No matter how much I tried letting it go, I was still fed up about last night. I couldn't stop quietly crying to myself for what felt like hours, until I felt Johnny's arms securely wrap around me and hold me close to him. How could my own brother and one of my best friends not believe me? Do they think that I was kidding around with them? Or worse, lying? I would never lie about anything this serious! I know exactly what I saw, and what I saw with my own eyes was that same exact shadowy figure from the road! Their eyes still haunted me...beating red, probably eyes given to him or her from the devil. Glowing with dread, narrowed with rage...all for what I could tell was a warning. But why was this shadowy figure stalking the gang and I? What did we do to deserve her or him on our tails, especially on our first ever vacation together? We were supposed to be escaping all of the fear and drama, but it's as if this dark figure knew to come and target us. What did they want with me and the rest of the gang?
The feasting hall looked as if it belonged to royalty. It was a gigantic room, crystal like lights dangling from the ceiling with other fancy paintings hanging from the four walls that were painted to look like a log cabin's wooden walls. As for the floor, it was different shades of silver stone, and all of the tables were rectangular with patted chairs surrounding each side.
"Oh please, Jocelyn, not now..." Johnny sighed as he gently pressed our baby sister's head down to rest on his shoulder. She was whimpering like a little puppy that was stuck on a leash, and she was slapping her little hands up and down on Johnny's jean jacket. Her big brown eyes were also now clamped shut, and tears were beginning to shed down her adorable tan face. Ever since Johnnycake, Dallas, and I made it into the feasting hall, Jocelyn seemed to change out of the blue.
I pouted a little, and I began to stroke Jocelyn's jet-black, silky, bouncy curls with my fingertips in order to help Johnnycake calm her down. Usually in the morning, Jocelyn through small fussy fits, mainly over the fact that when she wakes up, she's eager for her bottle. The only other times she spurts out into a fussy fit is when she needs a diaper change, or she's been waken up.
"Looks like someone is hungry," Dally pointed out, snickering some as he wagged one of his pointer fingers playfully in the seven-month-old's bright red face.
Johnny slimly nodded and patted Jocelyn's back. "Yeah, she wants her bottle all right."
When the word 'hungry' came out of Dally's mouth in the first place, Jocelyn's beautiful eyes popped back open like her little life depended on it. Cutely, she battered them as they continued to pool up with a countless amount of salty tears, and her little puppy whimpers began to fade into small sniffles. It wasn't long before she noticed Dally's finger, and she kept watching it playfully wiggle in her face.
"You hungry there, baby Cade?" asked Dally with a joking tone.
Jocelyn's little mouth dropped open, and when she got the chance, she locked her small lips around Dally's finger. Adorably, she closed her eyes again and then began to suck, relaxing her head back down on Johnny's shoulder.
"...I'm guessing that that's a yes." I could tell that Dally was trying his hardest not to crack any tiny smirk, but he was failing miserably. He wanted to make sure that nobody else in the gang noticed in seeming soft, considering that the rest of the gang was already sitting at one huge table together, snaking down their breakfast. As for the bubbly Utopia, the owner Mr. Roberts, the sensitive Faith, and the somewhat awkward Jill, they were sitting at a different table together. Strangely, the vampire looking Ashton wasn't anywhere in sight, and there was this new guy whom I haven't met sitting all by himself, covering his head with his green hoodie and poking at his plate on food instead of eating any of it.
I playfully rolled my eyes at Dally's softness, despite me trying not to, and Johnny quietly chuckled at the twinkle of kindness that sparked up in Dally's eyes. Since Dallas Christopher Winston was the roughest and most illegal male greaser in all of Tulsa, he wanted to make sure that he retained his badass rep at any cost.
Suddenly, Dally's eyes drowned in bitterness as he narrowed them, and he gazed back and forth from me to Johnnycake with a new stern look. "You two do realize that if you dare tell anyone about this, I can kick your butts into the next generation, right?"
Johnny's dark eyes grew big a little, and he seemed to pale, but all I did was roll my eyes and hide a smirk from my face. Dally would never lay a hurtful finger on either me, Jocelyn, or Johnny, whether he got angry or annoyed with us or not.
"Yeah, whatever you say, Dal." I choked back my snickers and crossed my arms over the center of my stomach after hearing it grumble. Golly, I was eager for breakfast...and the mixed scents of crispy bacon, fluffy pancakes, French toast, sugary syrup, and perfectly good eggs weren't helping my appetite. I bet Darry was glad to be able to sit back and relax instead of having to deal with cooking himself, or watching over Soda's shoulder when he was taking the oven for a spin. Though I must admit, it'll feel pretty strange to not have any chocolate cake for breakfast this winter break, or any meals that involved Sodapop's food-coloring.
"Hey, Dally...if it's not too much trouble, would you mind goin' back upstairs to our room to fetch Jocelyn's pacifier?" Johnny began to sooth Jocelyn again by quietly hushing her and bouncing her a little in his arms. After Dally slipped his finger out of her mouth, she began to grow fussy all over again.
Dally simply shrugged and handed over Jocelyn's baby bottle before he headed off, somewhat calling out as he walked out of the feasting hall, "Sure, Johnnycake."
All because we were the Cade's...if we were from the Randle family tree, or the Mathews', or even the Curtis' family, Dally would've instantly denied Johnny's question or attempted objecting to find a way out of it. But we were the Cade's...the three young ones that were neglected at one moment by our alcoholic parents, and then beat by them the next. Dally loved us more than anything, but he even knew that he wouldn't be able to live without anybody from the gang.
When Jocelyn began to whimper again, Johnny decided to gently rock her back and forth. At least that was helping a little bit.
"Well, Cass, you better go fetch a plate and some breakfast. I need to go get Jocelyn's bottle ready." Johnny instructed me, but I couldn't obey him this time. I knew how much of a handle Jocelyn could be; the whole gang knew. The last thing any of us, especially Johnny, needed on our first ever vacation together was him accidentally spilling Jocelyn's milk or overheating it because he was wrapped up in trying to keep her settled.
