Consciousness came slowly, bringing the same cottony, foul-tasting haze it usually did. Teddy rolled over with the practiced care of someone used to waking up with a splitting headache. But there was another body in his way.
He peeled his eyelids open. She wasn’t anyone he knew, which wasn’t that unusual. Something about her seemed strange, though. He squinted, blinking away sleep. She wasn’t wearing any makeup. That was it. Her skin was light brown, her hair short with loose curls. It even looked like black was its natural color—it didn’t seem dyed. Weird.
No, what would be weird would be in a few weeks when he watched the footage of how he got here with her. There was something deeply disturbing about waking up with a girl and then later seeing how it all actually happened. Normally he could at least fill in the gaps from past experience, but with no makeup and natural hair, she was pretty far outside his type.
He remembered Carmen with a grimace. Well, it didn’t matter. The editors would splice this—whatever this was—in wherever they needed to use it. And technically he and Carmen had said their good-byes the day before yesterday. Five times, with Carmen asking for redos so often that by the last take Teddy was silently laughing at each perfectly timed crystal tear.
He’d probably have to make up something about this girl reminding him of Carmen. Which would sound nice and be a lie, because he didn’t feel anything when he looked at her. Then again, that did remind him of Carmen.
God, he was glad the writers had realized the “give Teddy a steady” plot just wasn’t going to work. Though he did wish Carmen the best in her spin-off series. As long as he didn’t have to cameo on it.
The usual urge to go back to sleep was gone. His sleep had been full of weird nightmares, glowing red eyes. Knives. He preferred consciousness. Stretching, Teddy ran his hands over his bare chest. The girl was in a blindingly orange bra that she filled out with gusto. He didn’t know whether she had underwear on, like he did. He pulled his navy blue sheets up around her shoulders.
There was no release form on the nightstand. Teddy grimaced. He depended on those as cheats. How was he going to cover for the fact that he had no idea what her name was?
What if . . . what if she hadn’t signed the release form? The producers would chew him out—they liked access to everything so they could pick and choose what fit episodes the best—but he’d smile his way out of it. The idea that he’d gone to bed with someone who just wanted to go to bed with him made him feel suddenly younger. Safer.
Besides, she looked nice. Not like the kind of person who knew what she was getting into with him. Most of the girls wanted the brush with fame, or at least thought they did. Damn it, mystery girl. He really, really hoped she hadn’t signed the release form.
Annoyed with her, and with himself for getting into this messy situation, he sat up and threw his feet over the edge of the bed. That’s when he realized his bedroom door was gone.
Just a smooth, blank wall where his door had always been.
“Shit,” he whispered.
He barely noticed the cameras anymore. Walking down the halls of his high school like he owned them—with the amount of remodeling money the school made off of his reality show, he sort of did—he high-fived and fist-bumped and hey-man nodded as the crowds parted for him and the film crew trailed in his wake. Plus the one guy who always walked backward ahead of him. After a solid week of “Don’t look at the camera, Teddy!” his sophomore year, he had learned that the camera, and the cameraman, didn’t exist.
It was easy. There were a lot of things Teddy pretended didn’t exist.
His schedule was light today. Mostly filler shots that they’d use to pad episodes. He’d probably go to a class or two at some point as well, but that was always negotiable. After all, the show was Football Nights, not Study Days.
Carmen passed him with a lingering stare and a guilty, heartbroken smile. Teddy tried very hard not to laugh, considering they’d filmed their dramatic train-station good-bye the day before because of scheduling issues.
Reality TV: about as real as anything else in his life.
He’d once seen an article questioning why so many of the teens on Football Nights laughed during sad or confrontational moments. The writer suggested that it was indicative of the disconnect social media and smartphones had created between people and their emotions. They didn’t know how to feel anymore.
Actually, it was because half the time they had been given script prompts beforehand so the writers could shape an episode the way they wanted. It just wasn’t the same having a dramatic moment with someone off-camera holding up cue cards.
“Good, let’s have them cross paths one more time?” the assistant director shouted.
Teddy turned on his heel, walking back the other direction. Carmen passed with an identically...