"Anya?"

"Hmm?" she stirred in her sleep, faintly aware that Tyrese was speaking to her but she was too tired to respond. He caressed her upper body the way he had done so many times before and grinned when he saw that Anya was now smiling, even though her eyes were closed. He kissed her lightly on the shoulder before he tried again. "Hey Anya, wake up I need to speak to you."

"You sure pick your moments Tyrese - who talks in the middle of the night?"

"We will, so turn around and face me." Anya turned around to gaze at him while sticking out her tongue to show her disapproval at being woken up in the middle of the night. Yet she smiled. Tyrese loved that smile. It was the same one that won him over the first day he met her.

They'd been going out for two years and he was now nineteen and sure than ever that Anya was truly the one for him. He thought about her day and night and made sure he would give her anything her heart desired. It was hard at first with him being black and her being white and because of that they faced a lot prejudice and snide remarks. No one called it racism but just the logic way of living. It was acceptable for white and black people to mix freely so long as they were just friends but once they were dating it were considered obscene. Tyrese was described as "not being able to do better than a white girl" and Anya was attacked with "trying to steal the black girls' belonging". Nevertheless their relationship was reluctantly accepted or at least it seemed that way, though 'the crowed' dared anyone else to follow their example.

Tyrese could have continued reminiscing about their past together if Anya hadn't become inpatient and snapped, "Tyrese, did you wake me up just for me to see you staring into space?"

"Sorry, babe." He kissed her tenderly and she soon forgot about her complaint.

"Anya, you know I love you, don't you?" she nodded in reply. "And that I'd never do anything to hurt you?"

"Yes, I know that Ty." He looked at her intently before grabbing his pants from the table and fishing out a ring. Anya beamed and squealed in delight at the sight of it.

"Oh Ty, are you going to propose to me in bed?" he laughed heartedly before saying, "Of course not. You gotta wait a few more years for that." He slid the ring down her middle finger. "This is to testify that I love you, trust you and will always be there for you."

Anya's eyes shimmered with tears. "Aw babe, you are sweet, and I feel the same way too. She kissed him on the cheek. "But don't go expecting a ring from me too!"

***

"Where've you been?" was Anya's welcome when she arrived home.

"I told you yesterday dad, I went to a sleepover at my girlfriends". He got off the couch and faced her. "You're a rotten liar, Anya Marie Anderson." He grabbed her with his strong arms and spat on her as he spoke. "Damn you girl, why do you have to hang around with that boy? Cos that's where you were - I know it." She smiled, not fully knowing why she did. Provoked by her smile he attempted to slap her and he would have if her mum hadn't intervened. "Frank honey" she said. "Please leave the girl alone. She's seventeen old enough to know what she wants to, so please let's stop these arguments and come and have dinner." Anya smiled at her mum to show her appreciation and her mum's eyes reflected understanding. At least she knew someone else was on her side.

***

Two days later Anya was waiting impatiently for Tyrese who was already half an hour late. No matter how much she loved him she wasn't willing to freeze to death and the cold November weather wasn't giving her any reason to stay. Just as she was about to turn back home, she saw the shadowy figure of Tyrese walking towards her.

"Where've you been, Ty? I've been waiting for you for ages." He didn't reply so she immediately sensed something was wrong. "What's wrong baby?" she asked softly, and reached out to grab his hand. That's was then she realised that his hands were slightly covered in blood.

"Tyrese what's going on?"

"Nothin' to worry about girl, I just got into a small fight, that's all." Anya looked at him disapprovingly before she fetched out a clean handkerchief and wiped the blood of his hands.

"And why, may I ask, did you find it necessary to get involved in a fight?"

"For you." She stared at him questioningly before he continued, "I bumped into someone and we started talking but soon enough the conversation turned to about me and you. He started saying nasty things about you and I wouldn't have it. He wouldn't stop so I gave him what he deserved." Anya looked at him in the eyes and said, "You don't have to get into fights because of me." He embraced her before saying, "Ain't no one gonna disrespect my girl, no one." Anya hugged him back and with all words said, they both lost themselves in a deep, passionate kiss.

