by S Eliot
Disclaimers: See Part One***AUTHOR'S NOTE: Just a quick commercial break to say a long overdue note of thanks to a couple of people who have helped make this story possible. Firstly to my best friend Alison who was sober enough to remind me of an idea that first reared it's head while we were drunk at a Xena con. She has been instrumental in its progress and in bugging me to keep the updates coming sooner rather than later. And secondly, a special note of thanks to the eagle-eyed Gail who has stopped grammar from being thrown out the window as the story continues to take shape. I owe ya!***
Alex leaned her forehead against the glass patio door that led from the living room out into the enclosed garden of the game show compound.
She took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, trying to dispel her growing aggravation with the squabbling mob sitting in a circle behind her.
Lifting a finger, the guitarist lazily marked her initials in the fog she had formed on the cool glass and stared off into the rain soaked outdoors, watching as the cloudy sky grew even darker a perfect match to her mood.
The day had started well enough, Rachel's pleasant voice had reverberated through the loud speaker system pulling the guitarist and the rest of the housemates out of a pleasant slumber.
The exercise she gave them the first of the game's many tasks that would have to be successfully completed in exchange for food and other household supplies had seemed simple at first glance. But as the morning progressed, the arguments amongst the housemates had grown steadily.
Compose a 90-second theme tune selling the idea of the show. What were they thinking? She thought to herself. Christ, just listening to the ideas of this lot proves we are already on the road to ruin.
Hearing the supposed brainstorming session between her fellow contestants had made Alex cringe, with an hour of constant bickering having got them nowhere.
Joel wanted to rap, Mike wanted to rock and Phillipe didn't care so long as any song they composed came with backing singers and topless male dancers.
Carolyn had stopped filing her nails for all of five minutes to point out that she won a singing contest in high school so was therefore the most qualified to be lead vocalist, while Lea and Claire were whispering quietly together at the other end of the room.
Stephen was fast asleep on one of the sofas and Dwayne had spent the last 20 minutes of the discussion more interested in the contents of his nose than the actual task itself.
Laura had given up trying to organise the group when Mike and Joel had started fighting over the merits of drum synthesizers when compared to real, live kits and decided to arm wrestle over the point.
She rolled her eyes in frustration and rose slowly from her armchair, moving towards the silent guitarist.
"God it looks awful out there," she remarked, joining Alex in staring out at the gloomy rainstorm.
"Why can't we just have sunshine all the time? Or at least a decent dry spell."
Alex continued to gaze ahead into the garden and Laura was sure her attempt to strike up a conversation with her fellow housemate was going to be ignored again.
The taller woman slowly blew out a deep breath, watching the glass fog over once again and waited a beat before replying.
"Don't knock the weather Laura, nine out of ten people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while."
She turned her head to look down at her new found friend just as the blonde stuck out her tongue in reply.
Never figured you for a comedian Alex.
The guitarist raised and eyebrow and shrugged her shoulders, while Laura just shook her head.
The silence between them returned and looked set to remain until the smaller woman couldn't stand it anymore. She decided to try a more direct approach.
So are you gonna help me sort this mess out or what?" she challenged.
Now it was Alex's turn to roll her eyes.
Do I have too?
Aww come on Alex. Have you been listening to them? It's hopeless. You're the musician in here, you could organise them or give them some direction at least, reasoned the blonde contestant.
When no reply was forthcoming, Laura threw her hands up in frustration.
Alex, if you don't, we'll starve.
That got the guitarist's attention. They'd give us food eventually I'm sure, she said with a hint of uncertainty in her voice.
Laura saw her friend's resolve weakening and pressed her point.
We'd also run out of toilet roll... and it's a shared bathroom, she said with a quick glance over her shoulder to the boys.
Alex sighed again and slowly turned away from the glass to face the group, resigning herself to defeat.
The graceful form of make-up guru Georgia wound its way through the packed and smoke-filled bar, heading to a booth on the other side of the room where Rachel was waiting patiently.
