The next day Jay was putting together the last of the information packets that Kyle helped him prepare last night when Alex and Jayden were escorted into the studio. He glanced at his watch. "Hey guys, you're early."
"I hope you don't mind." Jayden responded. "We're both anxious to go shopping and get started taking pictures-er-I mean photographs."
Jay let out a snort of laughter. "Okay then let's get going. We're going to go to B&H Camera, which is just around the corner. They have the biggest selection. If you don't like what you see there, we can take a quick run up to Best Buy or Target after today's workshop."
As they headed out the door Jayden asked Jay about the camera he uses. "I have a Nikon D3, which is a twelve-megapixel camera."
"What's a megapixel?" Alex asked.
"I'll be covering that in today's workshop. Basically, every digital image, whether it be a picture, or an image on a computer screen or television is made up of tiny dots called picture elements or pixels for short. A megapixel is one million pixels. Put simply, the higher the megapixels, the sharper the image, especially when making enlargements. I have sample enlargements from the same picture taken at different megapixel resolutions which I will show you later."
"Cool. That's the one I'll get then."
"Uh, Alex? That's a five-thousand dollar camera, and that doesn't include extra lenses."
Alex looked crestfallen, which did not go unnoticed by Jayden. In a small, quiet voice he asked, "What can I get for around fifty bucks, and does this place do layaway?" Jayden's heart broke when he heard that.
"Tell you what. I have a Nikon D3000 I can let you use. It's just sitting on a shelf gathering dust."
"How much do you want for it? I mean, would you be willing to accept payments?"
"How does twenty-five bucks sound to you?"
"Twenty-five bucks a week for how long?"
"No, twenty-five bucks. Period."
While they were haggling over the price of the camera, they arrived at the store and started looking around. There was not a single Nikon camera under five-hundred dollars including the camera that Jay offered to Alex which carried a six-hundred dollar price tag. As they continued to haggle, Jayden excused himself and went to talk with a sales associate. A few minutes later Jay had finally gotten Alex to agree to the twenty-five dollars and seeing that Jayden had purchased a camera, they returned to the photo studio.
When they got back to the studio, Jay called Kyle and asked him to bring the camera when he came over. Meanwhile, Jayden took out one of his purchases, a Nikon D3. Jay looked at him with surprise. How can a college kid afford a five-thousand dollar camera? He wondered. He also noticed the look of shame and sadness the crossed Alex's face, who had taken a seat in the far back corner of the room.
When Alex saw what Jayden had purchased, two things crossed his mind. One thought was that Jayden was obviously rich. The second thought was that once he found out that Alex's family was dirt-poor and that he was there on a full soccer scholarship, it would be all over between the two of them. He started crying hard. Not only for that, but his hopes for this very special day just went out the window.
Jay tapped Jayden on the shoulder and nodded towards Alex. Jayden went to Alex and put his arm around him, only to have him pull away. "Baby, what's wrong?"
"This. Us. Everything."
"Baby, talk to me. Please. Tell me what's wrong?"
"We can't be together. I'm not good enough for you."
"Now why would you go and say something like that? Of course you're good enough for me."
"No, I'm not. You're obviously rich. I'm here on a full scholarship because my parents both had to work two jobs to make ends meet. My brother and I both also had to work. I had to sell my car and just about everything I own just to pay the airfare to get here. My family is dirt-poor. That's why I'm not good enough for you."
"Baby, that doesn't matter to me. I love you more than life itself. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. You're my soul mate."
Something that had been floating in the back of his mind suddenly came into focus. "Wait a minute. Your father isn't Conrad Carlson, the multi-millionaire, is he?"
Jayden hung his head. "Yes." He whispered.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Nobody knows, other than you. I don't want anyone to know."
"Because I want people to like me for me, not for my family's money. Can you understand that?"
After a moment, Alex responded. "Yes. I'd probably feel the same way. If I was rich, I wouldn't know if people like me for me or for my money. That still doesn't change the fact that I'm not good enough for you. Besides, what would your parents say about you dating a guy that has to wash dishes in the cafeteria to pay for his living expenses?"
"I know exactly what my parents would say." He saw Alex staring a hole into the floor. He placed his hand under Alex's chin and gently tilted his head upward so he could look him in the eyes. "The first thing they would do is ask me if I love you, to which I would say yes, more than anyone or anything. The second thing they would do is ask me if I was happy, to which I would respond that I've never been happier in my life. And I mean it. I've never, ever been this happy. Their next question would be how would I know if you loved me for me and not because of my money? I'd tell them that you didn't know about the money when we started dating and became serious about each other. Nobody here knows. My parents would then insist on two things."
