A/N: Despite the fact that I have finally scrounged up enough balls to actually post my baby, I is still scurred shiteless. Eh, anyway. I would be remiss if I didn't thank the two lovely dears without whose friendship, help and encouragement I would have given up on this story long ago and also currently be residing in a mental institution. Cherolyn (iponeddyou) keeps me sane and off the cliff as well as being sweet enough to beta me and this bugger. Not to mention she keeps me in Rob pics. ;) I love you, darlin'! And Amber (Burrberry Bugsy) first, as well as many other times when I whined and whimpered about giving up, demanded I continue bowing to Shopward and his needs; something which I will forever be grateful to her for. I still love you Twinkie, wherever you are ya little Houdini! Ahem, on with the story now?

Disclaimer: I am not Stephenie Meyer and I don't own or claim to own Twilight. I do, however, own a raspberry-filling Ghirardelli chocolate square that I'm about to eat.


*** Bella's POV

I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to the tune of an aimless beat as I waited for Jake to finish up in the bank. It was surprisingly crowded, judging by the parking lot, for a Thursday afternoon. Hopefully Jake would be able to find whatever long-ass named part he needed for his Volkswagen Rabbit soon so I could stop chauffeuring him around.

I mean, it's not that I didn't love my brother or anything, it just got old taxiing him around everywhere after a while. Taking him to this errand or that errand, dropping him off and picking him up at work, you never realized how lovely it was to have two cars until you only had one.

My tapping of a random beat that would for sure be the next hit pop-tune was interrupted by something distracting emerging from the bank.

You know the type. The ones that make you instantly perk up and become acutely aware of what your relationship status is, whether good or bad. You pass them while in the grocery store and glance back over your shoulder to watch them go, hoping you run across them in another aisle. Or they're standing in front of you in the coffee shop, and you're so consumed with staring (or undressing with your eyes) that you forget what you're going to order when the barista asks you.

That was the type who'd just walked out of the bank. Right in front of my greedy little eyes. He was the kind of guy you wanted to jump in the middle of the street in broad daylight. Pleasantly tall, lean but not a twig, great hair, clothes that accentuated his attributes, and a really nice face.

I leaned forward over the steering wheel a bit, being careful not to hit the horn, to get a better look at him. He was talking on the phone, and I found myself focused (but not in a perverted way, I swear) on the way his mouth formed words. He walked out from under the shadow of the bank, the little bit of extra light alerting me to the color of his great hair: not red but not brown either. It was almost as if he had an Irish mother yet not an Irish father.

An elderly woman exited right behind him, and I had to wonder why he didn't bother to hold the door open for her. That crumb of ire vanished though when he stopped a short ways away from the bank entrance. Apparently he was arguing with someone on his phone, but that was no matter to me. All I really cared about for the moment was the fact that I had more time to look him over.

I purposely unfocused my eyes from his mouth, my gaze traveling down before back up again. When I made it past his face and to his eyes, I was surprised to see them staring directly at me. We shared the kind of polite, vague smile that strangers do before he glanced away and began speaking quickly into his phone again.

The little old lady stopped by one of those Lincoln Town Cars that only senior citizens (and government agents on TV) seemed to have, attempting to juggle her cane, enormous purse, and the opening of the car door. It didn't work, seeing as how she dropped her purse and cane. But she got the door open, at least.

I looked over at Hottie, wondering if he was going to help the poor lady in distress not ten feet in front of him. He didn't make any move, just continuing to talk and ignore the woman. My ogling changed to glaring.

Of course, I thought sourly. He was, after all, gorgeous. Which most likely gave him the idea that he could be a heartless, pompous ass and no one would dare question him because of how he looked.

Thoroughly pissed off now, I stomped out of my truck, slamming the door behind me, and approached the woman. I shoved the items that had fallen out of her purse back in and picked up her cane, helping her into the car before returning her things. She thanked me profusely, sounding and smelling like old lady. I just smiled and nodded, told her she was welcome, and gently closed the door.

