She was breathing heavily, her mind ill at ease. Her chest was pumping furiously at the thought of what was about to commence. Would she do it? Could she do it? There was only one way that she would find out.
She stepped through the door, smiled awkwardly and introduced herself. "Hi, I'm Bella Swan. I'm supposed to be starting work today?"
"Bella," a young woman exclaimed. "Welcome to Crumbs. We're so glad to have you working with us. I'm Tanya by the way, your boss."
Bella's hand suddenly became sticky and she had to swallow a few times before responding. "Nice to meet you," she quietly replied.
Bella Swan had never been confident. She had never had anyone she could call a close friend, not even at school. She decided to use her time productively by reading and studying rather than going out with her friends and meeting guys. It wasn't that she was socially inept for a seventeen-year old girl or that she was ugly, because she wasn't. The guys at school gave her attention and sure, she got a few whistles on the street. But Bella kept to herself and tended to ignore the whistles.
Although she thought that she occupied herself with her studies and her enthusiastic hobby of reading, Bella eventually found it unhealthy to stay inside all of the time. Her father often made comments at her, such as 'recluse' and 'loner' – but Bella knew that he was just concerned as to why she had no friends and never went out. He was the local police chief, so he knew what most people his daughter's age were up to.
So, after a sort of intervention, Bella's father suggested finding a part-time job to fill her weekends up with. This seemed a good idea to her at first, but as she was standing there being introduced to everyone; being shown how to make coffees and which cake was which, she found that it was far from what she was accustomed to. She liked being on her own; it was a part of her character. In fact, it sort of made her nervous being around all these people – almost as bad as school.
How Bella got through the school day, she did not know. All that was familiar to her was her books and her studies. During her free periods she would go to the library to read, and no one would disturb her – no one cared enough. She wasn't significant on the social scale – but she didn't care. At lunch times, she would buy her lunch eat it on her own, and then make her way to the library or a spare classroom so that she could read in peace.
Bella was a straight A student because of this. There was nothing about her that screamed 'clever' but she was hard working and she was wise. She knew that she was past being a 'bookworm' – she needed to do something else with her life; she just didn't know what exactly. So when her father's suggestion was brought to her, she wasn't reluctant in giving her agreement.
However, she was now rethinking her decision as she was faced with socializing with more than one person. Perhaps it was too soon to be coming out of her reclusive state. She was almost shuddering.
"This is Alice," Tanya told Bella, pointing to a minute brunette with a pixie crop in the corner.
"Enchanted," Alice smiled and then held out her hand for Bella to take it. "I can tell we're going to be just great friends."
Bella could only smile back. She had never really had any real friends before, but that was how she liked it. On the other hand, Alice seemed friendly enough and despite her forwardness, Bella felt comfortable and welcome.
Tanya then told Bella that her task for the day would be to shadow Alice; just to get to know the customers and how the shop functioned. Bella was content at this idea, as it meant she didn't have to do much talking herself. Sometimes just watching without speaking made Bella feel calm and at ease and that's what she liked the most.
Alice was different to Bella – in fact, she was the complete opposite. She bounced up to the counter and to Bella's complete dismay, winked at her whilst flouncing around – just like a little fairy. Huh, Bella thought as she watched Alice. She was surprised at how charming she found her; maybe they would be friends after all.
After surveying the general way in which the customers were served, Bella felt a little more confident than before. She had gotten to know Alice a little better and she seemed sweet. She almost made Bella wish she had started to make friends a lot earlier. But for now, she was satisfied with what she had. Alice liked to talk about herself: Bella found out that she was an only child (just like herself) and she lived with her mother and father on the reservation as that's where their work was based. Bella then realized that that was the reason to why she had never seen Alice at school. It was the only explanation; Bella was very conscientious.
Suddenly, Alice turned to Bella whilst her eyes were glistening. "Now sometimes, you get the occasional super-hot customer, so flirting is generally accepted when serving them," Alice told her.
Bella smiled a little; she had never flirted before, even though the idea of it sort of thrilled her. Boys had tried to talk to Bella before – you know, the usual small talk. But Bella believed in far more intelligent conversation and didn't care for the boys at her school. Yes, some of them were rather beautiful, in her opinion, but for some reason Bella felt quite alienated from them – as if she was from another planet. Then again, she did feel like that towards anyone at her school.
"What do you mean?" Bella asked.
Alice laughed, quite throatily. Bella wondered if she was a smoker. "Well, for example, you see this hotty coming in right now? Watch what I do."
Of course, Bella welcomed this instruction. She was good at watching; especially observant.
The man walked in, who must have been in his mid-thirties was quite attractive, in Bella's view. He was fair with blue eyes and certainly gave Alice a bravura smile as he approached her. Bella watched as Alice looked up at him, smiling with her eyes and accompanying it with a sly smirk spreading across her face.
Bella looked down, feeling terribly embarrassed. She wanted to tell Alice that she was being too obvious and that she was about to humiliate herself. Then again, Bella didn't know how these things worked, so she guessed she would watch, just as Alice had requested. But she still couldn't help blushing.
"What do you feel like?" Alice asked, her eyes scandalous and her voice low and almost raspy. Bella wanted to cower in embarrassment.
The man hesitated whilst still smiling at Alice. "Well, I certainly have one thing in mind – but what's good in here?" He had a slight southern accent, which Bella had to admit she found mildly appealing. The fact that she had started to feel some sort of attraction excited Bella, but she wasn't completely sure that it wasn't just Alice's confidence rubbing off on her.
Alice continued her compelling smirk. "There are a lot of good things in here, sir." Bella could have sworn that she saw Alice give him that little wink. She felt mortified.
