How is love possible in a time of so much hate? How is trust possible in a time of deception?
It was the best of times and it was the worst of times for people living in the south. The year was 1953 and tension was high between the black community and the white community. They were living their lives based upon the Jim Crow Laws which was making peaceful living impossible.
In a small city just outside of Raleigh, NC segregation had taken its toll on people. There were daily fights between rival races and people were constantly checking the newspaper to see who had been killed or thrown into jail for violating the set racial restrictions. Every day was a hassle to get through and things were only getting worse.
Savanna Hamilton, a sixteen year old African American girl hated segregation. She hated everything about it. There were restrictions on everything and often times she received snide remarks from the neighborhood boys who thought they owned everything just because their fathers were well known and rich. At times life was hard and often unbearable but she held her head high and never let her emotions show up on her face.
She was raised in a household with her two parents, her grandmother, and her three brothers, and two sisters. She was brought up believing that she was not beneath anyone but that she was an equal to everyone.
It was a Thursday afternoon and Savanna had just gotten out of school and she was walking home with one of her school friends and talking about everything that had occurred that day. The girls chose not to ride the city bus to school but to walk because the buses were also segregated and in order for them to ride the bus, they would have to sit in the back where the Blacks could sit freely. "I hate walking to school every day girl" Savanna complained sitting down on the sidewalk to rest for a while before continuing the rest of the walk to their neighborhood. The girls had to walk seven miles to and from school everyday; they walked to school no matter what the weather was like, sunshine or rain.
"I told you we should just take the bus" Maria, Savanna's best friend said taking a seat next to her.
"I also told you that I am not sitting in the back of the bus, so until the change those stupid rules, Maria, I aint ridin that bus".
Maria rolled her eyes and massaged her left shoulder that her book bag was hanging from.
"I don't see why we should have to get the lower hand in things when we aren't any different, we all human" Savanna continued tossing a nearby stone onto the other side of the sidewalk.
"We better get going, if we want to make it home before dark".
The girls got up and continued walking down the road, stopping sometimes to admire neighbor's yards along the way. As the sun continued to set the streets became nosier and busier. Sun set was the time where everything came alive, people came out of their homes, parties were in action, riots were breaking out, and kids went out to the park. Sun set was also the time when people went around looking for trouble, harassing people, vandalizing property, and causing scandalizing uproars.
By the time the girls arrived in their neighborhood the sun had almost completely gone down. Savanna walked Maria to her house and then headed on down the street to her house. While Savanna was walking to her house she was stopped by some of the neighborhoods rich upper class white boys.
"Oh, look what the cat drug in. What happened was the bus not good enough for you" one of the taller guys asked shoving Savanna to the ground and knocking the books out of her hands. His friends laughed and high fived him like he had jus done something truly remarkable.
"Get out of my way, NOW!" Savanna ordered picking up her books and looking the tall guy straight into the face and not showing any signs of fear.
"What are you going to do if I don't "he replied grinning mischievously.
Savanna rolled her eyes and tried to plow past them with her elbow and shoulders but with no success.
"Is that all you got little girl" another one of the guys, who was very buff, laughed elbowing her in the ribs.
Savanna bit down on her lip and tried not to reveal just how much pain she was really in. Her insides were burning and she felt as if she was going to explode with anger.
Her grandpa had taught her before he died that violence was not always the last resort but in this case, she didn't see any other way to handle the situation. She weighed her options carefully in her head and then decided that in order to get around these big muscular guys, she would have to induce physical pain upon them. Savanna pulled back with all her might then pulled her hand forward and slapped the guy who had elbowed her. The slap beat against his face with such force when she pulled back her hand there was already a bruise developing on the reddened skin.
Savanna saw her escape passage and took it; she dashed between the guys and ran to her house. She could hear the guys screaming in fury and in humiliation. "You will pay for this little girl" one of the guys was screaming. Another one was saying he was going to tell his father about this, and the one who got slapped was pounding his fists together as if to say, you're dead meat.
Surprisingly, Savanna didn't care what they were saying at this moment. She was happy, shocked and proud of herself, so there was no room for any last minute regretting. Savanna walked into her house and headed up to her bedroom, she realized that the house was abnormally quiet so she went to her little sister, Sarah's room to see what was going on.
When she entered her sister's room she found her sister on her bed crying. Savanna rushed over to the weeping child and began to see what was wrong.
"Sarah what happened" Savanna asked rocking the little girl back and forth in her arms trying calm her down a little bit.
