Waverly used the tab to peel open the thick cardboard envelope and peered inside. There, nestled in the package, she saw what she had been working towards for four years. Four years, one hundred and twenty thousand dollars of debt, and countless sleepless nights later and there it was. Her diploma. Waverly pulled it carefully from the envelope, the paper flimsy in her hands.
There was that swell of pride in her chest upon seeing her diplomna, but also something that felt a lot like...disappointment? Sure, the graduation ceremony and everything was nice. But receiving the diploma in the mail was a bit anticlimactic at best.
“Welp,” she said as her eyes shot into her hairline, “There it is, Waverly, all your hard work. Right. In. Your. Hands.”
She curled the corner a little bit just to feel it bend under her finger. With a sigh, Waverly slipped the diploma back into the envelope and set it on the kitchen table. She quickly flipped through the other mail but saw nothing of interest so she tossed it onto the table with her diploma. Specifically, there was no mail from the prestigious scholarship fund she was waiting on. Whether or not she got it meant whether or not she was going to Grad school.
Everything else was in place. She’d gotten accepted to her dream school, already had an internship lined up...the only thing she needed was that scholarship for everything to be just perfect.
“Hey, baby girl,” Wynonna groaned as she padded down the stairs, her socked feet thumping as they went. Wynonna trudged up the Waverly and kissed the side of her head before shuffling her way towards the coffee maker. “What ‘ave you got planned for today?”
“Besides trying not to think why I haven’t heard from the scholarship people yet?” Waverly sighed, watching as Wynonna poured herself a cup of coffee. “I’m just going to get coffee with Chrissy while she’s in town.”
“Mm, before she goes back to whatever her new fancy job is?” Wynonna said before sitting down at the table.
“Yeah. Apparently she got a big promotion and wants to tell me all about it,” Waverly said with a shrug. Waverly let herself dwell on the twinge of jealousy that Chrissy already had a great job and had avoided college all together. Chrissy was in the entertainment business, something that one could argue didn’t need a college degree for. Waverly knew for a fact there was no way she was getting a job as a researcher without as many degrees as she could manage to get. So even if it was hard to not compare herself to Chrissy...she tried not to.
Wynonna leaned over the mug as if to let the steam from the coffee warm her face. “See if she’ll put my mug on a tv show,” Wynonna said with a wry smile, “Wynonna Earp, Bounty Hunter. It’s got a ring to it.”
Waverly raised an eyebrow at her sister. “You’re telling me you want to be on television?”
Wynonna frowned in thought for a moment before shaking her head. “You’re right. The world isn’t ready for me.”
Waverly’s phone buzzed and she pulled it from her pocket only to see that it was a notification from the dating app she had been using for the month she’d been back in Purgatory. It seemed like a stretch since she was pretty sure she had dated the only interesting people in Purgatory in high school...but she figured she’d give it a try. It was a decision she was quickly regretting.
Pete: Hey, wanna get dinner tonight? There’s a new pho place it town. It’ll be a...hot date. ;)
Waverly rolled her eyes and tried to think of a response.
“Wha’s that?” Wynonna asked already grabbing the leg of Waverly’s chair and pulling her close so that they were side by side. Wynonna leaned over Waverly’s shoulder to read the message. “Ugh, gross. Pete York? Come on, baby girl, you can do better than that.”
“I’m just going on one date,” Waverly said defensively, “It doesn’t mean anything. I’m just...bored and have exhausted all other possibilities. There aren’t many dating options in a small town, you know.”
“Don’t I,” Wynonna muttered to herself as she took a long sip of her coffee.
“Plus, you never know,” Waverly said with a shrug, “He could be a perfect gentleman.”
“Famous last words,” Wynonna said with a smirk. Waverly couldn’t help but agree.
“Hey, Waverly,” Beth said almost breathlessly from behind the register. Waverly blinked at her a moment, her brain connecting the dots even if Beth seemed wildly out of place in an apron and behind a counter.
“Oh, hi,” Waverly said with a polite smile to cover up her shock, “I-...what are you doing here?”
“I work here now,” Beth said, “It’s part of the whole...getting our parent’s inheritance thing. We have to work a real job for like...a year.” Beth shrugged. “I figured it couldn’t be that hard to work at a coffee shop.”
Waverly’s smile started to feel strained as she kept her internal commentary to herself. “Um...how long have you been working here?”
Beth looked at the clock. “Four hours!”
“Right,” Waverly said tucking some hair behind her ear. “Can I get a green tea please?”
“Sure!” Beth said staring at the register for a beat too long before punching something in. She took her time writing the instructions on the cup and Waverly stood there with her cash out, waiting for Beth to take it. When she finally did, Waverly let out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding.
“So,” Beth started as she slowly counted out Waverly’s change, “are you in town for good?”
Waverly prickled at the thought.
In other words, had she given up on the bigger world outside of Purgatory and returned back to the comfort of her small town? Like a baby trying to crawl back into the womb?
