“Jack!” I whisper-shout at him. He pulls me into a random room and we plop down on the chairs inside. We take one look at each other and begin giggling. I cover my face with my hands in an attempt to silence them, but it does nothing to help.
“We-ohhh my god.” I let out one last laugh before looking at Jack, who’s smiling, face flushed from our running before.
“What now? Where are we anyhow?” There’s a small pamphlet on the table, and we reach out to grab it at the same time. Of course, him being him with his impossibly long arms, he gets it first. I cross my arms and lean back in my chair.
“Come on talk what does it say?”
He snickers.“Oh, this is going to be fun.”
“What’s going to be fun, gimme that!” I snatch the pamphlet from his hands and quickly scan it, flipping the pages. I bite my lip to try and not laugh again but I do, and it comes out as a snort.
“Oh ho hooo, $1,000 cash prize? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?”
“If you’re thinking that we should pretend to be a couple in this reality show to win that dough?” I nod eagerly. “Then maybe, I haven’t collected my thoughts yet.” I laugh before abruptly standing up.
“Come on, our friendship has faced way more challenges before, right? We’ll be fine.” He stands up and picks up my arm over our heads.
“I hereby declare us boyfriend and girlfriend for the remainder of today!” I grin as he drops my arm.
“Well, what now?”
He opens the door a crack and looks left and right before turning back around.
“We find a dressing room? And then we can see where to go from there, okay?” he whispers giddily. I smile and nod. He brings a finger to his lips and opens the door a little more, tiptoeing out. I bite my lip to suppress more laughter at how dramatic he’s being. I mean, really, what’s the worst that could happen if we’re caught?
He holds my hand and pulls me to the end of the hall, where he looks left and right and chooses right at random. We keep going until I pull my arm away, reading the paper pasted on one of the doors.
“C’mere, it says ‘Dressing Room A’, should we go in?”
“Shhh! Keep your voice down. Okay, we’ll try this door.” I roll my eyes at his whisper and try the knob. Shoot. It’s locked. Jack comes by me and looks right and left before pulling a bobby pin out of my hair. I hit his wrist and glare at him.
“What was-mmph mmph!” He puts his hand over my mouth. I bite it. “What was that for!” I harshly whisper once he pulls his hand instinctively off of my mouth. He puts the bobby pin into the lock and jiggles it around a little bit before I hear a faint click and he takes it out, turning the knob. He hands me the bobby pin with a satisfied smirk on his face. I scoff as we quickly open the door and walk-in.
“Who knew you were such a professional criminal?” He closes the door behind us. He scans the room and lets out a breath once he sees it’s empty.
“I have experience reading sister’s diaries,” he winks at me.
“No. You’re joking, you read Lily’s diary?! She’ll murder you if she finds out.”
He narrows his eyes at me. “Which is why she won’t, correct?”
I laugh. “Looks like I have blackmail material now!” I say in a sing-song voice.
“Oh whatever. It was a while ago anyway, most of them were entries of her ‘first crush’ and whatnot.” He waves his hand as if to push the topic away.
“Yeah, what’s wrong with whatnot?”
“Nothing you sounded British for a second”
“Ha-ha very funny, anyway we never really planned what to do after we made it here.” I scan the dressing room again, racking my brain for an actual plan.
So we’re on the set of some romantic reality TV show in which I believe couples talk about their experiences and their story and that great ol’ cheesy stuff and the couple that the crowd ships most by the end win. Judging by my skim read-only, of course.
“Considering this dressing room is empty, where do you think the actual contestants are?” I ask Jack, who was staring at me. “What is it, do I have something on my face or something? Jack?”
“Oh, nothing, you just looked super concentrated in thought it was funny. Anyway, they either ran away, are in the bathroom, or didn’t show up. You think someone will show up to direct us over to the stage or something?’
“I dunno, never really been on TV before,” I say, shrugging off the first part of his sentence.
“I say we wait about five minutes and if no one comes we figure stuff out for ourselves, alright?”
“Sounds good.” A minute of awkward silence passes between us. At least I assume it’s a minute; considering it feels like an hour, I can’t really tell.
“So like-” we speak at the same time and abruptly stop. “Anyway-” We burst out laughing at the second coincidence. I tuck my hair behind my ear and tilt my head to the side. I want to talk again, but I don’t want to burst the magic bubble in the air. Jack laughs and runs a hand through his hair, messing it up. Ohhh, I want so bad to fix it, but he hates when I touch his hair.
Ruining the ‘moment’ there’s a loud knock on the door. I hear an enthusiastic game show host speaking on the other side of the door.
“Let’s hope we aren’t interrupting anything folks! Anyone in there?” My eyes widen and Jack stands up. I stand too. We take a deep breath and walk over to the door. Jack opens the door to a big ol’ camera in our faces. He steps backwards into me, surprised. I grip his shoulders and push him back, my face warm.
“Hello! What a darling couple, and young too! What are your names?”
“I uh-um-” I was never the camera person, and of course flustered me stutters.
Jack steps in. “I’m Jack, and this here is Alice.” He moves to hold my hand, and I almost pull away, before realizing what he’s doing. And I have to play along. It’s not like it’s too hard honestly, his hand is as comfortable to me as anything, I’ve held it since 6th grade. I take a step closer to him so our sides are touching.
“Jack and Alice ladies and gentlemen!” the host says, looking into the camera. “Well, follow me to the stage! Your fellow contestants are waiting for you!” We walk out and the cold blast of the air conditioner hits me by surprise. It was not this cold when we were first walking through these very same hallways. Then again, we were high on adrenaline. I let go of Jack’s hand and cross my arms in an attempt to warm myself. Jack looks at me. He’s used to this, I get cold very easily. Smiling, he rolls his eyes and takes off his jacket, promptly draping it over my shoulders. I feel my cheeks turn rosy at the gesture.
“Thanks…” I mumble quietly. A resounding awww that sounds fake is heard. I look up and see we’re at the doorway of the stage, which is in front of a rather large audience. Perfect. Juuuust perfect.
“Wow! You guys aren’t even through with the first half of the competition, and you’re already blowing it up! Looks like the chemistry is natural between you two young lovebirds, huh?”
Jack grins and brings his arm around my shoulder, brushing lightly across my neck. No not that spot-he knows I can’t resist to-Ugh, I swear I’m like a cat sometimes. I instinctively lean in at his touch. My cheeks warm even more and I’m pretty sure my face is tomato red right now. Heck, I don’t really need this jacket anymore. Once the reporter looks away and back at the audience, Jack shoulders me and I look up.
“Deep breaths…” he whispers, sending a reassuring smile my way. I smile back, feeling slightly lighter.
“Why don’t you two have a seat on that red sofa over there!” I turn to find the said sofa on the stage, but all I see is about 3 different chairs, two of them occupied, one of them red. Yeah, no way two human beings that are not already reduced to skeletons are going to fit on that. At all.
Jack takes his arm from my shoulder, allowing me for some reason to release a breath, and nudges me forward.
“It’s fine, I’ll stand.”
“No, it’s fine, you sit, I’ll stand.” We stop by the chair.
“Oh for goodness sake, we’ll both stand!” he throws his hands up in the air.
“What a couple folks! What. A. Couple. Moving on to the first question of today, couple Dan and Sydney, how did you guys meet?” My cheeks warm again momentarily. You’d think we were scripted, seriously, we’re acting like such a couple. But does Jack mean it? I mean it’s not like it’s any different from the teasing we normally do in our everyday life. So why does it feel different? Is it because we’re being called a couple?
Or is it because….
I meet Jake’s eyes and he smiles, sending my heartbeat way out of control.
No...it couldn’t be…