As I turned to make my way back to my truck, I noticed Hottie's eyes on me. So, he could take enough time away from his phone call to stare at my ass, but he was far too busy to have helped the woman? What an asshole. Whether it was from seeing my scowl or realizing he'd been caught, I couldn't tell, but he quickly averted his gaze.

Still glowering, I rolled my eyes and climbed back into my truck just as Jacob did.

"Done?"

"Yeah," he answered with a smile I was immediately wary of. "What were you doing? Just now."

"Eh," I waved dismissively, "nothin'."

He seemed a bit disgruntled I wouldn't share with him, but changed the subject. "I brought you something."

I raised my eyebrows suspiciously at him. "What?"

One of his abnormally large hands (not really, I just liked to call them that and snicker to myself about it) came out from behind his back, curled into a fist around something.

"Do you want me to pry your hand open or...?"

He turned his hand over, opened his fist, and exposed a blue lollipop with a white smiley face printed on it.

I squealed like a pig just given free rein of a Dumpster. "Aw! Thanks Jake!" Cheap bank lollipops were one of my favorites. I leaned across the middle seat of my truck to hug him slightly, kissing his cheek as I pulled away.

"I knew you'd like it." He grinned at me. "Now why don't you tell me what you were just doing?"

"No."

"Why not?" he whined.

"Because I told you it was nothing."

He narrowed his eyes at me; unwavering, I stared defiantly back. Without warning he lunged at me, his hands grabbing my sides and under my arms, and proceeded to tickle me in a way that I could only guess he thought was ruthlessly.

"Jake!" I wheezed out, more strained by the laughter at how ridiculous he was than by the actual tickling. "You know I'm not ticklish!" Well, except in my feet if touched in just the right way.

"Then why are you laughing?"

"Because you're absurd!"

Ignoring me, he continued "tickling" and soon we'd both dissolved into laughter.


I could clearly remember thinking, I have got to get out of here. So I did. I got out of Newton's Grocers. Granted, I hadn't done it under optimum terms, but did how one escape someplace dreadful really matter in the grand scheme of life?

I felt so light, carefree and just plain jovial because of my freedom that I whistled on the way home. I actually whistled. Although, it wasn't a show tune, but I whistled nonetheless.

I finally made it home, walked into my apartment, and that's when it hit me (awareness can be such a bitch).

I didn't have a job.

I had no way to pay the rent when it came. I didn't have money to buy things to restock the fridge with. I had no money to buy the new socks I needed thanks to Jacob turning all mine a hideous mix of pink and light blue when he'd decided to do laundry.

How could I have been so stupid and irresponsible? I didn't have a large savings account or money hidden in the floorboards; I couldn't afford to be so careless as to quit my job. I had to find a new one, pronto. It was the only option I had.

I picked my keys up off the floor where they'd fallen during my revelation and hurried back out the door. It had begun to sprinkle, of course. This was Forks after all. I brushed it off (metaphorically, of course) and carried on my way.

For a fleeting moment I considered retracing my steps to Newton's and begging for my job back. But...throwing a tantrum at the owner's son-slash-store's manager most likely meant I wouldn't get my job back. And even if, by some phenomenon, I was rehired, I'd probably end up back at minimum wage doing all the crappy jobs I'd had to do when I first started. Not to mention it also meant absolutely no hope for further advancement; the Newtons didn't easily forget "wrongs" committed against them. Did I want to waste my time at a dead end, low-paying job?

Knowing the answer immediately, I stopped at a newspaper machine and inserted my fifty-cents. I thought it would be better to have the 'Help Wanted' ads with me in case there weren't signs in windows or anything. Not that I was really expecting much. Forks wasn't exactly the leader in job availability. I was, however, trying to keep a positive outlook.

I quickly sifted through all the 'Help Wanted' ads for Port Angeles and other nearby places that advertised in our newspaper, only being left with two options that fit my wanted criteria and if I didn't want to drive at least thirty miles each way everyday for work.

An RN needed to watch over an elderly woman, and a secretary with a degree in business. I wasn't, unfortunately, qualified for either.

Dammit! When did Newton's Grocers become the only available place of work?

