|In the Shadows
Author: Sakurelle PM
Zabeth Ault is in just a little bit of denial. Okay, maybe she’s in a lot of denial. She totally has a crush on someone, but she doesn’t want to think so. However, the one she loves might be the one person she least expects, or wants to expect. Oneshot.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Words: 3,118 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 27 - Follows: 2 - Published: 10-31-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2736385
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I'm going to start off this tale by telling you the reasons why Jeremy Perkins would not be my ideal boyfriend. Who is Jeremy, you ask? Well, he's this guy I see every week at Barnes & Noble when I go there to spend my weekly allowance money. He works at the customer service desk right by the manga section, which is usually where I spend most of my time (and money). Jeremy is probably the only person in this world who doesn't say anything when I ramble on and on about my day, about a horrid ex-boyfriend (I have eleven to choose from), or even about the latest anime series I am interested in. Instead, he calmly nods and interjects questions at the correct moments during my rants and ramblings, never saying a negative comment without backing it up with meaningful reasons.
Okay, so now you're probably wondering why he's not ideal boyfriend material. He sounds good so far, right? Well, actually, what I haven't told you yet is that he's really a lot more reserved than a guy needs to be. His father is the ruthless businessman type, and after Jeremy's older brother Joshua went off on a party streak, the old man clamped down on my friend before he had a chance to do the same. I think his father responded so negatively to his older son's disobedience that Jeremy turned out to be the exact opposite. Quiet, serious, and politely cold to most people he doesn't know, he's hardly your customer service type, in fact. The only reason he works here is because his dad insists that he learn about the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.
So, in summary, he's quiet, smart, rich, and…just…not my type, okay? Wow, it's harder to prove my point than I thought.
Let's just move on, shall we?
The real issue of my story is this. A few days ago, I had a crisis when my latest ex-boyfriend, who was still my boyfriend at the time, pitched a fit when I suggested a costume set we could do together. I really hadn't thought about Halloween much, seeing as I'm a senior and I have college applications to worry about. At the last minute, I dove into my cosplay closet and picked out a pair of costumes I had created for past anime conventions. I didn't think my fail-boyfriend would actually mind, but it soon became apparent that he did. He accused me of being an anime freak and told me that he would have nothing more to do with me if I continued to pursue this interest of mine. And what did I do?
I broke off the relationship immediately. I had been cosplaying for five years, about as long as my anime/manga obsession has run, and I was not about to give it all up just because he was so against it, right? Jeremy never minded that I was into this stuff. Oh wait, why did I just bring him up? Back to the topic.
Well, now I had a problem. During the hour that I had spent picking out a matching set of costumes, I had become so attached to the idea of wearing them as a match with someone else that now, I really couldn't see myself not carrying out the idea. Too bad, since I didn't have a boyfriend anymore and all my other friends had costumes already. That's when I remembered Jeremy. Surely, it couldn't be too hard to convince him of just this one favor for me?
As it turned out, despite his normally no-nonsense personality, Jeremy just shrugged and agreed to come with me in the costume. I just couldn't believe my ears. The boy barely says two words in the mostly one-sided conversations I have with him, but this time, he actually kept asking me for information about what we would be doing in the costumes. I guess it's a really good thing that I've befriended him after all. Even though it's really hard to break his icy exterior in the beginning, he really is loyal if you get to know him. He's also really sweet and helpful sometimes. You know, I almost would think that…
Ahem, sorry about that. Got a little sidetracked. Anyway, today it's finally the day of Halloween, and I'm about to go pick Jeremy up from the store. His shift doesn't end till seven (yes, he works evenings on weekends, the poor workaholic), but I'm getting there early so I can browse through the volumes while he finishes up. I haven't bought anything this week yet, anyway. This is my chance.
As I go inside, warm air floods past me and reminds me that it was cold outside. I grin. I love the approaching winter season. It is the perfect time of the year to cuddle up on a couch and read a good manga title, or huddle up in an oversized sweater by the computer and watch some anime episodes online. It is not long before I spot Jeremy's profile near his usual spot by the manga bookshelves. He is a perfectionist, and often he will go over to the shelves and put books in order after people finish pulling them out and stuffing them back. I smile warmly when he notices me, and he calmly nods while continuing to work.
"Hey, Jeremy, what's up?" I greet as I step up closer to the shelves to peer around his shoulders. He's a good foot or so taller than me and has broad shoulders, so he almost always covers whatever he is working on. Luckily, I have a side view and can actually see what he's putting away.
"Good," he responds softly. "You?" I sigh as I remove my jacket's hood and shake out my hair.
