I don't think that I've ever been so thrilled over something like this before in my entire life! Darry actually said yes! Yes! For the first time ever since our parents passed away, Darry, Soda, and I were leaving Tulsa with the gang. Finally, we would all be able to spend some time together without somebody knowing Dallas like the back of their hand after resting their eyes on him, or without worrying over some rumble approaching with 'em Socs. We were all heading to Kansas, traveling away from all of these robberies, shootings, fights, and vandalisms in our dangerous home town so we could savior our winter break in a tuff and cozy lodge.
The County Lodge...I couldn't help myself to overhear some of my classmates going on and on about how fantastic it was while I was busy working on some leftover homework in study hall. Though I still wonder something...why did The County Lodge's name seem to bring a tingle to me? It's as if I heard about it someplace else before, and I hope that I wasn't the only one who felt atleast a tiny bit suspicious all of the sudden. Unfortunately, Soda definitely wasn't helping me there. Ever since Darry told us to get on upstairs and back our bags because we were heading off to Kanas tonight, Soda had seemed to take his extremely hyper personality to a whole new level.
I had already finished up my packing, so I just sat crossed-legged on mine and Soda's bed with my black duffle bag all packed up and resting next to me. My bluish/grayish eyes were following Sodapop as he excitedly skipped around our bedroom to snatch up everything that he wanted to take with us to Kansas.
His hair grease? Check...obviously, you can't be a full greaser without your hair grease, no matter where you are.
His first ever switchblade? Check...Darry got him it on his sixteenth birthday to apologize for not allowing us to have a dog or motorcycles.
His "lucky" comb? Check...he believed that it was lucky because he was combing his hair with it when his eyes laid on a grinning Sandy for the first time ever.
His DX cap? Check...he loved his job too much to leave it behind.
Half of his clothes on his side of our closet? Extremely check.
I swear, he cleaned out pretty much his whole side of the closet without caring to gaze at what shirt or pair of pants he snatched up. Knowing Soda, all of his clothes were going to be completely wrinkled, covered with different kinds of stains, and some were even going to be ripped all throughout the winter break. I've seen his laundry and I had no idea how he could ruin such a perfectly clean piece of clothing in less than five minutes.
That wide, happy-go-lucky grin of his was plastered straight on his movie-star face as he gleefully skipped back over to where I was sitting. Then without any sign of care, he dropped all of his clothes into his suitcase. Still remaining quiet, I watched with my eyes now wide, and Soda began his useless attempts at pressing down his huge pile of clothes so he could latch his suitcase shut. It looked like to me that Soda and his suitcase were in a wrestling match and the suitcase was winning. No matter how many times Soda tried to crush his suitcase down in order to latch it, his gigantic pile of clothes refused to let him. Now it felt as if the clothes were winning against Pepsi-Cola, too.
"Hey, Soda?" I finally broke the silence, my voice soft and full of concern like Johnny's would be if he was wondering about something. No matter how many times I've attempted letting it go, I couldn't stop wondering about how The County Lodge sounded very familiar. Other than school, I just knew that I heard it from someplace else, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. That was honestly driving me insane.
Soda's dark brown eyes met me, but he wouldn't stop moving his bare feet against the floor without getting anywhere as he leaned on his side heavily, pressing himself against his suitcase. He was still struggling to close it, but I acted as if that wasn't happening.
"Yeah, Ponyboy?" By the tone of his voice, you could instantly tell that it was obvious that he was putting all of his strength down onto his suitcase. His face was beginning to even go a little red, which would've made me laugh atleast a little bit if I wasn't lost in thinking about The County Lodge's name.
As if I was concentrating hard on one of my tests, I rested my head in my non-writing hand's open palm and rolled my eyes around a little to myself. I then bit down on my bottom lip and nibbled on it for a moment or two, leaving Soda to continue his "wrestling match" with his suitcase.
No matter how many times The County Lodge seemed to ring in my ears and echo throughout my head, I just couldn't remember where I heard it from in the first place. For me, that's actually very strange and rare, because other than my nightmares, I pretty much have a long memory when it comes to everything else.
