Blue hands me a cigarette, I hesitate momentarily before proceeding to take a long drag and pass the splif around the large circle. I cough a little, pulling a face.
“Honey what’s that face for? It’s weed that’s all, nothin’ sinister.”
I know that of course and nod. “This-this is all just so new to me.”
“Yes, well these things take time. You’re with us now, you aint got nothin’ to worry about, she’s one of the team. Hanna is one of us ain’t she everybody?”
I stare anxiously around the circle as the others nod enthusiastically, passing around the shared bottle of the cheapest, most potent beer that money can buy. Blue sits there playing with the small braid which hangs loosely from the side of her dark-haired head.
“Ma Momma is gonna be so angry with me. I’ll never hear the end of it.”
She looks up. “Now don’t you give a thought to what yo’ Momma thinks. You’s a woman in yo’ own right. It’s time to make your own decisions in this life o’ yours. Don’t let nobody push you over or pull you in the wrong direction d’ya hear?”
“I suppose you’re right Blue.”
“ ‘Course I’s right. My nickname aint Blue the brain for nothin’. ” She grins. “Now then, where was we? Ah yeah. Let’s all hold hands and welcome our new friend and sister in to our tribe. Hanna we welcome you and hope that you will enjoy being a non conformist. You knows what means now don’t you honey?”
I nod. “It means that I should not conform to the normal pattern of behaviour of society.”
“Yeah that’s right. She’s got it folks. Now then has anyone got anythin’ that they wanna say on any matter in the recent few days?”
A tall blonde haired man nodded. “Hanna this is Jacob.” I smile politely; he reciprocates my action and breaks the circle, stepping forward to shake my hand.
“N-nice to meet you.”
“T’morra is a big day for us all. Protestin’ ain’t no easy task, but I think we’re all prepared aint we? We’ve all got the banners, sign posts an’ such things. But we must remember one thing, we’ve gotta keep this peaceful. The last thing we want is for us all to get arrested by the cops an’ make the papers. You got that. An’ Hanna are you with us?”
Truth be told I didn’t know, my Momma would kill me and I’d never hear the end of it.
“I-I think so.”
“Well that ain’t no good! I need either a yes or a no answer!”
“Yes then. I’m with you on this one.”
“You here that? She’s with us guys! That’s no mean feat, don’t worry Hanna we won’t push ya in at the deep end, we’ll start you off good an’ slow, you can be one of the sign carriers an’ remember this is a peaceful protest, so no retaliation any of you. You don’t want us all gettin’ arrested!”
“Erm, excuse me.” I say. “I mean, this may be a kinda stupid question, but what is this protest all about?”
“All about? It’s about us an’ our free will an’ our rights.”
“Yes but more specifically what is it for?”
“My girl, you have so much to learn! That’s about it.”
“Well what’s the actual point then?”
“I though we were all about love and kindness and peace, what about that?” It’s like that quote from that song! Ya heard it? ‘And peace will guide the planets and love will steer the stars.’”
“Oh that one? From ‘Hair’ ?” Jacob laughs. ” Yeah I’ve heard it, like I said it’s all gonna be very peaceful, we ain’t gonna be doing no harm, no harm at all!”