Read One To Watch Online

Authors: Kate Stayman-London

One To Watch (9 page)

BOOK: One To Watch
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——Forwarded Message——

FROM:
Lauren Mathers <
[email protected]
>

TO:
Bea Schumacher <
[email protected]
>

SUBJECT:
RE: Contract and next steps

You haven’t told your mom yet?? BEA! Call her right now—and btw will you send me her contact info? We’re def gonna need to shoot some b-roll with your parents and figure out which week works for you to bring the guys home to meet them.

“Real TV? Like actual TV? The kind we get?”

Bea’s entire family was gathered in front of her stepdad’s desktop computer in the second-floor office—her mom, stepdad, three brothers, their wives, and assorted nieces and nephews all jostling for position in front of the globular webcam affixed to the top of the monitor.

All three of Bea’s brothers got married in their mid-twenties, and with the arrival of Duncan and Julia’s new baby just a month ago, now all of them had children. Bea’s parents—Bob and Sue—were both elementary school teachers who absolutely adored kids, and Sue in particular wasn’t shy about letting Bea know that she was eager for her to follow in her brothers’ footsteps as quickly as possible. Sue strongly believed that Bea was standing in the way of her own future marital bliss; she’d once read a book on self-sabotage by an author named Abyssinia Stapleton that she now quoted at Bea with the same regularity that other people’s parents quoted scripture.

“Abyssinia says that when you sabotage yourself in love, you dig two graves.”

“Mom, that’s Confucius, and he wasn’t talking about love, he was talking about revenge.”

“No, Beatrice, it’s different! Abyssinia means the graves as a metaphor.”

“Confucius meant it as a metaphor, too, Mom.”

“One grave for you, and one for the spouse you’ll never find.”

“If I never find a spouse, why does he need a grave? Isn’t that just wasteful?”

“Beatrice, that’s why it’s a
metaphor.

Bea wasn’t worried that her family would disapprove of her going on
Main Squeeze
—if anything, she was nervous they’d get
too
excited. But she’d put off telling them for two weeks, and it was time to let the cat out of the bag. So that Sunday night, she saddled up to break the news via Skype at their family’s weekly Sunday dinner. Since her brothers and their families all lived in Ohio, they all showed up in person every Sunday, and Bea was always expected to join them for ten minutes of video chat—which could be a real headache if she was traveling in Europe or Asia. Even when she got annoyed, though, it meant a great deal to her that her family always wanted her to be included.

“So what’s the show?” Bea’s oldest brother, Jon, asked expectantly.

“It’s, uh … it’s
Main Squeeze
. You know.
Main Squeeze
?” Alone with her laptop and a glass of wine, Bea felt a pang of wishing she were with them. It was freezing in Ohio, so her stepdad, Bob, had probably made a big pot of chili, and the brothers would all watch football while the wives gossiped and crushed a few bottles of Cabernet.

“What, like
Main Squeeze,
the real one? The main one? Are you going to be a commentator or something?” Bea’s middle brother, Tim, loudly snapped his gum.

“No,” she corrected him. “I’m going to be the Main Squeeze. The person who dates twenty-five people and chooses a winner.”

The family was dumbstruck, looking back and forth at one another and Bea’s face on the monitor, letting out errant gasps of disbelieving laughter.

“Holy moly, Bea, that’s a big deal!” Tim’s wife, Tina, was a petite brunette with streaky highlights and a singsong Minnesota accent. “Do ya think you’ll get
married
?”

“Oh my God,
married
?” Bea’s mother lit up, her initial skepticism now tinged with euphoria.

“They get married on the show? Do you have to?”

“No, not
on
the show, but she’s supposed to get engaged! That’s the whole point!”

“Is that true, Bea? You’re getting engaged?”

“Do you know who the men are yet? Have you met ’em?”

“Do you really date
all
of them, or do you just pick one at the beginning?”

“You’re not going to have S-E-X on TV, are you?”

“Mom, not in front of the kids, please!”

“Hi, Aunt Bea!!”

“Hi, JJ!” Bea waved to her oldest nephew, Jon Junior, who was now eleven and already a Pop Warner star, just like his dad had been all those years before him.

“So Bea,” Jon chimed in, “does this mean you’re going to be, you know?”

“What?”

Jon made a weird sort of wiggling gesture with his fingers. “
Famous
.”

Jon’s wife, Carol, hit him on the arm. “Bea’s already famous! She has six hundred thousand followers on Instagram.”

“Yeah, but that’s Instagram famous,” Tina countered. “This is
real
famous.”

“Now, hold on just one minute,” Sue interrupted. “Are
we
going to be on television?”

Bea sighed. “If you want to be, yes, I think you are.”

At this, the entire family started hooting and cheering until one of the nieces jumped up and down and hit her head sharply on the computer desk, which caused a general commotion and premature ending of the call without a formal goodbye. All in all, Bea thought the whole thing had gone much better than expected.

But a few hours later, Bea’s phone rang—it was her stepdad, Bob, who’d stayed mostly silent on the group call.

“Hiya, Bean.”

“Hi, Bop.” Bea loved that she and Bob still used their nicknames from her childhood. “Everyone go home?”

“Ah, yep, it was a little too much excitement around these parts, the kids burnt themselves out pretty quick.”

“You mean you didn’t all have a calm, quiet dinner after I hung up the phone?”

“Bean, when has this crowd ever had a calm, quiet dinner?”

“Ha, you make a point. But …”

“What is it?”

