Ruby Between the Cracks, p.15P.D. Workman
RUBY STAYED UP WATCHING TV until Marty’s dad came home from work. He saw her sitting there.
“Well, hi there. What are you still doing up?” he questioned.
Ruby tried to decide whether to get up and retreat or whether to sink into the couch and pray he left her alone. She stayed frozen where she was.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she muttered.
“What? Speak up so I can hear you.”
“Leave me alone.”
“I’m not doing anything to hurt you,” he snapped, leaning over the couch to look at her.
Ruby cringed away from him.
“Stay away from me.”
He stroked her cheek and neck. Ruby closed her eyes, her throat closing up. Her stomach tied itself in knots. He touched her hair gently, pushing it back from her face. Ruby reached up to push his hand back. He caught her hand and cradled her face in his other big, rough hand. His hands were huge, they covered her whole face. He moved around the couch to move closer to her.
“Get away,” Ruby whispered, unable to find her voice.
“You don’t want me to go away. You think I haven’t seen you making eyes at me? I see you watching me all the time. I know.”
Ruby shook her head. He held her still and kissed her. Ruby didn’t fight him, paralyzed. He put his arms around her and pulled her close.
Ruby sat up, looking around wildly. Marty put her hand on Ruby’s leg.
“It’s okay Ruby. You’re dreaming,” she comforted.
“Where’s Daddy?” Ruby demanded.
“Whoa. Daddy? He’s not here, Ruby. You haven’t seen him in a long time,” Marty soothed.
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure. It’s okay.”
Ruby laid back down slowly, rubbing her hands on the front of her shirt.
“Can you get it off? It’s stained.”
“There’s nothing on your shirt, Ruby. It was just a dream. Go back to sleep.”
Ruby was unconvinced. She rubbed it harder.
“I have to take a shower.”
“It’s the middle of the night. You can shower in the morning.”
“I have to shower now,” Ruby insisted, climbing out of bed.
It was too late. Ruby was out the door. And a few minutes later, the shower went on. Marty shook her head and let herself doze off again. She awoke to Ruby getting back into bed again.
“Okay now, Ruby?” she questioned softly.
Marty turned over and hugged Ruby. They both fell back asleep.
Ruby walked into the kitchen, yawning and stretching. She made no mention of her nightmare.
“I’m taking the baby out today.”
“I’d rather you stayed around here with her,” Marty countered.
“She’s my baby,” Ruby challenged.
“You going to see Jamie today, or something?”
“Don’t keep her away all day, okay? She doesn’t know you. And don’t keep her overnight.”
Ruby shrugged and didn’t agree or disagree.
“I’ll get the stroller. You’re going to change her before we go, right?”
“I think you should change her.”
“It’s not hard.”
“Not for you. No way, you change her.”
Marty did. She got Stella ready to go, knowing there was no point in arguing about it. All she could do was hope that Ruby would bring her back after a few hours. Ruby took a few minutes to get Stella buckled in properly, and left for Jamie’s place.
Jamie worked on homework while Ruby watched TV. Stella squirmed around on the floor, jamming her fists in her mouth and slobbering. She occasionally squawked at Ruby, but Ruby ignored her. After a while she approached Jamie and looked over his shoulder.
“Are you almost done?”
“Pretty near. Play with Stella a while, then I’ll be done.”
“I’m bored,” Ruby complained.
“Well, find something to do. Give Stella a bath or something.”
“Why would I want to do that?”
“Ruby, leave me alone. You know I’ve got work to do.”
“I don’t know what you want to go to college for anyway,” she muttered, flopping down on the couch.
He looked at her over his shoulder.
“You can get a better job if you go to college.”
“Your daddy’s going to give you a job anyway, why bother?”
“Well, he’s paying for college. What do I care?”
Ruby got up again and wandered around the room restlessly.
“Isn’t it boring? I hate school.”
“Well, it’s not high school.”
“I’m not in high school.”