“Um, no,” Waverly said after a moment, not adding on that she at least hoped the sentiment was true. “Just...until I start my Master’s program.”
“Well, while you’re in town would you want to...go to dinner again?” Beth asked as she handed Waverly back her change.
Waverly just stood there, palm up to cradle the crumpled bills and coins, and thought about the last time she and Beth went to dinner. It was when Waverly was back home on break during Christmas. She knew that Beth had a small crush on her since high school and admittedly Waverly had had one on her too. But being in college...high school crushes were the sort of thing that got pushed to the back of her mind. She gave it a try anyways and soon realized why her crush never blossomed into anything more.
Beth, for all her good intentions, never had experienced a day of hard work in her life. She was the definition of blessed. Waverly had had more than enough of her own tragedies in her life and they just couldn’t find anything to relate to. Except maybe being attracted to the fairer sex in a town that still thought Ellen was progressive. So when Beth asked her on a second date...Waverly quickly said no and blamed it on the fact that she was leaving for school again soon. An excuse she could no longer hide under.
“Oh,” Waverly finally managed, her mind working a thousand miles a minute for an excuse. “Well, you see, I’m really busy right now.” Waverly smiled politely but felt her stomach clench at Beth’s crestfallen look so she quickly recovered. “But text me next week and maybe we can set something up?”
Beth practically beamed and Waverly dumped her change in the tip jar. Beth was the last person that needed it, but it was the least Waverly could do knowing she was going to blow Beth off the next time she texted too.
“Sounds like a plan,” Beth said as she took Waverly’s finished tea from her coworker and handed it to her.
“Thanks,” Waverly smiled before turning around and heading to the table in the corner where Chrissy was waiting for her. She let out a small breath of relief as she slid into the table.
“Beth hit on you again?” Chrissy asked with an amused tilt to her lips.
Waverly gave her a look. “She’s very nice.”
“Just keeping your one female option in town open?” Chrissy asked with a raised eyebrow.
“No,” Waverly said taking the lid off of her tea so it could cool. “I just feel bad saying no. And, if you must know, I have a date tomorrow.”
“Oo, with who?”
“He’s not that bad,” Waverly insisted. “Between you and Wynonna you’d think he was the biggest loser in town.”
“No, his brother is,” Chrissy teased.
Waverly rolled her eyes goodnaturedly and leaned back in her seat. “Enough about my non-existent love life. Tell me about your new exciting job.”
Chrissy got a sparkle in her eyes that Waverly knew all too well. It reminded her of the time that Chrissy convinced Waverly to try out for the cheer team “for fun” and she ended up a cheerleader for all four years of high school.
“Funny enough, this kind of relates to your non-existent love life,” Chrissy said with a wiggle of her eyebrows. Waverly was already worried.
“O...kay,” Waverly drew out as she played with the string of her tea bag.
“Well, you know that lady I was interning for?” Chrissy asked.
“The producer?” Waverly asked blowing on her tea.
Chrissy nodded. “Well, she’s liked what I’ve been doing lately so she’s giving me some producing credits on her next project.”
“That’s amazing!” Waverly gasped, reaching out to squeeze her best friend’s hand. “What’s the project.”
“The Bachelorette,” Chrissy said as she leaned forward like she was telling a dirty secret. “Are you ready for the best part?”
“What?” Waverly asked as she took a sip of her tea.
“I want you to be the bachelorette!”
Waverly choked, tea sputtering out of her nose and dribbling down onto her shirt. She would be embarrassed if she wasn’t entirely sure she wasn’t dying at the moment. Her throat burned and tears formed in her eyes as she caught her breath. Chrissy made a move to pat on her back but Waverly waved her away.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah,” Waverly coughed. She put her hand on her chest as she got her breath back. “I’m sorry,” she blinked, shaking her head, “I must have misheard you. You want me to be on your television show?”
“Chrissy. No,” Waverly said firmly.
Chrissy looked genuinely shocked as she searched for words. “What? Why?”
Waverly blinked at her friend and wondered if she had done one too many of the drugs rumored to be around the reality tv world.
“Why?” Waverly said with a single chuckle, “Chrissy its...its me. They’re not looking for girls like...me!”
“Exactly! It’s you,” Chrissy said with a smile, “You’re Waverly Earp! Great great great granddaughter of Wyatt Earp. Small town girl with a Hollywood smile. Head cheerleader and valedictorian. Voted the nicest person in Purgatory and dreams of bigger horizons.”
Waverly just looked at Chrissy for a moment. “I-...did you rehearse that?”
“No. Well...yes. It was how I pitched you to my boss,” Chrissy shrugged.
“How you pitched me-“ Waverly scoffed. “I’m not a baseball, Chrissy!”
Chrissy shook her head sympathetically, her voice taking that lilt that people sometimes got when they were being both kind and condescending. “That metaphor does not track at all, sweetie.”
“My point still stands,” Waverly insisted, “Why would you pitch me to your boss?”
