Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I own a tour guide nametag from my alma mater.
WriteOnTime and Daisy3853 are goddesses among betas.
"Hello, my name is Edward Masen. I'm a senior from Chicago, Illinois, and I'm majoring in Biology with plans to attend med school next year. Welcome to Dartmouth."
A roomful of eager and apprehensive faces stared back at me. I had taken this job because I thought it would look good on my resume, but some days it just wasn't worth getting ogled by eighteen-year-old girls and their mothers. Today would be especially grueling, because the new hires started their training this afternoon. They stood lining the back wall, wearing the same bright-green winter coat I was and looking nervous as hell. I sighed inwardly, but continued my well-rehearsed spiel.
"I know everyone is excited to get outside and get started with our tour today, but before we do that, a few quick comments. We'll be outside for about an hour, and we'll be going up some stairs and down some hills, so if that's going to be a problem please let your tour guide know. Hanover is a balmy fifteen degrees today, so I hope everyone brought their warmest winter clothing. Jacob will split you into three groups and we'll get started!" I bit back a cringe at the false pep in my own voice, keeping my somewhat-forced smile in place as I stepped back.
Jacob turned his bright smile on the group. Cocky bastard. Unlike me, he reveled in the attention, and he was in a good mood today, probably because more than half the new guides in the back were girls.
"Hey, team," he said. Asshole always started his tours like that. He said it was because he was on the crew team and it highlighted his unique experiences on campus. I said it was because he was a douchebag. "I'm Jacob Black, and I'm a junior from La Push, Washington. I have a double major in Anthropology and Environmental Studies. Okay, why don't the first three rows follow Edward out?"
As he waved the parents and teens out of their seats, he gestured to three of the new hires in the back. All guys, of course, because I was almost positive he would be sending half the girls out with Alice, who posed no threat to him, and would take the rest for himself. I don't know why he bothered, it's not like I ever dated coworkers. I'd seen firsthand how messy that got.
Looking at the girls who waited in the back of the room, I could already pick out the ones he would leave for himself. There was a shorter, slim girl with long brown hair, although I couldn't tell exactly how she was built thanks to the bulky green monstrosity she was wearing. Jacob liked brunettes, so he'd pick her no question, and probably the girl next to her with shorter, curlier brown hair.
I pulled my eyes away from the new guides and started for the door. As I passed Alice, she whispered to me, "Bet I can make it back before you can. Winner buys dinner."
"Bring it, little girl," I shot back with a smirk, patting her on the head and darting out of reach before she could kick me in the shin. Alice Brandon was one of my favorite co-workers. She was hired the summer after me, but we clicked right away. She was easy to be friends with, even if she did come across as a bit manic sometimes. Her boyfriend Jasper was a cool guy, as an added bonus. They were cute together—he balanced her moments of hyperactivity with a zen-like chill that I could never pull off. The three of us spent a lot of time together. Well, we used to, back before I resigned myself fully to the pre-med lifestyle. Now I was lucky if we hung out once or twice a month outside of work.
The guys Jacob had sent with me jogged to catch up, practically shoving their way through the group I was leading. They looked a little like the three stooges.
"Edward, yo," Stooge Number One said. He had greasy black hair that hung in his eyes and looked like it hadn't been combed in a while. Definitely Moe. "I'm Eric. How is this gonna play today? Are we just chillin'?"
His slang came out sounding overly practiced and awkward. It was pretty funny, if I was being honest, but I didn't want the guy to think I thought he was cool. He seemed like the clingy type, and I was not up for being the Fonzie to his Richie Cunningham.
"Just talk to the students and the parents; hang out. I'll be giving the tour, today all you're doing is listening. When we get back, you'll start your training."
Another one of the Stooges, a beefy-looking kid with a tan and a blonde buzz cut, grinned at me lazily. "Dude. Awesome. Are we like, gonna get a chance to hang out with the other guides? That Bella girl was totally into me."
I rolled my eyes and put some distance between myself and Larry. I felt bad for whoever Bella was if she was already warding off the advances of horny co-workers on her first day on the job.
