In The End
Sometimes, in the end, when we love, there isn’t always a happy ever after...
This short story is the alternative happy ending for The Great Divide.
Three years after the end of The Great Divide
It is a cold winter morning when I close my dorm room door and I walk out to Johnathan waiting for me at the curb. I do not pay attention to my course through the building. I have walked this same route so many times before, I could do it now with my eyes closed.
Three years ago, Johnathan and I applied at NYU together, and we were happy when they accepted us both. I live in Manhattan’s vibrant Greenwich Village neighbourhood, which is home to many of the university campus buildings, and I have a room in one of the residential complexes in Washington Square. My dad insisted I live here instead of an apartment because living here would complement my academic career. Sometimes I wonder whether he is more concerned with my emotional happiness or my academic achievements.
New York City is a vibrant and culturally rich city, and coming to New York has widened my horizons, has made my world larger. It is unbelievable though how you could walk in a city of millions upon millions of people and still feel all alone. Sometimes I would walk down the road and then I would stop abruptly. I would turn around and stare because I thought I saw Vincent from the corner of my eye, but it was never him—it was always only a stranger.
I see interracial couples in the city – not many – and I must admit at first, I frowned upon them. I am not sure if it was because of how my parents, in particular, my father, indoctrinated me from when I was just a little girl or if it was because it reminded me of Vincent, as well as my meekness when it came to standing up to my father.
Vincent has moved on. Now and again, I will read something about him in the tabloids and his romantic exploits make the juiciest news. I often wondered, sarcastically amused, what his father thought of all of this. His son the famous pop star is taking the world by storm and having a white girlfriend more often than not. Vincent would openly kiss them in the full glare of the bulb lights flashing like strobe lights around his every move. I heard their songs on the radio, and when I did, I would always grin nostalgically.
I notice Johnathan where he is leaning against his car, as soon as I walk through the large doors at the entrance of the residential building. His radiant smile brings me back from my recollections of a time ages ago, and I smile with him. It is not often the boy a girl has a crush on, becomes the guy she embarks with on her path into the future.
When I reach him, I automatically lean into him and I kiss him lightly on his lips.
“Good Morning, gorgeous,” he says cheerily.
“Good Morning.” I smile while he walks around the car to the driver side.
He gets into the car and then he leans over to my side. As he pulls the lever from the inside, I open the door.
I get into the car, and I say, “It is seriously cold this morning.” I push my gloved hands under my legs and feel a shiver run down my back.
Softly from the stereo, I hear Vincent’s voice, and I feel a reflective melancholy. I suddenly find it funny how I was just thinking of him and now I hear his voice.
The song he is singing is sad and I do not want to flatter myself or imagine the words are about me, but the lyrics repeat over and over again, that I am the only thing he thinks of every night. I am, however, sure I am not the one who keeps him awake at night.
Johnathan interrupts my thoughts, “You seem very preoccupied today.”
I smile. “Memories. I am remembering school and how way back then things seemed so much simpler.”
“In another couple of years, university will also seem simple.”
We stop at a red light, and he leans across me, opening the glove compartment. He pulls a red envelope from the dark recess.
With a pleased smile, he hands the envelope to me.
The light turns and the traffic start to move forward again. I hold the envelope in my hand, looking at him questioningly.
He says excited, “I thought I would surprise you, and once you see what it is, you will think it’s funny you were nostalgic today.” I hesitate and he insists, “Open it.”
I look at him as I pull the flap of the envelope open. Inside the envelope, I see two concert tickets and with trepidation, suddenly knowing for which concert it is, I pull them out of the envelope.
Johnathan beams. “Surprise!” He says excited, while I read the ticket stubs.
The tickets are for the ÉLastique concert tonight.
I say, feeling anxiety pushing its way from my stomach into my chest, “I thought the concert was sold out?”
“Peter bought them for him and Ashley before they went their separate ways. I bought them from him.”
I take a deep inconspicuous breath, and then I smile at him. “Thanks. It should be fun.”
“Pity, we could not get VIP access. We did after all, go to school with them.”
I wonder if Johnathan and Vincent ever spoke two words to each other, yet now he expected to get very important person tickets because he knew him once in passing. He went to school with Vincent for years, but never really knew him at all.
The day passes quickly. Too quickly, and I feel the apprehension build up in my chest as the day speeds by. I want to put my hand on the hands of the clock and slow down time.
That evening I dress in a pair of jeans and a new, cobalt coloured cashmere sweater. I wash and dry my hair, but I let it dry naturally so it dries in a jumble of curls around my shoulders.
My cell phone beeps, and it is my cue, my signal that Johnathan is waiting outside for me. His parents got him an apartment on the Upper East Side, but I am here on a scholarship, so I live with all the other normal students with normal salary earning parents.
I walk out to Johnathan and he is talking to a group of girls outside the dorm. I hear him laughing exuberantly, and he sweeps his hand subconsciously through his blonde hair. If you did not know Johnathan, you would think he is still the playboy, but now when he becomes aware of me walking toward him, he greets the group of girls friendly and walks to me.
He hugs me close and he kisses me lightly in the fold of my neck. Over his shoulder, I see the disappointed look on most of the faces of the girls he left behind.
Taking my hand, he smiles. “I thought we would walk from here. It would save us having to look for parking and it is not far.”
I agree. After all Madison Square Gardens is only as far from where I lived, as the bus stop used to be from The Christian Academy. This walk is better though because we walk past businesses and the windows reflect brightly in the winter gloom.
Johnathan holds my gloved hand snugly to his and we walk companionably through the streets, talking about everything and nothing at the same time.
When we arrive at the concert hall, we stand outside in the queue, slowly inching our way forwards to the entrance. On the sidewalk, people are selling the usual concert paraphernalia. The crowd is mostly young girls between the ages of fourteen and sixteen and accompanying mothers stick out like sore thumbs in this young crowd.