***

Straight after class Anya made her way to the toilet and was met by a gathering of girls.

"Why, if it isn't the nigger-loving girl who's standing before us," said one of them, her comment immediately putting Anya on guard.

"What do you want?" she asked, clutching her back even tighter.

"Oh no girl, that's not the right question. The question is what do you think you're doing, going out with a black guy? Ain't those good for nothing white ones good enough for you, huh? Do you really think you can compete with us black girls, do you? Cos let me tell you now you ain't nothing but sleazy white trash, ya hear?" Anya didn't respond but tried slowly to reach for the door.

"Oh no, you don't", said the gang leader. Suddenly they all rushed at her and Anya found herself being seized by the hands, leaving her unable to move. She started to scream but quickly stopped when one sharp blow was delivered to her abdomen, leaving her unable to breathe. She gasped in pain when the second blow was delivered to her face. As the third and forth came, along with several others, Anya wondered if she was going to make it through.

***

Tyrese wandered in front of Anya's house, wondering why he hadn't seen her for a while. He was tempted to ring the doorbell and ask for Anya but when he glanced at the driveway he saw Mr. Anderson's BMW, which meant he was home. Knowing he wouldn't be welcomed, Tyrese made his way to the back of the Victorian style house and climbed the nearby tree to reach Anya's window. He heard sounds coming from her room so he figured that she was inside. When he finally got to the window he was shocked to see Anya's mother inside. She looked straight at him, showing no sign of being surprised to see him.

"Well come in, it can't be comfortable hanging on the window, can it?" Tyrese got in, carefully watching Anya's mum, not knowing what to expect.

"W-where's Anya, Mrs. Anderson?" he finally managed to stammer out.

"Poor girl's at the hospital darling, after being severely beaten up at college." She saw alarm in his eyes and was quick to reassure him. "Don't worry, it's not that bad she just had to have a few stitches on her eyebrow and they had to check over her stomach just to make sure she has no internal damage." Her tone suddenly changed to a much grimmer one. "I believe the reason for the attack had something to do with you two seeing each other." She looked at him meaningfully and Tyrese had the impression she was sending him a silent message, which was asking him to stay away from her daughter.

"Could you please tell Anya that I came by?" he said, avoiding looking at her eyes.

"Yes, of course" she replied, her tone flat. Tyrese mumbled a quick thank you before getting ready to descend down the window.

"Oh don't you worry Tyrese, my husband is sleeping so you can quietly go down the stairs and exit through the front door." With that, he silently followed her out of the house, while thoughts of Anya kept circling round his mind.

***

Tyrese waited patiently by the pond. After speaking to Anya and making sure she was ok, they had agreed to meet. Tyrese sat on the grass and not long after he saw Anya coming. He was shocked by what he saw. Her face was totally bruised, her eyes a colour he had never seen them before. Her lower lip was badly swollen along with the right side of her cheek.

"Don't look at me as if I'm a monster, Ty" Anya said, turning her face away. Still she sat next to him.

"I'm sorry. It's just I didn't expect it to be this bad." He touched her face softly and then asked, "Does it hurt?"

"No, not really. Not when you touch it." He hugged her close and started speaking.

"You know An, I had this dream yesterday. You and me were walking down the middle of this long tunnel and it was very dark. On either side of the tunnel there were rows of people shouting and sneering at us, trying to attack us." He paused, held her hand and continued. "Even though it was hard, me and you just kept on walking and walking until finally we saw a bright light, telling us we had reached the end of the tunnel. And when we passed through, all the people disappeared and we were surrounded with beautiful things that brought us happiness." He turned to face her. "I think that right now me and you are passing through the tunnel and being attacked by everyone, but if we stick together, we will get to see that light." He looked into her eyes, and in them he saw reflected the same emotions that he was feeling. They continued gazing at each other, and Tyrese felt he couldn't have fallen in love with anyone more beautiful, despite the fact she was covered in bruises. "Right now we'll just keep walking girl, walking and waiting for the end of the tunnel."