It was nearly midnight when the limo dropped them off. Mattie noticed a half dozen Wendy Walters lawn signs stacked on the front porch as they went into the house. Simon and Florence were sitting at the kitchen table surrounded by brochures, badges and other campaign material.
“How was the concert?” Simon smiled, got up and gave Mattie a hug.
“Mattie wants to go the premiere tomorrow,” Fawn said.
Simon’s smile turned to a frown. He looked at Mattie. “You said you didn’t want to go.”
“She’s changed her mind,” Fawn said.
“It’s too late now.”
“No, it’s not,” Fawn said. “There’s plenty of time.”
“Other arrangements have been made. You said you didn’t want to go.”
Mattie could have ended it there, said she wasn’t going, but the presence of Wendy Walters in her house, even if only as a printed image, pissed her off.
“That’s not quite true. I was told I couldn’t go.”
“We can all go together,” Fawn said. “I’ve got some great ideas for Mattie’s makeup.”
“We’re getting a ride,” Florence said.
“I’m sure they can fit one more person in the car,” Fawn said.
“That’s not going to work,” Simon said.
“Why not?” Fawn was unrelenting.
Simon ran his hand through his thick black hair. He looked up at the ceiling, then down at the floor.
“Because it’s Wendy Walters whose picking us up,” Florence said.
“She wants to arrive at the premiere with Simon.” Florence crossed her arms and stared at Mattie.
“Why would you walk down the red carpet with some politician and not Mattie?” Fawn said.
Mattie knew why, and it hit her like a punch in the stomach
“You and I will accompany Simon as well.” Florence said.
“It’s just politics,” Simon said. “The publicity will be good for the cause and the campaign.”
“Politics. It’s always politics.” Fawn looked at Simon and then at her grandmother. “Can’t you two see you’re making things worse? You drive people apart instead of together.”
“Fawn, show respect,” Grandmother said.
“You said you didn’t want to come, Mattie, so when Wendy suggested we arrive together, I didn’t think it would be a problem.”
“It’s okay.” Mattie was injured, maybe critically, but she’d be damned if she’d bleed in public. “I’m going to bed.” She started upstairs.
“If Mattie isn’t going, neither am I.” Fawn followed her out of the room.
Mattie stood at the bedroom window and looked across dark fields punctuated by airport approach lights. In three days, they’d fly out from YVR, shining like a nebula in the distance. She was looking so forward to this vacation, now she wondered if it was even worth going?
She wasn’t angry, not even disappointed, just profoundly sad. In her heart she knew this day would come. In her heart, she’d hoped when it did, Simon would choose her. But what were his choices? Accept the exploitation and injustices of the past? Give up the fight for compensation, equality and a future without discrimination. Deny who he was?
She couldn’t ask him to do that. She didn’t want him to. And yet, she wouldn’t allow their love to be kept a bad secret because it inconvenienced opportunists and inflamed bigots. And she wouldn’t accommodate Simon if that was what he decided to do. When Mattie was growing up, there was no one telling her she was wonderful, remarkable, a special person who was capable of anything. No one had instilled confidence and nurtured self-esteem. And yet she had them. These character attributes had been earned through trial and error. It had been hard, often humiliating, sometimes expensive, but she was quick to cut her losses and always, always learned from her mistakes.
And, like anything difficult to attain, once you get it, you don’t readily relinquish it.
One thing for sure, she wasn’t going to take being shunned by Simon’s associates or banned from activities because of the color of her skin. There were a lot of the indigenous community who had no problem with intercultural, interracial relationships. People like Fawn and Simon’s parents. Then there were those like Florence. Simon would have to decide which constituency he wanted to advocate for; inclusion, equal but different, or exclusion, superior and separate. No doubt, Wendy Walters would factor large in his decision.
The issue of race would re-emerge unless one of them changed. And since Mattie didn’t see that happening, she doubted they could move forward from this. She’d always been realistic about relationships, but that didn’t make it any less painful when they ended.
When Simon came up Mattie was already in bed.
“Mattie, are you asleep?”
“I’m sorry how this worked out. I just thought–”
“Don’t talk, Simon.”
“Okay, but I just want to–”
“Sure.” Simon got into bed.
“And don’t touch me.”
Mattie felt sorry for Simon. He had no trouble standing up to bigots and rednecks, staring down cops in full riot gear or challenging officials at the highest level of government, but he was uncomfortable with confrontation on a personal level. He went to great lengths not to hurt or disappoint people and unlike her, was incapable of being mean or nasty.
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