We eventually get to the gates and then we walk through to the centre, to our seats. The hustle and bustle together with the excitement hang heavy in the air.
Johnathan asks me if I want to buy a T-shirt, and I consider I do not want to walk around with Vincent’s face so close to the proximity of my heart.
We walk into the concert area, and then Johnathan leads me to the front. Our seats are near the front, about twelve rows in. Large beach balls are bounced around between eager hands reaching up for them.
Johnathan leans over to me. “You are so quiet, tonight?”
I smile. “Just taking it all in. Can you imagine all of this for someone we used to go to school with?”
“It could have been for you as well, you know.”
“No, I don’t think I would have ever gone through with it. At the time, it was a wistful dream, but now when I look back it was silly. I don’t think I would have liked to do it.”
“Imagine if you did choose the band, you and I would not be here now.”
“Exactly.” I smile pleasantly.
He takes my hand in his and he squeezes it softly. “Do you know I love you?” He asks.
“I know. And, you know I love you?”
He smiles in reply.
The lights darken around us and then the hall is plummeted into darkness except for the luminous green, yellow and pink glow sticks waving around. It seems surreal. Soft stage lights go on, and a hush falls over the crowd. Smoke billows up from a hidden crevice and then piercing yells and screams reverberate through the hall as a dark shape walk across the stage.
However, this is not a member of the band because seconds later to the slow beat of drums beating a beat building up in anticipation, the band is lowered onto the stage from somewhere above.
Everybody is on their feet, and despite myself, I find myself craning my neck to see above the bobbing heads in front of me.
All of a sudden, in an explosion of brilliant light, Vincent is there in front of me on the stage. He is standing there in real life; he is not just a flat, one- dimensional picture in a magazine. Pictures never felt as real as actually seeing someone in person.
I gasp softly when I look up into his face. Vivid memories fill my mind rapidly. For a moment, I wonder if they will sing all the old songs, but it has been three years and they are promoting their second album.
Vincent’s voice echoes in my ears and pulls at the strings of my heart. I feel tears burning behind my eyes as I look up at the stage while holding tightly onto Johnathan’s hand. I feel his palm pressed against mine and I feel the pleasant way his fingers wrap around mine. From his touch, I gather strength.
Johnathan is singing loudly with the band, swaying with the music.
He looks at me happily, and then nudging me playfully, he yells so I can hear, “They are good!”
I just nod my head, yes. I am sure he cannot see the sadness in my eyes here in the dark.
After a few songs, the music stops and then I see Vincent lean into the microphone, and it is with immense shock when I hear his voice again. It has been so long since I have heard him speak, yet the sound of his voice forming words and not lyrics is so recognizable to me, it is as if I heard it only yesterday.
Vincent says from the stage, “We are now going to sing one of our songs from our first album.” The roar from the crowd is thunderous. The stage lights up in a blue hue and I watch as Vincent walks to a piano. He sits down on the stool and then with heart-wrenching familiarity I hear the first poignant notes of The Great Divide.
Luminous sticks and cell phone lights wave through the air above our heads. Everybody sings the words with Vincent, every word, except me. I stand and listen, and the song and the words transport me back to another time and place.
When the song is finished, Vincent walks centre stage again, and then the lights in the hall get a bit brighter. Instead of the blue, there is now a multicolour spectrum of lights flashing continuously upon the stage.
They start to sing one of their new songs, the song I heard this morning on the radio. The song in which Vincent sadly sings that he cannot stop thinking about someone – surely and certainly not me.
A bright light swirls above the heads of the crowd, illuminating a group of people at a time.
The light sweeps over me, and then I am looking into the eyes of Vincent. It is not as if I am imagining it. I feel a tense excitement as I feel an instant connection with him. I see him pause for a second, and then he continues singing while still looking in my direction. The light sweeps away from me, but I cannot look away from him, and when the light sweeps over me again, I see the recognition in his face when he is still looking in my direction.
After the song, the hall is once again dropped into blackness, and when he starts to sing again, he goes back to being the entertainer he is born to be.
The concert lasts a little longer than an hour and then we move to the exit areas slowly. It feels as if a feeling of sadness has replaced the happy excitement of the crowd. Everybody trudges to the exit doors, smiling and still laughing, but there is downheartedness in the air.
By the time Johnathan and I get outside, I take a deep breath of fresh air and we follow the group of people ahead of us to the gates, and in the general direction of where I live.
I see a limousine driving away slowly down the road, and my heart follows the red taillights as I watch them fade into the night.
Johnathan asks me, “Did you have fun? You look so sad.”
I grin. “It was great, and such a wonderful surprise. Did I say thank you to you yet for always being so thoughtful.”
I lean to him to kiss him on his cheek when I feel a hand fold around my arm.
In shock, I turn around, ready to swing my bag around and hit the would-be thief sideways against the head, and I inhale deeply when I see Vincent standing slightly behind Johnathan.
He is wearing a deep black hooded jacket. His face is hidden, but standing in front of me, the light from the streetlight throwing shadows around us, I would identify his eyes anywhere.
Johnathan smiles brightly. “Hey, aren’t you?”
Vincent grins. “Yes, but don’t say my name out loud.”
“Oh, okay.” Johnathan looks around at the many girls marching past us on the sidewalk. They are all laughing and talking excitedly amongst themselves.
Vincent looks at me, and I am speechless.
He says, “Would you like to go out with me? Maybe go for a drink?”
Johnathan replies, without a second thought, and without any consideration towards me, “Hell, yeah!”
I wonder who is more star-struck – him or all the young girls surrounding us. A brief frown flashes across Vincent’s brow. He looks at Johnathan, and then he returns his gaze questioningly to me.
I look back at Vincent and I say softly, “I suppose we could.”
