Ellie and Ponyboy attend their first day of high school. Despite the warnings from Two-Bit and Steve, the day at Will Rogers doesn't go any easier for them.
Hard nights shaped me.
I don't know how they
Somehow saved me.
Outside, Will Rogers High was overflowing with teenagers piling out of cars and tires screeching in and out of the parking lot. Ellie took a deep breath. After brushing off all of the horror stories Two-Bit and Steve had told them to make them more nervous than they already were, she suddenly wished she had paid closer attention. It was going to be everything they warned them about, if not more. She glanced to her side. Ponyboy looked a couple shades paler than he had earlier.
Climbing out of Two-Bit's old, rusty car, she adjusted the notebooks in her arms, trying to take in everything all at once.
"Now, the bathrooms on the first floor are for all us greasers," Two-Bit rambled on, ignorant to the nervous silence that had suddenly taken over his younger friends. "Socs' have claim on the ones upstairs. An' while I'm thinking about upstairs, you gotta be careful. They think they own the whole second floor. Got any classes up there?"
Pony shook his head as Ellie fumbled with her schedule. "One. History."
"Who's the teacher?" Steve asked, patting a couple greasers on the back as he past a group of them.
"Leery," she replied, watching everyone shove everyone else out of the way.
He chuckled knowingly. "Good luck with that one. He don't like the greasers much at all. Or maybe it was just me."
Ellie nodded, not cracking a smile. It wasn't the first time she had been warned about Leery. Her mother had nothing good to say about him either, and Ellie was nervous enough as it was without Steve's input.
Two-Bit continued on with his speech. "Now, steer clear of Newsome. He's the gym teacher, and he hates most everybody who ain't on the football team."
Pony laughed. "Even you, Two-Bit?"
He clapped him on the back. "Nobody hates me, kid. Watch this."
Two-Bit walked up to a group of socs crowded around a brand new, cherry red Mustang. Placing his hands on a couple of their shoulders, he said, "Long time, no see, huh fellas?"
A couple of the boys, realizing it wasn't one of their own greeting them, turned to face him, looking good and ready to pound his face in. However, they were stopped by the warning bell that sounded from the building. Two-Bit reached out to shake their hands, but no one offered their hand back. "All right, fellas," Two-Bit told them happily, a large grin plastered on his face, "you have yourselves a good first day back."
"Get lost, grease," one of them muttered as they headed to the building.
Two-Bit shrugged to Ponyboy, still grinning. "Okay, maybe they hate me."
Stepping through the front doors, Two-Bit and Steve headed to the right as Pony and Ellie walked straight.
"Meet you guys here later an' I'll take you to that little drugstore down the street for lunch," Two-Bit called back to them.
"Don't y'all get in any trouble, you hear?" Steve chimed in, grinning at how nervous both of them looked.
"Yeah, we'll sure try," Pony called after him as he disappeared into the swarms of students. Facing Ellie, he said, "I guess I'll see you in Algebra?"
"See you then," she said, with a forced smile. "I'm gonna go brave the soc hallway. Wish me luck."
"Good luck," he said, patting her on the back. "See you later."
I won't look down,
I won't say I'm sorry.
Ellie pushed her way through the hallways and up the flight of stairs. She couldn't help being overwhelmed by how much taller everyone was than at the middle school. Everything was a lot different, but being no stranger to change, Ellie tried to keep her chin up. It was only high school. Lots of people survived it.
Two-Bit wasn't kidding about the upstairs hallways being soc territory, either. It seemed that everyone she passed was dressed sharply in a rainbow of madras and letterman's jackets, Beatles haircuts and reeking of English Leather.
She did her best to avoid eye contact with any of them, wondering if they really were staring holes into her or if it was only her imagination. She realized it must not have been when she ran into someone who deliberately stepped into her path.
Stepping back, she looked at the sharply dressed blond that was staring daggers at her. She wished she had been paying attention when the name embroidered on his letterman's jacket stared back at her: Michael Holden.
"Look who finally made it to high school," Michael observed dryly, stepping closer and forcing her back into a set of lockers.
