This story is by CarpeDiem and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
I quickly downed a few shots of Hennessey and made moves for the dance floor. Nothing makes me happier than feeling the beat of the music move through my bones. My earliest memories of music came from my dad who claimed he could play guitar; something I’ve still yet to witness. You can assume, if the music is playing… there’s no pulling me out of it.
I was dancing the night away when a mysteriously handsome, tall, dark-eyed, dark-haired man walked up and took my hand. He twirled me around on the dance floor for what felt like hours. “Closing Time” by Semisonic started blasting over the speakers, which meant the bar would be closing in a few, so Adam and I headed to the bar where we exchanged numbers and said our goodbyes.
[The next morning|
Adam 8:00am: Hey sleeping beauty. How are you this fine morning?
Me 8:30am: Grouchy! Haven’t had coffee yet. How are you?
Adam 9:10am: Uh-o! The beast is on the loose! How about dinner tonight? Would that make you less grouchy?
Me 9:30am: Ah, the perfect antidote.
Adam 9:35am: Great, pick you up outside your dorm @ 8pm. Wear something sexy!
We both ordered the steak; it being the first edible meal I’d confronted in college, I ate until I couldn’t breathe. “Well-done steak, you’re not as badass as you appear” I said. He shot back, “You’d survive in the wild without having to cook your food.” We flirted for a bit longer before the conversation took a serious turn.
His sarcastically comforting wit made it easier for me to open up about my situation pertaining to my parents and current job situation; which was very untypical from my natural tendency to keep my problems to myself, buried up inside. “Did I just lose more badass points?” Adam defeatedly joked, after learning my dad easily consumes a 24-case of Budweiser per evening.
“When my mother left my father with the ultimatum…her or the Budweiser… he chose the lesser of the two and then tried to manipulate her into staying with him by threatening to no longer support me through school,” I explained. “Nickels and dimes beat living with a raging drunk,” Adam said agreeing with my mom’s decision to leave.
In spite of my dad, I poured in the extra hours and passed my first semester with a 4.0 and even received a few thousand in scholarships.
“I have a way you can make some quick money. But, the circumstances require you to be naked and comfortable behind the camera,” Adam said in a serious tone, as he parked against the sidewalk next to my dorm.
My first instinct was to bolt. Crap, I thought this guy was actually normal. Is he going to kill me? … I should have brought my pepper spray. Out of there. Somewhere far away.
With my mom currently living on a friend’s couch, struggling to make ends meet, and my dad selfishly drinking away any extra funds with no remorse, I knew didn’t have a lot of options available to me to make a substantial income. So, I took Adam up on his offer, “I’m only doing this once. I just need something to hold me over while I look for another job,” I said.
We shot the first video at his friend’s studio, located in the heart of downtown Greenville, North Carolina; where the highest crime rate occurred. While I felt incredibly guilty and disgusted with myself the grand in my pocket was enough to get me through the next few months.
I continued to take Adam up on numerous offers after that. Thankfully, I managed to pay my way through school, without getting into any trouble and graduated at the top of my class with a degree in journalism. Relieved to start a life without secrecy, I already had my dream job lined up back home.
After three years with the local news station, in Boone, North Carolina and I was up for a promotion. In addition, I had been assigned my biggest story yet. I landed an interview with our governor and local police department on the issues and importance of anti-human trafficking awareness with in our community as well as across the state of North Carolina.
This was the most important story I’d been assigned yet. I knew the effects of trafficking and how easy it was to get coerced into (although no one else knew I’d experienced it before). I would finally get to do what I was so passionate about and make an imprint on something that mattered to me and the population at large.
“And we’re Live……” (5 minutes) ”…CUT!”
To my dismay, something tragic happened. Suddenly, I was surrounded by pitched black Tahoe’s with tinted windows. “Mam, you’re under arrest under a criminal offence of public nudity.” “Excuse me?” I said, feeling in the dark, before coming to the realization that one of the videos Adam had taken of me in my rebellious days had found its way on national television, in place of my interview with the governor.
What? Why? Who would hack into a nationally televised report to get back at me? Adam?
This being the only known instance of the sort, was labeled as the rarest occurrence in the history of reporting. I’ll go down in history after all; sarcastically speaking. Everyone I knew and loved had missed the most important moment of my life in exchange for literally the lowest point in my life.
My video mishap continued to be the hottest topic in news coverage. Countless families across the country were still angry about the whole fiasco; many of which had children and husbands watching at the time my video was aired. Feeling completely embarrassed and not to mention unemployed, this was, no doubt, a reporters’ worst nightmare. My life is over.
The harsh knock at the door came as a surprise. I looked forward to the knocks on the door since I’d been on house arrest for four weeks. But this knock was different. I jumped up and opened the door to find the sheriff. “Quickly, grab your belongings and come with me,” he said.
As we waited in a large field, I saw a helicopter approaching in the distance. An intimidating important high-class looking helicopter. One that, I would come to find out, seated the President of the United States.
As the President stepped off the helicopter, I became so nervous I threw up. Could I embarrass myself anymore! Tell me I’m dreaming. To my surprise there was no anger. Only kindness. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said and shook my hand. A pleasure, really? He continued, “It appears you have been through a lot. I have a proposition you may favor.” Baffled, I said, “I have nothing to lose.”
We sat in the helicopter for some privacy. Although the President expressed his disappointment for my past decisions he was intrigued by how I’d had managed to receive more global coverage on the video fiasco than any of his own attempts on more important matters.
“How is it that your explicit video attracted more eyes, in-live coverage, than any other historical news occurrence in history?” the President asked. “One of two things, I’m either the joke of the world or I’m too good at my job. After all, isn’t attracting the most viewers the optimal goal of reporting?” I replied. I had accomplished my dream after all just not the way I had envisioned.
“You’re a good person who got mixed up in the wrong things,” he continued. “I guess you’ve done your homework on me?” I said feeling exposed. “I’d like to give you a second chance. But it won’t be easy.” I took his offer in a heartbeat as was pretty much my only option to redeem my past. I agreed to complete 150 hours of community service, train the local police department on human trafficking, and start my own anti-human trafficking organization.
“Once you accomplish these tasks, I’ll have a job waiting for you. You can decide to continue working as a reporter, as the head of PR, or take a spot on the hill with the Department of Anti-Human Trafficking. Either way, my dear, all eyes will be on you. You have everyone’s attention now. And with that comes the power to change the world.”
As he walked up the steps of the helicopter I say, “I’ll see you soon.” I’m going to prove to him, what he already believes, that I am the best reporter known to man. “Looking forward to working with you,” were the President’s last words. This historical rarity would be an important lesson to every reporter.
But, I would keep the lesson I learned forever more; failure is growth.
My biggest mistake had shaped the rest of my life. My ending became a greater beginning.