Ellie returns to school after being jumped. Annoyed by the silence, Ellie wishes someone would make a 'greaser' joke, until that silence cracks.
I don't feel myself today
Just a figure in a big monopoly game
Struggle is the price you pay
You get just enough just to give it away.
Two-Bit was true to his word and dragged her all over town Friday. Of course the first place he wanted to go was the last place Ellie had wanted to be. She slowed to a near halt as they started through the door of the Dingo. Hearing the bell ring, the everyone seemed to look their way. All eyes landed heavily on the greaser girl that had been jumped about a week earlier. Ellie's feet felt cemented to the floor.
"Go on, kiddo," he said, giving her a gentle nudge across the threshold. "Find us a booth, and I'll get us some food."
Ellie walked slowly down the aisle between the rows of booths, falling into one tiredly as the eyes seemed to follow her. She felt a plunk on the bench beside her and looked up to find Curly grinning at her.
"Hi, Curly," she mumbled.
"See you got your stitches out," he observed, actually pointing at her face. "That scar's pretty tough."
"Sure," she muttered, yanking a napkin from the dispenser and carefully shredding it. She saw Two-Bit watching from the counter where he was placing his order. She willed him to hurry up so they could eat and get out of there, but she knew it was never that easy with him.
"You comin' back to school on Monday?" he asked, scooting a little closer to her; closer than she preferred.
"Yeah," she replied. Giving him a sideways glance she asked, "Are you actually going to school on Monday?"
He gave her another grin. "Might if you're gonna be there."
She suppressed a groan and continued to build her pile of napkin shreds.
"There a problem here?"
She looked up to find Two-Bit nearing the table carrying a tray overflowing with food and drinks.
"No problem, man," Curly replied, sitting uncomfortably close to Ellie.
"Then we'll see you later, huh, Shepard?" he suggested, sliding into the booth across from them.
With a glare in Two-Bit's direction, Curly stood up and winked at Ellie. "See ya Monday, El."
She gave him a weak smile in return. The kid never seemed to get a clue, but at least he was impressed by her scar, not mortified by it like she was.
As she furrowed her brow at the gargantuan amounts of food Two-Bit was passing to her, she couldn't help but notice his grin. "What?"
"Man, Curly's got somethin' for you," he laughed through a mouthful of fries.
"Curly has a thing for every girl," she corrected.
Two-Bit shrugged. "At least you got another greaser lookin' out for you. It'll make mine and Steve's jobs easier next week," he added with a wink.
He noticed her face fall as she chewed thoughtfully on her hamburger. "You ain't gonna have any problems next week, kid. You're a big star nowadays," he added.
She tried to hide the smile that played on her lips when he said that, but she couldn't, and he could see it.
"I don't even want to know what you told everybody," she said.
"It was good stuff, I promise, El," he replied, taking another gulp of his Pepsi. "Just tellin' everybody how tuff you are. And it seems to be working, too," he nodded over her shoulder. "All of Shepard's boys seem to eyein' you pretty good right now."
"Sure, all of them," she groaned as she resisted the urge to look over her shoulder.
"Don't sweat it, Ellie," he assured her. "As close as us and their gang is, you'll have your own army when you go back to Will Rogers."
"Are we feedin' the army?" she asked, smiling back at him.
"Nah," he replied, offering her a fistful of fries which she pushed away with a laugh, "We gotta get your strength up for Monday."
She didn't realize just how right he was.
I'm sinking but I'm floating away
Throw me a line so I can anchor my pain.
Ellie had been back to school for three days. Things hadn't been quite as bad as she had expected, but she was positive that any whispering she happened to walk by had something to do with her even though she was never sure. Everyone seemed to look away every time she came in sight, but she could feel their eyes drilling into her back as she walked away. Curly and Two-Bit were right; everybody did seem to know who she was now.
Her entrance into Mr. Leery's class was the thing she had dreaded most over the weekend. Her mother had arranged for her teachers to send her homework to the principal's office, and Ponyboy had been a big help by gathering it for her and bringing it home. Leery was already so impatient with her, she couldn't imagine how irritated he would be if she were late with a week's worth of homework.
Stepping through the doorway Monday morning, with time to spare before the bell rang, Ellie tried to ignore the fact that everyone went deathly silent. Leery noticed, raising his eyes from his notes for the day and looking out over the classroom. Ellie pulled the small stack of papers from her folder and placed them neatly on his desk.
