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A Lunch Too Far

Maggie still remembered being surprised by the woman who rode a bike into her garden. The stranger careered up the open drive, wobbled on to the lawn then, with an anguished cry, fell over. Maggie was in the kitchen at the time, tidying up after Sunday lunch. She ran out.


‘You all right?’

‘Yes, I think so,’ the woman said. She disentangled her legs, got up and brushed some grass from her skirt. ‘I’m really sorry. Think I was trying to change gear.’

‘Lucky you found the lawn,’ said Maggie. ‘You could’ve done some real damage. How’s the bike?’

‘Fine I hope. It’s my daughter’s. She and her dad want me to go cycling with them weekends. I never learnt when I was young.’

‘Why not come in for some tea. Get your breath back. My name’s Maggie.’

The woman smiled, ‘Kirsty. That’s very kind.’

‘Hope you don’t mind it in the kitchen,’ said Maggie as she poured. ‘My family are in the lounge watching football. Wouldn’t take kindly to being disturbed.  I’m not into football. Prefer drawing and painting.’

‘That’s my sort of problem,’ said Kirsty. ‘My husband and daughter love cycling. We gave her a bike for her 12th birthday, well it was his idea. Now they take off somewhere most weekends. I don’t mind really. It’s nice they’ve got an interest.’

They both took a sip of tea.

‘But you’d rather be involved,’ volunteered Maggie.

‘Claire’s no problem. But my husband sometimes goes riding by himself. I don’t know where he rides to. I feel like an outsider, like I’m losing him.’


Maggie saw Kirsty again about a week later, wobbling nervously down the road, and didn’t dare wave. But it was a couple of months before she realised how involved they really were. It was a family lunch at a pub. They were just starting on their roasts when Maggie happened to look out of the window and see Kirsty ride into the car park. With her was Stuart, a man she shouldn’t have recognised but was horrified to discover she did.


She often had lunch with Stuart. It was a relaxing time away from mornings shoving paper around and staring into computer screens with phones attached to their ears. Stuart wasn’t her boss but was senior to her. He’d come in to the general office to discuss some order or other and always had a moment for her. Commenting on her hair, the way she’d done her eyes or asking about her weekend. He wasn’t the office flirt, that was the thing about Stuart. What he said came across as though he meant it.


‘Not long now before he asks you out,’ they all teased once he was out the door.

‘He’s out of bounds. Married and so am I,’ she replied.


But lunch? What was the harm in that? Over the weeks, having a relaxing chat about life became almost a routine. They’d discuss the world and how they’d put it right and laugh about some of the office characters.


One afternoon, Stuart’s boss walked in to the general office.


‘I can’t find Stuart, Maggie,’ he said. ‘Any idea where he is?’


She didn’t but that was hardly the point. If Stuart was missing, Maggie had become the one to ask. They’d become an item.


Maggie stared at the cooling roast on her plate and took some half hearted stabs at it. She tried to break into the chat and laughter around the table while sweeping her eyes round the restaurant hoping not to see Kirsty and Stuart. With luck they’d just come for a drink. Why did she feel so awkward about it? There was nothing wrong with being friends with a male colleague whatever other people thought. He’d mentioned Kirsty on rare occasions but she’d no reason to believe she’d already met her splayed out underneath a bike. He’d even mentioned cycling but still she hadn’t twigged. Lots of people go cycling. It was then she realised that neither of them discussed their home life.


‘Did you enjoy your drink at the King’s Arms yesterday?’ asked Maggie once they’d sat down with their lagers on the Monday lunch break.

Stuart’s eyes widened. ‘I didn’t notice you there?’

‘I saw you ride in with your wife.’

‘You should have said hello.’

‘I was in the middle of a family lunch. Anyway, I was pleased I couldn’t.’


Maggie took a drink. ‘Have you ever wondered why we don’t talk about our families, Stuart?’

‘We do talk about our families.’

‘Hardly ever. I’ve already met your wife. She fell over in my garden when she was learning to ride a bike. If you’d talked about her, I might have realised who you were.’

Stuart looked down at his glass then took a gulp. ‘I suppose I like what we have, Maggie. Just you and me.’

‘I know. I feel the same. It’s like we’re single, just for an hour a day.’

‘And I really look forward to it,’ said Stuart. He stroked her fingertips until she pulled away.

‘It’s a fantasy world,’ said Maggie, ‘Seeing you with Kirsty made me realise what we’re doing.’

‘We’re only having lunch with someone we enjoy being with.’

They looked at each other for some moments in silence.

‘No,’ said Maggie. ‘It’s much more than that. Kirsty learned to ride a bike because she thought she was losing you. And she was right.’ She looked down at her wedding ring. ‘I enjoy it enough to feel guilty.’

‘Are you telling me we can’t have lunch together?’

‘And how will it all end?’

‘I don’t want it to end,’ said Stuart.


Maggie finished her lager. ‘If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking the answer’s no.’ She found her handbag and stood up to go. ‘Keep cycling with your wife, Stuart. The next thing I must do is find a way to combine football with art classes.’

Michael R Chapman
~ master of none ~
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