Somewhere else had to be hiring. I couldn't go back to Newton's. Even if I'd have been there anyway if I hadn't finally cracked…I forced those thoughts away. What's done is done. Now I just had to find another job before I lost all my credibility at being an adult.

Ignoring the images flashing through my head of having to move back home with my parents, I resigned myself to hoping there were some places hiring that hadn't announced it in the newspaper.

To distract myself as I walked down the street, I thought back over my very first reply to my pen pal. Which sounded weird and hello-time-capsule-to-the-nineteen-fifties, but wasn't really all that weird if simply thought about it in the right way: snail-mail version of emails to a person you met not in an online chatroom, but through an ad in the Forks Times.

Okay, maybe it still sounded a bit weird. But I had better conversations with the faceless and real-name-less (to me at least) Greenheart than I did with most of the people I encountered on a weekly basis. We'd been corresponding for about a month now, but I could still easily recall the way I'd blanched at his first letter to me. His script had been so elegant. I remembered reading over his letter once more with my pen poised above my own paper, feeling intimidated by the gracefulness of his writing. Mine was usually sloppy, but compared to his it was pretty much just plain chicken scratch.

I must say, Greenheart, I am more than slightly intimidated by your elegant yet casual scrawl. Despite what I told myself when I agreed to this, I am wondering and imagining what you look like now that I've seen the work of your hands and a pen. With such fierce, beautiful, rather poetic, and stylish grace with which you write, my imagination is going full blast. And it is not displeased. I did, however, agree not to talk physical looks, so I shall stop there with that.

I sincerely hope you can read my chicken scratch. Yes, I will confess to my writing being chicken scratch. At least when next to yours. If you can not decipher it, tell me so and I'll invest in a typewriter or computer. Although if you can't read my writing, you won't be able to read that I'm telling you to tell me you can't read it. A vicious circle I can think of no way out of, it seems.

Oh well. I'll move on from that and onto other, more pleasant subjects. I have to admit though, I'll be wondering throughout the entire length of this if you'll be able to make sense of it. Perhaps I should make a copy when I'm finished. That way if you can't read it, I can buy myself a typewriter and type up the whole of this to resend. In my nervousness, I seem to be repeating myself. I've never done something like this before. I've hardly even ever talked to a stranger or sent a letter. Much less both at the same time.

As per your request in your letter and to get things started, I'll state a few of my favorite things so we can get to know one another. My favorite color is green. Particularly the green of spring. My favorite book is Wuthering Heights. I have no particular favorite band or musician. I'll listen to anything once. From classical to rap to country. Though I do find classical or jazz very soothing when needed, and anything with a good beat or lyrics that make you think suitable for every other occasion.

My favorite food varies depending on the season. In the winter, I adore a bread bowl filled with potato soup from this little-known bistro in downtown Port Angeles. In summer, it's the perfect steak, warm and soft yeast rolls, and pistachios courtesy of this unique-to-Washington-State restaurant just inside Seattle. For every other day or season, it's the oatmeal cookies my mother bakes. They remind me of the way my biological mother always used to smell. That faint hint of cinnamon and lilac perfume, if cookies can smell of perfume, that is. I'll explain about the mother-slash-biological mother as I'm sure you will probably be wondering.

My parents died when I was young, in a plane crash on the way to their second honeymoon in Mexico. According to their will, I was to be entrusted into the care of my father's best friend, and an overall good family friend. My grandmother contested this decision, claiming with her was the best place for me. For about six months they fought over me, tugging me this way and that, analyzing every word and sentence of my parents' last wish. I don't often care to remember that time of my childhood spent in court as it was pretty rough to deal with everything all at once. I'll sum it to the court finally siding with my parents' will, and me going to live with the friend and his family. It was the best decision, I know. No matter what she thought she wanted, I know my grandma wasn't up for the challenge of raising me. I don't think she ever forgave the friend, but we stayed partially in touch with her. I believe she's in a nursing home now.

The rest of my childhood with the friend and his family was far less exciting and dramatic than the beginning was. He and his wife had no qualms about taking me in, even though they already had three children and the friend was in a wheelchair. I eventually felt comfortable calling them 'mom' and 'dad', and now consider all of them my family. I see them about every weekend or so.

