The Game of Love
By Elena Lane
Date: March 17, 2021
Ch. 88

A few weeks later, Gigi sat in the kitchen wanting to sleep, but she was wide awake. Insomnia was normal for Gigi while sleep was rare. There was no break from the chaos of the Popular Mansion, which caused Gigi to be restless. She needed quiet, time to herself, but there were few instances where she could get this. The only escape was when the other contestants were asleep. Gigi wasn’t a lone insomniac, though. Rowan also had many sleepless nights it seemed. The kitchen barstools became a meeting ground for what Gigi liked to call Insomniacs Anonymous. They’d sit there talking far into the early morning while everyone was sound asleep. There were only ten contestants left, but the Popular mansion was still very much a circus during the day. The night was a quiet escape from the days filled with contests, drama, and eliminations. Gigi felt like she could tell Rowan anything. They both had dark pasts and terrible family situations and understood each other like no one else could.

“Gigi,” Rowan said to her. “Did I ever tell you about my dad?” Rowan hadn’t told Gigi about his dad, but Gigi knew plenty about him. Rowan had told the viewers all about his abusive jerk of a father when he had introduced himself to America.

“I know that he was an asshole.”

Rowan laughed, “Yeah, but what I mean is that I’ve never really told my story to anyone.”

“Rowan, you told it to all of America.”

“No, I told them that I was abused. No one ever wanted the details. No wants to know the terrible details, but I want to tell them. I just want all these feelings off my chest and I want someone to know my story, the full thing.”

“I know how you feel.” Gigi nodded. “People know that my father murdered my whole family and then killed himself, but they don’t know everything. They try to wrap their heads around the fact that my dad was mentally ill. They called him depressed, but they still can’t understand. What I’m saying, Rowan is that people will never understand. No matter how hard you try, words can’t describe how you felt.”

“I know that, but I need to try. I need to tell you how my father locked me in a closet for hours at a time and how he smiled whenever he hurt me. He wasn’t a druggie or a drunkard. He was just sadistic. People don’t want to know how any of that felt. When I tell people my story, they use it as entertainment. It isn’t about making the world a better place. No, it’s for better ratings.”

Gigi took a deep breath. “I’ve never told anyone this, but I remember being shot. I remember everything about that day. I remember seeing Dad shoot my mom and little brother, but I also remember Dad shooting himself. When I woke up, I pretended not to remember, but I couldn’t forget. I don’t tell people any of that, though because they don’t want me to remember. People want to see kids like us overcome our situations. They want to see the happy endings, not the torturous beginnings, but the truth is that we never overcome our pasts. We only learn to incorporate them into our presents.”

“Glad someone gets it,” Rowan said sadly. “I just feel used. I don’t think I’d be on this show if I lived a happy childhood in suburbia.”

“Tell me about it. Sometimes, I think that people vote for me saying, ‘She’s already been through so much. So, I better vote for her and spare her some pain.’”

Rowan laughed. “Or maybe they just like Vincent.”

“Glad someone does. He’s hot, but the more I get to know him, the less I like being his girlfriend.” Gigi mused. She hadn’t meant to say any of that, but it had slipped out her mouth before she had given it any thought. “Don’t tell anyone I said that,” Gigi warned.

Rowan held his hands up. “I won’t tell a soul. What happens in Insomniacs Anonymous, stays in Insomniacs Anonymous.”

“I trust you. I needed to get all this Vincent stuff off my chest, anyway.”

“I trust you too, Gigi or else I wouldn’t have told you all the things I have over these past few weeks.” Gigi had said “I love you,” to Vince countless times on camera and he had said it back, but Vincent’s “I love you,” hadn’t felt nearly as good Rowan’s “I trust you.” Gigi didn’t love Vince, but for a little while longer, she would have to pretend. Then, the contest would be over and Gigi and Vincent would go their separate waves. That didn’t bother Gigi until she realized that she and Rowan would also go their separate ways. Before they departed, Gigi wanted to tell Rowan that she liked him, but she couldn’t. She’d have to watch Rowan walk out of her life or forfeit $500,000.

Nights later, Gigi and Rowan were sitting at the kitchen barstools as they did most nights. They were talking when suddenly, Rowan leaned in to give Gigi a kiss. Gigi indulged in that kiss for a few moments before pulling away. Though her relationship with Vincent wasn’t real, she felt like she was cheating on him. Gigi didn’t want to complicate things, but at the same time, she wanted Rowan to kiss her again.

“Gigi, I’m sorry.” Rowan said, embarrassed. “I shouldn’t have done that. I don’t know what I was thinking. I’m really, really sorry.”

“It’s fine Rowan. I like you…”

“But you have a boyfriend.”

“Yeah. Though, he isn’t nearly as sweet or understanding as you are. You’re different than Vincent and I like that, but we can’t be anything more than friends.”

“I know that. I just lost my mind for a second.” Rowan shrugged, “I don’t get to kiss pretty girls that often.” Gigi wanted to kiss Rowan. She wanted to show him that he was the one that she was interested in, but Gigi knew that she couldn’t do that because she had made a commitment to Vincent. Gigi wanted the cash prize and she wasn’t going to let love get in the way. Though, she was starting to think that maybe giving up the money would be worth it. Maybe, just maybe, there was more to life than money.

Then, Gigi made an impulsive decision. She decided that she was in fact going to do it. She was going to give Rowan a kiss even if it was a stupid thing to do. Gigi began to lean her face towards his when she heard footsteps coming down the hallway. Instinctively, she pulled herself away from Rowan. Neither Gigi nor Rowan said anything when Vincent appeared in the kitchen. He gave them an odd look. “What are you two doing up? It’s two in the morning.” Vincent said groggily, clearly just woken from slumber.

“Neither of us could sleep.” Gigi replied and it was true. They both were insomniacs. Though, their nighttime wakefulness had gotten to the point where perhaps, it was more of a choice than an ailment. Both liked each other’s company and night was the only time that they could talk candidly to one another. “What are you doing up?” Gigi then asked Vincent.

“I just wanted some water.” Vincent said, pulling a bottle from the fridge. Vincent took a gulp of water and then looked between Gigi and Rowan quizzically. Too tired to say anything more, Vincent said, “Well Goodnight you two.” Then, he gave Gigi a peck on the cheek. “I’d suggest that you don’t stay up too late, Gigi.”

“Thanks, mom.” Gigi quipped.

Vincent chuckled, “Goodnight, beautiful.” Then, Vincent went back to his room, leaving Rowan and Gigi alone once again.

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