Lazy Summer Serial Entry #5
Genre: Romantic Comedy/Spy Humor
Possibility for SWP: Like Violet Bartowski, the Force is strong with this one.
Flantering Rating: Flirting, friendship, miscommunication, humor, all rolled up into one. It's like Chuck vs. the Suburbs without the totally strange beginning. Oh, and the Suburbs, too.
Movie Influences: She's All That, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Mrs. Doubtfire
Synopsis: On a temporary assignment to investigate an underground smuggling ring, working for an electronics chain with very little supervision and structure might seem like the perfect cover identity. Too bad Sarah Walker didn't take the Nerd Herd supervisor into account when she donned her nerd glasses and became Jenny Burton. Now it's a comedy of errors vs. a case of mistaken identity and Sarah's biggest romantic foe isn't Lou the Sandwich Girl anymore.
It's Jenny Burton.
Why You Should Vote for This One: Sarah, as a nerd. What could possibly go wrong? (Answer: oh, so, so, so much) Frea and mxpw tackle the Buy More together for the first time, too, and you wouldn't want to miss that, would you?
Jenny sat quietly and absently munched on her apple.
Normally she was not a big comic book fan, but something about the comic Hack/Slash appealed to her. What wasn’t there to love about a sexually confused girl that traveled across the country ridding the world of murderous monsters? She admired the way Cassie Hack, the quintessential horror victim cliché, fought back against those who would attempt to victimize her. In a lot of ways, she could relate.
She finished off the last of her apple and placed the apple core atop a paper towel. She'd had an easy shift so far; only three customers, all of which had only needed quick fixes. She was good, she knew, good at blending in and looking like she belonged, but even she couldn't fake her way through every situation. She considered any day where she didn't have to go to Chuck for "clarification" on an issue to be a good day.
She pushed her black, angular glasses further back on her nose and then took a bite of her yogurt. Jenny stalled the spoon midway out of her mouth, the end dangling in the air, as she used her now free hand to turn the page.
And then she heard them.
"You go,” a whispered voice said.
“No, you,” a different whispered voice replied.
Jenny rolled her eyes and tried to ignore the bickering between her stalkers. Jeff and Lester had taken it upon themselves to learn everything there was to know about the new girl in their ranks, and had not been subtle about it either. They would have made terrible spies. Jenny snorted at that thought and put her comic book down on the table. She picked up her yogurt and did her best to eat it quickly.
She still had more than 20 minutes left in her break, but if Jeff and Lester were once again going to try and pry information out of her, she’d rather go and hide in the Cage than deal with them.
She didn’t know why they couldn’t catch onto the fact that she ate lunch alone and kept to herself for a reason. She didn’t like people. She especially didn’t like her fellow employees. She preferred to keep to herself, to stay quiet and observe. Quiet people were ignored. Quiet people didn’t pop up on anybody’s radar. Quiet people could live their life how they wanted, without worrying about somebody else telling them what to do.
She had no idea what attracted Jeff and Lester to her, other than that she was female. Surely there had to be more to it than that?
“Come on, do it!”
“I’ve only had four beers today, I’m not awake yet.”
“I went last time,” Lester whined.
“She stabbed my right hand with a spork the last time I tried to talk to her,” Jeff said. “I was lonely for a week.”
She shuddered at Jeff’s statement and angled her chair away from the two men. She was impressed with their cluelessness. How had they not realized that despite their whispering she could hear every word they said?
“You tried to sniff her hair! I told you that was a third conversation only move.”
The two continued their bickering and she wondered if either one would actually find the balls to approach her before her break was over. She was risking contact by not having left the break room already, but she wasn’t about to be chased around the store, hiding, unless she absolutely had to. Besides, she had long ago trained herself to tune out the comments men made about her. Such a skill was imperative in her line of work.
She once again became engrossed in her comic, completely ignoring everything and everyone around her, focusing only on Cassie. Years of blending in and drifting off into her own world had honed this skill to perfection.
“Jeff, Lester, I knew I’d find you here,” a voice said.
“And good afternoon to you too, Charles,” Lester said with his usual smarminess.