We walk together across the road and then into a small alleyway to the next block. We walk out of the dark alleyway and then across to the road running diagonally away from the concert hall. Vincent walks closely next to me, and I feel awkward, holding onto Johnathan’s hand. Although Vincent is not touching me, he might as well be. My every sense is awakened and alive.
Suddenly everything is quieter and hushed, although vehicles never stop driving around in the city that never sleeps, it seems softer than usual. We are also gone from the throng and masses of people leaving the concert.
Vincent silently, broodingly leads us to a corner bar, and we walk in one after the other.
The bar is quiet and dimly lit, so we follow Vincent to a table at the back. I see Dennis, George, and Simon already seated there. I also notice the large pitcher of beer standing in the middle of the table.
When we reach the booth, they look up and I notice recognition flare in their eyes.
They almost stand up as one and, and my name, ‘Chrissie’, flows from their mouths in chorus.
I am so happy to see them. Seeing them again remind me of a time not so long ago, yet it felt as if it happened to me in a vague dream.
Johnathan slides into the booth next to Dennis and I slide in next to him. Vincent sits down next to Simon opposite me.
Vincent rests his hands on the table, close to my hands already there. Although he does not touch me, I still feel a tingle of electricity run through my body. It feels as if every hair on my arm is reaching for him.
George looks at me amused, “Chrissie, whatever happened to you. You have grown even more prettier.”
Simon agrees, “Yeah, you are looking very fit.”
I feel an instant flush rush up into my face, and I look at them embarrassed, “Must be all the fresh air here.”
Everybody laughs, but I see Vincent only smiling.
Dennis chips in, “That is so funny, comparing the air here to the big open spaces of Charleston, as fresh.”
Simon lifts his hand and a server brings three extra glasses and another pitcher of beer.
Although nobody asks me my age or for any identification, I ask the server to bring me a glass of orange juice.
The band only remembers Johnathan vaguely from his playboy status at The Christian Academy, so they look at him apprehensively.
Johnathan, however, has an easy way about him, and he says with mirth, “You guys are great. Imagine coming from the back of beyond, and then becoming so famous.” For some reason, this puts everybody at ease, and we talk casually, mostly about the band.
Every time I look at Vincent, I am looking in his eyes and everything comes back to me, everything from that summer, and my endless love for him.
Later I lean over to Johnathan, and I see Vincent look at me thoughtfully. I whisper near Johnathan’s ear, “I have to go to the bathrooms.”
Johnathan looks across his arm at me and then squeezing my thigh with his hand already resting there, he smiles.
As I slide out of the booth, I hear Johnathan ask them, “How do you know where to go where nobody will find you?”
I walk to the very back of the pub, feeling Vincent’s eyes following me.
The little passage is dimly lit, and crates and boxes are tightly packed along the sides. There is just enough space for one person to walk through to the green luminous international sign for toilets – the triangle girl and the boy standing with his legs wide open.
I go into the brightly lit bathroom, and I squint after the dim darkness of the passage.
I look at myself in the mirror and I can see my own sadness and guilt reflected in them. Here we are—Vincent and me. We declared our undying love for each other and now we sit here across from each other as if we were only once good friends.
I get my lip-gloss from my bag and then I put some on my lips. The shimmer from my lips now balances the glimmer in my eyes perfectly.
After a while, I walk to the heavy bathroom and I pull the door open. I can hear the sighing noise coming from the mechanism at the top of the door when it slides closed behind me.
The passage is instantly dark, and I walk toward the light of the pub, waiting for my eyes to adjust.
I do not get far. Vincent is waiting for me.
He is blocking the entire passage and even if I smiled politely and said, ‘Excuse me,’ I would still not be able to get past him. Besides, he would not see my smile here in the near darkness. Either, I would have to go back to the bathroom or, he would have to turn around and go back to the pub area.
I stand in front of him unsure. I feel his hands reaching for me, even before he actually touches me. I hold my breath in eager expectation. I know I should not be standing here craving Vincent’s touch, when Johnathan is sitting only a few meters away from me in the pub, talking excitedly and in celebrity shell shock with the remaining members of the band.
When his hands fold around my waist, a deep sigh escapes my lips. He holds me tentatively and then he pulls me into him. I know I should resist, but I move closer to him. I sense his head coming closer and without being able to stop myself, I stand on my toes and reach up to him. I feel his lips touching mine softly and he murmurs, “I have missed you so much.” His words echo the thought in my mind.
He pulls me tightly into him, and then I wrap my arms around his shoulders. I kiss him back and I part my lips. I feel the softness of his mouth, and I feel my stomach tumble.
From a distance, I hear Johnathan’s voice calling my name, but I do not want to leave. I do not want to go back to the present. I want to stay here with Vincent in the past.
Vincent lets me go slowly and I move away reluctantly. I hear myself say, “I am on my way, Johnathan.”
He calls from the end of the passage, “Okay. I was just wondering what happened to you.”
“I’ll be there now.”
The passage gets brighter as his shadow moves away to the bar again.
I whisper, “I have to go.”
I do not want to go, but now guilt overpowers my feelings of desperation.
His hands are resting possessively on my hips. He pleads, “Don't tell me I will never see you again.”
I move away from him and say sincerely apologetic, “I am sorry.”
For a moment, he stands deadly still in front of me, and then I see him moving away from me.
I follow him, and then abruptly we walk into the brightness of the dim bar.
Awkwardly, we sit down again, and the look in Johnathan’s eyes when he looks at me, makes me look down with guilt.
Vincent moves his leg under the table, and he leans it against my own. I do not know what to do. I feel so conflicted, aggravated, hurt, and damaged.
Later Johnathan leans into me, “Maybe we should go. It’s getting late.”
“Okay.” I want to stay. I want to talk to Vincent without having to worry what Johnathan might hear. I want to kiss Vincent, and I want him to hold me close. I cannot help myself. I realize even though Johnathan and I have been together, and even though I thought I did love him. I loved Vincent with a different love, an all-encompassing, heart rendering emotion.
