I was leafing through a magazine down at the vets, while waiting for my sausage dog to emerge from having his balls cut off, when I came across an advert that caught my eye:
‘COUPLES WANTED FOR REALITY TV SHOW. £100,000 PRIZE MONEY’
A light bulb came on in my head. Bingo. ‘Maybe, I should enter this.’ I thought. ‘I could be on TV.’
There was one glaring drawback, I was single and hadn’t had a girlfriend since Susan Belcher dumped me after I inadvertently squirted ketchup on her high-heeled Converse. Undeterred, I stealthily tore the page from the magazine and stowed it in my coat pocket.
I moseyed on home, scenarios running through my mind. I had visions of photo shoots with Hello Magazine, holding an open briefcase full of greenbacks, my latest squeeze hanging on to my arm.
Back at my bedsit, I dug out my little black book and sought out an ex girlfriend. I found the page for H and with shaky fingers prodded out Heather Hicks’ number.
“Hello?” said a husky voice.
“Heather! Hi. It’s Chip. We dated a while back, how’s it going?”
“What the fuck do you want?”
“Er, well, just seeing what you’re up to.”
“What fucking business is it of yours?”
“Well now you mention it none really but I have a proposition for you."
"Really, and what might that be?"
"How would you like to be a contestant on a game show with me?"
"Why on earth would I do such a thing?"
"Well, because there’s lot’s of money to be won."
"But why would I do that with you?"
"Because in order to win, you need to be a couple, in a relationship."
"I don’t think so."
All I could hear next was the interminable whine of a dial tone. It wasn’t the first time she’d hung up on me.
The next day, I made my way to the labour exchange to honour my weekly show up appointment. There was a girl I often saw down there.
She was tall, plain and wore glasses, the plait of her hair bounced as she walked. I had never spoken to her except for a few casual words. Quite often our paths would cross, she would be coming out while I was going in. Finally that day, she spoke to me. At first I didn’t know what to say. She asked how the job hunting was going.
‘Oh. Could be better. How bout you?’
She dipped her head while she spoke. Could it be shyness? Was it coquettishness?
I found her charming, endearing, alluring.
“Still looking. I’m an out of work actress. Last job I had was in a shop.”
“Well, what a coincidence. I’m also an out of work actor. The last job I had was in a nativity, playing the back end of a donkey.”
“Well it’s a part.”
“Say, what are you doing next Saturday?”
“Well, how about coming to an audition with me?”
“An audition, for what?”
“A reality TV show called Couples Next Door.”
“Wow sounds fun, who are the couples?”
“Well. You and me for a start.”
She threw back her head and guffawed showing a perfect set of teeth. I couldn’t quite believe my confidence, my cockiness.
She told me her name was Connie and we exchanged phone numbers.
Itching for audition day to come, I suddenly felt a pang of fear as it dawned on me that I didn’t know the first thing about her. We were supposed to be a couple. The criteria required that we were to have been dating for at least six months.
For the next few days we arranged to meet up and discuss our strategy for pretending to be boyfriend girlfriend.
We met at the same café every day. Most of our social security money went on Frappuccinos. We talked everything from bad habits to likes and dislikes.
Saturday came and I stood outside the audition centre waiting for Connie to arrive.
There was a long queue of wannabes standing in the cold. My mind was swimming with thoughts. What if she didn’t show up? What if we didn’t get on? I wouldn’t be able to speak to her again down at the job centre. Where was she? I kept pacing back and forth looking at my watch.
I spun round. There she was and she had really made the effort. She wore a long dress and had put her hair up in a bun.
“Wow. Look at you. You look incredible.”
“Thanks. Sorry I’m a bit late, my Oyster card got jammed in the turn style at the underground station. Had to call for assistance. Took a while. There was a line of pissed off people waiting behind me. Went as far back as the entrance. Anyway, here I am.”
‘Well, I guess we’d better join the back of this queue.”
We stood in line and shivered with all the other people wanting auditions.
Miraculously we got through and were picked for the show. We were to compete against another couple and live next door to them. The public would decide who wins. We didn’t yet know who the other couple were.
Filming day one. We show up. Pretending to be longstanding lovebirds, the first on the set. I’m stood there forcing a smile, gripping Connie’s hand.
The presenter announces the arrival of the second pair:
“And here is couple number two Heather and Clint.”
My stomach flipped as my ex girlfriend Heather walked in. She stood there in a tight mini dress, with a dopey look on her face.
Holding her hand was Clint, a muscle-bound meathead slathered in fake tan. His V-neck T-shirt must’ve been two sizes too small, intentional of course, anything to show off his bulges from pushing weights.
After a tense few days the results from the public vote came in. It was close but Connie and I scraped it and won the £100000 prize money.
After the show I popped the question.
“So, Connie. How about we go on a real date?”