“Yeah, I keep forgetting. Just be quiet for a few minutes while I finish this off.”
Ruby sat and watched a mind-blowingly boring daytime soap. It was another half hour before Jamie finished his work and closed his books. He came over to where Ruby was sitting.
“Sorry, hon’. I was as quick as I could be,” he apologized contritely.
Ruby looked sullen.
“I came to be with you.”
“You know I have to keep up with school. Sometimes it’s going to interfere with things.”
He put his arm around Ruby. Ruby pulled away, still angry. Stella started to cry, and when Ruby didn’t move to look at her, Jamie bent over and picked her up.
“She needs to be changed.”
Jamie shook his head and took Stella to the bathroom where there was a changing pad on the bathroom counter. Ruby listened to him babbling to Stella while he changed her. He sure did like babies.
He brought her back out a few minutes later, talking in his high, baby talk voice.
“There, mommy, all clean and sweet again. Tell mommy it’s time to eat, Stella.”
Stella burbled and smiled at Ruby.
“Come on, Ruby, let’s feed her.”
Ruby got up from her seat. Jamie had gotten a high chair since they’d been there last. Jamie put Stella into the seat and got a jar of baby food out of the fridge. Ruby sat down at the table and watched him feed Stella strained carrots. That was how daddies should be. He was so patient with her. He actually liked her. He liked to feed her, liked to change her, liked to hold her and rock her to sleep.
But feeding Stella was tedious and took a long time. Ruby got a beer out of the fridge and sat drinking it, waiting for Jamie’s attention to turn back to her. Although Ruby was happy to provide something that interested Jamie, she was jealous of all of the attention Stella got from him. Jamie should have been paying attention to Ruby.
Stella was asleep in her food by the time she finished the carrots. Jamie put her down in the stroller to sleep.
“Now we can spend some time together,” he announced.
“James... do you have some Aspirin or something for my ankle? The pain is killing me.”
He looked at her and saw how pale she was.
“Yeah, I have some pills that work great. I’ll get some for you.”
The pills the doctor gave her just didn’t work. Ruby needed something stronger, like Tim had given her. Jamie brought her out some prescription pills, and Ruby swallowed them.
Her ankle took a long time to heal. She was still taking pain pills after the doctor took the cast off. Some she got from the doctor, although those weren’t very potent, some she got from the gang or from Jamie. Marty never had anything strong enough to make a difference to Ruby. Stella was starting to toddle by the time Ruby got the cast off. The hearing for the armed robbery kept getting put off further, and Willhelm told Ruby that he didn’t think it would go to court. The witness was too unrel
It was hard going back to the gang after what happened with Troy. Ruby had nightmares there. Not that she didn’t have them at Marty’s house too, but at Tim’s there were always more people around to hear her cry out in the night. No-one ever said anything, but Ruby knew she often woke the others up. The alliance between the Terminators and the Jaguars dissolved with the news that Ruby had killed Troy. The fighting between the two gangs was fiercer than ever, and Ruby had to be especially careful of where she went. She was a target any time she got close to Terminator territory, and had to make sure that she was never alone. She had to be with Jack, Tim, or one of the others any time she even got close to the edges of their territory. But Ruby was a good fighter, and they didn’t complain too much about having to babysit her.
The sickness hit her suddenly. At first Ruby thought it was the pills. They often made her nauseous in the morning. But they didn’t make her throw up or so sick she could hardly move. The first couple of days she was at Tim’s apartment. After two wretched days of hardly being able to move, Ruby managed to get one of the guys to drive her to Marty’s house. He helped Ruby up the sidewalk, and she walked into the house with shaky knees and a churning stomach.
The house was empty. Marty must have gone out with Stella somewhere. Stella was big enough now that Marty had a little bit of freedom to get out of the house with her. Marty was always telling her what new thing Stella had done—or worrying about what things she hadn’t. Not that Ruby encouraged this. She was glad that Stella hadn’t started talking yet. She went into the bedroom and lay down.
