Chapter 1 | The Assignment
𝐀 𝐕 𝐀 𝐋 𝐎 𝐍
Journalism is not an easy major.
When you tell people you’re a journalism major, their first response is one of three things “I wish my major was that easy”, “journalism is not a real job and will get you nowhere in life” or my personal favorite “your major is learning how to write the gossip column of a newspaper”. However, after finishing my freshman year of college, and am now a month into my sophomore year. I can tell you there is no journalism major who in their right mind would say this is an easy degree. If the late nights and coffee highs, compiling thorough research to produce draft after drafts of articles, re-listening to interviews we have conducted and fact-checking every single sentence is any indication.
Every major is hard in its own way, and it differs from person to person. While journalism isn’t as grueling as medicine, law, or the sciences, for example. People classify it as an easy way to get through college. Probably why every seat was full during freshman year for the first week. I got lucky when Olivia, who I didn’t know at the time, waved me over, pointing to the spare seat next to her. We’ve been friends ever since. After that first week, students saw the large workload and dedication that came with journalism and changed their course. What people don’t see is the countless hours we put in. The preparation we have to do for practical examinations, the knock-backs we encounter when people don’t cooperate with interviews that we need to do to pass.
Still think journalism is an easy way to get through college? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
Professor Morgan’s voice fills the air, carrying through the lecture theater as she walks back and forth at the front. Her fleeting gaze shifts from student to student, and there is no doubt she can tell who is listening and who isn’t. She narrows her eyes on the students that have their heads rested on the desks, and immediately the person next to them nudges them awake. A slight chuckle escapes my lips at their dazed state, and a subtle smirk appears on the professor’s lips. As if she is proud of the respect she has earned. No surprise there. Before becoming a professor, she was a renowned journalist who made history for women in the industry. You would be insane to mess with her.
Leaning back in my chair, my pen tapping against the notebook sat on the small table space in front of me. I sigh, pushing my long blonde locks behind me. The aftereffects of a two-hour Monday morning lecture catching up with me. My soft green eyes wander to the rows of students who have their eyebrows scrunched together while rubbing their temples to get rid of the sudden migraine that started at the same time the lecture did. While other students look as if they’re about to pull their hair out or have given up and have now thrown their pens down on the table.
Even though we’ve been back for a month, Monday morning lectures are still hitting people hard. Me included, since I’ve overslept two Mondays in a row now and had to rush to campus. Was I a morning person? Hell no, and anyone who tells you they are, has been lying to you. Maybe being Brooklyn born and raised made me hate the mornings a little more than any regular person. Clearly, when I moved to Los Angeles for college last year it hadn’t changed that at all, nor had it changed my personality. Most of the time I can be sweet, but in reality, I am a coffee addicted, witty person with a feisty attitude if you steal my food...basically a typical New Yorker.
“That’s it for today, everybody. I can see most of you are falling asleep as I speak, so in other words, a typical Monday morning class. Before you go, as you all know each year there is a big assignment that is worth 30% of your grade for the year,” She announces sitting on the edge of her desk as everyone listens. “This semester you will be required to write an article on a certain aspect here at the college. For example, a sports team, a fraternity, a club.”
“Dibs on the cheerleaders,” Someone shouts, earning chuckles from his friends around him. I roll my eyes at his words. Horny bastard.
“Nice try, but I will email all assigned topics to you later today. There will be no swapping, so if you’re not happy with your assigned topic, then you deal with it because that is real life,” The professor retorts, making her way behind her desk. “Spend your time wisely. Observing your chosen topic, conducting research and interviews. I will follow up with you all halfway through the semester to see your progress. That will be all.”
Chatter takes over the second of silence that occurs as soon as she dismisses us. People rush down the aisle trying to get out as fast as they can, most of them ready to go back to sleep the moment they’re home. Everyone seems to have mixed feelings about the assignment and guesses as to where they will be assigned reach my ears as they pass by.
