Kyle had barely been awake for twenty minutes before his mother had exuberantly rushed him downstairs and sat him down at the table for breakfast, because if there was anything Sheila Broflovski loved to do, it was cooking for the holidays. And cook she did. Through a yawn, Kyle thanked her, and started half-eating, half-looking at his phone.
“So, Kyle, how have your friends been doing lately?” his mother asked.
“Uh,” Kyle looked up, swallowing his mouthful of food. “Stan’s visiting family for Easter...I think Kenny is working, and Cartman’s been doing nothing at home all day.” Kyle shrugged, about to go back to eating, when Sheila turned around, flabbergasted.
“What-what- what? Liane didn’t take Eric with her to Denver?” Before Kyle could respond, his mother set her shoulders and started rummaging through the pantries. “That’s just awful! He’s been all alone all this time!” Sheila started scooping matzah brei into a tupperware. “Here, Kyle, when you’re done, you take this down to Eric—I bet he’d appreciate a nice hot breakfast!”
Then, in a flurry, Sheila had given Kyle a big kiss on the cheek and left to do her makeup, leaving Kyle with a half-eaten plate of food and a delivery to make. Great.
He didn’t want to interact with Eric Cartman before 10AM on a normal day, much less day two of Passover.
But his mother asked, so Kyle would do it.
The walk over was as uneventful and familiar as it’s always been. When Kyle knocked on the door, Cartman opened it in glasses and a paint stained old t-shirt. Somehow, the glasses were a shock, and Kyle had to blink himself back to reality before trying to open his mouth.
“Leftovers. From my mom.” Kyle stiffly shoved the tupperware forward. Cartman, bewildered, took it from Kyle.
He opened the lid at one corner, and his eyes lit up—the look of suspicion was immediately replaced with one of delight.
“Oh, hell yeah dude; I forgot to eat.” Cartman closed the tupperware. “Tell Sheila I said thanks.”
“Ugh, stop calling my mom Sheila.”
“She asked me to, Kahl, so I’m gonna call her Sheila.” Cartman’s grin was playful, smug at Kyle’s expense.
His mother’s friendship with Cartman always gave him the creeps. He didn’t ever think he’d get used to seeing them chatting over tea in the living room, or talking about getting their nails done together. The only good thing was that it gave her someone to cook with, since Ike didn’t have any interest, and Kyle was useless in the kitchen…
When Cartman turned around to walk back into the house, Kyle noticed the dining table had been dragged into the living room and was covered in crafts.
“What’s that?” Kyle pointed, already walking through the doorway to get a better look.
“Come on in, sure,” Cartman mumbled. Kyle could tell he’d rolled his eyes, but ignored it. “I’m just painting some eggs, you know, Easter thing.”
Kyle walked towards the table to get a better look. A half painted egg was sitting in a little bowl to keep it from rolling around, a desk fan gently oscillating near it. Cartman sighed from behind him.
“Just don’t touch them, dude,” Cartman said, trotting into the kitchen.
The basket on the table had nine eggs—presumably hand painted by Cartman. Each one had a tiny, intricate design, all fantasy-themed, each with a unique scene. A dragon curled around a chest of jewels, a trio of fairies in a garden, mermaids swimming with dolphins, a griffin basking in the sun, a wizard surrounded by potions.
A magical princess in a tall tower, a gentle orc in a field of flowers, a phoenix rising into a night sky, a faun playing a pipe.
Suddenly, Kyle asked:
“What do eggs have to do with Easter anyways?”
“Lent. Catholics can’t have eggs during Lent, so they’d decorate them in Medieval times because they could have them again by Easter.”
When Eric responded, Kyle realized he’d been peering so intently at the detail of the eggs that he’d hunched over, and hadn’t even noticed Eric coming back into the room to sit on the couch with his plate.
“Okay, but what about the rabbit?”
“German thing for kids, like Santa.” Eric shrugged. “Wikipedia didn’t have a lot about the Easter Bunny and I didn’t care to keep looking.”
“You know, when we were kids, Stan’s dad told him it was because the Easter Bunny moved the rock to hide eggs in Jesus’s tomb.” Kyle sat on the couch next to Eric. “Stan believed it for years before Wendy told him.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if Stan’s dad actually believed that too.” Eric got up to put his plate away, when he came back, he didn’t take his seat next to Kyle again; instead, he sat at the table to finish painting his eggs. Kyle watched, his attention sort of split between the bad telenovela on TV and Eric’s painting.