Marty was chattering away to Stella when she got in. For someone who had never had much to say, Marty was always talking to the baby.
“Oh, hi, Ruby. You okay?”
“I don’t feel good.”
“I hear there’s a wicked flu going around. But we haven’t got it yet, have we Stella?”
Stella smiled a gummy grin and squealed. Ruby groaned.
“I haven’t been this sick in a long time... I think I was with the Winters last time I felt like this.”
“Well, it will pass in a day or two. You’ve just picked up some bug.”
Ruby would have nodded in agreement, but it would just make her feel worse. She closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep.
Marty made coffee, ignoring her father sitting at the table. He would go to bed before too long as long as she didn’t encourage him to talk to her. They were both studiously ignoring the sounds of Ruby around the corner in the bathroom throwing up.
“She’s not pregnant again, is she?” Marty’s dad demanded.
“No, she’s just got the flu.”
“We can’t afford another brat running around here.”
“She’s just sick. She wouldn’t be dumb enough to get pregnant again.”
He grunted and didn’t pursue it. But Marty watched the coffee percolate, wondering if it was true. She hadn’t even considered the possibility that Ruby was pregnant again. Stella was not quite a year old. It didn’t make sense that Ruby would let it happen again. Marty was sure Ruby couldn’t be pregnant again.
Stella was playing on the floor beside Ruby’s bed. Ruby was lying in bed and was supposed to be keeping an eye on her. Marty came back in.
“How’s she been?”
“You don’t do much with her,” Marty said. Not really a complaint. Mostly an observation.
“No, so what?” Ruby shrugged.
“You wouldn’t get pregnant again, would you?”
“I mean, with Stella, it was just an accident, right?” Mary persisted.
“You always use…”
“Look, I’m careful,” Ruby said hotly. “Getting pregnant before wasn’t my fault!”
“Have you ever told her dad?”
Marty was surprised.
Ruby shrugged and nodded.
“He’s dead,” she repeated.
“When did this happen? You never told me that before.”
“A while ago.”
“How? What happened?”
Ruby shook her head and didn’t answer. Marty played with Stella.
“So how’re you feeling?”
“Ruby...” Marty started hesitantly.
“Is this how you felt before you had Stella? When you went to the doctor and he told you it was morning sickness?”
“This is what you felt like then?” Marty repeated.
“Then you’re pregnant again.”
Ruby shook her head.
Marty shrugged and picked up Stella.
“If you have another baby, I’m not taking care of it. I’ll call Social Services.”
“I’m not having another baby.”
Brian snuggled under the warm blankets of the bed with Ruby.
“It’s been a long time since we saw each other, huh Ruby?”
“I been sick, and with the gang... and Jamie—but all he’s interested in is the baby.”
“I like to be with you, and you can stay with Marty. I don’t know why you want to be with anyone else.”
Ruby traced a circle on the bed sheet with her finger.
“I don’t know why,” she said slowly. “I’m scared not to be with the gang... They’re protection. And Jamie... He’s like a family or something. You know—daddy, mommy, baby... like a real family instead of just me by myself.”
“Why don’t you go visit your family or something? How long has it been since you saw any of them?”
“I dunno... seems like a couple of years now... I was at Winters when I saw Ronnie. The others, it’s been longer than that.”
“Why don’t you go see them?”
“Nah... I don’t really want to see my parents. I’d like to see Chloe and Ronnie. But...”
“But what? Why don’t you see them, then?”
“I’m not allowed to.”
They were silent for a while.
“And I don’t like to be at Marty’s if her dad’s home,” Ruby said.
“Marty doesn’t get along with him real well either, I don’t think. But it’s better than anywhere else you could stay.”
“At least you’re not bouncing around to different foster families anymore.”
“Yeah,” she agreed.
“I need money,” Ruby told Jamie, out of the blue, as they ate a fast-food dinner. He looked at her.
“Money? What for?”
