For sixteen months they had indulged in a secret lunch date. The third Wednesday of every month they met in the same place, each clutching their homemade lunch and looking slightly flushed-the result of having had to make excuses to work colleagues combined with creeping guilt.
There are approximately twenty to twenty-two lunch breaks in an average working month but the others paled in significance as with each day their rendezvous grew closer. The night before she made the time to carefully search her wardrobe for an item that would reflect a comment made at a previous liaison. This time she had incorporated a silk scarf bearing a hand painted hummingbird and flower design. Previously her hands had been likened to hummingbirds fluttering about her head-when nervous she played with her hair.
She always made an extra round of sandwiches just in case her lunch date had forgotten theirs-they never had. She took time over the sandwich making process, paying attention to every detail in a way she never did usually. The construction of each sandwich was measured and precise- allowing for the right balance of filling and convenience- allowing for ease of eating while in the presence of another.
Sandwiches carefully stowed in a brown paper bag and silk scarf carefully arranged in a ‘this old thing’ casual ease, she leant against the stone pillar hoping to get her breath back before her lunch companion arrived. It had proved more difficult than usual to leave work on time today and she had grown anxious as it began to look as though her break would be lost. Fortunately a colleague had stepped in at the last moment and she had literally skipped out of work propelled by relief and gratitude.
Checking her watch for what could have been the hundredth time, she felt the seed of unease take root in the pit of her stomach. Where was she? They had agreed no contact outside of their lunch dates and this usually added a delicious excitement, but in this moment it simply felt naive. What if something had happened to her? What if she had grown bored with her or worse, had found a new companion to meet for lunch. Sitting in the shade of the cold grey stone pillar she began to feel very small and insignificant. A voice within mocked her and her hummingbird hands hovered at her throat.
Lost in the helter skelter of her thoughts she untied the silk scarf-the edge of a ragged nail caught at the fabric. She pulled at the snagged material and was soothed by the ease with which she was able to dismantle the scarf. She loosened each hair-like thread and released them on the breeze, watching as they drifted towards the sunlight-some free to float away and others becoming caught on the shrivelled fingers of the surrounding trees. Golden threads rippling in the sun-heralding the third Wednesday of the month.