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Grade
11

She sits, furiously tapping away at her small typewriter. She snatches up the crisp white paper, stares at it, then rips it to shreds. She screams until her voice is raw, knowing that no one can hear her in the silent, vacant office. Her eyes stream with tears which have begged to be released for years. All her pain, her anguish, her frustration, is released. After a while she hiccups and wipes her eyes, smudging the eyeliner she so carefully put on that morning. She inhales sharply and inserts a new piece of paper into the typewriter. She begins pushing the metallic letters once more. Once she’s finished, she grabs the paper and reads over it once more. Folding it cleanly, she shoves it into an envelope, scrawls the word “resignation” on it, and walks over to a desk sitting a few yards away from her. She places it on the desk and strides over to her typewriter. Her heels click as she walks forward and gathers her few precious belongings from the drawers of her desk, placing them inside a small brown box. She puts her coat on, and holding the cardboard box, leaves the room. She makes her way down the scratched brown staircase and, reaching the landing, turns back to face the dusty brown wooden doorway of her former office. For a brief moment, she wonders if she is making the right decision, but then she smiles. She pats her updo, lifts her head, and strides out of the building. She hails a bright yellow cab and quickly slides in, shutting out the darkness of the night.

“Where would you like to go?” the cabbie man kindly asks.

“122 Griffith Street, please,” she responds in a hollow voice. They drive away, sitting in silence, as she stares out at the stars above her.

“It’s a rather dark night, isn’t it?” he idly ponders.

“I rather like it,” she replies. “The stars seem brighter.”

He smiles at her response as he pulls up to her small, shabby apartment building.

She leans forward and hands him his fare. “Thank you,” she says as she slides out and walks towards the building’s door. As she opens it, she can hear the soft cough of the car as it drives away. She climbs up flights of fading red stairs, finally reaching her little studio. Her key ring jingles as she opens her thick wooden door. Sighing, she sets her cardboard box down on her kitchen counter and turns to face her bed. She yawns heavily and lands with a loud thump on her mattress, disturbing a little curly haired dog who had already claimed the middle of the bed. Presently she falls asleep, drifting into the dangerous and addictive land of dreams.

 

She is woken up the next morning by the sun peeking through her cream curtains. She yawns once more and slowly sits up. She robotically turns the kettle on and cleans up. Her dog barks and she leaves the bathroom, toothpaste slathered across her mouth and her toothbrush sticking out. She opens the scraped cupboard and pours the food into his green ceramic bowl. He barks in appreciation and devours his breakfast. Soon she joins him, eating a bowl of soggy cereal and drinking a glass of orange juice. She pushes aside her empty bowl and picks up the newspaper her dog had retrieved for her. She turns to the unemployment section and begins circling prospective jobs with a bright red marker. No, she thinks to herself. I quit my job to follow my dream. She looks down at her little dog playing with a toy. She bends down and scratches his head, then walks over to her curtains. She pushes them aside and the warm sunlight streams into the studio. She gets dressed in her nicest suit and, picking up her shiny black briefcase, leaves, locking the door behind her. She holds onto her hat, battling the wind, at the entrance as she hails a cab.

“Central Union Bank, please,” she requests as the cab speeds off. She pays the fare and stands before the looming grey building. Gathering her courage, she thrusts open the glass doors and strides over to one of the workers.

“I wish to apply for a loan,” she says.

The old man peers down at her from his lofty desk, lifting an eyebrow. “And do you have your husband with you?”

“I am not married,” she replies.

“Is there any man who can vouch for you?” he continues.

“I have none,” she says, clenching her jaw.

“Then, sugar, how can you get a loan?” he chuckles to himself. Her nostrils flare and her eyes darken.

“Why don’t you go on your way, sweetie, and let the gentlemen work,” he smirks.

“But I have all the qualifications-”

“Honey, stop wasting my time,” he interjects. “Why don’t you go home and start looking for a husband.”

She looks around the bank. It has quieted down, and all the occupants stare at her. Pursing her lips, she gathers her briefcase and red hat and strides out the door, holding her head high. She can hear the mocking jeers of the men behind her as she opens the glass doors. She makes her way down the stone sidewalks and towards a bookstore. She walks through the long shelves and breathes in the smell of ink and paper, slowly calming down.

“Is there anything I can help you with, ma’am?” a young, lanky employee asks. She mutters under her breath as she flips the pages of a book.

“Excuse me?” he asks, leaning forward and knitting his eyebrows together. “I didn’t quite catch that.”

“I am perfectly fine, thank you,” she snaps, lifting her head up from a book. He nods once, slightly scared, and leaves the aisle.

“That’s a bit harsh, wasn’t it?” remarks a deep voice from behind her.

“I would thank you to mind your own business,” she replies, her eyes still concentrated on the book.

“What, even an old friend can’t say anything?” the man blows heavily out of puffed cheeks.  

