When Anna found herself pregnant and completely on her own at seventeen, she vowed she would build a dream life for her and her child. After her parents kicked her out, she moved to Seattle, where she found a job at a bakery. Now her child is three years old, and with the support of a couple who have become her surrogate parents, she has almost finished college. Her dream life is almost within reach, but a medical crisis and the unexpected return of her child’s father threaten to tear down everything she has fought so hard to build. Will Anna lose everything she’s ever wanted, or will she finally get to live her dreams?
Age Rating: 18+
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“Anna Johnson?” The professor asks, taking attendance. I lift my head up from my notebook and look him in the eye.
“Present,” I say, raising my hand.
He writes it down, making sure that he doesn't miss anyone.
The class is somewhat boring—economics. But I’m twenty-one and only in my second year of college, so everybody seems to think that I am stupid. Which I am not.
Every student here is nineteen, or twenty at most, but I didn’t have the privilege of studying right away. I had to work to get where I am. To be able to afford college.
I worked double shifts every day for two years before I could register for college and still live somewhat comfortably.
If it wasn’t for my two jobs and the extra shifts, I wouldn’t be here. I work in a little bakery not far from my home; I also do shifts at a cafe on the weekends.
Now that I am in college, they understand that I can’t work every weekend anymore. They respect that, I only have to go in one of the days, and not for the late shift—I do the lunch shift every Sunday.
It doesn’t pay as much as a night shift, but I don’t need that kind of cash anymore. Well, sometimes I do, but then I just ask for an extra shift. I know that I need this degree if I am going to have a better future.
I still work at the bakery every morning. I start at 5 a.m. and work till nine before heading to school. After school I go back to the bakery and start making the pastries for the next day.
I always knew I was good in a kitchen, and I’m very good with pies and such. This job was what I knew, and the bakery, along with the people who took me under their wing, has saved me on more than one occasion.
As the class goes on and on, I feel the stares of the other students boring holes in my back as I ask questions. Sorry peeps, but I actually want to graduate soon.
You see, I would normally be able to graduate this year.
I only need to take this class and Business 3.1 to get my business degree and graduate. I am not looking forward to this year. I have more classes, which means less time at home.
My beautiful little home. I bought the house for almost nothing as it needed lots of renovations. It’s the reason I bought it in the first place. With some cheap materials and money, I made it into my little home.
Believe me, it isn't much, but with the help of my work at the bakery, I will be able to pay it off.
It had been my boss’s house. They moved into the apartment above the bakery to be closer, and since their kids are all grown they didn’t need that much room anymore.
I only have to pay the same as I had been paying for my apartment each month, and I’m proud to say that I have almost paid them back.
I don’t like charity. I can make it on my own, and that’s why they accepted a reasonable price for the place. Even if they didn’t want to.
“Class dismissed,” says Professor Stanford.
“Anna Johnson, stay behind please.” The oohs fill the room, but I know why he’s asking me to stay.
Let them think I’m in trouble. It will fill their minds with all the gossip they want, since none of them actually know me. They don’t like the fact that I’m older and I don’t socialize.
So if they need gossip to stay away from me, that’s fine by me.
The most hurtful gossip I have heard is that I was in a mental hospital for two years, and that’s the reason I’m only now in school. Like, do I really look that crazy?
I’m just a normal girl with light brown hair with brown eyes. I do have curves, but it’s not like I’m fat.
My eyes are my most attractive feature—the color of them is how you might describe the color of a deer. Very light brown, almost amber.
I never really liked my curves much since they appeared when I was in high school.
In high school, I had been shy. I’d had a hard time because they would tease me about my curves. I have thighs, so what? I had to learn to love my body. At sixteen I didn't have any self-esteem.
They were so mean to me that I came home crying. It broke me. And the fact that my parents were so religious gave them even more ammo to bully me.
Over the years, my skin got thicker and I got over the fact that the other kids didn’t think I was good enough. I like to think they were just jealous. I grew a mouth too—I won't let anyone walk all over me anymore.
