Rainbow colours shifted and warped on the surface of the Providence River, reflecting the fabric banners that spanned the length of the Crawford Street Footbridge: the welcoming fanfare to the 2017 Rhode Island PrideFest.
Hamish Haddock was beaming; his enthusiasm renewed and his drive to make new friends and connections in the wider LGBT community bringing him back to the event for another year. He’d been visiting the festival since he was fifteen, and taking advantage of the chance to immerse himself with the community that he rarely got to interact with back in his hometown of Berk.
A female voice laughed to his left. "I’m glad I brought my sunglasses, your smile’s going to blind me if it got any brighter."
There was a rough chuckle from Hamish’s right. "Maybe you should submit a patent for your smile to be considered as a renewable energy source, it’s putting the sun to shame."
"Oh har har. Are you guys going to act like this when we go next year?" the younger man retorted with a defiant look, turning as he spoke so he was walking backwards across the bridge.
"Well, maybe if you’re still grinning like you are now." the older man mused thoughtfully.
"The sun’s shining, birds are singing in the trees, all’s currently right with the world… please don’t feel the need to rain any more on the Pride parade before we’ve even gotten to it, okay?"
Astrid Hofferson (his best friend) and George Bletch (his father’s best friend) both shared a look, and a nod, before she thumped Hamish on the arm.
"That was for the pun." she remarked with a smirk, earning a chuckle from George. Hamish frowned as he rubbed the sore spot.
Hamish sighed "And again with the tough love." Astrid beamed from where she stood.
"A man can learn a lot from a little tough love." George interjected thoughtfully.
"Speaking from personal experience Gobber? I think there’s a leather stall here this year."
Astrid burst out laughing at Hamish’s remark; George simply looked a little red in the face. "I… wouldn’t know anything about that." he added as an afterthought: "And you’re too young to know about something like that."
Hamish didn’t bother responding, he just carried on smiling as he led them across the remainder of the footbridge, arriving at South Water Street, which had been closed off for PrideFest. The entrance to the festival was marked with a rainbow-emblazoned marquee tent, cheerily proclaiming:
Welcome to Rhode Island Pride
The two eighteen-year-olds and fifty-three year old paid their $5 donation, and emerging on the far side of the marquee, they cast their eyes across the sights and sounds that were already taking place. Stretching several blocks south, the street was crammed with a menagerie of tents and stalls. In attendances were representatives and volunteers for charitable groups, brand-name companies, civic and state-wide organisations, local bars and restaurants, PFLAG, LGBTQI-friendly travel agencies, financial institutions, voter registration, scientific research groups, wedding services, organ donor registration, legal services, LGBTQI rights groups, religious organisations, vendors, Aids awareness and medical protection and prevention, as well as stalls dedicated to some of the sub-groups that existed within the LGBTQI community. All around them, flags bearing the rainbow and transgender colours fluttered in the breeze. Hamish wasn’t 100% certain, but he thought there may’ve been more rainbow flags than usual, almost certainly in tribute to the flag’s creator, Gilbert Baker, who had passed away earlier in the year.
They’d arrived a little after the festival had opened, at noon, and it was already buzzing. The larger crowds either gathered at the performance stage, or at the handful of entertainment stalls that were scattered along the length of the street. Fortunately between the moments where he’d be reconnecting with friends he’d met at previous years, Hamish knew that he, Astrid and George would be able to find plenty of things to do and see to keep them interested, and help pass the time until the Illuminated Pride Parade in the evening.
The quiet bustle of preparation that had provided a backing track as he’d helped Anna set up the stall that morning had now been replaced by the throng of crowds moving to and fro through the festival. Within eyeshot, the beer and wine garden was serving a steady stream of customers, while Mx Bisexual 2017 Tammy Frost had just finished her opening welcome to the crowd, and was inviting musician Becca Neveu to the stage situated at Planet Street.
Of course, Jackson Overland didn’t have the luxury of being able to just sit and listen to the music performances all day, in addition to helping Anna set up the stall he was also there to talk to people, and play the role of model for her dental services.
