Authors: Amy Archer
EIGHT WEEKS TO MR. RIGHT
Copyright © 2015 by Amy Archer
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I sat down in an open seat at the bar, willing my heart to slow down. It didn’t help: I felt like I was going to vomit. I was so excited and nervous, I could hardly stand it.
“What can I get you?” the bartender asked.
“Red wine,” I said, and he waited. But I couldn’t form the words in my mind for any particular kind of grapes. They were a jumble of French- or Italian-sounding names. All I could think was,
Tonight. Tonight. It’s finally starting tonight.
“Um, whatever’s cheap,” I fumbled, and blushed as he turned away.
My eyes drifted up above the long, polished wood bar to where a car commercial played on a TV with the volume down low.
And then, there it was. There
was. On TV.
“Starting tonight, the newest reality dating show everyone’s been talking about,” I heard the announcer’s voice say as a shot from our promo footage flashed on the screen. I saw myself standing there alongside all the other women from the show, my arms crossed in the “confident posture” we’d been instructed to adopt. I swallowed hard, wanting the bartender to turn the sound up but not daring to ask. The shot panned over Andrew, looking as sexy as ever, as he stood a few feet away from all the women and looked us up and down appraisingly.
That moment had taken hours to shoot. By the time we’d finally gotten it right, it had been the middle of the night, and Andrew had been as sick of staring at us as we were of being gawked at. Now, though, my stomach flipped in queasy somersaults at the sight of him.
Then there we were dressed up and dancing, and there I was again, my dress sparkling in the light as Andrew twirled me and then dipped me down low. I tapped my fingers nervously against the bar and kept watching.
The scene changed. “Will you help me zip up?” a coy Isabella asked Andrew, fluttering her fake eyelashes at him. A hard lump formed in my stomach. Isabella was the absolute worst. I hoped for what must’ve been the hundredth time that she hadn’t won. On the screen, Andrew moved forward and pulled the long zipper up Isabella’s back, and I tried to fight my jealousy.
In the next shot, a group of the women had their heads together, clearly gossiping. “I don’t know what the hell she thinks she’s doing,” Brandi said fiercely. “But she shouldn’t be here.” I wondered idly who they were talking about. I hadn’t participated in any of the gossip on-set, knowing it would only cause problems.
Then there was Abby, covered in flour. A few scenes I didn’t recognize, interspersed with shots of some of the locations.
And then there was Andrew holding a paper heart, the symbol of the show. “I think you could be the one,” he told someone off-camera, and then the shot flashed on one of the girls rolling her eyes. She’d been cut the first night, so I’d never learned her name. These two moments clearly did not happen on the same day.
The announcer’s voice again: “It’s all coming up on the first-ever season of
Eight Weeks to Mr. Right
…starting tonight at 8/7 Central, right here.”
“You okay?” the bartender asked, setting a glass of red wine down in front of me, and I nearly jumped at his voice, returning to the real world with a start.
“Yeah…yeah, fine,” I said. I couldn’t believe the show was about to air. I had only — I glanced at my phone — half an hour now before I’d make my reality TV debut. Still none of it felt real, and yet here it was, finally about to happen.
I glanced around me, but no one was even looking at the TV. I sipped the wine tentatively. Yes, it tasted like exactly what I’d ordered: their cheapest glass of red wine.
My thoughts drifted back to that first day on-set. So much had been different then. I wasn’t there for Andrew, I was there for what Andrew represented — the possibility of my dream job. But something had happened. Over the course of those eight weeks of filming, I’d gotten to know him, and I’d realized that I really liked him.
I knew that part of it was the competition angle; placed in opposition with all these other women for Andrew’s affections, it was impossible not to start to want him to choose me, not to want to win.
But there had been more to it than just that. There was that nagging feeling that had started up…when, exactly? I wasn’t sure. But it had grown over the course of taping until I was sure that Andrew and I were meant for each other, that we would be together forever. We were in the same professional field, after all, so we understood each other in a way that he just couldn’t have with the other women. And the way he’d looked at me as we’d gotten to know each other, the laughs we’d shared, the intimate moments…
Until, I remembered with a painful pang, The Horrible Day. The worst day of my life. The day that had been so awful I couldn’t even think about it, even now, almost four months later, without feeling like I was about to cry.
I tapped my fingers anxiously against the bar, willing myself to think about something else.
, I told myself.
All is not lost. There’s still a chance of getting a job from him, I just have to get through the show first.
And then, who knew. Maybe he’d still fall in love with me. But the job was the most important thing.
Still twenty-five minutes until the show started. I was going over to a high school friend’s house to watch the episode, but had had some time to kill before heading there. I couldn’t stand to stay in the house, though — I was just too nervous. And my parents had been peppering me with questions all week about how I felt about it airing, and I just couldn’t do it anymore.
I needed my own place, stat. Thank god for Megan, one of the few people I’d known in high school who still lived here in San Francisco. We’d only talked on the phone since I’d been back and I had no idea whether we’d still get along, but at least she wanted to watch with me. Imagining sitting in my parents’ living room with them watching the episode sounded miserable.
I sipped at my wine and glanced around me again. The bar was buzzing with activity, but something caught my eye. I blinked.
