It's Only a Game Show
The main living room of the house had been designed with maximum comfort in mind. Making sure the housemates had somewhere to relax and interact had been one of the primary specifications given to the studio's designers.
Large vibrantly coloured armchairs and sofas surrounded a circular table and plush rugs were spread across the floor. The house lights were even timed to dim down lower as the evening wore on, creating a calming ambience for the 10 players to enjoy.
In recognition of their final evening together before the show began broadcasting, the group had been gifted several bottles of wine to help ease the tension. As of 6 a.m. the following morning, every movement and conversation from inside the house would be taped and transmitted to millions of TV viewers across the country. And millions more would be able to access live images of the show 24 hours a day over the internet thanks to the show's newly established website complete with web cam technology.
As the players gathered together to clink glasses and make a may the best man win toast, the initial awkwardness they had been feeling towards each other began to fall away.
Alex was curled up on an oversized bright orange armchair with a half-empty glass of red in her hand and a pleasant buzz clouding her head.
She rolled her eyes watching as the dark-haired, muscle bound Mike leaned over a giggling Carolyn to refill her glass for the umpteenth time.
"So I bet youre a model," he ventured, letting big brown eyes roam everywhere on the long-haired girls body with the exception of her face.
The slim American laughed again, snorted then blushed furiously.
"You are, like, soooo sweet," she said, playfully slapping Mikes strong forearm. He chortled and leaned closer, trying to gaze down her low-cut top with out much subtlety.
Carolyn began twisting a strand of her long blonde wavy hair around her finger, apparently oblivious to his leering.
"I always wanted to be a model you know," she giggled again. "I mean, I just LOVE shopping!"
Alex groaned and emptied her glass, enjoying the dry fruit flavour of the wine.
"Dont models just wear clothes that have been designed for them rather than actually buy them? Or am I missing something?" she drawled.
Stephen, who had been lying on a rug near Alexs feet trying to fish a piece of floating cork out of his glass, chuckled softly as the guitarist winked in his direction.
"Ahh, ignore them babe," cut in Mike, flashing his best smile in Carolyns direction. "I think youd be great," he said with eyes transfixed on her breasts.
The bubbly housemate sighed wistfully staring off into space, "Yeah, I would, wouldnt I?"
Alex glanced down at Stephen who now was now stirring his index finger in his wine chasing the elusive cork piece. "What is with Mike? Its like someones injected him with a testosterone overdose."
"Nah, its the bet," he said still concentrating on his task.
"Bet? What bet?"
The dark-skinned lad stopped and looked up. "Dont tell me you dont know."
Alex shook her head in response.
"Mike and his partner in crime Joel over there were scheming together in the boys room this afternoon." he said motioning to the housemate sitting opposite who was watching Mike whisper in Carolyns ear with a frown on his face.
"They were bemoaning the fact that theyve not had sex in almost a week now and were trying to work out how best to solve the problem." He rolled his eyes. "Theyve singled out the delightfully simple Carolyn as a potential solution."
"Youve got to be kidding me," said Alex, aghast.
"Nope, theyve got a bet on to see who can be the first one to, well uhh, you know." His face coloured slightly.
"Fuck her," finished Lea bluntly, appearing with a wine bottle in her hand.
"ON LIVE TELEVISION?" exclaimed Alex, her eyebrows shooting skywards.
"Sure, why not?" said the tall, slim housemate, perching herself on the arm of the guitarists chair and emptying the remaining contents of the bottle into Alexs glass.
"Because its shhick," slurred the dark-haired contestant, the alcohol she had consumed earlier already taking effect.
"Oh I dont know," countered Lea. "Some people might argue that makes it all the more fun."
"Are you for real? Fun? Fun to be watched umm "
"Fucking on national television?" suggested the more sober contestant, obviously finding enjoyment in Alexs discomfort.
"Uh right, by thousands of people, including your friends and family? That definitely sounds like my worst nightmare come true."
Lea leaned closer, blonde hair falling over her shoulder. She focused her cold eyes firmly on the slightly dilated blue irises of the woman sitting next to her.
"Come on Alex, why do you think actors love being on stage? Its the buzz they get from knowing the whole audience is captivated by every move they make and every sound they utter.
