The Twilight Twenty-Five Round Three
Prompt #: 2
Pen name: CherBella
Photos for prompts can be found here:
All copyright and trademarked items mentioned herein belong to their respective owners. The remaining content is all mine. No copying or reproduction of this work is permitted without my express written authorization.
A/N: I highly recommend you check out the photo that this is based on. It evoked a certain time period to me and this story just wrote itself after that.
It takes place in 1960, in segregated Alabama.
~ L • E ~
What am I doing? I stared at the face reflected back to me in the mirror. Dark, jet-black hair, parted straight down the middle, cut into a short pageboy. Dark brown eyes set a bit too wide; long, straight nose; lips a bit too full. I was not beautiful, just plain and average really. Add in my light brown skin and I was a plain, average . . . misfit. At least in Alabama, anyway. My skin was too dark to be considered white and too light to be considered colored. I was considered an outcast by both groups.
People down here saw only two colors, two races. I was neither, I was Native American. I was born a Quileute, in the Pacific Northwest, Washington state to be exact. Until a year ago my life was normal and happy, carefree with no concerns or cares of the color of my skin. I grew up on a reservation full of people who looked just like me.
Then my father had a heart attack. My mom struggled for several months, financially and emotionally. Finally she turned our world upside down and moved us (me and my younger brother) to god-forsaken Birmingham, Alabama. An old friend of hers who lived down here had convinced her to come down and make a fresh start. So we moved, and they started a business together cleaning houses.
Mom seemed happier at least, and my little brother Seth had adjusted well. They both seemed to accept the "restrictions" of living down here. But I couldn't. For me it had been six months stuck in hell. When the bus driver told me I had to sit with the coloreds, I told him I wasn't colored. "Well ya' ain't white neither," was the response I got. When I said the same to the young boy behind the counter at the diner, I actually managed to confuse him long enough that he let me sit in the white section . . . until a white customer complained loudly and then he told me I'd have to move. I chose to walk out the door instead.
Apparently they don't teach much history in the schools down here. I got a lot of "Well what are you?" from people of both races. When I explained I was a Native American Indian I usually just got blank stares—again from both races. Eventually I did manage to make a few girlfriends—colored of course—only those who were open-minded enough to sympathize when they saw me shunned by one group or the other, and who didn't care if my skin wasn't as dark as theirs.
About a month ago the girls twisted my arm into going to this club across town. It didn't look like much on the outside, just another old storefront in a nondescript brick building. The only evidence that identified it as a bar was the dirty white sign attached to the corner of the building that screamed out in big bold letters "CHEAP BOOZE." As soon as I saw the outside I had dug my heels into the sidewalk and nearly turned right around and went home. But the girls pleaded and pulled and forced me to go inside.
The interior was nothing fancy either. A bar running along one side, some booths along the wall, a few tables, a jukebox and enough floor space for a small dance floor. It was just like any other neighborhood bar in any neighborhood in town. Except for one difference, which was the main reason my girlfriends had wanted to come. On Saturday nights everyone was welcome—coloreds, whites, even apparently me. All were accepted, all were served and all customers could sit wherever they damn well wanted.
My friends and I went in and sat down at a table. Of course they were bouncing their knees and moving in their seats, just itching to get up and dance. It wasn't long before they each had caught the eye of a boy and were off in their fancy dresses twirling and shimmying to the music from the jukebox. I sat at the table in my sleeveless blouse and pedal pushers sipping my coke. I hated dresses and never wore them unless I was required to. I wasn't interested in meeting a boy anyway. In fact I wasn't much of a social butterfly, but I did have to admit it felt incredibly freeing to be in a public establishment and be able to do what ever I wanted and not be judged by the color of my skin.
So I continued to tag along with my friends every week.
That first night we had been there a couple of hours when my girls came back to the table for a break from dancing. They were laughing and twittering about something. As soon as they sat down they all looked at me and started giggling. Apparently I had an admirer I was unaware of, who'd been staring at me all night. I turned around and nearly dropped over in shock. There was indeed a boy looking right at me from a booth across the room. Very smartly dressed in slacks and a button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. As neat and proper as the rest of him looked, his hair was outwardly rebelling from however he had tried to tame it. It was short but sticking up in several places in a very casual rumpled sort of way and was the strangest shade of . . . well, it wasn't red and it wasn't brown, it was some electrifying combination of both I'd never seen before. As I caught his eye, he didn't look away, he smiled and blushed, blood rushing to his cheeks . . . cheeks as pale as a piece of my mother's ivory china. He was white. And yet I found it hard to pull my gaze away. There was something hypnotic about his eyes, looking directly at me. I couldn't deny that he was gorgeous. As soon as that realization hit me, I turned away abruptly and went back to staring down at the table top. There could be no way he was looking at plain old me. He must be staring at someone else or maybe it was some kind of joke. I spent the rest of the evening looking everywhere but at him. The few times I did sneak a glance at him though, he was still looking at me.
I felt unsettled all that week, trying to figure out why he stared at me all evening and how I felt about that. I'd never met anyone that stirred up so much emotion in me and I hadn't even spoken a word to him.
The next Saturday, he was there again, and again he sat there looking at me. I finally decided I was not going to stand for another night of this and so I got up and marched right over to his booth.
"What's your problem? Is there some reason you just sit there and stare at me all night?"
