Alex Adams has always had a flair for excitement, the thrill of the moment, and pushing things to the edge. He is, always has been, and knows he always will be, a winner in everything that he does. His competitive nature has always driven him, pushing him to succeed in everything he does. Whether it's the sports he excels in, the academics that come easy to him, the charisma of his social life, or the career that he embraces, Alex only knows how to thrive.
Most who knew him felt he lived the perfect life. Everything came so easily to him, he always seemed so happy, and he even married his high school sweetheart. He had the perfect house, a perfect wife, and a perfect job. Or was it? Alex's world it turned upside-down when a cruel new manager, Sandra Murphy, is promoted and becomes his boss. Alex finds himself pushed to the limit, acting in ways and doing things he never thought possible, and beginning to see all aspects of his life unravel all around him. Spiraling out of control, he seeks to find something to cling on to, trying to save his position at work, save his marriage, and save himself as his despair leads him to violence, an affair, and self destructive behavior. Alex knows that, for him, failure is not an option. So, the question becomes... how can one get away with murder?
Snapped is a psychological thriller that challenges even the most sane and successful of individuals and threatens to unleash the darkness locked deep within one's soul when pushed beyond one's limits.
“Dig it! Dig it! Dig it!”
He loved this. He felt so alive. Alex paddled as hard as he could through the white rapids as they headed for a class four drop. Their guide was screaming on the top of his lungs for them to keep paddling—to dig it—so that they would hit the rapid just perfectly. As the water poured over the boat, soaking them all, he felt a sense of exhilaration, as if truly alive.
“Yeah-ha-ha!” Alex screamed as they came out of the drop. In the seat next to him his father held his left fist out and they knocked hands together. “That was awesome!”
“There’s more to come,” his father said, lifting his chin to show the rough rapids ahead.
“Let’s get ‘em!” Alex cheered.
The tour guide—Dickie—agreed completely. “Everyone got one more in them? Good! Then let’s Dig it! Dig it! Dig it!”
Alex began paddling harder again, pushing as hard as his twelve-year-old muscles would let him. He spotted someone with a camera on the side of the river taking pictures. He grinned knowingly—this would be the souvenir shot. He wanted to make it extra special. He showed his teeth, smiling as wide as he could while still paddling as hard as he could as they hit the rapid. The water got into his mouth and he began coughing, but he did not care—he was sure the picture got him with a smile on.
As they came out of the wave Alex looked ahead and saw that the river was slowing down. There was still white water, but they had gone through the roughest of the rapids already. He frowned, not wanting it to be over. They had paid extra for a big rapid day and certainly were not disappointed, but he wished it had lasted longer than it had.
From the seat behind him his mother leaned forward and pulled him into a hug. “Did you have fun?”
“You know I did,” Alex said.
“Good. You were paddling really hard. Hope you worked up an appetite. We’ll be stopping soon.”
“I can eat,” Alex said. Alex could always eat, and ate anything set down in front of him. He savored every last bite and loved the fact that he never gained weight regardless of what he shoved into his mouth.
He had enjoyed the river, especially on a big water day. This was not their first time white water rafting, but it was definitely the biggest rapids they had seen thus far. Alex’s family, the Adams, were what he liked to consider adrenaline-junkies. They always picked their vacations doing things that most people would balk at. The bigger the thrill the more they liked it. He may only be twelve, but he had already been mountain climbing, base jumping, hang gliding, parachuting—no feeling in the world like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane—scuba diving with sharks, and rafting. They had almost gone skiing this year instead of the rafting trip, but Alex was glad they came here. He preferred the warmth to the icy climates, but still looked forward to skiing some weekend in the winter.
His father, Andrew—Andy—Adams was a magazine writer who wrote articles and reviews of vacation destinations. His articles were always the ones that depicted the more dangerous outings—someone else could write about sitting out on a beach; that was not what the Adams were all about. In addition to writing, he was an avid sports enthusiast who always saw something and wanted to try it—and strive to be better at it than the person he saw doing it.
Alex really looked up to his father—idolized him, even. He never did anything in life where he did not push to be the best. Second place was only the first-place-loser in his eyes. But he would not know—he always came in first for everything he did. He had a room full of trophies, and awards to prove it, from soccer to baseball to pop-warner football to archery to shooting matches and even academics. He had a thirst for success—never wanting to let his parents down and feel disappointment in him—and thrived on being the best.
His mother, Alicia Adams was a veterinarian. But she did not just treat animals at a local clinic; she went around the world to help wild life in their natural environment—or at least she had before she got married. Once she and Andy met her trips slowed down, and she stayed more local. Still, she had a heart of solid gold and felt that the slightest injury to any animal was a great injustice.
