[Cheerless #6] CheerSoaked: A Tale Of Two Freaks

The Circle Of Libby

"So... what are you going to do now?"

"Huh?" I asked, glancing back up at Dad. "Oh... you mean, now that the funeral and the wake are over?"

"Yeah," he said, watching the last of Gran's old friends and some distant relatives I didn't know very well filter out into the early evening. "The reading of her will is supposed to be tomorrow morning, but you don't have to be present for it."

"Mm."

"So, if you wanted to go back to New York in the morning, or even tonight, that's fine... or if you want to stay here in Westbridge for a day or two, it- well, it's up to you, Libb."

"I... I can't, I can't think about that. It's-"

"You can decide in the morning," he said firmly, his hand clamping tightly on my shoulder. "Sleep on it."

"Okay."

He moved off to argue with my mother over something trivial; it was almost like they were married again. That left me to sink down in one of her dumpy old recliners, clutching the faded upholstery and trying not to fall apart yet again.

"You look rough."

"I feel rough," I breathed. "This... everything is so hard, now. Why is it all so hard?"

"Because she died," Jenny said quietly, sitting on an ottoman and folding her hands over her knees. "Losing somebody is never gonna be easy, no matter how many times you go through it."

"You don't understand, I- I feel so guilty."

Her brow furrowed. "Why's that?"

"Dammit!" I pounded one of the armrests - an ownerless armrest. "What kind of granddaughter am I? Last time I was here, I didn't even spare a moment to visit her! So what if there were a thousand crazy things going on with me that week? I sh-should have found time, made time!"

"But you didn't. And now she's gone."

I glared up at her. "Gee, I wonder why I didn't like you during high school?"

"No, I'm-" She stopped to sigh, thinking. "What I mean is, I know it seems like you did something awful, but there's no use crying about it; you just went on with your life as usual. How were you supposed to know you wouldn't get to see her again?"

"But- but I was so-"

"You wanna know what the last thing I ever said to my mother was?" There was this genuine twinkle of bemusement in her eyes. "I said, 'Peanut butter is for losers'. She wanted me to pack more than a bag of Lays for lunch at school that day and offered to make me a sandwich, but I was running late and I didn't want to stop and wait for it. Hence..."

"'Peanut butter is for losers'," I reiterated for her. "Heh."

"Yeah, exactly; it's kind of funny, right?" Her eyes rolled. "You know how long I hated myself for that? Weeks, months. Every day, I'd beat myself up for not saying something better, for my last words to my mother not being more profound, or at least not legume-related. But you know what?"

"Wh-what?"

"There's no point. Why rip yourself a new one over and over for something you can't change, that doesn't matter? We were just carrying our lives out as we normally would; if she hadn't died that afternoon, I'd have come home and griped about my school day, and she'd have told me to take out the trash. Only, we didn't get to, because she and dad were gone."

"And... and you don't find that sad?"

"Of course." She looked down at her hands, picking at one of her nails where the polish had chipped slightly. "I'll always miss them, because I'll never stop loving them. That kind of love is... anchored, I guess. Anchored in your heart, and unable to float away completely. But see, what I'm saying is it's not worth it to dwell on all those frivolous regrets. Just remember that you loved each other, and be glad you got the time with her you did, y'know?"

"Yeah." And while I cleared my throat, determined to steer this conversation elsewhere, an idea began stirring in the back of my mind; something to bring up later, and with someone else. "So, when do you, uh... ship out?"

"Tomorrow," she sighed. "I'm still not sure I want to commit myself to something so huge, but it's such a worthy cause... and I just don't know what the hell I'm doing otherwise, to be honest. This past semester of college has been great, but none of it really feels like it matters. Besides, if I stay in Richmond the situation won't budge, I'm sure of it... but I'm hoping maybe this'll help me find some direction."

"You kinda sound like Ophelia." I couldn't help but smile. "Actually, Peace Corps makes perfect sense for you; I seem to remember you always had this thing for taking up causes."

"That I did," she said with a nod. "What about you? I guess you're going to be some kind of hotshot lawyer, or maybe a CEO?"

"Well," I gusted, glancing over at where Adymm, T.Q. and Milnot were having a very animated conversation by the punch bowl, "that may not be my plan, exactly..."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~

"Hey, wait up, you guys!"

Sabrina and Roxie stopped in their tracks, arms folding to their chests, inches away from Sabrina's little maroon Saturn. Huffing slightly, I ran up beside them.

"Can... can I talk to you?"

"You're talking now, aren't you?" Roxie said coldly. I'm surprised I didn't spontaneously burst into flames from the intensity of her glare.

"Rox!" Sabrina hissed. "Not today!"

For a second, she showed no sign of change; then she sighed, dropping her arms. "You're right... I'm sorry, Libby. What's the deal?"

"Well, for one thing..." This was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Why didn't I think through my impulses before I acted on them? "Uh, that is, I wanted to ask you - why were you at the apartment?"

Sabrina blinked. "Huh?"

"W-when I found out about... well, you know. I was just curious if you were there to see me, or- or what."

"She was going to try to work things out with you," Roxie said evenly. "See if you were done being a-"

"Roxie, that's enough."

Silently, I thanked Sabrina for that; meanwhile, Roxie shrugged and got into the car. "Guess I'm not very good at putting on airs." Then she slammed the door, leaving the two of us to it.

"Walk with me?" Sabrina asked, glancing anxiously at the car.

"If you don't hate me too much."

"Nah."

We were around the corner of the block, out of sight of both the car and the house it was in front of before either of us spoke again, and when we did, it was her - and her tone was hollow and resigned.

"Okay, Libby, there are no witnesses. What is it?"

"Um..." In spite of myself, I glanced around, so anxious I could burst. "I was wondering if I could ask you a favour."

"Of course you were."

"Well... maybe you can't do this, but... but I thought I should at least ask."

"You probably shouldn't, but go ahead."

I gaped openly at her, stopping in my tracks. "What's your problem?"

She laughed half-heartedly at the look on my face. "What? Aren't you going to ask me to bring your Gran back from the grave?"

~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~~*~ END Chapter Three

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