"Here’s some floss and toothpaste, and I hope you have a great Pride!"
His striking blue eyes glanced toward her, Anna’s multi-coloured hair looked right at home at the festival, although in truth it was coloured like that all-year-round. "I don’t know how you manage to stay so enthusiastic when giving out floss and mouthwash, but I’d love to know your secret." he chuckled. "I bet I could take a photo of you, compare it to when you had your first stall here and you wouldn’t look any different." he added in good humour.
Anna Fisher shrugged affably. "When you care passionately about something, the enthusiasm… and the cheeriness… are effortless. And we all benefit from being more enthusiastic about taking better care of our teeth." she smiled.
His smile in response was mostly involuntary, but then he did have her to thank for the fact he had as stunning a smile as he did. Anna may have been intense when it came to her approach to oral hygiene, but the results spoke for themselves.
In addition to helping provide tips on cleaning and general lifestyle, she had been operating a stall at PrideFest for the past five years to also help offer services to those who may have been struggling financially.
Jack’s phone buzzed in his pocket, alerting him to a message from a certain rough-edged Australian, and he chuckled as he read what the antipodean had written:
Jack slid his iPhone back into his pocket. "Yeah, just keeping me in check."
Anna laughed, the sound melodious. "I’m sure."
"He should get here around three."
"‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy ‘." she teased, flashing Jack her signature bright smile again. Any further discussion of their mutual friend was put on the back burner, as a mother with a boy and a girl approached the stall. The boy smiled in greeting, revealing a missing tooth.
"Oh sweetie, I’m so sorry." Anna winced in sympathy.
The boy shrugged. "You should’ve seen how I lost it!" he replied excitedly, drawing a playfully disapproving look from his mother. "I was on this ice trail with my sled, and all of a sudden, this couch came out of nowhere!"
"Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and let it in! Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and it in!"
Milton Dewar was irritated, to say the least. There were a great many things that irritated the man, now that he was approaching his late-sixties, and those included: how hot it was, the turnout for his group of moral campaigners not being anywhere near as big as he’d wanted, or had been promised; the fact that that he and his group had been marshalled to a disappointing spot beside a parking lot by some officers of the Providence Police Department, too far from the event they were here to protest, and then there was the fact there was all this sin and debauchery going on in front of his eyes.
He bolstered his grip on the wooden pole that was holding his placard aloft, the board proclaimed:
YOU WERE NOT BORN THAT WAY, YOU WERE BORN INTO SIN
Emblazoned in colourless letters on a dark background, the notice stated his deeply-held view on the subject of sodomy and the homosexual lobby. The pastor had lamented on numerous occasions to his congregation and to himself, asking why couldn’t the sinners see they were wrong and he was right? What was so wrong about simply following the Lord’s word as detailed in Romans and Leviticus?
Almost everyone who walked past Dewar’s group, regardless of whether they were obviously going to the event or not, regarded him and his fellow faithful with dirty looks. That was fine; he simply glowered back at them with as much force. He knew where they stood in regard to the scripture, who were those sinners, unbelievers and misled sheep to judge?
"Ffeeh! Look at them, so lost in their loose morals and flirtation with immorality, they don’t know how lost they are." he remarked, gaining approving nods and sounds of agreement from other members of his congregation. "Other so-called ‘Christians’ may be willing to support this ungodly behaviour, but we’ll show them that the First Constitution Reform Church of Rhode Island will not turn a blind eye, we will champion the liturgy of the Lord!" he bellowed, his voice sounding stronger than he looked; with deep-set wrinkles and thinning grey hair. "Sin! Sin!" Dewar bellowed again.
"This is Sin! Embrace God’s love and it in! Sin, sin, this is sin…"
They would be there all day if they had to, if they could convince at least one person to turn their back on depravity, then it would be all worth it.
Musicians Tammy & Jeana were half-way through their set on the stage when a tall, stubble-clad figure with semi-wild bluish-grey hair emerged from the crowd.
"Bunny!" Jack greeted, while Anna sent the older man a friendly wave.
