Note: The result of loving Mike x Jess too much to resist. Can you blame me?! Jess might be a wee bit on the OOC side, but only slightly, and mostly because I'm trying to flesh out her character while keeping her selfish tendencies.
Disclaimer: The readers are pleasantly surprised to learn that Scarlet the Shipping Psycho (xD) doesn't own Twilight. If she did…Bella x Edward would get way less screen time. Seriously.
It's nine forty-seven on a Thursday, and he's looking at Bella. Row after row of lockers separate them, but his eyes are glued on her, studying every movement she makes as she flicks back her brown hair and contemplates the homework assignments for the day. His brow furrows in thought as he imagines the thousands of ways to get her attention: brush past her, offer to carry her books, ask if she's busy this weekend.
He doesn't notice me, even though I'm standing less than three feet away.
Every day I try a little more; a new shiny bracelet that catches the light, but not his eyes, adorns me today, yet it's the light of her eyes that distracts him. She's just wearing jeans, a T-shirt—she's not even trying to catch his attention. Bella could be dressed like the Raggedy Ann doll, and I bet he'd still be looking at her in that goofy, love-struck way I've always wanted directed at me.
"Hey, Bells," he greets her eagerly, the girl walking just close enough for him to graze her sleeve with his hand. She glances from his hand to his eyes before shrugging him off with a simple, "Later, Mike." The syllables weigh on him, his shoulders sagging, and Bella Swan walks away without a care in the world.
"Oh, Mike, didn't see you there," I exclaim, bumping against him with my books. "How've you been?" But no, he's got no smile for me, no nickname, as he stares at the girl's retreating form. Her simple refusal has a strange power over him I've never possessed, and that's when I officially decide that I hate Bella Swan.
It's three-thirty-three on a Saturday, and Lauren is throwing a party. My heart leaps within me for thousands of reasons: I have an excuse to go shopping, Bella won't be there, Mike won't have a date, Bella won't be there, no parents will attend, and most importantly: Bella won't be there.
I scroll down all the names on my cell phone, passing them all until I see Mike Newton's name in bold. I take in deep, shaky breaths; we're friends, this should be easy, he'll know Bella can't come, and plus she wouldn't say yes—
His voice crackles through the phone and I jump, startled. "Oh, Mike! Hey, it's Jessica." I run my fingers through my hair anxiously, anticipating a thousand different answers. "So. What's going on?"
"Not much. You?"
"Yeah, actually I went to the mall today and bought this gorgeous outfit on sale for this party tonight," I begin, twirling my ponytail about my finger. "It's this cute blouse and miniskirt with—" Oh, crap, I'm rambling. I can practically see him rolling his eyes right now. Gathering my dignity, I add, "S-so, I definitely found matching accessories and shoes and all, when I realized, um, I don't have a date. And I know this is totally last minute, but I thought we could go together." My heart jumps for a single, terrifying moment as he remains silent. "Y-you know, as friends and all."
There's a sigh on the other end, and I can hear the resignation dripping in his bored tone. "When's the party?"
"Funny thing about that, Mike." I chuckle lightly. "It's tonight."
"Tonight?! Thanks for the short notice! Why didn't you tell me sooner?"
Because whenever I come up to you at school, she's there. Because when you're at work, she's there. Because I'm not brave enough to face you until I have absolutely no choice.
"The last guy I asked fell through. Found some other girl," I lie easily. "Look, will you come or not?"
The silence on the end kills me, but finally I hear a mumbled, "When should I be there?" and I let myself bask in a single, brief moment of victory.
It's seven-twenty-three on Saturday night, and Mike's car has new leather seats. It's a stick shift, I notice, and the numbers on the radio dials are all rubbed off from overuse. His clothes are nothing fancy, but are still brand name and matched just well enough to not look overdone. Sitting shotgun in his car is exhilarating, I swear, and he looks me up and down with his eyes, seeing my silk black blouse, the pleated white miniskirt, the flapper necklace with all sorts of crazy designs, and just sort of nodding at it all.
I know what he's thinking: Bella wouldn't wear that.
What I want him to be thinking is: She looks beautiful tonight.
"So," I say, clearing my throat. "We're going to have a blast tonight, huh? I love parties, and Lauren really knows how to throw a good one. Her parents are going to be out, you know? No chaperones." I grin, but he doesn't return it, and I wonder exactly when he turned into this silent statue of the guy I used to know. I squirm uncomfortably in my seat, and I stare out the windshield to see a dried gift from a flying bird on the top right corner of the glass. It's too quiet, and I hate quiet, so suddenly I hear myself rambling away about nothing at all. "Remember when we were little?"
Mike shrugs, and I frown. "No, seriously, do you? We've known each other forever, haven't we?" I lean back in my seat, and continue, "I remember when boys and girls didn't play together on the playground. Sometimes we'd break the rules, you and I, and chase each other around until we got so tired all we had the energy to do was laugh."
A ghost of a smile creases his lips. "Then you got older and started to cry and say I was messing up your hair."
"And you said it wasn't cool to be friends with girls anymore," I remind him. "That's when our friendship ended."
"It ended," Mike disagrees, "when you started wearing make-up and I started trying out for sports teams. See? It's your fault, too."
We're mirroring each other's smiles now, and I can hear that selfish part of me laughing with glee. Bella couldn't have made him smile like that. Bella doesn't have those memories. Then silence descends upon us once again, and all I can hear is the wind beating against the trees.