“What are the chances I’ll get assigned to the football team? That way I can see Nick more,” Olivia asks, referring to her boyfriend, as we pack up our things and stand up, waiting for an opening in the mass sea of students.
“I’d say less than one percent, considering the number of students in this class. But if you do, you may have to fight off the other girls wanting to get assigned to the team. Haven’t you heard football players are high on a girls list of guys they want to sleep with,” I joke as we make our way down the lecture hall. “Along with rich businessmen, rock stars, and firefighters.”
“I know that all too well, considering Nick and I have been together for three years. All in which he has been playing football for,” Liv states as we make our way out of the building.
“Yet you’re the only one who has his attention,” I nudge her as she chuckles. “Where can I find me a college guy that prefers to spend time with me rather than attending frat parties?”
“They’re a limited amount,” Liv nods her head, making me chuckle before she changes the conversation topic. “What are you hoping to get?”
“As long as I don’t get a sports team, I don’t care what I get. I know nothing about sports,” I admit, scrunching up my nose making Liv laugh.
“Neither do I and I’m dating a football player. He’s tried explaining it to me, but I don’t understand it, so he’s given up trying,” Liv laughs as we walk through campus. “Why were you almost late this morning?”
“Missed two of my alarms, so I thought I still had time. Luckily, Hannah woke me up. I’m afraid one of these days when she threatens to throw me out of bed or pour ice water on me, she actually will.” I laugh, referring to my roommate.
“God help you when that day arrives. I thought she was crazy when I first met her,” Liv laughs, referring to the first time she came to my apartment and saw Hannah running through our apartment chasing after our other friend Sierra.
“Some people are still convinced she is,” I admit, pushing the door to the coffee shop open. The caffeinated aroma surrounds us as we walk inside, intensifying my need for another coffee, after I’ve been without for an hour and fifty minutes. Yes, I keep track. Students take up every inch of the coffee shop, it being the most popular one on campus which is not surprising since 80% of students live off coffee and the other 20%? Well, they dropped out.
My eyes roam the coffee shop. The chestnut walls stand out against the white flooring, yet it complements the counter and the tables surrounding the café. Hannah is impossible to miss. Stood by a booth where she sits with Sierra, waving her arms around like a crazy woman. She’s getting some interesting looks, that’s for sure. Linking my arm through Olivia’s we scurry past the other students. The little space makes it very difficult as we make our way over to them.
“Thank god, if I waved for any longer people would think I’m crazy,” Hannah exaggerates sliding back into the booth. Allowing me to slide in next to her and Olivia next to Sierra.
“They already think that,” Sierra points out rolling her eyes. “She almost tackled someone to get these seats when we got here.”
“I got the seats, didn’t I?” Hannah smirks, clearly proud of her efforts. “And made an enemy.”
“Oh, you definitely did, he glared at you for twenty minutes straight,” Sierra confirms, getting Liv and me to laugh. “While Han over here was training to become a professional wrestler, I got your usuals for you both,” Sierra smiles pushing our drinks towards us. Wrapping my hands around the warm takeout cup, I chug my coffee like there is no tomorrow.
“You and your coffee addiction,” Olivia giggles, rolling her eyes.
“I lasted an hour and a fifty without my coffee fix, and I deserve a reward for that. That reward being more coffee,” I say. Do I get snappy if I don’t get my coffee first thing in the morning? Yes. Do I get snappy if I don’t continue getting coffee throughout the day? Yes. Does this mean I have a coffee addiction? Probably.
“If I knew all I had to do to become your friend was buy you coffee, I didn’t have to waste that beer I threw at them guys at that frat party the first week of college,” Sierra muses.
“But now we have a cool story about how the three of us met,” I point out, and she agrees, nodding her head.
“Do I need to worry that you’ll replace me as your best friend if someone brings you coffee?” Hannah questions. “Who else will save me from spiders?” She asks, throwing her hands in the air.
“You should have majored in theater rather than dance,” I joke, nudging her shoulder.
