Anatomy of a Player (Taking Shots #2)(4)

by Cindi Madsen

Professor Jessup slowly leaned forward in his seat, and I leaned forward, too, waiting for him to impart his wisdom—after all, he’d worked for a national paper for twenty years before becoming a journalism professor.

“Now, I’m going to give you some advice that’s going to make your college experience and the rest of your life a lot easier,” he said.

My heart quickened, and I poised my pen over my notebook, ready to jot down every word. Who needed air? Not the girl who was about to get the secret to landing her dream job.

“You’re a pretty girl, and while it’s a competitive field, you have a good shot at landing an anchorwoman position. The TV would love you—you just have to network and meet the right contacts. Stay in shape, work on your people skills, be willing to start at the bottom. I think you’d even do well in the entertainment industry.”

Everything inside me deflated as I pictured the overly-coiffed women who reported the daily news. “Anchorwoman? Nothing against those women, but that’s not what I want to do. I want to do the digging, and write hard-hitting articles that inform and inspire. Not just read a teleprompter.”

The smile he gave me was so patronizing that I went from deflated to incensed in two seconds flat. “Would you say this to any of the male journalism students?” I couldn’t believe it’d come out—usually I avoided confrontation at all costs. Probably why I usually assumed a guy and I were exclusive instead of asking him if we were.

But I wasn’t going to think about that right now. This was about me and my future, and how the guy in front of me had just brushed me off like I was some ditzy girl who only cared about being on TV.

Professor Jessup held up his hands. “Like I said, I’m only trying to make your life easier. I should’ve known you’d get emotional.” He arched eyebrows heavy with the implication that this was why I wouldn’t make it.

Well, I’d show him.

I shot to my feet and my notebook fell to the floor—so much for my dramatic show of how in-control I was. “Thank you for your time. I guess I’ll have to talk to someone still in the field about what I need to do.”

Someone who’s been introduced to the twenty-first century. I wished I had the guts to add that, but for me, what I’d said had been plenty bold. I scooped up my notebook and backpack and strode out the stuffy office.

I was afraid if I stopped I’d lose momentum, so I marched myself over to the Heights newspaper office. It was Part Two of my plan originally, but since Part One just went down in misogynistic flames, it had been promoted.

As I neared the brick building, my feet slowed and nerves rose up, making me regret my Coke and Pop-Tarts breakfast. Honestly, I should’ve done this at the beginning of the semester, not a month into it. I’d tried to get on staff last year, but they’d passed me over so I hadn’t bothered submitting again, and now I regretted it.

That just means I’ve got to really bring it right now.

I clenched and unclenched my fists a few times, jerked open the door, and went inside, determined to not take no for answer.

Chapter Four


“Bro, you’re slipping into old habits,” Dane said. I wasn’t sure he knew how to start a sentence without “bro” in front of it. In our ten plus years of friendship, he’d probably only managed it a handful of times.

I didn’t bother looking away from the TV, even though I wasn’t that interested in whatever crime show was on the screen. “Yeah, apparently it’s going around.”

“What does that mean?”

“Nothing,” I muttered, and turned up the TV.

Of course Dane wasn’t deterred. He stood in front of the screen and crossed his arms. “I’m sure you remember from freshman year what happens when you fail your classes. You end up on academic probation, with Coach breathing down your neck. They threaten to not renew your scholarship. Your life sucks, and all of those things make my life suck, too. Not to mention the team would suffer without you.”

Distraction had been my constant companion the past week, which wasn’t helping with the almost-failing problem. Homework assignments might keep me afloat, but that meant getting through them, and lately it all seemed so pointless. What was I trying to prove, anyway? At one point it had been that I could get through college—I even had dreams of being able to change the lives of kids who had to deal with what I’d had to growing up, but it turned out that McCaffrey, the team’s academic advisor, had been right about my major. It was hard, possibly too hard, to manage on top of playing hockey.

I prided myself on proving people wrong, but at this rate it would take me ten years to graduate—I wondered if they’d let me play hockey for all of them? Then maybe it wouldn’t be so bad.

Or maybe I’d get recruited, and then I could at least earn enough money to try to make a difference, even if I wasn’t working directly with the kids. Of course, getting recruited required playing, and playing required grades good enough to stay eligible and keep my scholarship.

Which meant Dane had a point—he was going to continue to stare at me and block the TV until I gave in, too, I could tell. “Fine, I’m on it.”

“I can see that from the way you’re pulling out your books to study,” he said.

He was my boy and all, but sometimes he didn’t know when to shut his mouth. I gritted my teeth in an approximation of a smile, reached for the backpack I’d dumped next to the coffee table, and dug out my stupid statistics book.

I opened it to the homework assignment and scribbled down an answer that I was pretty sure wasn’t correct.

Dane frowned at it. “Bro, you know you’ve got to read the chapters to get the answers, right?”

There he went, not knowing when to shut his mouth. We’d grown up in the same neighborhood in the Bronx—his house was a couple of streets down from the low-income apartment complex my mom and I lived in. I’d ended up in countless fights because he had no filter, but even when he said something dumb, I couldn’t not rise to his defense.

“You think you can do better?” I shoved my book at him. “Go for it.”

Dane poked a finger into the spine, sliding it back to me. “No way. There’s a reason I signed up for all the classes with teachers known for going easy on hockey players.”

I’d tried to register for classes with those types, too, but I’d found that thanks to their studying social behaviors, sociology professors had this superiority complex about treating everyone equally. Now I was in a class with a teacher who probably didn’t even know what hockey was, much less cared about it.