“Breakup” by Frances Ensign Greene

"Sometimes she’d wake up and see him by the window, and she’d know he was wanting to be gone...”

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Frances Ensign Greene wrote several short stories for Redbook and The Saturday Evening Post. His short story Breakup reflects the life of a young woman who makes countless sacrifices for her family and career.

Published on October 27, 1956. Want even more classic fiction? Subscribe to the magazine for access to our complete archives, including fiction, cartoons, art, inspiring stories, humor, and in-depth reporting.

Although this is the story of a successful and happy woman, it has a strange ending, one that disturbs and delights me by turns. Actually, of course, nobody’s story can be over until his life is over, and Mary Jordan, by her own admission, is just thirty-four. I never heard of anybody doing just what she did, and probably that’s what disturbs me, but there is an undeniable pleasure in seeing someone slip out of the neat little pattern of expected behavior in order to be true to himself, and that’s what delights me. But I’d like to know what you think of the debt she incurred, and the rare way she paid it.

I first met Mary Jordan at a cocktail party, one of those deadly ones from five to seven where people come at eight and stay until eleven, milling around with drinks in their hands and being veddy, veddy smart and a little hysterical.

There was the usual count, who asked to be called Gigi because, after all, this was a democratic country; the wife of a very great actor and her mother; an overblown torch singer fast making a fool of herself; a couple of television writers and several producers; a portrait painter of great charm. And there were about twenty others, all of whom were somebody too.

There was also a very beautiful woman sitting on a couch talking to the painter. I recognized her at once — so would you have. She is as far up as she can go in her profession, which may account for the little shadow around her eyes; unless you remain static when you get to the top the only possible movement is down. But her beauty is legendary, and she has probably made a fortune, so there was no occasion for sympathy.

She had on a black-and-white creation that made her look like a gorgeous, gentle Cossack. I went over and spoke to the painter, who introduced us and then went in search of another drink, so I sat down beside the beautiful Mary Jordan and we began to talk, and it was as simple as that. I liked her suddenly — you know how it is. You meet someone you have never seen before, realize that you are in tune with each other, and a fully matured liking springs from you like Minerva from Jupiter’s head. Other people came and went, but doggedly we kept on.

After a bit, she said, “Straight ginger ale on an empty stomach is beginning to get me. I could do with some food, couldn’t you?”

We found our hostess, and there was something of a struggle with words — she’d wanted Mary Jordan to sing for the people, but while Miss Jordan was charming about it, she was definite. My heart warmed to her.

There was a restaurant just around the corner, and we went in and ordered scrambled eggs. I sat there beaming; it was fun being with someone who was as easily recognized as a movie star. As a matter of fact, she’s made several pictures, been in television for the last five years, and, heaven knows, her photographs have been in the papers often enough. People nudged one another and stared, but she seemed unconscious of it.

She leaned forward, her gray eyes slanting. “You have amazing bits of information,” she said. “I read something of yours once in which you said the best maple sap came from trees that had a layer of slate under them. How did you know that?”

“Oh, I probably heard it years ago and dragged it out of my subconscious. Just a whiff of a thought.” I was almost shocked that she remembered careless words I’d written and had forgotten myself.

“I see. You assimilate things and file them away for future use — everything you hear and see. But that’s such a load. Aren’t you awfully tired?”

I smiled at her. “Thanks for understanding that. But it’s not a conscious tiredness. It’s just a cageful of mice scurrying about in the noodle. I know smatterings about a lot of things, and I can’t add up a column of figures — and why did you remember that about the maple trees?”

“Because I came from Vermont. We had a stand of maples with slate under it, just as you said in your story. I always helped in the bush during the sugaring, along with the rest of the family. If you’ve never dipped a ladle into boiling syrup in the sugar bush, poured some onto fresh snow and popped it into your mouth while it was still warm and waxy — then, my friend, you haven’t lived.”

I’d about exhausted my own sketchy knowledge of the maple industry, SO I said, “I’d supposed you were a velvet child who wintered at Cap d’Antibes. That voice must have been mellowed by Mediterranean warmth, surely. And now you tell me Vermont, of all places. Deep snow, stags bounding on the hillsides, wood-burning stoves and grim, hard-bitten people — ”

A curious change came over her face, and it stopped me. “You do know smatterings, don’t you? The thumb-nail sketch was hardly accurate. For example, the least hard-bitten person I’ve ever known still lives there, the woman I love in a very special way, and the one I’ve tried to repay — and not just with money, but with — Will you let me tell you about it sometime? I need to talk to someone.” And in that moment I realized that Mary Jordan was lonely.

