London, England 1895
Michelle Price walked through the park, her bonnet low on her head, talking politely with James Templeton, a man she was fairly sure would make an offer for her. With his chestnut brown hair, fair skin, and model good looks, Michelle thought others thought that he would be a good husband, but he just seemed too focused on himself. She figured that most women would be okay with that, but Michelle wanted love, communtication, and equality to be in her marriage, not for her husband to ingore her. Across the way, she saw an African-American man painting the park. She was surprisingly intrigued, and couldn't tear her gaze from him.
"Who is that?" She asked James, pointing discreetly.
"Do not point, Michelle," he sniffed, sticking his nose up slightly. "His name is Taye Phillips. He just moved here. I think his mother was a slave and his father a railroad worker. Somehow he managed to escape and came here, knowing we rarely take slaves anymore."
"Taye Phillips," she repeated, thinking the name somehow fit the artistic man.
"Michelle, don't go doing anything rash," he warned as he moved toward a carriage.
"Never," she told him distractedly, still watching Taye. "I'm going to stay behind; I see a friend and I wish to chat."
"Michelle, I do not think that a wise idea."
"You do not think anyhting I want to do is wise," she snapped.
"True, very true. because it is all silly. I cannot believe you managed to drag me out to the park. Fine, stay, but do not go talking to anyone you do not know," he said sternly, climbing into the carriage himself. She watched the carriage turn a corner, than walked to the other side of the park wheer Taye was standing.
As she got closer, she saw that he had short black hair in a buzz cut. He had muscle, like he worked lifting things a lot, but was a little on the skinny side. His eyes were hidden from her, but she thought they might be a warm, rich brown. His skin wasn't as dark as other African-Americans she'd met, instead very light, just looking like he'd tanned too much.
"Hello," Michelle said hesitantly, unsure that she should interrupt him. He looked up at her in surprise, and she noticed she was right about his eyes-they were warm and light and chocolatey.
"Hello, Miss," he said, tipping his head since he had no hat.
"I am Michelle Price. And you?" She asked, even though she already knew his name.
"Taye Phillips. I'm sorry, but I haven't got a seat or anything else to offer you. Is there something you would like?" He asked politely, setting down his paintbrush. He wiped his hands on his white shirt, which was splattered with more colors than Michelle thought existed.
"Oh, no, not at all. I just noticed you painting across the park and was intrigued." She sat down rather messily on the grass, not caring at all about that fact that she was ruining her new pale yellow dress.
"Oh, I see. I'm almost done with it," he said.
"It looks absolutely lovely," she said, admiring the colors. "If you do not mind my asking, you aren't as dark skinned as other African-Americans that I have met. Is there a reason for that?"
"I don't mind at all," he said with a slight chuckle. "My mother is African-American, but my father is French."
"Oh!" Michelle said surprised. "Well, that's quite interesting."
"Yes, most people don't expect it. After all, marriages wheer one person is a different race than the other is not at all common yet."
"Yet?" Michelle asked, curious as to what he meant.
"Yes. I have a feeling that one day far in the future inter-racial marriages will be much more common."
"Well that's an interesting thing to think. I am quite partial to the idea. I do not know why people are so close minded. What does skin color matter? It is nonsense how people are today. Sometimes I feel like I am trapped in the wrong time. Do you mind if I sit and watch you paint?"
"Not at all. Let me know if you need anything and I will fetch it for you."
Michelle sat for a long time watching Taye paint, creating his version of the park. The trees were slightly distorted, things out of place or missing and replaced by others. It was easily the greatest painting she had seen in her life, and was a little disappointed when Taye announced he was done. Michelle loved watching him create, painting the park through his own eyes.
"It's gorgeous," she murmured quietly.
"Thank you. Would you like it?" He asked, cleaning his paintbrushes.
"Very much, thank you." Michelle took the painting from him carefully so as not to smudge the paint.
"My pleasure. I'm glad you enjoy it so much." H epacked up, and just as he was about to levae, Michelle said his name.
"Can I meet you back here tomorrow? Around the same time?" She asked desperately, refusing to entertain the idea that they would neevr see each other again.
"Of course, Michelle." Her name coming from his mouth had never sounded more beautiful, and Michelle had never liked her name more than at that moment. "I will see you tomorrow." He left with that, and michelle caught a carriage, anticipating tomorrow more than she should.
Taye Phillips entered his house, thinking of Michelle Price. With her milky skin, startling red hair, and deep blue eyes, she was easily the most beautiful girl he's ever seen. He still couldn't believe that she had approached him, a man thought to be a runaway slave coming from an all African-American family. Soemtimes Taye thought life would be so much easier white, but then remembered how he needed to make people change their views and how being white would make him so plain and just like everyone else. Setting his paints down, he took a bath then ate dinner, all the while thinking of Michelle. He didn't know how she, a young woman that didn't have a care in the world, could think exactly some of the things he'd thought, like the living in the wrong year comment. He couldn't fathom how she could think like that when she had everything and more in the world. It just proved to Taye that she was nothing like all of the other Londoners he'd met so far.
He had come to London for a new start, ready to put his old life behind him. His father was a very important businessman, and his mother had her own fashion line. His family was very successful, but he had always wanted to paint, and although they didn't really like the idea, Taye's parents had accepted that he wanted to go to London to fullfill his dreams. As he cleaned his dish, he changed into his pajamas and climbed into bed, but knew he wouldn't be sleeping well. He put his arms under his head, and thought of his meeting-a rendezvous, he supposed-with Michelle tomorrow.
"Don't fall in love with her, taye," he warned himself severely before turning to his side and forcing himself into a light, restless sleep.