Okay, now he's going to tell me that if he doesn't dump me they'll cut him off without a cent. Alex said to himself.
"They would insist that I take exceptional care of you and make sure you have a good life with me and demand that I bring you home so that they can meet you and spoil you rotten, and now is a good time to start." He walked back up to the front of the room and said something to Jay who made a quick phone call, then retrieved his shopping bag before returning to Alex. "My parents aren't the stereotypical rich snobs that society portrays wealthy people to be. In some cases the stereotype most definitely applies. This, however, is not one of those cases. My parents genuinely care about people. It would hurt them to know how poor your family is and what you had to do to get here. They'd want to help any way they could. But that's neither here nor there. Happy birthday, baby." He handed the bag to Alex. "I'm sorry I didn't get the chance to wrap it, but I'm sure you'll understand when you see what it is."
"You didn't need to waste your money on me. How did you know it was my birthday?"
"I'm not wasting my money. I'm using it to make the love of my life happy on his twenty-first birthday. As far as how I knew, when you took your pants off last night your wallet fell out of the pocket and landed on the floor open. When I picked it up this morning I saw your driver's license. Please believe me, baby, I didn't steal anything out of your wallet."
"I believe you and I trust you. Besides, there isn't anything in there worth stealing, just my driver's license, my student ID and a few pictures."
"All that's about to change. I'm going to spoil you rotten. I'm going to shower you with love. Now, please open your gift.
"Guys, we're getting ready to start." Jay interrupted them.
"We'll be with you in a minute, Jay, as soon as Alex opens his birthday gift. Come on, baby, open it."
"It's your birthday Alex? Happy birthday." Kyle said, walking up to them.
"Thanks, Doctor Matthews-Williams."
"Only in the classroom is it Doctor Matthews-Williams. Everywhere else it's Kyle."
"Either you open your present, or I will." Jayden threatened.
"Okay, o..." was all Alex was able to say as he pulled out a Nikon D3x, holding the eight-thousand dollar camera in complete shock. "Jayden, honey, this is a five-thousand dollar camera. I can't accept this."
"Yes you can, and by the way it's not a five-thousand dollar camera. Trust me."
"But isn't this a better one than you have? You might have mixed up the boxes and given me the one you bought for yourself."
"No, this is the one I bought for you. You are way more into the nature photography than I am, so you need the better camera."
Jay approached the couple. "Alex, Jayden is right. This camera is better for what you want, whereas the one he bought himself is better for doing the sports photography that he wants. Now come on, the others are waiting."
Alex gave Jayden a huge hug and kiss. "Will you come back to my room with me afterwards?" He whispered into his ear.
"Yes, but only to help you pack. You're moving into my apartment off-campus with me."
"Okay, guys you can talk about all that later. It's time to get started." He walked back up to the front of the room. "Welcome, everybody. For those of you who don't know me, I'm Jayson Matthews-Williams. I'm one of the photographers here at Honolulu Happenings. Before we get started I'd like to introduce you to a couple of people. First I'd like to introduce Mr. Alohanani Kolokai, who is the owner and managing editor of Honolulu Happenings, and has graciously donated the use of the facilities and is sponsoring this club."
Alohanani stepped forward to a round of applause. "Welcome, everyone. It is indeed a pleasure to sponsor this club and to meet all of you aspiring photographers. Tell me, what makes a great magazine?"
Someone yelled out "the stories."
"And what makes the stories great?"
Someone else yelled out "the writer".
