AN: God, this show freaking sucks these days.


I hope you're doing fine out there without me
'Cause I'm not doing so good without you
The things I thought you'd never know about me
Were the things I guess you always understood

As the days grow long I see
That time is standing still for me
When you're not here

- 3 Doors Down, 'Here By Me'


Chapter Six


Too many things had happened in the boathouse over the last few months but here they were, her and her best friend, slipping up the stairs, her feeling horribly, achingly breakable. But JR looked odd, seemed too chipper, and that grated against her own emotion, making her watch him carefully as he moved past her and dropped onto the bench, rubbing his face.

"Thanks for, um—" She hesitated, gestured back vaguely in the direction of the penthouse, managing a weak but real smile and he shrugged, shaking his head. "The last thing you need is to stay there and dwell on the fact that he's married to someone else."

It felt surreal, to even think about it— but there it was, Ryan had married Greenlee.

Promised to stand by her, through sickness and in health, for richer or poorer—what a fucking crock that was, considering the excuse they were using to tie the knot in the first place. Promised to honor her, and love her, and to stand by her.

He had promised her the same thing, but… but it was different, and it was a different that broke her.

Why people wanted love so damn much confused Kendall.

"I feel kind of dumb now, pushing you to go after him…"

She managed a tiny laugh, wrapping her arms around herself and looking out tiredly at the lake, shaking her head. "Not your fault, I was the one stupid enough to think he believed it, right?" She could feel his care, and she clung to it as she dropped onto the bench beside him, smiling weakly at him. "We can be bitter together."

"I'm marrying Babe."

"Or not," she stated, blindsided. "What do you mean, marrying Babe?" she prodded long minutes later when he just sat and stared out at the lake blindly. "Like I said, I'm marrying her, that's all." It didn't look like that was all, not with that carefully blank look on his face. "I thought you were throwing in the towel?"

"I love her."

It wasn't a lie, but it wasn't a happy truth, not to judge by the hard look in his eyes and tense shoulders. "I love Bess, Kendall, and I'm not going to let anything happen to her, okay?" She licked her lips, studying him, taking her friend in— it was far better than thinking of the newlyweds on their way back to town. "JR, you're Bess's father, you two splitting up wouldn't change that."

"Unless she's not mine."

"What?" she asked blankly, grief forgotten in her confusion, breath catching in her throat at the look he gave her, something that went so far beyond desperation there wasn't even a word for it. But she had seen it before in Bianca's eyes when her sister had slid her palms across her swollen belly, seen flickers of it in her mother's eyes when Erica had saved her from Michael, seen it in her eyes when she looked in the mirror during that trial. "I can't lose Bess, Kendall."

"It's okay, you won't—"

"I have to go," he said thickly, but she jumped up fact, throwing herself into this emotion he was suffering beneath. "JR, Bess is yours, it doesn't matter what any test might say and, besides— I mean, she's yours, the test said so, remember?"

"A cop from Llanview was by yesterday, Kendall, wanted to ask us questions about Paul Cramer—"


Paul fucking Cramer, Babe's precious first husband, the guy who had apologized so intensely in the hospital for losing Miranda, as if he actually cared about her and her sister. She'd ratted him out, grabbed JR and told him because, damn it, JR deserved knowing the truth, however painful it might be to hear.

He was the last thing she needed to hear, and she bit her cheek, taking a ragged breath and letting it out. "What's the matter with him, what?" He jerked his head in some vague backwards direction, making a short and disgusted noise under his breath. "He went missing a few days ago, and they wanted to see if we had seen him."

"Oh… oh, but… what does this have to do with—" Kendall caught his look then, the fear that was taking over his face, and closed her mouth, startled into silence with one last quiet murmur of understanding. "You think Bess is his?" she finally asked softly, and knew it was a useless question. "Oh…"

"If he takes her…"

"It's okay," she blurted out hastily, awkwardly laying a palm on his arm, suddenly desperate that it would be okay. "The only thing that matters is Bess," he stated, and there was that emotion was again, bringing with it memories of her mother and Miranda and her baby sister, of the way things were supposed to be. "I have to go," he repeated and she dropped her hand, nodding dumbly.

She stood awkwardly as he moved away, waited—

"I'll call you," he said back, pausing on the bottom step and the relief she felt was almost staggering, something to focus on other than dead babies and business marriages that broke her heart. Bess was alive, a thing of flesh and blood that couldn't hurt her, and JR was a friend, and she trusted him.

