For the first time in his life, Maxwell was in love. The problem was–his family wouldn’t approve. Why? The object of his affection was a very dark skinned Nigerian woman. He was a light skinned black man with blue eyes whose parents were light skinned blacks from Barbados. He always had a weakness for dark women although to please his parents, he dated the light skinned ones. This woman was absolutely stunning but he knew that his family wouldn’t see past her color. Even his friends when they saw him checking her out at the party where they met, they told him, “Man, she’s way too dark. There are so many gorgeous black women here to choose from and you had to pick out the darkest one.”
Of course, he ignored them and walked up to her, his heart racing with nervousness and excitement. She turned and it seemed like his heart stopped. This close she was even more breathtaking. Her beautiful eyes mesmerized him and her skin looked smooth and flawless. The black cocktail dress hugged her perfect body and the strappy black sandals she wore accentuated her long and shapely legs. She wore a jeweled choker around her slender neck.
“Maxwell,” he said, holding out his hand.
She put her hand in his. “Adaolisa.” They shook hands.
“That’s a pretty name. What does it mean?”
“Adaolisa, you’re a very beautiful woman.” I think you’re the most beautiful woman here.
She smiled. “Thank you. And you’re a very handsome man with the most amazing eyes I’ve ever seen.”
He blushed. “Thank you. I detect an accent. Where are you from?”
“Nigeria. I moved from Lagos to London when I was seventeen to attend university. I stayed with my aunt until I graduated and found a job.”
“You speak English very well.”
“Actually, English is my first language and the official language of Nigeria.”
“Have you been back since you left?”
“Yes. I visit my family every Christmas.”
“Are you here alone?”
She nodded. “Yes. You came with your friends.”
So, she had noticed him long before he approached her. That pleased him. “Why don’t we get something to eat and then find somewhere to sit?” he suggested.
“All right.” They went over to the elaborate buffet table and helped themselves to the spread. They went out on the terrace, found a corner where there were a couple of chairs and sat down.
“Which university did you go to?”
“Now I wish that I went there instead of Oxford and then we would have met sooner. Why did you study at Cambridge?”
“How you like living in England?”
“I don’t mind it because I love my job and I have a lot of friends. What really bothers me, though, is the prejudice that exists among blacks. The lighter skinned women, especially, turn up their noses at me and they get upset when their men look at me. I think too, that they don’t like me because I’m African.”
Maxwell shook his head. “It’s a shameful thing when prejudice exists within the black community,” he said. “Growing up in Barbados, I was exposed to bigotry. My sister was bullied because she wasn’t dark enough and I watched light skinned children ridicule the dark skinned ones. Many times I got into fights standing up for myself, my sister and my friends. There was a girl who lived next door to my grandparents whom I liked and I used to hang around her. My grandfather who was much lighter than me didn’t approve and used to say to me, ‘She’s too dark.’ He told me that all the men in our family married light skinned women so that the next generation would be lighter. I loved my grandfather but I was ashamed of his ways. Unfortunately, my parents are the same way. When I was a teenager I used to date light skinned girls to please them but that changed when I went to university.”
“So, your parents wouldn’t be pleased to see you talking to me,” she commented.
“No, they wouldn’t be. But it doesn’t matter. I’m a grown man. I like you Adaolisa and I want to get to know you better.”
“It’s sad to see blacks discriminate against each other. It only polarizes the communities.”
“It does. And it polarizes families too. My younger brother married a German woman whom our parents welcomed with open arms and they dote on their Caucasian looking grandchildren. My sister, however, is somewhat of a disappointment to them because she fell in love with and got engaged to Omar, a Senegalese man. It doesn’t matter that he’s a great guy, loves her and treats her like a queen, all my parents see are his color and his nationality.”
“There are many shades of love. Your brother chose one shade and your sister another. All that matters is that they’re happy with their choices.”
He stared at her, admiration glinting in his eyes. Not only was she beautiful but she was wise. He knew he had found a treasure tonight.
They changed the topic and talked about other things until it was time to leave. “May I give you a lift home?” he asked, hopefully.
She nodded. “Yes, thank you. I’ll be right back.”
After she left, he rejoined his friends. “Where have you been, Man,” Trevor asked.
“He’s been with the Nubian,” Colin chimed in.
“So, are we still heading over to the Road House to catch the game?” Nigel asked.
“I’ll pass,” Maxwell told them. “I’ll see you guys at the game on Friday.”
“He’s brushing us off because of black beauty.”
“Her name is Adaolisa. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I don’t like to keep a lady waiting.” He turned and walked away, his heart and steps quickening when he saw her standing there, waiting for him.
That was two years ago and now, here they were on their way to see his parents before they went to their favorite restaurant where he was going to propose to her. It didn’t matter to him what his parents thought. He was madly in love with this woman and wanted to spend the rest of his life with her. She looked exquisite in the dark red dress with the spaghetti straps. Unable to resist, he reached over and caressed her shoulder with his knuckles. “Are you nervous?” he asked when she looked at him.
“A little,” she admitted.
“Don’t worry, I will be there. As soon as I see that things are getting uncomfortable for you, we will leave, okay?”
“Okay.” She seemed to relax and a slight smile tugged at her mouth. She turned to look out of the window.