I gently took a hold of Johnny's jean jacket when he attempted to walk away. "I'll get Jocelyn's bottle ready."
"Are you sure? Do you even know how?" questioned Johnny.
I tilted my head at him and narrowed my eyes some, exposing my slimly forming annoyance. "What do you think?"
Johnny raised his eyebrows at me and didn't say anything, and I knew what that look meant. I wiped my sassy look off from my face and sighed, shaking my head.
"Don't talk to me like that, please." Johnny calmly said, still giving me that look of his.
"I'm sorry." I sighed, and I meant it. I just couldn't forget about how he and Dally didn't believe me about the dark figure.
Johnny nodded his head; offering me a proud, little grin as he continued to bounce Jocelyn in his arms.
"It's all right, Cass," He handed over the pink baby bottle. "You know what to do. Just fill it with milk and place it in a small bowl of hot water."
I understandingly nodded as I took the bottle from him, but before I walked off to the kitchen, I decided to plant a family kiss on Johnny's cheek. I knew that he honestly cared about me, and we loved each other to death, but it just drove me insane about what happened last night. Though I honestly knew that I could never live without my Johnnycake or Jocelyn.
I could've sworn that I saw Johnny flashing me another small smile as I headed off to the kitchen. Atleast that had a little grin hinting its way across my face, and I stared down at the baby bottle that my fingertips couldn't stop fiddling around with. Before Johnny and I knew it, Jocelyn wouldn't need our help to bathe, feed, or change, so even though taking care of a baby wasn't a walk in the park, we both knew that it was going to be worth it.
When I entered the kitchen, I expected that I was just going to have to do what I used to do back at the Curtis' house. Warm my kid sister's milk up and feed her with Johnny, but this morning ended up taking a turn after I realized that I wasn't in the kitchen alone. I took no hesitation to freeze in my tracks, and that small smile that twitched up on mu lips was as if it wasn't there to begin with.
"Well, well, well...looks like my mornin' is just gettin' better and better...care for some breakfast, chocolate eyes?" It was Ashton, and he was smirking so wide that it was as if his pale face would split right in two. This look of what I felt was deviousness was sparking up in his narrowed eyes, which wouldn't stop spying at me, as if I was the final popular item to buy in the store.
Hearing the sound of Ashton's voice instantly shot a cold chill through my spine, causing goosebumps to begin forming all up my arms. Nonetheless, I just continued to stand where I was like a bump on a log, too uneasy all of the sudden to take another step.
"...What are you doin' in here?" I asked after I was able to find my voice.
Ashton chuckled, leaning back against one of the granite counters. "What do you think? Mr. Roberts may be the owner of this hotel, but he can't do everything here by himself, and since all of his employees skipped out, I decided to take over the cooking."
Confusedly, I raised my eyebrows. Did he just say...all of The County Lodge's employees skipped out?...Meaning that they quit or just ran out for some reason?...Why would they leave, especially around winter break when they could get paid more?
Ashton's voice shattered my thoughts. "Would you like a beer?"
My eyes shot bigger at the mention of beer. I wasn't used to hearing any word that related to alcohol come out of anybody's mouth, except Two-Bit and Dally's. My discomfort was only expanding more by every few passing seconds.
Quickly, I shook my head. "N-No...I'll just take some milk."
Ashton raised his eyebrow, his smirk still widely spread across his face. "Are you sure? Beer is pretty damn delicious whence you get the hang of it. Ah, there's nothin' better than a nice cold beer in the morning, don't you think so?"
"I wouldn't know. I never drank alcohol before, and I'm not goin' to start now." I shook my head again, my voice growing more stern. Unfortunately, my uncomfortable feelings were only hardening, becoming more and more strong right in my chest and in the pit of my stomach.
Finally, Ashton just shrugged, and he popped off the cap of the glass bottle of beer that he recently swiped from the fridge. I felt stiff, breathing quietly to myself and taking my time to blink every couple seconds as I witnessed Ashton take down a huge slurp of his morning beer. I never saw anyone, minus Two-Bit, drink like that in the morning...but atleast I actually felt comfortable around him and Two-Bit wouldn't ever dare to pressure anybody into anything. He might've been a wisecracker, but he didn't find pressuring others funny at all.
"Ah..." Ashton sighed after he swallowed what was in his mouth. He then wiped his lips off with his black jean jacket's sleeve, and when he reopened his eyes, another huge smirk like smile popped across his face. "...What's your name, young one?"
I nervously bit down on my bottom lip a little. "...Cassidy...why are you asking?"
Ashton "coolly" pushed himself up onto one of the granite counters and sat there. "What's your full name, Cassidy?"
"...Cassidy Ellen Cade..." I quietly took down a gulp and started to softly tap my fingernails against Jocelyn's baby bottle. "Now why are you asking?"
Still smirking, Ashton gently took a small nibble at his bottom lip, and he simply shrugged his shoulders. I was going to open my mouth and tell him that that wasn't an answer, but before I could get a word out, I caught him staring me down. His bluish/grayish/greenish mixed eyes were studying me, and his smirk became so gigantic that it seemed as if all of his teeth were now exposed. From the bottom of my feet, all the way to the top of my head...Ashton kept examining me to the point where I felt like my heart was about to burst from racing so much.
I slowly moved my arms, crossing them across my breasts. "Look...I just came in here to help my brother out. I need to fix up our baby sister's bottle, so can I please get some milk and be on my way back out?" My shakiness was beginning to slip a little.
Ashton's eyes met mine again, and he hopped off from the counter. "Why didn't you just say so, Cassidy?" He touched his chin. "Lovely name, by the way...very beautiful."
"...Thanks..." I quietly began to squeak my words out the best that I could. I was only twelve, a little tiny bit taller for my age, and this Ashton looked seventeen.
