“Isn’t this exciting?” Millie asked, nudging her daughter. Standing back stage, Fenlin was too nervous to stay still. She kept picking at the hem of her sweater until her mother cleared her throat.
“You’ll be fine, da’len,” she murmured, giving her daughter’s arm a squeeze. “This is just for fun, for charity. Besides, you’ve known some of these boys forever.”
That’s what Fen was worried about. She’d known some of these boys forever. What if they were super disappointed that she ended up with them? When she was on, she was good but when nerves got the best of her… well. There was a reason that she wasn’t the main headliner of the ladies.
Little miss Rutherford was up in front of the crowd and cameras. All blond curls and perfect smiles, she was making jokes with the MC before reaching into the ridiculously oversized fishbowl to pull out an card with the name of her partner.
“And my partner is… Athim Lavellan!” Rutherford said into the microphone, waving the blue card in her hand. There was hoots and hollers, along with cheers as Athim jogged out from the front row of seats to join Little Miss perfect on stage. With a flourish, he bowed, and offered his new partner his arm.
“Our theme will be…” Athim said, reaching into the second bowl. He swirled his arm around before pulling out a white card and opened it.
More cheering, and Fen took a deep breath as the pair headed off the stage, heads together and talking about ideas for the upcoming Charity gala. It WAS for a good cause, but that didn’t stop Fen from being nervous. She only half listened to the next pair, Trevelyan and Adaar, and tried not to panic. At least she didn’t have ‘Love’ as a theme.
“Go on,” a soft word of support and a gentle push, and Fenlin found herself onstage, smiling nervously as she walked over to where the presenter waited.
“Hoping for anyone in particular?” The man asked, winking to the audience. His skin was a little orange from spray tan and he smelled strongly of cologne. But he was the President of the Skating club putting on the gala… here he was. And here she was, standing next to him in a ‘Dales Skating Club’ hoodie and leggings.
“Uh…” Fen said awkardly. “No…? I just want to be able to get along with them.” Awkward smile at the audience, cue polite lukewarm applause.
“I’m sure the gentlemen are all hoping you’ll pick their name,” the presenter said and Fen felt her ears go red. “Isn’t she adorable?”
Fen shoved her hand into the bowl before he could continue. Pulling out one of the few remaining cards, she opened it. And felt her heart plummet.
“Oh…gods no.” The quiet curse was amplified and echoed around the press room to laughter. Before she could apologize, The presenter plucked the card from her hand and read out the name in a loud, clear voice.
Rahlen friggen Theirin. Bad boy play boy jerk who all the girls and half the boys fawned over and he was just… just… so…ugh.
Face completely red now, Fen forced a smile on her face as Rahlen hopped up the steps two at a time, stupid smirk on his face, though she bet he wasn’t exactly pleased either. He was a full head taller than she was, and when he draped his arm around her for a ‘hug’, her cheek got smooshed into his chest.
“I can tell we’ll get along really well already,” He said to the presenter. Everyone laughed. Fen just wanted to die. “And our theme, oh I really hope it’s conflict resolution,” Rahlen said. Again, the crowd laughed, and Fen couldn’t help resenting how good he was with people. The small consolation was that he smelled good, and he was between her and the presenter now.
She peeked at the card as Rahlen opened it, and two things happened. Rahlen stared at the word written there and Fenlin yanked her sweater up over her face.
“Can we re-pick?” She asked desperately, peeking out over the neckline of her hoodie. Her face was burning and her ears must be practically glowing from the heat she felt there. She was sure she’d never blushed this hard in her life.
Glancing at Rahlen, she could see a faint flush on his cheeks too, though he covered it with a laugh and just handed the card to the presenter.
“Oh my! Sexuality! Well, I wonder who put that in there?” He winked at the audience and Fen tensed, ready to kick him. Rahlen stepped in the way, scooping her up in his arms like a bride before marching off towards backstage.
On the one hand, Fen was too embarrassed to protest with more than a squeak, but on the other- oh gods. OH gods no. WHy. whywhywhywhywhy.
“So,” Rahlen said, letting her down once they were offstage. “This is going to be painful, isn’t it?”
“Not as painful as the conversation I’m about to have with this fuckboy,” Milliara said, staring daggers at the presenter. “You kids play nice with each other, I’ll meet you at the entrance after.”