2. Hot N Cold
A/N: I know, I know. I'm a terrible author/person, writing the first chapter then leaving it for...who knows how long. I'm eternally sorry. I really just haven't had the time, and I tried writing the second chapter, and no matter what I did for weeks, it was just awful. I hope this is better, and lives up to the first chapter, though I don't think it does. Song title is Katy Perry's.
The music playing softly in the background was to be expected. This was a coffee shop in Seattle (my favorite, actually), and it was the norm for indie artists from the local music scene to make the playlist. The man's voice sang a ballad of love and loss, his voice predictably intimidating the classic crooners, with the modern scratchy twist. He was trying so hard to be original, but not surprisingly, that meant he only ended up sounding like every other act that was trying to make it big. Even with this shortcoming, the music was nicer than the over-hyped top-40 that could have been an option, and helped my studying processes. As did the trademark quirky but calming atmosphere of shops like this. And the caffeine and sugar in the caramel mocha I was drinking didn't hurt either.
The bouncing best friend sitting across from me, on the other hand, was not so helpful. I was already quickly beginning to regret allowing Alice to come with me. I had been packing my book bag this morning, preparing to spend the day here, writing the evil seven-page mid-term my Victorian literature professor had assigned. Alice had been whining about how I was spending the entire weekend away from the dorm room we shared, depriving her of roommate time. Eventually she was so pitiful I had given in, striking a deal with her. She could come along, since she too had school work to do. But she had to do said studying, and allow me to do the same, with minimal interruption. That way, she could be there when it was time for study breaks and she could have her roommate time. I thought it was a fair alternative to me disappearing for the duration of the weekend. Alice had agreed with my reasoning, and to my terms.
That was then. Now, she bounced up and down across the table from me, so obviously not reading her art history textbook, or answering the study questions that were supposed to be pulled up on her laptop screen. Instead, she was online shopping. As a result, she would squeal or groan every thirty seconds or so, and every few minutes she wouldn't be able to hold back. Despite knowing how much I hated this kind of stuff, she would pipe up with a "oooh, Bella, what do you think of this?" Or, "Bella, what color do you like best?" Or "Bella, wouldn't this be perfect?"
Would the green heels be perfect for what? I had no idea what color would be best. And I really didn't have an opinion on different styles of jeans. I would have to remember to murder whoever came up with the idea of online shopping one day- or perhaps make them supplement my income for the amount I would lose for flunking out of college because I couldn't focus to write my papers. That would be less drastic. However, at the moment, I needed to deal with Alice. She had just asked me which earrings went best with the top she wanted to buy. I had no idea- the top was a simple button up- wouldn't any earrings go with it?
"Alice!" I exclaimed with exasperation. "I thought we had a deal- I really need to focus here!" Alice's face fell, and her lower lip jutted out just a bit. I sighed. How was it that I felt bad for snapping at her? It wasn't fair that she could look so innocent. People who could do that mess with our evolutionary tendencies as humans to protect the weak. "Please?" I added, as a way of apologizing.
She didn't stop pouting. "Fine- I'll be quiet. But you have to promise to go shopping with me next week- for real."
I laughed at the ridiculousness of her assumption that shopping on line wasn't "real", while I winced internally at the idea of being forced into a shopping trip. But to be fair, I was robbing Alice of our usual late afternoon catch up time. We never had time throughout the week to just hang out, much less even be in the same room together unless we were sleeping, kept busy by our schedules and course loads as UW students. I shook my head, but agreed. Anything to finish this paper.
Alice immediately quieted after offering a large grin, and I concentrated on my brightly lit screen. I was on page two, and needed seven pages by tomorrow morning at nine. It was just three in the afternoon now, but I had other work to do, and wanted to finish as soon as possible.
I began tapping away at my keyboard frantically, and fifteen minutes later, I had tapped out another half of a page. At this rate, I could be done in just a couple of hours. The thought energized me, and I continued my fingertips dance across the keys, the click-click satisfying my need for progress. It was fulfilling, in a strange way.
By the time I had reached the middle of the fourth page, I noticed Alice had begun bouncing again, though she did so in silence and continued to pretend to be doing work. If I had to guess, I would bet she was browsing through photos from fashion week. I continued working, though I knew she was coming close to blowing a gasket from trying to contain her mounting energy. I only got to the bottom of the fourth page before I gave up.
I reached one hand across the table, placing my palm solidly on her shoulder, ready to force her into to stillness. And possibly slap her, if that became necessary. "Alice- really, please go for a walk or something, if it's that bad." I begged.
She crossed her arms while she simultaneously uncrossed her legs and planted both feet on the ground as if to root her body into the hardwood floor. "I'm fine." She said stubbornly.
I sighed. "Ok- whatever, so long as you stay still- your bouncing is distracting." She only scowled in response.
I moved my arm to retract my hand back to my side of the table. Of course, I managed to somehow not only connect with one of the branded white cups that sat on the edge of the khaki wood table, but both. They were each sent hurtling over the edge, and both white lids became projectile objects, landing beneath the far edge of the table next to use. Thankfully, no one was there for the sugary drinks to soak, and the creamy liquids only made a spatter-patterned mess on the floor. I groaned at the sight and shook my head. How could this get worse? I rubbed my hands over my face and then through my long hair, closing my eyes.
Obviously, this was just not meant to be.
"Ok, I give up." I said as I stood, closing my laptop and placing it in my bag.