"What's this, Miss O'Hare?" he asked. His voice was softer than it typically was, and that irritated her. Leery wasn't a person she wanted sympathy from, not after the way they had butted heads the whole year.
"My homework," she said, her tone clipped.
Mr. Leery pulled his signature move, peering at her over the rim of his glasses. "You still have a week to finish these, Ellie. The number of days you're out are the number of days you have to make up schoolwork."
"Well, I finished it early, then," she replied, turning to face her classmates and head for her seat. Only a few socs were brave enough to actually stare at her, while everyone else stayed silent, watching their desks. That irritated her, too, but she kept her head held high, her hair hanging casually around her shoulders instead of the ponytail she typically wore.
The silence continued for two more days. By the time Wednesday rolled around, she hadn't wanted someone to make a greaser joke more in all her life. But if she knew how it was going to end up, she would have wished for the silence instead.
Things keep coming and I keep wondering
I start feeling the walls close in.
"Leery's class still going lousy?" Pony asked on Wednesday afternoon, as he and Ellie made their way through the gathering lunch crowds in the cafeteria. Two-Bit and Steve were leaning on the wall on the opposite side of the room, waiting for them so they could head out the side door and so they could go and meet Dally and Johnny at Jay's.
"Yeah," she muttered, trying to balance her English books and keep her bag on her shoulder at the same time. "I figure they'll get tired of being quiet after a while, and it'll be back to normal 'fore long."
She noticed the large crowd of socs they were walking through and kept her head down, staring only at a small area in front of her feet, careful to keep her hair in her face covering her scar. She heard a few socs joking around near her, before one was shoved roughly into her, sending a couple of her books flying.
"Oh, sor-" the soc started to apologize before he looked over and found who it was he ran into. She made the mistake of making eye contact, recognizing the boy as one of Michael's friends that had come into the store the night he jumped her. Glancing past him, she noticed Michael standing not too far away from him, a smirk on his proud, hateful face.
"Well, if it isn't a pretty little greaser girl?" the boy said. Ellie thought his name was David or something similar, not that it made any difference to her. He may as well have been Michael.
He and another soc stepped in front of Ellie and Pony, blocking them between a set of tables as Pony grabbed her arm to pull her away. She raised her chin slightly, only to get an idea of where she was standing and how they could possibly escape. She just hoped like hell that Steve and Two-Bit hadn't gotten tired of waiting on them and decided to meet them at the car.
She watched as Michael picked up her English book that had been knocked out of her arms. Looking at the title, he chuckled before holding it up to his friends gathered behind him. He tossed it back in their direction and Pony caught it before it could hit her arm. "How interesting. Reading a little Frankenstein in honor of Halloween?" he smirked.
David seemed to sense where Michael's comment was headed, and he piped down as the kid standing next to him started up. The taller, tow-headed boy laughed as he reached over and flicked her hair out of her face before she even had a chance to react. "Wait a minute, guys," he said, playing to the crowd that had grown around them. "We got our own Frankenstein right here. What's the scar from, Grease?"
Pony stepped in front of her, trying to shield her from the onslaught of laughter and cruel remarks, but it was too late, Ellie could feel the blood rushing to her face and tried to control the trembling that seemed to have taken over her entire body. It was useless though; the books lying in her arms were visibly shaking. All the time she had spent trying to convince herself these guys didn't matter had been wasted. She couldn't convice herself that she hadn't been scared that night. Not when she faced with it all over again.
Things keep coming and I keep stumbling
I start feeling I'm strong enough to break.
"What's goin' on here, boys?" came a cocky, interested voice.
In all her life, Ellie had never been so happy to hear Two-Bit's voice.
"Get lost, Mathews," demanded the soc that towered next to David.
"Hey, relax...Richard," Two-Bit replied, reading his name off of his Varsity jacket. "Say, Rich, how's your sister doin'?" He gave Richard a big smile.
Richard narrowed his eyes. "What?"
Two-Bit shrugged, keeping the smile on his face. "I was jus' wonderin'. I ain't seen her since our date at the Dingo this weekend."
He narrowed his eyes at Two-Bit. "My sister wouldn't date trash like you."
Two-Bit simply grinned. He leaned closer to Richard, as if to let him in on a little secret, but his voice still boomed, carrying over the lunch hour din as he replied, "Ain't what she told me in the backseat of my car Saturday night."
