She was proud. That much she knew. Lying in the hot Italian sun she turned once again watching as the world whirled and became submerged in the rose tint of her pink sunglasses. She smiled to herself hearing the screams of her friends as they splashed in the water becoming teenagers once again.
Your pride will ward off every man like a bad omen. He had said, smug black face shining in the sun as he looked down at her like a plate of rotten food. Had it been possible to spontaneously combust she would have done then. Bursting into a million drops of seawater and melting back into the ocean she loved so much. But she had laughed though her face burned from embarrassment turning her dark black skin into a mosaic of brown. Later she sat in the choked silence of her bedroom, staring at nothingness as the grief within her bubbled up her throat making it too difficult to cry. It seemed even her tears wanted leave of her.
She turned over the memories now, running her fingers across them though they still stung. Not because she still loved him but because she wished she had loved her younger self. Forgetting that though lovers would come and go she would always be left in her own company. She smiled with pleasure feeling the sun on skin left uncovered by her bikini.
“What are you thinking of ya amar?” a familiar voice asked. She turned to her girlfriend, taking off her sunglasses.
“How far I’ve come,” she said before she could even think, so affected by her love for Faiza she could not contemplate a better answer. Her girlfriend’s dark brown eyes smiled though she herself said nothing but stroked Khadija’s cheek. Though they had lain together many nights, Khadija still marveled at the beauty of the meeting of their skin. Faiza’s almost black limbs and Khadija’s own date-colored ones made a kaleidoscope of two different shades of black beautifully twirled together.
“My love you changed my life,” Khadija said. Her girlfriend smiled almost imperceptibly, opening her mouth to say something. Suddenly Faiza’s face rippled like the surface of a pond a bored child had skipped rocks over. Khadija reached towards her girlfriend as Faiza’s warm face was pulled away from her by invisible hands. Stretching out with all her might to grab a life and lover never hers.
She woke up drenched in sweat. Khadija turned, feeling his body heat next to her in the already sweltering air. He had claimed her as his own years ago when she was too naïve to know some roses — no matter how pretty their petals — smelled of nothing but poison and bad love. The kind of love that belonged to dark motel rooms wrapped in cigarette smoke and old birdcages painted with layers of dust by years of abandonment in a backyard shed. Suddenly looking at him she knew this thing between them had never been love.