I'm sorry that it took a while to upload this chapter--just a lot of holiday stuff going on and very little time to write with all the Christmas busy-ness swirling about our home....
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Chapter Eight: Newton's
With some difficulty, Bella pushed open one side of the heavy glass double doors of Newton's Olympic Outfitters and entered the store. I watched her for as long as I could until she disappeared beyond my sight behind the aisles of merchandise. But sitting in her truck in the parking lot, I could not only hear every conversation inside the store but I could also hear the thoughts of every person there as well...except for Bella's, of course. Unashamedly I listened in, always curious about Bella and the way she interacted with others-she was just so different from any other person I had ever known, both in this "existence" and in the murky life which preceded it.
It took very little time for Mike Newton, who was ringing up a customer at the register near the back of the store, to notice Bella, and his admiring thoughts upon seeing her upset me far more than I would have imagined. I found myself gripping the steering wheel of her ancient truck far too tightly; the wheel was in serious danger of being snapped into pieces. Loosening my hands, I folded my arms over my chest and took deep breaths in a vain attempt to calm myself.
"Hey, Bella," Mike greeted her, the surprise of seeing her in Newton's obvious in his voice.
"Hi, Mike," she greeted him, and Mike noticed a blush coloring her cheeks and neck, evoked by his obvious interest in her. I was bothered greatly by his blatant regard, especially since Bella and I had been inseparable at school; Mike knows very well that we're a couple, yet here he was, still demonstrating his feelings for Bella-for MY Bella. I growled low in my throat.
"Do you need something?" he asked, still staring at Bella, his thoughts nearly wordless in sheer admiration. I ground my teeth together in frustration.
As Mike noticed her blush deepening further, I took a slow breath, attempting to calm myself. He watched Bella closely as she took a deep breath herself in nervousness.
"Yeah. I was wondering..." her voice trailed off, and she averted her eyes from Mike's. Oh, wow, I'm still staring at her, he thought. Better pull myself together....
"...Are you hiring any more summer help here?" Bella finally asked.
Mike's reaction would have been hilarious if I hadn't been ten shades of jealous.
He stood there, shocked into sheer wordlessness at the thought of working with Bella. All summer. Woooooowwwwww.... finally crossed his mind before Mike realized that he was standing behind the counter with his mouth hanging open.
"Uhhhhh, let me get my m-m-mom, k?" he finally managed to stutter, disappearing quickly into the small room behind the counter area.
I heard the whispered conversation between Mike and his mother in the back room and tried not to wince too much as he discussed Bella. Mike's dad had decided not to hire additional employees for their busiest season, but Karen Newton had apparently been complaining just this morning about her need for more help in the store. Unashamedly I listened to Mike asking his mom to hire Bella as he attempted to be "cool" about it and not let his mother see how very badly he wanted her to hire Bella. He reminded his mom about her complaints regarding their need for extra help, how he knew Bella at school and how popular and nice she is, etc. He at last persuaded his mother to come out to the counter to talk to Bella.
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