But I don’t mind the gossip. I think it’s funny, the stories they’ve come up with just because I am older.
I do get that I look different.
Apart from being older, I don’t have the money to buy myself fancy clothes like some of them do. And with the lack of sleep because of my job, I must look like a zombie coming straight out of a movie.
But like I said, I don’t give a fuck.
I walk toward Professor Stanford. He walks past me and closes the door.
“Anna, how are you?”
“I'm fine, Jim.” The look on his face is telling me more than it should. I roll my eyes at him, knowing where this is going.
“She’s fine, Jim. Why don’t you and Auntie Liz come over for dinner tonight? Then you can see for yourself.”
“It was quite the scare, Anna.” I sigh, it's true.
A couple of weeks ago, my baby girl had to go to the hospital. She fell down the stairs and hit her head.
She had to have a couple of stitches, and right after that she had pneumonia due to the cold weather, or so they say. So she couldn’t come home for five days.
Jim’s wife, Elizabeth, was watching her, like she does almost every day, when she fell. She felt so bad, but it wasn’t her fault.
I know most moms—definitely most young moms—would have had a huge fit, but Olivia had climbed over the baby gate.
She knows she shouldn’t do that. I had warned her every damn time, but I guess she’s like her father. She needs to find out for herself that something might not be a good idea.
“Liz feels so bad,” Jim says.
“Come over and see for yourself! She's fine. She’s just like her father—she needs to find things out on her own, even if that means falling down the stairs. It just happened to be Auntie Liz there instead of me.
“It would’ve happened either way—Olivia likes to try everything for herself. The pneumonia was a big scare, that’s true, but her breathing is fine now. The antibiotics have kicked in, she’s almost finished them.”
He sighs in relief and raises an eyebrow.
“Just like her father, huh?”
I clamp my hand over my mouth. I never talk about her father—I don’t even think of him anymore. He doesn’t deserve the honor. Well, not really.
“Anna, no. I don’t know who he is, and to be honest, if I find out he’ll get what comes his way. If karma doesn’t do it, then Uncle Jim will,” he says, pointing to himself. I shake my head.
“Uncle Jim, don’t, please. It’s not his fault.” I sigh. A part of it is, my conscience tells me.
“I don't know much, Anna, but I do know you are raising your baby girl all alone. Nobody should do this on their own.”
I sigh deeply. “He doesn't know…,” I mutter under my breath, staring at my feet.
“What do you mean, he doesn’t know?”
I shake my head. He sounds so disappointed…I can’t have him disappointed in me. He means too much to me and Olivia.
“He doesn’t know. He got the chance of a lifetime—his dream job. I told him to go chase his dreams like ‘the good girlfriend’ I was. I only found out a couple of weeks later that I was pregnant.”
“Didn’t you try to call him?”
“I tried to get in touch with him, but let’s just say he wasn’t interested.”
“How do you know?”
“He promised to stay in touch when we broke up. If he wanted to stay in touch, why would he change his phone number?”
Uncle Jim's face is turning red from anger.
“It's fine, Jim. I'm fine. Olivia is fine. I don't need him, and neither does she. I wasn’t even surprised when I found out his number changed.
“It's just something he would do—a new start, not thinking about the consequences.”
“Go to your next class. But just so you know, you deserved better, Anna,” he says with a smile as I make my way toward the door.
“I know, but I wouldn’t want to change a thing. See you tonight, 7 p.m.? It’s pasta night.” That makes his face light up.
“Oh, we’ll be there. Your pasta is the best.” I smile at him as I leave the room.
I walk toward my next class, Business 3.1. I know I’m late, but it doesn’t matter. Half of the students in the class know I had to stay behind. And they will definitely tell the teacher about it since it’s the latest gossip.
I rush over to the classroom and knock on the door.
“Enter,” a dark voice says. Why does that voice sound so familiar? But that could be the fact that I had this teacher for the past six months. But it doesn’t sound at all like my female teacher.