"Its a power thing. They are the ones controlling the audience and compelling them to watch. Exactly like we are. We have the power inside the house Alex, not the public and certainly not the organisers of the game. They are all in place for us, everything is revolving round us. Do you understand?"
Her lips curled into a seductive smile. "And as for sex, well its just a natural progression of the same thing. Its taking that power to the next level. Imagine the control you would have then."
The eyes of both women stayed locked, hard determination visible in one set and confusion and astonishment reflected in the other.
Alex raised herself out of the chair slowly, not breaking eye-contact.
"Lady, you have issues," she whispered before turning away slowly and stumbling towards the bathroom, completely missing the angry scowl that formed on Leas face.
The drunken guitarist shook her head in disbelief as she stepped carefully over a snoring Dwayne and staggered past a flushed Philipe, who was staring up at the ceiling and singing to himself softly. The sound of his high-pitched voice carried with her as she haphazardly made her way down the hall.
"Ah get no kick from champagne Mere alcohol doesnt thrill me at all.
"But baby, yala la la trueeee
"Ohhhh I geta KICK outta youuuuuuu!"
It was little after midnight and a very frustrated Rachel was pacing up and down the main living room of her apartment.
Dressed in short pastel blue pyjamas and white bunny slippers, the presenter's dishevelled blonde hair and knitted brow were evidence of a person too wound up to sleep.
She read over her lines on the script in her hand again.
"Okay, you can do this," she told herself, trying to find the proper motivation. "Nice and easy, nice and relaxed, let's go again."
She raised her voice. "Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to It's Only a Game Show, the programme that links you live to the lives of ten ordinary contestants battling it out for £100,000!"
The presenter bit her bottom lip, shook her head and glanced down at the sheet of paper she was holding again. "Nonono, that sounds like shit Rach. Cmon, with enthusiasm," she muttered.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to It's Only a Game Show, the programme that links you LIVE to the likes of lives of fuck!"
She stomped her foot in frustration, the white ears on her slippers bobbing up and down with the movement.
Looking down, Rachel caught sight of her black and orange Tigger sitting on the floor, its grinning face beaming in her direction.
"And what are you looking at?" she asked fiercely before taking a running kick at the small furry animal, watching triumphantly as it sailed through the air and bounced of the screen of her PC.
"Bouncing is what Tiggers do best," she mimicked in a high-pitched voice before sighing heavily and flopping down on the sofa.
She glanced down at her watch and let out a deep breath. "12:45 a.m. huh? Dont suppose George would appreciate a phone call right now," she said looking around the quiet apartment and suddenly feeling very alone.
The top floor premises had been Rachels pride and joy since she moved in a little over a year ago. It wasnt exactly the largest apartment in the world, but Rachel preferred to describe is as "cosy" rather than small.
With just one double bedroom, along with living room, bathroom and functional kitchen, it suited the presenters single needs perfectly.
Gardens were for families with children, she commonly remarked and it was a while before she planned to make that life-altering decision.
Kind of takes two to tango anyway thought Rachel and thats not exactly a feature of my life at present.
She did dream of having a family one day though, and wasnt going to let the fact that she was gay get in her way, unlike many small minded people who believed it should.
After all, these days there were ways, means, clinics and turkey basters.
First things first though was finding her perfect partner, a soul mate capable of loving her every quirk no matter what, and evoking those same strong feelings in herself. She shrugged her shoulders, trying to shake off the despondent feeling that had unwittingly crept up on her.
Looking back up she caught sight of her computer. "Maybe it's time for a break." She walked over and hit the power switch, picking up Tigger on the way and kissing its nose. "Sorry bout that buddy."
She flopped down in her desk chair and pulled one leg up under her as she waited for the machine to boot. Once her desktop appeared, the presenter double-clicked on Internet Explorer and logged into Outlook Express.
"Maybe some fan mail will cheer me up, eh Tigs?" she said, sitting the toy on top of her screen and turning her concentration to its contents.
There were a handful of new messages waiting in Rachels inbox. A few letters from fans regarding her previous TV appearances, one asking her to open a supermarket downtown, several dirty jokes from Georgia and another from firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Oooh, what do we have here?"
