the bittersweet

Purple isn’t so bad, she supposes. It’s not fragile, not in the way pink is, and it’s not the creamy and enviable pure of ivory.
It isn’t perfect like the acceptably smooth mix of caramel and cream.
Even brown like melted milk chocolate isn’t so bad.
It’s that, the not-quite-brown definitely-not-black. The bittersweet. The darkened purple hue.
That is what they hate.
She thinks it before they whisper it; they whisper it aloud so that she can hear. Testing the others. She wonders if she really thought it first, if she dreamt it up.
It won’t matter in the end.
The sentencing is carried out regardless.
When she flinches they strike, their venom oozing from her.
They lap up her pieces.
Yes. She will do.

She stares at her mirror in the dim light and squints. Making herself fuzzy she can almost lose the purple. The door swings open and the unforgiving rays of a spring sun pierce the veil of the place that hides her.
“Purple isn’t so bad,” she pleads with herself, all the while scrubbing until it bleeds.
She scabs and waits to pluck them. She stares longingly at the innocent pale beneath praying that it will take.
It won’t. It will turn.
Her hair is course and dry and withers down to her scalp. She pulls at it angrily, wanting to weigh it down as it weighs her down. The symbol of theirrage/theirgrief it is another strike against her.
She is a leper: Midnight. Blackie. Shadow.
She is the least of them and they brand her.
At least.
At least I’m not black like…
…smile Blackie!

They hate her.
They hate themselves.
But they hate her most of all.

Her hips are wide and her grandmother threatens her they will spread. Her lips are plump and they numb from the length of time she sucks them between her teeth.
Her nose is wide, too.
They line up to strike her, one after the other. Tarbaby. With her blood they inoculate themselves.
She leaves without a goodbye. They wonder about her. What was her name? She was too black.
They fidget and look for her. Where has she gone?
After a while they accept her absence.
After longer they circle, vultures, searching in their midst for another.

He tries to invoke her memory and her shadow and it stays his sentencing, but only briefly.
Even if he isn’t, he is.
Purple. Ugly. Darkest.
“Purple isn’t so bad,” he reasons. They don’t believe him.
They stone him with their words, stone him past bleeding and scabbing.
They don’t want the blood. They don’t want fear.
They crave the fragility of the pink beneath.

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