“You’re the perfect candidate,” Chrissy said as she sat up a little straighter. “They’re looking for someone new this season. Someone ‘real’.” Chrissy made air quotes and rolled her eyes. “Think about it. Everyone loves you, Waverly. That’s half the battle of finding the perfect contestant. You have that that…” she waved her hands around searching for the perfect word. “Pizazz.”
Waverly couldn’t help but snort into her tea. “Is that one of your fancy Hollywood terms?”
Chrissy raised an eyebrow at Waverly but she could see the smile in her eyes. She leaned forward, elbows on the table like she used to do in high school when she had a particularly good piece of gossip. “Come on, Waves. It’ll be fun!”
She sighed as she lowered her cup down to the table again. “I don’t know, Chrissy,” she said, “I mean...isn’t the whole thing a scam anyways?”
Chrissy shrugged. “No more than those stupid dating apps you hide behind to pretend you’re actually putting yourself out there.”
“I resent that,” Waverly said resting her chin in her palm and elbow on the table. “I’ve been busy. The world is so much easier when it’s just...in the palm of your hand like that.”
“I know, trust me,” Chrissy said, “But this is the perfect opportunity to get out there a little bit! Have an adventure. Do something only so many people can say they’ve done.”
Waverly had to admit, Chrissy knew how to sell things to her. She always had. It had led to some of her best worst decisions ever. But today was not going to end in one of those decisions.
“No.” Waverly took another long sip of her tea. “I don’t want my life out there in the world. Wynonna’s life. She has a dangerous job, it might put her at risk.”
“Waverly, I love you. But all I’m hearing are excuses,” Chrissy said stirring her drink with her straw. “We would only put as much of your life out there as you wanted. It would be all fluff pieces and nothing super crazy. We could lie about what Wynonna did. We’d...probably have to actually.”
“What...what else could she be?” Waverly asked. “I can’t imagine her as anything else.”
“I don’t know like...a bartender? A...banker?”
Waverly couldn’t help but snort in laughter.
“Let me put it this way,” Chrissy said as she reached across and covered Waverly’s hand with her own. “Best case scenario, you meet the love of your life.”
Waverly snorted again and Chrissy shot her a look.
“Worst case scenario, you...don’t. But at the end of six weeks, you got to stay in a beautiful vacation spot, have fancy dinners, flirt with a bunch of cute guys and make more in a few weeks than you usually make in a year.”
Waverly’s ears perked up a little bit and she leaned forward. “Um, excuse me, just how much does this pay?”
Chrissy’s smile curled slowly up her cheeks. “You get one hundred thousand dollars.”
If Waverly had been drinking, she would have choked again.
“In six weeks?”
Chrissy nodded. Waverly could see herself paying off so many loans. The need for any scholarships dwindling away...Waverly wondered what that kind of freedom tasted like.
Waverly sighed and shook her head, flattening her hand on the table in a final way. “No. I really can’t. Thank you, Chrissy, really. But...I can’t. It’s just...too weird and plus you know the whole...liking girls too thing.”
Chrissy leaned back in her seat. “I don’t have to tell them until Monday. Think about it, okay?”
“Fine, yes,” Waverly said with no intention of actually considering it. But she could pretend if it made Chrissy feel better.
“Thank you,” Chrissy said with a smile, “Now, tell me all about college.”
Waverly put the finishing touches on her makeup, dropping the brush into her bag. She looked in the mirror of her vanity to see Wynonna laying on her bed, head hanging off the side as she played with her phone.
“I can’t believe you’d rather go on bad dates for free when you could be going on bad dates for money,” Wynonna said flatly.
Waverly turned in the chair to look at her sister. “Yes. Except this bad date won’t be broadcast across the nation for everyone to see.”
“For a hundred thousand dollars I would go on the date and blow the guy in a fucking nun outfit,” Wynonna said just as flatly.
“Nonna!” Waverly said with a tint to her cheeks and a curl to her lips. “Come on.”
“Just being honest. Forgive me,” Wynonna said sarcastically.
There was the honk of a car horn from the driveway and Waverly cringed. Wynonna just smirked widely.
“You’re carriage is here, princess.”
“Screw you,” Waverly said lightly as she stood up and grabbed her purse from the bed. “I’m going to go out, have free dinner and a good time. Have fun here, Nonna.”
Wynonna wiggled her eyebrows. “I have a ménage à trois planned with me, a bottle of whiskey and the home shopping network.”
“Please don’t buy anymore tupperware,” Waverly warned as she took one last look at her hair in the mirror. “We’ve already run out of room in the cabinets.”
“No promises!” Wynonna yelled as Waverly started down the stairs. Waverly walked out of the Homestead, squinting as Pete’s headlights blinded her. She waved, hoping he would turn them off, but he just honked a couple more times.
Waverly took a deep breath as she locked the door, jaw tight. It was definitely going to be an interesting night.
Pete grinned widely at Waverly from across the table, the remnants of something leafy in his left canine. His pudgy finger tapped the title at the top of the menu.