It was an average tour, the same inane questions about parties and academics, the same overbearing parents and slightly bored students. The campus was still fairly empty because of Christmas break, which made it easier to speed through. Every once in a while I caught sight of Alice's group, lagging just a little ways behind me. It looked like she had a couple of slow parents. I allowed myself a smirk, knowing that I could easily beat her back. I did notice that she had managed to get the girl with the long brown hair in her group. Maybe she kicked Jacob in the shin. The thought perked me up somewhat.
I had my hands full with Moe, Larry, and Curly. The third kid, a tall, gangly African-American guy named Tyler, was pretty quiet, although I noticed he was actually trying to do what I told them to and mingle with the visitors in the group. Moe and Larry were mostly ignoring me, shuffling along at the back and muttering to each other and laughing once in a while.
I made it back to the Hopkins Center first, but just barely. I was chatting with a lingering mother when Alice walked up with her group. She scowled over at me before turning back and beginning the last stop. I directed the woman I was talking to back to the place where she was parked and then sent my three stooges back to the tour guide office at McNutt hall. Alice was winding up, so I decided to wait for her.
"In the end, you have to pick the university that's right for you," she said, an earnest smile on her face. Nice, Alice. Sell it. I glanced over at the new guides in her group. The girl with the long brown hair actually had a notepad with her, and she was scribbling furiously. "College is a fantastic experience, and if Dartmouth isn't for you, I hope you find the place that is. I'll stick around for a few minutes to answer any questions you have about the tour or anything else. Please drive safely in the snow, and have a wonderful day on campus. Go Big Green!"
Her group applauded and dispersed, and I strolled over to her and planted my elbow on her head. She was the perfect height for it, and the maneuver had the added bonus of ticking her off every time I did it.
"So Munchkin, where are you taking me for dinner? I'm feeling like something expensive, what do you say about lobster and champagne?"
The new guides from Alice's group gawked at us, probably trying to figure out if we were together or something. She rolled her eyes and grabbed my forearm, twisting it expertly and pinning it behind my back in one fluid move. I grunted in surprise, then in pain.
"Jesus, Alice, when did you pick that move up?"
She released me and stepped away, cracking her knuckles and looking very pleased with herself. "Self defense class. It's a class at the Fitness Center this year. You should look into it, wouldn't want anything to happen to that pretty face."
I scowled at her and crossed my arms defensively. "Whatever. I let you pin me, just so you could feel better about being so miniscule."
"Okay, Edward, you keep telling yourself that," she laughed. She turned to the girls in green who were still staring at us and waved them over. Besides the girl with brown hair, whose face had turned an interesting shade of pink, there was a girl with dirty-blonde, shoulder-length hair and another whose entire head was covered by an ugly green wool hat. "He doesn't bite. He's just a boy."
I clicked my teeth together and growled at her, and when she sighed dramatically, I looped my arm loosely around her neck and rubbed my fist in her hair before taking off running again. She hated that shit.
"Edward Masen, you get your ass back here!" she bellowed after me. "Nobody messes with my hair and gets away with it!"
I glanced back and watched her stomp after me, new girls in tow. The two of us were supposed to be heading up the first day of training, so the fact that she was already pissed at me didn't bode well for the afternoon. I would probably get kicked at least once, especially since I messed with her hair.
When I got back to McNutt, I ducked into the tiny office the tour guide coordinators used as a home base. Jacob was leaning against one of the desks. He must have bent time and space to make it back before me. Either that or he was skipping stops again, which was against the rules, cold weather or no. Rosalie Hale sat at the computer at the other desk, typing away on what looked like a spreadsheet. She turned when she heard me come in, arching a perfect eyebrow at me.
"I hope you're prepared for today, Masen," she barked. Rose was beautiful, but she was also scary as hell if you didn't know her. I'd seen her make freshmen cry. I also had it on good authority that her bite was worse than her bark. Her boyfriend Emmett was a good friend of mine; he'd shown me the marks.
"Alice and I have it covered," I said with a shrug, reaching past Jacob to grab a handful of candy from the jar that sat on the desk. Thanks to the tour guide office, I was pretty much in a constant state of sugar high. The all-access pass to candy and caffeine was handy when I had to keep going on two or three hours of sleep.
