As the birds stretched their vocal cords for the first time that day, Mr Bardon left his house and shuffled off to the park holding the small wooden box. The milkman trundled down the road in his electric cart and Mr Bardon tipped his hat to him, as he had done every day for as long as he could remember.
It was a long walk to the park, and by the time he reached the entrance gates, the commuters had already started their pilgrimage to their offices.
Despite the early morning hustle and bustle, the gates remained unceremoniously locked until 7:30am precisely. Mr Bardon looked through the bars and waited patiently for the park warden to allow him in. He looked at his watch and at 7:29, the warden appeared, a bunch of keys in his hand and a smile on his face.
‘I’m tempted to just give you a key Mr Bardon’ the warden said, as he unlocked the gate and yanked it open.
‘Very kind of you, George, but I like the wait,’ he replied, before shuffling off towards the lake at the heart of the park. He sat down at his usual bench overlooking the water and sighed deeply as he rested himself from the walk.
He watched as people streamed through the park, using it as a thoroughfare and oblivious to the gentle rhythms of nature that surrounded them.
At about 8:30am school children began their commute, shoving and pushing, shouting and laughing, he watched with a smile as he clutched the box. A tear ran down his face as a young child ran up to him. ‘Hey, mister. What’s in the box?’ The child couldn’t be more than five and his mother came running up behind him.
‘Ralph don’t bother the man,’ she said as she grabbed him by the hand and began leading him away.
‘It’s no bother’ he said as he leaned forward so he was at the child’s level. ‘It’s someone very special, we come here every day as this is where we first met’.
The woman had stopped pulling at the child and stood there listening to Mr Bardon. ‘She was very special to me, and she died a long time ago. I bring her here every day and we sit here together so I can feel like she’s still with me.’ The little child nodded, and a tear ran down the woman’s face.
‘Was she your wife?’ The little boy asked. ‘Just like my mommy is daddy’s wife’ he continued, pleased that he knew about husbands and wives.
Mr Bardon smiled broadly at the child, ‘Not my wife, but you might say she was my first’, he said. He held the box out towards the child, ‘Let me show you’. The woman frowned and was about to pull the child back when he opened the box revealing a shrivelled heart.