I open the door and walk in without looking at the person in front of me.
I close the door behind me. I turn around, coming face-to-face with the one person I had never wanted to see again.
“Shit!” I say, too loudly, as I stand there face-to-face with my ex-boyfriend, James-Freaking-Brown.
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I stood there, eye-to-eye with the one person I had never wanted to see again.
What the fuck is he doing here?
“Miss Johnson, so nice of you to join us,” my teacher, Professor Peterson, says. I turn my head toward the sound of the voice.
“Sorry, Professor. Professor Stanford asked me to stay a little bit longer to talk about a paper I wrote,” I lie through my teeth. I’m careful not to make any nervous movements that might let her know I’m lying.
“I know. Your classmates have been kind enough to tell us.” I nod and make my way toward my seat in the front row—without looking at the person in the front.
“As I was saying, this is James Brown, CEO of the JB corporation in New York. They just opened a new office right here in Seattle, and they are looking for fresh minds to work for the company.
“Since some of you will be graduating this year, I asked James to come here and say a few words about the corporation,” she says, looking right at me.
I ignore James. I don’t want to see him. He’s starting a new office right here? When he left me four years ago, he had the chance to be the CEO of a new company.
Now it looks like he bought the company. Damn it, he’s here in Seattle.
James starts talking about the company, and indeed it does sound like a great opportunity. If I was being honest, I would ask for a job interview since I’ll be graduating soon.
But since it’s with him, I don’t really want to. I don’t want to work under him—hell, no. I know what I want to do.
About an hour later, he asks if we have questions. The students start throwing questions out. Some are about the company, but most are just questions to get to know him. Like, “How old are you?” and “Do you have a girlfriend?”
Why even sit through this class if all you can do is flirt?
Suddenly the teacher’s voice is running through my head. Why would I be thinking about that?
“Anna? Miss Johnson? ANNA!” the teacher yells, snapping me out of my daydream.
“Yes?” I ask innocently.
“I’ve been trying to get your attention for five minutes. Everything okay?” I nod.
“Sorry. I was just writing everything down,” I tell her, kind of honestly.
“I did ask Mr. Brown to give you an interview since you’ll be graduating soon.” My eyes widen and I look for the first time at James. He smirks. Like I would actually need help.
“That’s very kind of you, Professor, but that won’t be necessary,” I tell her with a smile.
“How so?” she asks me.
“I already have a job,” I tell her. And it’s true, I do have my job at the bakery. I will even be taking the business over in a couple of years. I plan to try to brand it out.
“Oh. Well, it never hurt anybody to have a backup plan,” she says with a smile. She doesn’t know my situation. Actually, no one in the faculty knows, except for Jim.
Jim and Liz took me under their wing when Olivia was about six months old. I didn’t get to stay around my little hometown, so I moved to Seattle with my savings from my multiple jobs.
Since I couldn’t graduate high school there, I had to take online classes in order to get my high school diploma.
When I told my parents I was pregnant, they threw me out. I went to my aunt at first, but she wasn’t very happy to have me. She knew I needed a place to stay, so she helped me out for a couple of weeks.
She took me to a center for single moms where they helped me out. I thanked my aunt, but she also threw me out as soon as I had some money to live on my own.
I thought she loved me, but the way she treated me was just petty.
Now I don’t talk to anyone in my family. I have a new one, instead. A family I wished I had grown up in.
James and I met when I was still in high school. He was in college and a couple of years older than me. I was fifteen and he was eighteen.
So when he got his chance to make it big and get out of this town, I said I was going to be okay. And I was—until I wasn’t. They say you never forget your first love. It’s true.
But what they don’t say is how much you will hate him afterward. God, and I did—I hated the fact that he didn’t love me enough to stay in touch. I hated that I felt used.
My heart broke into thousands of pieces when I found out he changed his phone number. I really thought he loved me. Guess I was wrong.
“No, that’s true. Thank you so much, Professor, but the contract is already signed, so there’s not much I can do about it.” She sighs.
