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+
I’m running, running past the main courtyard.
Pushing people out of my way as I go as fast as my feet can take me.
They look at me like I’m some crazy person, but I ignore their stares as I’m already so late.
As I’m running past the bell tower, I know I’m close.
Before I know it, I’m entering the building. Adrenaline pumping my legs and heart forward faster than they ever have before. I ignore the burning sensation I feel as if my muscles are about to give out.
So far, to make a good first impression…
Today we have a new professor in class. I don’t know who it is, only that he or she is here for a couple of sessions. To back up, Professor Peterson. As she is going through some personal things.
As far as I know, she’ll still be here today for this lecture.
Abruptly I halt at the wooden door, the door to the main atrium. I burst through the door without thinking twice.
I feel a hundred pairs of eyes on me as I lean against the door. Closing my eyes as I try to catch my breath, panting loudly.
“How nice of you to join us, miss. But you are late.” The dark voice says, annoyed.
It feels familiar… The voice, I mean. It reminds me of him…. As the voice does the exact same thing as it did back then, it shakes me to the core.
But it can’t be him. He’s somewhere. Making the world his own, claiming it as he leaves everything and everyone behind, in nothing more than little pieces of what they once were.
That’s the effect he has on everything around him. The effect he had on me.
“I know, I’m sorry,” I say politely, hoping to still make a good impression, without opening my eyes or acknowledging the person before me as I’m still out of breath.
“Don’t just stand there. Find a seat.” He says in a harsh dismissing tone. I feel it rumble to my core once more.
That must be the assistant professor.
Great job, Anna. I scold myself, knowing that this person could open so many doors for my future, as Professor Peterson said.
I open my eyes.
My breath staggers in the back of my throat as I meet the most gorgeous green eyes I ever laid eyes on. I’m catapulted into the past, where those green eyes belong.
From the shock, I lose my balance for one second, meeting the wooden door with my shoulder as I fall against it.
It is him…. It really is…. James
I shake my head no. It can’t be him.
He… He left.
He left…. Me.
I lift my head once more, sneaking another look.
It is him.
The same short brown haircut, the same broad shoulders. The same small pink lips I loved to kiss.
He, too, looks shocked, looking at my shoulder with a tad of worry, but only for a second. Not even a moment later, he shakes his head in a disapproving manner, acts like this just didn’t happen, and goes on with the lecture.
How can he act like he doesn’t know me like he didn’t do what he did?
Feeling embarrassed enough, I make my way to an empty seat.
The front row is empty like it always is, so I take a seat there. I like sitting in the front row. It reminds me why I am here.
Getting my degree.
As I sit down, I feel how the sweat rolls, cools down, and sticks to my body. I’m smelly, more than I normally am, coming from work, and it gives the students behind me more reason to gossip.
They think I don’t hear them, but I do.
But I choose not to let it bother me. I know I’m different than most, and they can’t handle it.
Every student here is nineteen, or twenty at most, but I didn’t have the privilege of studying immediately after graduating high school. Most of them don’t have to work to be here; they have a scholarship or parents to pay for everything.
Once upon a time, I had a great scholarship to a great school, as well, but that ship sailed a long time ago.
A lot of people would say my getting a late start or losing my scholarship is my own fault. And, of course, they are right. I made the decision to go through with the pregnancy.
Not that there was a choice to be made, for me, at least.
It gave me the best thing in the world, Olivia, my beautiful daughter. Even if I had to do it alone in the beginning, making it hard.
I chose my daughter above all else.
I worked double shifts every day for two years before I could even think of registering for college and still providing her with a somewhat comfortable life.
I work in a little bakery not far from my home and I also work in a little café I adore. The people there are amazing and understanding.
I start almost every day at 5 a.m. in the bakery and work till 9 before heading to school. After school, I go back to the bakery and start making the pastries for the next day.
But today, Olivia was extra squeezy more than she has been the past few weeks. I don’t understand what’s going on with her. But it does result in me missing the bus and being late once again.
I let her stay with Aunt Lizzie today, as I didn’t feel very comfortable leaving her at the campus daycare. I can feel it in my bones that something is wrong with her.
Aunt Lizzie is, in fact, my boss. She owns the little bakery I work at and helped me out on more than one occasion. I wouldn’t know what to do without her.
It all started a couple of weeks ago, Olivia fell down the stairs because she was climbing the safety fence. It resulted in a big cut on her forehead.
Liz was babysitting and had the shock of her lifetime; a lot of blood can come out of a wound like that. We rushed Liv to the hospital, where she needed stitches.
It’s also where they found out she had yet again another pneumonia.
It's the 4th in six months.
The doctors gave her antibiotics, but they aren’t doing much. That weird cough is still present, although it feels like it’s not bothering her as much.
Giving her more rest than at the beginning.
Soon the options will be limited, and I don’t know what to do anymore.
The doctors want to help, but they are waiting on payment from me before instructing more tests.
That’s another reason I work so much.
Olivia, above all else.
And now he’s back.
