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SWELL: Anna [intro] - J's Novel in Progress

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September 18th, 2005

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11:29 am - SWELL: Anna [intro]
Many years ago, Anna Tyler, then called Anna Thomas, was a student at the University of California at San Diego. She was an undergraduate, majoring in Biochemistry.

She was, like most college students, young enough to get into all sorts of trouble and old enough to know better. In a fashion typical for those her age, she was intelligent and idealistic, not naïve, but not yet familiar with the ways of the real world.

Anna’s parents, Kate and Samuel Thomas, were gently supportive of her, in the way that modestly affluent parents often are. They didn’t pressure her down with their own dashed hopes and failed aspirations; nor did they require her to achieve some certain high standard of success that they had reached themselves and wished to impose on their children as well. Mr and Mrs Thomas were a good sort, as far as parents went, although Anna didn’t fully appreciate this until later.

When Anna was twenty-one years old, in her last year of college, she dated a young man named Harry Byrd. Perhaps “dated” wasn’t quite the word to describe it, though; their relationship was more like what a high-schooler would have called “going out”—that is, they referred to each other as girlfriend and boyfriend and smiled when they saw each other in passing, but didn’t do much else. Anna was genuinely fond of Harry Byrd, and ostensibly he of her


Three weeks later, Anna found out she was pregnant. She cried for a long time, face down on her bed, tears soaking into the soft linen of the pillowcase. She then wrote a letter to her parents, because she couldn’t bear to call them, couldn’t bear to hear whatever it was they might say in reply.

She found in the pocket of her jeans the ripped half-sheet of paper where she and Clarence Tyler had exchanged phone numbers. When they had, she hadn’t intended to ever actually call him, and she doubted that he would try to contact her again either, but now Anna was grateful, glad that they had thought of such a token nicety, even if neither of them had meant anything by it. She called him. Later, she would reflect on the fact that she had been too scared to talk to her parents and hear their voices, but she had had almost no reservations about calling this almost-complete stranger, to tell him she was going to have his child.
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