"Day-in-the-Life" for cliche bingo. I gave Wybie's grandmother a name.

Her Wyborne has the spine bends like Marie did. He hates his brace just like her sister, too, and his smile, lord, is all Marie's. Or hers, she supposes, but she sees more of her sister's shy adventurism in her grandson then she sees herself.

"You stay outta that house now, you hear?" she tells him every morning when she checks to see that his brace is as straight as it can get.

"I know, Grandma," Wyborne says, "I promise."

He wriggles out from under her hands and shuffles his great raincoat on, buttonin' himself up tight. It's more to hide the brace than it is for the cold and Anne aches for her sensitive little boy. Ain't nothin' in the world that was gonna make her Wyborne look like a normal kid.

Embrace your differences, Anne's always told him. God gave 'em to you for a reason, child.

Wyborne had looked at her with Marie's solemn dark eyes and said, Yeah, but couldn't he have given them to someone else, Grandma?

She knows she spoils the child something awful, but she can't look at him without seeing her Marie miserable beneath their covers every night sayin' the same blessed thing.

Anne presses a cloth wrapped snack into his thin fingers now, and kisses him on the bent top of his fuzzy little head. "Just checkin'," she says, "Lil' children are always forgettin' something. Gets knocked right outta their heads."

"I think I've heard you saying it enough, Grandma," he says. "Of course, I could forget, I guess. Boys forget all the time, right?" He prods his snack until he realizes that, yes, she's spoiled the daylights out of him. "Thanks for the snack!"

Anne hrrmps softly. She'd been hopin' for a hug, to be sure. Time's comin' when Wyborne won't want anythin' to do with his old grandmother's hugs. She's not gonna admit she's disappointed; she'd raised two boys, back when.

Wyborne gives her a little smile and wraps his arms around her waist a moment later. "Thank you," he says again, squeezing her old bones until they creak faintly in appreciation. "I love shortbread."

Ah, there's her good boy. "You're a good child," Anne says fondly. She fluffs his hair to make him twitch, her fingers still marveling over what two generations'll do to nice black hair. Such a silly thing her Wyborne wears on his head.

"Now get," she says, pushing him back before he can push away from her. "You stay away from that house or the beldam'll get you."

"I know, Grandma." Still, he leans up on his toes and kisses her shyly, always shy, her Wyborne. Took after Marie that way too. "I'll come home for lunch, okay?"

He grins suddenly, little glimpse of the devil child that Marie'd never had, no. "Unless I find some nice slugs to eat, Grandma," he says, and she laughs and swats at him with her hand towel.

"Get out of here, you scamp. Don't be eatin' no slugs, boy!"

Anne watches from the doorway as that stray cat jumps onto Wyborne's shoulder from a low tree branch. Strange cat, demon black with a heart big enough to see all the good in her Wyborne that the neighbor kids never could see.

"You take care of him, you hear?" she says under her breath. The cat looks back and winks one big blue eye at her like it heard. She shades her eyes with an old hand, looking towards the big pink house that was her home, once upon a time, and then turns away with a shudder.

There are things to do, always things to do inside, away from that damn child thieving witch. The rockin' chair in the front room looks just about as inviting as anything can look to an old woman.

She keeps her grandson out of that house because he doesn't have a mother or a father and Marie's other mother, her la Belle Dame sans Merci, had enticed Marie away when she'd had both.

That child, Anne thinks, shaking her head and sitting down to knit Wyborne a new pair of gloves. Marie hadn't never been happy with what she had, always sad and lonely even with Anne at her side. Marie had spoken of the other mother behind the wall, the one with button eyes and a wide smile, who fed her sweets and good southern cookin' instead of the watered down white food their mother had taken to when they moved up here.

"Fie," she mutters down to Wyborne's gloves. "Another mother. A witch, she was, a monster preyin' on unhappy babies." Why, the beldam'd love to get her hands on something so sweet as Wyborne Lovett.

Anne would lop the witch's hands off before she let her touch another one of her family. Wasn't ever gonna lay so much as a finger on her Wyborne. So she scares him and she warns him and she doesn't ever let little children in that house.

But, oh, she misses her sister.

There's an empty spot in her soul that's still aching for her Marie. Anne knows that the other mother ate her life away, knows it down to her old bones, but her sister's soul hadn't ever come home neither. Stuck somewhere, and sometimes, Anne thinks about openin' that little door and smackin' the beldam on her ol' spider head until it coughs her sister's soul up.

There's still Wyborne to look after, though, who kisses her on her wrinkled cheek and brings her flowers to make her smile. "Lord, I'm a coward, Marie," she says, even though she knows her sweet sister can't hear her. "Can't even get these old bones up to look for your soul. Couldn't stop you then and can't help you now."

She hadn't gone through the tiny open door even when Marie had begged her to, and that's somethin' that Anne's still gotta live with fifty years later.

Time's a-comin', Anne thinks suddenly, and doesn't know why. She lays Wyborne's unfinished glove in her lap and looks up to see that ratty old cat in the window, starin' at her. "Didn't I tell you to look after Wyborne?" she asks it sharply.

It leans over and pointedly picks up a huge rat with a dainty little meow. The cat shakes the rat at her once and drops it again, jumping from her sill with a little sniff. It strolls off with the tip of its tail curled into a question mark.

"Good puss," Anne says faintly. She's always hated the damn rats that live here.

She picks up the glove again and thinks about picking out a skeleton hand on the back of it as a special treat for her Wyborne.