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by Brian Seemann

She’d insisted he remove his pants, and after he’d done so, they both saw that he’d chosen to wear plaid boxers that morning, an otherwise innocuous decision made regrettable by the fact that he had also elected to wear a plaid shirt on this, his first day on the job. That the colors of each item failed to coordinate didn’t present much of a problem, initially, but after a moment of allowing this information to settle, she offered a bit of critique.

“Green really isn’t your color.”

On a day full of firsts he would remember, this would be the first he forgot.

She would be, technically, his boss. Yes, she was all of three years older than him, but clearly someone had felt comfortable enough entrusting her with the duty of employing and training new staff members of Eagle Nest Academy, the only non-Catholic college prep and tutoring center within thirty miles. This someone would have recognized her confidence and witnessed her assertiveness, traits that he, too, had picked up on as she ran her tongue down the side of his face and whispered unrepeatable phrases into his ear while giving him a tour of the tutoring lab, pausing to explain how to log in to the computers and to demonstrate how tutors recorded their face-to-face time with students.

But the tour had brought them here, to the break room, where she’d pushed him against the wall and made her demand for him to ditch the pants. She stood, in heels, a good five inches shorter than he, an odd thing to be attracted to, considering everything else. Her dark hair bounced at her shoulders, her eyes, reflecting his apprehensiveness, painted ever-so carefully and sitting above what his father would’ve called a “New York nose.”

Talk about the passion.

But as she helped work those pants down around his ankles, he couldn’t help but think of who this girl was. He remembered the story, months before, of the boy alive one moment on his way to play practice, the next bringing downtown traffic to a standstill, sirens sounding in the distance. There’d been pictures in the newspaper, the family grieving in the cemetery behind the college, but the photo of the deceased’s older sister had captured his attention. He’d meant to cut out the picture and fold it into his wallet, but the recyclables truck had come early the following morning.

And now, now was his chance, but he saw in her face an unwavering need to carry on with this, as if this one act could erase what had come before it. More than anything, he was anxious. Forced to face someone desperate to forget something, and for him, this was not the way to make his first a first to remember.

He shut his eyes. This would not be the last time he would deny a woman, but it would be the first time his heart broke while doing so.

Brian Seemann’s fiction appears or is forthcoming in REAL, BULL, Red Savina Review, and Mojave River Review, among other journals, and has been anthologized in Home of the Brave: Somewhere in the Sand (Press 53) and The Mix Tape: A Flash Fiction Anthology (Flash Forward Press). His fiction reviews regularly appear in Necessary Fiction. Winner of the William J. Stuckey Memorial Prize for fiction, a Southern Writers Symposium: Emerging Writers Contest Finalist, and an MA and MFA graduate of Wichita State, he currently lives and teaches in Colorado.