Chapter Three

August 27, 1971

Dear Dawn,

My dad took me around to what seemed like a million schools before we settled on me going to T.C. Williams High School. I think it may be the only integrated school in Alexandria; maybe the only in Virginia. My dad drove up to Gettysburg, PA to meet the football coaches for the school. They were there at camp with the team. When we got there, one of the defensive linemen called me a "fruitcake", so I threw a ball and hit him in the back. And something else happened… but I don't know if that's really all that important to get into. Probably wasn't my greatest moment but it served him right, passing judgment on me because he didn't like my "look". Anyway, we're cool now.

To top everything off, you wouldn't believe what happened shortly after I was added to the team? They made me CUT my HAIR! I'm still in shock, I think. It's just below my ears. The people here are a little too conservative for me but I guess I'll just deal, as usual. I think my dad is secretly happy they made me cut my hair. He never liked it long but my mom on the other hand didn't care how it was styled so long as I was happy with it. I'll have to send you a picture of my "new 'do".

School starts soon. We just made it back home from football camp and you came up more often than I'd like to mention. My roommate, Petey, caught a glimpse of a picture of us and I couldn't hear the end of it. I was a lot embarrassed and a little uncomfortable around some of the guys on the team. They were all getting along pretty good considering none of them had ever gone to school with other races of people before now, but I think they thought you and I were boyfriend and girlfriend and that's still looked down on, ya know. Even when I tried endlessly to tell them you were just my best friend, they ignored me and went on and on and on about it. Especially Petey. He's a good guy and all but man can he work a nerve thin. Everyone's pretty cool, though. There's this guy, Blue, that sings all the time. It's like he's a human radio station but he only sings soul music. Not so into The Mamas and The Papas.

Anyway, we're completely settled and I'm about to go with my mom to pick up a few things for school. Let me know what's going on in Huntington and with you.

Peace,

Sunshine (My new nickname, apparently.)

*LFA*

Dawn smiled as she slipped Ronnie's letter into the pocket of her blue jean shorts. She'd been anxiously waiting on the letter since she mailed hers back to him. She really missed him, more than she thought she would and dreaded starting the school year without him. Over the year they had become so dependent on one another, sharing and doing just about everything together. Who would she hang out with now? A few fellow classmates crossed her mind but none would be able to replace Ronnie and a few made her shudder at the thought of even being in their presence.

A car horn broke into the myriad of thoughts running through her mind. She turned her head suddenly towards the gray sedan parked on the side of the street in front of their house. Her mother and brother were waiting in the car for her to come so they could do some school shopping. Dawn wanted to buy some new hair accessories and a pair of VANS, so they had to drive to Anaheim in order to pick those up. Dawn hopped in the back of the car, kicked off her flip flops and stretched her legs along the length of the back seat, her hair hanging out the window, whipping about in the wind.

"What's the stupid grin for," Jeff sounded off one of his many daily insults.

"Jeff," their mother spoke up, lightly popping his mouth with the palm of her hand. "That word."

"No worries mom," Dawn replied, her smile still in tact. She closed her eyes, allowing the warmth of the sun to wash over her face as she daydreamed about meeting up with Ronnie again. She couldn't wait until October. That's when they would be moving to Hampton. Her father found out last week that the position was opening sooner than expected and that they could move as soon as October, which was even better news to Dawn. She pondered whether to write and tell Ronnie, they were moving to Hampton or to just surprise him but she hadn't made up her mind just yet.

She and Jeff spoke shortly after her parents told her about her dad's potential new job position and surprisingly, the conversation went better than Dawn had expected. Jeff was known for playing devil's advocate and just being stubborn in general. He started off a bit abrasive in the beginning but softened as Dawn threw out ideas of how she could make his life easier with the move. The deal was sealed when Dawn offered to let Jeff have the best room in the new house, besides their parent's bedroom of course, and to be his personal chauffeur for six months. He kindly agreed to the terms and Dawn knew this arrangement would work seeing as that Jeff was only going to be a freshman in high school and therefore would have, if at all, a tiny social schedule.

