‘I’ve been here fifteen minutes already. How much longer should I wait!’ texted David. He stretched out his arms and sighed. He tapped his phone on his knee, bent forward to change the radio station in the car and then leant back into his seat. He sighed again. This is what happens when I respond to messages in online forums. Bing. He looked down at his phone and saw the response, ‘Babe, just leave. I can think of something more fun we can do together. Winking face’. I really need to tell her that we both need to move on. Suddenly there was the sound of a car screeching to a halt, a car door banging shut and the beep of a car being locked. Hurried footstep approached the car. David got out of the car and stood up.
“Hi, I’m Liza. I am so sorry for keeping you waiting. I had a conference call and then traffic was crazy”. David shook Liza’s extended hand. “Punctuality is important. I figured you would know that”. “Again, I am very sorry. Shall we go in? So you can see the house?” “I suppose so. Since I’m here.” What’s his problem.I called to say I was getting late.
Liza punched in the four figure code and unlocked the front door. They stepped into the foyer. High ceilings. Liza placed her keys on a sophisticated entryway table. “Right, so through here on the right hand side is the living room.” Fading lilac painted walls provided the setting for a long white couch on one end of the room facing the fireplace in the opposite end of the room. An old dark purple carpet was laid out covering the floor in the middle of the room. Upon it laid a little round wooden table with a vase of flowers on it. “So, I want to change this up. After the walls are painted I would like to reposition all of the furniture. I mean, I’d like to buy new tables and rugs and …but..” “Things are getting more and more pricey these days” “Yes, they are” He’s nice. Sorta scruffy. Rugged. His old jeans and denim shirt with the sleeves folded up; looks like he’s ready to get to work at this very moment.
“This is the pantry. I thought we may need to break all of this and start from scratch. What do you think?” Peeling wallpaper, rotting wall cupboards, broken tiles in the floor and lousy plumbing. “Yes, there is a lot of work to be done here. Perhaps, start here?” “Hmm, I did think of that. I do want to be able to move in as soon as possible and it will be nice to have a proper kitchen.” She was so vague on what she needed done. She smelt of coffee and donuts standing there in a little floral printed short dress.
Suddenly the doorbell rang. “I wonder who that could be. I’m not expecting anyone else''. “Someone else you kept waiting perhaps?” Liza walked out of the kitchen to answer the door pretending she had not heard David. I hope he’s not going to act this obnoxious the entire time he’s working for me. Confetti hit Liza in the face and the sound of crackers going off engulfed her as she opened the door. “Hi, CONGRATS you are our lucky winner of ‘Coupla Construction’. You’re gonna end up with a brand new house in no time!” Liza found herself looking into the face of a camera handled by a tall, bearded and burly guy. A man in a black suit and a lady in a little, black dress were just by his side and as she locked eyes with them they spun around and looking into the camera yelled out in unison “We’ll see you after this next break”. The guy put down the camera and got on his phone and the couple immediately broke apart screaming at each other with the words ‘my foot’ and ‘my line, not yours’ dropped in.
“Hi, I’m Emily. You are one of the lucky winners of ‘Coupla Construction’. Winners are chosen randomly from various neighbourhoods. You and your partner are bestowed with the gift of free renovation of your house in exchange for showing the world the stresses of the renovation journey on your relationship. What colour to paint the bedroom wall? Is lavender white the same as apple white? If he gets a den should you get a parlour? Can you two make it through to the other side and be able to enjoy the renovated home? Well, at least that’s the premise of this damn thing. I’m the producer/ manager/ errand girl whatever. My streaming platform ‘Adventures’ is quite keen on starting on this show and your house happened to be the first one on our list. So what'd ya think?“
Liza was reeling from the sudden overload of information.
“So you guys want to film me and my partner renovating the house and you will pay for everything?”
“Yes, wasn’t that what I said? I even came up with the name myself. Couples in construction - 'Coupla Construction'...get it? Now, look between me and you we are behind in our timeline on this so we’d like to get started. We’ve got the camera man here. We can film your partner’s surprise reaction too and maybe a tour of the house for the ‘before’ shots and then come back to start the process. We’d like you guys to sort of explain areas of the house connected to your relationship. You know, things you’ve done before with the house or things you’re planning to do. Perhaps, a window seat in the corner of the living room where you two can sit down and read together. Are you going to invite me in and we can go over the details?“
“This all sounds wonderful. Could you give me a moment. I will be right back.”
Liza shut the door in Emily’s face and just stood there for a moment, thoughts racing in her mind.
“How much do you think just the downstairs renovations will cost?” she asked David whilst walking back into the kitchen. “Well, water damage and structural damage will cost more to fix than superficial damage. Who was at the door?”
“Ha, well, it was someone with an interesting proposition. The producers, cameramen and hosts of a new reality television show where they film couples renovating their house. They pay for all the renovations and I suppose want some drama for the ratings in return. Filming won’t take too much time, they said.”
“Oh, well that's great. You won’t have an issue with money then. Shouldn’t they wait for your boyfriend to get here to start filming?”
“Well, that's kind of the problem. I’m single. This was my home as a child and I suppose since it’s still in the names of my parents they assumed a couple was still living here”.
“So did you send them away then?”
“Not exactly. I thought that maybe you and I could act as a couple for the show.”
“I’m sorry? I don’t think I heard you right? We just met.”
“Well yes, but it's amazing if they do everything for free. I could do the entire house straight away. I kinda already agreed to do it and asked them to wait out there till I could wake my boyfriend up from his nap. They want to film his surprise reaction. Would you consider helping me out?”
