I swear, I thought I was just starring on a dating show.
My name is Paige. I decided to put my name in the hat for Mr. Right as a joke, I just broke up with a long term boyfriend and hey, dating shows are all fake anyway right? Even if I got in, which was a slim chance anyway, I’d be told what to say and what to do. All for a good show.
I was shook when I got the call saying I’d been picked, pack my bags, I was going to be famous. Despite not really caring at first, I got really, really excited. I tend to binge watch reality shows when I’m having a bad day, just to have something to laugh at, so appearing on one sounded like a great time.
At the airport I met up with one of the hosts, Bruce Hayes, and two of the other contestants, Diana Vega and Taylor Challis. Bruce had a smile like the shark he shared a name with, clearly hit the tanning booth too often, and had uncomfortably white teeth, but he seemed nice. He pulled me into a way too tight hug when I tried going for a handshake. I swear I felt my shoulders pop when he let me go.
“Paige! So great to meet you, the other girls are on the plane already. Ever been to Canada?” He asked as he escorted me to the private flight.
I shook my head. “Never left the country before. Why Canada though, it’s gonna get real cold in a few weeks,” I said.
Bruce laughed so loudly I nearly flinched. “Well, that’s the perfect time to cuddle up with Mr. Right then, isn’t it?” He said.
A tall black woman was slamming her suitcase into the overhead when I got on. She glanced over at me and I immediately got the oh so familiar feeling of inadequacy- she was drop dead gorgeous.
“Hey, Paige, right?” She gave the suitcase a final punch before skipping up to me and shaking my hand. “I’m Taylor.”
She was also British. How fair is that?
I nodded as I took a seat. “You going to be one of the other contestants?” She asked.
“Yep. I sorta entered as a joke,” I admitted.
“Oh my god, same!” Taylor laughed, her smile downright infectious. “My mates and I all entered, if anyone got in they all had to buy the winner drinks when she got back. I’m going to get positively slammed when I piss off Mr. Right with too many puns and get kicked off.” Taylor kicked the seat in front of her, startling the woman who had her headphones in. “Hey, turn off your damn podcast and say hi to Paige!”
“Shit!” The woman yanked out her earbuds, blushing bright red. She was just as gorgeous as Taylor, with olive skin and wavy dark brown hair. “I’m so sorry, when I got a podcast on I can tune out the whole world. I’m Diana.”
I waved. “I get it. You excited to be here?”
“Oh, absolutely!” Diana grinned, dimples showing up in her round cheeks. “My sister entered me, but now that we’re going I’m really getting into it. I’ve never really seen any dating shows so this is going to be a new experience.”
Bruce took his seat in front of me and chuckled. “Well, we hope to make this a unique experience, something new in a world growing stale with the same old thing. You excited?”
I gave two thumbs up, Diana cheered, and Taylor pumped both fists in the air. “Hell yes! Get this plane in the sky!” She said.
Bruce laughed as he gestured for the pilot to get going.
After take off I fished my Kindle out of my bag for some reading during the few hour flight, only to find I forgot to charge the goddamn thing. I started digging through my bag for the charger when I felt someone lightly poke my arm.
I looked up at Diana, who sat next to me and opened up her bag, which was packed to the brim with books. “This is why I’m going to develop back problems- I refuse to get an e-reader and just carry a library with me. You like fantasy?” She asked.
“Yes, thank you!” I picked a book I didn’t recognize. “I hope to write my own fantasy book someday.”
“Really?!” Diana’s eyes went huge. “That sounds amazing. What will it be about?”
Diana and I became fast friends. She had a great feeling that I was gonna come out on top as some sort of dark horse, since as she put it, ‘you don’t see yourself in a good light’. She worked as a receptionist at a doctor’s office and went hiking every weekend.
Honestly I didn’t get to finish the second chapter of my borrowed book, but I had a good time bonding with Diana. Taylor would pipe in with bad jokes and witty comments, we laughed so hard we nearly cried and my sides hurt. By the time we disembarked, we were acting like old friends.
We actually got to ride a limo to the shooting location and where we’d be staying during the duration of the show- an actual freakin’ mansion.