He’s giving a lecture on the debate. He’s explaining how to prepare for a debate because in every business meeting, there will be debating. One party always wants more than the other, whether it is money, profit, or the best outcome for their company.
He also says that you always need to have some items you are willing to sacrifice to get the deal.
Always think ahead, and always be prepared.
It’s actually very good advice.
Even though it is interesting, I feel myself wandering in my mind to the better times.
Times when we would walk hand in hand in the park in our hometown Sun Peaks.
Everyone knew we were together, and in a little town like Sun Peaks, it’s frowned upon.
About thirty-five years ago, Benjamin Grandthorn, an influential Christian politician, won the elections and became mayor of our little town. He’s also the one who changed … everything.
Every glimpse of the modern future was wiped away. Gone were the diners, movies, and even some music.
Back came beliefs that ruled everything and everyone.
God played house in every single household. Demanding respect, and the mayor or pastor would make sure every single rule was obeyed.
You didn’t listen? Then you were a sinner or, worse, bullied into leaving the town.
I hear it was an awful time, and people became more resentful of the overdemanding beliefs of Grandthorn.
Over the years, the modern age came back once again. But the beliefs stayed in line. They were ruling hand in hand. We got a bit of freedom back. However, they did influence everything from schooling, restaurants, and playgrounds to even our library.
Running away with James was a dream. We wanted to get from under their thumb.
Evidently, my parents were those parents.
The ones who belonged to the church group ruled everything.
Running away was all I ever wanted.
But then, James left.
“I have something to show you. I don’t know if you’re going to like it.” He shows me the acceptance letter from NYU.
He did it. He got in!
A smile appears on my face. “You did it! Babe, you got in! That’s fantastic news!” I scream, jumping right into his arms.
I want him to go. This is his ticket out of this town.
“But I’ll have to leave. You’ll be here all alone. With those people,” he says, pointing to my bedroom door. Mom and Dad don’t know he’s here.
If they ever knew, James, a boy, was in my bedroom with the door closed, I’d be shipped off to one of their cleansing camps.
“Don’t worry about me. I’ll be out of here soon enough. You being in college doesn’t mean you’re cutting me out of your life, right?” I ask him, smiling.
He smiles at me, shaking his head.
“Of course, it doesn’t. I’ll come to visit. I’ll call, I promise. This will not be the end of us, A.”
“I love you,” he says with those mesmerizing green eyes of his.
“I love you too.”
We’ve always had a plan.
He promised me things.
Promised to keep in touch.
I believed. I ate every word he fed me. Breathing it like it was my lifeline.
Until that one moment.
Until that first kick.
I knew he wasn’t coming back.
Not caring about what reasons he might’ve had for ignoring my calls.
And there I was, holding on to the dream.
The dream where we would raise our daughter together, the daughter he didn’t know of.
The dream where he would rescue me, like some Goddamn prince charming on his white horse.
That same day I realized prince charming is not real.
And if you want to do something, you must fucking do it yourself.
I had a child coming soon, a child that would depend on me, and I knew I had to work to make it.
That’s exactly what I did.
He might have left naïve young me but morphed into an angry and very independent woman.
I will always love him, no matter what the past taught me.
How could I not? He’s the father of my daughter. My first love.
Now I have someone counting on me. And no matter how long he’s here, no matter what he wants.
I must think of Olivia.
Suddenly I feel someone poke me on the back.
Snapping me out of my daydream of love, hate, and every other feeling I felt at the moment toward James fucking Brown.
I turn around and see one of my gentler classmates, Mila, with a smile on her face.
“Professor Brown asked you something.”
I turn back around once again to meet his gaze.
“I’m sorry, professor, I was trying to summarize everything you said and was lost in my own world for a second. Could you repeat your question, please?” I say, lying through my teeth.
I did write it down, but I was doing so much more.
“Are you lying to me, miss…?”
Is he serious right now? Is he really going to keep acting like he doesn’t know who I am? Or does he actually not recognize me?
I think to myself, stunned.
Sure, I look a bit bewildered as my hair is everywhere, tired as the bags under my eyes can tell you, overworked, and, let’s not forget… sweaty.
But I still am the same, Anna. I have the same big amber-colored eyes and brown curly hair.
I’m still me.
His eyes widen at the realization, shaking his head as he moves a bit forward.
“Full name?” He croaks out, amplifying each word slowly. Trying to find his voice. The tremble gives him away, but he never loses his composure.
He walks closer and closer.
I raise my eyebrow slightly, not letting him notice how much it hurts me that he doesn’t recognize me. I control my breathing because every step he takes is a step too close to my liking.
His closeness is affecting me in a way I don’t want to be affected.
I take a deep breath, collecting myself by crossing my legs and arms like I put on my armor before I answer.
“Anna. My name is Anna Johnson.”
He stumbles back lightly, shocked. To many in this room, it might have been nothing, like he was walking backward. But I saw the tumble.
I could see how shocked he was.
“You’re staying after class,” he croaks out after composing himself, not leaving any room for debate.