KEY TO HER HEART

by Adrienne Black

Prologue : The Rejection

"What?" She asked with one eyebrow raised. She shot me a brief look of annoyance.

My swivel chair was turned towards her station behind mine and I had my elbows rested on her table as I continued to stare at her with my head perched on both my hands. "You're looking at pictures of cute dogs again, aren't you?"

"No."

I chuckled. "Liar."

She stopped fiddling with her laptop and looked at me accusingly. "How can you possibly know that? You can't even see my screen."

"Simple. By the look on your face." I grinned.

"What 'look'?"

"Like you're fond of something."

She laughed and shook her head before resuming to 'work' on her laptop. "So now I can only look fondly at dogs?"

"Technically, any animal as long they're cute. But yeah." I shrugged.

"I do not."

"Oh yes you do."

"Right. 'Cause you know me better than I know myself." She scoffed.

"I can get you a mirror if you want proof." I leaned back on my chair. "I've only ever seen you give that kind of look to animals. Come to think of it, I've never seen you look fondly at another person. You either use that fake smile of yours or you look like you want to kill them. Do you also treat your family like that?"

"What? No! 'Course not!" She had stopped whatever she was doing and was now paying complete attention to me. "And what 'fake smile'? I do not have a fake smile."

She smiled.

I laughed and pointed at her face. "There it is right there!" I pretended to be rummaging my pockets for something. "Where's a good mirror when you need one?"

She rolled her eyes at my theatrics."Fine. I may have a fake smile. But so what?"

"All I'm saying is how can you even hope to snag yourself a boyfriend when you seem to be only capable of falling in love with creatures on four legs?"

"Birds don't have four legs."

"Besides the point."

"Maybe I'm gay and I don't want a boyfriend."

"A girlfriend then. You still won't get a girlfriend with the way you are though. But then I know you're not gay. So." I shrugged again.

She laughed. "Wow! You do think you've figured me out, don't you?" Her head moved from side to side and leaned back on her own chair, clicking her tongue. "Don't judge a book too soon. What if you miss the footnotes?"

I laughed at her metaphor. And then, somehow, I figured it was the right time to reveal what was really on my mind when I started our conversation. "Well then, so I won't miss them, I suggest you say 'yes' to my next question."

Her eyebrows furrowed and she looked at me inquisitively.

"Go out with me?"

There were a few seconds of silence before she laughed real hard to my face. "You can't be serious! You're not, right? Tell me you're not."

"Oh, I'm dead serious." I replied, slightly offended by her abnormal reaction.

She stopped laughing then and sighed. "Look, Dave, I don't think going out with you is a good idea. And I'm not saying this for my sake, but yours. So just go find a lovely lady to flirt and fall in love with. Alright?"

"Not alright." In my opinion I was holding my ground pretty well against the rock-solid resolve her face portrayed. "Why is it not a good idea? And don't give me any of that 'we work together' bullshit. I don't buy that."

She ruffled her long, dark hair with both hands, obviously irritated at how our conversation had progressed. "How do I say this..." She looked thoughtful for a few seconds.

"Simplest way would be best." I stopped myself from saying anything more and waited for her to continue.

Her hazel brown eyes were clear as they finally landed on me. Her face looked confident and decided. Three words that shattered the hopes of so many young hearts escaped her lips.

"I'm not interested."

I knew she was blunt, and I did say I preferred the simplest explanation, but would it really kill her to sugarcoat a little?

There must've been something in my expression that told her she'd been too frank because she immediately started on a follow-up. "But don't be offended! I'm not saying I'm not interested in you, per say. What I'm not interested in is the whole 'love' thing."

"Thing?" It was my turn to arch an eyebrow.

"You know. The whole flirting, courting, falling in love, and getting into a relationship thing. I don't understand commitment and I find the whole fiasco a bother."

"So you're a man-hater?"

"What?! No! How did you make a jump to that kind of conclusion? I have plenty of guy friends!" She waved her hand as if it could make me get a sense of how many they were.

"O-kay. So you're just allergic to commitment then?"

"Huh? Well... Sort of? But it's not just that." She sighed. "How can this be so hardto explain in words?" She sounded like she was complaining more to herself than asking me.

I tried to get a better grasp of the idea in my head and started shooting her one question after another.

"Are you afraid of getting hurt?"

"Hmm.. Not exactly? I don't know."

"Are your parents separated? Did watching them fight all the time when you were young ruin your naive perception of love?"

She looked at me incredulously. "What are you, my psych? And my parents have been happily married for twenty-four long years, thank you very much."

"Okay. Maybe it wasn't your parents but your friends' experiences that'd scarred you?"

"Uh... No."

"A failed first love then?"

She groaned in annoyance. "This isn't productive. Look. I told you. I'm just not interested in love. Period."

"How can you be 'not interested'? It's love. Everybody's interested in love."

"Well, I'm not 'everybody'."

I stared at her in disbelief, like she had suddenly grown another head.

"I just don't want to be bothered by the intricate details that go with the package. The swooning, the jittery feelings, the way you sometimes lose yourself and your confidence, the doubting, the fighting, the heartbreak." She elaborated in one breath and shot me a look I couldn't quite place. "Everything."

I whistled my surprised. "For somebody who's not interested you sure know a lot about it."

She shrugged.

"But even if it is all what you said, don't you want to experience it? Love makes people happy."

"And being happy is a choice. So is falling in love. I simply choose to be happy and not fall in love. It's that simple." Her tone told me our conversation had come to a close and that she doesn't have anything more to say on the matter.

"So." She closed her laptop and stood from her seat. "If you would please excuse me, I have a meeting to attend to." She shot me her fake smile.

I chuckled. If I was truly good at anything it was getting girls to say yes to me and her rejection was a first. But instead of feeling like my ego had been bruised, I felt even more determined to get that date with her.

"Okay. If this is how you wanna play it." I said as I swiveled my chair back to facing my own desk. I grinned at her as she turned to look at me when she passed by my station. "I've always loved a good challenge."

"What are you blabbering about, David?"

"I'm saying I'm gonna make you fall in love with me."

She scoffed, hovering in front of my station. "Good luck with that." Sarcasm coated her words.

"Thanks, but I don't think I'd need it. After all, you did say that falling in love was a choice."

"I did. So?"

"So, I only have to make you choose to fall in love with me." I stood and positioned myself directly in front of her. She only reached up to my chin so I had to bend forward a little so we'd be eye to eye. Call me dramatic but I loved emphasizing my point.

She smirked and held her ground; her eyes stared at me, unblinking. The girl had guts, and it only made me like her even more.

"It's that simple."