There was so much that Hildreth wanted to say in response to all of that. But the words refused to leave his mouth. They stayed hidden in his lungs. They clung to his liver and buried their faces in his spleen.
He soft punched his friend’s upper arm.
Jeff smiled and drove forward.
Words weren’t needed.
Elsie pulled into the church’s parking lot and parked her car. “And I’m here.”
Hildreth, I’m here.
She pulled out her phone and called him.
“Hello, this is the Budapest Baklava Bohemian Bon Homme Bad Boy Bureaucratic Bureau. How may I direct your call?”
She grinned. “Hey. I’m here at St. Ladislaus. Where are you?”
“We’re on the way in. Jeff and I got a little…sidetracked.”
“mm. I’ll tell you about it later.”
“You’d better not.” Jeff said in the background.
“Do I even want to know what sort of shenanigans you two have been up to?” Elsie asked.
“hmmm. Probably not. So, we’ll keep it secret. For now.” His voice softened as he continued, “I love you, Elsie. I love you. My Elsie. Is today really Sunday? Or am I getting my days all messed up and wrong? Is today that Sunday for real?”
“Yes.” She clenched her hands into her fists. She could almost feel his hair between her fingers. She could almost hear his delirious laugh.
I want to punch him until he fights back.
I want to push him up against a wall.
I want to drag him down to the floor.
I want to kiss him until he’s breathless.
I want to touch him.
I want to feel him.
“It’s finally that Sunday. Hildreth, can we say our vows right now?”
He laughed in surprise. “What? Here on the phone? That’s pretty impromptu and informal.”
“I don’t care. I just want to marry you. I want to say that you are mine and no one else’s.”
“There’s that possessive streak coming out again. I love that. I love that you want me.”
“More than I could want anyone else in the whole world.”
Hildreth fell silent.
“Are you okay? Hildreth? Talk to me.”
“Sorry. I was just a little overwhelmed. Elsie baby, we’ve come so far from where we started.”
“And it will only get better with each day.”
“With every gray hair.”
“With bifocals and false teeth.”
“And with you, Hildreth.”
“With you, Elsie, for all the days of our lives.”
Clarice’s hot pink Dodge Neon pulled up next to Elsie’s car.
“I need to let you go. Mom’s here with my wedding veil. I need to get it on and deal with the whole photography session.”
“Don’t worry, Els. You’ll be beautiful. You are beautiful.”
Such simple words, but they stole her breath and all of her words.
“Love you, baby. I’ll see you there.”
She opened her mouth to tell him to stay on the line a little longer.
He ended the call.
She lowered her phone and contemplated the Call Ended screen.
Someone knocked on her window, startling her. She raised her head and saw Clarice standing there.
Elsie opened the door and got out of the car.
“I have some ideas about what to do with all of your hair.” Clarice said.
“Can’t I just leave it down as is?”
“mmm yes. We could do that. But I have ideas. Wonderful ideas! And trust me, Elsie. You will look fabulous both with the veil on and with the veil off. Let’s go inside.”