"Where are you going?" Alice questioned.
"I'm moving to the library- you can come with me if you want, I just need a change of scenery." At least at the library Alice couldn't really talk- and there would be nothing for me to spill.
She nodded, and began packing her things as well. I picked up the cups and lids from the floor, placing them in the nearby trashcan, while Alice picked up replacement cups for us to drink on the way to the library. I could tell she was giddy that she would get to release some energy on the walk to the library. I smiled as I mopped up the spilled coffee with a thick pile of napkins- I really did love Alice, truly. She could just be a bit much- sometimes it felt like babysitting a four year old. Who loved fashion, of course.
Thoughts such as these kept me amused and distracted as I placed my bag over my shoulders and then picked up the napkins, heading toward the door, away from the nearest trash can. I figured it was more efficient to throw them out on our way out, after I met Alice up at the counter. I placed a couple dry napkins underneath the bunch of wet, sticky, dripping ones and started walking.
I came to the two steps that led from the slightly raised back area of the shop to the counter and register area, entirely unfocused on where I was going. For the second time in ten minutes, my clumsy nature made an unwelcome appearance. My left foot slipped slightly as it came down on the edge of the bottom step, moving out from underneath me. Between that and my overstuffed backpack, I lost my center of balance, overcorrected, and went flying forward. I heard myself give a small shriek, anticipating the pain of hitting the floor by throwing my arms out in front of me and squeezing my eyes shut, hoping I could break the fall.
Just moments later, as I expected, I did hit something hard. But it wasn't the floor. Instead of feeling pain and the cold of the floor, I felt the warmth of another body, through the fabric of a thin sweater. A sweater that the sopping gob of napkins I held in my left hand was soaking through.
I didn't move, in shock that someone had caught me. More in shock that the someone was obviously a man who was in quite good shape, and smelled sweeter than anything I could imagine. Even better than a caramel mocha. I looked up slowly, and was brought additional disbelief at the sight of emerald green eyes gazing back into mine, framed by the face of a god, complete with a strong, chiseled jaw.
Surprisingly, after a few moments of gawking, probably with my mouth hanging open, reason and reality came back. I suddenly realized where I was. I was standing in the middle of a crowded coffee shop, held up by a stanger I had embarrassingly fallen into. An attractive stranger, who's clothes I was currently ruining. I blushed, as I began pulling back, straightening myself with the help of his strong hands setting me back onto my feet.
"Sorry." I said quietly, barely recovering the faculty of speech.
He looked at me for a moment before answering. "Are you ok?" he asked. I hardly noticed that he didn't acknowledge my apology. Or that he had suddenly gone stiff after making sure I was upright. I was too busy melting at the sound of his pure velvet voice, the sound reverberating through the air.
"Yeah, I…I'm fine." I answered, stumbling over my words in a verbal re-enaction of my physical clumsiness. I shuffled my feet, glancing down at my shoes before raising my eyes, to see a large coffee-brown spot on his ivory sweater.
"Oh- I'm so sorry about your sweater! I didn't mean to get coffee all over it- I just spilled my drink earlier and was on my way to throwing away the napkins…" I trailed off.
He looked down, as if noticing the stain for the first time. Now I was starting to notice that his facial expression and body language weren't exactly welcoming. I mean, sure, I had just ruined his sweater, but did he have to be so…cold?
"Don't worry about it." He said, shrugging his shoulders.
Unsure of what else to say, I was suddenly feeling awkward. I looked over his shoulder, towards the front door, just twenty feet away. I saw Alice waiting, pretending not to watch my exchange with the man, but obviously listening intensely, trying to pick out what she could.
"Uhmmm…well, thanks again…." I trailed off, realizing I didn't know the man's name.
Though it was obvious I was trying to figure out his name, he didn't make a move to tell me and my sentence hung strangely in the air, incomplete.
He only nodded in response this time, and before I could think of what else to do, he stepped gracefully around me.
Unsure of what to think, I turned and watched him for a moment, simultaneously not wanting to take my eyes off of his perfection and feeling overwhelmed at the surrealism of the past few moments.
I followed him with my eyes as he walked towards the table I had been sitting at with Alice, then past it, heading toward the dark back corner. I shook my head, remembering I had places to go, and Alice was waiting. I walked toward the door, wary of Alice's reaction and full of embarrassment- and honestly, a little bit of confusion. When I had first looked up into his face, the nameless man hadn't looked so…impolite. I'd almost thought I'd felt something in those first few moments, but that had all quickly vanished as soon we had disentangled from each other. I had no idea what to make of it, and for whatever silly reason, I felt a few angry tear spark to my eyes. Of course, I was being ridiculous- quickly blinked the tears away and composed myself as I reached Alice.
Mercifully, she didn't pounce on me immediately with questions, but first handed me my drink. I took it, turning one last time to look at where he had gone. As I turned, I saw him sit at the piano and place his fingers on the keys. He sat still as a statue for one long moment, as if waiting for something.
Alice pulled on my arm then, impatiently guiding me toward the door. I didn't even hear her questions as the music from the piano flooded the shop, and the beauty of it caused my heart to stutter. I looked back, watching his body bend and straighten as he played the instrument not only with his hands buts his entire being. Only when Alice pulled me out of the shop and the glass door swung closed behind us did I turn my attention to her, waiting for her questions to pour out.
A/N: Please review!