"I'll be waiting for you."


Jamie was, except for Bianca, Maggie's best friend.

He was, at times, not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he seemed to genuinely care about her, and really want what's best for her. Bianca was acting oddly, was missing their lunch meetings and their plans to go shopping, and was even ducking out of their talks, and it left Maggie reeling at the feeling, aching for her friend.

Jamie was also the most pitiful excuse for an adult she had ever met.

She couldn't even acknowledge him as an adult in her mind, could only handle him as an over-sized boy in a nicely toned body, and he acted like it— ate off her plate when she looked away, cracked dirty jokes during old movies, and would spend a scary amount of time playing video games and watching cartoons.

And tried to imply that she cared more about Bianca than she actually did.

What Jamie didn't comprehend was that she wasn't gay— she didn't walk around whistling at women, or leer at them, or watch them. Sure, boys weren't always the best choice, but she wasn't gay, and she was getting real damn sick of Jamie's slightly teenage attempts to paint her as a lesbian.

How she felt about wasn't any of his business, anyway.

"I made you mad, didn't I?"

Maggie gave a short grunt, swiping up a nice bit of ketchup with a fry and popping it into her mouth quickly. "You just have to eat the fry, Maggie, not shred it," he muttered, and she gave him a look, although she slowed her angry chewing a bit, mollified by his vaguely wounded air.

At least he wasn't going on about how weird Babe was acting, which was a blessing.

"I just… think you and Bianca should talk," he said suddenly, and she flung down a fry, scowling at him darkly, a harsh enough stare that he blanched, laughing, as if trying to ward her off. "Do you have any idea how exhausting it is to walk in while you two are giving each other longing glances?"

"Shut up, James."

"I'm trying to help!"

"Bite me." She was in a foul mood, and knew it, but Bianca was as obsessed with how Babe was acting as Jamie was, and she'd been kept up all night as her friend brainstormed why the blonde was acting so odd. Maggie herself didn't care all that much, especially not since it was taking up all of her study time these days.

Not to mention her sanity.

"I'm worried about Babe—"

"Okay, fine, let's talk about me and Bianca," she laughed, and he gave her a look, hang-dog look in full effect. "Jamie, please, I don't want to talk about the torrid lives of two brothers and a skank, okay?" If it was anyone else, he would have gotten pissed off; as it was, she got a dirty look, and a scowl. "I'm worried about her, that's all."

"I think you've done enough of that for one lifetime."

"She's my sister-in-law, Maggie."

"And you're telling me you just care about her in a sisterly fashion?"

Jamie's blush was answer enough. "I just… I don't think JR's good enough for her, that's all."

"But it's none of your business."

"That's what my dad says."

"Your dad's right."

"What if it was Bianca?"

She froze in the act of eating a fry, eyes flying up. "What?" she asked blankly and he sighed, repeating, "Just, what if it was Bianca, acting weird? What if you were worried about her?" She shook her head, no longer hungry, uneasy since damn it all to hell, Bianca was acting oddly. That was to be expected, though, she'd lost her baby. David still didn't seem to be okay since he'd lost Leora, so God only knew how long Bianca would take to grieve.

Except, she didn't seem to be grieving, so much as obsessing.

Obsessing, over Babe.

Jamie thought it was jealousy, but he didn't get it— it was off, the way Bianca acted when Babe even got mentioned, to say nothing of Bess. Her hackles went up, and she got downright crazy about the blonde, and to Maggie's worried mind, it made no sense. It had come out of nowhere, and she had even brought it up to Bianca's therapist, unnerved by the intensity of it.

The therapist hadn't taken it seriously.

This left her looking like the jealous want-to-be girlfriend, which was the last thing she needed.

"Bianca's not my Babe," she snapped, pushing food around, "and Bianca's not Babe, so I think you should get the blonde out of your system, and go play with your niece, I hear she's adorable." She stood up abruptly, grabbing her bag and gifting her friend with a massive smile, knowing it looked phony but no longer caring. "Bring home a doggie bag!"

And she fled, unable to do anything else.


Palmer Cortlandt, much like Adam Chandler, was an old bastard.

Staring at him, a tiny part of Kendall worried. He didn't look as healthy as he should have, and his hands shook faintly, enough that her heart stuttered the smallest bit in her chest. But his eyes were still sharp with a wicked kind of intelligence, and his humor was still edged in the pride no one had ever been able to strip him of.