Waverly forced a small smile and nodded curtly. “Yep.”
“Let’s pho? Like let’s fuc-”
“Yep!” Waverly interrupted, eyes down on the menu as she pretended to read it. She subtly looked at her watch as she did so. Twenty minutes in. A typical first date lasted an average of ninety two minutes. About one fifth through. Great.
Waverly woke up the next morning later than she had meant to. After her date with Pete, Waverly came home, split Wynonna’s bottle of whiskey, and talked her out of buying garden gnomes that doubled as sprinklers.
She stumbled into bed at some unknown time, only managing to strip off her shirt and skirt before collapsing into the sheets. She woke up with a headache pressing behind her eyes, mouth dry.
“Waves!” Wynonna called from downstairs. “You got something official looking!”
Waverly jolted from her bed, sheets getting tangled in her legs and making her crash to the floor.
“Don’t kill yourself!” Wynonna growled.
Waverly wrapped her sheet around herself and shuffled down the stairs to the kitchen. Wynonna waved the envelope over her head, eyebrow raised at Waverly.
“Hungover? Thought college would have you trained better than this, baby girl,” Wynonna said as Waverly snatched the envelope from her hand.
“You’d think being an Earp would train me better than that.”
Waverly sat at the kitchen table and held the envelope between her palms. It was from the scholarship foundation. Her stomach turned as she looked at the inconspicuous white envelope. An envelope that held so many of her future plans in the balance. She had a bad feeling about the whole thing.
“You gonna open it?” Wynonna asked as she poured some whiskey into her coffee and Waverly’s tea. Waverly sighed and slipped her finger under the flap, wiggling it a little bit so that the glue came just the slightest bit undone. Slowly, she ran her finger along the envelope to break the seal. Wynonna had her tea in front of her and was sitting down by the time Waverly had it open. Still she stared at it, the white paper barely visible in the envelope. She tried to read some of the words through the back of the paper but got nothing.
Waverly took a deep breath and slid the paper from the envelope, unfolding it deliberately as she went. She licked her lips and took a breath before reading the first line. Her stomach was in knots and she was sure she might barf.
Dear Ms. Earp,
Thank you for your submission to the J. G. Hubbard Scholarship Foundation. We thoroughly enjoyed your paper, but at this time we cannot offer you-
Waverly folded the paper back up and set it in the middle of the table, hazel eyes meeting Wynonna’s expectant ones. Any amount of confidence or hope she had quickly deflated.
“I didn’t get it,” Waverly said with a forced smile and a small chuckle.
“Bastards!” Wynonna said, snatching the letter off the table as if she had to double check to make sure Waverly was right. “You’re too good for them anyways, baby girl.”
Waverly shook her head, arms crossed in front of her chest. “I’m not too good for anyone. Especially people trying to give me money.”
She groaned and slumped forward in her chair, arms and chin on the table.
“What do I do now?” she groaned. She sat up just long enough to take a big sip of her tea that seemed like mostly whiskey.
“I mean...you don’t need this, right?” Wynonna asked.
Waverly scoffed. “It’s the only way I can go to grad school, Wynonna. And they need my first check like...yesterday!” She sighed and rested her forehead on the table, the wood muffling her words. “I’m just gonna be stuck here forever with a Bachelor’s degree.”
“What if I take some extra bounties?” Wynonna offered , “I can do some of the crazy out of state ones that pay out the ass. That should help.”
Waverly shook her head. “That’s very sweet, but no, Nonna. It’s fine I’ll just...I’ll figure it out. I might just have to...work in town until I can save up some money.”
Wynonna tapped on the table, nose scrunched up. “I have a solution but you’re not gonna like it.”
She squinted at her sister. “What’s that?”
“Chrissy just basically offered you a hundred thousand dollars,” Wynonna said cautiously. “For just being you and hanging out with beefcakes for six weeks.”
In all the drama of the day, Waverly had basically forgotten about the offer. She chewed on her lip, staring at Wynonna but not looking at her. It would be...for all intents and purposes, easy money. The offer was looking more and more tempting as she thought about it. And she couldn’t lie anymore and pretend that she was doing great with the whole...dating on her own thing.
Waverly looked up at Wynonna who had an eyebrow raised, a small smirk on her face. Was she really considering this? Was she really willing to become a reality tv personality to help pay for school? And maybe Chrissy had a point...maybe she’d end up meeting someone that she really liked. The whole premise was to get married at the end of the show but she paid enough attention to pop culture to know that the two contestants almost never actually ended up getting married in the end…
“We wouldn’t be able to talk for six weeks,” Waverly said.
Wynonna shrugged. “Like a mini vacation,” she teased.
“They’d want to talk to you.”
“I can be very charming.”
“You might have to lie about your profession.”
Waverly sighed and Wynonna smiled at her. “Baby girl...don’t do anything you don’t want to do. But...it could be a good opportunity.”
Waverly put her forehead on the table and let out some sort of indescribable sound that could only be compared to a cow in pain. Wynonna laughed and patted the top of Waverly’s head sympathetically.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this,” Waverly grumbled. Wynonna just laughed again.
