She left the stage with a new pair of fashion heels and a prospective husband. His palm was sweaty against hers. She’d made her decision in only seven minutes, but she felt strongly that he was the one. In ten years – she could already picture it – they would be telling their children how they met: on a game show. It had been love at first sight.
But was it really love just yet?
She was pleased that he was ugly, and ten years older than her. This would satisfy her parents, who had long voiced the opinion that an older man was a steadying influence and an ugly man would not stray. He had also been married before, to a faithless and undeserving wife. This has been the tragic story he had breathed into the microphone, his quivering voice catching her up and pulling her along. Her parents would disapprove of a former marriage, but she would convince him to keep it a secret and it wouldn’t be a problem. She did not care about an ex-wife. It revealed that he had life experience. He was a man, she felt sure, who could teach her things, and she was a woman who could show him the value of a good woman’s love.
The studio did not provide them with transport home, even though they had made a match, which was what the executives always wanted. And although the show aired at prime time, lighting up dark evenings like a vivid dream, it was filmed during the day. They stepped outside in the bright sunlight of 11.37am.
A husband before lunch on the third day. She was pleased with herself.
‘Was today your last day?’ he asked.
She looked at him in surprise. His subtext was that she had been desperate. The girls only had five days to make a suitable match before they were churned out to make room for fresh bodies. Day five was notorious for ill-considered matches.
‘No,’ she said. ‘I was only day three.’ She flicked a wisp of hair from her face. She did not know if he had insulted her, or himself.
‘Where do you live?’ he asked. She heard persistence in his voice. And perhaps the hint of a smile.
She told him.
They lived on opposite sides of the city. On public transport it would take nearly three hours to travel door to door.
‘How will you get home?’
‘The bus,’ she said. ‘And then subway, and then the bus again. But maybe I will take a taxi that last bit, to be home in time for dinner.’
‘Here.’ He pulled out his wallet. ‘Take a taxi the whole way.’
‘Oh no. I couldn’t.’
‘Take it. Then I will know you will be safe, and home in time for dinner.’
She took the money. His generosity boded well. They had not even had their first date yet. He waved down a taxi and it pulled up to the kerb. She sat inside but paused, one leg still on the ground outside.
‘There’s one more question,’ she said.
‘Why did you choose me?’