When they had all piled back into Francis, Benedick was the first to speak.
“Well,” he said, matter-of-factly, “that guy was disgusting.”
There was a collective groan of agreement from everyone else.
Balthazar: “He was really gross.”
Beatrice: “Literally the most disgusting.”
Pedro: “What was he thinking?”
Hero: “Yes, I’m fairly sure that I’m traumatised for life. All I wanted was some postcards!”
Pedro looked back at Hero from the passenger seat. “Do you think he realised that you’re sixteen? As in sixteen?”
Hero wrinkled up her nose. “I don’t know. Let’s hope not.”
“Do you think we should report him?” Beatrice asked, starting the engine and pulling out of the car park. “I genuinely think we could get him fired for harassing the visitors.”
There was mixed reviews on this proposal, with Benedick and Pedro for and Balthazar and Hero against.
“I think we should have explained to him how creepy he was being before we left,” Balthazar said. “Like, maybe he didn’t realise.”
“He was wearing glasses that were two inches thick and waist-high trousers!” Benedick exclaimed. “And he was talking to a sixteen year old girl. That is already creepy!”
“Hey, watch it,” Pedro warned. “That sounds pretty discriminatory.”
“I guess he could have just been trying to be friendly.” Hero sounded hopeful but not entirely convinced.
There were loud noises of disagreement.
“No, Hero,” Beatrice said firmly, “just no. I know that you want everyone to be as lovely as you are but some people are just weird and creepy and like sixteen year old girls.”
“We could write a comment on their TripAdvisor page,” Balthazar suggested.
Benedick barked a laugh. “‘Tullie House Museum provides a fascinating insight into the Roman occupation of Britain at the time of Hadrian’s Wall’s construction. Interesting artefacts and exhibits. Lovely cafe… Shame about the creeper who works in the gift shop.’”
Beatrice smirked and added, “‘The only thing that compares to the impressiveness of Hadrian’s Wall is how impressively creepy the gift shop guy is.’”
“‘The gift shop guy is voted 93% creepy by 3,326 users.’”
And as Beatrice and Benedick laughed loudly at their own hilariousness Pedro turned around shared an astonished look with Balthazar and Hero. Something very strange was happening in their friendship group…
Long after the others had stopped talking about it, Hero was thinking about the man in the gift shop. There was one thing that had lodged itself in her mind and not only because of its creepiness.
“You’re very nice,” he had said, after she had politely responded to his small talk.
“I could tell you would be nice.”
That had been the first real creepy signal - aside from the thick glasses and high-waisted trousers, obviously. Hero had smiled nervously. “What?”
“You couldn’t dress like that and not be nice,” he had said.
Yes. Very creepy.
But Hero couldn’t help wondering what he had meant by that. How was what she wore anything to do with being a nice person? How had this random stranger managed to make her feel like being nice was really a weak thing? Hero knew she was probably just being ridiculous but hadn’t that been what Jessie had been trying to tell her? And Pedro. To stop being so nice. Perhaps it even made her some sort of target.