Alex learned his compassion from his mother. Her tenderness, her caring attitude, and her belief in how sacred all life was. He would not even kill a spider in his room; instead he carefully coaxed it to step onto a piece of paper and then slowly made his way to the door to let it outside. He also saw how protective she was of the things she loved and cared about, and he did as well. He actively stood between the bullies at school and the kids that they picked on. Very few bullies were actually brave enough to confront him and they all backed down quickly. At least they did if they knew what was good for them.
As for Alex, he could not imagine a more ideal life. He saw so much tragedy and darkness in the world, but felt none of it personally. He had never seen his parents argue, and lived in a world full of warmth, love, and excitement. Half of his friends were from broken homes where their parents had been divorced. Alex could never imagine his parents separating—and hoped that the day he finally got married that it would be the perfect person to complete him, like his parents completed each other, and that they would be happy for all eternity. But he had a few years before he had to worry about that.
Dickie had their raft—a group that included his family and five others—pull over to the left and come to a stop. “Very good, everyone. We really hit those rapids perfectly.”
“Yeah we did,” Alex’s father said, hitting Alex’s fist again.
“I need three volunteers,” Dickie said as he walked to the edge of the raft and jumped off.
“I’m in,” Alex said.
“Me too,” his father replied.
Another boy in the back came out, too, but not because he wanted to. His father had to coax him, ask him, “Why don’t you go?” Alex looked at him and rolled his eyes. The boy did not even look like he was enjoying himself. How can you not enjoy this? This was nature at its best. This was the fury of river and man trying to conquer it. At any moment someone could fall overboard and never be seen again. It did not matter that they all wore helmets and life jackets—the river was a deadly place if one did not respect it.
“All right then, let’s go,” Dickie said. He led them up a trail that had logs for stairs that seemed to go on forever. It was nothing compared to the Nutcracker at Yosemite Valley that they climbed, and Alex and his father quickly took the lead as they ascended. Dickie told them to keep going all the way to the top—even as a rafting guide, he was not nearly in the same shape that they were. The other boy stayed a few steps behind Dickie.
At the top there was someone else from base camp who was there with buckets, bags, and other supplies. Dickie arrived and told everyone to take one of the buckets back down. He picked up a large red bag and hefted it over his shoulder. Alex lifted up one of the buckets—it was fairly heavy, but manageable.
They then went back down the stairs for the raft. Alex and his father arrived first again and stood on the rocks without getting into the raft. Both held their buckets without putting them down. Alex glanced up to see the progress of Dickie and the other boy and snorted when he saw the other boy putting his bucket down on the steps and resting. Some people just did not have what it took to be athletic and adventurous.
The two arrived and Dickie had them hand the buckets into the raft and put them in the middle. He explained that the supplies they got would all be taken out a bit further down the river for lunch. He then got into the raft and helped the others back in. Alex did not need help. He got in just fine.
The raft remained where it was while the rest of the rafts from the same tour group all joined them. They had about a dozen groups in all—the rafts from this particular tour were all either purple or turquoise.
“So where is everyone from?” Dickie asked while they waited.
“Baltimore,” one man said for him and the woman he was with.
“We’re from New Hampshire,” the father of the boy who went up to get supplies with them added.
“Massachusetts,” Alex’s father said. “About thirty minutes west of Boston.”
“How do you like the river?” Dickie asked.
“It’s great,” the Baltimore woman said. “This is so much fun.”
“It’s a nice day for it, too,” Dickie said. “There has been a lot of rain of late. But no rain today. That means more water in the river for better rapids and a crystal clear day to enjoy it.”
“The weather is definitely amazing,” Alex’s mother said.
“Will we hit any more rapids?” Alex asked.
“Part of the river picks up again pretty good,” Dickie said. “But the big stuff is all behind us. We’ll hit that on the way to the camp site and then it’s smooth the rest of the way.”
Alex frowned. He wanted more excitement. How fun was it sitting in a raft and just drifting? He did not want a tan, he wanted the thrill.
His father patted his helmet. “It’ll be nice and relaxing. Enjoy it.”
“I guess,” Alex said, but he was not convinced. He doubted his father was sincere either.
“I can’t wait to be off this stupid river,” the boy said.
Alex turned and stared at him, shocked. Did he really not like this?
“You’re not having fun, Jimmy?”
“I just want to go.”
“Well, raftings not for everyone,” Dickie said with a shrug. He then looked at the other boats and nodded. “We can set off now.” He got out of the raft and pushed it back into the river, hopping back in. As he sat down another one of the tour guides used his paddle to splash water at Dickie. Dickie laughed, “This means war! Get ‘em!”