“This is insane. We can’t fool them. They’ve probably got fact checkers etc. They could find out that we are not in a relationship.”
“They’re not looking for married couples. So we don’t need to produce a marriage certificate or documentation or whatever. We could be in a secret relationship. Well at least just for the cameras. Think about it like this. We could keep talking about your business as a contractor/renovator and get you publicity. You could be upset that you aren't doing the renovation of your house by yourself as originally planned but excited to learn from whomever they bring in. You would get loads of new clients.”
“I could use the publicity I suppose. We could pretend that we’ve been in this relationship and since the show is not being broadcasted on mainstream television but by an unknown streaming platform we may be able to get away with it?”
“Yes! Let's just see how it goes”.
“So Liza and David, tell us how you met, whilst we are sitting here in your gorgeous, albeit in need of a huge makeover, living room”.
“Well, when you’ve been together for as long as we have, it almost feels like you can forget that story of the initial meeting”, said Liza with a laugh, “Ah, college days. So many romances.”
David interrupted, “Well, honey, when you say it like that people will think that I went to college although I did not. I am a self made man. It is my experience that makes me such a great renovator.” He leant back and put his arm behind Liza’s shoulder as if to draw them closer together.
“Yes, dearie, of course you’ve done such wonderful work in the past.” Liza awkwardly placed her hand on David’s knee and smiled at him and then into the camera.
The next few months went past in a blur. Tantrums and tears over the initial demolition of parts of the ceilings, walls and floors. David in the master bedroom explaining his choice of colour for the bedroom walls whilst Liza argued for a different colour. Liza in the guest room choosing the types of ornamental soaps and washcloths whilst David wished out loud for it to be a man cave instead. David’s attempts to learn from the specialists brought in to attend to the covering of uneven floors whilst also offering them advice on what to do. Liza’s consequent storming off as she was infuriated by David always acting like he knew it all. Of course, this prompted David to beg her to come back, and gift her with the services of a landscaper who would help her plant the prettiest garden. It would be like the gesture he made four years into their relationship when he took her on holiday to Keukenhof, one of the world's largest flower gardens.
‘I’ve already got so many new followers on social media. This is going great’, thought David. As David would help with the laying of tiles Liza would bring him a glass of iced lemonade and hug him and thank him for all his hard work. As Liza would look at patterns for wallpaper David would make plans for the garden including building a kennel in one corner of it for the puppy he would buy to surprise Liza. David and Liza would sit on their newly built porch overlooking their backyard sipping tea and reminiscing about the time when they lived in a tiny apartment and dreamed of the day when they would share a beautiful house of their own. ‘I can’t believe we are carrying this off,’ thought Liza.
“The cameras love you guys. Liza storming off and David begging her to come back was just perfect. Chatting on the porch. It's not too touchy feely which is fine; though we may have got higher ratings with a little more smooching. Still, what could be better to do next than throw a gigantic party and take all your guests on a tour of your soon to be completed home?”, said Emily.
The party and tour of the house was arranged for the next weekend. Liza and David had already managed to convince Emily that their real family and friends would be too busy to attend the filming of a party and it was easier to hire extras to fill in for them. “3, 2, 1, Go” motioned the camera man.
“Welcome to “Coupla Construction”,announced the host couple, “Liza and David. It's been a busy couple of weeks and your home renovation is almost complete. Why don't you show everyone around?” The doorbell dinged. “Well, who can that be?”. Emily beckoned to David to open the door. David obliged and swinging open the door received a sharp slap across his right cheek. “David, how could you cheat on me!” screamed a tall blonde woman. David stared at her like he’d seen a ghost. Oh no, its winking face. Emily gestured towards Liza who was standing in shock staring at what was unfolding before her eyes. Emily mouthed the words ‘Fight’. Surely, this is too much. What am I supposed to do? Pull her hair out and bite her? Liza moved forward towards David and the blonde and pushed the blonde towards the front door. “Get out! You’re not invited to our party! We’ve done all this work on our fabulous house and we will not let you ruin it!”
“Guys, that's a wrap. Let’s pack up and move on out”
Liza sighed. It was all over. I don’t even know what's going to happen next. David sat down and exhaled. Man, I let this get out of control.
“Guys, I know you’re not actually a couple.”
Liza and David looked at Emily bewildered. Liza said, “Wait, what do you mean? We went through this whole renovation thing together for months”
Emily laughed and shrugged. “Well, we checked up on you. I even found whats- her- name and got her here tonight to add to the drama. Of course, by the time we got the results back we’d filmed quite a bit and created an audience that was following you. They obviously saw something. Some chemistry.”
“We’re just great actors”, David said, “So what happens now that you know the truth?”
“Well, this was an experiment really and we’ve decided that we do not want to move forward with this idea”, explained Emily, “Liza, you can enjoy your home and just think of it as a barter. We did get something out of all this.”
Liza walked around the garden and looked at the beautiful rows of tulips and roses planted in the south west corner. Footsteps approached. She looked up and saw David coming closer towards her. David handed her a mug of hot cocoa and said, “Well, I guess this is the end of that whirlwind.” Liza laughed. “I guess it is.” They stood there for a moment turning around to look at the finished house in all its glory. David said, “I’d better get going then. Let’s meet again soon? Have a chat” “Sure” said Liza. Her home was complete. She could sleep well tonight.
David walked to his car just outside and was about to get in when he heard his name being called. “David, it's finally over. I can do something I wanted to do for months.” Emily reached forward and kissed David passionately. David leaned in and kissed her back wrapping his arms around her. “And as a bonus,” whispered Emily into his ear, “they want to give you your own show”.