“You need a hand?” he said looking down at her with that smile on his face, arm out-stretched. She panted and took it. The climb was getting more and more difficult. The mountainside grew greener and greener and, if it wasn’t for the drizzly weather, would have made her footing more sure. He clasped her hand just on the acceptable side of firm-but-tender and helped her ascend.
They had only known each other for a few days. He was charming, a little too cocksure-to-be-true, but had a self-effacing humour that was as disarming as it was funny. As least he thought so.
Another group had shown up unexpectedly at the base of The Hill where they were staying. He’d been there many times before. He came almost every year. He liked that joke. A small group of like-minded climbers, walkers and ramblers made the annual journey. They always had the hotel pretty much to themselves.
He noticed her almost straight away and glances and comments within earshot devised to garner interest had been exchanged across the now busy hotel bar. Every time their eyes met he felt a slight uneasiness in his chest, but he liked it. It was a long time since he felt it last. REminded him of that Bob Dylan song.
The morning before the climb he walked past the foyer and saw her reading a women’s magazine so later that evening he carefully engineered a conversation with his friends talking and joking about the kind of women who read those kinds of magazines. It was as she was walking past that he casually laid his hand on her arm. “Didn’t I see you reading one this morning? You know, one of those ladies’ rags? Me and my friends here were just…” etc. etc. He was pleased with how that went. She didn’t pull away as he touched her arm, she held eye contact and he managed to use his charm to deflect from the fact that he had singled her out, thus making her feel comfortable in a potentially embarrassing situation – all good.
She seemed to enjoy the provocation and responded by saying that men could learn a thing or to. He grinned and joked that he was willing to learn, it just depended on the teacher. He then quickly followed it up with the classic old dog, new tricks line as to detract from the poor, over-familiar joke and likened himself to Dennis Waterman. She laughed. Standard stuff, all in good humour – bants. Although the exchange was brief, it was a moment. “Life was all about moments,” he assured himself.
The brief encounter gave him more reason to say hello the next morning and now manoeuvre himself into the position he was now in – holding her hand, climbing to the summit of The Hill.
He’d waited at the start and her let group go first. Then slowly caught up with her, making her notice him as she looked behind at the view. It was stunning. Tall fir trees lined the hillsides. Birds of prey circled and hung in the air, perfectly poised and weighted. He’d smiled that knowing smile – the one he knew would be reciprocated – and from that point on they began walking together. Initial icebreakers were exchanged; a cursory nod to the chat the night before; weather and so on. Talking to her in this way, out in the open, no armour – or at least less armour – was a different challenge than the half-cut, half-baked, light-hearted flirts from the night before.
Her hair was jet black and curly. When she was in civilian it wafted down to her shoulders, but today just one, long curl bounced down from her waterproof. Her eyes were green. He liked those best, apart from her figure, obviously. Round bottom and full breasts. Not too big as to be vulgar, but not too small either. Her eyes really did sparkle and told him very little. Apart from the fact that the feeling was mutual. “She wasn’t talking to anyone else, was she?” he reminded himself gingerly. Her lips were full and her teeth were straight and white. He hadn’t asked her age as he was partly afraid of the answer. He was in his forties and she wasn’t anywhere close. Although he found her charming and intelligent anyway. Or did she find him charming and intelligent and that’s why he wanted more of her attention? He couldn’t quite work it out. And didn’t really want to either. Anyway, she was exactly the right height.
“If I ask her too many questions,” he thought. “then she’ll ask me. But she must know?” He enjoyed her company and wanted more of it. Her finding out he was married would ruin that. I mean, it wasn’t as though he was going to doing anything. Right? Don’t be silly. This was what it was and it was nice. Such a terribly mundane adjective. That’s it. Ok, so holding hands could be construed and a line crossed, but he was helping her. No harm done. He shook his head slightly trying to shake the discussion away. “The view at the top really is breathtaking.” He said, hoping that actually speaking would stop him thinking. “It’s tough right now but it’ll be worth it…promise.”
He looked up. It was here that the climb grew more unsteady. The stony path they had been traversing up until that point had helped him get a good footing. Now the path became more overgrown; steeper, and even though he had been here many times before, he felt unsure of himself. The early morning brightness seemed to fade as British-summertime-grey cloud moved in. The drizzle turned to rain. She held his hand more tightly and he dug his heels in the mud and uneasily pulled her toward him, up he hill.