Previously on "Finding Anna": Anna makes a deal with Sophie for $1000 to share their bedroom, agrees on a Friday night study session with her friend Chase, and finds herself choosing between financial security and an internship with the company GoTeachGo.
Does Anna decide to stay at her deli job with Chase where she knows she can save money to explore the world, or risk working as an intern for the company of her dreams, with the possibility of a scholarship, at GoTeachGo?Click To Reveal Results
The office I walk into isn’t really an office. In fact, the corporate headquarters for international GoTeachGo looks more like a closet.
A reception desk sits to my immediate left when I walk in, but no one is behind it. Stacks of papers, boxes, and file folders crowd almost every nook, cranny, and corner. There is no waiting room. Nothing but a short hall that ends almost as soon as it begins is visible beyond the reception area. The door at the end of the hall is slightly ajar, showing a peek into an office with just as much clutter. A bald man with exaggerated sideburns is talking into the phone in an animated manner. I fold my hands in front of me and wait to be noticed.
“Come in,” the man barks, though he hasn’t looked at me. Determined not to be intimidated, I step into the hall and wait by his office door. One other chair sits across from his desk, and a fake plant fills the corner. Other than that, his sanctuary is nothing more than paperwork. A promising start.
By the time he finishes with his phone conversation, several minutes have passed, and I’ve observed enough of GoTeachGo to realize that this will be anything but the dream internship that I imagined.
“You’re Anna?” the man behind the desk asks, tossing the phone back onto the cradle. It bounces, but falls into place, as if he’s done it several times before, like a basketball player who’s reimagined his talent. I clear my throat.
“Yes. Anna Buchanan.”
He lifts a bushy eyebrow that’s reminiscent of his shaggy sideburns, but says nothing after a quick perusal of my expression, which I’m hoping is neutral. With a grunt, he motions to the chair.
“Have a seat. I’m Rupert Darnell.”
I oblige and the metal creaks beneath my weight sinking into it. He tosses aside a few folders he’s holding and swivels his chair to face me.
“Taysom told me about you,” he says. Despite his odd appearance, which is reminiscent of a very large leprechaun, he has kind blue eyes.
“All good things, I hope.”
I lift my eyebrows in question, but he cracks a grin over his own little quip.
“Just kidding. He said good things.” Rupert leans forward, and I’m struck by how unlike a Rupert he appears. I would have tagged him for something more modern like a Jake or Mark. He leans two hairy arms on his desk in a nonchalant way, and I find myself relaxing. “So, Anna, why do you want to work here as an intern?”
“I want to travel the world and teach English. That’s always been my plan.”
“Since I was five. I used to teach my stuffed animals.”
He smirks, and I’m wondering if I should have said that. Was this an interview? I couldn’t really tell. Rupert was wearing a pair of jeans and a long sleeve navy blue shirt. His sideburns were so distracting I could barely concentrate on the questions.
“Well, the position I have is for an intern, so it’s temporary, and I can’t pay you.”
I want to ask him why he can’t pay a struggling college student if he’s so wealthy, but bite my tongue. Perhaps Taysom can tell me later. The words I can’t pay you send a little shock of electricity through me, restarting my anxiety over the future. I’d expected it, but harbored hope all the same.
He gestures around with a sweep of his hand. “Most of what you would be doing in the beginning is getting this place put together. I’ve ordered some file cabinets and a few other office supplies—what I think we can fit in here, anyway—so I’ll expect you to do all that. After that’s done, we’ll figure something else out. I’ll likely be having you set up video conferences, some interviews with prospective candidates, and doing the paperwork and mail part, of course. Don’t worry. I won’t send you out for coffee or act like Meryl Streep.”
While an internship at its core was never meant to be a glamorous job, I had held some dreams that it would entail a little more than just paperwork. I smile all the same. I’m just grateful for any chance to get closer to some other part of the world.
“Thanks,” I say.
“Is all that all right with you?” he asks, melding his fingers together.
“Yes, of course.”
“Then you start tomorrow.”
My eyes nearly bug out of my head. “Tomorrow?”
