Stains on the Surface

"Your mother slept with the devil." My grandmother said, limp cigarette balancing between her pressed lips. "But if you marry a nice white man and have nice white children, God will forgive you."

I stared, watching the tightly wrapped tobacco bounce as she spoke, ashes burning longer then the cigarette itself but none falling onto the glass table top. She took another deep puff followed by a choking cloud being blown from her nostrils. It resembled that of a dragon's breath, like shown in the cartoons and movies.
"It's too bad your skin isn't light like your mother's." She looked over at me then, gaze scrutinizing as her eyes scanned over my brown skin and black hair.
My mother was pure, white skin and wavy red hair. This was what beauty was supposed to look like. It was not brown. It was not me.
She had married and divorced an African American man, against her better judgment. My sister and I were proof, products of her indiscretions.
She shook her head and clicked her tongue, as if regret would be enough to "white" wash away the mistakes of my mother.
I had heard this speech often enough. As I grew older, I learned to ignore it. But at the time I don't know which I wanted more: for her to accept me as