Steve had suggested a day walking in the Peak District and had hoped against hope that Matt would agree. They had parked near Lord’s Seat and wandered upwards, leaving Mam Tor, with its carefully engineered steps, to the tourists. They were tourists here too, of course, but they knew the area well and considered themselves locals even though they lived and worked some miles north on the outskirts of Manchester. There were no hang-gliders or paragliders today; although the sun was glorious the wind was wild and cruel. Matt’s hair danced in the gusts and the grass whispered beneath their feet.
He had offered to bring a picnic. A flurry of shopping in Tesco’s followed by a session in his small kitchen had produced a mini-feast of delicate smoked salmon sandwiches, asparagus spears with a mayonnaise dip, tiny, bite-sized quiches and some chocolate truffles to go with the flask of coffee. There was wine, too, a South African Chardonnay that he knew was good but had chosen mainly for its easy screw top. All luxuries. He knew Matt probably expected ham salad muffins and a couple of cans of beer. The actual contents of his rucksack should help to give a message if he lost his nerve. He had brought plastic wine glasses as well and had made sure that there was plenty of food. Quantity as well as quality would be needed to sustain them. He hoped they would stay all day; that Matt would not leave when he realised what Steve wanted.
They sat at the top, looking out over Edale, listening to the sheep. There were early lambs, calling constantly for their mothers to watch their games. If you knew where to look,the start of the Pennine Way was visible. Maybe another time. He hoped there would be another time.
They were silent, tired from the climb but content. Would the content last when Matt understood what lay behind the invitation? Recently Steve had thought his overtures might be accepted but maybe it was all wishful thinking.
He unpacked the food, concentrating on what he hoped would be a calming task. He was supposed to have psyched himself up for this, but now that the moment had come his nerves were back in full force.
Matt opened the wine, a strange look, almost a query, on his face as he filled the glasses. He sipped slowly, watching Steve lay out the food on the lid of the container he had brought.
Steve opened the pack of asparagus and the mayonaisse. He dipped a pale green spear in the sauce and held it towards Matt with a questioning half-smile.
Matt’s answering smile was broad and seemed to light up the hillside. He accepted the offering and their fingers touched briefly, sending a spark flickering across Steve’s hand. Matt brought the spear to his mouth, still smiling, and licked the creaminess from the tip with slow, careful movements then let the tip of his tongue linger on his lips.