"In that case, I'll just have to take whatever you have to offer," the man replied, almost matching the tone of Alice's voice. Bella apprehensively waited for what Alice had to say next. Although the embarrassment was very much overpowering her and the thing she wanted most at that moment was to curl up into a ball and hide in the corner, she stayed quiet. Bella had to admit she was if anything mildly intrigued.
"No preferences?" Alice smiled. Bella awaited the response as fervently as Alice did.
The man laughed a little. "Well, if you must know, I'm definitely a buns type of guy."
"Buns you say?" Alice giggled and then whispered in Bella's ear. Her breathing began to pick up. "I have a good butt!" Alice said impatiently to Bella, and then turned around to the wall behind the counter, where some iced buns were sitting. Bella watched the man's eyes as Alice bent down, and sure enough, he was definitely a buns man. She giggled nervously inside at the man's flirtatious leer – it was highly captivating and thoroughly new to Bella.
Alice turned back around with two iced buns and held them up so that they were suggestively aligned with her chest. Despite all the excitement of the innovative situation, it was all too embarrassing for Bella; she wasn't used to this sort of repartee. She wanted to bury her head in her hands, but she was worried one of them would notice, and Bella wasn't one who liked to create a fuss. Besides, she was almost enjoying the show and wanted to know what would happen next.
"Sprinkles or no sprinkles?" Alice asked.
Then, just before the guy answered, Bella and Alice's boss Tanya emerged from the back kitchen with a colossal grin on her face. Bella noticed the man stirring as he looked from Alice and then back at Tanya.
"Jasper!" Tanya screamed as she burst through the door of the counter. "Girls, I want you to meet someone very special to me. This is my boyfriend, Jasper."
Bella watched as Alice's salacious glare dropped from her face and Jasper's flirtatious smile quickly vanished. "Nice to meet you," he said, rather morosely.
Bella then heard Alice mutter something under her breath. "Shit. That's Jasper."
Bella wanted to laugh at this awkward situation, but surely that would increase the discomfiture. Tanya looked at both Alice and Bella, scanning their faces to see what was so gauche, but gladly she thought nothing of it, and then linked her arm between Jasper's. Bella felt Alice stiffen a little.
"Right girls, it's early in the morning so I don't think you will be busy for a while, so I'm just popping out for half an hour with Jasper. Alice, you're in charge from now until I get back. Don't screw anything up! Look after Bella!" She laughed, and with that, walked out of the door and down the high street arm in arm with her silent boyfriend. Alice and Bella watched them through the window as they walked off, and Jasper turned to give Alice a little grin before returning his affection to the boss.
"I think he likes you," Bella whispered, stuttering slightly as she was astounded to hear her own voice. She never said anything like that – but this was a new start, a new Bella, she was done being known as the town's recluse. And she guessed that she could start by talking a small amount more.
"You think?" Alice said quite flatly, but then turned to Bella and gave her a little smile. "He's cute, huh?" Bella could sense that Alice was still self-conscious from before, especially as it had began to go so well.
"Yeah, he's nice," Bella replied.
"Say, you're really pretty, do you have a boyfriend?" Alice asked, her eyes almost as eager as they were when she looked at Jasper. Clearly, she liked some gossip.
"Oh no, I don't date," Bella replied. She was surprised at how much she was revealing to this girl, but hey, she would have to get used to it.
"Really?" Alice looked thunderstruck. "Why not? Bad breakup or something?"
"Something like that," Bella retorted. She liked Alice and didn't want her to think she was a freak just like everyone else did.
"Well, I think it's your turn to be flirto number two today." Alice grinned enthusiastically as if she had a budding idea.
"Flirto number two?" Bella laughed a little; she wasn't quite sure what Alice meant.
"Yes, now I can see one of our regulars walking up the road right now, and he is hot. I mean, I've tried it before but, he's about thirty and has a wife and a kid. My mum sort of knows his family though and says his wife cheated on him, so I'm guessing he's looking for someone else. Go on Bella, let's see what you've got."
Bella gasped at the prospect of her first attempt at flirting being with a thirty year old married man with a child. She wouldn't do that, but Alice seemed so eager, and she was the first friend Bella had ever had. She wanted to make a good impression, but it seemed like too much. Would she do it? Could she even do it? She looked at the door as the man walked through it, but she didn't get a chance to look at his face properly as he looked down. She turned to Alice.
"I can't," she whispered, shock written all over her face. She had hardly ever talked to a guy before, let alone flirted with them. It seemed a too big step for her, just to outwardly flirt with someone that she had never met who was at least ten years older than her. Her hands began to shake.
"Come on, you know you can. You'll be fine. Seriously," Alice brought her voice down to a whisper. "He's looking at you right now. He wants to order from you, I can see it. Do you want me to tell Tanya you refused to serve a customer?"
Of course she didn't, and although Alice's words sounded quite callous, she knew that she was doing her a favor. After years of barely talking to anyone but her teachers and her father, she needed to be plunged back into the real world – and that's where Alice came in. Bella gulped, and then gave Alice evils whilst she smiled back. She then turned to the man that was waiting for her.
Bella stopped in her tracks as she turned around to look at the man that was awaiting her. Alice had been very wrong. He wasn't 'hot' as Alice had called him no, that was a word that would certainly not describe the aesthetic portrait of this man. Bella's mouth dropped a little, almost in a gasp as she continued to gape at him. There was something about his face that seemed broken, as if his face was formed to portray the pained look. His eyes were a deep green and looked like they should be happy, but instead they seemed poignant. As he looked into Bella's eyes, obviously reading her the way she was reading him, she could only come to one conclusion with a sigh. He was beautiful.