I stretch up on my tiptoes trying to reach the juicy red apple that hangs annoyingly just out of my reach. There are many other apples hanging on much lower branches that I could very easily pick, but I am not a quitter. I have selected this apple and I am determined to get it. I’m short for a man, so apple picking is not an ideal past time for me. This is a stupid team building activity the boss at work decided on, I was obligated to attend, so here I am. There are four teams, legal, accounting, advertising and maintenance, whichever team gets the most apples wins. A simple yet irritating task. I have little interest in rushing around like a maniac picking fruit on such a hot evening, the rest of my team however find it imperative that we win. I lost them the first chance I got.
I stretch a little further, nearly there. I should just move on; I am wasting valuable time. I know I am being exceedingly stubborn, and I do not intend to change that.
I’m about 2 millimetres away when a large hand grabs the apple and holds it out to me. A man with spikey black hair and big eyes smiles down at me, he must think I should express gratitude or something, the way he looks all proud of himself, as if!
“I didn’t need or ask for your help” I snap, turning on my heel and strutting away, he can keep that apple now. I would rather not have it that accept charity from tall strangers.
“You didn’t ask for it that’s true, but you sure as hell needed it. There was no way you could have reached this apple, what are you 4 foot nothing?” He jests walking beside me, throwing, and catching the apple as we walk.
“I nearly had it, and I’m 5 foot 3 actually” I hiss. This man is annoying. I don’t wish to continue this conversation, but he leaves me no choice, he easily keeps up with my swift pace and seems totally oblivious to the fact that I am trying to walk away from him.
“Whatever you say,” he chuckles, his tone rubbing me up the wrong way.
“Are you new in the company by any chance? I don’t believe we have met before” I say, not quite able to keep the rude undertone from my voice.
“Nope, been the IT guy for four years now, I’ve fixed your tech a few times don’t you remember?”
“I’m afraid I do not” I admit sheepishly.
“Keegan Jackson, you’re um…. Dominic, right?” he holds out his hand to shake mine, I accept, his grip is very firm. He has the rough hands of a craftsman, someone who works with their fingers instead of their brain.
“Yeah, Dominic Breigh, from Legal, nice to meet you Keegan,” I say a little more warmly. He smiles again, it’s a wide smile, showing his nearly straight teeth. He walks slightly slouched, a total contrast to my poker straight posture, I have always thought that good posture is important to show confidence and assertiveness but looking at Keegan now I realise perhaps I was wrong. He exudes confidence and self-assuredness despite his lazy walk and obvious bad posture, the slouch suits him. His loose-fitting clothes do not look expensive and have clearly been chosen for comfort rather than style. I think it would be almost impossible to find another person who was more my opposite. Even while apple picking, I refused to wear a tracksuit like some of the others in my team. I opted for black skinny jeans and a white polo shirt. My dark hair is still perfectly styled into my neat quiff. I can pick apples simply fine like this, without looking like I belong on a street corner selling weed.
“You aren’t so bothered about the competition” He states gesturing towards my almost empty apple basket
“neither are you” I mimic his gesture. There is nothing in his basket at all.
“Nope, I guess we’re just a couple of bad ass rouges letting our teams down” He laughs “hey, what do you say we let them down more thoroughly, on the way in I noticed they have a little café on the edge of the orchard, sells cider and apple pie. You want some?” he shrugs
We walk through the rows of fragrant trees towards the entrance we came in through. In the distance I can hear people shouting frantically, some of the guys are taking this thing far too seriously. The legal team, my team, are hell bent on beating accounting. There is a lot of rivalry between those sectors at the best of times so this is bound to make things a whole lot worse. The head of legal, a stuck up bitch named Helen, will have my guts for garters for not helping but oh well, I realise I’d much rather sit with Keegan and eat pie than play their silly game. My annoyance with him from moments before seems to have evaporated into the evening air and been replaced by an interest in him. I want to know more about him. I want to listen to him speak.
We go in comfortable silence for a few minutes, I can feel the beads of sweat forming on my brow, I don’t often walk much, I’m more of a taxi kind of guy. Luckily, the tall trees provide a little broken shade. The sunlight filtering through the branches in fractured patches of glitter on the ground around me. It is quite tranquil and beautiful, yet I still find myself looking up into the face of my companion.
“So, when did you fix my tech? I feel as though I would remember a guy like you coming into my office” I ask, I really can’t imagine this huge and quite frankly extremely attractive man being in my office and me being totally oblivious to him.