Finally, I decided to talk again. "Is it just me, or does The County Lodge sound very familiar? I mean, I know we've never been there or anythin' like that, but it just sounds like I've heard it from someplace else other than my school."
Soda froze up, no longer forcing all of his weight down on his suitcase, and he turned his head back in my direction. His soft eyes that usually always swarming with everlasting life and absolute cheer were now pooling up with a mixture of concern and confusion. It was as if he was silently debating with himself, wondering hard about if he should believe me or not.
"What are you talking about, Pony?" Sodapop confusedly scratched the back of his head and shrugged.
"I could've sworn that I heard of The County Lodge before my classmates started gossiping about how fantastic it was. Though, I'm having a pretty hard time remembering where I last heard of it." I explained, allowing every word to be full of my confusion.
"Oh, Pony," Soda's debating facial expression flashed back into his world-famous smile, and his brown eyes lit up, as if they were never gleaming off confusion and concern. "I'm sure that you're only mistaking. Like you said, this is the first time we're going to The County Lodge, and let's not forget to mention that this is our first vacation ever since our parents passed away. There's no other possible way that we could know 'bout it."
Usually hearing Sodapop's assuring words and cheerful voice would wash away my uncertainty about anything in a single heartbeat. However, this surprisingly wasn't one of those cases. I couldn't stop feeling this tingle inside of me, giving me this sort of sick feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I just thought about The County Lodge. I mean, I was still excited about gettin' out of Tulsa for awhile and spending more time with the gang elsewhere...but why couldn't I stop telling myself that I did know The County Lodge from someplace else?
I began to confusedly stutter, and I shook my head. "I-I don't think so, Soda. S-Somethin' just doesn't seem right to me. It's as if The County Lodge has a s-secret to it since I just know by heart t-that I have heard about it b-before I overheard my peers in study hall."
"Ponyboy," Soda snickered a little and playfully ruffled up my hair, right before he started to go back to his mini rumble with his suitcase. "You're probably just nervous because this is our official first ever vacation without our parents, and we're leavin' our home town, and we're bringing our knucklehead friends along."
I bit down on my bottom lip again and hesitated, taking in and heavily digesting every one of Soda's words. I felt as if I was getting yanked into two separate parts in a vicious game of tug-a-war. One half of me wanted to believe him without a doubt, like I always did whenever he would tell me something. However, the other half of me was still stuck sinking hard like a rock, trying to cope with this sudden illness that was in the pit of my stomach. But Soda was never wrong about any direction that he steered me in, whether it was with Darry's help or not. He wouldn't start steering me wrong now, right?
I shrugged, going back to watching Pepsi-Cola trying to shut his refusing suitcase. "Well...I guess that it is a possibility that I am a little bit nervous..."
"Well, there is no need to be, baby brother. I promise you that this will be thee best first ever vacation in the history of first ever vacations!" Soda assured in the most excited and hyper tone that I could've sworn I've ever heard fly out of his mouth.
A grin found its way across my face, but my stomach still refused to get rid of the sour knot that only seemed to be tightening by the minute.
I continued to watch Soda's suitcase refuse to shut, no matter how much strength he put into his forces. Finally, about after fifteen or so seconds, Soda stopped his pushing and turned his attention back over to me.
He then took in a deep, but soft breath and held it in for a few seconds. After that, he puffed his bangs out from dangling in front of his eyes, forming yet another one of his handsome grins and offering me it afterwards.
"Hey, Pony?" He breathed.
I playfully attempted to raise an eyebrow, acting as if I didn't know what he was going to say. "Yeah, Soda?"
"Would you mind helping me close my suitcase? It's being awfully stubborn and not cooperating with me at all."
No matter how much I tried not to laugh, I couldn't help myself to do so. I ended up laughing so much that I could only nod my head in response, and Soda attempted to look stern, but he cracked after no less than five seconds. He playfully smirked at me and shook his head, right before he jokingly punched me in the arm.
