Marion doesn't mind being alone so much.

She's never really alone anymore, anyway—there's a constant barrage of health nurses, therapists, and parole officers, social workers, group homes, and foster mothers. And on Tuesdays, from 5:30 to 7:00, there's Ellie.

There are times—a lot of times, more times than there are times that she isn't thinking about it—when Marion is with Ellie (and some times when she isn't) that it occurs to her that Ellie is her sole reason for living, that everything else she ever may have loved before, in some other life, is gone. Harry is gone—he's been gone for nearly three years, three years in the winter, and even if he's not dead, if he didn't get clean, he may as well be—and everyone else is dynamic, non-permanent, mere visitors into the life, but never the heart, of Marion Silver. She wonders if perhaps this is how Ellie will see her—a stranger who comes on Tuesdays, for an hour and a half, to laugh and play and tickle, sharing nothing but blood. She leans in to touch her face to Ellie's—who laughs and grabs at the chunk of hair that has escaped Marion's ponytail—then scoops her up and they dance. Well, just because she feeds me well and she made me talk dirty in a pink hotel, it doesn't mean she's got eyes for me, she might just want more bones you see…Ellie's big, almond-shaped blue eyes are glinting with the type of joy exclusive to people under two, people who have yet to be subjected to a more adult type of emotional pain, and her perfect tiny mouth is laughing. Marion isn't sure who her father is, isn't sure she cares. If—no, when—Ellie comes home with her, she'll tell her about Harry instead, because Harry loved Marion, and Marion loved Harry. Still does, if you want to be technical, still hangs on every night, sits up until she can't anymore by the phone, hoping he'll ring, tell her to come get him. Ellie has fat rolls in her armpits. Marion kisses them, plunks them both down in the pink-upholstered rocking chair, and thinks. Kate, the foster mother, lets them have this hour and a half to themselves, as long as the door stays open. Kate wants to adopt Ellie, call her Emily Suzanne Barrett instead of Ellie Harriet Silver. By Marion's logic, it was alright to use Harry's name. Even if he isn't really dead, he's gone, always just out of Marion's grasp, and that's good enough for her.

"I won't let them take you," she whispers to Ellie's soft caramel-y baby fuzz. Outside, the sky is going grayish. It might rain. Down the hall, Kate's son Nicholas is done in the bathtub. The clock strikes seven. Marion holds Ellie a bit closer, a bit tighter, and waits.

It won't be much longer, Marion reasons in the bus station, eating tiny nubs of chocolate-covered ice cream and sketching. She's been clean for seven months (most of seven months, she reminds herself, but it only happened once or twice, and once or twice out of seven whole months is justifiable given the circumstances, isn't it?), since they took Ellie away. She goes to therapy and to rehab and never misses an appointment—with Ellie or with Kate and the social worker. She has a job, a real job, and a quiet little apartment. It can't be long now. Her cell phone's message light blinks, a text message fro Ellie's caseworker. It's been almost a year, Kate and John Barrett need closure…I need closure, too, Marion silently agrees, flipping her phone shut. The bus is empty except for a young man, face obstructed by dark hair, vaguely familiar to Marion in some distant way. He only has one arm, the other a stub below the elbow. But instead of saying hello, or nodding, or making this strange-but-familiar boy acknowledge her, Marion sits across from him, mentally calculating the minutes until next Tuesday, until she's finally not alone again.