The Lunch Date

I’ve been trying my hand at writing short stories…Here’s my latest. The challenge was to write a short story on this prompt: When a man takes lunch to his wife’s office, he’s told that she hasn’t worked there in weeks.

THE LUNCH DATE

The smell of garlic wafted behind him as Roger stepped into the elevator. He pressed the button for Karen’s floor and stepped back and waited. He impatiently switched the bag of food to his other hand.

His heart was beating heavy in his chest like the bell sound the elevator made as it passed floors. He was both nervous and excited. He loved bringing lunch to Karen because it always seemed to give her such joy. Her co-workers were playfully jealous, and often praised him for what a great guy he was. They used words such as “devoted,” “loving,” and “thoughtful” when describing him, and it was good for his ego. He smiled as he stepped into the lobby and waved at the receptionist, who was on the phone and was too engaged in conversation for him to stop and say hello.

“Hi Cynthia,” he said to the tall, leggy blonde who passed him in the hallway. “Just came to bring Karen some lunch. I hope it’s still hot. Traffic was horrible on the way over.”

Cynthia, tilted her head slightly to the side and frowned at him.

“You’re bringing lunch to Karen?,” she asked curiously.

“Yeah. She said she’s been having a hard time at the office this week so I thought I’d surprise her. Maybe it will cheer her up a bit.”

The puzzled look on her face was fascinating to him. She looked up and down the hallway as if she were looking for Karen.

“Um, Roger,” she said slowly, “I don’t know how to say this… but Karen hasn’t been at work all week.”

“What do you mean she hasn’t been here all week? That’s ridiculous.”

He didn’t wait for her to answer. Instead, he brushed past Cynthia and barreled towards Karen’s office. The metal mini-blinds clanked loudly against the window as he forcefully opened the door. Even though the light was off, he frantically looked around her small office, as if she would simply appear out of nowhere. The small yellow light on her computer screen indicated that it was in sleep mode, and her chair was pushed in tightly up against her desk.

Karen was nowhere to be found.

He said nothing as he turned around to look at Cynthia, who had followed him into the office.

“Roger, Karen sent me an email last week saying that she had a family emergency in Charlotte and needed to take some time off. “

“Charlotte?,” he exclaimed, his voice grew higher as the panic set in. “She’s not in Charlotte! I saw her at breakfast this morning!”

He put the bag of food on the desk and reached into his coat pocket to retrieve his phone. Shaking, he clumsily tapped the screen on his iPhone and dialed her cell number.

Cynthia continued to stare at him as they waited for Karen to pick up.

“She’s not answering,” he said as he shook his head. “I don’t understand.”

“Maybe she went to visit a friend,” Cynthia offered, trying to extend a glimmer of hope. I knew she was going to get caught, she thought to herself. I tried telling her that cheating on Roger would come back to haunt her. I don’t care how good the sex is.

Roger paced back and forth, calling Karen’s number over and over. Still no answer.

“Why isn’t she answering? She always answers when I call.”

He tapped his fingers into words on the tiny keyboard.

Where are you???

Cynthia stood silent as Roger tried to rationalize Karen’s absence. He scratched his head.

“You know what? I’m going back to the house. Maybe she came home sick or something,” he said hopefully.

“Yeah. Maybe so. Let me know.”

Roger’s torment was apparent as he forced a small, worried smile at Cynthia as the elevator doors closed.

But as soon as the elevator started to move, that worry turned into a sinister chuckle.

He knew exactly where Karen was.

In fact, he knew where she’d been all week.

She was bound with her lover in an eternal embrace, rotting at the murky bottom of Lake Lanier.

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