A bead of sweat trickled down the back of Beth's
neck and into her brand new Tigers sweatshirt, a gift from her parents in honor
of the auspicious occasion. "Damned school pride," she snorted under her breath.
With over forty-five pounds of photography equipment hanging from the strap on
her shoulder, even the late fall chill couldn't keep her comfortable. The
strain, coupled with the fact that she'd rather be anywhere other than a high
school football game, made Beth more than a little bit grumpy. She needed the
action shots, though, to round out her portfolio. Her portraits and stills were
breathtaking, but all the best photojournalism programs expected a wide variety
of samples. That meant action shots, which—unfortunately for Beth—meant sports.
She didn't have time to wait for track season to roll around and provide
something a bit more artistic and aesthetically pleasing, either.
The scholarship application had to be in tomorrow's mail, and Beth cursed
herself for putting it off until the last minute. Pro-cras-tin-a-tion,
she mocked Carly Simon, is making me late. She'd be pulling an
all-nighter, for sure. Fortunately—or not, depending on one's perspective—she
didn't have anything resembling a social life, so she wouldn't be missing a hot
date or a night out with a gaggle of girlfriends. Since Jonathan left for
college, she spent most weekends taking photos or, if she couldn't afford to buy
film, sketching. Her classmates called her an art geek, which didn't bother her
in the least.
Next weekend, she planned to make her first trip to Penn State to visit
Jonathan. After scrambling to jump through all the scholarship hoops, she needed
the break in a major way. It would be the furthest she'd ever ventured from
home—alone or accompanied—and it still surprised her that her parents had given
permission. Jonathan, her boyfriend of almost two years, said it was a sign of
their trust in him. If they knew he'd been pressuring her to sleep with him,
perhaps they'd reconsider.
The team struggled to stay in the game, and Beth struggled to give a shit. It
made no difference to her whether theys won or lost, as long as she accomplished
her objective: kick-ass photos. Yeah, the rivalry with Canton McKinley was
legendary, but so what? The players looked clumsy and stiff in their gear. Only
one showed anything resembling poetry in motion, so she focused her lens on
him—capturing several shots of aerobatic maneuvers and leaping catches. He did
seem quite skilled, but his attitude sucked ass. She hoped his panther-like
grace would show up on film without the obvious arrogance.
"Good, ain't he?"
The older gentleman startled her. She'd been distracted with her equipment and
hadn't noticed his approach. He carried an enormous soft drink in one hand and a
box of popcorn in the other.
"He certainly appears to be," she responded. "What's his name?"
"Barker. Aaron Barker. But everyone just calls him Snatch."
Beth turned to look at the man, and her expression must have conveyed her
"Oh, it's because he snatches the ball out of the air. Not..." he trailed off,
blushing. "You new here? I thought everyone knew Snatch."
"Naw. I've been here all my life. I just don't pay any attention to the jocks.
My name's Beth Ray."
"Bob Burton. My wife, Enid, is up there waiting for me," he gestured with his
head, tucking the box of popcorn under one arm and accepting her outstretched
hand. "Pleasure's all mine. My boy's our quarterback. When I saw you takin'
pictures, I thought maybe I could cajole you into getting a couple good shots of
Robby. I'll happily reimburse your expenses—plus a fee."
Beth smiled. "Oh, most of this is paid for by the school—for the yearbook—but I
can snag a couple prints for you. No problem."
"Much obliged," he tipped his cap. "I'll leave you to your work, Miss Ray."
She watched him walk away, chiding herself for not accepting a fee. Gotta
break that habit, or I'll never make any money. Photography was an expensive
hobby—and an even more expensive vocation. Her honor wouldn't let her use more
than the school's equipment for her personal agenda, even though the yearbook
advisor had given his tacit approval. He knew how much a journalism scholarship
meant to Beth. He also knew that her family's situation made it very unlikely
that Beth would succeed without a little outside help. While Beth appreciated
Mr. Shell's assistance, she—like her proud parents—had a tough time accepting
hand outs, even well-intentioned, unsolicited hand outs.
Bob Burton climbed into the stands and joined a dour looking woman who regarded
her with something approaching disdain. Beth knew—and despised—the type. She
could almost hear Enid telling her how much more lady-like she'd look in a nice
skirt and sweater twin set. Blowing a big, sassy bubble, Beth winked and waved
before turning her back to the woman. It was women like Enid Burton who made
Beth want to succumb to Jonathan's desires, out of sheer rebellion for such