Johnathan and I get up to leave, and Dennis, George, Simon, and Vincent get up with us.
George says jovially, “Chrissie, you must keep in touch.”
Johnathan remarks, “It would be easier for you to keep contact with Chrissie.”
Simon laughs. “Yes, we have so many people protecting our supposed interests; it would be difficult for you to get in touch with us.”
George starts to scribble something on a scrap of paper and hands it to Johnathan. “Here is my number. You can phone me, and we can all meet up again. Johnathan, it was nice meeting you.”
Johnathan laughs, a slight embarrassed tone in it. “Although we knew each other, we only really met tonight. That's school for you. We are all so busy with our own things; we do not notice what everybody else is doing.”
Vincent says nothing and I hug Dennis, George and Simon goodbye with false promises of keeping in touch, although I have a feeling Johnathan will be using George’s number sooner rather than later and we will meet up again, although I doubt Vincent would always be in the group as well.
Self-consciously, I look at Vincent. I am unsure if I should lean into him and hug him goodbye.
Johnathan is not standing with me; he is talking with George. They had an instant connection and I find it weird they never knew each other better at school.
Then Vincent’s arms are around me, and I am swallowed into his embrace. I feel myself sink into him and there is nothing I can or want to do but hold onto him tightly in return.
I hear him whisper in my ear; the ear away from the rest of the group, and he whispers, “Please stay.”
I close my eyes for a moment, and then I move away from him. Smiling apologetically, I glance briefly in Vincent’s direction and then I leave the bar with Johnathan.
We walk to my residential building, and Johnathan cannot stop talking about the band. How he never knew George is such a pleasant, friendly person. All I can think about is how Vincent’s touch, his kiss brought my soul back to life. I never noticed as time moved on, how when I took life in my stride, I neglected my soul and it has become a dark, hollow black hole deep within me. Now Vincent has breathed a spark of radiance back into me, I also feel the pinpricks of pain. The needles and pins numb aching feeling.
Johnathan does not notice my quietness; he is too excited, and he talks without stopping. By the time we get back to my apartment, he walks with me to the door, and then he takes me softly, sighing deeply into his arms.
His lips move closer to mine, and as his lips touch mine disgust fills me for myself because all I can think of is Vincent and the feelings I have when I am with him.
I stand on the stage, and I see the cell phones like lighters waved through the air. The luminous sticks in green, pink, and yellow lighting up the faces of the crowd down below at my feet.
We start to sing a new song from our new album and the lighting company lets the spotlight of a bright light sweep over the crowd of faces.
I look across their heads impassively and then with shock, I see Chrissie as the light illuminates her. I immediately recognize her. Her hair is longer now. I see the shape of her eyes, her nose, and her chin. I feel my heart speed up so fast it makes it difficult for me to breathe. In an ocean of people, I am suddenly only aware of her.
It is with great difficulty that I finish the show and when we go backstage, I have this urgent need to go outside because if I did not find her today, I might lose my chance.
George, Simon, and Dennis decide to go to an out of the way bar so we can wind down. The days of going to the places where people may recognize us, where girls will rush closer to us and make offers, we could hardly resist, is long over.
I tell them I will meet them there, and after pulling my hooded jacket over my head to hide my face, I go outside. I avoid lighted areas and then I see her. I see her walking to the gate. I see her walking away from me. I rush to her without drawing any attention to me.
When I get to her, I reach out for her hesitantly, and when my hand circles her arm, I feel my heart stop beating instantly before it starts racing uncontrollably. She turns around, fear edged on her face, and then I see the immediate recognition in her eyes. Her initial shock seems mingled with an intense excitement.
I see her look fleetingly, nervously at Johnathan, but he is almost more excited to see it is me than the most devoted fans.
I ask Chrissie if she would go with me, but Johnathan replies for her. I look at her again and convince her to go with me to the bar where I told Dennis, George, Simon, and I would meet them.
She keeps looking at Johnathan for confirmation, and this makes me feel deeply unhappy and intensely jealous all at the same time.
She agrees and silently, without speaking, we walk along the dark alley. I have so many things I want to say, but I do not know what the situation is between her and Johnathan. Although I have always believed she is the one for me, I do not know if she still feels the same about me. It has been a while. To be exact, it has been one thousand, one hundred and twenty-seven days.
We get to the bar and she automatically slides into the booth next to Johnathan. I do not know if the pain in my stomach is from yearning, jealousy, or resentment towards Johnathan.
I cannot help myself and I cannot stop myself from staring at her. Every time she laughs, every time she says something, my stomach plunges. I realize even although many pretty girls have surrounded me during the past three years, she is the one who would always make me stop and take a second look.
She leans over to Johnathan, and I must suppress feelings of anger, I feel I could explode. She gets up from the booth and then she walks to the back of the bar to the bathroom and I watch her every step. I see Johnathan looking at me inconspicuously, a frown between his eyes, but then I see him dismiss the idea of me, a black person looking at his white girlfriend.
She takes a while, and suddenly, impulsively I stand up and walk to the bathrooms as well. I walk down the shadowy passage just as the door to the ladies’ bathroom swings open and in a bright light; she is standing inches from me.
The door closes behind her and then she sees me. I can hardly see her, but I feel her see me. I feel the sudden tension in her body, and I move closer to her. I reach out to her and then when she reaches up to me, giving me consent with her body language that I can kiss her, I sink my lips onto her lips.
Immeasurable feelings of pleasure course through my body. Although I have suppressed my feelings for her, although memories of her always surfaced in the lyrics of my songs, I loved her. I still love her.
I hear Johnathan’s voice call her name and immediately feel an irrational protectiveness. She is mine, always was and she was always supposed to be only mine.
I feel her body become anxious and I move away from her unwillingly.
When she says she is sorry and she must go back, it hurts me. Her words stab me painfully as a stainless-steel double-edged knife would if plunged deep into my heart.
