Liam and Melanie reached the summit then veered off the beaten path and around the backside of the mountain. The temperature had risen into the high 90’s but the rain, so refreshing on this midsummer hike, soaked them from head to toe on the trek up. Just a drizzle remained now, giving them a break from the pelting downpour they endured on the climb.
They had arranged this unconventional rendezvous the week before by e-mail–virtual strangers, having only met online–and agreed to meet at the base of a nearby mountain for a hike. Despite the weather, they decided to go ahead with the plan.
They barely spoke the whole way up. It had just started to sprinkle when they began their ascent, the moisture not yet cutting through the stagnant air. But now, up here, there was just enough of a breeze to cool them without sending them shivering immediately back down the mountain.
In a clearing on the north side, they found a flat boulder to rest on. He sat facing north as she faced west. Fog shrouded the landscape. Hazy mountainous ghosts stood in the distance fading in and out of sight.
Melanie leaned back on her palms and crossed her outstretched legs in front of her. She angled her face toward the sky and closed her eyes, encouraging the droplets to tap on her eyelids Soon, the sprinkles dwindled to a mist, and then nothing. She opened her eyes to the overcast sky. It hung above like a bright new canvas on which she could decide how to paint the rest of the afternoon.
Melanie pulled her legs up onto the rock and turned to gaze out over Liam’s shoulder. She reached out and smoothed the collar of his rain-soaked shirt, grazing the back of his neck. She wiped away raindrops with her knuckle and a stroke of familiarity. Though it was the first time she had ever touched him, it felt natural to her, like something she had done a thousand times before in another life. Her light touch tickled him and elicited a shiver. He glanced over his shoulder, grinning.
She sighed, averting her eyes.
“What are we doing here?” she whispered.
She directed the question more at the gold band she twisted around her finger than at him.
Liam turned to her with a broad smile, displaying faint dimples and two rows of perfect white teeth. Her eyes met his–glistening whirlpools of warm honey. She thought she could drown a blissful death in those eyes. So much beauty encased in pure masculinity. He wore a well-groomed mustache and goatee, black as night unlike his hair which began to show traces of silver, matching the ring he wore on his finger.
“Hmm, this?” He leaned in to kiss her with just a gentle brush of his lips, his facial hair surprisingly soft against her skin.
They bumped noses and Liam pulled away long enough to remove his rain-streaked glasses and place them on the rock. Nose to nose again, he blinked lazily and raindrops rolled off awnings of thick dark lashes, landing on his cheeks.
Lightning flashed and Melanie imagined it was the chemical firing of neurons within their brains, the friction of their bodies creating their own electromagnetic field, bonding them together as one and kinetic energy keeping their mouths and hands in constant motion. They created their own perfect storm as dark clouds rolled in, bringing more rain. Thunder startled them into a tighter embrace and she could have sworn the sound came from within her own heart.
The rain eventually subsided. Melanie wove the fingers of her left hand through his, and observed their mismatched rings side by side. She realized that this day was what could have been perfect and complete at the right time and place, but not now. Here and now, they each belonged to another and Melanie felt as though she had just stolen someone else’s thunder.