‘I’m sorry Miss Reiner but we just aren’t looking for anyone at the moment.’ She was the third Vice Principal today to say that same phrase, and no matter how many times I direct them to the advertisement on the job seekers website, they still gave me the same stock answer.
I knew before I began, my mission of finding a new job was futile. Just like the spindly woman standing awkwardly in front of me, they all wore the same look when they turned me down. They wanted my plague out of the school as quickly as possible. Preferably, before the men with giant camera’s arrived.
‘Thanks for your time,’ I mumbled, hitching my bag higher on my shoulder and turning for the double glass door exit of the school’s reception area.
I had three more schools to visit today as well as a volunteer organisation. I was going to offer my services up for free and I still wasn’t sure anyone would want anything to do with me.
Since leaving Teddy’s this morning, my day had progressively spiralled out of control. I hadn’t even dared to brave the internet or a newsstand. I was too afraid of the new headlines I might find.
I wasn’t even brave enough to face Teddy this morning. I snuck out the back entrance when he was opening up. There was no doubt I would be getting an earful the next time I saw him. Just another thing to look forward to in my increasingly joyless life.
I didn’t know what I was going to do if I wasn’t able to teach. It was the only place I had ever felt like I truly belonged. Without it, I felt like there was a hole in my life like I had no value or worth.
Shuffling along the crowded New York street, I glanced down at my next interview address. It was in an hour and only a few blocks from where I was now.
Sighing, I stuffed the rumpled paper, back in my pocket and trudged ahead. All I could do was hope that no one in the school had seen the news recently. Although, if they hadn’t, I’d question what kind of teachers they were hiring.
‘I’m sorry Miss Reiner-’
‘But you don’t have any positions available at the moment.’ I finished, tearing the paper up in my hands and stuffing the pieces in my pockets.
’You come highly recommended and I have no doubt that you are a wonderful teacher. It’s just we aren’t looking at the moment.’ The vice principal anxiously patted down her platinum blonde hair and straightened her pencil skirt, whilst her eyes looked anywhere but at mine. I think that was my cue to leave.
‘Thanks,’ I muttered, turning my back on the final school on my list. Walking back out onto the street, I found myself swept up in the lunchtime rush. As men and women in suits raced up and down the streets in a hurry to eat before their break was over. Many of them cursed me as I dawdle along the street, dragging my weary feet.
I had nowhere to go and I wasn’t going to get there fast. My stomach was tied in knots and my heart beat uncomfortably in my chest. I felt directionless and completely lost. What was I going to do? I had been to seven schools and none of them wanted me.
After the fifth school, I had contemplated looking for a job outside of education. I immediately rejected that idea because I hadn’t completed a four-year Bachelors degree and a two-year Masters in Education just to push papers at a desk.
Going back home to Australia wasn’t an option and I really didn’t want to set up somewhere else, in another country. Not to mention, I didn’t have the money to shift continents, again.
‘Could you walk any slower?’ I woman hissed before she pushed passed me, knocking my shoulder painfully. I looked up to see her shoot a glare over her shoulder and I didn’t even have the energy to shoot a snide remark back. This day was panning out worse than yesterday.
Fumbling with the torn up pieces of paper in my pocket, I looked to find the volunteer tutoring I had called for an interview. It was difficult to manoeuvre with the bandages still on my hands. Seeing them, only made me feel a fresh wave of defeat. I couldn’t help but think that pretty boy had got out of this whole situation scot-free. He may have even come out on top. Whereas, I was bound to end up jobless, homeless and more pathetic than I already was. Great.
’But it’s a volunteer position,’ I huffed. The balding man was trying to convince me that they didn’t need any volunteer tutors. I was passed the point of polite and had dived straight into hostile. ‘I rang this morning and there were positions available. In fact, the woman on the phone seemed relieved to finally have someone to fill it.’
‘We...we have filled it since then.’ He answered, wringing his hands anxiously.
‘Oh really?’ I crossed my arms over my chest and regarded the man with scepticism. His eyes weren’t focused on me and he was starting to develop an unattractive build up of sweat on his upper lip.
‘Y-yes,’ he stuttered. ‘Just after you rang, actually.’
‘And there are absolutely no other volunteer positions?’
‘I’m sorry, but we really don’t need anyone else.’
