"Hey Ruby your kid sister is here!" David Beck called from his barstool as he studied Amber Dawson with a lustful interest.

 Ruby snatched a bar towel from the counter and snapped Beck on the arm earning his full attention. “Keep your eyes off of my sister."

 Beck grinned as he gnawed on a cherry stem. "What? She's eighteen right?" 

 Ruby ignored him and reached for her sister before any of the other drunks could acquaint themselves as well.

 "Hey! Um, ow." Amber protested as Ruby led her into the break room. 

 -“How many times do I have to tell you not to visit me here?"

 Amber wrenched her arm free of her sister's clutch. “Can you relax? I’m not here for happy hour." The slightly younger version of Ruby grasped at a barely pink spot on her arm as if it were a bullet wound. Unlike Ruby, Amber was a much more delicate being. Everything about her mimicked a porcelain doll; from her pale blonde hair which took an hour every morning to perfect, to her evenly pressed blouses which she accessorized to no end. Ruby was nearly as breakable when she first started working the late shift at The Silver River. She learned the best way to thwart the unwanted attention of her customers and still get a good tip was to never smile and always appear busy. Soon they would get bored with their own efforts. The regulars, aside from Beck hardly gave her any trouble anymore, and Beck himself was harmless. He was just relentlessly annoying with his lack of sobriety, some nights more so than others.

 Ruby gave Amber her full attention, awaiting an explanation.

 "Mom called me," she announced uncertainly.

 It was all Ruby could do not to grab Amber again and shake her. “What?"

The topic of their patents was off limits at the Dawson children's household. The whereabouts of their father was unknown and their mother was an alcoholic who had pretty much given up on raising her children ten years ago. Last Ruby heard, Adessa Dawson was in a rehabilitation center seeking treatment. It wasn't her first time in rehab, and it probably wouldn’t be her last.

 "Ruby please. Just listen to me. She's lonely and she's getting out of rehab soon..." Amber's pretty green eyes grew wide and hopeful.

 Ruby raised her hand as if it could break her sister's trail of thought. "Absolutely not!"

 Amber stomped her foot, a childish habit she had never outgrown. "It's not like I'm asking to take a rabid dog home."

 Ruby crossed her arms. "No. You're right it's not. I would much sooner consider the rabid dog."

 Amber clutched at her older sister's arm. "She is our mother!" Amber stressed.

 Ruby laughed cynically. "You better tell her that."

 Amber offered her a lethal look, and Ruby ignored the glare with ease, if there was one thing noteworthy about the oldest Dawson child it was her steel will. Once her mind was made up there was very little that could be done to change it. "Now if you'll excuse me Amber I have my own manipulative drunks to tend to, ones I get paid to take care of."

 "Whatever,” Amber mumbled before taking off through the back exit.

 Later that night Ruby tried to shake her annoyance when she arrived to meet Cole. The Sycamore tree fort was the only place in all of West Sparrow where she could let her guard down. The only memories in the fort were genuinely sincere ones. It had always been her retreat, her special place to disappear to when the outside world proved to be too much. Carefully in the dark she reached for the rope ladder and began to ascend into the fort. What she saw inside made her want to laugh and cry at the same time.

 Curled up in a ball with his sleeping bag was Cole Winsor. His chest rose and fell rhythmically in his sleep. Ruby shook him gently. His eyes blinked once, twice, three times until he registered her presence. "Ruby. You are late," his words slurred slightly as he struggled to wake up.

 "Yeah... Sorry about that. I had a slight altercation at work,” she laid down beside him and stretched out her tired limbs. “You think they'd deliver a pizza out here?" She joked.

 Cole shook his head." I've already tried that, we're too far in the woods." 

 Ruby's smile wavered. "I was joking." Without meaning to she offered him a sidelong glance. Cole sighed. Was she patronizing him or playing Mother Hen again? She hoped not. He hated when she did that. She squeezed his hand apologetically. “What's this thing you wanted to show me anyways?"

The End

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