The thump from my erratic heart vibrated in my ears. I brought my nails to my mouth but stopped when I realized I was on live T.V., and my decision to pick one man out of three available bachelors was anticipated by the members of the audience.
I wiped both hands against my red dress, which raised slightly above my knees from sitting down on the uncomfortable stool. My curvy legs were on display for everyone to see.
Calm down, Ruby.
I took a deep breath and shook the sweat from my hands.
“Ruby? Did you understand me? You need to make a choice. Everyone is waiting for you and you’re on live T.V.!
Ugh. I get it, damnit!
I swallowed hard and tucked my curls behind my ear, which bounced right out again.
I’m going to kill you Mia for bringing me here. What the hell were you thinking?
A harsh breath drew from my lips and I turned to the host of the show. His colourful suit complimented his medium-dark complexion and it held tight against his body. Miguel seemed friendly, sweet and one hundred percent gay.
“I think I’ve made my decision.”
He smiled, raised his eyebrows, and placed the microphone against his lips. “Oh, please do tell us.”
I bit my lip and nodded. My heart calmed down and the sweat no longer dripped from my hands. My knees, however, could not stop shaking. “I...I can’t decide between the two of them, though.”
Miguel’s mouth curved up into a smile and he winked. “Why not take them both?”
“Oh. Wait. I can do that?”
“What do you think, audience? Can she choose to take out the two of the men?”
The crowd screamed and clapped their hands. I could feel the vibrations against my body when they thundered their feet to the floor.
“Why don’t we hear from the available bachelors again? Okay, men. Give us your best sexy voices. Let’s start with Philip. Is there anything you want to say to your friends who’ve brought you here tonight?”
“Nothing I can say on live T.V.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle at his response, even though throughout the entire beginning, he was an ass.
“Okay, Carter. Your turn.”
“Hey, sexy. Pick me.”
“And finally, we have Owen. Anything you want to add?”
“Sorry. I’m nervous. Um. Pick me?”
I took a deep breath and nodded. “Okay. Since I can pick two, I’ll choose...”
Earlier that morning
“Ruby! Wake up, babe!”
My eyes flung open and my body jerked up to a seated position. “What the fuck, Mia?” I took a deep sigh to calm my thumping heart. “Remind me again why I gave you the keys to my house?”
“Because I’m your best friend, and you love me.”
I folded my arms and raised my brows. “That’s debatable right now. What time is it?”
My attention shifted towards the nightstand and my eyes widened when the bright red numbers on the alarm clock showed 5:04am. I unfolded my arms, laid back on the mattress and threw the blanket over my body and face. “It’s too early for this! Ugh!” My voice muffled as I screamed at Mia.
Mia jumped up and down on my king-size bed. The grey headboard thumped against the wall. “Happy Birthday, Ruby. And damn! This bed is noisy. When you finally have sex, I don’t think this would be the best place to do it.”
My breath hitched and I flung the blanket to the side. “Thank you, but can we please not talk about my sex life?”
Mia grinned and winked. “What sex life?”
“Ugh. Bitch. What are you doing so early, babe?” I sat up in defeat.
Mia stopped bouncing and planted her ass next to mine. “I have a surprise for you.” She rubbed her hands together and my lips curved into a smile.
One thing I loved about my best friend was she was incredibly sweet, funny and didn’t let the fact she was the youngest millionaire in our area get to her head. She was beautiful, kind, selfless and annoying, but I loved her more than anything.
“What kind of surprise?”
“Birthday surprises. I have three!”
I shook my head. I mentioned she was selfless and liked to give to people, but I hated when she would spend her money on me. Mia’s family was rich. Filthy rich. Her parents owned a chain of hotels around the U.S. I pride myself on working hard, saving a little nest egg for my future after buying my own place. Sure, my house was small, but I loved that I earned every penny which went towards it.
“Mia. I hate it when you spend your money on me. Please don’t tell me you overdid it?”
She sucked the air between her teeth. “Maybe a little, but I promise you’ll love it.” Mia flipped on her stomach and leaned over the bed. When she came back up, a red box with a white silk ribbon wrapped neatly around the centre was in her grasp. She sat opposite me with outstretched arms. “Happy Birthday.”
I smiled, chewed the inside of my cheek before I graciously accepted her gift. “Thank you. What is it?”
“Don’t be mad.”
“Shit. Mia. What did you do?”
She shrugged her shoulders. “Open it and find out.”
I tugged lightly at the ribbon and it easily unravelled. After placing the silk tie on the bed, I lifted the lid of the gift box. Pink tissue paper sat neatly folded on top of the surprise. Moving each section to the side, a soft red material presented underneath.
My breath hitched. “This isn’t?” I looked up at Mia who nodded and smiled. “Oh my God!” I lifted the dress from the box and placed it against my body before I shifted my attention to my friend. “This is too much!”
I had been eyeing this dress on the rack of a small, but expensive boutique clothing store in the middle of town. Due to the exorbitant price, I was unable to afford it. I was trying to save enough money, but I knew it would have taken a while.
