"Miss. Boswell," her head snapped up from the green notepad that lay open on the desk; the once neat lined paper was crumpled around the edges, some ripped. Scrawls of words and highlighter marks filled the sheet to the top; a few lines of whiteout scattered here and there. "Great job on the article" The professor of journalism, Ian Samuels, laid the neatly typed paper on top of the notebook; replacing the repulsive scrawl with the neatly typed assignment. Erica Boswell, twenty-four year old journalism major at Chicago University, looked down at the words scattered across the pages; some how she had been able to neatly put them into several arrangements of persuading and articulate paragraphs; how she did that with the level of stress she was under…she'll never know.
"What?" she asks, astonishment etched in every word; he couldn't possibly be talking about her article…the one of Vice President Reynolds?
"I said, great job on the article." Mr. Samuels chuckled lightly; his fingers running along the top of the white pages again before he handed them one by one to the rest of the students around her.
She picked the paper up with great ease, almost like it would detonate at any moment. She glanced at the words over and over again; not noticing how good her writing had become since three years ago. "The dean wants to print it in the next Chicago University Times." she looked at him again; her eyes the size of goofballs as she tried to choke down and swallow the words he was saying. Having an article put in there was like having it put in Time Magazine.
"Really?" she asked without thinking; her voice holding surprise. She wasn't very confident in her work. "I mean-that's great." She tried to cover up her surprise by acting professional; she sat up straighter, and pushed her hair behind her ears, showing off the pearl earrings that her mother had given her at her high school graduation. Mr. Samuel's smiled; understanding the feeling.
"Yes, really. He talked about printing it in the local papers too" he paused, choosing his next words carefully, "maybe even papers across the country." He drawled out slowly. He didn't get the reaction that he had expected.
"It was really that good?" she asked, now, she didn't have a big head; but she was quite proud of herself. If that got printed in even the local news papers, she was just another step closer to getting the job at the Chicago Times; something she'd dreamed about since she was in middle school.
"Yes, it was grade-A work. Very professional." He replied.
"Yeah," she shook her head a small smile tearing at her lips, "but, I don't know if my stance on Vice President Reynolds will sit well with the rest of the country." It's true; it probably wouldn't. It wasn't that she was insensitive to the death of the Vice President's Brother, by all means she felt quite sorry for the women. But, she thought she was a little shady as well, something about her irked her last nerve; and the fact that at local was charged with the murder…a story like that was too good to pass up.
"That's one quality all journalists have. We want people to hate us," Mr. Samuel's sighed and drummed his fingers across the wooden face of her desk; he seemed deep in thought. "Let's us know that they're actually reading are stuff…really reading it. Reading and realizing that we're right." He finished with a smirk. Erica looked at him and rolled her eyes slightly so that he wouldn't see; he'd always been a little self absorbed…and little too friendly with the female students…but that's a different story.
"The semester is almost over," he announced from the front of the small room. The students absentmindedly looked out the windows just as the fresh rain began to sprinkle onto the glass, contorting the images outside like a wet picture. "Meaning?" Mr. Samuels tapped his foot on the floor; the small heel of his Italian leather boots clicking against the marble, snapping the students from the hypnotized gaze. "Anyone wanna take a stab at it; no, no?" he clapped his hands together, before dropping them back onto the desk with a bang.
"Final articles, people!" he raised his voice, a hint of enthusiasm could be heard; but you really had to listen. Erica rested her chin on the palm of her hand, her ball point pen absentmindedly tapped against the notebook, marking it with small spots of black ink. "The article that will determine whether you will get that job at the Chicago Times; or spend the rest of your lives writing freelance for websites and god forbid, livejournal!"
A girl in the back of the room crossed her arms over her chest angrily; her dark red hair falling into her eyes as she looked back across the window. Erica could swear it was like being in high school all over again; she was the perfect cliché "freak", and the resident user of livejournal in the class. The students turned from the smirking and rested their attention back on Mr. Samuels. "You don't want a good article people…you want a great one." Erica sat there for a minute, taking in what he had just said. He was right, if any of them wanted this job, this guaranteed spot; no resumes, no internships, no desk job…then they needed this article to be the best they'd ever done. Her mind was already racing with thoughts of stories and articles; the possibilities were endless.