Five minutes later, they were pulling up in front of a very charming cottage nestled among climbing rose bushes. He held her hand as they walked up the driveway. When they were standing on the step in front of the door, he turned to her and asked, “Ready?”
She nodded. Her grip on his hand tightened imperceptibly.
He rang the doorbell and waited. It opened and his father stood there. “Hello, Son,” he said, shaking Maxwell’s hand. Then, his eyes shifted to Adaolisa. “Good evening,” he said, extending his hand.
Adaolisa shook his hand. “Good evening.”
“Please come in,” he said, stepping aside. His manner toward her was polite but there was no warmth. “Your mother is in the living-room.”
After they removed their shoes, they went to the living-room. His mother was sitting by the fireplace. She stood and went over to hug him. “It’s good to see you, Maxwell,” she said. “It has been a while.” When they drew apart, she looked at Adaolisa. “How do you do?” she sounded a bit stiff although she shook her hand.
“I’m fine, thank you,” Adaolisa replied. “What a lovely home you have.”
“Thank you. Won’t you sit down?”
“Mom, we could only stay for a little while,” Maxwell told her as he sat down on the sofa next to Adaolisa. “We’re going out for dinner.”
“Maxwell mentioned that you’re from Nigeria.”
“Yes, I’m from Lagos.”
“Do you have any family here?”
“Yes, an aunt. The rest of my family is in Lagos.”
So, far so good, Maxwell thought, beginning to relax when his mother said abruptly, “Maxwell, may I have a word with you? Excuse us,” she said to Adaolisa before standing up and leaving the room.
Maxwell looked at Adaolisa. “I’ll be right back,” he promised. He got up and left.
His mother was standing in the hallway. “Let’s go into the kitchen,” she suggested and led the way.
When they were alone in the kitchen, she asked, “Are you serious about this girl?”
“First of all, she’s a woman not a girl and yes, I’m very serious about her. I’m head over heels in love with her.”
“But what do you really know about her?”
“I know enough about her to want to marry her—”
His mother looked aghast. “Marry her?”
“Yes. I’m going to propose to her tonight over dinner.”
“But, she’s African.”
“Why couldn’t you find yourself a nice Bajan woman or even an English woman?”
“So you object to Adaolisa because she’s African?”
“Yes and she’s too dark.”
Maxwell tried to remain calm. “Do you have any idea how damaging it is to a child when they are treated differently because they are dark? I knew someone at university who told me that when she was a child, the teacher gave her a black crayon instead of a brown one to color a drawing of herself. She transferred to a different school because of the bullying but she still had to deal with verbal abuse from other black students. How could you stand there and look down at Adaolisa because she’s not your idea of what is beautiful? It’s not the color of her skin that makes a woman beautiful, it’s her character. I brought her here to meet you because I hoped that once you got to know her, you would set your prejudices aside but clearly I was wrong. I’m going to marry her regardless of what you say or think. You’re welcome to come to the wedding if you like. Now, it’s time for us to go. Goodbye, Mother.” He turned and walked away from her.
He was quiet on the ride over to the restaurant. Then, turning to her, he said regretfully, “I’m sorry about the way things turned out. I foolishly hoped that my parents would come around and accept you. I know my mother is set in her ways but I thought that my father would be more forthcoming but aside from greeting you at the door, he said nothing to you all the time we were there. And when I came into the living-room after talking to my mother, he wasn’t there. You were sitting there all by yourself. I was so upset that I had to get out of there”
She reached out and placed her hand on his thigh. “Let’s not dwell on what happened. We have the rest of the evening ahead of us. Let’s enjoy it.”
“All right,” he said. “Let’s enjoy the rest of our evening together.”
They ended up enjoying dinner. The conversation flowed and there was a lot of laughter. Just before they ordered dessert, he reached out and covered her hand, his eyes intent on her face. Swallowing hard, he began the speech he had rehearsed over and over since the moment he knew that he was going to marry her. “Adaolisa, words alone can’t express how I feel about you. From the moment I first saw you, I knew that you were the one for me. You took my heart and my breath away. When I look at you, I see the woman I love, the woman I need and the woman I’m meant to be with.” He reached into his breast pocket and took out a box. Releasing her hand, he opened it and removed the ring. It was an exquisite Rose Gold Leaf diamond engagement ring.
She stared at it in wonder and when her eyes lifted to his face, they were moist. “It’s beautiful,” she murmured.
“It will look even more beautiful on your hand,” he replied huskily. “Will you marry me, Adaolisa?”
She nodded. “Yes, Maxwell.” The tears were rolling down her cheeks now as she watched him slide it onto her finger before he raised her hand to his lips and kissed it.
“I love you, Adaolisa.”
“I love you too, Maxwell.”
They raised their glasses in a toast and over dessert, they made wedding plans. In May of the following year, they got married in an elegant but simple ceremony. Her family was there. His brother and his family were in attendance as well as his sister and her husband, Omar. Noticeably absent were his parents. Fortunately, that didn’t put a damper on the nuptials.
After a two week honeymoon in the Maldives, they moved into their new home, a half-hour drive outside of London. Nine months later, they welcomed their first child—a girl with beautiful olive skin and her father’s eyes. As Maxwell held her in his arms, he remarked, “She’s beautiful like her mother.”
“She’s another shade of love—our love for each other.”