Oh God, I’m so late! Willow’s car screeched into the employee parking area, and lurched to a halt as she swerved into a bay. I should not have stayed up so late with Jason and Anusha.
“Willow,” Christian’s voice called out as she slammed the car door shut. “Hold up a moment, please. I need to talk to you.” Christian lengthened his stride, and before Willow could respond, he stood in front of her.
“Hey, Christian. Can it wait? I’m already late for a meeting with Lucy.”
His shoulders sagged and he expelled his breath in a whoosh. “I suppose it can.” He turned away. “No.” He spun around and squared his shoulders. “No, it can’t wait. It’s important. I’ll cover for you; say you were helping me brainstorm some menu ideas.”
Willow leaned against her car “Oh, okay. Sounds serious. What’s up?”
Christian licked his lips as beads of perspiration trickled down his back. “I … I was wondering … wanted to know if … I like you, Willow. A lot.” He fiddled with his keys. “Can I take you out sometime? I’d really like to get to know you better.”
Willow’s pulse quickened as her eyes sprang wide open: a portrait of shock and disbelief. “I can’t.”
“You can’t date me?”
“Why? Because of our days at Lyons?”
Willow shook her head. “You’re a white boy, Christian. If I dated you, I’d do it to break your heart as revenge for apartheid.”
Christian stood dumbfounded, the words on his tongue unable to find a passage through his lips. However his eyes cleared when he noticed the sides of Willow’s mouth twitch. “You’re testing my bullshit barometer. But I have something that smashes your ridiculous reason.”
Willow burst out laughing. “It’s a great excuse though. I bet you three dates you can’t beat it.” Willow folded her arms across her chest, her lips chiselled into a smirk.
“Tell me what losing tastes like, since I’m just as coloured as you are. Blacker even.”
Willow stared at Christian; his eyes remained glued to hers, flecked with glints of humour. “Nice try, mister, but you’re whiter than Snow White.”
“Really?” Christian waggled his eyebrows. “With a white mother and black father? My father must have really loved my mother to let her genes dominate.”
“Oh … you’re … you’re actually serious. But how? I’ve seen your parents, at graduation. They’re like, milky white.”
Christian’s eyes narrowed as traces of anger flitted across them. “I was adopted. My mother’s parents shipped her off to an aunt in Canada and tossed me away. She was nineteen, in varsity. I was an embarrassment; not part of her plans for her daughter.”
“That’s awful.” Tears welled in Willow’s eyes. “I’m so sorry. But, your father, your biological father. Where’s he?”
“Overseas somewhere. Dead. Who knows? He didn’t know about me at the time, and if he found out, he never came looking for me.”
Willow felt as though her jaw hit the tarred parking surface. “Oh my God! I’m so, so sorry. And I thought losing my dad was the worst thing that could happen.”
“Don’t be sorry. It is what it is. I used to hate them, but imagine if I wasn’t half-and-half? Then I wouldn’t be going out on a date with you.” His smile stretched across his face, though his eyes still held a trace of sadness. “Three dates. Pick you up on Monday then?”
“I … I … ” Willow’s words stuck to her tongue.
“You’re looking forward to it?” Christian winked at her. “So am I.” And with a spring in his step, he cruised into the restaurant.
Very slowly, Willow entered Lucy’s office, her mind scrambled by her encounter with Christian.
Lucy heard the dragging feet and looked up. “You’re la–” she began but when she saw Willow’s dazed expression, she jumped up and rushed around her desk. “What’s wrong? Were you in an accident? Talk to me.”
“I’m going on a date …”
Lucy guffawed. “Unless it’s with a zombie, you’d better pull yourself together before the big day.”
” …with Christian.”
“I knew it!” Lucy grabbed Willow by the shoulders and hugged her. “I told you he likes you. But,” she said as she held Willow at arm’s length and searched her eyes, “why am I only hearing about it now?”
Willow looked at Lucy, her eyes unsure what emotion to latch onto. “Cos it just happened, now-now.”
Tell us: Do think it is okay for people to joke about issues of race and apartheid like this?