“Anyway, how was class? Did you make it on time?” Sierra asks, taking the lid off her coffee cup, letting it cool down some.
“Made it with three minutes to spare,” I say, giving Hannah a high five. This was a regular occurrence. One Hannah knew all too well since we were roommates our freshman year of college in the dorms. Hannah said she knew we were going to be best friends as soon as we met. But in reality, it’s because when we met, I saved her from a spider that was crawling around our dorm room. That’s how our friendship was born...to this day I still save her from spiders.
“A new record,” Liv chimes making us laugh. “It’s a good job you weren’t late, Professor Morgan would assign you to a sports team out of spite then.”
“Why is that?” Hannah asks, confused about what we are talking about, and we explain about the assignment for this semester. “That would be the worst thing your professor could do. I don’t know who I would feel sorrier for. Ava considering she’d be confused all the time or the sports team considering they’d most likely have to explain everything to her,” Hannah ponders, adding more sugar to her coffee.
“Them trying to explain it to me would be more difficult than the game itself,” I admit.
“Aren’t sports like huge in New York? How do you not understand it?” Liv asks confused. “Could you consider that as a form of treason?”
“First, that’s baseball. All I know is there is a divide between two of the teams. I’m the 1% who doesn’t understand or like it,” I shrug.
“If you got a fraternity, that would be awesome. You’d be drunk like all the time with the number of parties they throw,” Sierra shrugs, taking a sip of her drink. “The hangovers would suck though.”
Olivia turns her body a little to face Sierra. “How was your date with that guy from your psychology class?”
“It was okay, nothing special. He was super nervous. Now he thinks we’re an item or something because he does not stop texting,” Sierra sighs, throwing her head back, and we laugh. “Seriously? Look at these 12 texts in the last half hour!” Sierra shoves her phone in my face, which I push away to look at it.
“So dramatic,” I tease handing her phone back. “Let him down easy, and if that doesn’t work, change your name and move states.”
“Real helpful,” Sierra huffs as she glares at me and slouches down in the booth as we laugh at her and carry on drinking the rest of our drinks.
The powerful stench of alcohol surrounds the bar. A smell I’ve gotten used to after working here since the middle of freshman year. An intense warmth fills the bar because of the large number of students that have filled the place. Making me keep pulling my tight black top away from my body to stop it from sticking. The noise of chatter, glasses hitting one another, and the cheers that surround the bar, more specifically from the table not too far away as they watch some sports game on television, fills my ears.
My eyes sweep over the place. Watching as the alcohol hits some people harder than others as some students sway around the bar or have that glazed over drunk look, while the rest are fine and can handle their alcohol. Jumping out of my skin at a loud cheer that suddenly erupts, I roll my eyes at their obvious enjoyment for the game and place the tray on the bar where drunk college students have thrown beer all over it.
The joys of working at a student bar on campus.
It isn’t all bad though. Even though getting hit on and perverted stares came with it, it helps me save up so I can go back home for the holidays. Being a broke college student as soon as I stepped foot on campus was something life didn’t prepare you for, and the airfare from the west coast to the east coast isn’t cheap.
“You’ve got to be one of the few girls on campus who could walk away from the hot athletes. What the hell is wrong with you? Do you not see how hot they are?” Mateo, the bartender, and my co-worker gestures over to the table that is cheering the loudest. Surrounded by the USC football team according to their letterman jackets.
“If they’re so hot, why don’t you talk to them?” I smirk watching as he pours some drinks from behind the bar, while I stand on the opposite side. The problem with being 19, I’m stuck being a server running drinks to people rather than being a bartender.
“If I didn’t have a boyfriend I would, but the temptation is there,” He mutters looking over to the table, making me chuckle and shake my head.
“I’m not blind, I see how hot they are,” I sigh, leaning my elbows on the bar looking at him. His black hair a contrast to his sparkling emerald eyes and pale skin. There was no denying the attractiveness of the team sat close enough for me to make out their faces. “But my first choice wouldn’t be to write an assignment on them, I’d struggle with the terminology.”
