Disgusted, I crossed my eyes at the computer screen. I’d been at work less than an hour, but I was already tired of looking at it. I leaned back in my chair and stretched. Life was easier since the university had switched to electronic records, but sometimes I missed the chance to get up and move around that looking for a physical record gave me. Electronic recordkeeping was code for sitting on my ass all day. Except for trips to the john and going to eat, there was little reason for me to ever leave my chair. It was a wonder I didn’t weigh five hundred pounds. I could die in here, and they’d have to take out the windows and use a crane to get me out.
I got up, walked over to the windows that made up my office wall, and looked for a moment. I stared at the reflection cast back at me by the dark tint. Far from five hundred pounds, I was at the opposite end of the scale. I wasn’t scrawny but I was slim, and at five foot ten was rarely the tallest in a room. My shoulders were wide for my build, and I had a great smile. I ran a hand through my short brown hair which I wore spiked slightly in the front and trimmed off my ears and collar. Long had never been a good look for me. I hated my Romanesque nose, but my hazel green eyes were okay, and my facial hair light enough that I never had a five o’clock shadow until closer to eight.
When I realized what I’d been doing, I laughed at myself for spending so much time appraising my looks and shifted my attention to stare through my reflection at the campus I’d worked on my entire adult life. At twenty-eight, it wasn’t as long as I made it sound; though on the gay scale of life, it was getting pretty close to the end of things. I’d gotten my degree here too, but not in Recordkeeping 101. I had been a double major, combining programming and math, my first true love. I glanced around my tiny office. No one looking at it would guess I was a brainiac geek, but I loved numbers. I liked them better than people, to be honest.
I grabbed a package of Reese’s from my drawer and dropped back into my chair. From there I continued to stare out over the campus as I opened the wrapper. Kids rushed around between classes, stopping in shifting huddles to talk before moving on; even from so far away, they looked bright and eager, ready to take on the world. I wondered if any of them knew that life almost never turned out the way they thought it would. I remembered starting at the university with the world as my oyster. What a joke that turned out to be. I never dreamed when I took this crappy office job at nineteen to work my way through school that I’d still be stuck here almost ten years later. I barely supported myself on what I made, and working Saturdays at a part-time gig was the only way to have more in my life than paid rent and something to eat. I was a long way from the dreams that filled my head when I was one of those kids with a backpack slung over a shoulder. I had changed so much since then, I wasn’t sure I recognized myself in my memory of that fresh-faced kid.
Shrugging off my morose thoughts, I took another bite of the candy. I let the milk chocolate and peanut butter soothe away my troubles as I refocused on what I was doing. I was preparing to train a couple students to take over my job. I was into the third day of my two-week notice. The thought made me smile. I might not be that stupid innocent kid anymore, but I still had dreams, and one of them was about to come true. I had landed a programming job and looked forward to a large enough pay increase that I had turned in my notice at both jobs. I would have taken the job even if it had meant a pay cut. I was ready to do anything to get out of the rut I’d dug myself into and get my life back. The idea of programming all day instead of dealing with idiotic records issues was as good as peanut butter. I couldn’t wait.
There was a timid knock on the door, and I shoved the wrapper with the other Reese’s cup back into my drawer. When I’d given my notice, they told me they were going to turn my job into a student position. The thought almost made me laugh, but I smiled and agreed that it was a fine idea. It meant I’d spend my two weeks training a couple of poor suckers to do something that was much harder than anyone outside the position understood. Harder wasn’t the right word; it was more time consuming. It ate up time, sometimes far into my evening. It wasn’t unusual for me to still be at work at six or seven o’clock at night, long after everyone else had gone. I wondered what these kids would think about that; thankfully, that was not my problem. I straightened my tie as I got up and shrugged to settle my sports jacket on my shoulders. I smiled and opened the door.
“Hi!” The greeting was perky, and I blinked. The greeter was a bit shorter than I was, long legs bared by a short blue skirt that flounced just south of her crotch. Her T-shirt stretched tight across the front of her chest and almost managed to meet the waistband of her skirt. A blue headband that matched her skirt caught wavy blonde hair back from her face; big blue eyes stared out at me from a model’s face. She grinned and bounced on her toes. Bounced. She beamed. “I’m Brittany.” Of course she was. I stepped aside and let her in, my hopes for quick instruction quickly dissipating.
Two hours later she took a bathroom break, and I collapsed into my chair. It had been the most trying two hours of my life. Brittany wasn’t stupid, far from it, but on the scale of annoying, she rated about a five thousand on a scale of ten. I was going to kill whoever told her I was gay. I was going to kill them in the most painful way I could imagine. I never understood why people thought that every set of boobs was a gay man’s friend. I rubbed a hand over my face, ate the other peanut butter cup, and texted Adam.
“This sux. Save me.” I sent it in hopes of some comic relief, but he didn’t answer. Ms. Pep returned.
“I’m back!” she singsonged as she came through the door. I groaned to myself and got up to let her take my chair. She flounced over, settled in, and we took up where we’d left off. I showed her how to do the job, and she filled my ears with the latest gossip about Adam Lambert. I detest Adam Lambert.
“Lunch,” I announced at noon with relief. She was done for the day; I had another student to take through the paces that afternoon. I remembered too well coming to the office everyday when I was in school, making my classes fit around the job. Thinking about it made me feel sorry for her. Working your way through school was no picnic. Brittany jumped up out of the chair and smiled widely at me.
“I had fun!” she told me. “This is a great job. Want to eat lunch with me and my friends?” My compassion died off as I suffered an anguished mental image of her with a group of her friends. I barely kept my eyes from reflecting the horror I felt at the thought of being trapped with them. Rah rah rah, holy crap. I managed a smile.
“That’s nice of you, but I don’t think I can today,” I said. My hand closed around the phone in my pocket, and I willed it to ring. It remained silent, of course. My smile felt strained. “I have stuff to do. You did great Brittany. See you tomorrow, right?”
Her smile diminished for a brief second and then resumed its normal 1,000 watts. “Of course I’ll be right here, eight thirty on the dot!” She gave a little wave, grabbed her blue and white backpack from where she’d left it beside the door, and was gone in a whirl of energy that was exhausting. I fell into my chair and stared at the closed door. My head felt like it was stuffed with cotton. If I had to deal with another “Brittany” that afternoon, I’d shoot myself.
I worked through lunch. Training didn’t excuse me from what needed to be done, and as beginners, they were only getting the most basic instruction that day. Everything I had to do was piling up. I hadn’t even opened the mail in my inbox or checked my e-mail. Getting out of here today would be a nightmare. I focused on the fact that I only had seven and a half days to go and then I’d be done for good. The idea heartened me. I pulled a Hershey bar out of my drawer and called it lunch.
I buried myself in work and forgot all about the next trainee until I heard the knock on my door. It was a much firmer knock than the previous one, and I found hope that the morning filled with mindless chatter was not about to be repeated.
“Come on in,” I called, intent on finishing up what I was working on. I didn’t look up when I heard the door close.
“Where can I put this?” a male voice asked. I glanced to where he stood, loaded backpack in hand. I forgot what I was doing because my gaydar went crazy and my mouth went dry. “Are you okay?” he asked. His tone suggested that he doubted my level of intelligence, and I realized I was staring at him. Dark blue slacks pressed into a sharp crease belted around a narrow waist. French blue button-down tucked in neatly, the open white collar revealing a strong throat encircled by a gold chain. A small diamond stud in each ear and shaggy dark hair curling over his forehead and collar. Brown eyes surrounded by lush black lashes dancing with intelligence and a smile that killed every thought I had in my head but one: Holy crap, he was hot.