It's almost 6, which means the sun is starting to come up. The Eastern sky is tangerine and she can hear traffic start to pick up. She gets up at 5 most mornings now so she has time to make lunches and get things set before she wakes the kids. The warm sun reminds her of the day after James' first birthday. It was almost summer, and she and Ron had slept in. James, so wiped out from a day of cake, toys and company, had let them.

The two of them lay in bed and watched the colors sweep across their bedroom and Amanda thought that life could not be sweeter than that warm place and the closeness of her family. Ron held her around her bare shoulders-whispering to her, without opening his eyes-"I guess this is his present to us" And it was. The quiet of the morning was almost lyrical. She could hear the radio in Mrs.Hampton's kitchen window (the farm report) and the the clicking of bicycle gears as the paperboy zipped down the street. If time had stood still she wouldn't have minded.

Now, years later Ron was gone. Gradually, he lost his patience, then suddenly, lost his job. One night went out for diapers and milk and never came back. The remote was still in his recliner and the T.V. was still on the next morning.

They got letters from his parents and from his lawyer, but not from Ron. James called him Ghost Dad. Scary thought is all she would say.

Now, as the smell of coffee wafted over the little kitchen Amanda caught the reflection of her image in the almost dark window.

Damn, another tear

She whispered this to herself, but true to her word she walked over to her purse and pulled out a single dollar. It went into an empty coffee canister on the top shelf of ther pantry. She had decided to penalize herself for every tear shed. Amanda had not told James, but she planned on taking Shelly and he on vacation that summer if she saved enough. Four years was enough grieving for anyone, she said to the coffee maker. The pot hissed in approval. Maybe the mountains would be good, the Smokies maybe? A little fresh air couldn't hurt. They used to camp as a family and nobody complained about the cold ground and the burnt food. It was an adventure. She missed adventure.

The alarm buzzed from the bedroom-it was time to get ready.