“I thought you didn’t give a shit about Easter,” Kyle asked, leaning back against the couch. “I specifically remember you saying it was, quote, ‘fucking stupid unless you were a toddler or super into Jesus.’”
“I don’t give a shit about Easter, Kahl,” Eric replied, unruffled, “I’ve just been painting these eggs for years. You know, for fun.”
That got Kyle’s attention.
“Years?” Kyle raised an eyebrow. He noticed Eric’s shoulders stiffen, just a little. “Where are they?”
“Uh, I don’t have them, but I have a scrapbook of the designs.”
And then Eric was scurrying up the stairs, deliberately not looking at Kyle on the way up. When he came back down, though, he looked like he’d psyched himself up. Eric’s face was carefully neutral as he handed Kyle the pastel scrapbook.
Kyle flipped through the book. He knew he’d be impressed—it was Eric Cartman with an art project, of course it was going to be good—but he was still pleasantly surprised anyways. Each few pages showed off a year’s batch of eggs, and each year had a different theme and style. One year had ancient Greek pottery designs, another year had scenery, another with different animals.
He was a little confused, though, when he got to the batch from two years ago.
“Hey, who are these people?” Kyle looked through the pictures of the eggs, each one with a portrait of a member of a family Kyle had never seen before—the only black families in South Park were Token’s and Nichole’s, and neither of them were anywhere to be found in the scrapbook. The portraits seemed way too personalized to just be model studies—the different backgrounds and frames, the little details in what the people were holding or doing.
Eric smoothed out his bangs, and in that moment of hesitation, Kyle realized Eric wanted Kyle to ask about the portraits. Eric wanted to tell Kyle about the eggs, and the people in them, but didn’t know how—so he brought out a scrapbook with the pictures instead of taking the pages out. The sort of...hedging around the topic, the subtle manipulation of it was something Eric was good at, and something he’d been falling back on for as long as Kyle could remember.
“They’re, uh, the Kings.” Eric turned in his seat, his cheek resting on his hand. He looked up at Kyle, almost shyly. “I’ve only met Marion, though.” He reached his arm out and flipped the page back, pointing to a portrait of an older woman with her chin held high. She smiled kindly at the viewer, with the sun to her back and pink azaleas blooming around her.
“Are you just in the habit of befriending people's moms?” Kyle teased, “Did you meet her through Facebook? Or a knitting class?”
“Ha, Ha, very funny, Kahl.” Eric rolled his eyes, not a hint of venom in his voice. The little smile on his face flickered, though. “She was one of my nurses at The Hills.”
Kyle blinked, his eyes flickered from Eric to the portrait in front of him. Eric rarely mentioned his time at Serenity Hills; Kyle didn’t even know all the details, and he suspected the only person in South Park Eric told everything to was Kenny. All Kyle knew was that the Cartmans disappeared from town during the summer of Eric’s 13th birthday, and a week after they got back, Kenny had sat Kyle down one-on-one and told him seriously to lay off of the ripping and to actually take this seriously. Before Kyle could ask what “this” was, Kenny had pulled Kyle back into the room where Eric was holding Butters’ hand, and in the most bare-bones, straightforward way, Eric told them all he’d been admitted to Serenity Hills Psychiatric Institute for six weeks. He also said he was finally able to start regular therapy.
Kyle, at the time, reacted somewhat poorly. But Kenny’s intense stare was enough to keep his mouth shut. It wasn’t until a few months later, after some embarrassing “surveillance” methods and a legitimate heart-to-heart, Kyle finally pulled his head out of his ass.
“So, uh, a nurse?” Kyle stammered, completely out of his depth.
“Yeah, she’s really nice.” Eric’s voice was soft. “She retired a year after I got out, but we keep in touch. She’s, uh, the main reason I make these eggs. I make them for her.”
“Oh.” Kyle fiddled with a ribbon on the scrapbook. “That’s...really sweet, actually.”
Eric immediately relaxed.
“Yeah, uh, after I finish this batch of eggs, I was going to deliver them to her, so...uh,” Eric fumbled over his words, “...If you wanted to come…” His voice trailed off, awkwardly.