Palmer, at least, appreciated her Kane spunk, as he called it.

"Are you trying to woo me?" she asked dryly, indicating the wine before them and he gave her a smug little grin, toasting her elegantly before tossing it back, a hint of something that had to come from his roots flaring in the faintly careless movement. They had talked about it once, where he had grown up, and he'd manage to pull something of her childhood out of her— trips away from the Florida coast when storms came barreling in, the unending horror of the mosquitoes at dusk, and the fact that she was unwilling to go back.

She had been back, and it had been awful in some painful way, too much progress being forced into too small an area, setting her teeth on edge and her heart sore. All that was left, from her quick trip back just a year or so before, was the remains of her home state, something Palmer had actually seemed to understand when she shared it with him over escargot some months after the visit.

Palmer actually seemed to like her, not because he was supposed to, but because he chose to.

"My dear, if I were a few years younger, I would have you." She cocked an eyebrow at him, disbelieving, but he just stared back and she flushed, covering it with a quick sip of the wine. "Sadly, however, I will make do by living vicariously through that monkey of a man, Lavery." Off her look, he gave a short snort— "He'll come crawling back, my dear, if you give him reason to."

"Gee, thanks."

"You miss my point," he sighed, and gave a very small but very smug smile, lifting one eyebrow. "I didn't bring you here to insult you, my dear; I brought you to here to talk, Cortlandt to Kane, the way it should be." Another look from the curly-haired woman, and his grin broadened, reminding her forcefully of something with teeth and claws and an intelligence that didn't lessen with age. "Your mother's having a temper tantrum, it seems, and Bianca has her hands more than full which you leaves you to be dealt with."

"I'm supposed to be 'dealt with'?"

"Hush, and let me talk." It was such a line, really, an order given with complete certainty that it would be followed and if anyone else had given it, she would have started flinging barbs, just because. But it was Palmer, and she trusted him— he would have kept her and Bianca safe, until Miranda was born, and he would have done it without hesitation because, old bastard or not, when you had him in your corner, you were set for life.

"I've been looking at this entire mess of a romantic entanglement and reached my own decisions." He poured her more wine, nodding to himself. "Lavery's a fool, but he's a fool in denial, and he's in denial that he's in denial," he added dryly, looking extremely irritated as he nodded at her to take her wine. "The more you chase him, the more he's going to decide he doesn't want you, and the uglier it's all going to get."

"I don't want him," she ground out, hating when her voice trembled the smallest bit. "He chose her over me, so why would I want him?" she demanded quietly, and he snorted, shrugging. "You love him, which leaves you at the distinct disadvantage." She opened her mouth, and he held up one finger in a 'hush' gesture that, again, she found herself following. "You're emotionally vulnerable right now, and you'll be the one to break and beg for forgiveness."

"Gee, thanks—"

"Unless you're not."

She blinked, and then cocked one eyebrow in a perfectly formed 'excuse me?' stare, a strong enough stare that he gave a chuckle, and smirked slightly. "You have to make him beg for it, my dear, work himself to get you back." He nodded very distinctly towards a couple some feet away, giggling in a way she and Ryan never had, in a way that Ryan and Greenlee always did when he walked in on them. "That, right there, is a lie.

"You don't believe in love?"

"Love's painful, and harsh, and it leaves you bleeding— and that's what makes it so fun, really." He stabbed an olive off of his salad, grinned slightly. "When you win at it, it means something, and when you beg for it, it isn't quite so satisfying." He paused, and stared at her, really watching her with a true respect. "I hate to see a Kane woman beg, dear."

"I'm not going to beg—"

"Well, not if I have anything to say about it you're not," he agreed, and she couldn't help it, she snorted with laughter, shaking her curls out of her face. "That's what everybody wants me to do, you know, beg for him to forgive me, beg me to take him back, and all I want to do is shove my stiletto right up Greenlee's—"

"No, my dear; then Lavery would hang that over your head, insisting he can't love someone who can't forgive."

"He's already said that."

"Then I don't have to tell you I told you so." He heaved a sigh at the way she shuttered her gaze, dropping her eyes to her plate. "You're dealing with a lot of pain right now, Kendall, and as much as he loves you— He does love you, I know that," he added at her doubtful look. "As much as the idiot wants you, he's made the kind of mistake that makes him not worthy of a Kane woman, at least not right now."

