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Summary Since the flower factory is laying off people, Francie decides it is time to change jobs. She wants to apply at a publishing firm in New York City, but she knows that they are looking for a sixteen- year-old employee, and she is only fourteen. Katie decides that Francie can easily pass for being sixteen, so she applies. After her interview, she is hired on trial. Her job is to read all the articles in the newspaper and mark the items that are important. Although Francie quickly becomes the fastest reader, she remains the most poorly paid employee in the firm.
Getting to work is quite an ordeal for Francie. The train ride into the city is long and boring, and the train is usually packed with people. One day she has a particularly bad experience when a man intentionally crowds against her and touches her inappropriately. When the train finally arrives at her station, Francie usually has to run to her office building in order to arrive before nine. She always tries to be at her desk early, for she fears the wrath of her boss.
Although she likes her work for it involves reading, Francie longs to return to high school, but her mother says nothing about it. When she gets a promotion at work, she is thrilled, but she is not sure that she wants to take it, fearing it will stand in the way of high school. Francie finally tells her mother about her desire to go back to school, but Katie insists that she should work at least another year. Ironically, Katie wants Neeley to return to school, but he does not want to. Francie is deeply upset that her mother is favoring Neeley and lashes out at her. When Katie remarks that she trusts her daughter and expects her to understand, Francie feels guilty and accepts that she must continue to work.
Not surprisingly, Francie does very well at work. Since she enjoys reading, it is almost not like work to her, and she is amazed at how much she is learning. Even when she receives a promotion, Francie still yearns to quit her job and return to high school. When she is finally brave enough to talk to her mother about her desire, Katie insists that her daughter work at least another year before returning to school. Ironically, she encourages Neeley to quit his job and go back to school, even though he does not want to continue his education. Francie, upset over Katie's favoritism, lashes out at her mother; but Katie does not relent.
When Katie tells her daughter that she is like her and will pull herself out of any situation, Francie realizes that their likeness stands in the way of their being close. Her father understood her because they were very different, and Katie worries about Neeley because he is also different than she; but Katie will never worry about Francie. As a result, Francie accepts that things will never be 'all right' between her mother and her again.