"I don't want to play with them anymore, Mom." Valerie tightly wrapped her five year old body within the dusty material of the drapes. "They say, I'm a thief, and I'm dirty." The thickness muffled her voice, but couldn't smother the sound of her weeping. "I never take their things. I wash myself hard, every night, but the color never comes off."
Jane paused, her motion frozen by the words. Where she was thinking to comfort a little girl suffering from a childhood misunderstanding, she was now lost for words at the implication of what she'd just heard.
Was she jumping to conclusions? Was it possible that her little girl was facing her first taste of racism? Reaching for the drapes, she was surprised at the frantic struggle from the child. "Honey, come out. Let me talk to you."
"No, don't touch me. The color will rub off on you. Then your friends won't play with you either."
"Sweetie, come on out. I don't care about my friends. If they don't want to play with me, I'll find new friends who will. We'll find you new friends."
Jane reached for the tiny hand clinging to the folds of the drapes, intertwining their fingers. Long, trembling, thin white fingers, squeezed between plump, brown, damp with tears, baby ones. Bending over, she pressed her lips to them. A tradition of comfort, since the day Valerie was adopted and brought into the home. "You are a queen little Val and don't you ever forget that. Anyone who sees you differently is blind, mean and jealous."
"I'm a queen, Mom?"
"You will always be a queen. Those little girls are just jealous." She peeked behind the curtain and whispered. "They're too mean to even be princesses." Valerie giggled."And you don't care if I'm dirty?"
"Only if you're covered in chocolate. Then I'll have to tickle you and lick your face all over."
Pulling the little girl from her hiding place, Jane tickled her on her tummy, until she fell to the floor and they rolled around laughing joyfully- trying to forget the hurt.