She pulled the letter out of her pocket once more and re-read it for a second time, her eyes lingering over the words: but I think they thought you and I were boyfriend and girlfriend. Was that a good or bad thing? The thought had crossed her mind before but she didn't dare cross the friendship line. She valued Ronnie's friendship and didn't want anything weird or awkward to come between them, so she kept her feelings to herself and hoped that one day, perhaps, he would feel the same.

Dawn placed the letter back in her pocket and sat up, taking in a better view of the California landscape as they passed by rows and rows of Palm trees, swaying in the autumn breeze, sunshine seeping through the leaves. She took in the smell of the Pacific Ocean and lavished in the heat of the sun splashed all over her face. She'd miss it dearly but was really looking forward to her new life in Virginia.

"So," Jeff called back to Dawn, disrupting her thoughts once more. "You didn't answer my question. What exactly was that grin for?"

"Nothing you'd understand," Dawn replied.

"Oh, I understand. You get to reunite with the love of your life," he began his taunt, flipping his hand over, smooching the palm of his hand. Jeff briefly peeked into Dawn's diary once and saw Ronnie's name scribbled between the lines and decided to run with what he'd seen, which was nothing but of course he'd parade around with full on lies about what Dawn had written. He'd threatened several times to spill the beans to Ronnie and some of Dawn's other friends but never followed through.

"And that is the closest form of intimacy you'll receive for about the next five years," Dawn countered, a gratifying smile creeping upon her lips at the mean come back.

Defeated Jeff stopped, mid smooch and stared out of the passenger window, his hand cupping pounds of air as they zoomed along the highway. "Whatever," being his only muffled reply.

*LFA*

Most teenagers' only worry on the first day of school was what they'd wear and what friends they had in their classes but not the student body at T.C. Williams High School. A full on protest and boycott was in effect when Ronnie's dad dropped him off in front of the school on the first day of classes. Angry parents and locals enraged at the idea of black and whites co-existing in the same building would not yield their insults and frenzied shouts. Fear. That's what Ronnie's dad said as they approached a brigade of policemen standing guard about twenty feet from the buses the black students had arrived on.

After his first encounter with some less than thrilled white students, uttering their disdain for him and coining him "hippie boy", Ronnie was convince this whole living in Virginia thing was not going to work out for him and at that exact moment, made up his mind to leave as soon as he finished high school. He even considered taking summer classes to see if he could graduate early.

Much to his surprise the day sort of mellowed out and the dust had settled once he got into homeroom and boy was he pleased to see a few familiar faces. Petey, Blue and Alan were sitting in the back of the classroom as he made his way to the empty seat in between Blue and Alan.

"What's up Sunshine," Petey smiled, throwing his hand up in the air to high five Ronnie.

"Not much," he replied slapping Petey's hand. "Just trying to get use to… this."

"This is right," Alan replied taking in a deep breath. "It's been insane today."

"Yeah, well," Petey added. "What did you expect? A welcome wagon and a parade?"

"Man, Petey," Blue chimed in. "Ain't nothing wrong with wanting things to be peaceful, man. That's all Alan was gettin' at."

"Yeah, Petey," Ronnie added. "Lighten up man. At least we can talk to each other."

A few of the other students, black and white alike, turned their attention to the four boys in the back of the classroom, seemingly getting along quite well. It was daunting to some and down right wrong to others but the attention didn't stop them from speaking to one another. Much to the guy's chagrin, their teacher called them out, asking them what was so important that it took the rest of their classmate's attention from her enlightening the students about school policies and regulations.

"Sorry about that Ms. Baron," Alan answered while shrinking down in his seat. The others followed suit, shutting their mouths to listen to the ever so important but every so boring lecture on dress codes, absence and tardiness policies, etc.