After work, they had made their way to the Horse & Hangover in the centre of the city one of the pair's many favourite midweek haunts hoping to have a quiet drink and a catch-up chat.
Unfortunately it seemed like half the population had struck upon the same idea, with the large number of customers trying to wind down after a busy day barely leaving them room to breathe.
Appearing through the parting crowds, Georgia placed two rather large pink frosted glasses on the table, grinning as her friend's eyes widened in surprise.
Uhh George hunny, I thought I asked for a beer? she said glancing suspiciously at the drinks which were sporting matching pink umbrellas, lit sparklers and floating maraschino cherries.
I know you did, her mad cap companion replied, sucking the beverage happily through a straw.
But mmmm this is good cocktails are so much more fun, she giggled sliding her friends glass nearer.
C'mon Rach, try it. It won't bite you.
The presenter stirred the concoction with her umbrella then glanced sceptically across the table.
You sure about that? What's in here anyway?
Who cares? It's gorgeous, now drink!
Rachel took a tentative sip and swirled the liquid round in her mouth like she'd seen wine tasters do on TV.
Well? prompted George.
S'ok I guess, she replied grudgingly, taking another sip and deciding it reminded her of tropical fruit punch despite it's strong smell of dishwater fluid.
Why do you bother asking me what I want, when you never buy me it, inquired Rachel, popping a cherry in her mouth and frowning when it tasted suspiciously of Bacardi rum.
Georgia rolled her eyes, opened her tiny umbrella and popped it behind her right ear.
Because mamma always raised me to be polite, she laughed.
Two hours later and the table was littered with empty glasses. Rachel was sporting a matching umbrella behind her own ear and couldn't help but laugh at Georgia's attempts to get rid of the hiccups.
Qu-hick-ick!! Gimme your keys! she demanded as Rachel fumbled drunkenly in her bag.
Her hand shot across the table, grabbing the set from the presenter's unsteady grasp and she dropped them inside the waistband of her jeans.
Oooooo-hick-oooh, that's cold!
Rachel's laughter increased and she struggled to catch her breath.
Jesus George, you're supposed to put them down your back aren't you?
Are you? Oh well, I was close enough.
The presenter wiped the tears from her cheeks.
Hey, I almost forgot. How'd your dinner date go last night?
Mmm he was fab-hick-ulous.
What was his name?
Brian something, he works for some private sector finance company. Huge ego, incredibly boring but what a body. He definitely works out. We are seeing each other again next week.
Rachel shook her head. If he's so boring, why bother?
Georgia waggled her eyebrows at her friend and grinned. Lets just say he has talents that lie outside the realms of polite conversation.
Rachel's hands shot to cover her ears. On the first date? Aaww George!! Shouldn't you get dinner and a couple of lunches out the way first? Maybe even a night at the theatre? Get to know him, let him get to know you, before you go and jump into bed.
Georgia faked a yawn and then hiccuped again.
Hun, that's your ideals. I know you want to meet the girl of your dreams someone to rock your world and sweep you off your feet. I'm not saying that's bad. I'd be the first to help you celebrate if you fell in hopelessly love and settled down for life.
But I don't want that just now sweetie, I'm happy with a little fun.
Rachel crossed her arms and looked concerned. Well I hope you were
Careful?, cut in her friend with a smile. Of course! We went through the whole packet.
GEORGE moaned the presenter, her face flushing bright red and Georgia couldn't help but laugh some more.
The embarrassed blonde leaned forward and drained the remains of her drink from the glass with a pensive look on her face.
Was he really that good? she whispered looking up from her cocktail.
A huge grin broke out on the make-up artist's face.
Darling, the sex was so good, even the neighbours had a cigarette.
Jim leaned back in his reclining office chair and fingered the envelope in his hands thoughtfully. This was certainly an unexpected and unplanned for development. Relatives of contestants weren't supposed to request their removal from the game house.