"You think he doesn't deserve me?"

"Not right now, not as far as I'm concerned. Kanes are like Cortlandts, neither of us are creatures that are born to beg, and no one should make us." He nodded to her plate, silent until she went back to her meal, "And if someone doesn't get that, what people like us are, then we need to teach them— if needed, by any means possible."

"I'm getting advice from you? Didn't you lock your wife in an attic or something?"

"Daisy and I had an intense relationship, my dear, and she got me back as much as I got her, that's what made her my match." He paused, tapped a finger against the table thoughtfully. "He's your match, he just doesn't accept it yet, he's too much of a coward right now… That's why he went for a poor man's Kendall Hart."

"Greenlee's a poor man's me?"

"Yes, and when it comes to Lavery, I suggest you take my one piece of advice."

"And what would that be?"

"Simple… ignore him, and let him suffer for a while."


The scent was wrong.

It was too sweet and too sour at the same time and he shifted, pulling his face away from the pillow and fiddling with it, attention still focused on the feel of imaginary palms against his neck, cradling his neck, nails pricking his skin. The smell was wrong, and the movement to escape it didn't help, pushing him further out of his sleep as he slapped at the pillow dumbly, stupidly, trying to make it right.

Settling back in, he forced the growing awareness away, trying to keep hold of soft skin and warm breath, tugging the warm body close to him, lean lines of frail grace, fitting their bodies together until it felt right again. It was nerve-wracking, though, the way she kept twisting in his grip… he couldn't keep a hold of her.

Ryan tugged again at the next violent twist of panic in his chest, feeling bare legs tangle with his own, sliding hands hastily across her body in a desperately soothing gesture, wishing she'd stop trying to slip out of his arms. She'd always been a runner, but this was different, and it left him floundering, dazed and confused at what he was supposed to do.

Gillian had never fought him like this.

The thought brought a sudden sharp pain to him, and she shifted out of his abruptly loosened hold, almost disappearing before he managed to catch her and pull her back, threading fingers through curls and crushing his mouth against hers. For a heartbeat, he felt hips moving against his in perfect unison before she twisted suddenly, leaving him grabbing at her retreating form, snatching at bare fingers—


His eyes flew open, his head snapping up from the pillow to take in a frustrated-looking Greenlee, jerking her head back at the open bedroom door. "What are you doing out here?" she demanded, snatching the pillow from under his head and whacking him with it, looking disgusted. "We have to sleep together, remember?"

"I doubt anyone's going to install cameras into my penthouse," he snapped, irrationally desperate to fall back to sleep. He didn't know what he had been dreaming about, but it had been good, or at least had a good edge to it. He yanked the pillow back, knowing and hating the fact that he was completely awake now, the exasperation pushing him into alertness. "I'm going back to bed."

"But you're not in bed, Ryan—"

He pulled the pillow over his head, his neck and back aching after the last restless night on the couch, and clamped his eyes shut tightly, trying to push himself back into unconsciousness. "I'm sleeping out here, I need to think," he finally sputtered, feeling suddenly guilty and pulling the pillow down to stare at her, standing with her arms crossed in her pink robe.

It almost looked like the one he had brought Kendall for her birthday—

"What time is it?" he asked abruptly and she shrugged, looking like a pouting child. "Sun's about to come up and you're perched out here like an idiot." She stomped away, vanishing into the bedroom and calling back heatedly, "If we get caught for fraud, it's going to be your fault."

"I needed to sleep out here, for my back." That was a lie, at least to judge by the fact that his back and neck felt worse than they had in the last few months. "If your back hurts, I can give it a massage," Greenlee noted, popping her head back out and smiling in a way that made his eyes fly open wide in alarm. "I'm fine, Greenlee."

"If you say so, hubby."

He was getting sick of being called "hubby," too.


Bianca cut at her, but she gritted her teeth and pushed through it.

Babe found herself thinking of Kendall, sharp and harsh and heartbreaking, hated because of who she was, and stuffed more of her pancakes in her mouth, knowing anything would be better than that. And JR loved Bess, at times with an almost frightening intensity, and Babe felt at times safe in the assurance of that, his love for not only Bess but also her herself.

JR loved her, and Bess, and that made it okay.

Even more, Bianca loved her.

