Wednesday, August 12, 2015 | By: Drotuno

A Few Tables Away Chapter 2 & Pics

Chapter 2
“Here you go.”
Glancing up from packing up my things in the library, I met Angela’s gaze that seemed bigger behind her glasses, and for a split second, my attention span drifted away. I wondered if my own eyes looked like that when I had my glasses on. I’d never really thought about it.
“Thank you,” she said softly, snapping my attention out of the daze.
“Oh,” I said with a polite smile as I took the notebook from her and stuffed it into my bag. “No problem.”
“Um…listen,” she started nervously, still keeping her voice low, but she fidgeted, adjusted her glasses, and then twisted her fingers together in front of her. “I know we have that project in Physics coming up. We’re supposed to…get with a partner or group, and I was wondering… Well, if you don’t have one already. Though I’m sure you do, but I just thought… Forget it.”
Her ramble was familiar, and I had sympathy, because in all reality, I wouldn’t even begin to know how to ask someone to be my partner.
“Yeah, no… That’s… That works,” I told her. “I’d forgotten about it, actually,” I lied. I’d really just planned to do all the work alone. I was used to it from high school.
“Okay? Cool,” she said, smiling my way, but her cheeks turned red. “’Cause I don’t really know anyone yet.”
Smiling, I nodded as I shouldered my bag. “Me either.”
“You have class?” she asked, grabbing her own bag.
“No, work. I’ll see you in class next week,” I told her softly before heading out of the library.
A glance at my watch told me that I had just enough time to head to my dorm room, drop off my stuff, change into my work T-shirt, and walk over to the coffee shop. I honestly didn’t have to work – my partial scholarship combined with the college savings account that had been started when I was born paid for school – but I was saving up for a car.
A small jolt of anger charged through me, and I shook my head as I made my way back across the campus. I thought of my car that was parked in the garage back in Washington. It didn’t matter that I was nineteen, or that I’d graduated Forks High with honors, or even that I’d gotten into college. Carlisle Cullen still found a way to exert his disappointment in me in every way he could drum up. He’d wanted Ivy League; I’d wanted Edgewater, if only for its location. So he’d decided he couldn’t trust me with a car so far away, saying the insurance was too high. The car was in his name, so I couldn’t say shit about it. He wouldn’t even let my sister drive it. He’d let it rot before giving it to me. Truly, it was one of the minor things he’d done in order to prove his point.
The dorm was quiet, most people in their last classes of the day, and when I stepped into my room, I saw my roommate, Ben, was one of them. He was a quiet guy, and he liked his video games, graphic novels, and comic books. We were both tidy, not to mention serious about our study time. We were a good match in that respect. I’d heard when roommate matches went wrong.
I dropped my backpack onto my bed and grabbed my work T-shirt out of the drawer. I tugged off the shirt I was wearing, my eyes falling to myself in the mirror. I wasn’t in bad shape, thanks to my older brother – and all the walking I did. But my fingers immediately traced the splash of angry, raised skin down my right side, running the length of my ribcage. The scars were ugly, and the reason they were there was even uglier. Because of my fear of water, the mere idea of going to the beach was laughable. I changed shirts quickly in order to cover the sight, leaving on my jeans, because my manager, Jasper, didn’t care. Sunset Roast was right on the pier, so casual was fine. He wore shorts most days.
Glenhaven was small, so walking from the dorm to the piers took no time at all. Another reason I’d picked this school. Without a car, I could at least get around on foot without much hassle. There were buses when I needed to go farther than campus, but I rarely used them.
The sun was setting as I walked up the boardwalk to the coffee shop. I didn’t look toward the beach. I usually didn’t. While the smell of salt water and the sounds of waves rolling up to shore were soothing, the sight of endless sea was unnerving. As long as I didn’t look at it, I was okay.
The weather in Florida was still warm, though with September almost over, I was told that the heat would lessen soon, that fall would bring less humidity. I was looking forward to it, if only for the change from what I was used to; it would be interesting to see the holidays wearing short-sleeved shirts instead of heavy coats and even heavier boots. Because there wasn’t a chance in hell I was going home for Christmas.