The producer sighed heavily and reread the letter that had arrived on his desk earlier that day. He could understand why the request had been made, after all it was for a funeral. A close friend too, according to the information he had been given. But once a contestant was out the house, there was no returning.
The whole point of the show was to keep these people cut off from the outside world. Once exposed, they could not be allowed back in. What if they read information on other contestants, or found out who were the odds on favourites? It was too dangerous and could jeopardise everything.
Problem was, could he really refuse? His morals whispered no.
He scratched his chin, noting the two-day stubble growth and made a mental note to remember to shave in the morning. Dammit, he muttered out loud, slamming the paper down on his wooden desk.
Alex had been shaping up to be one of the more interesting of those they had accepted for the show. Viewers had warmed to her and she wasn't likely to be voted out in the first round. To lose her this early could be a disaster for ratings.
Maybe he should talk to Rachel about this. They could always figure out a solution together.
He reached into the top drawer of his desk and pulled out his box of favourite cigars, lifting one to his nose and savouring the rich tobacco smell. His wife's nagging tone telling him to give up echoed in his mind but he quickly pushed it down and lit the object inhaling deeply, letting its flavour flood his lungs.
There had to be a way to work out this problem, it was just a matter of thinking things through.
He let his head fall back and blew smoke rings towards the ceiling, satisfied that situation could be resolved to the benefit of the show.
LAST ORDERS AT THE BAR, yelled the manager of the Horse & Hangover, looking at his watch and breathing a sigh of relief that the night was almost over.
Want another? asked Rachel, sucking the Bacardi from another cherry.
Nah, lets just finish these and go, replied her swaying friend.
Georgia took another sip of her drink and smiled. So you're first live day went well then? The set was buzzing with talk of how much of a natural you are. I was pleased as punch babes. I kept telling them 'that's my mate that is'.
Rachel chuckled and blushed slightly. Yeah, I was actually surprised myself. I thought it would have been much more nerve-racking. I was kinda freaking out the night before, I almost called you actually.
Really? asked her friend looking slightly concerned. Why didn't you?
The blonde presenter opened her mouth to speak but was momentarily lost for words. She cast her mind back to her computer and the image of Alex singing softly. Uhh, it was too late, she lied. I didn't want to wake you. Besides, it all worked out well in the end.
You're not wrong there. George lifted her frosted glass for a toast and Rachel clinked their glasses together. Congratulations on a job well done.
Sooooooooooo, continued her friend. Tell me more about your band of merry men, how did their first task go? It was on TV last night right? I would have watched but well, Brian was still there and I kind of forgot to set the VCR.
Rachel sat up in her chair.
You missed it?! Oh my God, I can't believe you didn't catch the show. It was so funny George, you really missed out.
Rach hunny, I don't miss out on anything when I've got my very own expert to tell me everything about it, her friend replied sticking out her tongue. Did they actually do it? Come up with a song?
Rachel grinned. Yeah, surprising I know, Jim reckoned they'd make complete fools of themselves. Well, he was hoping they would anyway.
Georgia looked startled. Why on earth would he want that?
Because he thinks more people will watch if there is a major embarrassment factor. The presenter admitted ashamedly.
Her friend made a face. What a sicko! So tell me what really happened? Did Mike sing? He's a cutie you know.
Now it was Rachel's turn to look startled. Mike? Eeww George. He's a pig. I'd stick with boring Brian if I were you.
Actually, it was Alex that organised it all," she added quietly.
No way! Little Miss Anti-social?
Hey, snapped the presenter defensively, She's not THAT bad. She paused before speaking again.
I thought she did very well actually.
Georgia scooted forward in her seat.
Uhh okayyy. So come on then, spill it. What happened?
Rachel flashed a smile and launched enthusiastically into her story.
She had called the group together in the main living area of the house after allowing them several hours throughout the day to organise their attempt at successfully completing the task.