The little girl looked up to her sister, her eyes puffy, and her face stained with tears.
"It...its Tyler....he...he's in...j....jail" she said starting to cry again and her shoulder's shaking violently, "he... got in...trouble with the...police" she said between sobs.
Tyler was Savanna's little brother who always had a way of getting in trouble. He was a very charming young man but he chose to do things the way he wanted to do them and if he disagreed with something, he wasn't going to go and let his feeling go untold.
Savanna squeezed her sister as tears welled inside of her own eyes and began to fall off of her face. "Sarah, it's going to be okay, Tyler will be back soon, he is okay" she told her sister. It might have been better if she had actually believed what she was saying to her sister but she couldn't. The policemen were not nice people, and they definitely were not fair and if Tyler got in trouble with them, there was no telling the consequences he would have to suffer.
"Where is mommy and daddy" Savanna asked laying her sister back onto the bed and wiping away some of her tears with a piece of tissue. Sarah curled up into a ball and stared out at the wall which was painted a very dull shade of orange.
"They are downstairs...m...mommy told m...me to g...go upstairs s...so I haven't heard anything else" she muttered suppressing her tears so that she could talk.
"I'll be right back Sarah" Savannah said walking out of the room and running down the steps.
Downstairs, Savanna's mother and father were having a very in depth conversation about the problem at hand. "James, what are we going to do" her mother asked placing her hand on her head and sighing heavily. Savanna entered the room and took a seat next to her father who was drinking a large cup of apple juice.
"Hello Savanna, I see you finally decided to come home" he said kissing his daughter's forehead tenderly. Savanna loved it when her dad was affectionate towards her. Unfortunately, there was so many of them living in the house, her father rarely had anytime to spend with her. "Yeah, I... was talking to Maria" she replied not wanting to tell her dad actual story just yet. With everything that had already happened, she didn't think that it was a good time to mention what had happened on the way home.
"Savanna, Tyler is in jail" her mother blurted out her shoulders slumped down. Savanna's mother was a very strong women, she had to be, with times the way they were there was no room left to be soft and timid. "I know mom, Sarah told me" Savanna answered looking down at the floor and avoiding her mother's worried gaze, "so... what exactly did he do?".
Her dad got up and began to pace the room, obviously looking for something to say. Finally, after a few minutes, he seemed to have gathered the right words. "He was at the water fountain but the Black only fountain was out of order so he decided to use the White only fountain. Some dumb racist policeman came and told him to leave. He started arguing and now he is facing charges of violating the law and assaulting an officer", the words poured out of his mouth like a trash can over flowing with garbage.
Savanna gathered all the information that she had just been given and was left speechless. She knew her brother was rebellious but surely he wouldn't go and get himself arrested. She was at a lost for words, "So what is happening right now?" she asked unsure if the question was appropriate for the occasion.
"Well" her dad began, "he is being held on a $500 dollar bond. We are not in a financial state to jus go and bail him out at the moment". Savanna knew that already, James, her father, had gotten fired from his job a few weeks ago and money way tight enough as it was. They barely had enough money to buy the essential things they needed in their everyday lives.
"Tyler can leave jail in five months or we can pay the fine and he can get out a free man whenever we pay" her mother said tapping her foot on their wooden floor.
Savanna knew that the only thing they could do was to allow Tyler to serve his sentence. There was just no way they could bail him out and pay the bills at the same time. Savanna quietly exited the kitchen and went outside to stand on the porch and think. What gave them the right to arrest her brother when there was other people out their committing serious crimes. Did they hate them that much where they felt like they had to humiliate them in everything they did. How did life end up this way, why couldn't everyone just live their lives without being persecuted and ridiculed.
Savanna's thoughts were interrupted when one of the guys who had harassed her earlier began to walk up her driveway . He was the taller one of whom had begun all the commotion and was obviously the "leader" of the group of guys. What the heck could he want right now, what kind of trouble was he here to cause. As he approached her, Savanna's readied herself for whatever insult he was about to throw out at her. "What do you want?" Savanna asked stepping down off of her porch and meeting him halfway. "Cause look if you came her to start-"she continued but was cut off abruptly.
"I didn't come here to cause any trouble" he began putting his hands in his jacket pocket and glancing up at her nervously. "I came here to tell you how sorry I am to hear about your brother" he continued with all the sincerity he could muster up. Oh, of course, he would know since his dad was the head sheriff in charge of the prison, she thought.
