Lunchtime – By Ian Lamberto
Surrounded by the foliage of fall, Charlie and Sarah sat on the only bench in the park still made of wood, the only one that still creaked and cracked when used. They liked the sounds, the way the aged pine reminded them of its presence, the warmth that it kept between its decade-old wrinkles. There was something reassuring about it, something gentle, something that helped sweeten the taste of the peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches that they shared.
It was their lunch hour. It was their tradition.
“Nice day today,” said Charlie, as he always did.
“That it is,” responded Sarah, as she always did.
“Busy in the office.”
“The phones won’t stop.”
“Wouldn’t be much work if they did.”
A few moments passed. Birds chirped from above, making their own idle conversation. The trees, ruffled by a cool breeze, released a sampling of golden leaves to the air. And Charlie stared at his half-eaten sandwich resting idly upon its bag.
“I’m leaving,” he stated.
“Okay, bit early though, isn’t it?”
“That’s not what I meant,” Charlie’s leg started to shake. “I’m leaving…tomorrow…for good….”
Sarah took a drink of water from her thermos; this new script was making her restless.
“Where will you go?”
Sarah set her sandwich down, her appetite fading.
“Why are you leaving? Is it the job?”
“Is it the city?”
“No,” Charlie lowered his head. “It’s you….”
“Me?” Sarah looked stunned.
Charlie’s mouth opened, dismay passed over his face.
“I’m…I’m sorry…it’s just…,” he stammered.
“Well, everyday we sit here, right here, and eat our little lunch, and drink our little water, and say nothing…sure we talk, but we never say anything, and I cannot take it anymore.”
Sarah’s shock quickly gave way to anger.
“Wait, that came out wrong,” Charlie raised his hands in defense. “I…I….”
Charlie returned his gaze to the ground, his heart beating faster than ever before.
“I’m in love with you!” he blurted.
“You are…?” Sarah eyes widened, as her pulse caught up to his.
“Have been for quite a while now….”
“Why didn’t you tell me before?”
“I don’t know,” Charlie shrugged. “I enjoy our time together, I really do…being here, even without the words…I guess I…I guess I didn’t want to lose that….”
“But you’re moving away.”
“Well, um, about that….”
“That wasn’t true, was it?”
“Already lying and we’ve only begun to date.”
Charlie’s face twisted in surprise.
“You hide love a lot better than you detect it,” Sarah smiled.
“You mean…,” for the first time Charlie saw what had been there all along.
And he took her hand, and he stared into her eyes, and she stared into his; and neither moved until the hour had ended.