"That's only part of it. What separates a great story from a good story?" No one responded. "Anybody?" Again nobody responded. "I'll tell you what separates a great story from a good story. Photographs. Photographs can sometimes tell a story better than a thousand-word essay. And who takes those photographs? People like Jayson here, and people like you. How many of have heard of About Town Magazine?" Several people raised their hands. "About Town Magazine is one of the most successful and prestigious magazines in the entire country. Allow me to read part of a letter I received from Tisha Jones, the owner and managing editor of About Town Magazine. "Dear Mr. Kolokai. It is with great pleasure that I recommend Jayson Matthews-Williams for a position as photographer with your magazine. About Town magazine has been blessed with many wonderful writers and photographers, and as a result of having such talented people on board, has enjoyed a great success. As I'm sure you are aware, photographs can make a good story into an outstanding story. Jayson is truly one of the most gifted photographers I've ever had the pleasure of working with. Since he joined the staff, circulation has increased ten-fold and we've had to quadruple the size of the magazine just to make room for all of the advertising requests. I do not doubt for a second that hiring Jayson will have the same effect on your magazine as he did on mine and I cannot recommend him highly enough. Our loss is most certainly your gain." Jay looked stunned as the letter was read. He had no idea. He looked at Kyle who was equally stunned. "You know what, everyone? Since Jayson joined Honolulu Happenings, our circulation has indeed increased dramatically. I know that you are close to retiring from the FBI, Jayson, and I want you to know that when you do, you have a full-time position here as head photographer." He turned to the rest of the people assembled there. "Jayson may have a unique gift, but with the right guidance and encouragement, anyone can be a skilled photographer and Jayson is exactly the right person to provide that guidance and encouragement. That's why I agreed to sponsor this club. There will always be a need for photographers. As of right now, each and every one of you is hired as a freelance photographer for this magazine." Everyone's mouth, including Jay's, dropped open. "Get out there and take lots of photographs. If we use them, we'll pay you one hundred and fifty dollars per photograph and give you the photo credit byline. I'll now turn you back over to Jayson. Welcome to Honolulu Happenings, everyone." He left to a standing ovation.
"Well, it looks like we've got our work cut out for us don't we everyone?" Cheers and whistles answered his question. "There's one more person I'd like to introduce to you. I'm sure you all know him from U of H, or at least seen him around campus. This is my husband, Doctor Kyle Matthews-Williams." Everyone applauded. "Kyle fills one other important role in my life besides being my husband. He's my photographer's assistant. Photographer's assistant. Doesn't sound very exciting or glamorous, does it? Believe me, the photographer's assistant is every bit as important as the photographer. The assistant isn't just a pack mule to carry all of the equipment around. The assistant makes sure that the photographer has everything he or she needs ready and available at a moment's notice. The assistant makes sure that all of the lenses and filters are clean and ready to go whenever the photographer needs them. Bottom line, the assistant makes sure that all the photographer has to do is concentrate on what he or she is doing. Out in the field things can change in a split second, which can make the difference between getting the photograph and not getting the photograph." Jay noticed Tony standing in the back of the room. "What's Tony doing here?" he whispered aside to Kyle.
"I don't know." Kyle whispered back.
"Okay, guys, this is what we're going to do. For the rest of today and next week, we're going to cover the basics of composition, rule of thirds and scene balance. After that, we will be going out into the field. Everyone will be paired up in teams of two. One will be the photographer, and the other the photographer's assistant." Several loud groans were heard. "Come on guys. It's a little known fact that an assistant can make or break a photographer. Besides, each time we go out, roles will be switched, so whoever is the photographer will be the assistant the next time, and vice versa."
One of the participants raised their hand. When Jay acknowledged her, she stood up. "I don't have a camera. Would it be possible to borrow one?"
"Your name is..." Jay prompted.
"Tina, the magazine doesn't have any cameras. Each photographer uses their own. Don't worry though. We'll figure something out. Is there anyone else here that does not have a camera?" Three more hands went up. We can use my old one, but where am I going to come up with three more cameras? Jay pondered. His question was about to be answered in a way that he mentally kicked himself in the ass for not expecting.
Tony spoke up from the back of the room. "If I may interrupt Jayson, I have a solution." He walked up to the front of the room.
"Everyone, this is Mr. Tony Malikonahs. He's the owner of the Nighttown Waikiki night club and recording studio." He was greeted by applause.
"Hello, everyone. As you may or may not know, Nighttown Waikiki is a major advertiser in Honolulu Happenings. Alohanani called me yesterday and asked if I would be willing to help sponsor this club. Of course I said yes. I have opened an account in the name of the club and here is a credit card with a fifty-thousand dollar limit to be used to purchase cameras, equipment, supplies, and anything else you might need."
Everybody started cheering. Jay grabbed Tony and pulled him into a big hug. "Thank you so much. This gift is going to make a world of difference to the members of the club. We'll be able to get cameras and equipment for people to use. No one will be left out."
"That's the whole idea." He whispered to Jay. He turned and faced everyone. "There's more. Honolulu Happenings and Nighttown Waikiki will be holding a photography contest next fall. We will have leading photographers from all over the country judging the photographs. The winning photograph will be framed and mounted in the lobby of city hall. In addition, the winner will receive an eight-thousand dollar Nikon D3x, their choice of up to three lenses, filters and a camera bag."