At the moment, Mira- Bess was settled in Bianca's arms, chewing one fist sleepily as Bianca whispered into her ear, full grin on the other woman's face. She had called Bianca and dropped the baby in her best friend's arms instantly, leading them all out to the garden to talk.

"I don't think you have anything to worry about, Babe," Bianca said finally when Babe stopped talking, shifting the baby in her lap and making a face. "Kendall and JR, they've been friends for years, it's nothing to worry about," she repeated, and reached across the table to squeeze Babe's hand with a reassuring smile.


"Kendall needs a friend right now," Bianca sighed, and Babe winced in response, nodding mechanically. It seemed harsh, to do what Ryan had done, and then to have all of it splattered across the tabloids like that? It brought her guilt to the fore, and Babe hated guilt— people who spent their time feeling guilty didn't last too long in the world.

Mama had taught her that early on, and it was a lesson never forgotten.

"What if she and JR— I mean, she wants to make Ryan jealous, right?"

"But she wouldn't use JR," Bianca stated calmly, shaking her head in a final sort of movement. "Maybe someone else, she gets angry when she gets hurt, but she wouldn't use JR, you don't have anything to worry about, okay?" When Babe just continued to sit there and look like she was five seconds away from bursting into tears, Bianca smiled more brightly, an attempt to soothe her friend. "Every time I turn around, they're talking on the phone or going out to dinner or—"

"I think you're just feeling guilty about Jamie," Bianca drawled, carefully untangling the baby's fingers from her hair, and bouncing her a bit more in her lap, a playful jiggle that made the baby gurgle in delight. "And you have no reason to, not really. I mean, you came clean about it, and you feel horrible about it, and JR's forgiven you."


"Everything is just fine."


Greenlee couldn't walk fast enough.

It was a throwaway thought as he strode into the Fusion offices, listening to her rush after him, heels clicking too quickly after him. Kendall had never had that problem, had long legs that carried her easily across cement or wood, moved her with a quick grace that he picked up every once in a blue moon in Bianca's.

Amazing, how a tiny thing like Erica could have two super-model tall daughters.

"You're like the Jolly Green Giant," Greenlee laughed, jogging up to meet him, sliding a arm through his halfway before he shrugged it away with an uneasy jerk of his shoulder, not quite aware of the movement as he searched and found no sight of Kendall for the third day in a row.

"If we're lucky, she fell into a mine," Greenlee snapped under her breath, dropping into her chair and he shot her a half-hearted glance, glad when she flashed him a guilty look, missing the roll of her eyes when he turned away again, glaring at Kendall's desk like it was all the desk's fault she wasn't there.

"Where is she?" he demanded harsh enough that he got a downright nasty look from Simone, waving her drying nails through the air. "She left a while ago, ran off to have dinner with—" Ryan didn't hear the rest, disgusted, leaving the main office and heading to his own, wincing silently when Greenlee came rushing after him. "Ryan!"

"I need to do some things," he muttered, trying to shut the door before she could follow him, and exhaling quietly when she came darting in a split second before it clicked close. "Greenlee—" It would be like Kendall, to run off, and leave Simone to taunt him with it, but it still stung, and it shouldn't have, since he knew better than to let it.

"You can't freak every time she runs around with some other guy, Ryan."

"I'm not freaking," he snapped childishly, dropping behind the desk and digging his cell phone out of his pocket, itching to dial the number he had erased but still knew by heart. "Ryan—" When she went to grab it out of his hands, he yanked it towards him, snapping it closed and scowling. "I know, I know, I got it!"

"You're letting her get to you!" his little wife huffed, moving around the desk and dragging the chair with her, dropping into it with a sigh. "You think this is an accident? No, Ryan, she's trying to win!" She got an odd look, and shrugged, flashing him a large smile. "You two are toxic to each other, you know that."

"Yes, but—"

"Let her run around and get her booty calls—"

"I don't think she should be dating right now," he burst out, jerking his chin at the closed door. "I mean, I don't think it's good for her to go out with someone—" And before she could stop him, he was dialing her number in furiously, nodding, sure of the fact that he was right— "Hello?"

"Who is this?" Palmer Cortlandt snapped, and Ryan blinked, baffled, thrown again. "Palmer?" he asked warily, and got a snort in answer, the elderly man sounding downright threatening over the connection. "Lavery! I know that voice— What the Hell's wrong with you, boy, calling a woman when I'm taking her out?"

