Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Squire’s Pride

Summary: Amy reflects on how much has changed on Squire’s Isle in the time since she’s come home.

June 2008

From where she sat on the sidewalk, Amy Wellis could see the papered-over windows of the storefront across the street where a boutique had once stood. Next to it was a hardware store with a sign offering to copy your keys while you wait. She didn’t pay much attention to the details or the tourists flowing past her. A few of the passersby actually asked if she was okay and she forced a smile, rewarding their compassion with an actual response. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

            She was sitting outside of Coffee Table Books, around the corner from the entrance where she wouldn’t impede traffic and couldn’t be seen from the windows. She didn’t know how long she’d been there when someone came out of the shop, looked around for a moment, and then came to sit down next to her. She knew who it was without looking, even though they’d only been dating a few… months? Could that be right? She looked over at Kate Price, who stared back at her with mild concern. Amy smiled. Kate raised an eyebrow.

            “Stephanie told me you were out here,” Kate said. “You okay?”

            “Um-hm,” Amy said, looking across the street again. She kept her hands in her lap, still twisting the polyester fabric around her fingers.

            Kate settled in against the wall and brought her knees up to rest her arms on them. She looked down at Amy’s lap.

            “What’s that?”

            Amy held it up and unfurled the material even though the colors immediately identified it. The flag was just a little bigger than her hand from fingertip to wrist, with a white stick stretching out from one side. Kate smiled.

            “A Pride flag? I didn’t know you had that.”

            “Yeah.” She twisted the flag by its stick. “I thought I would put it by the cash register. This lady came in and the look on her face… I thought there was something wrong with her coffee. So I asked if everything was okay. She asked me to put this away.” She affected a nasal, elderly voice. “It’s bad enough I had to stop listening to the Pixie on the radio. I’d hate if I had to stop coming in here, too.”

            Kate put her arm around Amy and pulled her close. “Oh, honey. I’m sorry.”

            “I just thought that with everything that happened with Nadine last year…”

            “I know.” She kissed Amy’s hair. “Nothing is going to change overnight. It’s great that Dean got to keep her job, but everything else is going to take some time. I’ve heard that they’re still struggling to get new sponsors to replace the ones who didn’t come back. The island rallied behind her but when it comes to actual support, they’re a little slower.”

            Amy sighed. “It should have woken them up. They should have just got up the next morning and decided to stop wasting time being terrible people and start living right.”

            Kate smiled. “That would be great. But it’s not really how the world works. People need time to adjust their path. Nadine and I knew we weren’t working a long time before we actually broke up. Change takes patience.” She squeezed Amy’s shoulder and looked at the flag. “What do you want to do with that?”

            “I want to take it back inside and put it back on the counter. I don’t care if I lose customers. If they’re the kind of people who would leave because of this, I’m grateful I don’t have to serve them. And if there are people on the island who need to see the flag being displayed, then I want them to know it’s there.” She raised her hand and flapped the flag against Kate’s cheeks. “To know we’re here.”

            “That’s going to be the change. That’s going to be what shifts. When we stop hiding and being quiet.”

            “Mm-hmm.” She rested her head on Kate’s shoulder. “Thank you.”

            “You’re welcome. Do you want to stay here for a while?”

            Amy nodded. “You don’t have to stay, though.”

            Kate settled against the wall. “I don’t have anywhere else I need to be right now.”

            Amy smiled and put the flag on her thigh to smooth out the wrinkles.

Present Day

The hardware store across the street had rainbow bunting along its storefront, and a sign next to the door announced they were running a sale for the duration of Pride month. Amy Warren turned away from it and looked down the street toward the harbor. Rainbow flags hung proudly from enough storefronts that a visitor might assume there’d been an invasion. Maybe there had been…

            “Hey, I remember finding you out here once before.”

            Amy smiled at Kate and motioned her over. Kate strolled up and took a seat next to her, patting her on the knee before looping an arm around her shoulder.

            “Still fits,” Kate said.

            Amy chuckled. “Better than before, maybe. Can you believe it’s been over ten years?”

            “No, no, because if it’s been ten years, that would mean we’ve gotten old. And we’re not old. We’re young vibrant children.”

            Amy laughed. “Sure. You keep telling yourself that, but I’ve seen your reading glasses by the bed, Mrs. Warren.”

            Kate whined. “Are you okay?”