Alex did not need to be told twice. He plunged his paddle in the water and began splashing the other boat. Both boats began doing it, soaking each other. The cool water felt good after just sitting there in the sun for so long.
“Okay, we’re off,” Dickie said as the current caught them and they began heading down river again, leaving the other raft behind them with people shouting that they would catch up later.
They did pick up pace as Dickie promised, but the river was just fast. There were no big dips, cascading waters, or thrilling moments. Before they knew it they were at the campsite. They were able to take off their helmets and life jackets for the first time and left the raft for land where the tour guides all got together and created a food station. The tour guides also pointed out the bathrooms if needed—up the hill and out of site, wherever people felt comfortable.
When the tour guides were ready they called people up by raft. Dickie’s was the third raft called. Lunch had the offerings of a salad and a wrap. The wrap had turkey, some more lettuce and other things to add in, and some “special sauce.” For desert there were cookies. There were also mugs of hot chocolate for those who were cold by the river, or cups of soda, juice, or water.
Alex hesitated with the salad but took it—he did not really want it but did not think the wrap alone would be enough food. For the wrap he had them put everything in it to make it as thick as possible. He also grabbed a cookie and decided on a soda rather than the hot chocolate—which just seemed to go better with a salad and wrap.
The tour guides also began a fire; there were logs around it to sit. Alex did not need to sit by the fire—he was not cold in the least. He found another log that was further away from people and his parents joined him there. The three of them ate, talked about the rapids and the river thus far, and laughed at each other’s jokes. It was the kind of adventure that he knew he would always remember and cherish. These were the moments that kids captured. The moments that stayed with them forever.
After lunch was done his father walked up the hill to go to the bathroom. He had asked Alex if he wanted to come, but Alex said no. Before everyone was almost done eating though, his father suggested that he really better go because there would not be another stop until they got back to base camp. Alex reluctantly agreed to go.
He walked up the hill and kept going. At least if he was up here he might as well explore a little and see what he could come up with. Beyond the hill he found a large drop off onto rocks below. There was some water, but not much. He peered over the edge and wondered if he had time to climb down and back up it, but decided against it. He did not want to worry his parents or cause a scene. As he turned around the other boy was there—Jimmy.
“Just exploring,” Alex said. The attitude Jimmy was giving all day he wondered if something as simple as exploring would even register to the boy.
“You really like all of this, don’t you?” Jimmy asked.
“I love it,” Alex said.
“Whatever,” Jimmy replied. As he turned away from Alex he saw something that caught his attention. He reached down, picked up a rock, and threw it.
Alex watched and then his eyes grew as he saw the rock strike a hawk that was resting in a nest.
“Got it!” Jimmy cheered, pumping his fist as the hawk fell out of the nest.
“What the hell did you do that for?” Alex demanded.
“Because I could,” Jimmy said. He then ran to the branch stretched out over the ravine where the nest was and hesitantly crawled out on it.
“What are you doing?” Alex demanded again, wondering how a kid who found rafting boring could crawl out on the limb of a tree over a ravine. If Jimmy was not an adventurous soul, why do this?
“Chicken,” Jimmy said with a glare that told Alex just what he thought about him.
“I’m not chicken, I just don’t know what you’re game is.”
“There’s a nest,” Jimmy said. “I’m gonna see what’s in it!”
Alex shifted his gaze from Jimmy to the nest he was crawling toward. He then peered over to see the hawk that had fallen below. His eyes narrowed, threateningly. “Don’t even think about it. It’s bad enough what you did to the mother.”
“What do I care? They’re just stupid birds.”
“What did they ever do to you?” Alex asked.
“They existed,” Jimmy said. He reached out into the nest and lifted an egg. “There is one!”
“Leave it alone!” Alex shouted.
“Why don’t you come out here and make me?” Jimmy sneered. He stared at Alex, holding the egg, and then laughed. “That’s what I thought.”
“Just put it down,” Alex said. “Gently.”
“Sure, of course,” Jimmy said. But he did not put it down. He squeezed the egg and it burst, killing the baby hawk inside.
“No!” Alex screamed. “You monster!”
Jimmy laughed hysterically. Alex could not believe his cruelty. How could he take the life of something so innocent, so precious, and just laugh about it? He ran for the branch before he even knew what he was doing and pushed as hard as he could. The branch shook, and Jimmy held on for dear life.
“What the hell are you doing?” Jimmy demanded, now looking scared for the first time.
Alex did not answer, he just kept pushing at the branch.
