Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight, or any related characters. Any references to real places or people is purely for purposes of fiction, and should similarly be taken with a grain of salt.

It took me fifteen minutes to get to work, leaving me forty-five minutes to rise from the bed and make myself ready to walk out the door prepared for a seven-hour shift.

With my cat snoozing beside me, having finally come out of hiding, I wasted ten minutes of that time lying still, my head turned towards the shaft of sunlight bearing down through the curtain, thick enough to block the harshness of day but leaving enough softly filtered light to reveal the swirling dust particles of the air. They captivated me. How had they come to be there, those exact particles, that abundance of them, in this room, in that space. Did they know I watched them? Was it fate, coincidence, or simple science that brought them here?

I watched them twirling and wondered, my stomach clenched with a sudden, painful longing to be one of those dust particles. So simple, elegant, focused. What regrets did dust have...dancing so surely in the sun stream...

I walked into the store's office to clock in. The manager was in her office, and then there was a woman I hadn't met yet sitting in the office where the computer I was supposed to clock in on resided.

"Hello Bella," Maggie said, smiling from her office. She was a large woman with mousy, curly hair and a warm face. She seemed nice when she interviewed me and nice now, but I was always weary of the big boss. "How did your first day go?"

I swallowed slightly, forcing an amenable smile onto my features. "It was...okay. A lot to learn you know...but I think I can get it. Just have to practice," I hastened to add. I had learned it was best to always impress confidence upon your boss even if you had to lie through your teeth.

Maggie was still smiling, just nodding, and since I had nothing else to add I turned awkwardly toward the woman in the office behind me.

She looked to be in her twenties, and was the first attractive person I had seen here. She had long, straight blonde hair, and a pretty face. She was a little chubby but it didn't take away from her. Her only drawback was the absurd make-up she adorned. She wore glitter eyeliner on her upper lash, and bright blue eye shadow that matched the blue work shirt she wore. Embroidered into the shirt was 'Kate Denali, AGM.'

She smiled brightly when our eyes met, but hers were still cautious and appraising. That was the look I was more used to seeing in a manager's eyes. "So you're Bella," she grinned, holding out her hand for me to shake. "I'm Kate, the assistant manager. If you continue working nights, you'll be seeing a lot more of me than Maggie." She laughed.

I let out a nervous laugh as well, and I let go of her hand, confident that my shake had been firm. Her's had definitely been. I made sure to keep eye contact with her, trying my best not to stare at her bizarre make-up.

I stood there hesitantly for a second, before Kate seemed to realize why. "Oh, you still have to clock in?"

I nodded and she stood, moving out of the tiny office. She began speaking to Maggie but I blocked them out as I took her vacated chair and started the time clock program.

I tuned back into the world as I saw Kate standing in my peripheral, leaning in the doorway of her office.

"So," she started, looking down at a piece of paper in her hand. "It looks like Mary..." she paused and looked over her shoulder, sharing a look with Maggie. Then she turned back to me and continued like she had never paused, "Trained you yesterday. She should be here in a little bit and she'll train you again. But your shift lead today will be Edward. He'll be here at four. Any questions Mary can't answer, ask him, or me." She glanced up, grinning slyly. "Have you met Edward yet?"

I shook my head no. "I haven't met too many people, I think."

"You'll like Edward, but don't take it personally if he comes off as...prickly. He's not good with new people."

"Um...okay?" I paused. "So only two people work a shift, normally?"

"Oh yeah. Usually a manager will be here as well, except later at night if you - "

" - She hasn't met Edward yet!" Maggie suddenly yelled over Kate's shoulder, then started giggling.

...I was feeling very unsure about this environment.

As it turned out, I was up at the counter for most of the hour by myself, feeling very nervous as I waited for an inevitable disaster. Customers came and went and most were pretty customary, with simple, ring-able items that were straight-forward enough. I bagged them and wished people a good day, then welcomed the next person.

All things come to an end. Towards four, a man in a First Care uniform came out, handing me his company's credit card. They were an ambulance service that One Stops had an account with, so there was a specific way to set up the pump for them so that they could fuel however much they needed and it would be immediately charged to the account. Mary had shown me how to set up two of them yesterday but I couldn't quite remember it.

"Umm..." I muttered, taking the card dumbly, my face reddening as it always did when I was stressed, unsure, embarrassed, angry, happy, or feeling anything besides stoicism. I glanced up and saw a line forming behind the uniformed man.

Hand trembling slightly, I reached for the phone and searched for the paper that Mary had written with the office extensions on them. I looked for Kate's office, the one we were supposed to call first, and dialed, trying not to look at the growing number of people.

The phone rang four times and went to voice mail. The First Care guy was looking at me with his eyebrow raised, unimpressed. My face burned redder. I heard the mutters and grumbles very loudly of what seemed like a sizeable crowd behind him.

So then I tried the intercom out for the first time. After dialing that extension I waited for the beep overhead and tried to smooth out my voice as I said, "Thank you for shopping at One Stops, attention all employees, can I please have Kate to the front counter please, Kate to the front counter?"

