21- Welcome to Stage Two
“Well, let the party begin!” cheered Hope after she and Amanda had explained the point of this gathering to everyone else.
“We’ll call the first contestant in a few minutes, ladies first.” Amanda was referring to the meeting/interview she was going to have with each person. I wouldn’t mind if she forgot to call me altogether.
Everyone started moving. Rhett went into the kitchen, presumably for more food. Ian, Giovanni and Oscar went outside to check out what was set up to play. More people were at different locations and I couldn’t keep track of everyone. There were still a few girls here that I hadn’t met yet–not that I was complaining. If there was an option to not meet all of the guys I would have taken it. I quickly settled into my niche of watching and not interacting with the people here.
I saw Amanda and Hope disappear upstairs. I figured they were going to Amanda’s room to set up the torture device—I mean, to set up the camera and interview space.
When Rhett walked out of the kitchen with tasty smelling nachos, I knew I had to get me some. I quickly abandoned my post and followed the smell of food like Shaggy and Scooby-Doo. I entered into the glorious room, grabbed a plate and loaded it with the circular salty chips of goodness. Next I took the jar of liquid cheese and dumped it all over the stacks of chips. Cold nachos are never good, I decided, so I popped my plate into the microwave for a trip around the let’s-heat-this-up tour. I went to take a bite of my first handful of chips, cheese running down my arm a little ways when Rye burst into the room. One look at my state and he cracked up laughing, catching his breath by balancing his hands on his knees.
“Trying to woo me, sweetheart?” he asked playfully, his green eyes light with amusement.
“Did it not work?” I toyed back. Really, I just wanted food. He knew that.
“You already had, not much could help. Although this,” he paused to sweep a hand in a circle, referring to my general appearance, “certainly helps. Watch out boys, she’s single.”
I laughed. “Got that right.” I happily crunched more of my snack.
“I hear they’re gonna order more pizza later,” Rye told me. “May want to save room for dinner.”
“Darling, you don’t know the half of it. This is simply a snack.” This caused him to raise his eyebrows and let out a chuckle.
“Whatever you say, Ther Bear.” After this, he excused himself and went back outside. My next visitor was Duke, his blue shirt making his eyes of the same color pop.
“Hey, did you want to meet my sister?” he questioned when he saw me sitting there. I had finished my nachos by now, so I looked more presentable by society’s standards.
“Sure,” I replied, taking a sip of my Hawaiian Punch.
"DESTINY!" He suddenly yelled causing me to flinch and almost choke on the drink I just took. Then, much quieter, “Hang on, let me go get her.” I simply nodded my head, my ears still slightly ringing.
He came back a few minutes later with a girl that looked quite similar to him. “Thera, this is Destiny. Destiny, Thera.”
“Wait,” I said a sudden thought popping into my head. “You’re both contestants, right?” They nodded. “Did you guys, you know. Go on a date?” A horrified look came across Duke’s face as Destiny just laughed really hard.
“Oh heavens no. We just didn’t do anything that day. I mean, we hang out a lot, but I’m so not into incest. Yuck.”
I nodded as I took in the information. “Good.” Sticking out my hand, I slipped on a smile. “Nice to meet you, Destiny.”
“Likewise, Thera,” she replied shaking hands. “Hey, why don’t you come and play corn toss with us?”
I looked at her as if she’d suggested the answer to world peace was a nuclear war. “You’re kidding, right?”
“I’m afraid not,” she said. I sighed.
“Sure, whatever.” I trudged after her. Half an hour later, after Barbie had been called as the first girl (she’d probably be drooling all over the idea of Giovanni), Graham and I were playing corn toss against Destiny and Duke. This meant that Destiny stood next to me as the guys were standing by the board opposite us.
Suddenly, as the guys were taking their turn to through the sacks, Destiny gave a little squeal. I followed her eye-line to see Oscar and Olivia, the camera besties, talking to the side of all of the action.
“I ship them so much!” She whisper-yelled.
“You what?” I asked. I didn’t see any ocean around us.
“It means I really, really want them to get together. To be a couple. I can see it.” I pondered this. I could definitely see them together. Swiveling to look at other groups of people here, there were multiple couples I could see together.
Wait. That’s what I can do! I don’t want to date them, but I can...‘ship’ them. I can set them all up. Introduce myself to the rest of the girls (terrifying, but worth the cause) and then match up which girl and guy I think should be together. Genius!
“Oh yeah,” I agreed with her, smiling in what may or may not be considered a creepy way. “I ship it, too.”
I groaned when they called my name, pulling me away from my fun time with the fangirling Destiny. She was in the middle of a rant about the book Fable, and was just to the part where Jared professed his love to Mina when Hope’s loud “Thera Telufa” rang across the open yard. I reluctantly trudged into the house and upstairs to Amanda’s bedroom. Sitting down, I criss-crossed my legs in the chair, hands in my lap.
“So,” Hope said from a chair next to mine, both angled halfway between the camera and each other. Amanda was in position behind the camera. “I’ll ask you a few blanket questions,” But it’s not even cold, my sarcastic mind thought, “and you just give me whatever your answer is. Super simple!”
“Do I have to?” I frowned.
"Thera,” Amanda said in a warning tone. She just wanted me to cooperate. I sighed. I guess I could try.
“Okay, fine, sure,” I said.
“Awesome, so which date was your favorite?” She asked like a reality tv show host, grasping for the latest juicy gossip. In a sense, I guess she was. I thought about the question.
I took the time to mentally recount all of the good times in Stage One. Horseback riding with Graham. Leisurely laying on the beach with Oscar. Putt-putt with Duke. Peach flavored coffee and roses from Cole. Paintball with Rye. One of them definitely stuck out as my favorite, but I wasn’t about to admit it. No longer was my goal to survive a week and quit—I was planning to pair up people. I felt it’d be wrong to choose. That, plus my anti-dating side was acting up again.
“I don’t think I can choose just one,” I lied. “I had some really great times with almost all of them.” Not a lie.
“Fair enough,” Hope consented. “Well how about this: least favorite?” Instantly visions of Giovanni’s cocky face filled my sight. I shuddered. I disliked him enough to not protect him and simply throw his sorry excuse of a guy under the bus.
“Giovanni,” I said. I saw Amanda’s eyebrow tick up. Few questions were asked in total. I assume what took previous girls so long would be the first question of the favorite. They would all just have to describe every single detail, I’m sure.
It felt like a bird flying free from a cage when I was finally released to go back to the people. Whoa. Never thought I would like the idea of more people than less.
Later on, as the party wound down, everyone had had their interview with the dynamic duo. They finally both came out of Amanda’s room to give a few final announcements and say thanks to everyone.
“Ladies, be expecting calls from these men folk,” Hope reminded as they wrapped up the speech. “Since this is Thanksgiving Break week, there’s the option to do now or wait for next Monday. Either is totally okay!”
“Oh,” Amanda said, “and everyone, welcome to Stage Two!”