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Drama Fiction Romance

She saunters stiffly beside him, her hands clenched into small fists at her sides. She looks directly ahead. Her counterfeit smile does not reach her cold blue eyes. Her long, satin magenta gown swishes around her feet with each step, a cascade of sparkles flashing before every photographer’s eyes.

His pursed lips morph into a grin as he follows her into the light of the stage and looks out at the crowd, displaying perfectly white teeth. He pumps his fists in the air––to which the crowd hollers in glee––and flaunts his magenta bow tie. He strides forward almost on his tiptoes, elongating long legs and emphasizing his casual, long gait. He chews gum loudly, his lips smacking together.

She grits her teeth, but smiles through them all the same, characteristically tossing her long, silvery white hair behind her. The crowd roars with approval.

He ignores her and pumps his biceps. The crowd howls even louder.

They approach the stage and, as if they are mirrors––and robots––they wave in identical gestures to the crowd, wide and unwavering smiles plastered on their perfectly powdered faces. They are well-practiced. They wave slowly and dramatically, each hand outstretched with waggling fingers. Finally, as the cheers fade to a low rumble, they step up upon the stage and sit beside one another on the white velvet couch. The piece of furniture is altogether too small; they must sit leg-to-leg, shoulder-to-shoulder.

She crosses her legs to appear smaller and avoid his touch. Her smile does not leave her face.

He scowls through a grin, trying to stretch his long legs while ignoring her figure.

The host asks them a series of questions about the show. Their experiences, their respective love stories, their competition against the other couples.

She answers them shortly with quick nods and small smiles. The audience does not notice her edging away from him bit by bit.

He takes his time, inducing giggles from the crowd, using his arms wildly to demonstrate his points, and laughing loudly and boisterously.

She rolls her eyes behind her long hair, which acts to shadow her from the many bodies and inquiring gazes beyond the stage.

The host dismisses them to chat to the the next couple.

He walks confidently off the stage and to the backstage area, where the other couples await.

She follows just a few steps behind, narrowing her eyes at his perfectly groomed and ashen brown hair.

They wait among black couches and suits and dresses and flickering gazes as the couples assess one another. They sit together, just millimeters apart, striking up an elementary conversation about the weather. Which is beautiful. It’s always beautiful at this resort, where they’ve lived for five weeks.

Some of the couples throw them dubious glances. They’ve convinced the audience; have they convinced their competition? She does not know. Neither does he.

All the couples raise their heads at the sound of loud applause right outside the curtains. They gather together, wishing each other luck. Some mean it; others do not. 

She stands beside him. They fall in line behind another couple from the show.

One-by-one, names are called from the microphone just outside, and each couple is ushered on to the stage.

The cheers grow dramatically louder when she and he step up on the stage once again. They clasp hands now, fingers intwined. They both long to pull away.

Finally, each couple stands on the stage as the host steps to the middle. The crowd cheers wildly for him, and he shushes them after a few moments until their cries subside to silence.

Then, he begins to eliminate the couples.

She watches as the first eliminated couple bursts into tears, both waving sadly at the crowd, their heads hanging down and their feet pathetically dragging across the sand. She watches them until the lights and cameras turn back to the stage.

He snorts.

One-by-one, other couples follow the first couple off the stage, all eliminated and dejected and morose. Finally, only three remain upon the stage.

She holds her breath. He taps his foot nervously.

The second runners-up are announced.

She breathes a sigh of relief. His shoulders slump in relaxation before rising again as the host prepares to announce the winner.

He says their names.

A smile bursts across her face as she jumps up and down, clapping her hands together. It’s the first sign of emotion he’s seen in a long time.

He mimics her, whooping and pumping his fist into the air––his signature move, as the crowd knows and loves––and decides to pick her up and swing her around. She stiffens, but the crowd doesn’t notice. The audience only cheers louder; they whine when he sets her upon her feet. She avoids his eyes.

The host announces the next portion––the final competition. He leads the man to the right side of the stage, and the woman to the left. He gives them each an envelope.

She glances down. Her envelop includes two index cards. One reads “love”. The other reads “money”.

The host explains the rules: if both choose love, then they get to share the money. If both choose money, no one gets the money. And if one chooses love and one chooses money, the one who chooses money gets the money. Of course.

She glances at him. He glances at her. Their gazes are both unreadable. And yet their smiles are still plastered to their faces all the same.

The host begins to count down from ten. The crowd joins him. Three…two…one…

They both flip over their cards.

They both chose money.

The crowd is a mixture of jeering and cheering. The host shakes his head dejectedly, relaying the sorrowful news to the camera. The rest of the couples smirk, not feeling so down anymore after such an embarrassing display. 

And just for a moment, for the very first time, the man and the woman smile at one another.

Until the cameras turn to them. She suddenly cries, sobbing, holding her head in her hands, tears spilling down her face. He swears and curses, angrily shouting to the skies above.

They are ushered off the stage as the show comes to an end and the exit procedures take place.

The woman and man––no longer needed due to their loss––slip outside the doors of the resort and away into the night.

They did not win the money. And for that, they celebrate. Not winning means no contracts. No ties to the company. No returns for later seasons. No signing their lives away to the show who made them, who funded them, who bought them. No longer forced to love one another for the sake of profits.