“And they can teach you, one on one if you know what I mean,” Mateo winks. “Hell I’d let them.”
“Really? I wouldn’t have guessed by the drool you’re sporting just looking at them,” I joke throwing the rag at him that lay on the tray which hits him in the face since he is too busy checking for drool. He’s too easy to mess with.
“Hey, sweetheart,” Some guy slurs as he reaches the bar. I purse my lips doing my best to ignore the pet name but Mateo’s amusement in the matter makes it very difficult. “Can I get a beer and maybe you to come home with me after your shift.”
“Oh sweetheart,” I repeat the nickname, leaning my elbows on the bar. “That’s not happening, he’s the one that pours your drinks not me. Now either order something or move along,” I state standing back up. He stays silent and I take that as his cooperation. Mateo pours him a beer, and the guy pays before scurrying off after muttering a ‘killjoy’ that I definitely heard.
“I’m impressed, you didn’t put your fist in that guys face,” Mateo nods his head. “Even though I could see how much you wanted to,” He nods towards my clenched fist. “I swear you’ve been called every pet name in the book.”
“What about you? Hey handsome,” I mimic the girls who always hit on him, flipping my hair and batting my eyelids.
“Don’t even. Their faces always drop when they realize,” He laughs, shaking his head.
“You mean when you subtly include it in a conversation by mentioning your boyfriend, or come straight out and say it,” I laugh, and he nods. “The best time was when that girl was hitting on you so obviously and Matty walked straight up to you and kissed you,” I explain as he now clears away the empty glasses that sit on the counter.
“She was gone by the time we pulled back,” Mateo chuckles, his eyes darting over my shoulder. “Looks like the pool table is broken again, they seriously need to come and fix that thing,” Mateo mutters walking out from behind the bar. “Take over?”
“You know one day we’re going to get caught for doing this,” I chuckle taking his place behind the bar. “It’s a good job our manager spends more time in the office than out here.”
“Well, if Emma hadn’t called in sick, we’d be fine,” Mateo says walking away. Placing some glasses back on the shelves, my eyes flicker over to the bar every once in a while, to make sure no one is waiting for a drink or that the manager decides to make an appearance since I’m not allowed to be back here or actually pour drinks. My eyes widen as I catch a guy running towards the bar and jumps over.
“Ahh shit going down,” He curses landing on the floor in an awkward position making me wince. “That was painful.” He groans sitting up, yet staying hidden behind the bar. Hunched into the corner, away from prying eyes.
“Umm, can I help you?” I raise my eyebrow at his pained state. His letterman jacket covers his broad shoulders as he nervously runs his hand through his messy brown hair.
“Is there a big beefy dude looking around like he wants to kill someone?” The guy asks. I look around and see exactly what he described, I mean it’s kind of hard to miss the built guy with an angry look on his face.
“Mmm,” I nod my head and he curses. “Why are you hiding from this guy? I mean, he could snap you like a twig, but still.”
“I may or may not have hit on his girlfriend while he was standing right behind me. But I didn’t know she was seeing anyone,” He points out wanting to make the last part very clear. “And I didn’t know he was behind me. Although her looking behind me should have been some sign,” He mutters deep in thought. “Shit,” He ducks even further seeing the guy walk closer as he peeped over the counter. My eyes scan the guy, watching as his eyes cover every inch of the bar, clearly looking for the guy that is cowardly behind the bar. As he comes up empty, he turns around and meets a girl at the door before they leave together.
“He’s gone now,” I inform, and he peeks his head over the counter and stands up properly brushing himself off once he sees the guy has disappeared.
“Sup?” He nods his head, leaning his hand on the bar, and gives me a cheeky smile. “Must be my lucky day, I’m saved from some guy kicking my ass and I’m saved by a very beautiful lady.”
