Because they were an interracial couple everyone assumed their relationship was lacking in substance.
People tended to put their own truth onto his and Kate’s relationship. Where he saw a young, fresh, self-assured, adventurous woman, his friends saw a gold-digger. What other reason was there for such a beautiful young white woman to be in love with a poor black boy. No other reason, except that he was the star player for the St. Lucas Lions and destined for the NBA and all that money. Everybody knew it, except him.
Where Kate saw, according to her, a tall talented, warm, generous, and protective man, her friends saw Mandingo.
Whenever they were out together in public, and they passed a group of college kids, he’d inevitably hear the whispered words, ‘Jungle Fever’, followed by knowing glances at his crotch and giggles. Her friends were always trying to fix her up with a more ‘suitable’ white guy.
What hurt the most, was how much people flat out disrespected them as a couple. It was a wonder, he thought, that they’d made it as far as they had.
His mouth formed a small upturned curl on the right side, as it so often did when he wanted to both sneer and smile at the same time. He did that whenever he thought of the story they’d concocted about their wedding.
They were married in a small private ceremony. At least that was the story he told at office parties, while Kate held his hand in hers and smiled lovingly into his eyes. While that was true, to some extent, it was not the whole truth. The whole truth was the ceremony had been small and intimate because all of their relatives had refused to attend.
They’d hoped to get some ‘real cash’, or at least enough to tide them over for a while, so invitations were sent to all their parents, relatives, and friends. Some of the invitations were returned unopened, others had scribbled across them, phrases like ‘sorry, we’re out of town that week’.
Kate’s father had called to say that if she married that boy, he would stop all financial support. Quoting Mr. Norman, he “had not scrimped and saved all of his life to send his daughter off to a decent school for her to marry some common ghetto element”.
His mother, the venerable Ada Walker had taken to her sick bed for days, having refused to even discuss her son’s upcoming wedding.
His mother was never an unnecessarily harsh woman, had none-the-less challenged him saying, “Boy, I know I schooled you better than this. You know better than to become mixed up with some white girl. They ain’t nothing but trouble. They start out all sweet and innocent and end up getting a black man lynched to protect their good name. And after all the stories I’ve told you about my upbringing in the south, you go and do something like this.”
None it had worked. For their weeding, Kate wore on of the new Quiana knit dresses in white with a ruffled bodice and sheer chiffon sleeves. He wore a navy blue suit he’d borrowed from his roommate and fellow St. Lucas Lions teammate, Jack.
Jack was the only person at his wedding he knew besides Kate. One relative from Kate’s side of the family, her aunt Mary Ellen, was in attendance. He remembered her aunt as a bold, gaudily dressed woman with bright red hair. She had spoken only with Kate, and indeed the two of them had seemed extremely close, hugging each other and exchanging air kisses on the cheek before and after the ceremony. Funny, thing though, Kate had told him all about her other relatives, but had never mentioned an Aunt Mary Ellen.
Jack had come to him later and complained that he’d tried to engage Aunt Mary Ellen in conversation, only to have his not-so-clever advances spurned.
Jack had advised him to keep Mary Ellen as far away from Kate as possible. Before leaving their small wedding reception that night, Jack had pulled him aside and whispered in his ear, “auntie is in drag’!