Ruby sat in the edge of her seat — she wanted to feel the outside breeze touch her warm neck, so she pulled the window down just a little bit. But much to Ruby’s surprise, that was the wrong move.
Today was her eighteenth birthday. She wanted to spend the day with cupcakes, presents, and balloons surrounding her room like almost every girl on the planet would wish for. So her parents and Ruby were in the car, with four balloons attached to each other. Her mother warned her to hold the balloons tightly — who knows what would happen if she let go.
Typical Ruby, she didn’t listen. She thought the balloons wouldn’t squirm much if she put it beside her, so she could spend the ride in the car with two free hands. But after she pulled the window down, the balloons sprung to the front, the wind too strong for the balloons to bear. The balloons were also too fast for Ruby to grab.
“Oh!” her mother screamed. “Ruby! What did I say about the balloons!?” She sounded like she was talking to a five-year-old. She tried to grab for the balloon, but they dodged her, and covered her father’s view and couldn’t see in front of him. Her mother quickly grabbed the balloon out of the frantic father’s face, but it was too late. He couldn’t see in front of him and crashed into a huge black Ford.
Ruby survived the crash. She ended up with fractured bones, a permanent scar, and a serious broken arm, but besides that, she was fine. She told herself, I’m fine. My parents are alive. They’re strong. Death, don’t turn against me.
It turns out, Death ignored her. As she tried to sit up from the hospital bed, a nurse came in to check her temperature, and look at some papers. But the hardest part of the nurse’s job is to tell people this—
“Ruby, we are very glad you are alive from the crash,” the nurse smiles at me, but it soon faded. “You were very strong and healthy. But as for your parents—” she hesitated.
Ruby widened her eyes. “Are you kidding me?” she whispered in a shaking voice. “All because of that stupid wind and that stupid balloon?!” She wanted to get up, shake herself off, and go to her parents.
“I am very sorry, I know how hard it is to lose someone,” the nurse whispered. She continued, “My parents died from a car crash also. My brother left me, and my sister had horrible depression.” She looked like she was going to choke and cry. “I realized my whole family had died.”
Ruby suddenly had a connection with the nurse. She felt safe with her as if she was sent by the angels. Ruby wanted to sob too, but she was determined to be brave, even in the uncomfortable cast and burning scar.
“I’m so sorry,” she managed to whisper.
The nurse sniffled and waved Ruby goodbye. “Thank you. And, how old are you, by any chance?”
Ruby explained, “Today is my eighteenth birthday.”
The nurse’s eyes widened. At first, she didn’t know why, but when she told her, her heart drained.
“Then you’re old enough to live alone!” she exclaimed. “Wow.” She took some notes and left with a small, strange smile on her face.
Ruby couldn’t imagine how she was supposed to live alone.
It has been a long time since she got home. She felt a little stronger after a week of getting used to it, and she waved goodbye to the nurse that spilled her heart out to her. She waved back — and smiled. She said, “I’ll see you soon.” Then she checked her clipboard, adding, “Next week.”
Ruby nodded. She was told to wait by the door, so some strangers can take her home. I can’t believe I trust them. She isn’t used to strangers. But she let them — she had no choice, anyway.
She had to give a LOT of money to the people her father crashed into. It wasn’t her father’s fault! She wanted to shout. But because she was born shy, she is shy. She couldn’t speak. She just signed the papers, ashamed.
It is the first day ever since she had to live alone. Boy, was she hungry! She opened the fridge, but all there was left was leftover salad and grape juice. Their family wasn’t rich, or “normal.” Her father can only afford for their family, sometimes a little less. She thought, I need to find a job.
She was also a senior in high school, and she was considered “invisible.” No one seemed to know she was there — not even the teachers.
But after the crash, many people seemed to know about it. They turned around, giving pity looks to Ruby. She knew they were being polite, not in a can-I-be-your-friend way.
But before class, four students also in the senior year went up to her. “Hey!” one greeted.
Ruby hesitated, before answering. “Hey.”
“I heard about your parents. Sorry about that.” Then she added, “Wanna come over to my place later? They’re also coming.” She gestured to the others. “I’m Michelle. They’re Jayden, Kacey, and Sasha.”
Jayden had shaggy, blondish hair. He waved and said, “You should come.” Kacey smiled too, and Ruby could tell she was the nice one. Sasha held her books tight, and she could tell she was the smart type. Smart but cool.