I walk ahead of her back to the lights of the bar, and then we sit down again in the booth. It is as if nothing happened. It is as if I did not just hold her in my arms, as if I did not feel an immense sense of longing for her only minutes ago, as if I did not feel her hold onto me willingly and eagerly.
I move my leg and I let it rest against hers. I fear she might move her leg away, but she does not make a move. The warmth of her body burns me. I do not join in the conversation around me, and when they get up to leave, I want her to stay desperately, but she leaves with Johnathan.
I sit staring after her, and then Dennis nudges me playfully. “Hey, you still not over that girl.”
I look at him and smile. “Of course, I am. I was just shocked to see her again.”
They laugh, and Simon says, “You cannot fool us.”
I sigh, and decide to tell them, “I thought I would be over her by now, but she is still here.” I knock my fist against my chest. I wish she would leave.
“So, go after her,” George insists.
“I can’t because she is with that asshole, Johnathan.”
“Where were the two of you earlier on? He got very edgy. He stood up in the middle of a sentence and went to call her. It was actually very funny.”
They laugh and I cannot help laughing with them, but not long after, I decide to leave.
Even though it feels as if I can fly tonight, as if I can touch the heavens and I can make a dazzling necklace of the stars, because I saw her again, the pain is real as memories flood back to me.
The next day, I go to the campus and even though I look everywhere for her I do not find her. I ask a few of the students standing around if they know where I can find Chrissie Taylor, but they look at me unknowingly. The campus is so large, and I feel despondent. I only have today to find her before we must leave again. I search without finding her and that evening I get on the private jet to another stage, another city, away from Chrissie.
My dad and I are actually talking to each other again, and I would hate to have to ever go back to the way it was between him and me, after the incident when my dad saw me kissing Vincent in the front seat of his car.
After Vincent told me the story of his family history I went online, I did research, and I was shocked to realize that the history of the American class system is the sad, sad story of how for centuries upper-class whites made black people into a slave class. These upper-class whites often used violence to keep this system in place, and although activists have made great progress over the past one and a half decades, racism is still one of the strongest social forces in America today.
I learned the term racism would include the belief in racial differences, as well as the acts associated with racism.
I understood with surprise that for many black people growing up in the South in the 19th and 20th centuries, the threat of lynching was commonplace. The images we sometimes see of an angry white mob stringing a black man up in a tree is only half the story. Although lynching existed even before slavery, it was only put into action during Reconstruction. Workable black towns sprang up across the South and black people began to make political and economic inroads by registering to vote, establishing businesses, and running for public office. Many whites, back then, mostly landowners and poor whites felt threatened by this rise in black status, and primary in their minds was a fear of sex between the races. Lynching were frequently committed with public displays and openly advertised in newspapers, which drew large crowds of white families. In the South, an estimated two or three blacks were lynched each week in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Southern white men saw themselves as protectors of their way of life and their women. Lynching mostly took place because of petty crimes, like theft, but the worst crime to have been committed by a black man in those days was looking at or even associating with white women.
Some white people believed black men were fundamentally sexual predators and wanted only to have sexual relations with white women and, unfortunately, my dad grew up in this environment, so he cannot really be blamed for enforcing on me only what he believes to be true – can he?
We are home for the holidays, and I arrive at Johnathan’s house with my mom and dad.
Johnathan comes out the house just as my dad stops his car and I notice the cars parked all over the entrance and along the curb. I thought it was only going to be his family and mine having a barbecue.
My dad is over-dressed for a barbecue in a shirt and a tie, and I look at him reproachfully. The days when I felt inferior to the rich are long over and if they did not accept me for who I was, it was their problem.
Besides, I met Johnathan’s parents so long ago; they already felt like my extended family. They are down to earth, which is proof that once you get into money there is no need to change.
Johnathan walks straight to me, and he leans into me immediately, hugging me close to him.
I hug him back, saying, “There are so many people here; I didn’t realize it was going to be such a big party.” He looks bashful, and he seems to be nervously excited, when he says, “It started small, but then my Mom got over excited.”
“Who is here?”
“All our friends and family. Everybody.”
I walk into the house with him, and immediately my eye catches Vincent’s gaze where is standing in a far corner. He looks at me and instantaneously I feel an ache in my heart.
Why did Johnathan have to do this? Drag out the pain. All I want is to move on and I am resigned to think about Vincent now and again, to see his face in magazines and to see him on the television. I am unable to breathe without him, but I must and so the day will come when it will become easier. I know Johnathan is ignorant of the way I feel about Vincent, or should I say the way I used to feel about Vincent, so I cannot really blame him when he thought it would be appropriate to invite the entire band to his house today.
Johnathan has his arm around my waist, and he leads me out through the large glass sliding doors to the build-in barbecue area on the patio.
We have to walk past Vincent, and I see him wanting to say something, but he just stands there. I want him to talk to me, but also, I do not want him to talk to me. Conflict bounces around in my mind like a wild, colourful bouncy rubber ball.
I am unable to enjoy myself and Johnathan stays standing beside me. I feel at times too close; he is not giving me breathing space and I feel claustrophobic. I want to leave. I want to go for a solitary walk along the beach behind his house—just to clear my mind. I am about to turn to Johnathan when someone clings with a metal object against a glass.
As the tingling noise echoes through the room, a hush falls over the large group of people, and Johnathan turns to me. He is excited and there is a mischievous grin on his face, his eyes sparkle eagerly. “Chrissie.” He takes a deep breath, and then he continues nervously. His voice wobbles slightly, “Here in front of our family and all our friends, I want to ask you if you will marry me.”
I look at him. I see the eager expectation in his eyes. I glance at my dad and I see his excited anticipation. My chest is starting to constrict upon my lungs. Where have I been? I never realized that my and Johnathan’s relationship has progressed to the point where he felt he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. When did this happen?