Alex turned on Jayden, his eyes flashing in anger. "You lied to me. You said it wasn't a five-thousand dollar camera." He accused Jayden.
"I didn't lie to you, Alex. It isn't a five-thousand dollar camera. It's an eight-thousand dollar camera. The person I talked to at the camera store told me that it was the best camera for you. I wanted you to have the best possible camera because I know how much you want to do nature photography. I did it because I love you more than anything, and I wanted your birthday to be special."
Alex sighed. "You're right, Jayden. I'm sorry. It's just that the best I could ever hope for on my birthday was a card and maybe, maybe a birthday cake."
"So we're good?"
"Yeah, we're good. I love you, Jayden."
"Hey guys? We need to talk." They looked up to see Jay and Kyle looking down at them. "When we go out into the field, the two of you will be paired up with us. The first time out, Jayden, you will be my assistant, and Alex, Kyle will be your assistant. Then the next time out Alex will be my assistant and Kyle will be Jayden's assistant."
"Why can't we do it together?"
"Because the two of you will be too much of a distraction to each other. A photographer must be focused out there if he wants to get the best possible shot." Jay turned back to the group. "Okay, everybody let's get some lunch. We'll meet back here in an hour."
Two months later Kyle came home to find photographs scattered all over the living room floor. "What's going on, honey?" He bent down for a kiss.
"Hi, baby. How was your day?"
"It was good. What'cha doing?"
"I'm looking over these pictures from the camera club. There's some real talent here. Here, look at this one." He handed Kyle a photograph of a flower bed that was taken at the Pacific National Cemetery.
"Wow. This is absolutely gorgeous. Who took this one?"
"Alex did. Breathtaking, isn't it?"
"Yes it is. Now look at this one."
"Wow. It looks like the soccer player is suspended in mid-air. There's no blurriness at all in the photograph. And look, you can even see drops of sweat flying off his face. Let me guess. Jayden took this one, didn't he?"
"How'd you guess?"
"Look closely at the face. That's Alex."
"You're right. It is Alex. He's doing one of those over-his-head Pélé-style kicks. Well, the guys don't know it yet, but the next time I have an assignment in their areas of interest, I'm taking them with me. I've actually been thinking about periodically taking different member on assignment."
"What does Alohanani think about that?"
"He thinks it's a great idea. It's a good way for them to get some real world field experience. There's something else too. He's going to set up an exhibit in the lobby of the magazine."
"That's great, Jay. Just one more reason for me to be proud of you. The camera club was a great idea and you're doing an awesome job."
"The kids are getting just as much out of you as they are out of me. They're realizing that a photographer's assistant's job is just as important as a photographer's, thanks to you."
"No thanks are necessary. I'm having fun." He sat down next to Jay and starting rubbing his crotch. "Of course if you really want to thank me, I'm sure we can come up with an appropriate means."
Jay quickly gathered up the photographs and put them in a manila envelope and followed Kyle upstairs and into their bedroom where he proceeded to express his appreciation over and over again. After making love for a fourth time, Jay turned to Kyle. "Baby, I want to talk with you about something that's been in the back of my mind for quite some time now."
"How would you feel if I retired from the FBI at the end of this month?"
"Hmm." He sat up and held out both hands, palms up. He raised his left hand a little so it was higher than his right hand. "Jay retires and our income drops." He lowered his left hand and raised his right hand. "Every time he goes to work I worry about him coming home in a body bag." He switched hand positions and said "Jay retires and our income drops." He switched hand positions again. "Every time he goes to work I worry about him coming home in a body bag." He switched his hand position back and forth a few more times as if they were part of a balancing scale. Suddenly he dropped his right hand down into his lap and pushed his left hand straight into the air as far as he could. "First thing Monday morning turn in your retirement paperwork."
"You're sure, baby? My pension won't be nearly as much as my regular salary."
"Jay, honey, between the two of us, we have almost five hundred thousand dollars in the bank. We don't have any major expenses. I'm still quite a ways away from retiring, and you'll be working fulltime for the magazine. Believe me, finances are the least of our concerns."
"God I love you so much!" He reached under the covers and started stroking Kyle's dick, making him hard. Kyle raised his legs into the air. "No, baby."
Kyle lowered his legs and looked at Jay, puzzled. "No?" he asked.
"This time I want you inside me."
"Jay, it's been a very long time since we've done it that way. Are you sure you want me inside you?"
"Yes, I'm sure." They made love, this time with Kyle inside of Jayson. Neither one realized that it would be the last time Kyle topped Jayson.