|portions for foxes
and it's bad news, baby, i'm bad news
It is a seriously tacky calendar, hanging on the wall in her mother's kitchen. The sort with babies in costumes like flowers, sitting around as though they're not completely mortified that they're in these photos. Hannah makes herself a pot of coffee and drops the ashes of her cigarettes into a dirty plate in the sink, even though her mother has told her not to smoke inside, and she stares at the calendar, even though it's still on August and it's November now.
The page for August is two fat cheerful babies, wearing stupid sunflowers on their heads, and the girl is poking the boy in the arm. There is a picture of her and Elijah in the living room, about the same ages as the sunflower babies, a studio picture from Iowa before her brother's life turned everyone else's lives upside down. Zach's not in it and she doesn't know why not, but she and Elijah are sitting together, thankfully without any floral arrangements on their heads, and she is shoving a pudgy baby hand across Lij's face. He is falling over, and her mom says that after that he started to cry, but there's no photo of that.
It isn't like Hannah needs a picture to remind her how to make him cry, anyway. And it's not like he cries these days. It's just the right word makes his face crumble, just like the right-but-wrong captions of them together in New York made him laugh like a hyena, eyes screwed up and stupid giggles choking in the back of his throat.
If Hannah wants to make him cry, she doesn't have to shove him over any more. She just calls him in New York and says "Dom" or "Billy" or "you stupid fucker, quit running away" and even when she can't see his face, she can hear his whole expression fall anytime she says those things.
Her brother left for New York in June; her mother bought the calendar three days later, and when she hung it in the kitchen, Hannah was standing at the counter eating a ham and turkey and cheese sandwich for dinner, if you could have dinner at 10 PM, and pickles straight from the jar. Her mother hated the way Hannah and Elijah - and Dom, too, for a while, before he started hiding in the pool house full time - just ate at the counter, and smoked there, too, knocking their ashes into empty glasses or the sink. They had a perfectly good dining room table, and one in the breakfast nook, too, but her kids were all like animals in the zoo, and then her mom would roll her eyes and wipe up the places where Elijah spilled peanut butter.
Her mother pinned the calendar to the wall and opened it to June, where the photos was of five fat babies wearing roses on their heads. They all looked as miserable as Hannah felt, except that she had a sandwich and they didn't, which she thought made her one up on the five fat June babies.
Then she thought about the fact that she was comparing her life to the lives of five fat babies in stupid costumes, which made her so sick to her stomach that she left her sandwich unfinished on the counter and went upstairs and called Billy in Glasgow. He was sleeping and she woke him up and he was cranky at her, and ants came and ate the rest of her sandwich and her mother yelled at her in the morning.
June was not a good month for Hannah, and she was glad to see the rose babies go when July rolled around.
Whenever she calls Billy - and she talks to him more than she talks to Dom, who lives in her pool house, more than she talks to her own brother, which is fine with her, because her brother is stupid - she can hear Ali in the background, puttering around Billy's flat, talking on her own cell phone to whoever it is that she talks to. Hannah doesn't know, and she doesn't care; she's never met Ali, she doesn't really care to, plus whenever Lij mentions Ali's name, it makes Dom crazy, seriously nuts, and it was cute for a while but now it's just sort of scary.
She can always hear Ali in the background, though, like Billy's got to remind her that he's got priorities, and it kind of makes her crazy, too. Whenever she can hear Ali in background, Hannah ends up saying things to Billy that are way out of line. She lies on her back in the kitchen, and looks at the three stupid watermelon babies on the July photo, and tells Billy about how she's fucking Dom - which she's not - and how Dom doesn't miss him - which Dom does - and Hannah isn't really quite sure how she ended up here, in the middle of her stupid brother's stupid life.
July feels like she's cleaning up all the messes that Lij left when he went off to New York, and Hannah spends a lot of time talking to the watermelon babies when Billy won't take her calls, which is just another entirely new level of fucking pathetic.
Elijah's life isn't supposed to be interesting enough for Hannah to have to sweep up after him.
August turns into September, and no one bothers to change the calendar. Her mom lost interest in it the first time she found Hannah eating peaches straight from a can, sitting on the floor with her back up against the cabinet full of frying pans and baking trays, making international phone calls at all hours of the night. She'd thrown up her hands, literally, which Hannah didn't think anybody normal actually ever did, and she hadn't said anything, just walked out of the kitchen and into the living room and started ordering take-out for dinner every night.
