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The little girl squealed and ran after the ball, into the street. Amber sat at the window box, watching the children play. Lisa's dress was filthy.

Lisa was usually filthy. Amber could not remember her daughter, the other Lisa, ever being anything but meticulously clean. That Lisa never squealed, always kept her toys and clothes put away, spoke respectfully to her parents and ate everything on her plate. She had been a perfect little girl.

The real Lisa would not be outside now, roughhousing with those children, squealing with that high-pitched shriek that hurt her mother's ears. She'd be in here, sitting quietly on the floor, playing nicely with her Barbies.

Amber frowned, thinking about the Barbies. She'd had to put them away, finally, in fear that this Lisa would break them or lose them.

She'd broken Malibu Skipper, the one from Grandma Wilson. Amber had chastised the child, reminding her of the birthday gift and how especially precious the doll was now that Grandma Wilson was gone. "She didn't buy it for my birthday!" Lisa had yelled, throwing the doll against the wall, breaking off the other arm. "It's just a dumb old doll, given to some dumb little dead girl from some dumb dead old lady I never met! I hate Barbie!"

She wouldn't play nicely with any of Lisa's toys after that; Amber had finally given in and bought her balls and soldiers and race cars - noisy, masculine toys that her Lisa would have despised.

Amber had nearly gone insane with grief when Lisa died. The doctors suggested cloning because she was suicidal. Losing a child was the worst experience a person could ever have, everyone knew that, and everyone understood the horror of that most unthinkable of pain. Lisa's cloning had been sponsored by the local Lion's Club, through pancake breakfasts and silent auctions. Everyone gave generously. The community had been so pleased with the success of Lisa's cloning that they'd established a foundation so that no parent would ever again have to live with the pain of permanently losing their child. The foundation struggled long and hard over the standards - what age would be the cut-off? How long did a family have to live in town to use the service? Did the child actually have to die - what if they ran away, or joined a cult - wasn't the parent's loss the same? What if a child died a second time - would they replace a clone?

Amber watched the girl run to pick up her ball in the street. That filthy dress she was wearing had been Lisa's favorite. It broke Amber's heart to see Lisa's beautiful clothes torn and muddy, to see Lisa's perfect little face covered with dirt. She watched quietly from her perch on the window box as a truck turned the corner of the block, rushing toward the ball bouncing down the street.

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© 1997 Melanie Bacon
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