The Geek and the Cardboard Girl

Chapter One

Bella's POV

Why today? Why today of all days did there have to be the greatest storm I'd ever seen in my entire lifetime?

The weather forecast said it would just be cloudy, yet I'm standing here in this stupid costume, feeling the water gradually seep through onto my skin. It's not a pleasant feeling.

Although... now that I consider it, maybe no one will have to see me now. They'll see the crappy weather and they therefore won't bother venturing out for anything...

It had all been Alice's idea. Alice Brandon my boss, who, deep down, I think is secretly evil. I work for a company that produces a small magazine every month. Lately, though, sales have been down, so she conjured up the fantastic idea of promoting the thing by sending somebody out dressed as the damn magazine. It's basically two huge pieces of cardboard, one facing the front and another facing the back, with all kinds of rubbish stuck on, displayed for people to see on printed sheets. The aim was to walk along the streets of Forks and attract attention, handing out leaflets and so on.

Of course, everybody was reluctant to participate, knowing it would probably - no, definitely - result in humiliation, considering she added a hat with flashing lights on top to attract extra eyes. Also, the whole thing looked like one of those homeless people who go around all day claiming that the world is going to end soon in a gigantic fireball.

Because of the lack of volunteers, she eventually put everybody's name in a hat and picked one at random.

Guess who was the lucky idiot who had to get selected?

I almost walked out as a protest when she showed me my name written messily on the paper, but the rare prospect of double pay somehow lured me into doing it. Now, I've been wandering around for roughly two hours and have received various wolf whistles, several weird looks, a couple of pitiful glances and now, to add to that glorious mixture, a soaking of cold rain.

Always look on the bright side of life? That's pretty darn difficult at the moment.

I want to take a break, sit in a cafe under shelter or something, yet I'm afraid that Brandon will appear with her super-strength binoculars or something and give me a scalding. She actually terrifies me sometimes and she's definitely somebody you wouldn't want to get on the wrong side of. I honestly believe that her looks can kill.

She's made people cry before.

As well as this, she's really short and pixie-like, which gives the twisted impression of a snotty child given too much power. Despite this, she pretty much controls my life, seeing as she's my only source of income.

One day I'll maybe leave my job but, at the moment, I'm too scared to; I've always been interested in journalism and it seemed perfect at the time. There's not much work in Forks, so I just need to put up with it; it's my only option.

With a sigh, I offer a flyer to a woman rushing by, but she just completely blanks me, rushing ahead with a newspaper over her head to probably protect her precious hair. Bitch. Anybody could see those grey roots a mile off.

Okay, this is beginning to turn a tad bit tedious.

With rain violently attacking my face, I bend down and glance at my watch. Holey moley, I still have five whole hours left... hey, maybe I could sue my boss for pneumonia? Live off the compensation for a few years... it does sound promising, yet the thought of facing her in court makes me shiver even more.

"Stop thinking about that, and do your job," I mutter to myself, earning another odd look from a passer by. "Do you want a leaflet?" I call to him, but he's already sprinting away.

I don't blame him.

Feeling sorry for myself, I trudge even further down the more-or-less empty street, registering the horrific sensation of water creeping through into my socks. No, no, no... not squelchers, please! Ugh...

Passing by the people inside looking warm and dry is enough to make me sick and I stop outside a shop window, looking longingly at the clothes inside. That gets boring after a few minutes, so I move along and take a glance in a CD shop, then a bookshop...

Oh this is torture! I want to be inside with a nice cosy blanket and a steaming cup of any type of hot liquid. Anything would do!

There are actually fifty people who work in that office, so the odds were low for me being picked. There are forty nine other people who could have been doomed, so what the hell were the chances of this happening? My luck is absolute bol...

Before I finish that thought, one of my old friends' voice's comes into my head, loud and clear. Think positively! Each day is a blessing! She was one of the overly optimistic types, always happy and with a smile on her face.

I repeat her words several times, moving into some kind of trance.

"Do you want to borrow this?"

I'm brought of my thoughts by a quiet voice and automatically look upwards, almost blinking repeatedly in disbelief when I take in the man stood in front of me.

"Each day is a blessing."

Oh God, I actually said that. Out. Loud.

My first impression of him is that he's a complete and utter geek. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's pretty stereotypical of me, yet nobody in their right mind would deny that simple fact. The thing that's distracting me the most, though, is his bright pink jumper... what was he thinking when he bought that? It's hurting my bloody eyes! I'll need some fricking sunglasses soon.

As if that wasn't bad enough, he's wearing some kind of velvety red jacket over it, along with a white shirt and black tie, done up right to his neck. I'm surprised he hasn't choked.

On his wrist he has some huge rock of a watch, and I notice this because he's holding out a broken umbrella in my direction. I look up eventually to meet his unnaturally green eyes, which are hidden behind his large glasses, and my mouth drops open into an 'o' shape.

I see that his eyebrows are pulled together questioningly, and I realise that I've been staring at him blankly for about half a minute. Right, say something now, Bella.

"Um... I..." My eyes travel to the umbrella, which is flopping pathetically in the wind. "Don't you need it?" His hair is dripping from the rain now as he tries to cover me and the strange bronze shade gradually darkens to brown over the time. Some rainwater crawls down onto his face and he quickly wipes it away with his long fingers.

Long fingers...

Shut up, Bella.

"You look like you need it more," he replies, and I see his lips tug up into a small smile. It makes him look kind of adorable, the dimples especially...

Gah, stop it!

