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The Office and the Orphanage

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Anna scurried across the lobby, practically running, so she could take the certifieds to the post office before it closed. This was her second day and she did not want to get fired on her second day. Worse yet, she didn’t want to get yelled at by Yelena and the other paralegals if she couldn’t get to the post office in time. She hardly had time to think about how her shoes squeaked and slid against the marble floors. She had to curl her toes just to make sure they didn’t fall off. The backs rubbed against her heels and burned. But she didn’t have time to think about that either. The only thing that mattered was that that door was open.

Kristoff had just opened the door to the lobby when he saw a woman running towards him at full speed. He was momentarily mesmerized by her bright blue eyes, and he nearly didn’t get out of her way in time. He didn’t know what else to do but hold the door for her. He got an even better look at her eyes as she scooted past him, her face inches from his. Her hair brushed against his face and the scent of flowers lingered. He didn’t even think she noticed him but then he heard her shout "Thank you" as she broke into a full sprint down the street.

"What was that?" asked Sven. Who was that? Kristoff wondered.

"I guess she's in a hurry," replied Kristoff. He watched her run until she was out of eyesight.

Anna got there just in time. She was dripping with sweat and her feet hurt, but she made it. She would have been in so much trouble if she didn't get them out on time. She was so relieved, but now that she didn’t have to run anymore, it was so hot, and she was still wearing her work clothes. She was so uncomfortable, so she took off her sweater and tied it around her waist, and fanned herself for a moment. And then she piled all of her hair on top of her head and just held it there for a moment so she could feel the breeze on the back of her neck. She didn’t have a hair tie so she wanted some temporary relief before she walked back to her apartment. She wondered who that guy that held the door for her was. She wished she could remember what he looked like. He had the most amazing smile, but that’s all she could remember.

Kristoff and Sven drove by and Kristoff, on the passenger side, noticed that she had slowed her pace and he got a better look. He watched her remove her sweater and pile her hair up, and he didn’t think he’d ever seen a more beautiful woman. He had only noticed her eyes before, but now he realized how strong and graceful she was. He craned his neck as they passed her.

"What are you looking at? asked Sven.

"Nothing. Just a cute...dog."

“Do you always smile like that when you see cute dogs?”

*****

“Good morning, Westergaard & Associates. How may I direct your call?”

“Oh, Mr. Westergaard is in a meeting, would you like his voicemail?”

Kristoff and Sven got off of the elevator and immediately noticed the new receptionist. Kristoff’s eyes got wide. It was her.

“Oh, you’d like to set up an appointment? He has an opening at 2:00 pm today. Would that work?”

Anna put her hand to the speaker and whispered “Just a second”.

“Ok, we’ll see you at 2:00 pm, Mr. Weaselton.”

“Oh, sorry! Weselton! We’ll see you at-” Anna looked dejected.

“Oh, I guess he hung up.”

Suddenly she looked up, as if she had forgotten they were standing there, to see Kristoff’s soft brown eyes and not much else.

Then she remembered. “Oh, hi! How can I help you?"

“We’re here with the UPS orders. Can you sign the clipboard?” asked Sven.

“Oh, right. I’ve seen you guys around.”

She spoke to Sven since he was the one that spoke to her, but her eyes kept darting towards Kristoff. Kristoff remained quiet, lips pursed, trying his best not to look at her. He hoped she would just ignore him entirely. He had really wanted to talk to her, but the longer he stood there the longer he realized that that wouldn’t be possible.

“What happened to Samantha?” asked Sven.

“She's out this week. I'm just covering for her.”

“Oh, cool."

"So do you guys always deliver UPS?"

"Yeah, we're here almost every day. Don’t you usually work in the mail room?"

"Yeah. I take care of all the UPS labels and get everything ready to ship. I do other things, too, but they don’t really seem relevant to you…My name's Anna. What's yours?"

Sven seemed surprised, but pleased at this recognition. “Sven.” Anna reached out her hand to shake it. Sven responded enthusiastically.

Then she looked over to Kristoff, who was still looking away. “Oh, and this is Kristoff.”