“Your breaks ended 30 minutes ago, what are you still doing here?”
“Admiring the scenery,” Lester said.
Chuck groaned and she could hear the frustration in his voice. She very slowly started to angle herself back toward Jeff and Lester. She wanted to get a better look at what was happening.
“Guys, what did I tell you about harassing Jenny?”
“Not to do it?”
“Exactly. So what are you doing here?”
“But you winked,” Jeff protested.
“So we thought you were giving us your okay.”
“I did not wink! Why would you even think that?”
“Well if you didn’t wink, then maybe you should get that looked at,” Lester said with obviously false concern. “Random winking could be a serious medical problem.”
“Yeah, maybe it’s Tourette’s,” Jeff added. “I tried that once when 5-0 pulled me over for a suspected DUI.” Jeff sighed and said, “I probably shouldn’t have oinked so much or else it might have worked.”
Jenny rolled her eyes at Jeff’s story but found it wholly believable. She doubted there was a scenario possible that Jeff couldn’t link back to his alcoholic past.
“Out. Now,” Chuck demanded with firmness in his voice that Jenny found entirely unusual.
Jeff and Lester must have found it strange as well for they immediately stood up and scrambled out of the break room, grumbling under their breath the whole time.
Jenny surreptitiously looked at Chuck over the top of her comic book, a small smile on her face. She watched as he sat down at a table and began to casually flip through the Buy More’s corporate newsletter for this month—probably the only one in the whole store who even bothered—occasionally picking at his own lunch. He made no attempt to bother her or talk to her, even after his rescue. Chuck was the only person in the store who seemed to respect her desire to keep to herself.
“You’re my hero,” Jenny said in as dry a tone as she could. As long as she managed to stay relatively cool and aloof, it probably wouldn’t hurt her reputation to actually talk to another person. Besides, truth be told, she liked Chuck. If there was anybody at the Burbank Buy More she wouldn’t mind actually talking to, it was him.
Chuck started slightly, as she knew he would, and dropped the newsletter in surprise. “Excuse me?” he said.
She actually looked away from her comic this time when she repeated, “I said, you’re my hero.”
Chuck flushed slightly and avoided looking directly at her. “Oh.” He gave her a shaky grin. “That was nothing. I was just making sure they actually got back to doing their jobs.”
She put her comic down on the tabletop. “Still, I appreciate you making them go away.” She wrinkled her nose in distaste. “Jeff was starting to…smell.”
Chuck laughed, his eyes alight. She decided she liked his laugh. “Yeah, that’s because he showered this morning.”
She was about to open her mouth to ask the obvious question when Chuck waved her response away. With a laugh, he said, “Don’t ask. You really don’t want to know.”
She nodded her head curtly and knew that she really didn’t.
Then suddenly, Chuck was standing up and walking over to her and she didn’t know what to do. She fidgeted with her glasses nervously, and played with a loose strand of hair as she watched Chuck walk over to her with slightly wide eyes. Nobody really approached her, at least not after the spork incident with Jeff.
Chuck, though, had always been different. Normally, she appreciated that about him, but now she wished that he would be as wary of her as everyone else was. It wasn’t that she didn’t want to talk to Chuck, truth be told she had enjoyed most of their interactions so far, but it was that she didn’t know how. Their conversations had always been more awkward than comfortable. She knew Chuck tried his best; the problem wasn’t him, but her. Chuck was unlike any man she’d ever met.
He was certainly nothing like Bryce.
“Can I join you?” Chuck asked with a smile.
She only nodded her head, eyes on the table, fingers still playing with her hair.
“I don’t mean to bother you, but it seems kind of silly for the two of us to sit on opposite ends of the room.”
She nodded. “Right. Silly.”
She forced herself to look up and focus on Chuck, who had stopped halfway from sitting down. “If I’m bothering you, just tell me to go away. Unlike Jeff and Lester, I promise you that I’ll listen.”
He was smiling at her so warmly that she couldn’t deny him even if she wanted to. There was something about his damn smile—and those eyes of his—that confused her and made her do things she wouldn’t normally do, like invite Chuck to eat lunch with her. “No, no, it’s okay. You can sit down.”
