Two years later
At the sound of my boss's voice, I looked up. Beside him, stood a girl with dark hair and green eyes.
It was Kat. Actually, truth be told, even though she still lived next door to me after all these years, I didn't really recognize her anymore. Sure, I'd still see her around, but because we didn't go to the same school anymore, that usually meant at night, when I would watch her, dressed in some tight and skimpy outfit, walk out of her house with her friends and head off somewhere in one of their boyfriends' cars, probably to some party. Our last real conversation had been…sixth grade? Seventh grade? Did the little fiasco at the eighth grade graduation even count? Did she even remember?
"This is Katherine. She's new working at this bookstore. You'll both be in charge of organizing any new books that come in and taking phone orders from customers. Think you can show her the ropes?"
"Good." With a brisk nod, he left.
For what seemed like an eternity I just stood there. I mean, what was there to say? I couldn't exactly start off introducing myself with a handshake and the "Hi, my name is Alex" because we weren't strangers. We did know each other. Sort of. At the same time though, I couldn't exactly talk to her like I would to a friend because we weren't friends. At least, not now, since she decided way back when that I wasn't cool enough to be her friend anymore.
"So," she said, turning to me as though we had never met before. "What do we do?"
I shrugged. "I pretty much already put the new books on to the different shelves before you came today. If Mr. Cosgrove comes in later with new boxes, I'll show you then."
She nodded disinterestedly. "Cool."
With a flip of her head, she then turned her back towards me, as she pulled her cell phone out of her jeans pocket and began to text.
No doubt, I thought, I might as well just go talk to a brick wall.
With a sigh, I pulled out my IPhone and hit the YouTube app on the screen. Work got boring at times, especially when there were no books to sort. But hey, I guess that was what my IPhone was for. I smiled contentedly as I plugged the earphones in my ears and typed in "One Direction parody barelypolitical." Barely Political is an online entertainment website that creates musical parodies. It was my favorite form of entertainment by far, especially because it meant I could sit back and laugh at the hilarious spin these artists put on a lot of hit songs.
"What are you watching?"
I looked up, surprised that she would be talking to me.
"Just some youtube videos. You ever hear of Barely Political?"
She laughed. "Since when were you interested in politics?"
"No no. It's just a bunch of these musical parodies. Here check it out." I offered her an earphone.
In a matter of minutes, we were both barely able to stand up straight because we were laughing so hard. As we sat next to the bookshelves, we scrolled down the IPhone screen for other parodies and videos to watch, with the occasional "Hey this one looks funny" or "Have you seen this one before?" It felt like the old times when we used to go to the library and laugh at the funny comic book stories we would make up. Silly as it was, I found myself thinking that maybe the old Kat was still there after all those years. Beneath all that makeup and party girl exterior, maybe the girl who I once called my best friend was still there. Maybe wanting to be with the in crowd wasn't the reason she ditched me years ago; maybe she just forgot all the fun times we had. Maybe after some time (perhaps a few weeks?) of working together in this store, I could find the right time to ask if she wanted to hang out like old times. Maybe then, she'll remember.
We were interrupted by the creak of the store door as it opened. A tall guy sporting a soccer jersey sauntered in and waved in our direction. Sneaking a glance at Kat, I noticed that her green eyes brightened as smile flitted across her face. I didn't recognize him, so there was no doubt he was probably one of the jocks at the high school she attended.
"Hey," he said, walking in our direction. "'Sup?"
"Not much." She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she continued to smile brightly at him and turned her back towards me. "It's kinda boring working here though cuz there's like nobody to talk to."
He laughed. "Travis told me his parents are away for the night. He talked to some guys at some of the local colleges about buying booze from the frats. Party at his house tonight. I'm telling you this party's gonna be off the hook."
She laughed. "Is that an invitation?"
He stepped closer. "Do you want it to be?"
Watching her brush his arm and giggle as she gazed into his eyes, I wondered how I could be so stupid. We weren't friends. Just because we laughed together over some YouTube videos didn't really mean shit. Especially since she wasn't going to talk to me, much less acknowledge my existence, when her friends were around. Shaking my head, I turned off my IPhone and pulled a random book off the shelf and flipped it open, pretending to read when in truth, I could barely register the words across the page.
"You like to cook?" Her voice interrupted my thoughts.
I looked up. The boy was nowhere in sight, probably left without me noticing. So now she could talk to me.
She pointed at the book I was holding. I looked down. The Mediterranean Slow Cooker.
I hadn't even realized I had grabbed a cookbook.
"Of course," I mumbled, hastily stuffing the book back on the shelf.
"What were you saying again before he came in? Were you going to show me another video?"
Looking back at her, I could not help but feel dumbfounded. Was she really going to pretend that she didn't just act like I didn't exist a few seconds ago.
"I forget." I cleared my throat. "Besides my IPhone just died so we won't be able to watch any more videos."
She frowned, her eyebrows crinkling in skepticism. "But…"
"There you two are," Mr. Cosgrove said, bustling in with a cardboard box full of books and setting it down in front of us. "Enough chit-chat. Time to get back to work."
As we listened to his footsteps fade into the distance, we stood there in awkward silence. Finally I broke the silence.
"We should get going. You take care of the books in the fiction section, and I'll take care of the nonfiction."
She nodded. "Okay," she said, her voice sounding so distant that, at that moment, I found it hard to believe that just a few minutes ago, we were standing at this very spot, laughing almost like we were friends again.
Maybe I did just imagine it, I told myself, picking up the box as I walked off to the nonfiction section of the store.