I start to fiddle with the radio dials, finding one station and sticking with it as a popular song comes on. Mike steals a glance my way incredulously, and I don't know what he's staring at, but I start to hum along to the song anyway and tap my fingers against the armrest. I hear something that sounds like a snort, and I turn Mike's way.
"What?" I demand.
"C'mon. What is it?"
He chuckles again and avoids my gaze, fixed on the road ahead. "Your singing. Are you tone deaf or what?"
"Mike Newton, you jerk!" I shove him lightly, and he laughs again, much to my delight. I want to stay angry at him, but oh, I just can't, and soon I'm giggling myself. "Well, I bet you're no American Idol yourself."
"That so?" Mike clears his throat, and I expect some brilliant comeback or sarcastic retort. Instead, I hear about the most earsplitting rendition of Don McLean's "American Pie" I've ever heard in my life.
"You sound like you're dying!" I laugh, and I fumble about for my cell phone. "Let's record this."
"You and me," I insist. "This is just too good not to remember, right? Let's sing a duet, you and I." I whip out my Razor and grin. "Name the song, maestro."
He raises an eyebrow at me, and for a second I think maybe this isn't funny anymore, that I've done something horribly wrong. Then he parts his lips, and says, "Ever heard of "You're So Vain"?"
It's eight-sixteen this Saturday night, and cars are stuffed on and around Lauren's driveway. Our windows are down, and Mike and I are grinning ear-to-ear, the music from our car blasting at an ungodly volume. Students I know are walking about, stopping to stare at us, but we don't care. Screaming off-key, we recite the lyrics without hesitation. We don't care when a shiny silver Volvo parks next to us, nor do we care when Edward and his girlfriend walk out.
I don't care when she raises an eyebrow at me, when she wonders just how it is that I—shallow, superficial, awful Jessica that I am to her—can enjoy embarrassing myself like this, how I can sit in Mike's car and be proud to call him my date. She scratches her head, thinking it must be because he's popular, because he's cool, because he's cute.
"Mike?" Bella calls over the music, but Mike waves his hand for a moment, not wanting to be interrupted as he belts out, "And you're so vain. You probably think this song is about you, don't you, don't you, you're so vaaaaain!"
"What's wrong, Bella?" I ask, smug. "Don't you like music?"
And the expression on her face startles me, because oh my Lord, Bella Swan doesn't like music. Her face has gotten paler than usual, and she squeezes Edward's hand, eyebrows knitted in annoyance. "Don't you think that's, well, kind of immature?" Bella asks finally. "Singing like that?"
The Cullen boy is giving me this quizzical stare, and suddenly I see that they are, actually, perfect for each other. Who could imagine Cullen singing in his car like this, embarrassing himself? Or Bella, singing along with glee? Not me.
"C'mon, Bella," Mike chuckles, the instrumental taking over. "It's fun. Don't you love music at least every once and awhile?"
Edward whispers something in her ear and she smiles, waving good-bye in amusement. "We'll, um, be going to the party…then…"
The song dies down, and Mike and I look at each other, cheeks flushed. I expect his gaze to waver, to follow that girl again as she walks with Edward, but instead he's smiling and staring at me. Me, Jessica Stanley.
"You want to follow her in?" I ask, and I wonder if he can hear the double meaning in those words.
Mike stares at me, plucks the phone from my hand, and replies, "You think I want to see Lauren freak out when those two crash her party, when I can be chilling here with you? C'mon, Jess. No-brainer."
Jess. A nickname. I can hear my heartbeat buzzing erratically in my chest.
"Parties are overrated anyway," I grin, for once at a loss for words.
Mike smiles back, and I can hear him whisper, "So are swans."
It's nine-fifty-six on Monday morning, and Mike and I are holding hands. People are staring at us, people who probably got their hearing tested after being caught in our impromptu karaoke fest this weekend. Whispers are traveling this way and that, and I grin smugly, knowing for once that they're about me, and not that Bella girl. More importantly, about me and him.
"So, after work today, there's this new movie coming out," Mike is saying, and I reach for each and every word, treasuring it as mine alone. "Chick flick. Thought you might be interested."
I tighten my grip on his hand; the touch of his skin is warm and comforting. "Well, that depends on whether or not you can handle mushy love scenes and cliché pick-up lines for a whole hour and a half," I tease. "If you can handle that, I'm all for it. Just…no horror, okay?"
His eyes dance. "God, no. I hate horror. I'd rather have kissing and clichés any day."
"Me too!" I laugh.
Edward and Bella pass us by, and I flash them a dazzling smile, a winning smirk. Mike and I are still laughing, and—thank you, thank you, thank you—his eyes haven't moved towards them. He doesn't flinch when Cullen wraps his arm protectively about her, or when Bella blushes at his touch.
He's looking at me, only me, and for a second everything feels like a dream—a perfect, flawless dream—and I want to personally thank whoever bestowed it upon me.
Mike Newton loves music. Mike Newton loves movies with happy endings. Mike Newton loves parties, loves laughter, loves people.
Mike Newton loved Bella, too, once. But on second glance, it's my hand he loves to hold, and unlike her, I have no intention of letting go.
End Note: Ta-daa! Fluffy sappiness a-la mode! I have no idea if I fully kept Jess in character, but I wanted to make her a loveable gal, even though she can be a bit selfish. But aren't we all? ;)
Reviews are loved. Flames are tolerated. Bashing makes bunnies cry.