Holy, holy Ciara, numbed below the waist in her freely flowing bridal gown. Three months fresh from absolution. Pre-Cana, and she had kept her word since, lying stiff as a board night after night next to her Digby so she could wear white and it wouldn’t be a farce; but there she was, garter tight to thigh, in the room in her mother’s house she had grown up in, waiting for the word of the limousine to arrive, having just banished her mother to the hall, so confused in bridal plume, wondering about what she hadn’t mentioned to Fr. Danny: that bit of blood red by her own hand.
That blood red would now be a ring-bearing boy, a petal-dropping girl. The guests would smile. Scandalized, hardly. A modern marriage. No, actually, not modern at all in that social class. Absolutely archaic. Pre-’72. There among them or off and gone and unknown and not bearing rings or dropping petals but living with some adoptive family. Her question: Were sins unmentioned still, still forgiven?
* * *
Ciara rises from the bed to the same sickening “reer-er” of the tired coils that had gashed over and over on the night she had been impregnated. It was in that bed that she lay after finding out, frightened and sick with the knowledge that something was growing inside her while a different life, ostensibly, awaited her.
There was never any doubt about what she would do. She had gone with a girlfriend, had never even told the boy. Relieved that no one had been outside holding up signs, not that that would have stopped her. Inside was sterile business. It was done. She moved on. But all the broken promises to the Lord: she continued to give herself up for those who were even just slightly more than friends. It could be said that she was careful, though. Both pill and condom. Never another blood red event. That much she had made sure of. Requisite life lived: college, post-college, travel, beginnings of an unwanted career, some semblance of love.
That love with Digby after fights and break-ups and eventually an unspoken acknowledgement that their relationship was what any loving relationship was-a settling, for both of them; a grand settling, perhaps, because there was love, not the love of those first six months when love was not real, but a demanding love, love chosen between humans, no blood to thicken it.
She was sorry, so sorry for him, for these last three months, how he acquiesced, confused, amused, lightly, sometimes, frustrated other times. For each of them, there was something so peculiar about it. “I’m nothing,” he always said, when asked about his religion and for her this was straight out there, other-worldly. Ciara had fallen for nothings before, well aware that rarely was an ought an ought. There had only been one other whom she had thought she loved, James, who was all zeroed out because his mother was Lutheran and his father was Jewish and they couldn’t decide so they decided on nothing. Nothing, for James, had become a religion in itself. It wasn’t agnosticism, it wasn’t atheism but a virulent belief in human potential.
Digby was different, less intellectual, more loving, less judgmental. He had agreed to the day of pre-Cana, happily. It was a rote, uninspiring affair. A rural hamlet in northern Westchester County, a monastery—a compound, really—cloaked in ‘70’s architectural ill-conception. Austere, boxy, full of cement and adorned with the hideous mosaic distortions of Christ and his soldiers. Three hundred prospective husbands and wives opting for this one intensive day of pre-marital therapy instead of blips and starts over the course of a season. Milling about, Digby had mentioned something about the Reverend Sun Young Moon.
Despite the banality, the predictability—“Sex is for procreation and union, enjoyment is a by-product.” “Talk and be honest with each other.” “Children are a blessing.” “Don’t let finances get in the way.”—there was that one thing, late in the day, that had changed everything.
Reconcilation. Digby waited. Ciara walked in to a small room where there was no box to hide inside. None was needed. Fr. Danny was blind, his eyes gone milky yellow, yet unconcealed, an odd little circus, one eye intent on trying to escape notice, darting repeatedly off to the side. “Um, inter…course,” Ciara said, borrowing the word from one of the day’s presenters. A short list of other things—but no blood red.
Still came the words, Your sins are forgiven.
A teary gush of relief, perplexing both her and Digby when she emerged from inside.
Life. Her first test coming just a few hours later. All of the talk of sex that day had prompted Digby to pull her playfully down on top of him when they got back to their apartment. “Only missionary,” he said, in jest, borrowing his own line from the day. “Just doing my best to be a good Catholic.”
She pulled away and just looked at him. She had told him about confession. He only partly understood. He said he loved her. And so he said, “Okay.” They had made it to today.
Despite the radiance of the day, the birds chirping over the burgeoning spring she was afraid, now, that tonight he was going to hurt her. But that was the least of it. It was a day of ideals, something was different, and she had a bride’s need for everything to be perfect. But how could anything be?
She could hear her mother clucking, pecking outside the door wondering what was going on inside. Making peace, making peace, at the sound of the limousine arriving, Ciara closed her eyes and started talking.