Anna extended her hand to him, as well, though he was apprehensive to shake hers. “Kristoff,” she said. He tried his best not to look at her, but her eyes were so welcoming and enchanting, like looking at two bright blue stars. He forgot himself, until he realized he held her hand a little too long, blushed brightly, and then snapped his hand back and turned to the elevator quickly.

Sven followed, but turned back to say “Nice to meet you, Anna!”

Anna’s heart skipped a beat. She felt warm all over. She thought that he must have felt it, too. He had to have felt it and been overwhelmed by it, the way he left like that, in such a hurry. Why else would he have stared at her so long? And forgotten he was shaking her hand.

She was interrupted by another phone call, asking for directions to the office and parking information. She found it hard to concentrate, her thoughts constantly falling back to those brown eyes.

*****

“What is wrong with you, man?” Sven asked once the elevator door had shut.

“You've been staring at her for months. You finally get a chance to talk to her but you don’t talk to her? Then no attempt to make any kind of eye contact at all. Then you stare at her and shake her hand way too long?”

“Do you think I made her uncomfortable?”

“No, I don’t think much makes that one uncomfortable. I can’t believe she actually shook our hands and asked our names. She's too friendly to work at a law firm.”

“She asked your name.”

“She would have asked you if you bothered to look at her.”

“I did look at her.”

“Come on, man. Next time just be a little friendlier and less weird?”

“Whatever. She probably won’t even be there next time we come by with a delivery.”

“Maybe. She is pretty, though, right?”

“She’s ok.” He was pretty sure that Sven saw through him. They’d known each other since they were kids, and he knew him better than anyone.

As they reached the ground floor they checked out with security to return their visitor badges.

“Hey, Honeymaren. How’s it going?” asked Sven.

“Pretty boring, to be honest. It’s refreshing."

"So you know everyone and everything about this place. What's the deal with that new mail clerk at Westergaard?"

“Oh, Anna? I dunno. She's really friendly. She introduced herself to me on her first day. Stuck out her hand and asked my name. Now she always says hi whenever she walks by. Usually she runs, and even then she gives a wave, at least. She’s super nice,” said Honeymaren. “She is really pretty, but I don’t know about the red hair. Not really my thing.”

Kristoff was carefully listening to Honeymaren describe her. He was keen for any new information. So far, though, everything she said lined up with Kristoff’s own observations. Anna was young and vibrant, hardworking, powerful, friendly, nice, genuine, and also the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Except he just couldn’t look at her anymore. Or talk to her. At least not while she was looking at him.

“It’s Kristoff’s thing, though, right, man?” Sven said.

Kristoff rolled his eyes, and asked with exasperation, “Can we get out of here already? We’ve got a lot of runs to do today.”

“Yeah, sure. See ya, Maren!”

*****

Sven was at the front desk talking to the receptionist, while Kristoff loaded the cart. As soon as he pushed the elevator button in an attempt to motivate Sven to move along, Anna shouted "Wait!" Kristoff turned to see it was her. His eyes got wide and got nervous. She was just right there. And she was so much smaller than him, but he was terrified of her. He didn’t think it was possible, but she was even more beautiful up close.

"I've got one more." She carried the box over and handed it to Kristoff. Their eyes met briefly, held for a few seconds before she gave him a friendly smile, and then looked away.

Kristoff thought the package was about 30 pounds and was amazed at how easily she carried it since she was so petite.

"Thank you! I really appreciate it!" And she hurried off down the hallway, not as fast as the first time he saw her, but with just as much energy.

"You're welcome," he said, but he knew she couldn’t hear him. That was better anyway. She made him really nervous for some reason. He didn't really like that feeling.

Anna felt an extra jolt of energy after locking eyes with Kristoff. Not only was he completely dreamy, but his eyes were just magnetic.

The elevator dinged and Kristoff stared down the hallway after her.

"Dude. You coming?"

"Oh right. Yeah."

"Who was that?"

"The mail clerk."

"Anna? Did you at least say 'hi'?"

"She just had a last minute package." He shrugged his shoulders.

