Kissed by Reality

By: Carrie Aarons

To all of us who have a guilty pleasure.

Chapter One


When I was a little girl, I used to dream about riding around in limos.

There’s such mystery surrounding them. Who's inside? What do they do? Where are they going? What must their life be like?

I thought that if only I could achieve that level of fame, importance, wealth — whatever it was that landed people on the inside of those secret chariots — the world would be laid at my feet. I would be happy and life would be perfect.

Never did I imagine that I'd be surrounded by four other women, decked out in expensive gowns and jewelry, ready to puke my guts out.

"Kristen, you'll exit first, followed by Ashley, Lauren, and Paige. Leighton, you'll be last."

I knew I'd be last. I'd be the last girl to make her limo entrance out of the whole group of 25. I knew this because I'd already done this once, I was the veteran. The audience would go nuts that I was back, production would leave them dangling off the cliff before cutting to commercial.

I would also be the last woman to step onto the glittering driveway of the castle because it was the last thing on earth he was expecting.

Him. God, it had been so long since I'd laid eyes on him. Finn Wyatt, the new Mr. Right.

Mr. Right was the hit reality TV dating show where one man wooed 20 women for a couple of months, slowly cutting that number down until he was left with two. And then he'd propose to one, living happily ever after. My heart went off like a firecracker when I thought about Finn down on one knee in front of me. Again.

Except that happily ever after part never lasted. Last year's Mr. Right, Nicholas Titus, was caught banging a highly paid escort in the bathroom at Exchange two months after he put a ring on the winner's finger. I thanked my lucky stars in this moment that the asshole had cut me right before the final three. Although I'd played it off nicely at the time, spouting elegant tears and wistful endearments about love as I left the beautiful beach in Puerto Rico where the Charm Ceremony had taken place.

No, coming on this show was about the fame. It was about the appearances, endorsement deals and possible spin offs you could collect on after it aired. It was about the parties you got invited to, the people you could potentially rub shoulders with. And for the little girls who had dreamed of riding in limos, it was the launching pad to what you had always considered a better, more important, more worthy life.

I just never considered what it would mean if I actually fell in love.

"She would get to go last just because she has history with him." Paige, the bleach blonde in the siren red two-piece dress scowled. The producer in our limo, Katrina, scribbled something on her call sheet. I knew what that meant; Paige was being nominated for either the bitch or the slut of the season.

I'd educated myself, studying everything about the show before I'd come on as a contestant about a year ago. I knew I couldn't position myself as the bitch or the whiner, and I could never play the single mother or widow cards. I had to play just the right balance of naughty and nice; the sweet spot between sarcastic and mean to get the audience to fall in love with me. I had to be kind, but couldn't be a doormat, that would get me cut too quickly. I had to be willing to kiss Mr. Right, but had to appear demure and flustered. Sluts were sent packing as soon as America was disgusted enough with their behavior, which was usually only an episode or two.

It’s how I’d landed myself a coveted spot as one of the Mr. Right darlings. It’s how I got America’s, and the producers’, vote to be a featured contestant on Right Now Island. It’s how I’d met Finn. And then subsequently, how I’d lost him.

My stomach lurched again as the limo sped over a bump on the winding road up to the Right Castle. It was really just a rather large mansion in the Hollywood Hills, but branding was everything to these people.

Would Finn reject me outright? Would he be surprised to see me? I was surprised as hell at myself that I’d actually agreed to this. But the pull of the spotlight, of stardom, was addicting. It called to me in my waking and sleeping hours, tinted every opportunity that came my way. Or at least that was the excuse I’d use when he asked me.

He could never know I was actually here because I couldn’t take a breath, couldn’t fill my lungs and keep my body living, without thinking about him. He couldn’t know that I laid awake at night in my one-bedroom apartment on Ventura Boulevard going over every detail of our time on the Island, each moment of those last days together. And he couldn’t know that even after what I’d done to him, even after all of these months, that I was still in love with him. Because that was how I got sent home.