“You can start tonight if you want.” He motions to the reception desk with a jerk of his head. “The new organizational supplies are out there. We’ll keep track of your hours on a timecard so you can get credit for them later if you need it.”
My mouth goes dry. I’m not ready for any of this. “I-I’m sorry, but I can’t today. I have a few other things going on.”
He shrugs. “No problem.”
He chuckles. “Relax, Anna. This is an office for a not for profit organization, okay? This isn’t some scary New York internship that’s going to decide the rest of your life. Besides, I’m just setting it up before I hire someone else to run it in the next couple of weeks.”
“Sure,” I say, trying to appear more relaxed. “I’ll . . . yeah. I get it. What time do you want me to come in?”
He looks around, as if he’s trying to find something, then pats his chest, but has no pockets.
“Oh, I don’t know. I pop in and out whenever I can, so you’ll be mostly working on your own. Just come in whenever, and leave me a schedule for when to expect you the rest of the week. I’ll try to draw something up so you can help me coordinate stuff.”
A physical feeling of disappointment washes over me. Working alone? Organizing files? Would I do anything with the teachers, the students, or dare I even hope, the contacts in foreign countries? Despite my best attempts, I’d let my daydreams run too wild the night before, and now I was paying for it in disappointment today. Ma had warned me about this.
“Sure,” I say. “I’ll leave you some information.”
He stands, hand outstretched, a loose grin on his face. “Good to meet you, Anna. I think you’ll be a good fit at GoTeachGo.”
I smile. “Thanks. I appreciate you giving me the position.”
He pulls a ring of keys out of his pocket, shimmies one off, and flips it into my hand.
“Make sure to lock the door behind you when you leave,” he says, settling back into his chair just as the phone rings. “Wouldn’t want all this paperwork to just disappear, would we now? Oh, and don’t dress up just for this place. I prefer to keep it casual. Well kept people make me nervous.”
“Well?” Sophie asks, her head popping up above the open refrigerator door. “How did the interview with GoTeachGo go?” She giggles, like she’s just told her own joke. “Go go,” she repeats under her breath, and twirls away from the fridge with another laugh, shutting it with a blithe kick of her tiny ankle.
She’s holding a bottle of mustard and mayo in her hands. Two pieces of a crusty brown bread that she’d kneaded by hand and baked the night before lay open on the counter. My mouth waters because the smell of fresh, home cooked bread still lingers in the air, but I grab a small bag of carrots instead. Sophie’s wearing a black, knee length skirt and a blouse that likely cost more than my entire outfit combined. A string of pearls shine around her neck with a metallic white gleam.
“The interview went fine, I think,” I say, setting my bag to the side. “Do you have to go somewhere today or something? You look really nice.”
She glances down and her forehead wrinkles. “No,” she says, lifting a perfectly manicured eyebrow. “This is just the outfit I chose. Why?”
“Oh, no reason,” I say, forcing nonchalance. She looks like Audrey Hepburn on a normal day, and I’m just trying to convince myself not to slip into a robe and bunny slippers at three in the afternoon.
“So . . .” she drawls while squirting a hearty amount of mayo and mustard on the bread slices. “Did you get the internship?”
I sit on one of our kitchen chairs, gratified that she’d remembered my interview—which I hadn’t made a big deal of because I still wasn’t sure I’d made the right decision—and a little excited that she seemed to want to be friends. Girls like Sophie didn’t pay much attention to girls like me in high school. Then again, Sophie doesn’t seem like the kind of girl to go to a normal high school. Despite the inconvenience of hearing her hum herself to sleep at night while she listened to her iPod, Sophie was proving a better roommate than I’d expected.
“Yes,” I said, crunching into a baby carrot. “I did get the internship.”
“Congratulations!” she cries. Within moments she’s dancing toward me on the tips of her toes and her slender little arms find their way around my shoulders. “That’s very exciting!”
“Oh, yeah, thanks.”
She pulls away, brow furrowed. “You don’t seem that excited.”
She returns to her sandwich and presses the two slices, decorated with only the two condiments, together. When she takes a bite, her closed eyelids flutter as if she’s in heaven.
