Chapter 5 - It's a Moment Too Soon

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Mia trekked up the steep hill, feeling her hamstrings start to fail her. The large black backpack she had borrowed from her brother was dragging her shoulders down, her back bent forward by an inch. She was out of breath, but she was reluctant to rest, knowing that Richard wasn't going to wait for her if she did.

He was a few feet ahead, not a flaw in his strut. His back was straight, his chest forward. He glanced back at the struggling brunette, letting out a hand for help.

Mia grabbed it, feeling his strong arm support her weight. "Just a few more steps, Mia. You got it."

She smiled at his encouragement and walked alongside him, inhaling all the fresh air good nature provided. A generous amount of gratitude filled her, reminding her that there was so much the world had to offer, and she just needed to take it. No second thoughts; no doubts.

They reached the top of the mountain and savored the view. Green plains stretched beyond eyesight, and a small stream could be seen down below, neighbored by rocks and trees. Mia kept her eyes forward, toward the sunlight, and the rays gleamed across her cheekbones. She closed her eyes as it sunk in — a moment for herself to forget. To rid of the stress that had accumulated on her shoulders, just for the time being.

Richard watched her in admiration. He loved the way the sun had instantly illuminated her face in bloom. He loved the way she opened her arms, absorbing the serenity around her; letting it brand into her body.

He loved her, he had realized, long before their reunion.

He loved everything about her, and she was clueless. Worse, she had been upset with him for a while, and it was going to take a lot of elbow grease to relieve it.

He clearly knew that, but he was up for it.

Mia fluttered her eyes open and turned to Richard. She smiled, sending a wave of jitters throughout his body as the pearly whites shot arrows through his heart. He cleared his throat.

"I know this isn't Elderslie anymore, but it's still Scotland, and it's..." He trailed off, looking at the mountain tops, trying to organize his words.

"It's beautiful," she said, completing the sentence for him.

They sat on a log nearby, pulling off their bags and resting their feet. Richard sipped on his red tumbler, offering it to Mia after.

She was staring at the clouds above, forgetting where she was, and almost, who she was. Shaking her head, she took out her own bottle from the side of her bag. "I have my own, thanks."

He nodded and closed the lid. The stillness in the air was defeated by the hush sound of water running in the distance, and the wind that howled, making the tall grass rustle beneath their feet.

Richard continued to stare at her, hoping that his dark sunglasses wouldn't give it away. Mia felt a heavy presence next her, apart from the fact that she was with Richard. Her senses were tingling, and her cheeks were turning red. She could feel it in her stomach — a pinch of insecurity that had always bothered her amongst onlookers.

"Why do you keep looking at me?" She didn't dare spend a second to flower her words. They spat at him with fire, but it didn't bother him. He let out a shaky laugh.

"What else is there to look at?"

Mia gave him a puzzled look; her eyebrows furrowed, her nose scrunched. She pointed ahead with both of her hands open. "This view!" she exclaimed. "Sometimes I forget that places like this exist."

"They never leave. They're always just here, waiting." He winked at her, but it was for nothing. He laughed at himself as he forgot that his eyes were hidden behind dark shades, and it caught Mia's attention.

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