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Marcia This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   I recognized her rusty voice at her first word even though I hadn't spoken to her in months.

"Hello," she stated.

"Hi," I answered more excitedly than necessary so she would know I recognized who it was. I knew what she would say next.

"Is your mother there?" Our conversation was always the same, nothing more than me calling to my mother that Marcia was on the phone for her.

Mom always answered "Okay" and got on the phone. I think maybe Mom felt the same way about black people as I did. White people would always be in debt to them for discriminating against them in the A60's, so she always talked to Marcia, it was the least she could do. Marcia had been the woman who cleaned our house every week for as long as I could remember. Everybody loved Marcia for her denture grin that was constantly showing up. I remember her smiling threats of dumping us head first into the trash or spanking our bottoms. I remember calling her Marshmallow because she was so round and sugary, and because it made her smile even more.

I remember how surprised my brother was when he found she was brown all over when he saw her back as she bent over, scrubbing the floor. My mother was proud of him, saying that everybody is equal and the same in the A80's. He thought she was just brown on her face and hands, and we all smiled at his innocence. What Marcia never knew was that I walked home from school especially slowly the days she was at our house, because it hurt when she spanked my bottom. I never wanted to let her know she hurt me because I remembered when my brother was burned with the end of her cigarette and she didn't smile for that visit.

Then Marcia stopped coming to our house because her knees were bad from kneeling on the floor so much. It shocked us because it never occurred to us that Marcia was getting older. My mother said it was a shame because she would never find anyone who liked to do floors like Marcia, and we all missed Marcia and her constantly flashing dentures.

From then on, Mom always talked to Marcia, asking how everything was, and Marcia politely asked her how our last vacation was. My mother's friends admired my mother; she didn't have to talk to Marcia again, and Marcia kept calling. A few years ago we were invited to her wedding. Marcia and Oscar had never married because Oscar, being Catholic, wouldn't divorce his wife. Now they were marrying because Oscar's wife had died.

As we drove to the hall they had rented in Boston, we were excited to see Marcia's smile once again. But as we came closer to the hall we noticed a change. We saw only people brown all over like Marcia and the streets were dirtier and the doors closer together. When we got to the hall, Marcia's son-in-law was there and he smiled at us but we all knew it wasn't Marcia's smile. When we were seated we were the only white people, and no one looked at us, like we weren't even there. But we smiled like nobody else there as Marcia walked up the aisle in her simple gown, and we never stopped even when Oscar's weak and shaking legs made him sit down.

We didn't stay through the reception and dinner of fried chicken legs and potato salad, but we went up to Marcia to congratulate her. My mother told her we had to get home and Marcia nodded, she understood. We all said good-bye and we were silent all the way home, thinking about the pictures we took like everybody else of Marcia's unusual unrestrained grin.n


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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