A/N: A huge thank you to Midnight Cougar for polishing my words. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Word Crimes,” “Weird Al” Yankovic
“Okay, now here are some notes
Syntax you’re always mangling
No X in ‘espresso’
Your participle’s danglin’ (Uh-huh)
But I don’t want your drama (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
If you really wanna (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)
Leave out that Oxford comma (Hey, hey, hey) (Uh-huh)”
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond own the adorable little mouse whose needs inspired this very adult version of their story. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
“What’s all this?” Jasper asks when he returns to his desk the next morning, freshly showered with a steaming cup of coffee in hand.
He finds me sitting at the empty desk opposite his, which was used by our district chief until he moved to our sister station in Beaver. The small trash can close by is overflowing with my rejected starts for what I’ve decided would be the perfect opening with Bella Swan—a short, personal note, maybe even a… love note, if I can get it right. I’m hoping she will appreciate the gesture, since she deals with the handling of numerous cards, letters, and packages going to other people daily. But this one would be for her—from me.
After returning from an early morning call and unable to sleep, I took up residence here cutting out heart-shaped notes, but changed my mind, concluding that it’s probably too much, too soon. I’ve also considered various holiday shapes, but my paper stars, candy canes, and trees weren’t much better and not very romantic. Those failures and scraps of paper now join my crumpled rejects, as I’ve been focusing on finding the perfect words.
There are also two boxes of unopened Christmas cards on the desk waiting for me to sign and address. I picked them up from Thriftway once they opened first thing this morning. At this point, I have no idea who I will send them to, but I thought sending a stack would be a valid reason for revisiting the Post Office so soon after my passport visit.
My plan is to buy some Christmas stamps and tuck a sweet note for Bella to find in between them. I’m a little concerned with how long the visit will take, and I want to maximize whatever time I can get with her, which has me wondering if I should find something to ship to my parents too.
I’ve been less successful with figuring out when to go to assure that she’s working the counter. I hope that maybe busier times around lunch or when most people get off from work could be key, since the last time she was called to the front was because of the numerous waiting customers. If I arrive when she’s working, then I can always make some excuse to better my position for being called to her window, but I’ll figure that out when I get there.
“Oh, hey, Cap.” I pause my latest thoughts and shuffle the papers away from his ever-watchful eyes. “I’m doing a little writing.”
He sits heavily in the chair near his desk and it creaks with his weight as he leans backward, putting his coffee mug to his lips. “Like a journal?”
“Not exactly. Like a note.”
Jasper nods as a comfortable silence settles between us until I wonder if his advice could be helpful here.
“Do you ever do anything… or like, write anything for… Alice?”
His eyebrows shoot up at the mention of her name. “Like, when I’m in trouble?”
“No, like when you first met or even now—something romantic. How did you win her over?”
“How did I win over Alice?” Jasper chuckles and reaches over to switch on the Christmas tunes he likes to have playing over the speakers of the station and lowers the volume. “She was a bartender at this tourist-packed joint, The Mermaid, in Biloxi, and with some college buddies, I stumbled inside toward the end of our spring break one year.”
“I didn’t know you went to college.”
“I went for a couple of years, but I didn’t graduate. I was failing at everything except drinking and women.” He smirks, no doubt remembering fun times.
“So what happened on the spring break you met Alice?”
His grin widens. “The bar had this giant tank on one wall with women dressed like mermaids, swimming back and forth. They had long hair and fish tails, but after ten at night, they would swim topless. My buddies were fascinated, but I couldn’t get enough of the bartender wearing this little shell bikini top and one of the shortest skirts I’ve ever seen that looked like glittery fish scales. I sat at the bar all night until closing, but she wouldn’t give me her number.”
“For good reason, I’m sure.”
Jasper nods. “I was… enchanted from the first time I saw her.”
Love at first sight.
I’m nodding at the realization and relieved not to be the only one.
He continues. “I went back night after night. My buddies returned to college, but I stayed and got to know her. She was bewitching, and I realized I wasn’t the only one to fall under her spell as I watched her customers succumb to her charms. One night she offered to make me a ‘special’ drink, but if I drank it, my heart would belong to her.”
“You drank it.”
“I drank it,” he confirms. “It was some nasty sweet shit that she still won’t tell me what was in it, but she gave me her number. The next day, I bought her an engagement ring.”
“Wow, that seems fast. Did you propose?”
“No, we spent another week together getting to know each other, then I met her daddy, thinking I could ask for his blessing, but I never got the words out. He told me I looked like some sad piece of shit that washed up on the beach and Alice should throw me back. According to him, I wasn’t a keeper and didn’t deserve her. He said until I could prove myself to be a worthy man and not some spring break, college fuck up, not to show up on his doorstep again.”
