Yoharie: Breaking Up Together (part one)
Breaking Up Together
Beatty was on the leash, the leash looped around Savannah’s wrist. Her black skirt was gathering slug-trails of dog snot. Grandma Hibbler’s neighborhood was like anyone’s, probably…
They ought to carry paper towels and a baggy. Especially since Beatty was a multipooper. But the bereaved shouldn’t have to pick up their dog’s business.
Maybe not. The thought made her smile.
Everyone arrived, they were all leaving. For the service, for papers Savannah was to sign at the funeral home. Being adult, being the nearest adult of kin. Of sound mind. She and Rae would choose an urn.
They were going to Deloris Bros. first, to sit through this misery. After, they would open the house, and Savannah knew she would die. She did not like, not in imagination any longer, to walk herself through the rooms. Mom’s closets, her office, the basket of gift cards on the kitchen counter.
She sucked a sob back into her nose, making a foolish noise, but Rae was slowed with her phone. Rae swore, caught up to rest a hand on her sister’s shoulder. “They don’t want us to be able to vote.”
“I mean going forward. Hillary is like…” She sliced a gesture. “Baggage. And then that piece of shit.”
“Grandma says he’ll be different.”
“She’s voting for him.”
“She says she couldn’t.”
“Well, anyway, I was looking up a thing.” Rae reached for the leash, and passed her phone to Savannah. The search words were “survivor’s guilt”.
“I think you do.”
This had come hushed, an un-Rae-like voice.
“Isn’t it my fault? Even just being objective?”
“A sequence of events is a sequence of events. It isn’t determination.”
“It’s so weird, Rae.” Savannah said this much, and her voice caught. Weird, that her last days at school had felt so desperate, Dad’s crushing her over the dumb cakes such a last straw. But it had been. Only space, only the right to decide things for yourself, without them…
“I didn’t want bad things to happen.”
“Please do not. Please, Hanbo, if it helps, say it is all about me. But be my sis and don’t spiral.”
“Oh, I don’t think it’s like voodoo. I understand real life.”
Their Aunt Shawna walked behind, letting them talk. Farther behind walked their cousin Wyatt. They came to a brick ranch. “This is that lady’s house,” Rae said low. “Grandma’s friend.”
“Let’s give up,” Savannah drew Beatty to the curb. “What’re we gonna do in the car?”
But a weatherstrip scraped carpet…they could hear this, the door dragged back, and the friend was at the storm door glass. In a moment, she was on the porch.
“Oh, you girls. Come in, come in, Mrs. Hibbler.”
“Wyatt!” Shawna called, while Savannah and Rae looked at each other. Their aunt, Mrs. Hibbler.
“We have the dog, ma’am,” Rae said.
“Tie him up right out here.”
Wyatt had left them. Through Beatty’s separation anxiety they sat a few minutes, biting packaged cookies, drinking pop from cans.
“How long does one of those last?” Mrs. Denbow asked. Whining filled the space, and the rattling of the porch rail.
“He’ll get loose.”
From the step, beside her dog, Savannah heard her aunt: “Zack thinks he’s kind of close to coming awake, so I guess it’s not like…”
Like…? She pictured Shawna acting it, her father’s coma… Shawna was one of those jokey people.
Don’t be mean to every nice person you know, she told herself.
Rae came out, and Shawna, and both, well-socialized women, clustered for the extra minute of taking leave.
“She’ll be happy if you do. My son is definitely a cookie hound. You may spot him lurking in the background.”
Then: “New plan, Savannah.” Shawna finished a text, moved ahead of them, angling herself to catch eyes. “Last night, when you were upstairs, Irene and I talked about the house. And the stuff, the changes.”
“She doesn’t have to live with us,” Rae said. “I’m not even going to be there.”
“Your Dad’s going to be there.”
This not-quite-admonishment drew a flush. Earned, Savannah noted.
“It’ll be Kate’s friends at the service. Irene doesn’t know them. We’ll do a memorial for family when we get…”
Rae said, “The urn. And decide where. Grandma can’t deal with Dylan.”
“Dylan? Oh, hmm. He did me once. That was a present from Kate.” Shawna patted the top of her head. “Have I got roots!”
“I’ll put your hair up. So they don’t show.”
Shawna threw Savannah a one-armed hug, and with the other arm halted Rae. They were within sight of the house, Wyatt on the swing, Grandma propping the screen door, her posture all communication. The communication, when they heard it, would be dither—Uncle Zack, their Dad, the hospital, a keepsake just dug from a drawer, that she knew the girls would want (they wouldn’t).
But their aunt said: “Niece, don’t sell Grandma short. That’s exactly the reason…a long drive with the two of you, so I can tell you what you don’t remember. How old were you when Grandpa Mike died?”
“Um, eleven. Rae was nine.”
“Eight. It was August.”
“Oh, the defense rests! Bitch.”
“I am.” Rae shot a grin, for their grandmother’s ears. “I gotta get over it.”
Breaking Up Together
(2022, Stephanie Foster)