“Thanks.” Chuck started spreading out the remains of his lunch, a Subway sandwich. After he swallowed a bite, he asked, “What are you reading?”
She blushed and reluctantly turned the comic over so that he could look at the cover. She watched as his eyes widened slightly. “Huh, that’s interesting.”
“What do you mean by that?” she asked defensively. She didn’t have many hobbies that she shared with other people and she was very protective of those that she did.
Chuck leaned back and he said quickly, “Nothing! Just that it was interesting. I’ve never read that one before, what’s it about?”
Jenny fiddled with the comic and thought about what she could say that would possibly explain what Hack/Slash was about. Words failed her and she ended up saying, “Oh, um, it’s about a girl that kills…monsters,” she finished lamely. Like that wasn’t the basic storyline of a million other comic books out there.
Whether Chuck thought her response sucked, he didn’t say, he just smiled at her. “That’s cool. I’m a big fan of Ex Machina myself.” Chuck took a bite of his sandwich. “What other comics do you read?”
“I sometimes like to ready Y.”
Apparently that was the right thing to say as Chuck’s eyes lit up. “Really? I love Y too. I’ve always been a big fan of Brian K. Vaughn.”
“Yeah,” Jenny said quietly, not really knowing what else to say.
Silence settled between them and Jenny picked up her yogurt to finally finish it off for good. She scraped the sides clean and then licked her spoon until there was no more yogurt left. She made sure to be very thorough.
“So I was wondering if you wanted to come?”
Jenny blinked and forced herself to stop daydreaming about Chuck and actually listen to what he was saying. Had she really just missed an entire conversation? “I’m sorry, did you say something?”
Chuck looked at her strangely, like something was wrong with her, before he shook his head and sucked in a deep breath. “I asked if you wanted to come to a party with me tonight?”
Jenny stared at Chuck blankly, too shocked by what he had just said to respond. Had Chuck just asked her out on a date? Had she misread him entirely?
“Do you mean like a date?” she asked in the most neutral tone she could.
Chuck’s eyes widened slightly and he immediately started to babble nervously, “Wow, you really did miss everything, didn’t you?” He gulped and then continued, “No, not a date. You see, my sister is throwing this party for her boyfriend, he just finished his second year of Residency, see he’s a doctor and anyway, that’s not important. But she’s throwing a party for him and I won’t really know anybody there and Ellie has this ridiculous no Morgan policy for any party not for me. You sing one Barry Manilow song at a graduation party and suddenly you’re banned for life. I thought his rendition of ‘Ellie’ was really good,” Chuck said, but then breathed and quickly added, “not that you care. So I can’t ask Morgan and I don’t really want to ask anyone else and you’re nice and I like you, you’re normal, and I just think it would be great to have a familiar face around, you know?”
Jenny blinked, very impressed by Chuck’s entire rambling, barely coherent, plea. She wasn’t sure if she should feel disappointed or relieved that it wasn’t a date.
Which was ridiculous, she knew. She didn’t have the time or the desire to get involved with somebody else, especially not so soon after her breakup with Bryce. So relief was the way to go.
Still, she wanted to say yes.
“Wow, Chuck, you really know how to sweet talk a girl.”
Chuck blushed and turned away from her. “Sorry,” he mumbled. “You’re right, that was…stupid. I really did think of you first. But…” his voice trailed off as she just looked at him, her face still blank. His shoulders slumped and he said quietly, “I’ll just go and leave you alone.”
He stood up, and she panicked slightly.
“Wait!” She wasn’t sure exactly what she was doing, but she knew she had an undeniable urge to make Chuck feel better. “I didn’t say no.”
Chuck perked up slightly, his shoulders not quite so low and a small smile appearing. “Really?”
“I’ll…think about it,” she hedged. She didn’t want to get either of their hopes up, even though she knew she was already going to end up going.
“Thank you!” Chuck blurted. “I should probably go before I embarrass myself more.” He made his way out of the break room.
Her eyes followed him.