My high school boyfriend strode through the door and up to the bar, only feet from where I was sitting. I swiveled around in my seat to get a better look. Yes, it was definitely him.
I couldn’t believe it. I had fond memories of Ben from the two years that we’d dated — practically an eternity for teenagers — but it had been a decade since we’d talked. I’d been so hurt when he’d dumped me without ever explaining why, and had avoided him for the rest of high school. But over time the hurt had faded, and when I’d thought of Ben over the years it was always with a warm fondness.
I waited until he’d ordered to call his name. When I did, he looked around and seemed to take a moment to recognize me.
Ben looked amazing. While he’d always been an attractive guy — medium-brown hair that always seemed to fall over his haunting green eyes, a smile that would make you forget your own name — in the years since I’d known him he’d turned into a man. He was tall with a well-sculpted body and a gentle but confident demeanor.
Not bad, high-school me
, I thought.
“Oh wow, January!” he said when it hit, and a huge smile spread over his face. I smiled back and got up to give him a big hug. “You smell amazing,” he said when we broke apart.
“Thanks!” I said with a grin. “I made the perfume myself. I can’t believe how long it’s been!” I was thrilled to see him, though if I was totally honest with myself I’m not sure how much of it was Ben and how much of it was the timing. I needed a distraction tonight, bad.
“I know!” he said. “Are you living here again these days? I heard you’d moved to New York.”
“I was there for a few years,” I said. “And…at least for the time being, I’m back. I just got back a couple months ago. I’m actually still looking for a place to live.”
I could’ve kicked myself for that last part.
Please don’t ask where I’m staying right now
, I willed him silently. I didn’t want to tell him I’d been living with my parents. I was twenty-nine years old, for God’s sake.
Luckily, he just nodded and said, “Not a lot available right now. So what have you been up to?”
I hesitated. The show was all I could think about, and had been for months. I’d quit my job for it. I’d moved across the country for it. I’d put everything else in my life on hold for it — or at least, for what it might mean for my career. But now I found myself embarrassed to admit to my old boyfriend that I was about to go on reality TV. Instead, I just shrugged.
“I’ve been working as a scent developer,” I said. “Or at least, that’s what I was doing in New York.”
“Interesting,” he said. “So you make, what, perfume?”
“Well,” I said, sighing, “that’s the goal. But there they had me developing something for, uh, deodorant. Not quite as exciting.”
“Not quite,” he agreed with a smile.
I opened my mouth to ask about his life, but at that moment a woman walked up to us and tapped me on the shoulder. Her bangs were cut straight across her forehead in a way that made her look much younger than her forty-five or so years. “I’m sorry to bother you,” she said timidly. “But aren’t you the girl from that new Mr. Right show?”
My eyes flitted past Ben’s face toward her, and I saw his confusion. “Oh…” I said, simultaneously embarrassed at having this happen in front of Ben and proud to have been recognized before the show even started. “Yes, I am, actually.”
“I knew it!” the woman said, clapping her hands together in distinctly Midwestern excitement. “I’ve seen you on the ad all week, and when I saw you here I just thought, ‘That has to be her.’”
“You’re on what now?” Ben interjected, an amused look on his face.
“I, um…I’m about to be on a reality TV show,” I told him.
The woman broke in again. “Well, I don’t mean to keep you, but I just wanted to say hi and good luck. I’ll be rooting for you!”
“Thank you,” I said, and the woman skittered back to her husband on the other side of the room.
“What kind of show are you on?” Ben asked, that same amusement still filling his voice.
I swatted at him playfully. “You can drop the tone. I know it’s silly. It’s a…it’s a dating show.”
He raised his eyebrows. “All right then. I see you’ve gotten desperate since we broke up. And did you get the guy?”
I laughed and looked down at the floor. “I can’t tell you that. You’ll just have to watch. It starts tonight. In fact…” I pulled my phone from my pocket to check the time. Fifteen till. Time to get moving. “I’m actually on my way to Megan’s house to watch with her. Remember Megan Fontinelli, from high school?”
“Oh, yeah, I do,” he said. But as I started to put my phone back in my pocket and finish off my wine, my phone dinged a text message sound. It was Megan.
“Have to work late tonight. I’m sorry! Maybe next episode?”
I was stunned. “Are you kidding me?” I said out loud to the phone, then looked up at Ben. “She just canceled. Fifteen minutes before the show starts, and she cancels. Where am I supposed to watch now?” It was true that I hadn’t kept in touch with Megan much in the intervening years since high school, but this was important to me. It stung that she wouldn’t prioritize our plans, especially since I’d never be able to get back to my parents’ house on the south side of town in time for the start of the episode.
It was a lonely feeling, realizing that I knew so few people in San Francisco anymore.
“You could come to my place if you want,” Ben offered. “I’m only a few minutes from here.”
“I don’t know,” I said, peering at him doubtfully. I’d known Ben well once upon a time, but it had been years. And I wouldn’t exactly be making an ideal impression by making my reality TV debut the first night we see each other again. “Don’t you have stuff to do? Are you meeting someone here?”
He waved a hand dismissively. “Happy hour with my coworkers. They’ll understand. It’s not every day you get to watch your ex-girlfriend make a fool of herself on national TV.”