Work Header

Anastasia's Future Plans

Work Text:

The list, in Anastasia's green notebook (the twelfth of its kind), began like this:

Things I Want To Be When I Grow Up

After a moment's thought, during which Anastasia chewed on the end of her pen, she scribbled out the last four words so it read:

Things I Want To Be When I Grow Up

. . . on the principle that, at age seventeen, she was far too old to talk about 'growing up,' even if she still often felt small and confused and not very grown up at at all.

"What do you want to be, Frank?" she asked, rhetorically.

'Oh, oh, oh,' Frank the Fourth silently replied.

"I can see this is as hard for you as it is for me," Anastasia said. She thought a moment more and then began:

Things I Want To Be When I Grow Up

  • A bookstore owner
  • A newspaper reporter
  • An editor for Cosmo
  • A famous mystery novelist

But then she stopped and looked at the second to last one. Cosmo was fun to read and all, but she wasn't sure editing stories about shades of lipsticks was right for her. She was good at descriptive writing—or at least her AP English teacher and her father both said so, and they should know—but she wasn't sure how many synonyms for 'pink' she could really come up with. Plus maybe picking one specific magazine was too limiting. After a moment, she scratched that one off the list.

After another minute's thought, she added:

  • An English professor

. . . until she remembered her father's muttered commentary about 'the academic job market these days' and 'publish or perish,' at which point she frowned at the list, scratched off English professor, and replaced it with:

  • A high school English teacher

She read the list over again and frowned. They all sounded like fun, but wasn't the list awfully one-dimensional? She could imagine her guidance counselor, Mrs. Teppit, frowning and saying, "Now, Anastasia," in her slow drawling voice, and then saying, "You're so young, dear, do you really want to limit yourself?"

So she added:

  • A concert pianist

. . . which was silly, because she couldn't even play the piano, but at least it wasn't limiting.

And then she added:

  • A marine biologist

. . . because she liked dolphins. But then she realized that probably marine biologists had to wear wetsuits and big galoshes, and she wasn't sure how she felt about that. To balance it out, she added:

  • A lawyer

. . . because she liked the idea of wearing serious-yet-elegant suits and carrying briefcases and looking very smart and grown-up. She set her notebook off to one side and fished around in her nightstand for the latest issue of Vogue for inspiration. There, in the middle, was a spread of business looks for professional women, and that particular section was dog-eared not because Anastasia had any use for business ensembles (or anyway, not yet), but because right in the middle, looking very grown-up and very lovely in a simple charcoal suit and skirt and an apricot silk blouse, was Henry. Henrietta Peabody, the miniscule text below her read, along with the eyepopping price of the outfit.

Anastasia grinned at the picture, feeling proud of her friend and also just plain pleased by how good Henry looked. Then she looked back at her blotched and much crossed-out list.

Things I Want To Be When I Grow Up

  • A bookstore owner
  • A newspaper reporter
  • An editor for Cosmo
  • A famous mystery novelist
  • An English professor
  • A high school English teacher
  • A concert pianist
  • A marine biologist
  • A lawyer

She frowned. List-making always used to make her feel better, but right now looking at the list just made her feel more confused. She contemplated calling someone. Sonya, previously her best phone buddy, had started dating Steve Harvey, though, and so wasn't around so much in the evenings. (Sonya had been worried that Anastasia would be upset, but in fact Anastasia hadn't minded. Anastasia had been surprised by how much she hadn't minded. She just minded that she didn't get a chance to talk to Sonya as much anymore.)

Her eyes fell on the open, dog-eared fashion page, with Henry looking cheerful and collected and beautiful in her very grown-up clothes, and felt a little warm flutter. Henry. She could call Henry, why not? Henry had already picked one career.

Anastasia almost fell off the bed reaching for the phone, which she dragged over to her bed. She dialed, and then said, "Hi, Mrs. Peabody? Is Henry there?"

"Mom?" Anastasia said, picking at the pot roast on her plate with the tines of her fork. "How did you know what to do for college?"

"Well," Anastasia's mother said thoughtfully, "I knew I wanted to be an artist, so—"

"Wait wait wait," Anastasia said. "Back up. How did you know you wanted to be an artist?"

