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Shona and Sandy: the mountain

He's fallen behind again. I slow to a walk and take a drag of water from my camel backpack, barely able to swallow my irritation. Sandy told me he went hill running all the time. However, his bright red face and how he's holding his side say otherwise.

'Sorry,' he wheezes as he finally catches up and instantly collapses onto the soft, mossy grass. He fumbles in his backpack for a flask of tea. Apparently, it's time for another break.

I sit beside him, staring at Loch Lomond, which glistens far below in the pale afternoon sun. Soft green and purple hills stand out against the light blue sky. After a moment or two, the view works its usual calming magic.

Sandy sips tea from the flask, quietly contemplating the magnificent sight. His face is still red, dark blond curls plastered to his forehead with sweat. I can grudgingly admit he is sort of handsome. Lithe with broad shoulders, he has a rock climber's body that I'm now realising is misleading.

'Want a biscuit?' He produces a packet of chocolate wheatens from the depths of his backpack.

I shake my head. I haven't laid eyes on that particular brown packaging since my mum wrapped two biscuits in tin foil for my play-piece snack between ballet classes when I was six. The chocolate usually melted in the stuffy studio, and I would lick it off before eating the biscuit. Whether or not it would be the same, better, or worse, to have plain digestives and a separate square of chocolate for one's snack was a hotly debated topic.

'I don't eat biscuits,' I say

'You don't eat biscuits?' His light grey eyes fill with such horror that I snigger.

'Haven't had a single one for years.'

'But — how?' He seems equally baffled and distressed, staring at his half-eaten biscuit as though wanting to apologise to it.

'Just like this,' I shrug and open my airtight container of blueberries.

Sandy's face falls. 'I shouldnae've come, should I?'

Two minutes earlier, I would have snapped that he absolutely should not have, but my bad mood evaporated without me noticing. 'You don't go hill running often, do you?'

'I've never even walked up a hill,' he admits.

I have to turn away to hide my grin at his hangdog expression. 'What, never? I thought you grew up in Balloch. You didn't do Conic Hill on a Saturday as a kid?'

'We wurnae really a hill walking kinda family,' he grins. 'Don't think my da could even find a mountain when he'd had a drink. We went to Loch Lomond Shores once on a Sunday when my Gran and Granda were down visiting. There was a summer fair thing on, and Granda paid for me and my brother to go on a coupla wee rides and got us ice creams. It was the best day o' wir lives and then Da fell over the wall into the loch and had to get rescued by the Coast Guard.'

'I'm so sorry.'

'Naw it was brilliant. He was only a couple of metres in, but he was that pished they thought he'd hit his head so it was a whole operation wi' blue lights an' walkie-talkies. Me and my brother pure loved it. Only shame was ma gran crying, but —' He shrugs. 'Granda got her another ice cream, and then she was okay.'

'So — what possessed you to come today? Everybody thinks Ben Lomond is the easiest Munro because it's our wee local Glasgow one, but it's not really a first hill walk.'

'Desperation,' he says cheerfully.

'I beg your pardon?' A chilly wind skitters over us, and I frown at the gathering clouds. If we'd been going at my planned pace, we would almost be back at the car park by now.


'I don't know what you mean by that.' I meet his gaze, and then I think I know what he means by that. I glance away again, nerves scuttling over me. I suspected.

Kind of. Hoped. Maybe.

I take a shaky breath.

I might be able to negotiate the trickiest conditions on the craggiest Munros without breaking a sweat, but I am utterly rubbish at this kind of thing. And it's not as though I can awkwardly run away like I normally would. He'd probably die out here by himself. I giggle suddenly, hit by the absurdity of murdering someone by exposure rather than deal with jaggy feelings.

'I mean, I really like you, and I was desperate to spend a bit of time wi' you,' Sandy clarifies bluntly.

My stomach twists like someone is trying to wring water out of it. I stare at a lone thistle bravely pushing its way through thick grass. I'm not fanciful enough to think of myself as a lone mountain thistle. But I can't deny it's an apt visual.

'It's okay if you don't like me,' he adds cheerfully. 'I wouldnae expect a classy bird like you —'

'I'm not a classy bird,' I snap.

'Aye, you are,' Sandy grins. 'You're the classiest bird I've ever met. You're like a princess but in real life.'

'Princesses exist in real life.'

'Aye, but you're the kind wi a pumpkin carriage and wee sparrows that dae yer washing.'