Hesitantly, I began to take my time to slowly approach the vampire looking boy after he had gotten the milk carton out of the fridge. He was offering it out in my direction, meaning that if I wanted it, I was going to have to get it from him. Quietly, I gulped again, but when I made it close enough to get the milk carton, I quickly latched my free hand around it. However, when I attempted tugging the milk away from Ashton, he wouldn't let any part of it slip from his fingers.
"Uh...you can let go now..." I tried pulling the carton closer to me again. However, Ashton decided to pull it back, and he ended up dragging me along with it since he was much taller and stronger than me.
"Tell me..." Ashton snickered, looking straight into my eyes. "How old are you?"
"I'm a preteen, okay? Now can you give me the milk, please?" My stubbornness was beginning to get the best of me again, but at that time, I didn't give a piece of crap. Ashton was irritating me like hell, and I only officially met him about five minutes ago.
Finally, Ashton nodded and released the milk carton, and I was able to start whipping up Jocelyn's bottle. New silence met the kitchen, and my nervousness was starting to expose all over again. I didn't need to look at Ashton to know that he was still looking at me, smirking widely like a devious moron.
Suddenly, Ashton's voice broke the stillness, just as I twisted the cap back on Jocelyn's baby bottle that was now full of milk.
"Preteen Cassidy, huh?" He was chuckling, and I just nodded. "...Do you have a boyfriend, Cassidy?"
I instantly shook my head and started some decently hot water in the sink so it could fill up a small bowl.
"My brother won't let me date yet...and it's not like I want to now anyway."
Within a couple of seconds, Ashton was by my side, lowering his head some so he could be whispering into my ear.
Another chill went shooting up my spine, and I stiffened as I felt Ashton's fingernails gently begin to trace around on my back.
"You're very pretty, Cassidy..." Ashton spoke into my ear, his voice hushed.
I didn't wait to nudge him away, now feeling too uncomfortable, and I stopped the decently hot water from running any longer. After that, I held Jocelyn's baby bottle by the nipple and placed it into the small bowl that was now full of the sink water. All I could do then was wait for the water to do its job and warm up the milk enough, while I attempted tuning Ashton out on the side.
"...Aren't you going to thank me for givin' you a compliment like that?" questioned Ashton, his eyebrow now cocked. Before I could speak up right away, I then felt his fingers beginning to attempt dancing through my ponytail.
I impatiently shook my head twice in order to get Ashton's hand away from me. Luckily, it worked. I knew what he was trying to do...but I didn't think that I would ever go through something like this, especially with a seventeen-year-old. Ashton was attempting to flirt with me.
I nervously bit down on my bottom lip and tapped my fingers against the granite counter, trying my best to hold back my fear. I might've been able to handle going through a rumble almost every week and an abusive home life, but I've actually never been flirted with before. Boys might've smiled at me and whatnot, but atleast they were my age...and what Ashton was doing didn't come close.
Ashton tilted his head like a confused puppy. "...Aren't you hot in here, Cassidy?"
I kept my mouth shut and ignored him as much as I could. However, it wasn't long before I felt Ashton's freezing cold hands on my shoulders. The quiet breath that I took in was sharp and heavy, seeming to get caught in my throat. My eyes felt as if they were about to bulge out of my head, and goosebumps began to dance all over my arms, legs, and even my neck.
"How about..." Ashton's smirking lips suddenly pressed against my neck. "We take this heat on up to my room?"
My mouth dropped open, forming a giant 'O' shape. Startled tears prickled up in the edges of my eyes, and my breaths began to get deeper and more shaky. I honestly thought that this couldn't get any worse, but I was proven wrong when Ashton began to whisper many dirty comments and flirtatious remarks into my ears. He went on whispering...his tone darkly hushed and chuckles haunting. My gorgeous eyes...my silky hair...but what got me the most was when he commented about how my body was absolutely sexy body. He was actually trying to seduce me.
I've been through enough private talks with Johnny and Dally to know when somebody was trying to pressure me into any kind of sexual activity. Johnny told me that he knew how responsible I was, so I knew the difference between right and wrong. It's true, I'm a whole lot more mature for my age. So, if there was any time in any place where someone attempted to touch me or say anything sexual, Johnny said that he wanted me to scream at the top of my lungs so I could get somebody else's attention. However, I knew that I just couldn't do that with the time that I was in. Ashton was a whole lot stronger than me, and God knows what he would do if I dared to even squeak out the world 'help.' Who knows, there might be a possibility that that he would pull a knife on me since we were in the kitchen. I didn't even know if he had any kind of weapon of his own on him. Besides, the gang and I were on our first ever vacation together...I didn't want to ruin it. So, I knew that there was only one option left for me to choose from...take Dally's lesson on self-defense to my advantage.
Don't hold back...give it everything I got. That's what Dally told me was the most important thing when it came to defending yourself. Mercy is for the weak...and Ashton was certainly not weak by the way he acts towards me and God knows how many other girls.
Without allowing another moment to slip through my fingers, I forced Ashton away from me with a single rough push, quickly wiping my neck of his saliva while I was at it. Before he got the chance to say anything, I flew myself around to see him. My face was beginning to burn up, and my eyes sharply narrowed as my lips pulled back to reveal my grinding teeth. Ashton's mixed colored eyes shot huge as he watched me fly one of my now tightly clenched fists back, and when I swung it back forward, I slammed him clear across the face. I must've punched him harder than I thought, because he fell straight to the floor with a loud thud. Dally would certainly be proud of me.
"You go right to hell you freakin' son-of-a-bitch!" I furiously bellowed, beginning to feel as if steam was coming out of my ears. I knew that Johnny would set me down and give me one heck of an angry lecture if he dared to hear a single cuss word fly out of my mouth. It was difficult to believe, but Johnny honestly was very scary to be around if you lit his fuse. It's just rare to happen, but I just couldn't help the cursing from flying out of my lips when dealing with some pervert like this Ashton Fisher guy!
Ashton touched his cheek from where it was starting to turn red. It must've stung because after his fingers barely poked it, a scowl swept across his face.