“I got a... I got a problem I gotta take care of.”
“A problem? What are you talking about? What kind of problem?”
“I have to see a doctor.”
“Social Services pays for your medical bills, don’t they?”
“Yeah, usually. But not this time.”
“Why not? What do you need done?”
“Nothing. It’s personal. Besides, I don’t exactly want to let them know where I’m living. I’m sort of... under the radar.”
“How much do you need?”
“A few hundred.”
“What are you getting done?”
Ruby shook her head.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Are you sick? I thought you were feeling better.”
“I have some pills... but...”
“Are you okay?”
Ruby shook her head.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
Marty opened the door and saw Jamie standing there. Marty looked over her shoulder at Stella, and stood toe to toe with Jamie so that he couldn’t get in.
“That’s okay. I wanted to talk to you about her.”
“What about her?”
“She’s been asking about money... for some medical procedure.”
“What medical procedure?”
“She wouldn’t say. I got the feeling... maybe it was for an abortion.”
Marty felt sick. She swallowed and shook her head.
“An abortion? Did she say that?”
“No. She said she’s been sick... she said it would be a few hundred dollars... she didn’t want to talk about it.”
“Oh, no. That’s just great. Well, I told her I wouldn’t take care of another baby.”
“I would take care of it.”
Marty looked at him.
“You would? What about school?”
“I could get a sitter when I was out.”
“Well, you’d better tell her that, then.”
“I will, when she comes back. So is she pregnant for sure?”
“I think so. She says no, but she did the first time too.”
“I don’t know. She just can’t seem to handle it. Are you the father?”
Jamie laughed explosively.
“You’re not subtle, are you? No, I couldn’t be. We were always careful.”
“That’s what Ruby always says, but she’s not careful enough. Careful doesn’t get you two pregnancies.”
Jamie jumped to Ruby’s defense.
“I don’t think the first time was her fault. I met the guy who said Stella was his. He was pretty... nasty.”
“Ruby said he’s dead.”
“Did she? Well, he was in one of the gangs, so I guess that happens.”
“What do you mean it wasn’t Ruby’s fault? Unless he...”
“I don’t think it was consensual.”
“How do you know?”
He shrugged widely.
“You didn’t see them together. She pulled her knife on him. Pretty good sign that they weren’t on good terms.”
“Well, that’s something, at least. But that can’t be what happened this time, too.”
“But Ruby’s always careful.”
“Birth control fails. Even if you’re careful.”
Jamie looked uncomfortable with her statement.
“I don’t know who the father is... but I don’t want her to get an abortion.”
“I’ll tell her when I see her.”
“Tell her I’ll take care of the baby. I don’t care whose it is.”
Marty nodded again.
“Okay. I’ll tell her.”
It was Tim who brought Ruby home. She was leaning on his arm and was very pale. Marty had never met Tim before. He seemed a little embarrassed, helping Ruby into the house, ducking his head in a quick greeting, flushing red at the throat.
“What happened?” Marty questioned. “Are you okay?”
“She’s okay,” Tim said. “Just a little shaky.”
“Ruby... you had an abortion?”
Ruby looked up at Marty, eyes surprised.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m okay.”
Marty put her arm around Ruby.
“You’d better get some rest.”
Ruby nodded. Tim stood in the doorway for a few moments.
“I’ll see you around, okay Ruby?”
“Yeah, no problem.”
Marty took Ruby into the bedroom and helped ease her into bed.
“You should have stuck around here. Jamie was looking for you—didn’t want you to have an abortion.”
“I’m not having a baby,” Ruby said flatly.
“Jamie said he’d take care of the baby, if you kept it.”
“I don’t ever want another baby.”
“Then you stop putting yourself in risky situations,” Marty insisted.
“I just want to go to sleep, Marty,” Ruby begged.
“Okay, sweetie. You go to sleep.”
Ruby nodded and curled up. Marty left her alone.
Marty walked into the bathroom to bathe when Ruby was washing down a couple pills with a glass of water. Marty frowned.