“Okay, then. Congratulations, you’ll do great in this world.”
I smile at her and go back to taking notes.
After a couple more questions from the class, she dismisses us. I pack up my things and head quickly toward the door. But his voice stops me in my tracks.
“Miss Johnson, please stay.” I roll my eyes at the formality of his tone.
Dude, we were together for two years.
The others give me angry glances as they make their way out of the classroom.
“What are you looking at?!” I say angrily to some of them. Their faces change at my angry tone and they leave me with James and my professor, closing the door behind them.
“I don’t have anything to say to you, sir. Now if you don’t mind, I have to go,” I say in a tone as professional as the one he used with me.
“Now, Anna, that’s not very polite,” my teacher says, disappointed.
“Sorry, ma’am, but I have to go. I do have a job to go to,” I say apologetically.
“Oh, you have to go to work?” I nod.
“Yep. Just like every day.”
“Oh. Well, what time do you start?” The teachers are aware that I work multiple jobs to make ends meet. They don’t know about Olivia, though. It’s none of their business.
But after showing up tired a couple of times I had to give them some background information—then they understood.
Sometimes they’ll give me an extension on a paper if I need it. I don’t like it, but sometimes I don’t have a choice. I still look like I work twenty-four seven, and I don’t have the fanciest clothes.
Every penny I make goes into our future. And by “our,” I mean Olivia’s.
“In a half-hour.” She nods.
“Well, this will only take ten minutes, and the bakery is five minutes away.” I nod. Damn it.
“Bakery?” James asks.
“Yes, sir.” I pull my backpack on my shoulder with the same arrogant tone.
“Damn it, Anna…,” he says angrily.
“What is it, James? What could you possibly want from me?” I answer him angrily.
“ANNA!” The teacher says, surprised and angered by my tone.
“It’s okay, I deserved it.”
“Good to know that you do remember me,” I say with the same angry tone. The teacher looks at us with a funny expression.
“You two know each other,” she concludes.
“Yes,” James says.
“Kind of,” I tell her at the same time.
“Don’t!” I yell. He shivers at my tone—he hasn’t seen me like this. Not ever. God, maybe it’s for the best that he remembers me this way. Angry.
“I need to get home and change, so please just tell me what you want so I can do that.”
“I just wanted to know if you really didn’t need the job.”
“I said I didn’t, so why ask?”
“Because I know you.” I start laughing.
“Know me? Ha! You KNEW me four years ago. A lot has changed.”
“I can see that,” he says, looking at me.
“James, don’t do that,” the teacher warns him.
“She just looks so different. Her parents have it pretty comfortable. I don’t understand why she looks like this or why she is in this college. No offense,” he states, raising his hands defensively toward the professor.
This makes me so angry. The teacher shakes her head at him when he mentions my parents. My face must be telling him how angry I’m getting.
“What did I say?” I breathe in and out deeply.
“Like I said, a lot has changed. It’s none of your business, but I know you—and because I never want to see you again, I’ll tell you.”
He sighs and nods in my direction. A smirk slides into place.
“My parents kicked me out four years ago.” The smirk drops.
“They did what?! When? How? Why?” The angry questions keep coming.
James had never liked my parents. They were too strict—not letting us spend time together, telling me how to dress, and sending me on dates with good Christian boys.
Who were so disgusting. They were pigs.
“I told you what you wanted to know, James. You turned your back at me four years ago. You left without a text to tell me you were okay.
“You didn’t stay in touch like you promised. I guess I don’t deserve that kind of love after all.” He looks at me with a bewildered expression, like I just made him realize the effect he had had on me.
I shake my head at the memory of the nickname. He had always called me A, rarely Anna.
“Just respect this please. It’s the least you can do.”
“If you loved me like you claimed, you’d leave me the hell alone!” I yell at him, trying to keep the tears at bay.
“I don’t want to see you anymore,” I added. I leave the classroom, ignoring my teacher who was calling me back. I leave the building in a hurry and head straight home.
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