"What are you gonna do?" Erica nagged; pulling her purse closer to her side and pulling the gray hood over her head as she and another woman walked off the curb; looking both ways before splashing though the puddles in front of them. Emily, the other woman, opened red umbrella and held it above their heads as they walked towards the parking lot.
"Drug Wars in Mexico; my uncles a border officer." She smiled brightly, her matching red jacket shielding her eyes from the pounding rain. Erica nodded, raising an eyebrow at her friend's choice, why hadn't she come up with that first, is what she was wondering though. It was a magnificent story…
"That's-" she began cautiously; stuffing her hands into her pockets and grouping around for her car keys; hopefully they weren't inside that bottomless pit that she called a purse, or else she'd never find them.
"Dangerous? Yeah, I know." She replied matter-o-faculty; almost like she knew the reaction before Erica had even asked the question. She had already heard it from her mother, her father…and her sister. Nothing was changing her mind at his point. With the rain still pounding on the umbrella she clicked the unlock button on her car keys; the locks on the black SUV popping up.
"A lot of reporters have been killed down there." Erica pushed; referring to the several that had just been killed the week before last. She looked at her, the tip of her nose dripping with the coming rain; this waterproof jacket wasn't helping her much. And when her mood was bad…so were her ideas.
"None of them American." Emily reminded her, throwing her bag into the passenger seat.
"Yet." Erica pressed.
"Hey, a little encouragement would be nice." Emily begged half-heartedly; opening her arms and then dropping them lazily. Erica rolled her eyes and nodded; she had a competitive streak that came out whenever something of her was at stake…she just wished her streak would let its guard down when it involved her friends.
"Alright, alright." She replied over the rain; it had begun to let up slightly. "I'm just- it's risky…that's all."
"Yeah, but all reporters have to sacrifice something." Emily replied, leaning against the black face of the car. Erica looked across the parking lot at her small dark blue Honda; it was dwarfed by the size of this truck.
"Even their live?" Erica pressed, crossing her arms over her chest as a small chill ran up her spine; the wet clothes clinging to her back.
"Even their live." Reassured her. "What about you? What's you genius plan of getting that job at the Times?" she playfully punched her in the arm; insinuating that Erica's mind was probably already made up about what she wanted to do. Oh, how wrong she was…
"I haven't thought of anything yet. But," she paused and kicked a piece of wet paper that was by the tire of the gigantic truck; a picture of VP Reynolds donned the page; the color and words faded and dripping from the previous shower, "It's gotta be big."
"Oh, please," Emily scoffed, leaning into the truck she started the car; the engine roaring the life with the sound of a jet engine. "You know Mr. Samuels would recommend you to the Times in a heart beat." Erica rolled her eyes and tried to hide the smirk that was creeping onto her face. "You could write an article on the quality of school lunches, sum it up in one word," she said pointing a finger at her and chuckling "and still get in. He does on you."
Erica raised her eyebrows and looked down at the ground, shuffling her feet before looking back up at her friend. "That's because he thinks all those compliments will somehow get him in my pants." As if on cue, Mr. Samuels walked out of the building; waving a goodbye and wink to the both of them as he made his way towards the other side of the parking lot, the lights of his red Corvette blinking twice as he unlocked the doors.
"Is it working?" Emily teased, watching as the red car pulled out of the parking lot.
"Not a chance." Erica replied, rain drops began to fall again. Emily looked up, groaning at the sky as a few made their way into her eyes.
"Well, listen. I gotta go, but, don't stress over it," she gave Erica's shoulder a squeeze, "That article on VP Reynolds is generating a lot of buzz. You've probably got a guaranteed slot already." She hoisted herself into the car and rolled down the tinted window.
"Yeah, but. Whatever I do…it's gonna be big." Erica reassured her once again; Emily nodded and rolled up the window, honking a goodbye as she pulled towards the exit. Erica breathed out heavily, and began to make her way across the parking lot
"It's gotta be big." She mumbled under her breath; reassuring herself over and over again. "It's gotta be big."