The coffee shop was pretty busy, with plenty of people taking up the tables outside and the sofas and chairs inside. Most of them were probably college students, though there were a few I’d guess were in high school, too. Sunset Roast had free WiFi, so the younger people of Glenhaven took advantage of it.
Jasper was running the counter when I stepped through the doors, and he grinned my way. “Ah, there he is. I’m glad we haven’t scared you off yet.”
Smiling a little, I shook my head. “No, sir.”
He snorted, gripping my shoulder. “I’m about five seconds older than you, bud. No ‘sir’ needed.” When I nodded again, he chuckled. “Actually, I’m only about two years older than you. What are you…eighteen? Nineteen?”
“Ah, yeah…well, I’m almost twenty-two, so… Don’t ‘sir’ me.”
Grimacing, I said, “Habit.”
“And it’s a good one, Ed. But save it for the old lady at the bakery for extra donuts or the old man who runs the flower shop when you need somethin’ for your girl.”
“I don’t… I mean… There’s no…”
His brow furrowed at me, but a half smile played on his lips. “Good-lookin’ kid like you? Pfft… Shit, you’ll be knockin’ them off with a stick before your first semester is over.” I could only stare at him in confusion, which seemed to amuse him more, but he changed subjects quickly. “Oh, hey… I was putting your file together. Come with me. I need to talk to you before you get to work.”
I started to panic, thinking I’d done something wrong, but he’d said I’d be getting to work, so I figured I wasn’t fired…yet. “What’d I do?”
He led me through the kitchen and down the hall to his office. Papers and files were strewn all over the top of his desk, which made the neat freak in me break out into a sweat and swallow thickly. I shifted on my feet, gazing down at my sneakers as he shuffled through some stuff, only to slap down a manila file folder with my name on it.
“Listen, I was doing the paperwork on you, and I noticed you didn’t put down a name and phone number in case of emergency.”
“There’s no one to call.”
Jasper stared at me for a moment, and I frowned at his finger pointing to the blank line on the application. He opened his mouth and then shut it, only to say, “Where’s home, Ed?”
“Washington. And everyone I know is too far away to do anything about any emergency.”
Jasper sighed, falling down in his chair. “I gotta have somethin’. Even if it’s your roommate.”
My nose wrinkled as I shook my head, and I thought it was pretty damn sad I didn’t have Ben’s phone number, but I didn’t think I’d need it.
“Parents? Mom or Dad?”
“No… N-No mother, and my dad wouldn’t care if there was an emergency.” The truth came flying out of my mouth quicker than I could pull it back in, and Jasper flinched. “If I give you my brother’s number, just…don’t bother to call if something happens. He’ll just…freak out that he can’t do anything. Then he’ll call my sister, who will… She’ll panic. I…”
Something akin to pity warmed his usually jovial, easygoing blue eyes, but he nodded, pushing the file toward me. I jotted down Emmett’s name and cell phone, looking back at him.
“And I thought my family put the fun in dysfunctional.”
I couldn’t help but laugh. “From what I can see, you’re pretty normal, so… I probably win.”
“Oh, damn.” He chuckled, shaking his head as he shut the file and stood up. “Unless you’re torturing baby animals in your spare time, buddy, I can’t see much wrong with you. Shy, sure, but new school, new town…it’s expected. Once you get settled in…”
I didn’t want to contradict him out of respect; I liked him, so I nodded in acquiescence. No amount of “settling in” would make me normal. I was an idiot for moving to a beach town, thinking I could overcome my fear of water. I was scarred, awkward, and preferred writing and reading to interacting with people. I’d spent most of my middle school and all of my high school days avoiding bullies who hated me for breathing and girls who laughed at me, at the stupid shit I’d said…or hadn’t said. I’d spent the same amount of time trying to melt into the walls of my own home, hoping every damn day that I could become invisible, because invisible was better than hearing about every mistake I’d made, including the worst one of all. If I could spend the rest of my life behind a computer screen, I’d probably eke out a halfway calm existence. Until then, I had classes and classmates, work and co-workers to contend with for at least the next four years.
Jasper waited for me to say something else, only to glance at his desk. “I swear… I don’t have time for the filing. My cousin promised me she’d help, but she’s got her own first year at Edgewater to deal with…not to mention all her social shit.”