She clicked on open and leaned back in her chair, green eyes focused on the screen with interest.
Sent by Jim Reynolds. Time 5.43PM.
Just to let you know that the show's new website has gone online. It's got live feeds from the house cameras and details on all the contestants, as well as a lovely picture of you of course.
It would be worth your while to check it out as we are expecting a lot of interest to come from the internet.
Oh and you also have a new email address for fan letters, email@example.com
A bit of a mouthful I know, but you won't have to use it much. Our tech people will monitor it for you and give you printouts of any mail you need to deal with, reply to or laugh at.
Get a good night sleep and I'll see you tomorrow for the big day.
"Ha! Sleep? What's that?" She sat up and stretched, working a kink out of her back. Still gazing at the screen, she leaned forward, propping her head up on one hand and working the mouse with the other. She filed the mail from her boss and clicked on the link he sent that would take her to the shows new home page.
"Nnnnnice," she murmured as the flash site loaded onto her screen, all bright colours and blinking links.
Several seconds later she was browsing through a very impressive and professional site packed with detailed information on those involved, lots of pictures and screen-grabs of the action so far, a breakdown of the technical set-up and even interactive quizzes.
Her cursor hovered over the live camera link and she unconsciously chewed on her bottom lip.
What the hell, theres no harm in it, and itll be good research for tomorrow's show, she mentally convinced herself.
Rachel glanced at her watch and then looked back at the screen, theyll all be asleep by now anyway.
The media player box popped up and she looked first at the boys bedroom, followed by the girls. The occasional gentle snore coming through her speakers from the darkened building was the only sign of life so far.
She progressed onto the living area and her eyes opened wide as she saw a solitary figure sitting alone on the sofa.
"Alex " she breathed.
The name tumbled softly from her lips and she leaned closer to the screen, somehow hoping for a clearer view of the enigmatic housemate.
The inky haired woman was sitting hunched over, head in her hands with her treasured guitar lying across her lap. Still feeling groggy from her wine binge earlier, the musician was mentally trying to fight off the nauseous feeling that had prompted her to get up out of bed in the first place.
She reached down for the glass of water she had placed at her feet, moaning softly as the cool liquid swirled over her dry tongue and soothed her aching throat.
Rachels eyes remained transfixed to her monitor, studying the scene before her intently as Alex ran a hand through her loose black hair and picked up her instrument, strumming over a few chords with ease.
"This was a baddddd idea Alex," she muttered to herself, "a reallyyyyy bad idea."
She sighed and took a deep breath, then began playing one of her favourite melodies.
Closing her eyes she began to softly sing the lyrics she knew by heart, the hoarseness of her voice giving the ballad a decidedly sultry sound.
"What do you get when you fall in love?
A girl with a pin to burst your bubble
Thats what you get for all your trouble
Ill never fall in love again
Oh Ill never fall in love again."
Rachel felt her heart skip a beat at the forlorn sight she was watching. She looks so sad, the presenter thought to herself.
"What do you get when you kiss a girl?
You get enough germs to catch pneumonia
After you do she'll never phone ya
Ill never fall in love again,
Oh Ill never fall in love again,
Rachel chortled and leaned her head forward, resting her chin on her hands with her elbows propped on the desk.
Alex continued on, blissfully unaware of her audience.
Don't tell me what it's all about
'Cause I've been there and I'm glad I'm out
Out of those chains, those chains that bind you
Thats why I'm here to remind you,
Oh, what do you get when you fall in love?
Nothing but pains and lies and sorrows
So for at least until tomorrow
I'll never fall in love again
Oh yeah, I'll never fall in love again."
She sat a while longer, letting her fingers dance softly over the strings on her guitar, before finishing her water and heading back to bed feeling slightly better than before.
Rachel followed a similar pattern, closing down her PC and turning off her apartment lights. The presenter was soon cocooned in the blissful warmth of her double bed, her small frame curled around a pillow.
She could still hear the guitarists soothing tones echo in her mind as she snuggled under her duvet. Unable to fight sleep any longer, Rachels eyes finally fluttered closed and her lips formed a tiny unconscious smile in the dark.
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