The presenter bit back a grin as she remembered Alex striding confidently out of the girls' room with her black, polished guitar in hand.
Mike and Joel had started things off by providing a rap/hip-hop style beat with the microphones they had been given pressed tightly to their lips. And Alex joined in soon after, strumming a vaguely familiar tune on her cherished instrument.
Stephen had by far been the biggest surprise of the day when he softly began singing solo. Alex's smile had broken out into a full-on grin as his choir boy voice filled the air.
The four remaining girls had joined to provide a harmonious backing leaving Phillipe clapping a rhythm with his hands and Dwayne adding to the sound by playing a set of kitchen spoons.
However, no matter how impressed Rachel had been with the musical prowess the group had showed, she was taken completely aback by the lyrics.
Hold on just a second, cut in Georgia. You can't be serious.
What? replied Rachel who was slightly aggrieved that her tale had been interrupted.
Can they do that? Just rewrite a theme tune to fit their situation?
I don't see why not. The task was pretty vague. We wanted to leave it open-ended to see what they would come up with. It was Alex's idea. They spent hours arguing over what genre of music they should adopt. She finally got them to compromise by voting for their favourite TV show song and then adapted the lyrics. I think it was ingenious. For once in the house, everyone agreed. She united them, cool huh? Rachel gushed excitedly.
Georgia swallowed the remains of her cocktail. Okay, okay so she's a hero. But seriously Rach, Cheers? Not Friends, or Frasier or Sex in the City? Why'd they pick on Cheers??
The blonde just giggled. Hey, I loved that show you know. And I happen to think they did a pretty good job with their 'game show remix.'
Rachel couldn't quite believe her ears when she heard the song at first. But she had actually ended up humming along, thoroughly enjoying the new take on an old favourite. She recounted the words to Georgia with gusto.
Making it through a show like this takes everything you got,
We're taking a break from all our worries and hope to win the lot
Wouldn't you like to have the chance?
Sometimes you wanna go where no-body knows your name,
And your all here for the game,
You wanna be where you can see, our goals are all the same
You wanna be the only one who's left here at the end
You have to be the winner ..of the game. Da dada dada da
Making it through a show like this takes everything you got,
Last the distance with all these cameras and you're sure to win a lot
Wouldn't you like to take first prize?
Sometimes you wanna go where everybody's tasks are all the same,
And you're all here for the game.
You wanna be where you can see, your goals are all the same
You wanna be the one to win the game. Da dada dada da!!
Jim had actually been somewhat impressed too. Well, he had grunted and refrained from putting the group down so she had taken that as a positive reaction.
You know, it's the first time this week that Alex has actually looked like she was enjoying herself, she told her friend. It was good to see her smiling for once.
George sat quietly for a moment and then looked over at Rachel with a serious expression on her face.
You like her don't you?
Rachel's eyebrows shot up. What??? George, don't be ridiculous.
Her friend just shook her head. Come on Rach, it's obvious. Even I can see it, you've never been that good at hiding things.
The presenter blushed slightly and looked down at her empty glass. So what if I do? she admitted quietly. It's not like she's exactly an option for me is she?
Rachel sighed heavily and continued. I admit there's something about her but we've never even met George. She's stuck in there, while I'm out here. The only chance I have of seeing her is when she's kicked out, or if she wins, and even then that interview will only last for less than 10 minutes. It doesn't exactly give me much time to build a relationship.
Georgia smiled at her best friend and reached across to squeeze her hand.
Hunny, trust me. Ten minutes with you is enough to knock her off her feet. I'm sure you'll make a brilliant impression on tall, dark and moody. And don't forget you've got plenty time to reel her in, after all you can call her into that little booth they have whenever you want. Just click your fingers and she has to come running.
She stared off into space wistfully. If only all relationships could be like that.
Umm George? said Rachel looking up, her face still slightly flushed.
What babes? her friend replied dreamily.
Can I get my keys back now?
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