Ruby looked out the window and couldn't help but smiling. She was probably much more excited for the first day of school than Ella! The sweet clean little tennis shoes, new notebooks and pencils, pictures by the bus and the classroom door of her little girl in a too-big back pack, even the tears and constant missing, all of it seemed exciting to Ruby. It meant Ella was growing up, and though it hurt beyond description, Ruby was so excited for all of the beautiful new experiences the world was opening up for her little girl.

"Mom?" Ruby turned and...

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"What the hell does that mean!"

Rena tried to understand the words on the paper clutched in her hand as she curled up on the couch. "Gram?" she whispered into the phone, "What did they say?"

"Oh, just a little of this and that, you know, dear. When you get old, they all end up sounding the same. It's always something, honey."

"Geez." Rena breathed for a moment. "I don't even know what to say, Gramma. I wish it wasn't like this. Do you think you'll be able to come visit this year?" Rena immediately regretted the question; it just...

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The lamp wouldn't turn on. "Shit," Mel muttered. "Jerry!"

Of course, he wouldn't come. He was in the tiny bathroom, savoring the one amenity included in the rent, his head bowed under the shower's heavy, erratic spray.

Mel moved over to the dusty window. Rocking back and forth with Ollie on her hip, she pulled the curtain aside and grabbed at a cloth sitting on the sill. Not caring what it was, she wiped at the windows and tried to see out. Somehow they never seemed to stay clean. Mel was amazed at the amount of dust that always seemed...

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