Sunday, August 24, 2014


"Someone's stolen my lunch!" I blurted.
Peering into the break-room fridge, I shoved several lunch bags aside. Still, the brown-paper sack with my name ERIN printed in big black letters remained AWOL.
Lunchroom pranks weren't unusual at McLeod Wholesalers, so I closed the fridge door, planted my hands on my hips, and mustered a smile.
"All right, guys, who's got my lunch? It's not much—tuna salad sandwich, carrot sticks, and low-fat chips."
Six co-workers sat in the tiny break room at round, cafeteria-style tables, while three more employees filed into the room. Two people, while eating and studying their crossword puzzles, didn't look up. Three others looked at me and shrugged. It was handsome Alex Martin, the single guy from accounting with the honey-brown eyes, who smiled and said, "Forgot your lunch? Sit down. I'll share. I've got plenty."
The word "forgot" rang in my ears like a gong. Darn! This morning I was running late, and in my haste I had forgotten my lunch. I clearly pictured it still sitting on the kitchen table.
"Be my guest," Alex said, pointing at a chair across from himself, his smile devastating.
I didn't eat lunch in the break room. I always grabbed my bag from the fridge, hurried back to my cubicle desk, ate quickly, then donned my headset and began working again. Staying busy, working hard, studying, and avoiding people—especially handsome men—I'd found, was the easiest way to mend a broken heart.
With his foot, Alex pushed out the chair. "Have a seat," he said, still smiling. Don't be bashful."
I'm not a bashful person, and I would've refused Alex's offer regardless of how gorgeous he looked—I loved his curly, rusty-brown hair. But I was hungry. I'd had time this morning for only a piece of toast slathered with peanut butter and jelly and a glass of orange juice. I couldn't face the thought of working in my cubicle this afternoon—starving.
"You're very kind, Mr. Martin," I said, sitting across from him. "You're right. I forgot my lunch. No one has stolen it."
"Happens," he said. "You get up late, rush around and bang, you forget your lunch." Then, "Call me Alex. I know you're Erin Mackenzie—I asked about you. And I'm glad to meet you."
With that, smiling again,
Alex unwrapped a huge ham sandwich with Swiss cheese, then set out celery sticks, and a big red apple, which he cut in two with a jackknife.
My intention was to eat quickly, leave abruptly, and avoid a long, soul-revealing conversation with Alex, but I realized since he was sharing his lunch with me, leaving would be rude, so I listened as he told me about himself. He'd earned a degree in accounting from State University four years ago, had worked elsewhere for a couple of years, and had been with McLeod only six months. I gathered he wasn't dating and wasn't married.
His charm curled its way into my heart. His brown eyes seemed to flash, and his voice held a deep, friendly timber. I told him I'd been with the firm three years and, going to school part time, I would complete my degree in retail management shortly. I wasn't dating, either. And then I said, "You asked about me?"
"Beautiful woman grabs her lunch from the fridge everyday, talks to no one, then hurries off to her cubicle—I was curious."
A lot of gossip goes on around here, so I was sure Alex already knew about my wedding fiasco. I didn't mention it, and by the time we finished sharing his lunch—which I thoroughly enjoyed—we were talking and laughing as if we'd know each other for years.
Alex glanced at his watch, and then his gaze swept over me. "Five minutes left. Listen, Erin, I know we've only just met—"
Oh my! Was he going to ask me for a date? I wasn't ready for that. But he seemed to be such an outgoing guy, charisma written all over him, that I might be tempted. Still, what was I to do with the vivid picture of Rick leaving me at the altar that flashed in my brain daily?
I shoved my chair back, ready to rise and escape.
"Erin, what I wanted to say is we should do this more often. You know, have lunch together."
The thought startled me. But made perfect sense. So simple. Lunch together. Get better acquainted. Maybe that picture of me alone on the altar would fade and eventually disappear.
My heart somersaulted. What I was about to do seemed totally unlike me. I took a deep breath. Smiling at Alex, I said, "I'll bring lunch for both of us tomorrow. You won't be disappointed."

The End
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