Nervously, I scan the crowd looking at me, waiting. They are all smiling widely as if they all predicted I would say yes. Johnathan and I are the perfect couple—so well suited to each other, both with our blond hair and blue eyes. Just imagine the beautiful babies we will make; I hear my mind insist.
I hear in the back of the room cutlery drop to the floor with a loud clanging noise and I look at the noise, looking for an escape.
Vincent is standing staring at me – in shocked disbelieve.
Everybody is expecting me to say yes, and without thinking, I do not know why, but the word, “Yes,” whispers over my lips.
Everyone in the room cheers loudly and then they rush to Johnathan and me to congratulate us. I watch Vincent, his jaw is clenched stiffly, and he turns away from me and he walks out the room.
My heart burns in my chest, and tears make my eyes shine. Everybody thinks my eyes are sparkling with exuberance.
My dad reaches me first, and it is as if I can see the last doubt he had, that I might end up running off with a black boy, fades.
I smile and accept, together with Johnathan, everyone’s best wishes.
The party lasts late into the night, and when Johnathan drives me home and we stop in front of my house, he leans over to me.
He takes my face into his and then he whispers close to my lips, “Thank you. I give my life and my heart to only you.”
He kisses me softly, and I kiss him back.
I wonder when this acceptance had settled itself into my heart. Everybody seems to be pushing and prodding me into a certain direction, and like a leaf being blown by the wind, I go along where it takes me. Did this happen the night Vincent walked away from me, the night of the Matric farewell, when I wished we could rebel and make a stand for your love.
I wake up early even before the sun has risen above the horizon. I walk to my window and I draw the curtains open. I stare up across the expanse of the heavens and in my peripheral vision; I see something move in the bottom of my garden. I look down and see Vincent. He is leaning against his car, looking up at my bedroom window.
I struggle for breath and then I quickly move my legs to my cupboard. I change into a tracksuit pants and a T- shirt. Quickly I pull my hair up into a pony at the back of my head, and then I leave my room quietly, going downstairs to meet him.
I walk toward him, and he moves away from his car, walking toward me. “Can we go somewhere,” he asks unsure. “To talk”
I look up at my house and specifically my parent’s room. I reply, “Okay, but not for long.” I see the sadness in his eyes when it seems as if I am dismissing him, but it is better this way.
He walks with me to the passenger side of his car and then he opens the door for me. The soft leather engulfs me.
We drive to the beach. It is quite and the sun has just peeked across the horizon. The sky is patterned with hazy pink clouds. Music from the car stereo is softly playing in the background, and just as we stop at the beach, the touching first notes of The Great Divide start drifting through the car. I gasp and then I hit violently at the buttons on the stereo, trying to shut the radio up as quickly as possible.
Vincent looks amused as he glances in my direction across the space between us.
I take off my shoes and then I get out of the car determined. I walk away from him and then along the beach. My bare feet splash through the foam as the sea pushes it up onto the beach.
He reaches me and for a while, we walk together wordlessly.
From behind me, he says, “I will not allow you to do this.”
I look back at him reproachfully. “How can you not allow me to do this? This is how it should be.”
“This is so wrong. Does he even love you the way I do?”
“You being here is breaking my heart, making it worse. You should just let it be, let things go the way they should.”
“No. I won’t.”
I laugh sarcastically, not meaning to. When did I become so bitter?
Abruptly he pulls me into his arms and then he holds me to him tightly. He leans his head down to me, and he kisses me softly, sadly, tenderly.
I bring my arms up to push him away, but I cannot. The dark truth hurts me.
My arms find their way around his neck by their own will, and I lean into him.
He brings his hand up and I feel him pull the elastic band from my hair, and my hair tumbles over my shoulders.
We kiss and when I pull away from him half-hearted, he smiles down at me miserably.
“How can you marry Johnathan when I have been waiting just for you?”
“You have not been waiting for me? I have seen the pictures of all your escapades.”
He frowns. “What?”
“In the magazines—I have seen the pictures.”
He laughs harshly. “Those pictures are all taken out of context.” Peeved, he says, “That's beside the point anyway. I don’t want you to marry Johnathan.”
“I am tired of waiting for you. The night of your concert, I thought you would come looking for me, but you never did. You went on to your next concert. You left me again.”
I see the pain in his eyes. “I was there. You are not easy to find.”
He continues, “When we were still at school, we were still so incredibly young. One would think it was just a fleeting hormonal love, but little did I know you will remain with me forever.”
“You don’t understand. This is more than just you and me. My father does not want me to see you.”
“We are older now and I think we should decide for ourselves. Do you think you could still love me, and maybe you and I can be together?”
I smirk. “Vincent, I have constantly loved you, from my geeky obsession up until now. I think I will always love you, even if we weren’t together.”
“So then what is the problem? Let’s just be together.”
“But I have already made a commitment to Johnathan.”
“Chrissie, I do not care what you promised Johnathan. I love you. I love you and I want you to be with me.”
“If Johnathan did not ask me to marry him, would you be here today?”
“Maybe not today, but I would have come. I was hoping it would be when you were working already and not dependant on your parents anymore. I was hoping it would be when you are older and had the backbone to make up your own mind. That it would be when you are ready make a stand for us.”
I exclaim, “Would you tell your dad about me? You know how he feels about me, specifically my skin colour?”
“I don’t care anymore. It is my life and I will decide how to live it. I know you are what I need. Maybe we are judging them too harshly, and when they saw us together, saw how much we love each other then maybe they will change their minds, and get over their bigotry.”
He moves closer to me and rests his hands on my waist. I close my eyes and then I feel his lips on mine. It feels blissful being with him and I do not think my heart will be able to make it if I have to say goodbye to him again.
I say determined, “We will have to take it slow. I would have to convince my dad.”
“If they are unable to accept us, we could always just run away, although it would be some time before we saw them again. Could you do that?”