I find it hard to believe that I just spilled my entire life's story to you...I'm considering rummaging through some drawers in search of white-out. I've never physically met you, and I've only ever received one letter from you, yet I feel very safe with you. You seem very trustworthy to me. I really hope you don't turn out to be some sort of cannibalistic serial killer or something. I will feel as though velvet rope and a sign reading "Biggest Fool" will need to be erected around me and tourist visits offered if that type of thing happens with you. But then again, I could probably make quite a killing with such an attraction. We shall see.

Oddly eager to receive your reply,
Belletrist

A smile adorned my face as I reminisced. I hadn't realized the almost liberating feeling I would get from talking to a strange man whom I'd never met and had no idea at all about what he looked like.

Truthfully, until I'd begun corresponding with Greenheart, I'd never really comprehended how much of our relationships with people were generally based on the physical.

I remembered the undiluted, borderline childish elation I'd had when his reply had come two days later. The knowledge that he'd written and sent his letter the same day he'd received mine certainly didn't weaken my excitement.

Some people tell their life stories, whether they're sad or not, just to garner attention or sympathy. You don't strike me as that type of person, or the type that even wants sympathy and to be felt sorry for. You come off to me more as someone who detests it. So I'll say it now and not dwell on it too much in the future: I am truly sorry your early childhood was filled with so much drama and hurt, Belletrist. I can't imagine how hard a thing that must be to go through, especially at such a young age, and I'm grateful you trust me enough to have told me that. I promise I'm not a cannibalistic serial killer. Although, if I were one, I probably wouldn't admit it.

While we're on the subject of life stories, I might as well share my own. It seems only fair, too, considering you told me yours. My childhood was quite uneventful, my family average. Average car, average house, average spending income (at least when it came to the neighborhood in which we lived), average furnishings, etc.

We never had any pets, and I'm an only child, thus I was very much spoiled by my mother when I was younger. I was born in Chicago, my parents still live there. My father and I haven't been on the best of terms since high school when I decided to pursue my love of music rather than going into the military as my father wished. While he was disappointed, my mother was elated I'd chosen to follow my own path and own dreams. She and I have remained on good terms as we always were. I visit her occasionally and she visits me, but I still miss her dearly.

I now work in a non-descript store, have since I graduated from high school, as I continue on with my music. I haven't gotten very far in that respect beyond playing in several clubs on the weekends sometimes. I do honestly believe I like it better that way. I just want to play my music and have someone listen; I don't particularly care to be famous. A few other people have stated that they don't think I'm exactly suited for fame. And I must say I agree with them.

I also feel it necessary to inform you that you don't see your own writing very clearly. I think it's rather lovely, actually. There are some who it took quite a long while to perfect the art of their script, as is the case with me, and still others who spend a painstaking amount of time to make sure their handwriting is flawless. You are neither; your writing is natural and simply you. While it is a tad sloppy compared to something like calligraphy, I find its hasty sloppiness, as well as the reason I am imagining why you were being hasty, endearing.

I enjoy so many books it's hard for me to pick a favorite, but I must admit the classics such as Jane Austen and your favorite I do love to read due to their thought-provoking nature. And of the course the fact that I am a closet romantic. The same indecision goes for music. Though I do greatly enjoy, don't laugh, Debussy and Linkin Park. Far apart on the music spectrum, I know. But each of them speaks to me in an inexplicable way that just...makes me love them.

I think my favorite food would have to be...Fudgesicles. Is there anything more perfect than a popsicle and chocolate? I think not. I wish I had definitive, sophisticated, and mature favorite foods as you do, but alas, I do not. I am, however, now craving Fudgesicles and pistachios. I'm also jealous of your apparent oatmeal cookie stash. I never get oatmeal cookies unless they're from Mrs. Fields.

I noticed you did not mention a favorite movie. Is that because you can't possibly pick a favorite movie, or did it simply slip your mind? My favorite movie, I believe, would have to be Clue. Is there really any need for me to outline the reasons why? Once more, I think not.

