Gary grimaced in disgust at his reflection. Where on earth had that paunchy, old guy in the mirror come from?
"Yeah, I'm talking to you," he muttered, "The one with the receding hairline and ugly tie."
Tag had just wandered in and curled up on the bed as he tossed the tie aside in annoyance and snatched up a different one.
With a sigh, he plopped down next to the cat and hauled her onto his lap. "Too bad I can't stay home with you, eh?" She purred under his hand, always ready for a little snuggle time.
"Happy birthday to me. Big deal."
Gary patted and scratched, sending Tag into convulsions of kitty heaven and thought about the night before when his mama had called.
"Now, Gary, you have a wonderful birthday tomorrow. Age is only a number, I always say, and there's no need to be gettin' all depressed just because you're over-the-hill." She cackled at her own joke without even noticing the lack of response from him.
He was not amused.
The fact that he was turning a half-a-century was about as momentous as getting a cavity filled: slightly painful but necessary. He had no doubt that it would be another uneventful year, just like all the rest.
With a final groan, he slid Tag off his lap and headed out the door.
Might as well get it over with.
Gary sauntered into the break room, seeking coffee and fielding birthday wishes with a shy nod. He was about to make his escape when the boss arrived, a stranger in tow.
"This is Gina. It's her first day so be nice." Introductions were made as the staff welcomed the newcomer. Except for Gary.
All he could do was stare.
She was just a little thing (kind of like a pixy) with shoulder length blonde hair that made him want to dive in and stay forever. Mile-long lashes framed brown eyes that searched his so intensely, he felt jittery as she introduced herself.
Could be the coffee...
Gary stammered his name then fled, followed by the snickers of annoying co-workers. He settled into down to work but focus was a long time coming as attempts at reigning in his wandering mind failed.
All he could think of was Gina.
Eventually, he slumped at his computer and brooded. What was he thinking? Gorgeous women didn't exactly fall at his feet. Why would Gina ever give him more than a passing glance?
He might as well face reality: It just wasn't going to happen.
Lunchtime brought the obligatory office celebration and off-key chorus of "Happy Birthday". Gary graciously accepted well wishes and dove into his paper sack as mundane conversation flowed around him.
Gina joined them just as the ritual "What are you doing this weekend?" conversation fired up. Gary almost groaned out loud. Maybe they would bypass him and he could avoid the "no plans-no life" humiliation. Panic was about to set in when Gina chirped up.
"Has anyone been to the awesome metamorphic exhibit at the natural history museum? I'm kind of a 'rock geek'. Mineral formations, composition, structure..."
She shrugged when no one responded and popped open a fruit cup, not noticing Gary's goggle-eyed stare.
"You're into petrology?"
Her face lit up like a neon sign on Broadway as she turned a dazzling smile his way.
Could she hear his heart thud clear across the table?
"I have an Associates in Geochemistry and Petrology from Walden University. Someday I'd like to get my Masters. What about you?"
"Um, well, I took some classes in college. It was pretty fascinating. And you know how it is once you get the bug..."
They chatted a while longer, garnering astonished stares from the females and envious glares from the males. Too soon it was time to return to work and as they parted, Gina tugged on his sleeve.
"By any chance would you be interested in taking in that exhibit with me?"
He nodded, unsure of his voice. "Sure, that'd be great," he croaked.
"Awesome! I can't wait to show it to you. It'll be like a birthday present to celebrate the start of an exciting new year! Well, gotta go."
She walked away, hesitated, and turned back.
"By the way: nice tie."
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