The True Foe Is ...
BI-RACIAL COUPLES, FAMILIES, AND CHILDREN:
RELATING TO A TWEEN
A SHORT STORY:
It was a February morning when Barbara Walker surveyed the five lower vacant floors of "The Walker Family Inn". She, her husband John and their three children moved onto the penthouse floor of his paternal family's inn a week before.
They were to meet inside her and John's vanity room. She had plenty of time. Barbara continued strolling down the corridor of the 3rd floor, admiring the beauty of the inn. She stopped in front of a door which had an exit sign above it and jogged up the stairs. This is my exercise. She thought as she smiled to herself.
Though all of the lower floors looked the same, Barbara wanted to survey each one before they began running it in two months. Barbara had to hand it to Vivian -- her late mother-in-law -- the inn had a warm feel to it. Something all who really knew Vivian would agree, she never exuded. Raven, however, adored her paternal grandmother though. Barbara believed Vivian's closeness to Raven was for all the wrong reasons.
John, Vivian's only child, is bi-racial, and so was Vivian. John could pass for white, but Vivian could not. Raven has the same complexion her grandmother had. Fair but not passable. Barbara believed Vivian was a self-hating fool, and to her disparity, Raven was becoming Vivian's clone.
As Barbara approached her vanity area she heard the youthful voice of Raven counting from inside the room. Which meant Raven had eaten. After Vivian's death, Raven began exercising after each meal, just as her grandmother had before she fell ill.
Barbara was worried about her thin child, and she knew she had to speak up, and soon. She just needed to find the right words to say to Raven, this time ....
She did not want her words to do what they seemed to have done before; crush her child's spirit. She avoided looking at her twelve year old, because it pained her too much, but hearing self-loathing in Raven's voice whenever she spoke to her mother, well, that shamed Barbara.
When Raven finally asked her to redo her hair a few days before, she agreed immediately. Barbara reached the outer entrance of her destination, took a deep breath, and then stepped inside.
Watching Raven exercise was torture. Raven was oblivious to her presence due to the fact she was listening to her Ipod -- a Christmas gift from Vivian -- with her eyes closed as usual when she exercised by herself. Barbara saw Vivian in Raven at that moment. Not herself. It bothered her. calm yourself , she chided silently.
As Barbara began slipping past her unaware child, she noticed a Vogue Magazine with an anorectic-looking model on its cover. It lied on top of a black lacquer storage chest, which was just a few feet in front of Raven, and a few inches in front of a clear-glass full-length wall mirror.
A thought crossed her mind, Why couldn't Rave grab my Essence or Ebony Magazines . Again, she scolded herself, thinking, Excessive exercising; major problem, choice of magazines; minor irritations. Don't speak before thinking . She then shook her head and smiled to herself.
Once she reached the black leather chair, at the far right of the room, she sat down. Just before she placed her legs on the matching ottoman Barbara noticed an opened plastic bag -- which held Raven's comb, brush, and hair accessories -- leaning on the right side of the chair.
Watching a still unaware Raven actually brought a smile to Barbara's face. The interior of the vanity room complemented Raven's beauty.
The dark caramel of Raven's skin tone was a lovely contrast to the dark golden carpet her bare feet were now running in place in. She was center stage, and part of her scenery was also the walls. The high-glossed golden background mingled beautifully with the black floral designs placed upon them.
The lighting was dim, yet Raven shined.
Barbara briefly looked away. The memory of their first major conflict invaded her mind like cancer.
It happened in that vanity room. It was days after Vivian's death, and Raven -- to Barbara -- expected agreement with her beliefs when she asked, "Mom, why must I say I'm black only, when I'm also white?"
I'll say this again, Raven, most people go by what they see. This is America. They see you, they see a cute little black girl."
"Yeah, I told Grandma you said that. she agreed with you."
"Really? Well, good. You have nothing to prove Rave."
"Well, she said show them I'm both. Talk is cheap."
"Excuse me? Oh-my-God! Is that why you've been staying around your father and avoiding me whenever we're out in public? Making such a production, calling him 'Dad' for attention?"
"Ma, I'm trying to show people-"
"Girl, are you crazy? You have an excuse? You're discounting me, and don't even see it."
Raven was now crying as she said, "Sorry ma, for real."
"Rave, my mother was white. My father darker than the ace of spades. He could not deny me if he wanted to, because I am his carbon copy complexion wise -"
"I know ma."
"Sweetie, my mother told me in America I am black no matter the fact that she was my mother. I wish you knew her before she died -"
"Sorry - Mom - please - forgive -"
Barbara's concentration was broken by the words, "Mom - I - I - didn't know you were here al-"
"Don't worry sweetie. Brighten the lights ... please."
Brightness, and silence engulfed the room.
Soon, Raven was sitting on the ottoman, back facing her mother.
With comb in hand, Barbara began parting Raven's hair, and as she began braiding the first section she started thinking.
Realization struck like a punch, and she thought to herself, To help Raven I must stop hating Vivian!
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