The two of us ended up positioning ourselves so we were sitting directly on top of the suitcase, our backs resting against each other. However, when that didn't fully work as Soda planned, we ended up bouncing ourselves a little up and down so we could crush his "small" pile of clothes down once and for all. Much to Soda's and my relief then, we were finally able to successfully shut up the suitcase, and Soda latched it shut.
I crossed my eyes over my chest and formed a small smirk. "You know, Soda, this would've been a whole lot easier if you had decided to pack less and if you actually folded your clothes like Darry and I." I smartly informed him in a joking as-a-matter-of-fact voice.
In return, Soda raised an eyebrow and kept his voice to himself, but when he didn't think that I would see it coming, he grabbed and placed me in a headlock. I couldn't help myself to laugh all over again as he jokingly ruffled up my hair some more, and he said to me: "Nah, let's not get crazy, Ponyboy. That's too much work and I'm too excited to actually take my time!"
Lost in mine and Soda's brotherly bonding, my excitement for this vacation didn't wait to begin expanding, and it eagerly took over one half of me. Unfortunately, that had my leftover half with my uncertainty towards The County Lodge growing more intense along the side. I bet that others always think things like that first vacations are always the best, right?...Wrong...
All right, all of the bills were paid, my luggage for Kansas was all packed, and I had just finished calling The County Lodge and making reservations for my kid brothers, myself, and the gang. Like I suspected, The County Lodge was an expensive place to go for a vacation, but I didn't was to disappoint Ponyboy and Soda after they got all riled up with complete joy and excitement towards my approval. That, and the rest of the gang had already left by my orders to go get their things all packed up.
With the remains of my money, along with Ponyboy and Soda's paychecks, I was able to afford renting four of The County Lodge's rooms for the whole winter break. By what the man over the phone told me, there were two double-beds in each room, so that meant some of the gang will have more roommates than others. Actually, that's what I was now busy working out on.
At the kitchen table, I was plotting out on a scrap sheet of paper who was bunking with who throughout our winter break away from Tulsa. Believe it or not, it wasn't as easy as it may sound since not everybody from the gang got along 24/7, but however I decided the rooming arrangements, that's what they were going to be. No arguments, no disagreements, no nothing like that.
Suddenly, I could hear the sound of the front door flying open, followed by the sound of the chilly wind whistling all around. I confusedly raised an eyebrow and turned my attention towards the arch doorway as a loud BANG was heard, meaning that the door slammed shut.
"Hey, Curtis'!" The sound of Two-Bit's voice howled as he came strolling into the kitchen, holding a brown duffle bag in one of his hands. On his face, he was wearing one of his large, goofy smiles, and his eyes were glowing with pleasure. "Hey, Superman. Where are Ponyboy and Soda at already?"
My eyebrow remained confusedly cocked, studying Two-Bit from the bottom of his waterproof boots, to the top of his head, which he was covering up with a Mickey Mouse wool hat.
"They're still upstairs. How in the heck did you pack your things so fast for our winter break vacation away from Tulsa?" I questioned.
Still grinning his cheesy smile, Two-Bit decided to hand his brown duffle bag over to me. My eyes concernedly narrowed, but I went ahead and grabbed the straps anyway. When Two-Bit took his hands away, I could feel how light his luggage was. It hardly even felt like anything was packed up for him at all.
"Two-Bit," I firmly spoke. "Did you even pack anything in here?"
At my stern language, Two-Bit released his loud laughter. "Superman, aren't you forgetting who you're talkin' to? I don't mind wearing the same pairs of clothes more than once!"
I rolled my eyes and actually threw Two-Bit's stuff back into his arms, not being completely rough, but I wasn't being gentle. "See, Two-Bit, this is why I'm glad that I'm not bunking with you."
The eighteen-year-old boy instantly faked a pout and let out a over dramatic gasp. "Superman, how could you? I thought you loved me!"
"Can it, Two-Bit!" I hissed and went back to studying everything that I had wrote down on the piece of scrap paper.
Again, Two-Bit allowed his echoing laughter to burst out of his system, which had me rolling my eyes again.
