Fiction Friday: The Bandbox Hat

 

The Bandbox Hat

 

Previously: SarahJane arrived back at the Date My Son! for her meeting with Austin and Linda to ask why they let her go and get some closure. She was greeted by Austin, Linda and a cameraman.

Chapter Fifty-Three

 

Linda’s face lit up. “SarahJane! I’m so pleased to see you.”

Confusion made me stutter. “Y-you, too.” At least I hoped it was confusion and not Austin’s eyes, grin, and dimpled chin. “I – I –what’s going on?”

“You said you wanted to come back.” Liam had his ever-present tablet computer and he barely glanced up from looking at his Facebook page or Google+ or whatever else he was doing.

“I said I wanted to talk to Linda and Austin. I didn’t say I wanted to be back on the show.”

“Oh. My bad.” Liam finally met my gaze. He sighed and propped the iPad on his waist. “Look—”

“Can we all go inside?” Linda motioned and waved us from the foyer into the living room.

The cameraman walked backwards, the red light on his camera steady and unblinking.

I straightened my shoulders. One thing I learned on this show was that posture was exaggerated on screen. I had to stand straight to have a chance at appearing calm.

Once we’d filed inside, Linda perched on the edge of the plush couch “So, SarahJane, what did you want to talk to us about?”

I cleared my throat and threw a glance at Liam who ignored me. Or at least didn’t meet my gaze. “I wanted—no, I want to know what happened. I thought you liked me and the next thing I know I’m ushered out the door. I feel like I need—no, I do need to know why, I need closure.” I’m not sure I had articulated all that to myself before that moment, but the need to know infused me.

Linda sighed and flashed me a smile. “That’s why, SarahJane. We do like you.”

I tucked a strand of hair behind my ear and tried to understand. “I don’t get it.”

“Look, sweetie.” She leaned forward and folded her hands on her knees. “This show isn’t about Austin falling in love. It’s about a whole bunch of other things, the opportunities this kind of exposure buys. We liked you too much, and it’s apparent you’re a sweet young woman who would get eaten alive in this business. We cut you to save you from this.”

Tears welled but I fought for a clear voice. I would not let them see me cry about being kicked off a reality television show. I’d rather chew off my arm and toss it to a gator. “So you’re saying I don’t have what it takes.”

Linda shook her head but before she could speak, Austin laid a hand on her shoulder. “What Mom’s saying is that we could tell you’re a good Christian girl from the middle of the state. You’re the epitome of ‘you can the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.’”

Now my outrage colored my voice and dried up the tears. “So I’m a hick?!?” I stood. “Are you freaking kidding me? Liam recruited me—” His head finally surfaced above his iPad but I held up a hand—“You did, you know you did.” The fierceness in my voice must have convinced him not to protest and I turned back to Linda and Austin. “Liam recruited me because I’m ‘country’ and ‘sweet’ and all those other things you got rid of me for.”

Linda stood too. “We’re not saying it’s fair or even right, but you wanted to know why. That’s why.”

I whirled and marched to the door.

“SarahJane! Wait a minute,” Austin called after me. “I have something to say.”

I made it to the door before he grabbed my elbow.

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