"What are we gonna do with you? You're just hopeless."

"Yeah yeah. I'm gonna die alone and happy."

"Happy! Sure ya are, buddy."

*****

Anna and Olaf were in the lobby, just standing and talking. Olaf looked impatient, and Anna seemed to be calming him down.

Kristoff wondered what they were up to. He thought this was a change of pace for her since he'd only seen her rushing and being late. Even just standing there, he couldn’t seem to look away. She tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and it reminded him of her hair piled on top of her head. He drew in a sharp breath in.

Just then a few people from their office showed up to greet them and Olaf appeared to relax. He hooked his arm in Anna’s and they headed out of the building.

Once he realized they were walking in his direction, Kristoff walked on the other side of Sven so she wouldn’t see him.

"Anna again?" asked Sven. "Wait, are you actually hiding from her? This is a new low."

"What, no. That's ridiculous."

The last time Kristoff saw her had been so intense. He would really rather go out of his way not to feel like that again.

"Ok, dude.” Sven might have believed him if he didn’t keep looking over at her every few minutes.

Anna saw Kristoff, even if just barely, despite his best efforts. She perked up at first but when he was so far away and walking so fast, she actually became a little disappointed. It didn’t stop her from staring after him, though. He was tall and broad with thick, shaggy blonde hair. His UPS uniform was tight and his arm and leg muscles bulged out just slightly.

"Those guys are so yummy, aren't they? With their shorts and their muscles." said Olaf.

"Do you know them?" asked Anna.

“Sort of. Not really. I’ve talked to them a few times in the office when there were shipping issues. But not on a deeper, personal level, no. Why? You interested?”

“Oh, no. I mean, they seem nice, I guess.”

“Oh, I see. I see exactly. The blonde one, right?”

“What do you mean?”

“Oh, you just wait, dear. It’ll hit you like a ton of bricks. Just give it time. Forgive me, old age is making me philosophical.”

“I’m still a little confused. But I suppose I’ll understand when I’m old like you?” Anna winked and gave him a huge hug.

“Oooohh you!!!! I’m so glad we can share this day together,” said Olaf and hugged her back.

*****

“Oh, hey, Samantha! Nice to see you again. Glad you’re back! Hope you had a nice vacation. Did you get a little sun?”

Kristoff slowed his step, all at once panicked that he might not ever see Anna again, but also relieved that he wouldn’t have to feel uncomfortable around her anymore. He thought that she probably went back to work in the mail room, but he had to be sure. Was he going to have to keep looking out for her, or should he just try to forget about her? So he asked Samantha, “What happened to Anna?” Even Samantha saw through his act of nonchalance.

Kristoff wasn’t exactly chatty with Samantha, either, but at least he looked her in the eye, most of the time, and sometimes he even talked to her. “Oh, don’t worry. Anna’s just back to working in the mail room since I'm back now. She’s probably at lunch or something. Sometimes she sits outside, if you want to find her.”

"We're good." And he headed to the elevator.

Kristoff was surprised at how relieved he felt knowing that Anna still worked there. He realized that he would have regretted it deeply if she had just left and he didn’t get a chance to… to what? To talk to her? To ask her out? He hadn’t quite figured it out after that. But now he had time to work it out. And that was a comfort.

“Sign the clipboard, Sam?”

“Sure! Have a good day!”

*****

“Why don’t you just ask her out already? You’ve had a crush on her for years. She’ll probably say yes.” said Kristoff.

“Yeah maybe next time. So were you disappointed that Anna wasn’t there?”

“Man, can you just lay off? I’m not interested.”

“Uh, sure, buddy. Whatever you say! Is that why you didn't ask?" Sven winked.

“Hey, Maren, what’s new?”

“Just, you know, enjoying the nice sunny weather.” She peered her head around the bend, and both Sven and Kristoff peered with her.

“Who is that?” asked Sven.

“Friend of Anna’s, I guess. She doesn’t work in this building.”

“Wow,” said Sven.

“Yeah. I decided to work through lunch today.”