"Say, Superman, what are you workin' on?" Two-Bit began to stare directly over my shoulder after he sat his duffle bag down on one of the other chairs.
"The rooming schedule," I flatly replied, right before I turned my head to look into Two-Bit's eyes. Then, without waiting a single moment, I shrugged his head away. "Have you ever heard of personal space, Two-Bit?"
The wisecracker just flashed his goofy smirk at me as he rose his hands up to his shoulders, backing away from me until he was standing beside the fridge. Without asking for about the billionth time, Two-Bit didn't wait to pull himself out a bottle of beer, and I was fighting a new forming headache the best that I could without possibly unleashing my temper.
"I'm guessing you made our reservations then, huh?" Two-Bit asked as he pulled out another chair and plopped himself down beside me, but not without picking up his feet and placing them on top of the table.
"Of course I made the reservations," I closed my eyes and pinched the bridge of my nose. "Now you'd best get your feet off from the table before you lose your opportunity to use them ever again!"
Instantly, Two-Bit swiped his feet away and allowed them to be placed where they were supposed to be. Though, his wide and cheesy grin remained on his face. Sometimes I felt like he just enjoyed bugging me and the others half of the time.
"You said that you were workin' on our bunking schedule, right?" questioned Two-Bit. I decided to only nod my head. "Well, I know already that you're not goin' to be my roommate. Who'll be mine then?"
I took in a deep breath and held it in for a couple of seconds before letting it out. "Well, since not everyone from the gang gets along all the time, this wasn't as easy as it may look or sound. Though, what I have down now will have to do. I got four rooms, two double-beds in each, and since not everyone from the gang is the same age, I've decided that everybody must be bunked with someone else that's older. Some of us will have more roommates than others, but everything will work out."
Two-Bit confusedly raised an eyebrow at me. "Uh...you never answered my question, Superman. Who will be my bunk buddy?"
I ran my hands through my hair and quietly sighed to myself, clearly getting more annoyed by the minute.
"You'll be sharing a room with Steve, Two-Bit." I flatly answered him, and his eyes sparkled up with that playful look of deviousness. Knowing Two-Bit, I could tell that he was probably going to be joking around with Steve all throughout winter break. For the first actual time, I actually felt sorry for Steve.
"Wait a minute," Two-Bit suddenly looked confused all over again. "I thought that Pepsi-Cola would be rooming with his grease monkey buddy."
I annoyingly narrowed my eyes at Two-Bit, thinking about the strange nickname that he had randomly picked out for Steve. I hesitated, not knowing what to say about it, but I sooner decided to just shake my head and let it go.
"Since Ponyboy's nightmares aren't showing any signs of going away anytime soon, he'll need me and Soda more than anything throughout our nights in Kansas. As for Johnny, he and Dally will be sharing a room, along with Cassidy and Jocelyn since they're too young to leave their older brother's side. Unfortunately, that leaves over only Kitten and Vinny to room together." I explained the whole rooming schedule.
"Don't Vinny and Kitten still hate each other?" Two-Bit confusedly raised his shoulders.
I nodded. "Very much, but I'm afraid that that's the best that I can do. There aren't any other girls in our gang to come on this trip and they obviously can't room with any of us. If Cassidy and Jocelyn weren't so young, I'd have them bunking with the two of 'em also, but they can't leave Johnnycake."
Two-Bit understandingly nodded his head and popped open "his" new bottle of beer. "Well, we can only hope for the best with 'em badass girls. If they survive the news about having to bunk together, atleast we'll know that they're trying not to murder each other...not in front of us, I mean."
"That ain't funny, Two-Bit!" I hissed, but that didn't stop him from laughing out loud all over again. I rubbed the sides of my head and released a deep, but soft breath to help myself continue to bite back on my temper.
I never really understood why Vinny and Kitten didn't get along so much. There were times where everybody in the gang had trouble getting along with someone else, but Kitten and Vinny were a different story. They couldn't even be in the same room together without flashing each other a glare or cursing under their breath about each other. Dally and Kitten got along on and off, but she and Dally's own kid sister hated each other completely.
