Chapter 2 – Besties


I arrived at my office and was just getting settled, juggling my briefcase, a stack of case files, and a bakery bag onto my desk, when I heard one of my favorite sounds.

"Good morning, Bella! My, don't you look pretty in that skirt today!" a melodious little voice from two offices down sang smugly. I looked up to see a very bleary-eyed Dr. Alice Brandon kissing her boyfriend, Dr. Jasper Whitlock, goodbye for the day before she parked herself against the frame of my office doorway. "It'll be even better when you lose those shoes," she scowled, and I rolled my eyes, holding up the pumps I was supposed to have been wearing. Alice twirled her finger, looking impatient, while I pulled off my comfy service shoes and slipped on the heels, much to her delight.

"That's better. I knew that outfit would look amazing, but you're still ruining the effect with that nasty old jacket, girlfriend," she grumbled, eyeing my thrift store blazer with disdain.

"You know I get cold," I defended.

"There are prettier options than ill-fitting, bargain bin castoffs to keep you warm, and one of these days, you're going to let me help you with that. In the meantime, please tell me you remembered to bring the good coffee from the bakery this morning. Otherwise, we're going go to have to drink that canned stuff again."

"Of course, my dear Alice, I wouldn't dare forget. Heaven forbid you should have to drink plain grocery store coffee." She looked like she'd had a late but worthwhile night, judging by the tired but happy look on her face. I shook my head at her, laughing as she stretched like a contented cat. If I hadn't known better, I would have sworn I could hear her purring.

Alice was our branch's resident child psychologist, and my best friend. The children loved her, and she was able to get through to even the most traumatized and withdrawn children, making her an invaluable asset. I think some of her charm had to do with her size and personality. She was small in stature, and she had a very ingenuous demeanor, which helped her relate more readily with the children we served. Her uncanny ability to read children and connect to them emotionally made the rest of our jobs easier, at least some of the time.

She definitely had her moments of being a pain, though, like when she would drag me out of the office at lunchtime to hit the gym for some weight training. She called it mental therapy through physical sculpting. I called it an evil form of torture, without the whips and chains, but still just about as unpleasant, at least in my opinion. However, her enthusiastic and bubbly disposition invariably made me smile, even when I wanted to cry sometimes. Okay, often.

"What time did you finally get home last night?" I asked, raising my brow. I already knew the answer.

"Who said I went home at all?" Alice grinned, yawning as she grabbed the bakery bag. "May I…?" she asked, having already dug into the bag, and I watched in awe, as she started shoving huge pieces of cinnamon roll into her mouth.

"Of course. That's so dainty, by the way," I pointed at her already overstuffed mouth, as she eagerly crammed in another huge bite. How someone so tiny could fit so much in their mouth at once baffled me.

"Sorry, but I'm starving!" she muttered, almost unintelligible through her full mouth. "Must have been all that…"

I missed the rest of her fading comments, as she had already scooted out of my office towards the breakroom to make coffee, still muttering around her breakfast. I didn't have to hear her finish her sentence to know exactly where it was going. Alice often came in sporting a radiant post-coital afterglow these days. Ever since she had accidentally spilled her soup in the hospital cafeteria line on Dr. Whitlock's new designer loafers, they had been inseparable.

Jay, as she now fondly called him, had come to work as a pediatric psychiatrist for the DFPS shortly after she had, and Alice had admired him from afar for months. She would come back to the office after having seen him around the hospital, always at a respectable distance, with stars in her eyes and almost floating. I often teased her about being a stalker, with the way she frequently managed to be somewhere near him, yet just under his radar. We had spent countless hours after work, discussing our fantasy men and their desirable attributes, and he was her ideal man in pretty much every way.

Their first actual face-to-face interaction hadn't exactly been conventional, but it was certainly memorable. She had basically doused the man in hot soup. She had been so distracted after having glimpsed Dr. Whitlock earlier in the corridors of the hospital that she hadn't been paying attention to her surroundings. He had slipped into the line directly behind us in the cafeteria on a lunch break after he had been on rounds at the hospital. When she heard his voice speaking to a colleague behind him, she spun around too fast, drenching him in hot tomato basil soup from his waist to the tips of his shoes.

It had been priceless to watch. He apparently had been so stunned by her when their eyes met, he hadn't even realized for a few seconds that he was probably being scalded. They were only snapped out of their trance when Dr. Whitlock's colleague shook his shoulder frantically, asking him if he was alright.

In a flurry of napkins and towels provided by the amused counter staff, Alice knelt and started frantically wiping down the front of his white coat, pant legs, and shoes, as he stared down at her in a daze. When her hands rubbed down the section of his coat below his waistband, her eyes shot to his again, as she realized what she had accidentally discovered. Apparently, he had been as taken with her on her knees in front of him as she was with him.

His eyes were locked on hers, and he gently lifted her to her feet. Alice, who was never at a loss for words, had suddenly started stammering incoherently. She finally composed herself enough to mutter something about getting his clothing cleaned at her expense. Since he obviously couldn't finish his day in his current state, but he lived too far away to run home and change before his next appointment, Alice had convinced him to join her in a quick run to a men's clothing shop just a few blocks from the hospital. Of course, it didn't take much convincing, and they were off, leaving Dr. Whitlock's colleague standing gape-mouthed in the cafeteria.

After that shopping trip, they were rarely seen apart, and their growing love for each other was obvious to everyone. I was glad she had Jasper, but I would admit to occasionally feeling a little envious of their relationship. Seeing them together reminded me of how lonely I was. They were so happy together, and I wanted that for myself, too…someday.