Paul pried himself an open-minded person. An adrenalin lover, even! He liked to try everything before concluding his opinion. Well, almost everything, surprises, and most importantly surprise parties, have fallen into the "no, thank you" category since his family pulled one on his 5th birthday.
If anyone asked him why he was stumbling on a forest path with a scarf over his eyes as a make-shift blindfold, he would just shrug and, in a very fond voice that would suggest he knew secrets unknown to the author of that question, say his boyfriend's name.
But even his fondness for a charming musician couldn't conceal the growing feeling of restlessness.
"Can I open my eyes?"
"Joohn, it's no--"
"I said no, didn't I? Now hush, we're almost there."
More awkward shuffling followed, this time with the bonus of a tree branch slapping Paul's face. He shuddered involuntarily, not capable of ignoring the too vivid images of John joining a cult and offering him as a sacrifice.
That tended to happen when he didn't know what to do. Strange ideas flowed inside his head, stretching the horizon of possibilities until he thought he would lose his mind.
Finally, the older man stopped, stilling his companion's movement as well. "Bloody hell," he muttered, turning Paul around and gently undoing the scarf. "Your parents raised a devil, that's why they sacked you from the choir, the knew--Hang on! Don't look just yet, yeah?"
In a sense, it resembled the last minutes before going on stage. The Sun shining through the trees' crowns rivalled the spotlights with its intensity. An empty stage, now lawn, before him; buzzing sounds of backstage, now John's muttering, in the background. The breath of familiarity soothed the unsettled nerves.
Two arms wrapped around his middle, John's lips locating the pulse point under his ear before urging him to turn around.
A blanket, a basket filled with food and drinks, John's sketchbook and a camera. A surprise mesmerising in its simplicity.
"You gonna say something?" John interrupted the observation in a slightly timid voice. Paul refocused on his boyfriend, regarding the flush on his cheeks and the nervous flicking of his eyes.
blanket--paul, blanket--paul, blanket--paul
"It's a picnic?" The statement turned into a question halfway because an awful realisation of something skipping Paul's attention, something worth a celebration, crept closer.
"Yeah, but it's not an ordinary one," John glanced at him briefly before clearing his throat. "It's, ehm, it's an anniversary picnic."
"B-but that's in September?"
It had been for the last 10 years. A memory of their first visit to Paris, their first kiss, their first declaration of their feelings.
"Not that. We met on this day, remember?"
Paul nodded. How could he not remember?
"And so I thought, since you always take care of the September events, I'd try to do something on my own for you. And thought--well, you like being outside, so I thoug--prepared this. A celebration of the best thing that has happened to me."
The afternoon toppled into dawn, replacing the aggressive heat with the comfort of evening dew.
Paul, until then laying on his back, lips curled into a dreamy smile -- a curtesy of delicious food and John's kisses -- stirred into life, his ears straining to identify what occupied his boyfriend. Upon registering a delicate scrape of a pencil, he smiled even more and, without opening his eyes, let his hand climb the curve of John's back.
"Care to share what you're thinking about?"
When he cracked his eyes open, John was already looking at him before leaning in to brush their lips in a gentle kiss. Laughter erupted next to Paul's ear as he encircled his shoulders, preventing the older man from getting up.
"You know," he continued their conversation, not focusing on the way John tensed ever so slightly. "I was thinking about you too. What you said earlier about me being the best thing that has happened to you. And I want you to know that it's mutual."
"Yeah? Don't you sometimes wish you met someone more mature...someone better?"
Albeit muffled by Paul's neck, the words rang painfully loud. Their years together flashed before his eyes -- the laughs, the embarrassment, the ups and downs, the tears and arguments, the softly whispered secrets. He wished for their relationship to be easier in the past, especially at the beginning. But they learned together, grew together, even if they were apart and barely talking. Always ended up with interlocked hands like stray cats returning home after years of wandering.
"No." He kissed John's hair. "I doubt anyone else would make me feel as complete like you."
On their way back to their car under the clear night sky, as he relished the feeling of John's hand in his, Paul decided to purchase the ring he had been eyeing for over a year.
He didn't mind surprises that much.