"You excited to be drivin' all of us to Kansas, Superman?" Two-Bit suddenly asked after his laughter died down a little.
"Oh, yes, I'm just thrilled..." I joked with complete sarcasm, annoyingly grinding my teeth some when speaking.
"Superman, it won't be that bad! Just think 'bout how fun it'll be for me to provide the music with my extremely talented voice!"
I've heard Two-Bit sing before...and let's just say that I'd rather hear tire tracks screeching down some road.
"Hey, Two-Bit, I have a better idea...how about you take a handful of sleeping pills before we go, and I'll have somebody wake you up when we get there." The tone of my voice and my facial expression were drop-dead serious, but I was honestly kidding around on the inside. Two-Bit knew that too, but that didn't stop him from acting stern and crossing his arms over his chest, sticking his tongue out at me shortly afterwards. It was as if he was some child that was just put in a timeout.
I seriously wish that the gang and myself knew about how dangerous our first ever vacation was going to turn out...
As the hours passed, each second feeling as if it was a complete eternity in the Curtis' brothers eyes, the clock finally struck 8:00 P.M. The rest of the gang had arrived back at the Curtis' residents with their luggage all packed up in different bags and suitcases. Poor Johnny, Jocelyn, and Cassidy had to put their luggage in black garbage bags since their abusive alcoholic and drug-addict parents refused to ever "buy" anything other than clothes for them.
With no other options of transportation expect Darry's truck, the greasers knew that they would have to be pretty squished together for awhile, but they knew that they had no other choice but to make it work.
"All right," Darry announced, scanning the gang as they each stood in the freezing backyard, bundled up in their winter clothing and holding their luggage. "It's time to get this show on the road to Kansas. Just put all of your belongings in the trunk and hop in. The faster we get a move on, the faster we'll get there."
Understandingly, everybody, except Dally, nodded their heads and began to settle all of their luggage in the trunk of Darry's red truck, while the eldest Curtis jumped into the driver's seat and started the engine.
"Hey, Johnnycake," Dally hid a smirk from his face as he put his cigarette out, not needing to step on the ashes since the snow put it out right when it hit the ground. "Let me give you a hand there."
Johnny was having a difficult time trying to carry both his and Jocelyn's garbage bags in one hand, while he actually carried her in the other. So, Dally simply slid his duffle bag up his arm so the straps would rest around his shoulder. After that, he took Jocelyn and Johnny's luggage from the oldest Cade, leaving him to just have to worry about carrying his youngest baby sister.
Relieved, Johnny released a small sigh and nodded, grinning a little. "Thanks, Dal."
Coolly, Dally simply shrugged and packed away his duffle bag, along with Jocelyn and Johnny's garbage bags in the trunk of Darry's truck.
"Are we all ready to go?" asked Darry with curiousness dazzling in his eyes shortly after everyone had packed up tightly in the backseat of his truck. He held back a tiny smile at the sight of everybody all squished up, minus Dally, who was sitting in the passenger's seat since he and Darry were going to take turns driving for the long eleven or so hours.
"Darry, Steve keeps poking me in the rib!" Two-Bit complained in a completely childish tone.
Steve rolled his eyes, obviously irritated already. "It's called breathing, Two-Bit!"
"Hey, wait a minute..." Ponyboy spoke up with absolute confusion and feeling his winter jacket's pocket. "My wallet is gone! Who took it? I had it with me when I climbed in here!"
Two-Bit began to roll his eyes all around, and the youngest Curtis instantly shot him a glare.
"Two-Bit!" Ponyboy angrily whaled.
"All right, fine! Here's your wallet back!" Two-Bit brought out the youngest Curtis' wallet and tossed it to him, leaving Ponyboy to open it up and check to see if any of his money was missing.
"This is going to be a long ride..." Darry quietly muttered to himself under his breath, right before he fixed the radio so some Elvis tunes could be played. After that, he backed his truck out from the driveway and took off, beginning their journey to Kansas.
However, nobody knew what gigantic trouble that they were just leading themselves into...