“Well, now I know you hate Las Vegas,” I began. “What else?”
“Well, the thing that was even harder than the move was growing up biracial. My mom’s family has lived in the New Orleans area ever since they were emancipated after the Civil War. Dad’s family is a little unconventional. His dad is from Quebec and grew up speaking French, while his mom is creole and grew up speaking French too. But if you heard them both speak, it sounds like two different languages. So my dad grew up speaking French and English, but it was this weird mishmash that was passed on to me too. I actually took French in high school because I thought it would be an easy grade, but they taught us ‘proper’ French, which was something else entirely.”
I cracked up at that, imagining fourteen-year-old Jada having her French corrected. Then a thought occurred to me. “You lived near the bayous, right? Didn’t other kids grow up speaking French too?”
“Yep! The French teachers were never very popular at school because none of them or creole or cajun and tended to come from Charlotte or Atlanta to pat themselves on the back as they taught us backwards bayou hicks.”
“Jeesh, that’s pretty typical, isn’t it?” I said. “Rather than teaching kids a language that’s part of many of their heritage, they pull that shit.”
“Colonialism at its finest, am I right?”
Jada shrugged. “The entire area is a hodgepodge of colonialism though, so I guess it’s hard to get mad about that and not get mad about worse atrocities that took place there but not others. Anyway, there were a lot of biracial people where I grew up so it wasn’t like I was alone in that. It was Las Vegas where my family got the worst of it. The racists in Louisiana don’t try to hide their racism, but in Vegas? It’s all back-handed compliments and folks believing racist things while vehemently denying that they’re racists.”
I scoffed at that. “Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Honestly, around here, it’s a bit of mixed bag. A lot of great people like the guys at the ranch. There are plenty of the outright racists, but a decent number of thinly veiled ones too. It’s probably because of the rez right there. I think that type is worried that they’ll say the wrong thing and tick off the wrong person.”
“That makes sense,” she said. “People are always surprised that there are consequences for their actions.”
Our conversation grew somewhat lighter during the rest of the walk to the lagoon, but I enjoyed it a lot. The more time I spent around Jada, the more I liked her. She’s such a warm, compassionate person and has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.
I could feel myself falling for her a little more each day and couldn’t help but wonder if Ben, Hank, and Ace were too. If they were, what would that mean for all of us? Did Jada even have feelings for any of us? If she did, would she be open to being shared?
But I was probably getting way ahead of myself. Jada hadn’t even been here that long yet and here I was, planning our hypothetical future together.
Ugh, what was wrong with me?
We finally reached the lagoon and the look on Jada’s face could only be described as awestruck as she took it all in.
“It’s gorgeous here,” she murmured. Jada turned to me and gave me the biggest smile I’d ever seen.
I couldn’t fight the smile that crossed my face. “I’m glad you like it. I thought you would.”
“I do!” she said eagerly. “Ben brought me down here to the lake when we finally hashed out our past, but I think I like this spot a little better.”
While I didn’t feel any competition with Ben, it still filled me with warmth that she liked the lagoon. I was happy to be the first one to share it with her.
We laid the blanket down on the shore and Jada lowered herself on the blanket. I joined her and began pulling containers from the cooler. I’d planned a crudités platter and began to put everything on the serving plate. Fresh grapes, cherry tomatoes, sliced bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli, homemade hummus, sliced cheeses and wheat crackers. Not to toot my own horn, but it looked damned good.
Jada squealed when the plate was completed. “God, Seki, it looks too pretty to eat!” Whipping her phone from her back pocket, she asked, “Do you mind if I take a picture? I want to remember this.”
“Of course,” I said, both pleased and a little embarrassed by her praise.
While Jada took her picture, I pulled a bottle of red wine from the cool and two glasses, pouring us each a glass. I handed Jada her glass and we tapped our glasses together.