Her mother looked surprised. "I don't know. I just did. I always wanted to be an artist."

"I don't want to be an artist," Sam interrupted.

"You still want to be a zookeeper?" Anastasia asked.

"No," Sam said, aghast. "That was when I was just a little kid." As though, Anastasia thought, it was forever ago instead of just three years. "I want to be an astronaut."

"Dad," Anastasia said, "did you know what you wanted to be when you were seventeen?"

"Good grief, no," her father said, which was quite a relief. "When I was your age, I wanted to be . . . let's see. I think I wanted to be either a rock star or a famous physicist."

"What happened?" Anastasia asked, trying to imagine her bald, bearded and bespectacled dad as a rock star.

"I discovered Dante and Ezra Pound," he said dreamily, and then he focused again and speared a potato on the end of his fork. "Also I flunked freshman calculus."

"Hmm," Anastasia said, filing that fact away as ammunition should she need it in the case of her flunking a class. Not that she planned to flunk a class, but it was always good to be prepared.

"I'm going to flunk Handwriting," Sam said happily.

"You can't," Anastasia argued. "Nobody flunks anything in second grade."

"I am," Sam said. "It sounds like fun. Flunk flunk flunk."

On Sunday, with her mother's blessings (and a dire warning not to spill anything on the forms), Anastasia stuffed the thick folder of her college applications into her bag and took the bus to Dorchester. Henry waited for her at the bus stop, and even though Henry's dramatic makeover had been years before, Anastasia still couldn't get over how flat-out beautiful Henry looked, standing there with her hands jammed in the pockets of her long red coat. She felt a funny little flutter in her chest.

"Let's go to the diner on the corner," Henry said. "It's a madhouse at home, we won't get anything done."

Henry got hot chocolate, and Anastasia—who was feeling very grown-up—got coffee, which she filled to the brim with cream, and they split a plate of french fries and spread out brochures and pamphlets across the table.

"Where're you applying?" Henry asked.

"Harvard," Anastasia said. "NYU. Georgetown. What about you?"

"U Mass," Henry said. "Couple other state schools."

Anastasia felt a small, sick twist in her stomach. "None of the same ones."

"I can't afford those private schools," Henry said, twiddling a french fry between her fingers.

"But you've been saving up—"

"Even modeling pay isn't enough for, like, Harvard," Henry said. "Anyway, state school's perfectly good."

Anastasia opened her mouth and shut it, and opened it again, and felt like Frank. The problem was Henry was right. Only Anastasia didn't object because of the kind of school, she realized, she objected because she and Henry wouldn't be able to go to school together.

Henry fiddled with the french fry some more, and then grinned. "But actually," she said, "I've been thinking maybe NYU, 'cause they've got a real good half-tuition scholarship, and I think maybe my grades are good enough to put me in the running."

The solid rush of relief hit Anastasia, like the feeling of taking the first deep breath after diving deep in a swimming pool. She grinned.

Anastasia lay on her back on her bed, the phone in one hand, the cord wrapped around her wrist. "So I've got to the part where they want me to fill in my major," she said.

"So?" Henry asked on the other end of the line. Anastasia smiled at the ceiling, just at the sound of Henry's voice, so funny and sensible and warm. "You want to major in English. You've wanted to major in English forever."

"Well yeah," Anastasia said, studying the light fixture on the ceiling. It looked like it needed dusting. You never remembered to dust things that high up. "But I was thinking, I mean, you know, my dad's an English Ph.D. Maybe I just think I want to be an English major 'cause he was. Maybe I'm not exploring my options. Maybe—"

"Anastasia," Henry interrupted.


"You love books. You breathe books. You want to be an English major."

"But maybe I owe it to myself to do something different. Maybe I won't really know if it's my dad's influence until I try something else. Like . . . accounting. Or, um." She flipped through the thick pamphlet she'd received from NYU. "Or . . . Organic chemistry."

"Just put 'English.' You love English. Anyway, you can always change majors later."


"I think you're overthinking this," Henry said, but she was laughing.

"Do you think?" Anastasia flipped over until she was eyeball-to-eyeball with Frank. He opened his mouth in a silent 'oh.'