Jimmy held on, but the shaking branch began tipping, further lodged from the edge. It was amazing that the fallen tree had been so sturdy under Jimmy’s weight, but with Alex pushing, gravity was about to prove its superiority.
“Don’t, I’ll fall!” Jimmy said.
“Did you give the hawk a chance?” Alex asked as he pushed again.
“Please!” Jimmy pleaded.
Alex stopped. He did not want to be as bad as this boy. Perhaps Jimmy had learned his lesson. Perhaps he had some sense knocked into him. Perhaps he would never harm another animal again. He stepped back so that Jimmy could get back up.
“It’s still falling,” Jimmy said. “Give me your hand!”
Alex frowned. He could not believe he was saving the cruel boy. But he held his hand out and let Jimmy clasp it. He then pulled him forward and as the branch gave way and fell into the ravine below, Alex held Jimmy tightly, just as tightly as he was trained to hold someone on a mountain if they lost their grip. There was no way Jimmy would fall. Alex knew what he was doing and let his training take over.
“Don’t drop me!” Jimmy pleaded.
Alex pulled him up. “Wuus.”
Jimmy shoved him. “What the hell did you do that for? I could have died!”
“You deserved it for what you did,” Alex said. “Hopefully now you’ll know how precious all life is.”
“Yeah, whatever,” Jimmy said.
Alex’s eyes opened wide. Jimmy had not learned a thing. He growled as he charged Jimmy, and as Jimmy turned around, looking confused, Alex pushed and watched Jimmy fall over the edge and land on the rocks below, ironically lying right next to the hawk he had killed.
Alex stared down at Jimmy, the boy’s eyes lifelessly looking up at him, a pool of blood beginning to trickle down beneath his head, his back, and pool out over the rocks beneath him. Alex had never seen somebody die before, but as he stared down at Jimmy’s body, he did not feel anything of what he had expected to feel. The one thing he most definitely was not was sorry. Jimmy got what he deserved. All life was important. Those who would so carelessly take it away deserved what they got.
He wondered, briefly, if he deserved the same fate for what he had just done. But he brushed it off. There was a major difference between him—someone who was avenging a senseless murder—and Jimmy—a boy who took like and made a joke out of it. No, Alex realized he did not deserve the same fate. He was justified in what he had done. He spared the world any number of cruel injustices that Jimmy could have unleashed upon it. How many lives he had saved. He had done the right thing.
Alex headed back to the camp and made his way to his parents.
“Were you able to go?” his father asked.
“I did some exploring,” Alex shrugged. “I really didn’t have to go.”
“Don’t come complaining to me if you have to go before we get back.”
“I won’t,” Alex said. “So when are we heading out?”
“Soon I think,” he said.
The tour guides walked around telling everyone to head back to their rafts if they were done. Dickie stood by theirs and greeted them. “How was lunch?”
“Everything was delicious,” Alex said, nodding enthusiastically. “I could have had more though.”
“You always could have more,” his mother teased as she got back in the raft and began putting her gear back on. Alex and his father did the same. The couple from Baltimore also got in and got ready to go. The couple from New Hampshire—Jimmy’s parents—was looking up the hill trying to find him.
“Has anyone seen Jimmy?” the mother asked.
Dickie looked out over the camp for the boy but did not see him. “Did he wander off? When did you see him last?”
“He went to go to the bathroom,” Jimmy’s mother said.
“I’ll go find him,” the father replied.
“Need some help?” Alex’s father asked.
“I’d appreciate that,” the man said.
“Hold on, I’ll get the tour guides to help out too,” Dickie added. Within minutes there were twelve tour guides and about twenty volunteers—including Alex—looking for the lost boy.
“I hope he didn’t wander too far back,” Dickie said. “There’s a big drop off back there. It could be dangerous.”
“Oh my God,” the father said. “Jimmy! Jimmy!”
Alex heard shouts for Jimmy from all around. He joined in as well calling the name of the boy. He knew right where to go, but leading the group there would not be in his best interests. After all, how come he knew where Jimmy had fallen?
“Up there is where the drop off is,” Dickie said. Several people broke off to go look, including a few of the tour guides. Alex could tell just by looking at them that they were afraid that they were about to find the boy right where they should not.
“I’ll look over here,” Dickie said. He stepped up to the edge, froze in place, and then turned quickly and grabbed Jimmy’s father, pulling him away. “You don’t want to see this. Trust me.”
“Jimmy? You found my boy? Jimmy! Jimmy!”