"That's funny, for a little twelve-year-old girl you got a freakin' big mouth. A lot of people I know get hurt thanks to their big mouths." Ashton's growled through his now clenched teeth. As he attempted to pick himself up from the floor, I took the opportunity to fetch Jocelyn's baby bottle by the nipple, along with a rag to rap around it just in case I allowed it to get too warm. After that, Ashton was already back up on his feet, looking as if he was about to leap at me and take me down to the floor with him. Thinking fast like Kitten, Vinny, or Dally would do in a time like that, I locked my eyes back onto the bowl of decently hot water. I breathed rapidly, feeling the goosebumps grow colder all over my skin, and with my free hand, I snatched up the bowl and threw it at Ashton. Much to my luck, I hit him straight in the face without aiming, and the decently hot water stained his shirt and pants.
"Who in the hell do you think you are you-" Ashton went on with every curse word that you could ever imagine, wiping some of the water away from his clenched shut eyes. Luckily, he was cut off when his feet slipped out from underneath him, and he collapsed straight onto his rear end.
The tears of being terribly stunned was only growing in the edges of my eyes. No longer taking any chances, I leaped over Ashton's now completely damp body and bashed out of the kitchen like I was just face-to-face with the devil himself. In the distance, I could hear Ashton's voice viciously calling out, "Hey!"
"Johnny! Johnnycake!" I was on the verge of breaking down in complete tears as I continued my way over to the table where the gang was. By the looks of it, Dally hadn't come back from going after Jocelyn's pacifier.
Johnny's black eyes instantly shot huge, and he gazed in my direction when he picked up me calling his name. Before he got a chance to say anything, I collapsed down into the seat next to him and berried my face into his arm, crying my heart out. The rest of the gang instantly stopped their conversations and laughter about God knows what and turned their undivided attention to me. Their eyes were now widened, swarming with concern.
"Cass, what's wrong? What happened?" Johnny asked in a tone that was mixed with seriousness and worry. As I lifted my head from his arm, his jean jacket now stained with my salty tears, he wrapped his free arm around my shoulders and held me close.
"Are you alright, Cassidy?" questioned the curious Ponyboy, who was unsuccessfully cocking an eyebrow.
I wiped away as many times as I could and caught a hold of myself, grasping a deep breath to remain calm. Nobody had no idea how much I wanted to tell the truth about what just happened in the kitchen, but just as I was about to spill my guts, I stopped. The memories from the night before with the shadowy figure and their evil red eyes were coming back to me. If Johnny and Dally didn't believe me about something serious like that...then why would the gang believe me about somethin' like this? I nervously bit down on my bottom lip, feeling relieved to at least be resting against my older brother. Even if the gang did believe me, I didn't want to ruin our vacation by telling something like this. It was better to just be kept a secret until the time was possibly ever right...but unfortunately, I don't think any right time for a situation like this one could possibly exist.
"Um, Cassidy," Two-Bit's voice shattered my thoughts. "What happened to you?"
I sniffled some and wiped away the remains of my tears. Then I handed over Jocelyn's bottle to Johnny. "...Nothing...I just accidentally burned my hand when getting the hot water ready for Jocelyn's bottle"
Embarrassedly, I raised my shoulders and bit down on my bottom lip. Two-Bit began to snicker a little, but he stopped when Steve thumped him over the back of his head, and Johnny shot him a small, rare, warning stare.
"Two-Bit, this ain't a laughing matter!" Soda shook his head, a mouthful of chewed up eggs.
I made a somewhat disgusted face, but I didn't bother to say anything. That was Sodapop Curtis for you.
Darry rolled his eyes. "Chew with your mouth closed, Soda."
Soda gazed at him, his brown eyes sparkling with innocence, but all he did was shrug and follow Darry's order.
Jocelyn was reaching for her bottle, but Johnny had to make sure that the milk wasn't too hot before she could take a single drop. Just seeing Johnny holding the bottle away made Jocelyn's bottom lip quiver, and it wouldn't be long before she would burst into another fit of steaming tears.
Johnny sighed, making sure Jocelyn was seated on his lap before he tugged up his sleeve and shook out some of the milk. After some of the small droplets met his skin, he stopped and waited about two seconds before he leaned Jocelyn back and began to feed her. Happily, Jocelyn rested her eyes shut and slurped at her milk. I wish that I could've been smiling at least a tiny bit at that sight, but I couldn't after what I just went through with Ashton.
"Cass, taking care of Jocelyn is a gigantic responsibility. You know that it's important to be cautious at all times, and that's all that I can basically tell you. Just be careful from now on, okay?" Johnny gave my cheek a quick kiss and he offered me a small smile afterwards.
I bit down on my thumbnail, trying my hardest to forget about what happened in the kitchen as I slowly nodded my head. A sick knot wouldn't stop tightening up in the pit of my stomach, so I lost my appetite greatly.
I wonder if Johnny still suffered with the terrible memories of when he murdered Bob Sheldon...or when he and Ponyboy ran away...and when he almost died after being in a fire incident. God, that horrifying picture still stabbed me in the heart. It's as if I could hear Johnny screaming in pain, trying to holler for help through the beaming flames and thick smoke. Yet, Johnnycake was sitting right beside me, still smiling some as he continued to feed Jocelyn her bottle. I might've not been able to read minds, but this feeling inside of me was clearly telling my wounded and patched up heart that no matter how much time flew by, Johnny would forever remember those scarring memories. It's not like he had a choice either...unfortunately, that is. And I didn't have a choice much myself.
I won't let anybody hurt you...nobody will take you on my watch...I'm here for you every hour of every day...
God, I certainly broke those promises, along with many more...just thinking about all of them brought rare salty tears to my eyes.
I had recently finished checking into The County Lodge, and lucky for me, the owner allowed me to keep Zeus since there weren't as many guests staying like he pictured there would be during something like winter break. My room was on the seventh floor, and right after I unlocked the white door with the key that Mr. Roberts gave me, I was instantly struck with the thought that my hotel room strangely reminded me so much of my kid sister's bedroom back before my old man and I moved to Tulsa...and before the drunk driver incident with Sara and my mother took place.
