“June bride always a bride,” Felix says cheerfully, holding up the umbrella a little higher, as Harry asked. He watched the young woman he was shading from sun glare adjust the flower girls, her bouquet, her new husband’s boutonnière, as Harry walked backwards into place.
Harry laughs lightly, raising his camera again. “On the hottest day of the year no less. At least the flowers are still pretty fresh today, and nobody’s wilting yet.”
“At least the little ones are well behaved,” Felix adds, “I would have run off by now if I were them. Had no patience for standing around or standing still.”
“You have patience?” Harry teases, the shutter clicking rapid-fire for a few seconds. Once he’s satisfied, he kindly asks the flower girls to step out and the company of bridesmaids to step in. Felix watched the little girls scamper off to their grandmother, tulle skirts and straw baskets bouncing the whole way.
“Judging by that tone, I guess not,” Felix smirks. “But you love me anyway.”
Harry flashes a wry smile in his direction. “I love you because of it.”
“You love me because I hold all your junk for you on the hottest day of the year in direct sunlight.”
This was the second wedding they — well, Harry — had photographed that day. There was another two weddings and a high school graduation scheduled for the next day. Felix couldn’t do much more than carry his boyfriend’s equipment and follow directions while he ran around Rhode Island snapping photos, he didn’t want to be anywhere else.
April, May, June, and September were Harry’s busiest months of the year if you stacked all the graduations, engagements, weddings, christening, and family photos shoots scheduled. During the week, Felix didn’t much mind or notice Harry’s crazy schedule, how early he woke up and how late he came home. During the weekends, it made Felix feel far too lonely, the apartment painfully empty.
Felix had resolved to tag along as often as possible that summer. To help Harry, to not feel so lonely. To get dressed up every so often. To stay away from his laptop and the temptation to tie up the loose ends he truly wasn’t prepared for.
And who didn’t love people-watching at a wedding cocktail hour?
“So, I only have to get photos of the cocktail hour and the introduction walk-in, and then we can split,” Harry rattles off, reaching into the bag on Felix’s shoulder to change out his camera lens and drop the felt bag containing another in his blazer pocket.
“Awesome. Where do you want to get dinner?”
“Dinner?” Harry blinks, then checks his watch. “Oh shit, it’s five… Um wherever you want, honey. I don’t care as long as there’s air conditioning.”
Felix holds out a hand, palm-up. “Gimme the car keys and I’ll get started on the cool-down.”
“You’re the best,” Harry says, dropping a kiss on Felix’s cheek and the key chain in his open hand. “See you in twenty!“
Harry jogs off to the reception, following the bride and groom from a few feet back, pausing to snap photos all the way.
Felix watches for a moment before turning and trudging through the summer heat and humidity to the car. He takes his time, packing the camera stuff in the backseat and turning over the engine. He rolls all the windows all the way down, cranking the air conditioning as far as it can go. He sits in the front seat, one knee pushed up next to the steering wheel, scrolling through his phone, ignoring the the sweat at his hairline and dripping down the back of his neck. Harry had insisted on wearing his blazer the whole day for professionalism’s sake, but Felix had shucked his hours ago. He was glad he had – he hadn’t sweat through it and could use it to cover up the wet patch between his shoulder blades at dinner.
Felix pauses his scrolling and looks up at the venue, a grey stone mansion like something out of The Great Gatsby. All the well-dressed friends and relatives, the sprawling flower garden and breeze off the Atlantic Ocean, the strands of outdoor lights flickering to life as the sky turns a mellow blue and faintly pink. It was all so lovely and peaceful, happy and magical despite all the stress the bride was probably feeling.
Felix found himself wanting it, more than he realized while in the thick of it.
He tried to shake it off, blaming Kieran’s recent nuptials. He and Eli’s small synagogue ceremony in Philadelphia that past April. Just family and friends, good music and better food, their first daughter (soon to be oldest daughter – Eli had recently discovered she was pregnant a second time) included in their vows. Whether he would admit it or not, Felix had been taking notes. He had started keeping a collection of photos for inspiration on his phone, searching for more during his lunch breaks. Harry didn’t know about it yet.