If it is not too rude or inquiring, may I ask what you're reading now? Anything you'd recommend to me if I have not already read it? Anything you wish to discuss about whatever it is you're reading? I've always enjoyed hearing others' opinions on literature and cannot think of another person whose views I'd love to know more than yours.

I do not find it odd that you are eager to receive my reply as I am just as eager to receive yours,
Greenheart

I was pulled sharply from my thoughts by the bright orange letters of a 'Help Wanted' sign standing in the window next to the door of a shop. I stepped farther back from the shop, angling my head up so that I could see the store's name affixed on the sign above the alcove that housed the door.

The River Divot.

Odd name, I thought to myself. And, if I was honest, I had no idea what a 'divot' was in the first place.

The display in the two windows on either side of the door didn't help me figure out what they sold. Or, more importantly, if I had enough knowledge to be able to sell what they sold. Stepping up to the door, I entered the store quietly, the bell above it startling me as it announced my presence.

"I'll be with you in one moment," a voice called out to, I presumed, me. I glanced around cursorily, but didn't see anyone. And, more notably, I didn't see anything that would need super specific skills to be able to sell or stock.

I walked farther into the store, lecturing myself on how to act and what to say when I inquired about the help they needed. A few aisles, if you could call them that, over and near a rack of clothes situated next to a shelf of something I didn't quite pay enough attention to to notice, a blonde-headed woman of average height stood talking to another figure.

The second figure was, I could tell even from behind, a man. He was dressed well, professionally, and I could see him talking to the woman in much the same way as his hand gestured to this and that. Pointing out, I assumed, things she might have been interested in or might have been persuaded to buy. By manner and attire I pegged him as the manager of the store.

He had a nice back, nice shoulders, nice ass too, I mused to myself. Just as I was scanning the rest of him and noting that the hair on the back of his head looked vaguely familiar, he and the woman turned around so he could indicate some item or other.

I would have liked to say that I didn't make any facial or audible indication of shock and surprise, but even I couldn't lie that well to myself.

He was the guy from last Friday at the bank. Hottie who was too self-absorbed and pompous to help a poor old woman. I simultaneously wanted to walk up to him and eat his lips, and walk out as I flipped him off. If ever there were a need for the term 'contrasting ideas'...

I shook my head, hoping to clear it. You need a job, Bella! I pepped myself. And so far it looks like this is about the only thing worth bothering to check into unless you're in the mood to see Mike Newton again everyday.

I cringed at merely the idea of that.

Focusing back on the present instead of my own thoughts, I saw he hadn't noticed me yet and began to wonder if he would even remember me. Maybe if I turned around and bent over he'd recognize me. I almost snorted at myself before I remembered that wouldn't exactly be a great first impression to give a potential boss.

I cringed again at that idea, him being my boss.

But...life wasn't always easy-peasy lemon-squeezy. And if working for a pompous jackass was what it took for me to not completely fail at being a responsible adult, than I would find a way to manage.

I retrained my attention on them, watching as Hottie touched Cookie's (cause she was blond and a blondie was a cookie and I was an idiot who gave strangers nicknames) arm and smiled at her as he gestured to something else. I couldn't make out their words from my position, but if anyone had asked me to bet on it, I would have bet all the money I had that his voice would be low and just deep enough to entice. While my temper continued to boil, he fixed a hand to the small of her back and led her to another aisle as he bent his tall frame closer to her and said something that made her giggle in that grating way most women thought was appealing.

Firmly annoyed and aggravated now, I ground my teeth together and stuffed my hands in the pockets of my jeans to keep from going over there and giving Hottie, who really needed a better-suited-to-his-personality name, a piece of my mind.

I mean, really. Blatantly flirting with a customer when you're supposed to be on the clock? When you're costing the owner money? Manager or not, it was wrong. And it was sick that he was spending time he should have been working in the store, working instead to get a woman to spend a little time in his store.

Under normal circumstances I might have laughed at my slightly sad and pathetic double entendre.