“Hey, Superstar,” Rosita smirked as Waverly slipped behind the bar at Shorty’s. Waverly rolled her eyes at her friend.
“Very funny,” she said with her hand on her hip.
Rosita shrugged, “It’s true. The only thing people have been able to talk about at all these days is that fancy camera crew in town.”
“Except no one knows it’s for me,” Waverly said pointedly, a raise of her eyebrows.
“Not yet,” Rosita said as she finished wiping down the bar and moved on to some of the tables before they opened. “When do you film all your stuff?”
Waverly inspected the beer taps and shook her head. “I talked to the producer yesterday, Chrissy’s boss. Something...Lucado. She’s kinda scary.”
“Aren’t producers supposed to be?”
“You have a point.”
Suddenly, the door to Shorty’s burst open and Chrissy entered, followed by a few bored looking men. Chrissy made a beeline for the bar while the others looked around with seemingly morbid fascination. Waverly looked down self consciously at her Shorty’s shirt and daisy dukes, running a hand through her hair as she plucked at the hem of her shorts.
Waverly frowned, “Hey, Chrissy.” She watched as one of the men inspected the jukebox. “I wasn’t expecting you today. Can I get you anything?”
“We’re just stopping by,” Chrissy said sitting at the bar, waving off Waverly’s offer. “I just wanted to tell you that they’re ready to sign contracts tonight. The boys here are just taking a look at the place for your shoot later.”
“My...shoot?” Waverly asked with a raised eyebrow.
“Yeah! You know the whole song and dance. We follow you around, get a glimpse of your life, talk to your friends, talk about why you want to be on the show. That kinda thing.”
“Right,” Waverly sighed. Rosita sidled up to her and leaned over the bar towards Chrissy.
“Does that mean I get to be in it?” Rosita said with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
Chrissy smiled. “Yes. You and Wynonna and...who are your other friends, Waves?”
Waverly blushed, eyes focused on two men as they frowned and pointed at the lights hanging from the ceiling.
“Besides you?” Waverly asked with a smile. Chrissy shrugged.
“You have other friends, right?”
“I mean...yes?” Waverly’s mind strained to think of people that would go on camera for her. That knew her well enough to talk about her on television. Being the most popular girl in Purgatory didn’t really mean having friends. Apparently. “I have Rosita and...Doc and Dolls.”
“Your sister’s work partners?” Chrissy said with a tilt of her head. “Slash boy toys?”
“...Yes?” Waverly drew out, squinting at Chrissy as she tried to read her mind.
Chrissy nodded. “That’ll work.” She typed something on her phone as Waverly breathed a sigh of relief. “Also, they want to take you to dinner tonight to sign those contracts. In the city. A car will pick you up at six.”
Waverly felt her nerves light anew. Nothing seemed real yet. Even with two guys ignoring her and talking about the lighting in Shorty’s. It all still felt so...fake. Like something out of a dream. Or nightmare. She wasn’t sure yet.
“O-okay,” Waverly said as a few of their early customers came in. “A car? Really?”
Chrissy smirked, “The perks are just starting, Waves. Live it up. See you tonight!”
With a final wave, Chrissy hopped off her seat and headed back out of Shorty’s, the two men following her and taking some pictures of the place with their phones. They still looked concerned. Waverly sighed, blowing some hair back from her face.
“Live. It. Up,” she repeated under her breath, popping the last letter as she spoke. She wasn’t sure if she was equipped to ‘live it up’ like Chrissy said. She hoped she could be.
“You’re going where?” Wynonna practically gasped.
“Petit Trois.” Waverly pulled her hair back into a neat bun. “In the city.”
“I know where Petite Tross is-”
“Petit Trois,” Waverly corrected with a proper accent.
“Whatever,” Wynonna said waving off her sister’s words and sitting in her desk chair. “Can you bring me back something? Just a meatball even?”
Waverly frowned and looked over at her sister as she smoothed her hair into place. “Since when do you care about fancy restaurants?”
“This place is supposed to be the shit,” Wynonna said, “I saw it on the Travel Channel.”
“Do you ever think you watch too much television?” Waverly teased, smiling..
Wynonna rolled her eyes. “Please. Just...one meatball. I just wanna taste luxury for once.”
“Fine. I’ll try.”
“I will try.”
“Best sister ever.”
Waverly wondered about the legal issues behind signing a contract after she had a glass of wine. Of very expensive wine that Waverly had ordered in perfect French. Much to the delight of her dinner mates. Throughout dinner, every time Waverly made one of the three producers laugh or smile, Chrissy would shoot her a little wink or thumbs up. Like she was going out of her way to impress them.