“Little tip. Don’t try and hit on a girl after you just admitted you were hitting on a different girl,” I tell him chuckling and he nods his head realizing it’s probably not the best way to pick up a girl. “And I need you out from behind here, no one is supposed to be back here except workers.”
“I’m going to walk around this time,” He points to the gap that leads out from behind the bar, before walking out yet, he stays on the other side of the bar. “I need a drink after that.”
“What can I get you? And a word of warning, if you say me or anything related to that such as me going home with you I will punch you,” I clarify, resting my hands on the bar and his eyes widen before he holds his hands up in defense.
“I do not need to be told twice, I happen to like my pretty face,” He admits, stroking his chin. “Rough night?”
“I’ve had five guys hit on me today. One just before you,” I shrug. “What can I get you?” I ask. Even though I’m not supposed to, this happens more than you would think. People don’t turn in for their shift and when they’re short, us servers sometimes end up pouring a few drinks here and there.
“Round of shots for the table,” The guy points to the table of at least ten guys. “I’m not supposed to. We have practice tomorrow, shhh,” He whispers. I chuckle, grabbing ten shot glasses and placing them on a tray before pouring them all. “Now if you could take them over and say someone randomly bought them for the table, while I go hide that would be great. But seriously, I will drop them.” He says referring to the drinks. I grab the tray and make my way out from behind the bar, following him over to the table and putting the shots down.
“Dylan, we said no shots man come on coach will kick our asses if we get drunk,” One guy sighs as Dylan takes the drinks off the tray handing them to each player. The guy takes the now empty tray and hands it to me. His warm brown eyes connecting with mine, a small smile decorating his face. “I’m sorry for his annoyingness, there’s no cure,” He admits making me chuckle and take the tray off him, but our eyes don’t leave one another’s.
“Hey, I heard that!” Dylan shouts before turning to me. “Take me with you, they’re all mean to me if you can’t tell.”
“You’re on your own,” I pat his shoulder before heading back to finish my shift. Ignoring the brown eyes I feel burning into my back as I walk away. Thankfully, the rest of the shift goes smoothly and I’m saying goodbye to Mateo before heading to my car parked in the campus parking lot and driving back to the apartment. The drive home isn’t long, yet it gives me time to admire the city, the lights reminding me of back home in New York. Soon enough, I pull into the parking lot of the apartment building. Turning off the ignition and grabbing my bag, I make my way up to the apartment.
“I’m home!” I shout walking into the apartment seeing Hannah spread out on the couch eating popcorn and watching movies. “Aw you started movie Monday without me!” I pout, taking off my shoes and hanging up my bag. I run over and jump on the couch landing half on her making her complain, I laugh as I get off her and sit next to her.
“Sorry, but Channing Tatum was calling my name, and I wait for no woman,” Hannah smiles, and I chuckle stealing some popcorn off her. “He’s on my list of people I can cheat on Seb with. Along with Shawn Mendes, Ross Butler, Cody Christian, and Liam Hemsworth,” Hannah explains, referring to her boyfriend of a little over a year. They met at high school, and he was popular from being on the swim team there. She was skeptical at first considering they had never talked before that day, but he gained her trust, and they’ve been dating ever since. “How was work?”
“The usual. I need a shower though some drunk jackass spilled beer on me,”
“I didn’t want to say but yeah you do,” Hannah says, and I shove her as she laughs. “I’ll even pause it for you. I’m that nice of a roommate,” She smiles, pausing the movie. I chuckle before getting up and heading to my bedroom. It doesn’t take me long before I gather my stuff and head to our shared bathroom before stripping off and showering. The alcoholic smell finally leaving my body. After a good amount of time getting rid of the smell and stickiness, I put my robe on and make my way back to my bedroom. As soon as I walk in, my phone goes off and I open it to see an email from my professor, perfect my assigned topic. Dear Avalon...blah blah blah....down below you will see...blah blah blah...ah here we go I’m assigned to...
The football team!