“This is the Vath Home. Another reason we’re shooting in Canada, Paige- the Vaths have been kind enough to let us use the estate for the show,” Bruce said.
“This is where the bachelor lives?!” Diana said, eyes nearly popping out of her skull.
Taylor snickered, a clear sign she was amused by whatever awful joke popped into her head. “He’s absolutely compensating for something…” She muttered, causing all of us to erupt into peels of laughter as we exited the car.
“Ladies! You’re finally here!”
A woman walked out the front door, clearly the other host we’d been told about, Monica Hoar. Something about her stretched smile unsettled me even more than Bruce’s, maybe it was the bright red lipstick. “You’re the final arrivals, and just on time, we’re about to shoot all the introductions! The servants will get your bags, just hurry up into make up and get ready!”
It was not fun sitting in front of the cameras when I’d spent the last several hours traveling and all I wanted to do was nap, but it did give me a chance to check out the competition. Found out that Taylor was an accountant, that she loved beach combing for seashells, scuba diving and apparently one hell of a dancer.
The next girl was Justice Sloane, and oh, bless her heart but she was not very bright. She was the culmination of every dumb blonde joke in the book, but she was a real sweetheart. Obviously quite pretty too, with blonde curls and big brown eyes. She was so damn excited to be here, she always wanted to be on a reality show, and she loved traveling around the world and collecting shot glasses from every locale.
Tara Saito was a fitness trainer and a fitness junkie. Her shiny black hair was cut into a pixie and she had this scar going through her left eyebrow, apparently from when she accidentally got whacked with a tennis racket in highschool. She apparently ran eight miles every day, wanted to push it up to ten next year. She was the competitive type, she wasn’t going to be a bitch but she wasn’t going to come out of here a loser. The only way she was walking out was ‘with a rock on her left ring finger’, her exact words. She had a pet snake back home named Bubbles. She didn’t name him that, he came with that name.
Jade Hutchison was clearly meant to be the drama causing bitch of the season. She actually took a moment of her interview to mock Justice and imply the girl had fake boobs. Classy. Thank god it flew over poor Justice’s head. She was the other blonde on set and I don’t think she’s really smiled all week, unless she was on camera. She worked at a salon as a hair stylist and I have the feeling was just there to be famous.
And then there was Shannon Radde. I thought I was socially awkward, but the girl had to be constantly told to look up at the camera instead of her feet. She was a cute, skinny nerd with thick rimmed glasses and long red hair, almost reached her hips. She was a factory worker and had her own Etsy shop creating fandom bath bombs. She almost made it through her interview when Jade made a comment about how inclusive the show was to include a retard, causing Shannon to burst into tears and run off the set. Bruce just encouraged the cameramen to keep the cameras on poor Shannon as she fled. Taylor and Tara teamed up to tell Jade where she could stick it while Diana ran after Shannon to comfort the poor girl.
When Shannon was encouraged to come back on set, we were all sat back down on the couch and given a bombshell-
This first week, we wouldn’t be meeting this season’s Mr. Right, Donovan Vath. Instead, he would be watching from hidden cameras placed all around the house. After the week was over, someone would be gone and then the real competition would begin.
Weird, maybe, but this first week was just fine.
The Vath Mansion had everything, its own movie theater and bowling alley in the basement, an indoor pool, a sauna, a hot tub out back in the middle of a hedge maze, you name a luxury the Vaths had it. I found myself in the library with Diana a lot, we both had a freak out over finding a first edition of ‘The Hobbit’, kept in a locked glass case so all we could do was gawk.
Each of the girls were sharing a room other than Justice, who was the lucky one of the week who got to bunk in the Queen’s Room. Apparently that was another thing- after this, whoever earned Donovan’s favor for the week would get their own bedroom, reportedly closest to his own. I roomed with Tara, who was out of bed by five AM every morning to take a run around the property.
“There is a home gym, aren’t you cold running outside?” I remember groggily asking as she got dressed in her work out gear.
“I find I work out better if I get some fresh air,” She said as she slipped her hoodie on. “You want to join me?”
I might have thrown my pillow at her. She absolutely caught it and pitched it right back at my head.