"I'm great!" I chirp as he looks down at me. He gives me a puzzled look as his glance darts to the top of my head. I smirk and lean towards him. "Whatcha lookin' at?"
(I'm not flirting, I promise.)
"Your hair," he states. Oh yeah, I remember now. I recently re-dyed it. It used to be a black, brown, blonde combo, but I just had some blue and red highlights done. Rather out there I know, especially for Jeremy and his plain-brown look.
"What, you don't like it?" I ask, brushing against his shoulder while smiling up at him.
(Okay, so maybe I am flirting with him a little. What? He's kinda cute, okay? And he is my friend. Guys and girls who are friends are allowed to do this sort of thing.)
"It's just different," Jeremy says while moving away to put a book in the proper row. I cast a general glance over the titles. "Oh, two new Tsubasa books have come in," he adds.
Wow. Wow! "Really!" I exclaim, darting around to the other side of the shelves. Sure enough, volumes 23 and 24 of Tsubasa: Reservoir Chronicle are out. Two at once! "When did these come in?" I ask, picking out the best looking copies. Oh my gosh, the covers are so shiny and smooth!
"Tuesday," Jeremy answers from behind the shelves. I hug the precious volumes to my chest as I skitter around. Even with Jeremy's employee discount, which he always uses on me, this costs more than my allowance money for the week. However, at the moment, I'm too excited to care.
"Your shift ends at seven, right?" I confirm when I don't hear anything from Jeremy for a while. He grunts in response. I assume that's a yes. I'm still running around in little circles in the aisle. I keep doing that until Jeremy comes over to find me.
"Here," he offers, prying the volumes from my hands. I rarely trust people to touch my books, but I know Jeremy will be careful. He'll probably keep it behind his desk or something until I'm ready to check out.
"Oh, oh!" I pipe as I follow him on his way to the customer service desk. "Did I tell you that they finally posted the epilogue for this series online?" I skip and twirl, throwing the ends of my striped scarf around me as I dance. "I just noticed last week."
"No, you didn't mention that." I hear some beeping coming from the computer on the desk. He must be updating some files or answering a customer's email. Hm. I know he's still listening to me though, so I continue to tell him what happens.
When I'm done, I throw my hands into the air and announce, "And then, the end!" A few seconds go by. "So there are probably only a few more volumes left to collect."
"Good," Jeremy says. He doesn't make any comment about me wasting money on buying manga that I've already read online, which is what most of my ex-boyfriends would say if I ever told them this stuff. He knows how important it is for me to be able to hold the book in my hand as I read it at least once, and I do reread everything I buy over and over again. Jeremy thinks that's perfectly acceptable. This is why I like him better than most of my past crushes. As a friend, of course. I mean…this is why I appreciate Jeremy more. Does that sound more platonic?
No? Oh, bother!
"Here you go," Jeremy says as he hands me a Barnes & Noble bag. I haven't really been paying attention to what he's been doing, but now, I stare at him rather blankly.
"Wait, you checked them out, already? How did you know my debit card number?" I ask. Jeremy pushes the bag further into my hands so I finally take it. As he walks away, I hear him answer.
"Halloween present. Are the costumes ready?" I gape as he continues to walk back and stand behind the customer service desk. He quickly organizes some of the papers on top of it before he looks at me again. "Are you all right?"
"You didn't have to do that," I say absently as I start to hold the bag closer to my chest. Jeremy just shrugs.
"No big deal," he responds. I take a deep breath. Of course, no big deal. Just because he actually buys me two books doesn't mean I have to get all worked up about it. I definitely don't have to melt on the inside because I think he's the sweetest person ever. I definitely don't have to have a racing heart and a blush spreading across my cheeks.
Yeah, those things are totally not happening to me at the moment.
"Well, thank you," I finally say. Jeremy smiles briefly before returning his attention to the computer. My previous enthusiasm cooled, I look around and try to think of something to say. Oh, I know. "Yeah, about the costumes. They're in the car."
"Perfect. We can change in the restrooms when I am done." Jeremy starts typing something. I shift my feet from side to side and look around. People are murmuring in hushed tones among the shelves, reading the back covers of books or pointing out certain novels to their friends. I smile at anyone who catches me looking at them and then turn around to face Jeremy again. He is still concentrating on his work. I clear my throat to speak.
"You know, you never asked exactly who we're going to dress up as," I say as I move closer to him. His eyes flick towards me briefly to indicate that I have his attention before he continues to write. I look off to the side and continue. "Well, I'll tell you. You're going to be dressing up as Saïx, and I'm going Naminé, both from Kingdom Hearts. It's ironic, though. Saïx has amber-ish eyes and Naminé has blue-ish eyes, and it's exactly switched for the two of us! Isn't that funny?"