“Really, though, what did everyone say after we talked? Do they think this is crazy?”

“Well, sure, it is a little crazy, isn’t it? Not every day someone in the family is going to be a big TV star. To be honest, I think Tina’s a little miffed you beat her to the punch.”

“What about you, Bop?” Bea asked softly. “Do you think I’m nuts to do this?”

“Bean, you’ve been charting your own course the whole time I’ve known you, and that’s since you’re four years old. Your mother about had a panic attack when you announced you were going to college in Los Angeles, and then a semester in France. You wanted a big life for yourself, and you’re making one. That’s not an easy thing to do either.”

“So you don’t think America is going to hate me?”

Bob laughed. “America makes all kinds of bad decisions—there’s no accounting for taste. But no, I think they’ll love you just as much as we do.”

“All the way up the beanstalk?”

“And all the way home, my magic Bean. You’re gonna knock ’em dead.”

As filming drew nearer, the demands on Bea’s time grew increasingly intense: prep work with a PR specialist to craft talking points for her impending media blitz, practice sessions with a media consultant to perfect the delivery of said talking points, endless test shots with wardrobe and makeup and lighting and camera, and network photo shoots that should have been fun but were mostly just exhausting.

“Can you smile a little bigger?” Lauren urged. “You know, like you’re about to find love?”

Bea did her best to look overjoyed, but from Lauren’s mutterings about “making her look happy in post,” Bea guessed she hadn’t quite hit the mark.

There was one part Bea loved, though—the time she spent in wardrobe with her favorite person on the
Main Squeeze
crew: a no-nonsense tyrant named Alison who looked like a mild-mannered English major who sold hand-knit scarves on Etsy but who ran her department with the efficiency of an elite counterterrorism unit.

Bea had been nervous that her stylist for the show would be some typical Hollywood waif without the first clue how to dress a body like Bea’s, but Alison was a surprise in the best possible way: She was absolutely stunning, with sea-green eyes and honeyed hair, her style was gorgeous and muted with soft textures and earthy tones. And she was a good few sizes larger than Bea. The two women burst out laughing and shared a tight hug the very first time they met.

“Bea!” Alison laughed with delight. “I’m so happy to meet you!”

“Oh my God.” Bea nearly cried with relief. “I’m so happy to meet
you
.”

“Not as happy as you’re going to be when you see the clothes I pulled.” Alison grinned. “I’ve read your blog for years; do you know how excited I am to dress someone who actually understands fashion? Who might be willing to wear, you know, pants?! I have such great stuff for you!”

It turned out Alison had already reached out to nearly every high-fashion house that made plus-size clothes to send everything they had in Bea’s size—Derek Lam dresses and Prabal Gurung slacks and Veronica Beard blazers that retailed for more than Bea’s rent.

“Holy shit,” Bea said, trailing her fingers along the racks of spectacular garments, unable to fathom that they could really all be for her.

“I know you love a bold print, but we can’t do too much pattern on camera, I hope you understand,” Alison explained as Bea picked up a Yigal Azrouël blouse detailed with pleated hammered satin.

“Of course,” Bea murmured, noting that the blouse perfectly matched a blush pencil skirt in laminated lace. Was this heaven? Was she dead?

“We tend to do a lot of sparkle for cocktail parties,” Alison went on, “but I refuse to make you look like a disco ball, so I’m embellishing a lot of things myself.” She showed Bea a Dima Ayad maxi she’d hand-embroidered along the bust with lace appliqués.

“This is so beautiful,” Bea gushed. “I’m getting ’90s Thierry Mugler vibes.”

“That’s exactly what I was going for! I want to do so much boudoir for you, too, really hit the nail on the head that you see yourself as sexy, and you want America to see you that way too.”

“And when the show is over …” Bea could barely bring herself to ask the question.

Alison grinned. “You get to keep everything.”

Spending so much time with Alison, trying on so many wonderful things and feeling more beautiful than she ever had, Bea could almost believe her press rollout—now just one week away—would be as smooth as the buttery Lafayette 148 white leather moto jacket Bea wanted to wear every day forever.

Usually, the star of
Main Squeeze
was announced well in advance of filming, and the suitors auditioning for a chance to be her husband knew full well who they were competing for. But this year, everything was different: Not only did Bea’s suitors not know who she was, Lauren was sequestering them and putting them on total media blackout for the final five days before filming began—the five days when Bea’s role as the next Main Squeeze would finally be made public. Meaning that the very first time Bea and her men would lay eyes on one another would be on the live season premiere of the show.

“Don’t you think that’s a little risky?” Bea asked Lauren, anxiety crackling at the edges of her already frayed nerves.

“We want them to go in with a clean slate—with open minds,” Lauren explained. They were doing a walk-through of Bea’s soon-to-be bedroom at the Main Squeeze Mansion, a garish affair overlooking the Malibu coastline. Bea detested the plasticized knockoff Pier 1 furniture, but she couldn’t deny that the view of the Pacific was stunning. She tried to imagine how it would feel to stand with a man and gaze out at the horizon, to kiss him as the waves rolled in, feel his hands at the small of her back. Try as she might, she couldn’t picture anyone but Ray.

“The thing is”—Lauren’s voice sliced through the daydream—“we’re anticipating some mixed press, and we don’t want that to poison the well with your suitors. Of course, we think the balance will be overwhelmingly positive, but there’s bound to be some, you know.
Controversy.

“Which is part of why you cast me. Controversy breeds publicity.”

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