The Gray Area

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Chapter Two

On that very Thursday, I sat outside Daniel's Candy Shoppe and waited for Sarah's arrival in the hot spring sun. My left hand fiddled with the money in my sienna brown corduroys, as my other adjusted the collar of my beige dress shirt.

Daniel was the owner of the store and ran the front all by himself. He was an honest man who was as against the segregation of African Americans as Sarah was. A white man, with a medium build, and always well-groomed - he was the epitome of what it was like to be a true gentleman. His demeanor was as sweet as the candy he sold. Most, if not all, the whites in the surrounding area accepts his promises that he is in no way against the way we are treated, and they even use the sign he places in the window that reads 'Whites in front. Colored in back' as a signature to that promise. He has to do that to keep the business safe.

"Hi, Raymond," a familiar voice called out to me. I turned to face her. There she was. Sarah was dressed in beautiful garb; she wore a dress that hugged her figure nicely. The top consisted of thick, baby blue stripes that stopped at the waistline of the dress. A baby blue ribbon separated the waistline from the top. Below that was a white, poofy skirt that fell just below her knees. A white petticoat peeked just beneath the edge of her skirt.

I smiled at her, then followed with a greeting, "Hello, Sarah." She returned the smile.

After exchanging a few words, we stepped inside the shop. I held the door open for her, and then gently shut it to not disturbed the peaceful environment. Once inside, the aroma of fudge, candy, and other sweets filled the air. The dark wooden floors fit the theme of pastels and pinks of the store. Red booths lined the edge of the store and wrapped around the interior until it reached a counter where there were red barstools. Just beyond the counter was the display case with an array of offered goods, and behind that was a shelf complete with jars of even more.

Daniel waved hello and observed us as we found our seats. We decided to choose one at the counter. I sat beyond a line that was marked on the floor, and Sarah found her seat right next to mine that was on the opposite side of that line.

"It's so great to see you again, Sarah!" Daniel said as he cheesily smiled. There was a gap between his teeth. He didn't look much older than twenty.

"You too, Daniel," Sarah retorted. I watched the exchange.

Daniel paused for a moment, then spoke again as he wiped down our part of the counter, "How's everyone at home?"

"Okay," Sarah responded. "Since spring has finally sprung, and you've reopened for the season, we've been more than excited to get back to being regulars here." I adored her kindness.

"Good to hear. I'm happy you guys enjoy my sweets so much!" Daniel then turned to me. "Happy to see you here as well, Raymond. How's Susanne?"

The last time I was here a year and a half ago, I brought Susanne with me. She kept pointing out all the sweets she wanted, but I refused to buy them because we only had a dollar and some cents to spend. Daniel noticed and decided to give us one pound of fudge Susanne really wanted for free.

"She's doing really well," I said as I smiled at him.

"That's great to hear," he responded. "Now, what can I get for you guys?"

I proceeded to get up and motioned for Sarah to follow me to the display case. There was a lot of options; different types of fudge, a variety of flavored taffies, several multicolored mints with different patterns, as well as some smaller cookies with a chocolate dimple in the middle. On the shelf, there were candy wafers, rock candy sticks, lollipops, little chocolate rolls, and bubblegum.

Sarah seemed she knew exactly what she wanted, and ordered a few rock candy sticks, bubblegum, and a cookie. I waited a moment before I made my choice, and when I did, I ordered an eight ounce bag of fudge.

“Great choices!” Daniel exclaimed. He made his way to the sweets and started preparing them for us.

We went back to our seats quietly. There was an awful silence, but I broke it. “Why?” I asked.

“Why what?” she responded as she tapped her fingers on her money and looked at me. Sarah knew what I was asking about.

“Why did you decide to do what you did?”

“Oh, Raymond,” she laughed. “You’re a bright and understanding individual, and you serve as a wonderful example of what promising people African Americans are.”

I was taken aback. To be honest, I didn’t quite know how to react - should I feel disrespected? It felt like such a back-handed compliment in a way. Sarah took notice in my confusion.

“I mean, you’re an admirable person!” She smiled kindly.

“Why thank you,” I said, rather pleased by her statement.

“There is such a negative connotation surrounding minorities nowadays - it’s not fair. Like I said the other day, we can break that mold; Whites can be friends with blacks, hispanics, and even purple people!” Sarah was openly passionate about her perspective. Now she was an admirable person indeed.

Before I could respond, Daniel pushed our order towards us. “Are you two seperate?”

“Yes,” I said as I pushed my few bills towards him. Sarah did the same. I grabbed the bag and we started to leave.

“Hey, Raymond,” Daniel called out. My eyes shot towards him. “If you ever need anything, please let me know, okay?”

I smiled at him. “Thanks, Danny.”

When we stepped outside, the sun was much hotter than before. It’s golden rays touched every surface as we walked down the sidewalk with no particular place to go.

“Aren’t you scared?” I asked Sarah curiously.

“About what? That I’m hanging out with you?” She said as if I were dumb. “You’re a person. With thoughts and feelings. I am too.”

People fed us dirty looks from every which way. Some didn’t even give us the time of day. Those who did stare, their eyes pierced into my skin like a hot burner would if I touched it. I didn’t like it. I didn’t want Sarah to be hurt because of me.

I stopped abruptly. In a minor panic, I grabbed my small bag of fudge, and handed the bigger bag to Sarah. “I should go,” I said.

“Why? Are you okay?”

“Yeah, just,” I paused, “enjoy your sweets, okay?” Smiling, I turned off and speed-walked the rest of the way home.

Once I reached home, the guilt nearly suffocated me. I felt so bad leaving her, but I can’t handle those looks - they made me feel like some sort of pest. They’re right; I don’t have the privilege to do what I want, what Sarah wants, and judging by those stares, that will never change.

I stepped inside the house. Momma was gone, and there was another lady that took her place to take care of Susanne like usual.

“Hi there,” I greeted.

Ms. Labeaux looked up from doing Susanne’s hair. “Oh, hi there darlin’,” she said. Her dark eyes drew to the bag with Daniel’s signature on it. “You’ve been around Daniel’s!”

“Yeah,” I said. “You and Susanne can split it if you want.” I tossed the bag to them.

“Thanks bubba!” Susanne exclaimed.

“Thank you, Ray,” Ms. Labeaux said. She turned back to Susanne and continued braiding with her dark chocolate hands. “After we finish your hair, we can eat it.”

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