She spins around and faces the grinning face of a man. Her eyes widen in shock as she says, “It’s been a long time, Charlie.”

“How’ve you been, Diana?” He tips his fedora and places a book back on the shelf.

“Good!” she lies quickly, offering a large smile. He lifts an eyebrow suspiciously, but says nothing. Instead, he smiles once more.

“Care for a coffee?” he inquires. She smiles and sets down her book. He offers his arm and together they walk out from the old bookshop. They step outside into the grey clouds which obscures the sunny sky.

“So, how’s the job at that newspaper company?” he asks as they stroll down the sidewalk.

“Good,” she quickly lies again. She looks up into his eyes and her gaze falters. He sighs and looks ahead at the stoplight. They pause and watch cars whip past them.

“You’ve been lying quite a lot so far,” he says as the light turns green. They walk across the road and pass a few shops.

“I quit the newspaper job,” she states, looking forward.

“Really? Why? I thought your dream was to be a journalist.”

“I’m going to start my own newspaper company,” she says, her chin lifted high.

“Well, do you have an office, then?” he asks as he pushes open the coffee shop door.

“I need a loan to get it started, but the banks won’t give me one because I am a woman,” she states angrily. They sit down at a circular table near the window and Diana sets down her red hat. Slowly, snow starts falling.

“I have the majority of the money. I even have a few women who would like to work for me,” she continues. “I met them at my book club,” she hastily explains.

“Have you asked your parents for help?” Charlie asks.

“I haven’t talked to them much since I finished school,” she replies.

Charlie nods, remembering the day he first met her. His features darken as he stares into his hands as memories flooded his mind.

***

The howling wind screeches at the thin windows as the little girl stares outside, watching the snow swirl in the air. She sits on her creaky bed, alone in a massive room. She tears her gaze away and looks at the other rows of vacant beds. She stands up and drifts through long hallways to the library, faintly hearing the echoes of children playing outside. A warm fire crackles in the center of the library, where she finds a little boy reading a book.

“Hullo,” he says, smiling up at her. “I’m Charlie. What’s your name?”

She looks away from the aisles of books to face him. “Diana.”

The boy continues to smile as she glances down at a book. She flicks her eyes up to him when he starts to speak again.

“Let’s be friends,” he suggests. “I just started here, and I don’t know anyone.”

“You should leave while you can. This place is awful.”

“I heard from Mummy and Father that it is the best boarding school in the nation,” he replies in confusion.

“They-” she begins to say.

A short woman in a tight bun enters the room. “Diana! Is this where you have been? I told you not to go running off,” the woman yells, smacking the back of her head. “Such an unruly girl!” she mutters. She herds her out of the room, leaving the boy to stare in shock.

A week later Diana returns to the library, but she doesn’t see him. She sneakily asks the other children about Charlie, and learns that he left a few days ago.

***

“I’m glad that you at least got out of there,” she says, rushing to comfort her friend. “And you kept your word. You sent me letters, and you became my friend.”

Charlie sighs and looks away. “Diana, I have money, I could easily lend it to you,” he says, changing the subject.

“I don’t want your charity, Charlie,” she responds as a waiter approaches their table. They quickly order and send the waiter zooming to his kitchen.

“I am not offering it as charity,” Charlie insists. “It’s an investment in your newspaper. I have a feeling that it’s going to really take off.”

“Thanks, Charlie, but I’ll find another way.”

“You didn’t let me finish,” he says, conjuring up an idea in his head. “I will invest in your company if you make me your a business partner.”

She looks at her friend, shock highlighting the contours of her face. “Since when did you learn about business terms?”

“Since I moved here, to New York City,” he smugly replies.

“Really? Is this the same boy was always running off, avidly trying to avoid any type of work?” she laughs. “What are you doing now, anyways?”

He dodges her gaze and looks away.

“Well,” she continues, “Why should I take you on as a partner?”

His gaze, which has wandered off to the kitchen, turns back on her. “I can give you the investment without you needing to go to the banks or loan sharks. Don’t look so reluctant!”

She sighs as the waiter brings them their drinks. Diana takes a sip and chinks the ceramic mug back on the table. Folding her hands in front of her face, she stares steadily into his earnest expression.

“I will have the majority of control over the company. As this is a newspaper company and this is journalism, which you know nothing about, I think this arrangement is entirely fair,” she concludes. Diana sticks out her hand, waiting for a handshake. Charlie hesitates and tries to argue for a little more control. However, Diana lifts up an eyebrow and stares coldly at him. Sighing, he returns the handshake.

“Okay,” he says, his face suddenly brightening into a smile. “What’s the company called?”

“The Daily York,” Diana replies, taking a sip of her black coffee. His face scrunches up as he looks back at her.

“Oh, what is it?” she asks exasperatedly. “Do you dislike it?”

Charlie nods as his fedora slips down his forehead.

“Well, what are your ideas?”