"Had your fill of the little show pony?" the Australian asked, the question directed at the dentist.
"Jack’s been perfect company." she reported. "I think we’ve really gotten through to a lot of people today, even had a few sign-ups for financial assistance."
"Yep." Jack nodded in agreement. He added a moment later: "Nice shirt, by the way."
Beneath his familiar blue denim vest, Eliot Aster (usually just ‘Aster’ or ‘Bunny’ to his friends - it’s a long story) was wearing a t-shirt that cheerily announced the wearer as:
"Subtler than yours." Aster observed sarcastically. Jack’s sky blue tank-top featured:
Let it go,
Let it go,
Can’t hold the gay
-printed in white, using a similar font to the logo for Disney’s Frozen.
"You know Jack doesn’t do subtlety." Anna noted playfully.
"Sorry, not sorry." Jack grinned, and Aster rolled his eyes. He slipped down the side of the stall so that he was behind the table with his friends. "Anyway, you’re relieved to do whatever you want… and I’m relieved to have you at more than arm’s distance."
Jack languorously rose from his chair, working in an exaggerated stretch and pop of the spine. "You know you love me."
"Yeah, yeah." Aster waved off, all the while the dentist with then multi-coloured hair was quietly laughing in mirth as she watched the scene.
"You guys want me to bring you anything from Seven-Eleven while I’m out there? I’m gonna grab something for myself to eat so it’s no hassle."
"Thanks for the offer, but I’ll probably grab something after we’ve packed the stall up this evening." Anna replied.
Jack turned his azure eyes to the other man. "Bunny?"
The gruff man shook his head. "Doubt they’d have anything close to healthy."
Jack smiled and put on a look of sudden realization that was far from genuine. "Well hey, looks like Bunny can join you for dinner if I get caught up."
Aster favored the younger man with a glare that could wither paint.
The puckish young man smirked and backed away from the stall, firing off a mock-salute as he departed. "See you guys later."
Jack found plenty to keep himself amused as he worked his way around the festival, but if there was a bitter note, it was in the fact that there’s more fun to be had with company than on your own. Despite that, he’d managed to spend some of his time at the NERF range, talking to the Marvel and DC fans at the Rhode Island Comic Con stall and messing about with the lady at the stall selling hula-hoops.
An indignant rumble from his stomach pushed home just how hungry he was. Forgoing the pricey food vendors at the festival, Jack made his way across the footbridge spanning the river, following the directions his phone had given him for one of the nearest convenience stores, located a few blocks south on Weybosset Street.
He’d just stepped onto the sidewalk on the far side of Dyer Street when two sounds caught his attention; a child crying, and a repetitive chant. The cry appeared to belong to a little girl who was being tended to by someone who looked like her mother, while a second woman was angrily gesticulating toward the girl, and then members of the chanting group. As Jack approached the gathering, he could make out some of the nasty messages painted on their home-made signs.
"Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and let it in! Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and it in!" the chant was threatening to sour his mood, but the distressed little girl was far more important.
"Oh hey, is everything okay over here?" he knelt before the girl, before giving the older woman a concerned look.
She offered him a sad smile. "She was upset by some of the things they were saying over there." the woman nodded her head towards the protestors. "Her mama’s having a word with them now."
"You feeling better now…" he trailed off due to not knowing her name.
"Jessica." the woman supplied.
"You feeling better now, Jessica?"
The little girl sniffed, but she shook her head.
Jack frowned, but dismissed it quickly in favour of a comforting smile. "I know they’ve been upsetting, but they don’t know what they’re talking about."
Jessica sniffed again. "They were being so mean."
Jack nodded sympathetically. "Some people are, which is why we have to rise above them."
"Like the guide book says?"
"Yeah! Like the guidebook." he nodded, the theme for the 2017 Pride event (which was displayed proudly on cover of the event guide) was ‘when we rise’. "When somebody acts mean, we show them how they should be acting."
The girl nodded in understanding, she was still visibly upset, but less so now compared to when Jack had first spotted her. The older woman, who shared a resemblance with Jessica, gave him another sad smile, and he returned it as he turned his attention back to the little girl.