Swallowing nervously, I pointed to his desk. “I’m um… I can…help. I’m okay at…organizing.”
His eyebrows shot up. “Maybe. But not today. I got a delivery this morning, and I need your help opening boxes and putting shit away while Maggie and Tanya run the front for a bit.”
“Okay,” I said with a nod.
Unpacking the delivery from that morning wasn’t too bad. Emmett always tried to tell me that any hard job could be turned into a workout, so I pushed myself to lift, carry, and break down boxes. Once everything was put away, Jasper put me out front to make the drinks for a bit. Alice liked her Starbucks shit, so it wasn’t hard to learn. I knew most of it already; it was just learning where everything was and how it was made.
I passed off the last two cups to a gentleman waiting at the end of the counter after a bit of a rush but looked up when Jasper leaned in front of me.
“Not bad, Edward. You kept up okay,” he praised me with a nod and a smile. “I’m gonna let the girls go home, and you’ll close with me.”
I nodded, smiling a little as I cleaned up my messes.
“You wanna watch the counter or take the garbage out back to the dumpster?” he asked me.
“Garbage,” I told him. “You want me to…” I gestured to the cans by the front doors.
“Yeah, yeah…and the two out on the deck, too. Thanks, Ed.”
Nodding, I got to work. I changed full bags out, replacing them with new ones. I tossed them all into the rolling bin, pushing my way out onto the deck. A few tables were still occupied, some with people just chatting, some with groups of loud laughter. I stayed focused on my work, cleaning some of the empty tables along the way.
I pulled the last full garbage bag, dropping it into the one I was rolling with me. Just as I started to push it around to the back of the coffee shop, a half-empty, partially melted frozen coffee flew across the deck and landed at my feet, sending a splatter of cold, sticky, tan-colored liquid all over my sneakers, the edge of my jeans, and the deck floor around me.
The louder table exploded into laughter, and I glanced up to see a guy getting slaps on the back and praises. I recognized him instantly. He’d been the guy to walk away today with Library Girl.
“My bad,” he said through an unapologetic chuckle. “I was aiming for the can, pal.”
“S’okay,” I muttered, bending down to pick up the cup. I tossed it into the can I was pushing.
Just before I turned the corner, I heard a girl yell, “You did that shit on purpose, you asshat!”
I didn’t bother to wait or even to see who said it. I needed to get the garbage done and get back inside to at least clean up a little. It was going to be a long few hours in cold, wet, sticky shoes…and I needed to clean the spill on the deck before someone slipped.
As I approached the dumpster, the back door of the coffee shop flew open, allowing a bit of light out, along with Tanya and Maggie. The latter was a student at Edgewater, too, and she had been the newest employee before I’d been hired. The former wasn’t as young – probably in her mid-thirties. Tanya was a little…rough around the edges. She smoked, which meant she immediately lit up a cigarette once she was outside, and she rarely took shit from pushy customers.
“You okay?” Tanya asked, eyeing my sneakers and then the garbage can. “C’mon, kiddo, I’ll help you.” She left the cigarette hanging between her lips and grasped the other side of the full can. We lifted together, dumping it all, and then set it back down. She eyed me shrewdly, saying, “We saw what happened. You aren’t even pissed off, are you? You act like people throw shit at you every fucking day.”
I huffed a humorless laugh. “This isn’t the worst thing to happen to me, Tanya.”
She pursed her lips in a disbelieving manner. “I can believe that, but that ‘customer is always right’ is pure bullshit. And…the asshole’s gone. Bella made sure of it.”
“Who’s Bella?”
“Jasper’s cousin,” Maggie piped up shyly. “She goes to school with us.”
Nodding, I pointed to the can. “I’d better get back inside. Thanks.”
Tanya took a long drag on her cigarette before dropping it to the ground and smashing it with her shoe. She pointed to my sneakers. “Use that blue dish detergent and some water. You might be able to save that shit. Luckily both are black, so…stains are…”
Grinning, I nodded again, rolling the can back inside the back doors. Grabbing a clean rag, I wet it and did as Tanya said, propping each foot up on a shelf to wipe them clean. It wasn’t perfect, and my new Chucks were a little broken in, but at least they weren’t ruined.