Jeremy's lips quirk a little as I talk, but he doesn't say anything. I normally can ramble on and on like this, and he will patiently listen to me. However, right now, I just can't seem to get normal words out of my head. It feels like I have to tell him something else, but I don't know what. But until I figure it out, conversations like this will just feel like pointless filler.
When neither of us says anything for the next fifteen minutes, I start to get anxious. Apparently, even Jeremy notices the silence.
"You usually have many things to say. What's wrong?" he asks. I open my mouth to tell him that something is bothering me but I don't know what, but before I can tell him that,
"Oh, I'm just saving it for tonight when we go trick-or-treating!" I smile without thinking, though inside I'm ready to slap myself. Where did that lie come from? You only lie when you are trying to cover something up, but I'm not hiding anything from him. Am I? I'm not usually too shy to speak what's on my mind, so this has to be a pretty big issue to be so damn hard to get out of me!
You know what? There's only one way to get myself to figure out what I need to say.
"Jeremy, I need to tell you something!" I declare. Just as a precaution, I gently lay my new books down on the counter, in case I have to gesticulate wildly or something to draw out my point. He must have noticed that I am seriously in need of help here, because he stops typing and stares directly at me.
"Okay!" I start. "Um…" I hold out my hands in front me as if I am carrying a box between my palms. I don't quite know what the gesture is supposed to indicate. "Uh…you…"
"What is it?" Jeremy asks when I don't manage to say anything for a couple of seconds. I look at him. He's giving me his full, undivided attention. He usually can concentrate on more than one thing at once, but he does this whenever he knows that I need to have the assurance of his full attention. It's far more than I ever expected him to learn about me when I first I met him. In fact, I could never have predicted the comfortable nature of the conversations we have or the things we know about each other. I never expected him to become such a good friend, such a good…I inhale sharply. There it is.
"Jeremy?" I ask hesitantly. This is rather new territory for me. I'm always so ready to deny liking Jeremy because he's so different from all the boys who have asked me out in the past. He's so quiet, and serious, and though he supports my interests, he doesn't partake in them himself. "Jeremy, I think I like you." I look at him to see his reaction. His face is neutral. "I think I like you as more than a friend." There. I said it. Now, a pause as I wait for his answer.
"Because I bought you books?" he inquires. I can see from his face that he is not used to this type of thing. I don't think he's ever gotten close enough to anyone, much less any to any girl who would tell him her feelings like this. I return his puzzled gaze with a cheerful one.
"Not just that, of course," I say. "But also because you know me. And you accept me. Strangely enough, I don't even think I realized that none of my ex-boyfriends ever felt that way. You…" I end up shrugging and putting my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. "You…I want…to…you know, go out. With you."
Jeremy raises his eyebrows and adjusts his stare so he's looking past me. I cringe. He probably has never really considered feeling that way about me, and he's probably too busy and too concerned with his father's opinions to want to. Oh, I probably should have thought about this before I opened my big mouth.
"Okay." I didn't even realize that I had been bending towards the ground, but the way my head snaps up to attention makes me aware of that fact.
"Okay?" I ask, my mind reeling. Did he…just…say he would go out with me?
"Was I supposed to elaborate?" Jeremy says. He still looks confused. I, on the other hand, am not sure whether to be insanely excited, completely shy, a combination of the two, or some new emotion entirely. Ohmygosh, Jeremy and I are going to be together!
"No, no!" I reply with relief. "Just…that's fine!" I'm already starting to feel like laughing. I can't help the huge smile that erupts on my face as I rush forward and promptly hit an obstacle on my way to Jeremy's side. Stupid desk. I'm so impatient that I just reach my hands out towards him. I don't quite reach his shoulders since I am still so far away. Sometimes being short is a bad thing.
"Watch out," he says, almost cheerfully, as he sees my outstretched hands and the way I'm almost falling over the counter. Believe it or not, he actually seems happy. My brain, of course, is completely taken over by one thought process: I can't believe I like him! I can't believe he likes me! (And don't you dare say I told you so.)
Luckily, Jeremy senses my intent and holds out his palms. He's actually even starting to smile himself. He takes my small hands in his and lifts it up to his face (he also has to bend down to do this). My fingers brush his lips lightly. All of a sudden, it feels really cold everywhere else on my body, and I start to shiver with delight.
Did I ever mention that I really like winter?