An hour later, I'm sitting opposite one of the Producers, a cold pack against my eye. It has been awhile since I had to use concealer to cover a bruise. Apparently not long enough for the Producers. "Behavior like this is truly unbecoming of a potential First Lady."
They are not happy. Even so, I can't help but to feel a tingle at the words first and lady. I am so close to accomplishing my dream, to giving Momma the life she has always deserved.
"So it's official? I'm in."
"This is not the time for this conversation," he says. "We are here to talk about this evening's indiscretions."
"But I'm going to D.C.?"
The Producer lets out a slow breath. "You know the final decisions haven't been made yet Bitter." I lean forward. "But you are in the running. You and Candid both." I contain my shriek, screwing my face into a look of contrition as I tune the Producer out.
I picture Candid in a room just like this—with a man just like this—receiving her own special brand of lecture. It isn't that the Producers are totally against violence. On the contrary, they often employed it when ratings dipped.
However, years ago, before I was born, they had to limit the was so much violence happening in the mansions that it was spilling into the schools. And of course, the mansion is supposed to give students realistic views of what it's like to grow up. And that means giving a heavy dose of the good with a spattering of the bad now and again to keep things interesting.
"No more fights until the election," I say. "I promise." It is another twenty minutes before I am finally free to go.
Two weeks later, the announcements begin. All across America, Hosts are delivering the news of the finalists for the Elections. Once announced, the contestants only have an hour before they are shipped away in driverless cars. It was hard enough not placing last year when I was fifteen.
Of course nobody expected me to be in the Elections at such a young age. I had wanted to show my mother that I was as talented as her. Momma told me she was relieved that I didn't make the elections at such a young age. She felt if I was determined to make it, I should wait until I was at least 17, like Candid.
I do not want to wait until I am 17. I do not want Candid to take my spot. I could never live it down if it is her running for First Lady and not me. I am determined to prove that I am better and that I will always be better than she could ever hope to be.
When the doorbell rings, every person in the mansion rushes to the entryway. Nobody wants to miss the big events in the mansion, even if they don't directly benefit from it. Candid and I exchange glances. For a single instant, our anticipation is connected. Our hearts beat as one. Then she mouths, "you are going down."
"Not on my life," I say, before walking past her and outside. I am surprised to see that Winner—one of the well-known hosts of the Election—is standing there with a crew of cameramen filming his every move. It isn't entirely unusual for the Hosts to announce the "big contenders" in person, but when I was getting ready this morning, I wasn't ready to face him of all people.
Winner knows how to win. He has won every Show he played. He won a spot as a Host when most Superstars learned to be content with retiring to a quiet lifestyle. And he won the Presidency the same year my mother was disqualified. One thing he hadn't won at, though ...
Being a father.
"As our viewers know," Winner says, his cadence is quick and his face is smooth. "The Elections are set to start this week. Representatives are traveling across the country, even to those small Midwestern cities like Indianapolis—" he wrinkles his nose at the thought. "to hand out invitations for The Elections to our most promising rising Superstars. And it has all led me to this place, the most infamous Hollywood mansion and all of us are asking the same question, who will it be—who will be running for First Lady? Will it be the ever-vindictive, ever-gorgeous, mean girl Candid, who has taken this entire city by storm the moment she turned thirteen.
"Or perhaps, the beautiful Bitter, whose very life stopped her mother from serving her own term as First Lady? Will she finally be given the chance to vindicate her mother—to absolve the bitterness Beauty has felt since her every dream was robbed from her? We'll find out after a special airing of the best of the Candid-Baby fights ..."
Winner's smile disappears as his broad shoulders slump slightly. He looks over Candid and me closely. Of course, my mother has never admitted to me that I was his daughter and Winner has never claimed me as his own. But what other conclusion was I supposed to draw? After a whirlwind Elections romance, the show ended with the infamous "This American Family." Momma and Winner shared a house for those three days and before she stepped foot in the White House, the world discovered she was pregnant.
Winner steps a little closer, close enough that I can see my slate gray eyes reflecting back at me. "Don't forget to play up your reactions to the cameras, girls," he says as if we need any reminders.
Suddenly his smile is back on in full-force; I suppose the montage of our many many fights is over. "Now the moment of truth. The people have spoken and this year's semi-finalist for the Elections is . . . I imagine the drum-rolls playing over the televisions as the Viewers lean forward, their fingers crossed for their favorite contestant . . . Me.
I play back the speech in my head. It is imperative that I don't stumble over any word. That I sound grateful, humble, not too certain of my inevitable victory.
I take a slight step forward, my face preparing to slide into a bashful smile.
My world shatters.
A/N: Introducing her father . . . maybe.
How are you feeling about this story thus far? The characters? The pacing? This is my first draft, so any constructive criticism is helpful. Even not so constructive criticism is alright because I have some pretty thick skin when it comes to my writing. Thanks so much for reading!