Link’s heart pounded while he waited backstage with a set of headphones on. Shortly, there was a tap on his shoulder, so he whipped off the headphones, grabbed his bag and walked out onto the stage. Everyone was screaming and cheering. Arisa welcomed him to the show, and then sent him off into the house with three other contestants that he’d been too nervous to remember the names of. The group of four where the first to enter the house, which calmed Link down slightly. At least he’d get his pick of a room and a bed. Plus nobody had gotten a chance to talk and start making alliances without him.
Link was reintroduced to the other three: Brianna, Jaz and Derrick. The four of them explored the house, claiming beds as they went. Link got one in a dark blue room - the bed closest to the wall. He liked the dark paint and he would be pushing the bed flush up against the wall later if he could. Walls meant security while sleeping, a solid presence so your back wasn’t exposed to the open air. Link set his bag down and then the foursome went to the kitchen and popped a bottle of champagne. Brianna and Jaz (both very excitable people, Link had already decided) started screaming when the doors to the house opened again.
The next hour was a whirlwind for Link. He met Polly, Blake, Jessica, Mari. He met Elizabeth and Rudy, the ‘parents’ of the season at 38 and 39 respectively. Then there was Kate, Alyssa, Chad and Kya. Oh, and who was the last one? R-something? It was a weird name, one Link hadn’t heard before. They were both from Alberta, Link remembered that much. Suffice it to say Link’s head was whirling. He was surprised he’d actually remembered most of the other players’ names.
The group partied and drank too much, Link holding back because of how badly he knew he held his alcohol. He wasn’t the biggest guy ever either, which didn’t help. He knew he couldn’t keep up with the muscular giants like Derrick or Chad. Or the other guy, gosh he’d really need to figure out that guy’s name.
Link mostly spent his time sitting off to the side of the action, listening and watching, hoping to pin his sights on someone to team up with. When they all started to head off to bed, Link lay awake writing in his game journal. He would be recording every important detail he could remember every day, in the hopes that if he needed the information later he would have it memorised and ready for instant recall. Link also had made pages at the back that were bios of all of his fellow contestants. Every detail he learned about them went onto their bio page. Once Link finished detailing the day, he turned off his table lamp and went to sleep.
Rhett was regretting the drinking he had done. It was day 2, also known as the first full day inside the house, and he had a hangover. It was some sort of much-too-early hour, but Rhett’s bladder had woken him up, and with awareness came a sour taste in his mouth and a headache. He grimaced at the bright red walls as he headed off to the bathroom.
Rhett had been one of the last people to get into the house and had been left with limited selection as far as beds went. He chose the red room because it had a bed free near the wall, and Rhett didn’t like to have to sleep surrounded by other sleepers. He didn’t need a wall, but he’d rather be off to the side than in the center when it came to sleeping, if he had a choice in the matter. However, he really wished the Red Room could’ve been a bit less bright. The Blue Room was a perfect wake-up-hungover sort of shade, but the only open bed in there had been next to the one occupied by Link. Rhett wasn’t too sure about spending an extended amount of time near that kid, so he had opted for the Red Room instead.
It wasn’t that Link was a jerk or anything. It was just that Rhett felt waves of anxiety pouring off of him most of the time, and he wasn’t able to get a read on him as a player at all. Rhett would rather ally himself with the easily read, easily understood ‘jocks’ and maybe some of the cute girls of the group, over picking an unknown and frankly scrawny guy to team up with. Rhett was 28 and tall. He was making good progress forging ties with the other guys in his room for both of those reasons. Blake and Rudy were both pretty big guys themselves, and were also ‘older’ players. Blake was 28 like Rhett, and Rudy was the old man of the house. The three of them were enjoying sharing a room, and were deciding whether to add Kya to their in-group for convenience’s sake, since she was also in the Red Room.
As Rhett showered, he pondered that Kya might be nice to include in their group, since she was so different and maybe could help them infiltrate other alliances if they needed to down the road. Kya was 21, blonde, tiny and basically the complete opposite of all three of her male roommates. She was perky (annoyingly so, in Rhett’s opinion) but friendly, and seemed to be willing to do whatever the guys told her to in exchange for them taking her with them to the end. Rhett wrapped himself in a towel and stepped out of the shower, running full-on into someone else. He threw his arms out blindly and grabbed the person by the arms, hauling them back to their feet as they began to fall. Rhett realised it was Link that he’d run into.