“Bout 6 months ago, you were too busy screaming down your mobile phone to pay any mind to little old me, you were stressing about some case. It was that time when you spilled your coffee all over your keyboard” he says scratching the back on his head as he remembers.
“I never did that, it just stopped working,” I lie automatically.
“Yeah …. we can tell these things in IT, but don’t worry I had you covered, told the boss it was a short circuit, otherwise he’d have made you pay for a new one”
“Oh, well, thank you then” I say warming up to this man even more.
“No problem Dominic, I like to help people that I like” He says holding the apple that he still has in his hand out to me with the usual grin on his boyish face. I contemplate only for a second before accepting the apple from him and taking a big bite, it really is a juicy, tasty apple.
He looks forward again, a satisfied, almost cheeky look on his features. The café can be seen up ahead now, its very quaint. It looks like an old country cottage with thick ivy and full, red climbing roses covering a lot of the front, a little metal sign amongst the foliage reading “wild orchard café” is all that gives it away as not being a tiny house. A small creaky door with frosted windows leads into the dimly lit room, the bright lights of the sun outside making this place seem dark and dusty, but still cute. There are a few mismatched wooden tables and chairs dotted around the place and one comfy looking sofa. It’s very cool in here, a nice break from the blazing heat outside.
“What can I get you boys?” a kind faced old lady asks from behind a little bar in the corner of the room, her smile crinkling her eyes into almost non-existence.
“Two ciders and two apple pies please” I order, taking the initiative, I pull my black leather wallet from my back pocket.
“Make it three apple pies, I’m starving” He pipes up also pulling his wallet from his sweatpants pocket.
“I’ll get these Keegan, my treat” I tell him, I can see the
uncomfortable look on his face, he obviously doesn’t like to accept charity as much as I don’t.
“As a thank you, for helping me with the apple” I explain, this puts his mind at ease. He puts his wallet away and goes to sit at the two-seater sofa in the corner of the room. Interesting choice.
I sit next to him, our thighs touching as I do, pressing against one another, he doesn’t pull away from the contact, neither do I. I must admit it feels quite nice to be so close to another human, its been a while since I touched anyone I suddenly realise. I have been so tied up with work that I failed to notice my social life gradually slipping away. It must have been almost a year since I had a drink with a friend. This unexpected closeness is very welcome.
I take a long drink of my cider, its ice cold and clearly made on site, cloudy and strong, I will probably be tipsy by the time I finish this pint, I don’t handle alcohol well. I have another swig, so good. I notice Keegan watching me from the corner of my eye, he seems somewhat mesmerised.
“Nice” he says, it doesn’t sound like a question, but I answer it anyway
“yeah, it’s really good,” I look back at him and his eyes hold mine a fraction longer than is natural before he reaches for his own drink. Its my turn to watch him now. I notice his thick arms and strong jawline; he really is incredibly beautiful. I know he knows I’m watching him as the corner of his mouth twitches into a faint smile even as he drinks. I don’t look away though, something about Keegan puts me at ease. I think he is hot, and I do not see the need to hide my feelings. I’m totally comfortable with him. He puts his drink down and turns to me, moving even closer on the small chair.
“You know, I’m beginning to think this stupid team building thing was a cool idea” he states.
“you could be right there” I agree.
“I heard that Helen woman giving your team a briefing before we all left the office. She is taking this game super serious right?”
“So, on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being nothing at all and 10 being oh my god I’m going to be killed, how much trouble do you think we would be in if I were to steal you away from the game and take you out to dinner?” he asks, waiting for my answer with a cute half smile
“Ohhhh I think we would be in a lot of trouble; I’d guess a solid 8, you’d have to make it well worth my while” I tease
“I think I can arrange something mind blowing, what do you say?”
“hmm are you asking me out on a date Keegan?”
“depends what your answer is”
“Then yeah I guess I am, just say the word and we’ll go” he laughs
“I’d love to go on a date with you Keegan” I confirm and his face lights up with happiness.
I can tell we are going to have a good time tonight, wherever we end up it will be fun. Keegan is a happy go lucky type of guy, he sets my mind at ease and makes me feel relaxed and open, we click. I decide at that moment that I will let him take control; I will follow whatever plans he makes. We both text our team leaders to tell them the bad news and ignore their angry responses, I don’t even make up an excuse, I just say I’m leaving with Keegan from IT. We order a cab back to the city both feeling excited about where tonight will lead us.
Seems apple picking wasn’t so bad after all.