“The New York Gazette,” he replies, saying each word with a grand gesture of his hands.

Diana furrows her brow and plays with the black ribbon on her hat, mulling it over in her head. Slowly, she nods in agreement as Charlie breaks out into a wide grin. They place a few dollars on the table and walk outside.

“It stopped flurrying,” Charlie remarks as he peers up into the sky. “Anyways, why don’t we meet tomorrow around five in the afternoon. Same place?”

Diana nods as she squints at the sunlight. “Bye, Charlie. Pleasure doing business with you,” she calls as she walks away.

“You too!” Charlie yells after her. He grins and whistles as they both stroll their separate ways.

 

The next day morning there is a certain lightness, a freshness, that cannot be described as anything but hope. It chases out the musty air of Diana’s apartment like an otter swimming freely in the water. She breathes in and out, her eyes closed, her fingers poised on the brass doorknob. Her dog barks and she opens her eyes. Her hand tightens its hold on the knob and she swings open the door. The dog bounds out, tugging on his leash, as Diana quickly locks the door. They fly down the flights of stairs and out into the overwhelming sunlight. She leads him down the block, taking turn after turn until they reach a forgotten corner of the city. They stand together, looking at the broken glass and chipped wood of an old, abandoned shop. A “For Sale” sign hangs hammered into the splitting wood of the window frame. Suddenly, her faithful friend barks and she is reminded to look at her ticking watch. Her eyes widen at the short hand that made its way a little too far past the number twelve. She breaks into a brisk walk as the pair retrace their steps back, eventually finding themselves in front of a familiar coffeeshop.

“You’re late,” a voice calls out to her as Diana and her dog enter.

“Sorry,” she replies, sliding into a chair. “I got tied up.”

“Hello, Otto,” Charlie says to the dog, who barks in reply and promptly settles down on a nice section of the floor.

“Now, about that office space,” she says as she ties Otto’s leash to her chair.

“Yes?”

“I found the perfect place on Melburne Street. No, don’t look so skeptical, Charlie. It’s extremely cheap and quite big. Plus, its easy to get to. It’s, dare I say, perfect.”

“Come on, Diana. Melburne Street? That place is a ruin! Surely there has to be somewhere else.”

“There is no where else, Charlie. At least not anywhere where I can afford. Why don’t you take a look at it first?” she suggests. He nods in agreement as they stand and wake up Otto. The three of them leave the rich, aromatic coffee shop and find themselves standing before the tattered shop.

“How much are the owners selling the place for?” Charlie asks.

“Only $500. It’s practically a steal,” she responds as Otto barks, as if to support her claim.

He stares at the shop then slowly walks towards it. Charlie nudges pieces of broken glass and swings open the creaky doors. Diana, holding Otto so he does not tread on the jagged shards, follows him inside.

“Its a nice size, no doubt about that,” he says, turning to Diana. “You think its the spot for the company?”

Diana nods immediately.

“Well, we’d better buy it before anyone else does. Do you have the number written down?”

“I was planning on giving them a ring when I get home.”

“Sounds good.”

“I have enough for the office space, but what I needed the loan for was the employees’ salaries for the first month or so.”

“How much were you planning on paying them?”

“Fifteen dollars per week.”

“Not bad. I heard journalists don’t make much anyways.”

“The pay is slightly lower than what I was earning, but here the journalists can pursue the stories they want to.”

“Freedom of the press,” Charlie says softly to himself, chuckling. “Alright then, Ms. Diana. Since you may have mentioned that this company is largely yours, what is the first plan of action?”

“Well, first we need to fix the office up.”

“What, the broken glass isn’t edgy enough for our band of truth-seekers?” he inquires innocently.

Diana shoots him a dirty look meant to mask a smile, and a smug grin stretches upon his face. He bends down and starts collecting shards in his gloved hands. He abruptly stands up and turns to his partner.

“I can get a few of my friends to come by tomorrow. We can start cleaning up then,” he says.

“All right with me,” she replies. “I’ll go home now and telephone the owner. Hopefully, the deal should be concluded within the week,” she says as she walks out, carrying Otto.

“You’ll give me a ring if there’s any problems, right?” he jumps up and follows her.

“Of course!” she replies, setting Otto down on the smooth pavement. He jumps happily and starts chasing is tail. Charlie bends down and ruffles Otto’s fur.

“Good bye, then,” he replies, standing up. She smiles in response as they start walking away. Snow starts falling gently to the ashen city. After a while it coats the grey streets, obscuring them from view. Everywhere is white; the streets, the lamp posts, the cars. A clean slate. She stands still and tilts her head up to the sky. Grinning ear-to-ear as her short brown locks tumble down her shoulders, she laughs softly to herself. She hears Otto bark happily as he tries to catch the flurries with his tiny pink tongue. As the snow swirls around her, she dreams of her new company.

State
Virginia
Zip Code
20120