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. Linda told her she was too sweet and not cut out for life in Hollywood or on a reality show. SarahJane told her that’s why Liam recruited her for the show. She left, but Austin grabbed her on her way out the door.

Chapter Fifty-Four

“Let me go.” I stopped walking but kept looking straight ahead, away from the cameras. Austin’s body kept the camera operator behind us but I knew as soon I opened the door the outside crew would have a perfect shot of my red-eyed and snot-nosed devastation.

“Wait, SarahJane.” He didn’t let go. “I’m not letting go until you listen to me.”

“Fine.” I shifted a bit to see him, but still kept him between me and the camera.

He guided me through the maze of people and rooms and out the back door. We paused by the pool and he sank onto the pool deck.

“What do you want from me, Austin?” I wrapped my arms around myself.

“Sit.” He patted the concrete and rolled up his pant legs before dangling his feet over the side.

I complied. I’d come here for answers and even though I didn’t like what Linda had to say, I couldn’t say I hadn’t asked for it.

Austin could have read my mind.

“I tried to tell you,” he said now. “I told you my mother had motives for the show.”

I nodded. “You did. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you.”

He sighed. “The truth is that I’m done with this whole thing.”

I turned to look at him. He gazed at the water and drew a foot through, making a wave that lapped my ankle. “Do you mean that?”

“I do. I grew up in Hollywood. I’m tired of everyone having double motives for everything they do. Sure, it’s nice to help your son find love, but the fact that it also launches your own show is only typical of the stuff I’ve seen. I envy you.”

“You do not.” I gave him a shoulder butt. “You’d hate life in a small town.”

“I’m not so sure.” He sounded rueful.

“You’re just tired of life in front of a camera. You’ll propose to Cassie and start planning a televised wedding, then call it off because you’re moving too quickly. You’ll quietly break up, and marry the girlfriend your mom made you break up with so she could get the two of you on the show.”

He twisted my way. “Wow, did we make you turn so cynical?”

I shrugged. “Does it matter? Cynical or real? The end is the same.”

“Maybe. He returned his focus to the water. “But you’re wrong about one thing.”

“You didn’t actually break up with your girlfriend?”

He chuckled. “Two things.”

“I knew it! I knew you were too great not to have someone.” Glee at being right stimulated my leg to kick up a stream of drops that plopped back into the pool. “What’s the other thing?”

“You forgot the twist in the show.”

My heart stilled. “Nate. He’s still on.”

Austin nodded. “I think he’s going to propose to Cassie.”

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