"Your dad told you? Yeah, I bet he did come home to you bragging and crap telling you how he arrested my brother, so what?" She was getting mad now, how in the world did he think he could waltz up to her house, give a simple apology and expect everything to be alright.
"Look, I know you are mad and all but I just thought I should tell you that" he muttered backing up away from the house.
"You don't know s*** about what I am right now so stop pretending that you know or even understand my life" she yelled glaring at him, her eyes burning into his.
He began to walk away feeling rejected and dejected, why couldn't she comprehend that he was truly sorry. Savanna on the other hand could have cared less about the way he felt about anything at the moment. She walked back in her house and slammed the door behind her making sure to secure it and lock it. Savanna went upstairs laid down on her bed and eventually fell asleep.
The next day it was raining fairly hard and for the days forecast there was no chance of sunlight. Savanna made sure to pack a change of clothes so she could change out of her wet clothes and into something warm once she arrived at school. She met up with Maria along the way and told her everything that had happened the previous night.
"Those guys are idiots" she answered kicking stones out of the way and slopping through puddles. "But why did he come back to apologize later on I wonder" she thought aloud.
That was the same question that had been troubling Savanna the night before. Why did he come back? Did he really mean he was sorry? Had his apology been sincere? "I don't know why he came back " she responded wiping her face which was drenched in rain. As the girls got closer to the school the rain began to pour harder and by the time they arrived at school they were drenched.
The girls were late arriving for their classes and their teachers were furious. "Late again I see, Miss Hamilton" the teacher said marking her sheet that both of the girls were tardy. Savanna and Maria took their seats in the back of the classroom and quietly began their morning assignments.
After the morning fiasco, the day went by fairly smoothly, the rain continued on the outside, but inside students were hard at work. The day continued on and as each hour ticked away the students began to get more rowdy and disruptive. Maria, had managed to get herself detention for talking out of turn and Savanna had managed to get silent lunch for falling asleep during a boring movie on ancient Egypt that they were forced to watch.
Once school had dismissed, Savanna gathered her things and began to leave the classroom when she was stopped by her teacher. "Savanna, may I have a word with you" she asked stacking up the heap of papers that were strewn across her desk. Savanna sighed and headed over to the front of the room where the teacher was standing. What she could possibly want, Savanna thought. "Yes ma'am" she said standing in front of the desk waiting patiently.
"Oh yes, Savanna, I heard about your brother and I wanted to express my deepest sympathy towards your family" she smiled resting her oiling hand on Savanna's shoulder. "What is it that they are going to do to him" she asked trying to hide her nosiness. Oh of course she Savanna's business, get all the latest scoop, and then go discuss her findings with her friends over a game of cards.
"Ma'am I don't want to discuss that with you, that is personal business and I don't feel comfortable discussing my family life with you".
The teacher rolled her eyes and forced a smile that turned out appearing more like a smirk."Okay Savanna, but if you ever need anyone to talk to, I will always be here" the teacher sighed removing her hand from Savanna's shoulder and continued stacking her papers. Savanna exited the classroom and walked down the hallway. What gave her the right to snoop through Savanna's personal life. Didn't she have her own life to deal with without browsing through other people's.
Since Maria was in detention, Savanna walked home alone, the rain had lifted slightly but wind the wind had pick up and was now whistling and making trees sway from side to side. She passed by the rich private school that White Only. The school was made out of fresh brick and the grass was green and beautiful. The doors were massive and had glass window panes. The field was huge and the track area that was around the field was newly laid down. Why can't our schools look like that, she though admiring the statue in the front. The school was just letting out and students had just begun to start exiting the building.
Savanna picked up pace hoping to get past all of them before they had time to approach her or do anything to make her go off...again. A group of girls exited the school and headed in the same direction as she was going. Oh joy. Savanna didn't look back but tried to pay attention to what was in front of her and where she was trying to go.
"Excuse me, can you get off the sidewalk so we can walk" a voice from behind called up to her.
"No, we can both share this sidewalk" Savanna replied still not turning around to face the girls.
"I'm sorry maybe I didn't make myself clear. Get off of the sidewalk so we can walk" she said again, this time, adding more hostility.
Savanna turned around a faced the girls, they were all wearing the school uniform; White collared shirts, and blue skirts(girls), which were rolled up and the waist line transforming them into mini-skirts. The girls were all wearing make-up and had all kinds of jewelry hanging from their arms, necks, and ears. They were wearing black polished shoes and bow ties.
