Charlie

His face be pale white, like after all this time, he just didn’t realise it before now. I smooth down my white uniform, as is habit. “Black children ain’t meant to play with white children.”
“And that’s law, is it?”
“I don’t know ‘bout no laws, suh.”
“All I’m saying is, there are laws about black children in white schools, white diners, white libraries, white water fountains… Where are the laws about black children playing with white children?”
“Them kinda laws don’t be in no law book, Charlie. Them kinda laws just be Mississippi laws.”

Lila is a thirteen year old maid, working for a family in Coldwater, Mississippi. Charlie is a sixteen year old boy, living in that family.
Life is fiercely divided: especially amongst the children of the state.
But charlie isn't like any other boy.
The two of them embark on an unforgettable journey: to Washington, to march with Dr. King to save their Mississippi.

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3. Chapter Two

“Morning, Miss Lucinda. Usual breakfast?”

Miss Lucinda eyed me like I done something wrong. She coughed once, hard like, then turned away so she be facing the window lookin’ out to the porch.

“Yes, Lila.” Her pretty blonde curls glinted and bobbed about as she nodded. “Be quick. I got a beauty appointment at ten.”

Never in my life have I ever heard Miss Lucinda say please.

Breathing shallowly, I duck my head and set about making Miss Lucinda’s breakfast. Coffee weak, toast buttered and a couple a sliced peaches on the side, glistening with syrup. I tell Miss Lucinda every day, November just ain’t the right time for peaches, but does she listen, no she don’t. Miss Lucinda don’t listen to nobody c’ept if they part of some white lady league or they the President.

I already had the coffee brewing, the toast grilled, just have to soak the peaches. Miss Lucinda clear her throat real delicate like as if she waiting for five star service. Just as I’m pouring the milk into Miss Lucinda’s favourite jug; a real pretty one with roses painted on the side, I hear a faint clumping around on the floor above my head.

Before I can even set the toast rack on the table Charlie’s bounded downstairs, ruffled me on the head and snatched up a piece of toast greedily.

“Charlie!” Miss Lucinda scold, “that toast is for me and your Father. Now come along, you’re going to be late for school. Lila,” she addressed me.

“Yes, Ma’am?”

“Where are my peaches?”

I set the peaches down in front of her, smoothing down my white uniform. She look at them with some sorta grimace on her lips, like they got worms coming outa them. She be looking like they smell funny, even though them peaches be Miss Lucinda’s favourite thing in the whole God damn world. I don’t take no notice though; she do that every day. I just think Miss Lucinda would hate to show how much she like my cooking.

I look over at Charlie. He look as cheeky as ever; his tousled sandy hair in his eyes, his shirt hanging outa his slacks, his shoelaces wild and whipping like spaghetti. He flash me the grin that I wake up for in the morning.

“Hey, Lila-lily. We gonna act out that book I saw at the movies last weekend? You know, the one with the vampires?”

“Dracula?” I ask.

Charlie pull his lips up to show me his teeth, and leaped at me like he a crazy man. I couldn’t help but squeal.

“Charlie, stop that!” Miss Lucinda stood up, scraping the chair back on the linoleum floor. “Lila! You got work to do.”

I lower my gaze, and turn back to the plate I was drying ‘fore Charlie went crazy on me. “Sorry,” I murmur.

“Sorry what?”

“Sorry Ma’am.”

Charlie slung his backpack over his shoulder. “Mornin’ Aunt Lucinda,” he called, “Seeya, Lila,” he said more quietly to me.

“Bye, Charlie.”

As soon as Charlie slam his way out the front door, Miss Lucinda turn on me. God, I wish Lawrence would hurry his butt down here ‘fore she spank me. Lawrence don’t do no spanking.

“You must not act that way this afternoon in company, you understand?”

I nod. “Yes, Ma’am.”

“You see, Lila, it’s very easy for young girls to get confused about who their friends are, and people you just get paid to cook for.”

I scrub the plate a little harder than necessary. Sure enough, it start squeaking. I can smell the sickly perfume Miss Lucinda spray all over herself drifting in my direction. It make me feel sick.

“Charlie is not your friend. He’s the son of your boss. You are paid to get along with him, to feed him, to clean the house he lives in.”

My eyes prick with angry tears. I can see my black face in the enamel plate now, it so shiny.

“Charlie isn’t a little boy no more. He doesn’t have time to play.”

There were so many things I wanted to say, but they weren’t Christian. However I’m sure if Jesus were faced with a pig-faced lady like Miss Lucinda, he’d be no Christian neither. But he wasn’t, and I am.

So instead I just say, “Yes, Ma’am. Sorry, Ma’am.”

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