Two weeks later I called her and she asked me to come to see her. She had a smart apartment in the Sixties — all the things you’d expect, gray walls, a fireplace, good paintings, low squatty chairs, and a grand piano. We sat down opposite each other, and after a little while Mary Jordan began to tell me the story that she knew I had come for.

Mabel Kelsey was a large, handsome woman who rarely sat down from sunup to sundown, except on Sundays. Righteous and proudly God-fearing, she had married Carl Kelsey to reform him, so she said. She seemed to have succeeded in her project, for Carl Kelsey turned into a morose man who seldom talked. They produced two sons, Matt and Joel, two years apart, and then in her fortieth year, Mabel gave birth to a girl child — a feat of which she was always slightly ashamed.

The boys, then ten and twelve, were given the privilege of naming the infant, and they called her Ramona, after the sword swallower they’d seen at the county fair. Ramona Kelsey.

All through her childhood, the boys kept up their proprietary interest in Mona, teasing her, loving and coddling her, and disciplining her by turns, so that she was in a perpetual state of confusion. She loved her brothers more than anything else on earth. The silent Carl and the indifferent Mabel were dim shadows on the screen of her youthful development. Only the boys were real. She loved the smell of their room up under the eaves, the wild gaminess of it, the ghost of forbidden smoke, old corduroy and water-soaked leather that had dried there. Often she’d go into their room on Sunday mornings when they were allowed to sleep a little longer, and crawl into bed between them.

Joel would open one blue eye and look fierce. “Hey you, Matt. That thing got in again. What’ll we do with it?” “Heave it outside.”

So they’d get up, and one would take her feet and the other her arms, and they’d swing her, and just as they seemed bent on pitching her through the open window, one of them would stop to scratch his ankle, and she’d light into them, punching into their rock-ribbed stomachs, knowing she could never hurt them, and they’d all capsize on the floor in a laughing, crazy heap. They were a wonderful pair of brothers for a little girl to own.

And then, when she was nine, the tragedy had happened. The boys had gone up the mountain after a marauding bear, and Joel slipped and fell from a rock ledge, a drop of forty feet. He said he wasn’t hurt, and they believed him, but the next morning when Mona got into bed with them, Joel’s eyes were already open and he was cold against her body. She was never to forget Matt’s scream when she woke him, or the dreadful contortions of his face. Matt was never quite the same after Joel’s death or, for that matter, neither was Mona.

Matt worked the farm alone, studying his agriculture bulletins under the hanging kerosene lamp, going up to his lonely room at night to remember Joel’s laughter. The household was silent, sullen. It worked and ate and slept, and that was all. But it was about this time that Mona, alone and under the open sky, began to sing as a protest against the weighing hush that surrounded her.

One autumn day Matt went into St. Johnsbury and brought home a bride. His mother met them at the door, her eyes blazing at Matt and ignoring the girl. Only the anger leaped between them in place of words, for Matt had nothing to say, either, no explanations and no apologies. His wife was a little thing, frail and ash blond, with blue eyes and beautiful narrow hands, and a sweetness in her face. Mona’s heart opened wide with that first beseeching smile. She wanted to protect her, and, more importantly, she wanted to do something to make her happy. That desire never left her.

The next day Mabel Kelsey cornered Matt in the kitchen. “Well, now, this is a pretty thing you’ve done,” she said tauntingly. “If you had to bring a woman here, why didn’t you pick a fit one to help in the house and bear you some children? Look at you! Six foot two and shoulders on you like an ox! Why, a young’un of yours’d kill this scrawny whiffet you’ve drug in!”

A flush spread over his face as he laid down his fork. “I love her, ma. If you can’t be decent to her, don’t talk.”

“You leave her alone, ma.” Mona was standing with her feet planted wide apart, defying her mother for the first time in her life. “She don’t have to help in the house — I’ll do it for her. We’ll take care of her, Matt and me!”

Rosalie spoke from the doorway before they knew she was there, and she smiled in quiet friendship at the little girl. “Thank you, Mona. As long as I have you and Matt, I won’t care about anything else — too much.”