Kristoff didn't even notice Elsa. He noticed that the way the sun hit Anna’s copper hair created a gold halo around her crown. We wondered how he didn’t even really notice her hair before. And then there was the pink glow from the sun that he could see even from where he stood. She was breathtaking.

“Hello! Earth to Kristoff!” said Sven.

"Hellloooo!" Said Maren.

"Kristoff!" Said Sven.

“Huh? What?”

“Dude, you were practically drooling over Anna,” said Maren.

“What? No I wasn’t.”

“Ok. Do you want to go say ‘hi’?”

“What? No. That would be weird.” He didn't realize he was being teased.

“Plus you’re not interested, right?”

“Let’s just get on with our deliveries. Bye, Maren.” said Kristoff.

*****

“Hey, Anna? Did you set an appointment for Mr. Weselton for next Friday at 3:00 pm?” Hans came around the front part of her desk and leaned against it, with his arms folded. He was trying to be casual.

“Yeah, was that wrong?” Anna blushed, not sure how she could have made such a mistake her second week as the receptionist.

“No, no, no. Not at all. It’s just sometimes I leave early on Fridays, so in the future, could you please just not schedule anything for me after 12:00 on Fridays?”

“Sure, Mr. Westergaard. I’m so sorry. Do you want me to call him and reschedule for Monday?”

“Yeah, if you don’t mind. And it’s Hans, by the way.”

“Hans?”

“Yeah. Mr. Westergaard is my father.”

“Oh, ok.”

“Have a nice weekend, Mr. West- Hans.”

“You, too, Anna. See you Monday.

*****

Anna looked through the glass hallway. She was pretty sure she saw Sven and Kristoff head upstairs. She felt a little disappointed. She couldn’t stop thinking about Kristoff’s dreamy brown eyes and the butterflies she gets just remembering them...

“What?”

“So, any interesting people at the office?” asked Elsa.

“Oh, yeah, I already have a friend, Olaf, my supervisor. He supervises the mail room and fixes broken machines, makes sure the coffee's always flowing, and that kind of thing. He’s so funny and I just know we’re gonna be good friends.”

“That’s great!” said Elsa.

“I’m happy everything is working out for you. How’s your boss?”

“Oh, he’s so nice. And three of his sons work there, too.”

“Oh, is that right? Any of them particularly handsome?”

“Elsa! I can’t really talk about that here.” Anna had thought that Hans, the youngest son, was very handsome. And he seemed to take a shine to her. She thought maybe one day he would like to be his secretary. He was currently sharing a secretary with his older brother Bjorn, and he hinted that maybe one day he’d get his own and he might choose her. She was determined to do everything she could to make him happy. She loved the office, she liked the job, and she was good at it.

“Ok, later then. We still on for happy hour on Friday? Why don’t you bring Olaf? He sounds like a lot of fun. And I’m sure he can give you all the gossip.”

“Ok! I’ll ask him.”

“Ok, well i’ve got to head back to campus. I have a 2:00 class and they’re getting a pop quiz. Not even my TAs know!”

“Oh, you do love a little mischief.”

“Mischief is magic! I’m so glad you got a job downtown and we can have lunch together every once in a while. I feel like I hardly ever see you since I started at North Mountain University.”

“Yeah, me, too.” She gave Elsa a hug and headed back. She wanted more sister time with Elsa, but she knew Samantha would be upset if she were late.

“Oh, Anna. Hey! Did you have a nice lunch?” Honeymaren asked.

“Yeah, it’s such a nice day. And it was nice seeing my sister, too. We haven’t been able to see each other much since the semester started.”

“Oh, your sister!” Honeymaren was relieved that she wasn’t Anna’s girlfriend, and she understood how they were related since they did have a similar look about them.

“She a student?”

“No, professor. Astrophysics.”

“Oh, professor? Astrophysics? Very cool!”

Honeymaren thought that she had to meet Elsa. She was gorgeous, and a professor? She must be completely brilliant and eccentric.

"Yeah! Ok, I gotta head up so Samantha can take her lunch. See you later!”

*****

“It’s really not that hard. It’s not rocket science. I don’t know how you don’t know that already!”