Kyle sort of sat there like a gaping fish—so long Eric had started to backtrack.
“That sounds. Cool.” Kyle felt his face burn, but it was worth it for the way Eric grinned back at him.
Kyle twirled the scrapbook ribbon around his finger again.
“So, uh, why don’t you care about Easter anymore?” Kyle remembered how, as kids, all of them would get excited for their respective holidays in April. Kyle would talk about the food his mom would make and the stories he’d been learning while Stan, Kenny, and Eric would talk about finding eggs and eating candy. But something about the years going by sort of...soured the time for everyone else.
Kyle never stopped feeling giddy when Passover started to approach and his extended family would start calling and his mom would make special grocery trips.
But Kyle seemed to be the only one who still got excited. Stan was partially annoyed by all the hassle of dealing with his family, but was mostly placated by the food and getting to see his cousins. Kenny seemed to be mostly happy about Easter, since his family would get dressed in their best and spend the day at the free, dry, Church festivities—but he also seemed more happy for Karen than for himself.
And Eric, well, like he said, thought Easter was stupid. He didn’t just stop caring about Easter, he seemed to turn heel and start actively hating it. Or, well, Kyle thought he hated it. Eric seemed happy painting eggs every year.
Eric sighed at Kyle’s question.
“Only little kids get the candy and egg hunts,” Eric clicked his tongue. “If you’re not a kid, you get church or whatever. We stopped really going to church anyways, and since I’m not a little kid anymore...I don’t know, I guess my mom stopped seeing the point in celebrating. I don’t even think she remembered this week was Easter.”
Eric looked back to the egg in his hands.
“...I guess I miss it sometimes.”
“Is that why you paint eggs for Marion?”
“I don’t just paint them, Kahl—I make them from scratch! These eggs are fine ceramic! They took me a week to make!” Eric scoffed, “But, yes, that’s uh, why I make eggs for Marion.” Eric added more details to the egg he was painting, and Kyle could finally see its outline start to take shape. “In, uh, art therapy, she painted with me. We’d talked about, like...good memories. You know, just...good times, and the holidays came up and Easter was her favorite holiday, so...I don’t know, that sort of just stuck with me.”
“Yeah?” Eric’s eyes were big, owlish, especially against the black frames of his glasses.
“This is a really cool thing you’re doing.”
Eric tried to hold back his smile, rolling his eyes.
“Okay but, side note: what the fuck were you watching.” Kyle pointed to the TV, where a busty woman in an eyepatch was pointing a gun at what Kyle thought was her sister? Or maybe her daughter? Either way, someone was evil and about five people were having affairs.
“Do you want me to catch you up on what’s happening?”
Eric laughed. The unicorn he’d painted on the egg had big, green eyes.
About two hours later, Eric had finished up the eggs. Aside from the unicorn, he’d painted an enchanted castle in the sky, and a tiny tea party hosted by a pair of mice wearing little top hats and skirts.
He’d gathered them all up in the basket, carefully wrapping them up in the cloth and stuffing to protect them. He stood up, wiped his hands with a wet napkin, and marched over to put on his slides.
“Aren’t you going to change?” Kyle asked. Eric Cartman, who usually took half an hour to do his hair, was wearing a paint-stained t-shirt and faded sweatpants and looked ready to get out the door. Eric just looked back at Kyle, calmly.
“Kyle. Marion and I met at a place where I was only allowed to wear the ugliest scrubs imaginable.” Eric shrugged. “She doesn’t care.”
And they were out the door to Eric’s old truck.
Truthfully, the ride to Marion’s house was pretty short—maybe half an hour long—but for some reason it felt like an eternity to Kyle, who felt his brain fly in circles faster and faster. He was nervous.
“Kyle, Marion worked at a psych ward for longer than we’ve been alive. She's 83.There isn’t anything you can do or say that would make a bad impression on her.” Eric said, suddenly. He wasn’t judgmental, just straightforward. “You’ll be fine. Just breathe.”
Kyle took a deep breath, his head gently knocking back against the seat. It was only then that he noticed he had been clenching his jaw.
He glanced over at Eric, who had his eyes on the road.