“Uh . . . excited? Yeah, no, I’m definitely excited. I just . . . I can’t keep working at the deli counter and do this internship, which means I won’t be making as much money. Or any, really.”
Sophie frowns and pats delicately at her lips with a napkin. She’s sitting at the table with her back straight, her feathered layers of dark hair fanning her face in a way that makes her appear delicate and vulnerable at the same time.
“You need money?”
My eyes travel to the latest weekly issue of World Traveler sitting on the table next to us. “Do I ever,” I say under my breath.
I swallow another mouthful of carrot and push the bag away. They’re as appetizing as sandpaper, but I’ve already lost five pounds and don’t want to lose traction. The disappointment I felt regarding my internship, however, made every bad food I’d ever eaten seem like a good idea. Diving face first into a fresh loaf of bread sounded like a great distraction from my worries.
I’d naively thought that doing something risky like giving up a steady income in order to pursue a passion would make me feel carefree and alive. Instead, all I felt was more anxiety and frustration. Was growing up always going to be this complicated? It never looked this difficult in the movies.
“What do you need the money for?” Sophie asks, this time tearing a piece of the sandwich off. She’s dainty in almost everything she does, like a living porcelain doll.
“My life,” I say, leaning back. Sophie’s eyes widen.
“And all I want to do with it,” I say, leaning forward. To my surprise, it feels good to say it out loud, so I keep going. “I have big ideas. Big ones. I want to climb in the Himalayas. I want to teach in Russia. I want to do everything my parents never did. Things like see the Taj Mahal and ride an elephant and see the tulip fields in Holland and . . .”
I trail off with a sigh. If I don’t stop listing my plans now, I likely never will. My bucket list is miles long. To my surprise, Sophie’s face is infused with something that I can only label as joy.
“How wonderful!” she cries. “You have plans for your life. I love hearing about them. Tell me more. What about your parents?”
A switch inside me turns on automatically, and the hair on the back of my neck stands up. I can’t help the defensive tone of my voice. “What about them?”
“Can’t they help you with money?”
I scoff. “No. They hardly have enough to get by. They can only afford to pay for two semesters of college for me, then I’m on my own. If I can’t pay for more, Ma says I have to work at her seamstress shop.”
Sophie’s eyebrows rise. “Do you want to?”
The idea of simply not doing what Ma commands has never entered my mind. Obedience had never been optional growing up.
“I just need to earn the money,” I say, sidestepping her suggestion because it frightens me for all the wrong, or perhaps right, reasons. “If I can earn the money on my own, I can keep going.”
A look flickers across her eyes I’m not sure how to read, but it looks like disappointment or even disapproval. No one disapproved of Ma. I wondered if I’d simply read her wrong.
“Oh,” she murmurs, her eyes averted. “That’s too bad.”
I straighten, not wanting to dwell on my parents. Thinking of Ma too much just makes the words sensible Anna ring back through my head, so I shut them off before they can have too much of an effect.
“I’ll just have to find another job,” I say with a shrug. “I’m sure the college must have something. Or . . . somewhere.”
Sophie presses her lips together. She’s openly staring at me, her mayo-and-mustard sandwich forgotten. I can hardly read her expression, she’s rotated through so many different emotions during our short conversation.
“You’re very brave, Anna.”
“Brave?” I say. “I’m not brave. I . . . I’m just trying to get through college.”
“Yes. Exactly. You’re obviously willing to do whatever you have to do to achieve your dreams, even if that means you have to work two jobs and go to school full time. I think that’s incredibly brave.”
She smiles, and I can’t help but feel flattered. I’ve never felt brave. I’ve never sailed the world by myself, nor travelled, or even left the state. All the documentaries I’ve watched, the books I’ve read, the blogs I’ve followed, had people far more adventurous and courageous than me doing things I wasn’t sure I’d ever have the stomach for. Bravery didn’t have anything to do with the mundane, did it? But, then again, they had to start somewhere. Perhaps those people were lowly college freshmen once too.
“Thanks,” I say, my nose wrinkling. “But I hardly think applying for a job as a late night janitor is going to be very brave. Or,” I add, with another cringe, “telling my boss that I have to quit.”
