She's In Black
Chapter 1- He Would Win Her
From the moment he met Mary, city-slicker-turned-country boy Jack Riley knew he wanted her to be his. Soon after moving to tiny Mineral Town that spring, he met five single girls around his age, and he thought of all of them as very pretty. Judging from his luck with the girls back in his city high school, Jack knew he could get any girl he wanted if he used a little persistence. He had good looks: dark, flashing eyes, dimples, silky, dark hair, broad shoulders, and a body toned from years of playing baseball in school. On top of that, he always implemented what he thought of as a charming smile at just the right moment as he sweet-talked a girl. Bad luck could never frown upon him.
Karen was tall, graceful, and beautiful. Popuri modeled very feminine traits and always took the time to make herself look her best. Ann was outgoing and cheerful. Elli was caring, and calm and collected under pressure. After meeting them, Jack got the impression that he hit it off well with the other four. But Mary was different.
Mary always seemed nervous and hesitant to speak around Jack, right from when he first swaggered into the library. She remembered it clearly; he stopped short and cocked his head to one side as he gazed at her. After a few seconds, Mary smiled sheepishly and turned her head from his sight.
So Jack swept up to her desk, extended a large hand, and coolly said: "Hey, I'm Jack Riley, James' grandson."
She tilted her head downward and looked up at him pensively. So Jack looked around and continued.
"It looks like a nice library you've got here," he said idly. Then he turned back to her, with his head titled again. Mary could feel him sizing her up, or at least she got that impression. She gave a start when he said: "I bet you've got some good information about farming here, huh?"
She had no idea why she jumped out of her seat as she stammered: "Y-yes. Lots." Then as she felt her horn-rimmed glasses slide down her nose, she quickly pushed them back into place.
Jack gave her smile that was both wide and cool, and it struck Mary. Then he nodded, and with his dark eyes flashing said: "I'll go check out what you've got then, alright?" He strode off before Mary could say anything.
"A-alright," she called after him in a small voice. He craned his neck at her and flashed her another smile before disappearing behind the shelves. It took a few moments for her to realize how flushed she felt. With a sigh, she threw herself back into her seat and set her focus on the manuscript in front of her.
Then she fished a pen from under a pile of papers, flipped to the last marked page of her manuscript, and carefully wrote along the top: He's like a romance novel cliche come to life.
She sat back and looked over her words. Of course, that note wouldn't really help much in her story about 19th century sailors. She shook her head and mumbled something to herself. Then she struck a line through the note, and proceeded to write some more of her story.
A good writing spurt came easily to her that afternoon. That was, until Jack came swaggering up to her with a huge stack of books in his arms and his cool grin on his face. Mary gave a start and watched him approach.
"Hey there," he said with another tilt of his head. "I've got my books to check out."
Mary found herself covering her manuscript with her hands. "Actually..." she started. "I don't let people check out books."
"What was that?" Jack asked, as if he was hard of hearing. Mary knew, however, that he wasn't.
"I said," she piped. "I don't let people check out books." When Jack furrowed his brow, she stammered a bit and added: "It's just that the books are old, and everything, and not that you're irresponsible or anything, you know..."
"Ahh, that's alright," Jack said, his smile making itself home on his face. "I guess I'll stay here for some reading."
Mary nodded. "You could do that."
The flicker in his eyes showed up again, and with that, he turned and swaggered back to the desk. Mary noticed a pair of dirty work gloves hanging from his pocket. He must have at least dug in at the farm already.
After scribbling that on her manuscript, she looked down, furrowed her brow, and crossed it out.
Thankfully for Mary, Gray Miller came by to read the next day. She handed him a book and watched as he headed off to read it, out of sight in the far corner. But no more than a half-hour later did Jack enter, flowers in hand.
"For you," he said, holding them out for her to take.
She looked from the flowers, up at him, and to the flowers again. "Ummm... thanks?"
"Of course," Jack replied, puffing out his chest. With nowhere to put the flowers, Mary took them and laid them on the desk to her side. Jack nodded and swaggered off to the circulation rack. "So, what's up, Mary?" he called over his shoulder.
"Nothing, really," Mary answered truthfully. She looked over her manuscript. Ever since the previous afternoon, she found she couldn't write any more.
"Nothing?" Jack echoed.
