Professor’s Rule 01 - Giving an Inch

Free Professor’s Rule 01 - Giving an Inch by Heidi Belleau, Amelia C. Gormley

Book: Professor’s Rule 01 - Giving an Inch by Heidi Belleau, Amelia C. Gormley Read Free Book Online
Authors: Heidi Belleau, Amelia C. Gormley
James hated department stores. He hated the gleaming displays, hated the attractive salesgirls shilling wedding registries, hated the mannequins in their Tommy Hilfiger cashmere sweaters and leather loafers. Thousands, no, millions of dollars, all spent on multicolored stand mixers and designer purses and monogrammed fucking towels.
    Mostly, though, he hated how being here made him feel like an out-of-touch slob. He didn’t know the brands, didn’t know what was in fashion. Hell, sometimes he didn’t even know whether the shirt he was holding was meant for a woman or a man.
    One of his old psych major friends would probably say he was transferring his anxiety about his Ph.D. program application over to the whole clothing issue, but the truth was that material culture—including technology and even basic pop culture—eluded James. Always had.
    And his sister Carrie, who was way more up on these things than James could ever hope to be, had called up sick at the last minute, leaving him in the lurch. After a great deal of whining and pleading, she’d at least agreed to let him text her pictures of his various outfits, but that still left the issue of how he was supposed to find those outfits in the first place. Carrie, of course, thought he should just ask a salesperson, but James felt humiliated even doing that. After all, salespeople knew a thing or two about clothes. What would they think of James, in his threadbare old Star Wars T-shirt from the eighties and rotted canvas high-tops? Maybe that he was trying to steal something?
    Or maybe that you’re a hopelessly unfashionable dude who needs help picking out a suit for a professional presentation.
    Too bad voices of reason were so very, very easily drowned out by the anxious swirl inside his head. You know, swirl, as in the motion of flushing something down the toilet?
    He wandered from department to department, scowling at everything, fully expecting to be booted out by some manager who thought he was an aggressive homeless drug addict or something. And there came a man now, Indian with a dark complexion and a pin-neat tailored suit.
    James put up his hands in surrender and was about to protest, “I’m going, I’m going,” when the man said, “Can I help you find something, sir?”
    Sir?
    Was this dude seriously seeing the same James—ratty T-shirt, bad hair—that James himself saw in the mirror every morning?
    A quick look over his shoulder confirmed that yes, the man was for some reason speaking to him . No other sirs here.
    “Uh . . .” Well this was certainly a strange turn of events. James had already resigned himself to giving up altogether on the pretense of looking professional and just getting the hell out of there, but here he was getting exactly what he needed. “Yes?”
    The salesman tilted his head with practiced patience.
    Oh yes, this was the part where James told him what he wanted. Right. “Menswear?” James tried, palms sweating.
    “You’re in it,” the salesman said, and gestured to either side of him, where racks upon racks of men’s clothes stood waiting. Taunting James with their sheer fucking volume.
    “Right. Okay. Um, I need . . .” A suit? Is a suit too formal? “I don’t know what I need,” he sighed at last, shoulders slumped in defeat.
    The salesman chuckled, the sound not at all unkind. “How about we start with the basics, then? Are you shopping for a specific purpose or event? A job interview?” His accent was wonderful, lilting and precise, with a musicality that pleased the poet in James. “. . . A date?”
    Wait, what was that tentativeness? Was he asking as a salesman, or as a man ?
    James stared at him, trying to translate the placid smile sketched across his face. Wow, he had full lips, and such a deep red-pink.
    “Not a date,” he said, perhaps a little too enthusiastically. “I’m single.” Er, that definitely wasn’t helping matters. James flailed a moment longer, then added, “I’m an academic,

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