Chapter 23: Caution War Zone

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The images flickered on the TV while the sound just bounced around the room.  I pretended to watch it when Sodapop walked in the room.  He cleaned himself up; he used less grease, buttoned his shirt halfway, and for once wasn’t covered in oil.  Soda has his arms crossed behind his back and leaned up against the wall.  I continued to focus on the TV.  He cleared his throat, but I continued to ignore him.

“I guess you’re still mad,” he said.  I didn’t say anything, “You know, I don’t think you should be mad at me.  I didn’t do anything wrong.”

This is where I drew the line.  “Didn’t do anything wrong!  You call not telling me that you enlisted yourself in the Draft until a week before you left not wrong?” I paused trying to let that sink into his brain, “What? You just thought everything would be alright.  I would be okay and you would just go do whatever the hell you wanted.  All you care about is yourself." 

“Now hold up, ‘I just care about myself’?  That is a load of bull, I let you move in to my house, eat the food off my table, sleep in my bed when you had nothing.” Soda started to raise his voice.  Like always, I lashed back.

“You’re sounding more like Darry everyday.  The least you could’ve done is talk to me about it!  That’s what we’re supposed to do right?  That’s what couples are supposed to do!  You are so inconsiderate Soda!” I stormed into the bedroom and sat down on the bed to read.  Sodapop followed me into the room. 

He stood in the doorway staring at me.  “I’ll admit, it was a lousy thing to do, but if I told you…” He shuffled from foot to foot, “You’d just tell me not to go.”

“Well yeah.” I said putting down my book and walking towards my greaser.

“You don’t get it, fighting in the war is a right of passage for men.  I really want to go fight for my country and freedom.  I want to fight for you.” He said trying to sound sincere.

“Real cheesy.” I said smiling at him.  He let out a sigh of relief, “I thought you had better lines then that.  I understand where you’re coming from, but what if you died? Huh, what would happen to me and the gang?  What if Steve died?”

“I can’t answer that babe because I don’t know what’s gonna happen.  Like I said before, I’ll write to you everyday and I promise I’ll come home.” He said.

“What if you don’t make it back for the wedding?  I lose the love of my life.” 

“Why don’t we get married tomorrow or two days from now?” he asked.

I sighed, “We don’t have the money.  While you’re gone, I’ll make enough for the wedding.” I paused, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean half the stuff I said.  I’m just upset.” I apologized.

“I’m sorry too.” He agreed. “So, you’re okay with it?”

I gave him a kiss on his cleanly shaved face, “I gotta go clear my head.  I love you.”

He smiled, “Don’t go looking for trouble.  I don’t need my fiancé in jail.”

“Nada commando.” I said to my soldier.  I walked out the door and started towards the Dingo to see if there was any action.  I didn’t take my car because I like to walk in order to clear my head; it’s like it soothes my soul.  I found Dally in the parking lot looking at a shiny black mustang. 

“Nice car, Dal.” I said announcing my presence.

“Thanks its mine.” He said.

 “No shit.  How’d you pull that off?” I was shocked.  Greasers like us don’t get cars like that.

 “Found it.”

I huffed, “You’re version of ‘found’ is a lot different that other people’s version.” I said as I jumped into the drivers seat.

“Hey, hey, hey! Be careful!” he told me as he made me get out, “Anyway, why aren’t you driving around in your new car?  You still mad at Sodapop?”

“Nah, I’m more disappointed that he didn’t talk to me about it before.  I guess I’m okay with it now.” I explained.

 “Yeah, you’re as ‘okay’ with it as you are with nails on a chalkboard.  C’mon lets go find trouble.”

“Now you’re talking!” We jumped in the car and drove down the street and we spotted Two-Bit walking down with his thumb stuck out.  “Hey, get Two-Bit.”  Dally pulled over and Two-Bit greeted us and hopped in the back.  We kept driving down numerous streets looking for any bit of excitement.

“Hey, look at that kid!  Soc’s are jumping him.”  Two-Bit pointed out.

“There’s your action Colly.” Dally said.  Us greasers have to stick together, so we got out and tried pulling off the Socs.  The one in the lime green sweater had a blade, but Dally got ahold of him and knocked the crap out of him.  I kneed the blonde one in the balls and Two-Bit was beating the other Soc with a stick.  Next thing we knew, Dally and the car was gone and the Socs got a second wind.  The greaser fled the scene leaving Two-Bit and I left for scraps.  Normally, we’d fight them, but instead we ran trying to tire the Socs out.  There was a forest a couple blocks away, so we bolted there.  They still followed us.  We jumped over longs and dodged trees.  The Socs still were behind us.  We finally jumped the metal fence that bordered the trees and lost the Socs.  We ended up in the lot. 

“Well, I think we made out okay.  Better than the other guys.  Where’s Dal?” Two-Bit asked. 

“Probably high-tailed it outta there when the Soc threaten his car.  You can always count on Dally.” I laughed out of breath.

Since we were a couple blocks away from the house, I decided to head home.  I better spend the most I can with Sodapop before he leaves.  If I know one thing, it’s that Evie is as distressed as I am. 

* * *

The week was up, a military car was running in front of the Curtis house.  Sodapop and Steve were dressed in their uniforms.  I prayed this day would never come, but it did.  Evie was crying on Steve’s shoulder begging him not to go.  Two-Bit, for the first time, had a frown on his face and Ponyboy was a mess.  I knew Darry didn’t want to see his little brother go off to war.  Everyone was saying their goodbyes to Soda and Steve and I waited in the corner of the sidewalk waiting for my turn.  My arms were crossed and I slowly walked up to Soda.  He looked down at me, his eyes stung. 

“So you’re really going?” I asked as I uncrossed my arms. 

“Yeah,” he was speechless.

I looked at his uniform and started fixing his tie trying to make him look nicer, “Now you listen here Sodapop Curtis, you’re going to come back, Goddamnit you’re gonna come back.” I gulped hard trying to push back tears, “You’re gonna come back and we’re gonna get married and have a wedding and start a family and watch our children grow up in the country with horses and a big house.  You’re going to come back home, to Tulsa where you belong.”  I was still playing with his collar and this time the tears escaped.  “Win this for me.  Remember your sweetheart.” 

He swept me up into his arms and kissed me; his soft lips against mines, so warm and loving.  It wasn’t our last because he’s going to make it out alive and come home.  We pulled away.  Everyone was staring at our heartbreak, but we didn’t care; we were going to make this moment last forever.  I whispered in his ear, “Be safe.” 

“I love you.  You were the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” He whispered back.  Sodapop walked towards the car and took one last look back at me with his warm eyes and slumped into the car.  The door closed, that sound was terrifying.  It was really happening.  We all stood in the middle of the street as our greasers went to war. 

“Be safe, be safe, be safe damnit.” I whispered to myself.  I felt Darry’s arm wrap around me momentarily then released as he walked into the house.  I could tell his heart was heavy, no matter how much he tried to cover up.  Soda turned his head and looked at me from the back of the car window.  I blew my last kiss to him and he blew one right back.  I watched the car turn to corner and disappear.  

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