“I would not want you to sacrifice your family for me, and I do not know if I would be able to do it either. We spoke about this once, and loving each other despite our parents, might make us resent each other later. Although, I feel my love for you is strong enough, my family has always been there for me.” I start to cry. “I would rather we work it out with them.”
He presses his lips against the fold of my neck. “We cannot just give up without trying.” He trails kisses up against my neck, across my jaw, across my cheek and then softly he kisses the corner of my mouth.
All the sadness that has been an integral part of me, a sadness I did not even know still existed, fall away from me. I feel like a different person. It is positively weird.
When he takes me home, I feel brave and indestructible. I know my dad is waiting for me. As I walk into the house, he steps closer to me. His glare is furious.
“Dad. Before you start, I need to tell you something first.” I take a deep breath, and the air fills my lungs rapidly. “I know how you feel about interracial relationships, and I understand it is how you grew up. If you cannot accept me for who I am, for the fact I honestly love Vincent more than I love myself, and him I feel like a different person – almost invincible, then I am truly sorry for you. I am going to see him. I will not marry Johnathan.” My speech finished; I stand there uncertain.
He stares at me disbelieving for a while, and then he turns his back to me and walks away.
I am in tears, but I am determined. I did not think it would be easy anyway.
I arrange to meet with Johnathan, and he wants to take me to a restaurant, but I feel embarrassed and I do not want him to spend money on me, so I decline.
We go to the beach and when we have walked a distance in silence, I take him by the hand. I sit down against a dune, feeling myself settle into the sand beneath me, and I pull him down next to me.
I push my hand through the sand and look at it a while, I see it run through my fingers in rivulets. I gather my thoughts and then clenching my stomach I look at Johnathan.
He is looking out across the water and the gentle waves, working their way lazily onto the beach. The noise is soothing.
“Johnathan,” I say softly.
He says, sounding sad, “I know. You do not have to say anything. I saw the look in your face when I asked you to marry me—it isn’t something you want to do.”
“I am sorry.”
“You care for Vincent, don’t you?”
“I do—for a long time now.”
“Thank you for not embarrassing me in front of all those people.”
“I am really sorry.”
He smiles sadly. He reaches for my hand. “You have always been my best friend; do you know that?”
“I am really, really sorry. I never meant for it to happen this way. If things were different and you surprised me by asking me to marry you, I would have been so psyched, but you should have discussed it with me first.”
“It is really okay. I think we drifted together all those years ago after Tanya and Vincent left, and we comforted and supported each other so well, we were scared to let go.”
“I do love you; you know – it was never a lie.”
He smiles. “I love you, too Chrissie.”
We sit in silence for a long time, and then he takes me home.
Vincent comes to collect me the next evening. When I hear the doorbell, I am the only one who hears it because my parents pay no attention to it and I can see they are only feigning disinterest. When I walk past the lounge, I see my mom talking to my dad in a calming voice. His face and his neck are scarlet red.
I do not invite Vincent in. I will have to let them get used to the idea first. Suddenly my dad comes storming into the foyer, my mom running after him apologetically and smiling friendly.
My mom says quickly, “Don’t pay any interest to him Chrissie.” She looks at Vincent apologetically. “Vincent, maybe we could meet officially another day?”
Vincent hesitates, staring at my father fearful and nervously. “Okay, Mrs. Taylor. That would be nice.”
My dad opens his mouth to say something, but I see him stop dead in his tracks. I see instantaneously his eyes glaze over, and he grabs onto his left arm. I see him squeeze his left arm with his right hand, and I see a quizzical look flash across his face.
My dad falls onto the ground in one, all at once. In the distance, I hear my mom’s hysterical scream. I hear Vincent say somewhere in a cloud of suffocating fog, “Dial 911.”
I see Vincent fall on his knees next to my dad, and I see him lock his hands together over my dad’s chest and then he starts pushing and counting.
I reach into my pocket to get my cell phone and I dial 911.
This is not the time, but I wonder amused what my dad would say if he knew Vincent’s lips were on his, breathing air from his lungs into my dad's.
The operator answers the phone and I give her the information frantically, which she requires from me in her infuriatingly composed voice.
Vincent carries on giving my dad Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation. Why I am suddenly thinking of the full word instead of the acronym, CPR, I will never know.
The ambulance arrives, and I am still holding tightly onto my mom, grasping her in my arms, she is beyond hysterics.
They refuse to let my mom into the ambulance in her state, and calmly Vincent helps me to get my mom into his car.
We drive behind the ambulance at a nerve wrecking speed.
We stop where the ambulance stops, but then someone comes running toward us. “Sorry, you cannot stop here. This area is only for ambulances.”
I still wanted to protest, but Vincent is already reversing his car. He finds the closest parking, and then we rush into the hospital.
My dad has already been pushed at great haste into the hospital and is now somewhere in this giant white monster.
We go to the front desk, and calmly Vincent asks the attendant, where we could find Mr. Taylor. She looks up at us inquiringly, and then Vincent repeats, “A white male, he was just brought in and he had a heart attack.”
A nurse comes walking toward us, and with a kindly smile, she asks softly, “Are you with the man who was just brought in?”
“Yes. Yes. It is us.” I say quickly.
“He is in Casualty now, and once you have completed the necessary documentation, you can wait in the waiting room, just down the passage there.” She sweeps with her arm in the general direction of the passage behind her, and then she continues, “It is not easy to miss.”
I turn back to the attendant behind the desk, and she is already holding a thick wad of papers in her hand, for me to take.
I hear Vincent say thank you to the nurse. My mom, who is usually the one who takes charge in a situation, is just standing there – her mind misplaced.