"Well, Jacob volunteered to help, and I think it's a good idea," she continued, still glaring at me like she wanted me to disagree just so she could punch me in the balls. I wasn't stupid. Rosalie was technically my boss, although we had been hired at the same time. She was one of our two coordinators, and she took her job seriously. Most days she was more drill sergeant than friendly ambassador of the Ivy League. The hilarious part was that she was an elementary education major. She wanted to teach first grade. I laughed until the first time I saw her give a tour to a group of seven-year-olds. She was all smiles and dimples. She had them eating out of the palm of her hand.
"Whatever you say, boss," I drawled, unwrapping a Starburst and popping it in my mouth. She swiveled back to her computer and I muttered to Jacob, "You're a pain in my ass, you know that?"
"Jealous?" he scoffed, pushing past me to leave the office. "I'll see you up there."
The door slammed behind him and I sighed loudly, popping another piece of candy in my mouth.
"I don't like him either, but he's good with the new guides," Rose said.
I snorted, and she turned to face me again.
"What, you don't think so? He almost single-handedly trained the whole summer class last year. Unfortunate taste in cologne aside, Jake's good with people."
I had to laugh at that. She was constantly complaining that he smelled like he had just taken a bath in his cologne, which she referred to as Eau de Wet Dog. Jacob may have thought he was God's gift to women, but Rosalie Hale disagreed. I tended to trust her judgment more. After all, she thought I was pretty cute. Not that she would ever admit it to my face. Or sober.
Speaking of sober.
"Is Emmett still up for hosting Newbie-Palooza?" I asked. After we wrapped training for a new group of guides, we always threw a party so that everyone could get to know each other. Everyone got completely hammered, and there tended to be a lot of drunken hook-ups and blackmail-worthy confessions. Hence my knowledge that Rose thought I was one hot motherfucker. Her words, not mine. She still didn't know I had heard her say it. It may have happened two years ago, but I was holding onto that little tidbit just in case I ever needed ammo.
"Are you kidding? He's been talking about it all week." She rolled her eyes and turned back to her computer again. "You would think he was the one who worked here."
"Awesome. Well, Alice should be back soon with her group, so I'm going to head up to the conference room and get things laid out. See you later?"
"Yeah, I'll pop in at some point, just to scare them." She glanced over her shoulder with a grin. "You know how I love to scare them."
I mock shuddered, but not really because I was pretty sure she was serious, and turned to go.
"Oh, and Masen?"
"Yes, mein fuhrer?"
"No hitting on the new girls. Try to get Jacob to lay off too, okay? When he broke Mandy's heart last summer, she quit, and she was one of our best guides."
I blinked, surprised and a little annoyed that I was getting lumped in with Jacob. "When have I ever hit on the new girls?"
"Well... don't start."
I raised my eyebrows and she scowled at me. "Fine, the warning was mostly for Black, okay? Just go."
She waved me off and I headed for the stairs, laughing a little under my breath. As I passed the main entrance, I saw Alice coming in, arm-in-arm with the girl with the long brown hair. Her normally perfectly-spiked hair was still all over the place from my noogie, and when she saw me she leveled an angry glare at me. Apparently her walk from the Hop hadn't cooled her down.
"I hope you know that for your impudence you will die." The girl on her arm looked back and forth between us with wide eyes. Alice seemed to realize that she was staring and suddenly smiled.
"I'm sorry. I should introduce you two. Well," she turned her head to look at the other two girls from her group who were talking a short distance away. "I mean, you don't know any of the new guides, but Bella is one of my best friends, so you should be extra nice to her. I've actually been meaning to introduce you two all year, but things never worked out."
"I'm Edward," I said, extending my hand with a crooked half-smile. Alice always said it was my best smile, something about it being charming. Rose's warning about hitting on the new guides was still ringing in my ears, but there was no harm in being friendly. "Nice to meet you, Bella."
She was still staring at me. She made no move to shake my hand. She didn't speak. The only sign that she heard me at all was a sudden flood of color to her cheeks. Maybe she was mute? No, they'd never hire a mute to be a campus tour guide. Alice stared at her for a second and then squeezed her arm.
"Oh," Bella squeaked suddenly. Her voice was low and kind of husky. Not at all what I was expecting. "Yes. Um, hi. Nice to meet you, too." She still didn't reach for my hand, so I dropped it with a slight frown.