“Look, I know it’s expensive, but you need to wear it. Especially since I’m sure it will look stunning on you. For now, you need to get your gorgeous ass out of this bed and get ready because I am taking you out.”
I smiled, slid off the bed with the dress in hand, strolled to the full-length mirror and placed the new outfit against my body. “God, it’s perfect. I just...I can’t accept this.”
“Yes, you can. And you will. You’re always doing anything and everything for everyone else, never asking for favours in return. The money means nothing to me.”
I was always self-conscious of my body. It took a great deal of courage to even try this dress on at the store, but as soon as I did, I knew it fit perfectly. The material hugged my curves and accentuated my hips and breasts, and I was completely and utterly comfortable.
My smile widened at Mia and I turned to the reflection again. “Thank you.”
I opened my closet and placed the dress on a hanger before I shifted my attention to Mia. “Where are we going?”
She rubbed her hands together. “It’s a surprise.”
“Fine. I’m a little intrigued.”
“Good. Now get ready.”
She slapped me on the ass, and I winced in pain. “Ow”
After I made my way to the ensuite, I slowly got undressed. First to go were my PJ’s and then my panties. I stepped into the shower and turned on the faucet allowing my body to adjust to the temperature. My eyes closed when the cascading water flowed above my head and slid down my body.
I’d known Mia for so long. She’d been through everything with me and knew my deepest and darkest secret.
“Hurry up! We’re on a tight schedule!”
I was pulled from my thoughts when my best friend yelled from the bedroom. I finished washing up, turned off the shower and wrapped a towel tightly around my body. As I headed into the bedroom, Mia was waiting for me with a wide grin plastered on her face.
“What’s with the yelling?”
“I don’t want to be late!”
“Fine. Let me get changed.” Mia raised her brows at me. I motioned her to leave. “Go on!”
“Yeah. Yeah.” Mia yelled on her way out. “You’re acting like I’ve never seen you naked before.”
I chuckled and made my way to the closet and picked out blue jeans and a white t-shirt with the top button released. Mia was seated on the couch when I walked into the lounge room.
“I love that top on you,” she complimented.
“Alright. Let’s go.”
“What are we doing here?”
“We’re getting pampered.”
“God, this place is huge.”
I stood in the middle of a large and chic beauty salon. My eyes scanned the room and I noticed a variety of work stations. A hairdresser, nail salon, makeup salon and private rooms for waxing and massages were in each corner of the shop. There were a few people already receiving treatments.
“I know how much you don’t like this stuff, Ruby, but you’re getting spoilt today.”
God, she knew me too well. In my line of work, I had no time for patience to do my hair or makeup, or even worry about my clothes. Most of the time spent working in the animal shelter and each day I would come home smelling like shi-.
“Hey! Snap out of it!”
I turned to Mia. “What?”
“You’re daydreaming again. I said we’re up.”
We spent the next few hours getting our hair and makeup done as well as manicures and pedicures. I had to admit it was nice and unexpected.
“So, what good is all of this if we’re not going out?”
“Oh, but we are going out.”
Mia hesitated. “I’m afraid if I tell you, that you might not come with me.”
My eyes narrowed. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Nothing. I promise you it will be good.”
I shook my head and took a deep breath. The hairdresser was finalizing the touches to my curls. “Why don’t I believe you, Mia?”
“Because you shouldn’t.”
“Okay, ladies. We are done.”
The hairdresser spun my chair around and I caught my gaze in the mirror, unable to recognize the reflection which stared back at me. I couldn’t help but smile. It had been a while since I felt beautiful.
“You look gorgeous,” Mia complimented.
I turned to her. “Thanks. You look stunning, too.”
My curls were defined, neatly in place and dropped to my shoulders. Red gloss covered my plump lips and my eyes were smokey and smouldering.
“Crap!” Mia exclaimed. “We’re late.”
“Your third gift. Now go and put on your dress.”
I stretched my lips. “I didn’t bring it.”
“I did. It’s over there.” She pointed to our bags next to the entrance.
I stood and made my way over before I collected the gift box which contained my new dress. After I carefully took it out, I quickly got changed and made my way to Mia, who held onto some silver and sparkling shoes. “For you.”
I took them and sat down before I placed them on my feet. When I stood, Mia came behind me and wrapped a blindfold around my eyes. “Damn, hun. Is this necessary? And watch the makeup!”
“Yes, your makeup will be fine. I’ll also give you headphones too.”
“Oh, God. What have you done?”
“Nothing you don’t need.”
Half an hour later, we arrived at our destination. The passenger door opened, and someone grabbed my hand which caused me to flinch. All I could hear was the loud music blaring from the earphones which were tightly tucked in. I stepped out of the car, was led into a building, and guided to sit down on a stool. Once the earphones were removed, a man’s voice suddenly echoed through a microphone.
“Welcome everyone, to the first ever episode of The Contestant. I am your host, Miguel!”
I would like to give a huge thank you to David Pizzini who has allowed me to use his photo on the cover of my story, The Contestant.
Please check out his Instagram for more incredible pictures.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I do hope you enjoy it. I appreciate any vote and comment that you leave. If you don’t already, check out my Instagram page. Lizzie_Lioness1
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