After spending the evening trick-or-treating with her grandchildren and documenting every moment for her husband back home, Margaret Egret lowers the volume of the Halloween music playing on the living room television so that Xavier and Rudy don’t wake from their sugar comas. Xavier is lying flat on the couch with the red cap from Rudy’ costume over his face. His exhausted son is out of his costume and in a diaper as he drools on his daddy’s arm. Marge walks into the kitchen with a plate of pizza crusts to find Emmie Facetiming with her husband and the twins’ beloved father, Edward Egret.
“Wanna see a picture I drew for you today, Grampa?” she asks.
“Edward, please don’t fall asleep without taking the pills I laid out for you by the sink,” Marge interjects. She is her husband’s full-time caregiver after a cardiac event impacted his health a short time ago. After months spent shuttling him across Miami for doctor visits after his hospitalization, they made the difficult decision to move to Florida’s Gulf Coast so that Edward could focus on his rehabilitation in a less frenetic environment.
“Alright, Margaret. Put my granddaughter back on, wouldya?.”
Marge hands the phone back to Emmie, who has ditched the itchy blonde wig and pulled her light brown curls back with the pumpkin headband she wore to school earlier. Emmie runs to her room to show her grandfather the picture as Marge dumps the pizza crusts into the trash and begins pulling cleaning products out of the cabinet under the sink.
“So Esthie, you haven’t mentioned a certain someone tonight,” she says while her daughters sit at the kitchen table arguing over the last sugar cookie as they have since they were Emmie’s age.
As soon as the words leave Marge’s mouth, Esthie lets her sister have the last cookie, an act of good faith meant to remind Iso to diffuse the relationship talk. If Esthie let her, Marge would attempt to solve all of her relationship issues before making the drive home in the morning.
“Mom, we talked about this,” Iso says, referring to the text message she sent her mother earlier telling her to take it easy with Esthie. Still in full costume, she pulls the fork out of her red wig and adjusts the purple seashell bust of her mermaid costume.
Esthie is dressed up as her beloved and misunderstood cat, Skimbleshanks. The costume required hours of matching the pattern of his fur to patches of fur on her bodysuit and shopping online for the perfect green feline contacts and cat ears. She originally wore the costume for a formal party she attended with Dominick, who only attended at the behest of one of his donors. She decided to don it again because she missed her cat and thought it more appropriate for the kids than her naughty nurse costume, which she only keeps around for private moments with Dominick.
“I’m only trying to help. You know, I never see you girls anymore so we have to take advantage of every moment,” Marge says as she sprays down the countertop. “Isobel, these products may be wonderful for the environment, but you really need to get the stuff that works.”
“Mom, I didn’t ask you to clean, though,” Iso responds, turning to her sister to find the familiar glow of the screen of her smartphone illuminating her face.
Esthie has just received a text from her friend Lindsay indicating that her current Halloween plans include staying home with her heating pad and dealing with menstrual cramps. She feels a sudden panic as she opens her calendar to check for the last time she placed a rose Emoji on it, indicating the beginning of her cycle. A cold chill runs down her spine when she has to go back to August to find one.
She looks up at her sister and hopes that mouthing the words no rose Emojis and pointing at her calendar would be enough to communicate to her that she may need to go buy a pregnancy test. Her stomach sinks just thinking about what the results could be.
It takes a few seconds for Iso to figure out what she is looking at. Then her jaw drops. “Mom, watch the kids. We’re gonna go get ice cream,” she says, grabbing her purse and pulling her sister toward the garage door before their mother can object. She had wondered why Esthie hadn’t asked to borrow any feminine products since they had been living together. Iso had just assumed that her sister was using some environmental alternative to tampons. The idea that Esthie could be pregnant fills her with eager excitement, but she tries not to let on because she knows that her enthusiasm will freak Esthie out.
When Isobel found out she was pregnant for the first time she called her sister before her husband, more as a reflex than anything else. Xavier always jokes about it in a way that makes Iso feel like he’s resentful about it. She has tried to explain the sisterly bond to her husband on many occasions, but it’s not something that can be easily understood.
After a silent drive down the block with the windows down, Iso and Esthie walk into the brightly lit 24-hour pharmacy on the busy intersection of US-1 that connects Coconut Grove with the rest of Miami.
“You could have left the wig at home,” Esthie says to Iso as they walk down the center aisle past the snacks and sale items.
“Then people won’t get my costume.”
Esthie shakes her head and wishes that her sister weren’t enjoying this moment so much. She feels sick to her stomach, wondering how it didn’t occur to her earlier that she might be pregnant. She wonders how many glasses of wine she’s had in the past few weeks as she searches for the right section.
“Okay, I’m gonna go get bug spray and meet you by the bathroom,” Iso says once they find what they’re looking for.
“What do you need bug spray for?”
“It’s not for me. If you’re pregnant I’m not letting you step foot outside without spraying yourself down,” Iso warns. She has read many news stories about the virus that’s being transmitted locally through mosquito bites that causes birth defects in the children of pregnant women who contract it. The idea that a mosquito bite can severely affect your child’s health before it’s even born frightens Iso and she hopes her sister takes the threat seriously it turns out that she’s pregnant.
Esthie rubs her temples in anxious annoyance. “I can’t deal with you right now.”
After paying for her test and a large bottle of electrolyte water that she bought just in case she needs fluids, she walks back to the bathroom, tucked away in the storeroom area in the back. Iso is already holding the door open with the toilet liner in place and the bug spray on the sink.
“Don’t worry, I have hand sanitizer in my purse,” she says as Esthie rips open the cardboard packaging of the test.
“I wasn’t, but thanks.”
Isobel and Esthie fill the time it takes for the results to appear with insensitive jokes about the situation that would be deemed completely inappropriate in any company other than their own. It’s the way they’ve coped with uncomfortable situations since childhood.
“If I’m pregnant he’s gonna think I inseminated myself with a turkey baster, I swear. We’ve barely done it since the summer. I don’t even remember the last time we…” Esthie stops herself, having figured out the last time she and Dominick had sex.
“How many weeks ago was Labor Day?”