“Thanks, dude,” Kyle said. He wasn’t completely calm—but it helped to bring him out of that headspace and back to the present.
Marion’s house was small but well-kept, with a porch swing and about half a dozen scrap metal art sculptures in between the hedges. The garden path was lined with decorative stones obviously made by children. Eric was almost skipping as they walked up.
When they reached the door, Kyle was focusing on his breathing again, and at some point—without realizing—he’d wrapped one of his hands around Eric’s arm, sort of...grounding him.
Eric knocked on the door rhythmically, an excited grin on his face. The door opened and the familiar freckled face of Marion King appeared at the door. Her white hair was cropped short to her head—unlike the short braids she had in the portrait, but the lines around her smile were exactly the same.
“Oh, Eric! So good to see you, baby!” She kissed Eric on both cheeks. “How have you been? And who is this?” She turned to Kyle with her arms open.
“Kyle. Um, I’m Kyle. Broflovski.” Kyle put his hand out. Marion took it in both of her own to shake.
“So this is the famous Kyle Broflovski! You know, Eric always talks about you, honey, says you’re so smart and sweet. I’m so happy to finally meet you!”
“Oh my god, Marion, I have never called Kyle sweet and you know it!” Eric’s face scrunched up in mock disgust.
“You know what I mean,” Marion gently swatted Eric’s arm with the back of her hand. “Now, what are we doing standing around out in the doorway for—you boys come inside and make yourselves comfortable. I’ll go get the snacks. Eric, you make sure Kyle doesn’t get lost, alright?”
“Leave it to me, Ms Ma’am,” Eric replied with a little salute. Marion turned and walked into the house, leaving Eric and Kyle to follow. Almost every inch of the walls was covered in photos and memorabilia—not only from Marion’s family, but from her, evidently, long nursing career. Pictures of her coworkers and letters from her patients were proudly tucked between school photos and children's drawings.
“The bathroom is over here to the left, and the living room is right in here, but usually we eat on the back porch ‘cause the lighting inside sucks.” Eric trotted along, guiding them around with his hand over Kyle’s—still holding onto his arm.
Eric led them out the back door onto the porch, which was protected with white mosquito netting that matched the cushions of the chairs. Eric gently pushed Kyle into a chair before sitting down as well, busying himself with rearranging the painted eggs. It wasn’t long before Marion returned with a big tray full of fruit cut into star shapes with brightly colored toothpicks in each piece.
“If you’re more hungry than this I can make some sandwiches for you boys, too!”
“Absolutely not, Marion; you know I only make my own sandwiches in this house,” Eric retorted, grabbing a piece of watermelon from the tray. “Last time you skimped out on the mayo and only gave me one sad little slice of turkey!”
“Don’t listen to him, baby,” Marion said to Kyle, settling in her seat, “He just takes any excuse he can to use up my kitchen.”
“I can imagine,” Kyle replied, “He’s kicked me out of my kitchen too—he doesn’t even live there!”
“Sheila gave me strict instructions to keep you away from the stove, Kyle, and you just need to accept that.” Eric blinked his eyes in faux innocence.
“Okay, sure, but I was trying to get a soda from the fridge.”
Marion laughed at the two of them, her plastic bangles clinking together as she clapped her hands.
“Now, now, we don’t need to bicker—it’s the holidays! Easter is just around the corner,” Marion looked to Kyle, “And Happy Passover! Is that right? Is that how to say it?”
“Um,” Kyle was physically unable to stop the smile on his face, “Y-yeah, that’s fine. Thank you. And, uh, Happy Easter.”
“It’s no problem at all, baby.” Marion took a bite of cantaloupe. “Oh!” She covered her mouth with her hand. “Speaking of—Eric, let me see this year’s eggs!” With her other hand, she motioned for the basket, which Eric gladly pushed over to her.
“Oh, look at these! Look at these!” Marion inspected each of the eggs, making pleased humming noises as she looked them over. Eric leaned his elbows on the table, happily kicking his legs as Marion ooh’ ed and aah’ ed over his work.
“You have any requests for next year?” Eris said around a bite of pineapple.
“You say that as if I’ve come up with any of these ideas! You know I’m not the creative one of us two, Eric.” Marion pointed, mock-accusatory. Eric merely shrugged.