‘No, what you mean is you really don’t need someone like me.’ I shot back, uncrossing my arms and clenching my fists at my sides.
‘We just don’t have any positions available,’ he repeated and I felt desperate tears start to build behind my eyes.
‘Please, just give me a chance. I promise my personal life won’t affect the children I tutor. The tabloids have this wrong,’ I begged, trying to hold my tears at bay.
‘We can’t run that risk,’ the pudgy man sighed, rubbing his hand against the balding patch on the back of his head.
‘Fine,’ I mumbled, ignoring the rogue tear that had managed to escape. I couldn’t even give my time away. Whilst, I knew this would be the result, it still hurt to know that no matter how good I was at teaching, one blemish in my personal life meant that I might never be able to do it again.
‘Look, Miss Reiner, we would really love to have your help around here but it’s just not possible. I’m sure you’re very good at what you do but you know how working with children can be. Privacy is vital.’ I nodded numbly in reply. He walked over to a wobbly table, filled with pamphlets, and collected a few before returning.
‘Remember, no matter what your situation is, there is always help out there. Don’t be afraid to ask.’ He stressed, handing me the pamphlets and sending me on my way.
When I was outside again, I looked down at what he had given me and frowned. They were pamphlets for domestic abuse. Why would that man think I needed pamphlets for domestic abuse?
Shaking my head, I tossed them in the trash and started the long walk back to my apartment. Hopefully, by now, the hoards of photographers had thinned so I could get in without them badgering me again. I was not up for round two. This time, they might break a bone.
When I finally made it to my apartment, I had barely turned the door handle before it was yanked opened to reveal a frantic Sarah.
‘Good afternoon,’ I nodded calmly, stepping around her and into the apartment. I wondered if she been shopping.
‘Where have you been?’ She screeched, slamming the door and chasing after me.
‘Suffering from a severe case of deja vu.’ I grumbled, flopping on the couch, tiredly. My feet felt like they were about to drop off.
‘You’re all over the news.’
‘Look,’ she pointed the remote at the TV to un-mute it and almost instantly, I felt my stomach drop.
’America’s favourite nightmare slayer may just be the cause of his new girlfriend’s nightmares. Images are emerging of a beat up Annie Reiner leaving Xander Collins’s New York apartment in tears last night.’
An image of me stumbling out of Xander’s apartment building flashed across the screen and I cringed at how pathetic I looked. My eyes were rimmed red with tears still streaming down my face. My raw emotions from the argument I had with Xander were still fresh on my face and someone had felt the need to share it with the world.
’These images show Annie Reiner with bandages on her wrists and knees, hinting at injuries she allegedly sustained from her new celebrity beau.’
‘Turn it off.’ I rolled my eyes at the nonsense that were peddling as Sarah switch the TV back to mute. They were now contrasting me from today with an image of me from two days ago when the world ‘found out’ about our alleged romance. Neither of the images were attractive.
‘What happened last night?’ Sarah demanded. She had sat beside me at some point and was looking at me with a worried expression. ‘I never knew he was like that.’
‘He isn’t. Those photos have been taken completely out of context.’ I scoffed. ‘However, this does explain why the guy at the volunteer organisation gave me pamphlets on domestic abuse.’
‘Has he tried to contact you?’
‘Bit difficult considering he still has my phone.’
’You didn’t get it back yet?’ She frowned, her eyes darting from the TV screen and then back to me again. Celebrity news junkie.
‘We had a fight. I stormed out before I could scope the place out for my things.’
‘So he did hurt you?’ She exclaimed as if she had just cracked a major case.
‘I tripped outside our apartment, super sleuth,’ I admonished. ‘He took me to his place and cleaned me up. Then, we got into an argument and I left.’
‘So, he didn’t hit you?’ She frowned. I could almost see the wheels turning in her head as she tried to puzzle it out.
‘No, but he’s still a jerk.’
‘I’m sorry, Annie,’ she sympathised, pulling me into a bone crushing hug. ‘I thought this was going to be fun but it’s nothing but one giant mess.’
‘Well, I don’t think he’ll want anything to do with me anymore. This definitely can’t be good for his image.’ I tried to ignore the uncomfortable feeling in my chest but there was a part of me, a very small part, that was going to miss arguing with him.
‘That’s great and all, but I don’t think it’s going to solve any of your problems.’ Sarah frowned before she pulled her phone out of her back pocket.
