Odd Socks

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A short story about a 45 year old man and his secret admiration of a 23 year old woman.

Submitted: January 05, 2014

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Submitted: January 05, 2014

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He was 45. The way he looked was a little strange, because he had the athletic build of a professional football player, but he also looked like he walked straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Despite his whimsical sense of dressing and his regular use of eyeliner, he rarely smiled and he had the kind of eyes that did not convey emotions. With his pokerface and good work ethics, he had established himself as the boss of a successful design company. He worked hard, he expected others to work hard, and he did not have any friends at work, because he was a supporter of separating his professional life from his private life.

 

He was never interested in the lives of his employees, there was no need to. He had an office that was separated from the space where his employees worked, and he often closed the blinds of the window that looked out on the rest of them. He was surprised that he wanted to know more about her when she first came in for a job interview. He gave her the same intimidating dead stare he used to give everyone else, but something felt different. It wasn’t necessarily physical attraction. He had seen attractive women - women that would be considered beautiful - before, but he didn’t care about them. He didn’t even think she was beautiful, she was pretty at most. It was the first time that he consciously let someone’s personality own her a spot within his company. Lucky for him, she was a good employee.

 

Unfortunately for him, she understood that he did not want to socialize at work. He was there to earn money. She wasn’t the kind of person that had a particular interest in getting to know people who didn’t seem interested in getting to know her back. She had given up on trying to figure out people who seemed difficult when she thought the boy she was dating in high school was mysterious, while he was really just a douchebag with no particularly interesting personality traits. She would happily tell anyone about her life, her interests, and maybe even a cheeky secret if they just asked her. She didn’t like vagueness.

 

Desperate times called for desperate measures. He was intrigued by her, and he wanted to get to know her better. She didn’t notice this, partially because she didn’t think of herself as particularly intriguing, and also because he didn’t treat her in a different way from anyone else. She did notice that he had a more general interest in people’s lives, more so than he used to. He had become what he once hated; the boss that asked people about their cats, dogs and children. He only did it so he could find out more about her, without it being suspicious.

 

He slowly found out more about her, but it was nothing juicy. He was clinging to small things he came to know, because he felt those small things she told him were things only he knew and could be attentive about. He knew her favourite warm beverage was Earl Grey with two sugarcubes, and she wasn’t bothered to pair up her socks after doing laundry, so most of the time her socks didn’t match.

 

He allowed himself to daydream about a future with her, but many things did not work out in his fantasy. First of all, there was the obstacle that was his wife. He once knew what his wife’s favourite warm beverage was, and she probably matched her socks, because that’s what she did with his socks when they were washed. He had long forgotten his wife’s little quirks, and he only remembered the annoying habits. He felt embarrassed, because he couldn’t recall the time  he was still in love with the woman he married. He didn’t even know if he ever felt the same feelings for his wife as for this girl.

 

He tried to imagine a future where they would go to dinner parties together, but he did not see her getting on with his friends. They were all extravagant, pretentious, artistic, and they liked to brag. They were in their forties, and he realized they had become the group of middle aged people that desperately tried to hang on to their youth. He would be embarrassed to introduce these people to her. She was 23, aware of what was important, kind of worldly, she had a sense of what people were like. She would see right through these desperate old people with strange hairdos and headdresses, and she wouldn’t get into a discussion, because she knew she wouldn’t win, and she wouldn’t be proud if she did. She cared more about her dignity, and by seeing these people she would realize that they were the epitome of what she did not want to become. They were the group of kids in high school that considered themselves to be Avant Garde, and tried to maintain that label throughout life.

 

He was scared to imagine a situation where he would meet her friends. He imagined her in the group in high school that was not very defined, but was formed because these people genuinely liked each other and had good conversations. They would never approve of him. He didn’t know what he had to offer. They wouldn’t fall for his superficial dark charm, or for the surprisingly fit body he had for a guy his age. They wouldn’t think it was good for her, because she got to be with a guy with life experience, one that was probably really good at sex. They would just think she deserved better.