Ruby didn’t know what to say. She realized that Michelle is actually nice; her sparkling amber eyes were kind and wavy, like music notes. So Ruby answered, “Sure! I’m Ruby. Want my number?”
They all exchanged numbers, and Sasha swayed. “Catch you later,” she said.
When they disappeared, Ruby held her breath. It was her first, real friend that invited her to her house. Her first real friend. She felt tears coming to her eyes. Mother and Father would have been so proud.
“Oh! Hey, Ruby!” Michelle greeted, lighting up. “The others are already here — except Kasey. Let’s wait for her in the Hangout room.”
Ruby was welcomed inside. She was in awe — the room was decorated with golden spirals, and lights that are probably the shiniest lights she has ever seen. There was a chandelier in the kitchen; and not the small ones like the size of a teapot, the huge ones. The floors were made of tiles. Ruby had never met anyone so rich.
“Yeah, you can say I’m rich,” Michelle says, almost reading her mind. “But my dad is the one that makes all the money. I just obey.” Then she laughs.
She lets Ruby follow her into a room. This mansion probably has over twenty-five bedrooms! She was eager to check out all the rooms alone, and she tried to think of an excuse.
“Hey, is it okay if I use the bathroom here?” she lies. “I forgot to go at home.”
For some reason, Michelle and Jayden exchange glances. Uh oh. Was she caught?
But Jayden replies, “Sure. Go straight all the way, the second door to your left. That’s the bathroom door.”
Ruby exhales. She leaves and studies every single room upstairs. When she reached her parents’ room, she notices a small piece of paper with huge words on it.
She gets closer and examines the paper.
Bank Account Username- anisalois81227
Bank Account Password- E617TE8IUJ90Y
Ruby gasped. Why would some rich people leave their bank account hanging somewhere? This was insane news for her.
Her brain was alerting her something. You don’t have much money. You can only afford food for yourself! Besides, they are rich. They won’t realize anything when only a few hundreds of dollars are gone. Or maybe a few thousand…
She knew it was wrong, and it was also betraying her new friend. But if she did, she could still live in her house, and Michelle would understand. I hope.
So she took a picture and left.
Heh, she thought. Are rich people really that stupid?
“Bye Ruby!” Michelle exclaimed, giving her a hug. “We’ll miss you!” It made her feel guiltier than she already was. She told them she had to leave early, something got in her way and she had to go. They all hugged Ruby, even Jayden. She had to leave fast, or else someone might get suspicious.
She had to walk home, since she doesn’t have a car. Her scar wasn’t hurting much anymore, and her arm was healing. She stopped by at a café because she was desperate to get the money quick. She sat down in the closest seat, and hurriedly typed in the username and password. She held her breath.
CONFIRMED! It said in bold letters. Her heart was beating so fast, she thought it would burst out of her mouth.
She took three thousand dollars. For a start. She knew she needed more than that. So each week, we got herself three thousand dollars.
Then, that turned into five thousand dollars.
Then six thousand dollars.
Then she stopped, knowing Michelle would find out soon. So the next time she returned to Michelle’s house, she stayed the entire time in the same room together so it wouldn’t look suspicious.
A few minutes later, Michelle went on and on about a high school party she was inviting them to. She added, looking straight at Ruby, “You get to come too! Isn’t that exciting?”
Sasha agreed. “It’s so cool! We can different colors, because matching would suck.” Kasey nodded.
Ruby was thinking tentatively. But then, she finally answered, “Sure. I’ll be there.”
Everyone cheered. Michelle was the boss — she decided what colors each of them would wear, told them what time, and reminded them several times about wearing makeup. “Ruby, I know this is your first time, so wear makeup, and wear blue. Sasha, you’re purple, Kasey, um, light pink, Jayden, black, I’ll wear red. Don’t forget the time!”
It was exciting, for all except for Ruby. She didn’t have a car.
Ruby spent most of her money with gorgeous designs around her house, and she just needed a few more thousand dollars for a car. Michelle wouldn’t mind, she thought nervously, biting her lip.
So she took around eight thousand dollars this time. Man, did she take a lot of money! But she had to do it. She just had to.
It wasn’t hard driving at all. She drove her dad’s truck all the time in the farm they use to have, and it was almost the same thing. Her mother taught her all the signs she needed to know when she was fourteen, and it was very simple.
“Hey, Ruby!” Michelle and Jayden came together. They looked impressed. “You got a car? Nice!”
Kasey and Sasha came too. “Hot Mercedes!” Sasha exclaimed.
