By Ruby Joy White
AFO Guest Contributor
Ruby Joy White (She/Her/Prince), is a dazzlingly-extra, Sapphically-Inclined Black Cisgender Tomboy, originally hailing from the Rocky Mountain state: Colorado. She is a writer-violinist-dancer-Sagittarius who loves flowers, music, reading, antiquing, cleaning, cats, water, being out and about, bumpin' Trap Music, creating stylish looks, and talking about anything and everything Blackity Black Black, sociological, Queer/Sapphic, agape, Drake, and lipstick. She is based in Portland, OR.
***This piece is Part I of (title) story, to be released in monthly installments. Stay tuned for the next installment in our July Issue!***
Steaming, Tea set down the fresh cup of hot chocolate and sighed. Still wrapped in the damp towel from her afternoon shower, she walked over to the rainy window and stared into the storm. With the heat from the cup pressed to her now pruny hands, she felt the warmth of defeat roll down her cheeks as jolts of fear played the abnormal heartbeat she had grown accustomed to over the last year. Should probably see a doctor for it, but oh well, she thought. Tea checked her clock: “8:27 p.m.” it read, in glaring LED lighting. Time shook its head at her. An hour ago, she should have been letting out adolescent giggles, her hands tattling on her anxiety as she dined on a seafood spread at Lola’s, one of the last Black-owned joints in her now recolonized city. White Stares accompanying her joy as she sat across from the handsome and boyishly sweet Cy. As they stared at each other, their stomachs flipped, quietly expressing secret delights.
“Ah shit, sorry!” Tea exclaimed, bumping into a woman with a thick, curly ponytail. As always, she was walking with a tall stack of books, three of them falling onto the tip of the woman’s boot. Tea rushed to pick them up, attempting to hide the fact that she’d planned to bury herself in novels for the next week, to sink away from the wretched pain she’d consistently felt for a year.
“You’re OK,” the woman said, chuckling. “But, do you need some help?” Tea caught a whiff of the woman’s cologne—subtle and sweet.. Of course she’s fucking wearing cologne, Tea thought.
Begrudgingly, Tea accepted, and found herself unable to look the woman in the face. Together, they made their way through the rows of humanity’s dusty handprints, up to the librarians’ checkout counter. “Thank you,” she said to the woman.
“Back again?” said the glasses-faced, pale White Woman whose wardrobe played the role of 1800s seminary mistress. Her skin so pale, it seemed cold.
Tea gave a half smile and handed her bent library card to the mistress.
She could feel the smile of the woman who still stood next to her, the stack of books now on the checkout stand. Tea silently questioned why the woman had even stayed there, and dared not think the reason that began bubbling in her stomach.
“Uh, thanks again for the help, uh?” Tea said extending her hand, realizing she didn’t know the woman’s name. The Mistress handed Tea’s card back, which she quickly jammed into her pant pocket.
“Cy, my name is Cy,” the woman said. Cy continued to stare Tea down, reading the trembles in Tea’s hands as social anxiety or something else. The longer she held it, more Trembling…it was something else.
“Cy, thank you.” Tea turned back to the checkout counter, hoping Cy’s smile would stop burning a hole in her back. She was afraid of the darkness it’d expose, possibly sending Cy running for the door. But with it, the bubbling reason in Tea’s stomach.
Cy stayed put by Tea’s side through an awkward exchange between the book scanner’s beeps and Tea’s heartbeats. Each beep increased Tea’s beats and she was sure she would soon faint until, “These are due in 21 days. Use our online services if you need to renew anything. Have a good day, see you next week,” said the Mistress. The Mistress’ smirk annoyed Tea, but she collected her stack and began to walk away.
“Hey, wait,” Cy caught up to her. “That’s all?”
Did this Foo’ want a tip or something? Tea caught herself thinking. What does she want.
“I’m sorry? That’s all what?” Tea asked Cy.
“You never told me your name. I told you mine,” Cy chuckled.
There it was, the trick of a smile Tea had fallen for before. The charismatic smile crafted of lips that once whispered, “I love you” into her ear as the sweat of lovemaking surrounded her in a pool of lies. The pool she nearly drowned in once she discovered that her love had betrayed her, by igniting another woman’s aural delights.
I can’t do this. I don’t want to do this, Tea thought. And the wave of anxiety began to wash over her. She felt her lunch threaten to take hold of her throat, and made a cool turn for the door, leaving Cy intrigued and confused.
Like each night for the past week, Tea lie awake willing herself to sleep. Thoughts of her ex-Love consumed her, haunting her eyelids open each time they started to go black. Insomnia had replaced the hours of rest she’d needed to stomach the lies she’d constantly served her loved ones while they interrogated about her true well-being. Between the flashes of lips and “I love you,” Tea kept visioning the smile she’d met at the library. It’d been two weeks since she encountered Cy, and she couldn’t shake her sweet scent from her nostrils. She’d left the scent of hope, or something. Tea couldn’t figure it out. Tea squelched the thoughts of a New, and pulled the covers over her head. Her body became limp as liquid sadness drained from her eyes, its steady stream the only thing convincing her she was still alive.