"Anastasia, you always overthink everything."


"Really definitely really," Henry said, and Anastasia could hear the grin in her voice. She felt obscurely, weirdly pleased that Henry had noticed that about her, even if it wasn't the most flattering thing in the world.

"Hm, I'll have to think about that," she said, and Henry laughed and laughed.

Three days later, Anastasia dragged the phone into her father's office, so she could talk to Henry on it while she typed—awkwardly—her answers onto the forms, while she talked to Henry, who was writing the answers onto her own forms. (The forms matched, because they'd both been admitted to the same school, which gave Anastasia a small secret thrill.) "So I decided to put English for my major," she explained, cradling the phone in her neck as she pecked out the correct keys, "because I can always change my mind."

"Hmm," Henry said. "Good choice." One of the nice things about Henry—unlike some people, and here Anastasia glared at the door out to where her parents were watching Nova in the living room—was that she didn't say 'I told you so.' If she thought you were being an idiot, she said so at the time, but she didn't gloat.

"What're you putting?" Anastasia asked, and then added, guiltily, "I forgot to ask."

"Pre-med," Henry said. "I'm going to be a doctor."

"Aren't you worried about the, you know . . . " Anastasia lifted her hand from the keys to wave it above the typewriter demonstratively, even though she knew Henry couldn't see her. "The icky bits?"

Henry laughed. "I babysat both of my cousins, remember? There's not a whole lot icky I'm not already immune to."

Orientation was a rush of bodies and faces, all new, all different. Anastasia hadn't felt so at sea since the first time she moved to the suburbs and went to school with people she didn't know.

"Looks like we're free until the Stafford loan seminar at two," her mother said wearily, folding back the page of a brochure. "Do you want to get some lunch?"

Anastasia was about to say 'yes,' but then she noticed a familiar face in the crowd. Henry. Henry! "Um," she said, "actually, would it hurt your feelings if . . . "

But her mom had looked up and followed her gaze. "Go on and get lunch with Henry," she said. "I'll meet you at Washington Square Park at one forty-five, okay?"

"Yeah," Anastasia said, and then she was bolting through the crowds.

"So then," Henry was saying, "I wound up sent to the wrong building, so I had to run all the way back, and I mean run." She paused to pop a bit of soggy cafeteria broccoli in her mouth, and made a face. "And then the guy at the door gave me grief for being late."

"Did you call him a turkey?" Anastasia asked. She poked the fish sticks on her plastic tray, but she could hardly eat for the excitement, no, the glee that kept bubbling in her stomach. Henry didn't look like her fashion spreads in the magazines, not up close, but she looked even better to Anastasia.

"Nooooo," Henry said. "My mom would've given me what for if I'd been rude my very first day here. No, I just pointed out that it wasn't my fault I got given the wrong address . . . " She scrunched up her nose at Anastasia. "What? You're kinda staring. Do I have something on my face?"

"No," Anastasia said. No, Henry was perfectly normal, or, well, normal for Henry, which was funny and smart and just plain beautiful. It was Anastasia who felt weird. "You're, um, you're fine."

"You sure?"

She was quite sure, Anastasia thought, but her own lungs felt high and tight with giddiness, the same way she'd felt when she was at the top of the rope back in seventh grade gym, about to concuss herself.

"Yeah," she said. "You're fine. You . . . ." And then, with the same glorious lack of foresight that had made her let go of the rope, she leaned forward and kissed Henry on the cheek.

Henry's cheek was soft, which made Anastasia feel very aware of her chapped lips, and up close Henry smelled like Secret powder fresh deodorant, and that was all Anastasia noticed before she sat back, terrified and delighted and terrified.

Henry looked at her, all surprise, and opened her mouth, and Anastasia cringed waiting for it . . . and then Henry leaned forward and kissed her, once, very lightly, on the mouth.

Anastasia smiled, and then that wasn't enough so she grinned, and exhaled, and felt like she'd let go of the rope and started to fly.

"It's a good thing we didn't get matched up for roommate assignments," Henry said, "'coz that might've gotten weird."

"Yeah," Anastasia said, and kissed her again.