I hung it up, eyes still trained on said counter. I glanced up at First Care dude and said quietly, "It'll be a minute, if you could step to the side please..."

He did, sighing, and I proceeded to help the people behind him. I made it to the third person before Kate came up, stepping next to me at the register. "What's up babe?" she asked, her quick eyes surveying the line and my computer screen in one sweep.

"Um...I don't know how to set up the First Care's yet," I said, trying to smile with humor I did not feel through my reddened face.

She smiled sympathetically, seeming to see through it. "I'm sorry babe, Mary was supposed to be here by now. You're doing great." Her hand slid comfortingly across my back as she proceeded to the next register and set up the First Care, then started helping me with the line. I could breathe again.

Just when I thought the line was gone a new person came in, dropping a Fiji water onto the counter. I glanced up, saying 'Hello,' automatically. It was good I said it before I saw him or else I think I would have faltered mid-word.

I had kind of gotten used to the unattractive already at this point, so this beautiful man just seemed entirely out of place. I wasn't quite sure if he was really so pretty on his own or just by comparison. On further inspection, I figured it might be both. He was young, no doubt close to my age, with auburn hair that was short but wild, his strong, angular face chiseled and proportioned. Copper lashes lined his wide, liquid green eyes. His nose fit his face, slightly crooked from what might have been a previous break. His full lips were turned down at one corner, and I realized he had an eyebrow cocked in an expression of bewildered disapproval.

"Are you okay?" he asked bluntly.

"Huh?" I asked, and it was my turn to be bemused. Customers that weren't truck drivers were usually in and out types, not standing there staring at me types.

"Your face is really red," he said, eyes narrowing as he examined me.

And then I blushed some more. "Oh never mind it," I cringed, trying to smile. "It just does that sometimes."

"Leave the poor girl alone Edward," Kate said, coming over to me after she put the 'Next Register Please' sign on the counter she had just vacated. Her hand went to my shoulder. "She's been alone up here for the past hour and it's her second day."

So this was Edward. Maggie's giggle made a lot more sense now.

Edward's eyes slid from me to Kate for a moment, then back. "Where's Mary?"

"Who the hell knows," Kate answered grimly. "This is the end of the line for her. So I want you to be ready and come up here today if Bella needs any help because I don't know if she's even coming at this point." Kate turned to me with a grin. "Edward's our night-shift lead. He's usually running around the store and he's not at the register much, but he will if you need him to."

I nodded, glancing at Edward, who was still studying me. I looked back to Kate who was much less intimidating, which was saying something. She was loud and bold, I could tell that already, and a manager. I usually never felt comfortable with them.

But Kate took her leave then, yelling for someone who had just walked in from the hallway that led to the back part of the building. I considered briefly the fact that I still hadn't taken a full tour yet.

But first, I had to finish ringing up my too-handsome shift lead...

"You know how to do the employee discount?" he asked me.

I took a deep breath. "Press the discount button after every item."

He nodded, lips pursing like he hadn't expected me to know that.

I saw his credit card in hand. "Credit or debit?" I asked.

"Credit," he answered shortly.

I really didn't want to stand here silently, awkwardly. I actually wanted to make a good impression. "Those are the best waters," I said, pointing to his Fiji. "They just taste smoother..."

"I know," he said, hitting a button on the card machine. He glanced at me from under his ridiculously long lashes. "You don't think it's too bougie? Everyone else does."

"Bougie...?" I muttered, brows furrowing.

"It's short for bourgeois. You know what that is, right?" he asked, slightly challenging.

I felt my temper, long dormant, flare. As crappy as my life had become in the eyes of everyone I used to know and myself, I was still intelligent and I wasn't going to be condescended on a subject I probably knew more about than he did. "Yes I know what is, do you? Considering the water is only two dollars, I don't think it really qualifies as something that only wealthier members of the Third Estate can afford."

Edward looked taken aback for a moment as I gave him his receipt. Then his lips curved up into a one-sided smirk. "Yes, I know what it is. You're right. I've just been here too long, I think."

My ire faded as quickly as it had come. "Yeah...sorry," I said, smiling nervously. Well now that I had come off as a colossal know-it-all bitch...

"It's Bella, right?" he asked, stepping aside so I could help the person behind him. I nodded.

"I'll be back up in a second," he said. He smiled at me before he turned away, and even though I couldn't feel the heat, I felt sure my stupid face blushed again.

"Uh-oh," said the girl whose items I was ringing up, and when I turned to look at her, she was smirking broadly.

Smiling back at the sheer absurdity of my entire situation, I shook my head as I read her the total.

A wave passed through me, one of the shudders of the universe where you are sure that in some latent way, you must posses some prescient abilities.

With perfect clarity, I felt the entire weight of a new future press down upon me, and at the end of this weight, I heard the words, 'This will not end well.'

It felt so certain, so true, that I didn't even pause to think about it. Of course. Of course.

Please review.

- The Romanticidal Edwardian