There, Yellow and Red

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She stands there. Not just anywhere, but there. There is where the footprints of her ancestors have been long washed away by the deep blue tide. There is where strangers of all different colors and tongues pushed their great heavy wooden boats ashore, tearing up the warm crystal sand. There is where her mother and father accepted one another, where she was conceived months later. There is where she first learned to walk, to swim, to fish. There is where her life here began, and now where her life here ends.

She steps closer to the methodic water, back and forth, back and forth, and over and over again. The calming melody, the soothing motion has always been her escape, her home, her friend. When the sun kisses the diamond white sand and the bright blue of the sky turns a clear liquid, it is her sister. But today it is her enemy. She eyes the vast ocean, the constant mover, breaker, murderer, and life-giver. Today she will conquer her escape, her home, her friend.

She puts her hand to her forehead, covers her eyes from the glare of the warm light, and searches for him. She’s done this every day since her fifth birthday. He said he’d come back for her, that they’d be together again. She stops her search, knowing he isn’t there, and absently spins the beaded red bracelet on her dark wrist. She was five, he was seven, and it was there, not just anywhere, that he had promised to marry her. His hands searched his waistband frantically, fingers fumbling until they landed upon a tattered dirty piece of cloth, folded precisely three times. She remembers the three folds because that’s how many seconds she had counted in her head until he opened it, one second for each crease.

“Ren, can we play pirates now?” she whined impatiently, her attention span falling short after the three seconds of counting.

“No Zee I gots to show you somfin. Now you hush n wait likes I says so,” he scolded, looking down at the small package in his cupped hands. He lifted his head, glanced right and left, and finally smiled as his eyes fell on hers. She lowered her gaze to the cloth on his black fingertips, and tilted her head when she saw the shocks of red and yellow appear against the dark of the night.
“Heeeyyyy! You gots us gold to play pirates, didn’tcha?! Yay Ren!”
“No, an I says shush. Do you want your Mama to come beat you for being down by the water again? No. So’s hush, Zee. ‘Sides, this here’s very ‘portant stuff,” Ren straightened his posture and gently picked up a bright red band adorned with little golden beads, and let it dangle in the warm night breeze.
The red beaded bracelet was for her, the twisted yellow bracelet for him. He quickly slid the band on her slim wrist, shoved the yellow one in her other palm and informed her she must put it on his wrist now. She did as she was told, still slightly confused, until he reached over and pecked her on the lips. That’s when she smiled.

“My Papa is being hunted! Did you know that?” the boy whispered excitedly.
She shook her head, still holding on to his dark wrist, smacking her lips.

“Well he is! And guess what? We gots to go some place else so’s they won’t find ‘em. That’s why I’m marrying you now. But we’ll do it for real when I come back for you, ok Zee?” She nodded her head, still dumbfounded by his strange behavior.

“Can we play pirates now?” she had asked in all her innocence, or what was left of it anyway. He rolled his eyes at that, but then a sad look spread across his face.

“Zee, we can never play pirates again, don’tcha see? I’mma leavin’ cuz my Pa’s being hunted. But when I marry you we’ll play pirates all the time, ok?”
And in the dark of that murky night, under the cloak of the dark blanketed sky, his family slipped into the star studded water, and she watched him wave frantically through big eyes.


She shakes her head at the memory and turns around to face her family. Her father stands closest to the quickly assembled, handmade raft already full of villagers and looks over her head. His rough hands hold onto the thick knotted stick, his strong jaw clenched, forming deep lines around his silent mouth. She looks at his bare chest, as dark and deep as midnight, and his tangled braided hair, matted against his head. This man has been her stronghold, her safe haven. And now he was letting her go.

“Do you have everything?” he asks, glancing everywhere, anywhere but her eyes.

“Yes,”

“Water, clothes, money?”

“Yes, yes, and yes,” she answers, slowly wrapping her fingers around his thumb. That’s always been their secret sign of forgiveness. Both father and daughter hold onto their pride like lungs hold onto a breath, and both fought bitterly since her decision to leave was made final. He wiggles his thumb, and she smiles as his eyes finally meet hers.

“I love you, Dad,”
His eyes shut, and he rubs his thumb deeper into her slender fingers.

“I love you,” he whispers, his voice nearly lost to the constant breeze. She steps back, lets her father go, and waves to the remainder of her family. Saying goodbye to all of them would take too long, waste too much time. It’s time to leave, quickly before sunset. She climbs into the twists and turns and ties of branches and twigs, finds a place to lie down among the crowded raft, and faces the horizon as the men of her village push the tiny raft into the thrashing waves.
He said he’d come back for her. But he hasn’t, and she can’t wait any longer. Lying on her back, watching the moon as she drifts anywhere in the ocean, she plays with the bracelet. She twists the extra string around the tip of her finger, moves the beads up and down along the twine, rolls it back and forth over her wrist. She closes her eyes, remembers the fire, the screams, the noise. She remembers the hurt, the fear, the confusion. People were burning her village. But they weren’t strangers of a different color or tongue; they were her people. Her own people destroyed her home, killed her mother. That’s why his family left. That’s why he had to go. My Pa’s being hunted. What kind of world does she in live? A world where sisters and brothers hurt each other?
She had tried for years to convince her father to leave, to go someplace greater, someplace safer. He won’t budge, though. He had said if she really wanted to leave, she could the day she became a woman. That day was three days ago and here she is, already gone.
She keeps her eyes shut from the world and her ears shut from the steady breathing of the other voyagers. She dreams. She dreams of him, his deep brown eyes, his dark smooth skin, his knotty hair, his black wrist lightened by the bright yellow string. She dreams of playing pirates, of the quick warmth of his mouth, of yellow and red entwining together. He has always been her dream, her happiness. Happiness: that warmth that spreads to the pit of her stomach when she spots a dark silhouette among the waves. Happiness: that dizziness in her head when she wakes up from nearly tangible dreams of him, his dark fingers, light at the tips, his warm lips, barely pink just in the inside of his mouth. Happiness: the tears her eyes let drip down her mocha skin as she fingers the red twine while she lays there, not just anywhere, under the pregnant moon. And the ocean, her escape, her home, her friend, and now her enemy in the hostile, endless currents, will carry her to h





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