I stepped out from the back, coming out behind the front counter to see Jasper in a heated yet hissed argument. He was standing tall, his arms crossed over his chest, but I couldn’t see the person he was talking to…until he shifted. He stepped to the side, smiling my way, but I felt my heart sputter and the tips of my fingers go numb.
Library Girl.
“There he is. You all right, Ed?” he asked, and I could only nod in response, forcing myself to look to Jasper. “Fuck, dude… You’re white as a sheet.”
I had to get my shit together. I shook my head, waving a hand. “I’m okay. It’s just…cold coffee.” I pointed, shrugging a shoulder. In the great big picture, it wasn’t the worst thing. Hot coffee, however, that was a bitch when thrown. You can’t get the burning wet clothes off and away from sensitive skin quickly enough. I sighed, starting toward the mop.
“I got the deck already.” Jasper told me, pointing to Library Girl, who had been watching us silently. “Edward, this is my cousin, Bella. Bella, this is Edward. He just started with me.”
Bella was Library Girl. Something about her name fit her so perfectly that it made it hard for me to breathe, much less remember my manners, but I held a hand out.
“N-N-Nice to meet you.”
Her smile was stunning, her brown eyes so very dark as she slipped her hand into mine to shake it. “Finally, my library guy has a name.”
“You know each other?” Jasper asked with a chuckle.
“We’re in some classes together, but mostly I’ve seen him in the library,” Bella answered because I couldn’t find my tongue. At all. She turned back to me. “I’m really sorry about Alec.”
Grimacing, I shrugged a shoulder. Alec. Even his name made him sound like a spoiled, pretentious asshole. Maybe Bella liked guys like that. I tried not to stare at her. I tried like hell not to notice that beneath her tank top was what I thought was a bikini top. I couldn’t see her legs from my side of the counter, which was a damn blessing, because I didn’t think I’d be able to stand, much less breathe. Just knowing her name, just standing there talking to her – it all seemed like a dream, like some story I’d made up in my head but was too scared to write down, if only because I’d feared it would come out like erotica. It was one thing being a guy; it was another being a geek guy virgin with an overactive imagination.
She was simply too beautiful to look at, so I turned to start cleaning up for closing time.
I heard Jasper leave out the front doors to finish up the deck, but I also heard Bella’s steps follow me to the end of the counter behind me.
“I really am sorry. I saw him do it before I could stop him. I’d just walked up, and… If he bothers you…”
I spun in front of her, and she trailed off. “It’s okay. I’m used to it.” My voice came out harsher than I’d intended, and I sighed when her brow furrowed. “I’d…I… I’d just like to forget it. It’s not a big deal.” I also hated that she was apologizing for her asshole friend…boyfriend…whatever he was.
Bella nodded, smiling again, which made my palms sweaty, but Jasper burst back inside, locking the front doors of the shop. “Cousin, you helpin’ me file, or what? ’Cause if you aren’t, Edward said he’d do it.”
“Seriously?” she countered, rounding on him with what looked like a playful angry face. “You’re gonna subject him to your…your…lazy…inability to remember the alphabet!?”
I grinned when Jasper merely nodded vehemently with a childish smile. “Yup. Sure am!”
“Uh, no. I wouldn’t do that to my worst enemy,” she argued. “I’ll help him. Otherwise, Aunt Jane will hear about it. You know, your mother…the person you run this place for?”
They fought like Alice and me, like siblings, which told me they were close. I smiled, shaking my head.
“Fine. Tomorrow, but you are helping him.” Jasper pointed a finger at Bella and then looked to me. “Tomorrow is Saturday, Ed. The girls can handle the front. Do you mind?”
I focused on emptying carafes in the sink and cleaning them as I shook my head. “That’s fine,” I said, sounding much more confident than I felt.
“Awesome!” Bella said, and I shot a glance her way to see if that was sarcasm. Her pretty face was smiling, and she nodded and waved as she started for the door. “See you tomorrow, Edward.”
I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I’d be confined to Jasper’s small office most of the day…with my Library Girl. I was pretty sure before the end of tomorrow, I’d say or do something epically stupid to scare her off.


Rita01tx said...

The visuals definitely add that bit of extra dimension this story deserves!

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