Hi, I’m still here. Not dead. Thank god.
I didn’t want to get out of bed the day after Justice’s death. I slept like hell the night before because, yeah, my room’s closest to the heart eating monster. I imagine you’d probably sleep badly too if you were alone.
But this week was our ‘first dates’ with Donovan. We drew straws for it, Jade threw a tantrum when she realized she was going last. I didn’t know why she was excited to date Donovan, but maybe that was her way of finding a way out. If she wins, she won’t die.
Tara and Taylor, ‘Team T’ as Diana has called them, spent their time trying to find a way out. The day after the elimination Taylor pretended to be filling her plate with me at the breakfast buffet while murmuring to me what they’d found out so far.
“There’s armed guards around the edge of the property. It took forty five minutes to drive out here, right?” Taylor murmured as she added another spoonful of scrambled eggs to her plate.
“Give or take. That’s quite a hike back to town,” I said while pouring myself a glass of orange juice. “Is there a reason we’re being sneaky about this conversation?”
“Because there’s literally cameras everywhere. Tara and I were exchanging facts when Bruce burst into the room to ‘chat’ with us. I read between the lines. I wish we could ask the crew if there are any blind spots, but…” Taylor trailed off and glanced behind her to see a camera man slowly rolling up on us. She laughed loudly and headed to the table. “So, Shannon’s first up today?”
I tried not to look at the camera as I sat beside Taylor. “She should be. My date’s tomorrow. What should we talk about?”
“… What do they call the kind of diet he’s on?”
I nearly snorted my orange juice. It’s always a bad idea to eat around Taylor, she always cracks jokes right when you’re about to swallow but that was more than a little dark. Guess it was called for though, considering the situation. “Jesus Christ, Taylor, I’d like to keep my heart in my chest for as long as possible thank you.”
“I would too,” Taylor took a bite of scrambled eggs before grumbling, “Hope if he does take it he bloody chokes on it.”
I spent the rest of the morning in the Queen’s Room and intended to spend every free moment I had in there if Diana didn’t come in shortly after noon.
She knocked twice before letting herself in. “We have a problem,” She announced as a cameraman followed her in.
“Yeah, we’re trapped on the dating show from hell,” I got up, “What’s up?”
“Shannon’s date starts in a little under two hours and she’s barred herself in her room. She won’t come out no matter what I say,” Diana sighed and tucked a lock of hair behind her ear, “Can you come help?”
“If she doesn’t want to go on the date, she shouldn’t have to,” I said with a shrug.
“If she doesn’t, that’s an automatic fail and…” Diana shuddered as she drew a finger across her throat, “She’s done for. She needs to try, at least!”
That was true. I got up and made sure to shove Camera Guy off balance as I hurried to Shannon’s room.
I did try opening the door, but it was locked tight. Judging by the shadows, she’d pushed something up against it as well. “Shannon? I think it’s time to get ready for your date.”
“I’m not. Going.”
Shannon’s voice sounded so, so tired. I sighed as I rested my head against the door. “Shannon, if you don’t-”
“I said no!”
Jade picked the most lovely time to pass by, but I think the woman has a camera radar a mile in radius. “You’re still trying to help her? Are you stupid?”
“Are you actually heartless?” I cringed at the phrasing I used but there was no taking that back.
Jade rolled her eyes. “Very funny. I’m just saying, if she wants to get her heart ripped out, it’s better for all of us,” She said.
“Just go away if you’re not going to be helpful!” Diana shooed her away as I tried to think of another way.
The only one that came to me was going to suck. A lot. But I didn’t have a choice.
“Hey Shannon, if you need another night to yourself, I think we can switch spots. I’ll go first, tell you how it goes, so you know what to expect?”
Shannon was quiet for a few moments.
“I’d… I’d really appreciate that, Paige. Thank you.”
I turned to Camera Guy, who was still watching us. “Hey, where can I go to get ready?” I asked.
I got whisked back to make up. Thank god they had a professional crew for all of that, I can barely apply lipstick. By the time I was all done over, I looked pretty damn good.
I was escorted out to the back balcony, and there he was, sitting at the small table set for two. Donovan. He looked so perfectly normal. No tail, no blood. He looked, well, like Mr. Right. I smiled and cleared my throat. He glanced up, clearly surprised it was me. “… Didn’t quite to expect to see you. Wasn’t it Shannon’s turn? That’s her name, correct?” He asked.
“She, um…” I swallowed, my mouth was dry as a desert, “She wasn’t feeling well. Might be a twenty four hour bug… thing. So we switched spots. She should be here tomorrow though?”
“Well, I suppose that’s all right,” He smiled before he stood, pulling out the other chair for me, “Come, sit. I’d like to get to know you. Paige, right?”
I nodded as I took a seat, repressing a shudder as his palm brushed up against my shoulder. “That’s my name. And you’re… Donovan.” I hoped he’d read me just as socially awkward rather than actually terrified.
Donovan chuckled as he took his seat again. “Yes, that is my name. You don’t have to be so tense around me. I don’t bite.”
My expression must have been hilarious and quite telling, judging by his laugh. “Well, I certainly won’t tonight. Dinner should be out here soon, how do you take your steak?”