“Doesn’t hurt to ask.” Eric sat up straight. “Oh, how’s Neveah? You know she’s my favorite.”
“Neveah, you mean my sweet great-grandbaby who just got the lead role in her middle school play? That Neveah?”
“Oh, she did!” Eric almost squealed in delight, “I’m so happy for her!” Eric turned to Kyle. “Neveah is the most chaotic little firecracker you’ll ever meet. She unionized her cousins last New Years. She’s my hero.”
“Is she the one with the chip in her tooth?” Kyle asked, thinking back to the portraits.
“The very same,” Marion answered, “Chipped that tooth trying to rollerblade inside the house after her daddy told her she wasn’t allowed outside. And you know what she said? She said she shouldn’t get in trouble because she wore a helmet. That girl, mmhmm, love her to bits, that one.”
“Oh, man, Ike tried to pull the same thing two years ago. He was grounded from his XBox so he covered himself in bubblewrap and tried to jump off of the roof onto the trampoline. He said the same thing about wearing a helmet.” Kyle shook his head, grinning. “He even took it a step further and said that’s what happens when kids get to play outside instead of safe, inside, with video games.”
“I remember that!” Eric exclaimed. “He streamed it on Twitch! He had a GoPro attached to his helmet and everything.”
“That’s where my GoPro went? Ike said Dad broke it!”
They all burst into laughter, sharing stories back and forth, slowly whittling down the tray of fruit.
Eventually, it quieted down some, and Marion looked out into the distance.
“You know, Easter was always one of my favorite holidays…” Marion started, her voice soft and nostalgic, “I loved gettin’ all dressed up in my dresses and shiny shoes with my brothers. The whole neighborhood would get together for a huge egg hunt. And when I became a mother and a grandmother myself, I loved gettin’ the family together to celebrate. Now, honey, I’m the only one left in Colorado, so my babies don’t get to see me that often, and Easter was considered not as important.” Marion sighed. “Don’t get me wrong, baby, I see my family plenty—there’s plenty of other holidays!—but I can’t help but miss this one, too.”
“Yeah…” Eric sighed, popping a strawberry into his mouth.
Kyle looked at the two of them. He couldn’t imagine being in their position, having to watch a holiday come and go like that. It was unfathomable, because for Kyle, holidays were defined by family. He’d never had a holiday without hearing his mother loudly call them all down to gather around the table.
Which gave him an idea.
“Hey, uh,” Kyle started, “I know it’s not the same thing as an egg hunt, but, would you guys like to come over for dinner? My mom’s making kugel.”
Eric looked almost shocked at the question. Marion, with a big, appreciative smile on her face, reached out and took Kyle’s hand in her own again.
“Honey, that sounds wonderful. If you’re sure we won’t be a bother—we’d love to come,” Marion nodded to Eric, “Right, Eric?”
“Oh! Yeah, of course,” Eric said quickly, “That would be really cool.”
“Yeah, it’s no problem at all,” Kyle rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “My mom makes enough food to feed a small army. More people means she’ll be less likely to try and make me take thirds.”
And that set off Marion’s booming laughter once again.
They sat and chatted for a bit more; Kyle learned about the rest of Marion’s family, he shared stories about his own, Eric piped in with some inside jokes from The Hills that they explained to Kyle…..overall, the atmosphere was just...cozy. The sun was bright, filtered through the curtains, a soft breeze occasionally rang the handmade wind chimes, the fruit was fresh and sweet and the company was lovely. Kyle could hear his mother’s voice in his head— lovely.
Kyle left at around one-ish in Eric’s truck. Both Eric and Marion assured him it would be fine, and they would just take Marion’s car to dinner, which would be at around five.
Predictably, when Kyle told his mother he’d invited over some guests, she was ecstatic. She was always happy to host more guests and share more food—especially if those guests were Kyle’s, since she always wanted his life to be involved in their homelife. Kyle tended to keep the two seperate, but who knows, maybe this would inspire him to invite friends over for Passover regularly. Actually, that would be a really good idea—it would probably get Stan to stop walking on eggshells around him if he were more familiar with the holiday. Kyle could tell Stan had questions, but he never asked, and Kyle never pushed. Huh.
Between doing a few chores around the house, Kyle texted Stan and asked if he wanted to know what Passover was all about.