Sara...my beautiful kid sister...I loved her and my mom so much. Sara looked just like me, but her hair was longer and more bouncy with glossy curls. Not only that, but she was born with two different eye colors; one of her eyes were my color, and the other was pure green. Man...it seems just like yesterday I was reading to her and tucking her in, but not without giving her a goodnight kiss and turning on her favorite nightlight. Her little eyes would be relaxingly shut, fast asleep and happily dreaming as I would stroke her hair and whisper many different promises to her, hoping that she could hear them somehow in her sleep. I would always love her no matter what...nobody could hurt her with me by her side...I was there any time she needed to talk about anything...and so on and so on. Unfortunately, all of those promises died with my mom and little sister when the police showed up at my house on that tragic day and reported that they found two dead bodies after an auto-wreck incident. One little girl, and one woman...my kid sister and mom were identified as the victims. My dad practically broke down from massive heartbreak right then and there, and I bashed right upstairs to my bedroom with Zeus trotting after me. Without waiting, I slammed the door behind me and Zeus and locked it, purposely flying myself straight down onto the carpeted floor as I cried at the top of my lungs, as if it was my job. Sara was just seven years old when she was taken from me.
Zeus rested his head on my knee and whimpered, holding the upper part of his leash in his mouth as I sat there on the pink bed. I absolutely hated pink...but it reminded me so much of my Sara. I was holding back the tears as I gazed at my framed family photo that I was holding in my hands. I refused to go anywhere without it; it reminded me when everything was much simpler. Sometimes I wish that I never grew up...you know, so I could still have my mom and kid sister, and my old man wouldn't have became an alcoholic worker. However, you don't get everything you want in life...that's just the way that things are in this twisted world.
I took a deep breath as I carefully placed my family photo down onto the white nightstand, where it leaned against the lamp and beside the phone. After that, I quickly wiped away all of my tears before any of them got a chance to escape either of my eyes. It took a whole lot to get me to cry, considering that I was very modest and I had a high self-esteem. Nonetheless, there would always be that wound on my heart from my life taking such a sick twist, all thanks to a stupid drunk driver.
I sighed, taking one more glimpse at my family photo and greatly holding back the tears when taking in Sara's smile. We both looked just like our mom; my father always went on and on about before the accident. Now he just cries, drinks, and works, as if Zeus and I still aren't alive.
"All right, Zeus, come on. I know you're hungry." I stood up from the bed and tugged at Zeus' leash when he offered it to me. After that, he scampered by my side, but after I opened up the door, Zeus lunged in front of me and studied the hallway with that look of protection in his eyes. I waited until Zeus gazed back at me and gave me a single bark, like he was trained to do if the cost was clear or if anything was alright.
As I exited my room, sealing up all of the memories of Sara as I closed the door and locked it behind me, I couldn't help but to pick up the sound of what I could tell was somebody whistling not that far from where I was. Whoever he or she was, they were somewhere around the left part of the hallway's turn.
Zeus' ears twitched upward, and his lips curled back to reveal all of his pointy and deadly teeth as he snarled.
"Quiet now, Zeus..." I softly whispered, and just like that, Zeus obeyed me. I bit down on my bottom lip and continued to stand still, listening more to the whistling to see if I had heard it from someplace before. It did sound strangely familiar, and I could tell by the tune that it was a male who was busy whistling away.
Me being the carefree and curious person that I was, I raised my eyebrows and felt my pocket to hook my free hand into. I could feel the pack of gum and few M&M's stuffed inside of my worn out jeans pocket as I tugged at Zeus' leash with my other hand, motioning him quietly to follow me. Though I ended up following him because anytime that there was a noise of any kind outside of my house, Zeus would make sure that he would be in front of me at all times.
Zeus' paws patted against the light wooden floor, just as I was making sure that my running shoes weren't making any noise with each small tiptoe I took. When Zeus and I finally made it around the corner, the whistling tune still remaining in the air, my eyes grew wide at the sight of none other than the one and only Dallas Winston. I remember hearing a bunch news reports about him and even his sister Valerie back at my old home before my father, Zeus, and I moved to Tulsa to attempt starting fresh with our lives. By the way that he looked, I guess other girls would see him as that hoodlum that he was claimed to be...but I didn't.
"Whoo wee!" I practically cheered at the top of my lungs. "Would you look at what I got here? Dallas Winston in the flesh!"
Dallas' whistling came to an end, and he shot himself around. His eyes were pale blue, blazing off hatred towards the world...at least that's what one of the news people said a few months ago about him. His eyes were always drowning in bitterness and eagerness to be left alone.
Zeus sat beside me and panted, but after Dallas locked eyes with mine, he began to softly snarl.
"And who do I just so happen to have here with me?" Dallas coolly shrugged and kicked back against the wall. I could see that he was beginning to twirl what looked like a pink pacifier around his right hand's pointer finger.
A smirk spread across my face. "I'm a greaser back in Tulsa myself, Winston. The names Jadelyn Christine Thomas, but everybody calls me Jade for short."
"Ah," Dallas' mouth hung open, as if he was interested. "I just figured that you were none other than one of 'em broads wondering 'bout directions to Buck's place."
Usually, I bet other girls would've heated up like a flame of fire from anger, or some would've even broke down into tears and wonder why Dallas would say such a thing to them. Though I wasn't like that. Instead of getting feisty or anything like that, I chuckled a little and allowed my smirk to spread some more.
"Well I can see that you are a master of first impressions. Lucky for me," I pointed my free hand's thumb at myself. "I'm pretty tuff at first impressions myself. You should know that it's not easy to break me, so your badass rep and bitchy attitude won't have me snappin' anytime soon."
To my surprise, Dally bit down on his bottom lip and mockingly snickered. He then gazed around, staring anywhere but at me until he started talking again.