His face slackened into an expression of shock while his brows furrowed in confusion. Then he smiled nervously and locked onto me with the most vibrant green eyes I'd ever seen.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to be rude or bother you in any way. It's . . . well, I just think you're the prettiest girl I've seen in a long time. You're right though, I shouldn't stare . . . I just couldn't help myself." He ended up inviting me to join him and, still feeling slightly dazzled from his unexpected words, I did. We sat there the rest of the night, sipping our cokes, sometimes talking, sometimes silent. At one point he reached across the table and grasped my hand in his. His skin felt cool against my warmth and I was mesmerized by the sight of our hands—pale white on dark russet. To everyone outside the walls of this club this would be considered so wrong but I truly had never felt anything more right in my life.
The next week he was there again, and again we sat together. When a slow song came on the jukebox he asked me to dance. I was hesitant, I'd never danced with a boy before. But as he encircled me in his strong arms and we started to sway I felt like Cinderella at the ball. Our bodies pressed together, fitting perfectly. I finally felt like I belonged. I was no longer a misfit. I felt at peace.
We danced for hours wrapped up in each other, ignoring the rest of the people in the club until it was time to go. If we had been more aware we would have noticed the strange looks some were giving us.
On the way home, my girlfriends were unusually quiet. Finally one of them asked about me dancing all night and spending so much time with Edward. I didn't understand what the problem was, they had been the ones who first pointed him out to me, they had been the ones who forced me to go to the club in the first place. "But . . . he's white," they finally blurted out. It was then that I realized nothing was ever going to change. Spending one night a week in a club that didn't segregate made no difference. To the world we would always be different, we would always be looked upon as wrong. And it was then that I realized I didn't give a damn. I was tired of living in everyone else's world, I wanted to live in my own. I wanted to be with Edward.
So . . . here I was, still standing in the same spot for the last ten minutes, still staring at myself in the mirror. I touched my fingertips to my face, my bronze skin that would never be white. After my confident revelation last week of my feelings about whatever this was between Edward and I, I had suddenly grown very nervous, very unsure. I still didn't know what Edward saw in me, why he looked at me as if I was the only girl in the world. What if he didn't feel the same about what other people thought? So many questions were running through my mind and my stomach was in knots.
I looked down and smoothed my sweaty palms on my skirt. I wanted to look nice for Edward tonight; I wanted him to be proud to be with me. I'd borrowed a dress from one of the girls. It was white with small orange flowers all over on it, sleeveless with a sort of boat neck-style collar that dipped a little in the front. It narrowed at the waist then flared out dramatically over my hips. I'd even curled my eyelashes and put a little rouge on my cheeks.
I heard mom yell up the stairs that the girls were here to pick me up. I took a deep breath and hurried down the stairs to meet them.
An hour and a half later I was still sitting at a table in the club . . . by myself. He hadn't shown up. I felt my friends staring at me; I felt the other regulars who came week after week, staring at me. I felt silly in my dress and my make-up. It hurt, and I was biting back tears, but I finally decided I was not going to be that girl. I was not going to sit and pitifully wait for a boy that wasn't coming. He obviously didn't want me. Instead I got up and held my head up high and walked calmly out the door, ignoring the burning and churning in my stomach. I was upset that he wasn't there; I was upset that I'd let myself fall for him so quickly.
I walked out the door and as I turned the corner of the building I heard heavy footsteps running behind me, distant at first but quickly getting closer. I started walking faster, hoping it wasn't some creep running after me. And then I heard my name. Again. And again. His voice . . . calling me. And I felt the pull, whether I wanted to or not. I stopped, but refused to turn around.
"Leah! Leah! Wait, don't go!" When he finally caught up to me his breathing was so heavy behind me I turned around on instinct, as it actually sounded like something was physically wrong with him. He was bent over, hands on his knees trying to catch his breath and yet trying to speak in between gasping breaths.
"I'm . . . sorry I was late . . . had an appointment run late . . . across town . . . been running for six blocks . . . please . . . don't leave yet." As he straightened up his eyes took in all of me, and a quiet "Wow," was all that escaped his lips. I couldn't decipher the dark expression in his eyes.
"What?" I barked out a little too defensively.
"You look beautiful Leah . . . ."
"You seem surprised." I snapped.
His eyebrows rose quizzically as he looked at me perplexed. "I didn't mean . . . You always look beautiful Leah. The dress is nice but it wouldn't matter to me what you wear. You have always been beautiful to me from the moment I first saw you."
We stood there on the sidewalk staring at each other.
"Please don't go Leah, please come back inside . . . for a little while at least? Every week I count down the days till Saturday, till I can see you again," he said softly.
"I don't want to go back inside," I whispered.
His face fell and he actually looked hurt. "Please . . ." he started but I didn't let him finish.
I reached up and pulled him to me and crushed my lips to his. His arms immediately wrapped around me as we tasted and explored each other's mouths hungrily and yet tenderly. I felt the fire between us flowing over my whole body so much that I barely registered the rough feel of the brick on my back as he gently pushed me against the building. I didn't care that we shouldn't be doing this; that we shouldn't be together, I didn't care that we were outside, in public, where anyone colored or white would see us touching and kissing . . . pale white on russet brown.
And the best part was, Edward didn't seem to care either. What we felt for each other was all that mattered.
A/N: When I started this, I was going on the assumption that if blacks were segregated in the 60's in the deep south, that surely anyone (like Native American Indians) with a different skin color would be as well. And indeed, in some states, before civil rights laws were enacted, there were often three sections of a movie theater or three separate drinking fountains – one for "whites," one for "coloreds," and one for "indians." — http:/www(dot)policyalmanac(dot)org/culture/archive/native_americans(dot)shtml