Ruby day isn't as it seems.
Ruby wakes in the morning to learn the schools are closed due to a snowstorm the previous night.
Ruby is delighted and prepares to spend the day with her beloved twins.
Mid-day, Ruby has coffee with her neighbor, Linda, who is uncomfortable when Ruby mentions the children are outside playing in the snow.
After reading a nap-time story for the twins, Ruby sets the table and prepares dinner.
When her husband, Joe, comes home and sees the four place-settings, he's sad and says something to Ruby.
Ruby has an emotional reaction to what Joe says.
Word Count: 1054
Ruby stretches a cat-like, arms wide and back arched, then rubs her eyes. The radio, having just turned on to wake her, continues, "...Lee County Schools, Auburn City Schools, and Opelika City Schools. Again, these schools have been closed today due to last night's snowstorm. Stay tuned for more school closings as they are announced."
Her face changes from an annoyed crease in her brow to smile lines pointing to her crinkled eyes. "Ryan! Kyle! Did you hear that? No school today! It's a snow day!"
Ruby laughs as she sees the older twin, Ryan, leap onto the bed and complain that he's already dressed because they never close the schools for snow.
"Well, today they did. Let's get breakfast, then go play in the snow." Ruby bounces off the bed with energy that belies her age.
Ruby, thrashing out her best snow angel, compliments Ryan on his and encourages Kyle to make one, too. She spies her neighbor coming down the walk. "Hey, Linda!"
"Hey, Ruby!" Linda smiles. "Why don't we go in and get some coffee."
"Sure." Ruby turns to the boys, "Stay in the yard where I can keep an eye on you." Then to Linda, "What brings you by?"
"What's that?" Linda asks.
"I asked, "What brings you by?""
"No, I mean..." Linda's voice trailed, "Never mind. It's cold out here. Let's get you inside."
Ruby puts on a fresh pot of coffee. "This is from our trip to Bolivia."
"Oh, it is?" Linda's eye avoid Ruby's. She stares at the floor, the coffee pot, the table.
"Yes. That's where the best coffee comes from, in my opinion."
A slow, low sigh escapes Linda's nostrils. She smiles, "I think you've mentioned that before."
They both gaze out the window at the mess in the yard--snow angels, half-built snowmen, snowballs. The morning's pristine snow tells the story of a great time.
Ruby brings the coffee pot over and begins pouring a cup for each of them. "I really should make some hot chocolate for the boys, too. They'll be cold when they come in from the snow."
Linda turns from the window and stares at Ruby's face--the lines of life creating neat pleats across the surface. "Uh, Ruby..." She stops, swallows.
"I'm all out of marshmallows, I'm afraid."
"Ruby..." She twists in her seat, subconsciously facing outward as if to leave. Only the cup of coffee in her hand keeps her planted. She watches Ruby watching her young children play in the snow. Ruby's faces carries a wide smile and her arms are crossed with the satisfaction of motherhood.
"Ryan won't drink the hot chocolate without the marshmallows. Will you watch the boys while I go get some?"
"Uh, no. I'll get some. I have to go to the store anyway." Linda gets up, leaving an untouched cup of coffee. Ruby follows her to the front door. "Why don't you watch some TV or something while I'm gone?"
"Joe will be coming home soon. I really should bring the boys in for their nap and get dinner started. Thanks for getting the marshmallows." Ruby smiles again.
Linda's mouth smiles, but her eyes remain steady, sunken back as if they, too, wish to retreat. "Of course."
Ruby opens the door to let Linda out, then calls to the boys, "Nap time, boys! Time to come in!"
Linda hurries down the sidewalk, not sparing a sideways glace toward the yard, to what should be untouched snow, like the rest of the neighborhood.
Ruby gathers her boys under her arms, "Ooo...You boys are certainly cold! Linda is getting some marshmallows. How about I make some hot chocolate after dinner?"
She herds them upstairs to their bunks and selects a favorite story. Ruby sits in her rocker and slowly sways back and forth as her voice tells a lazy story suited for tired children. She doesn't show the pictures. They've seen them all before. The book is worn but she reads the story page by page, as if it was the first time. When she's done, she creeps out of the room and down the stairs to start dinner.
Ruby hums gently as she sets the table, planning a dinner of baked chicken, Ryan's favorite.
The door unlatches; Joe comes in and places his briefcase by the coat rack. "Brrr! It's cold out there today. That wind is biting!" He closes the door behind him, but not before a gust of wind blows the napkins from the dinner table. He sees the flurry of white and scurries to set them back in place. Four napkins lay on the floor, missing from the four plates where they'd been laying. Tears begin to form. Abandoning the napkins, he moves to his wife and hugs her. He holds her tightly as he says, "I love you, my precious Ruby stone. You know that, don't you?"
"Of course I do, you silly." She tries to pull away, but he contains her in his embrace.
"Ruby, they twins aren't here. Kyle's in the Army now."
"He's what? Don't be silly. He's just a boy."
"No. He's a grown man now." Joe continues to hold her as she starts to try to pull free.
"Don't say that. No. They're upstairs taking a nap. I'll go wake them. Linda's bringing marshmallows for hot chocolate. We're going to have some after dinner. You know how Ryan won't drink his hot chocolate without marshmallows."
"Ruby." Joe holds her. "Ryan died that winter. He caught pneumonia and died."
Ruby pushes back with all her feeble strength, "No! Don't say that! No! He didn't! He's fine! He's upstairs! Why would you say that?"
"I love you, Ruby."
"Then don't say such cruel things!" She twists and tries to free herself from his grip. He's older than he used to be, but these bouts have helped him keep his strength.
"It will pass, Ruby. You'll remember later."
She pauses, then looks into his eyes, her face covered in fear. "Am I like Momma?" her voice timid.
"Yes, my sweet, precious Ruby stone. You're like your momma. You have Alzheimer's too."
Ruby begins to cry and Joe eases her to the couch where he places an arm around her and gently shushes her, brushing her hair from her face. "I love you my precious, precious Ruby. I love you."