Disclaimer: The Twilight characters belong solely to Stephenie Meyer; I'm just taking them out to play.
Bella leaned on the counter, her chin in her hand, and let out a sigh. Working the mid-day shift at the University of Washington library was fun, when school was in session. Once summer hit, however, it was like she was the sole survivor of a nuclear holocaust. Why she'd be bumming around a library after everyone else on the planet went up in a puff of irradiated smoke, she couldn't figure. Perhaps it was her strange affinity for boys who were also book nerds. The only male to survive the holocaust would come staggering in one day, looking quite like Mr. Darcy with a severe suntan, thirsting for water … and for her.
Bella sighed again. With her rotten luck, the dude would turn out to be gay.
Bella shook herself out of her revelry and looked up into the eyes of one of her regular patrons. Definitely not the Mr. Darcy she'd been dreaming of.
Bella hated the way Mike liked to drag the syllables of her name out. It was weird. Creepy. Verging on possessive. It sounded more like something you'd hear coming from a guy wearing a polyester shirt, bell bottoms and gold chains, and sporting a handle-bar moustache, than the well-built football player that stood before her now.
"All right Mike?" Bella knew where this was going. Her imagination, which was continually getting the better of her, led her to a line of dialogue from one of her favorite classic 1990s cartoons:
What are we doing tonight, Brain?
Same thing we do every night Pinky, try to take over the world!
Mike leaned onto the counter, bringing his face too close to Bella's for comfort. "I'm doing great, now." And he winked.
Did he really just wink? Bella thought as she surreptitiously leaned away from the cloud of cologne rolling her way. Can he be any more of a stereotype?
"Um, awesome Mike. Is there anything I can help you with?" Bella grabbed the pile of returned books she needed to scan into the computer and looked at the monitor. Anything to avoid eye contact.
Mike chuckled. To Bella, it sounded more like someone gargling than actual laughter. She wondered to herself if he practiced this whole demeanor each morning before leaving the house.
"It's Friday night, Bells. I took off from practice early to come visit my fav-o-rite librarian."
Bella knew that Mike did a whole lot of "taking off from practice early," because a lot of his practice time involved fetching towels and sitting on the bench. Playing varsity football for a Division 1A high school, even if you were the quarterback three years in a row, did not mean a place in the starting line up come college. Bella had enjoyed Mike's advances during the first of those three years, her first at Forks High, even going to far as to attend the Homecoming dance as his date. When Mike got drunk off of the spiked punch and proceeded to cry the entire way home, Bella figured she was better off lavishing her attentions on more worthy suitors. Unfortunately for her, Forks High was completely out of white knights.
"A bunch of us are going out to Eclipse tonight, Bells." Mike interrupted Bella's train of thought once again. "You know you want to come. I mean, you don't want to miss out on these moves."
Mike stood back from the counter and twirled. Bella snorted, barely keeping her laughter in check. A part of her wanted to admit that Mike wasn't as bad as she always made him out to be, that going out with him "and his friends" might not be totally awful. A bigger part, however, knew that these thoughts were just stemming from the fact that she was totally, utterly, lonely.
The phone rang, saving Bella from having to form yet another awkward refusal. Mike either didn't realize Bella's continually busy Friday nights were a web of lies and deceit, or he didn't care. Bella picked up the phone and chuckled, knowing it was most certainly the former.
"U-Dubs Library, reference desk?"
"What's so funny?"
Alice. Thank God.
"Oh, you know. It's Friday afternoon. The goon-squad captain is here, as usual."
"Seriously? Mike's still coming in?"
"I don't think he quite believed your assertions that I was going to be busy every Friday night for the rest of time, Alice. As much as I love you for trying."
"Is that Alice?" Mike bellowed; his "dancing" had taken him halfway across the room.
Bella nodded in his direction, raising a finger to her lips. Does he not realize this is a library? Bella shook her head. Probably not. It's not like he's ever come in here for a book.
"Tell her to come too," he shouted. "The more the merrier!"
"Gah. Does he not realize the whole 'quiet in the library' thing?" Alice snorted. Mind bullets.
Bella answered her with a sigh. "He wants me to go to some place called Eclipse, Al. He said to invite you too."
"Eclipse?" Alice paused. "You would not like it there Bells. It's all sweaty bodies and bad techno. Trust me."
Bella always trusted Alice. Her feelings, "premonitions" as she liked to refer to them, had an eerie way of always coming mostly true.
"It's not like I was going to say yes Alice," Bella chided. "Don't we have a date for tonight?"
Alice squealed into the receiver, causing Bella to wince and pull the phone away from her ear.
"I kind of need my hearing, Al."
