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No One Can Match Up

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Sandra looked at the instant message alert from her assistant and sighed. It wasn’t that she wasn’t looking forward to this meeting but she had a feeling before she could get down to business she would have to do what got her into this job in the first place: pacify a pissed off man.

She opened the office door and saw him looking out the window. “Gary!” she beamed. “Come on in.”  He turned and stiffly followed her into the back office. “How are you? How’s the restaurant?” Sandra gestured for him to take the seat in front of he

“Restaurant is fine, I could be better to be honest.” He sat and adjusted his outfit. The navy blazer and blue dress shirt were nice but he was definitely going to need something better tailored before she sent him out to the press. She made a note to discuss wardrobe fittings with the production team. 

“Oh?” She tried to sound surprised.

“Yes, well trying to convince my girlfriend not to break up with me over some shoddy editing put me in a bit of a mood.” 

“Oh you have a girlfriend? Congratulations!” 

“Thanks, and before you ask, since I know you are deeply interested, It isn’t Claire either.” He said with a touch of sarcasm. “So you’ll have to find another way to boost your ratings because I won’t allow you to hurt Miranda with a stunt like that again.” 

“Oh Gary, It was all just a bit of fun.” Sandra scoffed. “I mean it’s reality television. Emphasis on the television part. Everyone knows there is a bit of creative licence involved.”

“There’s creative licence and then there is twisting my words to make me utter sentences that never existed. I could probably sue for that or something. I could at least tell the papers and then you’d be up a creek.”

“Well not without breaking several contracts. But as a good will gesture I promise there will be no more story editing in regards to your relationship status.” She pulled out two blue folders and slid one in front of Gary. “Though there will be a number of disappointed fans. They even gave you a couple name: “Clairy” 

“Well they will learn to be disappointed.” Gary looked at the folder on the table suspiciously. “What’s this then?”

“That is your post show commitment contract and schedule.” Sandra opened her matching folder and gestured for Gary to do the same. “ Now as you know, there was no significant cash prize associated  with winning the contest. However, you will be paid for all press events and appearances you make as the current champion. You are currently committed to all the events on pages 3 and 4 and will only be allowed to miss them without penalty due to illness or a death in the family.” Gary flipped to the pages and saw that in the next month he had a finale after show appearance, a press junket, 3 radio interviews and 2 morning show slots. “I’ve done my best to try to keep them to a couple days a week so that you don’t miss too much time at the restaurant.” 

“Thanks” He said quietly. “You didn’t have to.”

“I know.” Sandra leaned across the table and put her hand on his in a motherly way. “I may be a battle axe but I do actually care Gary. I want what’s best for the show AND what’s best for you.” She leaned back and began to look around in her desk for something. She saw a bit of guilt cross Gary’s face. He was obviously starting to doubt his hardline stance he took at the start of the meeting. She smirked to herself. He was right where she wanted him. 

“And because I care,” She lay another folder, green this time, in front of him. “I wanted to offer you some additional opportunities. Now you are under no obligation to do these but they would take your career to the next level.” Gary opened the second folder and his eyes bulged.

“America?!” He choked out.

“We’ve just signed the streaming rights for the show over to Netflix.” Sandra began. “You would head to New York, do some interviews, maybe meet some people.” Gary swallowed as he tried to process it. “We could also discuss more morning show appearances here. Maybe a regular holiday spot? Different recipes for different occasions?” 

“I, ah, I’m not really sure.” Gary had expected the show to give him a bit of a boost and then for him to go back to his regular day to day life. “I’ll have to think on it.”

“Of course.” Sandra said calmly. She couldn’t believe he wasn’t jumping at the chance but decided to play it cool. “Have a think. we can talk about it more when you come back for the finale. Will you be bringing your, um, Miranda?”  Gary nodded. “Lovely” She replied insincerely.

Gary spent the train ride home confident with his decision. There was nothing drawing him to the extra tv work. absolutely no desire. He would fulfill his obligations, get the payout, and then life will go back to normal. He could not wait to have nothing to worry about but running his restaurant and spending time with Miranda.  

 

When he walked into the joke shop there were a few customers  milling about. He caught Miranda’s eye and waved with a wink.  A blush crept up her face and he could tell that she was stumbling a bit on the transaction due to his distraction. God she was adorable.  He bit his lip to hold in a laugh and waited at the bottom of the stairs for her to be free.

“Hi, how’d it go?” She asked with a glint of concern on her face.

“Oh fine. We don’t have to worry about the editing from here on out.” He said giving her hand a squeeze. “I made sure they knew I was very much NOT going to be playing along with any story manipulations.” 

“My knight in shining armour.” She smiled. 

“Well while my fair maiden attends to the business of her kingdom. I thought I might go for a run but I left my things upstairs.”

“Well far be it from me to dissuade you from you task Sir. Especially when that task involves you in shorts.” He smirked as she pulled the key from her pocket. With a quick kiss on the cheek, Gary was on his way.

A couple hours later he returned happily exhausted and needing a shower.  He swung through the shop again, which this time was empty to customers.  Miranda was opening the mail and frowning.

“Everything alright?” He asked. 

“Hm? oh fine fine, no problemo todayo.” She answered quickly.  

“Are you sure?”

“Yep, Yep. Now go do, whatever it was you were doing. I’ll be up after closing.”  After another quick peck on the cheek.  

As Gary headed up the stairs Stevie approached her boss bestie  and crossed her arms. “Right, so what is it.” 

“What’s what?” Miranda asked. 

“What’s so distracting in the mail that you didn’t even notice Gary was still in his shorts?” 

“It’s our lease renewal.” Miranda said, finally allowing the gloom to enter her voice. “it’s going up a lot.”

“ Define a lot?” Stevie asked.

“I wish  they got their sevens and ones mixed up like I do.” She passed the letter to Stevie and sighed.  

Around the corner Gary hid himself against the side wall, halfway up the stairs.  He knew he shouldn’t have been listening.  Like Stevie though, he hadn’t bought Miranda’s play it cool facade. There was nothing she was worse at than playing it cool.

“So what are you going to do?”

“Well we’ll figure it out I suppose.” Miranda shrugged.

“And you’re going to tell Gary?”  Gary held his breath waiting for the answer.

“I don’t want him to worry.”  He frowned. He didn’t want her to carry this alone. “He’s got the TV stuff and the restaurant. I’ll figure it out. We got through bad times before.”

“Miranda, you almost went out of business a year ago, it’s not nothing.”  He shifted his weight and the stairs creaked. 

“Gary?” Miranda called.  He held his breath. “Well anyways, let’s go over the rest of this.”  Once she was chatting again He slowly made his way upstairs.



He looked at his bag, and the green folder sticking out the top of it.  He may not have the desire to be a TV star, but he definitely could see the appeal of the extra funds that would secure not only the restaurant but the shop as well.  He opened the folder and settled on the couch to look  over the details  one more time. 

He had a feeling he would be calling Sandra back in the morning.