"I heard you, but I'm not getting off of this sidewalk. If you have a problem with me on the sidewalk then why don't you move off the sidewalk" Savanna responded glaring at the smallest girl who was giggling like someone had just told a funny joke.
"Look um...girl, I don't have time to waste standing around here talking to you so to make life easier why don't you just leave the sidewalk" the same girl said again checking her watch and sweeping a piece of her golden brown hair behind her ear.
Savanna turned back around and headed on down the road annoyed and slightly agitated. The girl who was talking to her before walked up to her and grabbed her by the shoulder turning her back around in her direction. "Get off the sidewalk" she ordered glaring madly. Savanna could have cared less, but the thing that had bothered her was the fact that she had put her hands on her and used force to get her way.
"Don't touch me girl" Savanna said brushing off her shoulder and placing her hand on her hip.
"I can do whatever I want to do" the other girl said, "but you on the other hand, if you touch me, you'll be in jail quicker than you can say "I'm innocent". So if you want to do something, just try me."
Savanna turned on her heels and marched away, hatred forming at the pit of her heart. After she was sure that they girls were no longer behind her, she slowed down and walked at a comfortable pace. She realized, now, just how long the walk was, since Maria wasn't there to talk to her. Her feet were aching and her mouth longed for a drink. Her stomach begged for food and her back was hurting from the heavy book bag that she has strapped to her back.
Once she was halfway home, and the sun began to set she rested on the curb. She wondered what Tyler was doing right about now and how he was being treated. All kind of thoughts were running through her head, like, if she would have done something to that girl, would Savanna be joining Tyler in jail right now and if all the students who attended that all White School were like those girls who she had met. Of course they couldn't be, could they?
As she was sitting on the curb, a black car pulled up to her. "Do you need a ride" the male's voice said. Savanna stood up to see who it was...the tall guy who had harassed her, the guy who had later come by to apologize, and now he was offering her a ride.
"No...I'm good" Savanna replied turning away from the car to continue her walk.
"I can take you to your house" he said driving slowly beside her. She wanted to ride, but, she couldn't bring herself to. It just wouldn't be right. He could take her anywhere, or do anything, although he wasn't a perfect stranger, he wasn't someone she knew. She couldn't trust him, could she.
"You will take me straight home?" She asked walking up to his car, trying to avoid he massive, blue eyes that could swallow you up in their beauty as if they were a ocean ready to carry you off and wisp you away. She had never been this close to him before and she had never seen just how handsome he really was.
"Yea...straight home, if that's what you want"
Savanna walked around to the other side of the car and opened the door. The car smelled new and the seats, which were leather, were shiny and clean.
"Nice car" she said taking a seat cleaning her shoes outside of the car before pulling her legs inside also.
"Thanks, I got it for my birthday... it was a gift from my dad" he replied speeding up and riding on down the road.
Savanna looked around and inspected the car, so his dad had gotten this car for him. "So, where are your friends she asked referring to the other guys who were with him the other day.
"They are still at school, they had tutoring. By the way, what's your name?" he asked making a left on the upcoming street.
"Savanna, what's yours"
"Okay. So I guess you got to that big fancy rich White Only school right up the street huh?" Savanna asked glancing out the window.
"Yeah, why you ask?"
"I walked past it on the way to my neighborhood, so I just figured you go would go there. Here is my stop"
Christopher stopped the car and let Savanna out at her house.
"Thanks for the ride" she said grabbing her book bag out of the car and stepping outside.
"No problem...so, um, do you have a ride to school tomorrow" he asked looking into her eyes.
"I'm going to walk" Savanna answered walking around to the other side of the car and heading to her house, "this was a one time thing".
Christopher sighed and continued on down the road. He couldn't stop thinking about her but why, he had a girlfriend, and he couldn't seriously like Savanna, could he. No, that couldn't be, they were different people, from two different worlds, they were separated by something that was irreversible. So why did he feel this way, why couldn't he get her image out of his head, why did he want to be with her, right now.
Savanna walked into her house hoping that she wouldn't be questioned on why she got home so early. Then she would be forced to tell her parents that she got a ride home, from the sheriff's son. Then, they would want the details, her father would be appalled and there was no telling what her mother would do. No, she wouldn't tell, she would just have to avoid that question all together.
She ran upstairs to her room and sat down on the floor. There had to be a reason why he rode her home. No sane white guy would just pick up a black girl off the street and take her home. What was his motive? Was he trying to use her to make a point? Was she over reacting? Savanna didn't know the answers to any of her questions. She would just have to wait and see.