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"I don't know about you, Susan," Tina said, "but I'm getting out of here before she wakes up. The last thing I want to deal with is Mom and one of her weepy hangovers."
"C'mon, Tina. The hangovers are easier to live with than what's really going to happen today," Susan remarked, resignedly. "Considering the racket they made last night, today's performance will be the 'I'm so embarrassed' show. Or maybe it will be the 'I have a right to a life of my own' show. Again."
Deepening her voice, Tina announced "Welcome, viewers, to One Life in Grantville starring . . . Veeelllmmmaaa Hardesty!"
Pretending their life was just a soap opera helped them handle some of their mother Velma's more outrageous actions. It gave them something to laugh about in a life that had become more and more difficult. Susan continued their usual routine with: "In today's episode the adventure continues. Will Velma find the man of her dreams? Or, will she continue her never-ending search? Tune in tomorrow . . . "
Susan stopped abruptly when she saw the tears in Tina's eyes. "Don't, Tina," she pleaded. "It doesn't help to cry. We figured that out years ago."
Tina wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and sniffed. "It wasn't so bad before the Ring of Fire. Mom at least tried to act sort of respectable back then. Now she's not even trying. People are noticing and starting to make remarks."
"Yeah, I've heard them, too. It's not like we can even hope to grow up and move away to start over. With only about three and half thousand up-timers, someone will always remember who raised us." Susan looked intently at Tina, forehead creased with worry. "Let's grab a few things and go see Grampa Fred. I have an idea."
"Will it get us out of this trailer and away from Mom? Will we be able to escape this constant parade of admirers?"
"Maybe," Susan answered. "I hope so. Mom's just getting worse and worse. Maybe Grampa can help us find a way."
"Grampa, we need to talk to you."
Fred Logsden's face lit up when he saw his granddaughters. There hadn't been much happiness in his life lately. His wife, Susan, had died a few months ago, leaving him alone in the house. The rumors surrounding his former daughter-in-law were another cause for concern. Young Susan and Tina were his closest family since the Ring of Fire had left his son, Carney, back up-time.
It was hard to tell the girls apart if you didn't know them. They both had long honey-colored hair and were nearly the same height. Tina at sixteen was just a bit taller and more finished looking than her sister. Susan, two years younger, seemed to be balanced on the edge between child and young woman.
"Girls, come on in." He opened his arms for hugs. "It's so good to see you."
Released from the three-way hug, Susan looked around the small living room. "Grampa, if Gramma Susan could see this place she'd be chasing you with a broom. It's a mess! Why don't you hire a housekeeper?"
"Because I don't want some strange woman running around my house clucking at me," Fred remarked. "I pick up every day or so. Just leave stuff alone."
"Nope," Tina and Susan said in unison, as they swept through the room. As Fred watched in surprise, order emerged from chaos. In less than ten minutes the dirty dishes were soaking, the piles of clothing and papers were sorted and put away, and the furniture was dusted.
"We'll finish it later, Grampa," Susan said. "Right now we really need to talk to you. It's pretty important."
"Is Velma at it again, girls?" Fred asked.
"Yesterday she had beer for breakfast. She says she can't afford coffee, but that's just an excuse." Tina grimaced. "She drinks off and on all day and then brings a man home every night. We never know who's going to be there when we wake up. Last week, one of Mom's men tried to open our bedroom door. We always lock it, but the door itself isn't very strong. He was probably just trying to find the bathroom, but it still scares me, Grampa."
"Mom never has had any sense about men," Susan added. "The Ring of Fire just gave her a reason to act stupid here at home. She can't just hop in her car and go to another town anymore. We've got to do something. Why should we have to live with this? It's wrong, Grampa. Mom can live the way she wants to, but Tina and I shouldn't have to be afraid to get up and go to the bathroom at night."
"I heard she was running pretty wild lately, girls. I didn't realize it was that bad, though." Fred's grizzled face showed his distress. "I guess when Cory left with the Army and Pam moved out, Velma must have thought you two were too young to realize what was going on."