Edith was always a creative child. Those without a bustling group of childhood friends often are. She drew and created, read books and did experiments, talked to her dog and her sister, and used her imagination to her utmost ability. She never shied away from exploring further, writing letters to authors of books she liked starting in middle school. She expected a response and would often write back and forth multiple times, usually ending when the author realized they were engaging in correspondence with a 12-year-old.
In fourth grade, Edith’s work was featured at the county civic center, one of the few pieces picked from her grade. Her pointillism crab still remains framed at her parents’ home. She was selected to make paper mache puppets for a school play in 5th grade, allowing her to leave regular classes to create and rehearse.
She took the required art classes throughout her education, but once they stopped being required, her pursuits dwindled. She still doodled at home, but her best friend Robin was the real artist, the one that dreamed of art school and volunteered to do murals at coffee shops. Robin’s identity was wrapped up in art, she identified as an artist in the annoying way high schoolers do, carrying around art supplies for no reason.
At the same time that Robin was dreaming of studying art in college, and the careers that might be available to her, she was also becoming more religious. The high school art teacher, Mr. Romero, was Christian, along with everyone else at their suburban high school, or at least so it seemed. He had a beautiful Japanese wife and they attended Church multiple times a week, which he talked to his students about on a regular basis, separation of church and state be damned.
Mr. Romero took Robin under his wing. He encouraged her and allowed her to use his classroom and his supplies to create after school. At the same time, he’d talk to her about God and his faith. Robin was a lovely person, but when she became interested in something, she jumped in fully and completely. She never started going to church, but did start going to teen groups associated with churches. She started dating guys that valued their faith and started talking about Christianity more and more.
Edith was, always had been, an atheist. Her parents were atheists and, while she accompanied her friends to church on Sundays after sleepovers sometimes, she remained fully and completely unbelieving.
In the time before cell phones with unlimited data plans, the two girls would write notes to each other in every class, detailing everything about their days -from gossip about teachers, friends, and crushes, to weekend plans, deep feelings, and, increasingly, religion. Robin would include stories from the Bible in each note. Edith read them, appreciated them as stories, but did nothing more.
During their senior year, Edith took Art 101 with Mr. Romero as an elective to breeze through her last year of school. She quickly became a favorite student as she was creative and, probably more importantly, not an annoying freshman somehow both terrified and arrogant. She truly enjoyed Mr. Romero’s class and appreciated the little ways that he made her day better, from allowing her to shatter last year’s pottery projects when she was having a bad day, to pretending to throw her out of class so she could wander the halls with Robin. He spoke to her about Christianity and how he was sure that she would find her way, eventually. She smiled politely and said, “maybe.”
The summer after their senior year, after Robin’s parents refused to pay for art school, despite the fact that they had more expendable income than almost any other family, Robin prepared herself to attend the local state school. It had a decent art program, was cheap, and she would know plenty of people there. Edith was attending a private liberal arts school with two other girls from their school, more prestigious and exclusive, and grossly expensive. All of the students from their high school had full scholarships, as none could afford the school on their own.
That summer, Edith and Robin spent every day together, flirting with boys, laying by the pool, listening to music, and simply biding their time. One day, to Edith’s great surprise, Robin decided that she was getting a tattoo. The tattoo itself wasn’t unexpected, but the subject matter was. Robin was getting a large tattoo on her back depicting Michelangelo’s David and God’s hands reaching out to one another. This tattoo would be the width of her back, and she simply said, “The two things that are most important to me are my faith and art, and those will never stop being important to me.”
A year later, after the girls lost touch during college, they reconnected. Edith was partying her way through college, her personality changing by the day. Robin had gotten really into drugs, changed her major to psychology, and had completely given up on religion. In fact, this guy she met once at a party, they were thinking about starting their own religion together. It’d be really cool, she said.