The Game of Love
By Elena Lane
Date: January 28, 2021
Ch. 11

The first thing to know about reality TV is that it isn’t real, not completely anyway. Sure, it captures some real moments, but usually those moments of anger, tears, or mania are provoked by producers who need that kind of material to sell their TV shows. Reality TV twists reality to be something more exciting. Gigi Costello was very well aware of this fact, but that didn’t deter her from joining season 15 of America’s Most Popular. Still, Gigi was a little nervous. Whatever she did, whatever bad moments she had in the next few months, could be given a frame and broadcasted on national television. Yes, it was all very nerve wracking, but it was worth having the opportunity to win a million dollars. People would do crazy things for money and Gigi wasn’t ashamed to admit that she was one of those people. The chance to win a million dollars was just too much for Gigi to pass up. She was a college student, broke and desperate. She was earning a degree, but she was also earning a heap of debt and a million dollars would change everything.

A million dollars could go a long way. With a million dollars, Gigi could make something out of herself. She needed that money. Otherwise, she never would have signed herself up to be on that god forsaken show, but the money had been too alluring for Gigi not to give it a shot. In all honesty, Gigi didn’t expect to win, but just having the chance at wealth filled Gigi with glee. Gigi was just lucky to be on the show, she knew. Most people never even got the opportunity to win one million dollars.

Unfortunately, though, there were numerous obstacles standing between Gigi and the money. The biggest problem was that Gigi would have to win the votes of Americans. Gigi had never been the best at winning people over. She was lively and fairly congenial, but she wasn’t as remarkable as other contestants would be. Gigi’s looks were pretty, but not beautiful. Gigi simply wasn’t born to be popular. All her life, she had lived in the shadows. Gigi had never liked attention growing up. She had always felt most at home keeping to herself. Gigi didn’t mind being alone and she didn’t mind solitude, but she couldn’t let America see this side of her. No, America wanted someone more outgoing and spirited than Gigi. So, Gigi would have to try to be that girl. She would have to step out of the shadows and find something about herself that would shine. Though, Gigi wasn’t sure that there was anything special about herself. She feared that she would just be another face in a room full of amiable contestants.

Gigi was forgettable and that was her biggest hindrance. Though, Gigi had one thing going for her. She had a sob story. Everyone loved a good sob story. Gigi figured that’s why she had made the final cut for the TV show in the first place. Gigi wasn’t thrilled about talking about her dark (and not-so-secret-anymore) past, but she needed to talk about it. That was the only way that she could win over America’s hearts. She needed them to remember her as the orphan battered by life. That would be Gigi’s saving grace. Her sob story would keep her in the game until people began to remember her for her own merits.

So, here it is. Here’s the story that would pull at America’s heartstrings and hopefully, make Gigi a little more memorable. When Gigi was seven, her dad committed suicide, but not before annihilating his entire family. Garrett Costello killed himself, his wife, his infant son, and had attempted to kill Gigi too, but she had somehow lived. She was a local miracle. At only seven years old, she had survived a bullet wound to the chest and had not only lived, but had lived to make a full recovery. Sure, Gigi had lived, but her struggle was far from over. Surviving hadn’t been difficult, but waking up, that was hard.

Gigi had woken up in the hospital with no family left, an orphan. There were no relatives or family friends who would take her in and Gigi was left to the foster care system. She was a miracle, but a miracle that no one wanted. She was broken and hurting. Gigi was grieving the loss of her whole family and no one wanted to deal with that. She was only a child, but she already knew what it felt like to be alone. Gigi quickly learned that she had to rely on herself to get what she wanted out of life.

Those years in the foster care system were no less tragic than Gigi’s early years. Foster families were either a hit or a miss. Sometimes, they were loving, nurturing, selfless people, and other times, they were hateful, neglectful, greedy monsters, but foster families were always the same in one way: they never lasted. In the system, Gigi hadn’t been terribly abused or tremendously neglected. She knew kids who had had it much worse. Though, that didn’t mean that what Gigi went through was right or fair. It wasn’t, but Gigi had to be thankful for her blessings even if they were only little ones.

Gigi arrived at the Popular Mansion and was both nervous and excited. This was it. This was Gigi’s chance. The place was giant. It gleamed beautifully in the California sun. Just living at the place for a little while would be worth the trip. Even if Gigi was eliminated, she’d get to live in a mansion for her duration on the show. Sure, she’d have to share it with twenty-five other people, but week by week that number would get smaller until there were only three left. From there, one would be chosen. The other two would go home penniless.

Filming began and Gigi introduced herself to the nation, trying to elicit as much sympathy as humanly possible. Then, she walked into the sitting room where other contestants were already waiting, sipping beverages and chatting amongst each other. Gigi sat down next to a tall blonde girl who was model thin and glamourous. She was probably some D-list starlet who had been in a few movies, but no one knew her by name. Gigi smiled at the girl “Hi, I’m Gigi.” Gigi tried to be as peppy as she could, but somewhere, her enthusiasm fell short. Blondie turned her head, looking at Gigi with disdain.

“Well, in case you didn’t know, I’m Kenzie Trenton and I try not to talk to losers who are only on this show because they’re orphaned lepers.” Oh, Gigi thought, Kenzie was season fifteen’s resident bitch. That explained things.

Kenzie pointed to the guy who was walking into the room. “Him, I’ll talk to. He’s hot.” Kenzie turned away from Gigi and turned her attention to the guy, patting the empty spot on the couch. The guy was sexy. He had that aura of danger and cockiness that had girls swooning. Gigi was interested in him. She couldn’t deny that, but he was the type of guy that Gigi admired from a distance. Sure, he was nice to look at, but beyond that, Gigi didn’t anticipate having much interaction with him. He sauntered over to the couch and sat next to Kenzie. “Hello, beautiful.” He said smirking at her. “The name’s Vincent, Vincent DiMaggio.”

“Hi, handsome. I’m Kenzie.” Kenzie said, twirling her hair and batting her long (though, fake) eyelashes.

Vincent then turned to Gigi. “And who is this lovely lady.” Vince said with a wink.

“Oh,” Kenzie began, “That’s just Gigi.”

Vincent took Gigi’s hand and kissed it. “Well, hello, Gigi.”

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