"Knock them back with kindness, outdo them with good deeds." he explained, and she gave him an understanding nod, as well as a shaky smile.
The woman who’d been talking to the protesters quickly marched over, making a noise of frustration as she walked.
"The nerve of the man!" she groused. "The officer will have a word with him, but there isn’t much more he can do."
The woman who’d been tending to the girl looked disgusted for a moment, before she schooled her expression to speak with the girl again.
"Honey, would you like to get some ice cream?"
"Yes please." Jessica nodded, and she was eased to her feet by the second woman.
"Thank you." the first woman said as she shook Jack’s hand. "I’m Cathy, and this is my wife, Sandra."
"Jack. It’s nice to meet you." he returned, shaking Sandra’s hand when it was offered.
"Jack here was helping to cheer Jess up." Cathy explained.
Sandra’s expression morphed to that of gratitude, and she shook Jack’s hand with even greater enthusiasm. "Thank you, Jack."
Before he could respond, Jessica piped up: "Your shirt’s funny." Now that he was no longer crouching, the text on his tank top was clear to read.
"She loves Frozen." Sandra added.
"Really? Well then… ♫Let it go! Let it go! Turn away and slam the door!♪"
"♪I don’t care, what they’re going to say!♫" Jessica joined in.
"♫Let the storm rage on!♪"
"♪Let the storm rage on!♫"
"♫The cold never bothered me anyway! ♪" Jack and Jessica finished in unison, and the girl let out a laugh.
Jessica’s mothers were beaming their appreciation, and they shook Jack’s hand once more as they walked away, happier than they had been only a few minutes ago. His plan to grab something to eat forgotten, Jack began to walk towards the protestors.
"Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and let it in! Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and it in! Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and let it in! Sin, sin, this is sin! Embrace God’s love and it in!"
He knew that he should just walk away and ignore them, but if there was one thing Jack couldn’t abide, it was seeing a child being reduced to tears because of intolerance. The protestors were bordered by a row of metal barriers to provide them with some protection, whilst two Providence Police officers, one of which had been talking to a man who looked to be the leader of the group, turned at Jack’s approach.
"Evening." Jack greeted in a clipped tone.
The man Jack had assumed was the group’s leader, the eldest of the group judging by his wizened hair and deeply creased skin, looked Jack up and down before affording him a glower.
"Yes?" the old man sniffed, causing his bushy moustache to tilt at an angle.
"You must feel pretty good for making a little child cry."
"Sometimes the truth can be hard to accept, but if we can steer her onto the path of righteousness now we might save her from a deviant lifestyle in the near future."
Jack was thoroughly unimpressed by the answer, and his face reflected that for a spell, before it morphed to something more aloof. "So there’s something I’d like to know, and you folks look like the people who might be able to answer it."
The old man looked like he was trying to size Jack up, or work out what sort of question he’d want to ask. "What do you want to know?"
"Why are you so obsessed with hating the LGBTQI community? Why do you focus on them when you could be campaigning against child poverty, war, slavery or adultery?"
The old man looked stunned for a moment, possibly from the fact he may have been expecting a different question.
"Well, young man… While those are indeed important causes, we believe that there are certain moral diseases present in society that we need to concentrate on… And once we’ve solved those problems, then we can turn our attention to other troubling matters."
"So you're saying that you’re going after the LGBTQI community because you think they’re an easy problem to solve?"
"Yes." the old man seemed pleased that they seemed to understand each other.
Jack glowered in response. "That’s pretty despicable, going after vulnerable kids and adults because they’re an easy target."
The old man was back to glaring now. "They were born into sin, and that sin makes them vulnerable and susceptible to Satan’s influence."
"Then how do I know that you’re not doing this because you’ve been influenced by Satan?"
The old man, along with several of his fellow protestors bristled at the question. "Because we follow the Lord’s will, the teachings of Christ."
"I must be missing something then, I wasn’t aware of anything in the Bible telling you to wave signs with mean-spirited messages. I don’t remember there being anything about shouting at children, families, adults for something they can’t control."
