by silly escape

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.

Thanks to Bronzehairedgirl, and Butterscotch who are both spectacular betas!

Part 2: Mike's Hope

I watched Jess as she left the store, shaking her hips to get my attention as she crossed the parking lot. The girl would never learn. I should have never agreed to go with her to the dance. Jess was just not my type; there was really only one girl for me. Unfortunately, she seemed permanently stuck to Cullen. Whatever, there was nothing special about that guy. Maybe now that she was working here I could win her over. As if bringing my fantasy to life, Bella walked in for her shift. On her heels was Cullen. God, couldn't he just go away?

"Hi, Mike," Bella said as she walked to the stockroom to punch in. Cullen leaned on the counter waiting for her to come back out. Seriously, who did he think he was, standing there like he owned the place? Suddenly he laughed at nothing. The guy must be crazy.

"What's so funny?" He must be hearing voices in his head. Cullen laughed even harder at my question.

"Mike, you are just a funny guy," he said dryly as Bella came back out of the stockroom.

"What's going on?" Bella asked, cautiously looking between the two of us.

"Oh, nothing, Mike was just being funny," he replied smugly and leaned down to kiss Bella. I turned away; watching them kiss was revolting. I moved away from them as they said their goodbyes several times over. I swear Cullen was still laughing as he left. I walked over to the sleeping bags and began refolding them.

"So, anything exciting happen today?" Bella asked, finally paying me some attention.

I shook my head. "Not really." But then I remembered the strange visit from Jess and the talk of her new boyfriend. It didn't really bother me, but I kind of wished I had found someone first. No guy wants to look like a loser and have the ex date someone new first. But if I could get Bella, it wouldn't matter. "Just out of curiosity, what do you know about Jess' new boyfriend?"

"Huh?" Bella looked confused. I couldn't imagine Jess not telling Bella about this new guy.

"You don't know Jess' new boyfriend?" Bella lifted her eyebrows in shock at my statement.

"I have no idea who you are talking about. Is it someone from school?"

I shook my head. "Nah, some college guy."

"College guy?" Bella echoed. She chewed on her bottom lip as she thought. It was just about the hottest thing she could do. "You mean Kyle?" Oh, so she did know.

I stopped folding the sleeping bags and looked at her directly. I gave her the slightly wounded puppy dog eyes. Who could resist those? "So are you telling me she does have a boyfriend?"

"Umm…" she paused; obviously she was trying to protect my feelings. "I think Kyle is just a friend of her cousin's."

"Really? Then why would she tell me he was her boyfriend and buy him a present?" As the words spilled out of my mouth, she started to laugh. What was it with everyone laughing at me today? Maybe Cullen was rubbing off on her.

"Mike, did you ever think that maybe Jess was trying to make you jealous?"

"Jealous. Jealous of what?" My brow creased as I thought about her question.

Again, she looked at me surprised. "Sometimes girls do things to get a guy's attention. You did break up with her, so maybe she is using this Kyle guy to get your attention."

"Girls do that?"

Bella patted me on my shoulder. "Yes, they do." She walked away to help a customer who had just approached the counter. I watched her walk, and it was so much better than watching Jess. And Bella didn't even try to make it look good—it just did. Maybe that was it. Maybe Bella was just trying to make me jealous with Cullen. She did say that girls did that sort of thing; Cullen was just a way for her to get my attention. I smiled to myself. The door opened again, and two more customers walked in. One of them I recognized immediately—Nick.

I walked over to help them and to check out the new guy. "Hey, Nick, how's it going?"

Nick and I had played football together; it should be easy to get to the bottom of this boyfriend thing.

"Newton, what's up? This is my friend Kyle." I gave the obligatory nod and he returned it.

"You know, Jess was just in here buying her boyfriend a gift." Kyle and Nick looked at each other, confused.

"Jess was in here shopping…and for what boyfriend?" Nick looked puzzled, as he raised one eyebrow in question and for the first time today, it was my turn to laugh.

"Umm… aren't you her boyfriend?" I looked directly at Kyle. Both of them burst into laughter.

Immediately, Nick started to rib Kyle, "Oh, someone has a crush on you, you big, studly man." Nick was ruffling Kyle's hair and pinching his cheeks. Kyle was slowly becoming the tomato red that often appeared in Bella's cheeks. Nick continued his torture, "I wonder what Abby will think about your other girlfriend." We all laughed at that one. I helped them find what they were looking for as Nick continued to tease Kyle. Once the guys left, I thought about how desperate Jess must be to invent a boyfriend.

I watched Bella arranging impulse products on the counter. I couldn't help but wish Cullen wasn't real, either.