Felix smiled dreamily to himself. Harry, his Harry. Handsome and creative, patient and kind and steady; who tolerated Felix’s family, had lovely sisters and an even lovelier heart. His Harry, who had stuck by him through good and bad ideas over nearly seven years. Who he had almost lost to a stupid fit of misplaced rage.
Who was running towards the car right that second.
Felix blinks and sits up, pushing away his day dream. He rolls the windows up and lowers the AC fans. Harry packs his camera away, strips off his grey blazer, then collapses grinning into the passenger’s seat.
“Done!” He cheers, tone laced with laughter. “I’m done! I need a drink and a shower and food, as soon as reasonably possible.”
Felix beams at him, tucking his phone away. “In that order?”
“Not in that order.”
“How about a kiss for all your hard word?”
“Oh, yes. That too. I want that first.” Harry leans over the center console and Felix meets him halfway. A simple, almost chaste, press of lips but it sent Felix’s heart fluttering nervously.
They pull down the driveway of the mansion, headed back towards Providence proper. As they got closer to town, Felix felt his heart beating out of his chest. The nerves in the skin of his hands tingled uncomfortably, a lump starting to form in his throat. Harry was chatting happily next to him, waving one of his own pamphlets like a paper church fan. Felix was listening, but not one word Harry said landed and stuck in his brain. The churning, trapped-butterflies feeling in his stomach and lungs reached critical mass as he found a parking spot near their favorite cafe.
Holy shit… Felix thinks, the other shoe dropping. I’m going… I’m going to propose to him.
Harry turns, smiling widely at him. “Are we going to Rising Sun?”
“Y-yeah. It’s been a while,” Felix answers weakly. He winces, praying Harry doesn’t notice.
He doesn’t, or at least doesn’t seem to. “That’s perfect. I could use one of their gin and tonics.”
He undoes his seatbelt and climbs out of the car. Felix lags behind as he tries to settle his nerves, drive out the hair-brained idea. It only strengthens as he grabs his blazer from the backseat, locks the car, and slips it on. Harry was already handling the meter and Felix’ heart beat even faster, if that was even possible. The hazy golden-blue light of burgeoning sunset glinting off his black hair. The first flush of a fresh sunburn glowing pink on Harry’s cheeks.
“Wow…” Felix breathes.
Harry glances up at him, chuckling softly to himself. “See something you like?”
Felix jumps, eyes widening in embarrassment. He was 25, slipping up like he was 14 again. “Um, oh, yeah. I mean, yes, all of you. Always.”
“Didn’t mean to say that out loud did you?”
“Not at all.”
“I figured,” Harry smirks, nodding up the sidewalk. “Ready?”
“Yeah… I need a dark and stormy.”
“I’ll say.” Harry takes his hand and they start walking up the brick sidewalk to the corner cafe. Felix kept sneaking glances at Harry, biting his tongue to keep the words down. He tried to remind himself that they had time, he didn’t have to rush. That he should get a ring and do it the right way.
But what if they didn’t have all that time? His parents hadn’t. And what was the “right way” anyhow? And Harry looked beautiful in this light, and that wouldn’t last forever right?
Felix lags then stops as they reached the cafe doors, the tension between their clasped hands drawing Harry’s eyes.
“Are you alright?” He asks, brows starting to crease.
“Yeah, totally, fine. I’m fine, just, hold right there,” Felix says in a rush, his own dark eyes locked on Harry. Dark hair neatly styled back, cut short now to show off his face better. His light blue shirt, sleeves rolled and pushed up high on his elbows. “Yeah… just like that.”
“Just like what, Felix?” Harry is thoroughly confused until Felix feels himself dropping onto one knee. His face drains. “Oh shit. Oh my god–.”
“Marry me?” The words fall from Felix’s lips as his hands shake. It was reckless and sudden but felt so very right. “I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t have a ring or anything. I literally just decided to do this because I love you and you look so nice right now and I–.”
“What?” Felix whispers.
Harry manages a soft smile through the shock of his expression. “Yes, Felix. I said yes.”
“Yes? Yes.” Felix’s brain struggles to catch up. When it finally does, he’s quickly back on his feet, pulling Harry into a strong embrace. “You said yes, oh my god you said yes!”
Harry just laughs, squeezing him back as the scattered onlookers broke into applause.