Yes, nothing. Didn't you hear me?
"Not much really interesting, I guess," Mary told him. Giving a chuckle, Jack came back out from behind the circulation rack, a few more books on farming in hand. Hastily, Mary turned to another page in her manuscript, so that Jack wouldn't see her notes.
"I'm sure whatever's going with you is interesting," he said. He headed up to the desk, sitting on it. Mary shook her head.
"Please..." she said quietly. "Don't sit on..." Puzzled, Jack looked down at her. "Don't sit on the desk, please," she repeated.
"Oh." He stood up, and instead opted to lean on it. "But, yeah." He gave a grin, pointing his thumb at his chest. "I started digging in at the old farm. Planted some seeds and everything."
"That's good," Mary told him.
"Yup," Jack replied. He gave a stretch, looking around at all the shelves. "This farming stuff is easier than I thought it would be."
Could you just be quiet and read, like Gray is doing?
"That's..." Mary shook her head, and crossed out her writing. "That's good." She hastily flipped to another page once Jack looked over at her again. But that time, the manuscript caught his eye.
He chuckled. "So you're a writer, or something?"
"Well..." Mary started. "I enjoy writing."
"Cool," Jack replied. "I enjoy reading." Among other things. He took notice of her note, and frowned. "What's that?"
"Oh," she said, shocked. "Nothing..." She shook her head. "I'm just trying to figure out a line for this character to say."
He nodded. "I see." With that, he got up again, and headed along to the far wall. He turned back to her briefly and flashed another smile. "I'm gonna go read this stuff now, okay?" She nodded, and watched as he headed off. But instead of disappearing into the corner like Gray did, he stayed in sight.
Slumping in her chair, Mary let out a sigh, finding herself undoing and redoing her braid for a few minutes. Then she turned her attention to her manuscript, crossing out some of the hero's extra lines.
Finally, it came time for Mary to close the library. Gray, book in hand, strode past Jack and headed up to Mary. Taking notice, Jack looked over his shoulder at him and sneered as Mary smiled at him.
Gray then cast a pensive look in Jack's direction. When Jack furrowed his brow, the Gray mouthed something under his breath. Then he turned to Mary and said: "It was great." He place the book onto the desk and nudged it towards her. "I was amazed at the fisherman's persistence," he continued in his somewhat husky voice.
"I'm glad you liked it, Gray," Mary replied, still giving him her shy smile Jack loved receiving. Jack gritted his teeth, but then forced a smile of his own. As an afterthought, Mary suddenly got up and headed for the circulation rack. "Here it is!" she said. She made her way back to the desk. "I think you'll like this one," she said, handing another book to Gray. "You can take it back to the Inn with you."
"Wow, really?" Gray asked, giving a chuckle. Mary nodded, and when they made eye contact, he shyly adjusted the brim of his trucker cap. "Thanks a bunch, Mary. I'll bring it back tomorrow morning."
"You can keep it as long as you want," Mary told him, getting up from behind the desk. She picked up her manuscript and tucked it into a plastic folder. Then she laid Jack's flowers on top and kept a hold on them. Reaching into her sweater pocket with her free hand, she pulled out a gold key on a small chain. "Coming, Jack?" she asked, looking over at the far wall.
Jack nodded. "Yeah, Mary," he replied. He got up, nudged the chair back into place with his foot, and picked up the pile of books.
"You can leave them there," Mary told him. "You're coming back, right?"
Jack grinned. "Of course," he replied, swaggering over towards her. Nodding, Mary and Gray headed for the door. Jack quickly followed.
Once Mary had politely excused herself and headed next door to her home, Jack turned to Gray. "So," he started. "Mary..." Gray warily eyed him as he tucked the book into his inside jacket pocket. "You know what she likes?" Without initially replying, Gray zipped up his jacket and brought the brim of his cap low over his eyes, glancing up at the sky that resembled a dark, sticky glob of wet cement.
"Yeah," he muttered, shoving his hands in the pockets of his khaki work pants. "She likes for you to shut up once in a while." With that, he headed off down the road. All the while, Jack fixed him a glare. There had to be a way to win Mary from him, and soon, Jack would win her.
So, what's the word? Like Jack? Hate him? Hope you guys enjoyed it. As always, until next time.