            “Mm-hmm. Just wanted a breath of fresh air. Did everything look under control in there?”

            “Yeah, your little army is running things efficiently. I think they were already running low on the Pride cookies.”

            Amy said, “Damn, can’t keep those things on the shelf.”

            “They taste so good fresh out of the oven.”

            “They do.” She looked at the hardware store again, then jabbed a finger at it. “Is it bad that this shit pisses me off?”

            “Whoa!” Kate said, startled by the sudden anger. “What happened? What’s wrong?”

            Amy sighed and pushed her hair out of her face. “Where have they been all these years? I lost customers because I had a flag on my counter. The store got egged.”

            “What? When did that happen?”

            “The first year I had the flag. I told you about it.”

            “No, you didn’t.”

            Amy said, “Yes, I did.”

            “Ames, no, you didn’t.”

            “Yes, because that’s why I got the big painting done in the window the next year.”

            Kate said, “I remember the painting. You never told me why.” She sighed. “Probably because you were afraid that I might run a story on it, even if you told me off the record, the way I did to Nadine.”

            “I–”

            “It’s okay,” Kate said. “We were both different people back then. I won’t hold it against you. I would never do it now and you know that you can trust me.”

            “Right. Okay. Maybe I didn’t tell you. But… I went through that. And now that it’s trendy, everyone is jumping on-board. I should be happy that it’s cool to support the LGBT community, but they didn’t earn it. They’re getting to support without… without suffering. They didn’t support us when it would actually have meant something. It makes me mad.”

            Kate said, “I get that. Fairweather fans. Wearing the colors when the team plays the Super Bowl but nowhere to be found in a losing season.”

            Amy nodded emphatically. “I should just be glad that the stadium is packed.”

            “No, you shouldn’t. Your reaction is perfectly valid. It’s great that they’re here, it’s great they’re supporting us. But this is the kind of support that goes away when the wind changes. Hell, it goes away when the month ends and they can tuck the rainbow flag back in a drawer. We don’t need that kind of support. Luckily we have enough of the right kind of support in this town. The kind that sticks around the whole year.”

            “Yes, we do.”

            The city only had funds for the Fourth of July veterans parade so there wouldn’t be one for Pride, but thankfully Mayor Hood-Colby had found enough in the budget for a special celebration. There would be a sunset picnic in the park, then a ‘community walk’ to the harbor for fireworks and live music from local bands. The mayor and her wife would be leading the walk personally, and Nadine was going to be the “madam of ceremonies” at the concert.

            Amy remembered her little solitary flag on the counter, the shame of taking it down and wondering if it would ever be welcome here. And now the tide was turning. The town was awash in the colors of Pride. Profits from the picnic were going to be donated to an outreach program for LGBT youth. And personally, she was living openly with two women she loved, her partners. Despite what was going on elsewhere in the country, the tide really had turned in their corner of the world, and they weren’t letting the darkness push them back into the shadows.

            “Plus,” Kate said, “any bigots left in town are getting a very loud-and-clear message that they should either accept the way the world is or keep their mouths shut. If that woman is still around and she wants to stop going to businesses who support the LGBT community, she better hop a ferry to somewhere far away from here.”

            “I should probably get back inside to help with the next batch of cookies.”

            “In a few minutes,” Kate said. “When you go back inside, I have to go back to finish my article. So… yeah, I definitely think we should stay here for another few minutes.”

            Amy settled her head on Kate’s shoulder. “If you insist. I love you, Kate.”

            “I love you, too.” She took out her phone. Amy twisted her neck so she could watch Kate type out WE LOVE YOU in a text to Nicole. It was a rule that if two of them ever said it when they were alone, they should make sure to tell the other partner at the same time. There was no punishment if the ritual was forgotten or skipped, but they liked to make sure whenever possible that they would try to keep the declarations as balanced as possible.

            Amy sighed and shook her head at the hardware store. “Fairweather fans…”

            Kate chuckled and kissed the top of Amy’s head, holding her until one of Amy’s workers came outside to find her.

#

At sunset, Nadine’s voice interrupted the music playing from speakers positioned all over the park. “Listen up, folks! We’re going to start the community walk in a few minutes. We’re going to exit through the north side of the park, starting on Argyle Street. People by the fence, you can see our lovely mayor and her family waiting by the gate. We’re going to be following them. Nice and orderly, remember. No pushing or shoving. Once you’re on the street, just follow the signs posted on trees and lampposts. It’s about half a mile to the harbor so pace yourselves. See you at the show!”

