Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coming Together: At Last, Vols. 1-2

From the Introduction by L.A. Banks:

If we are really thinking, feeling members of humanity, we are called upon to reach down into our souls to ask fundamental questions. Can one deny that the waters of Katrina or those of the dreadful tsunami refused to delineate between religion, ethnic heritage, age, or gender? Did helpers who scrambled to assist survivors weep less for an orphaned child because of that child’s hue? That’s not what we saw during and after the 9-11 disaster. We saw people of all races and origins rushing in to help, some even giving their lives for strangers. We saw love sublime, strangers helping strangers, just because it was the right thing to do.

Therefore, it seems that the only logical conclusion one can come to is that love, hope, passion, pain, suffering… all these things are a condition of being human, and are not conditional upon what type of human one happens to be according to labels. A baby crying pulls at one’s core, no matter what ethnic group that child was born into by the accident of birth… laughing children have that same effect. Tears shed for a profound loss also move us and break down walls. But if tragedies are so compelling, then let’s step back for a moment and peel away the layers to consider one additional level of awareness. If we can understand the cries that follow a bridge collapse in Minnesota, and/or any number of horrific events that have happened, why can’t we understand the colorblind nature of love?

From "Matilda's Touch" by Saskia Walker (Vol. 1)

Her hands working the dough, that’s how I always think of her. Her long, strong fingers coaxing the dough into life, giving it the ability to swell and blossom in the oven. The first time I saw her hands at work in the kitchen I knew, instinctively, that her touch would be firm and sensitive.

Matilda’s touch changed my life, but she led me to that touch slowly. She overcame my reluctance for human contact through an undemanding friendship, gentle and pure, and then she led me further.

It was 1961. I had just turned eighteen. My mother had sent me away from London to Fawcett-McLaughlin’s—a finishing school for young ladies—after the trouble at home. She had taken sides against me with her latest boyfriend, Jack. He was one of several, since my father had left us when I was fourteen. She didn’t really have time for a boyfriend—she was one of a rare breed in those days, a career woman.
Jack wasn’t much older than me and acted even younger. He was wily and slick, with a nasty streak that he never showed when my mother was around. The trouble came when he started picking on me, teasing me for being such a tomboy and not having a boyfriend. I called him a spiv when he called me a scruffy tart. My mother walked into the kitchen just as I flicked a spoonful of porridge over his smarmy face, assumed I was having a tantrum for no good reason, and packed me off to the school for the summer.

Jack would soon be gone, I knew that, and I was bound for Art College in the autumn, but my mother’s actions hurt. It was my last summer at home, and she had sent me away because she didn’t know how else to deal with the predicament. I felt ugly. I felt betrayed. I traveled the length of the country in silence, sat in the taxi from the station and looked at the dreary gray school building feeling numb and indifferent toward it. I sighed and wondered why life had given me so many things that were beyond my control.

From "Love Under the Endless African Sky" by Aliyah Burke (Vol. 2)

The harsh afternoon sun beat down upon the back of her neck as she leaned against the door of her old Scout. Wiping her hand across her forehead, she smiled at some of the locals.

“It’s really warm today,” she said, taking a drink of water.

“Yes, very,” a tall muscular black man answered in accented English.

“Let’s take a break for lunch, Taurean. Then we can dig and lay more pipe for the system after it cools down a bit. Especially since we have to go around that corner up ahead.”

“Sounds good. I’ll pass the word along.”

“Awesome.”

She reached through the open window of her Scout and grabbed a pad and pencil. Then she headed for the quickly-erected tent that had people hanging out, trying to get a break from the sun.

“Hey, Quanda,” she said as she took a bite of the fruit her friend handed her.

“Afternoon,” Quanda responded with a smile. “Going good?” she asked.

“Yes. Just taking a break. I’m going up around the bend to see what’s in store for us, so if anyone wants me, that’s where I’ll be.”

“Be careful.”

“Of course.” With a wave of her notepad, she headed off.

“Eddie! Eddie!” a voice yelled.

“Over here,” she hollered back, without turning around.

“There’s someone here asking for you.”

That got her to turn. Jevonte strode closer and behind him followed a man she didn’t know. She stood slowly as her gaze moved over the unknown man.

Powerful was the first word that popped into her mind. He stood tall and straight as he moved, as if unaware of his own fluidity. He wore dark khaki cargo pants and a light gray tee shirt. A shirt that hugged his muscular torso showing off his rippled abs.

Damn! Her gaze traveled up to linger on his face. Hard angles, sunglasses kept his eyes hidden, and there looked to be two or so day’s growth on his face. Nice firm lips.

“And who might you be?” she questioned, walking toward the duo.

“Henrietta Buxton.” He made it sound like a statement and not a question. His voice was smoky and gravely, setting her nerves on high alert.

A burst of laughter escaped from her. “Henrietta? Wow, not many call me that. But yes, legally that’s my name, although most call me, Eddie. What can I do for you, Mr. ...?”

He stepped closer and stuck out his hand. “Matthews, Ryder Matthews.”

Delightful shivers ran up and down her spine as his large hand closed over her smaller one. “Okay, Mr. Matthews. What can I do for you?”

He tipped his head to the side as if watching her. “I’m here to take you home.”