Richard grabbed Two-Bit by his collar, ready to punch him. However, Steve was faster and grabbed Richard's collar, pulling him away from Two-Bit as roughly as he could.
"I wouldn't if I were you," Steve suggested before shoving him back into his friends, sending a few of them back into the table behind them.
David and Richard were in Steve and Two-Bit's faces in no time with Michael behind them, ready to jump in at any given chance. Pony had his hand on Ellie's back, trying to lead her out of the fight. He could feel her shaking violently, and he tightened his grip on her shoulder as they made it to the edge of the crowd. Once outside the herd of boys, he spotted Curly and Slick Rick Bradley making their way into the ring to join the fight. Curly spotted Ellie and gave her a wink before shoving a few other socs out of the way.
Pony groaned to himself as he saw that the huge gang of boys, both socs and greasers, had multipled in only a matter of minutes.
"What's goin' on here?" boomed a voice over the shouting boys.
The gym teacher, Coach Newsome, stood towering behind the group of teenagers. "You boys better not be fightin'." While it should have been a statement for the entire group, he was staring daggers at Two-Bit and Steve who were right in the middle of the ruckus.
"I don't know, Coach," Richard said, plastering a look of innocence on his face as he straightend his jacket "You'd have to ask these fellas over here."
Two-Bit couldn't help but mock Richard's sudden change in tone. "Golly, Coach, we were just tryin' to have a nice lunch with these fine, upstanding young men-"
"That's enough, Mathews," he barked. He studied him for a moment. "Aren't you supposed to be suspended?"
He gave him a toothy grin. "No, sir," he replied. "That was last week."
Newsome shook his head in disgust. "Get outta here, all of you," he demanded, speaking only to the greasers that were present.
Two-Bit bowed his head slightly to David, Michael and Richard before walking away. "Nice seein' you boys again. We'll have to catch up sometime."
Newsome seemed satisfied with their exit as the other greasers slowly backed off too. He turned back in the direction of the gym, looking anxious to get back there quickly. Word around school was that he had been guarding the sports equipment like a hawk.
Michael clapped Richard on the back once Newsome was out of earshot and said loud enough for Steve and Two-Bit to hear, "'Frankenstein?' Good one, Rich."
"It was too easy," Richard replied, smirking at the back of Steve and Two-Bit's heads as they walked away.
Two-Bit turned quickly on his heel, meeting their cold stares and itching to whip out his switch and teach them a lesson about messing with his friends. "Y'all ain't got nothin' better to do then mess with a greaser girl?" he spat. "And here all along, I thought you was all big, tough football players."
"Nah, they're just a bunch of pussies. Can't pick a fight with somebody their own size," Steve added, pushing Two-Bit along and scanning the cafeteria for Ellie and Pony. He finally spotted them standing near the side door, her back to the scene.
"You all right?" Two-Bit asked when they finally reached them.
She shrugged as she tried to hold her head high. "Can we just get outta here?"
"Yeah," Steve said, looking at Ponyboy. He and Two-Bit had only seen the commotion; they hadn't heard any thing that had started the fight. Standing slightly behind Ellie, Pony held up the book for Steve to read the title. Even without Pony pointing subtly to his cheek, Steve put two and two together.
Wrapping an arm around Ellie's shoulders, he could feel her shaking like a leaf. As he led her out the doors, he swore he felt shoulders shake a little harder, and he wondered if she was crying. Two-Bit grabbed a couple of her books from her hands and sauntered alongside them.
Ponyboy glanced back at the cafeteria, seeing everyone sitting at their tables. Michael was laughing with his buddies like nothing had happened, and Pony paused at the door, wondering if he was laughing at Ellie's expense or if they had already moved on to tormenting someone else. Studying him from the doorway, he wondered just how much it hurt her that Michael was her cousin. She had never let on about it before, not even when she had told him could he tell what she was really feeling. She hid it well, but he knew that it would have been much easier to shrug off if he were just some anonymous soc like Richard. Maybe then it wouldn't have mattered so much.
Jogging outside to catch up with the others, he realized why Ellie was so hellbent on keeping that knowledge from everyone else. The boys wouldn't take kindly to that and they were already high strung as it was when it came to socs. They didn't need another reason to look for a fight, and Ellie knew that and that was why she would never tell the rest of them.
The fabric is about to fray
Maybe you could take
A look at yourself lately.
A/N: Thanks for catching the Rusty's error, Jen! You get extra ninja frosting this week.