The Bandbox Hat
Previously: At the local Starbucks on a Saturday morning, Sarah Jane is given a survey to fill out. She assumes it’s for someone’s statistics class or a poll and she fills it out. The man taking the papers back asks her a few questions about her Mennonite heritage and asks her to come back that afternoon for an interview. She agrees, then overhears two beautiful women mock her unassuming dress and hair.
At 3:23 I pulled into a parking spot in the lot behind the coffee shop. I turned off the ignition but sat, my knuckles white on the steering wheel.
Why did I let those women get to me? So what if I didn’t wear the latest styles? I dressed in comfortable classic pieces. Yes, my hair was long and straight but so I was hardly the only one who wore it pulled it back most of the time.
I sighed and opened the door. I told the guy I’d be back for his interview, and I always kept my word so I trudged across the asphalt and into the rear door.
The store had cleared out quite a bit compared to this morning. I scanned the room for my survey buddy but he was sitting with one of the beautiful girls. Not either of the ones who mocked me this morning, I was gratified to see, but still. This one was just as gorgeous with blonde hair in a high pony tail that cascaded over one shoulder.
They both stood, and shook hands. “We’ll be in touch,” he said.
She hoisted a purse the size of a feed bag into the crook of her arm and made her way to the front door, so lopsided I almost followed behind to catch her if she suddenly toppled over.
“Sarah, right?” He turned his attention to me.
I nodded. “I didn’t get your name.”
“Sorry. I’m Liam. Assistant to the assistant producer.” He gestured to the seat the blonde had just vacated.
I sat, the warmth from her legs seeping through my capris. “I didn’t realize survey takers were called producers, but I guess that makes sense.”
“Hmm hmm.” He shuffled through a stack of papers, searching for something. He finally extracted one page and put it on top of the stack. “Tell me about yourself, Sarah.” His gaze never lifted from the tablet computer while he typed, presumably moving info from the sheet of paper to the device.
“Well, I’m new to the LA area. Although I have family here.” That made me sound like not quite the hick who fell off the hay truck yesterday. So what if I hadn’t seen or talked to my sister in years. Liam didn’t have to know that. “I’m a teacher.”
“That’s great, teachers always engender lots of good fan reaction.” He glanced up then, giving me an assessing look before turning back to his iPad.
“And you’re available for filming the first week of June, right? Otherwise what’s the point of the application.”
Something skittered up my back and it wasn’t a caffeine jitter. But I answered his question. “School’s out the week after Memorial Day.”
“Ummm … Liam?” The uneasy grew until I had to ask.
“What do you mean ‘filming’? And I didn’t fill out an application.”
“Sure you did. I have it right here.” He tapped the paper on in front of him. “On the surface, you’re perfect for the small town sweetheart.”
“No. I filled out a survey for you. Aren’t you taking a poll or doing some sort of statistical analysis?”
That got his attention because his head rose and he finally looked at me like I was really there, not someone he was instant messaging with online. “Noo … I’m not doing any survey. I’m assistant to Leah Banks, assistant to Miles Travis, the executive producer of Date My Son!”
“But that’s a-a reality show. A dating show.” My throat was closing up and I had to choke out the last words.
He nodded. “That’s right. We had an open casting call this morning. You filled out an application.” Something dawned in his eyes and he shook his head. “You weren’t here for an audition.”
Heat warmed my cheeks and I gulped. “I came in for coffee. I thought you were taking a survey.”
His head fell back and a laugh rose from his chest.
I stared at him, but I couldn’t help it. I joined in and laughed until tears ran down my cheeks. We’d get a grip and then one of us would catch the other’s eye and we’d be off again. Everyone in the shop stared but we couldn’t seem to stop.
I finally dried my eyes and sighed. “Well, that explains so much. I’m so sorry for taking up your time.” I stood.
Liam got to his feet more slowly. “So that’s it? You’re not interested?”
“You don’t want me for a dating show.” The idea was crazy.
He chuckled again. “I knew exactly what I was getting when I asked you to come back for an interview. I think you’d be great on the show.”
I sank back into my chair. “You want me … to be on the television show …Date My Son!”
He leaned over and whispered in my ear. “I think you can win the thing.”