She couldn't say anything, not that there was anything she could say. She was stuck between a rock and a hard place and the hallway had thinned out as the bell was close to sounding. The only people who noticed what was going on wore cocky smiles and laughed.
Michael grabbed her by the upper arm, squeezing it tightly and regaining her undivided attention. "Listen up grease. You open your mouth about anything an' I'll beat the shit out of you. You dig?" he threatened barely above a whisper. Her eyes were struggling to stay neutral as she nodded quickly.
The bell rang and he let go, disappearing into a nearby classroom, and Ellie released the breath she had been holding.
"Shit," she uttered before dashing down the empty hallway.
A run in with her cousin wasn't exactly what she needed on her first day at Will Rogers. Nor was being tardy to her first class with a teacher she had already been warned about.
Taking a deep breath, she pushed the door open and walked into the classroom that she immediately noticed was full of socs. She stopped as Mr. Leery looked at her over the rim of his glasses. When she only stood there, he told her coarsely, "Well, don't just stand there. Take a seat."
"Sorry," she muttered over the snickers that had erupted around the room.
The only empty seat in the room was in the center aisle, in the next to last row. Careful to keep her eyes on the chair, she walked down the aisle, ignoring the quips from a fiery red head to a dark haired boy sitting behind her, and stepping over a foot that shot out into the aisle to greet her.
Sitting down, she sunk as low as she could and kept her eyes trained on the chalkboard and Mr. Leery. Two-Bit was going to have a good laugh that she was the only greaser in this class. He might even have the good humor to transfer in to see what kind of trouble he could make.
Mr. Leery was taking attendance, checking off names as students put their hands in the air as he called them. He got to her name and his voice caught a little. Ellie noticed and put her hand up slowly. He looked her over for a couple of seconds before shaking his head slightly and checking her name off.
He was everything her mother warned her about.
And no one in this industry
Understands the life I lead.
Ellie trudged alongside Pony as they made their way through the crowds to the front doors to meet Steve and Two-Bit for lunch. Algebra had been ten times better than history, except for Rick Bradley, a member of Tim Shepard's gang and Evie's younger brother, who was seated behind her and had a talent for talking shit. She would put up with it though; he was better than a classroom full of socs.
They could make out Steve's scowl between the bobbing heads of the kids in front of them, and she could hear Two-Bit's laughter over all of the other commotion. They had almost made it past the largest group of kids when Ellie was shoved roughly into Ponyboy.
"Watch it, Greaser."
She turned to find Michael, his glare boring into her. "Watch it," he hissed again.
"What was that about?" Pony asked as they neared the other guys. Ellie only shrugged.
"Look's like Ellie made a new friend, huh?" Two-Bit asked loudly, catching a look from Michael as he walked away. "That Paul Holden's little brother?"
"Yeah, I guess so," she muttered. "Can we just hurry up and get something to eat? I can't be late for another class." She pushed through the front door, desperate for fresh air after being suffocated by the pungent scent of the socs' English Leather all morning long.
"Wait, you were late to class?" Steve asked incredulously. "Little Miss Ella was late to class?" He ignored the scowl she was giving him. "Which class?"
"Take a wild guess," she suggested in a bored tone.
He started laughing, and Ellie stopped, putting her hands on her hips. "What's so funny?"
"Leery's? Of all classes, you were late to Leery's?" She continued to give him an angry glare, and he stopped laughing. "Aw, c'mon, El. It's the first day and you're a freshman. It ain't a big deal."
"No," she said, sliding into the back seat of the car, "It is a big deal when you're the only greaser in a class full of socs."
"Seriously?" Pony asked, his eyes widening a little. There weren't many greasers in their Algebra class, and he felt that was a nightmare all its own.
"Yeah," she groaned. Two-Bit had a grin as wide and bright as the sun, looking back at her through the rearview mirror. "What?"
"That sure sounds like a lot of fun," he observed.
"I knew you'd think so," she told him, perking up a little bit.
"Who's all in there?" Steve asked her, turning around and facing the backseat.
