One Year Later

Accordions played and wash-boards were strummed as couples danced, whirling energetically to the lively music. Even little Camille, barely over a year old now, responded to the joyous cadence, clapping her hands as her dark eyes twinkled with excitement.

"She's gonna be a real beauty when she grows up," said Andre, who sat beside me. "I'm gonna hafta really fight the boys off. I can see it right now."

His recovery from the savage beating had been a slow, arduous process. He'd had to learn to walk, to tie his shoelaces, to perform many simple tasks he'd done for almost his entire life, all over again. He still walked with a slight limp and often had a difficult time remembering things.

My mother had adhered to her story that Bruce and his friends had been at her house at the time Andre had been attacked, refusing to relent under even intense questioning. I knew in my heart that Andre had recognized his attackers, and I'd never be able to forgive her for her betrayal. As soon as Andre had been well enough to travel, we'd returned to his home in Louisiana. His great uncle had recovered sufficiently that he no longer needed as much assistance as he had before, and besides, it was doubtful that Andre would ever be capable of the heavy manual labor he'd previously performed anyway. He was now in training to become a mechanic.

I loved living in Louisiana. Its culture seemed more varied and colorful than that of Alabama, and I enjoyed being introduced to new customs, styles of music, and food.

I was also getting to know Andre's extended family on both sides. His grandfather on his mother's side told me many stories of how his own parents and grandparents had worked as slaves on the plantations of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, of how he'd been one of the first generation of his family to be born free in 1870. His grandmother on his father's side told me stories of growing up in Quebec, of how cold the winters were, much colder than the winters here, of how her ancestors had been fur traders with the Indians. She taught me how to prepare many delicious Creole meals. Gumbo became one of my favorite dishes.

After what had happened to Andre, and the outcome, I broke all ties with my family in Montgomery. Martha was pregnant at the time we moved away, but I never found out whether she had a boy or girl, nor did I care.

The one thing I did care about was my precious Camille. I wanted her to grow up in a world in which people cared more about who she was on the inside that what she looked like on the outside, a world in which she could drink from any water fountain she wanted, eat at any lunch counter she wanted, ride any bus she wanted whenever she wanted, and go to any school she wanted to attend.

Andre and I both had faith that that day would come, if not in our own lifetimes, then in hers.