AN: Welcome to this 'All Human' short story. I hope you enjoy reading it!
Chapter 1: Quote
December 22 | Afternoon
Ew, I thought with distaste, frowning out the window. It was three days before Christmas – one of the coldest times of the year – so, naturally the temperature was below negative infinity; not to mention that Forks was one of the rainiest cities in America. It was only to be expected – and, in fact, welcomed for snow.
Except for me – I hated the snow.
Outside on the street, I could see, were children throwing snowballs at each other, looking like they were having the time of their lives. Adults, parents most probably, were guiding their little ones to create snow angels and snowmen – complete with the carrot nose and twig arms.
Poor things, I mused sympathetically. The cold must have been messing with their minds. What other logical reason could they possibly have, especially the adults, for freezing their butts off in this ridiculous weather, despite the fat layers of clothing they wore?
Oh well, I shrugged offhandedly. It was their losses for choosing to remain outside. That was why they were forced out onto the streets – with their teeth chattering, pink noses and blue lips from the icy wind – and standing knee–deep in snow, while I, on the other hand, was safe and cozy in my little warm adobe of heaven, with a blazing hot chocolate and marshmallows.
Oh, who was I kidding? Those families looked like they were having a blast! Even Frosty, the snowman was grinning! Despite the bizarre weather, everybody was wrapped up so tightly that they didn't have to worry about getting sick. The parents were grinning at each other and the children were laughing merrily and shouting in delight.
It was one thing I long to have: family time. I loved my parents of course, there was no doubt about that, but they'd divorced soon after my birth. I still got to see them, certainly, and they had never held me back from anything, but I had never spent time with them as just the three of us. It wasn't very often but at a rare occasion that my parents needed to meet face–to–face, the situations were always so awkward for them, and hence, awkward for me to witness it. Especially with my mother's new boyfriend.
I just wished things could go back to normal.
I had gotten my aversion to the cold from my mother. As soon as I had been born – here, in Forks – she had whipped me off to Arizona, claiming that she didn't want to be "trapped" here. I had grown up there most of my life, so I had experienced and enjoyed the heat.
It was because of the snow that I was confined to this store in the first place. This morning had started off normally. It was winter vacation, of course, so I didn't have school. but I did have work. I usually loved and looked forward to my job. However, not today. It had been snowing when I had left for work – nothing too dangerous (the snow had just started around that time, so it had been barely three centimeters above the ground), but it had still been a pain in the ass and a royal damper to my mood.
Naturally, arriving at the bookstore had lifted my spirits almost immediately. I absolutely loved it when customers asked me for recommendations or help to locate a particular book. Today had been a bit busier – I guessed everybody was ready to snuggle by the fire at night, with a mug of hot tea and a new novel.
I knew I was.
I had been excited to leave after my shift was over, but then Carmen – the owner of the bookstore as well as a close friend of mine – had dropped the bomb on me, informing me that the ground was now buried under three feet of snow and that driving my truck through it, all the way home, would be the stupidest idea in the history of stupidest ideas and that it would be wise to wait for the community to get rid of the snow.
I had been stuck here ever since.
Did I mention that I hated snow?
Okay, so maybe I was exaggerating – I had only been here for about half an hour . . . and not to mention I was surrounded by my favorite things in the world: books. But was it too much to ask to let me go home? Everyone else enjoyed the snow, which was why they were outside in the first place but I didn't. I could have also sat down with my favorite book, but the harsh weather and dark clouds had put my frame of mind extremely aggravated and I wouldn't be able to concentrate even if I wanted to.
Charlotte had arrived, just fifteen minutes ago, for her shift to start. We never really crossed each other's paths, since my shift usually ended before hers, so she had been surprised to find me still here. I had wondered how she had been able to drive through the snow (my hopes had gone up, thinking maybe I could leave), but she had informed me that she lived very close by and had only needed to hack through the white mush by foot.
Now, I sat alone (Charlotte had disappeared for quite some time now and I had absolutely no customers – not that I was very social anyway) behind the front counter, at the entrance of the store, staring mournfully at the computer screen on which I had opened up a website that gave regular updates about the condition of the snow and what the town was planning to do to remove it.
It was during the time of my brooding when the front door opened, causing the "jingle bells" (that Carmen had insisted on decorating the bookstore with) to chime loudly, and in entered a young man, nicely wrapped up warmly in his black coat and scarf.
He turned to remove his jacket and hang it up on the coat stand which we had placed there specifically for the customers.
"Good afternoon," I called out politely, drumming my fingers on the countertop.
He turned back briefly and returned, "Afternoon" in a smooth, low and velvety voice (that left me momentarily stunned) before focusing his attention on the task at hand.
Shrugging, I faced the computer again, uninterested, before refreshing the page. I didn't bother asking him if he needed any help looking for some books, firstly because he had already marched off into the Classics section (he earned a great deal of respect from me for that), and secondly, I knew firsthand how annoying it was to have pesky employees constantly nagging you and offering their help when it was clearly not needed. If he needed my assistance, he could ask for it.
