Whether or not you’ve been following along (and if you have, you know I love you bunches right now), here’s the newest section of Secrets Internalized! I’d love to hear about it if you’re enjoying the story or even if you have a constructive critique! If you’d like to start reading it from the beginning, here are the previous parts: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3; Part 4; Part 5; Part 6; Part 7; Part 8; Part 9; Part 10
Two weeks passed in much the same way. Rita left Astrid largely to her own devices and Astrid worked overtime to churn out stories no one cared about, while Rita stole the recognition for any actually noteworthy pieces for herself.
One night when Astrid thought she couldn’t take it anymore, she stormed to Adrian’s desk at the end of her shift, teeth bared and hair askew, and growled, “Let’s go.”
“All right,” he said, wide-eyed, “let me just clear up my things.”
They headed to the Leaky Cauldron, where Astrid immediately ordered drinks for both of them before unleashing all her pent-up aggravation.
“She doesn’t even look at me when I pass her, Adrian! Won’t even acknowledge my presence! She’s supposed to be my boss! I’m supposed to be able to look up to her! Glean inspiration! And everything I do is just wrong, might I add! She finds a hundred things to nitpick out of every story I put out! And then when I try to do something the way she told me to do it, suddenly that’s the wrong way to do it, too! And it’s all my fault because how could I have been stupid enough to misunderstand her the first time? I don’t even know anymore if the problem is me or her! I mean, it must be me, right, because everyone loves her, so clearly I’m missing something! I mean, is she just screwing about with my head, or am I really that pathetic?”
Adrian watched somberly throughout this diatribe and spoke up when Astrid paused for breath.
“Yeah, I thought this might happen,” he said. “You’re not the first, you know. I’ve seen four interns walk out because they couldn’t deal with her anymore. And yes, she’s definitely screwing with your head. Don’t even think you’re pathetic because you’re not! You do good work with what you’re given to work with! I’ve seen it!”
Astrid let forth a scream of rage at this. “And that’s the other thing!” she said. “I know I’m only just starting, but how am I ever supposed to advance from under her? With her constantly shitcanning me to everyone above her, how can I ever get ahead?”
“You’re resourceful! You’ll think of something. And I doubt she’s shitcanning—”
“I’ve heard her!” Astrid interjected.
“Well…even so.” He looked uncomfortable.
As Astrid began to devour her toad-in-the-hole, she happened to glance over into the same corner she had spotted Barty Crouch, Jr. in a couple weeks before and found him again, this time dining alone. It was then that the hatchling of an idea began to come to her. Resourceful. Yes, she was resourceful. If Rita was going to actively work to stunt her career at the Prophet, then maybe…maybe she would just find the story of the century on her own.
She continued to eat her supper, this time without taking her eye off him. After a while, Adrian noticed and turned to look where she was watching.
“What are you staring—blimey, it’s Barty again!” He looked back at her, suspicious. “What’s your obsession with him all of a sudden, anyway?”
“What? I’m not obsessed!”
“Yeah, you went on about him strangely a while back and now you can’t keep your eyes off him. Are you in love or something? I know he was interested in you back at Hogwarts—”
“Not love,” Astrid said, “just…interest.” She found Adrian’s suspicious a useful cover for her real intentions.
“Well, go and talk to him, then. What have you got to lose?”
“I’m just nervous, that’s all. We haven’t been close for years.”
“So rekindle something!”
“There was no kindling there in the first place. We were just friends, that’s all.”
“Friends, right. I remember how he stopped speaking to you when you started seeing Dirk all those years ago.”
She took out her wallet, prepared to pay in case she had to get up in a hurry, and just in time, too, for at that moment, Barty stood up. She hurriedly threw some cash on the table.
“I’ve got to go, Adrian, sorry!”
“Now?” He turned back to look at Barty. “Oh, I see. Best of luck to you, then!”
Astrid downed a shot of Firewhisky and bade Adrian a quick farewell before chasing after Barty, heart pounding against her chest. Anything for the story, right?
The next section is here!