Charlie (First Draft)

"Charlie. It was the first word I ever said..."

'Charlie' is a beautiful short story depicting life in a hot African village, where black children and white children are fiercely divided- life is like a checkerboard.

One particular young girl, Lila, is confused why the races are so seperated. She, a black girl, struggles to live her childhood to the fullest with the knowledge that even her role model: her big brother charlie is white.

Written for a Youth Laurette competition, 'Charlie' is a story that will hopefully touch you hearts forever.

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1. Charlie

 

Charlie. It was the first word I ever said.

 

I was nine months old. It was late at night, and I was standing up in my cot, my face crimson and smeared with tears and snot.

“Carlie! Carlie!”

I cried and cried, until I heard someone stirring. I held my breath, hoping, praying that it was Charlie. 

 

The second I saw that bright cheeky face pop around the corner of my door, I knew everything would be all right.

“Hey, baby,” Charlie said, in a voice that was quiet and musical, and he picked me up and kissed me. Charlie stroked my wispy hair. “It’s going to be ok, Lila,” He whispered, “I promise.”

 

And he kept his promise.

But the best time was in church on Sundays. Charlie would sing the hymns in a grand brassy voice so that everyone would turn and stare. As for me, I’d scrunch my eyes and pray hard, asking baby Jesus to keep Charlie with me forever.

 

So it didn’t seem to matter that I was the black kid, and that he was the white kid. Of course, when we played out together Charlie’s friends had to be grabbed back by their nurses and strapped in their perambulators, and taken home. I knew it was because of me. But Charlie didn’t mind.

“So what?” he’d say, grinning, “We don’t need them. We can make our own fun.”

And we would, going into battle as vicious Vikings, and hiding in wooden horses at the gates of Troy, and crossing the Alps with Hannibal and a hundred elephants. The best characters were played by boys, but Charlie let me play them anyway.

 

Then one day, a white girl named Mia came out to play.

“What you doing?” She asked.

Charlie looked up. “We’re playing Peter Pan.”

Mia turned her sticky-up nose at me. “Who are you, Negro?”

“Peter Pan.”

I had grown so used to being black, but feeling white, so I didn’t understand why Mia started laughing that moment. But she did; loud, cackling laughs that made the tin roofs shake.

 

“You can’t be Peter Pan. Who’s heard of a nigger Peter Pan?”

 

That night in the bath I cried and cried, and took a bar of foul carbolic soap and scrubbed, hard. Charlie came in.

“What on earth are you doing?”

“I’m dirty.”

And he just watched me with his eyes; not laughing now, and never said a thing.

“You’re not dirty, silly.” He wiped away my tears. Then Charlie took my hand and placed it inside his.

“Look at this, Lila. I’m white colour. You’re black colour. That’s the way it’s meant to be.”

 “But that’s not fair, Charlie! I want to be your colour.”

 

And even now, seventy-two years of age, I will never forget what my angel brother said to me that African night.

 

“Listen, Lila. You need to be black. If you white, nothing gonna change. If you black, you can go out there and make a whole lotta difference.”

 

 

 

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