They walk into the night smiling and free, their hands finally clasped together with no threat of breaking.

November 14, 2020 01:11

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24 comments

Molly Leasure
00:00 Nov 18, 2020

OKAY. I love the complexity and complication of the story. I love the way you describe them walking on and off the stage as though they are just plastic figures without emotions (I love, love that). And I absolutely love the fact that in a weird, weird way they know each other so well they probably both could have chosen love and known the other would. The added laughing of the other couples at the "embarrassing situation" was a plus. Gosh, you're so good at making real stories, stories that are so realistic that I feel like I'm intruding on...

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Lina Ozz
18:25 Nov 19, 2020

Ah thank you so so much for this Molly!! So I debated on whether I should make them go their separate ways, or walk side by side down the road (but not touching), or hold hands as they walk away. I'm really wishing I went with the second option now but the story was already approved :( Oh well. I think what I wanted to communicate is that they can finally love one another (if they so choose) without the extrinsic pressures of society (the competition) forcing them to do so. But hmm, who knows now. Grr––should've changed it when I could!! But...

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Molly Leasure
23:53 Nov 21, 2020

Awww, well I think both options work! Hold handing could be taken to mean LITERALLY anything. It could mean friends, lovers, acquaintances who need that support to walk away, etc. But, I definitely got that hint about them being free to choose whether they wanted to be lovers or not and not have the pressure hanging over them. So, in a way, I think the hand holding was better! :)

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Scout Tahoe
21:58 Nov 15, 2020

Wow. Quite a tale. This was sad and happy in the sense that they had to stick with each other throughout the show. You wrote it very well. The title fits and I'm sad they didn't both choose love. But interesting they both chose money. Complicated. Good job, really.

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Lina Ozz
18:08 Nov 19, 2020

Thank you so much Scout! I really appreciate your comment :)

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Scout Tahoe
19:08 Nov 19, 2020

Of course!

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Fiza Hasan
20:41 Nov 19, 2020

Woah I loved this story and how well it was written. This is just amazing. I kept thinking why they're cold toward each other and then in the end when they hold hands without being burdened by the contest, its like instead of bringing them closer the contest was pushing them apart and now they're free to build their relationship without the world seeing.

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Sam Reeves
19:54 Nov 16, 2020

What a twist at the end! I like how they secretly wanted to lose so they could be free. I liked the descriptions throughout of what they show to the fans vs what they're feeling inside. Well done!

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Lina Ozz
18:15 Nov 19, 2020

Thank you so much for this lovely comment and for the read, Sam! I really appreciate it :)

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Tom .
12:54 Nov 15, 2020

I loved the use of 'the prisoners dilemma' in the final game. I also loved how you flipped the lose into a hidden win. GOOD JOB

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Lina Ozz
16:58 Nov 15, 2020

Thanks so much, Tom! Appreciate the read and the comment :)

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Writer Maniac
02:25 Nov 14, 2020

Yes! I love how this story is such an honest display of the truth of reality shows, and you managed to pull off every emotion with conviction! I also loved the fact that the protagonists have not been named, that really leaves them up to anyone's imagination and doesn't hurt the story in any way, but actually makes it more professional than ever! A fabulously well-written story!

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Writer Maniac
04:37 Nov 15, 2020

Also, I would love to hear your thoughts on my latest story :)

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Lina Ozz
05:57 Nov 15, 2020

Yes, I just left a comment! I just love the positivity and light your stories bring to the world. I just love reading them, truly. And thank you so much for this comment! I wasn't sure about the nameless characters so I'm really glad you enjoyed that aspect. Thank you so much for the read and for your wonderful comments as always! :)

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Writer Maniac
06:13 Nov 15, 2020

I appreciate that, thank you! It's my pleasure to read your stories :)

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Writer Maniac
14:51 Nov 15, 2020

Also, just posted a story right now. Disclaimer: this one doesn't have a happy ending :(

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Writer Maniac
05:31 Dec 02, 2020

Hey Lina! Long time since we chatted! Just wanted to let you know that I posted a story called 'An Unfortunate Series of Events', and it's a bit different from what I normally write, so I would love to know your thoughts on it :)

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Kara Ohara
20:10 Dec 30, 2020

Aw, well, isn't that the happy ending that's truly happy. Heh, when they both chose money, I face palmed, but they're free and that's all that matters really. In the beginning, I thought he was a politician and she was his model-esque wife. I love the line: "He scowls through a grin..." It struck me as odd, then I went, yup, I know that feeling and I've seen it too, many times.

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15:02 Nov 30, 2020

Wow that was so good! I loved everything from the descriptions to the game to the final twist! Brilliant story.

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Courtney Cloud
21:31 Nov 27, 2020

I love this story!! I was like "of course they both picked money"! But then that meant so much more!! Really well done.

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14:40 Nov 20, 2020

Great work! I was almost able to feel the hate pulsing between them with the way you described in the first half of the story.

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Beth Connor
22:11 Nov 19, 2020

Beautiful story, I loved the ebb and flow (and your pup is adorable!)

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Loved it, Great work Lina, I love the details and how you showed what was going on between them. I also love your dog...super cute!

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Orchid Krizan
20:38 Jun 14, 2021

Great story but could u tell me there names

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