Lime Tree Can't Bear Orange: Chapter One
Everyone said I was lucky to have Aunt Tassi. My cousins, Vera and Violet, were three years younger than me. They looked the same and they spoke the same and they both laughed in the same way. Aunt Tassi often said how beautiful they were, but I never thought so. Their skin, yes. Their skin was dark and shiny and smooth like a melongen. But their faces were ordinary and identical, and their bodies were straight and thin, like stick men you draw when you don't know how to draw somebody. Like me, they didn't have a father. The moment Vera and Violet were born, their father ran away with a girl from Barbados and no one ever saw or heard from him again. I was very young so I don't remember too much about this. But I remember that Aunt Tassi was often too sad to leave the house.
Then one afternoon, she took a walk into Buccoo, and along the Buccoo road came Roman Bartholomew, a short, skinny man whom the villagers called Allah, because he thought he was God. He said, Hello, Tassi D'Abadie, and took off his hat. My aunt nodded, politely. She knew of Roman Bartholomew but had never spoken to him before. How would you like to go to a dance in Carnbee village tonight? Yes, she said, why not. I have nothing else to do. Next thing, they were an item, and Roman got a job in Campbell's Hardware Store, right there in Black Rock.
Every day on her way to Robinson Crusoe Hotel, where she cleaned rooms, Aunt Tassi would pass the blue wooden building and peer into the darkness and look for Roman. Sometimes he waved or he came out front and stepped into the bright white light. It was like that sometimes: a glaring light blasting everything as the sun climbed high above the island. And he might say, Tassi, you have anything? And she'd say, Yes, I brought you juice or a mango, or sugar cake or whatever she carried, or she might say, No, nothing you didn't get already, and then she would turn and be on her way. Sometimes Roman asked her for money. "Tassi, you have a little change?" And she would dig inside the pocket of her blue-and-white-checkered apron and pull out a coin and give it to him. I didn't like the way Roman looked at me—out of the corner of his slitty eyes—so I always hung back near the old pipe stand. "Celia so shy!" he'd say. "Like a little bird," and he'd reach out his hand and whistle, as if I really was a bird. People said it was like going from the frying pan into the fire. But Aunt Tassi felt so lucky to have found a man willing to put up with another man's children and her dead sister's child (me) that she latched on to him like a raft in the sea. He didn't have two cents to rub together, and she didn't care. As Aunt Sula once said, you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. Later that year, Roman, realizing he was on to a good thing, made Aunt Tassi "an honest woman."