And then she crossed the room and sat down in her rightful place beside her husband at the kitchen table. From that time on, she and Mabel never spoke directly to each other. For twelve years they lived in the same house and never found the need for words together until a grave wonder united them.

Mabel’s prophecy came true; there were no children. Once it seemed as if there might be, but Rosalie caught her foot in the torn drugget and fell down the steep stairs that led from the room up under the eaves. Sure enough, Matt’s child almost killed her, and there followed a long period of invalidism, with Mona waiting on her, and Mona alone hearing the heartbroken weeping when the doctor told her there would never be a child now. She had wanted a baby more than anything else in the world.

By this time the ineffectual Carl Kelsey was dead, making little difference in the lives of any of them. Mona was fourteen, a strong, straight girl blooming into sudden beauty. Rosalie taught her many things, but most of all she gave her an appreciation of herself. It was Rosalie who made her sing a song over and over again until the tightness went out of her throat and the clear rich soprano came free and sweet, and it was also Rosalie who told her that her singing was a very special gift which might become an art if she worked at it.

As the years went by, Mona Kelsey grew locally famous. Folks said something ought to be done about that beautiful voice, but they didn’t suggest what — or how.

On a Sunday afternoon in May when the apple orchard was deep in bloom, the girls sat under one of the flowering trees with Matt sprawled beside them. That was the time when Rosalie chose to speak to her husband about the dream she and Mona had shared. “There’s a man in Dorset,” she told him, “who will see to it that Mona gets a scholarship to a fine music school in New York City if we can manage the rest of it, Matt. He says she has a remarkable voice and it ought to be trained.”

Matt looked off to the green hills in the distance. Then he asked heavily, “How much would it cost?”

“The way we figure, she ought to have twenty-five dollars a week. I could make some clothes for her this summer, but she’d need other things, and carfare and stamp money and odds and ends — ”

“Honey, you might as well ask for the moon. That’s plain crazy, and you know it. Twenty-five dollars — holy Hannah!”

Mona stiffened. “Ma’s got that thirty- acre piece that’s just lying there, and the Sandersons want it. Couldn’t she sell it and give me the money? I’d pay it back. I’m not asking this just for myself, but this man who comes to Dorset summers, this Mr. Caldwell, says God gave me my voice, and I’ve got a debt to Him!”

“God or no God, ma wouldn’t give up her thirty acres to educate any girl, and I don’t know as I’d blame her. You’d get married, and the money spent on you’d be just wasted.”

“I wouldn’t either get married! Not for years, not till I’d done what the Lord intended me to do. Matt, I’ve got to amount to something! I can’t just stay here and — Rosy, you tell him.”

“The money would never be wasted, Matt. She’d feel her obligation.”

“Obligation, hell. What woman thinks of obligation when she meets some fellow she wants to tie up with? Look at you. Your folks scrimped to send you to normal school, and what good did it do you? You married me and buried yourself alive.” Then Matt, the kind and gentle man, said the cruel thing out of his deep shame and frustration. “It might have been different if we’d had kids — being educated, you’d know how to tend them better, teach them things. But as it is, you’re just wasted, Rosy. Your life don’t mean a thing.”

Rosalie turned as white as the dress she wore, as white as the snow that had lain over her heart since she lost her child.

When she could speak again, she said softly, “I suppose you’re right. But there’s a way to change that.”

After she had gone to the house, Mona looked full at her brother. She was too young to find the words that would have smashed him and shamed him. They were all in her eyes, and her eyes only bewildered him.

He said, “Well, I’ll speak to ma, anyway. It won’t do any harm, I guess.”

“You’ve done the harm. There isn’t any more to do.”

He was a male creature, and to him the ways of females would be forever mysterious, so he was never to know that his crudeness marked the turning point in the lives of two women.

Mona received the scholarship in July, and in the middle of August, Rosalie went to work in the post office. Already the clothes Mona would need had been made, and twenty of the twenty-five dollars had been assured. Rosalie was a woman fired now by a high purpose, and her fading face showed it.

Mabel Kelsey had nothing but scorn. What Mona did about her fool singing was no concern of hers, and if a dim- witted woman wanted to walk two miles to a job and back again, and waste her money to boot, let her. But Matt pledged ten dollars to add to his wife’s twenty, and so Mona was cared for.

