One Simple Letter

In a time when inequality is all the rage in America, Amberley Greene finds herself caught up in a world-view-changing political uproar. Her cousin writes every week from Arkansas, and when the Little Rock Nine are initiated into school, both Amberley and her cousin's lives take a dramatic turn.

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1. Receiving Letters

Amberley sat in her twenty-third level bedroom, silently gazing over the lush expanses of Central Park across the road from her building.  She sighed, heaving her shoulders dramatically, before shifting to adjust her skirt on the seat.  It was such a nuisance, waiting for the mail to arrive.  She just wished her parents would buy a telephone so she could contact her older cousin Elizabeth (but they called her Lizzy) more quickly.

 

This way, Lizzy would write on Thursday, but Amberley wouldn't receive the letter until Saturday or even Sunday at the latest.  It was rather nerve-wracking; not hearing from Lizzy could mean anything in the Deep South.  She could have been arrested, beaten, or even killed, and the entire concept absolutely terrified Amberley to no end.

 

Still, she waited patiently atop the baby blue duvet, observing the room in a way one could only perfect when boredom had enveloped them in a cocoon of nothingness.  Amberley watched dust drift dreamily across the room, disappearing once it slipped out of direct sunlight; she listened to the birds outside, their cheerful twittering when they landed on her windowsill; she watched people hurrying along on the ground so very far below, mere ants on a vast scope of land.  They scurried about on their morning routines, completely unaware of what actually surrounded them; these were the high living city people, the ones with money and fancy clothes and tickets to the theatre and countless other luxuries Amberley knew she would never experience.

 

"Amberley!  The mail has arrived!" her mother's deep southern twang echoed down the hall, breaking Amberley's chain of thought and dragging her into a whole new train of thought.  She sprung from the bed, flung herself down the hallway and skid to a halt at the kitchen doorway, where her mum was sorting through heaps of pristine white envelopes.  Amberley watched eagerly from the other side of the kitchen table, longing for that one yellowed envelope to complete the week.  When she found it, the envelope was ripped in the corner, yellowed and smaller than every other bill or subscription in the pile.

 

"Thankyou Mom," she called, scooting off down the hall to her bedroom, where she shut the door with a bang and jumped to the bedspread.  The envelope was practically in shreds by the time Amberley had it worked out, and her heart swelled when she saw the usual scrawled font of Lizzy's curly writing.

 

Dear Amberley,

Well, what an eventful week it's been here!  Finally Reverend Oliver's case against segregated schooling has been addressed by the High Court, and guess what!?  They have finally agreed to desegregate schooling here!  I really am so very excited Amberley; we haven't had such excitement since that freedom ride earlier last month.       

So, with this whole 'desegregated schools' thing, the government is preparing to profile students and they will choose the top nine to attend Little Rock Central High School.  Of course I will enter; I did get all A's on my school report last semester so I think I have a chance.

I hope all is well up in New York.  You know I plan to visit you in the next school holidays.  Oh, we can go to that little ice-cream parlour around the corner from your apartment and stroll through Central Park, it will be a beautiful Spring Amberley, I just know it.

Forever faithful,

Elizabeth xoxo

 

Amberley smiled at the letter; she was always happy when Lizzy wrote about the improvements happening in the south, but she wished she could be there with Lizzy, experiencing such an adventurous life.  Little did she know, life in the southern states was nothing like she imagined.

 

~

 

Elizabeth Eckford waited at the bus stop as she did every Saturday morning, smoothing the pleats of her skirt while she sat.  It was tiresome, having to work at age fourteen to feed nearly your entire family.  Of course, her mother and father had small jobs as well, but occupation opportunities for African Americans in Arkansas were slim at the time, and Lizzy knew that it was necessary for her to earn that extra few dollars.  So, this morning she was off to the laundry shop, where she would mend clothes all day.

 

The bus was coming around the corner now, it's tin front rusted with age and marroon trims peeling.  Lizzy stood to hail it, but as the bus neared it didn't slow, only swerved into the gutter, right where a brown puddle had been rippling in the wind.  It was now splattered all over Lizzy's dress, her newest, nicest one.  She gasped; she knew buses would often not stop for her, and still use the segregation lines still marked, but never had a driver been so racially rude.

 

With a huff she turned around, the wet, heavy material of her full skirt swishing around her calves.  There was nothing she could do but stomp home now; there was no other bus until the afternoon and she shouldn't dare go into town dressed so poorly, with mud stains on her dress for goodness sakes!

 

Amberley really didn't know how lucky she was, always living the high life up in New York city, the place of life and action, where everything socially acceptable was founded and brought to life.  Oh how Lizzy wished she could one day raise enough money to live in a place such as that.

 

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