Authors: Kiki Abbott
The Husband Hunt
(A whimsical novella)
Jaxie Hart jumped out of bed with the vim and vigor of someone who hadn’t been dumped by her Seattle Seahawks boyfriend the day before. She’d turned a corner and come up with a plan. Well, not a physical corner because she’d been lying in bed all night trying to understand what her quarterback boyfriend said about her when he ended their relationship twelve hours earlier. Words like ‘exciting’ ‘adventurous’ with the word ‘not’ in front of them, made her want to argue the point, but he was right. She wasn’t very adventurous, and during their short love affair, she’d often tried to talk him out of “crazy plans”. Brent was impetuous, spontaneous, and irresponsible sometimes.
Pulling a yellow sundress from her closet, Jaxie threw it on the bed, grabbed some strappy sandals from a shoe box, a handful of jewelry from the dresser, and laid everything out on the quilt that her grandmother had made for her twenty-first birthday years before. On the way to the kitchen of her Seattle apartment, Jaxie laughed at her own genius. Brent might think he was moving on from their six month love affair but she wasn’t so sure they were completely done. Maybe he just needed a breather. Brent was such a great guy and they had so much in common. Her plan, if it worked, would show him what she was made of, even if it took her the next few months.
Her Blue Tooth made it possible to make coffee and place a call to her best friend, Phillip, who lived in the same building three floors below. Reassuring herself that he was always home at eight am, she left a message. “You’re probably in the shower. Call me ASAP.” She needed a second person’s help and didn’t want anyone else to know what she was up to. Not yet. It wasn’t a revenge scheme as much as a sales job and anyone but Phillip might be inclined to burst her bubble for caution’s sake. That wasn’t an option when she still stung from Brent’s words.
Five minutes after arriving at her apartment to pick her up for their scheduled dinner date, he’d announced he was flying out the next day with the boys on an unplanned fishing trip.
“What? Are you crazy?” she answered.
“No, and we might head to South America for the second week.”
“This sounds like a poorly planned fiasco. No reservations? What are you thinking?” she’d said. He was the free spirit, to her organizer queen persona.
“I like spontaneity. You don’t.” He’d obviously been rehearsing. The speech was on the tip of his tongue, premeditated, and too eloquent for Brent. “You want kids. I’m not ready.” He’d looked like it pained him to say this.
“I can wait until you’re ready, Brent,” she moved to sit next to him, and took his clammy hand in hers.
“I don’t want you to wait. We’re just too different, Jax. Let’s part friends. It’s better this way.”
When pressed further, he finally admitted that deep down she was “not exciting enough,” had “no sense of adventure.”
But when the sun came up, she could kind of see Brent’s point. Regardless, she needed to prove she was adventurous. If not to Brent, then to herself.
The phone rang and Jaxie hit the accept button. “Phillip?” He’d be making his own coffee, but it would be some fancy latte drink from the new machine he’d purchased for the cost of a plane ticket to the Caribbean.
“What’s up, darlin’?”
“I need you to help me make an audition tape this morning.” She crossed her fingers.
“Okay.” He sounded like he needed more information, but proceeded anyhow. “You have puffy pillows under those big greens in the morning. Your face does best in the afternoon.”
“I don’t have puffy eyes this morning because I’ve been up all night thinking about this audition. I never went to sleep and never got puffy pillows. Come up here.”
“Ten minutes,” Phillip said, and hung up.
Jaxie took a moment to watch the coffee brew and think about what she would say on her audition tape to secure a spot on America’s favorite reality show, The Husband Hunt.
I want to be on The Husband Hunt because it will show my ex-boyfriend that I am more spontaneous than he thought.
No. She had to sound sincere if she wanted to get on this show.
I am ready to find the love of my life now that I’ve been dumped and I think a reality show where I compete with 23 other gals for a husband is the best way to do this. I want to challenge myself to do something out of my comfort zone.
All answers were true but she couldn’t admit that.
Pulling on the yellow, low-cut sundress, Jaxie entered her bathroom and looked in the mirror. Frowning, she decided she might need more cleavage to get noticed. Arranging her small but adequate bosom to reveal just a little more, she nodded at her reflection. Not bad for twenty-seven. She could still pass for a college kid, if she tried. Arranging her auburn curls high on her head with some pins, she let a few stray pieces fall along her shoulders and then sprayed to keep everything in place. Smoky eyes had done their trick to make her green eyes pop.
Being on the periphery of show business, and working at a TV station gave Jaxie the inside scoop on how these reality shows worked. Her restaurant review spots on King 5 news aired Thursday and Friday all over Washington State, and over the last year she’d developed some notoriety in the state as the foodie girl. But, as a trained Cordon Bleu chef, Jaxie hoped her spots on the news would eventually be the springboard for her own cooking show. Especially because at the age of twenty-seven she hadn’t found the love of her life. She wanted a big family of kids and a career, if that was possible. If Brent was truly gone, she’d have to concentrate harder on her career-- proceed full speed ahead. First, the audition tape, then, the reality show, and then she’d regroup.
Cherry lip gloss finished the look and she smacked her lips together. If they wanted product that sold, Jaxie was going to give them an irresistible version of Jaxie Hart to insure she’d be chosen as one of the contestants for The Husband Hunt. She already had it half in the bag, didn’t she? The day before, she’d heard that a producer for the reality show was at the station. He’d mentioned they still needed one more contestant and after watching Jaxie’s show from behind the scenes, he asked her producer if “the cute restaurant reviewer” was single. Later, Jaxie laughed when her production assistant told her this. “What?”
