Authors: Kate Stayman-London
FLYER POSTED IN THE BOONE, OKLAHOMA, FARM SUPPLY MART
Wyatt had promised Bea a tractor if she visited his family’s farm, but when she met him at the main street in the center of Boone, she found he’d done her one better: There was a parade of a
tractors flanked by hundreds of onlookers—it seemed the whole town had shown up to wish Wyatt well and meet the girl he’d brought home.
“Oh my gosh.” Bea laughed as he helped her climb into the gleaming red tractor beside him. “This is unbelievable!”
“There are farms where you’re from—no one’s ever taken you to a tractor parade?”
“No one.” Bea threaded her arm through his. “You’re my first.”
Bea hadn’t meant the line to be a double entendre, but from the way Wyatt blushed and looked away, she worried she’d embarrassed him. They still hadn’t really talked about his virginity, about why he hadn’t had sex or what that might mean for their potential relationship. But given how much faster things were progressing with the other three men in that department (particularly in light of the incredibly sexy afternoon she’d spent making out with Luc pressed up against a brick building on the Chelsea High Line), Bea knew they’d have to discuss it today—just hopefully not in front of Wyatt’s family.
Bea and Wyatt leaned out of their respective tractor windows and waved to the crowd, who cheered and even shouted their names. After they’d made their loop on the tractor, Wyatt helped Bea down so they could mingle with the crowd and enjoy some lemonade.
“You can’t eat any of that potluck, though,” Wyatt told Bea. “There’ll be hell to pay with my mom if we don’t come home hungry.”
The group at the tractor parade was warm and unpretentious, and it was such a relief to be seen as normal, to
normal, even in the midst of a parade thrown in her honor.
Back at the farm for lunch, though, the pressure was a little higher as Bea met Wyatt’s mother, Hattie, his sister, Peg, her husband, Miguel, and their two kids.
“Have you tried the bread yet?” asked Hattie. “We make it with the wheat we grow right here on the farm.”
“It’s amazing.” Bea could barely speak through the mouthful of warm, fresh brown bread. Maybe she’d given farm living short shrift after all.
“That recipe has been in our family for four generations,” Hattie explained. “Now, what about you, Bea—do you bake? I know you can eat!”
Hattie laughed good-naturedly—she was no small woman herself.
“Mom,” Wyatt warned, but Bea put a hand on his arm.
“No, Mrs. Ames, I’m not much for baking. I’m more of a cook than a baker—and not much of a cook either, I’m afraid.”
“What about your mother, then? Didn’t she cook?”
“My mom made a lot of casseroles, pasta, burgers, things like that. I have three older brothers, so we went through a lot of food. On two teachers’ salaries, we had to be economical.”
Hattie nodded her approval. “That’s one thing Bill and I always tried to teach our kids. No sense spending what you haven’t got—that’s a quick way to hand your life over to the bank.”
“Will you tell me more about Bill?” Bea asked. She knew from Wyatt that his dad had died nearly a decade ago after a sudden stroke.
“He was a good man.” Hattie smiled, her eyes misting slightly. “I know we always say that about the dead, but with Bill, it was true. You know the Bible commands farmers to leave the corners of their fields to feed the hungry?”
“Old Testament, right?”
“That’s right, good girl,” Hattie approved. “Most farmers around here would never take that literally—times are tight, and what good does it do anyone to leave your crops untended? What are the hungry supposed to do, come chew on your wheat? But Bill, he measured out the corners of our farm, just as the Bible commands, and every year, he took whatever money we made from the wheat in those four corners and gave it straight to the food bank. Can you imagine?”
“That’s a beautiful tradition,” Bea said gently.
“Bill always wanted to see Wyatt get married and have some babies. He got to walk Peg down the aisle, and we’ll always be grateful for that. But for a father, seeing his only son start a family of his own? Well, that’s something special. I know he’d be very happy about this today, Bea. Yes, I do know that.”
Bea thought it was a lovely sentiment, but out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Wyatt’s face was ashen.
After lunch was finished, Bea and Wyatt split up with the two camera teams so everyone could discuss their impressions of one another: Wyatt and Hattie sat on the front porch, and Wyatt’s sister, Peg, took Bea for a walk in her vegetable garden.
“Those are little gems, and that’s kale,” Peg said, pointing out her various greens.
“I live in Los Angeles, we know a lot about kale,” Bea joked.
“Mm.” Peg’s droll manner was impossible to read. “So how are things going, with you and my brother?”
“Wyatt’s really wonderful.” Bea smiled. “With the other men, I feel so vulnerable, but he just makes me feel—I don’t know. Protected, somehow.”
Peg knelt down to pull up some fresh radishes. “Did you know that Wyatt has never brought a girl home before?”
Bea frowned. “No, I didn’t know that.”
“Mm. He’s a private person, doesn’t like to talk about who he’s dating. You understand we were pretty surprised when he told us he was going off to date a stranger on TV.”
“Sure,” Bea agreed, not certain where this was going.
“I guess my point is, back when he told us he was going on the show, we weren’t sure why. Now here we are, all these weeks later, watching him on TV every Monday—and I’m still not sure. Are you?”
“He’s here to find love,” Bea insisted. “Same as I am.”
Peg shrugged. “If you say so.”