‘What’s wrong?’ She was making a very strange face.
‘Nothing, just this weird number. It’s been calling me since midday.’
‘Well, maybe you should answer it,’ I suggested. She hummed in reply but stuffed her phone back in her pocket without answering. Not even seconds after it stopped ringing it started again.
‘Seriously, answer it.’ I urged. The shrill noise of her ring tone was starting to give me a headache. Who even made phone calls anymore?
‘Hello?’ She answered like she was accusing the person on the other end of something. When I heard the hum of a reply from the other end of the phone her mood didn’t seem to improve.
‘Why are you calling this number? Who gave it to you?’ She demanded before waiting for a reply.
‘He didn’t have the right to do that. If he wanted to talk, he should have called himself.’
I glanced at the TV as Sarah continued to berate the person who called her. What I found on the screen offered me no comfort but it was less infuriating than only getting half of a conversation.
There was an actress on the screen with red hair, big blue eyes and even bigger boobs. When I read the caption I nearly choked. It read, Alison Kelly speaks out about Xander Collins’s abuse.
‘Good God,’ I muttered. Then I watched as another image of me flashed across the screen. It was the same one as before. There I was, standing helplessly out the front of Xander’s apartment building.
I was tempted to turn the volume back up but refrained when I read the promo for the psychologist coming on next. Apparently, I was a victim who needed analysing.
‘She doesn’t want to speak to him,’ Sarah had begun to raise her voice at the person on the phone. She looked thoroughly frustrated with whoever she was talking to and it immediately sparked my curiosity. I shot her a puzzled look, hinting that she should tell me who she was talking to but all she did was shake her head and narrow her eyes.
‘I think this conversation is over,’ Sarah finished in a clipped tone before I heard her toss her phone on the coffee table.
‘Who was that?’ I frowned as the phone started ringing again. Whoever it was, didn’t seem to be giving up. Sarah let out a frustrated groan before she leant forward and grabbed her phone again.
’I think lover boy is calling you,’ Sarah announced, showing me the screen with my name flashing across it. Glad, someone was still getting some use out of my phone.
‘I don’t really want to deal with him.’
‘I think you might have to. This isn’t going to disappear like you thought it was. Especially, not after these photos.’
‘Just speak with him,’ Sarah ordered, thrusting the phone against my ear after hitting the “accept” button.
‘Annie?’ I didn’t answer his panicked voice and instead was having a silent argument with my soon-to-be-dead roommate. ‘Annie, are you there?’
I’m going to murder you, I mouthed at my roommate who still held the phone firmly to my ear. Xander kept saying my name, trying to get my attention.
‘Hi Xander,’ I finally conceded.
‘Good, you can hear me,’ he muttered in a condescending tone. ‘It’s not nice to ignore someone.’
‘Really, you’re going to lecture me about human kindness? Last I checked, you were an abusive boyfriend.’
‘You know that’s a lie,’ he scoffed and I could almost picture him running his hands through his dark hair in frustration.
‘Do I?’ I challenged.
‘Annie, please.’ His tone immediately, had me sitting up straighter. He didn’t sound like the cocky bastard I had left last night. He sounded like a man defeated.
‘Xander, what do you want?’
‘I need your help.’ He sighed and I internally cringed almost predicting what kind of help he would need. ‘My image is shot. I’m one bad news day away from being blacklisted from any decent Hollywood movie. You have no idea how important my image is, to keeping my career.’
‘No, how could I possibly know what its like to have people believe I’m something that I’m not?’ I answered, my tone dripping with so much sarcasm I was surprised I didn’t choke on it. ‘I could never comprehend what it’s like to have my job threatened by the way the media portrays me.’
‘No, Xander. Your antics have already cost me my job and any prospect I have of getting one in the near future. I don’t want any part of a plan you might be concocting to save your precious image.’ I spat, fury burning through my veins so quickly I was afraid they might explode. How could he sit there and contemplate asking me to help him save his career when he had been so nonchalant about mine?
‘Annie please-’ I didn’t hear the rest of what he said. Not even seconds after he started talking, the sound of shattering glass filled the apartment. Both Sarah and I let out startled shouts before we were both diving down behind our tattered couch. The phone forgotten on the couch cushions as we waited for what might happen next.