"The Lord and Christ’s teachings make it very clear that people like you and what you do is an affront to what he’s created!" the older man’s voice was rising along with his visible anger.
"’Christ’s teachings’? Like ‘love thy neighbour’, like ‘do unto others how you’d like to be treated yourself’, like treating lepers and prostitutes like actual human beings? How is any of what you’re doing living up to Christ’s teachings, his ideals?"
The old man looked tongue-tied for an instant, before he snarled and slammed his placard against the side of Jack’s head.
Hamish, Astrid and George watched as Kim Trusty, the last act for the day finished the final song of her set. The blues musician sent out a closing message of goodwill to the gathered crowd, before a CD of music began to play via the stage’s PA system.
George glanced at the silver watch on his wrist; they had just shy of four hours before the start of the Illuminated Parade. "We’ve got a bit of time to kill before we need to pick our spots on the parade route, there anything else you two wanted to see?"
"I think I’ve seen everything I’d wanted to. You?" Astrid prompted, looking at Hamish.
He nodded. "I’ve spoken with everyone I wanted to check in on, yeah."
"Fancy another round on the NERF range?" George suggested with a wry grin.
"I’m good thanks." Hamish responded, raising his hands in playful surrender. "I’ve been beaten enough for one day."
"Come on Astrid, once more for the road?"
She shook her head with a laugh. "I’m not falling for that."
"Spoilsports." he briefly looked dejected.
"Looks like it’s dinner time then." Hamish interjected, and George picked up at that suggestion.
"And I know just the place! There’s some grilled Scottish Salmon with my name on it."
Eager to satisfy their hunger before the parade, Hamish, Astrid and George left the area surrounding the performance stage. The restaurant was on the other side of the river, meaning they’d have to cross back over the Crawford Street footbridge. They were on the opposite side of the Providence River, standing at the edge of Dyer Street when they heard raised voices.
"The Lord and Christ’s teachings make it very clear that people like you and what you do is an affront to what he’s created!" an old man brandishing an anti-LGBT sign was locked in a heated exchange with a younger man with white hair.
"’Christ’s teachings’? Like ‘love thy neighbour’, like ‘do unto others how you’d like to be treated yourself’, like treating lepers and prostitutes like actual human beings? How is any of what you’re doing living up to Christ’s teachings, his ideals?" the younger man retorted, leaving the old man stunned. The astonished look quickly dispersed, and with a snarl he slammed his placard into the side of the younger man’s head.
The Police officers were on the protestor in a moment, and it was clear by Astrid’s body language that she wanted to give the man with the sign a piece of her mind as well, Hamish and George had rushed to help the man who’d been assaulted.
"You alright lad?"
"Are you hurt?" Hamish asked, keeping his voice as calm as possible.
"I’m okay… I’m good, he just caught me by surprise." the other younger man responded, though he didn’t make much effort to wave Hamish and George off. As soon as the other young man was on his feet, Hamish threw a glance toward Astrid. The blonde woman clearly wanted to get into an argument with the old man, who was being spoken too by one of the two officers, but was trying not to get into trouble.
"Thanks." the white-haired young man said, drawing Hamish’s attention back to him.
The auburn-haired teenager responded with a shrug and a lop-sided smile.
"Aye lad, we’ve got to stick together." George nodded in agreement.
The second officer moved away from the barriers and approached, concern displayed on her face.
"Do you feel okay, sir? Would you like us to radio for an ambulance?"
Jack shook his head at the cop, her name badge stated her surname was ‘Weaver’. "I think I’m good, yeah. He just surprised me… and got my heart racing." he offered a shaky smile in reassurance.
The cop nodded. "Understood, if you do start to feel dizzy, or change your mind, please let myself or Officer Murray know."
Officer Weaver extracted a notebook and pen from one of her uniform pockets, and flipped it open. "Would I be able to get some of your information for the report?"
The man looked uncertain, but eventually nodded his agreement.
The questioning didn’t last long, and in that time Hamish and George learned Jack’s name.
"Do you wish to press charges, sir?"