 

Even though it was a ridiculous fantasy, and letting her know would only bring trouble, wanted to show a sign of affection. It didn’t even matter if she would get it, or if she would respond. He took his chances on her birthday. He bought two pairs of socks with nice patterns, and threw one of each pair away. He added a note that said “Since you don’t bother matching your socks, I won’t bother buying a matching pair. Happy 24th birthday.”. He didn’t add his name. It was the one and only chance he took. It would be easier if she didn’t find out it had been him, but he ultimately hoped she would. All the consequences of her finding out were to be dealt with later. He hoped she knew it came from him right away, because then he would know that the sock story was one she only shared with him, and it would make an intimate story about her that only he knew about. It was definitely the most romantic and thoughtful gift he had ever given anyone.

 

When she checked her mailbox that day, she saw a gift of two socks that didn’t match with a note. It was a very personal gift, and she wondered who gave it to her. She only remembered telling her boss the story, but she wasn’t quite sure. Forgetful as she was, she may have told half of the office. She chuckled at the thought of her detached, almost middle aged, capitalist boss giving her -the newest employee- such a thoughtful gift. If that ever happened, it would be a funny story to tell her friends. She would be flattered, he looked good for his age. It couldn’t have been him though, so she tried really hard to think of who else knew about her sock habits.

 

He was nervous all day, hoping she would realize it was his present. He’d hover around her longer than he usually would, but she seemed oblivious to it all. He finally gathered the courage to wish her a happy birthday to her face, and he asked her if she received any nice gifts. She mentioned the socks from a mystery giver, and his heart started racing when she said it. She asked him if he had a clue, and he wanted to say it was him, but he shrugged his shoulders and ran off while saying he had something urgent to do.

 

He ran to the bathroom to calm down. Why didn’t he say something? It was his only chance, and he blew it, there was no way back. He could have played it cool and told her it was his idea. She would have been hesitant at first, but maybe she would have given it a try. They would take it slow and secret. He didn’t even think his wife would mind if he left her, the feeling of not having anything to talk about felt quite mutual. They would switch between what 24 year olds and 45 year olds do. Sometimes she would pay for the cheap bottle of wine they would drink from take away coffee cups in a park and they would eat Vietnamese take out afterwards. Other times he would take her out to an expensive restaurant. They would both feel uncomfortable at first, but they would find middle grounds and end up having the time of their lives together.

 

While he was in the bathroom, Scott from finance had taken credit for the present. He’d never liked Scott, but he was good at his job. He had always found him too slick. She fell for it though. They started dating. He now hated Scott, but he couldn’t fire him, because his contract still lasted until the end of the year, and he had done nothing wrong in terms of work. He was angry at himself for being a coward, and he was angry at Scott for taking credit for what was easily the most romantic gesture he had ever made. He went back to his old habits. He stopped asking people about how they liked their coffee and the potty training their children were going through. He closed the blinds of his office window again.

 

He had to see her and Scott going through the things young couples do in agony. Socks went from being a necessary item of clothing to something he hated with a passion. There was nothing he could do about it now. He avoided talking to her unless he really had to for working purposes, until two years later, when she was about to go on maternity leave, because Scott had knocked her up. She was one of those women who looked really good pregnant, and he could tell she couldn’t wait to become a mother. He was going to tell her what happened, that her whole relationship with Scott was based on a lie. Maybe it would break her heart, maybe she didn’t deserve that. But Scott didn’t deserve her. The imaginary group of friends he had come up with for her would never approve of a slick man who worked in the finance sector. She had already put on her coat, and she was about to leave. He walked up to her and tapped her on the shoulder. She looked at him, and immediately noticed that the eyes that usually didn’t reveal anything were different this time. There was a glimmer, or a light, that had never been present before.

 

“Those socks in your mailbox for your 24th… Those were mine.”

 


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