As soon as we step from my car I see it glitter, copper-bright, amongst the kerbside rubbish.
“A bit of good fortune already,” I say, wiping off the dusty dirt and handing it to you. I wink playfully, as though my heart isn’t offered along with it.
“Don’t tell me you believe that superstitious rhyme about pennies and luck, Matt. Grow up.” You bat it away and walk off. “Come on then. I thought we were hiking up a mountain, not litter-picking.”
The penny sparkles in my palm. Like your amber eyes. Yes, I know the colours that compose you. I pocket it, hoist the rucksack on my back and follow your rainbow streak. Lemon t-shirt. Orange shorts. Lime-green sandals. A splash of citrus on the tarmac ribbon of the road.
“Hold on!” You turn and wait. “I barely get you for a day. Can’t we at least spend it together?”
At last, you smile. I’m forgiven. Our journey’s argument dissolves in warm sunshine.
We hold hands, and start the ascent. It’s a tough climb. Halfway up we stop for refreshments. You remind me of a pilgrim’s sacred statue set amongst the rocks for safe travel. Bronze makeup glows on your skin like pigments on a painting. You would be a Madonna. My religious icon. How I want you to be mine.
I bring up the usual complaint as I bring out the picnic.
You sigh, and look away. “Not this again. I thought we left that subject in the car. I’m not ready to move in with you yet.”
“When will you be?” Moody silence. I cut it with words I’ve held back for months. “You’re tied to your mother’s apron strings, you’ll never be ready.”
I’ve overstepped the mark. You say nothing, simply rise and walk away without another glance. You’ll press on for the summit, not go back. This was your father’s favourite trek, and we’re honouring the anniversary of his death.
Following after you, I regret my cruel words. Your mother took his passing hard, she struggles every day. Of course you can’t leave when she needs your support. Will you ever forgive me?
At the top, I search for your gold-blonde hair. My eyes mist up in sympathy when I see you crying, and I rush over. You are a child in my arms.
Once you’re ready, we stand up to go.
“I wish I’d brought something to leave behind,” you say. “Like a marker, to show I came. I never thought of it till now.”
I reach into my pocket for the penny.
“Leave it on a stone somewhere out of the way,” I suggest. You smile and kiss me.
“What a beautiful idea Matt, thanks. I’ve been waiting for a sign. I think this might be it. I feel ready now, to move on. I know I’m lucky to have you.”
And I you, my Penny. My lovely, lucky Penny.
Our respects paid, we turn to leave. Together.