            Amy, sat between Kate and Nicole in one of the covered pavilions, remained where she was while everyone around them began stirring. The picnic had been wonderful. Great food provided by local businesses, music provided by KELF, and reuniting with people she hadn’t spent nearly enough time with lately. It was also nice to have a meal with her partners. Too often eating at home meant Amy working late, Kate eating at her laptop to meet a deadline, Nicole wandering out of her dark room hours after the other two had already eaten. It had been too long since they’d actually sat down and shared a meal together, and Amy was grateful to the picnic for the opportunity.

            Nicole stood and lifted the camera from her chest and snapped a photo, one of a few dozen she’d taken during the night for the paper. When she’d gotten the shot, she let the camera hang again and stretched her arms over her head. The move made her shirt rise and revealed a strip of her belly, which Amy couldn’t help but take notice of. Kate also noticed, and noticed Amy noticing, and squeezed her thigh under the table. In a few minutes the crowd had thinned out enough that the Warrens got up to join the exodus. A few volunteers were already hard at work cleaning up the abandoned plates, drinks, and napkins to ensure the park wouldn’t be a disaster in the morning.

            Amy slipped an arm around Nicole’s waist and held her other hand out for Kate to hold. During the early days of their relationship she’d wondered how they could possibly navigate with three people instead of two. Now everything came naturally to them all. Holding hands, dancing, kissing, sleeping. They found a rhythm that worked and ensured no one felt left out and no one was neglected. The most important trick was actually communicating when any of those feelings arose.

            The route led them straight down Argyle. When they reached the corner of Spring Street, they saw Mayor Hood-Colby and her wife standing in the median to make sure no one took a wrong turn. Their daughter, Isabel, stood between them in an orange dress and waved at the unofficial parade with a huge smile plastered on her little face. Patricia was in a red suit over a yellow blouse, and Jill wore a blue blouse and green skirt.

            Nicole lifted her camera and snapped a picture as they passed. “The first family of Squire’s Isle is a Pride flag. Amazing.”

            “Ames and I were talking about that today,” Kate said. “How it wasn’t that long ago we were all in the closet. Who would have thought, huh?”

            “I could feel things were changing when I came back.” Nicole was holding the camera above her head to get a shot of the crowd. “When I left, I knew there was no way I could ever call this place home. No matter who might live here. Then I came home, found you and Amy, and… it just felt like a new place. Patricia hadn’t even been elected yet, but Nadine was out. It felt like somewhere I could actually call home.” She looked at Amy and Kate, then snapped a picture of them. “I would have tried to make an effort for the two of you, though. No matter what else was happening.”

            Kate said, “Yeah, right. You would have tried to convince us to move away.”

            “Seattle,” Amy said.

            “Probably, yeah,” Kate said.

            Nicole said, “If this island was still as backward as it was when I left, I’d have been doing you both a favor. But this is the best case scenario. Rainbows are everywhere on Pride, sure, but you can feel it the rest of the year, too. When it’s not a business thing. When it’s just the people living our lives, being proud of who we are.”

            Amy squeezed Nicole’s waist because she didn’t trust herself to speak without her voice breaking.

            Spring Street, the main road through town, was lit up to reveal the Pride flags still waving proudly on both sides of the street. Amy pulled Kate closer and let go of her hand, wrapping her arm around Kate’s waist. She pinned herself between her partners, who responded by putting their arms around her shoulders.

            Walking under the flags, Amy decided that tonight she didn’t care if all of these businesses had earned the right to fly a rainbow. She didn’t care how many of the people around her had to be convinced that LGBT people had the same rights to live their lives as anyone else. The only thing that mattered was that they were showing up now, and making the effort. The people who clung to their hate were hiding at home with the windows drawn, clucking their tongues and shaking their heads to an audience of no one.

            Tonight there were flags, there was an unofficial parade, and in a few minutes there would be fireworks with the women she loved. Their mayor was happily married with a young daughter, and no one cared about their sexuality. And tomorrow, they wouldn’t have to hide or pretend or feel shame.

            When she looked at it like that, her little island had plenty to be proud about.

© 2019 Geonn Cannon

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