It was a year before Mona came home again, but in the meantime there were the letters that meant so much to Rosalie. Vicariously, this was her own training, since she was in a measure responsible for it, and she followed the pruning of Mona’s voice through her letters. Her vocal coach was Gerald Chapman, and he told her that she showed more promise than any student he’d had in the last five years. “Think of that, Rosy! I wouldn’t tell you, except that you’re the only one in the world who cares, and I think maybe you’ll be a little bit proud.”

The tales that Mona wrote home were not precisely true. She was doing well in all her studies, and her voice was growing more facile by the day, but there were times when even Chapman’s pat of approbation couldn’t lift the fog she groped in. She was homesick for the hills she knew, for Rosalie and Matt; she was lonely to the point of illness and she was afraid.

That first year she ate her Christmas dinner at a midtown restaurant with a young artist named Philip Garfield, who was just getting over a bout with pneumonia and seemed as homeless as she was. Though he was strangely attractive, he was unlike any man she had ever known, and so she resented him; he seemed to her the embodiment of all her griefs and frustrations of the moment.

Two years later she had married him with no thought of her obligation to Rosalie or her own ambitions. She had married him because she couldn’t do anything else.

It was a magic thing that had burgeoned within her when spring came that year. Constantly she sang of love, and she was surrounded by the foreign coaches who spoke lustily and warmly. By that time, she was studying with the famous old diva, Maria Campagni, and madame often told her, “You will not really be a singer, my little pet, until you live a little, love very much, and suffer some because you love. You need a man to take you in his arms and make you forget that cold Vair-mont you come from.”

And Mona, thinking of the little man who had enriched madame’s emotions and had thus been responsible for her glorious years at La Scala, would giggle. But they weren’t all like little bandy-legged Luigi Campagni. She began to wonder how it would be to have Philip Garfield make love to her. She was young, and he was so very much in love with her, and this new, strange thing she couldn’t understand was flowering within her.

Philip was a painter, and a good one, his friends told her. He would have real significance someday, if he got the breaks.

Sometimes madame would rap sharply before she could get Mona’s attention. Finally, a light broke over the huge face. “Aa-hanh! Now I know. You are in love. At last it has happened to my little frozen chicken, and she is thawing and it is very painful, no? It is, of course, the beautiful young man who paints? Oh, I am not so glad about anything in years! Now you will sing!”

“Will I, madame?” That seemed of small importance to her at the moment. “But what will I do about Philip?”

Madame cast her eyes up to the ceiling. “The child asks me what she should do! You will marry him, of course. You will have the wedding right here in this room, as soon as this law they have allow you.”

So that was the way it happened. She was married in madame’s living room, with madame sobbing all through the ceremony in huge abandon. Philip had been living in a state of shock since the night she had told him she’d marry him, and now his nerves were telling; he was almost ill. The welling tenderness rose in her and she knew that he was her whole world. Nothing else mattered. She was a woman grandly in love, and the wonder of it stripped her of logic.

More than a week passed before she wrote to Matt and Rosalie, but the letter, laced through as it was with guilt, seemed inadequate and she tore it up. She told herself that it was better to wait until she saw them. Besides, she still needed the money they sent. Philip made very little from the occasional sale of a picture, and he was as poor as she was. Oh, but someday it would all be different. In the meantime, her mail could still come to madame.

The weeks slipped by, the happiest she had ever known. Then gradually Philip began to talk of Taos, in New Mexico, where the air was clear and dry and the sunlight intense. It was a mecca for people like him, he said, and New York was a mess, all noise and polluted air. He wanted to live close to the earth, do his work and bake in the sun.

She laughed, playing with him as she supposed he was playing with her. “And what am I doing in this Utopia?”

“You can sing there as well as here.”

“Of course, darling. I could even give a weekly concert to the Indians and they could pay me with beads.”

He talked more and more of Taos, however, and at last she was forced to realize that he was serious. “But I have a career to follow, too; I have a destiny! Maybe my voice isn’t important to you, but it is to me and a few others who have invested in me. I can’t just chuck the whole business and go off with you to gratify a whim.”

But it was no use, and steadily but surely the precious thing they’d shared was leaving them. Sometimes she’d wake in the night and see him standing by the window, breathing heavily, and she’d know that he was wanting to be gone, if not with her, then without her. She had no choice but to go with him, and yet fighting to hold him, she hated him a little too.