“I”m sorry, Yelena, I’ll just redo it.”

“Nevermind. You’ll probably just get it wrong again and it’ll take me twice as long to fix it. It’s my fault for thinking you were capable when this is clearly over your head.”

“Please, let me give it another try.”

Kristoff peered behind the elevator shaft to see what was going on. Kristoff recognized Yelena’s name from seeing it on UPS packages. She was a paralegal, he thought. And she was railing on Anna.  No matter what she did or didn't do, he didn't think she deserved to be spoken to like that.

“No. Fool me once, shame on me. I just don’t have time for this.”

“But if you train me how to do it properly, I’ll do it right every time after that and I’ll save you so much time in the future.”

“Seriously. Go take your drama back to Olaf. See if you can mess anything up for him.”

Anna didn’t really understand how she was creating drama. It seemed like Yelena was the one causing trouble and being difficult. She thought she heard someone say that her mom has dementia or something. Anna thought that maybe she was just taking it out on her. Anna held her head high and walked away. She slowed when she saw Kristoff. She could tell from his look that he heard everything Yelena said to her and that he pitied her.  She was embarrassed before, and now that she knew Kristoff heard all that, she was mortified. She looked away quickly and picked up her pace.

“I mean, really? Where do they find these dumb little girls?” Yelena said to another office worker, probably another paralegal.

He looked back down the hallway and saw her run into the bathroom. She wiped a tear.

“Yeah, I wouldn’t ask her to do a thing for me. Some things are just too simple to mess up. Yet some people still manage.”

Kristoff couldn’t believe what he heard. It seemed like these old ladies got some kind of power trip from being mean to her. And they acted like she wasn’t even human and didn’t have feelings. It seemed to Kristoff that she made a mistake because no one trained her, asked for guidance to fix it, and gave a good argument for why she get another chance. As far as he could tell, they were the stupid ones, and not her. He could see what a hard worker she was even though he’d never spoken to her before.

*****

Anna kept hitting the ground floor button. She knew she was running late again, but she was at least prepared now. She started bringing a backpack and sneakers for her mail runs. She wasn’t the most elegant, but at least she’d get the mail out on time. She was about to step on to the elevator when she saw Kristoff and started.  She still felt a little embarrassed from when he heard Yelena yell at her a few days ago.

“Hey, Anna. Going down?” asked Sven.

“Uh, yeah. Mail run. Thanks!”

She twisted her hair to pull it up, rolled her neck and shoulders, rolled out her ankles as much as she could in the small space.

Kristoff was trying his best not to pay attention to her, but it was pretty much impossible. She was so close, and he could smell her hair as she played with it.

“You’re really serious about this mail run, aren’t you?” asked Sven.

“Sometimes the attorneys and the paralegals can’t get things to us until the very last second, and I like to give them as much time as I can. Plus, I just love running.”

“Yelena yelled at you, didn’t she?” asked Sven.

Kristoff winced. He knew she had been yelled at by Yelena and it probably hurt her to know someone else knew about it, even though Sven was just postulating. Anna slightly turned her head back torwards him to see that he was looking at her, still concerned, though he moved his eyes quickly.  Kristoff felt bad that she was still embarrassed about that.

“I just want to do a good job so everyone’s happy. Is this your last building for today?” Anna peered behind her to see if Kristoff was looking at her. She wanted to do more stretches, but she felt self-conscious. She did really want him to notice her, but not like that.

“Yup. Last building for the week, actually.”

“Enjoy the rest of your day, guys. Have a good weekend! Thanks for letting me ride down with you!”

Kristoff tried to hurry off the elevator as quickly as he could so he could see her run off. By the time he got off the elevator, though, she was almost across the street already.

“She sure has a lot of energy, doesn’t she?” said Sven.

“Yeah.”

Anna would start on Monday as the full-time receptionist. She decided to celebrate her last mail run by running all the way to the greenbelt for a few minutes before heading home.  She was still wearing her work clothes, but she had her sneakers. She thought that she’d probably get to see Kristoff and Sven almost every day from then on, and that broadened the smile already growing on her face.