Hottie pointed Cookie, arms full of stuff I didn't bother to notice, toward the front of the store and the corner that held the cash register. I dimly realized a woman I didn't bother to notice either was now situated there, waiting for Cookie.

I stared straight at him, hoping I hid my anger and disgust well enough, as Hottie approached me. His smile remained the same only-faintly-detached politeness he'd had with Cookie, but his eyes, which I'd finally been close enough to him to see were an unfairly-bright green (probably contacts, I argued to my hormones), had gone cool.

"May I help you?" His words were polite, but the tone was the same as his eyes. Cool and just unfriendly enough to make me want to tell him to fuck off before I dashed away.

Instead, I stood my ground, sucked it up, and spoke in a forced-niceness voice I fervently hoped he wouldn't notice. "Yes, I was wondering about what sort of help you were wanting?" I gestured vaguely with my head back to where the 'Help Wanted' sign sat in the window.

"We don't need any help at this time. Thank you for your time." The words and tone were dismissive, but he didn't turn, and he seemed to be angry now for some reason I couldn't fathom.

"Well then why do you have a Help Wanted sign in your window?" Cool it, Bella, I chastised myself. Sassiness and/or sarcasm will not help you in this instance.

"That's a mistake. Someone just forgot to take it down. We don't need any help."

"I'd like to speak to the owner, if that's okay."

"It's not. And he's not here anyway."

I gritted my teeth at the total lack of enthusiasm and emotion in his voice. He was being rude by not being anything. And that sounded insane and ridiculous even to my own mind. Deciding I'd had enough of this shit, of him, of even wanting this stupid job in the first place, I let my sarcasm run free. "Well, if you suddenly get any openings, my name's Bella Swan. I'm in the book. Only Swan there."

Without waiting for an answer, I promptly turned around and strode back the way I'd come, careful to keep any sort of swing or shake out of my walk. The pompous jerk-off would probably have given me the job if I'd given him a little ass-wiggle.

So disgusted I could hardly hear myself breathing, I almost didn't hear the harried remark come from behind me, and it certainly took me a few moments to process what I'd heard. "Was that someone looking to be hired? You know since Maggie left we really need someone else. Excuse me! Miss!"

I turned around, a hand on the exit door, to see a man a few inches shorter than Hottie but several pounds heavier with a big, black mustache moving toward me in a way that instantly made me think the poor man was under a lot of stress.

"Excuse me, ma'am. Would you like to work here?" There was a no-nonsense, no-formalities air about him that I found I easily liked.

"Yes," I smiled, biting my bottom lip to keep from laughing in relief. "Yes I would."

"Then you're hired. Come back tomorrow a few minutes before nine a.m. so we can get you settled?"

I nodded eagerly, "Absolutely! I'll be here."

"Uhh…Good." The first touch of something other than determination graced his no-longer-as-stressed face. He whipped around quickly and motioned something to Hottie that had Hottie following him toward the back of the store and a door marked 'Employees Only'. "I think she'll be good here." Hottie made no comment. "Come on, Edward, we'd better make sure all that bubblegum is clean from Maggie's old locker."

I shifted quickly through the door, not wanting to hear anymore. Knowing Hottie's name was more than I'd ever cared to admit I wanted to know.

Relieved and happy now, I opened my arms out wide and took a turn on the sidewalk. But, of course, my arms hit two passerby who both squealed "Hey!"s and "Watch where you're going!"s at me as I almost fell flat on my back. I righted myself and gladly dumped the 'Help Wanted' sections of newspaper still in my hands into a nearby trash can.

I had a job. Or, well, at least I sort of did and hopefully for sure would by tomorrow afternoon.

The realization had me smiling a mile wide.

I had a job despite Hottie's, Edward's, I corrected myself, attempts to hinder me.

That realization had me laughing (or cackling, depending on how you chose to hear it) like the crazy woman I was sure Hottie, Edward, I had to amend myself again, thought I was.


A/N: I'm not sure how often updates will be. I have bits already written, but unfortunately everything concerning the beginning freaks me out and leaves me in need of a paper bag. Anyhoo…Hope you liked it? Yeah, that's a good parting line.