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|How I Got to Memphis|
Korrasami Week 2016
November 10, 2016
Quick note up front: I intended this to be part of Korrasami Week in September, and never got around to finishing it. Luckily, Korrasami Month used this prompt again, so I guess it's as good a time as any to finally publish it.
Memphis, Tennessee - 1934
Korra knew she shouldn't be complaining too much. After all, she was more native than she was negro, but people didn't really know that and her skin was fairly dark. Of course, being a woman didn't help her very much either, so to think that she was particularly well-suited to the job market would be naïve to say the least.
Then of course there was the issue of her soulmate. That her father and mother met had been pure chance, and their first contact had been his hand on her shoulder, resulting in an intricate tribal pattern running over Senna's shoulder, neck, and partially over her cheek, and it covered much of Tonraq's arm.
This was a fairly uncommon way, soulmates mostly met early in life, and the tattoos forming from their first contact was something they carried with them for life. The pattern that was formed then was identical for both partners, even if the locations varied. Even though it was subtle, but soulmates were often drawn to each other, to get them in the same place, which is why it was extra strange that Korra hadn't met hers yet.
But Korra hadn't met her soulmate yet, even though she was 21, and it was starting to worry both her and her parents. She scraped together a living by working as a musician most of the time. Her skills on the piano didn't go unnoticed by her family, and ultimately, her father managed to hook her up with Tenzin, the barkeeper who looked past her skin color and instead wanted someone who could play music to entertain his patrons.
With the Prohibition just over, business was booming, and attracting customers was key. Tenzin had decided that Korra was his key, as she generally did a great job of lifting the mood with some enjoyable tunes. His place was actually pretty nice, and Korra was lucky to be playing here instead of some dump in the negro neighborhoods that was more common for them. It was fairly acclaimed, so it wasn't unheard of for richer people to stop by here for a drink.
Hell, the fact that she had a job at all was more than most people in her social circle could say. It wasn't much, but it definitely did help her parents with putting food on the table.
Tonight was Saturday, which was Korra's best night. People generally tended to tip, and getting quarters and dimes would help her along. Sure, each individually wasn't much, but people did spare it, and combined, it was definitely a nice bonus.
From her position on the stage, she could oversee most of the bar, and given her skill on the piano, she could keep an eye on the door from here. Korra had gone for pants, which was uncommon, but skirts made her uncomfortable, a loose button-up, suspenders, and a flat cap, her short hair playfully jutting out underneath it. Appearances didn't matter too much to Tenzin, as long as she was washed and clean, he didn't really care. She was there to play the piano, not run a fashion show.
She was playing Scott Joplin's The Entertainer when the door opened to let in a rather portly man and, Korra was hoping at least, a girl that was probably his daughter. At least, she looked like it, and if she wasn't, the age gap did look rather big, as she'd estimate the girl to be her own age.
That being said, it did fill Korra with a little bit of envy, because she was gorgeous. Like Ginger Rogers, Marlene Dietrich, and Mirna Loy rolled into one, and then wrapped up in a stunning sleeveless red dress. Long raven hair flowed over her shoulders, framing a face of beautiful pale skin.
The fact that it was more attraction and less envy was not really surprising to Korra anymore. She knew about this part of herself, even though she kept it on the down low for everyone's sake.
But being the ever-stoic professional that she was, Korra just kept playing. Her break would be up soon anyway, so she could get a drink and give her fingers some rest.
"Bolin," she beckoned, asking her second to come up to the stage. "Mind taking over for a bit?"
-"Sure thing, Kor. Got any requests?"
She chuckled. "Try Rodgers' Blue Moon. Typically goes down well."
Bolin took her seat at the piano and gently started playing. He came here as well and knew the piano fairly well. Korra liked to consider them friends, and even though Bolin had been kind of hoping for it, they weren't soulmates. Probably wouldn't have worked between them anyway.
Korra took seat at the bar, and Tenzin was quick to put a bottle of beer in front of her, as that's what she liked to drink.
-"No need to be sober on the piano?" a voice to her right asked.
She looked up, seeing the girl leaning on the bar, a coupe of champagne in her hand and a cigarette between her fingers, on a short holder. "Nope," Korra chuckled. "If I pour in a beer, I might actually try singing." They both smiled as Korra took a cigarette from the box the woman offered her. "What brings you by?"
-"My dad," she said, nodding to the older man, currently in an animated conversation with Lau Gan-Lan, one of their regulars. "He had some business and is now seeing if he could set up some sort of deal. Bars tend to be better for informal conversation. I just felt like coming."
"Very true." Korra took a content sip of her beer, feeling the girl eye her up.
-"That was some nice music, by the way. How long have you been playing?"
Korra chuckled. "All my life. Tenzin was kind enough to let me play here, make some money for my folks." She briefly let it fall silent as she took a drag. "I'm Korra."
-"Asami," she replied, holding out her hand.
But when Korra shook it, she got the shock of her life.
As soon as their hands touched, a bright light started emanating from it, and it soon spread over both of their arms in what seemed to be random spirals. It didn't hurt, in fact, it actually felt pretty good. There was a warmth, spreading from her hand and reaching all throughout her body.
But just as sudden as it started, the light faded again, and the warmth stopped. There was an intricate tribal pattern all over her hand, reaching into her sleeve. When Korra took a close look at Asami, the pattern covered indeed her entire arm and even reached up further than that, over her shoulder, her neck, and finally ending with a single spiral next to her eye.
Korra touched the same skin there one her own face, and it was a little bit more sensitive than normal.
"Whoa..." they said in unison.
It took a moment before they realized that the entire bar had gone quiet, even Bolin had stopped playing the piano. It wasn't every day that you witnessed someone meeting their soulmate.
"You're.... You're my soulmate..." Korra stammered.