"Okay," I said slowly. She was a trifle odd, that was for sure. "Well I'm headed up to the conference room to get everything set up. Alice, Dragon Lady is in the office today, so maybe steer clear. Oh, and Jacob is helping us this afternoon." I glanced at Bella. "I apologize for Jacob in advance. See you ladies up there."
While I set out binders packed full of campus information and started writing things out on the dry-erase board in the conference room, Jacob sat at the table and spun around on one of the wheelie chairs. I would have asked him to help, but I was pretty sure I would finish setting up faster on my own. He was pretty useless when it came to any kind of menial task.
"So, which one of the new girls should I take under my wing?" Jacob mused, still spinning in circles. I kind of hoped he would puke all over himself and have to go home. It would make my job so much easier. "There are some cute ones in this group."
"Rosalie said to lay off the flirting," I said sternly. He never listened to me, and the fact that I was telling him to do something almost guaranteed he would do the opposite, but at least I could tell Rose I tried. "She doesn't want any of them quitting because of a tragic romance. Keep it in your pants this time, okay?"
"Sure, sure, whatever you say," he answered quickly. "Alice seems to know a couple of them this time. Grabbed one girl for her group right from under my nose. Did she introduce you to anyone?"
"Yeah, I guess she's friends with one of them, Bella. Didn't catch anybody else's name though."
Before he could answer we heard approaching footsteps, and the new guides poured into the room, no longer wearing their Dartmouth green. Moe, Larry, and Curly were the only guys in the group, outnumbered three to six. I hated dealing with groups that were majority female. They were cliquey and whiny and they talked about everything for hours before they came to any kind of decision. Yes, I know that sounds sexist. It's also true.
Once they were all seated, I started talking.
"Hey guys, I'm Edward. You've already met Alice," I nodded at her, "and this is Jacob." I cocked my head toward him and he waved. "We're going to be kicking off your training today, but before we do that, we'd like to hear a little bit about you. Standard tour guide intro is your name, your hometown, what year you are, and your major. We'll go around the table and everyone can give it a shot."
The hiring committee usually tried to get a wide variety of people, so that the guides represented the student body pretty closely as far as where they were from and what they were studying. The group we had was reflective of that.
Eric was a sophomore from Boston, Massachusetts. He was majoring in Engineering.
Mike was a junior majoring in Film and Television Studies from San Diego, California.
Tyler was a freshman from Detroit, Michigan. He was still undeclared.
Then there were Angela and Jessica, who were both juniors from small towns in Ohio. Angela was studying sociology and Jessica was in the school of education. Lauren, who I recognized as the girl with the ugly green hat, was a senior from Bangor, Maine, studying Chemistry. She looked vaguely familiar, and I wondered if we had been in classes together. Carly and Jenna were sophomores majoring in dance. I noticed Jacob's eyes light up a little bit at this piece of news, and made a mental note to supervise the two of them closely. Bella was sitting at the end of the table, and she was the last to introduce herself.
"My name is Bella Swan," she said quietly. "I'm a junior from Phoenix, Arizona, and I'm majoring in Creative Writing."
She didn't make eye contact with anyone at the table, and I found myself wondering how someone as reserved and obviously shy as she was had gotten a job as a tour guide. The standard personality type for the job was outgoing and Type A, usually a little overbearing. Alice was a great example of that. Bella was... well, she was different.
Jacob nudged me with his elbow and I realized I'd been staring silently at Bella. Oops. And now everyone was looking at her. Her face was cherry red. I cleared my throat and everyone turned back to me.
"Alright, let's begin. Turn to page seven of your manuals."
After five hours in a room with the new hires, I was starting to go a little stir-crazy. The other annoying thing about working with groups of girls is they tend to hit on me. A lot. Again, I realize this may sound conceited, but it's true. In the last hour of training alone, I was accidentally-on-purpose groped, bumped into, or flashed a piece of skin at least ten times. Six of those were from Lauren, who, it turns out, was in a couple of my lab classes junior year. She wouldn't stop talking about what a coincidence it was that we would be working together. It was completely transparent and more than a little annoying.