"You sure are a smartass, aren't you, Jadelyn?"
"It's Jade," I quickly corrected him, shrugging my shoulders a little afterwards. "And I guess bein' a smartass just runs in Tulsa, don't you think so, Dallas? I mean, by all of the times you were taken to the cooler, I figured that you would already know that by heart."
Dally raised his eyebrows at me and attempted walking forward, but before he could fit many steps in, Zeus warningly barked and got into his pouncing position, snarling protectively and flashing his pointy teeth. Sternly, I narrowed my eyes and tugged at Zeus' leash. Dallas' smug like grin grew a little more as he slowly backed up the same amount of steps that he took towards me.
"No, Zeus! Bad dog! Sit down!" I hissed. Whimpering a little, Zeus' dark eyes pooled up with plead for forgiveness, and he rested himself at my side again like he was trained to do.
Dally leaned against the wall again, his fists now jammed in his jeans pockets. "Quite some dog you got there..."
I took in a deep breath and blew my bangs out from dangling in front of my face. "Yeah, Zeus is a protective one; he'll bite somebody's head off if that's what it takes in order to keep me safe. Do you have a dog, Dallas?"
"Call me Dally," Dallas instructed me with an annoyed like roll of his eyes. "And I already have one bitch to look after, as known as my kid sister. I don't need some other bitch walkin' on four legs, so do you think I have a damn dog?"
I pat Zeus' head when I began to hear him softly growling again, and I smirked widely at Dally. Snickering, I said, "I can see the fuzz probably have a blast reeling you in."
"Oh, the best," Dally cracked another little smirk as he sarcastically spoke. "How do you know so much 'bout my police record?"
I jokingly rolled my eyes and began to giggle. "Hell, everybody knows 'bout you and your troubling ways, Winston! I used to watch a countless amount of news reports that were centered around you when I lived back at my old home in Las Angeles!"
"The fuzz will do anythin' to get me stuck in that livin' hell," growled Dally, right before he blew his almost white bangs out from falling in his face. "I freaking swear, no matter what I say or do, they freakin' consider it as somethin' illegal nearly 24/7."
My madman smirk grew wider. "Can't say that I don't blame 'em, Dally."
Dally narrowed his eyes, trying to fight a new small smirk from curling up on his lips. "...You're an okay broad...but you better watch the smartass remarks that you seem to be overflowin' with. I might just have to kick your ass by the end of this winter break."
I rolled my eyes, obviously still not falling for Dally's tough act. "Speakin' of you being here for winter break, did you and Valerie come by yourselves?"
Dally shook his head at me. "First of all, she accepts only bein' called Vinny. If you dare to call her by her real name, she claims that she'll clobber you into the earth's core. Now secondly, we came here with our group of pals so we can spend time away from Tulsa together."
I cocked an eyebrow. "More greasers, huh? You and 'Vinny' are a part of a new gang?"
"Ever since we left New York and our old bitchy gang from there, considering they attempted raping Vinny...yeah." Dally coolly rolled his shoulders and gave me a slight nod. This sudden look of boredom was now detailed all over his face. "Now I don't have time for another round of Twenty Questions, you hear? I need to bring one of my friend's a pacifier for his baby sister."
"...I always knew that you had some soft spot in that crusty shelled heart of yours, Winston!" I called out to him, hesitating for a moment so I could just give him my smirk, right before I watched him begin to walk away.
I could hear Dally cursing under his breath, but instead of turning back around and starting an argument with me, he kept walking and pointed up one of his middle fingers.
"Real freakin' mature..." I muttered under my breath, chuckling some before I fixed my eyes down at Zeus, who was glancing right back at me and panting. I gave his head a few gentle pats, and then gently pulled at his leash again. Understandingly, Zeus rose up on his four legs and trotted by my side as I headed down in the direction where Dally had just disappeared into one of the elevators. The hallway flooded with silence, and I quietly hummed Sara's favorite song to myself as I rested my eyes shut and allowed Zeus to lead me. Unfortunately, I was too caught up in the memories of my mother and Sara flooding back into my head that I didn't notice this one door slightly cracked open, and a black gloved hand snatched out from only a couple of inches behind me whence I passed the doorframe. It was as if somebody attempted to grab my hair, but I didn't realize that he or she was there right then, spying on me with such scary eyes. I had absolutely no clue about what this vacation had in store for me and all of the other guests.
Later on that night around 10:00, I was sitting on my bed in a pair of my Mickey Mouse pajamas. I had just finished taking a shower, so I was now trying to focus on some random show that I decided to leave the TV on. However, there was just this strange feeling in the pit of my stomach. I didn't know how to explain it, but every time I thought about what happened to Cassidy's hand during breakfast, the sick feeling only seemed to be growing more and more sour. It was as if something was telling me that something wasn't right with the middle Cade...and our gang sticks together no matter what. Through the thick and thin, no matter how much we get annoyed by each other or we argue, we're all just as close as peas in a gigantic pod.
Apparently, Steve was going on and on about something I did that irritated him all through today. I honestly had no idea about what he was talking about, but as he scrubbed his toothpaste covered teeth with his toothbrush, he spoke everything that he claimed that I did the best that he could. Why is it when every time something strange happens, I'm the first one that the gang turns to suspect?
"Steve, for the last time, I did not come back into the room after I left! I met up with the rest of the gang downstairs in the feasting hall!" I attempted fixing my eyes back onto the TV, but Steve was madly pacing back and forth, now dressed in a gray muscle shirt and a baggy pair of brown pajama pants. He was still brushing his teeth too, trying not to spit any of the toothpaste anywhere.
"Yes, you did! You can't lie to me, Mathews!" Steve tried to exclaim angrily, but it wasn't long before a splash of toothpaste flew out of his mouth and landed on my arm.
"Ew, Steve! You freaking spit on me!" I proclaimed with a complete overdramatic tone, just as I quickly wiped away the toothpaste from my arm with the bottom lining of my pajama shirt.