She shrugged. "I don't know. Typical socs, I guess."
"They ain't so bad when you get to know 'em, though," Two-Bit explained. "They're kinda fun when you can get a rise out of them. Last year I ran into Curly at one of the football games, and we had us a good time lettin' the air out of all their tires. You should've seen their faces when they came out after the game and all these cars couldn't go nowhere 'cause all them tires were flat!"
He started laughing so hard Steve had to grab the wheel to keep the car from skipping up onto the sidewalk.
"Two-Bit! Keep your eyes on the road," Steve shouted at him.
"Please," Ellie added. "Unless it means I don't have to go back in there today."
"Oh, El, it ain't that bad. Just don't let them get to you," Steve told her.
"Easy for you to say," she said under her breath, feeling Pony staring at her as she rested her head against the window. They had no idea.
And if I make it through today,
Will tomorrow be the same?
"How was school?" Darry asked, setting his tool belt on the coffee table. The pathetic looks both Ellie and Ponyboy gave him made him grin. "That good, huh?"
"It was all right," Pony told him unconvincingly, making eye contact with Ellie.
"Sure," Ellie replied, sarcastically. "If you like being shoved all over creation all day long."
"Ol' Will Rogers is still the same, huh?" Dally asked from his place on the couch.
Two-Bit cocked an eyebrow in Dally's direction. "When did you ever go?"
Dally grinned. "I went for a few days."
"It ain't as bad as Ellie says," Two-Bit pitched in. "I don't know why she's so mad. She made herself a new socy friend. A football player, even."
"Sure," she muttered, silently cursing him for bringing it up.
Dally eyed her carefully. "Oh yeah?"
Darry leaned on the wall separating the kitchen from the dining room. "Who is it?"
"You remember Paul Holden?" Two-Bit asked, to which he received a curt nod. "It's his little brother."
"Michael?" Darry asked, looking at Ellie whose face had turned a pale shade of red.
"That'd be him," Two-Bit confirmed. "He an' El get along real fine. It's your typical soc loves greaser, greaser loves soc kind of thing."
"'Cause such a thing exists," Pony piped up, with a little snicker.
Ellie started tossing her things into her bag, tired of the conversation. Standing, she said goodbye to Pony, and headed for the door.
"I'm headin' out," she told them. "I oughta go and rest up so I can hang out with my new socy friends tomorrow."
Two-Bit laughed and Dally stood up, following her out the door. "I'll walk ya home," he announced, nodding over his shoulder as he let the door slam behind him.
She was waiting for him by the gate and fell into step with him as he walked out of the yard and toward her house. They were quiet most of the way, not saying anything until her house came into view. Jimmy's truck was parked in the driveway. Her shoulders slumped slightly, but Dally noticed.
"Wanna take a walk?" he asked, watching the scene through the curtains.
"Yeah," she sighed. She wasn't in the mood to hear anything Jimmy had to say to her tonight.
Their neighborhood was divided a couple of blocks from her house by a little stream that cut through it. There was a little bridge that had been built up as a sort of focal point for a small garden park that had been built years ago. On nights like these, she and Dally would walk there and sometimes stay out late, waiting for her parents to go to bed.
She leaned into the rail, crossing her arms on it and resting her head in them.
"I guess that means it was a pretty rough day, huh kid?" he asked, lighting up two cigarettes. Tapping her arm, he passed it to her. She gladly accepted it, taking a long drag.
"It was all right," she replied flatly.
"What's the deal with this Holden kid?" he questioned, leaning back onto the rail beside her.
"It's nothin'," she said quickly.
She'd answered too fast and with way too much fervor in her tone. He stared at her, but she kept her eyes trained on the water trickling below them. The kid was a good liar, but it takes one to know one, and Dally was a damn good liar.
"Bullshit," he sneered.
"It ain't," she insisted, taking another long drag.
"He's messin' with you." It was a statement, not a question.
"No," she drug out. "I ran into him when I was trying to find one of my classes and all he did was call me 'grease.'" She finally looked up at him. "That's all."