Other than Lucado, Chrissy’s direct boss and seemingly the leader of the pack, the two other producers were easily interchangeable men whose names Waverly almost immediately forgot. They also seemed the most easily amused by Waverly’s lame jokes and small town charm. She felt a little like an animal in a zoo as the big city folk watched her in amazement, but it wasn’t something she hadn’t grown accustomed to in college. It was like as soon as someone learned she was from a small town they suddenly had a thousand questions for her. Often they would tiptoe around asking if she’d ever dated any relatives. Sometimes, they’d just dive right in.
“So, here are the logistics,” Lucado said as she daintily dabbed at the corners of her mouth with the cloth napkin on her lap. The sudden change of subject from Waverly’s education to business gave her a bit of whiplash, but she recovered quickly. “You’d be in front of the cameras for six weeks, but contracts extend all the way through the airing of the show and the live show at the end of filming. After you’re done filming, you’re obligated to stay in...isolation for a little bit until the finale is done airing.”
Waverly frowned. “Um...why?”
“Just to make sure that it’s not accidently leaked who you chose,” Lucado said matter-of-factly. “Oh and you can’t see your new fiance until the live show either.”
“I-...okay,” Waverly said as Lucado handed her the contract. She looked down at it and flipped through a few pages. Chrissy had snuck her a copy the night before and Waverly had already spent the night before pouring over it. She pretended to look at it carefully as she took a slow, disinterested sip of her wine. She could practically feel the men across the table leaning forward, holding their breath until the pen hit paper. Lucado on the other hand was making a show of being just as disinterested as she folded her napkin on her lap.
Waverly nodded as she slowly turned to the last page of the contract. The waiter came by to collect her plate and she stopped him with a polite hand on his arm.
“I’m sorry,” she said with the easy smile that always got her forgiven before she even asked a favor. “Can you um...wrap up this one meatball please?”
She blushed but kept her smile in place as the waiter blinked at her. “This one meatball?”
“Yes, please. It’s um...a sister thing,” she said releasing the waiter’s arm and making her smile even brighter.
“Of course, ma’am,” he said with a curt nod before taking her plate and scuttling away.
She threw an apologetic smile across the table and shrugged. “My sister makes...odd requests.”
“We can work with that,” Lucado said with a small smile. “Eccentricities make for good television.”
“And Earps are not short on eccentricity,” Waverly said picking up the pen and clicking it open. She initialed in all the highlighted places, pausing briefly over the final signature at the bottom. It felt so...final. Like jumping off of a ledge. She thought of Wynonna and how supportive she was of the whole thing. Gus had been too, telling Waverly she always thought she had the face for television. Even more tempting was the big paycheck at the end of the tunnel. The one that would practically erase her fears.
She pressed her pen to the paper and signed quickly, adding an extra flourish to the ‘p’ at the end. Waverly could practically feel Chrissy’s excitement from across the table and she smiled at her best friend. Chrissy beamed back.
“Well then,” Lucado said as Waverly handed her back the contract, stiff smile on her face, “I guess we have our newest Bachelorette!”
Waverly felt her stomach clench at the thought, nerves suddenly taking over. She was the new Bachelorette. She was going to be on television. A public persona for the world to pick apart. Suddenly she felt sick.
But she forced a smile and raised her wine glass when they asked for a toast. She could pretend. She had a feeling she was going to be doing a lot of that in the future.
“Alright, last question, Ms. Earp. Have you ridden horses before? Are you comfortable on them?” the kind man that had been asking her questions for what felt like far too long asked with a smile. She couldn’t remember his name. Tony? Maybe it was Tony. She had been introduced to so many people the past couple of days since she signed the contract.
Waverly bit on her lip and thought of the last time she was on a horse. She was pretty sure she was ten and the horse threw her, putting an abrupt end to her asking Curtis to teach her to ride. But she was a small town cowgirl...at least, that was the persona they were going for.
“Yeah!” Waverly said with a smile. “Giddy up!”
She blushed and wondered what had caused her to add that unfortunate exclamation in the end. Rosie snorted behind her even though she was on the other side of the bar.
Tony wrote something down on his clipboard and smiled. “That’s all for now, Waverly. Enjoy the rest of your day.”
Waverly kept her smile in place until he left Shorty’s. As soon as the door closed, she slumped and rested her head on her arm. Rosita came up behind her and rubbed her back with a sympathetic smile.
“You okay?” Rosita asked.
“I’m just nervous,” Waverly said as she relaxed into her friend’s touch. “I don’t know what to expect.”
Rosita set two whiskey glasses on the table and poured both of them a finger of alcohol before leaning on the bar with her elbow. “I have an idea,” she trailed off.
“What’s that?” Waverly said taking the whiskey gratefully.
“Have you ever watched the show?” Rosita asked with a squint.
Waverly shook her head and a slow smile lit up Rosita’s face.
“Want to get wasted tonight and watch a bunch of episodes?”
She thought for a moment and shrugged. Really, nothing could freak her out anymore than she already was. Plus it would be nice to have a few minutes to decompress and spend time with Rosita and Wynonna since she didn’t know when the next time she’d be able to would be. Things had barely gotten started with the show and she could already feel her life getting more and more hectic.
