Chapter 18 : Maybe I Know
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He's gonna break her heart and make her cry
I know it's me they're talking about
I bet they all think I'll never find out
We are a daisy chain of ice cream cones and lovers. Neville holds an ice cream cone in his right hand, and my hand in his left. Susan's right arm wraps around my waist as we each sport our own cones in our left hands.
The trickle of weekend shoppers parts around us like water giving way to a rock. Some roll their eyes at the inconvenience, but most don’t think to look up from their routine as they proceed from errand to errand. One woman, however, widens her eyes as she nears us, her head snapping from one of us to another. Her jaw spasms in indecision as she fights whether or not to speak, and then she hurries past us, her head down.
"What was that all about?" Neville asks, watching her rush off over his shoulder.
"Oh, her." I can't help but laugh. "Regular customer. She came up to me during my shift last night and very seriously warned me about you. Word on the street is you've been going out with two ladies at once."
Neville and Susan throw back their heads in joint laughter.
"How long do you think it'll be until she picks up that Neville needs the same warning about you?" Susan winks.
I maintain my smile, but I can’t help but become increasingly conscious of the perceived judgements hidden in the silent glances of our fellow shoppers. "That's right, keep walking," I mutter under my breath at a man whose gaze lingers too long for my liking.
"Don’t worry, love.” Susan rubs my back reassuringly. “People don’t spend nearly as much time thinking about your life as you think. They’ll just assume whatever’s easiest - probably that you and I are just friends.”
“Oh yeah?” I shoot back with more passion than I knew I had invested in this subject. "Why is it they assume Neville's my boyfriend and Susan's just my friend?" I look down at our web of touches. "In what world is an arm around a waist more platonic than a hand hold?" I demand. "A heterosexual bullshit world, that’s where! Do girls have to kiss every other step to be validated as lovers? Or - ”
"Your anti-patriarchy rants are showing a bit early tonight," Susan teases. "You sure they didn't spike your ice cream?"
"Maybe that's it!" My face lights up. "No, not booze - I'm having an allergic reaction to the heteronormativity of the fucking Cristlehorn Creamery!"
"Oh me, oh my," Susan responds in mock seriousness. "What would you prescribe, Doctor Longbottom?"
"Well, unless there are any autoimmune complications, I believe this reaction should clear itself up in no time," Neville mirrors Susan’s tone. "In all my years, I've never found a surer palliative for heteronormative patriarchal bullshit than our Hannah Marie Abbott."
I squeeze my two lovers close to me. The movement was apparently too abrupt, as Neville’s ice cream grazes my hair, leaving me with new highlights of balsamic and strawberry. I make no effort to tidy myself - so what if people have one more reason to stare.
We parade down Diagon Alley, arms filled with ice cream and love, feeling unstoppable at our private intersection of outsiders and don't-give-a-fuck-about-it-ers.
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