Ruby

Free Ruby by Ann Hood

Book: Ruby by Ann Hood Read Free Book Online
Authors: Ann Hood
somehow she had disappointed Ruby.
    She gave the girl a hat, a pale pink straw hat with a short brim and a top that resembled a muffin. It had a black ribbon around it that ended in a triple loop. Olivia had named the hat “Nicotiana.” It was from her flower series; she named all of her hats.
    The girl took it reluctantly. “A hat?” she said. “I don’t know.” She twirled it around and around in her hands, studying it.
    “I made it,” Olivia said. “That’s what I do. I’m a milliner.”
    That seemed to worry the girl even more. “A milliner?”
    “That one is called ‘Nicotiana.’ It came in a light blue, and off-white, too. I have series, you know. This was from my flower series.
    “Like nicotine?” Ruby said, brightening.
    “Yes.”
    “Cool,” she said, and put it on.
    It was really the wrong hat for her. Pink was a bad color on her, and the small brim made her face look too round and too big.
    “Perfect,” Olivia said.
    Ruby went into the tiny lavatory downstairs and stared at herself in the mirror. “God!” she gushed. “It’s great. It’s so cool. Sophisticated, huh? Don’t you think?”
    Olivia grinned and nodded, only feeling a little guilty at how bad the hat looked.
    “Oui, oui,” Ruby said, strutting out of the bathroom and into the living room. “ Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir? Oo la la and humma humma. Jeez. I wish my mom could see this. Every time I came home with something new, even if it was on sale or something, she’d be like, ‘Well, la-di-da,’ even though it would be nothing. Maybe a pair of jeans or something. But this”—Ruby shook her head and patted the top of the hat—“this is so fancy.”
    Olivia was due at her friend Janice’s for dinner in twenty minutes. But she wanted to stay here with the girl. They were making progress. Ever since she’d felt that baby move under her sweaty hand, Olivia knew there was no going back. But how could a girl—even this girl!—feel that every day and still give the baby away? She thought of all the teenage girls in the news lately who had their babies in motel rooms or bathrooms somewhere and then killed them. Would Ruby do something like that? Maybe in some crazy way killing the baby was easier than handing it over to someone else.
    Olivia needed a plan, a plan that would convince Ruby that giving the baby to Olivia was the smartest thing, the best thing, the only right thing. She would show Ruby how charming she was. She would convince her that she could give a child a wonderful life. She would show Ruby her credentials—not diplomas and résumés, but charm and sophistication and wisdom and anything else Olivia could think of to impress this girl. She would make it so that Ruby could not do anything except sign over the baby to her.
    Already, Olivia had laced her conversation with words that she thought could seduce a teenaged girl looking for a certain kind of life: “Symphony,” she’d said. She’d said, “Greenwich Village.” Ruby’s eyes had widened at all the right times. “Wow,” she’d said, “you’ve been there? You’ve done that?” And now there was the hat, Nicotiana. It was too soon, Olivia knew, to lay it all out for the girl, to tell her she’d talked to her mother, to a lawyer, that they could settle this so easily. It was too soon because Olivia didn’t trust the girl yet. And she knew the girl didn’t trust her, either.
    “I wish we could go somewhere tonight,” Olivia said. “You could wear the hat.”
    Ruby flopped onto the sofa, looking even more ridiculous with her stomach up in the air and the hat perched on her head.
    “Whatever,” she said. She started to flip through a copy of You!, ignoring Olivia.
    But as Olivia walked out the door, Ruby looked up and said, “Like maybe if you have time, you could teach me how to use chopsticks sometime.”
    The girl had tried to sound casual, but Olivia knew that it was not a simple request. Show me, the girl was saying. Show

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