“Medium well.” I folded my hands in my lap, doing all I could not to dig my fingernails into my skin too deeply. “Can we just talk? Like, honestly?”
Donovan nodded. “Of course. Say whatever you like,” He said.
“What the actual fuck are you?”
I expected dinner to end right there. Camera Guy’s jaw nearly dropped to the floor. But Donovan actually seemed amused, even if he was taken off guard. “Well then, you don’t censor yourself at all. And as for that, I don’t have an answer. Not even my mother knows, I suppose it all comes from my father’s side of the family. And she has no idea how to locate him, it’s not like they exchanged phone numbers. All I know is that I must regularly eat hearts. Human hearts, we’ve tried beef and the result just makes me ill.”
“How often?” I cocked my head to the side.
“Preferably once a week, but I can go a little over a month before I start to become weak. The longest was…” Donovan twisted his mouth as he thought, “I think about three months? It nearly cost me my life though.”
Still stunned that he wasn’t pissed at me, I continued on my line of questioning. “Must suck, knowing that other people have to die in order for you to live,” I said.
“It’s something I’ve come to terms with. You have to if you have to live like this. Thankfully Cecil has connections at the hospital, so more often than not I’ve gotten hearts from those recently passed from natural causes.”
“My apologies, the man my mother married. I suppose he’s my stepfather?” Donovan shrugged. “But enough about me. How about you, are you close to your parents?”
“Let’s see…” Now I had to be charming… or since he didn’t mind, I’d just be myself. “They divorced when I was six, but I’m on good terms with both of them. I think I’m closer to my mom though, we’re more alike.”
“I see. Any siblings?”
“Stepbrother, on my dad’s side. He’s a pain in the neck but he’s a good kid.” I tried not to think too hard about the fact I was probably never going to see him again. “You an only child?”
“I am. Oh, looks like it’s time to eat.”
Our plates were set in front of us and I was so damn relieved to see that Donovan also had a steak, and not another heart. He clearly saw my relief and he laughed again. “What? Did you seriously think I was going to eat another heart? I think having you faint during dinner would be in poor taste.”
“You’re just going to remember me as the fainter, aren’t you?” I said as I cut myself a piece. I had no appetite because of nerves, but I needed to eat something.
The rest of the dinner I think I nailed. We talked about our interests, he was absolutely fascinated by my desire to write a book and I managed to work up some enthusiasm about his collection of various first editions. Turns out the first edition of The Hobbit is his, he got it when he was thirteen as a birthday present. He recited the first page from memory and for a moment I forgot he was a monster.
It would’ve been probably one of my better dates if I could’ve actually forgotten.
As you can clearly tell, I didn’t do the worst of all the girls as I still have a heart in my chest. Each of the dates were livestreamed to the rest of the contestants in the living room. I was surprised to see Shannon among the group of girls, but seeing her give me a small smile and a nod made going first worth it.
Shannon actually did end up going to her date the next day, although she barely talked and didn’t even have a bite of her food. Diana was so perfectly charming, she faked it better than I ever could when it came to wooing Mr. Right. Tara was passive aggressive for a good portion of the date, but she actually gave him a quick kiss on the cheek, more than the rest of us. Taylor absolutely killed the mood with her bad jokes, but I’m pretty sure that came from how nervous she was.
…. Well, there’s a reason I’m saving Jade for last. Jade more than bombed her date. During all of the dates until Jade’s, Donovan had been the perfect gentleman. Even when Taylor made a ‘that’s what she said’ joke, all she got out of him was a twitch and an irritated sigh. But Jade pushed the wrong buttons. She talked only about herself and barely let Donovan get a word in. She criticized everything about the meal. She was quite sexually aggressive, even when Donovan would politely change the subject or remove her hand from his thigh.
It was the third time she it that I saw he was getting pissed, his typically calm expression turning darker. Taylor was shaking her head and Diana pulled Shannon’s attention away from the TV by asking her about some cartoon she really liked. We all knew this wasn’t going to end well.
Donovan abruptly got up about halfway through dinner. “I think it’s time you retire for the night, Miss Hutchison,” He said.
Jade got up and snaked her arm in with Donovan’s. “How about instead I go to bed with you? Forget those other girls, I can be what you need,” She said.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The growl that came from Donovan didn’t sound at all human before I blinked and Donovan had Jade pinned up against the wall, hand on her throat. She struggled as hard as she could but it didn’t even shake him.
“You know, I let the producers choose one contestant, and they asked that I let her stay on for as long as possible to make it a good show. But I think it’ll be a much better show, now that you’ll be gone.”
That scorpion like tail flicked out from behind him and her eyes went wide. We heard the bloodcurdling scream outside just a second before it blasted from the TV speakers. Donovan’s tail stabbed her in the chest, cutting her off as it twisted around inside of her before yanking out her heart. Her body went limp and Donovan tossed it away like it was trash.
“Turn off the fucking camera,” He snarled before storming off. I saw Monica running after him before the feed went dark.
There was no official elimination the next day since, well, it had taken place the night before. Apparently Monica had given Donovan quite the tongue lashing about it, so no more eliminations will take place again before Friday. I am no longer in the Queen’s Room, that now belongs to Diana.
I feel sick that I’m actually glad it was Jade that was eliminated.
Because that means I’m still here.