Jack regarded the Policewoman for a brief period, before he then looked past her towards the elderly protestor. The leader of the group still looked angry, despite the talking-to he’d received from Officer Weaver’s colleague.
"I don’t think that’d be necessary, officer."
Officer Weaver looked hesitant. "Are you sure, sir? There are plenty of witnesses who’d back up your account of what happened."
Jack nodded, he looked more confident now. "I know I might not be making a lot of sense, but I’m sure. You don’t have to worry; I don’t feel intimidated by what he did."
Officer Weaver jotted something down in her notebook, and tore a section of paper from it before tucking it back into her pocket. "If you change your mind, this is my name and badge number, if you call the phone number and give them the information there, they should be able to put you through to me."
Jack accepted the paper and slipped it into the pocket of his shorts. With a quick nod, Officer Weaver returned to converse with her colleague. At the same moment, Astrid joined the gathering surrounding Jack.
"You’re a better man than I am, lad." George mused, giving Jack a clap on the shoulder.
"I don’t think I would’ve been that forgiving if someone had just hit me with a sign." Hamish chuckled.
"I’m gonna try be the bigger man." Jack explained, and then he offered a shrug. "Y’know? Show some of the compassion he clearly doesn’t have."
"He definitely wouldn’t have been standing if he’d hit me." Astrid remarked.
"If he’d have hit you, then I would’ve hit him just as hard." George added harshly.
"And then I’d be calling Dad to bail one or both of you out for assault." Hamish noted pointedly.
Jack caught their attention before the discussion of assaults and bail could go any further: "Would you guys mind sticking around? I’ll just be a minute."
They indicated they would, and watched as Jack crossed back over to the elderly protestor. The older man gave the artificially-white haired one the stink eye as they faced each other from opposite sides of the metal barrier. "You expecting some sort of apology?"
The younger man’s body language spelt out his own anger, but his voice remained reasonably calm. "That wouldn’t be a bad idea… But something tells me you’re not the kinda guy to apologise when you attack someone."
"You provoked me." the protestor countered, spittle flying from his mouth.
Jack let a moment of quiet pass, before he resumed talking. "So I’m gonna be the bigger man here and choose to walk away; I think there’s something like that in Christianity… ‘turn the other cheek’, or something? So I’m going to do you a solid and give you a ‘get out of jail free’ Card, maybe that’ll give you something to think about. I hope it does, anyway." there was a brief murmur between some of the old man’s fellow campaigners.
The moustached made an effort to make himself look more imposing. "You are not fit to live amongst civilized men!"
"Whatever you say. I’m sorry you’ve chosen to live such a bitter life, and I’m sorry for Jesus that he has you as a follower."
His point made, Jack left the protestor to stew in his own juices, and returned to where the others stood.
"Well done, lad." George remarked.
"You were awesome." Astrid agreed.
"It was frightening." the white-haired man admitted.
"Ooooh, but did you see the look on his face when you threw that bit about turning the other cheek at him, and when you said Jesus would be ashamed at what he was doing? You were amazing."
Jack turned his blue eyes towards Hamish, and flashed him a smile. "I was pretty badass, wasn’t I?" the smile softened a little, but remained on his face. He held out a hand to Hamish. "Jack, Jack Overland."
The auburn-haired man let out a friendly chuckle. "I heard… when you were talking to the cop. Hamish Haddock."
"Astrid Hofferson." she greeted with a handshake that left the blue-eyed man wincing.
"George Bletch, though a lot of the time most people call me ‘Gobber’."
Jack looked puzzled. "Why?"
"Oh, because I’ve got a pretty big gob when it comes to eating, drinking, and hurling insults." the older man beamed proudly.
"Really?" Jack looked to Hamish and Astrid for confirmation.
"Yep." Astrid laughed in agreement.
"Okay. Good… good. Thanks for coming over to help."
"Eh, any decent person would’ve done it." Hamish replied nonchalantly. Jack briefly glanced back at the elderly protestor, who was still being talked to by the officers.
"So Jack, what are your plans for the evening? Are you meeting up with friends later?" George interjected.
