date." Soda shrugged at Darry.
"I'd rather just hang with the little ones." He shrugged.
"Then don't bitch, super dope." Steve said.
"Call me that one more time, Steve." Darry's transparent hues narrowed.
It was settled, then. After my doctors appointment and some eerines, we would head to the street fair a town over and meet up at some point. Each of the guys were taking their girls and Darry, Johnny, Pony, and I would ride together. They were coming to my doctors appointment, though. Neither of them complained to much.
We watched the guys leave one bye one and then it was just us. Darry seemed to enjoy the peace because none of us were all that routy. We sat side-by-side on the couch and watched Mickey Mouse intently.
When Darry finally informed us it was time to leave, the boys shut the t.v. off and we left. Darry and I sat in the cab while Pony and Johnny sat in the bed together. It was a warm spring day, the type of day that reminded us summer was dreaming near, not that we needed that reminder. The days were getting longer and the nights were getting shorter, the air was getting warmer and the school days were numbered. There was just a certain feel to the air that was a constant reminder. Everyone knew it.
* * * *
At the doctors office, the nurses hammered me with questions that I knew the answers to, so they seemed pointless. They asked me where I lived, what my name was, what day it was, who my parents were and other things of that nature. While I waited for the doctor to enter my room, Darry told me what he considered 'horror stories' about injuries that his younger brothers had. Some of them made me laugh and others made me cringe. Mostly, though, I found myself laughing. His kid brothers were so goofy, but so was he at their ages.
When the doctor finally entered, his tipped his head to me. He was a short, round man with gray eyes that were magnified under the coke rimmed glasses he wore. He had thinning gray hair and dimples when he smiled. He introduced himself to me as Dr. Greene.
"Hello, Dr. Greene." I said, respectfully.
He didn't waste any time with the questions as he went to work on removing the bandages on my arms. My eyes veered to Darry's who caught my gave and nodded, it's okay. When he reassured me, I started from the top and told him everything, about being jumped in the park, and not being sure exactly what happened, and about not remembering anything about it but Johnny carrying me home and a small conversation I had with Johnny and Steve. The doctor grunted when I finished.
"You mean to tell me, you were jumped by a bunch of guys who thought it was okay to pull a blade on a girl like you?"
"Yeah..." I paused and nodded, "pretty much."
"Bunch of punks." He murmured, using tweezers to pick at the stitch job done last night. I cringed out of pain every now and then. Darry noticed, and walked over, offering me his hand to squeeze it. I took it gingerly and smiled at him. He smiled back and nodded gently. I cringed and gave his hand a light squeeze every now and then.
When the doctor was done and bandaging me up again, he smiled at Darry, "Are you her boyfriend?" He asked.
Darry merely laughed and let his eyes travel to mine. They were filled with affection for me, "More like, I'm her older brother." He said.
"Oh, older brother, I was close." The doctor said with a jolly laugh. He reminded me of a mall Santa Clause. The type you might see greeting people at the door and ringing a bell for donations. "Well, anyway, I am going to prescribe you some inject able pain killers." He turned to Darry, "Will you help her with injection?"
Darry nodded, taking the script and when the doctor left, so did we. Out in the waiting room, Johnny and Pony had dug up enough money to run down to the snack shape and get a couple of bottles of coke. They handed Darry and I one to share.
"Hey guys," Darry joked, wrapping an arm around my shoulders, "we're a couple now." He joked with the boys.
Johnny blinked and met my gaze. I thought I saw disappointment in his dark eyes, but I couldn't be exactly sure. He brushed it away and went emotionless, "I'm happy for you two." He said with false enthusiasm.
"They're joking." Pony smirked at Johnny, who came back to life at that moment.
"Well," Darry cleared his throat, keeping his arm around me, "Let's get going." With that, we headed out to the parking lot and climbed back into the truck.