At a fabric shop in town, Genevieve Batiste looked around sparingly as she tried to find the fabrics she wanted for a much lower price. Her search seemed hopeless.
Holding on to the pendant she wore, she kissed at it for better luck. “Afternoon, Genny.” Stopping just as she was about to walk down the second of three aisles, she made a half turn and came face to face with light eyes. The handsome young man tipped his hat, stepping closer as Genevieve pushed strands of her hair out of her face. She was certain that the red in her cheeks were present against her fair skin.
She felt embarrassed, as she was certain she did not look her best today; lowering her head as she spoke softly. “Hi, Etienne.”
“Can I help you find anything?”
“No.” She groaned at her own answer, quickly rambling out a reason. “I uh, I don’t want to get you in trouble. I don’t think Mr. Honore would like it very much that you’re over here at the fabric store and not at his shop working. He finds you here, it’s going to be a big mess.”
Etienne Leveaus gave a bright and wide smile, his grey eyes focused on whom he deemed to be the most beautiful woman in the world. She was a tall, shapely nineteen-year-old with mesmerizing green eyes. “I’m not in town for work today. And, I couldn’t pass on the chance to speak to a beautiful lady.”
“We’re not supposed to be speaking, and you know that.”
“I break a new rule every day. Why not make it worth breaking one more?” He leaned forward, planting a gentle kiss at the corner of Genevieve’s lips. “I miss you. It’s getting harder and harder to go without seeing you as much as I want to.”
“But your grandparents don’t approve.” The disappointment shone in her eyes as Genevieve put a distance between the two of them. Their romance had long become a secret upon word getting out that Etienne had been spending much of his free time on what was considered the less affluent side of St. Marteen. “And it’s enough that people always have something to say, especially about my family. I don’t need the upstanding Leveaus adding more to it.”
Etienne rolled his eyes at the mention of his grandparents, a few angry thoughts and words rushing to his mind. Still, he remained calm, speaking with the passion that always seeped through his soft voice and tone. “Oh, who cares? Just like their supposed generosity is well known around the state, it’s also widely known that if I didn’t look like a white man, they wouldn’t have even taken me in after my parents died. They don’t care about me.”
“They’re your grandparents, of course they care. They care about what’s best for you, in terms of your place in society. Protecting you, your status, and your wealth.”
He paused for a moment, remembering that some of the issues they both faced as mixed-raced individuals were not the same. Social class was something that benefited Etienne, greatly, as well as his complete ability to pass for a white man in the south. However, where they lived, how much money their families possessed, and how their family’s money was made were of no concern to the elder Leveaus. They themselves could have been dirt poor, working their own lands, and near destitution. What mattered to them, the most, was keeping the bloodline pure. It had already been tainted once, and that ate at them each time they came face to face with their twenty-three-year-old grandson.
Until now, Etienne had never felt a reason to share this truth with Genevieve. Their relationship was not a secret because people felt they were too young. Or because her family was working class while his family was one of the richest in Louisiana. It was because his grandparents were racist, and staunch believers in dating within their race. When Etienne’s father followed his heart rather than the family’s plans, he was quickly disowned.
Etienne had not known his grandparents until he was eight-years-old, thrust into their lives and hate filled world when his parents passed away suddenly. Their feelings about Blacks, and Mulattos who held any remote semblance of their black side, were and would never be hidden, and that extended to their grandson. It didn’t matter that, while he had gained his mother’s facial features and curly hair, Etienne’s skin was that of ivory. To the elder Leveaus, he was a marring spot in their family bloodline, and they would not accept or allow Genevieve to taint it any further. “My mother is black, my mother ‘turned their white son against them and their race’. To them, black is dirty. They see me as black, though I am fairer than you are, and they treat me as such in private. They don’t care about me, and I don’t care what they think or feel.” Etienne closed the space between them, smiling as he took her hand into his.
“Genny, it’s a lot we’re still figuring out in this world as we grow.” She nodded in agreement. “But one thing I have always known, and will always be sure of, is that I love you. No one telling me what they feel is right or wrong is going to change that. I don’t want to hide anymore, and I don’t want to have to keep going so long without seeing you, being with you.”
“What can we do, Etienne?”
“We can be happy. If I make a way, will you be with me?” Though he could sense her hesitation, Etienne grew excited when Genevieve nodded her head. He placed a kiss on her cheek and stepped back, shoving his hands into the pockets of his jodhpurs. “I want to see you. Perhaps tomorrow after I finish my last class of the day. Would your mother mind me stopping by?”
Genevieve smiled, shaking her head. “You know that she wouldn’t. Mama’s probably got a few choice words for you not even coming to visit her, let alone not seeing me. I’ll see you tomorrow. Now leave me to shop in peace before Mrs. Anderson gets nosy and makes a phone call.”
“I love you, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“I love you more.”
Genevieve watched as Etienne made his exit, almost skipping away as he rushed off to whatever he should have been doing. A wide smile danced across her round face. She wondered how she’d ever gotten so lucky to already have found a man who loved her so completely, so freely, and without a single doubt of his feelings. Most girls her age could only daydream and pray nightly for their soulmate. She’d found hers at fifteen, and she was grateful that no matter who tried to pull them apart, he’d never given up or turned her away.
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