The other tour guides gathered around and looked. Alex stepped up to the ledge and looked over, too, seeing Jimmy right where he had fallen, still staring up lifelessly. He then glanced at Jimmy’s father and felt the first stab of guilt. He wished the man, and inevitably his wife, would not have been hurt. But maybe they were better off without Jimmy, too. Perhaps Jimmy learned his cruelty from them. Perhaps their suffering was also deserved. Regardless, he was not sorry for the boy, but for the pain they were going through.
Alex’s father took him by the shoulder and guided him away from the ledge. “You shouldn’t have to see this,” he said. Alex let his father bring him away, knowing how concerned he was that Alex would have nightmares or be scared by this experience.
As his father led him further away Alex heard the tour guides talking.
“He must have gotten too close to the ledge.”
“Looks like he knocked the tree out. Maybe he saw the nest and was trying to see if there were eggs.”
An accident. They thought it was an accident. Alex pondered that for a moment. He would not get in trouble for this. They would get the rest of the way down river and go about their lives. He wondered if Jimmy’s lifeless eyes would haunt him or if he could put this behind him. He thought about the bird Jimmy struck with the rock and then the egg he so maliciously crushed. No, he would not be haunted. He would sleep soundly with no regret or remorse at all.
The wail of the alarm clock woke them. Alex leaned over, clicking it off and then turned back and kissed his wife’s forehead. “Rise and shine.”
She groaned and buried her head in her pillow. “Remind me why we have to get up so early again?”
“To go back to school and tell them all about how wonderful life can be after graduation,” Alex said.
“You mean to lie to them and fill their heads with fantasy?”
Alex laughed, “You’re going to be a cheery presenter today.” He then reached down and tickled her. She squirmed; protesting at him doing it, but then began giggling.
“Okay, okay, I’m up, I’m up,” she said.
“You sure?” he asked as he moved his fingers quickly and tickled her some more.
“I’m sure, I’m sure!” she squealed.
“Good,” Alex said, kissing her forehead again. “We can’t disappoint the kids.”
She sat up leaning on her elbow. “You know, they’re just excited not to have to be in class, and really, are going to be bored out of their minds, right?”
“Maybe for your presentation,” Alex grinned. “They’ll love mine.”
“You just keep telling yourself that,” she said. “Do you want coffee first or to hop in the shower?”
“I’ll take my shower,” Alex said. “I’ll be quick.”
“Okay, I’ll go make the coffee.”
Alex watched her get up from bed and walk to the doorway. She glanced back and caught him admiring her. Even after ten years of marriage, she could see how much he loved her and admired her just by the way he looked at her.
Alex had really struck gold in life. He had married his High School sweetheart—none other than head cheerleader, Crystal Cummings, only the most gorgeous girl who ever set foot in the town of Hopkinton, Massachusetts. He went to college at MIT, and then got a graduate degree in business from Harvard. The entire world was open to him, and he found something that he adored—video games. Who said someone who grew up could not enjoy what they did for a living?
He often considered his former classmates who went into various professions. How they sat at a computer all day typing away, or entering trades, or writing reports, or trying to create advertising, or doing sales. He could have done any of that or more, but the most thrilling thing to him was finding the latest technology, pushing things to the limit, and being the man behind the success of a new launch. The sales and online subscribers were his indicator of success, and some of his games were amongst the most popular currently on the market.
A beautiful wife, and a career where he got to think up and play games for a living—he could not think of anything that would make things better. Well, there was always a child to call their own, but they still had time for that. Right now they got to enjoy their lives, enjoy their vacations, and enjoy each other. Besides, his wife was not just the head cheerleader—she was a supermodel. How many men got to go home every night to the woman other men fantasized about?
Between them, they had enough money to buy a house in Wellesley that was considerably larger and fancier than their needs. But it was home and they loved it. It was a symbol of their status and achievements—and by entering the new community, a blaring call sign that they belonged in Wellesley. Not that Alex cared about what others thought of him, but one day his kids would be in the school system and he knew how cliques and the old guard could cause some issues along the way.
They both also drove a Mercedes, which seemed to be a fairly common vehicle in their neighborhood—that or a Lexus, Cadillac, or Audi. Alex went with the sports utility vehicle—the GL450 SUV with a metallic obsidian black exterior and an ash leather interior. Crystal preferred the more sporty look and had a convertible—the SLR McLaren Roadster with a metallic storm red exterior, black soft top, and stone leather interior. For their weekend getaways and excursions they also had a Jeep Rubicon with a natural green pearl exterior and a gray slate interior. On all three they had spared no expense in getting the options and added features. They both loved their cars, and everything that they symbolized.
