As teenagers, Michael and John had whooped and hollered on the same street, dragged their heels to the same school, dreamed of sunshine reflected on the water in the same class and, that one fateful time, shared the same bed. As the only black kids in a town of stares and catcalls, they had been drawn to each other like water to a drain. Both sets of parents had arrived from the Caribbean in the 1950s – from different islands but united in a determination to give a better life to the children that they had dragged from their idylls in the sun. Thrust together and told to play nice, the boys had at first circled each other like warriors – feinting, falling back, looking for an opening, testing each others strength, and then grappling, rolling in the dirt and laughing as they realised that they were better united than in opposition. And so they remained. Until John met Grace.
“I’ve decided – I’m going to tell her. She deserves to know, Michael.” They had just reserved their spot in the wedding album – best man and groom, and Michael and John had found a place to stand in what passed for the sun in this country. John watched his bride – Grace, radiant in white, as she was being shuffled closer to the maid of honour and told to turn her head just so. Michael heard his friend’s words and then nodded once, but the expression on his face spoke volumes. They had talked and argued about this many times and both knew that whatever Grace said, whatever her reaction would be, this would change things between them all, forever.