Which was not normal in and of itself, but Hannah was eating peaches, too slick and sweet in that stupid syrup, sitting on the kitchen floor and calling an ex-hobbit in Scotland, so it's not like she has a real working definition of normal to go by, here.
There isn't much she misses about Iowa, because in Iowa she couldn't have even found Scotland on a map, and she likes it better now that she knows how to make international phone calls without looking up the stupid operator's codes (most of the time, anyway, except when she's dialing Billy drunk, or stoned, or sleepy, which is more of the time than she realizes). But she misses the fall, because September in Los Angeles is still sunny and sweet and smoggy; there aren't leaves to change, because the palms that separate her kitchen from Dom's pool house don't turn red and orange and gold.
They start to get brown at the edges, she notices at the end of September, like the sun is just too strong for them to flourish. Kind of the way, she thinks to herself, and dials Billy's number without looking at the phone, kind of the way Los Angeles has kind of bleached Dom out - his hair, his eyes. She doesn't really blame him for staying inside all the time, doing whatever it is that he does in the pool house. Inside, he's not bleaching himself away in the sun.
Except that he probably is, but Hannah doesn't go out there anymore - as long as a delivery guy shows up to the pool house once a day, she figures he's eating, and he wasn't talking to her when she came in and sat on his couch and smoked his cigarettes, so what's the point?
She calls Billy at two in the afternoon on the last day of September; he and Ali are just getting back from the theater, apparently, and eating a late dinner.
Billy says, "How's Dom?"
Hannah says, "He had Chinese for lunch today."
She can hear Billy's confusion in his silence, but she can't explain that Billy went away and Elijah went away and left her to deal with all this fucked up mess that isn't her problem at all, except they've made it her problem and she doesn't know what to do.
"He'll probably order pizza tomorrow," she tells Billy. "Which you'd know, if you ever called him yourself."
Then she hangs up the phone, and she doesn't feel nearly as satisfied as she wanted to. She orders herself a pizza instead, and when the same delivery guy who brought Dom's shows up at her door, he gives her a dirty look - couldn't you have just ordered them together, it says. She over tips him anyway, since Dom probably didn't tip him at all.
The pizza, Canadian bacon and pineapple, sticks in the back of her throat.
In October, she calls Billy 23 times. Dom eats pizza 16 times, Chinese 7 times, Thai 5 times, and orders from the sushi place two blocks away 8 times. Hannah spends the month eating peanut butter and banana sandwiches, sometimes grilled on the George Foreman grill with marshmallows in them. Her mother decides that she's going to get scurvy and die, so she buys six pounds of oranges and makes Hannah eat them. They taste funny with all the peanut butter, but she keeps eating them.
Elijah only calls home once all month.
It rains for four straight days in November, the same weekend that she and her mother don't celebrate Thanksgiving because, mostly, they forgot. Hannah can't stand being in the kitchen looking at the August sunflower babies anymore, so she sits on the patio under a picnic table umbrella, with her feet in an empty planter full of rusty rain water. On the third day, Dom emerges from the pool house and sits down on the bench beside her, sticks his feet into the flower pot by hers. He doesn't say anything, and he's comfortably warm next to her; it isn't a cold rain, but anybody sits in the rain for three straight days, they're likely to end up cold.
Dom lights a cigarette, offers the pack to Hannah, and his fingers burn against hers when she reaches for the smoke.
They sit together for what feels like a long time, and finally Hannah thumbs the speed dial number that calls Billy, hands Dom the phone, goes inside. She sits in the bathtub, hot water up to her chin, and stays there until her fingers turn to prunes. When she goes back downstairs, outside, in her bathrobe, Dom is gone. Her phone is tucked into the single dry spot left on the table, and she looks at her call log - one call to Glasgow, Scotland, eight minutes and fourteen seconds.
But on the last day of November, Dom goes out to get his sushi, and he brings Hannah maki with eel and avacado.
Hannah goes inside and turns the calendar pages until she finds December.
author's notes: for E. (late) on her birthday, because emma always, always asks for the right stories. love you like the ocean, kitten. title, summary and epigraph from rilo kiley, "portions for foxes".