She tears off another piece of sandwich and pops it in her mouth. “You’ll figure it out,” she says, like making life decisions is the easiest thing to do. “We may have just met, but I have a good feeling about you, Anna Buchanan. And I’m never wrong.”
With a parting smile, she drops the rest of her sandwich in a bag, tosses it in the fridge, and disappears into the music room. The sound of a violin soon fills the emptiness that seems to encompass the room in her absence.
The week passes quickly. Between resigning at the deli counter, sifting through miles of paper at GoTeachGo, and getting an application as a night janitor for the college finalized, I forget about my plans with Chase on Friday until I see him on my last shift at the deli counter Friday night.
“Traitor,” he says while approaching me, and his eyes look genuinely wounded. He’s wearing a navy blue shirt beneath the hideous aprons we have to wear, and it brings out the lighter tones of his eyes.
“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up!” I say, holding my hands in the air, palms out, like a surrender. “I promise. I can’t work here and do the internship.”
A line of five people are waiting for sandwiches, so I don a pair of sticky plastic gloves. “I’ll explain it tonight. I swear.”
He waves me off, and though he does seem upset, I can tell he’s not truly angry, so I step into work with a sense of relief. The last thing I’d want to do is hurt Chase’s feelings.
“Your problem is that you aren’t using the parenthesis right,” I tell him later that night. He’s bustling around my kitchen, the aromatic fragrance of onions and olive oil following him. Lines of concentration fill his brow while he stands at the stove. He’s so natural in the kitchen, so at ease, that I hardly recognize him as the stumbling, occasionally awkward boy that I work with so often.
“How am I using them wrong?” he asks, but sounds distracted.
I frown and peruse his paperwork again. “You’re not really using them at all, I think. It’s an easy fix. I can explain it as soon as we’re done eating.”
“Thanks. I hate math.”
“What are you making?” I ask, unfolding myself from the table and peering into a bubbling pan of something.
“Chicken cordon bleu with a parmesan cream sauce and roasted broccoli brushed with avocado oil.”
“You had me at parmesan,” I say, closing my eyes and inhaling a deep breath. The sweet scent of garlic drifts through my nose.
“What’s this?” Chase asks, turning my newest issue of World Traveler magazine toward him. It’s buried beneath layers of books and homework that he has to peel away.
“Oh, it’s my favorite magazine.”
“Of course,” he says, grinning. The pages whir slightly as he flips through it. “You would read something like this. Remember that one really slow night we spent an hour googling must-see-places in Europe?”
I smile. “Of course.”
“Do you still have the list?”
I sit down with a little flourish that would make Sophie jealous. “In my room, of course. I’d never throw something like that away.”
He glances at me through his soft, light eyelashes. “Is that why you were always picking up extra shifts? To earn money to do all that?”
I nod. “My plan is to get a degree in English, get my teaching certificate, and travel the world teaching English in third world countries.”
“Nice. You should look into the Peace Corps.”
“Also an option.”
He steps across the kitchen to stir his delicious confection bubbling like a witches potion, giving me a second to glimpse the cover of the magazine. The Sistine Chapel. I tuck the magazine away to read later. The door flies open and Sophie announces herself with an exaggerated song.
My heart leaps into my throat again when Tony moves in behind her. The two of them look like a movie star couple. Sophie’s hair blows in the wind, stacking itself in messy perfection around her face. She stops in the middle of the doorway, blinking, her eyes on Chase. I fumble to my feet, feeling suddenly frumpy even though I’d spent twenty minutes picking this outfit.
“Oh,” Sophie drawls, flipping her purse onto the couch. “Hello. I’m Sophie, Anna’s new roommate. Who are you?”
Chase wipes his hand on his apron and extends his hand. Tony moves into the room like a Greek god, his dark eyes flashing when he smiles and shakes Chase’s hand.
“I’m her coworker, and friend, Chase. Good to meet you.”
Sophie’s pert little nose, of which I’m still very jealous, sniffs the air. “Ooh. Do I detect a hint of parmesan?”