Ruby nodded, all proud.
Jayden asked, “How did you get the money for all this? I thought you said your parents—”
Yes! Saved by the loudspeaker. She took out her phone, smiling but still worried. All the information was there, all there, safe and sound.
They went in. Ruby was blinded by all those shining lights, and tried staying away to the ones already drinking. She was afraid of that experience.
Michelle grabbed beer for each of them, and assured, “You’ll be fine. Save it for later. Enjoy the fun first!” She laughed when Jayden pulled her aside and kissed her. Ruby made a small smile. She could enjoy this.
Kasey was busy talking with some guy, and Ruby saw him take her somewhere private. Sasha was sitting down, holding the drink tight in her hand. Ruby was completely alone.
She was about to just walk around when a boy clutched her hand. She turned around, and he smiled. She almost ran away, but Michelle would want her to do this. So she leaned forward and kissed him, just like she imagined Michelle doing to Jayden.
He seemed surprised, but she could tell he liked it. So he kissed her back. Hard. I’ve been kissed before, but never like this, she thought. A happy smile was forming in her heart. When she looked up to see him closely, she realized he was so cute. Green eyes, dark hair. She repeats in her head, He is so cute.
Ruby looked at the drink she was still holding, and shrugged. A tiny sip won’t hurt. But after she did, she started to drink it all. Way better than water.
The. Best. Dance. Ever.
When Ruby woke up, she found herself on top of the cute boy she kissed. She stood up, yawning. She reached for her phone to call the others.
She felt her pocket, but it was flat. Nothing was inside. She thought to herself wildly, where is my phone?
She searched some more, looking around near the food, the dance floor, all the rooms. She couldn’t find anything. I swear, if I really lost that phone, my Whole. Life. Is. Over.
She found her friends drunk, laying on the floor and Kasey on the couch. She hissed at them, “Wake up!”
They stirred. “Wake up!” she repeated.
Jayden was the first to wake. “What happened?” He asked. He seemed to be holding something inside. Oh well. Ruby could figure that out later.
“I lost my phone!” she hissed again.
Jayden wakes the others. “Guys! Michelle! Ruby lost her phone!”
Sasha was the first to speak. She yawned, saying, “So what? Buy another one,” she commented dryly.
Kasey offered, “We’ll help you look for it.”
Michelle woke up without a word. She kissed Jayden and whispered something in his ear. He nodded solemnly. What’s that about?
They searched everywhere and even asked others if they have seen it. None of them had seen it, and a few others helped look for it too. Sasha tried calling Ruby to hear the tone, but she reported that her phone was off.
Ruby waited for the words, I found it! Here, Ruby! But no one said one more damn thing.
She moaned. Where the hell did it go?
A few minutes later, they all had to leave. Michelle said kindly, “Since you lost your phone, I planned a sleepover at my house! Just you and me, we can hang out all day!”
Ruby grinned at her, feeling less anxious. “Sure! When?”
Michelle gave her the directions again, and the time. “I’ll see you later!” she called.
Ruby had more fun than she ever thought she would. She was having so much fun, that she forgot she even did something illegal. They painted each other hair, watched a movie, and Michelle even offered Ruby a nightgown to keep. She had over ten nightgowns!
Ruby was still snoring when Michelle woke up. Jayden was behind her. When Ruby opened one eye, she heard sirens. Not just sirens. Sirens that were coming toward Michelle’s house. She gulped so loud, she thought aliens in space could hear.
When she caught Jayden’s eye, he smirked and waved Ruby’s phone in the air. “Looking for this?” he said.
Ruby was so shocked. “Y-you had it the whole time after the party?” she asked him.
He laughs. “We’re not stupid, you know. In fact, the first time you stole the money, we knew right away. Michelle has hidden security cameras everywhere.”
Ruby flushed. The officers came in, and she had to confess everything that happened, and had to return all the money. She was allowed to get a lawyer for herself, and her lawyer actually understood everything she has been going through. He was nice to her all the time, gave her food, and called every day.
She grew feelings for him. He really was a kind person, even though Ruby is a criminal. She shuddered to think about it. I’m a criminal. But her lawyer, Jackson, always talked to her as if she wasn’t. He was the only one that still cared for her.
She smiled at herself. Even though I’m in prison, she thought. I’m still happy. Because Jackson will always be right by my side.
Ruby was still regretting stealing the money. But the past is the past.
And today, she will look at the present.