Steve rolled his eyes, obviously growing more annoyed, and he took his toothbrush out of his mouth. After that, he wiped away the remaining toothpaste from his lips and he must've gulped down what was left in his mouth.
"Suck it up, Two-Bit!" hissed the irritated Steve. "And why can't you just stop lying? I know that you came back in here and didn't respond to any of my calls for you! Instead, you turned on the TV to the news channel and quickly left the room yet again before I could come out from the bathroom to catch you!"
I shook my head. "Steve, I'm just upset that I didn't think of doin' something like that to your first."
Impatience and anger were both stirring up in my roommate's eyes as he shot daggers at me. Cursing under his breath, Steve then did a face-palm, running his hand through his hair afterwards and ruffling up all of the complicated swirls.
"Two-Bit, I'm not playin' around with you! This is a vacation, not a freaking clown convention!"
"But I honestly don't know what you're talkin' about!" I began to raise my voice a little, but I thought that I sounded like I was begging for Steve to actually listen to me. "I'm serious, roomie! Just ask Soda! After I left the room, I caught up with him to tell him what you told me to tell him!"
"I told you to not call me 'roomie,' Two-Bit Mathews!" Steve's teeth were now clenched. "And if you didn't come back in here after you left like you claim you did...then who would've just wandered into our room, cracked open the bathroom door, turned the TV on, and then took off again?"
I shrugged, feeling that ill twisting twitch in the pit of my stomach again. It was as if Cassidy's so-called burned hand incident was connected to this other strange feeling I got towards what Steve just told me. It was almost like...somethin' was telling me that something terrible was going to happen.
"Maybe it was just one of the others. I mean, they're the only ones who know that we're in this room, and I don't think anybody else is on this floor."
Steve rolled his eyes. "I doubt that Kitten, Ponyboy, Johnny, or even Dally or Vinny would do somethin' like that, Mathews. This seems to have your name written all over it if you ask me."
"But I didn't do it!" Now my voice was beginning to sound definitely more pleading than anything. "After I left, I went straight downstairs to the first floor! Is it really that hard for you to understand, Steve? I never came back into our room! Though I must admit that if I thought about doin' that kind of prank first, I actually would be behind it."
Steve suddenly looked unsure of himself, and he bit down on his free hand's thumbnail. Silence met the room, other than the sound of the TV, and Steve began to glance anywhere but at me. I kept my eyes on him the whole time, waiting to hear what he would say this time.
"...All right...I guess that I have no choice but to believe you. I hate to admit it, but you do sound pretty damn convincing."
I released a deep breath of relief and nodded at Steve.
"Unfortunately," Steve went on talking, raising his eyebrow with concern. "That doesn't explain why this so-called prank took place."
I shrugged. "If you ask me, I'm stickin' to it bein' one of the others. Who else could it possibly be?"
Steve just looked at me, his eyebrow still cocked, and he touched his chin with his free hand's index finger.
"What about Cassidy's burned hand?" I broke the new silence that crept into the room.
"What are you talkin' about, Mathews?" questioned Steve.
"Well, I'm pretty sure that burns are a noticeable injury. We've been through 'nough rumbles to know different types of injuries by heart and what caused 'em, right?"
Confusion was only pooling up in Steve's eyes as he nodded. "I guess, but why are you bringin' up Cassidy's hand all of the sudden?"
"I just don't know 'bout the so-called burning incident anymore. There wasn't any injury on either of her hands by what I saw, and she didn't eat any breakfast."
Steve crossed his free arm over his stomach. "Okay, I can see where you're comin' from...but why would she lie to us?"
I just shrugged, not bothering to say another word since I honestly had no clue how to answer that question. This vacation was so far very confusing in my eyes, but it was still a vacation, so we might as well continue to make the best out of it.
Steve suddenly looked as if something was eating away at him, like he was heavily thinking about a secret. Nevertheless, I just shook it off.
"How 'bout we just get some sleep? Tomorrow is just 'nother day and we still have the rest of the winter break here." Steve pointed out.
I usually wouldn't want to go to bed at just 10:05, but with so many questions swarming around inside my head, a good nights sleep seemed pretty good.
"Yeah, all right. Night, Stevie!" I snatched up the remote and turned the TV off, right before I climbed underneath my bed's covers.
"Don't call me that!" warningly growled Steve as he stomped into the bathroom to wrap up with brushing his teeth.
I quietly snickered to myself, turning off the lamp and instantly closing my eyes. I could hear the water from the bathroom sink running, but I didn't care. Unfortunately, it covered up the noise of what would be defined as the locked doorknob slightly jiggling.
Ponyboy rested comfortably in his green double bed, his eyes dreamily shut as he soothingly breathed. Soda's arm was swung lazily around his shoulders, holding him close as he snored like a tractor, but it was as if Ponyboy and Darry were immune to any decently noisy sound. Technically, they actually were when it came to Sodapop. Lastly, Darry was curled up in the other green double bed, snoring much quieter than Soda, and catching a good nights sleep.
The clock had just struck 2:00 A.M., and everybody in The County Lodge was fast asleep.
However, it wasn't long before Pony began to stir, thanks to his eardrums picking up the sound of what was like somebody softly knocking from the opposite side of the locked door.
"What the..." Ponyboy yawned quietly to himself, rubbing his eyes with his balled up fists before he carefully sat up, which made Soda's arm fall back down to the mattress. The youngest Curtis scanned the room, taking in how peacefully Soda and Darry were asleep, even though they were both snoring at different volumes.
Ponyboy continued to softly moan to himself, his eyes droopy from not being used to waking up so dang early. Nonetheless, it was as if his tiredness was knocked straight out of him after he heard the knocking at the door begin to increase its volume by just a smidge or two.
Fearfully, Pony's eyes shot huge, and he took no hesitation to grab a hold of Soda's shoulder and shake him. "Soda! Soda, wake up!"
"Huh? Ponyboy...what in the world...did you have a nightmare?" Soda stirred and crawled up into a sitting position almost instantly after he was woke up by his baby brother's nudges.