“Are you still taking those morning sickness pills?”
Ruby glanced at her.
“I still feel sick.”
“Maybe you should see the doctor again. You shouldn’t need them anymore.”
Ruby shook her head.
“It’ll go away. I’ll just finish the bottle.”
“You should see the doctor if you’re still sick,” Marty insisted.
“You look better today. Are you still depressed?”
“Feeling a bit better.”
“Good. Are you going out?”
“If you want to go to the doctor tomorrow, I’m taking Stella in. You could come along.”
“She’s not meeting milestones. She’s not developing like she’s supposed to.”
“She’s more than slow.”
“Whatever. I don’t want to go to the doctor tomorrow.”
Tim watched Ruby as she slept. She looked peaceful when she slept, like she never did when she was awake. Awake, she always looked restless and unhappy. She smiled sometimes when she was having a good time, but it wasn’t a really happy smile. She’d been depressed since the abortion, too. The doctor said that was a normal reaction. But Tim hadn’t thought that Ruby would be. She was tough, she could handle it. Besides, she really hadn’t wanted the baby. So why be depressed by the abortion?
He stroked Ruby’s cheek, and she started to wake up. She frowned, and a few minutes later, opened her eyes.
“Hey,” she said softly.
“Hi, Ruby. You ready to get up?”
“Why?” she rolled over and looked around. “What’s happening?”
“We’re gonna go over and shoot some pool.”
“You want to shower? It’s free.”
Ruby looked like there was something she wanted to say. Tim waited for her to continue. Ruby shrugged and didn’t say anything.
“What is it?” he prompted.
Ruby was hesitant.
“Those pills you gave me before... do you have something that would make me feel better... ? Not so bad... ?”
“Yeah, sure—I can get you some uppers. You’ll feel better.”
“Good. I just can’t... I can’t keep on feeling like this.”
“It’ll make you feel better. I promise.”
Ruby was hyper all night. Her heart raced, and her palms sweated so much that she could hardly even hold a pool cue. But she definitely felt better. She went up for another beer, and Tim followed her.
“Careful how much you drink,” he warned. “The pills will make you drunk faster.”
“I think I might be drunk already,” she admitted.
“Then don’t get a drink.”
She ordered a beer, and Tim didn’t stop her from taking it.
“Just be careful,” he warned.
They made Ruby jumpy too. Although she felt better than she had when depressed, she felt like she was on edge all night. She was sure the Terminators were going to show up at any minute and bring the place down around her ears. She watched the door when anyone came in to make sure it wasn’t the Terminators.
“You hopped up?” Jack demanded, scowling at her.
“Timmy gave me something.”
“Just settle down. You’re gonna make all the boys jumpy.”
“I can’t settle down. I’m too hyped.” Ruby sidled up to him flirtily. “How come you want me to settle down? You not getting enough attention?”
Jack pushed her away.
“Get off of me,” he said disgustedly. “I don’t need you slobbering all over me.”
“How come you don’t have a girlfriend, Jack?” she questioned.
“I have lots of girls.”
“But no-one special.”
“You let your head be turned by some girl, you get in trouble.”
“What girl ever got you in trouble, Jackie?” she teased.
“Don’t call me Jackie, sweetheart. Now go play with Timmy, he’s all by himself over there just waiting for you. Go on, go cheer him up.”
He physically turned her around to face in Tim’s direction. Ruby focused her attention on Tim and walked up to him.
“What’s the matter, Timmy?”
She put her arms around his neck and drew up close to him.
“You miss me?” she questioned.
“You are so smashed, Ruby.”
“Uh-huh,” she agreed.
She tilted her head up to kiss him, but started when the door opened and turned to see who it was.
“It’s okay,” Tim said. “Just relax.”
She turned back towards him and kissed him.
Ruby Between the Cracks by P.D. Workman / History & Fiction have rating 2.3 out of 5 / Based on30 votes