Charlotte reappeared by my side with two mugs of hot chocolate. I smiled gratefully as she handed me one and sipped it carefully. We chatted quietly about the weather. Unlike myself, Charlotte was used to the cold, so she didn't mind, but she understood how I felt. Regretfully, we had never gotten the chance spend quality time together, so it was fun getting to know her.
I jumped slightly when a stack of books were suddenly dropped onto the counter and I realized that the guy from earlier was finished. I stood up with a bright smile, and starting scanning the items.
"Did you find everything you needed, sir?" I asked kindly, keeping my eyes locked on my motions. I was extremely clumsy; knowing me, I was bound to knock over my hot chocolate mug over the books (destroying their smooth and flawless appearances), shatter it into pieces and unintentionally slice my hand open by the shards.
Yeah, don't be surprised.
"Yes, thank you," he responded softly, his voice light and hearty. "I was very impressed by the collection of Classics there are."
The fact that he answered in such a detailed way surprised me; normally customers never enjoyed the short and quiet small talk that Carmen had insisted that all employees practiced. They usually answered in clipped tones and very short, rude answers, as if they had other and better things to do than gossip with staff.
"Good choices," I remarked, trying to sound casual, even I though I was practically grinning with approval. I eyed the titles; Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, A Christmas Carol, and Robinson Crusoe were just a few of the names, but it was Wuthering Heights that really caught my attention; my favorite classic of all time.
"Classics are the best, aren't they?" he agreed, sounding more enthusiastic than I'd ever heard him. "I've read these all before but just didn't own any of the copies."
"Hmm," I murmured, grinning briefly at Catherine on the cover page. "This is my favorite book. Ever. Emily Brontë's a goddess.
My smile became a little dreamy as I recounted one of my favorite, most romantic quotes of the book. "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now," I murmured, placing the books in a plastic bag as my eyes glazed over. "So he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same."
The room was so silent that I could practically hear nonexistent crickets chirping. Clearly entertained, Charlotte cleared her throat softly a few feet away which snapped me back to the present. A blush creeped up my neck and cheeks as I realized what I had just done. I hadn't even been aware that I had just quoted a romantic quote in front of a random stranger. He probably thought I was a freaking lunatic.
Instinctively, I searched out the guy's expression, almost afraid of what he might be thinking. I met his gaze.
The most vivid pair of emerald eyes were staring straight into my own, in undisguised curiosity and fascination, and the words of embarrassment died in my throat, leaving me stunned. I realized that I hadn't done a thorough job of describing him when he had entered the shop. Of course, I hadn't exactly gotten a proper glimpse of his face since it had been turned away most of the time.
But now it wasn't.
And God, was he . . . handsome or what?
He was the kind of the guy who would immediately fall under the "drop–dead–gorgeous" category – the kind of guy whose looks any girl (or guy, for that matter) would instantly catch up on. On top of his head was a tangle of penny–colored hair – mostly red, tinged with dark brown – that looked so unruly that my mind – which was basically a puddle of mush right now – think of sex hair. My face felt hot instantaneously, but I couldn't seem to tear my eyes away from him. He was also quite pale, like me. His height must have been about six and normally, I would have felt extremely intimidated but his face just held a certain innocence, a boyish charm, that held an intense yet playful aura around him.
I gasped under my breath when Charlotte nudged my elbow, jolting my eyes away from him.
"Oh, um," I stammered, scrambling to get his things. I glanced at his bill. "Sorry about that," I ran a hand through my hair, laughing nervously. "I, er, didn't mean for that to come out. Uh, your bill is a total of, um, eighteen dollars and twenty–three cents, sir."
I tried to keep my attention on the computer and not on the way he had to reach into the back pocket of his jeans to get out his wallet. I figured I must have started hyperventilating. He handed me a twenty, to which I replied with a mumbled "thank you" and returned his change, along with his recent purchases.
"Um, have a nice day, sir. Come back soon." I called out, though desperately wishing he would never come back. I didn't think I could stand it if he came back again. The mortification was just too much.
The . . . Greek–God–who–just–witnessed–Isabella–Swan–in–one–of–the–most–embarrassing–situations–of–her–life leaned forward across the counter, his plastic bag clutched tightly in his right hand, and stared into my eyes. My heart thundered against my chest.
"Have a wonderful day, Isabella." He had dropped his gaze to my chest (which had made my face briefly resemble a tomato) where my nametag was sitting innocently. "And I'll definitely come back soon."
I stared open–mouthed after him in disbelief and shock. He busied himself with wearing his coat, before turning back to me. "Happy Holidays."
He flashed me a crooked grin, then left – the jingle bells jingling in his wake.
"What," Charlotte began, rounding on me, apparently too dazed to think. Her mouth was hanging open, all previous traces of laughter gone; her expression, a sure mirror of my own. ". . . was that?"