Eagerly, Ponyboy shook his head and trembled, cuddling himself closer to Soda. "N-No nightmare..."
Soda wrapped his arms around him and gave him a bear hug. "Then why are you shakin' like that?"
Pony opened his mouth to reply, but before he got a chance to do so, the knocking at the door was heard again.
Sodapop's eyes seemed to bulge right out of his head.
"That's why!" Pony gulped and nervously pointed towards the door.
"...Who in the world could that be?" whispered the both determined and nervous Soda.
Ponyboy shrugged, and he instantly yelped some when the knocking came yet again. "I don't know...but whoever they are, they want in."
Soda took a gaze over at the foot of his and Ponyboy's bed, only so he could realize that his DX cap was suddenly not there anymore. That's strange...it was there when Soda unpacked it, and he left it there the entire time.
"Hey, where'd my hat go?" Soda questioned, but instead of getting a response from Ponyboy, more knocking at the door was heard. Without a single moment of hesitating much longer, Sodapop dove right out of his and Pony's bed and practically dove right on top of Darry.
"Step away from my kid brothers!" Darry's voice was hoarse and tired as he instantly jolted straight up into a sitting position, looking as if he was ready to beat the hell out of an intruder.
"Whoa, whoa! Darry, it's alright!" Ponyboy spoke up before his oldest brother could possibly take a swing at Soda.
"Yeah, yeah! It's just me, Darry!" Soda nodded his head, blocking his face with both of his hands.
"Oh..." Darry took in and let out a deep breath of relief. "What in the world are you two doin' up? It's just..." He stopped for a moment to gaze at the clock. "It's just 2:03 in the morning."
"We know, but-" Pony attempted to tell Darry about the strange knocking at the door, but before he could get a word out about it, Darry caught the knocking himself.
The three brothers snapped their full attention over to the locked door.
"What in the almighty..." Darry stopped talking and gently, but yet roughly pushed Sodapop off from him. After that, he quickly pounced up onto his feet and pulled on his robe, considering he had no shirt on and was just wearing a pair of pajama pants.
"What are you goin' to do, Darry?" Ponyboy nervously squeaked, which had Soda holding him again in a heartbeat.
"Don't worry, Ponyboy. I'm goin' to handle whoever is out there." assured Darry, just as more knocking was heard from the opposite side of the locked door. "Soda, where's your switch?"
"It's in the nightstand's drawer. My DX cap went missing, Darry."
"Missing?" Darry confusedly cocked an eyebrow as he quietly and quickly pulled out Soda's switchblade from the nightstand's drawer.
Soda pouted and nodded. "Yeah. I left it at the foot of the bed after we unpacked and it's been there ever since. But now...it's just gone."
Darry opened his mouth to say something back, but before he could, the doorknob suddenly jiggled.
Pony paled and berried his face into Sodapop's chest, and Soda stroked his hair as Darry began to tiptoe his way over to the door.
Quickly, Darry gazed over his shoulder and whispered to his kid brothers, "You two stay right there! Don't move a muscle or anythin', you hear?"
Understandingly, Soda and Ponyboy both nodded, and Darry turned his attention back towards the door. Without waiting, Superman unlocked the door and quickly flung it open, Soda's switchblade being clenched tightly in one of his hands. Strangely though, all that was out in the hallway was nothing but complete dimness.
"What in the..." Darry muttered under his breath, raising his eyebrows in confusion as he poked his head out the door. When he gazed to the right, he saw nothing, but when he glanced to the left, he could've sworn that he saw some shadowy figure dash around the corner.
Darry's eyes went bigger than ever before, and he told his kid brothers one final time to stay put before he bashed out the door. With every corner Darry bashed over, he could've sworn there was a dark figure making his or her way quickly around the next left or right hallway. Not giving up, Darry kept running in the dim hallway, listening to his bare feet race against the cold wooden floor. Nevertheless, Darry finally stopped running when he turned around the next corner and bolted straight into somebody. Darry and this other guy grunted, having the air slimly knocked out of them.
The oldest Curtis' eyes widened again; he knew that voice by heart.
"Tim Shepard? What are you doin' here?"
There standing in front of Darry was Timothy Shepard, dressed in a plain black pair of torn pajamas, and his dark red hair was a complete wreck. There were slightly dark bags resting underneath his eyes, too.
"Curly, Angela, and I came here for winter break. What 'bout you?" Tim questioned, cocking an eyebrow.
"I brought the gang here since Ponyboy and Soda just begged me for this vacation," responded Darry. "But strangely, Soda and Pony just woke me up due to these strange noises at the door. I heard 'em too, though."
Tim's eyes flooded with confusion. "You, too? Curly just woke me up over the same thing!"
"You mean...you, Angela, and Curly are the three other guests from Tulsa?" Darry scratched the back of his neck.
Tim nodded. "Yeah, that's right. I should've known that you and the rest of your gang must've been here though."
"And why's that?"
"Because this DX cap just couldn't belong to nobody."
Darry's eyes grew wide all over again whence he watched Tim bring out Soda's DX cap from behind his back.
"W-Where...where did you find this?" Darry confusedly questioned after he took the cap from Tim's offering hand.
"I just found it in the hallway, strangely abandoned. That's not like Soda to me, Darry." Tim pointed out.
Darry bit down on his bottom lip. "Yeah...that's definitely not like him to leave this just lyin' 'round..."
Tim crossed his arms. "Well, we better get back to our rooms before we get busted by the owner of this hotel. Curfew is still on until the wakeup calls after all. I bet whoever was at our doors was just pullin' a prank."
Darry hesitantly nodded. "Yeah...you're probably right...night, Tim."
"Night, Darry. See you and the others in the morning."
As the two went their separate ways, Darry couldn't stop thinking about how Tim just found Soda's DX hat in the hallway like that. Why...how...Soda never even took it out of their room...how could it just suddenly end up in the hallway like that? And who would pull such a prank a little passed 2:00 in the morning?