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The Gifted


   Greg O'Brien was a college student enrolled at Clark-Atlanta University who had just finished up a stressful but fruitful third year of college. He was also a part-time employee at McDonald's in addition to being a full-time student, and this situation had taken its toll on his relationship with high school sweetheart, Rosalyn Coleman. They ended their relationship on bad terms, and he found out that she was cheating on him. He was initially devastated, but he found solace in friend and classmate, Jennifer Mason. The Gifted is a coming-of-age, young adult fiction short story.

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   He had been physically and emotionally drained for the last couple of days and was having problems sleeping before his last final exam. An insomnia-riddled month had plague him on and off, and he couldn’t seem to focus like he normally had done in the past. He had a lot riding on the semester, and he convinced himself that he was in jeopardy of losing out on the possibility of an internship for the summer. Greg O’Brien, a third-year student at Clark-Atlanta University, had maintained at least a 3.25 GPA over the course of his tenure there, but his speech class had been giving him the flux. His current average in the class was seventy-six percent, and the instructor was a hard-nosed grader who analyzed and critiqued every detail of his delivery in every presentation.

    Competition was fierce for even the brightest students, and summer internships for the one million plus college students throughout the country were sparse. The current job market in recent years for new graduates had proven to be even bleaker as the stock market continued its downward trend. Greg’s number one goal was to work at any accounting firm that would give him an opportunity to gain experience in his field. He knew his only ticket out of the ghetto was to put everything he had into his books, and he had picked accounting as a major his first year at Clark. 

    He rolled over in his bed to look at the clock, and it read four twenty-six. Class was less than five hours away, and he had studied all day until his eyes burned like hot charcoals on a barbecue grill. He continued to toss and turn—wired on coffee and No Doze and was unable to clear his clouded brain. It was Friday, and his last exam was in his accounting class. Accounting wasn’t what worried him because he was able to maintain a ninety-five average in the class up until the day of the final exam. He failed to hit the mark on his final presentation in his speech class on Wednesday, and he worried himself to the point of nausea about getting his first C since freshman year in biology. He understood that there was nothing he could do about his speech grade, but he couldn’t get his mind to sign off on it.

    He got up to use the washroom and take a painkiller for his headache. He was tired of his restlessness and throbbing pain behind his eye sockets, so against his better judgment, he swallowed two Bayer aspirins and guzzled a cup of water. His roommate Horace Shingles staggered in a few seconds later and plopped down on the sofa in the living room. He was slightly buzzed from one of the last parties of the semester.

    “You missed the party of the semester, man,” Horace said. “Everybody was asking about you.”

    “My last final is in a few hours,” Greg said. “I had to study.”

    “All you do is study, Greg. You need to take a break before your head explodes.”

    “Easy for you to say. Your last final was two days ago.”

    “And I still partied the day before that.”

    “Unlike you, I have to fight for everything I get. I don’t have the luxury of having a trust fund.”

    “Life for me isn’t as easy as you seem to believe it is. I have to put the work in, too.”

    “Sorry, man...I didn’t mean to imply that you don’t work hard…”

    “Forget about that. Have you heard anything about your internship?”

    “Not yet. I think I bombed the interview.”

    “Don’t sweat it. I’m sure you aced it.”

    “I don’t know, Horace. The guy had a penetrating stare, and I swear he was reading my every thought.”

    “I think you were just nervous, man. It’s their job to make you uncomfortable with questions like ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’ or some other nonsense to make you piss in your pants.”

    “Right...and if you don’t know the magic password, you flunk the interview. Hell, I don’t know what I’m going to be doing in five days let alone five years.”

    “Yeah, it’s like a trick question. If you say something like owning your own business or making partner of a law firm, they may view you as too ambitious; or if you say you just want to fit in and be the best team player you can possibly be, you’re not ambitious enough.”

    “It’s all BS, Horace, and it’s driving me crazy. I’m ready to just say the hell with it and go back to Chicago.”

    “No way, Greg. Don’t just give up. It’s an interviewer’s job to weed out the weakest links...so don’t make it easy for them.”

    “I know, and you’re right.”

    “Hey, good luck on your test. I’m gonna crash.”

    “Thanks. I’ll see you at lunch.”

    Horace went to the bathroom while Greg continued to sit in their living room area. Greg was beginning to become a nervous wreck from all of the daily pressures of school and work. He was at the cusp of completing an excellent third year of school, but he couldn’t have been unhappier. He grew up in Englewood, which was one of the roughest neighborhoods in Chicago, and going home wasn’t an option. He knew his destiny somehow lied in Atlanta and hoped to hit pay dirt. Greg had his job as a cashier at McDonald’s that he’d maintained for five years by getting a transfer from Chicago once he began college, but he was searching for greener pastures with the potential internship. He worked part-time, twenty-five to thirty hours per week based on staff need; and he carried a full, fifteen-hour load of classes in the morning. He was virtually burned out physically and mentally, and to make matters worse, he was on the downslope of an emotionally draining, long-term relationship with his high school sweetheart, Rosalyn Coleman.

    Rosalyn also attended Clark and was a communications major. They grew up in the same neighborhood, and they had been dating each other since the eleventh grade. They had gradually drifted apart in the past year, and they both realized they wanted different things out of life. Greg needed some time apart from their relationship even though he still loved Rosalyn. He told her it had nothing to do with her, and that he didn’t meet anyone else. He tried to explain to her that the stress from work and school was getting to him, and he couldn’t devote any extra time to their relationship at the present moment. Rosalyn, however, didn’t believe him and suggested that they make a clean break. She demanded that he come clean and be honest about how he really felt, and she just couldn’t believe that it wasn’t another woman that caused his change of heart. They had a huge argument on Tuesday, and he hadn’t spoken to her since. He called a few times to apologize, but she never answered her phone. He also sent her numerous text messages but got no response.

    He turned on the television and scrolled the channels until he found ESPN. He was so wrapped up in work and his studies that he hadn’t been keeping up with the NBA playoffs. He became engrossed in the highlights and temporarily forgot about his problems and his headache.

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