Alice's squeal of delight turned into laughter on the other end of the line. Ignoring Bella's sarcasm, she said, "I'll pick you up at seven, love," and hung up the phone.
"Bye Alice," Bella muttered to the dial tone. Alice was her best friend, but she wasn't known for her patience.
As she placed the phone back on its cradle, Bella realized Mike had returned to his too-close position and was leaning across the counter . The scent of "Eau De Trying Too Hard" once again wafted into her personal space, causing Bella to wrinkle her nose.
"Was that Alice?" he asked, again.
"Yep," Bella hoped to keep this rejection short. "She and I already have plans for tonight, Mike, so I can't go with you to Eclipse." Feigning an apologetic smile, she added, "I'm really sorry."
A dejected look crossed Mike's face. Bella fought the urge to pat the top of his head, like she would a lost puppy.
"Aw, man," Mike moaned, "That's too bad. I hear the club is rockin'!" He smiled. Obviously the hurt feelings he had displayed mere seconds before didn't run too deep.
A loud voice called through the sliding glass doors at the front of the building. "Mike! Dude, c'mon already!" That'd be Tyler, Bella thought. Co-captain of the goon squad.
"Bella," Mike started backing from the counter at the sound of Tyler's call. "Next Friday, you and me, Eclipse." He cocked both hands into the shape of pistols and shot at her, mimicking the noises a ray-gun would make.
"Sure, sure Mike." Bella said, to no one in particular. Mike had already retreated through the doors.
Realizing she was sighing, again, for what was probably the twentieth time in an hour, Bella berated herself. I really need to get a life.
"Only a half-hour to go, Bells." A tall, lanky guy strode up to the counter. "Where's your boyfriend?" Placing a pile of books next to the computer, Jasper, her "boss" and long-time friend, ran a hand through the mop of blonde hair he swore made the ladies crazy. Bella certainly hoped it would make one lady crazy, tonight in particular.
"Hey Jasper." Bella stuck out her tongue in his general direction. "You just missed him. You always just miss him. I swear, if I was a paranoid person, I might think you enjoy leaving me to deal with Mike myself."
Jasper pretended to be shocked. "My word, Miss Swan. What do you take me for, some sort of cad who leaves innocent ladies to the devious devices of rotten scoundrels?"
When Jasper was being sarcastic, Bella had learned during their three-year friendship, his southern accent came out. And at the moment, Jasper sounded straight off of Dallas.
"Mr. Whitlock," Bella attempted to match his demeanor, "I do believe you owe me a debt of thanks for what's about to transpire this fine evening. The least you could do is protect my honor by fending off Mr. Newton's untoward advances. "
Jasper was laughing so hard at Bella's attempted portrayal of a southern belle that he nearly fell over.
Bella couldn't help but laugh herself. There was a reason she wasn't majoring in theatre.
"So I really have to go on this thing tonight?" Jasper's face was slowly turning back to a normal shade, rather than the nearly purple it had been while he was laughing. "I mean, Alice sounds like a great girl, but you know how I am around people I don't know."
"I still can't understand how you two have never met. She's been my roommate for nearly a year."
"Does she ever come into the library?"
Bella snickered. Thinking of her pixie-like roommate reading anything other than the latest issue of Cosmo or the myriad of Parisian fashion magazines that were delivered to their apartment each month was a funny mental picture. "Alice really isn't a 'classic literature' kind of girl, Jazz."
"And yet you think we're going to hit it off?"
"I do." So does Alice, Bella thought. She wasn't going to tell Jasper that, however. No need to make the guy more nervous than he already was.
"Speaking of, she'll be waiting for me outside. Can I clock off a little early? We have to get ready."
Jasper looked at Bella, who was wearing her normal uniform of jeans and a sweater. "Since when do you 'get ready' for anything?"
Bella gave him a playful smack on the arm. "Since Alice is making me."
"Again, I have to ask, you really think we'll hit it off?" Jasper was a low-maintenance kind of guy. T-shirt, jeans, the occasional button-up when he had to be fancy. The low-key look and the bed-head worked for him. Alice, on the other hand, was a total fashion plate. Bella dreaded their monthly trip to the mall. Alice would inevitably come back to the apartment with arms full of bags to add to her already overflowing closet. But, as they say, opposites do attract.
And these two are going to be like rare-earth magnets. Bella smiled.
"I do, Jasper, I do."
Bella jogged to the library's offices and clocked out. On her way toward the exit, she stopped and yelled at Jasper. "Hey Jasper, what's your friend's name again? The one you're bringing with you tonight?"
"Edward, Bella. I've told you this before. Edward Cullen."
"Right, right." Bella shouted as she left the building. "See you later, Jazz!"
A/N: So, are you intrigued? Signed reviews are appreciated!