Alex had thought long and hard about hybrids and finding something that would be more environmentally friendly. He had not gone completely green, as the buzz word may be, but he paid his bills online without getting any statements or paper invoices, he used the recycled bags for food shopping, he refilled water bottles instead of throwing them away, and donated money every year to help protect the wild life and nature preserves. But when it came to his cars, he just did not like the look and style of the hybrids and decided that he and Crystal could be afforded at least one luxury with everything else that they did.
Maybe two luxuries—they owned a fifty-foot sailboat, too. But at least it was a sailboat, and not a motorboat. A little more work, but he loved it. They could sail for hours, or even days, if they had the time. Crystal had been really busy with her photo shoots as of late. She had been flying all over the world for magazine covers and images that her agent wanted her in. It had been too long since they just got on the boat and sailed together. He decided that he would try to find some time for them both to get away for a while.
When Alex was done with his shower and finished up in the bathroom, Crystal had his mug of coffee waiting for him. He savored the sweet aroma of the coffee and then took a sip. It was simply divine. She always knew how to make a good cup of coffee.
She slipped past him and went into the bathroom as he made his way to the walk-in closet to figure out what to wear. He decided to stick with his signature color—black—and went with a black suit, electric blue shirt, and a black and blue tie. Everything was crisp, clean, and screamed at success.
Crystal went with black, too. A one-piece dress that went to her knees, high heals, a bracelet, necklace, and earrings—all of which were accentuated by diamonds. Even getting ready for this simple event he could not help but think that she looked like she was ready for a photo shoot.
Alex drove, taking the SUV. From Wellesley to Hopkinton he went route 9 most of the way and then down 135 into down town and to the High School. The entire trip took under half an hour. As he pulled to a stop he glanced at the readout. They were right on time.
“You ready?” Alex asked.
“Always,” Crystal said.
He got out of the car, walked around, and opened her door for her. Crystal stepped out and shook her hair just right so it would flow and land over her shoulders. It looked staged, but she always did it when getting out of a vehicle. Alex then reached into the back seat and pulled out a small bag that he brought as a surprise for the kids.
After closing the door and locking the car Alex took Crystal’s hand and walked in through the front doors of the school they had both once attended and had considered their own. This was more than just an invite to speak to the kids—this was like coming home for them. She was the head cheerleader and the lead in almost every play. He was the star quarterback who doubled as valedictorian. They were teen royalty when they were here. Everyone loved them and wanted to be them. That was a desire that never went away. Alex always caught looks of envy when people saw he and Crystal together.
A table was set up inside and several people were sitting there. “Good morning, are you here to speak to the students?”
“We are,” Alex said.
“What’s your names?”
“Alexander and Crystal Adams,” Alex said.
A head turned behind the table and Alex saw one of the women smile. “Alexander Adams and Crystal Cummings! What a pleasure to have you both back!”
Alex recognized her at once. Principal Davies had first taken the job during their sophomore year. She had been one of the people who wrote Alex’s recommendation to MIT for him. “Principal Davies,” Alex said with a slight bow and smile.
“Oh rubbish. We’re all adults now. It’s Rhonda.”
Alex took Rhonda’s hand and kissed the back of it. “Rhonda, if you wish.”
“Crystal, you have to keep your eye on this one,” Rhonda said. “Such a charmer.”
“He is that,” Crystal said, pulling Alex a little closer to her. “I keep an eye on him though.”
One of the women at the table held out a folder for each of them with their names on it. “Your assignments and the schedule are in your respective folders.”
Alex opened his up and glanced down at the itinerary. They were beginning in the cafeteria where refreshments were being served, then moving into the gym where the student body would be waiting—Alex looked forward to seeing the gym again. He had a lot of memories in there. After the opening ceremonies they all went to various classrooms where smaller groups of the senior class students would come in and meet them.
“Room 220,” Alex said.
“115,” Crystal replied.
“So far apart,” Alex sighed. “I don’t know if we can bare it.”
Principal Davies laughed. “You two are so cute together.”
“Thanks,” Alex said.
“I’ll see you in the gym, I’m sure,” she said.
Alex and Crystal headed for the cafeteria and poked their heads in. They both took a small pastry and bottled water while they were waiting.
“Think we could still get into our old lockers?” he asked.
“You remember your combination?”
“I don’t even remember where it was,” Crystal shrugged.
“Don’t worry, I know where yours was,” Alex replied with a wink. “Maybe we’ll check them on the way out.”
“They’re not ours anymore,” Crystal said.
“They should be,” Alex frowned. “You’d think they would have at least had them bronzed or something for us.”
“Only you,” Crystal said as she nudged his shoulder, teasingly.
“Let’s head over to the gym,” Alex suggested. Crystal nodded in agreement and they made their way down to the gymnasium. When the school was rebuilt the town decided to make an exception gym rather than the auditorium. A lot of functions and things like the school plays were done in the Middle School instead rather than the High School.