“He’s looking to fill one last spot on The Husband Hunt.”
She was almost engaged to Brent, for crying out loud. “I hope you told him I’m not single.”
But now, she was a perfect choice and interested. Now, she was single and desperate to be spontaneous. All she had to do was say all the right things on camera to make them chose her. Then arrange time off work.
The doorbell rang three times. Phillip’s signature. Dressed in jeans and a T shirt that read “Elton and David Forever”, Phillip entered Jaxie’s apartment, kissed her on the cheek and stared into her face, searching for answers.
“I’m going to try to get on The Husband Hunt.” She pulled Phillip into the room, ignoring his reaction, on purpose.
“What for?” He looked horrified.
“Publicity - to get my own cooking show.” Jaxie would tell him later about the need to show Brent she was adventurous. “At the station yesterday, a producer from The Hunt said they needed another person and asked about me. I just called him and he’s waiting for this tape. So let’s film right now and send it.”
The night before, when she’d called Philip, after Brent’s departure, he’d rushed upstairs to consol her. But, after he’d said that she was too good for Brent, Jaxie sensed Phillip was happier than he let on to have Brent out of the picture. Maybe because of the Pact. Years before, he and Jaxie had made a promise, and even though they hadn’t spoken of it recently, the plan remained in place for both of them. If they were both unattached when Jaxie turned twenty-nine, she and Phillip would have a baby together. They’d been best friends since pre-school, had even dated briefly in junior year before Phillip came out of the closet, and moved to the west coast together. Knowing Phillip needed something to look forward to when he told his parents that he was gay, she’d promised him in college they would make a baby someday. “We’ll give our parents a grandchild.” They’d grinned at each other over a bottle of Bacardi. Both Philip and Jaxie had always been nuts about kids. They’d run summer camps all through high school for the neighborhood children. And now at twenty-seven, Jaxie’s maternal instincts called. Phillip’s too. No, not called. Instincts were virtually screaming at Jaxie. If this idea of being on The Husband Hunt didn’t win back Brent, she and Phillip might have to move the pregnancy plan up by a year. Recently, she’d seen adoption pamphlets at Phillips place and wondered if he’d given up on the Pact when she became involved with Brent.
Moving to the balcony, Jaxie stationed herself with the Seattle Space Needle in the background and prepared for the audition that might save her from loosing the man of her dreams. “I’m ready for my close up Mr. Phillip,” she smiled and posed.
* * * *
The flight to Los Angeles from Seattle was a quick one and Virgin America did it up right with personal movie players and luxurious seats. Jaxie was brimming with excitement at having been accepted for The Husband Hunt at the eleventh hour. Sitting back in her wide chair, she sighed and reminded herself that, regardless of her intentions, she had to look like she was genuinely looking for true love on this show. Before the confirmation call, Jaxie had been desperate to be one of the twenty-four women chosen to fly to LA, live in an undisclosed mansion in the Hollywood Hills and participate in the competition. What single girl wouldn’t be thrilled? They made it sound so glamorous. But now, as she flew towards that adventure, she wasn’t sure she’d done the right thing. What did she need to prove to Brent? She might not even get him back after this.
The producer had said on the phone that a driver would be waiting outside baggage claim with a sign that said “J. Hart.” As she pulled her enormous suitcases off the baggage carousel, she turned her ankle and almost went down. Recovering, she looked around discreetly and hoped the driver couldn’t see her. She plunked her carry-on bag on top of one of the two large suitcases, her purse on the other, and wheeled the towers of luggage towards the opening to the arrival area of LAX.
She was praising the fact that Phillip had chosen distinguishable leopard print luggage for her, two days earlier on the world’s fastest shopping spree. Once accepted for the show, getting ready had gone down at break neck speed. Shopping with extreme efficiency was mandatory. The list she was given by the show said she needed twenty cocktails dresses. As they set out to shop Phillip was so excited he was almost panting. At Nordstrom’s, the two friends rushed through the shoes, securing several pairs of high heels and then headed for the dress section, knowing that next they’d find the swim suit store for sexy swimsuits that would set her apart from twenty-three other bachelorettes at mansion. As a budding clothing designer, Phillip said he’d throw in a few dresses from his collection, making the need for Rose Ceremony standouts a lot easier. “Aren’t we happy you are my fit model, Jax, so we don’t have to do nasty alterations?”
Exiting the baggage claim area, Jaxie noticed a man in a white button down shirt and jeans holding the sign ‘J.Hart”. Her driver. She took a deep breath and pulled her suitcases towards him. “Hi, I’m J. Hart,” she smiled her way over, heels clicking on the floor as she closed the space between herself and the driver who did not look unlike Phillip – tall, chiseled face, short hair, classically handsome in a Jude Law sort of way. But this guy had a five o’clock shadow, a manly watch on his wrist and an air of masculinity that Philip lacked.
“Welcome to L.A. I’m Crane.” He reached for both massive suitcases, leaving Jaxie free to carry her purse and carry on.
“Crane?” she asked. “Is that your name, or Grain?”
“You had it right the first time.” He laughed and motioned for her to follow him. “It’s a nickname, Jaxie.” His emphasis on
name shut her up for the walk to the black SUV parked curbside.
Her real name was Jacqueline but as long as she could remember she’d been called “Jacqs”. It was only when she developed a portfolio for TV work that she changed the spelling.
After Crane loaded the luggage, Jaxie seated herself in the backseat and watched her driver slip in behind the wheel, lower his sunglasses for the glaring late afternoon sun, and start the car. “Do you work for The Husband Hunt?”