The Bandbox Hat
Previously: Sarah Jane arrives at the Date My Son mansion where she meets Austin and his mother, Linda. Linda is kind, putting Sarah Jane at ease. Sarah Jane goes into the house where she is instantly evaluated by the other women there. She decides to leave the show and is looking for someone in charge so she can quit. Cassie takes Sarah Jane out of the living room and into the kitchen of the mansion and introduces herself. Cassie is dressed casually and Sarah Jane asks if she’s a production assistant.
Cassie shook her head, long blonde hair swaying. “I’m like you. A contestant who doesn’t know a soul here except Liam. You had a deer in the headlights look so I figured to get you out of the path of oncoming crash.” She motioned to the living room we’d just left behind.
I could hear laughter and voices and I shuddered. “Thank you.”
Now that I had a chance to look at Cassie, it made sense why I took her for a production assistant. She wore jeans, although not Wranglers or Lees, and a floral print top. Almost what most of the crew hanging around were wearing.
“So, I guess you didn’t get the memo either? That we were starting today and meeting Linda and … Houston? … or is it Dallas?”
She laughed out loud. “Austin. His name is Austin.” She leaned against a granite countertop and surveyed me. “Actually, no, I knew what was happening. I’m more comfortable in jeans and I figured I’d make a better first impression if I was comfortable instead of squeezed into a prom gown.”
Bewilderment crept down my shoulders. “Why didn’t I know that?”
She shook her head. “Things fall through the cracks. It’s okay. You look great.”
I took a sip from the glass she’d given me. I expected something bitter or biting, but instead I tasted nothing but water. Another sip confirmed it, so I swigged the whole glass and held it out for a refill.
Cassie obliged, pouring the contents of a pitcher into the glass.
After I drained it a second time, I could talk again. “I need to find Liam. I’m not right for this show. I need to leave.”
Cassie opened her mouth but before she said anything, an amplified and disembodied voice spoke. “Ladies, Austin and Linda will be joining you in a moment. Please make your way to the living room to greet them.”
“Sounds like we’ve got to move.” Cassie tugged my arm, and I followed her to the living room.
We stood behind the overstuffed sectional couch. I hid behind Cassie and a tall redhead in an emerald green gown with a giant skirt held aloft by yards of stiff tulle. Her dress covered up my skirt and her four inch stilettos let me peek over her shoulder. I was almost completely out of sight.
If I could find Liam, I’d explain my change of heart and get out of here. It would be easier if they didn’t have to cut me out of any footage already shot.
The front door opened and Harrison entered.
The chattering women fell silent and tension, grim as a reaper’s scythe, filled the room instead.
“Ladies, Linda and Austin enjoyed meeting you all. They’ve talked about some of their first impressions and compared notes. You’ll have a couple of hours now to chat with each of them alone, then we’ll meet again for the first elimination. Each woman chosen to remain will receive a bracelet. For each successful date or interaction, either Linda or Austin may give you a charm to add to your bracelet. At the end of this season, the woman with the most charms will be Linda’s pick for Austin. But first …” He paused.
Everyone’s gaze was drawn to the door again when it opened and this time Linda and Austin stepped through. They joined Harrison in front of the stone fireplace.
“… Linda and Austin each have a bracelet to give away now. If you receive one of these Premiere Editions, you will definitely be here for another day.” Harrison waved one hand at Austin who cleared his throat.
He grinned, warmth in his green eyes. “To be honest, so many beautiful women in one place blew my mind. I thought it would be weird to meet you all with Mom beside me, but I’m glad she was here. You know what they say—two heads and all that.”
A ripple of nervous giggles made its way around the room. I took off my kitten heels so I was even further hidden by the redhead. This was perfect. The girls who got the Premiere bracelets would be the center of attention and I could sneak out the back to find Liam.
“Mom and I talked and we agreed on the two women we’re sure we want to get to know better.”
The silence grew dense as Anna’s plum jam.
“My Premiere Edition bracelet goes to … Cassie.”
Next to me, Cassie gasped. She looked at me, astonishment across her face. I wasn’t surprised at all though. All that long blonde hair and long legs. Even in jeans, she was a knockout.
She made her way around the couch and over the legs of girls sitting on the chairs. When she reached the front of the room, Austin held a bracelet out. “Cassie, will you accept this bracelet?”
She nodded. “I will.”
He clicked the clasp shut around Cassie’s wrist, before hugging her. She returned the hug then made her way back to me.
Harrison stepped forward again. “Linda also has a Premiere Edition bracelet to offer to her first choice to get to know better. Linda?”
Linda took her place in front of the camera but her eyes didn’t roam the room at all. Her gaze was locked on … me!