"Oh, uh… I was on my way to grab something to eat when I bumped into them. I was probably going to head back to the festival after I’d eaten and help my friends pack up when it finished for the day… after that I was going to go to the parade."
"Funny you should say that, we were just on our way to grab dinner when we saw what happened. You fancy tagging along?" Astrid and Hamish both shared a look, before they both glanced at George. "The more’s the merrier."
Jack seemed to only deliberate the offer for a minute, before he responded with another bright smile: "Sure."
"Excellent. Follow us." George cheered, and he began to lead the way towards the restaurant they’d been making their way to on Weybosset Street, Circe.
Astrid made her way to George’s side whilst Hamish and Jack fumbled towards a conversation.
"I know what you’re doing." she whispered quietly.
"I don’t know what you’re talking about." he responded unconvincingly.
"You’re playing match-maker."
"No I’m not." his façade collapsed completely when he smiled slyly. "He’s handsome enough, and you could see the look on Hamish’s face. The poor lad’s smitten."
Astrid glanced over her shoulder, and the conversation now looked to be running more smoothly, and more naturally. Both young men were talking enthusiastically, and gesticulating animatedly with their hands.
"I’ll hold you responsible if this all goes horribly wrong."
"Ahh, where’s your faith? If it goes wrong, then I’m buying dinner for everyone at next year’s event."
Her competitive streak would not let her pass on that challenge. "Deal."
Dinner had passed quickly thanks to the conversations that had struck up between Jack and the visitors from Berk, and although Jack had had to disappear briefly so that he could help Anna and Aster dismantle the dental practice stall, and inform them of the altercation, he’d returned soon enough so that he could watch the parade with Hamish, Astrid and George.
It was clear that Jack and Hamish had hit it off, and they were frequently lost in conversation with each other between taking in the parade floats.
At the conclusion of the parade, Jack walked with them as they went back to George’s car (they’d been given permission to stay out for the end of the parade, but between the time of night and the fact Astrid and Hamish were under 21, the block party afterwards was strictly out of bounds).
Astrid and George discreetly watched as the two young men exchanged their cell phone numbers, the both of them checking their entries and then sending a test text to each other to make sure it all worked.
"I’ll text you in the morning." Hamish promised as he slipped his phone into his cargo shorts.
"I’ll hold you to that; I could definitely feel a connection and a hot spot with you." Jack grinned and Hamish groaned. The other young man’s shirt displayed a Wi-Fi symbol, rendered in the colours of the bisexual pride flag. Beneath the symbol was a single word:
The green-eyed man laughed. "Sure, Elsa."
Jack looked appalled. "Elsa? I’m clearly Anna."
George gave Astrid a playful nudge, and she gave him a friendly thump back.
Jack held a hand out a fist to Hamish, and the other young man bumped it back. "When we rise, right?"
Realisation, followed by a defiant look materialised on Hamish’s face when Jack invoked the event’s theme. "When we rise." he echoed.
George and Astrid pushed themselves off of the older man’s truck, and approached to say their own goodbyes.
"See you around, snow cone." she teased playfully as she gave him another wince-inducing handshake.
"Better believe it, Buffy." she laughed, approving of the nickname.
"No more picking on protesting bigots, okay?" George weakly scolded as he hugged Jack with enough energy to nearly lift the smaller man off of his feet.
"But they’re so easy to piss off!" Jack whined, but he was beaming as soon as he was released by the bigger man.
He watched as the three out-of-towners climbed into George’s 2004 Ford pickup, and casually waved as the Scotsman drove out of one of the parking lots lining Pine Street.
Hamish continued to watch as Jack’s profile shrank from view, and was then hidden by some of the neighbouring buildings.
As he settled back into the seat between Astrid and George, he reflected back on how the ending of the day had taken a dramatic turn from what they were expecting, and despite the circumstances in which they’d met, he’d ended up meeting someone who he’d gotten on really well with... and hopefully would be seeing again soon.
‘When we rise’, he mused as they left Downtown Providence, we can achieve anything.