I burst out laughing. It's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, yet I suddenly feel a bit — tingly. It's a weird, giddy sensation.

'I promise you I do my own washing,' I smile. Suddenly, all I can see are his lips. They're quite full for a man's, and I'm gripped by a need to know what they feel like. There's a wee patch of soft skin on his chin where reddish stubble doesn't grow. I'm assaulted by an image of licking it, hearing his breath catch as he holds my face, pulling me closer and —

I turn away, heat rising in my cheeks. An insistent pulse beats deep within me. This — isn't me. I don't do this.

We met at a yoga class a few weeks ago. It was an advanced Ashtanga practice, usually filled with folk like myself who take yoga seriously. Sandy got the time of the beginner's class he signed up to wrong, and the teacher said he could stay. Within two minutes, he announced he wasn't comfortable observing his scrotum quite so close up.

I admit now I'd known fine there was no way he was a keen hill runner. He's an actor. He is a ridiculous human being.

I don't think I'll survive if I don't kiss him right now.

I force myself to meet his eye, and the entire universe jolts as though hitting a speed bump. My stomach flips over and my heart pounds. Time stands still as Sandy gazes at me with a soft half-grin. Then, infinitely slowly, he plants the gentlest kiss on my lips.

Desire rears up in me. He draws back a little. I follow him, kiss him, loving his little gasp of surprise. His lips feel exactly as I imagined. Warm, soft and curious. We kiss again and again, gently exploring the sensation of one another.

After a few moments, he cradles the side of my face, drawing me closer as the kiss deepens. I open my mouth a little, enjoying the shock of lust as our tongues meet. I can barely remember the last time I was kissed, but I know I've never been kissed like this — insistent and tender, warm and urgent.

My insides melt into a molten pool of need as he runs a hand down my neck, brushing across my breast so a moan escapes, then slipping under my top. The shock of his fingers on bare skin makes me gasp and press closer. His fingers trail over my stomach, my sports bra, teasing at my waistband.

I'm kneeling, leaning over him, holding his face with both hands as I kiss and kiss. A mist descends, cool drizzle practically sizzling on my burning skin. Visibility is next to nothing, wrapping us in a silky grey cloak of privacy. Sandy runs his fingers over the front of my yoga leggings and dips them between my legs. My gasp is more of a strangled scream.

'Shona —' He breaks off our kiss to murmur in my ear, his breath hot, his voice tingling down my spine. 'I would really like to make you come. Is that okay?'

The noise that comes out of me is unintelligible, yet also assent. I glance around. Ben Lomond can be like Sauchiehall Street on a sunny Saturday, but the weather and the weekday mean there won't be a living creature for miles.

It is just me and Sandy and the mountain and the mist.

He pulls my top over my head and unclips my sports bra. The shock of skin exposed to air is thrilling. Light drizzle caresses me, contrasts with the heat of Sandy's lips as he kisses and sucks one nipple, then the other. I spread my knees as he stroked me through the thin fabric of my leggings, teasing, matching the rhythm of fingers and tongue, his other hand firmly holding my hips.

I clutch his head, kiss his wet hair as he strokes more firmly. His soaked t-shirt clings to taut muscles. I run my hands over his shoulders and back, exploring his contours as he breaks contact for an instant to reach inside my leggings.

The wonder of his fingers directly against my slick, hot wetness brings a guttural scream as the pressure becomes sweetly unbearable. He slips a finger inside, caressing as his thumb continues its dizzying circles at my entrance. I lean across him and yank at his waistband, desperate to feel him.

Straddling his knees, I take hold of his velvet hardness, enjoying his ravaged grunt as I rub, matching the rhythm of his fingers inside me. We kiss deeply, tongues and fingers and hands dancing in a dizzying ballet of pure pleasure. Pressure explodes, and I throw back my head, screaming with abandon into the clouds. Waves of bliss roll over me again and again as Sandy joins me with a joyful roar.

The sun reappears, bathing my naked skin, burning the mist away. We laugh as we catch our breath, come back down to earth, giddy with the unexpected joy. Sandy pulls me across his lap, cradles me close. I feel a burst of pure happiness that matches the sudden sunlight.

'Well, I wasn't expecting that,' he laughs.

'Neither were we,' says a voice.

I jump out of my skin as I spot the two wee old ladies sitting on a rock a few metres away, sharing a picnic.

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