“Yes,” Chase says. “Well done!” I don’t care for the admiration in his tone at all and cut in between the two of them.
“We’re just fixing dinner and working on homework,” I say. A knot rises in my throat and I force a smile, looking to Tony. “How was your date this evening?”
Sophie smiles. “Lovely, of course. Tony always has good ideas.” She puts a hand on Tony’s arm and says to him, “Just give me a second to change for dinner and I’ll be right out. I just wanted to change after the recital.”
“Recital?” I ask.
“Mm hmm,” she hums, and disappears into the back. I’m tempted to follow her, but stay where I am, eyes on Tony, and dream of running my hands through his hair. A dark shadow fills his perfectly sculpted face with stubble that’s too perfect to be accidental. Chase accidentally drops an empty pan and the crashing sound breaks my reverie.
“Where are you taking her for dinner?” I ask, banishing the thoughts by diverting my gaze elsewhere.
“That’s my uncle’s restaurant,” Chase says, turning a dial on the stove top. “Do you two have reservations?”
Tony grimaces. “No. We’re hoping we don’t have to wait too long for a Friday night.”
Chase pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. “Don’t worry about it,” he says. “I’ll call them and have them prep a table now.”
“Thanks,” Tony says, grinning. “We appreciate that.”
“Anything for a friend of Anna’s,” Chase says, shrugging it off, and turns away to talk into the phone.
Sophie reappears wearing a stunning, but simple, cocktail dress, that matches perfectly with Tony’s own high class attire. I tug at my shirt, feeling like a smurf amongst royalty.
“Ready,” she cries, clutching a matching handbag.
“Have fun,” I say. Chase and Tony exchange another firm handshake, and we’re left alone just minutes later. I look to Chase.
“That was really nice of you,” I said. “Thanks.”
He smiles, smushing all his dimples together and brightening his eyes. “No problem. Dinner’s ready. Want to eat?”
My stomach growls. “Food first, school later,” I say, snatching up my fork as he pulls my chair out for me. “Let’s eat and then talk about math.”
Sophie emerges from our bedroom the next morning a rumpled mess. It’s the first time I’ve seen her look less than perfect, and I’m glad to see she’s human. Her hair is a tangled nest, her makeup smeared, and shirt askew. She drops into a chair.
“How was the date with Tony?” I ask.
“It’s a lovely restaurant,” she says through a yawn. Her gaze flickers over to mine, and she seems sad. “Though the date itself could have gone better.”
I grimace and grab an empty cup out of the cupboard behind me to pour her a cup of tea. She accepts the steaming cup with a half-hearted smile. “Something go wrong with Tony?”
Her lips tremble. “Perhaps. Did you . . . did I keep you up last night?”
“Keep me up?”
She looks down at her cup of tea and I notice for the first time faint tear tracks down her cheeks. “Crying, I mean. Did I bother you?”
“No, no. I didn’t hear anything. Do you want to talk about it?”
“No,” she says, resolute. “Not yet. It’s not . . . it’s not over between Tony and I yet. He’ll . . . he’ll get with me later. Let’s talk about something else. Chase! Let’s talk about him. He’s wonderful!”
My phone rings before I can suggest a different topic. The idea of talking about Chase with Sophie makes me prickle inside, and I’m not sure why. I don’t want to share him with her, likely for fear I won’t get him back. I accept the call.
Sophie’s expression brightens. “Your mother?” she mouths. I nod.
“Are you coming over to do laundry?” Ma asks. “I made some cranberry orange bread.”
“Yeah, I’m coming in an hour or so.”
Sophie’s eyes widen so far she looks like an owl. “She’s here in town?” she asks quietly. “Oh, I want to meet her!”
“I’m bringing my new roommate Sophie,” I tell Ma. If anyone looked like they could use a little mothering, Sophie did. “We’ll see you soon.”
“Mrs. Buchanan, it’s wonderful to meet you.”
Sophie enters my house with all the grace of a princess, and I can’t help but feel irrational panic at the thought of her meeting my father. He centers himself on his recliner as soon as work ended, and only leaves for dire emergencies like running out of powdered donut holes. I pray that his pants are buttoned. It’s the least I can ask for.