“That would be fun, actually,” Waverly said with a smile. “I have wine. Bring snacks?”
“Done,” Rosita said knocking back her whiskey just as the first customer of the day walked in. Rosita winked at her and went to work. Waverly downed her own whiskey just as Nedley walked in, eyes darting around the bar suspiciously. Despite his odd behaviour, Waverly still smiled at him.
“Can I get you anything, Sheriff?” she asked as he walked up to the bar. He shook his head.
“I’m here on an official capacity today,” he said, gripping his belt. “There have been these tv folk lurking about town and rumor has it, it’s about you.”
Waverly blushed and made a show of zipping her lips shut. “You know I can’t say.”
Nedley grunted, satisfied none of those “tv folk” were lurking in the bar before his eyes settled on Waverly.
“Do you need a security detail? To keep these people at bay?” he asked. “My daughter says they won’t cause a problem but...I don’t trust someone who spends more than two dollars on a cup of coffee.”
Waverly laughed and shook her head. “I’m fine. Thank you.”
“Yes, but you’re very sweet for asking,” Waverly said, touched by the gesture.
Nedley nodded gruffly and Waverly reached forward and squeezed his hand in her own. Waverly had known him for what felt like her entire life. Even though he wasn’t a man of many words, she knew that he cared.
“Chrissy is doing amazing by the way,” Waverly said winking at the Sheriff. “I feel very taken care of.”
A small proud smile crept onto his lips and Waverly squeezed his hand one last time before pulling away.
“She is, isn’t she?” he said settling into his usual bar stool. “You know...maybe I’ll take a beer after all.”
“Coming right up,” Waverly beamed as she poured him a drink.
“Ugh, this guy is awful,” Waverly groaned as she dumped a scoop of ice cream into her half drunk beer glass. She stretched her legs so that she was spread out on the couch, legs draping over Rosita’s lap. Wynonna was laying on the couch with her head on the opposite side of the couch, legs also on Rosita’s lap.
Wynonna picked up the remote and fast forwarded through a few minutes of the show before playing again. The Bachelor was making out with a busty blonde girl in a hot tub and they all scoffed, almost in unison.
“Fake!” Wynonna yelled before tapping Waverly’s thigh with her foot. “Am I gonna have to watch you make out with every dude on the show?”
Waverly scrunched up her nose. “I don’t...think so?”
“Don’t lie, Waves. All those hot babes lined up to wait on you hand and foot? You’re totally going to bang half of them,” Rosita said wiggling her eyebrows, “Make up for all those crazy times you didn’t have in college.”
Waverly blushed and took a took a bite of her ice cream. “I guess we’ll just have to find out.”
Rosita just laughed and they turned back to the television. There was silence for a moment before Rosie turned to Wynonna with a frown.
“What’s the fake job you gave them for the show?”
Wynonna smirked. “Cabbage farmer.”
Waverly laughed so hard beer came out of her nose.
Waverly had never felt so poked and prodded in her life. Over the course of a weekend, the production team had made her take an STD test, a psych evaluation and have a physical. Probably the most embarrassing that happened was when she had rambled on to the person giving her the STD test that she hadn’t actually had any sexual encounters for a good six months. Then the day afterwards she had found out that the girl she hooked up with was the TA in one of her classes.
But that was just the beginning of her Saturday. After that they shipped her off to spend the rest of her day at the spa which she actually enjoyed. It was always nice being primped and walking out afterwards, she actually felt like she could be okay on television. She was feeling good and confident in herself.
She had been given strict instructions on what to pack for the six weeks she was going to be away. It was a bit of a shock when they told her that production would begin in a week and figured she should make sure she had everything she needed. Which apparently included a lot of bathing suits.
“What are you going to be doing this whole time?” Wynonna asked as Waverly threw yet another bathing suit top towards her bed, missing her suitcase entirely.
“Apparently swimming a lot,” Waverly answered before moving to the other clothes in her closet. “They told me to be prepared for anything. Literally. Chrissy was telling me to have something for every weather scenario.”
“Damn,” Wynonna said tossing the clothes Waverly was throwing her way into her suitcase. “Some of those bitches got to go to the beach. Are you sure I can’t come with you?”
Waverly chuckled. “As much as I would enjoy that, I doubt they’d allow it. They won’t even let me bring more than two books.”
Wynonna gasped dramatically, sarcasm tinting the edges. “How will you survive?”
Waverly made sure that she threw a shirt right at Wynonna’s head.
“Turn your head a little towards me and-...wonderful!”
The photographer snapped away, big lights flashing and blinding Waverly. Her smile was stuck in place, jaw sore from the strain. They had practically sewn her into a gold dress that ended right above her knees, slathered makeup on her and shoved her in front of a backdrop for pictures for their promo shoot.
They had made her take a never ending variety of pictures. Some with one rose, some with two, some with a dozen. She had taken photos with cowboy hats and boots on to play up her “small town cowgirl image”. At one point they even brought out puppies and kittens for her to take pictures with, which she certainly was not going to complain about.