He met her at the train when she came home from Vermont, and she thought he looked stricken, as though he had somehow been with her in spirit. Her words were almost unnecessary. “My mother sat there and laughed her head off. And Matt stared at me as if he hated me. And Rosalie — Rosy was stunned. She kept saying it was all right, she wanted me to be happy, but there she sat with her empty hands and her empty life, her faded face, and her shoulders stooping a little now from working for me. And then Matt told me how she’d walked four miles a day, sometimes through the snow when he couldn’t get the truck out, how she’d worked to send every cent to me as if it were a holy duty, and oh, heaven, Phil — ”

“I see,” he said gently. “So you’re not going.”

“No. I have a debt to pay.”

That was the end of their life together, because he left her and went alone, as she had known he would. For a time, she moved through a period of indifference to his leaving, since his act of selfishness numbed the love she had for him.

She went to madame and finally found the relief of tears on that capacious bosom.

“The peeg!” madame snarled. “Oh, if I could get these two hands upon him! But look — I tell you. Your heart is now broken; it is sometimes good for a woman who is an artiste to have a broken heart. Loving Philippe has done you no harm, even though he was a bad one.”

“Hasn’t done me any harm? Madame, I’m going to have a baby!”

The big woman’s reaction was one of horror, quickly followed by rich delight. “Then you will be complete at last! Then you will sing as you never sang before. Ah, Madonna, what a miracle this is! It is what I have prayed for!” Her eyes narrowed speculatively. “Does he know, that Philippe?”

“No. I didn’t want to keep him that way.”

“Aa-hahh. Then we still do not tell him. You are to remain with me, with the little Luigino and me, and we will go on with the lessons, and when the baby is born — ”

When the baby was born in December, it was a fine boy — the most beautiful baby in the world, according to madame. To Mona, the little face bore no resemblance to its father, but in its infant newness, the mark of its appearance in years to come, it was a miniature of the beloved lost brother.

She went home in February when the snow lay white on the mountains. The family was at early supper in the lamplight. She came in quietly, so as not to break the old silence in the house.

They looked at her as if she were an apparition. Matt jumped up and his chair fell over with a great crash, breaking the spell that bound them. He came over to her and lifted back the blanket that covered the baby’s face. They saw his own face whiten as he looked down upon the child’s, and they all heard him breathe, “Oh, my God!”

“I know,” Mona said gently. “That’s why I’ve named him Joel.”

She put her son into his arms, and suddenly the big man began to shake, hiding his face in the blanket, straining the child to him, and his sobs were all around them, filling the room. Rosalie, in her great compassion, went to him and touched his bent head, and then she, too, looked down into the baby’s face. She hadn’t known Joel, but she hadn’t needed to — this was a baby, a thing to be tended and served and loved. She took it from Matt with hungry arms.

In spite of the grief that was in her heart, and the new beauty, too, Mona said, “He’s yours, Rosalie. Yours and Matt’s. I’ve brought him to you, and I’ll never take him away, I promise you.”

Then Rosalie, with her face transfigured, did the beautiful thing that they were to remember all their lives. She took the baby and laid it in the old woman’s lap, passing the first words with her in more than twelve years. “Here, ma. Here’s your grandson. They say he looks like your boy, Joel.”

Mary Jordan was to know many exalted moments in her life, but there was never one to equal that. Anything was possible for her, remembering it. Alone now, she went back to Campagni, who told her that at last she was ready. Her voice was as perfect as one of her years could expect. But she must change her name. The sound, said madame, had to be right on the ears.

At first there were small engagements at clubs, then at hotels and the better night spots. People began to notice her for more than her voice. She dressed well and cultivated a reserve that was deadly in its effectiveness. Her beauty ripened; her figure was svelte, disciplined. In the third year, she had the lead in a Broadway musical, then went into radio. She made two pictures in Hollywood, both of them rather lavish and corny, to her way of thinking; then came back to radio as star on an oil company’s program that paid her a fantastic salary. Now Mary Jordan found her special medium in television. The combination of her face, figure, voice and personality had succeeded in crystallizing her dream; and the work, the sacrifice and the heartbreak had all been worth it. She was where she wanted to be. She was at the top.

