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Ruby between the cracks, p.11
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       Ruby Between the Cracks, p.11

           P.D. Workman
 

  Chapter Ten

  RUBY HAD GONE THE only place she could think of. Back to Marty’s. She awoke the next day to Marty staring at her. Ruby withdrew slightly.

  “What?” she questioned.

  Marty reached out and touched Ruby’s bare stomach. Her night-shirt was riding up from moving around in her sleep. Ruby stared at Marty, trying to read the expression on her face. Marty seemed stunned. Ruby touched her belly self-consciously and pushed Marty’s hand away.

  “Stop it—what’s wrong?”

  “Ruby... are you pregnant?”

  Ruby pulled her shirt down with both hands to cover her stomach. Marty put her hand flat on Ruby’s stomach. Ruby pulled away. Marty wouldn’t let her back away.

  “Ruby, I can feel the baby move! How far along are you?”

  “I’m not pregnant.” Ruby tried again to push Marty’s hand away. “Leave me alone. It’s just gas.”

  “You think I’m stupid? Ruby, I thought you protected yourself,” Marty accused.

  “I do. I told you I’m not pregnant,” Ruby said firmly.

  “I think we should take you to a doctor.”

  “I’ve seen a doctor.”

  “What did he say? Why didn’t you tell me about this?”

  “He said… it’s indigestion.”

  “When are you due, Ruby?” Marty persisted.

  “I’m not.”

  Ruby climbed out of the bed, angry with Marty. She went into the bathroom and turned on the shower before using the toilet and stripping down. She climbed into the shower and closed her eyes. Ruby massaged her body with both hands. She stopped and opened her eyes with her hands both on her stomach. She looked down, feeling her belly with both hands. Then she closed her eyes again, letting the steam rise around her and the warm water run through her hair and over her face.

  Marty went into her mother’s room and sat down on the edge of the bed. Her mother stirred and awakened. She rolled over to look at Marty.

  “Morning, sweetie.”

  Marty didn’t say anything right away.

  “What’s up?” her mother questioned softly.

  “I think Ruby’s pregnant.”

  “Oh, no.”

  Marty nodded.

  “Did she tell you?”

  “No, she said she’s not. But... She’s showing. And I could feel the baby move.”

  “She’s quite a ways along, then. Maybe we should call her social worker.”

  Marty shook her head.

  “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

  “What is she going to do, then?”

  “I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.”

  The shower went off, and Marty got up.

  “I don’t even know how to talk to her about it, when she denies that she’s even pregnant.”

  “We’ll figure something out. Maybe she just needs some time to get used to the idea.”

  “After this long, I don’t think she’s going to get used to it.”

  Ruby applied foundation around her still-black eye, wondering whether she should go back to the Jags again. She was scared to death that what had happened to Harlan would happen to her. And if it didn’t, she’d be going back to a gang composed of Jags and Terminators. Jack and Troy. Jack she could face, if he decided to let her off the hook. But Troy—she couldn’t face him. She didn’t know what to do about it. But the longer she left it—it wasn’t going to get any better. Her stomach writhed with nausea.

  Marty and her mom were quiet for breakfast. Not unusual. They talked if they had something to say, and if they didn’t, they were comfortable with silence. Ruby had a quick glass of juice and piece of toast, and picked up her bag.

  “Coming to school?” Marty suggested.

  “No, I gotta go see someone.”

  Marty nodded and didn’t pursue it. It seemed to Ruby that Marty had something else on her mind.

  She was afraid that Jack would be out with some of the other boys already. But she didn’t need to worry; he was still at his apartment. She knocked quietly on the door, and he opened it, and then leaned against the door frame with his elbow, looking at her.

  “Well, well, well. Look what we’ve got here.”

  Ruby didn’t say anything, biting her lip and shifting her knapsack uncertainly. He stood there studying her.

  “What made you come back here?” he questioned.

  Ruby hesitated.

  “I didn’t know what else to do.”

  “Well, you were stupid to come here,” he growled.

  Ruby shifted back and forth.

  “What am I going to do, run away?”

  “That’s one thought.”

  “I made a mistake.”

  “Yeah.”

  “Are you going to let me in?”

  Jack looked at her for a minute, then opened the door the rest of the way to let her in. Ruby walked in, and when he shut the door again, she saw the gun in his other hand. It had been behind the door where she couldn’t see it. Ruby was shaken. She sat down quickly at his table, her knees weak.