Ma smiles, her lipstick-smeared teeth pearly white from the new toothpaste she’s been trying. She’s texted me about it every morning.
“Wonderful to meet you as well!” Ma says, taking Sophie’s outstretched hand. “Come in, come in. I’ll get you girls something to eat. I’m sure you’re hungry.”
Ma motions to the table, and Sophie complies, falling under Ma’s wing like a broken little bird. Sophie had been quiet on the way over, only occasionally asking questions about my parents while we walked. I carried my laundry in a bag on my back, wishing I had enough money for a car.
“I’m originally from Florida,” Sophie says as we enter the kitchen. Pop is in his chair, yelling at a sportscaster, but Sophie doesn’t seem to have noticed yet.
“Florida?” Ma cries. “It’s so warm down there.”
“Yes,” Sophie says with a long sigh. “I miss it. But I came up here for college because I like their music program.”
I realize that I haven’t even asked Sophie about herself, and we’ve been living together for nearly a week. So much for being a good roommate in return.
“What instrument do you play?” Ma asks while grabbing an odd array of food from the fridge and setting it on the counter. I eye the ingredients. Corned beef. Cabbage. Ma’s going to put together her favorite food of all: a Reuben sandwich. The multicolored rye bread comes out last, and I’m already drooling with hunger.
“Oh, this and that,” Sophie says with a little wave of her hand. “I also sing.”
“Really?” Ma and I ask at the same time. Sophie nods.
“Sing a show tune,” Ma says, leaning forward. “I love show tunes.”
Without hesitation, as if she’s asked something like this every day, Sophie bursts into a song from South Pacific, which ironically happens to be one of Ma’s favorites. I’m immediately pulled in by the strength and melody of her voice. Both Ma and I stare, open mouthed. Sophie finishes the song early. Ma’s jaw drops.
“Sophie!” she stammers, her hands flapping. “You’re wonderful!”
A light blush rises on Sophie’s cheeks, and I find myself wishing it was possible to dislike her.
“Thank you,” she says with a little bow. A shadow clouds the doorway, and all three of us look up to see Pop standing in the doorframe, his grizzled eyebrows lower over his dark eyes.
“David,” Ma says, motioning toward Sophie. “Meet your daughter’s new roommate, Sophie. She’s going to come have Thanksgiving dinner with us in a few weeks.”
Ma looks to Sophie for confirmation. Sophie lights up. “Yes!” she cries, and for a second I detect a sheen of moisture in her eyes. “Yes, of course!”
Pop grunts. He’s openly studying her, but she meets his gaze without guile. “Sounds fine,” he says and disappears into the hall, muttering under his breath indistinctly.
“That’s the warmest greeting any of my friends has ever had,” I say, looking to Ma, who agrees with a nod. “But Sophie, are you sure about Thanksgiving? What about spending it with your family?”
A quick flash of something momentarily clouds her expression, but quickly slips away. Sophie chuckles, but there’s a nervous edge behind it.
“Oh, don’t worry about them. They won’t even miss me this year. Then I won’t have to worry about flying home and . . . the cost.”
Despite the fact she’s never once flaunted or spoke of it, I’m already positive that she comes from a wealthy family, so I don’t believe her comment regarding their financial situation. But Pop is lumbering back into the room, so I don’t have room to quiz her on it further. For being so sweet and innocent, she’s certainly reticent.
“I smell corned beef,” Pop says as he walks by. “Make me a sandwich!”
“Make it yourself!” Ma calls back, but she’s already setting out enough bread for everyone. Sophie’s phone sings a little chord, and her face pales. She pulls it out of her pocket, flips it open, and blinks several times. Even my stomach flips for her. Tony must have texted. I slip to her side while Ma chatters to no one, discussing a new pair of pants she’s hemming.
“Is it from Tony?” I ask. She nods. My heart squeezes for her, despite my secret crush on her boyfriend. “Is it over between the two of you?”
Does Tony break things off with Sophie?
If there's a book you really want to read but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.