He led the way, strong and sure of himself. She followed behind, watching the way his legs carried him through the undergrowth. His voice carried on the wind, his laugh echoing off the mountains as they walked. She liked it.
She watched him, when he wasn’t looking. Studying his face, she took in the salt-and-pepper stubble and creases around his eyes. It made his eyes look kind, she decided.
That morning, she’d passed him in the hallway on the way to the bathroom. “Oh you look different without your glasses on,” he’d exclaimed.
“Yeah I know, I think I look weird.”
“No you don’t, you look beautiful.” he’d replied with a smile.
She thought about this as she walked. Was he flirting? Or just being nice? She wasn’t entirely sure, but enjoyed replaying the compliment in her head as she watched his feet climb over the rocks in front of her.
“Great view, hey?” He said, when they reached the top.
It sure is, she thought.
They got to the communal hiking hut towards the top of the mountain. They were the last ones to go to bed, the rest of the room already asleep. He’d given her the space on the very end of the shared bunk, so she wouldn’t have to sleep next to a stranger.
“Do you want to look at the photos I took today?” he whispered, trying hard not to make a sound in the silent room.
She leant towards him, their heads nearly touching, watching image after image of mountains and sky. She saw the pictures but couldn’t concentrate, distracted by the close proximity. She could smell the mint from his toothpaste, the laundry powder from his clean t-shirt and the muskiness that only came from a good day’s hiking. Together they were an intoxicating mix, and she found herself moving closer.
The photos finished but neither of them moved. In the semi-darkness he put his hand out, showing her a cut from earlier in the day. She took his hand in hers and stroked it gently with her thumb. It was a tender and intimate move, heavy with the risk of rejection. What if she’d misread the signs?
He didn’t pull away. Instead, he lifted his hand, cupped one finger under her chin and gently lifted it upward so they were facing each other. He looked into her eyes while moving closer, his lips landing softly on hers in the gentlest of movements. A million tiny electric tingles travelled through her body, her heart skipping a beat while time seemed to stand still. She wanted it to last forever, but a noise in the background brought them both back to the present.
He looked at her and in the moonlight she saw him smile. She smiled back.
Well. That was a first kiss and a half, she thought.