"You're so full of shit," he grimaced, pointing at her arm.
She followed his finger and was surprised at the bruise that had formed there. "Fine, I got shoved into a locker, too. And 'fore you ask, I was late to my first class and Evie Bradley's brother sits behind me in Algebra. Oh, and we had lunch at the drugstore down the street from school. Anything else you want to know about my day?" she asked defensively.
"You just got an answer for everything," he observed, unconvinced. "What kinda locker did you get shoved into to make it bruise all the way around your arm like that?"
"Jesus, Dally. Just drop it," she demanded. It was all she could do to not think about what had happened. She didn't need him to keep bringing it up. If she started telling him what was going on, he would find out a lot of things she, and obviously Michael, didn't want anybody knowing.
Feigning confidence, she said, "If I wanted to fight 'bout something so pointless I would've gone home and fought with Jimmy."
He cursed her stubbornness under his breath and looked back at her again. "You better fuckin' tell one of us if anyone starts shit with you," he told her, fire spitting from every word.
"Fine," she said sharply. "I don't know why you have to make this to be such a big deal when nothing happened. Give it a rest already."
She rested her head back on the railing, wishing this conversation would just end. He did this to her all the time, always blowing things out of proportion when it came to people messing with her. He wasn't the only one though; Steve was just as bad. They acted as though she couldn't handle things that came her way, and though she would be the first to admit she needed them around, she got tired of them treating her like she was helpless.
"I'm serious, El," he told her again; talking down to her like she was stupid.
"Dal," she pleaded through an exasperated sigh. She lowered herself to the ground, hanging her legs over the edge, and resting her face in her hands. It was all she could do to not worry about Michael herself; she didn't need Dally looking over her shoulder, making things worse. "I know you are, but please just drop it."
"Yeah, whatever you say, kid," he said, pissed off.
They were quiet for a few minutes, letting the fight settle as the night wore on. He nudged her leg with his boot and she looked up at him.
"What?" she asked, the edge still riding on her tone, though wearing thin.
"Let's go," he said, reaching a hand out and pulling her roughly to her feet.
They walked back to her house in silence. He was still angry with her, but she wasn't willing to do anything to change that. There were too many people that went out of their way to not piss him off, but she rarely did. He could be mad; she didn't care. He wouldn't, however, knock her head off of her shoulders for mouthing off to him, so she guessed she understood.
"Guess I'm climbin' through the window tonight," she sighed.
"Guess so," he replied, walking over and sliding the window open for her.
Light was still beaming through the front windows of her house, a lone shadow moving about behind the curtains. He wasn't so bad, most of the time, but there had been nights she would come home and be drug into the middle of some huge fight between her mother and Jimmy. It almost always involved him being so lazy and drinking their money away. He was one of the reasons Ellie got a job when she did. It kept her mother from having to support all three of them on her own.
He had never hurt her, but Ellie was afraid he would at some point. He had an explosive temper, and he liked the bottle a little too much. Jimmy already hated her enough to talk shit to her, and she was just waiting for the day he felt enough like a father to her to justify slapping her around. So for that, she kept climbing in and out of her bedroom window, avoiding him as much as she possibly could.
She hoisted herself up, and Dally steadied her when she lost her balance and almost sprawled through headfirst.
"Christ, you're so fuckin' graceful," he mocked as she stumbled through the rest of the way.
"Thanks," she grumbled. He had a stupid, smug grin on his face that caused a smile to tug at her lips.
"I'll see you tomorrow, Miss Priss." He gave a quick tug on her hair as he turned to leave. "An' if anyone messes with you tomorrow, I'll beat the shit out of 'em."
"Right," she said softly as she slid the window closed.
Falling backwards onto her bed, she rested her arms over her face, soon trading those for a pillow as Jimmy started up again. It was the perfect ending to a lousy day, and Ellie wished she would suffocate under the pillow so she didn't have to go to school the next morning.
And if I stumble and I fall,
Should I get up and carry on?
Will it all just be the same,
'Cause I'm young and I'm hopeless?