Again, everything was normal this week. Diana and I definitely clicked the most, but I can’t say I really disliked anyone other than Jade. Justice was ditzy, but she was also sincerely sweet and made sure everyone always felt included in our hangouts. Tara definitely had to always be the best, but she never put down anyone else. Shannon was socially awkward, but she had this cutest snort when Taylor got her laughing.
I wish that was the show. Just us all being friends.
Day seven and we were all lined up in the same room. We were laughing and joking around. Taylor bet me sixty bucks that Jade was going out first, I bet seventy that it would be me. Tara shoved me and said if I kept talking myself down then I would end up being the first to go. She’s all about how your outlook on things will affect the outcome.
The main cameras switched on and Bruce and Monica flicked on their shark like grins.
“I’m Bruce Hayes-”
“And I’m Monica Hoar-”
“And you’re watching Mr. Right!”
The music got really tense, something that made me giggle. Diana had to elbow me to get me to stop. Bruce clapped his hands together.
“Ladies, I have to say, you’ve all made this first week really special. I’m so glad you all came. But of course, every week we have to say good bye to one person who just didn’t impress our gentleman. Monica?”
Monica cleared her throat and ripped open a white envelope. “The lady leaving us this week is…”
I held my breath. Even if I didn’t care about winning, I was still tense.
Justice gasped, looking around as if she expected another Justice to show up and take her place. Then she straightened her shoulders and put on a smile, even if I could see tears sparkling in her eyes.
“Any last words, Justice?” Monica asked.
Justice nodded. “Um… just that even though I didn’t even get to meet Mr. Right, I got to meet a lot of really, really great people. I hope we can all be friends, even when it’s over,” She said.
Monica gestured for Justice to exit out the archway, and head still head high, Justice walked out. She turned around to wave goodbye, still smiling, still so happy…
When the spike speared through her chest, spraying blood everywhere. Her smile faded, I heard screaming, maybe it was me, maybe it was all of us. She looked down, shaking fingers touching the spike before her eyes rolled back and she slumped down in the rapidly growing pool of red. The spike slowly pulled back, I heard a wet sounding tear and I saw a lump of flesh get ripped out of her back and into the darkness of the hallway.
I heard chewing and a swallow before a figure walked into the light.
A man walked into the light, sucking off the tip of one of his bloodied fingers. Sharp cheekbones and a jawline that went on for days didn’t do anything for me with a mouth covered in blood. That spike was connected to a long, many jointed tail, almost like a scorpion’s. It flicked into the air before just vanishing. He smiled, his teeth stained red.
“Good to finally meet you, everyone. I am Donovan Vath.”
Tara reacted first, she bolted for the other doorway, but Monica pulled out a little canister of mace from her purse and sprayed her in the face. She went down with a banshee screech, clawing at her eyes. Shannon had completely frozen up, dropping to her knees as her face went ghostly pale. Jade violently puked up her breakfast, bile and remnants of pancakes splattering across the hardwood floor. Diana was still screaming bloody murder. Taylor was backing up for the window, looking for anything to help her bust on through. I followed her movements and was about to grab a lamp when Bruce cleared his throat.
“Before you attempt to leave, ladies, might I remind you that a breach of contract will result in you immediately being kicked from the show, and if you didn’t already guess…”
He gestured to Justice’s limp body on the ground. I stared at what used to be such a lively girl, someone I probably could’ve called a friend for a long time. I dropped to the ground and blacked out.
I woke up in bed. Diana was with me. She was a mess, her make up smeared over her cheeks and she was softly rocking back and forth while softly sobbing.
“Diana?” I managed to sit up.
Diana wrapped me in a tight hug. “I… I just want to go home,” She said in between hiccups.
I hugged her back just as tight. Nothing I could say could make this situation better.
I don’t know what to do. We’ve been told if we’re caught contacting family or friends, that’s a breach of contract and they’ll be in ‘a heap of trouble’ as well as us getting kicked off the show. And if you get kicked off the show, Donovan will eat your heart. I don’t want to die. I don’t want my family to die if I get them tangled in this mess.
God help me though, because this week, I’m staying in the Queen’s Room.