  “What are you going to do?” she questioned.

  “I don’t know yet. I can’t figure out why you’re here.”

  “I didn’t want you to think... that I was against you.”

  “You’ve changed your mind?”

  “I was never against you.”

  “You voiced your opinion quite clearly. I’ve heard it from several sources.”

  Jack straddled a chair backward and sat looking at her.

  “I was taken off guard,” Ruby said. “I wasn’t around when this was going on.”

  “Doesn’t matter.”

  Ruby tried to explain.

  “I’m not against the Jags and Terminators getting together.”

  Jack frowned, looking at her. He fiddled with the gun, tapping it on the table next to him.

  “It’s not the Terminators. It’s not you.”

  He waited for her to finish. Ruby couldn’t go any further. The words stuck in her throat.

  “It’s Troy,” Jack said, finally getting it.

  Ruby closed her eyes. She saw Troy’s face in front of her. She opened her eyes again. Jack had leaned in closer to her.

  “You don’t like slimy little Troy, is that it?”

  She shrugged. Jack laughed.

  “You ought to learn when to talk and when to keep your mouth shut,” he advised.

  “I was stupid... I didn’t listen to Tim when he told me to shut up.”

  “You’re new at this. When you’re new, you listen, or you don’t survive.”

  Ruby nodded.

  “You don’t have to love Troy,” Jack told her, “but you’re gonna have to put up with having him around for a while.”

  “I will,” she agreed.

  “You don’t have a choice. I’m telling you you will, or you won’t be around.”

  Ruby nodded. She knew. She understood now. She would do as she was told. Jack was sliding his gun back into his waistband. The door opened and Troy walked boldly in. Jack had the gun half out again, and then saw who it was.

  “You’re lookin’ to get plugged, Troy!” he growled.

  Troy glanced around the apartment idly and saw Ruby.

  “Well, look who’s here. Hi, sweet thing.”

  Ruby swallowed, her stomach gurgling and lurching. She sat there frozen as Troy approached her. He cupped her face with one hand, stroking her fine blond hair with the other. He moved in close, holding her tighter.

  “Back off,” Jack ordered.

  Troy looked at Jack, raising his eyebrows questioningly.

  “Keep your paws off of Ruby,” Jack warned.

  “What, you like this pretty young thing for yourself? I’ve never known you to be partial to little kids.”

  “You’re sick, you know that? And if I tell you to keep your paws off, you keep your paws off. I don’t need to give you a reason.”

  Troy smirked, and winked at Ruby as if they shared a special secret.
He released her slowly, but didn’t let her go completely before brashly kissing her on the lips. Then he pushed her away from himself, grinning at his own private joke. Jack felt anger rising in his chest, just barely under control. He couldn’t do much about Troy’s behavior, because if he did the Terminators would split off again. But seeing Troy scorn his warning like that made him furious. Ruby’s face was pinched and white, and she looked like she was going to fall off her seat or faint dead away. She was more afraid of Troy’s approach than she’d been when she saw Jack’s gun pointed at her. No wonder she’d been so upset about hearing of the alliance between the Jags and the Terminators.

  “Ruby, get lost. Troy and I got to make some plans.”

  Ruby nodded quickly, and got up. She made her way unsteadily to the door, and was gone. Troy grinned at Jack, nodding.

  “She’s a fresh little bundle, isn’t she?”

  When Ruby walked in, Tim’s mouth dropped open, and he stared at her as if he’d seen a ghost.

  “What’s wrong?” she questioned.

  “Ruby?”

  “Yeah... why are you so surprised?”

  He reached out hesitantly and touched her. He ran his hand along her arm, and then touched her face disbelievingly.

  “I thought you were dead.”

  In a flash, Ruby understood. Harlan had been shot. She was with him. Things had been taken care of... everybody had assumed that she’d been killed too. Ruby shook her head.

  “No... I wasn’t there. I’m okay.”

  “Are you... does Jack know... ?” he stammered.

  “I just came from there. It’s okay.”

  “Are you sure?”

  Ruby nodded.

  “I should have listened to you,” she said quietly, without meeting his eyes.

  “Darn right you should have,” Tim agreed. He embraced her and pulled her close, his breaths shallow and quavering slightly. “I thought I’d lost you for good,” he whispered, pressing his face into her hair. Ruby snuggled up close to him, feeling warm and safe.

  “Mmm, don’t let go,” Ruby murmured.

  “I won’t.”
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