Alex and Crystal walked in to the gym—a temple for both of them—and looked around. It looked like graduation had with seats on rises for the guest speakers, giant screens that showed whoever was at the podium, and the bleachers rolled out for the students. Both walked in, admired their surroundings, and took a seat near the podium.
The bell rang and there was an announcement for all seniors and guest speakers to make their way to the gymnasium. Alex and Crystal watched as first a few curious faces stepped in, and then large crowds as the seats began filling up.
Principal Davies made her way to the podium and waited for the bell to ring again. Alex glanced up and saw her on the two screens above so that no matter where someone sat they could see her. It was impressive how a High School was able to afford such a system. The boosters had to be exceptionally generous the year this was all designed.
“Good morning,” Principal Davies began. She then spoke about how exciting the future was, and how many opportunities awaited the students in the months and years to come. She also thanked all of the guest speakers who took time out of their busy days to come and speak to the students about what they do and to spend time with the kids. When she was done a father of one of the students got up to speak. He had begun his own company and grew it into an online giant with nearly a billion hits a day. His message was optimistic, positive, and sent the kids off thinking that hard work and determination could let them achieve their dreams. Alex liked the message. It was a good one.
When the bell rang for the next period Alex hugged Crystal and wished her luck with her presentation. He then made his way to room 220 and sat down on the radiator in back. There were two other presenters in the room already and he quickly kicked off introductions and getting them talking to each other. It was all in the approach—charisma. It never took much for Alex to get people talking.
Usually with presentations he liked to set the pace and go first. But he was curious about what the others did for a living and expected that making video games would be a big winner. He wanted to see how the kids responded to the speeches and then try to wow them—then he could tell Crystal for certain that they were genuinely interested in what he had to say.
“Who wants to go first?” Alex asked.
“Doesn’t matter,” the guy said.
“I don’t care,” the woman said.
“Well, ladies first then,” Alex said, extending his arm to prompt her to speak.
She went up, introduced herself, and then began talking about what she did. She worked in marketing and created advertising for major corporations. Alex listened to her and examined the crowd as she talked about how you gain an account, study the client needs, and then work on brainstorming to find the right ideas to pitch the client. She had a few poster-boards to show an example of a current campaign she was working on. When she was done she fielded questions and then came back to the radiator.
“You’re up,” Alex said pleasantly. The other presenter nodded and went to the front. He was a photographer and pulled out a laptop to show some of his shots. He had been all around the world to capture some amazing sights. Alex admired quite a few pictures and could relate to how difficult it would be to reach the points where he was to take the shot. A fellow adventurer. A kindred spirit.
After the photographer was done, Alex took his bag and walked to the front of the room. “Wow, those were both fascinating. Let’s give our presenters a round of applause, shall we?” he said. The class clapped and he saw the two fellow presenters looking pleased. He was glad. Both were quite good with their discussions, clearly passionate about their work, and had taken time to try and share that excitement and love for what they did with others. It was nice for the kids to acknowledge that, and he was glad to do his part to get them that recognition.
Alex handed a stack of index cards to the students in the front row. “Pass those back,” he said. “If everyone could put their name on the index card and then pass them up to your teacher when done.”
The teacher was sitting at his desk and nodded. Alex then continued.
“Well, good morning all. I’m Alexander Adams, and it wasn’t all that long ago that I was sitting in those very same desks as you, listening to someone else trying to tell me what the real world was all about. I remember thinking about how I would do better than the people I heard speaking. At how their words of caution about expectations and reality just brushed off of me. I wouldn’t fall for that. I would be a success and there was no doubt about it.
“I also remember how people spoke about how your upbringing, your education can really make or break you, and how being a product of this town and this school has really given you all an advantage. I can honestly say, that is very true.
“I believe that there is a fine line between cockiness and confidence, but with the education I gained here, I have learned to walk that line. I can’t tell you how many people I have seen in college, in graduate school, in the business world who had come from different worlds and struggled.
“I took a writing class in college and thought it was the biggest breeze in the world. No matter what I did or how much effort I put into it I always got an A. I thought the professor was just really easy, so I recommended him to my roommate. My roommate could never get higher than a C. I tried to help, but after reading, I just didn’t have the patience to try and teach him that which those of us who went to Hopkinton already know so well.
“It’s really a testament to the teachers here, the parents and boosters who take so much pride in the school, and all of the students who thrive in this system. We’re not just successful because we want to be, we thrive because this is what we were brought up to do. We don’t have a choice, really. We’re already the elite. We already know more than most of the people who will be our peers.”