“Yeah. I left Alice with a promise that night that I would figure everything out, but I needed to go back to school. So, I returned to college with a ring in my pocket I couldn’t afford, and was met by my own daddy ready to pull the plug on financing my never-ending college party. I knew it was coming, and that day he helped me move back home. Alice was the kick in the ass I needed. I sobered up and enrolled at one of the firefighter academies in Houston a month later.
“I worked my ass off, landing a job at a local station after about four months, moving up the ranks quickly. I drove to Biloxi—six hours, one-way—every weekend I was off for a solid year. Alice and I went on dates and shared childhood stories. I learned all her favorites and never forgot a detail. I was determined to prove to her and her family that I could be the man she deserves.”
“Did you win over her father?”
“No, but he tolerates me now after twelve years of marriage. Fucker. I won over Alice, which is all that really matters. I think my balls each grew an inch bigger the day he had to walk her down the aisle to me.” Jasper smirks, sipping from his coffee mug and nodding toward my papers. “I’m not great with words, but I let my actions do the talking for romantic stuff like this with Alice. My daddy always says, ‘happy wife, happy life,’ and that’s what I do—keep Alice happy. So, if words are her thing, then I’m sure she’ll appreciate the gesture and you’ll put a smile on her face—there’s no better beginning than that.”
I have no idea if words are Bella’s thing, but I’m hoping it’s an opening for something more—a conversation or a coffee date. My father has been doing little things like this for my mother as long as I can remember. While I know a little about Bella, a quick search of her social media sites revealed even less. She doesn’t know a thing about me, and I’m hoping to correct that soon.
Jasper makes a good point, though. I should be a little friendlier with Chief Swan when I see him. Even though he works next door at the Police Department, it doesn’t hurt to work on making a favorable impression with him too.
“Sure. I’m going to get started on breakfast before I work through some of this paperwork.” He waves toward the piles of reports gathering around his desk.
I set down my pen. “Need an extra set of hands in the kitchen?”
“Nah, you keep working on your note, and after breakfast, think about getting a nap before the end of your shift. You look like you’ve been up all night.”
He stands and walks toward the doorway. “I’ll yell when breakfast is ready.”
I look over the notepad in front of me, wondering if there’s anything that is worth using or I should start with another blank page.
Your laughter is the best medicine.
I cross this one off, as it seems like something cheesy a med school student would say, even though her laughter brought a smile to my face.
Your laughter is my favorite sound.
So true. Maybe I should go with this one.
Your smile is contagious.
Contagious sounds bad, but in this case, it definitely isn’t. Maybe another word for contagious… like infectious. No, that sounds worse. I should forget this one altogether.
Your smile lights up the room.
Too common, even though it’s also true.
Your smile is brighter than a decorated Christmas tree.
Better, but most people will think this is kind of weird. I love Christmas, so maybe something around that, but not this.
You’re hotter than the fires I fight.
I like this one, but I’m not drawn to only her physical beauty, and I don’t want that to be the first impression she has of me.
You’re kind and great with your customers.
I smile remembering her sweet but teasing tone and wish that I had been on the other end of her playfulness. My goal is to give her a compliment, but also something clever and memorable, maybe figuring out a way to work Christmas into the mix. Looking over my possibilities, nothing on the list really stands out as the beginning of a “love” note either. So, maybe I need to come up with something more romantic but simple.
I wonder if I should call my dad. He’s an expert and has been romancing my mother for decades. I know most of his love notes are simple things, like “I miss you” or “I’m thinking of you.” He leaves sticky notes around their home where she will find them all the time. I’ve even seen a fogged up bathroom mirror with a heart and my mom’s name in the middle when we were all on vacation together years ago.
I tap my pen to the Christmas tune.
Look at Frosty go,
Over the hills of snow.
No. I can do this myself. I need to keep it simple and something from my list. I could even write more than one, and make multiple trips on my break to mail and ship stuff in order to see her.
My eyes fall on the boxes of Christmas cards, wondering whom I should send them to since my parents are the only real possibility. I know the guys here would give me crap nonstop for sending one to any of them. I lean back in my chair and consider my options as I look out the windows at the front of the station listening to Jasper’s Christmas tunes.
I wonder if I actually need to send them since I’m only using them as a prop for slipping a love note to her. I can buy some Christmas stamps and leave them for Jasper or anyone else here at the station to use. The song playing through the speakers changes to a new tune.
You know Dasher and Dancer and Prancer and Vixen…
A smile threatens to take over my face when it suddenly dawns on me, and I realize exactly who will be on my Christmas card list this year thanks to the current song playing—nine reindeer, the big guy himself, and maybe even Frosty—all located at the North Pole. I reach for one of the boxes and locate the envelopes. If she happens to see whom I’m mailing my Christmas cards to, maybe I’ll be the reason for one of her beautiful smiles, and if I can make her laugh—even better.
If you give a postal worker a love note, she’ll wonder about the identity of the author when it’s delivered by an unintended mail carrier.