Tales From the Calendar 1
Ah, January, that bright promise of a better year, quickly dashed by reality—Albert E. Washington
Normally, Albert loved his job at Quantum, Inc. He got to think, create, and nerd out all he wanted to, and he got paid well for it. He’d helped design a prototype motherboard that had the potential to be groundbreaking if the test models worked, and that was just one of the fun things he’d gotten to work on.
He was comfortable at Quantum. Most of the people he worked with were like him, and bullying wasn’t something that happened there. After growing up in public schools and going to college at sixteen, Albert had too much experience with being bullied. Factor in the gay part, and he had caught crap from everyone just about.
And if he heard, “But you don’t look gay,” from one more person, he was going to possibly scream instead of try to explain to them that not all gay men were perfect, gorgeous studs anymore than all gay men were promiscuous and incapable of monogamy.
Or he might just not say anything. It wasn’t like the topic came up all the time, and his brothers and sister and most of his cousins…well some of his cousins…had stopped giving him grief over not being a handsome, stylish gay man.
Albert pushed his taped glasses up his nose. He’d gotten distracted from his task and needed to keep on track. His boss, Ezra Harrington, had asked him to deliver a camera to some photographer-guy in the square not far from the Alamo.
Albert hadn’t been one of the developers for the camera, so why he got to deliver it was beyond him. He didn’t argue, though. Ezra was a cool boss, and Albert would walk a few blocks in the awful heat for him.
The camera was in a bag along with whatever else Ezra was sending. Probably the small, attachable instant printer and all the accoutrements that went along with the camera.
Albert had started sweating a few feet out the door from Quantum. He was going to be gross by the time he handed off the camera. His glasses slipped again and he huffed in annoyance. He’d ordered a few pairs after his debacle this morning. The neighbor’s kitten was lucky Albert hadn’t fallen on it when the little thing had tripped him up.
As angry as he’d wanted to be about his glasses, he’d only had to look into the big blue eyes of the fuzzy white kitten to decide the glasses were sacrificable.
One strap of Albert’s suspenders started to slip down his shoulder. He reached for it and bumped a guy speeding past him.
“Watch it asshole,” the man barked at him, flipping Albert off.
Albert stumbled and bumped into someone else.
“Move,” the guy growled. “Fuckin’ nerd.”
“Some people are such assholes,” said a lady on his left.
God, everyone was going to call him names!
“I meant those two idiots,” the woman clarified, smiling broadly at him. She was older than him by a few years, he’d guess, but she had pretty brown eyes and green and pink hair. Had on tortoise shell horn rimmed glasses that did nothing to detract from her cuteness. “Are you okay?”
Albert fixed his suspenders and felt himself blushing hotly. “Yeah. Thanks.”
“Dude, I hate bullies like them. People now days are so rude and full of themselves.” She winked at him. “I’m Perry.”
“Hi. Albert.” Albert was confused. “Um, why are you talking to me?”
Perry laughed. “Oh, because you looked like you could use a kind word instead of a name-calling. Plus, I’m with the photo shoot at the square. Ezra told Marco that he’d sent you with some fancy new camera he wanted Marco to try out. I got to play lookout for you!” She hooked an arm through his. “So come on and meet Marco.”
Albert followed before he could think about it. “But I could give you the camera—“
“Oh, no, no,” Perry protested. “If Marco has questions, I won’t be able to help him, and Ezra said he would be in meetings for hours.”
So that meant any questions Marco had would fall to Albert to answer? “I didn’t design the camera or anything. I don’t know why Ezra sent me.”
“Probably because he knows you’re super smart and could figure out anything Marco needs to know anyway,” Perry replied. “I bet you got a perfect score on your SAT’s and ACT’s.”
“Not quite,” Albert muttered.
“Well, even I know that everyone working at Quantum has to be, like, a genius,” Perry said, grinning down at him. She was taller than Albert’s five-five, no surprise there. Most people were taller than him.
And Albert really didn’t want to talk about himself. “Uh.” But wasn’t sure what else to talk about.
“How long have you worked at Quantum?” Perry asked. “Do you like it there?”
“Four years and three months,” Albert replied. “Uh, and yes?”
“Yes?” Perry stopped walking and looked at him. “Are you not sure?”
“Uh, I am sure. I do like it, I just…” Albert shrugged and the bag with the camera slid down from his other shoulder, catching at his elbow. “Um. I don’t know how to do this.”
“This what?” Have a conversation?” Perry started them walking about. “Simple. Just like we’re doing.”
Well, that was obvious, but Albert felt out of his element. At Quantum, he was amongst his own kind, as it were. People like Perry never looked at him outside of Quantum.
Except, obviously she had looked at him. And that made Albert start to worry. Was she flirting with him? Did she want to…to date? Or have coffee? God, would he have to tell her he was gay? Not that he was ashamed of that, but saying anything that personal to a stranger was next to impossible.
Maybe she was really just being nice. It could happen.
And Albert realized he’d stopped listening to her and started listening to his inner fear-mongerer. Now he had no idea why she was looking at him expectantly. He gulped—and choked on his spit, which led to a truly embarrassing sound coming out of his nose as he hacked.
Which in turn caused several people to turn and look at him.
Several attractive, shirtless men.
Where was a sinkhole when you needed one?
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