“I just can’t believe you want Father Caughlin there. He won’t really be celebrating with us. He won’t. How is this even a thing after everything you went through?” Kyle let his eye drift over the latticework of small, white scars obscured but still visible under the tattoos that illustrated Erica’s arms. She had scars across her body, but those were the ones that mattered.
Erica sat on the bed and wrapped her hands, the one piece of her puzzle she would never be happy with, into the folds of the sheets. “Because he’s more than just what I went through as a kid. He baptized me. He baptized all of us. He’s married all of us who’ve gotten married so far. Do you remember the eulogy he gave when my dad passed?”
“He won’t marry us. He’s part of the institution.”
“The Church is a constant conversation. He’s part of the dialogue.”
Kyle cocked his head.”Great timing. You were miserable your whole life and he never did a thing to help. Not one thing.”
A deep sigh rolled out from between Erica’s lips. “And even though he wasn’t an active part of the process of myself, I want him to be now. He wants to be.”
“A person doesn’t change. He’s a cake already baked, as my grandmother would say. You don’t pull a cake out of the oven, leave it to cool and come back to find it’s become a pie.”
Erica shrugged but her eyes had a matte steeliness that betrayed no actual ambivalence. “I kind of did.”
“No, not at all the same. You didn’t change, you just got new frosting. Better frosting.”
Erica got up suddenly and stomped across the bedroom to the small window, pulling with her the sheet still wrapped around her hands. Her back was to Kyle and her shoulders pulled high toward her ears. “You don’t know. You know me now. You didn’t know me then. Who I was or what kind of, of thing I’d be now if all that I did was just a spackling over with buttercream or whatever.” She turned suddenly, wheeled on Kyle and dropped the sheet to the floor. “We’re both toast. We were baked as bread, fully formed, set to be just this one thing. Then there was a change, heat was added and it changed us. And it took some time. But we ended up as toast. And, if you think about it, toast is way better than just bread anyway you slice it.” The anger drained out of her features, not completely but significantly, as she realized the pun she had just spun.
Kyle looked at Erica and could see his fiance as a little girl. No scabbed knees, no forts made in the woods from mud and stones and sticks. No toy gun shoot-outs but rather tea parties and pony rides. Lots of attention from boys as she grew up. Lots of dates and laughter and caught feelings. Prom under the sea with a handsome boy and a limousine and a hotel room. College and a fiance who wasn’t Kyle but someone else. It was a life that, had she not become toast, would never have intersected with his and left Kyle not just the poorer for it but absolutely destitute. Tears formed at the corners of his eyes.
“Okay.” He saw Erica smile. “Alright.”