Oh thank god dude
I’ve been confused abt Passover for years
But it felt too weird to just ask
Time passed by, the house smelled amazing, and Kyle was grateful he’d only eaten that fruit and a granola bar for lunch. He’d learned very early not to ruin his appetite for dinner, and now he was giddy with excitement.
Five finally rolled around, and Kyle had been shooed from the kitchen no less than three times for trying to get an early bite. He was setting the table when the doorbell rang. Sheila smoothed out her blouse and happily trotted over to answer.
“Hey, girl,” Eric greeted, his voice a happy sing-song, “How have you been?”
“Oh, Eric, always glad to have you over!” Sheila laughed, “And you must be Marion! Oh my goodness, is that a cake?”
Kyle’s ears perked at that, and he tried to peer around his mother to get a better look. Lo and behold, Marion was holding a covered tray with a chocolate cake.
“Don’t worry, it’s a Passover-friendly recipe,” Marion said with a smile.
“We found it on Pinterest!” Eric chirped, chiming in. “Macaroon triple-layer chocolate.”
“Well isn’t that just lovely!” Sheila took the tray from Marion. “You two are just too thoughtful; come on in!” Sheila turned around. “Kyle? Can you come take their coats? I’m going to put this in the fridge.”
“Okay, Ma!” Kyle said as she passed him. He put down the rest of the silverware and made his way to the door, where Marion was already hanging up her own coat, winking at Kyle as she did so.
“Dinner will be ready in like ten minutes, if you guys want to hang out in the living room.” Kyle pointed to the couches, needlessly, since they were right there. “Uh, here—I’ll get Ike down. He should be helping anyways.”
Kyle then went upstairs, knocking on Ike’s door and telling him Eric and Marion were there. Ike, always cool with seeing Eric, just flipped on a pair of sunglasses from out of nowhere and said, “Sick.”
“Didn’t mom already take that from you?” Kyle tapped the plastic frame of the obnoxious pink sunglasses.
“She took one pair,” Ike replied, a devious grin on his face. Kyle fondly rolled his eyes at his brother and mentally prepared to introduce him to Marion.
Only to find she wasn’t in the living room where he left her. Eric, seemingly already knowing what Kyle was thinking, just pointed to the kitchen.
Through the doorway to the kitchen, Kyle saw Marion chatting with his mother—or, well, it looked like Sheila was doing all the talking, again. Marion seemed enraptured by the conversation, though.
“Marion said the Hebrew on your wall decoration was really pretty and asked what it was.” Eric pointed to the Ten Commandments plaque on the wall. “That led to Marion asking about what Passover is, so…” Eric pointed to the kitchen, where Sheila had the same exact look she did when she explained all these stories to Kyle as a kid. Marion looked delighted.
Then, Eric and Ike got into a conversation about the new update of a game they both play, and in the middle of a heavy debate over the pros and cons of lootboxes—wherein Kyle pretended to side with Ike, just to rile Eric up—the front door opened, and Gerald was finally home, just in time for dinner.
Dinner was, in hindsight, relatively uneventful. But the actual events of dinner didn’t matter—the real value came from the atmosphere, the whole...feeling, of sitting at a table during the holidays, chatting about pleasant things, eating good food.
At one point, when Kyle had gotten up to help his mother take some plates to the kitchen.
“Oh, bubbie, hold on a second—” Then, Sheila held her son by the shoulders so she could wipe off of his cheek with her thumb. “You’ve got a little schmutz!”
Usually, Kyle would cringe away, embarrassed at her fussing.
But it was Passover, and she’d worked so hard, and would continue to work so hard to make the holiday wonderful for her family. He could let a little fussing slide.
“Thanks, Ma.” On impulse, Kyle leaned over to give his mother a kiss on her temple, which made her absolutely beam.
When they made it back to the dining room, everyone was laughing at some joke Eric had made. Kyle took a moment, standing in the doorway, to just watch. The laughing, the passing of plates, the way his father leaned over to kiss his mother and how Ike fake-gagged, Marion’s pet names, Eric’s quick wit.
It all just felt right.
When Kyle sat back down, he nudged Eric’s foot with his own, and when Eric looked up at him, Kyle smiled, and Eric smiled right on back, hooking his shoe around Kyle’s ankle.