Often she went home to see her family and young Joel, to be called Mona again, to find a deeper peace. The boy had made over the lives of the three lonely people, and he himself was happy. Happier and stronger than she could have made him, with a succession of nurses and boarding schools. If you could see them all — Matt following Joel with his eyes so proudly, teaching him to milk the cows and tap the maple trees, to hunt and to fish with him; Rosalie forever smiling now, stooping to drop a light kiss on the tanned young forehead; her mother softened, laughing over some nonsense of the boy who looked and acted so much like her own son — then you’d know she had done the right thing in giving up her child, no matter what the cost. It was a debt she’d had to pay.

I came to with a start, realizing that for some time I had been lost in a painting on the opposite wall; I had a sense of having been in it. It was a wonderful thing — a pueblo, with the twilight streaking the sand, and one giant cactus standing lonely and strong in the foreground.

I said, “So Philip Garfield was your husband. And that, I am sure, must be one of his best.”

“I bought it at the Ducheyne Galleries two years ago. I’m glad you like it. You see, it’s all I have of him.”

That was it. That was the part in her story that hadn’t satisfied me. “You never divorced him, so that must mean that you never wanted to marry anyone else. And I’ve heard, somewhere, that he doesn’t come East, even for his exhibitions. He never leaves the desert.” Had I really heard that or was I just imagining it? With all the talk that goes on, a person hears so many things that he stores away.

“I really don’t know. He hasn’t tried to contact me in all these years.” Mary Jordan’s beautiful mouth was suddenly vulnerable. “But even though he left me as he did, I couldn’t stop being his wife. I loved him, and I always shall.”

“But there’s no sunlight in the picture!” She turned her startled eyes upon me. “I — don’t understand.”

“You thought he left you to paint sunlight, but this is twilight and evening shadows. Look at the deepened purple on that butte in the distance. Where is the sun in this or a dozen others? I’m sure you’ve seen them.”

She was sitting up straighter now, following my thought. “I go to the Galleries. Please go on.”

“Mary — Mona, didn’t you ever wonder why a man like Philip Garfield would leave the woman he’d loved for four years and chase after a will-o’-the-wisp of sunlight in order to paint it? He could have painted anywhere — sunlight falls on city streets — city streets

“New Mexico. You know what I think, Mona? I think Philip Garfield had to leave you. I think he was a sick man. You said he’d had pneumonia; you spoke about his heavy breathing — ”

“Oh, but that was emotional, when he was distressed or nervous — at least I thought that was it. He wasn’t ill — was he?”

“Probably. He said he wanted to go where the air was hot and dry, to bake in the sun; and to him, the atmosphere here was ‘polluted.’ Not to you and me, but to him. I think he had some respiratory weakness or an allergy to smoke and gases, and he knew it, and knew that it was getting him. Maybe some doctor had even told him that he wouldn’t live very long unless he went to the desert.”

“Oh, no!” She gave a little cry that had pain somewhere in it. “He knew I’d have gone with him if that had been it — anywhere — oh, anywhere on earth! I’d have given up everything!”

“Exactly. I’m beginning to like your Philip more and more. He understood you better than you think he did, Mona Kelsey — but he knew about Mary Jordan too. In ten years you’ve accomplished a lot, and it’s all turned out just as it was meant to. God had a pretty wonderful plan laid out for you, Mona. But now that you’ve taken care of your special debt to Him and to Rosalie, I think there’s one more He expects you to pay.”

“If I can,” she said. “If I still can — and I must find out.”

At the door, she took my hand and her lovely gray eyes were misted. “Whether you’re right or wrong,” she said, “God bless you. How — do you know so much?”

“I don’t. I only know smatterings, as I said. And people have to be in character. I think people are the most wonderful things there are.”

I left for the Coast the next day, so I didn’t see Mary Jordan again, and when 1 got back, it was too late. By that time, I was slapped by the backwash of all the rumors that had been spread about her dropping out of sight at the peak of her career. She’d had her contracts canceled because she was an alcoholic, a heroin addict, in trouble with the Government, her nerves had snapped and her voice had cracked. The last report was that she was in a mental institution up in Connecticut somewhere. I still think people are remarkable.

My heart leaped when I saw the card, because sometimes smatterings aren’t enough; there are occasions when you ought to know what you’re talking about. It was a colored picture of two little Navajos holding hands and squinting in the sun. On the back was a single message. “My life is just beginning — ”

It wasn’t signed. It didn’t have to be.

First page of the short story “Breakup” by Frances Ensign Greene. This links to the full story.
Read “Breakup” by Frances Ensign Greene from the October 27, 1956, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

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