A BEAUTIFUL KIND OF TWISTED: CHAPTER TWO

A BEAUTIFUL KIND OF TWISTED: CHAPTER TWO

It was the first day of the show. The Orientation Day. The day everyone would get to meet everyone else and gauge the actual competition for themselves. Nonso was the first of the contestants to arrive at the venue. He came so early, he walked in on the bustle of the show’s execs and crew setting up for the first filming. A little over an hour after him arrived Gozie and Ella together.

Well, what do we have here, an alliance? It wasn’t enough that they’d bonded so quickly on the day of the audition; they were now going to proceed to be chummy? Arriving together? What was next – they’d become the Miracle and Nina of the show? Turning an onscreen romance between them into voter’s gold?

Nonso was instantly seething as he daggered Gozie with a dirty look. Bitch, you’re gay. You don’t even like girls! It looked like he already had a personal task of his to accomplish on the show: break up this nuisance of an alliance! He mentally placed that on his newly-formed to-do list.

After them, the others came trickling in, either singly or in clusters. Nonso sat with Gozie and Ella, chatting with them while poking and prodding at their budding friendship, and at the same time, observing the others and weighing them against his own capacities. When the last finalist he recognised as Sola Gbadamosi walked in, he smiled to himself. That, he thought, would be the first person to leave the competition. The guy looked too nerdy and harried to survive the grueling pace of the show, that Nonso found himself idly wondering how he got picked in the first place.

By 10 am, the venue was full and the show was underway. And just as the host was about to deliver his opening address to the contestants, one of them raised his hand, signaling that he had something to say. After he was given leave to speak, he apologetically withdrew from the competition as he felt it was too much work for him to balance with his course work. Nonso almost laughed out loud as he watched Sola Gbadamosi stutter his way through his dismayed speech.

Well, that was fast. He’d thought the guy would at least get through a couple of days on the show.

After Sola’s withdrawal, the host began a series of meaningless talks with the contestants, meaningless in Nonso’s opinion as he couldn’t wait for them to get on with why they were here. Despite his clashing feelings of boredom and anticipation, he couldn’t help but be aware of the ruckus that followed after Sola’s withdrawal, especially amongst the producers. He could see the chief producer making frantic phone calls.

Will you stop fretting! he wanted to snap at the producers. A group of 19 finalists was just fine by him. 19 was a good number. Who needed 20 when they could all get along with 19?

Back in the campus, the answer was just finishing up a late breakfast of custard, bread and fried eggs. He was about to kick back with his favourite series, The Originals, when his phone rang. He looked at the phone screen and it was an Unknown Number.

“Hello?” he answered.

“Is this Tega Atarere?” a growly voice said from the other end.

“This is Peter Adeniran from –”

“The Ultimate Superstar, yes, I remember you from the day I auditioned,” Tega interrupted him. He didn’t want to admit it but his heart had started a quicker thump-thump than it had been beating just a second ago.

“Good memory.” The man sounded impressed. “Just one of the many attributes we need on the show.”

“What are you talking about, sir? I am not on the show.”

“You are now.”

“What?”

“You’ve been accepted as one of the contestants who will compete for the 50-million-naira prize of The Ultimate Superstar. Simply come on down to…”

The rest of whatever the man was saying swept past Tega like a blur, as he leaped up from his bed, the opening scene of The Originals forgotten on his laptop, as he threw his clothes on and was soon dashing out of the house.

By 10.45 am, Nonso had almost reached the end of his patience. Turning to Gozie, he hissed, “Why is nothing in this country ever organised?”

Gozie, by now used to his friend’s fiery temper, tried to calm him down but Nonso waved him off. He’d just noticed a new entrant into the hall. The way he carried himself both fascinated and irritated Nonso. He was the best thing here, not this newcomer, whoever the hell he was. He turned to Gozie, who had returned to his conversation with Ella and another contestant, Dumebi, and pointed out the newcomer to him.

“Who is that one bikonu?” he sniffed disdainfully.

“A major eye candy, if you ask me,” Gozie said with a chortle.

Nonso tossed him a scornful look. Oh, so now you’re back to admiring man, abi, he wanted to snap at him. I thought you were busy cultivating your beard in Ella Ajibade.

“May I have your attention please?” the faux Americo-British accent of the host, Mister K, just then rang out. There was a slight stir as the occupants of the room refocused on him. “Due to the dropping out of one of the contestants today, we’ve had to replace him…”

Since his arrival a few minutes ago, and despite the chatter of the producers that surrounded him, Tega had been surreptitiously checking out the competition. Apparently, there had to be an equal number of men and women, as he swept his cursory glance over the four males and five females already smugly seated. He scanned their faces, making quick mental notes of those he would have the most fun with as well as those he’d have to avoid during the filming of the show. His gaze settled on a light-skinned girl with closely cropped hair and he knew she’d be easy pickings for him.

While he was debating what strategy he would use to become the girl’s new best friend, he felt a niggling on his skin. It was like a slightly burning sensation fanning across his face like a hot Sokoto draft. Almost like the beginnings of lasers zeroed on him. Only giving partial attention to the host and what he was saying, he followed the laser to its source – the eyes of a tall, dark male. He was clearly also ignoring the host, darkly handsome as he was, and seated with the bunched-up energy of a black panther. There was something angry about the way he was staring at him, which was bewildering because he didn’t even know the guy. Another thing that bewildered Tega was the liquid heat that pooled in his stomach the second his eyes connected with – and held – this stranger’s glare.

Nonso had been staring daggers at Tega since the host took the podium before them. He began to worry when he saw him checking out the rest of them with the same careful watchfulness he’d employed when he himself had done his reconnaissance. This was clearly someone he really had to worry about.

He watched the guy until he saw his eyes settle on the girl seated next to Nelo – Lisbeth Aaron, he thought her name was – and when he saw the flash of interest warm his eyes, Nonso expelled a small sigh of relief. This one was clearly a skirt-chaser. An incorrigible one, it would seem. If Nonso had learned anything, it was that women were a distraction that plagued men – heterosexual men, that is.

And then, just then, the newcomer looked up and directly into his eyes. Nonso didn’t even flinch. He held his eyes, making no attempt to hide the inexplicable loathing he felt for him.

“Can the latest finalist please introduce himself to the room?” Mister K’s falsely accented voice intruded.

Nonso was holding the newcomer’s gaze as he pulled himself from his reclined position against a wall to address the room.

Their gaze remained connected as he said, “Hello. My name is Tega Atarere.”

The introduction was for the room, and yet, Nonso couldn’t help but feel like it doubled as a challenge thrown at him.

You’re on, he silently accepted the challenge.

“Welcome to the competition, Tega,” Mister K declared.

And so, it began.

Written by Mitch

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