The only girl who wasn't hitting on me, strangely enough, was the one I couldn't stop staring at. Bella Swan was a complete mystery to me, and she became more of an enigma as time went on. She didn't speak a lot, but when she did, she was articulate and smart. After her initial quiet and somewhat shaky introduction, she got louder and more confident. She had obviously taken detailed notes on Alice's tour, because her questions were always relevant and on point, unlike most of the other trainees in the room. She still tended to break out into a deep blush when spoken to, but it was kind of endearing, in a funny sort of way. I considered asking Alice to invite her to dinner with us, a kind of group hangout situation so I could learn more about this strange, quiet girl. Dinner with Alice and Jasper wouldn't break any of Rosalie's guidelines, I was reasonably sure.
I was working up the nerve to suggest it to Alice, subtly of course, so she wouldn't go overboard and try to fabricate some kind of romantic intent on my part, when Jacob approached Bella. We were winding up for the day, and everyone had kind of broken off into groups. Bella was sitting by herself, organizing her binder.
"You wouldn't by any chance have family in Washington, would you Bella?" he asked, smiling widely. I leaned my head toward them, trying to eavesdrop without being too obvious. I wasn't sure what he was playing at, seeing as Bella had clearly said she was from Arizona, but I didn't like the way he was looking at her.
"Yeah, I was going to ask you if you knew my dad," she replied. Her dad? Interesting. Maybe her parents were divorced. I suddenly had a string of new questions about her life, and before I could stop myself I glanced at her out of the corner of my eye. No blush, no stutter. She even had a small smile on her face. Weird, I was beginning to think the girl couldn't hold a conversation without turning into a tomato. It seemed I was wrong. "La Push is close to Forks, right?"
"Yeah! Just fifteen minutes away. You're Charlie's Bella, huh? I knew you were at school here, but I never thought I'd actually meet you. Your dad talks about you all the time."
I frowned down at the handouts I was stacking. Usually when Jacob hit on girls, he lost interest quickly. He rarely had any kind of connection with them. The tone in his voice was different, off from the flirting banter he usually used. It was possible, I supposed, that he was only interested in friendship. I snorted. Right, friendship.
"You know," he continued, "I'm pretty sure my dad has a picture of the two of us making mud pies one summer. I think I'm in a diaper and you're wearing a pair of swim trunks."
She laughed, a clear, tinkling sound that made my heart beat a little faster. I scowled and slammed my papers down, not wanting to hear anymore. It's not like it mattered if Jacob knew her dad. So they had a little history, so what? I didn't know her. No big deal.
When I turned to grab my coat, Alice was watching me with a small smirk on her face.
"You ready for dinner?" she said sweetly. I shrugged and slung my coat over my back.
"I guess. Is it just you and me tonight?"
"I was thinking I'd ask Bella to come along, and Jasper's going to meet us too."
My eyes flickered back to where Bella was standing with Jacob. He was leaning into her now, and she didn't look the least bit uncomfortable. My frown deepened.
"She looks busy, and I really don't feel like spending my dinner hour with Jacob."
"Nah, they're just talking," she said. "Bella!"
Bella stopped talking and looked over at Alice with a smile. I couldn't help but notice that she had really pretty, big brown eyes. I normally didn't go for brown eyes, they were flat and kind of boring, but Bella's eyes were different. Maybe she wore contacts. I looked down at my hands and focused on pulling on my gloves far more carefully than was strictly necessary.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Alice. Were you ready to go?"
Jacob looked annoyed, which made me grin. Anything that annoyed Jacob was good in my books.
"Yeah, Edward and I are going over to meet Jasper at Collis. You're coming, right?"
Her eyes flicked over to me for a second and she started to blush again. "Uh, I guess. I mean, I don't want to intrude or anything..."
Alice rolled her eyes. "Edward doesn't mind, and you know how much Jasper likes you. Come on, grab your stuff."
As Bella gathered her things, Alice turned toward Jacob and gave him a cheery wave. "See you tomorrow, Jacob."
I shot him a cocky smile and followed Alice and Bella out the door.
A/N: So this is something I've been working on for a while now. The title is a reference to the tour guide impulse to walk backwards in front of a group. I'm almost ashamed to use it, because it was very much against the rules at my college.
Did you work a part-time job while you were a student? What was it?