I start filling in the forms as best I could and then after what felt like infinity, I hand them back to the woman. She asks me repeatedly to please take a seat, but I ignore her. I wait for her to dismiss me, but she looks through my answers to their millions of questions on the forms. She suddenly smiles friendly up at me and then she turns away from me staring intently at her computer screen and letting her fingers fly across her keyboard. Vincent says softly next to me, and I jump with fright, “Come let’s go to the waiting room.”
We walk down toward the waiting room and once inside the small room, my mom sits down on one of the plastic chairs.
I stare unseeing at a cross of Christ hanging on the wall above the door, while Vincent takes my hand into his and sits down next to me.
The initial shock is over, the adrenaline rushing through my veins slows down and everything is suddenly vividly clear.
I can see the scuff marks on the once brilliantly white tiles on the floor. There is an old discarded ashtray standing in the corner from the days when people could still smoke in hospitals. I stare intently at the push mechanism on top of it, and I wonder who invented it.
I hear the tick… Tock… Tick… of the big silver metal clock balanced on a table behind the door. They are slow, measured minutes – long, measured minutes.
Eventually, a doctor comes walking into the room with a baby yellow file in his hand. He smiles empathetically at each of us, and then he focuses on my mom. “Mrs. Taylor?”
My mom looks up at him expectantly, and I grab onto her hand.
She holds onto my hand so tightly her knuckles turn white, and subconsciously he pushes her nails into my palm. I have to bite down on my teeth not to yell out in pain.
“Your husband is in ICU now. He pulled through the worst, but he will most probably be in ICU for the next few days and then we will bring him down to the general ward. There is a waiting room up there if you would rather like to be closer. When he is brought down to the general ward, we will discuss a lifestyle change and healthier habits.” He says this last statement with such charm, even if we felt insulted, we could hardly blame him for delivering it.
My mom’s shoulders sag and she drops her head into her hands. Softly she cries as relief rushes through her.
I sit next to her, my arm over her shoulder and my head pressed against her until she stops crying.
We go up the elevator to the top floor and then walk into the hushed atmosphere. Everything is eerily silent except for the melody of ICU—the beeps at different frequencies and at different timings.
A nurse meets us, and I notice her shoes do not make the usual squeaky noises of those of other nurses. She walks silently, soundlessly. She leads us to a waiting room, as luxurious as the sitting room in a five-star hotel. Softly she tells my mom, “Mrs. Taylor, your husband has stabilized enough for you to see him, but only one at a time and I have to warn you not to upset or excite him.” When she informs us, it would only be family members allowed in to see my dad, she looks at Vincent briefly. In other words, with one glance she immediately excluded him.
My mom says she wants to go first.
I wait nervously while Vincent sits next to me quietly. I cannot help thinking this is entirely my fault. I should have left things as they were. I knew how my dad felt about Vincent, well not Vincent in particular, but the situation. I should not have upset him so badly.
My mom comes back, a small smile on her lips. She seems relieved.
I get up from the chair and then hesitantly I walk quietly to my dad’s room.
When I see him lying there, so vulnerable, I try my best to stay calm, but I cannot help it when the tears burning my eyes, spill over. I walk to his side, and I take his hand in mine.
He is trying to say something, so I lean closer to him.
I hear, “Chrissie—My little girl—Always—As long as—Happy.”
Suddenly the beeping noises of the machine he is connected to gets louder and a fleet of nurses are there immediately, asking me to leave. Telling me, I am upsetting him.
I wait in the corridor with bated breath until the beeping gets slower and the nurses come walking out of the room one by one. Glancing through the large glass pane, I go back to the waiting room.
My mom and I wait in that room for three days, until they move my dad to the general ward, and when I see him the first night during visiting hours, he looks extraordinarily pale. When I walk closer to him, he smiles weakly and holds his hand out to me.
I sit down next to him on the low bench, and I rest my head on his hand. “Daddy, you gave us such a scare. No more chicken for you.”
Softly he says, “Chrissie let’s not talk about chicken now. I want you to forgive me for my behaviour because it was reprehensible. It was never my intention to bring you up in this way, to share my intolerance. It was supposed to be different with you.” He strokes my hand softly and smiles dejectedly, when I look up at his face, frowning. “You are my little girl and you will always be my little girl. I was always only trying to protect you, but I never realized there was nobody to protect you against me, and what I was teaching you.”
“Daddy. No. It’s okay, I understand.”
“Your Mom tells me if it wasn’t for Vincent, I'd be playing the harpsichord up in heaven now?”
I smile pleased – pleased because he is back to his silly old self.
He asks, “Where is Vincent? I would like to thank him.”
“He is waiting outside.”
“Are you sure?”
He insists, “Chrissie.”
I get up from the bench next to his bed and I go outside to call Vincent.
Vincent follows me into the room.
My dad looks at him and then reaches his hand out to him. My dad shakes his hand while he says, “Thank you.”
It is obviously still awkward, and it is not going to be happily ever after overnight, but I now feel as if my father will be more accepting. It is as if his near-death experience has made him realize we are in fact all only human beings after all. We all have the same needs, the same wants, the same desires, and aspirations. We each have a soul, although each vessel looks different. To use a silly comparison, it would be like having a red sugar pot with yellow sunflowers painted brightly on the side, and then to have a blue sugar pot with two large lilies on each side for ears. Are the contents of both these sugar pots not the same?
That night after Vincent drives me home, and he walks me to the door I subside into his arms.
He trails his hand up against my arm, and over my shoulder. He rests his warm hand around my neck, his fingers curl in my hair at the back of my neck.
I rest my hands on his shoulder and looking up at him, into his oddly weird and beautiful eyes, I know we will change the world. Vincent and me. Our love will conquer all, and we will be the shining example that race, creed or colour does not matter.
Copyright © LYNETTE FERREIRAAll rights reserved.Lynette Ferreira holds all copyright-related rights, including the right to publish the work, to make derivative works of it, to distribute it, to make profit from it, and to forbid these uses by any non-authorized people/person/entity, thus being entitled to take legal action against infringement.