She’d never thought she’d repeat her mother’s mistakes. But in spite of all her big dreams, here she was, shaping out to be just the same—a single mother, struggling to get by on low-wage jobs, living in a rented trailer, one unpaid bill away from disaster. And already in debt.
“When I think of how much I used to look up to you,” Ivy said now, staring at her in the messy kitchen. “I thought you were so smart and strong. And now just look at you!”
“I can’t ask Ares for help! I can’t!”
“Are you crazy? You have to! Mom never had a choice. You do. But you won’t even ask. For all you know, Ares might give you millions of dollars. He might even marry you.”
Ruby’s mouth went dry. Marriage? “Now you’re the one who’s crazy!”
“At the very least, he’d pay child support. And probably lots more.” Ivy shook her head angrily. “You could be rich and comfortable. But no! You not only stole my dream, you’re messing it all up! You’re ruining your life—and your baby’s!”
Was she? Suddenly shaking, Ruby stared at her sister. “But if I accepted money from him, he would own me. He might…” But she couldn’t say what she feared most: that he would treat her as his toy, seduce her, make her love him. Break her heart.
“So let me get this straight,” Ivy said coldly. “You won’t be a gold digger, oh, no. You won’t ask for marriage, you won’t ask for money. You won’t even ask for child support!”
“It’s my life, Ivy!”
“Your baby is the one who’s going to suffer for it!” Grabbing their mother’s old suitcase from the closet, she started tossing stuff into it. “Well, I won’t stay and watch.”
“What are you doing?”
“What I should have done a long time ago,” Ivy said. “Heading out on my own.”
Her sister shot her a scornful glance. “Why should I stay? Because you’re such a good role model? Thanks so much for keeping me from my evil plan of getting pregnant and rich, Ruby,” she said sarcastically. “Your plan was so much better—ending up pregnant and poor!”
“I didn’t plan for any of this to happen!”
“No. You just blundered your way into it.” Ivy pulled her suitcase down the shag carpeting of the hallway to her bedroom. “And I’m not going to let you drag me down with you!”
She was just upset, Ruby told herself desperately. Ivy had been furious when she’d told her about the pregnancy. She’d had no choice; her belly was starting to show. But surely, once Ivy had a chance to think, she would calm down.
Nervously, Ruby started tidying her sister’s dirty dishes in the kitchen. But by the time she’d washed all the dishes, put away the flour and sugar and wiped down the counters, her sister had packed up her old yellow Beetle with all the clothes, shoes and boxes that would fit.
Coming back into the kitchen, Ivy put the freshly baked muffins into a brown paper bag. Facing her sister, she twisted her car keys in her hands. “So I guess this is goodbye.”
A lump rose in Ruby’s throat. “Please don’t go,” she whispered. “I can’t lose you, too.”
Ivy looked back at her. “Don’t force your baby to live in poverty, Ruby. That’s the wrong kind of pride.”
And with that, her nineteen-year-old sister departed, leaving Ruby standing alone and uncertain in the trailer’s worn kitchen.
She heard the Beetle drive away. The trailer suddenly felt quiet. She could hear Mr. Rafferty’s dog barking down the street.
Nausea roiled her. She leaned her hands against the peeling countertop for support. She’d called in sick today from all three jobs. She’d barely slept last night, and had woken to more morning sickness. It had already forced her to miss multiple days of work over the last few months. None of her jobs had sick leave, which meant her paycheck was smaller. She was falling deeper and deeper into debt. And her baby hadn’t even been born yet.
What will you do if you get sick, Ruby?
Closing her eyes, she leaned her forehead against the cool white fridge, waiting for the waves of nausea to pass. But it just got worse. She ran to the bathroom, making it just in time. Brushing her teeth afterward, she looked at herself in the mirror. The doctor had said the nausea should be getting better by now, but it hadn’t yet. She took a long shower, trying to wash away her anxiety and fear.