“Sorry man. Watch where you’re going next time though, okay?” Rhett stated, less aggressively than he might have. Something about the smallness and youth of Link made him want to be gentle around him; try to quell the waves of anxiety that were always present around the kid. Link was 24, or so he said, but he was clean-shaven and a head shorter than Rhett. He looked all of 20. He large-framed glasses only added to the picture of youthful insecurity; highlighting his wide doe eyes, currently opened wide with alarm.
“I-I’m so sorry. I was just putting on my glasses so I wasn’t looking where I was going. My bad. So sorry,” muttered Link, backing away slowly like he thought Rhett was going to punch him. Rhett raised his hands as a sign of his innocence.
“Woah little buddy, calm down. I’m not gonna deck you or anything. It’s all good.” Link just nodded once and left the room, leaving Rhett feeling both annoyed at the smaller man’s extreme response, and distantly unhappy that he would be taken as scary and aggressive when he was really a gentle person through and through. It didn’t sit right to be the big bully. That just wasn’t who he was.
Link huddled on his bed, breathing deeply to calm himself. It wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t a big deal. He’d just run into (Ryan? Roan?) as he was coming out of the shower. The guy had said not to worry about it, but was he serious? A guy that big could break his nose. Or actually, could easily break all of him. Link wasn’t very strong. Why had he come onto this show? The producers only picked him because he looked like he would have a fantastic mental breakdown anyways. Not that they would admit to that, but Link knew it was true.
Link was playing as the innocent nerdy kid who people would question the sexuality of the entire game and never come to a conclusion about. Which wasn’t going to work for him very long if he acted terrified of every guy or girl that looked his way. But the problem was that Link was scared to be around girls for fear that they might want something from him in exchange for friendship, which he was not prepared to give. And he was scared of being around guys for fear that they would think he was gay, or a wimp, or just annoying and deck him. Or would think he was gay and also want something from him that he wasn’t prepared to give. In short, he was already a complete mess and it had been less than a full day since the game started.
There was a knock on the Blue Room door and then it swung open to reveal Kate. She was one of Link’s roommates and the only person Link had had a real conversation with so far (not counting the incident with R-guy).
“Hey Link. I ran into Rhett in the bathroom. He said you maybe were a bit upset?” Kate asked gently, sitting on the unclaimed bed next to his. Rhett. Of course that was his name. Seemed obvious to Link now that he had heard it again.
“I’m okay, Kate. Just ran into Rhett, literally. He’s a big guy. It freaked me out a little. Thought he might punch me or somethin’ but it’s all good.” Kate just smiled at him in a friendly way, and then launched into her speculations as to who might make good alliance members. Link shrugged. Guess he had a partner now. Five partners actually, if Kate was really going to bring him with her. It seemed that the rooms had sort of formed factions, and because Blue Room was only three people versus Red, Green and Orange Rooms which each had four people in them, everyone was looking to claim the three floaters. Orange Room was ‘the girls.’ Brianna, Polly and Jessica. And Jaz, a vibrantly gay man who was pleased to call himself one of the girls. From what Kate was saying, Polly and Jessica were the masterminds, pulling Brianna and Jaz along with them and approaching Kate to join them. Kate had suggested she bring Link along, and the group had agreed, so long as he was alright calling himself one of the girls. Brianna and Jaz weren’t exactly Link’s cup of tea, but they had the numbers by the sounds of it so hopefully Polly and Jessica would be tolerable. Link didn’t have many other options. Or any.
The contestants got called to the living room after lunch to get prepared for the first Head of Household competition. Whoever won would make it much easier for their alliance, allowing them to pick off someone from another group the very first week, and hopefully making the numbers swing in their favour. Based on seating arrangements, Link saw the other two alliances that had formed. Green Room had seemingly stuck to themselves, despite being very different from each other. Mari was a model, dark-skinned to the rest of Green Room’s pasty white. Elizabeth was older, a mother of three. Alyssa was your average twenty-something who somehow hadn’t been taken in by ‘the girls’ and Chad was one of the muscular giants Link was terrified of. It was fascinating that the four of them had decided to stick together despite their differences.
The third alliance was Red Room. Rhett, Blake and Rudy, all strong guys. Then there was Kya, seemingly extremely out of place. Plus they had picked up Link’s third roommate Derrick. Derrick was 24 like Link, but that was the end of their similarities. It was obvious why he had ended up with the Red Room group, because he was also very intimidating-looking. Unlike the others though, Derrick was nearly too muscular. He had that sort of pinched appearance from too much muscle and not enough flexibility. Link was interested to see how Derrick did in challenges. ‘The girls’ had 6 so they already had the numbers, and Green Room was at 4, the disadvantaged so far. The head of household competition would be intense.