As Bea and Peg made their way back to the house, Bea thought back to all her interactions with Wyatt: his kindness the first night of shooting, the way he helped her open up at the prom by bravely opening up himself, their easy manner together, the sweet way he kissed her. Their connection was real, wasn’t it? And it was romantic … wasn’t it?
Bea had thought that Wyatt’s virginity was his biggest secret. But after this day, and these conversations, she was starting to realize that maybe it wasn’t.
The sun would be setting soon, so the producers took Bea and Wyatt out into the fields for their final shot of the day: a passionate goodbye kiss. After that, they’d fly back to New York to spend the night, then get up at the crack of dawn to do the whole thing again with Asher in Vermont tomorrow. It was a punishing schedule—Bea was jealous that Lauren had opted to skip this day and leave the Oklahoma shoot in the hands of some junior producers. Bea knew she’d probably spent the entire time editing, but still, the notion of a day off from filming sounded like heaven.
“How you holding up?” Wyatt asked as the camera guys made what seemed like the millionth adjustment to their lighting gear.
“I’m okay.” Bea nodded wearily. “You?”
He nodded back, but there was something strained in his smile.
“All right,” one of the camera guys shouted, “we are ready to GO!”
Which, of course, was when the generator blew and the whole field went dark. Producers and crew scurried in every direction screaming about backup gennys and how quickly this could get fixed—the delay was annoying, but Bea realized almost immediately what it meant: For the first time, she could have a conversation with Wyatt that wouldn’t be overheard.
“Hey,” she said softly, “why didn’t you tell me you’d never brought a girl home before?”
“I didn’t want to put any more pressure on you,” he replied. “Everyone asks so much from you here. I never wanted that to be me.”
Bea felt a surge of affection for him, how he always went out of his way to be so kind to her. But there was still a question she knew she needed to ask, however painful the answer might be.
“Wyatt, I know we haven’t really talked about, um, why you’ve chosen not to sleep with anyone yet. And obviously that’s personal and entirely your choice. But I do need to know, I guess, whether that’s something you want? With me?”
Wyatt looked down, and Bea felt her stomach clench. She knew he wasn’t like Jefferson, wasn’t leading her on for his own selfish purposes—but if he didn’t want her, while these other three men seemingly did, then she had to know the truth.
“It’s okay,” she assured him. “If you don’t feel that way about me, you can just tell me.”
“It isn’t that,” Wyatt said quickly.
“Then what?” Bea pressed. “Are you worried about having sex for some reason? Believe me, I’ve been there—you know how afraid I’ve been with men. We can work through that together, if that’s what you want.”
“No.” Wyatt shook his head. “I’m not afraid.”
Wyatt had shown her, again and again, that he was her true friend. Bea thought of his mother at lunch, how happy she’d seemed to think her son had finally found love—how upset Wyatt had looked in that moment. And suddenly, it clicked into place: what Wyatt was doing here, why he’d never brought a girl home, why she was so comfortable with him in a way she wasn’t with any of the other men.
“Wyatt, are you gay?”
He looked up in surprise.
“Oh my God, I’m so sorry,” she blurted. “I don’t know why I thought it was okay to just say that, I’m being so inappropriate—”
“No, no”—he took her hand—“Bea, I’m not gay.”
“Oh.” Bea nodded. “Oh, okay.”
He sighed and looked out at the fields for a long moment.
“I’ve thought about it. I mean, I always thought, one day, I would meet a girl I’d want to date. And when I never met her, not in high school or college, I thought, okay, well, maybe I like guys? But I never met a guy I wanted to date either. So I figured, when I met the right person one day, I would know. But I never did.”
“And that’s why you came on the show?” Bea prompted. “To see if you could find that person?”
Wyatt nodded. “I watched the show a couple times, and it seemed like romance was just
you know? Like this was a story about knights and princesses, but in real life—and I thought, I don’t know. Like how sometimes if you’re trying not to get a cold, you take a really big dose of Vitamin C? I thought coming here would be a really big dose of romance, something to jump-start feelings I was sure must be buried inside me. And if I could go on these fairy-tale dates with a girl like you, maybe then I would finally understand this thing that comes so natural for everyone else.”
Bea looked at him sadly. “But you haven’t, have you?”
“No.” He exhaled deeply. “I think I finally have to be honest with myself and admit that all this romance stuff—and sex, and kissing, even—it’s just not for me. When I kissed you, I thought, she’s so pretty, and I like her so much, but this isn’t the way I want to be with her—or with anyone. You know? It just wasn’t the right way.”
He was shaky with nerves, and Bea thought he might even be close to tears.
“All these years,” he said, his voice hoarse, “I’ve felt like I was half a person. Like this part of me that should be there just … wasn’t.”
“Hey.” Bea squeezed his arm. “I don’t think that makes you half a person, not at
. You’re one of the best people I’ve ever met, and this is just a piece of who you are, you know? A piece I feel really honored you shared with me, for the record.”
“I just don’t want to disappoint my family,” he sighed. “You saw how much my mom wants me to get married. It kills me that I can’t give that to her.”
“I know our situations are different, but I feel a version of that with my family too,” Bea said softly. “My parents say they’re not disappointed in me, and I believe them, but I know how much they want this for me. And not just them—all my fans, everyone watching this show. I’m terrified I’m going to end up alone and disappoint every single person who’s invested in me finding love. Even though of course I know you can live a totally full life without a relationship—Wyatt, you’re proof of that.”