"But I'm already wet enough," I stammer. "I don't think I could get any wetter."

Just after I say that, I realise how dodgy it could potentially sound, and pray he's immune to the curse of innuendo.

He doesn't seem to notice, because he just laughs, a strangely relaxing sound. "You might catch a cold or something. The common cold is actually the most infectious disease in human beings, with most people suffering an average of two to four colds every year."

I stare at him, a little dumbfounded. Did he just read that from some invisible textbook? "R-Right. Um..."

"Sorry," he says, running a hand down his face in what looks like embarrassment. "I sometimes ramble like that."

I laugh shakily. "It's fine."

"Happens when I'm nervous," he adds.

"You're nervous?" I ask, and he winces again. "No... I..." Finally, he trails off and just sighs. "Can we please start again?"

I just can't help smiling at him... it's so damn natural. And strange, actually, considering he's a complete stranger.

A cute stranger...

"Sure," I say and we stare at each other wordlessly for a few moments, before I hold out a flyer to him. "Please take one. Then I can feel as though I'm actually doing my job."

He squints down at the paper, barely able to read it because of the rain that's practically ruined the ink. Crumbs.

"Um, it's meant to be promoting the magazine I write for," I tell him, realising that he looks thoroughly confused. "It's..."

"What sort of things do you write about?" he asks, saving me from the stammering. He hesitates, before adding, "Why don't you come closer under the umbrella? It's a bit battered from the wind..." I watch as he reaches up and tries to fix some of the limp pieces, but he makes it worse and gives me another weak smile. "Um... perhaps I need a new one."

I scoff. "Maybe." Slowly and carefully, I edge closer towards him and nudge him with the corners of the stupid pieces of cardboard. God knows what state they're in now... After a moment's silence, I decide to try and speak. "I just write about things that are happening in Forks. News from schools, offices, so on. Last week, for example, I was writing about a man who now holds the world record for eating the most sausages in a minute."

He blinks in surprise. "And what's the record?"

"Fifteen."

"Crikey, that's enough to make anyone feel ill."

A smile creeps onto my lips again. "Yeah. He was very unwell afterwards, ended up seeing the sausages again." A snicker escapes from him and I pause awkwardly. "But yeah, it's pretty boring stuff really."

"No, it sounds interesting," he interrupts, clearing his throat. "How often are the issues out?"

"Monthly," I say. "It's supposed to say on that paper, but it's probably a mess now."

"It's alright..." He suddenly pauses, as though he's considering something. When he does this, his tongue slips out of the corner of his mouth and I oggle, wonder if he's doing this consciously. "Look," he suddenly says, "it's raining really bad out here and you look soaked... why don't you take a break and, uh... maybe get a drink with me?"

My eyes widen. Am I hearing things? Or am I delusional from over-exposure to rain fall?

Shut up, that's not even possible.

He seems to notice my shock. "Sorry? Is that a bit too forward...? I was just... uh... well, I've been trying to be a bit more spontaneous lately and that's my first attempt." I can't quite speak, so he continues. "God, I've made a right mess here. I, er, I just want you to warm up, y'know? Have a coffee? Or some tea, of course, if you're not a coffee lover. Of course coffee has a lot more caffeine content and some people would rather choose something that isn't gonna fry their brains, so that's just fine. And, I should really just shut up right now."

"Blimey," I manage. "You can really talk when you get going."

His face seems to crease. "Yeah. I..."

"Don't apologise. It's interesting. You've actually brightened my day."

The smile that comes onto his face is simply beautiful and he shows me his lovely teeth in the process. He's making me act very strangely and I want to hear another of his babbles... yet we've only just met, under very odd circumstances.

Perhaps I should be thankful to Brandon for once...

"I think I'd like a coffee," I say eventually. "I'm entitled to a break after all."

"Good." He looks as though he's really achieved something, bless him. "Would you just give me a moment, though?" he asks, moving backwards a few steps. "I just need to get something. Hold this..." He hands me the umbrella and suddenly runs off, a little goofily I will admit, his legs going in random directions. "Don't go anywhere," he calls back and suddenly loses his balance, almost falling straight over onto his face. Luckily, he regains his composure and gives me a tentative smile back.

Don't laugh... don't laugh.

As soon as he's out of sight, I find myself smiling widely, despite the weather. What the hell had just happened? That was just insane... a strange geek who had a tendency to suffer from word vomit had just made my day a whole lot better.

Well, I wasn't going to complain. I'll happily take my friend's advice now.

Before I can really think anymore, he's suddenly by my side again, looking a bit wetter but with a pile of towels stacked in his arms.

"I thought I'd get you these," he says breathlessly, holding them out into my face. I find a strange feeling growing in my chest as I take them... it feels like a warm fuzzy feeling. I'm sounding soppy, but it's just so thoughtful of him to do this, that I'm left speechless for a few moments.

"Thank you," I finally manage, taking them from him gratefully. "Why didn't you get yourself a coat while you were there, though?"

He looks at me and then just shakes his head. "I was too... I, uh, I mean, gee, I must be really stupid sometimes."

The colour that's suddenly painted his cheeks makes me smile even more. My own cheeks are probably gonna be sore by the end of this day.

"Ready to go?" he asks suddenly, his face containing a mixture of hope and excitement. I find myself sharing these emotions.

"Yeah, I am."

We start moving along the street, before he suddenly turns to me. "Forgive me, I never asked your name."

I smile over at him. "Bella. Bella Swan."

"It's lovely to meet you," he says, somewhat shyly. "I'm Edward Cullen."