“You’re gorgeous, honey!” the photographer, Antonio, shrieked. Waverly couldn’t help but giggle, a light blush tinting her cheeks that made the clicking of the camera come even faster and Antonio gasp.
A reporter was standing in the wings, taking notes on seemingly everything and asking her questions during her breaks. Lucado and Chrissy sat behind a monitor watching all the pictures as they were being taken. Occasionally Lucado would whisper something to Chrissy or someone else but for the most part they kept out of it. Based on what Chrissy had told her, that was going to change as soon as they started filming, so she was happy for the break while she had one.
“Waverly, you are amazing,” Antonio said finally lowering his camera from his face. “You are going to break so many hearts this season.”
“I don’t know about that. But thank you,” Waverly blushed.
Antonio flung his arms wide and turned back towards Lucado. “See! Look at this! She’s a gem, is she not?”
It just made Waverly blush deeper and a PA shuffled her off to the side to get her makeup retouched. She sat in the makeup chair and let someone fuss over her hair, grateful to be sitting with the heels they had put her in for the shoot.
“So,” the young reporter said as she settled into a chair next to her, “you ready for your big breakout?”
Waverly felt her stomach turn at the thought. Of her as a breakout in any way. Even despite the questions and primping and the photoshoot, it still hadn’t quite hit her that she was going to be on tv. In people’s living rooms every week as they cheered her on to find love week after week. She felt her nerves start anew and she picked at some skin on her thumb nervously.
“I’m excited to meet all the contestants,” Waverly said with a small smile.
“So you’re ready to find love?” the reporter asked with a small smile.
The nerves got a little worse in Waverly’s stomach but they were melting off into a warmth she couldn’t quite describe. Maybe it was...hope? No. She shook it off and shrugged at the reporter.
“You know, I am,” she said with an easy smile, “I’ve spent so much time in school and studying and...I don’t regret it. In anyway. But I just...feel like now is the time. To find love.”
Waverly smiled even wider and the reporter practically sighed. “Thank you for your time, Ms. Earp.”
“Oh, Waverly, please,” Waverly said taking the girl’s hand and shaking it as she got up to leave.
“Waverly, then,” she replied. “The article will be out soon but you’ll probably be filming and not able to read it. But I hope you like it!”
“I’m sure I will. As long as you don’t say what a jerk I am,” Waverly joked. The girl laughed as she walked away and Waverly looked back in the mirror. Article. Huh. Maybe this small town girl could go somewhere after all.
Waverly smiled brightly and pointed at the sign that had been hanging above the bar since she was a little girl.
‘Drink Where Wyatt Earp Did’
She did a few more cheesy points and gestures towards the sign as the camera crew filmed her. She was in her typical work uniform, tiny jean cutoffs and her Shorty’s shirt, hair back in a braid. The producers had been very clear about her looking like it was just another day while they were filming. They didn’t want anything crazy or fancy, so that’s what she gave them.
“Good, Waves,” Lucado said. She was sitting at a booth just off to the side of the filming, a small monitor in her hands as she watched the camera feed. “Now we just need some B-roll of you behind the bar. Okay?”
Waverly nodded, grateful to drop her arms and stop gesturing at that stupid sign. That morning had been filled with interview question after interview question. Waverly was sure she had melted under the direct glare of the stage lights. They had done her interview in Shorty’s, just set up a chair and some lights in the middle. They had interviewed Wynonna and Rosita too as part of her “introduction package” as they called it.
“This is where we need people to fall in love with you” Chrissy had said as the makeup team put finishing touches on her face. “And that shouldn’t be too hard.”
Waverly hoped Chrissy was right.
The bar was empty, so Waverly felt a little silly pulling a beer from a tap with no one to give it to. But she did it anyways, crew adjusting and following her as they went.
“Wait,” someone from another monitor called. “We got bogies in the background.”
Waverly looked behind her and saw Wynonna playing on her phone while drinking straight from a whiskey bottle. She rolled her eyes, hand on her hip.
“Nonna,” Waverly said, “You’re in the shot.”
Wynonna looked at Waverly and the camera crew like she’d just noticed they were there. She looked at the booth she was headed towards and pointed at it with a frown.
“But that’s my booth,” Wynonna said flatly.
“You can literally sit anywhere,” Waverly said gesturing towards the empty bar. “Just sit at a different table for like...an hour. A table that’s not right where they’re trying to film.
Wynonna looked scandalized as she sat at the booth. “Excuse you, I am an Earp. And Earps drink wherever they want, baby girl.”
Waverly huffed. “Wynonna! Please.”
“It’s okay, we can adjust,” Lucado said. “Ben, just move the shot to the left a little- and-...there we go. Okay background is clear.”
Waverly let out a long breath and just stared at Wynonna as she stuck her tongue out at her and took a long pull from the bottle. She rolled her shoulders and tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear before turning back to the camera.
“Okay,” she said picking up a new beer glass and readying it under a tap, “Let’s do this.”