33- Welcome to Stage Four
I woke up and my good mood from last night seemed to have carried over. I didn’t even mind the fact that I had to go to the Stage party tonight. Whoa, whoa, wait. That woke me up. I did mind, but I just...well, I don’t know. Saturday dragged around until I found myself back once again at Amanda’s house. I felt myself grow paler as I remembered what happened the last time we were here.
It’s not going to happen again, I had to coax myself. Everyone will be alright.
“Hey Thera! Looking good, girl,” Amanda called from across the room when I walked in. I shook my head at her with a small smile. I was wearing another dress, but it was less, well, dressy. It was more of my style and comfortable, too. Cora was already there, along with Amanda (duh), Hope, Christie and Andi. Seeing Cora reminded me of the awkward date with Cole. He had mentioned her two times, if I remembered correctly. Which is two times more than he mentioned any other people...
“Hey Cora,” I greeted as I made my way to her. She was standing on a small step-stool and putting up a big white screen. I assumed it was the very same one that allowed the video to be watched last party. She was holding it above her head and had to look underneath her arms to see that it was me talking.
“Oh, hi,” she chirped. “What’s up?” I thought about how I wanted to approach this. I could be vague, try to get her to see my point to get to things, beat around the bush and all of Africa and still have a possibility of not getting to the point I was trying to make. Or I could be blunt.
“What do you think of Cole? I think he’s into you.” She would have dropped the whole banner had one side not already been secured.
“What? That’s, oh, that’s just—” Check, I silently congratulated. She’s too flustered for it not to be a good match.
“Just think about it, ’kay?” I proposed. Hopefully that was enough of a push to get them together. I was running out of people. I didn’t think that I had paired everyone, but I was getting close.
Duke and Destiny were the next to arrive. I looked sideways to see Andi try to hide a giddy smile when she noticed who was here. Destiny popped up next to me.
“Need any help?” she inquired. I looked to Cora.
“She’s doing all the work, not me. You’ll have to ask her.” I took this as a good cue that I could leave the conversation. Setting up my normal station by the wall, I started watching whoever entered the house to see if I had paired them up yet or not. Rhett was next to show. Misty. I found it humorous that my good friend was in fact the next through the door. Judging by the way they drifted towards each other while mingling, I wasn’t going to have to do much. They seemed to like each other and not be afraid to act upon it. Unlike the next guy who came. Poor, shy, Trevor. If I remembered correctly, I had already encouraged him and Christie to hang out, but I wasn’t sure if they needed prompting again.
When Cole showed up, I stood up and jumped into action. “Hey, first, I want to apologize if things were left on a bad note. I hope this doesn’t hurt when I say that, you’re an awesome friend. I really hope that we can maintain a nice friendship, but right now, there’s someone that you need to come say hi to.” I interjected so quickly that he didn’t get to put a word in. I grabbed his hand and drug him over to where Cora was standing. “Hey Cora, look who’s here. You should talk and stuff,” I tried to hint. It probably sounded really strained, but I was trying. Just as I was about to retreat to my chair, Cole pulled me back and into a hug.
“Thanks,” he whispered into my ear. He turned back to Cora and they both smiled. I turned around just in time to see Giovanni and Barbie enter. They were bickering over something, and knowing them, it was probably petty.
“Hey, you guys are supposed to be kind to each other, what’s going on?” I queried. Both of them started talking at the same time, explaining why they were the right one. I shook my hands in front of them. “Whoa, whoa, whoa! Stop it. You two need to apologize and be together again. You two are so obviously together; I mean, who would be better for each of you than yourselves? Stop fighting and spend some nice time together.” Blinking, they still looked deep in thought when I turned to leave.
“How very counselor of you,” Rye said, standing in front of me. “I didn’t realize you could do something like that.”
“I didn’t realize you were standing there,” I said mildly perplexed. He must have slipped in when I was giving my mini-speech.
“I came to say hi, but seeing as you were busy, I had to wait my turn.”
“Good,” I smirked, “you should be able to wait if you want to talk to me that bad.”
“Oh, so it’s like that?” he laughed.
I nodded. “Very much so.”
Dexter opened the door that we were standing next to and broke the stare-off Rye and I were having. “Hey Dex,” I intoned.
“Thera, Rye,” he nodded while looking at each of us. There was a glint in his eyes and he smiled like he knew something we didn’t. “Well, I’m just gonna go.” I followed as he walked over to Destiny, whispered something in her ear and she squealed a little, seemingly excited. She peeked over at Rye and I around Dexter.
“What’s this all about?” Rye asked from beside me, watching the same scene.
“I don’t know, should we be concerned?”
“Thera, when have we ever been concerned about something like this?”
I smiled again. Touché, Rye. “Good point.” The next couple that appeared was Oscar and Olivia. I think they had a different connection than some of the others, because they had been friends for so long. It made me happy that it was working out between them and that being more than friends didn’t look to be a bad thing. Rye had left me for food (I don’t blame him. Food over friends.), when along came Ian. I hadn’t found anyone for him, I realized. Nor was Rye paired. This never even crossed my mind. Who was the last girl? I understood that one wouldn’t be paired, I figured that one could either be alone or look to Amanda or Hope as a possibility. The door burst open again. Music from the person’s phone could be heard blaring. My eyes went wide in recognition. Rayna. Of course! She would have to be paired with either Ian or Rye. But which one? I met her when we all had been playing paintball together, so that didn’t help. She tended to wear a leather jacket, which was more like Ian, but had an attitude that could rival Rye’s.
“Okay everyone,” Amanda called loudly, breaking my thoughts. “Everyone is here that’s coming, so it’s time for a special surprise. Hope?”
Hope was standing by the big screen. “As you may notice, two of our own aren’t present. But never fear, we can’t be separated the whole time. We figured it would be nice to FaceTime Maple as she visits Graham in his current residence. Hey guys!”
The screen lit up and came into focus with two faces, both smiling. Maple didn’t want Graham to have to be alone and, seeing as he wasn’t getting up to go anywhere soon, we were videoing in to where he was. It was a really nice idea, I didn’t know who thought of it, but it was pretty genius. After we talked to the two of them for a while, we said one loud goodbye and watched the video for the previous stage while we were all still looking at the screen.
The rest of the party was filled with small interviews per norm, and mingling between all of the people. Amanda’s brother Austin never made an appearance this time, probably from extra security by their mom.
“Welcome to Stage Four!” The duo cheered simultaneously.
“Everyone, make sure you write down on paper your top person for this stage,” Amanda reminded.
“You can have up to three—in fact, it’s recommended to have the three in case something doesn’t add up. We’ll match everything up and the reveal is on Wednesday,” Hope added.
Amanda nodded in agreement and joined back in. “We’ll give you all a few days, and then the next get together will be next Sunday, instead of Saturday.”
It was time to go home before anyone knew it. I stayed behind to help Amanda with cleanup since Hope said she needed to get home early. By the time everything was clean, it was just the two of us.
“Well?” Amanda asked holding out her hand. “You have to choose your three. Or at least one.”
I thought hard. I was having an internal conflict. My plan had me staying out of this. I shouldn’t even be considering this. But something had changed. There were three that I had chosen as my favorites.
My mind was fighting itself, hard. The natural state I had made sure I always had of disliking guys or anything having to do with these Games was slowly being overpowered by a new raw feeling.
I quickly wrote down a name and slipped the paper into Amanda’s hand turning away. Without looking back, I took a deep breath and left the room to head home.