Ronnie, getting antsy sitting in his seat, took out a composition notebook and began to draft another letter to Dawn. She would be completely devastated if she were here he thought to himself as he began to write about his first day of school. He looked up periodically to make sure Ms. Baron wasn't suspecting him of anything she'd deem foul and caught a brunette staring at him. She whipped her eyes down towards the notebook in front of her when he caught her eye. She was pretty but very "preppy" looking. She wore a white button down shirt with a pink and brown argyle vest, a brown tweed skirt and brown mary jane's. Her hair was pulled back into a straight ponytail and she had bangs that hit just below her eyebrows. She lifted her eyes up once more and bashfully turned around to face the teacher, a small smile waved across her lips.

She couldn't be interested in him, he thought. He was the weird hippie guy from California; the guy Petey nick named Sunshine after losing his golden locks; the same guy who saw people as people, not the color of their skin and the same guy who was in love with a bi-racial girl three thousand miles away from him. God, what he wouldn't give to have Dawn there with him right at this moment. She would have made everything better. He wouldn't have a care in the world about what was going on around him if she were there and if he did, she'd be there to help him get over his cares and worries.

He placed his pen down on the desk and stared at what he'd written so far in the composition book. Dear Dawn, I miss you more than you'll ever know and I wish you were here. And I never got a chance to tell you before I left, but I love you. He scribbled through the last part he wrote and decided, now was definitely not the time to tell Dawn that. He'd find a better way and time to address that, if he would ever get the time to address his feelings for her. The bell rang and he slammed his composition book shut before shooting up from his seat.

"So," Petey began, looking under eyed at Ronnie. "What were you writing? Or should I say who were you writing to? That foxy Dawn, huh?"

"Petey, mind yo own business fool," Blue said pointing a disapproving finger at Petey. "But for real Sunshine… Dawn's the business."

"Dude, she's pretty decent," Alan added.

Petey and Blue turned around giving Alan a curious and quite scrutinizing look.

"What," Alan said frowning. "She's pretty. And I'm white not blind. I've got eyes that recognize pretty."

"Let's chill on the Dawn talk," Ronnie added. "Okay. She's off limits not to mention, she's on the other side of the country fellas."

"Alright, alright," Blue said throwing up his hands. "You've made your point. But if she comes to visit or anything."

"Off limits," Ronnie finished for Blue before making his way down the hall to his next class, smiling at the thought of Dawn coming to Alexandria to visit him.

"What a thought," he spoke aloud to himself as he rounded the corner and entered his Chemistry class. The only vacant seat available was a stool next to the preppy girl who was in his homeroom class. Ronnie made his way and sat down, not saying a word. The girl turned towards him and he could feel her stare burning the surface of his skin. What in the world?

"Hi," she exclaimed with nervous enthusiasm, reaching out her hand for him to shake. "I'm Heather Stuart."

"Hi," he uttered in return, a little taken by her shivering vocals. "I'm-"

"Ronnie Bass," she answered for him, then turned beet red. "I'm- I'm not like a stalker or anything. I heard our homeroom teacher call out your name when she was doing roll call."

"Oh," Ronnie replied. A little scared and yet fascinated by the uneasy Southern creature beside him.

"So you're new here, huh? I mean to Virginia. Where are you from?"

"Huntington Beach, California."

"Wow. That sounds like a neat place."

"Yeah, it's pretty neat. I miss it a lot. And the people there too."

"Well, Alexandria's nice. Not nearly as cool as Huntington Beach is I'm sure but it'll grow on ya."

"Maybe it will," Ronnie replied with a smile before turning his attention to the teacher. Maybe making friends wouldn't be as hard as he thought after all. He took another look at Heather from the corner of his eye. Her eyes kind of sparkled and she wore the biggest smile he'd seen since he'd been in Virginia. Maybe things would be better than he thought.

*LFA*

Author's Note: Sorry it's been a little while since I've updated. This chapter took me a little while to get through. It's sort of a transition chapter to carry the story along. I hope you all enjoy and of course, reviews are welcome. Thanks so much for the feedback thus far. I appreciate it!

-idj