I’m lucky to have a loving and supportive family. And I mean that: I know just how lucky I am. Because I know plenty of people who don’t—even some in my own family.

Maybe I should say I’m lucky with my immediate family. My mom, dad, stepmother, stepfather and sister are all amazing. Not perfect, mind you, but amazing. My sister is one of my very best friends, and I talk to my parents, all of them, often. Even more amazingly, we all get along and all talk to each other. Even though we have different political and religious views. Even though my mom and dad divorced years ago. Even though my sister and I fought like cats and dogs growing up.

We love each other. That trumps any and all disagreements.

As it should be.

But, sadly, that’s not always the case with family. My mother’s own family, for example, was a mess. Alcoholic parents, one of whom was an abusive narcissist. Six siblings who range from barely functional alcoholics to relatively well adjusted. My mom is one of the relatively well-adjusted ones, thankfully. It took years of therapy to become so, and I’m proud of the work she put in to do so.

I distanced myself—literally and figuratively—from most of my mother’s extended family years ago. I don’t believe being “family” means subjecting yourself to toxic people.

I believe true family is the people who love and support us. Sometimes, they’re biologically related. Sometimes they’re not. I am lucky to have a large and supportive family.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes a number of stories about the intricacies and complications of family. One of them, “My Real Cousin Ruby,” is her Free Fiction Monday story this week. The story was originally published in Fiction River: Fantasy Adrift.

Here’s the story synopsis:

For as long as she can remember, she has had two cousins named Ruby. Her so-called cousin, who lives in this world and whom she can’t stand, and the cousin she meets in her dreams—her Real Cousin Ruby.

Her siblings all dream about Real Cousin Ruby, too. But why?  

In “My Real Cousin Ruby,” World Fantasy Award winner Kristine Kathryn Rusch challenges the border between reality and the land of dreams. And what crosses that border leaves serious consequences behind on both sides.

Click here to read the story.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go call my sister.

Allyson Longueira is publisher of WMG Publishing. She is an award-winning writer, editor and designer.