Alex looked around the room and shrugged. “Guess you can see what side of walking that line between cockiness and confidence I tend to lean toward, right?” he was glad that there were some laughs from the students. They were actually listening. He liked that.
“So what brings me here today?” Alex asked. “Today I’m here to tell you about what I do. So what is that? It’s quite simply, actually. I’m what is called a Project Manager.”
Alex paused again, looking around at the faces of the students. “I know, I know. A Project Manager. Whoop-de-do. How exciting? But a Project Manager is really the one who is behind a lot of advancements. I’ve always been of the belief that I don’t need to know anything about what I’m running, as long as I know how to run a project, organize things, and motivate people. Does everyone follow that?”
He saw some blank expressions and decided to clarify. “Let’s say for example that I was a Project Manager in a financial institution. Maybe, there’s some kind of development that needs to be done to meet the needs of a client. Do I need to know what investments they are doing? No. There are financial brokers for that. Do I need to know how the technology will work? No. There are developers and IT people for that. Do I need to know how to test it to make sure it works? No. There are quality assurance people for that. So what do I need to know how to do?”
Alex paused for dramatic effect. “Quite simply, I need to know how to keep all of those people working effectively, together, and to meet the common goal and deadline. I don’t care what a developer is doing, as long as they are doing it. Does that make sense?”
Alex looked around again and saw some nods. “What if I was a Project Manager working for the airlines? Do I need to be an engineer and able to pull a plane apart and rebuild it? No. I just need to make sure the engineer is doing what I need them to do. Regardless of what industry you are in, there is always a need for the people who know how to facilitate projects and make things happen.
“I bet you’re wondering what I really do, right?” Alex asked and then laughed to himself. “Well, I make video games.”
That got a reaction. He saw students sit up a little more straight in their chairs. Some smiled. One even cheered.
“I have a team of people who work for me. I have analysts who go over the market and potential games to see what would be good for the market. I have concept people who look at options, features, and things that we could incorporate into the game. I have concept artists who sketch out the things we’re building so the designers can take it from there. I have designers who code and actually make the game. I have testers who playtest, and make sure the game is fun, challenging—but not overly difficult—and is free of glitches and defects; things we call bugs. Then there are the marketing people who work with us to make sure they capture the essence of the game we’re designing for when they bring it to market.”
Alex raised his arms and beckoned the class. “Instead of talking more about what I do, how about some questions? I’d be happy to answer anything you have.”
He got the questions he pretty much expected. They wanted to know what kind of games he made, had they ever heard of them, and did he play games himself? What kind of education did you need to do what he did? Was there good money in it? Did he ever have a game that flopped? Alex answered each question clearly and with conviction. The enthusiasm of the class was infectious and he easily spent more time at the front of the room than anyone else.
He glanced at the clock on the wall and saw that they were almost out of time. “Before we run out of time, I have a little drawing,” Alex said. He took the index cards with student names on them, shuffled them, kept the names pointed toward himself, and then faced the class. “Can I have a volunteer please?”
One girl in the third row raised her hand. Alex asked her to take a card. She did and read off the name. Alex folded the cards back together and held his bag up. “Reach on in there and take something from inside.”
The first boy who won reached in and came out with the disc for an online game—this one a fantasy adventure game about a Mage who conquered the Seven Kingdoms and the brave heroes having to try and reclaim the land.
“There’s a code on the back that will let you play for free for a year,” Alex said. He then fanned the index cards out again. “Another volunteer?”
He had a total of five winners and five give-away games. He wished everyone luck with their career paths and told them to have fun with the games. The bell rang, signaling the end of the first class. The way the schedule was set up the students rotated to rooms with guest speakers. Every student had the opportunity to go to three rooms, seeing three guest speakers in each. Alex did not know how it was determined which guest speakers they saw, but assumed that there had been some kind of questionnaire in advance so the kids saw speakers that catered to their interests.
The next class came in and the three presenters went through their routine again. By the time the third class came in, most of them were already aware that Alex worked for a gaming company and was giving away free samples in a drawing. The final class had been even more excited than the first.
When they were done they met in the cafeteria again where Alex found Crystal waiting for him—after, of course, stopping by his old locker and opening it on the first try. All presenters were all given Hopkinton sports bottles to thank them for coming and helping. Principal Davies went out of her way to find them and tell them that the kids could not stop talking about the game presentation and the handouts. She said that the free games were above and beyond what was expected and thanked him. Alex took it all in stride, said it was his pleasure, and then the Adams’ left the school.
Review by: Namta Gupta, Bookpleasures
Reviewer: Mikayla Waters, Kaya’s Budget Beauty
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