Yoharie: Breaking Up Together (part four)
Breaking Up Together
Savannah recalled church a holiday spoiler, a weird intervention between new toys and turkey, half exciting for its costume of white tights, Mary Janes, and what Grandma called a “dressy dress”; more than half excruciating. Opening their big boxes, to learn the bigness hid velvet and net, not a giant marker set, not a Lego plane kit, not a Barbie pool or a pony corral. Being crowded, Rae crying bitterly, into the back seat, Savannah sliding off Mom’s lap, Rae squirming on Dad’s.
Being driven to Grandpa Mike’s church in Obetz, that Grandma had quit after his death. Grandma went to Mrs. Denbow’s now. She would leave the Ohio Methodists behind, and join the Maryland ones. Or not…?
“Rae,” Savannah whispered. “You think Grandma would give up going to church? She doesn’t have any friends here. I mean, can you? Take it or leave it, if you’re religious…”
“Jeez, what’s your problem?” Rae snuffled.
At the Deloris Brothers chapel, someone had arranged it, how the memorial would be staged. Flowers on stairsteps with draperies, dark green. Because they were, Savannah supposed. Mom had never loved that color. Katherine Angela Martin Hibbler’s picture on an easel. The picture was from the salon, used to let clients know what the owner looked like, so no awkwardness over tipping—
At Grandma’s they had zombied along, stunned, not believing, while Zack and Shawna did details.
“Dad and I’ll come down for a day or two, we’ll try to do something fun. And then… I don’t think I should keep you in the dark. You, Savannah, not Rae. I mean, the marriage is part of the problem, I know. I want us to get a plan going. Now,” Mom had said, “that your film career’s had a dose of reality.”
“I’ll do whatever you want.”
Savannah knew her voice had been glum, her answers short. But…
You, Savannah, not Rae. How she had looked forward to it, legitimacy, coming from Mom. I’m an adult, an independent person, someone to talk to about adult things.
I won that.
Rae was saying, I’m seriously not gonna stay here all summer. Maybe we could take, like, a road trip. You’re eighteen.
I would love it, and it’s definitely not happening.
She had pulled a curtain back, why? Not because the sound of a stopping car at the curb called attention. A woman got out, a badge clipped on her blazer. A patrol car stopped, too, and a uniformed man got out.
Already zombified, Savannah watched this happening, and her mind gave no explanation.
“Are you Savannah Hibbler?” the woman said, at the door. The kindness of her voice was killing. “May I come in? Is your grandmother, Mrs. Irene Hibbler, at home?”
Savannah, nodding, swallowing, had stepped back, and the woman came just inside, the officer holding the storm door, the springs going yurk, yurk. “I’m Dr. Ann Shoran.” She tapped her badge. “I’m with the Columbus Police Chaplain services.”
She introduced the sergeant, whose name went at once from Savannah’s memory. Rae was there, then she was running to the garden, calling Grandma.
Music had been snaking through the chapel, and the music was an actual person, at a keyboard on a stand. She changed up, and Uncle Zack rose with Aunt Shawna.
They moved to face the room, Shawna’s fingers playing at some petals. Zack said: “Thank you all for coming, and thank you for these beautiful…expressions…”
“Expressions?” Rae mouthed the word, her face scrunched, peering over a fist and a Kleenex. Zack, while Savannah’s attention was on her sister, had run through his remarks.
Shawna said, “What can you say?”—which three of Mom’s work friends had said already, pressing hands, as the girls were escorted up the aisle.
“Kate was my cool sister. She was that person who just knew…how to do something, who could help you with something, when you needed to shut up about something. I’ve been trying to think of my best story. So…” Shawna calmed a trembling chin, waved a hand at the mourners. “So three years ago I was turning forty, and Kate said, you need a makeover.
“I had a before-hours meeting with my committee, next day. They were firing one of our counsellors, and they wanted to redistribute the work, instead of hiring a new person. Sorry. That’s not what I’m here to talk about. I told Kate, I could go a little blonde. I saw her sort of wink at Dylan.”
Kate had given Shawna a geometric cut, the kind a lucky straight-haired person could pull off…sorry, Savannah told God, that’s not what I’m here to think about…
Dylan had bumped it up to a streaky wheat-platinum.
Doing the new-cut headshake before the mirror, Shawna had said, “I am too fat to have this hair!”
“Girl, get over that right now.”
Savannah, on sweeping duty, a Thursday afternoon, had been witness, dying a little for jealousy, because Mom wouldn’t let her fifteen-year-old go to school with such hair.
And the upshot…Shawna had passed her principal in the hallway. He’d mistaken her for one of his seniors. “Who are you looking for? These offices aren’t open yet. And I said, Bob! It’s Mrs. Hibbler! And with no sense of humor at all, he said, well, I don’t think we can allow that.”
Pause for laughter. “So I had my wings clipped. And a medium rinse. But it was fun while it lasted.”
Breaking Up Together
(2022, Stephanie Foster)