He knew this amount of sweating couldn’t be just because of the climb. He knew he was unfit, but this unfit? No, this was pressure. He turned his back on her and took in the view, trying to play it cool. Just taking in the landscape drawn out before them in every direction.
Sarah was in the process of tying her laces. She was breathing in mouthfuls of that crisp summer air in an exaggerated fashion. Or was she just unfit and desperately trying to recover from the climb? Suddenly he was thinking about how Sarah might turn out. He was thinking bad and decidedly unfair things.
He considered slapping himself to get some semblance of control, but realised that it would have been a tad strange to do so, alone apart from Sarah on the top of a secluded hill. Then, as his mind tried to get off the point, he considered that slapping himself in any situation, particularly a social one, would be pretty strange. Would she want to marry such a strange man?
“Well, only one way to find out”
He glanced across to the gorse bush that crowned the hill. Glad to see it was still there. Knowing Rob had hidden the rucksack below its blanket of branches.
He looked back to Sarah who was trudging toward the plinth beneath the stone that marked the top of the hill.
The moment had arrived. He did an exaggerated shoulder lift and inhaled deeply. Then he strode towards her as she sat down.
Before she could unwind her fleece from her waist, he was in front of her, on one knee. He had a slight fight with his pocket, and the ring was before her, swiftly followed by the question. Blurted out. Not quite how he had pictured it, but not bad.
She flushed and then appeared to falter. The look on her face said she was witnessing something she thought would never ever happen – which was a reasonable assessment of the years running up to this moment. He couldn’t breath, starting to fear the worst. But then the moment broke. She offered a three letter response and it was hugs and a little kiss all round.
What followed was the normal conversation about nerves and rings and how unbelievably long it had taken him. But Dave was buzzing and keen to double down on the surprises.
“I’ve got a little surprise for you.”
Sarah looked sceptical given they were at the top of a grassy hill with just the clothes they had on.
Dave grinned, strode over to the bush and pulled out the rucksack triumphantly.
“A little celebratory picnic, you know. Due vin, … due Boursin?”
She looked genuinely surprised. He looked like the cat that had the cream. West country clotted. He reached into the bag and as his hand settled on the neck of a bottle, he pulled it free with a theatrical flourish.
Sarah raised her eyebrows. For a moment his brain couldn’t compute, then he looked down at the bottle of Blue Nun hanging from his hand. He almost dropped it.
He smiled, trying to recover the situation, and reached into the bag for another item. An extra large packet of pork scratchings.
“You’re kidding me”. He reached in fearful of what might come next. The crinkle of plastic packaging heralded the arrival of a four pack of Tesco value Scotch Eggs.
“Fucking Scotch Eggs”.
He couldn’t stop now. He delved in again and again, like a man who had to keep buying tickets to an unlucky dip, each item thrown in a pile at his feet. Some limp celery. A microwave burger for one. Poptarts. And to finish him off, a packet of condoms – liquorice flavour.
He looked up to see Sarah in the process of falling off the plinth, in an earthquake of silent laughter.
He turned the bag over and shook it in an angry burst, hoping that something worth eating might fall out. Instead all it offered up was a small piece of paper, fluttering down and away. He stamped on it and then reached down to pick it up from his shoe.
It contained a short message.
“Hope we have provided all the necessary essentials for such a romantic moment. Please take a picture of your face – right now. Oh, and there’s a coolbox you may want to check out around the back of the bush. Give her a kiss from me… she’s a lucky girl. XX”
The weather held out nicely that day. And although they ended up sipping champagne and feasting on some fine produce, not everything in the rucksack went to waste in the end. You can’t beat a good poptart.