Oh, God, he didn't need that image. "I'm sorry, I thought—"

"Go buy your little poodle of a wife something!" the elderly man barked, and promptly hung up on him.

"What's the matter, Kendall pulling her usual?" Greenlee sighed, pulling the phone out of the dazed-looking man's hands and he blinked again, still trying to put it together. "She was out with Palmer," he finally said slowly, and when she stared, confused, he repeated, "Kendall, she went out with Palmer— oh, God, do you think—"

"Shut up, that's disgusting." She set his phone down beside her, shaking her head. "Don't be silly, he's like her daddy— Oh, Ryan, no, not like that!" She shrugged as lightly as she could, flashing him a brilliant smile again, big and bright. "She probably ran off to get sympathy from him, you know her."

"Yeah, but—"

"She's not worth your worry, Ryan—"


"She's not good enough for you," she stated, staring at him so hard that for a minute, he actually believed it.


Miranda had been loved.

Kendall had shed her heels and moved the last little bit more carefully, beginning to shake as she caught sight of the first teddy bear decorating Miranda's makeshift memorial. She didn't want to do this, desperately didn't want to, but she needed to, felt compelled to and so here she was, stepping cautiously towards the only real thing she had left of her dead niece, toys and flowers by a river.

When she saw the first bouquet, she nearly ran for her life.

It was warm already but it didn't feel like it; it felt cold in an empty way, as if winter had stayed too long before leaving. She cautiously stood where she was, staring at the wide assortments of gifts, finding none of them gave her what she wanted. Her throat was tight and she couldn't see but she refused to move her eyes from the gifts, refused to shift her gaze to the river.

The river, where Miranda had—

Kendall had drifted before in her life, had clawed for a foundation, but this was nothing like she had felt before, and couldn't describe. This was a hollow where Miranda had been that would never be filled, and the fact that Ryan couldn't get that, that none of them could get that— "I'm tired," she whispered, and dropped onto her ass, exhausted suddenly and unable to pull herself back up. "I can't be here," she told herself raggedly, but she couldn't get up, couldn't do anything but sit there and stare blurrily at her niece's gifts.

She couldn't do this, she didn't want to do this, and she couldn't—

She had cried so much since the storm; shouldn't she have run out of tears by now?


She closed her eyes for a moment, tried to get to her feet and found she couldn't, not that she was surprised. Blinking desperately, she tilted her head back to find tiny Maggie Stone staring down at her worriedly, a bouquet of irises in her arms. "Did you trip, or…" and she trailed off, looking too understanding in her silence.

"My knees went out, or… something, I think," and she couldn't help the fact she sounded like an idiot.

"Oh," Maggie said, and nodded as if it made perfect sense. "I'll just…" and she trailed off again, turning away to settle the bouquet with loving carefulness among the others. There was an odd look on her face, closed off but not completely, as if she had been caught doing something horrible and wasn't sure how to defend herself.


"I read somewhere that they meant hope," Maggie mumbled and she had started to bob her head in a decidedly Jack fashion, smoothing fingers furiously across bright purple petals. "Probably a bit bright for a little girl, but I think she'd like them, a Kane and all—" and Kendall closed her eyes and swallowed, not sure whether she hated or loved the image the words gave her, the Kane women, together, all of them.


"It's not supposed to be like this—"

"I know," and somehow Maggie did, standing there with overly bright eyes and a trembling lip. "I know," she repeated, and her voice caught but it didn't matter because she was sinking down to settle at Kendall's side, picking at her jeans with slightly shaky fingers. "I know, Kendall—"

Silence except for the river, sounding grotesquely peaceful after everything it had taken from them.

Kendall had lost count of how many times Ryan had told her he understood, told her that he knew, and it had only angered her more because he didn't, he couldn't possibly. He hadn't felt the kicks against his palms or the certainty that, even if he went to Death Row, it wouldn't matter because the only thing that did matter was Miranda. He didn't know, he couldn't, and—

Kendall had never liked Maggie all that much, not really. The tiny young woman was irritating in a familiar way and too harsh for her own good. She'd been cruel to her before, but she understood, she got it and she didn't have to insist that she did. She said the words and nothing else and meant everything that words couldn't say. Fat red crayons the first day of school that would never be used and Christmas presents that would never be given and hugs and kisses that would never happen—


"I know," she said, and meant everything she couldn't say.