-"I guess so..." was Asami's equally stunned response.
Korra looked up at her newly found soulmate in awe. It was true, she was beautiful, but somehow, her attraction just grew stronger. The way that her mouth was ever so slightly ajar while studying the brand-new pattern formed on her arm was adorable, the way her raven hair fell over her shoulders with its bright shine and slight wave, the way her burgundy dress revealed just enough cleavage to be provocative but not enough to be inappropriate... She was plain and simply stunning.
-"What is going on here?!" A heavy voice broke the fragile silence that had fallen over the room. It was the portly man Asami had come in with.
-"Dad... I think I just found my soulmate," Asami said, still a little perplexed.
Her father's eyes jumped from Asami's arm to Korra's, onward and upward to Korra's face, and back to his daughter's. "No," he said. "We're leaving, right now."
-"Dad, she's my soulmate. I want to get to know her."
He didn't look convinced by this. "She's a woman. What's more, a negro woman. I will not stand by and watch my daughter mingle with someone like that. Let's go."
Korra was almost used to this, but she also saw the devastation in Asami's eyes. The person she'd been looking for for years, and she was a total disappointment in the eyes of her father. "Go," she said, soft enough for Asami to hear it but not loud enough for her father to. "I'll be here, Asami, I promise. Every night. Now go."
With one final squeeze of her hand, the pale girl decided to follow her father outside back to his Auburn, where they rode off again.
Meanwhile, Korra turned back to Tenzin. "Give me a scotch. A big one." He didn't question her and just poured it.
She kept her word. For three days, Korra played the piano, only very slowly getting used to the tattoos adorning her arm, neck, and face.
Naturally, her parents were through the roof with excitement until she told them how Asami's father reacted. Tonraq and Senna couldn't care less that their daughter's soulmate was a woman, they just wanted someone to secure a future for her, and the daughter of a rich automobile manufacturer certainly qualified.
And so, on the third night, playing the thousandth sad song since she met Asami, the doors opened again to let her in.
Though it should be said that she was almost unrecognizable. She pulled up on an Indian Scout of all vehicles, dressed in a leather jacket, riding boots, and pants. Her hair had been pulled tightly up her head in order to stuff it under a leather pilot helmet.
Korra thought it made her look even sexier than she had in that dress.
Instead of drawing much attention to herself, Asami sat down at the bar, ordering a Coke to keep herself occupied while Korra continued to play the piano. Of course, the arrival of her soulmate prompted her to quickly put her sad song to an end and start playing something a little more upbeat.
After taking her sweet time, finally ending with Blind Willie Johnson's John the Revelator, Korra decided to take her break and gestured Asami to come with her into the dressing room. Normally, it was reserved for the people who actually performed on stage, but Korra didn't need that. She just needed her piano, and it was all good.
She closed the door behind them and leaned against it. "Judging by your mode of transport, your father wasn't exactly okay with this," Korra said with a very morbid realism.
Asami sighed. "No. He still thinks it's none of my business to give myself to a negro woman." She briefly fell silent. "I'm sorry, Korra."
"So am I." Korra thumped her head against the door. "What are we going to do, Asami?"
-"I don't know." Asami reached down, taking Korra's tattooed hand in her own and let her thumb run over it. "We should try and make this work. My dad may not like it, but these are our lives." She briefly fell silent. "We can go to New York, together. I know mechanics, and you know music. We can make it together, Korra. There are no laws there against two women being together."
Korra nodded. "Yeah." She gently squeezed Asami's hand and moved herself a little closer. "You really want to go through with it?" she asked, staring deep into those massive green eyes.
It didn't take any words. Asami simply leaned in, capturing Korra's lips with her own.
And it was amazing. Asami's lips were even softer than Korra had imagined them to be, and in her imagination, they were already pretty soft. With the addition of a little bit of tongue, Korra completely lost herself in the moment, loving the taste of her soulmate.
-"I guess we go."
I don't mean to provoke anyone with the language I used, calling people of color 'negroes'. It's a horrible, derogatory way to refer to people of color, and I absolutely don't stand for it, but it is what happened at the time, and we cannot forget that. The easiest way we repeat the mistakes of the past is by ignoring it. To avoid that, we need to confront the mistakes that were made before so that we can learn from them.
Truth be told, I could have set this story in 1960 and nothing would have really changed. What I want to demonstrate here is that it really hasn't been that long since these kinds of practices were not only common in the US, they were law. Just to put it into perspective, by 1960, both of my parents were born already, and I'm still in college. So yes, I do think it is deeply worrying that someone who spreads hate and polarizes the US just got elected president, because that right there is step one to repeating this.
Last note, I named this after a great song played in The Newsroom, which I think is a criminally underrated show.
|Korra's Recovery • The Road to Nowhere Special • Soldier's Eyes - Part 1 • Inked • Smokin' • For Those About To Rock • Soldier's Eyes - Part 2 • Bath Time • Gym Buddies • The New TA • Moving Out, Moving On • Earning Her Spurs • Swimming in the Rain • A Drink For Free • Insider • How I Got to Memphis • What Happens In Vegas... • Vendetta • The Snow Storm • Stays in Vegas... • Saturday • Public Transport • The Big Day • The Fighter • Lights, Camera, Action • What Happens In College... • Small-Block V8 • ... Or Maybe Not • Spur of the Moment • The Suit Makes the Woman • Some Day They'll Go Down Together|
|Tickets • As Tough As You Are • The Compound • Was It Worth It? • Coffee to Go • Best Hangover Ever • Best Hangover Ever 2|
|My Other Works|
|The Divided Republic • Team Player • All Are Equal • The Callgirl • Who We Are • She's a Pirate • Where Do We Start?|
For the collective works of the author, go here.